Voices against closing arterial Secunderabad Road grow louder, even as govt remains mum

The Gough Road, used by roughly 1 lakh residents everyday, is to be closed from June 1.
File photo of a resident protest
With just days remaining before an arterial road in Secunderabad Cantonment area is slated to be closed down for public use, the state government is yet to speak up on the issue.
The Local Military Authority (LMA) has sought the closure of the Gough Road from June 1 this year stating, “administration, training and security of AOC Centre are being adversely affected due to this road being used as a thoroughfare.”
It has also been citing a High Court order that ruled that the army had the right to close the roads.
The Gough Road is used by roughly 1 lakh residents everyday, and connects various parts of Secunderabad like Sainikpuri, Defence Colony, and Neredmet, with Hyderabad.
If the LMA shuts the road, residents will have to take a detour of as long as 10 km in some cases.
The issue was first raised in February 2014 and the deadline for the closure has been extended several times over the past three years, after representations were made to the Centre.
After several meeting between MLAs, MPs and the intervention of the Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and then Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, it was decided that the road would be open for civilians, except between 10 pm and 6 am.
The protesters say that the alternate road via Trimulgherry is narrow and can’t take the load of the traffic during rush hours.
Many also point out that ever since the LMA shut the Gough Road at night, there is traffic jams at midnight at the stretch from Karkhana to Trimulgherry. 
Speaking to TNM, Secunderabad Cantonment Congress in-charge and official spokesperson for the state unit of the party, M Krishank, argues that the move by the state government, to get an ‘extension’ every six months will not work. 
“Firstly, the road isn’t open at night. However, the public understands that the army has to deal with anti-social activities at night if the road is open, and they have adjusted to it,” he says.
“The traffic impact of shutting this road even during the day, will fall on other routes, which are already congested, and will be a great inconvenience to the citizens,” Krishank adds. 
Pointing out that the LMA has already closed 10 roads near Bolarum and Yapral, the protestors have complained that this has turned an 800-metre ride into an 8 km ride for several residents.

Meanwhile, the state government has been promising to build alternate roads since December 2014, when KCR wrote to the then Defence Minister.
However, officials of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) are still identifying land, and work on the alternate roads is yet to start.
The proposal to build a road from RK Puram Flyover to Safilguda Railway Station, and another road from Safilguda to Mahindra Hills, still remains on paper.
“The government has been promising alternate roads, but it needs defence land for that. However, it doesn’t seem interested in the issue, and is only trying to acquire land for skyways,” Krishank says. 
Arguing that status quo should be maintained, he goes on to add, “Since the army has been citing a security threat, they can increase surveillance via CCTV cameras, and put more jawans on duty.”
Krishank also blames the state government for not ‘owning up’ the issue. 
“We respect the army, but in the end, it’s the common people who suffer, because the army doesn’t listen to them, and the Telangana government doesn’t talk to them,” he says.
Reopening closed roads
Even as citizens fight to keep the Gough Road open, many are demanding the reopening of roads closed in other parts of the cantonment area. 
In March this year, after a two-year battle, citizens received a major boost, when an RTI reply from the Defence Estate Office (DEO) revealed that only six out of the 12 road that had been shut in the Golf Course area belonged to the Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB).
This conflicted with the SCB’s own admission in the Hyderabad High Court, that all the roads being shut, were A1 defence land, under the control of the LMA.
This also reinforced the citizen’s allegations that the roads were shut by the LMA, not for ‘security’, but for a golf course.
The SCB is a local municipal authority, that comes under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence, and functions as a local self-government, under the Cantonment Act of 2006.
While half the members on the board are civilians, the other half are military nominations. Elections are held once in five years.
“When we first went to the court, they came with a counter-affidavit saying that the roads belonged to the LMA. This RTI has exposed them. They have misled the court,” Chandrasekhar Sankaran, from Open Secunderabad Cantonment Roads (OSCAR) had earlier told TNM.
Chandrasekhar also argued that this would amount to a contempt of court, and lying under oath.
“Even orders from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) do not seem to make an iota of difference to the LMA in Secunderabad. The general public is being cowed down with the authorities placing armed sentries at the gates and barriers blocking the closed roads,” he added.   
Demanding that the closed roads be immediately opened, OSCAR has also sought an investigation into the discrepancies, which have been unearthed.
Faced with growing criticism, SCB members have promised to move a special motion during the next board meeting.
“In the light of the new findings, we will move a special petition to discuss some of the roads that were mentioned in the RTI reply,” the newly appointed Vice-President of the board, J Ramakrishna told The Hindu. 
Meanwhile, the LMA continues to remain adamant on closing the Gough Road by the end of this month.
However, it clarified that emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire brigades will be allowed to use the road.

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