Lalbagh watchtower turns into food court

Vendors setup stalls at protected monument during flower show

The centuries-old watchtower at Lalbagh, constructed during the regime of Nadaprabhu Kempegowda, has been neglected by authorities. Besides, the safety historical structure is said to have been threatened following a big increase in the number of visitors to the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens.

The tower, atop the hillock at Lalbagh, is among four such towers from where the sentries used to keep a watch on the City in the olden days. Later, the four iconic towers used to remind Bangloreans of the boundaries of  the ‘original’ City.

But, this “protected monument” at Lalbagh has virtually turned into a ‘snack bar’ when hordes of people came to witness the annual flower show at the gardens on Sunday. Scores of unauthorised hawkers and food vendors had set up stalls atop the rock which houses the watch tower.

A board in Kannada and English, erected by the State Archaeology Department, explanining that the watch tower was a protected monument did not catch the attention of the citizens or vendors and, the business continued briskly for four hours. Those applying mehndi, the ones selling Bhelpuri and ice cream candies, were all there. The watch tower literally turned into a ‘snack bar’ providing thousands of people an opportunity to view of the Lalbagh from the top of the hillock with snack plates in their hands. With in a few hours, a mound of garbage had piled up around the monument.

Vulnerable monument

According to experts from the State’s Archaeology  Department, the watchtower at Lalbagh is one of the most vulnerable monument in the State.

“For years, we have been able to protect the other three towers in the City, mainly because of their location. One is inside the Madras Engineering Group (MEG) premises, where public entry is restricted; another at Mekhri Circle has been covered by a well-maintained park around it; the one at the Gavi Gangadeshwara temple, is less frequented by the public. However, the watch tower at Lalbagh has been under a lot pressure from the hundreds of tourists and visitors,” said an official from the department.

When asked about the laxity in protecting the tower and allowing illegal vendors within two-feet of the protected monument at Lalbagh, a top official from the Horticulture department blamed it on the massive crowd turnout during the flower show.

The situation would have not arose, if we had pushed away vendors from the actual flower show area. To ensure that vendors do not setup stalls and create a ruckus, we had restricted them to the periphery of the flower show venue. The illegal vendors, however, extended their temporary stalls to the top of the rock and encroached upon the monument space, said the official.

According to the Karnataka Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1961, penalties are prescribed against those who “destroys, removes, injures, alters, defaces, imperils, or misuses a protected  monument.”

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