Sunday, 30 June 2013

Where have our lakes gone

Bangalore is a city which is full of surprises. The modern exists, perhaps a little uneasily, with the ancient. Though the urban onslaught on the history and heritage of the history continues, there is growing concern about the need to preserve, protect and even nurture our heritage.
Today, Bangalore is fortunate in having a vocal and growing group of conservationists and urban historians who leave no stone unturned to halt the senseless march of modernity and crass commercialization of the vast open spaces, water bodies, wet lands and green cover.
There have been umpteen number of surveys, studies, research papers, seminars and committees that have gone into and even at this point of time are seized with the issue of decreasing green cover of Bangalore and shrinking water bodies. But what is surprising is that within the Government and its agencies itself, there is no unanimity on a number of issue, including the number of tans and lakes in and around Bangalore.
It is really surprising that no less than sixteen different agencies of the State own or have a right over these water bodies and they range from our very own Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), Bangalore Urban Jilla Panchayat, Bangalore Rural Jilla Panchayat, Forest Department, Fisheries Department, Minor Irrigation Department, Horticulture Department and even Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Board (KUWSSB), Lake Development Authority (LDA) and a few other departments too.
This multiplicity of ownership has resulted in a very peculiar situation with each having its own census and results of tanks and water bodies in Bangalore and around the city.
Thus if Bangalore City has a few active lakes such as Ulsoor, Madivala, Sankey, Yediyur, greater Bangalore area of which Bangalore is a part has many more.
Greater Bangalore comes under the aegis of the Bangalore Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (BMRDA) and its jurisdiction covers both Bangalore urban and rural districts and also parts of Kolar, Chikaballapur, Ramanagar and even Tumkur districts. Thus, BMRDA boundaries are bigger than BBMP boundaries. The BDA too has its own jurisdiction and it too manages a few tanks. 
To add to this confusion, we have the urban and rural jilla panchayats of Bangalore and both have their own records of tanks and lakes.
The many local bodies in and around Bangalore such as Anekal, Hoskote, Kanakapura, Magadi, Bidadi too have their own water bodies and some of them are directly under their control. 
Apart from these civic agencies, the departments such as Agriculture Horticulture, Fisheries, Minor Irrigation, Major Irrigation, Urban Development also have tanks under their jurisdiction.
Thus, we get a variety of agencies involved in the management and protection of water bodies. No wonder, there seems to be no common programme among the agencies or coordination among them to protect the water bodies and each has its own programme, plan and agenda. Thus, the lakes keep disappearing and the money spent in cleaning up one lake goes down the drain as other water body either upstream or downstream is not cleaned.  
If we go by the Government’s own surveys, we get varying estimates of the number of tanks and lakes in and around Bangalore. A case in this is the BBMP whose jurisdiction extends over almost 800 square kilometer which has 183 lakes. Of them, BBMP has jurisdiction over 55 lakes only and 123 water bodies have been handed over to the BDA for management and protection. The BDA has already taken up the development of 123 lakes in three phases, with an estimated cost of Rs159.71 crore even as the BBMP has its own programme. .
One of the earliest  surveys of lakes and tanks in and around Bangalore was undertaken during the time of Tipu Sultan (1750-1799), the ruler of Mysore. This survey was undertaken in 1791 and it was taken up in a scientific manner that had not been done earlier.
In this survey, the lakes were measured, the survey number on which they stood and the tanks beds numbered, their description entered into the revenue records and steps taken to keep them clean and rain fed. The first few man made lakes in Bangalore such as Kempambudhi owe their existence to Kempe Gowda.
After the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799, Bangalore came under both Wodeyar and British rule and both took steps to augment water supply to Bangalore by building new lakes and tanks and renovating and repairing the existing water bodies.
Many of the lakes constructed by the British,Wodeyars and Kempe Gowda are either gone or are on the verge of extinction. The Minor Irrigation Department, a wing of the Government, which took up a survey of water bodies in Bangalore urban district said there are 608 tanks and lakes of all sizes and shapes and they have a command area of 12,877 hectares with a irrigation potential of 13004 hectares.
However, figures of the Directorate of Economics and Statistics contradoict the Minor Irrigation Department figures. They claim that there were only 652 tanks and lakes and that they have remained the same over the years.
The data in the Season and Annual Crop Report of the Government of Karnataka and the census carried out by the Minor Irrigation Department also do not match each other’s figures. Surprisingly, a report of the Lake Development Authority, which again is a government agency, claims that were 261 lakes in Bangalore till 1961 and that their numbers declined to 81 in 1986. Even the Lakshman Rau report, widely considered to be one of the best such reports, says there were 369 lakes and tanks in Bangalore metropolitan in 1984. The Lakshman Rau report is based on the Comprehensive development plan (CDP)  of BDA. These lakes accounted for 20.60 per cent of the Bangalore Urban and rural districts put together and 59.66 per cent of urban district in 1986-87.
Of the 389 lakes, 262 were in green belt area covering 839.72 sq kms and 127 in non-urban areas covering 449 sq kms.
As per the report, Bangalore north had 61 lakes, south had 98, Anekal 44, Hoskote 23, Magadi 11, Nelamangala 13 and Devanahalli 12 lakes.
An Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) survey has put the number of lakes in Bangalore urban and rural districts at 1888 and in BDA area at 608 with a water spread of 4573 hectares. This is exactly the same as the number of lakes pegged by the Minor Irrigation Department in its survey of  1986-87. 
Before 1986, Bangalore lakes were under the jurisdiction of sixteen departments, including defence, jilla panchayat, BDA, BWSSB, BMP, HAL, Horticulture, Fisheries and Minor Irrigation departments.
Strangely, while the agencies dealing with lakes and tanks have gone up, the number of tanks have come down from 262 in 1960 to 81 in 1986 and 61 in 2006.This means 195 tanks have disappeared from the surface. Where have they gone and which survey do we depend on?
With the lakes and their renovation getting short shrift, Bangalore looks headed for an ecological disaster, the likes of which it had never ever even contemplated. Apart from urban flooding, mismanagement of the inland water system has already led to severe water shortage, depleting water levels, contamination of eater sources and a higher level of stress on Bangalore’s aging water supply system.
The best solution would be to recharge the lakes, clear the storm water drians of all encroachments and ensure that there is no further encroachment of water body. Urban planning has to factor the water bodies and their preservation which so far Bangalore has failed to do.
(This is the third of the article on Bangalore flooding and urban planning) 

Thursday, 27 June 2013

The first flooding of Bangalore

A sharp spell of rain is all that it takes for Bangalore to turn into a nightmare, leaving road flooded, drains overflowing, houses and apartments water logged and traffic piled up for hours on end.
In the previous post on urban flooding, we had spoken of  how the first recorded flooding of Bangalore took place more than a century ago.
Since then, little has changed. Every rain brings forth the same age old problems, the same assurances and of course the same result. The only thing that seems to have changed is the name of the civic body. It was Bangalore Municipality when it was started in the id 1900s. It then became the City Corporation of Bangalore and now the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).
Though the BBMP has identified five main areas in the city as flood prone, there seems to be a clear lack of focus and commitment in taking remedial action.
The Ejipura-Koramangala area comprising also of National Games village, BTM Layout Ist and 2nd Stages, parts of Bannerghatta road and Jayanagar-JP Nagar: Shankarappa Garden which embraces Magadi Road and surrounding areas: Brindavan Nagar and Mathikere areas and finally Ambedkar College that straddles across Airport Road area.
Apart from this, the BBMP has identified 134 low lying and flood prone areas. Such areas have been identified in each zone, including zones under Greater Bangalore like Byatarayanapura, Bommanahalli, Dasarahalli, Mahadevapura and Rajarajeshwarinagar.
BBMP says the east, west and south of Bangalore are more prone to flooding than the other parts.  It has identified Koramangala, Austin Town, Domlur and Jayamahal in the east zone; Rajkumar Road, RMV Layout, and Mahalakshmi Layout in west Zone;  Bhuvaneshwari Nagar, Maruthi Nagar, Bapuji Nagar and Tavarekere in the south zone as regular flood prone.
The east zone was found to be the most vulnerable to urban flooding with 108 areas, while the west zone had 31 such points.
Residential layouts situated within and in the periphery of these areas virtually turn into a sea of water and this is mainly because of the inability of the Koramangala valley to pump out excess rain and drain water.
The Koramangala valley has a fall of just thirty metres for a length of 13 kilometers that it traverses across the city.  Other natural valleys in the city such as Chellaghatta and Hebbal have a fall of 120 metres for 11 kms. Moreover, all the valleys are chocked with debris and encroached and heavily silted. These natural outflows needed to be fully cleared for smooth flow of rain and waste water away from Bangalore. This is the key to prevent flooding and water logging of drains and roads, inundation of low-lying areas and overflow of sewage onto to the streets.
The mean annual rainfall in Bangalore is about 880 millimetres (mm) spread over 60 rainy days in an year. The city has a network of a 180-km- long primary and secondary
storm-water drainage system. The network needs to be harnessed in its entirety and suitably remodelled  to take the monsoon load of the rains. Despite the remodeling taken up under the Jawaharlal Nehru scheme and spent hundreds of crores, nothing seems to have worked and a permanent solution continues to evade Bangalore.
Bangalore has a natural elevation of 920 metres and this means that the water can percolate on its own down the slopes. But why is this not happening. The answer is simple. Encroachment, illegal construction, blockage of storm water drains, breaching of tanks and lakes and deliberately blocking the natural flow of water.
Poor and often short sighted urban planning has resulted in Bangalore rapidly losing its green cover and water bodies, so much so that they have become the prime reason for almost all of the City’s ills. Bangalore is the only city among the big four metropolis of India-Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi ad Chennai-not to be located in or near a water source. If Mumbai has the Arabian Sea, Kolkata the Ganges and Madras the Bay of Bengal, Delhi has the Yamuna but Bangalore has no such water body. The Cauvery, which supplies a major portion of the City’s water is 100 kilometres away.
Yet, Bangalore has seen a massive urban influx over the last five decades and there has been a 637 per cent increase in urban areas in Greater Bangalore area from 1973 to 2009 and it is still growing. The rise in built up area from 16 per cent in 2000 to around 24 in 2009 and almost 30 per cent today has seen a corresponding decrease in wet lands, breaching of lakes and tanks and decrease in green cover, leaving water with no natural course to flow off. This has been exacerbated by the presence of 542
slums with many of the lacking basic facilities in sanitation and hygine and straining the natural resources.
The wetlands in and around Bangalore decreased from 51 in 973 to just 17 now and even the water bodies have fallen sharply from 159 to 93. Besides, a staggering  66 per cent of lakes are sewage-fed, 14 per cent surrounded by slums and 72 per cent showed
loss of catchment areas. More alarmingly, catchment areas were used as dumping yards by all people and organizations ,including the civic agencies.
Between 2002 and 2009, water bodies decreased by almost 60 per cent and on an average 10,000 trees were cut every year. Thus, man interfered with the natural drainage system: destroying natural water channels, blocking natural flow of water, encroaching on water bodies and filling up drains and channels with debris. The  result: flooding and only one example of  how difficult it is to cope up with such events is enough to boggle one’s imagination. In August 2000,  torrential rains wrecked havoc on most parts of Bangalore and the BBMP had to pump out one crore litres of water from City Market area. This operation went on for three weeks. Where did this water go. To the drain and how. What the BBMP failed to ensure naturally, it had to do manually.
(This is the second part of a series of articles on urban flooding.)  

Bangalore-The rains and a history of urban flooding

The recent floods in Uttarakand and other parts of north India, particularly Himachal Pradesh, and years ago in north Karnataka has once again turned the focus on the lack of preparedness of the Governments, both State and Centre and the agencies in dealing with such disasters.
While the defence forces acted with alacrity and dedication, the government, bureaucracy and even local people were found wanting. If the Government and bureaucracy vanished along with the floods, a handful of local people turned parasites and grave diggers, robbing the pilgrims and leaving them at the mercy of  a raging Nature.
While there is no possibility of what happened in Uttarakand taking place in Bangalore, there is little doubt that time is running pout for Bangalore as the powers that be continue to play a game of blind date with Nature.
The politicians, bureaucracy and even the Government has either turned a blind eye or covertly backed encroachment of  forests and grasslands, mine river beds for sand and block natural flow of water.
In Bangalore, there has been massive  and repeated deluge of water from the drains almost every time it rains and the reason is not far to seek, Rampant encroachment, mushrooming illegal layouts, wanton destruction of green cover, throwing filth and debris in rain water drains and blocking it in several places by building structures have led to a situation where even a small shower leads to roads being clogged with water.
However, flooding of Bangalore is not a new phenomenon. Contrary to popular perception, flooding in Bangalore is more than a century old. The first such recorded incident of what is now better known as urban flooding occurred exactly a century ago. It was during the monsoon season of 1912 and Bangalore then had been seeing a particularly wet spell.
It was September 28, and Bangalore that day saw very heavy rains. While the damage in Cantonment was not all that high, houses in Siddikatte (now City Market) and the petes of Bangalore, including Ranasinghpet and Gundopant Street were completely flooded and the waters entered houses and shops, leaving people stranded in knee deep water.
With the rains leaving a trail of  destruction, old Bangalore or the Pettah town looked like a war ravaged city. The then Municipality then swung into action almost immediately and decided to provide food and shelter first to the people.
Interestingly, one of the members of the then municipality was Puttanna Chetty, who later became its president. Sir M. Visvesvara9iah had just taken over as Dewan of Mysore State.
The Municipality realized that the entire infrastructure in the city was almost in shambles. The roads were completely inundated with water and drains were overflowing. Low lying areas were completely flooded and scores of people were marooned.
The municipality shifted the people to choultries and kalyana mantapas and organized food and medicine for the inmates. those associated with the civic administration of the city. The municipality also helped the inmates get their valuables and other necessities from the houses.
To prevent looting and robbery, the municipality took the help of police and posted guards in several areas. The rain havoc was so much that the municipality had to open four choultries to house people and feed them.
The floods receded only after October 2, that is six days after heavy rains lashed Bangalore. The Municipality, on its own, decided to help people rebuild their houses and even offered sites at elevated places. Adequate compensation was give to those who lost their houses.
Bangalore then, the Pettah area, had a population of just about 1 lakhs and it spread over an area of a little over 10 square miles. The Cantonment or the Civil and Military Station was more populated and it was also spread put over a larger area.
Some of the people then blamed the then municipality for the floods. They complained that the first act of the Bangalore Municipality was to dry the moat around the old fort area and drain it of all water and convert it along with Siddikatte lake into house sites.
The residents then felt that the civic agency had also made mistake in allowing construction of houses on plots it sold adjacent to the  Dharmambudhi Tank in Majestic.   
Centuries later, the rains continue to plunge Bangalore into misery and the Bruthut Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) keeps on parroting the same line every year-there will be no flooding this year but this refrain sounds as hollow as ever as no steps have been taken to prevent flooding.
(This is the first in a series of articles on Urban Flooding and Bangalore. The sources of these series of articles are the records, chronicles and books of and on civic agencies themselves such as Central Water Commission (CWC), BBMP BDA, BWSSB, Urban Development Department and studies by IISc, IISEC, Bangalore University and other scientific and research institutions.)   

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A park where legends met

It is the second biggest rock in Bangalore after the one at Lalbagh. If the rock in Lalbagh is surrounded by an oasis of green, this rock too has a smaller garden. But what marks this out from Lalbagh is that this place is home to some of the most popular temple sin Bangalore.
This is the famous Bugle rock park in Basavanagudi and just adjacent to it is the Dodda Ganesha Temple and the temple of Basava. There are a few other temples in the vicinity and a host of educational institutions, kalyana mantapas and of course eateries.
But unlike many other parks in Bangalore, this one is literally and figuratively steeped in legends. For decades, it was the favourite place of some of the mightiest men who made their mark in Kannada literature to sit and exchange their notes.
One of Kannada’s all-time greats, DVG or D V Gundappa (1887-1975), the author of  Manku Thimanna Kagga, philosopher and a journalist, spent long evenings here chatting and talking about serious topics with another equally well-known legend of Kannada literature, Masti Venkatesh Iyengar (1891-1986).
A host of other equally eminent personalities from different walks of life would join DVG and Masti. Sometimes, T .P. Kailasam, would also drop in and sit across one of the many stone benches of the park.
However, the regulars included legendary Kannada journalist P R Ramaiah, whose Tainadu, is still spoken of today, A. N. Subba Rao, the founder of Kala Mandir at Gandhi Bazar, Nitoor Srinivasa Rau who later became the Chief Justice of the Mysore High Court and a well-known lawyer of  those times, M.P. Somashekar Rao.
Many walkers and visitors to the park found these people a familiar face for several years. Sitting on a stone bench and seriously discussing the events of the day.
Another regular to the DVG durbar was Prof. V.T. Srinivasan, founder and principal of Vijaya College, Bangalore. Old time residents of Gandhi Bazar even today recall the days when DVG and Masti relished the dosas and coffee at Vidyarthi Bhavan in Gandhi Bazar and walked down to Bugle Rock.
Incidentally, DVG has his house on what is today known as DVG road. His house has now given way to a commercial complex and the once serene DVG Road today is one of the major roads of Basavanagudi. Fortunately, Masti’s house in Basavanagudi is being maintained as a museum.
Both DVG and Masti considered Prof Bellave Venkatanaranappa, professor of physics in Central College, their guru and even his house was in Basavanagudi. He was among the first settlers of Basavanagudi and the founder of innumerable institutions which exists even today.
Coming back to the park, today it serves as a green canopied memorial to remember these literary greats. The outer wall of an old water tank in the has been decorated with murals of  Sir M. Visvesvaraiah, DVG, Masti, Kempe Gowda and other famous personalities.
There is also a statue of DVG in the park.
The Bugle Rock or Kahale in Kannada is a massive rock ad its age goes back to more than 3000 million years. The tower on the Bugle rock was used for sounding the bugle during the days of Kempe Gowda and the Wodeyars.
Most of the rocks on the Bugle Rock adjacent to the Bull Temple have hollows, which were once used to light lamps

Monday, 24 June 2013

When Madras wanted a piece of Bangalore and whole of Mysore

Many Bangaloreans, including hordes of computer geeks and software experts, aver that the City has gained recognition in the world for its booming IT and fledging BT industries.
Industry experts and even the State Government brandish statistics to show to the world Bangalore’s image as the IT hub of India and Asia and also as one of the leading software centres in the world.
However, what many conveniently forget is that Bangalore is one of those cities that were known both in India and even abroad centuries before the advent of industrialisation in India.
The story of  Bangalore’s recognition as a strategic, military, social and industrial hub begins towards the fag end of the  eighteenth century when the British killed Tipu Sultan in the fourth and final Anglo-Mysore war of 1799.
The British initially established their garrison in the island fortress of Srirangapatna. But soon, mosquitoes and epidemics did what Tipu failed to do: they dislodged the British and made them run away from Srirangapatna. The British then zeroed in on Bangalore.
Finding Bangalore more like “a spot of England”, the British decided to set up the largest Cantonment in south India in Bangalore.
The beginning of Cantonment was from 1809 and in just a few years, it soon outstripped Bangalore Pettah in both area and population and of course trade and commerce. What began as a garrison soon took on a new hue as a huge and sprawling metropolis peopled by almost all communities, including Kannadigas, Tamlians, Telugu, Maratha, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and of course Britishers.
Initially, the administration of both the Civil and Military areas remained with the Mysore Government. However, in 1811, the Madras Government (East India Company) asked Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar III to transfer the civil and criminal jurisdiction over the assigned areas to them. Thus the British compelled the Mysore Government to transfer administrative powers for the Cantonment tracts to them. The Cantonment then embraced more than 9000 acres of land.
While the area of Cantonment remained at 12½ sq miles and the Maharaja refused to assign more lands or draw a permanent boundary, that of Bangalore town grew every decade. Yet, it was only in the mid 1920s that the population of Bangalore Pettah outstripped that of Cantonment which came to be known as the Civil and Military Station.
Every dignitary who came to Mysore, be it a Maharaja or an East India Company officer or British citizen, like Thomas Macaulay, came to Bangalore and enjoyed the salubrious climate.
Very soon, the Cantonment became a model British township. It had huge bungalows, military barracks, polo grounds, business and military establishments, churches, lakes and tanks.
Many Governors-General of India who visited Mysore also came to Bangalore and were charmed by our City’s climate, which they found so refreshingly similar to that of England. The sweltering heat of Madras, then the seat of power of  East India Company, was a sharp and discordant contrast to the cool and naturally air-conditioned environs of Bangalore.
Bangalore was also strategically located and was easily accessible from Madras and Hyderabad provinces or the Baramahal areas directly administered by the British after the bifurcation of the Mysore Kingdom in 1799.
With Bangalore transforming itself  into a major garrison centre and the playfield of British and Europeans, trade and commerce too grew alongside education.         
The rapid growth of Bangalore led to the then Governor-General of India, Lord William Bentinck (1833-1836)  to write a secret letter to the Directors of East India Company on April 4, 1834, suggesting that Bangalore and surrounding areas be permanently ceded to the British Government.
The letter was kept a closely guarded secret and Bentinck wanted Bangalore to be made the capital of south India. He not only refers to the salubrious climate of Bangalore but also its vantage position in the Deccan.
Though the letter was well received, the directors choose not to press the Mysore Maharaja on the issue. The directors realized that the entire administration of the princely state of Mysore had come under the British after 1831 and they thought no purpose would be served  if  they went ahead with the full and complete bifurcation of Bangalore and surrounding areas from the Kingdom.
By then, Bangalore had become the capital of the Kingdom and Mysore continued only as the headquarters of the Wodeyars. The British then continued to nurture Bangalore and the office of the Commissioner which later became the office of the Resident of Mysore too was shifted from Mysore to Bangalore.
Bangalore Cantonment came directly under the rule of the Commissionerate whose office too was in Bangalore.
Even after Bentinck’s plan of taking over Bangalore directly under the British fold failed, The Chief Commissioners Bowring made frantic and repeated efforts to ensure that Mysore became a province of the British Empire and that the Kingdom would never be given back to the Wodeyars. In this, Bowring was aided substantially by the Madras Government which desperately wanted Mysore to come under its jurisdiction.
In 1861, the foreign office of  the British India Government fell into the trap laid by the Madras Government and handed over overall charge of Mysore State, including Bangalore to it. The Madras Government drew up plans to integrate Mysore State with it. However, protests by the Maharaja and the resignation of the then Commissioner Mark Cubbon who protested against the move, led to the Governor-General quickly withdrawing the order.
Several British officers and the Madras Government then began persuading the Maharaja to bequeath the state to the British. The Maharaja enlisted the help and support of liberals and the intelligentsia to get back his Kingdom. Their pressure on the British Government in England and the local campaign in the Mysore State forced the British not to annexe Mysore. The raging debate in England over the unfair manner in which the Maharaja had been made to hand over the reigns of administration of  the Kingdom also stalled the British and Madras Government desire for making Bangalore a part of their province.
However, all the British plans came to naught in 1881 when the British were forced to return the Kingdom they had so unfairly taken from the Wodeyars. The Madras Government too backed down and it was made to eat humble pie. Infact, the entire rendition-takeover of Mysore state by the British-was a carefully devised strategy by the Madras Government to wrest control of Mysore.
The Madras Government had deliberately misled and lied to the office of the Governor-General stating that Mysore had defaulted on payment of annual amount as part of the subsidiary alliance. The Madras Government deceived Lord Bentinck so thoroughly on the issue that he ordered the take over. It was only when the accounts were examined, it was found that Mysore had never defaulted on the payment.
When Bentinck realised the truth, it was too late. He then immediately wrote to the Directors of the East India Company and suggested that the Kingdom be returned, the Directors thought it fit to ensure that the British ruled Mysore for sometime before handing it back.
Till his death, Bentinck had only one regret. He repeatedly said that the only mistake he had ever made in India was to listen to the Madras Government and take over the administration of Mysore. Need more to be said on the issue. We rest the case here itself.       
Today’s generation have forgotten this story. They have also perhaps forgotten that before Bangalore was known as the IT capital, it was the hub of manufacturing industry and the city with the most number of public sector units. It was also well-known for its textiles and trading.          

When Cantonment refused to merge with Bangalore

The Cantonment today-it was the Civil and Military Station till 1947- is an integral part of  Bangalore and in some ways it can be called the perfect showpiece of  Bangalore’s urban planning.
Even today, the Cantonment differs with the rest of the City as it is characterised by broad roads, tree-lined avenues, large footpaths, looming spires of churches and military establishments which are an oasis of calm and green cover.
At one time, MG Road, the erstwhile South Parade, was the jewel in the crown of Cantonment. Much of South Parade’s British links have disappeared over the years  but some vestiges still exist.
Many of the roads and localities in the Cantonment bear British or European names, a testimony to the British administration of the Cantonment ever since its founding in 1806 till the Indian Independence in 1947.
It was only after August 15, 1947 that the Government passed a bill merging both the Cantonment and Bangalore Petta areas. Till then, Bangalore was a city of two municipalities and two administratively controlled areas-the Cantonment directly by the British and the Pettah by the Mysore Government of the Wodeyar Kings.
But what many are not aware is that several decades ago, residents of Cantonment, including European living in the locality, vehemently opposed the idea of  merging their area with Bangalore City.
Many residents, including several well-known personalities, opposed the move by the Mysore Government seeking merger of both the municipal bodies of Bangalore which were then to come under the jurisdiction of the Wodeyars.
The story of this rather strange episode in the history of Bangalore City starts in 1927 when the British Government appointed a commission to look into constitutional reforms in and for India. Its actual name was the Indian Statutory Commission and it had seven British members of Parliament as its members, including Clement Atlee, who decades later became Prime Minister of United Kingdom and oversaw the transfer of power to India in 1947.
Since the Commission was headed by Sir John Simon, it came to be known as Simon Commission. It published its 17-volume report in 1930, proposing among others the abolition of diarchy system of governance and the establishment of representative government in the provinces. It also recommended that separate communal electorates be retained until tensions between Hindus and Muslims had died down.
It suggested the formation of an all-India federation in which British Indian provinces and native Indian states (princely dominions) would join as members. The Wodeyars of  Mysore initially declined to enter the federation but reversed their decision only of the annual subsidy of Rs. 35 lakhs it was paying to the British was abolished. This subsidy had been a burden on the kingdom ever since the British gave back the seat of power to the Wodeyars after the fall of Srirangapatna in 1799.
Another condition that Mysore put forth to join the dominion of India was that the Civil and Military station (Cantonment) should be handed over to it.
The then Dewan of Mysore, Sir Mirza Ismail, on January 29, 1933, submitted a memorandum to the then Viceroy Willingdon (Major Freeman Freeman-Thomas, 1st Marquess of Willingdon, 1931-1936) seeking merger of Cantonment with Mysore. The Dewan’s argument was simple. The Mysore State could not have another independent entity within its own kingdom and since Bangalore was being run independently by the British, it was a blot on the dignity of the Maharaja and the pride of the people.
The recommendations of the Simon Commission and the memorandum of the Dewan soon created a furore in Bangalore. While the Pettah welcomed the developments, Cantonment appeared shocked and soon began leading a movement against its merger.   
Some Muslim residents of Cantonment decided to hand over a memorandum to the Resident of Mysore Lt Col G.T.C.Plowden. They said they were opposed to the merger as the Mysore Kingdom did not have jurisdiction over them. They claimed that the Wodeyars got the Kingdom only after the death of Tipu Sultan in Srirangapatna in 1799. The Kingdom should have been rightly handed over to the sons of Tipu Sultan and not to the Wodeyars, was their refrain. A more serious claim made by them was that their language, religion, culture and tradition was distinct and that they were at stake in Mysore.
It also charged the Mysore Government of neglecting the Muslims and not caring for them and their culture and heritage. However, several other leading Muslims of  Mysore such as S.G. Mohiyuddin of the Daily Al Kalam, an Urdu newspaper from Bangalore, and Mohammad Abbas Khan denied the charges made against the Mysore Government.
However, the idea of a merger was not an easy issue to digest for even other people. Initially, even the Anglo-Indians and the Congress Party unit of  the Civil and Military station opposed it.
The Bangalore Traders Association also protested against it and submitted a memorandum. The issue gathered so much momentum that it even figured in a debate in the House of Commons in Britain on May 7, 1934. It was then that  Major-General Sir Alfred William Fortescue Knox (1870-1964), a  career British military officer and later a Conservative party politician,  suggested reconsidering of a 'policy which would place thousands of Europeans and Anglo-Indians unwillingly under the rule of an Indian state. The then Secretary of State for India, Sir Samuel Hoare (1889-1959), closed the debate when he agreed that there were negotiations about the civil station but none about the military station.
The Resident of Mysore, Lt Col G.T.C.Plowden, said only a  partial retrocession of the civil and military station had been agreed upon. He clarified that Parade grounds. South Parade, Shop area, parts of Ulsoor and all the military barracks and military establishment would not be merged into Mysore.
With both Hoare and Plowden standing firm on the issue of partial merger, demands began to be made by several communities seeking safeguards. When this was brought to the notice of the Dewan, he assured full cooperation from the Mysore Government and promised all steps and necessary safeguards to assuage the feelings of the residents of Cantonment.    
Interestingly, DVG or D.V. Gundappa was among the many people who took on the no-merger group. DVG took to task the people who were opposed to the merger and reminded them that it was Bangalore they were talking about and not some distant province. He also questioned the rationale of  a Cantonment in the 20th century.
Even as the debate was hotting up, the second world war broke out. Soon, the issue along with several others was brushed under the carpet and it died a natural death. However, the two entities continued: the C and M station ruled by the British and the Pettah by Mysore.
On July 19, 1947, almost a month before Independence, the British Government began the process of transferring the control of  establishments in Bangalore to Mysore State. The then Resident of Mysore, Walter Cambell, oversaw the transfer. The first institution, which they transferred to Mysore was the Indian Institute of Science. On June 26, they transferred the civil area to Mysore and the C and M station on August 14, 1947. Cambell left for England on August 15.
Soon there came only one municipality and the two areas were merged to form the corporation of the city of Bangalore  

When the twin cities became one

Generally when two cities grow near each other or in close proximity with each other, they are labeled as twin cities. In India, one of the best known twin city is Hyderabad and Secundrabad in Andhra Pradesh. Both these cities have managed to retain their distinct identity and made a name for themselves.
In Karnataka, the cities of Gadag-Betagiri is among the most known. Both Hyderabad-Secundrabad and Gadag-Betagiri have retained their entity and distinctness. However, till 1947, Karnataka had one more twin city that was separated by a beautiful park and a huge body of water. If the older part of the city was ruled by a native prince, the newer part was controlled by the British.
Both the older city and the newer part had separate administrators and each had their own municipality and rules governing them. Each developed separately and till Independence they each retained their identity.
It was only after August 1947 that both the cities were merged and today both are an integral part of the bigger conglomerate of  Bangalore. The old city, till 1947, was called the Pettah or Pete area and the new British area was called the Cantonment.
Even today, the Cantonment retains vestiges of  British style of planning and architecture and the Pettah area the Indian style. Surprisingly, till the late 1920s, it was the British built Cantonment that had more population and also collected more revenue from levy of taxes on people than its Pettah neighbourhood.
The history of old Bangalore or the Petah goes back to several centuries and the discovery of Roman coins have proved that Bangalore was an important trading centre even during the Roman times. Inscriptions of the Nolambas (they ruled over large parts of Kolar and Bangalore), Gangas, Cholas and Hoysalas prove that Bangalore was a fairly well-populated city and it was also an important military centre during the middle ages.
It was, however, Kempe Gowda or Hiriya Kempe Gowda (1510-1569), who gave a push to Bangalore and made it politically significant.  His descendent, Kempe Gowda, the third, had to surrender Bangalore to the Adil Shahis in 1637 and retire to Magadi.
Bangalore from 1637 to 1686 remained under the Adil Shahis of Bijapur. During that time, the Adil Shah granted Bangalore as a Jagir to Shahaji, the father of Shivaji. In 1687, the Mughals under Quasim Khan captured Bangalore and then sold it for Rs. 3 lakhs to Chikadevaraja Wodeyar.
The Marathas once again captured Bangalore in the mid 1700s. Their claim to Bangalore lay on the fact that Bangalore along with Kolar, Doddaballapur, Chikaballapur, Hoskote and Kanakagiri was part of  Shahaji’s jagir. Hyder wrested Bangalore from the Maratahs and his son Tipu held it till his death in Srirangapatna on May 4, 1799.
After Tipu’s death, Bangalore initially was held by the British. The British restored the Mysore throne to the Wodeyars and established their Residency in Mysore city itself. They later shifted the Residency to Bangalore in 1804. The Residency was abolished in 1843 and revived in 1881. It survived till 1947.
The British planned a Cantonment to house their troops in Bangalore and construction of this township started in 1806. The Cantonment was planned away from the Pettah area and the British compelled the Wodeyar King to hand over the vast area covering the present Ulsoor to them. It was divided from the Pettah by Cubbon Park and Sampangiramanagar tank.  
In just a few years, both the Pettah and Cantonment began developing in contrasting styles and soon they became among the first twin cities in Karnataka.
The Cantonment had broad and clean streets and footpaths and huge bungalows. The military were housed in barracks surrounded by rolling lands. The British introduced gardens to the city by surrounding their houses and offices with flowers and fruit trees. The localities came to be well laid out and beautifully designed.
In sharp contrast, the Pettah area continued to be “dingy, dark and ugly.” The roads were narrow and winding. The houses were small. Sanitation was almost absent. The drains were narrow and mostly clogged. Since the Pettah was under the control of the Wodeyars, all decisions could be taken only in Mysore. The decision making process thus was delayed unlike the Cantonment which enjoyed a free hand.
The old Bangalore had more temples and more historic structures than the Cantonment. On its part, the Cantonment had more churches and educational institutions.  If the Pettah was the epitome of a typical Indian city, the Cantonment had an European flavour.
While drinking water to Bangalore was from several lakes and  tanks like Dharmambudhi and Sampangi initially and Hesaraghatta and Thippagondanhalli reservoir in the later period, water to Bangalore Cantonment was mainly supplied from Ulsoor, Millers tank, Sankey tank and Shoolay tank.
When Bangalore was under the Wodeyar rule for 68 years from 1690 to 1758, it was governed by administrators known as Parupathegars. There were 26 such administrators who governed Bangalore.
In 1758, Immadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the second, gifted Bangalore as a Jagir to his able Commander Hyder Ali. Under Hyder and Tipu, the Kannada speaking Parupathegars were replaced by Muslim Amildars.
When Bangalore came back to the Wodeyar fold again in 1799, it came to be ruled directly by them. Thus, the history of the two cities began unfolding in distinct ways. It was on March 27, 1862 that Cantonment got its municipality. It was called Bangalore City Municipality (BCM).  This municipality was set up under the provisions of the Improvement of Towns Act of 1850. The first nine members of the municipal board comprised Indian officials, non-officials and British officials.
A few years later, the pettah too got its municipality. The two bodies were legalised in 1881, but both continued to function independent of each other. In 1882, the system of election was introduced to induct non-official members in the municipality. The same year saw the introduction for the time property tax on houses and business establishment.
The British also conferred the right on property tax payers to become eligible to elect non-official members to the board of each of the two civic bodies. It was only in 1920 that the British agreed on the idea of electing a president.
Thus the president was the same for both the municipal boards and this system was in force till 1949, after which the two boards were legally merged to form the Corporation of the City of Bangalore, Now it is the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike.
Dr. J.H.Orr was the first to head both the Bangalore and Cantonment municipal bodies.
When a census was conducted in 1891, the population of Cantonment outstripped that of Bangalore, As per this census, Bangalore had a populace of  80,285. Of this, 67,388 were Hindus and Jains, 10,472 Muslims and 2,425 were Christians. In  contrast, the Cantonment’s population was 1,00,081. Here, the Hindus including Jains numbered 58,251, Muslims 23,892 and Christians numbered 17,902. Of the Christians, 4,985 were classified as Europeans, 2,649 Eurasians and the rest Indian Christians.
However, till the mid 1920s Cantonment outstripped Bangalore in both population and collection of taxes, particularly octroi. Till 1923, the area of Cantonment exceeded that of Bangalore and it was only in later years that Bangalore expanded rapidly.  
The following table shows the comparative population of both the municipal bodies.  
Population of Bangalore Pete
Population of Bangalore Cantonment






So we see that Bangalore Pete began developing only from the mid 1920s and since then there has been no looking back. Today, Bangalore is the fifth largest municipality in India and it was only  Independence that brought both the entities together.    

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Shahaji and all his sons

Scores of people, including historians and heritage buffs of Bangalore, are aware of the Bangalore’s rather close association with Chatrapathi Shivaji (1627-1680) and his father, Shahaji Bhonsale (1602-1664).
There are Maratha, Adil Shah, English, Dutch and even Mughal  records that speak about the Marathas in the Deccan, including Bangalore, and their wars. We have in earlier posts such as “The little known brother of Shivaji”, “When a language was born in Bangalore”,  “The palace of Shahaji”, “When Marathi displaced Kannada as the language”,  taken you to the history of Bangalore and the domination of the Marathas in and around Bangalore for almost half a century.
But what many do not know is that the Maratha association of Bangalore is not limited to Shahaji and his son Shivaji.
Infact, Bangalore perhaps could be among the handful of cities and provinces that saw all the sons of Shahaji-Sambhaji, Shivaji, Ekoji or Venkoji, Koyaji and Santaji or Santoji- either staying or ruling over Bangalore. Apart from Shahaji and his family, there are other Maratha heroes who bonded with Bangalore and this post is about them.
Shahaji and his two wives, the legendary Jijabai-the first wife and Tukabai, the second wife, lived in Shahaji’s palace in Chickpet for several years. It is in Bangalore that Shahaji ensured that the ten-year-old Shivaji was trained in warfare and statecraft along with his elder brother Sambhaji and younger half-brother Ekoji or Venkoji.
Shahaji was perhaps the first Maratha and definitely among the first in the period to realise the effectiveness of guerilla warfare. He imparted this training to all his sons, including Shivaji who seemed to be fascinated by the magnificent horses that his father reared.
Shivaji saw from close quarters the life and style of  the Bangalore court and came into contact with the people, who told him stories about the Vijayanagar empire which existed a little less than six decades before his birth.    
Shivaji was also married a second time in Bangalore. He took Soyarbai Mohite as his wife on the insistence of his father. Contemporary Maratha records speak of Bangalore being dressed up for the wedding and the couple being taken in a procession on a caparisoned elephant.
It was in Bangalore that Shahaji decided on bifurcating his jagir. He decided to let Sambhaji retain Kolar, he kept Bangalore for himself and allowed Shivaji and Jijabai to return to Pune and govern the Maratha territories from there.         
It should be remembered that the Marathas first made their first foray into Bangalore sometime in 1638 when Shahaji Bhonsale and Ranadullah Khan, both frontline commanders of the Adil Shahis of Bijapur, laid siege to Bangalore. Shahaji married Tukabai in Bangalore sometime in the 1630s.  
The then Adil Shahi Sultan, Muhammad Adil Shah, who succeeded Ibrahim Adil Shah, was not particularly happy about the prospect of another Hindu Kingdom replacing Vijayanagar which had been decimated by a confederation of Muslim states in the war of Talikota or Rakasa Tangadi in 1565.
Kempe Gowda was the ruler of Bangalore and the Bangalore province was attracting attention for its wealth and prosperity. Another province, Sira or Shira near Bangalore and now in Tumkur district was also emerging as a powerful entity. The Wodeyars of Srirangapatna and the Palegars of Chitradurga and Bedanur were also asserting their independence.
The Adil Shah was naturally concerned about these political developments. After the fall of Vijayanagar, his kingdom had extended upto the borders of the once invincible city of Hampi and now his southern most province was being threatened. It was then that Muhammad Adil Shah decided to reign in the Hindu states.
The Adil Shah had a galaxy of outstanding commanders in his service and the best among them were Ranadullah Khan and his protégé Afzal Khan and Shahaji.
All the three marched towards Bangalore. Ranadullah Khan permitted Shahaji to take the honors of subduing Bangalore, while he asked Afzal Khan to subdue Sira. While Shahaji gave an honorable exit to Kempe Gowda, the third, and also allowed him to retain Magadi and Savandurga, Kasturi Rangan, the palegar of Sira was not so lucky. He was lured to the negotiating table under false pretences and killed in cold blood by Afzal Khan.
The Bijapur Sultan gifted Bangalore as a Jagir to Shahaji who in turn began governing the new province which comprised the regions of Doddaballapur, Kolar, Sira, Kanakagiri, Hoskote and surrounding regions.
Shahaji asked his son Sambhaji, the elder brother of Shivaji, to govern Kolar. Unfortunately, Shahaji had little time for Bangalore since he was busy with the frequent military expeditions.
In 1648, Shahaji was called back to Bijapur and imprisoned for a short while. He was released and the jagir of Bangalore restored to him. The Adil Shah forces then attacked Bangalore which was under the command of Shivaji’s elder brother, Sanbhaji (not the Sambhaji who is Shivaji’s son). Sambhaji valiantly defeated the Bijapur contingent.  
However, Shahaji lost interest in Bangalore soon after his release and pitched camp at Kanakagiri. By then, Sambhaji had been slain in the battle to regain Kanakagiri which had revolted against the Adil Shah. After Shahaji's death in 1664, his second wife's son, Venkoji or Ekoji (1626-1687), became the Jagirdar of Bangalore.
Contemporary Maratha accounts portray Ekoji as weak, selfish, and extravagant and one who failed to understand the local conditions. Alarmed over repeated raids of Mughals and wary about Shivaji, his half brother, Ekoji decided to sell off Bangalore and settle down permanently at Tanjavur. This was sometime in 1675.
Shivaji came to know of the step motherly treatment that Ekoji had meted to his beloved Bangalore where he had stayed for two years (1640-1642) and where he had married. He marched against Ekoji and occupied his father’s jagir in 1677 comprising Bangalore, Kolar, Kanakagiri and forced Ekoji to come to the negotiating table.
Ekoji wrote to the Adil Shah Emperor complaining against Shivaji but the Emperor wisely refrained from interfering in what he called a family dispute.   
Shivaji forced Ekoji to sue for peace and he kept Doddaballapur, Chikaballapur and Kolar under his control even as he magnanimously returned Bangalore to Ekoji. He dictated the terms of an agreement that he had arrived with Ekoji whereby he made sure that Ekoji’s wife, Dipa Bai, would receive Bangalore as Choli Bangadi or pin money.
Santoji, another half-brother of Shivaji, was part of  Shivaji’s victorious Deccan campaign. He was subsequently rewarded with the province of Vellore and surrounding areas to rule. Santoji defeated Ekoji in two battles.     
Unfortunately, Bangalore’s gift as Choli Bangadi did not last long. Shivaji died in 1680 and Ekoji in 1687 decided to retire permanently to Tanjore to found the Maratha line of Kings. He entered into a pact with the Wodeyar King, Chikadevaraya, for the sale of Bangalore for Rs, 3 lakhs but before the transaction could be completed, the Mughals under Kasim or Quasim Khan and Shivaji’s son, Sambhaji, marched towards Bangalore. If Quasim Khan came with a large force to Bangalore from Golconda, Sambhaji marched with his dedicated army of Marathas from Ginjee. However, the Mughals beat the Marathas to Bangalore and captured the city. The Mughals held Bangalore for some time, there is confusion on whether our City was under the Mughals for three days or three years,  before selling it to the Wodeyars for Rs. 3 lakhs sometime in 1690. Sambhaji then went back to his stronghold of Ginjee, now in Tamil Nadu.
Coming back to the Marathas in Bangalore, Ekoji is remembered even today for his donation of Medaraninganahalli village for maintaining the Kadu Malleswara Temple in Bangalore. Apart from this structure, there is no other monument connected to the Marathas today in Bangalore.
Shivaji's death and the Mughul conquest of the Bijapur kingdom in 1686 exposed Bangalore and surrounding areas of south Karnataka to the Mughuls. Ekoji arrived at a pact with Chikkadevaraya Wodeyar (1645-1703) to sell Bangalore for Rs. 3 lakh. But before the sale was finalised, Sambhaji, the son of  Shivaji, from Ginji and the Mughals under Aurangazeb (1658-1707), from Golconda, marched towards Bangalore.
Khasim Khan then sold Bangalore to the Wodeyars in 1690 for Rs. three lakhs, while retaining Sira and surrounding areas which became a part of the Mughal province.  
Rajaram (1670-1700), a younger son of Shivaji, stayed in Bangalore around 1690 before he escaped from the perusing Mughals to Ginjee. Decades later, the Marathas under the Peshwas captured Bangalore along with Kolar, Hoskote and other places from the Wodeyar King. The Peshwas in 1770 felt that they had a right over Bangalore, Kolar, Mulabagal, Hoskote and surrounding places as it had been a Jagir of Shahaji. They also felt that the Jagir belonged to them as they had been rightfully conquered first by Shahaji, then by Shivaji and later ruled by Ekoji.
It was left to Hyder Ali to drive out the Marathas from Bangalore in 1773. Hyder and his son Tipu Sultan held Bangalore till Tipu’s death in Srirangapatna on May 4, 1799.
Strangely, even after 1799, the Maratha fascination for Bangalore did not end. Ramachandra Pandurang Tope better known as Tatya Tope (1814-1859), one of the heroes of the first war of Indian Independence, stayed at a temple on Avenue Road near Balepet Circle, Chickpet in Bangalore for some time