Citizens amp up pressure on State government to save Janatha Bazaar

The Asiatic Building on Kempegowda Road houses the 52-year-old Janatha Bazaar.

The Asiatic Building on Kempegowda Road houses the 52-year-old Janatha Bazaar.   | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain

Worried that another historic structure in the city — the Asiatic Building on Kempegowda Road, which houses the 52-year-old Janatha Bazaar — may be razed, members of Heritage Beku, a group fighting for heritage preservation, along with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) have sent out numerous letters and emails to the Public Works Department (PWD) asking it to rethink the demolition.

Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, a member of Heritage Beku, said a team had met Chief Secretary Ratna Prabha and she had promised to look into the matter. “We have also sent out letters to the PWD. We are hopeful the department will restore, not demolish, the building which is part of the ethos of the city,” she said.

The structure is listed as a heritage building in the draft Revised Master Plan 2031. “If the building is considered unsafe, heritage conservation professionals such as INTACH can be called in to restore the building to safety,” one of the letters says. “Worldwide, modern cities and their governments work to protect and preserve their heritage, recognising its importance. As a modern city, Bengaluru too must move with the times and preserve its past, not demolish it.”

A few days ago, the PWD started erecting corrugated sheets around the building, which was opened by the Mysore king Sri Kantirava Narasimharaja Wadiyar on September 11, 1935. A plaque has been placed on it stating the building is weak and not fit for occupation.

However, the Karnataka State Cooperative Consumers Federation (KSCCF), which runs Janatha Bazaar, has described the building as quite strong. “The PWD, which is in charge of the building’s maintenance, has hardly done anything. Now, they want to demolish it and build a parking lot and commercial space in its place,” said an official from the federation.

The agreement for running Janatha Bazaar ended in 2008. A high-powered committee was set up in 2009 to draw up a new agreement. “A 25-year agreement was drawn up, to be renewed every five years. The five years ended in 2014, and since then the PWD has not renewed the agreement and has been asking us to vacate. We were served a legal notice in October 2017 to leave the premises. We wrote to various officials of the department asking for time, but received no reply,” he said.

Biradhar, manager of the bazaar, said the store receives between 300 and 500 customers a day, but since the closing of the gates with metal sheets, fewer people are visiting. “Everyone is asking us what is the need to demolish the building,” he said.

K.V. Bakhtavatsala, a customer, said: “It is a beautiful building and the PWD will not be able to replicate the design. Moreover, it looks strong enough to survive for the next 50 years.”

However, M. Lakshminarayan, Additional Chief Secretary, PWD, said the building is not safe for occupation. “We have to check whether the building is in the heritage list. The call on whether to demolish or not will be taken only after the elections,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 17, 2020 9:29:54 PM |

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