Tuesday 28 May 2013

Why Old Bangalore continues to fester

Our Governor, H.R. Bhardwaj, on Monday made a valid point about how Mysore road in the City had become an eye sore and how it was becoming difficult to traverse this route for people, particularly tourists going to Mysore and Madikeri.
The Governor was bang on target with his comments. There is nothing to dispute his contentions. As a Bangalorean, I and I am sure, lakhs of others remember with pleasure that Mysore Road was a few years ago.
Time was when one stopped at the Gali Anjaneya Temple and then proceeded towards Mysore or tourist and pilgrim sports towards Mysore. The Gali Anjeneya Temple has a hoary history and the idol was consecrated by the renown Madhwa saint, Vyasaraja or Vyasa Theertha (1460-1539).
This Anjeneya was one among the 732 Anjeneya idols that Vyasa Raja consecrated all over India during his lifetime. In Bangalore alone, there are several other Vyasa Prathistha Hanuman temples, including the Minto Eye Hospital (Kannu Aspatre Anjeneya) temple, Honnenahalli on the Doddaballapur-Yelahanka Road. Kote Anjeneya Temple near City Market, Sanjeevini Hanuman at Ramohali near Kengeri, Varadaanjaneya Swamy at RBI Layout, J P Nagar, 7th Phase, Aralumallige Gate Anjaneya in Car Street, Doddaballapur and several others.
However, most of the consecrated idols of Hanuman were in Penugonda and Vyasaraja was the preceptor of six Vijayanagar Emperors, including Krishna Deva Raya (1509-1530). This saint was also the pioneer of the Dasa Sahitya and Vyasa Sahitya-they are more popularly known as Dasa Kotta and Vyasa Koota. Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa, Belur Vaikunta Dasa were some of the disciples of Vyasaraja and they carried forward the tradition of  Dasa literature.
As far as Vyasa Koota goes, the saint was the teacher of other Madhwa saints such as Vadiraja (1480-1600), Vijeendra Theertha (1517-1614), Sudhindra Theertha-the guru of Raghavendra Swamy, Srinivasa Theertha and many others. The sages of this school propagated Dwaita philosophy as enunciated by Madhwacharya or Ananda Theertha  (1238-1317).
Vyasaraja was also the Chancellor of Vijayanagar University in Hampi or Vikayanagar and it had 15,000 students under him. Very few know that the popular song, “Krishna Nee Begane Baro”, was composed by him and not by Purandara Dasa as is generally ascribed.
Coming back to Mysore Road, the Gali Anjeneya Temple today is facing problems of water logging and overflow of sewage water from the near by drain. Successive State Governments and our civic body have failed to resolve this problem which occurs mainly due to illegal encroachments and construction along the storm water drain.
Once the drain is cleared of the encroachments and cleaned of filth and debris, water would once again flow freely into the channel and it would not overflow into the Gali Anjeneya Temple and subsequently on to Mysore road, which makes driving and walking a nightmare.
Another problem on the Mysore road is the triple construction activity of Namma Metro and BDA at the Mysore Road junction. Traffic halts here for several minutes and it is difficult to drive through this point after 8 a.m., in the morning. 
The Outer Ring Road and Nayandanahalli junction point and KIMKO junction points are clogged with vehicles and the road urgently needs a heavy coat of tar and cement. Forget riding, even walking is difficult. How then could you sell Mysore and Madikeri as a tourist place by road, asked the Governor and he is absolutely right.      
Sadly, the problems of commuting to Mysore by road begins right in Bangalore. The Mysore road flyover from City Market is in abysmal condition and it needs urgent repair. The drive on the flyover is bumpy due to uneven tarring. Barely have you crossed the flyover, you get caught in the snail-paced traffic of Mysore road.
The Mysore road, upto the outskirts, is in a mess and the Vrishabavati river gives out a foul smell. It is only after you leave Bangalore behind you begin to get a whiff of fresh air.
Several people have asked me why old Bangalore, including areas around Mysore Road and petes are so congested and dirty even as the Cantonment and surrounding areas are clean and have broad roads, good footpaths and well-designed parks and playgrounds.
The answer to this puzzle lies in the death of Tipu Sultan. When the British killed Tipu and captured Srirangapatna on May 4, 1799, they initially stationed a garrison in the island town. However, a revolt by British officers in Srirangapatna and mosquitoes forced the British to search for a suitable place to quarter their troops.
It was in 1806 that the British decided to set up a Cantonment in Bangalore and for this choose the northern ridge near Ulsoor. They compelled the Wodeyar King of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar, to donate 9000 acres for forming the Bangalore Cantonment.
Once they acquired the land, the British began meticulously planning the new township.
A young British military Engineer, John Blakiston (1785-1867), who was just 23 years of age, designed the Cantonment (1806-1881) which was mainly a military township covering 13 square miles.  
The Cantonment extended from the Residency on the west to Binnamangala on the east and from the Tanneries in the north to Agara in the south. By area, it was the largest British military cantonment in South India then.
The Cantonment housed three artillery batteries, regiments of the cavalry, infantry, miners, sappers, supply and transport corps, mounted infantry and the Bangalore Rifle Volunteers. Even as the British dressed up Cantonment, they chose to ignore the old city with its petes.
The British forced the Wodeyar King to allow them to directly administer the Cantonment, even as Bangalore City, comprising the fort and petes, including Kengeri, came under the jurisdiction of Mysore Kingdom.
The South Parade, now MG Road, became the fashion hub of British in Karnataka. It had some of the most outstanding hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs dance halls and Western establishments.
The Cantonment with broad roads, wide avenues, road side trees, huge bungalows was a sharp contrast to the old areas such.
In his book,  “Bangalore: Scenes from an Indian City”, M. N. Srinivas says the British deliberately ignored old Bangalore and this was the reason for its narrow, old, dusty and haphazardly planned roads and localities.
The British left the old areas as it is and they had no inclination or even interest in giving it a makeover. The main reason was that it was totally populated by natives, particularly Hindus and Tamilians and it comprised mainly of labourers who worked for their British masters.
The segregation of the two cities continued for several decades. The Mysore Kingdom inherited the narrow, old, congested and unhygienic petes, while the British went about developing Cantonment first and Whitefield later as “spots of England”.
This divide deepened when the capital of Mysore Kingdom was shifted from Mysore to Bangalore. The Resident too shifted his office from Mysore to Bangalore. The first railway lines between Bangalore and Jolarpet were laid in 1864 under the directives of Mark Cubbon, the Resident of Mysore. However, the railway line commenced at Cantonment and not at today’s City Railway Station.
Cubbon’s successor, Lewin Betham Bowring (1862–1870) gave a further impetus to the organised growth of Cantonment when he went about setting up the first organised law enforcement units. He also set in place  the sewerage system and was also instrumental in establishing the Department of Survey and Settlement.
A separate municipality was set up for Cantonment on August 1, 1862 with Rs. 37,509 allotted to it as the initial fund. The Municipality had a committee comprising European official, three non-European officials, two native officials and one native non-official. The Superintendent of Police was the President and the official members of the committee also included Naib Seristadar and Sur Ameen. The non-officials consisted of a Muslim and three others. The population of the Cantonment in 1863 was 57,193 and of Bangalore about 36,302. While Bangalore town extended over an  area of 8¼ sq miles, Cantonment covered 12½ sq miles. This, Cantonment was bigger in size and more populated than Bangalore.
The Municipal limits of Bangalore Cantonment was called the Civil and Military station. It consisted of six divisions:
1. Halasur division
2. Southern division
3. East General Bazaar division
4. West General Bazaar division
5. Cleveland Town division
6. High Ground division.
Similarly, Bangalore City too got its own municipality. In May 1862 a Municipal Committee was formed for old ‘pettah' town with an initial annual fund of Rs.21,681.
This committee was made up of ten members, of whom two were  Europeans, four Indian officials and four non-official Indians. The Assistant Superintendent of Bangalore division was designated as the President of the Municipal Council. The town had a population of 36,302 and it was divided into three divisions- Balepet, Manavarthpet and Ulsoorpet. Each division was represented by two municipal councillors.
(In 1878 two more divisions- Nagarathpet and Kalasipalyam- were added to the municipality. In 1883, High Grounds became the sixth division and in 1891 the Palace and Lalbagh divisions were added. In 1893 the High Ground division and Palace division were merged into a single unit and in 1903, two new divisions, Malleshwaram and Basavanagudi were set up.)
Bangalore, thus, had two separate municipalities. The development of Bangalore Cantonment went on smoothly as the centre of power was in Bangalore itself. However, the municipality of the old Petta suffered from the problem of taking and implementing decisions as they had to be okayed by the Wodeyar King at Mysore or the administration in Mysore.
Subsequently, the British Government enacted a separate law for Bangalore Cantonment. It was called the Bangalore Municipal Regulation Act of 1883. This Act empowered the taxpayers of Cantonment to elect their municipal councillors. The act also provided communal representation by separate electorates. Accordingly Europeans and Eurasians were to have six representatives, Muslims four and Hindus eight.
However, this right was given to Petta Municipality only in 1892. The Petta Municipality had 22 members and of them eleven were to be elected and the rest nominated by the Government. However, there was no communal representation by separate electorates in this municipality.
Very soon, both the municipalities felt the need for a regular and non-official president to head it. They requested Bowring to amend the law and he agreed to do so. In 1870, the Municipal Regulation Act of 1871 was enacted, under which the Board of Bangalore Town and Cantonment Municipality were placed under one executive officer. Mr J.H. Orr took charge of the office of President of Bangalore Town Municipality on April 3, 1871.
Thus, Bangalore had a unique governance. Though Bangalore town or petta and the Cantonment had separate municipalities, they had a common President in Dr. Orr.
Each municipality had its own building, officers, funds and establishment. Thus, the city got two sets of administrators-one foreign and another indigenous. The discrimination continued and today’s mess we see in City Market, Kalasipalyam and old petas are a result of this.  
Even today, the civic body has failed its duty in managing petes and old Bangalore areas which continue to lack basic civic amenities.  

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