This has reference to the news item “DC instructs clearing of unauthorised shops atop Chamundi Hill” (SOM dated Feb.10). It is surprising that the Deputy Commissioner is taking note of the unauthorised shops now while the Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP) has met him and his predecessor as early as August 2016 and many times subsequently drawing his attention to the menace.
The public of Mysuru, including distinguished writers, journalists and individuals, staged a protest and took out a candlelight march to express their ire over these developments.
The DC is now instructing to remove unauthorised shops numbering more than 400 after a lapse of more than six months and to build gates to regulate entry. In 2016 when it was known that these shops would be vacated and alternative premises would be given to them (on humanitarian grounds), suddenly there was an increase in new shops. This is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Regular visitors to the hill shrine are aware of the shops increasing by the day, occupying every open space around the temple. Space available for movement is severely affected. Where is the need to sell sarees, footware, toys, plastic buckets, hats etc., on top of the hill when an entire Mysuru city below is selling the same and more. Visitors to the hill have to pass through the city shopping areas to reach the hill and can do all the shopping required.
What is even more shocking is that the Government is constructing a large multi-level car park to house 600 cars and a shopping complex to accommodate 100 shops, luxury guest homes at a cost of Rs. 80 crore. One cannot understand the wisdom of the Government undertaking such an unwanted construction. Once the unauthorised structures are removed, there is sufficient space for parking 600 cars or even more.
Further, what is the need for a shopping complex to sell unrelated items in a place of religious importance? At best the shops required are a handful selling puja related items.
While the news appearing in this daily is only about unauthorised shops, the authorities are silent about the hundreds of unauthorised houses being built on top of the hill. Needless to say, such increased human dwelling will generate larger quantities of sewage and garbage. In the absence of proper sewage treatment and garbage disposal facilities, it will result in a ecological disaster! Let us not forget, the forest cover too is shrinking due to illegal felling of trees not only for firewood but to create more space for housing.
Probably the most convincing argument against the need for any additional infrastructure to meet the growing number of visitors is the measures followed during the months of Ashada. During this period, the number of people visiting the temple is more than double the normal times. The authorities simply ban all private vehicles and permit only Government buses. This is found to solve the problem of shortage of vehicle parking space. Why not make this a permanent feature and save not only public money but also environment from being damaged?
Let us not forget, the Chamundi Hill Temple is in a Declared Reserved Forest Area and home to very unique medicinal plants and rare bird species. Any activity in such a space requires strict assessment of its impact on the environment. Information of having undertaken such a study is not available. In the meanwhile, the Government is rushing through with the construction in the name of development. In view of all the above, MGP has initiated a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before the High Court of Karnataka and awaiting adjudication. We pray that justice will be done. And soon.
– Dr. M.M. Shenoi, Secretary, MGP