Scarring Chamundi Hill
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Scarring Chamundi Hill

March 26, 2022

Every time there is talk of development in Mysuru, the first target is Chamundi Hill. Now the “evergreen” project of ropeway is back and also the “enhancement of steps” which will turn the hill into a hyper-tourist destination at the cost of the hill turning into a mound of muck. And Mysureans have a duty to protect this hill by not letting it be scarred with unnecessary projects.

Now the call for ropeway has been renewed. It was first mooted in the late 1990s and in recent times, it was revived by former Mysuru District in-Charge Minister late D.T. Jayakumar which successive Ministers have tried to push.

 Of course, they didn’t care that a two-kilometre-long and 10-metre wide strip of forest land would have to be destroyed to do that. And that every 50 metres, more greenery would have to be chopped to make place for the pylons (metal towers that support high voltage cables).

One wonders if the people calling for ropeway again are not worried that of late because of heavy rains our hill is holding more water and there have been landslides. Will the pylons stand?

For a while the call for ropeway had subsided and we thought the hill would be left in peace. But No. We thought wrong because soon the then CM B.S. Yediyurappa came up with a Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) and said that Chamundi Hill would be developed on the lines of Tirupati-Tirumala Temple with guest house and all that commercial filth that overpowers divinity and stinks up serenity.

Then a local MLA called for the 1.5 km stretch from View Point to the statue of Mahishasura to be made into a four-lane road. This meant digging into the hill, he didn’t care!

It seems most of the projects have not been thought through. This reminds me of two such projects — the Mysore Eye and the Canopy.

In 2012, the Government wanted to build a “giant wheel” on the hill and call it “Mysore Eye” like the one in Singapore. And the cost? Just Rs. 30 crore compared to nearly Rs. 800 crore that Singapore spent. And time? Singapore took nearly three years and our Government said they would finish it in just four months! Thankfully after much protest this was cancelled.

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Then in 2014, the Government in the garb of concern for climbers came up with another project — Canopy over the steps from the foothill all the way to the top. It was part of many projects to come, costing over Rs. 31 crore.

They didn’t stop to think that any covered area with human movement sprouts business enterprises and like the menace atop the hill, the 350-year-old steps too would soon be lined with puja paraphernalia sellers, peanut and tender coconut vendors, idli sellers and, of course, beggars.  Thankfully this too was thwarted after much protest by the citizens.

Now ropeway is back and along with plans for railings for the steps. The steps built by Dodda Devaraja in 1664 were reset in 2011 to make it sturdy by spending almost a crore when Manivannan was the DC. Now they want to drill holes in these stones, put railings? Why not just leave it alone?

They say rails are necessary to assist the pilgrims. But then, faith is meant to surpass all hurdles; we are sure a little Mysuru sun, cool breeze and an occasional drizzle in the mornings is more a pleasure than a test of faith. If one is tired, one can sit and rest. 

Instead of this railing, maybe we can have some well-designed eco-friendly paid toilets at two or three spots along the steps. And permanent janitors can be employed to keep it clean. This is the service the climbers need more than rails.

As for the ropeway, the question is why? Where is the need for it? What is the feasibility study? Who will maintain it? What are the safety issues? Can we afford specialised rescue teams in case the cubicle gets stuck in the middle? Will the huge generators installed to make sure there is uninterpreted power to keep the cubicles moving, not pollute the hill? Will not the constant vibration and movement disturb the wildlife in the hill?

This new project is part of Union Government’s PRASHAD Scheme which stands for  Pilgrimage Rejuvenation And Spiritual Heritage Augmentation Drive. May be instead of the ropeway and rails for the steps, they can execute the other works listed under this project, such as the provision of centralised ticketing centre at the foothill, clean drinking water facility and a facility for women and child care.

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Unfortunately, while every leader wants to spend crores on projects atop the hill, not one of them has ever launched a massive afforestation drive, strict implementation of plastic-free policy or declared green zone around the hill. 

The former Minister for Tourism R.V. Deshpande was audacious enough to say he wanted to boost tourism and did not care for anyone who protested the ropeway…but if the Government really cares to boost tourism in the city, then let them first finish their incomplete projects that have turned the city unattractive to a tourist.

Protest now or regret later: Can Sadhguru help?

Now, while successive Governments don’t seem to care for the Hill, what about Mysureans? Every Mysurean, who has found peace, love and truth in this oasis of green, has a duty to protect the hill.

Unfortunately, airing an opinion is not enough as today our Governments don’t react to valid opinions that hinder their ‘fund-raising’ plans. And that is why the public has to protest on the streets.

Everyone says pen is mightier than the sword, but that works in a society where leaders have a sense of empathy and duty. In a political landscape devoid of these traits “feet on the street” is what delivers justice.

In fact, years ago Kukkarahalli Lake too was to get a commercial “facelift” but the Government-backed off after Mysureans started a ‘Save Kukkarahalli’ campaign. Now, Chamundi Hill too needs the same kind of push.

If you love your hill and want the hill to remain a sanctuary, then every Mysurean has a duty to participate in a protest when it is called for. Yes, sometimes even Gods need our help. And Chamundeshwari looks like she needs our help. Else the steps to heaven will turn into stairway to hell.

Yes, we need tourists. We need their business. But we must also realise that with tourism comes irresponsible tourists. Soon the base station of the ropeway will be peppered with haphazard parking, infested with food vendors, gaudy teddy bear-sellers and a sea of plastic waste.

 Ah! may be Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev could perform “Inner Re-engineering” on our officials and leaders so he can save the hill where he was enlightened.  

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2 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Scarring Chamundi Hill”

  1. Siluvainathan says:

    Concretisation or mechanisation will destroy Chamundi Hills forever. Let the sacred hills be protected

  2. Mann Ki Baat! says:

    Hey Vikram
    I am assuming that you have written this article.
    It was you who suggested the Rope Way too, a couple of years ago.
    Just check the black and white or your editorial archives.
    You are now doing the opposite joining the bandwagon of arm chair echo howlers!

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