The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL)’s plan for shopping space inside the to-be-built metro stations is likely to leave many displaced traders stranded. Except two stations, one on M G Road and the other at Byapanahalli, and possibly a third -- the Trinity Circle station, all other stations will not have shops inside, according to K Nagendra, Public Relations Officer at BMRCL.
Nagendra says that Metro stations which will have provisions for parking lots and integrated transport facilities will be the ones earmarked for inclusion of shops. The other stations are going to be basic.
The crane moves at a construction site close to the Double Road junction. (Pic: Zainab Bawa)
BMRCL’s shops licensing policy is of interest to traders in the areas where the new stations are coming up. The question of giving compensatory shopping space inside the Metro’s stations to displaced shops on CMH Road, Ulsoor, MKK Road, and other similar trading hubs has been hanging fire for sometime now. Imtiyaz Ahmed, president of the CMH Road shops and establishments association, stated that he had heard of plans that CMH Road traders would be allotted shops inside the stations. “But there is nothing on paper yet. Hence, we don’t know what is happening,” Ahmed says.
The CMH Road Metro station will be constructed right opposite the Café Coffee Day. The following shops have been notified for acquisition: L G Electronic Shoppe, Chandrashekhar Wines, Kartik’s Mithai Shoppe, Sree Venkateswara Ladies Tailors, Jyothi Bakery, Baskin Robbins, Aruna Bakery, N R Bombay Tailors, Suresh Footwear, Sowmya Silks and Sarees, and K & K Computers.
These tenant traders were hoping that they would be provided shop space within the stations, but the BMRCL says there will no space for them inside the upcoming CMH Road station.
“Tenders for the stations will only be floated by the end of this year. Until we issue the tenders, we are not in a position to discuss policy and other details concerning shop space,” Nagendra says. However, BMRCL has decided in-principle that wherever shop space is being planned in stations, displaced traders will be given priority when allocating licenses, says Nagendra. “The M G Road station and the Byappanahalli Terminal will have some provision for shops, though we still have no blueprints for shops inside the stations,” he adds.
Pavements being dug and narrowed at CMH Road (Pic: Zainab Bawa)
This decision to go ‘economic’ on most stations raises a number of questions. Chief among these is how is this reduction in the number of shops going to impact the BMRCL’s revenue model? In the case of the Delhi Metro, the DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation) actually earns its revenue from the shop rentals inside the stations. The revenues from ticketing barely cover the cost of the operations, according to a study done on the Delhi Metro by Matti Siemiatycki, research fellow in Urban Studies at the University of Glasgow. Will BMRCL go with higher ticket prices?
Nagendra merely states that ticket prices have not been fixed yet. “Right now, we are concentrating on completing the skeletal aspects such as digging, laying of pillars, etc. Allocation of shops space and considerations about station design are secondary. Any response as of now will at best be hypothetical.”
One of the other concerns that traders have is whether the rentals will be too high to afford. “Will they give us shops at the rents that we are paying currently? We can offer the annual 5-10 per cent increase in the rents at the prevailing rates when they offer us the shops,” stated Gundappa who runs a general provision store at Ulsoor.
However, not all the traders are keen to have shops inside the stations. Restaurateur Madhu Menon who ran Shiok, a luxury dining restaurant, states, “I would not prefer to run my restaurant inside the metro station because I cannot expect the crowds traveling from one station to another to stop by and spend a few hours dining at my restaurant. Shops which serve the everyday needs of commuters will be most suited inside the stations.”
Inside Delhi’s Metro stations for example, there are fast food joints like McDonalds that provide a quick bite to the moving masses.
More outlets coming up on CMH Road, amidst chaos
Meanwhile, despite the ongoing metro rail construction and disruption at CMH Road, new brand outlets continue to open up. The latest in the line was an outlet of Body and Soul, a beauty treatment clinic which was inaugurated around the middle of July.
One of the proprietors of Body and Soul, Mahesh, says this: “Since the construction was to happen on the opposite side of the road, we were taking a chance. Currently, we are hoping that the authorities will provide parking facilities for people in spaces behind the main road. Also, since a significant part of our clientele consists of walk-in customers, we are hoping that we will not be very badly affected.”
Mahesh is optimistic. He says that he expects that the coming of the metro would be good for businesses. “But as of now, the general public is already feeling tense about the traffic diversions and the likely jams on the road,” he adds.
Even though the CMH Road traders are locked in litigation with the BMRCL at the High Court, they share a similar sentiment to that of Mahesh’s. Traders were in fact very keen to have the Metro since they were aware that this would raise shopping activity in the area. Their main plea however were that the Metro should run underground which would then reduce displacement and that the alignment of the station be moved to Old Madras Road. See earlier stories in our Metro tracker.
Current situation, as work speeds up
Construction of pillars at CMH Road has been progressing. (Pic: Zainab Bawa)
BMRCL is presently concentrating on erecting pillars along the areas where it has started works. As has been reported in several prominent newspapers, BMRCL is nine months behind its original schedule of work. But ever since this announcement was made, BMRCL appears to be visibly speeding up its work.
On CMH road, traffic diversions have been created for entry via Cambridge Layout, Trinity Circle and double road. The road at Adarsha Theater has been closed for heavy vehicles though even light weight vehicles such as auto rickshaws refuse to enter CMH Road via Adarsha Theater. BMTC buses no longer ply on CMH road. Pavements on the road have also begun to be dug up, thereby making it difficult for pedestrians to move. However, care has been taken to see that trees are not felled in the process of the construction.
Traffic police has been stationed to direct the traffic on CMH Road. But the Times of India recently reported that the traffic police has not kept its promise of doing away with the parking of cars on the road in order to widen the road for the movement of traffic during the works.
In the coming days, it is important to watch how the BMRCL addresses two key issues. One, how it placates traders in commercial hubs such as MKK Road and CMH Road. Equally, it is crucial to pay attention to the ongoing legal battle at the High Court between the CMH Road traders and the BMRCL and what this will imply for rule of law, for eminent domain and for traders in other parts of the city.
The Legal Battle: CMH Road Traders versus the Metro
The CMH Road traders’ case against the BMRCL (Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation) does not seem to have moved forward ever since former Chief Justice Cyriac Joseph admitted their PIL (Public Interest Litigation) in the High Court in April this year.
The court began hearings on the case once again on 4 June. In the second round, about seven agencies including the Government of India, the Planning Commission, the Ministry of Environment among others, have to respond to and file counters to the objections raised by the traders through their advocate Pramila Nesargi.
BMRCL’s lawyers have however been buying time at each hearing, instead of responding to the arguments made by the petitioners. Imtiyaz Ahmed, president of the Shops and Establishments’ Association at CMH Road, has stated in newspapers that the BMRCL is going ahead with the construction on CMH Road vehemently because it is unable to face the legal challenge that the traders have put forth. He was hoping that court would issue at least an interim stay on the Metro construction on CMH Road.
The BMRCL’s strategy of buying time at each hearing is prolonging the case even as this allows the BMRCL to continue to carry out its work full scale, since there is no stay order. It is feared that at this rate, even if the traders win the case in principle, the court may adjudicate in favour of BMRCL on the grounds that since the structure is nearly complete, it would not be economically viable to demolish it.
Therefore, in the hearing on 13 August, when BMRCL’s counsel asked the court for ten more days to respond, Nesargi and the traders sternly objected to their request. The hearing is now scheduled for 18 August.