Wednesday, July 07, 2010

How Whitefield's heritage is being whitewashed

How Whitefield's heritage is being whitewashed

TDR plan is slowly eating up an Anglo-Indian village built in 1882. BBMP officials say they have no idea about the heritage status of the village

Bosky Khanna. Bangalore



For Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), heritage is history. Here's a classic case: The civic agency's now notorious Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) model and its road-widening plan are threatening to bring down the Anglo-Indian village, a heritage site built in 1882 by David Emmanuel Starkenburg White, after whom Whitefield is named.
Deepa Peck, a Whitefield resident, who is losing about 25 feet of her land to BBMP's 23km road-widening project from Richmond Town to Hope Farm, says about 5km of Whitefield Main Road (from Varthur Lake to Hope Farm) — the old Whitefield that is now being targeted by the BBMP—once formed the outer circle of the village. The settlement was built in a circular pattern. The central part had greenery with ponds (now a park and a playground). The mid-circle was divided into 24 plots and all faced the village greens. In the subsequent decades, another set of plots was added around the circle to constitute the outer circle.
Magrath Lunel, a resident since 1973 and the assistant secretary at the Anglican congregation of the Memorial church, said all this is now being destroyed. "The BBMP in June slammed notices on us, forcing us to part with 25-30 feet of land. Now over 100 homes, more than 100 shops, apartment complexes and commercial establishments, a Ganesha temple, a church, a mosque, and a clubhouse would be lost. All this is a part of BBMP's 23km road-widening project from Richmond Town to Hope Farm, in which Victoria layout, Domlur, HAL and Marathahalli will be affected. If all shops are broken down, we will have to travel long distances to even buy a loaf of bread," said Deepa.
"The government can take away developed land, but not the church, commercial and residential establishments," said Lunel. On June 21, BBMP officials and workers brought bulldozers and JCBs to claim the land belonging to the Memorial Church (built in 1886) for widening an adjacent road to 45 metres.
If the BBMP's plans are allowed to proceed, the church's altar would be lost to the allegedly ill-conceived plan. According to Krupa Rajangam, member of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and principal of SayThu, a heritage conservation consultancy, the Maharaja of Mysore had given 4,000 acres of land to establish the settlement in 1882 for Anglo-Indians to live and engage in agriculture. "On May 5, they (BBMP) had asked for 10 feet of space for constructing a drain and we had agreed, but now we will not give away our place of worship, residential and commercial establishments. If this happens, Whitefield will disappear from the map" said Lunel.
Surprisingly BBMP officials are unaware of the heritage status of the settlement. "What is this heritage settlement? There is a large chunk of vacant land that is available in TDR. In case of religious places, we will offer them alternative land. If people do not give away their land, then we will have to consider re-aligning the road. Work will start when land is acquired," said BBMP chief engineer (major roads) TN Chikkarayappa.

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