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Why Metro is unwelcome in Hyderabad

Last updated on: March 31, 2011 12:34 IST

Why Metro is unwelcome in Hyderabad

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Shruti Sarma in Hyderabad

Ashok Pawar is lucky in two ways. One, his shop is deep inside a lane in Sultan Bazar.

Two, he is into a business that does not require much of direct interaction with people - of supplying dance and drama costumes to schools. The proposed Hyderabad Metro rail project will not affect him much.

However, things are not as good a few meters away. Vikas Gandhi is hoping against hope that his business does not get affected. His Gautam Hosiery, which is in Sultan Bazaar for 40 years and has a turnover of around Rs 10,000 a day, is set to be a casualty of the Metro.

Photographs: Hyderabad Metro Railway website.

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"Metro officials served us a notice in February, informing that we would have to move away. They say, if you have any problem, meet us or file a complaint," says Gandhi.

Besides Gandhi's, 120 other shops in Sultan Bazar are set to be a story of the past. The 200-year-old jam-packed market, the lifeline of Hyderabad's aam aadmi, is cluttered with shops and shoppers. From safetypins to apparel, household items to jewellery, you find almost everything in this market.

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Tenants, who constitute 80 per cent of the market, and some owners do not want to give in.

"Multi-Modal Transport System (MMTS) runs parallel lines. There is absolutely no need for a metro, for such a short distance, especially when it costs so many people their livelihood," says Govind Rathi, chairman of the Traders Joint Action Committee.

The elevated project will come up on three high-density traffic corridors - Miyapur-LB Nagar, Jubilee Bus Stand (JBS)-Falaknuma and Nagole-Shilparamam.

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The public-private partnership project has a concession period for 35 years, including five years of construction, with an extension provision for another 25 years.

It is to be implemented on a design, build, operate, finance and transfer basis.

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Corridor II - JBS to Falaknuma (14.78 km) - is witnessing the most protests, as it would pierce the shopping corridor of Sultan Bazar, Badichowdi (affecting 183 shops), Kachiguda (60 shops) and Chikadpally (250 shops). Sultan Bazar is 25-40 feet wide and the project will need space of about 100 feet.

However, Hyderabad Metro Rail Ltd (HMRL) Managing Director N V S Reddy believes metro is the need of the hour.

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"If you have to revive the old city, you need to have better connectivity. Today, with 30 per cent urbanisation, there are traffic jams everywhere. Imagine what would happen when we urbanisation reaches 90 per cent," he says.

Moreover, the existing MMTS stations are not in the main areas and have limited accessibility. Its maximum capacity is 60,000-70,000 people in that area, Reddy points out.

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He admits that 500 metres of Sultan Bazar and 300 metres of Badichowdi are the most difficult stretches on the 71.16-km route. But the preparation is on in full steam. "Joint inspections are on and we have to start work in a month," he says.

The government, too, is not making things any easy. "They plan to dump us on the fourth floor of a complex. Expecting customers to come there and buy a belt for Rs 10 is not viable," says Rathi.

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The package of Rs 45,000-50,000 per square yard offered by the government isn't quite appealing, either. Gandhi claims his 24 sq ft shop is worth Rs 24 lakh and what being offered is not enough.

There are claims that the Metro's alignment is being changed at Charminar, but this is not even being considered to save perhaps the oldest market of the city.

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L&T, which had bagged the Rs 12,132-crore (Rs 121.32 billion) project in July last year, submitted its financial closure documents to the government in February.

The Centre will provide Rs 1,458 crore (Rs 14.58 billion) as viability gap funding and the Andhra Pradesh government would spend Rs 1,980 crore (Rs 19.80 billion) on acquisition of 204-acre private land, shifting of utilities, relief and rehabilitation, structural compensation, reconstruction of structures on government properties near stations, improvement of alternative roads, etc.

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In all, 61 acres of about 269 acres required for the project would be government land.

The project is to be completed by 2015. HMRL expects to meet the deadline, since it does not see any problem in land acquisition. It has the right to decide the way.

The ownership of land and assets will remain with the state government.

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L& T Metro Rail Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director V B Gadgil had said the company was looking at cashing in on the real estate available around the project as a major stream of revenue, particularly through OOH (out-of-home) media and other advertising activities.

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L&T already has all plans in place, but the shopkeepers in these areas still do not have any idea what the future holds for them.

"We will fight. That's all we can do. For them, it is either take it or leave it. For us, it is life," says Gandhi. Rathi intends to take legal recourse as the last option to save these markets.

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The Hyderabad chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach), too, has been opposing the project on the ground that it passes through heritage sites.

It has been demanding public hearing to bring out the 'truth'.

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Image: Photographs, courtesy: HICC

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The Citizens of Better Public Transport in Hyderabad, a coalition of civil society organisations and individuals, has been highlighting the negatives of the Metro from time to time.

"The Metro will pass just three heritage structures - Clock Tower, Mozamzahi market and the Assembly. We are about 50-100 ft away from these structures and about 50 ft above the ground. How does it affect these structures?" asks Reddy.

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He insists that Hyderabad needs the Metro.

"These are sophisticated rail technology and there will be no vibration. People are confused," he says, adding: "We can debate and discuss, but we must reach a conclusion.

The MMTS project also faced hurdles. We need to give a couple of years to a new system to know its worth. MMTS is popular now. You need to have a better public transport, or the city would eventually come to a standstill," he says.

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Image: Hyderabad.
Photographs: Courtesy, AP tourism.
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By 2015, when the Metro comes up, the traffic is projected to be 1.5 million per day - 750,000 for Corridor I, 300,000 for corridor II and 450,000 for Corridor III. And, by 2020, it is estimated to be 2.2 million.

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Reddy promises to accommodate all, including hawkers. "The shops will be revived and Sultan Bazar will be there."

His arguments and promises do not look completely out of place. But people in Sultan Bazar are not yet ready to buy the idea.


Image: Sultan Bazar unhappy about Metro.

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