“Oooo! Photo deppinakkulu batterye! Photo deppinakkulu!!” remarked a voice as I stood in front of the flooded railway under bridge (RuB) at Padil-Bajal holding my umbrella in one hand and clutching my camera in another, staring in fascinated horror at the sight in front of me. I could sense the weary dismissal in his voice, and I could very well understand why. The Padil – Bajal RuB has always been a source of misery to the local people.
V. Sadananda Gowda, the then railway minister, laid the foundation stone for the RuB on August 16, 2014. The original date of completion, which was February 2015, was extended to June 2015. Although it was finally put to use a few months back, it has not ceased to give trouble to the residents.
The RuB has no proper drainage system, leading to flooding of water during incessant rains. The access road to nearby areas such as Jalligudde, Faisalnagar, and Jayanagar is unfit for vehicular use and the Mangalore City Corporation (MCC) or whoever is supposed to put it in working order appears to be unaware of it.
A perennial stream flows close to the RuB and water from this stream overflows on the access road that runs beneath the railway bridge, making it unfit for vehicular movement and forcing residents to walk all the way from their homes to the Padil main road to catch a bus to their place of work, schools, colleges, shops, and other destinations.
When the foundation stone for the RuB was laid, its estimated cost was Rs. 5.61 crore, split between the railway department and the state government. While the state government contributed Rs. 2.28 crore, the MCC paid Rs. 51 lakh.
On May 4, 2015, MLA J.R. Lobo and MP Nalin Kumar Kateel inspected the Padil – Bajal RuB, which was still in an unfinished state, and told reporters that the project is facing a number of technical problems. Water supply pipes had to be shifted to prevent a mudslide. He recalled that a recent mudslide had claimed a worker’s life. He also stated that the RuB will be thrown open to public use in June 2015.
But interestingly, The Hindu published a report on June 9, 2015 stating that the RuB was not likely to get commissioned before December 2015. Anand Prakash, divisional railway manager for Palakkad Division, Southern Railway, told The Hindu that they had been urging the MCC to furnish drawings of access roads, which are very important to open the RuB to vehicular traffic. He said: “We had asked the MCC to get a power line and a transformer shifted. There is also a water line which has to be shifted. Nothing has been done so far.” He said that work has to cease during the monsoons and recommence only in October, after which it would take another couple of months to complete.
The problem, as Santhosh Bajal, the district secretary of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), aptly puts it, is because of “lack of coordination between the city administration and the Palakkad division of Southern Railways.”
Walking Under the Bridge
I had gone all the way to the RuB just to get a taste of what the local people have to undergo. I waded through the water along with the rest and climbed onto the narrow passageway meant for pedestrians. These days, it is being shared by two-wheelers as well as pedestrians because access to the passageway meant for two-wheelers on the other side is flooded by rain water. Whenever a motorbike or scooter roared into the narrow, dark passageway, I and the other pedestrians hugged the walls on either side to let them pass.
The situation was worse on the other side, and I stood on a rock watching people and bike riders making their way down what was supposed to be the road, wading through the water and getting onto the passageway beneath the railway tracks. I wondered what I would have done if I lived in this place. I wondered what these people do if one of them suddenly takes ill in the middle of the night.
School children, college students, homemakers, employees, and elderly people are forced to undergo this inconvenience every moment while the authorities concerned continue to be apathetic. A project worth Rs. 5.61 crore meant to benefit the public has turned out to be a source of misery for hundreds and thousands of people.
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