Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Money for memorial can be put to better use

Money for memorial can be put to better use

Though state govt projections assert only 29 trees would be cut, it's quite clear that the damage would be much worse

Dr Sudhir Pai



We, the people residing around the Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain Park, are as patriotic as anybody else, and we have great regard for the men and women in uniform. We are not opposed to the National Military Memorial built in salutation to those brave soldiers who have laid down their lives for the sake of our nation. But we strongly object to the construction of any building inside this park, as it violates the Karnataka Government Parks (Preservation) Act, 1975.
As per the project plan, the War Memorial will not just have one structure. It will also include a museum dedicated to the armed forces, in addition to an underground structure — Motivation Hall. What is the point of having an underground motivation hall, intended to inspire more youth to join the armed forces? Instead, they could display the memorabilia at the Metro station on MG Road, for instance, where all passers-by could see it.
The Karnataka Government Parks (Preservation) Act, 1975, covers all public parks in Karnataka and, more particularly, in Bangalore. After learning about the details of this project, we filed a public interest litigation (PIL), based on this Act, asking the (Karnataka) high court to disallow the construction of any permanent structure in this public park.
Unfortunately, the high court's verdict given on June 4, made no mention of this Act, nor the planned underground structure, which could cause more damage to the park.
And since these two considerations were omitted in the verdict, I — with support from many morning walkers who frequent the park — filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) (in the Supreme Court). With the SLP, I intend to plead for status quo. And I have faith that the apex court will do justice.
If this Act is violated/bypassed, then, in future, any park — be it Lalbagh, Cubbon Park or any other neighbourhood park — could be taken over on the pretext of an emotional issue such as this. And, as a result, we might end up losing the few green spaces the city is left with. Therefore, I request all Residents' Welfare Associations (RWAs) to support this call — to protect green cover in their vicinity.
Nevertheless, if the state government wants, it can amend the said Act and acquire the park and build any number of memorials. But, definitely not under the current terms of this Act.
Moreover, though government projections assert that only 29 trees would be cut, anybody who visits the park right now can tell you that the damage will be far worse. For instance, after finding a pipeline, they have dug up a larger area, and in the process, damaged many roots. Since they can't shift the pipeline, which apparently runs to the Raj Bhavan, reports indicate that they have altered the plan altogether. They seem to be moving the construction towards Millers Road.
How can the government or a Member of Parliament create a situation in their favour, spending tax payers' money? I would like to ask them to submit a detailed structural plan to the public. I wish the government had sought public opinion before giving the project the go-ahead.
The cost of the project itself is pegged at Rs12 crore. In addition to that, the government has agreed to pay Rs3 crore annually for maintenance. If they truly wanted to honour the martyrs, the same amount could have been used for the betterment of their families. This is a mere token gesture, don't you think?
The author is a neurosurgeon and honorary secretary, Krishna Apartment Owners' WelfareAssociation

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