Is P.C. Sorcar building the Sky Wheel in Mysore?


VIKRAM MUTHANNA writes: I read in the news that Mysore will be the third city in the world, yes in the world, to get a ‘Sky Wheel,’ a super-sized giant wheel. There are supposedly only two other cities in the world that have this—Singapore has the ‘Singapore Flyer’ and London has the ‘London Eye.’ However, there is one also at Niagara Falls.

Well, soon we too will have a very creatively named ‘Mysore Eye.’

The very thought of how high it would be made me giddy, and it wasn’t just that, but how inconceivable an idea it was.

Then I continued to read the news report. It said that it would be completed under Rs 30 crore.

Oh! I started feeling a little shaky and wobbly now, then even more good news—it will be completed in four months. That’s it. I collapsed with laughter.

We have just gotten over the high of getting a bullet train and now this Mysore Eye literally will take us high.

Who is kidding whom here?

The Mysore Eye supposedly will have air-conditioned cabins that will fit four people and as the wheel rotates slowly the foursome can enjoy the panoramic view of the city’s places of tourist interest, upto a radius of 20 kms.

One official said, “We will be able to see Ranganathittu bird sanctuary, Srirangapatna, KRS, Chamundi Hill, Mysore Palace, Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens and Karanji Lake.”

Great, wonderful but wait a minute, can’t we get an aerial view of all these from Chamundi Hill itself?

Can they build a giant wheel taller than the Chamundi Hill?

It is baffling as to why a small city like Mysore, which has a beautiful hill within the City limits, needs to have a giant wheel to view the city? London has the London Eye as it has many grander heritage buildings and modern architectural wonders that can be viewed and enjoyed better from a high point.

And since in London and Singapore — unlike in New York which has high rise buildings like the Empire State building which the public can access to view the city skyline — there is no such high rise building that the public can access and also the fact that there is no high ground within these cities from where one can view the city, the London Eye and Singapore Flyer serve this purpose.

But Mysore has a hill at its heart which is bigger, better and safer than a super-sized giant wheel built in a hurry. If anyone wants to have an aerial view, they simply have to drive up Chamundi Hill and it’s free, unlike the Rs 500-600 they will be charged for sitting in the Mysore Eye.

Also, tourists who come to Mysore visit Chamundi Hill anyway. So why will they pay extra money to see the same aerial view?

Now about the cost. First off, the London Eye was a private venture; it is owned by Merlin Entertainments group and they pay a substantial rent to the government, which goes to the London city coffers. But our Mysore Eye is a government venture, paid for by the taxpayers’ money and to be built by Innovative Studio Pvt. Ltd.

To build London Eye it cost Rs 640 crore, the Singapore Flyer cost Rs 720 crore. Now we want to know how is it that our officials are going to build something on the same lines, something world class, with just Rs 30 crore.

Then there is the time issue. The London Eye took two years to build, the Singapore Flyer a good three years; but our men are going to finish it in four months. Wow! Our officials are going to build what took two efficient nations around three years and over Rs 700 crores in just four months and with just Rs. 30 crore.

It makes us wonder if magician P.C. Sorcar is the contractor.

Either that or we are getting a Mysore Eye that is nothing like the London Eye they say it will be like.

So, like the other two, will our fancy giant wheel also run into cost over-runs and remain incomplete — like the aquarium, like the ring road, like the broadgauge, like the Raja Marga amongst other delayed projects? When it comes to project management, we have heard of the concept: under-promise and over-deliver.

But it seems when our officials get into project management, their concept is: over-promise and never-deliver.

Then the safety issue. When you hurry, you have reasons to worry. We have to ask how safe will a sophisticated feat of engineering with high technology inputs be when it’s built in a short time and with a tight budget?

In a country like Singapore itself, the super-sized giant wheel has been stopped a few times. Notably once for over six hours when the wheel stopped moving and 173 people were trapped. Some of them had to be rescued using slings and ropes. Are we ready with the rescue plan?

It is said that this project has been in planning for three years. Really? It took them three years to come up with a giant wheel but they need only four months to build it? And in three years the best name they could come up with was ‘Mysore Eye’ after ‘London Eye’?

This seems like a project conceived in a hurry so it could be made part of the Global Investors’ Meet-2012.

Also if it is so viable, why didn’t Innovative Studios present the project to the government to build it themselves with their own money, pay the Karnataka Exhibition Authority (KEA) rent and make money on ticket sales like London Eye? This questions Mysore Eye’s financial viability.

Instead of investing in a non-viable giant wheel, may be it would be better if the government creates a spacious viewing area upon Chamundi Hill with reasonably priced tickets, which also houses coin binoculars and clean toilets. It will cost much less, will be much safer and the visual range, we are sure, will be longer than a giant wheel.

Oh, Lord! How much more misguided ‘good news’ can we Mysoreans handle? Let the Karnataka Exhibition Authority first increase the number of toilets and keep them clean at the Exhibition Grounds. Let them increase the security and protect the women from eve-teasers in the Exhibition. Let them organise and make transparent the tendering process first and then they can talk about ‘Mysore Eye.’

Until then, which we are sure will be a long time to come, the KEA can be rest assured that there is nothing better than our god-given Mysore Eye — the Chamundi Hill.

Photograph: Kingfisher flight IT2404 landing in Mysore, with the Chamundi Hills in the backdrop, on its inaugural journey in October 2010 (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: Who wants a 4-lane road to Chamundi hills?

Who the hell wants a bullet train to Bangalore?