A Central Government act for the protection of ancient monuments has failed to serve its purpose in Bangalore. The heritage law which regulates construction around any centrally protected monument has been violated by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) itself.
An amendment to the existing act, ‘The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act,’ which came into force on March 30, 2010, ensures that no construction, including public projects, takes place within the prohibited area around a monument of national importance and governs the construction in regulated area.
The Act identifies the prohibited area as a minimum of 100 metres in all the directions beginning the boundary of protected monument. Next 200 metres, in the same way, is identified as regulated area, for which permission for construction and reconstruction activities shall be governed by heritage bye-laws.
Bangalore fort, also known as Tipu’s fort, in the heart of the City Market, which lies abandoned in one of the most overcrowded areas of Bangalore, is also listed in the protected monuments by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
A six crore underpass project in K R Market undertaken by the BBMP, which is on its way to completion, falls under the regulated area of this protected monument.Â The construction project has not got the permission from the ASI.Â The construction is going on at a distance of 130 to 140 metres as measured by the Observer reporter.
The Assistant Executive Engineer of BBMP, Ramesh, confirmed that construction is undergoing 140 metres away from the fort.Interestingly, neither BBMP has ever sought ASI’s approval for the project nor ASI has ever bothered about it.Â “Why should we take permission from ASI,” said Assistant Executive Engineer Ramesh when asked whether BBMP got permission to continue the underpass construction.
“The construction has been going since 2006 and the bill passed just last year,” he added.Â Executive Engineer Lokesh, in charge of overseeing City Market construction, declined to comment further after confirming that no permission has been sought from ASI.
“The permission for the construction has not been taken from us. It must have been taken up by the higher authority,” said Deputy Superintending Archaeologist of Bangalore Circle, ASI, T. M. Keshava but it seems unlikely.
The higher authority in this case is Nation Monument Authority, which was suppose to be set up by the Central Government according to the Act, as a regulating authority to frame heritage bye-laws governing constructions and to give recommendation on applications seeking permission to continue construction in the regulated area, has not been set up even after a year.
“The officials for the committee have not been appointed yet,” said Keshava, when asked about the contact details of National Monument Authority.Â Moreover, according to the act, whoever raises any construction in regulated area on and after the date act passes without the previous permission shall be punishable. The permission is to be granted by the competent authority, which is an officer of the rank of director or commissioner of archaeology of the Central or State Government, and subsequently by National Monument Authority.
The legislation also provides for identification of all the unauthorized structures that may have come up in the prohibited and regulated areas since 1992, without the prior permission of ASI and initiate action against all such unauthorized structures or buildings.Â No measure have been taken to identify the unauthorized structures as of yet.
The act also directed to freeze all the construction work in the prohibited and regulated areas until it is authorized by the competent authority and the National monument authority, constituted under the Act.
Moreover, this is not the only construction in the area.
In the adjacent Victoria hospital which shares boundary with Tipu’s fort on one side, various small constructions are going on in the prohibited area with the permission of hospital authority not the competent authority or the National Monument Authority.
The BBMP has sanctioned the subway project for making an underpass from Victoria hospital to bus stand in 2006, which should have been completed by 2009, but will still take six more months, if site engineers are to be believed.