Once pride of Bengaluru, markets are bogged down by problems

Apart from inadequate fire safety measures, they are unable to overcome the challenges posed by lack of infrastructure, encroachments, and a decline in sales

Updated - April 22, 2019 08:38 am IST

Published - April 22, 2019 12:34 am IST

Russell Market is to be redeveloped under the Smart City project.

Russell Market is to be redeveloped under the Smart City project.

Last month, the High Court cautioned that it would not hesitate to order the closure of K.R. Market if the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) failed to rectify some of the serious lapses identified by the Fire and Emergency Services Department. It put the spotlight on not just K.R. Market but also on the state of other markets in the city. Fire safety is not the only problem as they battle lack of infrastructure, encroachments, and declining sales.

Civic officials, too, acknowledged that the public markets, which are also part of Bengaluru’s heritage, are in need of an urgent revamp. Of the 117 markets in the city that fall under its purview, the BBMP proposed to redevelop 18 major ones. But the redevelopment plans are still to take off. Malleswaram and Gandhi Bazaar markets, for instance, have even been shut for renovation, but the work is yet to begin.

K.R. Market and Russell Markets are now proposed to be redeveloped under the Smart City project, but shopkeepers and the public remain sceptical. The two markets are caught in legal wrangles as shop allottees have sued the civic authority over loss of livelihood. “We will support redevelopment, but the proposals always include developing the real estate into mall-like complexes with parking, food courts, and other amenities, pushing us to the upper floors, which kills our business,” said Murugan, a trader now selling fruits in front of the defunct Malleswaram market.

Madiwala Market is a fire hazard, as there is little by way of safety measures or precautions for either vendors or customers.

Madiwala Market is a fire hazard, as there is little by way of safety measures or precautions for either vendors or customers.


Traders cite the example of Jayanagar shopping complex. Bangalore Development Authority redeveloped the complex into a five-storey building, but the allottees were given the upper floors, and they are now fighting against it.

Waste management still a problem

When she was Mayor during 2016–17, G. Padamavathi would inspect waste disposal measures at K.R. Market every Saturday morning. However, there have been no changes, not just at K.R. Market but also at other markets. Hygiene remains a worry in the absence of proper disposal systems for wet waste, especially during the monsoon.

Landfills and processing plants refuse to take in market waste because of the odour, which they worry may result in protests by residents of nearby localities.

The five-tonne per day (TPD) capacity biogas plants at K.R. Market and Madiwala market have failed.

Governments have come and gone, but little has changed at Johnson Market.

Governments have come and gone, but little has changed at Johnson Market.


“The technology failed as the plants were corrupted when citrus waste was added. We are dismantling them and installing multiple transfer stations at these markets. These are large containers into which waste should be added. These squeeze out the wet waste and process the leachate,” said Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner, Solid Waste Management, BBMP.

The BBMP has proposed four transfer stations of 20 TPD capacity at K.R. Market, two at Russell Market, and one each at Madiwala and Banashankari markets.


The BBMP has promised to evict encroachers at all markets.

“As per rules, a shop licence should be renewed every 10 months. But most of the allottees have been here for generations now. Any attempt to hike rent and streamline procedures lead to protests and litigation,” said Prasanna Kumar, Deputy Commissioner, Markets, BBMP. The BBMP earned a revenue of ₹17 crore in 2018–19 from the 117 markets in the city.

Mohammed Idris Choudhary, general secretary, Russell Market Traders’ Association, said traders were ready to pay higher rents but only if the civic body provided drinking water, waste collection and processing, toilets, and parking.

“The BBMP is taking up redevelopment of Russell Market at a cost of ₹20 crore under the Smart Cities Mission, which also includes metro connectivity. We are ready to pay higher rents in that case,” he said.

Fear of demolition

The traffic outside is as chaotic as ever, but inside Johnson Market, there is little activity on a Tuesday afternoon. Once a landmark in central Bengaluru, Johnson Market — considered a heritage structure — is now a shadow of its former self, belying the furious activity around it in the central business district.

Inside a kirana store, which has been around since his grandfather set it up some six decades ago, Syed Zaheeruddin, secretary, Johnson Market Merchants’ Association, said governments have come and gone, but little has changed for the place that keeps their livelihood going. “Ours was one of the most sought-after markets along with Russell Market before the development of Indiranagar and Koramangala. But the only proposal that has come so far is to break it down and construct a new building. They should think 100 times before breaking down the market. The structure is fine. Which market they have broken down and redeveloped has been successful?” he said.

K.R. Market is to be redeveloped under the Smart City project.

K.R. Market is to be redeveloped under the Smart City project.


When a proposal to demolish the structure was made in 2015, INTACH had deemed that there was no “structural threat to the building,” and that it only required a redevelopment of the open spaces within along with better infrastructure.

Mr. Zaheeruddin said their business was also being eaten into owing to traffic and illegal shops in residential areas. Though there are 146 shops in the market, only 57 are functioning. “The government first needs to close illegal shops in residential areas in the neighbourhood. Closing down this market is not an option as this is what poor people like us can afford,” he said.

Market in flux

Madiwala market, the small stretch of road between Krupanidhi College Junction and Hosur Main Road, has over a thousand vendors selling everything from fresh greens to condiments. Part of the stretch is occupied by shops, each measuring 8ft by 8ft, that have been constructed by the BBMP.

On the remaining part, there are several temporary structures, covered with colourful tarpaulin sheets, under which many vendors do brisk business, mostly in the early hours of the day.

The place remains a fire hazard, with little by way of safety measures or precautions for either vendors or customers.

Following several complaints from citizens, the Madiwala traffic police and the BBMP jointly demolished many encroachments to ease vehicular movement in November 2018. “We were all asked to move to the service road. However, there are no facilities; the road between the two rows of shops on the service road is muddy. It becomes slushy following a spell of rain,” said Ganesh, a vendor. Other vendors, including A. Anbu, who sells fruits, and Nataraj, who sells spices and spice mixes, lamented the drop in business. “The shops don’t face the road now and with very few vehicles allowed to park by the side of the road, our business is suffering,” said Mr. Anbu. On the far end of the stretch, vendors have been allotted shops constructed by the BBMP. Civic officials said that though the shops were allotted nearly a year ago, rent is yet to be fixed.

Fire did nothing to change Russell Market

In February 2012, more than 170 shops were destroyed in a major fire in Russell Market at Shivajinagar. Today, there are 481 shops in the historical market, but traders said the BBMP is yet to put a safety system in place.

Though hundreds of people visit the market every day, there are no fire extinguishers, said a trader. Missing signboards and narrow passages are also a problem.

“We admit that the market lacks fire safety measures, but we are ready to work with officials on this. We earn our livelihood here and it is our duty as well,” said Mohammed Idris Choudhary, general secretary, Russell Market Traders’ Association. He added that because of irregular collection of both dry and wet waste generated in the market, garbage dumped in the yard emanates a foul smell all through the day.

According to BBMP officials, fire safety audits are under way. “Officials from the Fire and Emergency Services Department are auditing markets across the city.”

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