T N Seetaram is a well-known name in Kannada literary circles, and popular for his TV soap operas that had progressive outlook and strong women characters. He recollects a time in Bangalore’s history, when there was no traffic and chaos, and there was no BDA too. BDA was formed on January 6, 1976 – exactly 40 years ago.
In the seventies, I was living in my friend’s house, as a tenant, in Swimming Pool Extension near Malleshwaram. The owner of the house, the father of my friend Krishnamurthy, never used to collect rent from me, more because of his affection towards me rather than my poverty. He had ordered that I have my food at his home, and it was a pleasure to be living as a paying guest in this old Bengaluru.
Lankesh was my guru—I used to travel from Swimming Pool extension to his house at Govindappa Road in Gandhi Bazaar on a scooter. Seven-eight other friends used to drop in too. We would have long chats, which were sessions of enlightenment and entertainment. Our ‘Meshtru’ Lankesh had a lot of general knowledge and a good sense of humour. We could travel from Malleshwaram to his place just in 10-12 minutes or less – the traffic was very less those days.
One evening, I saw Prof M D Nanjundaswamy sitting there. He had returned from Germany two years ago. He had an exceptional intellect, he was a member of Samajwadi Yuva Jana Sabha and was a great activist. Every activism he jumped into had a progressive social angle. We also sometimes jumped into activism along with him, and had to visit courts and police now and then.
That particular day, the government had declared that City Improvement Trust Board (CITB) would be transformed into Bangalore Development Authority (BDA). CITB used to the work BDA does now — developing layouts, selling sites etc. The conversation between me and Nanjunda Swamy was like this:
“Where do you come from?”
“How long did it take for you to reach here?”
“A quarter of an hour, sir… why?”
“In next five years, it will take half an hour for you to reach from there to here. Let’s organise a protest tomorrow. Bring all your friends!”
I did not understand anything. I asked him what was it all about.
“Didn’t you read today’s government decision? Look what these stupid fellows are doing! It seems they are converting CITB into BDA! Bangalore Development Authority – isn’t Bangalore developed enough? Already the city has developed three kilometres beyond the Kempegowda towers! If they keep on creating layouts, all the businessmen in the country will come here and camp! All industrialists will say they will open industries here! The government will offer them acres of land. There won’t be any Kannadigas available to see in Bangalore later. Everyone will buy cars. These roads are made for cycles, will they withstand the pressure if every house buys cars? Traffic jams will start. How can you reach Gandhi Bazaar in 15 minutes? Sites are now available for 30,000 – after five years each site will cost 30-40 lakhs. Can common man buy a site? Every family in the state will want to live in Bangalore, and will come and settle here. There won’t be any space to put the garbage produced here! Is this right – what these people have done? That’s why we need to protest!”
“What do we protest, sir?”
“Let’s ask for BMA, let’s say no to BDA!”
“What is BMA?”
“Bangalore Maintenance Authority… we don’t want development — we need maintenance. Bangalore should not develop anymore—for this we have to protest..”
“If there are no industries, we will be the losers, right?”
“Why do you want all factories in Bangalore? Let them open it in Hassan, Chamarajanagar, Gauribidanur.. then those villages will develop. Bangalore will also be peaceful!”
We protested for two days in Cubbon Park. We even surrounded a minister called Ghalappa. We organised a press conference. The government just did not care – the powers be dismissed the statements as the illusions of Prof Nanjundaswamy.
Today it took me exactly 1.5 hours for me to reach from Malleshwaram to Gandhi Bazar. Sites are being sold in our area for 3.5 crores. And there is garbage everywhere!
Prof Nanjundaswamy had a great vision. He should have become the chief minister of Karnataka.
(Written originally in Kannada, translated by Shree D N)