Of a ‘monster’ on way out

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 19 Apr 2018 09:43:02



When the ugly structure was not there, things were a bit congested, a bit awkward, even a bit backward. Then a smart alec among politicians and another smart alec among bureaucrats came together to think of that ugly structure. The moment the structure came up, Nagpur Railway Station, that regal edifice that people called easily one of the best of its kind in the country, lost its royal persona. The fly-over just messed up the entire scene. For a while, the people did not say anything. But then slowly and
surely, voices of dissent started coming up.

The people of Nagpur felt strongly that the bridge should be torn down. “Bring down the monster”, ‘The Hitavada’ demanded. So ugly has the architectural and town-planning disaster been.

It is certainly good news that the civic authorities have decided finally to pull down the ugly structure in due course of time. What they propose to do in its place the common citizens may not know at this moment precisely. Yet, it is good news by any standard that the Railway Station fly-over is to be pulled down. There may be some inconvenience to the owners of shops in the bridge’s underbelly. But eventually, they will be accommodated suitably to ensure that they resume their commercial activity reasonably.

The Railway Station fly-over is one good example of thoughtless and bad town-planning. In the first place, it was not needed at all. For, without it, the road in front of the Railway Station was broader, and could accommodate much bigger numbers of people with their respective modes of transport. All that was needed to be done was to reorganise the place and instill some discipline among the users. That would have served a great purpose. Yet, the smart alecs had their own ideas, and they imposed those on the city.
And what purpose did they serve?

None. Absolutely none. For, the fly-over did not create ease of traffic along the stretch. It did not create additional space underneath as well. Much to the contrary to all these expectations, it created a mess whose meaning nobody understood.

The worst effect of the fly-over was that it spoiled the beauty and sanctity of the historic and ‘Jagrut’ Tekadi Ganesh Temple. What a place the temple had been in the city’s central landscape! What a wonderful connect did the people have with the temple! The believers thronged the place for worship, and others went there in huge numbers for the sheer calmness the temple offered. It was a social meeting place. It was a historic spot that saw Nagpur bloom into a modern city. It was a place from where countless lakhs of people launched good things in their lives.

The Tekadi Ganesh temple, still, has the same importance, but without its scenic persona. The fly-over just messed up the identity of the Tekadi Ganesh temple. People grieved and lamented and even cried when they realised the mess in which the bridge had left the temple.

No matter what the civic and police authorities did to improve the standard of traffic at both ends of the fly-over, they could not succeed -- simply because of the faulty design of the structure. All the efforts to tone up the junction between the bridge and the road afterwards at the Jai Stambh Chowk failed because of its fundamental and inherent design-defect. At the other end, the Manas Chowk, too, faced a similar fate. Nothing -- no effort to discipline the traffic helped. For a while, the police and civic authorities tried to blame the people for their lack of discipline. But sooner than later, they realised that such blaming was worthless, thanks to the bad design of the bridge.

I often used my privilege as a senior journalist to ask serious questions about the Railway Station fly-over to senior bureaucrats, police officers, political leaders and
ministers and people’s representatives. None had any convincing answer as to why the bridge was built at all when it was not needed there. I recall a conversation with a very senior politician soon after the bridge was constructed. He agreed that the decision was a major disaster. “Then, will you pull it down at the first chance?”, I asked him. He did not say that in so many words, but stared hard at me and turned his face away and mumbled an inaudible “Yes”.
After that conversation, I lived on the hope of that near-wordless “yes”, that some day, the fly-over would be pulled down.

That is now going to happen. The city did not need the Railway Station fly-over, and it is soon going to get rid of it. We can only hope that its place would be taken by something more sensible, more useful and more beautiful. The road can always be widened to accommodate more needs. Better structures can also be constructed along that stretch of 800 meters from Manas Chowk to Jai Stambh Chowk. And more importantly, the Tekadi Ganesh temple could be lent its clear identity (which has now been lost due to the monster called the fly-over).

Of course, town-planning is not a casual joke. Much to the contrary, it is a serious affair since every decision would affect the future of the city and also afflict the past of the place. The Railway Station fly-over was one such structure. It affected the future of that small but critical part of the city and afflicted the beauty it held in its confines for countless decades.

Let us now hope that the city’s political leadership, civic authorities and town-planners would form a more sensible
combine to replace the monster in front of the Railway Station with something that would add certain, definitive beauty to the place -- and make us proud of it.