Tuesday 6 August 2013

The forgotten leaders of Bangalore

Even as our present Mayor, D. Venkatesh Murthy, is continuing in the post well past his tenure thanks to the confusion over the reservation roster, very few people remember some of the earlier first citizens of the City and those who led or headed the civic body of Bangalore.
Initially, Bangalore had two municipalities-one for the Civil and Military Station (Cantonment) and another for the Peetah or Pete area. The history of civic governance goes back to more than 150 years when nine leading citizens petitioned the Government in October 1861 for the formation of a Municipality. On March 27, 1862, the Government accepted the demand and set up the Bangalore City Municipality under the Improvement of Towns Act of 1850.
Later, the Cantonment too got its own municipality and both the civic bodies were legalised in 1881 and continued to function separately till they were merged after Indian attained freedom in 1947.
Since Mayors today are elected and as they do not enjoy a longer tenure, people find it hard to remember their names. Bangalore has had 43 mayors and several presidents and many of them have left their mark but we seem to have forgotten them.
The presidents and vice-presidents of Bangalore Municipality continued till India gained Independence. Their tenure till 1937 was three years. In January 1, 1937, the Government limited the term of the office of president and vice-president to one year.
One of the earliest presidents of the municipality was Captain Cole. In 1862, he set in motion the scheme for formation of sites near the Dharmambudhi tank.
Dr. J. H. Orr was the president of the Bangalore Town Municipality and he took charge on April 3, 1871. He was also first president of both the Cantonment and Town Municipalities between 1875 and 1876. This was when C.B.  Saunders was the Chief Commissioner of Mysore. In 1881 when Rendition took place and the British restored Mysore Kingdom to the Wodeyars, Dr. Orr handed over the charge as president of Bangalore town municipality to L. Ricketts who was the Deputy Commissioner of Bangalore district. (Ricketts was also the Inspector-General of Forests in 1886 and was instrumental in the formation of the Department of Forests. He also the first Inspector-General of Police, Mysore State).
T.T. Leonard was appointed as the president of the Bangalore Town Municipality in 1896. He was heading the civic agency when the great plague of 1898 broke out. He is still remembers for his work in eradicating the dirty practice of digging cess pits and manually cleaning them.
One of the first few names of Indians who led by example and was the president of Bangalore municipality was Arcot Srinivasachar.
An iconic figure more than a hundred years ago, Arcot was the president of the municipality in the closing years of the 19th century and in 1892 he was instrumental in bringing in regulations to protect Cubbon Park by limiting building activity around it.
He had been appointed as vice-president of the municipality in 1883 and later became its president.
He was also among the first officials of his times to go around the City and accept letters and petitions from the public and direct the Municipal staff to take immediate action.
In 1904, the Government appointed, A.S.Nagarkar, a retired superintendent engineer, as president of Bangalore town municipality. He served in the Public Works Department and the Government thought his experience in the department would help him gear up Bangalore to international standards.
K.P. Puttana Chetty (1856-1938) was a member of the Bangalore municipality from 1906 to 1912 and its president from 1913-1919
It was during his tenure that Bangalore experienced an epidemic of influenza and he worked hard with the officials to control it. 
Another leading member of the Bangalore Municipality was B.K. Garudachar. He was instrumental in renovating several temples and was the founder director of State Bank of Mysore apart from being a members of the Bangalore civic body for more than 30 years and its president on at least four occasions. 
Puttanna Chetty’s contribution to Bangalore was so immense and everlasting that people fondly designated him as the Pithamaha of Bangalore. He took keen interest in improving the finances of the municipality. He envisaged construction of  houses for the poor and needy, planned new extensions and also introduced the sewerage system.
B.K. Garudachar (not to be confused with Mr. Garudachar, the distinguished IPS officer and a cricket player by the same name who played for the then Mysore State) was a councillor for 35 years and also the president of the civic agency thrice. He was instrumental in constructing, renovating and refurbishing the Rama (earlier known as Krishna) temple at Tulasi Thotha near Dharmambudi Tank.
He too went around the City just like Arcot Srinivasachar and Puttanna Chetty and attended to the grievances of the people. His humble attitude won over scores of people. If there was a problem requiring intervention by the civic agency, he would personally approach the clerk or official, discuss the problem and get it resolved.  He was first elected president of the municipality in the election held on February 1, 1920.
Mohammad Abbas Khan of Sultanpet, who won the municipal elections, was the president when Sir Mirza Ismail was the Dewan. Khan would accompany Sri Mirza when he went on horseback on his morning rounds in Bangalore.
The first communal disturbance in Bangalore occurred when Abbas was the municipal president. The incident shook the Mysore Government and the Maharaja ordered an inquiry into it of which Sir M.Visvesvaraiah was one of the members. 
R Subbanna was the first mayor of Bangalore following the unification of the Cantonment and Pete areas on December 8, 1949. The Municipality then had 53 members. (The Subbanna Circle in Gandhinagar is named after him). He was followed by N. Keshava Iyengar, a distinguished Hebbar Iyengar. He was the second Mayor of Bangalore and he dropped the caste or sub-caste proclamation in his name and he called himself Keshav. He also persuaded many proprietors of restaurants and tiffin rooms such as “Brahmanara Coffee Clubs and Tiffin Rooms” in Bangalore to drop the Brahmanara prefix. He encouraged them to feed poor and needy students.
It was during his tenure that autorickshaws first came to Bangalore. He was later elected twice to the Lok Sabha from Bangalore North constituency (1951 and 1957).
Another indomitable man was Krishna Iyer. A veteran freedom fighter, he represented Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency during 1984-89. He was elected to the Bangalore City Corporation in 1960 and he was Mayor during 1962-63. He was a founder member of Janata Party.
K Thuppal Narasimha Iyengar Bashyam was another colossus who strode across Bangalore. An advocate, he dropped the prefix Iyengar when told it indicated his caste. He was among the first advocates who proposed that Hindu women rights to property be improved. In 1928, he favoured legislative mechanism to end sex disqualification on the question of Hindu laws of
Inheritance. The then Government bowed in to his demands and set up the Hindu Law Women's Rights Committee
Similarly, some of the eminent men who presided over the Municipal Council of the Civil and Military Station were F. L. Richards and A. R. Cox.
Richards was the President of the station Municipality from October 1908 to November 1912.  He not only started the  Veterinary hospital and Crèche but was among the first to initiate renovation and improvement of Ulsoor tank. He also set up a dairy farm.
Today, he is remembered as the man who lent his name to Richards Town. He was followed by A.R.Cox, who was designated as the collector of C and M station from 1912 to November 1917. The Cox Town locality is named after him. G.H. Cooke was a Collector and President of the Municipal Commission during the 1920s. T.B. Russell was the President of Cantonment Municipality between 1924 and 1928.  L.J. MacIver— after whom MacIver Town was named, was Collector and president of the Municipal Commission  between 1934 and 1937. He was also president of Bangalore Club in 1935-36.
Recent Mayors of Bangalore who worked for improving the City include M.V. Tiwari and J. Lingaiah. They headed Bangalore in the 1970s. Lingaiah was known for his work to improve Bangalore roads. The Sultanpet Main Road is now named Tiwari Road and a road in Gandhinagar is named after Lingaiah.
B. Indiramma was the first woman Mayor of Bangalore. Since then, there have been four other women Mayors-Padmavathi Gangadhara Gowda (1996-97), Prema Cariappa (2000-01), Mumtaz Begum (2005-06) and the first Dalit- Sharadamma (2011-12).  
Another Mayor who left his mark was G. Narayan. He was a freedom fighter and he became the Mayor in 1964. He, along with former mayor V S Krishna Iyer, were instrumental in bringing Cauvery to Bangalore. His contribution to Kannada is immeasurable.
We would be doing a great disservice if we did not mention T R.  Shamanna. Known as Karnataka Gandhi, he is better known as the father of the Bangalore City Council.  He was instrumental in getting the tax on cycles and water abolished.  This earned him the nickname Cycle Shamanna.

He also worked extensively to rid Bangalore of the severe water and power shortage that plagued Bangalore in the early 1950s.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for this informative article!