B'lore's heritage city tag a mirage

B'lore's heritage city tag a mirage

Showing no inclination to protect the heritage of the City, the State government has been dilly-dallying over formulating Heritage City guidelines for Bangalore.

Result: Monumental structures such as the Balabrooie guesthouse in the heart of the City may be bulldozed without any legal impediment.

Officials in the State department of archaeology said that in State Budget 2012-13, a promise was made to the people that Bangalore will become one of the 12 heritage cities in the State. However, before and after this assurance, it is said that the process of getting Bangalore the tag of a heritage city has been pending with the bureaucratic set-up of Karnataka.

The file to tag Bangalore as a heritage city was first moved to the urban development department for its clearance under the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, 1961. Subsequently, the file was dispatched to the Kannada and Culture Department for their confirmation. Over the past two years, the file has been moving through the corridors of Vidhan Soudha, pending confirmation. Once the  stamp of confirmation is put, the government will then have to set up an expert committee to tag heritage buildings and historical monuments.

Civil activists argue, if the government was serious, and in turn protected structures like Balabrooie, then it would implement the guidelines for protecting the heritage sites. While 14 cities have been promised the heritage city tag, only Mysore has a full fledged set-up for protecting its heritage.

However with no expert committee for Bangalore, or a government inventory to ascertain the age of buildings like Balabrooie, heritage structures cannot be gazetted as those which need to be protected.

 “While there need not be a set age for tagging a structure as a heritage building or space, a 100-year-old structure automatically receives the status of a monument under the The Karnataka Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1961 and its subsequent amendments in 1965.

But this can only be done if the State Government gazettes it as either a heritage structure or a monumental building,” said Deputy Director (Heritage) Gavimath.
The last time the State Government tried to pull down a heritage building, Attara Kacheri (High Court), a public interest litigation was filed in 1984 to safeguard the heritage structure in the City. Even in that case, the litigants had to base its case on the high court building being a monument which needed to be safeguarded.

“There are no clear-cut laws to protect the structures and heritage of Karnataka, despite Acts and regulations. There is an absolute lack of political will,” said INTACH co-convenor, Satya Prakash Varanashi.

Government sources state that the only other officials who can now protect endangered buildings are the Deputy Commissioner or the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike commissioner, who can intervene to save the heritage sites of Bangalore.

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