When Governments and authorities all over the world are trying to regenerate the forests that have vanished and taken upon themselves the task to preserve and protect the existing parks and lung spaces, the Karnataka Government recently came up with a dubious decision to delete several buildings from the
limits. The reason-it wanted to install more statues and the Cubbon Park Act
was coming in the way. Cubbon Park
Park is the second oldest park in after the
Lalbagh. While the credit for founding Lalbagh goes to Hyder Ali and its
subsequent development to Tipu Sultan, it was the British who were responsible
for development of Bangalore which was conceived
in 1870. Cubbon
This park has always been in the eye of controversy, be it the decision to denotify its boundaries or allow development inside the park. This time around, the very Government that passed a law to protect the park and its environs has passed another law to allow it to install more statues in front of Vidhana Soudha and Vikasa Soudha and other buildings which it has taken out of the purview of the Preservation of Parks Act.
When the park was initially laid out on 91 acres, it was only conceived as an extension of the magnificent Residency (Raj Bhavan today) that Mark Cubbon built for himself. The park then faced the Residency and behind the park was vast open ground which sloped towards the Sampangi tank to one side and Siddikatte tank on the other side (Ulsoor Gate side).
After Cubbon left for
England by ship, Bowring purchased the bungalow from
Government funds and decided to permanently convert it into the official
quarters of the Chief Commissioners of .
Even as Bowring stayed in the Residency, Col. John Meade developed the park on 100
acres on land which originally belonged to the Vanniyars. Mysore
The Residency was located then at the highest point in
High Grounds (3031 feet above sea level), and it was built between 1840 and
1842. The garden
below was a perfect contrast to the white bungalow. Bangalore
Later, the High Court or Attara Katcheri was constructed around the lawns of the park and this was sometime in 1881. By then, the park had extended to 325 acres and it was the buffer between the Pete or old
and the Cantonment or the Civil and Military Station. Bangalore
The park was expanded in 1910, 1917 and 1930 and at the time of
it sprawled over 325 acres. Independence
Today, the park has shrunk to just 190 acres and yet it is home to 6000 species of plants and trees apart from playing a perfect host to at least 50 of the 153 species of butterflies found in
The park area near the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association has the City’s
biggest casuarina and the oldest Silver oak trees in Bangalore . The silver oaks were brought in
from Bangalore . Australia
is being looked after by the Horticulture Department. When it was initially
planned and in the decades later, it was the Cubbon Park Bangalore
Municipality which zealously guarded
the parka and other public places of . Bangalore
The regulations relating to construction of houses, protection of trees and parks and playgrounds and other acts relating to town planning were in force much before the Town and Country Planning Act, Municipal law, Outline Development Plan and Comprehensive Development Plan (old and new) came to be written and passed.
The earliest zoning regulations in
Bangalore came into being on July
2, 1892 when Arcot Srinivasachar was the President of the .
Then, Sir K. Seshadri Iyer was Dewan of Mysore and Sir T.R.A. Thumboochetty
(later officiating Dewan) was Chief Judge of Bangalore Municipality . Mysore
The building regulations were enshrined in the then revenue manual called Mysore Revenue Manual and they had sections where house building was prohibited. One such prohibited area was
Sidney Road which
is today known as Kasturba Road.
The manual has delineated the boundary along several areas where building activity, sinking of wells and excavations are prohibited. This is issued in the July 1892 copy of the manual.
The only buildings permitted on
was the Government Museum in 1876 and the
police station building in 1910. However, this rule was relaxed during the
Forties and Fifties and the municipal authorities permitted the construction of
bungalows on Cubbon Park Kasturba Road
opposite the Museum in what was then called . MacIver Town
The real threat to the once pristine park was after Indian attained
in 1947. Buildings began coming up on all sides of the park and the extent of
the park also began whittling down. Independence
Public outcry forced the State Government to enact the Parks Preservation Act.
One of the forgotten institutions of
Bangalore, the Bangalore Urban Arts Commission (BUAC) headed
by M.A. Parthasarthy which was set up in the late 1970s, was the first to
spearhead a movement to beautify Bangalore and
also to save from further onslaught. Cubbon
The BUAC was against allowing demonstrations, protests, rallies and strikes in the park and in 1993 a committee to suggest ways to beautify
also called for banning all types of
agitations within the park premises. Bangalore
The committee was called the High-Powered Committee for the beautfication of
and it was a natural corollary of the Lakshman Rau Committee which reported on
the status of tans and lakes in and around . Bangalore
From the 1980s onwards, the police slowly began clamping down on protests in the park and urged the protesters to organize their agitations in other areas such as Jakkarayana Kere,
K. R. Circle, Mysore Bank Circle.
They also restricted the protests in to the Cubbon
Park Gopala Gowda Circle.
In 1983, the Government included the Raj Bhavan, the Vidhana Soudha, the LRDE (the junction of Ali Askar Road and Infantry Road) and the Legislators’ Home (Basaveshwara Circle), totalling 76 acres, in the area of the park.
When the Government sought to denotify these areas from the park land, the first agitation to protect the park was launched. There were demonstrations, dharnas, public protests and even court cases to preserve the park.
In 1995, the High Court admitted a public interest litigation (PIL) petition by N.H. Desai against the failure of the authorities to remove construction debris from the park. He also wanted the Government to ban rallies in the area.
In 1997 the Government bowed in to public demands and banned public rallies in the park. Subsequently, on July 30, 1998, the then Government of Karnataka revised the boundaries of Cubbon Park and specified the new limits by deleting 32 acres from its limits. This was done to ensure that the that land on which it planned to construct an annexe to the Legislators’ Home that was being built since 1996 would not face any legal hurdle.
The Parks Act was amended a few years ago to permit the use of land belonging to both
and Lalbagh by Namma Metro. When the
Government carried out the amendment, we were told that it was only a one time
measure and that it was for a good public cause. This was the argument that the
Advocate-General advanced before the Karnataka High Court when it was hearing the
case relating to Cubbon Park and Namma Metro. Cubbon
Now comes another amendment and this is to give a free-all to the Government to install statues. The Government gave this reason while introducing this amendment in the Legislative Council.
The Council, in turn, unanimously adopted a legislation deleting Vidhana Soudha, Vikasa Soudha, Raj Bhavan and Multi-Storyed buildings from the limits of
. Cubbon Park
Thus a revised Karnataka Government Parks (Preservation) (Amendment) Bill, 2013 was passed deleting these buildings from its ambit. Presently all these buildings come under
notified area and, hence, any construction and even renovation is strictly
governed under the ambit of the act. Cubbon Park
The Government said it wanted to install statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri in front of the Vidhana Soudha. As the Vidhana Soudha and Vikasa Soudha are within the limits of
, the existing law
does not allow for installation of statues anymore. Cubbon
The Government therefore brought in the amendment to facilitate construction of statues for Mahatma Gandhi on the land between Vidhana and Vikasa Soudha.
An interesting aside is that though the bill was approved, the Leader of the Opposition in the House, D V Sadananda Gowda, expressed concern over the misuse of the amended law or rather Act.
He said, “Our concern is that in future statues of father, son, brother, mother who were in politics should not come up.” When some Congress members sought to know whom he was referring to as father-son, the BJP leader said his statement was simple that everyone can guess.
Another BJP member B J Puttaswamy urged the Government not to convert Vidhana Soudha and Vikasa Soudha complex to a graveyard by installing statues.
Well, two members of the Legislature have already foretold what happens in the future. Unfortunately, Bangaloreans this time around have remained quiet over the amendment. They are yet to wake up to the dangers of the amended Act.