CM’s Quick Response to Sullia Citizen’s Plea over Road-widening Woes

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CM’s Quick Response to Sullia Citizen’s Plea over Road-widening Woes

Mangaluru: Sullia is a taluk headquarters on the south eastern corner of Dakshina Kannada adjoining Kodagu in the south and Kasaragod district of Kerala in the western direction. Situated at 82 kms from Mangaluru, it is just about equidistant from Bantwal Cross (BC) Road and Madikeri.

The taluk had been carved out of Puttur taluk in 1966, over 50 years ago. Yet the name of this town remained insignificant for many years.

Much water has flown down in the local river Payaswini ever since. A mere drive through the town would not convince a visitor of its present importance

Who would otherwise believe that this modest town is now competing with Mangaluru and Manipal as an education hub? The KVG campus, established by the late Kurunji Venkataramana Gowda, beginning with a single flagship institution, Nehru Memorial College under the banner of the Academy of Liberal Education in the mid-1970s, now boasts of over two dozen institutions, all carrying the initials KVG as his signature and stamp of commitment and determination.

The institutions include, among others, a 500-bed hospital, a Medical college, an Engineering College, a Polytechnic, an ITI, a Dental College, a Law college, a First-grade degree college, an Ayurvedic Medical College, a Nursing College, a Residential International school and a cluster of hostels and support service units.

And all these are located on campus within a radius of 2 kilometres. This could be a record in terms of infrastructural density within a given area.

All this is ensconced in a green pocket of Kurunji Bagh, 2 km away from the highway on the western side, past Shri Chennakeshava temple. The total number of students pursuing higher and professional education has always remained on the higher side of 6,000,  having reached even the 8,000 mark at one point of time.

Pics credit: Netcom Sullia for KVG campus

Let’s get back to the matter of the highway

Earlier it was state highway (SH) 88 between Mani and Mysuru. It was upgraded just over 10 years ago and designated as the proposed national highway 275.

When the earlier up-gradation was announced in the first decade of this century, the business community of this vibrantly growing town was quite justifiably concerned. The widening process within the town would mean chopping of most buildings in part or some being totally razed down.

Most of the public insisted on a bypass or ring road diverting at Paichar to skip the town and join the highway again at Parivarakana, past the Kayartodi Shri Vishnumoorti temple.

Widening the existing highway through the main commercial area meant a huge financial loss byway as business activity was expected to be at standstill during the renovation process.

So quite expectedly, there was deep resentment among the public. Yet, after several rounds of meetings and discussions among the highway and local civic officials, elected representatives and businesspersons and private land-owners, the public agreed to the acquisition of portions of their respective property.

It was a decision taken keeping in mind a long-term benefit for the town through development and boost to commerce.

Within a few years, around 2012, the highway was upgraded up to Madikeri, while the onward segment up to Mysuru had already been developed.

The new-look Sullia had its own share of disadvantages. Vehicle parking issues worsened. Private motorists shuttling between Mangaluru and Madikeri avoided stopping over for coffee or lunch breaks, as there was a dire shortage of parking space.

The economic slump over the past three years, followed by the Covid19 pandemic has aggravated the situation.

In this backdrop, the proposal for another round of highway up-gradation has unsettled the citizens. Their misery is understandable since most land-owners had renovated or reconstructed their buildings incurring huge expenses, most of them being funded by high-interest bank loans.

What is going to hurt the business and private land-owners most is the mandatory setback of 6 metres to be allowed on either side, even within the town limits. This would practically mean pulling down all the commercial buildings and homes, built as recently as 2010.

As a sense of uncertainty prevailed, D M Sharique, a public-spirited social worker and RTI activist took up the matter with none other than Chief Minister Yediyurappa himself.

Sharique, in his letter to the CM, drew his attention to the fact that the state government was in the process of upgrading the status of the Sullia town panchayat to the town municipal council (TMC) level.

As such, guidelines for the administration of the proposed Sullia Urban Development Authority (SUDA) are being framed.

Prominent among them pertains to the six-metre setback on either side of the highway.

If this is implemented, wrote Sharique, that it was just impossible for any owner in Sullia, holding a piece of land less than 5 cents in extent by the highway to raise any construction.

Further, Sullia being located on a hilly terrain leading towards Sampaje Ghat and Madikeri, as compared to towns in other parts of the district, the percentage of people owning 2 to 5 cents plots on either side all along the highway is very high.

As it is impossible for those citizens owning land by the side of the highway within the town limits to adhere to this guideline, Sharique, conveyed these concerns to the CM on behalf of the citizens likely to be affected by this move.

Promptly understanding the concerns, the honourable CM has responded positively to the issue and has advised the State Secretary/Urban Development Department to look into the matter and take appropriate measures.

The citizens are eagerly hoping that an early, favourable decision will be taken in this regard.

While it will be a major relief for the business community as well as citizens, it could mean another feather in the cap for Sharique, who in the past has won many battles through public interest campaigns and RTI pursuits.

Pics credit: D M Sharique  

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