Along the 119-kilometre Bengaluru-Mysuru highway, modest but iconic enterprises like those that produce toys in Chennapatna, sell Thatte idli in Bidadi, make Mysore Pak in Ramnagara and run vada kiosks in Maddur are seeing the harsh side of growth firsthand. In the approaching Assembly elections, owners of these venerable cottage enterprises are prepared to voice their displeasure by either boycotting or vehemently opposing the ruling BJP.
Before constructing the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway, traffic from Bengaluru to Mysuru would always pass through the little towns of Bidadi, Ramnagara, Chennapatna, and Maddur, each well-known for the brands it has developed over the years. Moreover, the World Trade Organisation has a Geographical Indication (GI) label protecting toys from Chennapatna.
The Thatte idlis, Maddur Vadas, and Mysore Pak are all additional products well known for their unique qualities and flavours. They served as rest areas for tourists and frequent customers who travelled from Bengaluru solely to sample the Maddur Vadas, Thatte idlis, or purchase Mysore Pak from Ramnagara. These stores would be crowded daily with tourists travelling by car to Mysore, Ooty, and other locations further south. However, that changed after the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway was built.
The Bengaluru-Mysuru highway has made it difficult to reach these locations. Pawan Deep, who runs a toy shop in Chennapatna, says, “The highway has destroyed us. All toy shops have been hit. I used to employ six labourers earlier. Now there is only one, and I can barely afford to keep him. I used to earn close to ₹5 lahks a month. Now my earnings have gone down to ₹50,000 per month. Earlier, a lot of tourists would come here. My shop was busy. No one comes here anymore.”
He says, “I will vote for the JD(S) this time. They have finished our livelihood. The Bengaluru-Mysuru highway has hit the employment of at least 10,000 workers, toy makers who have nowhere to go now.”
The Thatte Idli makers in Bidadi further down have the same tale. The business is down 70%, according to Lokesh Gowda, owner of Shri Shivsagar Thatte Idli Shop. He said, “There were about 60-65 idli outlets around here. About 50 of them have shut down because of the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway. My profit was about ₹1.5 lakh a month. Now it is down to ₹15,000-20,000 per month.”
In Ramnagara, Prashanth GT manages the Janardan Hotel, which serves Mysore Pak. His grandfather established the business in 1926. The Bengaluru-Mysuru highway has reduced his monthly income by 50,000. He says, “It is development, so it has to happen. But they should have thought of us. What will happen to thousands of families who were doing well but are now in ruins? I hear they are establishing a 30-acre commercial area on the expressway to help us. But I will not move; this is where my family has run the business for generations.”