Having watched mutely for decades as vendors encroached the city's markets, BBMP was forced to act after orders from the High Court. K.R. Market and Russel Market, both heritage areas of Bengaluru, have been heavily encroached upon by vendors and are crumbling under years of government neglect. The evicted vendors, who were deprived of a livelihood, have simply returned to their illegal spots. Shopkeepers in Russel Market are also fuming, for the BBMP, along with its encroachment drive, has decided to ban parking. It's time BBMP ensures that these marketplaces are cleaned up and modernised while retaining their heritage value, report Aknisree Karthik and Nikhil Gangadhar
Most Bengalureans delight in shopping at the city’s famous Russell and K R Markets as they are able to soak in their old world ambience while buying some quality produce. But sadly, these heritage buildings are far from well maintained and at the K R Market, illegal vendors built permanent structures using metal and concrete, damaging it and making it hard for fire tenders to enter it during a fire or to evacuate people during any other kind of emergency.
Having looked on mutely for decades as the illegal vendors set up shop, the BBMP finally acted on the orders of the high court. Armed with the court’s order, its men and the police descended on the markets recently to evict the encroachers, who quietly packed up and left. But you only need to visit K R Market to see that they are back in business, a fact that seems to have escaped the BBMP.
Ask the regular traders in the market and they say rowdyism is rampant in its grounds due to the illegal vendors, who carry on their business by paying the BBMP to look the other way.
"We have been doing legitimate business at the market for generations by paying rent to the BBMP. But the civic body collects rent from us and takes bribes from the vendors to let them carry on with their illegal vending," charges one trader, claiming that the BBMP, the police and rowdies at the market are in collusion and don’t care about protecting the historical structure.
But the illegal vendors ,who are mainly Tamil speaking, say its unfair of the BBMP to simply evict them without making any alternative arrangement. “Our livelihoods have been affected by the eviction. Over a hundred vendors like us are affected. We have been doing business here for over a decade. If the BBMP suddenly asks us to leave where are we supposed to go? Let the BBMP give us an alternative then we will leave,” says a trader, who hails from Thiruvannamalai, in Tamil Nadu.
Ask Mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun about the illegal vendors being back at K R Market and she seems to be clueless, but promises to speak to the official concerned about it. As for rehabilitating the evicted shopkeepers, she says it is on the cards.
While the BBMP may have acted against encroachers, it has shown little interest over the years in preserving the markets that are part of Bengaluru’s heritage. Says urban expert, Ravichandar, "We need a heritage listing that is mandated under law to protect such public structures. And we must consider setting up an English Heritage like institution to fund restoration and maintenance of such structures."
Mr Srinivas Alavalli, co-founder of Citizens for Bengaluru, stresses the government must immediately declare these markets as heritage sites and create public awareness on preserving them. “They can give a big boost to local tourism,” he adds. In his view, committees must be set up with citizens and experts on board to protect these heritage structures.
Branding expert, Harish Bijoor sums it up aptly when he says, "Heritage is an attitude we need to cultivate. Preserving heritage markets in Bengaluru is a must if we are to keep our links with the past intact."