Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal today inaugurated the long-delayed Rao Tula Ram (RTR) flyover, branching out of the Munirka flyover and ending before the Army Research and Referral Hospital near Subroto Park close to National Highway-8. The flyover will play a crucial role for the Delhi residents in reducing their frustration of commuting in the peak hour traffic in South Delhi and improve the connectivity to Gurgaon and IGI airport.
However, the 2.7 KM stretch flyover was marred with several delays. The project which was estimated to be completed in Rs 278 crores, eventually took Rs 310 crores for completion due to inordinate delays caused by resident complaints, planning permission delays and other factors. The RTR flyover project work was started in November 2014 and envisioned to be completed in exactly two years. But due to several delays, the project took almost 5 years for its completion.
One of the significant reasons for the project’s excessive delay was the opposition flagged by ‘prominent citizens’ who lived along the Outer Ring Road (Palam Marg stretch) of Delhi’s plush Vasant Vihar neighbourhood. They protested against the flyover citing that their lane’s width and navigation of fire tenders and ambulance will be impossible after the flyover’s construction.
In a letter written to the then Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Tejendra Khanna, eminent journalist Karan Thapar argued that the construction of the flyover can become “the matter of life and death”, imploring the LG to not allow the reduction of the width of the service lane between houses 1 to 8 on the Palam Marg. Thapar claimed in the letter that he was speaking on behalf of the other residents as well which included- Arun Purie, the Editor-in-Chief of India Today and Aajtak, Harmala Gupta, daughter of late Gen. Harbaksh Singh and these all dignitaries endorsed and supported the request made by him in the letter.
Thapar argued in the letter that the current width of 6m of the service lane will be reduced to 4.5m after the construction of the RTR flyover, fire tenders won’t be able to navigate through the lane and if any of the houses caught fire, it will be a death trap for the residents there. However, the then Delhi fire chief AK Sharma put paid to the misgivings raised by Thapar. He rubbished the claims made by Thapar, asserting that the Fire Department has vehicles of all sizes and they don’t require to drive up to the house every time to douse the fire.
Even the locals of the area rubbished unfounded apprehensions raised by Thapar in his letter. Lashing out at Thapar, they said it is an attempt to hold the city to ransom for their personal benefit. One of the residents had then stated that the initial plan was to construct a wider and longer RTR flyover and laid the blame on people like Thapar for using their clout to truncate the flyover and reduce its width.
Refuting Thapar’s assertions, Gautam Vohra, president of Vasant Vihar RWA had revealed that Thapar didn’t approach him or other residents before writing a letter to the LG expressing our collective opposition to the flyover construction. Vohra had also said that prior to the incident, Thapar had shown little interest in addressing the water woes and other issues of greater public good before. The residents were of the opinion that Thapar vehemently opposed the flyover construction only because he perceived that his private space was about to be intruded.