Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Justice wades into pond row

Justice wades into pond row

Give us back Cubbon Park and Lotus Pond, says an angry Saldanha

P K Surendran



The evergreen judge (retd) justice Michael F Saldanha has declared a war on horticulture department and spurned the state government as 'nincompoop.' How inhumane it is to kill lovely water fouls and fishes to spite a rival, he says angrily. He was referring to the recent killing of scores of birds by horticulture department which claims that they had been 'shifting' them to Lalbagh for maintenance works of the pond.
And officialdom has, in turn, denounced him as a 'busybody' out to get a piece of glory for himself.
According to the former judge, two weeks ago, the horticulture functionaries killed most of the 480 birds the pond nurtured and beat up workers engaged in repairing the fence. They were employed by Brigade Builders whose chairman is a nature lover. This apart, the pond's 12,000 exquisite fish were spirited away. He has lodged a police complaint with Cubbon Park police.
Saldanha, who recently took an unusual step of slapping a 'contempt notice' on chief secretary, says the state government's action is one big political chicanery. On the one hand, the government is going out wooing private initiatives in public development under the GIM banner and, on the other, is ridiculing and rejecting citizens' initiative in preserving commonwealth like parks, trees and water bodies.
"I was invited by the then chief minister SM Krishna to adopt the Lotus Pond in 2002 under a citizens' initiative and I spent a lot of time, efforts and money to finally make it the first-ever 'bird orphanage.' The world media covered this and bestowed on Bangalore the encomium it deserved. I call it an 'orphanage' because the water fouls and birds this beautiful pond reared were either those that suffered cruelty at the hands of man or rare species having less chances of survival," says Saldanha while relating to DNA the recent misadventure and violence at the pond.
Why is the former judge being witch-hunted? "Because," he says, "I stand between public corruption and the authorities. The whole trouble is horticulture minister Umesh Katti. He is instrumental in floating a private trust, Lalbagh Cubbon Park Welfare Trust, which is being bestowed with Rs380 crore for 'improving' the parks. I and other citizens offer this work to be done free because we want the city to have an agreeable environment. This does not suit them for how will the money be channelled if works are done free?
"These leaders often go to world cities and they see how citizens are allowed to be caretakers of their area. They don't adapt good things. How will then they be able to pocket the tax payers' money?
"In the last 47 days, I have made 26 attempts to meet the chief minister but he refused. Now I will fight this out through courts, and more importantly, through public forums."

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