The Defence Ministry’s latest communication, which says the Army does not recommend the transfer of defence land for the construction of Rail Over Bridge (ROB) at Ghorpadi has irritated residents, who have had to deal with long traffic jams because of the closure of two adjacent railway gates on a daily basis.
As a result, the citizen’s committee pressing for the construction of the bridge has threatened to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Bombay High Court and simultaneously boycott the general elections 2014 to protest against those public representatives who, the committee claims, have been unable to get the bridge constructed.
A letter by Defence Minister Antony dated October 2013, which added to the agitation of the committee, said, “In so far as the proposal of transfer of defence land at Ghorpadi, district Pune, for construction of Rail Over Bridges (ROB) at Ghorpadi- Mundhwa crossing is concerned, the Army authorities have not recommended the proposal. A Board of Officers constituted to examine the proposal, however, recommended that in case of inescapable requirement of ROB, the alternative option for construction of ROB in the area of B T Kawade Road may be considered.”
The agitated residents have however been feeling betrayed, given that a Parliamentary committee had in September visited the spot and promised that the matter will be resolved. Lt Col (retd) M K Gupta Ray, convenor of Ghorpadi Mundhwa Rail Over Bridge on Saturday said, “The ROB is still a distant dream for locals here. With the recent inclusion of 13 trains, the total number of trains is 207 on a daily basis.”
The committee is further concerned by the fact that the latest addition of the Pune-Daund local train is expected to add yet another 40 trains to the existing 207. The committee, which backs its claims with the data obtained from Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), has calculated the estimated duration of gate closure at 10.30 hours a day for gate no 586 and 18 hours a day for gate no 68.
“So during the remaining hours, the gates cater to 50,000 plus vehicles that commute on the road daily. It takes over 40 minutes for the choked traffic to clear every time the rail gates open and when they close, long queues are formed. One has to take six kilometres of long travel via Koegaon Park or Mundhwa to avoid these crossings given that Army has closed four other roads in the area as well,” said Sanjay Kawde, activist.
The two ROBs, work order for which was passed by PMC in 2010 at Rs 68 crore, require about 5.16 acres of land- which is under the control of Army authorities. But the residents claim that in 2010 itself, the PMC had resolved to exchange 5.16 acres of land with one Mudliyar School against the defence land that would be acquired for the construction of ROB.
“We fail to understand what these ‘sensitive’ security establishments in this zone are – more so, when the so-called security stands breached by high rises in Koregaon Park and Kalyaninagar,” said Gulabrao Vatare, 75. “We now plan to file a PIL and have decided to boycott the general elections. We are a part of two Lok Sabha constituencies- Shirur and Pune City. We plan to approach local residents and ask them to not vote,” said Alok Pandit, entrepreneur.