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Bengaluru steel flyover: 'Beda' vs 'Beku' social media row has taken the debate to a new level

Bengaluru: Nearly a month into the protests over the steel flyover in Bengaluru, the campaign has seen several twists and turns already. As the “beda” (No) protesters turned to social media to garner support for their campaign from Bengalureans, a “beku” (Yes) campaign has started on social media. Albeit, late into the campaign, the “beku” group has been out-shouted by the “beda” group for being “pro-government” and for being initiated by the ruling Congress.

 Bengaluru steel flyover: Beda vs Beku social media row has taken the debate to a new level

Representational image. Reuters

In the cosmopolitan city, the Kannada words “beda” and “beku” have found popular hashtags along with English phrases to give it a local flavour. So, you have hashtags #steelflyoverbeda and #steelflyoverbeku trending on Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp and Youtube with each group warring over how genuine or factual the other group’s information is.

For each post put out by the “beku” group, citing the traffic snarls and long commute on the existing Hebbal flyover, there are several counter posts by the “beda” group.

Hundreds of members of the “beku” group even hit the streets to counter the nearly 5000-strong human chain the “beda” group had undertaken earlier. Several residents from North Bengaluru Residents Welfare Associations shouted slogans for "Steel flyover beku". Commuters complained of getting stuck on the existing Hebbal flyover from anywhere between 20 minutes to one hour during peak hours and how the steel flyover would help them reach their destinations sooner.

North Bengaluru will be directly affected by the steel flyover, which will start at Chalukya circle and go to Hebbal, leading to the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA). The flyover’s aim is to de-congest the busy Bellary road and North Bengaluru areas. Considered to be the longest flyover at a 6.72 km stretch, the steel flyover is estimated to cost Rs 1,791 crore and is expected to be completed in 24 months. The project will be executed by Larsen and Toubro Ltd (L&T) and Nagarjuna Ltd, with the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) overseeing it. BDA will acquire around one acre for the project. The steel flyover will involve destruction of three flyovers, two skywalks and one magic box underpass and the chopping of 812 trees, intrinsic to the spirit of Bengaluru.

Bangalore Development Minister KJ George has personally taken up the battle for the flyover, by taking to social media with constant updates on the project. He also told India Today, "We have taken public opinion into consideration and 70 percent of the suggestions in favour of the flyover. It is time and again discussed in many forums, I have personally discussed this with the vision group members and now there is a misconception that this is only for VIP's, that is not true, it is for all."

What the minister is talking about is a June press release put out by BDA about suggestions it invited on the project “from experts and interested persons either by contacting or through email. Accordingly, 299 suggestions have been received through emails. Out of which 73% have opined in favour of implementing flyover project. The remaining persons have requested to identify alternative route, conventional concrete method and to exhibit detail project.”

Both the minister’s and the BDA statement were countered by the “beda” group trolling this information, with tweets expressing concern for the 300th person.

The Karnataka government also held an all-party meet where the BJP, JD(S) and AAP opposed the steel flyover and the meeting ended with the BJP representatives walking out. Union Minister DV Sadananda Gowda, whose Lok Sabha constituency is from Bangalore North, has also expressed concern over the project, he had even sought a meeting with Bengaluru’s elected representatives.

The Karnataka government has further followed up its campaign for the steel flyover with animated videos of the congested existing Hebbal flyover and a futuristic 3D animated video on the BDA website. This video shows buses and trucks plying over the new flyover, to counter the “beda” group’s claims that this was a VVIP flyover. With a tiny image of a Congress flag fluttering in the background, the viewer is taken through a six-lane steel flyover from Race Course Road, Dr Ambedkar Road, Raj Bhavan Road and Millers Road to Hebbal.

This BDA video has been trolled extensively by the “beda” group. Here is one comment on the video posted on Facebook:

With a first movers’ advantage, the “beda” group has been garnering more and more strident voices to its group. The "beda" group conducted a public debate with several prominent citizens addressing other citizens last week. Historian Ramachandra Guha spoke on the disease of gigantism. Deccan Herald reported on Thursday, that renowned space scientist UR Rao has raised objections to the steel flyover telling the chief minister that it would come in the way of the telescopic observation at the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium.

The “beda” group also undertook an online and physical referendum from citizens, with ballot boxes springing up all over the city and volunteers going into Metro trains, malls, Majestic bus station and offices and collected over 40,000 signatures.

With criticism from the “beku” group that the “beda” group consisted mainly of south Bengalureans who did not have to face the daily traffic congestion in North Bengaluru, the “beda” group has begun garnering voices from North Bengaluru on social media to counter this.

But, in a clear signal of not succumbing to pressure from the “beda” group, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has said the government would go ahead with the proposed 1791 crore steel flyover project. BDA has also issued a letter of acceptance to L&T on Wednesday, signaling its go-ahead on the project.

What is alarming is that there are also reports that the project cost could go up by another Rs 400 crore, easily crossing Rs 2000 crore, with the government’s plans to extend the steel flyover from Hebbal to Esteem mall. This move is likely to face another round of protests, as it would be in violation of the Karnataka lake Conservation and Development Authority Act 2014, and the buffer zone guidelines issued by the Karnataka High Court and the National Green Tribunal.

Bengaluru’s infrastructure projects have always been mired in controversy, with citizens and activists crying foul until either the projects get scrapped or get implemented regardless of the protests. And sadly, it looks like this is one project that’s not getting scrapped regardless of the countless voices being added to the “beda” group.

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Updated Date: Oct 28, 2016 13:02:22 IST