BENGALURU: Citizens of Bangalore have recently been up in arms against the state Government regarding Bangalore Development Authority’s (BDA) proposal to build a steel flyover. The purpose of which is being stated as to reduce the travel time between the Kempegowda International Airport which lies 34.9km from the city. The proposed steel flyover will be a six lane bridge, 6.7 kilometres long between Basaveshwara circle and Hebbal Junction and will reduce the travel time by 7 minutes.

Yes, you read that right, they want to cut 812 trees, to build a bridge made of 60,000 tonnes of steel, costing 1800 crores to reduce the travel time by just 7 minutes! For a state government which is well informed about the problems of the state – ranging from drought conditions to the lack of access to welfare necessities- to make such a proposal is utterly absurd. India’s health and education sector budgets have been slashed by half, despite there being an essential need for them to be increased; however, money seems to be available for building a steel bridge worth 1800 crores, despite the availability of several and cheaper alternatives.

Residents of Bangalore have been holding public protests opposing the proposal as well as an online campaigns on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Several prominent citizens of the city such as historian Ramchandra Guha, Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrashekar and former SC judge Santhosh Hegde have also come forth and strongly expressed their opinion against the proposed steel flyover.

Residents also claim that there was no public consultation and that the decision making process lacks transparency. CM Siddaramaiah has however claimed the decision was taken ‘after a lot of deliberation.’ Countering accusations of the lack of transparency and public consultation, KJ George, Bangalore’s Development Minister claimed that the BDA had consulted experts from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. However, both institutions have refuted the claim that they were consulted.

Citizens and experts have asserted that building infrastructure is not going to help address the problem of traffic congestion in Bangalore where 1,000 vehicles get added to the road daily. What is required is to strengthen public transport and mobility systems, such as introducing more buses, extending the metro line and ensuring last mile connectivity, among several others.

While several individuals have opposed the bridge, stating that it will damage Bangalore heritage and green cover, there are pertinent questions that need to be raised with regard to the proposed amount for the construction of the flyover.

Karnataka has been declared drought hit for the third time in a row, with experts saying that the state is staring at one of its worst droughts in history. The state submitted a memorandum to the Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh seeking the Centre’s support for 3375 crores to address the situation. Between July 2015 and June 2016, 1490 farmers have committed suicide in the state due to crop failure; the numbers are likely to have increased between July to now and can be expected to increase further with the declaration of drought in half the state. The inability to pay back debts along with crop failure has been the leading cause of farmer suicides; while the government offers crop insurance, the farmers often need to borrow more money for which they go to private lenders – who may charge them increased interest rates. Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha leader K S Puttanniah, in a report carried out by the New India Express said, that alongside crop insurance the government must also provide farmers with loan packages and that compensation must be provided based on scientific assessments during floods or droughts.

For a state reeling under severe drought and having the highest suicide rates how is it that the state government has 1800 crores to build a steel flyover, but has to seek assistance of the Centre for 3375 crores? In a state facing one of the worst droughts in its history, how is it that the government chooses to spend 1800 crores to build a bridge which will be used by less than half the population of the state instead of providing relief and support to half the state which is drought hit?

While everyone is speaking of the damage the steel flyover will do to the environment and to the Bangalore’s heritage, no one seems to be concerned about how the state government seems to have got its priorities terribly wrong.

With India essentially being a welfare state, the government and its representatives are constitutionally bound to protect and promote the economic and social well beings of its citizens. In this case however, the government and its representatives seem to have forgotten their constitutional responsibility and are instead promoting and protecting their own economic and social well- being along with a very small percentage of citizens.

In which form of democracy and welfare is it morally and socially acceptable for such a thing to be taking place? Is 7 minutes of reduced travel time more important than the 1,490 lives lost and hundreds of farmers and family’s faced with starvation and contemplating suicide as a means to cope with the difficulty and apathy they are faced with?