Pics: Ivan Mascarenhas
Daijiworld Media Network - Udupi
Udupi, Sep 29: Brahmavar is one of the fastest growing towns in Udupi district and also a densely populated area. It meets all the criteria required to upgrade it to a town municipality, but unfortunately, it has not happened so far due to lack of political will, despite the citizens urging the government several times, and despite several promises by politicians.
Brahmavar stretches to 1,25,457.2 acres with a population of 2,45,850. There are 17 panchayats in Brahmavar as per the taluk declaration issued in February 2003, but the implementation of the order has remained only on paper.
There are four gram panchayats under Brahmavar taluk - Chantar, Handady, Varamballi, and Harady. It has 249 primary and high schools, Krishi Vigynana Kendra, sub-registrar office, education welfare department, circle inspector office, police station, horticulture department, forest department, CDP office, children and women welfare department, tourism bungalow, Mescom office, Nada Kacheri at Giliyar, Nemmadi Kendra, primary health center and other facilities. However, the lack of town planning is evident, and if measures are not taken on war footing, it may soon turn into another congested mess.
Some of the key areas that need immediate attention are:
Parking: Parking is a bane to the people of Brahmavar. There are no specific parking spots and drivers leave their vehicles all over the place. There is a pay and park system near Varamballi panchayat but people avoid the area since it is not a free facility. Congested roads and poor concrete work have aggravated the issue. During peak hours, this is a hindrance to pedestrians, school children, and senior citizens while crossing the road.
Primary health center (PHC): This is located at the heart of Brahmavar town. There are complaints from the public that the PHC is not keeping its surroundings clean. There are infrastructural hurdles and lack of advanced technology. So locals prefer the district hospital in Ajjarkad.
A private organization had facilitated a roof as shelter for those who visit the mortuary. But the hospital management has failed to maintain it.
Gandhi Maidan: Gandhi Maidan is known as a military ground. It belongs to Handady gram panchayat and the panchayat building is nearby. A small part of the land comes to Varamballi panchayat. The Maidan has three acres of reserved land which is used for public meetings, fairs, and cultural programmes or events. There are lots of shops constructed on the ground including a liquor shop, despite objections from the village panchayat and the public. Some use part of the ground to store stones, tiles, and building materials while another corner is occupied by garage waste and waste from the liquor shop.
Tennis court at Chantar Devibailu: Chanthar ground is another reserved area known to be acquired by private persons. A new tennis court has been set up on 8 cents of land but it was constructed with the understanding of the tahsildar and Brahmavar Shuttle Friends for a short period. But PDO of Chanthar panchayat has alleged that the tahashildar has taken an independent decision and got an electricity connection from Mescom.
Here the question arises as to how the tahsildar could grant land with electricity on a temporary basis. The land on which the tennis court is situated is part of the road extension project.
Unwanted cattle pass: There is a proposal for a flyover instead of cattle pass on Brahmavar national highway as the latter will not only divide Brahmavar but also have an adverse impact on the progress of the town. Construction work has been on for 4 to 5 years. Many feel that the unwanted cattle pass has spoilt the whole design of Brahmavar. The work is still going on slowly. There is a canal passing nearby and this has now become a place for mosquitoes to breed. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has assured that within two months it will hand over the NH 66 road.
Unscientific drainage system: Brahmavar has no proper drainage system. The government has released Rs 1 crore from the MLA fund for development of the road from the temple on Car Street to the main service road. There was a fish market on Car Street which has now shifted to the main market. There is an auto stand close to the open drainage pipeline. During the rainy season, a foul smell emanates and is a nuisance to the residents as well as passersby. Unless there is a channel to divert the waste water, this can soon turn into a source for communicable diseases.
Dumping yard: There are two dumping yards for four village panchayats. But there is no proper waste disposal system in place in the town. Locals throw their domestic waste on roads and into drains showing an utter disregard for environment. No panchayat has taken strict against such people. If the panchayats set up a proper waste disposal yard, it can be a source of income for that panchayat.
Migrant workers: There are many migrant workers living in shanties near Dupadakatte and they have encroached the road. The colony is located very close to the national highway and the number of huts is increasing year by year, perhaps into a hotspot for communicable diseases too. The government officials have visited the area, but no action has been taken to set right the situation.
Brahmavar Sugar Factory: People have no hopes on reopening of sugar factory, but the large site has good demand for other commercial (developmental) works. Sugar factory is located in the industrial area. So, nearly 110 acres of land is waiting for commercial purpose. Out of the total area, 60 acres would be suitable for any commercial, eco-friendly and employment generative industry, while the remaining 50 acres could be used for other supplemental or agriculture activities.
Unscientific four-lane work project: The construction of a four-lane road at Brahmavar is another contentious issue for the locals. Due to unusual heights of the national highway from Brahmavar to Barkur cross, people are being put to discomfort. There was a bus stand near Akashvani, but it was demolished for road extension. Hence, passengers have to keep waiting on the road for their bus. This project started four years ago and has caused a lot of difficulties. The four lane work of NH 66 passes through Udupi district and links Mangaluru-Suratkal-Kundapur. The numerous cattle that pass on the NH have added to the woes of the people.
There is an approach road from the highway to Brahmavar market. There is no traffic signboard installed here, which has led to road accidents. Many protests were held opposing the four-lane road design and cattle pass, but the work is in progress.
There is need to have a scientifically drafted diversion near Dupadakatte to Honnala-Mabukala area. At present, bus drivers travel down the wrong way.
Unscheduled bus stops: Brahmavar bus stand is very small and congested. Some buses used to be parked here. During peak hours, buses do not come to the circle, because if more than five buses arrive simultaneously, it causes traffic problems. Some motorists used to park their vehicles in the bus stand to avoid paying for parking elsewhere. Most the time buses are parked inside the bus stand throughout the day by cutting off their regular trips.
At night, and express service buses stop on the National Highway; which can prove dangerous for pedestrians. Locals have brought this issue to the notice of traffic authorities but the problem remains.
Almost all buses are crowded during peak hours and many passengers are forced to travel on the footboard.
No government cemetery: There is no government owned cemetery in Chantar panchayat. There is one cemetery located near the service road in Pragatinagar which belongs to Kocchikar family, but the question is how long can it run under private ownership.
According to Satish Poojary, president, Brahmavar Taluk Horata Samiti, "The encroachment of land shows the failure of PDOs. They have special power to take action against violators. But they won’t do it. Recently elected panchayat members have lack of practical knowledge about regulations and legal issues. They need to understand the reality of villages first. It will affect future town planning.
"Moreover, flexibility on fines and laxity in enforcing restrictions is a reason for increase in such problems. The panchayat authority is acting as if its powerless. Brahmavar city has lost Rs 240 crore in government grants due to minister Vinay Kumar Sorake. Since the government named Kaup constituency a town municipality in his term, he has brought in a science center and set it up in Belapu panchayat at a cost of Rs 143 crore. These two were the big losses for Brahmaver," he said.
"We will issue licenses as per the panchayat building construction law. In many of the cases, the commercial complex owners violated rules regarding setback, drainage, parking, and road margin. The panchayat will take action wherever the law is broken. Sometimes we have to face pressure from political powers or a third party," Nithyanada B R.
He also said that certain educational institutions had been given power connections from Mescom without proper documents and they are not paying any taxes to the panchayat, and hence it has been decided to issue notices.
Recently, Brahmavar tahsildar Thippeswamy held an operation to clear encroached land measuring 43 cents in Chanthar gram panchayat. He said, "I respect and promote public welfare tasks. If the government land or kumki reservation is misused by any person or institution, we will take action. Many cases are pending in Lokayukta court regarding encroachment and are nearing a final verdict."
Speaking on the need to have a dumping yard, he said, "Yes, dumping yard is the need of the hour for Brahmavar town. If any PDO has brought a proposal for land regarding this problem, I will approve it soon after a meeting.
"A new policy reveals that the PWD should hand over all powers to the panchayat. We can then be active towards development," Thippeswamy added.
Nithyanada B R said, "The panchayat will give first priority to construction of the dumpyard and drainage system. The panchayat will issue notices to all illegal shops within four months, and the market area will be made a parking area." He said that a time of six months would be needed to do this.
Brahmavar has the required human resource required for infrastructural development. But somewhere, the authorities concerned have failed to create a clean picture of Brahmavar. First and foremost, politicians should have the will rather than mere finances. It is the right time to work on making Brahmavar a smart town. Otherwise, encroachment and pollution can stand as an intractable challenge to the future development of this town.
Brahmavar is the main hub connected to Barkur–Siddapura, Thirthahalli and Brahmavar-Pethri-Hebri-Agumbe. It is also connected to other major cities in the districts. The national highway 66 passes through the city and links Brahmavar to other parts of the state.
Brahmavar has grown rapidly, but a lot remains to be done. The people of Brahmavar hope that it would be developed into a modern city in another 15 years. This is the right time to plan and design its development so that later on inconveniences can be avoided.
The need of the hour is a proper blueprint for the development of Brahmavar. Unfortunately, the authorities seem to neglect this and most of the development works are unscientific in nature. For instance, most of the multistoried buildings which are coming up in the residential areas do not have proper parking space. They also do not have proper drainage system which adds to the woes of the locals.
As many things have been taking place at the panchayat level, strict rules should be followed in order to implement all the development works. In many cases, rules are easily violated. Brahmavar has been in the queue for taluk status for a long time, but no elected representative has taken any interest in this regard.
It is time that people of Brahmavar rise above the petty politics and unite so that the place can be developed as a model city.