Friday, 31 May 2013

The battleground that was Bangalore

Bangalore is one of the few cities in India that has never seen a war in over 250 years. The last time cannons boomed, swordsmen hacked at each other and bayonets used was in the final Anglo-Mysore war of 1799.
The British troops had overcome Mysore and several other towns before proceeding to Srirangapatna where Tipu died on May 4, 1799, defending his island capital. Since then, Bangalore has never seen any major battle.
This really appears rather strange as Bangalore was coveted by almost all dynasties and kingdoms right from the time of the Cholas.
The Cholas, who were basically a Tamilian dynasty, wrested Bangalore from the Western Gangas (350AD-1000AD) first and other local rulers before they were forced to ceded it sometime in the 12th century to the Hoysalas.
However, the name Bangalore is believed to have much earlier history than the advent of the Hoysalas. The earliest reference to the name of Bangalore is in a ninth century Ganga inscription, on a hero-stone (viragal) in Begur village, about 14 kms south west of Bangalore.
The inscription clearly mentions the name Bengaluru, and it also refers to a battle that was fought at that place. Historian Rao Bahadur R Narasimhachar, in his Mysore Archaeological Report,  (1914-15) dates the inscription to the 9th century A. D.
The Ganga rulers, Vishnugopa (410-430) and Madhava III Tandangala (430-469) and their eastern territories comprised modern Bangalore, Kolar and Tumkur districts. Bangalore then was known as  Benga-val-oru, or the City of Guards as it is known in Hale Kannada or old Kannada.
After the fall of the Chalukyas, the Rashtrakutas managed to subjugate the Gangas who had they had their provincial capital at Manne. Later, the Ganga Emperor Shripurusha (728-788) made Manne or Manyapura, today a small village in Bangalore district which even today has a few temples belonging to the period, as his capital.
Subsequently, Bangalore fell to the Rashtrakutras. When Indra IV (973–982 CE), the last Rashtrakuta Emperor committed Sallekhana or death by starvartion, Bangalore automatically came to the Gangas.  
In 1024 C.E, the Cholas captured Bangalore. Today, little evidence can be seen of this period except for a few temples in and around Bangalore. One such temple is that of Chokkanatha or Chokka Perumal Temple in Domlur, Bangalore. Located just off the Old Airport Roar, it was commissioned by the Cholas.
A small village in south Bangalore and another village in Ananthapur district in Andhra Pradesh bear the Chola name but the residents today mainly comprise natives.
In 1117 C.E, the Hoysala king Veera Ballala II defeated the Cholas in the battle of Talakad which lead to the downfall of the Chola empire and the Hoysalas gained Bangalore.
With the death of  Veera Ballala III (1291–1343), the Hoysalas disappeared from history and left the scene for the Vijayanagars to rue over large parts of  Karnataka, including Bangalore, Tamil Nadu  and Andhra Pradesh.    
Kempe Gowda I (1510–1570), who is fondly regarded as founder of modern Bengaluru was a feudatory of the Vijayanagars. He took the permission of the Vijayanagar Emperor, Achuta Deva Raya, to build a mud fort in 1537.
Kempe Gowda and his descendents ruled over Bangalore and surrounding areas till they were defeated by the mighty Adilshahis in 1638.
The Adil Shahis were led among others by Shahaji, the father of Chatrapathi Shivaji and the redoubtable Ranadulla Khan. However, during the siege of Bangalore, Shivaji's elder brother Shambaji was killed by Shahaji’s rivals, led by the Ghorpade of Mudhol, for which Shivaji was to later exact revenge.
Bangalore remained under the Bijapur Kingdom till 1686. It soon became the southern military headquarters of the Adil Shahis who appointed Shahaji as Governor.
Though Shahaji had little time for administration, he made Marathi one of the languages of the area and very soon Bangalore became the centre for Marathi and Marathi also became the official language displacing Kannada.
The Adil Shahis established a garrison in Bangalore and also set up training camps, military bases and  ammunition dumps. Shahaji soon appointed natives of Maharastra as officers and Pandits in his palace and office.
Shahaji had a palace enclosed within high walls in the petes. Maharashtrian officials soon occupied all major posts in the Adil Shahi durbar in Bangalore.
After Shahaji's death in 1664, his second wife’s son, Venkoji or Ekoji, became the Governor of Bangalore.  
It then fell to the Mughals who extinguished the house of the Adil Shahis under Emperor Aurangzeb in September 1687.
After conquering Bijapur, the Mughals under Khasim Khan, marched to Sira and then arrived in Bangalore, which was then being ruled by Shivaji's brother Vyankoji Bhonsale or Ekoji as a Jagir of Bijapur.
However, Vyankoji or Ekoji had no stomach for a fight. He failed to resolve problems of Bangalore. In 1675, he left to Thanjavur and settled there never to return to Bangalore. When Shivaji heard of this, he forced his half-brother to arrive at a compromise and cede part of Bangalore and surrounding areas to him. He marched into south Karnataka in 1677 and occupied his father's Jahagir, keeping to himself Kolar, Chikkaballapur, and Doddaballapur. He, however, gifted Bangalore as Choli-Bangdi (pin money) to Ekoji's wife, Deepabai.  
Once an agreement was reached on sharing of the revenue of his father’s Jagir (Bangalore), Shivaji chivalrously went back. Shivaji died in 1680 and the Mughals began pressing hard in the Deccan to defeat the Marathas.
Ekoji then tried to sell off Bangalore to Chikkadevaraya Wodeyar, for Rs. 3 lakh. Unfortunately for him, before the sale  materialised,  Sambaji's army from Ginji and Aurangazeb’s army from Golconda, marched towards Bangalore. The Mughal Commander, Khasim Khan, marched faster and captured Bangalore in 1687.
Thus, the Mughals occupied Bangalore. They held Bangalore for three years before leasing it to the Wodeyar King Chikkadevaraja in 1689.
The Mughals gave up Bangalore but formed a new province in 1687 A.D., with Sira as its capital. The new province composed of
of Basvapatna, Budihal, Sira, Penugonda, Doddaballapur, Hoskote and Kolar. The Mughals made the states of Harpanahalli, Kondarpi, Anegundi, Bednur, Chitradurga and Mysore as tributary states.
Bangalore remained under the Wodeyars till 1759, when its Commander-in-Chief, Hyder Ali, assumed de facto powers of the Mysore Kingdom. Most of the Mysore Kingdom, including Bangalore, came under the sphere of influence of Hyder.   
During the reign of Hyder and his son, Tipu, Bangalore saw a few battles but none as ferocious as the one on the third Anglo-Mysore 1791.
Hyder realised the importance of Bangalore militarily and he kept a fairly big army. He repulsed several attacks by the British on Bangalore, particularly, in 1768. The then British Colonel Nicholson of the British Army was forced to lift his siege of Bangalore.
The commander of the British forces, Lord Cornwallis, had to face the valorous and fearless fort or Quila Commander of Bangalore, Bahadur Khan, who gave a stiff fight to the British on March 21,  1791.
The scene of the battle was the area surrounding the Ulsoor Gate police station and Siddi Katte (City Market). The Madras Sappers played s vital role in breaching the fort.
This was the last major battle in Bangalore as Tipu demolished most of the fort after 1791 and the present fort was all that was standing during the final Anglo-Mysore war. Since then, Bangalore has become the permanent home of this regiment.
After this war, there was no other in Bangalore and its vicinity. The only other war like events that Bangalore faced was during the two world wars but that is a matter for another post. So till then, Good bye.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

When Tipu wanted Nazarbad as his capital

When Tipu Sultan (1750-1799) became the ruler of Mysore after the death of his father Hyder Ali in 1782, he threw off all pretences that his father had followed of owing allegiance to the Wodeyar Kings.
Tipu strengthened the fort at Srirangapatna even as he razed to the ground the old fort of Mysore built by the Wodeyars. He then shifted the royal family of Wodeyars from Mysore to Srirangapatna and kept them in a palace under strict watch.
Even as Srirangapatna began to gain prominence, the Hindu city of Mysore went into a decline. Tipu then decided to found a new city near the remnants of old Mysore and he called it as Nazarbad.
Nazarbad took shape a little away from where the old fort stood-near Doddakere Maidana today which is east of the Mysore palace.
Tipu decided to build a fort and enclose his Nazarbad within it. Construction of the fort began and the old stones and huge blocks from the old fort, which were lying at the site, were shifted to Nazarbad which was roughly about a mile away from where the main palace is located today.
By then, Nazarbad already had a few houses, but the were constructed hastily and they did not last long. Records available even today in the Mysore Palace called “The annals of  Mysore”,  speak of both the destruction of the old city and Nazarbad that existed in 1799-1800.  
The annals and British records indicate that Tipu constructed several sheds for construction labourers and ordered them to dig a trench so that the foundation for the fort would be strong. The labourers were engaged in digging huge trenches when the fourth War of Mysore in 1799 spelt the end of Tipu.
When Tipu died on May 4, 1799 in Srirangapatna, the work on the fort stopped. When the victorious British troops arrived in Mysore along with the Wodeyars, Col. Arthur Wellesley and Dewan Purnaiah, they found the old city of Mysore almost in ruins.
Even Nazarbad appeared rickety. There were a little more than 400 houses and most of them were constructed in the Vatara or group houses or cluster style. There was the proverbial prostitute street, market street, small market yards, quarters for soldiers and little else. 
The annals  also speak of one inner fort (Vola kote), one outer fort (Hora kote) and an impure fort (Antana kote) in Sringara Garden. The impure fort had 422 houses, almost all of them constructed in the vatara formation or group or cluster houses which is mentioned in an earlier paragraph.
B. L. Rice, in his Mysore Gazeteer, says “Tipu made every effort to obliterate all traces of Hindu Raj. He razed the city of Mysore and the ancient palace of the Rajas to the ground and deported one and all, including the royal family, to Srirangapatna. The stones of the old fort were employed by Tipu to build his own fort at a place he called Nazarbad.”
Nazarbad, says Rice, was almost a mile to the east of the old Hindu city of Mysore.
Rice also quotes Major Wilkes as saying that the new fort being built in Mysore by Tipu could not have been of even the slightest use in defending Mysore.  It was still unfinished and large stones and boulders were lying about in the area. The only remaining structures in the fort were workmen sheds.         
Even the houses within Nazarbad fort were falling apart as they had been constructed in haste and the materials used were not of good quality. With not even a single suitable house in existence in Mysore, the British decided to conduct the coronation of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the third, in one of the construction sheds in Nazarbad.
The shed was decorated and a large tent added for the coronation ceremony.  
Today no trace of the shed exists. Nor is there any remnant of the capital city that Tipu had planned. Only Nazarbad survives with a locality bearing the name.
However, a few remnants of the Nazarbad fort still survives. Look carefully around you and the fort entrance can be identified along with two watch towers on the Mysore-Bangalore road, near the Mysore Jail building.
Old timers like Dr. M.S Prasad, a former scientist of CFTRI in Mysore, recall that parts of the fort could still be seen almost up to the German Press on the T. Narasipur Road until recently. Unfortunately, it has been demolished, a victim of road widening by the civic body.
Another building ascribed, though this is disputed, is a bungalow on Chamaraja Road. Historians say Tipu did stay in this building when he visited Mysore and this structure bore some resemblance to the Daria Daulat in Srirangapatna. This building was partly pulled down in 1994 and completely razed to the ground in 2010.
Though Tipu’s dream of making Nazarbad a political and administrative capital remained a dream, a beautiful Government House has come up on Theobald House in Nazarbad.
This building, a mini Vidhana Soudha, has fulfilled Tipu’s dream of making Nazarbad the centre of power.    
It will house the office so the tahasildar, sub-registrar, taluk panchayath and other offices.
Incidentally, the mini Vidhana Soudha stands on 2 acres 3 guntas of land where the old Tahasildar’s office stood in a century-old building. This old building was pulled down eight years ago to make way for the new three-storied structure which cost Rs. 8.2 crores.

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.  

Sunday, 26 May 2013

A studio lost in a maze of history

Many have heard of Premier Studio in Mysore and they are also aware of the fire accident that occurred in the studio during the filming of the mega tele serial, “The Sword of Tipu Sultan”, by Sanjay Khan.
The devastating fire on the sets killed 62 film artistes, technicians and workers, some of them leading personalities in their field. The fire which occurred in 1989 almost sounded the death knell of the studio which was founded in 1954 by M.N. Basavarajaiah on 10 acres of land.
However, very few people are aware that there was one more film studio in Mysore and that predated Premier by several years. This was the Navajyoti Studio.  
The studio existed in the very compound where the JSS School stands in Saraswathipuram, a locality in Mysore, today. The studio was started by G.R. Ramaiah, an industrialist and transport company owner, in 1946.
Ramaiah was a partner in building Prabha cinema theatre in Mysore. He became a film producer and shot his films in Pakshiraja Studios in Coimbatore. However,  he was piqued by stepmotherly treatment meted out to Kannada film producers there and he decided to build his own studio in Mysore.
When Navajyoti opened, it was the first full fledged sound film studio (with RCA Sound recording facility) in the state.
During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Navajyothi was the nerve centre of film activities in Kannada. A little known fact about the studio is that it was here under the arc lights that a young artiste called Muthuraj faced the camera for the first time. He later metamorphosed into Rajkumar with the launch of Bedara Kannappa in 1954 and till his death he continued to remain an icon for millions of Kannadigas the world over.
One of the many films that were shot in Navajyoti was the Kannada  classic Bharathi in 1949. It starred M.V. Krishnaswamy, who was better known as MVK. This was a Kannada film where MVK, the lead, was a Professor of English in Mysore University. The film also starred Soorya Kumari, dancer Padmini and yet another superb dancer Sampath.
The film was directed by  R.M. Veerabhadrayya and was released in Salem of Tamil Nadu. It had 13 songs.
Another iconic film shot here was Maruthanaatu Ilavarasi in  1950.  Maruthanaatu Ilavarsi 1950- starring MGR, V.N. Janki, M.G. Chakrapani and others attained cult status for it was during this movie that both MGR and Janki fell in love and subsequently married. This film was written by Karunanidhi. By the way, this was the first film in which Karunanidhi’s name appeared in the credits as a writer.
However, mounting production costs and falling number of films forced the closure of  Navajyoti, leading film makers to make a beeline to Madras. As the studio also lacked all the facilities for producing films, most of the producers had to go to Madras for producing their films. Madras was then a famous centre for film production having a large number of film artistes and facilities. It was the headquarters for films in south India.This state of affairs continued till the Premier studio was opened.
Incidentally, a Mysore sculptor, art director and background artiste for many Kannada films, Rajanna of N.R. Mohalla, who died in Bangalore on June 22, 2011, was one of the directors of Navajyoti.   
Rajanna was associated with Kannada films like Gandada Gudi, Kadina Rahasya, Sthree Rathna, Soubhagya Lakshmi and he had  created scenes like gardens, forest, temples, palaces for some films.
Another tidbit about Navajyoti is that Mahatma pictures which was set up by D. Shankar Singh (father of Rajendra Singh Babu, the film maker) and B. Vittalacharya in 1946, shot almost all its Kannada films in Navajyoti.  Infact, Dr. Rajkumar  made his d├ębut under this banner when in 1952 he was given a small roll in Srinivasa Kalyana, which was directed by Vittalacharya. This film was shot much earlier than Bedara Kannappa.
Comedian Varadaraj, singer P. Kalingarao, music director P. Shyamanna, melody duo Rajan-Nagendra, artiste T.N. Balakrishna, lyricist-director Hunsur Krishnamurthy and many others were part of the films that were shot at Navajyoti.
One of Kannada’s best known directors, Siddalingaiah, was a floor boy at Navajyoti. He went on to become an assistant director to Shankar Singh before branching out on his own with Mayor Muthanna.  
Today, Navajyoti is no more but its legacy survives in the form of  the JSS institution which is set amidst mango groves and coconut trees. However, the studio's contribution to Kannada cinema remains lost or rather obscured in the annals of history.  

Florence Nightingale and Bangalore

She is one of the most famous personalities in history and her name even today stands for untiring devotion, selfless sacrifice and compassion.
Though she was a British citizen, her name spread so far and wide that it came to symbolise compassion and her name and her deed inspired millions to follow her profession.
Popularly credited as being the founder of modern nursing, she became famous for selflessly tending to wounded soldiers during the Crimean war. The grateful soldiers dubbed  her “The Lady with the Lamp” after her habit of making rounds of the hospital at night.
She is Florence Nightingale, (May 12, 1820 – August 13, 1910), the woman who redefined care for the sick and wounded. Hers is one of the few names that are known by people of all countries and by people of all religions, caste, class and community.
However, few are aware that Florence Nightingale was not merely concerned about the welfare of soldiers in Europe but also about the rather primitive health conditions in Bangalore when it was a Cantonment town.
Florence Nightingale was deeply concerned about the rather apathetic or primitive conditions of Bangalore in the 19th century and her concern comes across in some of her letters.
It was the early years of the 19th century and the British had decided to shift their base from Srirangapatna to Bangalore. The British had finally managed  to overcome Tipu Sultan on May 4, 1799 but they could not stay long enough in Srirangapatna. The British could not withstand the mosquitoes of Srirangapatna and they decided to shift the military base to Bangalore.
In Bangalore, the British found the area around Ulsoor to be highly suitable for establishing the Cantonment in 1806. If the Cantonment comprised mainly of British troops and British families, Ulsoor and surrounding areas were populated by native Indians, a majority of whom found employment in the Cantonment.
By the way, the word Cantonment traced its origin to the French word Canton, meaning corner or district. Each Cantonment was essentially a well-defined and clearly demarcated unit of territory set apart for the quartering and administering of troops          
However, the sanitary conditions in Bangalore Cantonment in the early years of 19th century left much to be desired. The troops  lived in unhygienic conditions and they were exposed to mosquitoes. The unsanitary conditions led to scores of British troops and native Indians falling ill regularly and several of them died.
The British had stationed several thousand troops in Bangalore and very soon the Cantonment here became the biggest in south India. The British garrison stationed in the Cantonment included three artillery batteries and regiments of the cavalry, infantry, sappers, miners, mounted infantry, supply and transport corps and the Bangalore Rifle Volunteers.
While the Bangalore Cantonment was directly under the administration of the British Raj, the City and old pete areas was under the Wodeyars of Mysore.
The troops lived in appalling conditions and the question of providing better amenities even engaged the attention of no less a person than Florence Nightingale.
Unfortunately, very few know about the Nightingale’s efforts to streamline public health and welfare in Bangalore.  
She was very particularly solicitous about the health of the troops. Although she never visited India, her biography and even letters reveal that it was through her untiring efforts that public health in Bangalore Cantonment was improved.

The little known mutiny of Bangalore

There are many episodes, incidents and events in British India which have been either successfully swept under the carpet or buried under mounds of  irrelevant facts.
The British and later Indians have time and again underplayed several seminal and memorable events and some of them pertain to the straightforward challenge that the East India Company first and  
The British faced when they ruled over the Indian sub-continent.
Several uprisings and rebellions by the Indians, both common men and native soldiers, were suppressed ruthlessly and all records pertaining to such events either destroyed or the events were underplayed.
Unfortunately, even today many of these events find no mention in history books as even we Indians are still wary of changing the history books written by the British and Western scholars and authors.
One such event is the Bangalore Mutiny of 1832. No history book today speaks of this mutiny and there are also very few records available about the event. The mutiny shook the British so hard that they had several sepoys shot dead and others banished beyond the seas.
The mutiny took place barely 33 years after the British killed Tipu Sultan in Srirangapatna. The British had established a Cantonment in Bangalore in 1806 and they had moved many British regiments there from Srirangapatna, while stationing a token force in Mysore, the capital of the Wodeyar Kingdom.
While some of the British troops were stationed in the fort in Bangalore, many Europeans, including British and French nationals had made Bangalore their home. The 62nd Regiment of Foot and 13th Light Dragoons were the main British regiments that were stationed in Bangalore. The Foot regiment (Wiltshire) had arrived in India in 1830 and it arrived in Bangalore in September 1830.
The 13th Light Dragoons-a cavalry unit, later Hussars, were made famous by Lord Alfred Tennyson, the English poet who wrote about their deeds in the Battle of Waterloo in the poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”  
Coming back to the Bangalore mutiny, a handful of Indian soldiers had decided to take on the British. The mutiny was so meticulously planned that every aspect was taken care of and had it succeeded, the history of Bangalore would perhaps have been transformed.
The plot was discovered just a day before the mutiny was slated to take place. The plot was to kill the British soldiers stationed in Bangalore and the two regiments had been targeted for this purpose.   
Muslim civilians from Mysore and native Indian soldiers from Bangalore had come together to execute this operation. Their main aim was to completely eradicate British military from Bangalore.
Unfortunately, Jemadar Emaun Khan, an officer of the 48th  Regiment, revealed the existence of a plot to mutiny and murder all Europeans.
The mutiny had been timed to break out at midnight on October 28 October. The British Army at Bangalore took immediate measures to quell the mutiny. All the soldiers named by Khan were arrested including the ringleader, Hyder Ali Khan (a self-styled Nawab) and his associate Syfut Ali Shah (a fakir and member of a sect of religious mendicants).
Syfut had promised those who joined the conspiracy rewards in this world and the next.
The Commander-in-Chief of the British troops ordered a court of inquiry which was held from October 30th to November 4. The inquiry revealed that Hyder Ali Khan was well financed and that he had managed to enlist the support of as many Sepoys and Native Officers as he could by entertaining them at his house.
What shocked the British was that Hyder also managed to enlist the support of a number of disbanded troopers and discharged Sepoys formerly in the service of the Rajah of Mysore or the Wodeyar.
The mutiny was supposed to assume dangerous proportions as several hundred Pindaris were prepared to join Hyder and his band. Hyder was buoyed by the fact that the Ambassador of  the Raja of Coorg had promised to send 12,000 mounted and 7,000 foot soldiers once he received news that the mutiny had taken place.
On their part, the mutineers had laid out their plans meticulously. They had managed to ensure that a havildar sympathetic to their cause was stationed at the Mysore gate of the fort.
His job on midnight of October 28 was to admit the mutineers into the fort. Hyder and others soldiers planned to raid and capture the armoury, seize the weapons and kill all the British soldiers in their barracks.
They also targeted Major-General Hawker whom they wanted to be shot dead. Once this was accomplished, they had decided to fire a gun from the ramparts and simultaneously hoist a green flag.
The gun shot and the hoisting of the flag would be the signal for other mutineers to join the action.
The Native Horse Artillery was tasked with the job of butchering the European gunners first and then train the guns on the barracks of the 62nd Foot and 13th Light Dragoons. The ropes tethering the dragoon's horses would be cut and the Pindarees would take the horses whilst the guns were fired on the barracks.
The mutineers had calculated that if enough grapeshot was fired into the barracks there would be little chance of those inside escaping.
Hyder had then planned to install himself as a King of Bangalore and a prominent soldier, Seyd Tippoo, was to be his Prime Minister.
When we look the plans of the mutineers today, we can see that it was excellently drawn up and it would have succeeded but for its betrayal. Even if the mutiny had been suppressed, it would have led to bloodshed on both sides.
Jemadar Emaun Khan, who was told about the plot, was shocked. He straightaway went and informed Major Inglis who in turn communicated it to his higher-ups. The reaction was swift as it was immediate.
All the mutineers were arrested and imprisoned. The whole fort was sanitized and the watch and ward staff strengthened and reinforced. Additional troops were kept on the alert.
A court martial was ordered and proceedings began in Bangalore on November 26 by virtue of a warrant issued by R W O’ Callaghan, Commander in Chief of the Army.
The troops accused of mutiny were Syde Tipoo, havildar and drill havildar, 9th NI: Budderodeen, private: Shaik Ismail, havildar: Mahomad Yacoob, private 48th: Kullunder Beg, private: Shaikh Ahmed, private, horse artillery: Yacoob Khan, private, horse artillery: Sheikh Jaffer private: Hoonur Khan, private: Sheikh Homed, private.
The court martial report said that Syde Tipoo and others met on Oct. 25, 1832 and decided to seize the fort of Bangalore, murder European officers and to subvert the Government. The court martial cites four other similar meetings, all held by Syde Taipoo, in Bangalore.
All the five meetings were proved and the participants found guilty. The court martial handed over death sentence to Tipoo, Budderodeen, Shaikh Ismail and Kullunder Beg. They were sentenced to death by being blown away from a gun
The death sentences against  Mahomed Yacoob, Sheikh Ahmeed, Yacoob Khanm, Sheikh Jaffer, Honoor Khan and Shaikh Homed were commuted to transportation beyond the seas for the terms of their natural life.
The court also sentenced to be shot to death Cawder Khan, camp colour man, horse artillery, Budderodeen, private, Chand Khan, private and Ahmed Beg, private. The sentences against Budderodeen and Ahmed Beg were commuted to transportation beyond the seas,
The Commander in Chief of the Britsh Army praised the role of Naigue Nagpah, private Nutter Cawn of 48th regiment and private Mutra Prasad of horse artillery who gave intelligence of the plot. The former two were promoted as Jamedar and the later to the rank of  Havildar with a donation of Rs. 500.
When the mutiny broke out, the company had 3500 men. Of them two havildars and twelve privates took part in the mutiny.
Though the British dealt with the mutiny harshly, they tried their best to keep it under warps lest other Indians rise against them. Even today, our books on history and city history do not contain any mention of these people and their sacrifice. We seemed to have forgotten their contribution even as we go about remembering others who had contributed much less to the nation and to society.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

When airplanes from the land of gold bombed Mandalay and Rangoon

While KGF is renown as the land of gold. Very few know that it is also the place where a squadron of the Royal Air Force (RAF) was born. The Squadron also went on a bombing mission to Burma and this was during the second World War.
The Squadron was stationed in the Bombay Camp Cricket ground in KGF. The cricket grounds is one of the most familiar landmarks of KGF and the origin of cricket in and around KGF can be traced to the ground sometime in 1880.
The Bombay Camp Cricket Ground was the name of the fairly large open space in Oorgaum. It was just behind the first grade college and close to the diary.
During the world war, the British converted the ground into an airfield. It was christined as Kolar Gold Fields Air Fields. The 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit was stationed here at this airfield. Conversion Units and Operational Conversion Units (OCU) were training units of the RAF. With the introduction of the new heavy bombers, the 4-engined Short Stirling, Avro Lancaster and Handley Page Halifax, into service, the RAF introduced these units in late 1941. Their main aim was to qualify crews trained on medium bombers to operate the heavy bombers prior to assignment to an Operational Training Unit to gain experience before final posting to the operational squadrons.
1673 (Heavy) Conversion Unit was formed at Salboni (India) in October 1943 and moved to Kolar (India) in May 1944. This unit was later converted into No. 358 Squadron, Bombay on November 8, 1944. The squadron was part of the Heavy Bomber unit flying the Consolidated Liberator bombers.
Thus, Kolar has the distinction of giving birth to 358 Squadron. Sixteen Liberators arrived in Kolar and crew training began.
The original crew were mainly from the 1673 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU). It was thus a Bomber and Special duties squadron flying with South East Asia Command from 1944 to 1945.
It flew its first and only bombing mission on January 13, 1945 when eight aircraft dropped bombs on supply dumps in Mandalay and Rangoon, Burma. Shortly, thereafter, it was assigned to Special Duties (SD) and shifted to Jessore on February 10, 1945 near Calcutta in Bengal. It dropped agents and supplies behind the enemy lines, and after VJ day, supplies to Prisoner of War (POW) camps and to resistance groups in Japanese-held territory. After the Japanese surrender the squadron then dropped supplies to POW camps and repatriated released prisoners. It was disbanded on November 21, 1945 at Bishnapur.
The Motto of the squadron was “Alere flamman” ("To feed the flame") and the badge was an arm embowed, holding in the hand a torch.
Coming back to the temporary airfield, it was large enough to easily accommodate four large twin engined Liberators. The facilities at the airfield was minimal and it had a few sheds.
Later, the airfield was used as an training camp for air raid volunteer corps of KGF. After the second world war ended, the air field was abandoned and today there is no trace of it. As far as the grounds go, John Taylor and Company, which operated the gold mines, once again  set up a cricket ground there.         

Rivalling the Taj

It is among the most famous monuments of India. It rivals the Taj Mahal of Agra in drawing visitors and along with the Mughal monument, it is also the most visited monument in India.
For some years, this monument beat the Taj Mahal in drawing the number of visitors. Now, it gives the Taj close competition in drawing visitors and it is also on the list of  must see monuments of the world.
Even the venerable “The New York Times” recently listed it as one of the 31 must-see places on Earth for two years in a row.
This is the magnificent main palace of Mysore which houses some of the most stunning exhibits of the world, including the stupendous Golden throne (this is exhibited only during the Dassara), the Golden Howdah, the armoury (This again is not open to the public) and a variety of artifacts that boggles the mind.     
Year after year, the Mysore palace has been thronging the palace and neither natural calamities nor any other disaster or manmade obstacle has lessened its charm.
The palace in 2012-13 drew an incredible 3 million visitors, just a fraction less than the Taj Mahal. Though there has been a slight decline in number of tourists visiting the palace, the annual footfall in 2012-13 was 30,00,452 as against 35,20,112 in 2011-12. According to the statistics provided by the Mysore Palace Board, 90,000 foreign tourists visited the palace in 2011-12 (from April to April) and it has reduced to 80,835 in 2012-13.
The Palace Board ascribes the dip in visitors to lack of air connectivity and also to the Cauvery agitation. However, the statistics show that tourist inflow keeps varying every month but it is at the peak during Dassara and vacations.
The main entrance to the palace is through the tall and imposing East Gate. Tourists enter the palace from this point. Gujaratis form the bulk of the domestic visitors while Europeans – especially the French, Germans and Britons – form the bulk of the foreign visitors. For the foreign visitors, Mysore apart from Srirangapatna form a part of their tour.
The tourist inflow to Mysore has been on the rise since 2009 and the first decrease in the numbers was registered in 2012-13.
In 2006, the Archaeological Survey of India records indicate that  25,25,687 people visited the palace as against 25,39,471 tourists visiting the Taj Mahal.
Although the Taj Mahal noses ahead of Mysore palace in terms of number of tourists visiting them, the actual number of tourists visiting the palace could be higher than the official figures collected from the ticketing counters. There are thousands of people who prefer to view the palace and savour its beauty from  
the vast open grounds and the courtyard inside the fort. There is no entrance fee for this and these numbers are not counted.
The official figure on the number of tourists takes into account only those who buy a ticket to gain entry inside the Durbar Hall and the Kalyana Mantapa. Thus if the combined figures of the ticketed tourists and those who enter the main gate but not the Durbar Hall were counted, the number of tourists visiting the Palace would far outnumber those visiting the Taj Mahal.
It was only from the beginning of this century that there had been an increase in the number of tourists coming to Mysore and visiting the palace. The upward trend can be gauged by the comparative figures for previous years. While 18,04,488 tourists visited the palace in 1999, the numbers have been steadily increasing since 2000 except for 2002 when it plummeted to 14,19,466. This was when Mysore and surrounding areas were hit by a severe drought. But since 2003, the figures increased from 16.45 lakh to 18.31 lakh in 2004 and 20.62 lakh in 2005.
The number of visitors to other monuments in India as per the records of the Union Ministry of Tourism and Culture are: Qutub Minar (21.95 lakh), Red Fort in Delhi (21.01lakh), Agra Fort (12.74 lakh) and Fatehpur Sikri (3.92 lakh).

The four palaces

Anyone visiting Mysore will never forget the Main Palace. An architectural marvel, the palace leaves everyone spellbound. The Indo-Saracenic marvel in architecture, it is a harmonious admixture of Hindu, Rajput, Muslim and even Gothic styles.
The three-storied stone and fine granite structure, with deep pink marble domes and a 145 ft five-storied tower, is one of the most remarkable buildings of the world.
It was commissioned by the Regent of Mysore, Maharani Vani Vilas Sannidhana, designed by Henry Irwin (1841-1922) and commissioned in 1897. It was completed in 1912 and expanded later around 1940. This is one of the most photographed monument of Mysore and the illuminated palace enthrals millions of  people.
The palace comes alive during the Dassara celebrations when it becomes the centre piece of the Nada habba. Actually, this is the fourth palace to come up on the very same spot.
Chronicles and records with the Mysore palace, books at the Oriental research Institute and the annals of the Mysore royal family found in “Srimanmaharajaravara Vamsavalli” testify to the fact that there existed a palace here in the 14th century when the Wodeyars came to power. That palace was enclosed by a wooden fort. This was the palace which in 1638 was struck by lightning and rebuilt by Kantirava Narasa Raja Wodeyar (1638-1659). He also is credited with having extended the existing structures and added new pavilions.      
When Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar (1673-1704) died, Mysore plunged into anarchy and the palace gradually slipped into oblivion. When Hyder Ali became powerful, the palace ceased to be the centre of power and Mysore became a forlone city even as Srirangapatna grew politically.   
Tipu demolished the palace in 1793 and even set about destroying the old fort. However, he did not touch the temples. When he died in Srirangapatna on May 4, 1799, there was not even a single building of note for the young Wodeyar Prince. Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the third (1794-1868) to be crowned as the ruler of Mysore. He was just five years when he was crowned at a marquee (a large and elaborately built tent) in Nazarbad, which today is a locality in Mysore.
It was then the third palace came to be constructed. The construction of the palace was one of the first acts of  the Wodeyar King once he ascended the throne. As it was hastily constructed, it lacked even basic safety features.
It was 124 feet high and 156 feet wide and was spread over 85 acres. It was completed in 1807 at a cost of Rs 7.41 lakh and it was built in Indo-Saracenic style. Its interiors were richly decorated, separated by huge open courts, but its exterior was not embellished. The eastern side of the Old Palace, as it is commonly known, housed the Durbar Hall on the first floor. A description of the palace is contained in the Mysore Gazeteer.
This palace was extensively damaged in a fire accident in February, 1897 during the closing function of the wedding ceremony of Princess Jayalakshmammani.
The fire is believed to have started in the kitchen and very soon it blazed out of control. Only the temple of Atmavilas Ganapthi was left standing, and this was later incorporated in the new building
With the entire palace gutted, the Queen Regent decided to build a new palace. Work on the new palace commenced in October 1897, just eight months after the fire mishap. When completed in 1912, the palace costed Rs. 41,47,913. The initial estimate of Henry Irwin was a little above Rs. 25 lakhs.
One of the earliest written records of the palace and its construction  can be gleaned from an article  in “The journal Indian Engineering” in its issue of October, 1898.
The article speaks of the Government's directive regarding reconstruction of the palace: “...in the reconstruction, stone, brick and iron should be the chief materials used, and that the use of wood and other combustible materials should be avoided wherever possible”. The estimated expenditure at the planning stage was Rs. 25 lakhs (Rs. 2 500 000). It further says, “Mr. Irwin, of Madras, was given the work of preparing a suitable design, which, it should be said in fairness to him, he did most creditably. The design was adopted, Mr. Irwin paid a fee of Rs. 12 000 and the work was put in hand in August 1897. But in an evil hour the Durbar determined that the work should be carried on departmentally...”.
Till the palace was completed, the royal family lived in the Jaganmohan palace which was built in 1867.  
Today, the main palace is such an overwhelming structure that it erases all of the past that is painful. By the way, the site where main palace now stands was earlier a village called Puragere. The Mahishuru fort around the palace was constructed in 1524 by Chamaraja Wodeyar III (1513–1553).
The palace was integrated with the surroundings in such a manner that it was surrounded by the temples. However, the small township that existed within the fort were dismantled and the people settled in Mysore city. Today, there are 12 temples surrounding the palace and a few of them have an even older history than the palace (An earlier post has dealt with the temples of Mysore palace).
The Palace, with its  arched gateways, occupies 72 acres in the heart of Mysore (one acre is 0.4 hectare). The main entrance to the palace is through the tall and imposing East Gate. It is through this gate that tourists enter the palace.
There are several gates to the fort surrounding the palace such as  the Jayamartanda, Balarama, Jayarama, Brahmapuri, Karikal Thoti and Varaha.
Dr. M.S. Nagaraja Rao, former Director General of Archaeological Survey of India, has authored a book on the Mysore Palace.
This is the first of the three articles on lesser known facts of the palace.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Lacking in fire safety

The recent fire tragedy in a fashion factory on the outskirts of Dhaka in Bangladesh in which more than a thousand people were killed have once again focused attention on the lax and often negligent attitude we have towards fore safety norms.
India has seen several fire tragedies and one of the worst examples of an apathetic bureaucracy and total disregard for fire safety norms was the fire that raged in a cinema hall in Delhi several years ago.
Bangalore too is not immune to fire mishaps. One of the most fire accidents was the Venus Circus tragedy and more recently the fire in Carlton Building on old Airport road.  Eve after the Carlton building incident in which none persons were killed and several injured, the powers to be seem to be in deep slumber and they have not taken more effective steps to strengthen fire safety norms and tighten the existing rules and regulations.
A recent survey by several agencies, including Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM) and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services have revealed that 70 per cent of the buildings in Bangalore are not fire-proof. What is more shocking is that hundreds of such buildings pose a higher fire hazard as they are located on and around congested roads. Thereby effectively  preventing fire force personnel and fire engines and rescue equipments and vehicles from reaching them.
Internal investigations into fire mishaps by BESCOM and the department has revealed that at least 90 per cent of fire accidents in Bangalore was entirely due to the negligence by building owners and their callous attitude towards fire safety.
The department statistics show that in Bangalore alone 825 fire accidents were reported during 2009-10 and 895 during 2010-11. Besides, 2,405 fire accidents — small, medium and serious — were reported between March 2008 and March 2011 and property worth over Rs. 15.89 crore destroyed. The department says that at least 60 per cent of these accidents were due to electric short-circuits.
The main reason for electric malfunction is the use of sub-standard or/and low quality and non-fore and shock proof materials and equipment. Duplicate and sub-substandard electrical cables, unimaginatively placed electric ducts and non-use of circuit breakers and good quality fuses were the main reasons for fire in houses.
In case of commercial and business establishments, fire mishap is mainly due to lack of proper and fool proof storage/disposal of inflammable materials, illegal tapping of power and heavy overdrawal of power beyond the sanctioned capacity and unnecessary material storage are the main reasons.
The department accepts that all building, whether residential and commercial should have sufficient measures to prevent fire accidents.
The department has found that over half the high-rise buildings and they include both commercial and residential do not comply with fire safety regulations. At the latest count, the city had more than 22,000 high-rise buildings. The BBMP defines high rise as any building which is more than 15 metres in height. Shockingly, many of them violate the national building code, which is mandatory for bigger buildings which house or cater to large populace. Scores of multi-stories and high rise buildings have been built without the fire department’s approval.
With the civic body-Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike-approving at least a hundred high rise buildings every year, the department has its task cut out. It has limited powers to inspect building and withhold sanction. One way to get over this problem is to make building owners obtain sanction from the fire department before commencing with the building and after completing it. However, this is rarely followed and the result is that the buildings come up in all sports of places-from rocky places, abandoned quarried and even slums and narrow roads-leaving the department with no vehicle to fight the fires.
Infact, in most of the fire accidents, the foremost challenge faced by firefighters is inaccessibility of the building, narrowness of the roads and heavy traffic.
This fact has been proved when the department engaged Wilbur Smith Associates to evaluate fire hazard response and mitigation plans in Bangalore.
The company classified eight BBMP wards in Bangalore City limits as ‘very high risk’ zones, posing a threat to the safety of citizens in the core region.
The company said the ‘very high risk zones’ are mainly located in dense residential, commercial and defence establishment areas such as Richmond Town, Malleswaram, Baiyyappanahalli, Peenya, C V Raman Nagar and Byatara­yanapura.
The report also classifies twelve areas as ‘high risk,’  ten areas as ‘medium’ and nine areas as ‘low risk’ zones.
The report is mainly based on two criteria: availability of fire station in the vicinity and the population. It says Bangalore needs 79 fore stations but Bangalore has 14. Six new stations have already been sanctioned but even when they are commissioned the deficit is 59.
And what about fire safety norms for petes and old areas such as City Market, Chickpet, Balepet, Avenue Road, Thargurper, Ranasinghpet. Mamulpet. The roads here are so narrow and the houses and business establishments are located so close to one another that one fire could ignite a major conflagration.  
Coming back to high-rise buildings in Bangalore, of the 20,000 highrises, at least 40 per cent of the, do not possess even a fire extinguisher or any other basic fire fighting equipment.  
Except for Bangalore and Hubli, other cities in the State do not have special equipment to manage fire-accidents in high-rise buildings. This statistics is not given by the department but by the State Government itself according to the report for the year ending March 31, 2011, tabled in the just-concluded legislature session.
The CAG too has come down heavily on lax fire safety norms.
It says even two years after the Mangalore aircraft crash, the Department had neither finalised a standing operating procedure for air crash accidents nor conceived specialised training for search and rescue operations in such situations.
It says the department is yet to take steps to fill 40 per cent vacancies as of December 2011.