Gandhi's memorials in Kengeri lie in utter ruin

The cottage where Gandhi stayed.

As the city gears up to celebrate Mahatma Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary, some of the places associated with his life are in complete ruins. 

While the most notable of the places in the city have been turned into memorials, those on the outskirts have been reduced to garbage dumping grounds. A well the Mahatma had inaugurated in Kengeri in 1934 for Dalits and the cottage he stayed are cases in point. The weed-infested well has become a dumpster. 

Returning from his tour of Mysuru and Chamarajanagar, Gandhi halted a cottage at Kengeri on January 6, 1934. He launched his 'Harijan' movement; he stayed at Gurukula Ashrama, off Kengeri. 

Gandhi reached the Ashram by foot, crossing the Vrushabhavati River. He addressed a rally of Dalits at the Ashram, where he motivated students from backward communities to focus on their education. 

As he was briefed about the difficulties the local Dalits faced in sourcing portable water, members of the Bengaluru District Board urged him to inaugurate a well they dug to supply water to Kengeri's Harijan colony. 

Gandhi inaugurated the well by drawing a pot of water and distributing it to Dalits, marking the launch of the Harijan movement in Karnataka. Today, the well on the 80x100 plot is in a derelict condition. 

"We were told that (the well) was inaugurated by Gandhiji, but there's no board to explain its significance," said Rame Gowda, a local resident, noting that people continue to dump garbage in the well. 

Aravind Karnik, the secretary of Gurukula Vidyapeetha in Kengeri that owns and maintains the place, said the well had dried up over the years and there had not been a trace of water. "But, we've retained it due to the historic significance. Though the place is abandoned, we clean it up every year and hold prayers on Gandhi Jayanti," Karnik said.

A staffer at the Gurukula said people threw garbage since the well is located on the roadside. 

"Initially, we fenced the area. Later, to prevent littering, we even installed a board revealing the CCTV surveillance. Yet, nothing stopped people from throwing waste. Now, we only clean up the well once a year," he added. 

Though the Gurukula wants to convert the place into a memorial and a museum for Gandhi, those plans remain frozen due to a paucity of funds. 

A kilometre from the well, the cottage where Gandhi stayed in 1929 has been in ruins amidst the verdant environs on the banks of the Vrushabhavati. 

Initially, Prem Kaur Kapoor had owned the building and the orchard. The education department then took over the place to train unemployed youth in tailoring, gardening and computer. Ownership then switched to the skill development department that stopped all activities for over five years. 

The place stands as a contrast to Gandhi’s teachings of swachhata (cleanliness). High deposits of dirt and dingy wall welcome the visitor. With weeds growing everywhere, the building is in danger of collapsing at any moment. 

"The government has drawn up a renovation plan and has estimated the cost," said a staffer from the skill development department. "It's yet to sanction funds for the work." 

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