BENGALURU: Even as the city has grown enough to include swanky new areas like MG Road and Indiranagar, the traders of old Bengaluru seem to have been left behind. This has generated a lot of outrage ahead of the elections. Areas like Chickpet, Balepet, Nagarthpet and surroundings are some of the oldest settlements in Bengaluru and according to those who live and work there, they are also the most neglected.
“We generate a large volume of business inspite of the conditions we work in.The government is busy developing TenderSURE roads for everyone but us. Why ignore the heart of the city which generates so much tax,” questions Rajesh, a trader in SP Road. The answer, according to most people in Chickpet, is because they are migrants. “We are not treated at par with people from the city. While Bengalureans get crores of rupees to beautify their areas, we don’t have any funds allocated for even the most basic facilities like a public toilet,” complains Harsh, another trader who is located near the Chickpet Metro station. The launch of operations at the Chickpet Metro station came as a pleasant surprise to many.
“We finally thought our travel woes would be over. We even contributed to painting the station. But as time passed, our request for a public toilet was not heeded and today people urinate near the station for want of a proper toilet. This is the only development that has occurred in years and now it is also in a bad state because the government couldn’t set up a public toilet,” said Sajjan Raj Mehta, a trade activist based in Chickpet.
Ask him about the upcoming elections and Mehta gets charged up. “There is a lot of anger for being ignored. However, this time we decided to channel it. This time, we will show them the cost of ignoring those who have worked for the city for years without complaining. We shall come out in large numbers and register our votes for those who are interested in improving our conditions,” he said.
With a sizeable number of traders coming in from other northern states like Bihar, UP, Gujarat and Rajasthan, any increase in voter turnout is not likely to be in favour of the ruling government.“We met two times under the banner of the South Indian Migrants Association to discuss how we could get the government’s attention. The first time there were 40 traders who showed up, the second time there were more than 1,000. We are prepared to cast our vote for the candidate who promises to develop Old Bengaluru alongside the newer areas,” said Shantilal, who runs a cloth trading business in Balepet.
Congress candidate for Chickpet and sitting MLA R V Devraj according to many is likely to face a tough fight this time around.
“Looking at the amount of business that happens in K R Market, SP Road, Nagrathpet and other ‘petes’ one would think the area would have seen a lot of improvement. Sanitation, infrastructure and dirty streets should be the least of our problems. However, we are battling daily to stop from drowning in garbage and filth,” said Arjun Rajput, who runs an electronics shop on SP Road.In nearby Gandhinagar, Dinesh Gundu Rao is likely to win but not with the support of the trading community which is still rankled as being treated as outsiders.
Shopkeepers on Brigade Road also unhappy
Last year has been bad even for the traders of Brigade Road and Church Street. “We are seeing people preferring Koramangala and Indiranagar over M G Road. The present government has not helped us much,” said Sajish John, a shop owner on Brigade Road. The ban on pubs around national highways and closing down of Church Street for makeover has led to an immense loss of business. “We have had to close down our pub, shift to another area, offer discounts that put us under losses, but the people never came back,” rues Anoop, the manager of a bar that used to operate on Brigade Road.