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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Baabooo, yeh pablik hai ... yeh sab maangti hai...

Yesterday … 

A Day at KGA
I happened to bump into an old acquaintance at the bank. It was late morning and as usual, I was in my shorts and t-shirt, straight out of my morning game. 

Havvaaryoo saar?” he said in thickly accented English as he came into the manager’s cabin and promptly plunked himself into the chair next to me. 

The manager immediately rose to shake his hands – surely he was a very important customer – as even that small portion of his business which he transacted through banks is substantial enough to make any bank manager jump out of his comfortable seat. He was our local legislator and is well known for developing a lot of under-utilized land. I smiled in response and pushed my chair back from the desk, knowing that whatever discussion, I was engaged in, had come to an abrupt end. 

Vaatt saar, playing gulf, aah?” he said looking at the sun-burned legs sticking out of my shorts and immediately followed up his query with another question, “Verr saar, Chalaghatta clubbu, aah?” 

“Huh ha … KGA”, I nodded. 

“Lucky people … you are, saar, hundred acres … land … and you people … enjoying it”, he looked up at the manager for his approval, who nodded promptly.

“Right in the heart of the city and only a few has access to it”, the manager said turning his tie knot and smiling affably, “the land can be made into something useful for the public … like an entertainment complex…?” he tapered off. 

“No … no, saar”, he butted in quickly interrupting the manager, “You know … price of land …here?”  He paused digging his nostril with his little finger, “Crores!”
“So… what do you propose to do?” I asked him. Even though I had tried to be genial, my eyes that were fixed on his little finger still busy exploring for some elusive irritant, must have showed my contempt.

“Anything saar … something useful, sorry. We can develop … lands into big IT Parks … housing layouts … public saar … for public.”

“How can you do that sir?” it was the manager interrupting him. “It is a lake bed, isn’t it? If you convert all lakes into concrete complexes …?” 

Vaat naansens saar?” he almost exploded. “Where … you live?”

“Cambridge Layout”

“Ha ha hah … Own house aah?” he continued not acknowledging his perplexed nod, “So … you are living in … lake” he laughed again. “Cambridge, Domlur Layouts, HAL Third … all these … lake beds only, once upon a time. Population ... growing and we need landssaar, Vaat?” he looked at me. 

Hydrological map of East Bangalore
“Sound logic!” I smiled encouragingly. 

He must have thought that my compliment was genuine and continued with his instruction. “You see saar, all this area … southeast Benguluru … long time back … small villages … middle of … agriculture fields. Now, tell me saar, where is agriculture lands?” 

“So… you mean to say that there is no need for water bodies, now that there is no agriculture?” I asked, a little irked by his logic and showed it. 

“No no… saar” he said a little defensively, “when … long time back … here … no city. All these lakes … feeded by natural hoé … only clean water … but now … so much development … only dirty sewage drain waters comes in them. Vaat use? Lands… saar, can use for public use, no?  
Farekjampul …” he continued. “Our Mejestic bus stand … long back … one lake. We developed many lake beds into BDA layouts and SEZs”, he said proudly.

 “They are useful, no … for pablik ? …  “But a gulf club..?”


This certainly made me wonder…  Am I supposed to feel guilty for being one of those that enjoyed the lush green expanse?
I began digging. Here are some facts… 

Challaghatta - Dry tank-bed before the golf course was made
The Challaghatta tank was once part of a chain of small water bodies joining Ulsoor and Bellandur Lakes. The erstwhile stream that connected these two lakes is today a sewage drain running true to its old course. The catchment area of this tank consisted of erstwhile farmlands which are known today as Indiranagar – HAL II & III Stages, Domlur Layout, Domlur II Stage, etc. All these areas were developed as residential layouts by the BDA even before the land was allocated to KGA. Later the land surrounding the golf course was developed into Amarjyoti Layout, Rustombagh and other residential and commercial developments including a large business park, turning the entire area into a concrete jungle. 

More than 50,000 fully grown trees
Only breathing space available in East Bangalore other than the Agram grounds is the golf course. 125 Acres of erstwhile Challaghatta tank is today one of the best sporting facilities in the country – venue of some of the most prestigious national and international events.

I have come across a certain set of pictures of the lake bed before it was converted into a golf course.  When the land was leased to KGA in 80’s, it was a large dry expanse with a few puddles of water. As the main water source drained directly into Bellandur, without a check, as the land use around Chalaghatta village had changed. 

There is more water retained round the year
The water hazards in the golf course retain more clean water today compared to the amount of water in the erstwhile tank bed. Treated sewage water from the neighborhood is used, reducing the pollution levels in the area.

More than 600 varieties of Trees
The bigger question raised by the so called activists, concerns the eco-system. It is only thanks to the founders of the golf course, and the vision of the likes of TP Issar, today there are more than 50,000 fully grown trees. There are 600 different exotic and native varieties of palms and tropical trees. The course is home to many avian species and aquatic fauna.

A proper census cataloguing the fauna will shut the detractors up.

Next argument is that the course is an exclusive domain of a few members. Is that really so? 

Let us look at the facts. 

Under different categories the membership is extended to students, proficient sportsmen, servicemen and temporary residents. The course has produced some extraordinary talent – some of the best professional golfers, of both sexes, hail from this course. The only Indian Open champion from South India is a home grown young man from Chalaghatta whose parents earned their livelihood from the course. Further, the course provides employment to hundreds of skilled and unskilled men and women from the neighboring area round the year.

But … who the hell is interested? 

My politician friend feels cheated. Prime urban land – at today’s prices, a veritable pot of gold … but only if the likes of him are allowed to lay their hands on it and develop it for public use.

‘Who’s the pablik ?’ I wonder

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