By M.L. Krishnaswami
Those residents of Mysuru, who are 80 and above would recall the past-life of this city in all its splendour and variety. Being a Royal City for nearly three centuries, every major activity of yore was centred around the Palace which itself had to undergo reconstruction after a disastrous fire that engulfed its front portion in the first-second quarter of the last century. The renovation gave rise to a more beautiful facade. It is now, without a speck of doubt, one of the eight or ten wonders of the world, drawing to its bosom thousands of tourists from across the country and abroad.
Regarding the city per-se, readers of this English evening daily may recall and recount ‘The Mysore That Was’, a series of 34 articles penned by me and published in SOM. These articles have come out in the form of a book which saw the light of the day on Jan. 31, 2016. The book was published by Mysore Builders’ Charitable Trust.
With this small introduction, I am putting forward a few ideas of my own which, if implemented, will possibly make Mysuru a world-class tourist and intellectual hub. Here they are:
Two major and live water-bodies in Mysuru are Karanji Lake and Kukkarahalli Lake. The former is now part of the Mysore Zoo and the latter comes under the Mysore University. These lakes are more or less well maintained but efforts should be made to make them world-class regarding purity of water, not allowing any inflow of deleterious and hazardous materials. While boating exists in Karanji Lake, efforts should be made to duplicate this activity in the other lake too and if possible, give a better shape and facility.
Four of five other major lakes are Hinkal Lake, Hebbal Lake, Devanoor Lake, Lingambudhi Lake and Dalvoy Lake. A rule should be made that under any circumstances, dry lake beds should never be allowed to become areas for real-estate development as it has happened in certain areas of Bengaluru. If these five lakes get the attention that they require to bring them up to the standard of maintenance of their sister lakes (Karanji and Kukkarahalli), it will be a wonderful additional attraction. Moreover, you don’t have to build new lakes but only enhance the utility and beauty of the existing ones.
The main Mysore Palace needs no detailing. There ‘were’ other Palaces also and to name a few, Cheluvamba Mansion on the road to KRS on one side and Hunsur on the opposite side. Presently, it is occupied by CFTRI. Another huge Palace is on the Nazarbad Road and is occupied by the Postal Training Institute. Towards South of this, abutting the Mirza Road, in the same area, is the Lokranjan Mahal presently occupied by the State to house some educational activity.
Likewise, the Jayalakshmi Vilas Mansion which now houses the folklore museum in Gangothri. One more is the Summer Palace adjoining the Zoo. All these Palaces have been marvels of architecture built by the late Maharajas and instead of using them for mundane purposes, it would be wise on the part of the government to shift such activities to some other place. After refurbishing, the Palaces will get a new lease of life and they will attract hordes of tourists. If this can be taken up within the next ten years or so, Mysuru would have many tourist attractions. Two or three of the above Palaces boast of huge open areas and they can be converted into a mini Lalbagh.
The existing structures can be made to regain its past glory with not much additional money. A bold decision from the ‘Powers That Be’ is what is required. Legal formalities can be tackled wisely and both Central and State Governments can jointly take up this idea and put it to reality.
A few weeks back, I had been to J.P. Nagar and had a chance to see the developmental activity residents have taken up. Inside a big park, they have developed a fairly big swimming pool, a Yoga Centre where over a hundred people can practise Yoga at a time, an auditorium with a big stage for cultural activities and a huge walking area. The whole Sports Complex is named after Dr. Puttaraja Gavai, an eminent blind Hindustani musician from Gadag.
All this has been made possible by the active cooperation of MCC, MUDA and the local residents many of whom have pitched in some funds through their associations. What a splendid idea of Public-Private-Partnership here and former Mayor B.L. Bhyrappa, a resident of this area, should be complimented for this. This should become an inspiration to others. Good planning and creative thinking can do wonders and others should emulate this example.
Mysuru’s present population is about 1.5 million and with the possible inclusion of several outreach extensions like Hootagalli, Bogadi, Hinkal, Kergalli, the population can easily jump up to two million or more in the next four or five years. In that case, Metro Rail becomes a necessity.
A preliminary survey of the possible routes can be taken up barring the royal route of Dasara procession from Palace North Gate to Bannimantap. With the doubling work of railway track on the Mysuru-Bengaluru line nearing completion, there will be an exodus of people to Mysuru. This will lead to haphazard development if proper steps are not taken right now. All stakeholders should have a say in this matter.
With the Union Urban Development Ministry stating that metro-rail facility should be extended to all cities with population of more than a million, Mysuru should easily make a claim in this regard. Academics, engineers, social networkers, politicians, leading industrialists, businessmen, architects and media and all those interested in the orderly development of our city should put their heads together in this venture.
SMALL URBAN POCKETS
Each of the major outreach areas not coming under the Corporation now such as Bogadi, Hinkal, Hootagalli, Kergalli and many others have substantial population to be classified as minor towns that are now developing rapidly. They should be allowed to function as townships and ruled by their own enlarged versions of Panchayats. The State Government should fund them appropriately. This will improve the infrastructure facilities and act as powerful magnets of orderly growth encircling the parent city of Mysuru and will avoid the idea of bifurcation or trifurcation of the Corporation as in the case of Bengaluru.
I am told that in America, all major cities are surrounded by small townships which have their own local self-governments, the heads of such bodies being called ‘Mayors.’ If it is not possible to adopt this model in Bengaluru, it can be given a trial in Mysuru. It is also possible if such independent and self-supporting bodies are made to shell out a fraction of the taxes they collect from the residents of their ‘Principalities’ (if I am allowed to coin a new name for such local bodies) to their parent city, for partaking of certain facilities.
Mysuru is ranked as the cleanest city of the country for the second year in a row. To continue to retain this name it is necessary that new ideas should be thought of to upkeep roads, waterlines, sewage disposal, traffic problems, electrical lines etc., and I feel the citizens’ participation in a big way is a must here.
AIR CONNECTIVITY AND TRAFFIC
Air connectivity to and from Mysuru is another important link in the orderly development of the city. The existing airport at Mandakalli has the capacity to take aircraft from places like Mangaluru, Kochi, Hubballi, Thiruvananthapuram, Coimbatore etc. Sizable movement of passenger traffic exists in these routes and speed can be infused by feeder air routes. This will also give a boost to business activities.
Traffic management is another major issue to be tackled carefully. This necessarily involves highway management in certain areas and it may be necessary to go for underpasses and possible flyovers in certain heavy-traffic density areas. Prior planning is necessary for all this and scouting of experts should start early before the situation becomes unmanageable.
Years ago, “Mysore Agenda Task Force (MATF)” was created and its relevance now is more urgent and the government should plan and put it into effect with experts as members. Unless such bodies have statutory powers, they won’t serve the purpose. I feel if honest and competent people are put to manage such a body, there will be good results.