Palike under fire

Furore engulfed the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike Council meeting on Wednesday, as an irked Opposition cried hoarse over the civic agency’s failure to provide timely compensation to traders at the Russell Market in Shivajinagar, parts of which were reduced to ashes in a major fire on February 25.

A disgruntled Congress MLA from Shivajinagar, Roshan Baig, staged a walkout midway through the proceedings of the House.

Participating in the debate earlier, Baig termed the markets white elephants of the BBMP and asked the civic body to review the revenue generated by them.

“These markets have become a source of roll call for some anti-social elements, while the rent the Palike is getting is just peanuts. Why should the BBMP alone bear the maintenance cost of these shops? There is a need for a broad-based policy wherein shopkeepers will pay the maintenance cost,” Baig suggested.

He said the Palike should be cautious while undertaking the renovation of the Russell Market building as it would pave the way for contractors to make money, as had happened in KR Market and other places. He wanted the relief fund to be doubled and given to the affected persons immediately.

In his reply, BBMP Commissioner M K Shankarlinge Gowda clarified that there was no obligation on the Palike or the government to pay compensation, but it was doing so on humanitarian grounds.

He said these shopkeepers should have insured their shops. Earlier during a discussion on the subject, JD(S) floor leader Padmanabha Reddy had called Russell Market a heritage building but Gowda refuted his statement saying any building should complete 100 years to get the heritage tag. Russell Market is just 96 years old.

Gowda informed the House that Torsteel Research Foundation would study whether the building could be used in the present condition or dismantled. In the event of rebuilding the structure, the Palike will use in situ concrete for strong and speedy construction and will retain the Indo-Saracenic architecture style. He said an inquiry was also underway.

However, Baig, who was not satisfied with the reply, walked out of the House in protest.
Opposition leader M Udayashankar alleged that the traders who lost their belongings in the fire were yet to receive compensation despite Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda announcing a financial assistance of Rs 50,000 to each of the affected shopkeepers.

Congress corporator Gunashekar blamed the BBMP for its failure to take care of the markets, which, he said, was its obligatory function under the Karnataka Municipal Corporations (KMC) Act.

He flayed the Palike administration for not reserving some funds for the maintenance of the markets. He also criticised the Palike for not utilising the Central government and World Bank funds meant to meet such contingencies.

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