It was more of an ‘interrogation’ and ‘inquisition’ with those who had gone to present their alternatives to Tribune flyover at the UT Secretariat on Thursday. Architects, former engineers and consultants alleged that the officials of the administration were “not receptive at all and were bulldozing their arguments for reasons best known to them”.
Seven persons were ‘invited’ by the engineering wing to give alternatives to the flyover. However, those who attended said that whenever they presented their proposal, the officials misbehaved, ‘raised silly objections’ and trashed their arguments. At the same time when these presenters asked the engineering wing’s rationale behind their proposal of having a flyover, they were told that “it wasn’t their job”. Stating that the process appeared like an eyewash to show before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, structural engineer Tarun Mathur said, “At the presentation today, I re-emphasised that the low-height grade separator which I am proposing has several advantages like it is a modern contemporary design, it is signal-free, it has no waiting time. And because of no waiting time, the grade separator can handle two-three times more vehicles. Also, since the structure is low height, heritage norms are not affected and the cost will be one-third only.”
Mathur added, “The Engineering Department opposed the concept saying that the minimum turning speed should be 80 km per hour and also that it is not possible to drain rainwater from the depressed areas. The objections of the Engineering Department are without merit and doubts can be verified from experts.”
Mathur stated that it was a prolonged questioning and the officials were not welcoming at all.
Eashan Chaufla, another one who presented his idea with his team, said that the officials were bulldozing their arguments whenever they tried to explain their proposal.
Chaufla said, “A government representative acknowledged that the flyover is indeed a temporary solution which may only work for 10 or so years, after which there is no follow-up plan. The administration was unable to give a reasonable response when questioned on a contingency plan to mitigate the displaced traffic in the construction phase which is estimated to take at least two years. The government representatives seemed helpless on this pertinent issue, claiming that this is unavoidable and something we just have to deal with. A case in point is the Chandigarh-Kharar flyover which has been under construction since 2015, causing much distress to commuters.”
This team of architects told the officials that “the flyover project reflects a sheer disregard for the environment, for Chandigarh’s architectural heritage and the proposed flyover threaten to drastically alter the city’s urban character by setting a precedent for other such haphazard interventions, turning an architectural marvel into a dull metropolis”.
“Moreover, we felt that there was a lack of transparency and conflicting statements about the details of the flyover proposal. That makes it difficult for all the stakeholders to assess the viability of the project. We must engage in constructive dialogue with architecture and urban planning professionals and pay heed to their arguments,” he added.
Before the presentation was to begin, there was a heated exchange when the officers emphasized to do it ‘one to one’. But Paveela Bali put her foot down saying that it was wrong and there were attempts to suppress their voices by calling them one by one. Following the heated exchange, all were called in.
It was alleged that the youngsters who made presentations, their voice was subdued as the officials spoke in an offensive manner whenever they spoke against the flyover. “I just told them that this is an open meeting and it can be held in closed doors. Despite the fact that the proposals were conforming to the norms of engineering, the officials were not taking them positively,” Bali said.
Sources said that when one of the youngsters asked the engineering wing officials to justify their massive investment in the flyover, they were told, “We are not supposed to tell you what we are doing.” “What we could gather from the overall behaviour was that they are just pushing for the flyover without any justification. They were not ready to listen to us and it appeared that this was just part of formality that they need to put forth before the HC that they called the presentations. Despite giving so many details with 3d maps, models which everyone had prepared after putting in months of hard work, the officials were trashing everything,” another member said.