Fate of colonial heritage building Carlton House, Bangalore

Carlton House, Bangalore. Bangalore Mirror
In India, in many states, the inadequacy or lack of a governing body or an act in place to protect our  country's architectural history and legacy has led to the disappearance of  countless monuments and heritage sites. At Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu one can see the poor state of maintenance of old monuments: At 1000 plus year  old Big temple (a UNESCO Heritage Site), the huge outer boundary walls made of laterite stones, etc.,  are falling apart and there are growths of bushes, wild grass  and plants all around the  four sides. So far, the walls are not repaired. The moat around the temple boundary wall is dry and in some places it serves as a garbage dump. 

The Schwartz church adjacent to  the Sivaganga park built  in 1779 by Fr. Christian Friedrich Schwartz, mentor of the late Martha king Rajah Serfoji is a beautiful Protestant church and  the outer walls have numerous visible cracks in the outer plastering in many places that mar the look of the old structure. Both the Big temple and the church are under the control of the ASI (archaeological society of India, a central government  organisation). Yet another example is the privately owned Mangala Vilas building, a palatial two storied structure on South Main street just across SBI bank building  A middle  school is housed there and because of neglect and poor understanding of the heritage value, part of this Maratha  palace building is damaged. The good-spirited politicians and culturally spirited people should come forward and try to save the remaining heritage sites from further damages.  If the Heritage Act is on the back burner, we will end up losing them one by one. In many cities and towns across India, the local administration purposely neglects such old heritage sites whose values and history will be lost forever. A good example is the twin buildings of Devaraja market and Lansdowne market in Mysuru city that remain uncared for on account of legal wrangle.
In the city of Bangalore that  boasts of countless heritage sites, local politicians' lack of interest in saving the old monuments became a subject of serious criticism in the wake an attempt to build  a Constitution Club for the legislators on a heritage site - Carlton House.
Carlton House, Bangalore. Bangalore Mirror

Carlton House is located on the west side of Bangalore city's famous landmark, Vidhana Soudha, where the rapacious state legislators decide the fate of  the Karnataka people' social welfare, public work projects, historical public building/sites and  the political kaleidoscope.

It is an important colonial building that connects us with the past British era. Carlton House, a typical  European style building was the residence of British auctioneer Carlton in 1880. The famous Diwan of Mysore State Sir Mirza Ismail resided in the  stone building and the huge plot  with greenery included  a patch of coffee plantation. After India's  Independence, Carlton sold the property to the state government. Once, the Bangalore University office  was housed here and later it  was moved over to  Jnanabharati. Presently, it is occupied by CID's (Criminal Investigation Department)  head quarters.

The well-known structure built more than 136 years ago on a plot of seven-acre land, like many heritage structures across India,  might have soon disappeared  from the city's sprawling land cape. Reason: A high -level committee meeting that included CM  Siddaramaiah and others  agreed to have the Constitutional Club - a club exclusively meant for the legislators built there. The members of the committee felt, considering the proximity of this  site to Vidhana Saudha, it is the most ideal site for the project. Firm confirmation was made, as part of the new project, that neither  the existing  old structure nor the green cover in the land will be affected. Serious consideration will be given to the heritage value of the Carlton House. It  was proposed to shift the CID headquarters to city's police commissionaire building because as there was  no enough space available to accommodate it.

A perusal of the proposed project would reveal that the club entails various amenities like seminar halls, indoor game halls, and swimming pool, etc. It is not a recreational club  and will be on the model of Constitutional Club in Delhi. In 2015, the initial cost was around  rupees 25 crores. The proposal to build the constitutional club has been there for several years. Though a few sites  in Bangalore city  were discussed earlier, it was the unanimous decision by the committee to choose the Carlton House which is at a walkable distance from the Vidhan Saudha.

The  setting up the club at a well-known heritage site had stirred the hornet's nest. Already doubt has been expressed by the media and people that the new project would not affect the heritage value  of this place and its green cover. The government's apathy towards heritage buildings and also the lack of interest  on the part  of responsible  politicians to protect  such heritage places  have come into sharp focus, criticism and condemnation. Both the public and the media acted in unison and raised their voice against the ensuing Club project and at last the powers-that be gave up their grip on the proposal.

The proposal to convert the Balabrooie Guest House into Constitution Club, was opposed by the general public and the government, at last, gave it up. Following the stay on the demolition of the heritage structure Balabrooie guest House, the monument lovers of Karnataka and elsewhere are quite upset over the additional building coming up on the heritage site. Including old and new legislators,  a total of 260 politicians in 2915 had registered their name with the proposed  club by paying an initial fee of Rs. 10,000.00

The members of Sahiti Mattu Kalavidara Vedike, Citizens' Action Forum, and B.Pac,  took the cudgels against the  government to save time-honoured heritage precincts and launched the 'Save Carlton House as a heritage site' campaign. They are not only doing a good public service by creating an awareness about the value of dying heritage sites but also demonstrating  their cultural and public-spirited concern about the wanton neglect of our cultural legacy. Credit must go to social activists like  Srinivas G Kappanna, NS Mukunda, Revathy Ashok, Shashidhara Nanjundaiah and other, who vehemently oppose any move by the government to touch the heritage sites that need to be preserved for the posterity. Their contention is: Why should government offices be housed in heritage buildings? Let the offices move out and have their own spaces elsewhere.The state governments across India should come up with a list of heritage/monument sites in their respective states and introduce Anti - Heritage Act to save, restore and preserve them for our future generation. The government offices should not be allowed to function in them  and such places should be converted  into a museum or library, gallery, etc., to avoid vandalism or trespass or encroachment by the anti-social elements. This heritage-cum-cultural policy will protect  lots of monuments, space, sites and structures from future misuse, thus saving the  cultural and historical legacy. If proper action is not taken now, over a period of time, such culturally valuable sites will become a mound of trash and dirt.

Glad Carlton House site presently has escaped from the grasping politician's ambitious plan to  have a Constitutional Club built exclusively for their use. It is the successful coordination between the like-minded media people and public that has saved the valuable heritage site from  possible exploitation.