Tuesday, March 23, 2010

War against memorial

War against memorial
The number of voices against the proposed National Military Memorial at the Indira Gandhi Musical Park is growing by the minute, reports
Manasi Paresh Kumar. But protestors claim they are not against the memorial but only the venue

Joining the chorus of people protesting against the felling of trees was Former Justice M F Saldanha too. In a stronglyworded letter to Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa who presided over the groundbreaking ceremony of the memorial, called the idea “...an atrocity, an act of insanity and manifestation of state corruption”.
Lamenting the indiscriminate loss of green cover in the city, Saldanha painted a dreary picture of a treeless Bangalore and added, “The city has lost 13,000 trees since your government has come into office. Bangalore has only 17.9 per cent of its green cover and between the state government and the BBMP and the Metro Rail, all of this will disappear in the next 12 months.”
Saldanha was especially scathing on the state government’s apparent apathy to the environment in the city. “Apart from the devastation of the environment, there is absolute prohibition in law to any construction in the park and I take it that the state government is aware it is not above the law,” he said.
He also asked the government to order an immediate stop to the project with a public statement or they would move the High Court. “Our experience has been that these decisions are clandestinely taken and the officers who do the tree cutting and demolition generally work like thieves at night. Unless, your government issues an official notification, it will be assumed that the project is on,” he added.

The National Military Memorial was an idea originally mooted by the Agenda for Bangalore Infrastructure and Development Task Force (ABIde) headed by Rajeev Chandrashekar. But its own members are now coming out in protest against the proposed venue.
Mohan Das Pai, one of its key members who resides close to the park, said the idea of a war memorial for our heroes is indeed a fine one because their stories have to be told. “But the venue is certainly not acceptable to me.”
Pai clarified ABide had nothing to do with the decision on the venue. “We mooted the idea of a war memorial but it was the government that took the decision of allotting land for the project.”
He also contradicted two of Rajeev Chandrashekar’s strongest arguments for the park - the decision of the venue was because of its easy accessibility and no large trees would be felled for it.
“There are no public transport routes in this direction, no buses or no metro lines. This will be the first memorial of its kind in the country and when people from out of town come in, they need to be able to reach the place. How will they do it here. It is absolutely certain that about 30 trees will be felled for the project. All the trees that have been marked will be cut down,” he said.
He instead suggested that the memorial be built either at the Manekshaw Parade Ground or the land opposite to the Manipal Centre, where old barracks stand. “This is the centre of the city and since the memorial is being built for the heroes of the armed forces, I don’t see a problem with the defence land being used for the purpose,” he says.
Pai, who became aware of the details of the project just a couple of days, says he will not support the project if it continues to be built on the same venue. He, however, said he is not against the memorial. “If they insist on cutting down trees for the memorial in the park, then I will certainly rethink my involvement and the financial aid I had promised.”


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