What do we call ‘development’ in cities like Kanpur; a newly constructed road, freshly painted divider or a mega sized road over bridge? I believe a road over bridge will fit the bill considering the necessity of infrastructural development in the city. But I am aghast to see that how the construction of an ROB can force someone to leave one’s house when that didn’t come under range of houses that needs to be demolished.
This is the story of an under construction road over bridge in Kanpur. It will replace the existing 45 years old bridge that connects South Kanpur to North Kanpur. South zone of Kanpur pumps blood in North Kanpur as New Bombay does to Nariman Point. People from all economic classes travel about 30 minutes to get to the heart of the city to work as accountants, managers, parking boys, tea vendors, and child labors. The large amount of vehicles that passes through this over bridge cause regular traffic jams. At times, the jam goes on for 6 hours because the existing bridge is designed, considering the traffic needs of 1970. The population has increased from 1,275,242 in 1971 census to 4,581,268 in 2011 census. And now 92% of total households posses basic means of mobility like two wheeler and cars. Despite such great necessity, this road over bridge was long delayed because there is a slum beneath this old and fragile bridge. There has been a great show of protest, local politics and failure of government machinery collectively. But, this time government acted so fast that the slum dwellers couldn’t get the chance to protest and end up packing their stuffs. The state government has considerably given one room flat as compensation to families whose houses were demolished and compensation to those who didn’t accept the flats.
But here comes a great deal of mismanagement. The government given flats are based out of the city. Women who are working as house maids, baby sitters or clean utensils in nearby colonies will have to travel about two hours to get to their jobs from their new homes. The same goes for men and students who study in make shift schools and government funded colleges. They will have to walk on foot for 5 kilometers to get the bus to enter in the city than it will take some about 45 minutes to reach their workplaces. In morning hours, it is okay to walk for such a long distance but evening hours will cause great security risks to women.
The other depressing features of this compensation scheme is lack of compassion in awarding flats and fishy distribution of cash compensations. There does not seem a visible mechanism of how cash compensations are being distributed. Some slum house owners have got three colonies against one house and some have got single colony. The highest compensation amount rupees 88 lakh goes to a house owner, who in real is a rich businessmen, owns luxury cars and sells premium furniture at a showroom in a market place. Some people has got 18 lakh rupees as compensation for demolition of their one foot long balcony.
While working on this report, I met a 50 year old lady who lost her husband few days after demolition of her home. This old lady can’t take stairs due to backache problem. The lady told me that UP CM Akhilesh Yadav promised her individually that she will get a ground floor flat but now she is being denied. There is another lady who is a mother to married sons. Her three story home was enough for 13 family members but now she is compulsive to accommodate her big family in government-provided 7*10 feet flat. She got a colony because her house was going to be demolished but later it didn’t. The houses that were less than 10 feet close to the pillars were destined to be demolished. This lady’s house were certainly not 10 feet close so his sons refused to leave the house. But here came the local police who thrashed him up for not leaving his home. They brought him to nearest police station for threatening. The word ‘thana’ threatens these guys.
So, sanctioning this road over bridge is indeed a service to the people of this city. But the big question still looms high that why some people has to suffer for the comfort of others.