Last Update: Sat, May 23, 2009 12:10 IST http://www.esgindia.org/
BMRCL unrelenting, 1,800 trees in Lalbagh face the axe The Hindu Sun, Apr 19
Environmentalists oppose metro The Hindu Thursday, Apr 16, 2009
Development at a price: Portion of Lalbagh's compound wall on R.V. Road being demolished and trees being felled as part of the Bangalore Metro Rail work. Over 500 feet of Lalbagh's compound wall demolished, many trees cut. -The Hindu Thursday, Apr 16, 2009 Photo: K. Murali Kumar
LALBAGH'S LAND GONE: A portion of Lalbagh from West Gate towards South End Circle on R.V. Road will change forever as metro rail work begins. Photo:The Hindu, Sun, April 19, 2009 K Murali Kumar
Namma Metro to go ahead with Lalbagh station work The Hindu, Wed, April 22, 2009
Green Brigade: People participating in a padayatra in Bangalore on Tuesday. -The Hindu, Wednesday, Apr 22, 2009 Photo: K Murali Kumar
Sivasailam clarifies on several issues related to Namma Metro the project
Allaying fears: N. Sivasailam, Managing Director of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd, interacting with the residents of Jayanagar who staged a protest on R.V. Road against tree felling for the metro rail project in Bangalore on Saturday. -The Hindu, Sun, May 08, 2009 - Photo Bhagya Prakash K.
Protest against tree-felling turns ugly The Hindu - Sun, May 10, 2009 Metro making city barren - Bangalore - Cities - The Times of India April 15
Deccan Herald - Protesters adamant against Lalbagh metro station
Wed April 22 - Will continue protest until govt gives written undertaking
State rules out changes in metro rail alignment The Hindu Tue, Apr 28
Decision after high-level meeting with Centre
State Government cannot affect changes in alignment unilaterally
Consent for land in Lalbagh was given during President's Rule
Residents take out padayatra to save trees The Hindu Tue, Apr 28
Greens for change of alignment Deccan Herald Mon, Apr 27
'Let ordinance on acquisition of Lalbagh land for Namma Metro lapse'
NGO claims town planning act violated - TOI: Bangalore Times - Apr 25
Women hit streets to save Lalbagh - Times of India, Sat, April 25, 2009
Metro: Save Lal Bagh protest intensifies - Deccan Herald - Apr 18, 2009
Citizens protest to save Lalbagh - The Hindu - Sat, Apr 18, 2009
How many trees in Lalbagh will make way for the Metro? - Bangalore ... Times of India, Tue, April 21, 2009
Activists walk for Lalbagh | Deccan Chronicle Wed, Apr 22, 2009
No halt to Metro work: BMRC | Deccan Chronicle Fri, Apr 24, 2009
Residents take out padayatra to save trees The Hindu, Mon, Apr 26, 2009
If Metro Cannot go Zig-Zag, then stop implementing the Zig-Zag alignment through Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Parks
Tree felling case on May 19 The Hindu, Fri, May 15, 2009
Metro: High Court to hear case on tree felling today The Hindu, Tue, May 19
'There will be no car parking zone or mall at metro station' The Hindu Thu, May 21, 2009
Lal Bagh and other stations on the stretch will not have the facility
Only 188 trees will be felled, says BMRCL The Hindu Thu, May 21, 2009
Background: On Apr 13 and 14, the Bangalore Metro Rail Corp demolished 500 feet of Lalbagh's perimeter wall and cut trees in Lalbagh to clear area for a station inside Lalbagh.
BMRCL has also confirmed that 323 trees will be cut on R.V.Road (Nanda Road) for the metro.
On the night of April 11, BMRCL illegally started cutting trees on Nanda Road and they were stopped by Hasiru Usiru volunteers.
On the eve of General (Lok Sabha) Elections in April 2009, large numbers in Bangalore have come out in protest against the construction of an elevated track for the Metro through Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Parks.
We the undersigned join these protests, initiated by Hasiru Usiru, and request that the Karnataka / Central Government to suspend all work on the southern reach of the Metro till such time it has duly consulted the wide public.
All political candidates contesting the Bangalore South Constituency for the Lok Sabha have endorsed the position that Lalbagh should not be destroyed in any manner, considering its heritage status and unique features as a botanical garden.
Again because of the mounting protests, Mr. R. Ashok, Karnataka Minister for Transport, has stated in the media that he has asked the Bangalore Metro authorities to suspend all work on the Southern Reach of the Metro, including tree felling.
Karnataka Transport Minister has categorically stated he would instruct the Bangalore Metro officials to stop work forthwith. He has also assured that there would be no tree felling on the note that the Karnataka State Government would be willing to consider realigning the southern reach of the Metro.
Despite such assurances at the highest levels of the Karnataka State Government, Bangalore Metro officials have categorically stated that they will not suspend work, and would continue with business as usual.
The Bangalore Metro authorities have intensified work on this reach, in total disregard of the Minister's assurances to the public.
It is widely known that BMRCL has repeatedly stated that wonderful line of trees on the Lakshman Rao Park boulevard will only be pruned, and not cut. However, it has been put beyond any doubt that BMRCL intends to fell all the trees that line this boulevard.
Such inconsistent statements do not bode well for developing the wide public's confidence in BRMCL. The fact that the Lalbagh wall has been razed and trees cut without any permission from the Tree Officer is a clear case of BMRCL claiming rights not found in law.
We applaud the decision of the new Tree Officer (Bangalore South) in confirming that he would take action against the guilty officials for violating the Karnataka Preservation of Tree Act, while unilaterally cutting trees within Lalbagh - a botanical garden.
Know Your Metro
The Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the Bangalore Metro confirms that the current Southern alignment was chosen because of 'easy' availability of 'Government Land'. Such 'Government Land' includes the park along K.R. Road (destroyed last year), Lalbagh (currently being destroyed), and Lakshman Rao Parks (soon to be destroyed). 323 trees on this stretch will be cut!
But is a public park Government land? Or public land?
The DPR reports that large areas of Lakshman Rao Park are required for electric substations, trains to travel through, transition area for malls, parking spaces, bus and auto stands. The DPR admits that metro is not 'financially viable', so to recover costs, a residential suburb will soon become a bustling commercial zone. This will happen everywhere the Metro train runs.
What's more, the Government has directed the Horticulture Department to sell a piece of Lalbagh to the Metro at a price fixed by the Bangalore District Commissioner! A terrible precedent is being established.
Should Lalbagh be auctioned now?
We need a Metro, but not this way.
The Metro is a project that will take decades to build. Such a project must therefore be implemented by due and deliberate consideration of public opinion. BMRCL officials, at best, have only visited some clubs and associations to share their proposals, but this does not constitute a statutory public consultation.
Dr. Ramachandran, Secretary, Union Ministry of Urban Development and Chairman of the Metro has unfortunately confirmed that there cannot be any change now in alignment as all approvals have been obtained from the State and Union Governments.
He has also said that a zig-zag Metro is not feasible.
There are many disturbing aspects to these statements:
1) Undemocratic approach to issue Ordinance: On the issue of taking the Metro through Lalbagh, BMRCL has always been aware that this involves an amendment to a special law that protects this heritage botanical garden - Karnataka Parks Preservation Act, amongst others.
The consent for the strip of land in Lalbagh was given during the President's Rule in the State in early 2008. Following the decision, the Karnataka Parks Preservation Act was amended through an ordinance and Government orders were subsequently issued in November 2008.
Such decisions aren't the prerogative of bureaucrats alone and must be debated in the public domain through statutory processes as provided in law.
It is a fact that the Government of Karnataka or GoK took a very undemocratic step of issuing an ordinance on 22 November 2008 to amend the Karnataka Parks Act to allow a portion of the world famous Lalbagh gardens to be used for a Metro station.
Such an issue should have been first debated in public and also in the Legislature.
Even though during the term of this Government there have been at least three Legislature sessions, in a devious and undemocratic process, an ordinance was preferred to take away a portion of this heritage park for a Metro station.
The Government passed an Ordinance on 22 November 2008 to avoid bringing the issue to the Assembly and Council for debate. This Ordinance is illegal because it has taken out a portion of Lal Bagh and Cubbon Park without seeking the permission of the Karnataka High Court as required by its judgements.
There have been four Legislative Sessions since June 2008, and not once was this issue tabled for discussion.
To instead choose to issue an Ordinance on such a sensitive issue is nothing short of a betrayal of democratic traditions and the right of the people to know and participate in decision making.
Ordinance issued to acquire land in Lalbagh for Metro BMRCL to seek permission to acquire land in the Cubbon Park also - The Hindu Monday, Feb 09, 2009
2) If zig-zag alignment is not feasible, then why have a zig-zag alignment at all:
Dr. Ramachandran, Secretary, Union Ministry of Urban Development and Chairman of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. has issued a clarification in response to the ongoing protests initiated by Hasiru Usiru, a network of organisations and individuals concerned about conservation of public commons, open spaces and greenery in Bengaluru, against the alignment of Bangalore Metro through Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Parks.
In his clarification, Dr. Ramachandran states that: "The route alignment of the metro was done after a detailed study and approved by the Central and State governments. The cost of constructing an underground station is an expensive proposition. A metro with a zig-zag alignment is not possible. All decisions were approved well in advance." ('BMRCL clarifies on Lal Bagh station', Deccan Herald, 19 April 2009).
It is possible that the Metro project has gone through a series of reviews within the Government. But not once has BMRCL conducted any statutory Public Hearing on the project ever.
In fact, the alignment of the Metro has been fixed and realigned largely internally, without any statutory public involvement and largely shaped by political considerations.
For instance, the original proposal does not have any extension into Kanakapura Road, and this section was introduced only during the term of the present Government.
Hasiru Usiru welcomes the clarification from Dr. Ramachandran, in particular the fact that "a metro with a zig-zag alignment is not possible".
If this were true, then the elevated track alignments of the Metro through Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Parks is clearly not feasible.
Dr. Ramachandran's statement that a Metro line is not feasible if it goes zig-zag is contradictory to the defense of Zig-Zag alignment for the southern reach of the Metro.
A cursory view of the North South alignment of the Metro, in particular from K. R. Road to Banashankari through Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Parks reveals clearly and beyond any doubt that the proposed alignment is infact zig and zag. Here the alignment takes four 90 degree turns in about 4 kms.
As now proposed, the southern reach from K. R. Road runs through Vani Vilas Road, Lalbagh/R. V. Road, Lakshman Rao boulevard and then Banashankari, all this within four kms and involving four zig-zag 90 deg turns.
Such a proposal is unseen in any Metro alignment, anywhere in the world. This will substantially slow down the Metro, increase wear and tear and make maintenance a costly affair.
Dr. Ramachandran is a Secretary who has spearheaded several innovative approaches to urban infrastructure development, and is particularly credited for the National Urban Transport Policy. This policy clearly articulates that public transport projects will succeed only when the public is involved in all decisions. BMRCL has no history of such consultation whatsoever.
Clearly, therefore, Dr. Ramachandran must please take initiative to ensure that the implementation of the project on this alignment is immediately suspended so that there is no waste of public resource, and destruction of Bengaluru's heritage parks and private properties.
3) Elevated Metro and its long term consequences: All things considered, an elevated Metro will remain for all time to come.
There are many instances where Elevated Metros and transport corridors have been pulled down (Eg. Boston) and put underground as they have caused various negative impacts including depressed neighbourhoods and local economies, increase in crime rates, increase in noise pollution, decrease in availability of road space, etc.
None of the Metro stations on this reach have any parking zones, and it is more than likely that in the near future more acquisition will take place to create parking areas with Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Parks becoming easy targets.
Considering that BMRCL has repeatedly stated that its stations would also be Malls, there is no guarantee whatsoever that the stations proposed in Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Park will not be turned into Malls in some future.
It is well known that the Metro also proposes to use its stations as Malls, so there is no guarantee that this will not happen to the Metro line proposed through Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao parks.
It is also very much in the realm of possibility that in order road space lost to the Metro track to accommodate increased vehicular density, existing roads may be widened in time to come, and this could result in further displacement of communities and loss of parks and open spaces.
4) Alternatives not explored: Much against the claim of Namma Metro there has been no statutory public consultation whatsoever in consonance with applicable law (in particular the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act).
This has denied those directly affected with the right to Prior and Informed Consent and caused serious disruptions in their lives and livelihoods.
Equally serious has been the impact on parks and open spaces, with the Bangalore Metro authorities arrogating to themselves the right to apportion such lands to the Metro without due public consultation or adopting a transparent approach.
Keeping in view all of these concerns, we request the following:
1. The State Government of Karnataka or GoK and the Union Government of India or GoI to please immediately instruct Namma Metro authorities to stop work on the southern reach.
2. Such a move is in order as all candidates contesting the Bangalore South constituency have supported the stand that Lalbagh should be protected as a sacred space for all time to come responding to popular sentiment.
The Executive must please bow down to the will of the people.
Consequently, the Karnataka State Government must please allow the Ordinance issued to acquire Lalbagh for the Namma Metro to lapse on 22 May 2009.
3. The possibility of taking the Metro underground or through alternate alignments without causing much loss of greenery and property must please be publicly explored.
This must please be done with due dispatch and in total conformance with law and policy.
Funds for this are easily available if only the Government stops investing in the elitist High Speed Rail Link project, which costs nearly Rs. 5,000 crores, and caters to the needs of only 30,000 air travellers.
That money should instead be invested in the Metro to take it underground and thereby serve the interest of lakhs of people now and into the future.
We request the State Government of Karnataka or GoK and the Union Government of India or GoI to seriously evaluate proposed alternatives and come up with a new design.
We hope that state and central governments (will/would) support these progressive initiatives and immediately suspend the Metro authorities to stop work on the southern reach of Namma Metro.
The government must please issue an order staying current work on of the metro in South Bangalore.
Clearly, the fact that even Legislators have not been consulted is not a good indicator of the quality of governance in Bengaluru.
The Govt. must please issues orders for public consultations.
Metro's Impact on Nanda/RV Road and Other Parks
BMRCL sought clearance and claimed that trees on Nanda/RV Road will be pruned, not cut.
Response to an RTI application reveals that 323 trees will be cut on Nanda - RV road.
BMRCL also plans to acquire land in Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain and Cubbon Park and trees will come under the axe.
This metro phase is illegal because...
On 16/03/2009, the High Court of Karnataka ruled in a PIL filed by Environment Support Group and ors. (WP 7107/2008) instructing urban infrastructure development agencies to "strictly follow" the provisions of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act (KTCPA) & the Karnataka Tree Preservation Act. This order is binding on the BBMP, BMRCL and BDA.
The KTCPA requires planning and implementation authorities to evolve projects in consultation with the Public. The BMRCL has not followed this process for the Metro.
On 16 March 2009, the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka issued a direction to all agencies involved in management and implementation of urban projects that they would "strictly follow" the provisions of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act and Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act (in WP No. 7107/2008, Environment Support and ors., vs State of Karnataka). BMRCL is a respondent to this PIL and the order is binding to the agency.
Yet within weeks of this order, trees have been illegally felled over the past two weeks in Lalbagh and also on Lakshman Rao boulevard. Only timely action from Hasiru Usiru volunteers has prevented any further felling.
We protest the statement of Mr. Chavan, PRO of BMRCL, who in a charitable dispensation has claimed that the agency was "willing to arrange for a presentation for NGOs so that it could convince them about the feasibility of alignment already arrived at" ('BMRCL unrelenting, 1,800 trees in Lalbagh face the axe', The Hindu, 19 April 2009).
We demand that such efforts notwithstanding, BMRCL must please fully take the public into confidence and ensure public involvement in decisions relating to the Metro in full conformance with the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, as directed by the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka.
This Petition's been addressed to the Hon'ble Supreme Court, Prime Minister or PM, Ministry of Urban Development or MoUD (Govt. of India or GoI), Ministry of Environment & Forests or MoEF (GoI), Karnataka Governor, Karnataka Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, Bangalore Development Authority or BDA, Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Paalike / BBMP or Bruhath Bengaluru City Corporation and Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited or BMRCL.
Karnataka High Court Stays Tree-felling in Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Boulevard for Bangalore Metro Thursday, May 07, 2009
In a significant decision, Justice Shri. N. Kumar and Justice Shri. Keshav Narayan constituting the Division Bench (in Vacation Sitting) of the Karnataka High Court directed Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. to stop felling of trees in Lalbagh and R. V. Road (till Rajalakshmi Kalyan Mantap Juction including Lakshman Rao boulevard) until further orders. This direction was issued in a PIL filed by Mr. Mahavir Ranka and others challenging the ordinance issued by the Government of Karnataka allocating 1135 sq. Metres of land in Lalbagh for a Metro station.
Arguing for the Petitioners, Mr. Gunjal, Advocate submitted to the Hon'ble Court that Metro had engaged in felling trees without seeking permission of the Tree Officer. With the permission of the Hon'ble Bench and at the request of the Petitioners counsel the undersigned Leo Saldanha submitted that the Detailed Project report of BMRCL concedes that such park lands are being acquired not only for locating stations, but to also develop such areas commercially to offset the high costs of the Metro. It was submitted that even though the trees felled presently in Lalbagh are Eucalyptus which do not require prior permission of the Tree Officer per the Tree Protection Act, the fact that such trees are in Lalbagh Botanical Gardens constitute an important collection of the biodiversity of the park. The distressing fact was presented that the government order of 25 February 2009 allocating 1135 sq. metres of Lalbagh to Metro, involved a sale from the Horticulture Department at a price fixed by the Deputy Commissioner of Bangalore. The grievance of the public at large was raised whether Lalbagh can be sold by one department to another, allowing the latter to commercially exploit the real estate potential.
The Hon'ble Bench expressed its concern that trees cannot be felled if the land allocated for a public project was to be commercially exploited. It questioned the Bangalore Metro counsels if it is right for a Public Project to acquire park land for commercial exploitation, more so when the commercial exploitation is by a private entity? The Court was referring to the fact that Metro has outsourced various components of the project to private developers. Consequently, he Hon'ble Bench issued directions to the Respondent BMRCL to file its rejoinder and stayed until further orders any felling of trees in Lalbagh and R. V. Road.
PIL against the alignment of Bangalore Metro through Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Boulevard
The full text of the PIL can be accessed here.
Mr. Justice N. K. Patil and Mr. Justice V. Jagannathan constituting a Division Bench (on vacation) of the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka heard a PIL filed by Environment Support Group, Leo F. Saldanha and Hasiru Usiru, and ordered notices on the Respondents to appear in the matter during its next hearing on 21 May 2009.
The case presents the facts that:
The Ordinance issued by His Excellency the Governor of Karnataka on 22 November 2008 alienating a portion of Lalbagh (for Metro) and Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain Park in Cubbon Park limits (for road widening) has lapsed as the Government of Karnataka failed to get an assent to a Bill to replace the Ordinance when the Legislature met subsequently.
Prior to the issuance of the Ordinance, i.e. on 20 November 2008, the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board issued a Sec 28 (1) Notification for acquisition of a portion of Lalbagh for the Metro.
That even when the Ordinance has lapsed, the Government proceeded to issue an Order to Horticulture Dept to alienate 1135 sq metres of Lalbagh for Metro.
This portion was to be sold by Horticulture Department to BMRCL, which in turn can put it to any use that it deems fit in future.
Presenting the case, Counsel Sunil Dutt Yadav argued that the entire alignment through R. V Road is in blatant violation of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, which the Hon'ble High Court in PIL WP 7107/2008 (Environment Support Group and ors, vs. State of Karnataka and ors.) has held must be strictly complied with along with the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act.
In the instant case, trees have been felled inside Lalbagh in blatant violation of these laws.
A document of the Horticulture Department was produced to reveal that no permission has been taken prior to felling trees inside Lalbagh.
And similarly no notification has at all been issued in conformance with the KTCP Act or Government Parks Act to set aside portions of Lalbagh, Lakshman Rao Park and K. R. Road for the Metro and its stations, and similarly from the Fountain Park for BBMP.
If such is the case inside some of the most protected parks in the State, the fate of other such spaces in other parts of the State can only be imagined.
When the Court queried the Respondents for compliance, BMRCL was not able to demonstrate such.
Taking note of the earlier stay order against felling of trees directed by the Court in PIL No 12954-12957/2009, the Court ordered the case to be listed for hearing again on 21 May.
To the prayer for extension of the stay against tree felling, the Division Bench explicitly stated that tree felling could not be undertaken as there was an undertaking to that effect from the Respondents, and they would not violate such an undertaking to the Court.
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Press Release: Constitutional Anarchy Supports Bangalore Metro Implementation
Karnataka High Court refuses to entertain pleas to stay Metro implementation in Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao boulevard
This full text of this release, and related annexures are available for download here (2MB)
In a deeply disappointing decision the High Court of Karnataka granted permission to implement the Bangalore Metro in Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao boulevard overlooking serious Constitutional violations by the Karnataka Government in securing requisite permissions. ESG and Hasiru Usiru have represented to His Excellency the Governor of Karnataka to direct the Government to honour the prestige of the Governor's office and the Legislature, and refrain from implementing the Metro project in such an illegal manner
May 21, 2009: In a deeply disappointing decision earlier today, Mr. Justice N. K. Patil and Mr. Justice V. Jagannathan, constituting the Division Bench of the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka granted Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (BMRCL) permission to fell trees in Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao boulevard after obtaining orders from the Tree Officer.
In passing this direction, the Court disregarded fervent pleas of petitioners Environment Support Group and ors. seeking a stay of work on the southern reach of the Bangalore Metro, as it was based on an Ordinance which had lapsed and involved absolute lack of compliance with the provisions of the Karnataka Town and Country Planning Act, Government Parks (Protection) Act, Karnataka Parks, Open Spaces Playfields (Protection and Regulation) Act, Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, and various other applicable laws.
The Petitioners strongly advanced the contention that the State or its instrumentality cannot carry on developmental works in disregard of existing laws.
It was pointed out in the PIL that the ongoing work of the Metro in Lalbagh and on R. V. Road was shockingly in contempt of the honour of the Office of His Excellency the Governor of Karnataka and the Legislature, for the following reasons:
It has been claimed by BMRCL that they have absolutely followed all laws and procedures in implementing the Bangalore Metro project.
However, close scrutiny of documents reveal that BMRCL and the State of Karnataka secured alienation of precious and irreplaceable parts of heritage public spaces such as Lalbagh in the most devious manner.
Even prior to His Excellency the Governor of Karnataka passing Ordinance 4 of 2008 on 22 November 2008 to alienate a portion of Lalbagh (for Metro station) and Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain (for road widening) a preliminary Notification was issued per Sec 28 (1) of the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board Act to acquire about 1189 sq. metres of Lalbagh along its western wall for locating a station by BMRCL.
This Notification was issued on 20 November 2008, and must have obviously been preceded by a Cabinet decision.
Such a move to acquire Lalbagh which is especially protected under the Government Parks (Protection) Act, 1975, and in principle attracts the protection under the Karnataka Government Parks, Playfields and Open Spaces (Protection and Regulation) Act, 1985, is clearly unprecedented.
It would have been appropriate for the Government to first seek an amendment to these acts before proceeding to acquire the land in Lalbagh in keeping with the Principle of Separation of Powers as envisaged in the Constitution.
The the choice of utilising the KIADB Act to acquire Lalbagh is particularly shocking as the consequent result is to convert the world famous Botanical Garden into an industrial area!
Such abuse of power is totally unanticipated in the history of the State of Karnataka and is in contravention of applicable laws and various judgments of the Hon'ble Supreme Court and the High Court of Karnataka.
As is well known, acquisition per this Act also provides the beneficiary full rights to commercialise the land.
This flies in the face of oft stated comments by various Metro officials and even the Hon'ble Chief Minister of Karnataka that Lalbagh has been taken only to locate a portion of the station.
The Detailed Project Report of the Metro on the contrary clearly confirms that every station is potential zone for commercialising assets in order to recover the high capital cost of the project.
In addition, there is an order of the Ministry of Railways that clearly makes it conditional for the State to ensure that every station is fully exploited to be developed into an inter-modal transport zone, and for revenue generation by exploiting its commercial value. (Copy of this order is enclosed).
Most interestingly, and disturbingly, it is learnt from highly placed sources that this KIADB Notification was not at all brought to the attention of His Excellency the Governor, when seeking his approval for amendment of the Government Parks Act 1975 by way of the Ordinance.
It is apparent that the Governor would surely have not lent his support were he fully apprised of the fact that an industrial acquisition Notification had preceded his Act of causing such alienation by way of an Ordinance.
What follows, thereafter, are a further series of actions that amount to demonstrating contempt for the office of the Governor and the Legislature, while setting a stage for Constitutional Anarchy.
It is widely known that as per Article 213 of the Constitution of India, it is mandatory that the Ordinance, even if accepted for the present argument to be tenable, should have been placed in the form of a Bill before the Legislature within six weeks of the next Legislature Session.
From the records it is evident that a L. A. Bill No. 11 of 2009 was in fact ready to be presented to the 2nd Session of the 13th Assembly.
But for reasons best known to the Government, the Bill has been withheld. Consequently, the Ordinance having spent itself, has lapsed.
In light of this, it is sacrilegious that the portion of Lalbagh sought by BMRCL for the station, is in fact being sold at market rates based on a GO passed on 25 February 2009 invoking the Ordinance that has lapsed (copy of this order is enclosed).
If Lalbagh can be sold, then there is no guarantee whatsoever that any other park, playfield or open space can be protected in future.
The immediate pressing issue is whether portions of Lakshman Rao Park and K. R. Road park, have also been sold in a similar manner.
Based on these submissions in the PIL, it was argued that in the light of financial assistance being taken from Japan Bank, and there being a clause enabling BMRCL to mortgage property to foreign and Indian banks on first charge, the Petitioners sought to know if Lalbagh, Lakshman Rao boulevard and K. R. Road Parks have also been mortgaged.
They sought a direction from the Court to BMRCL to come clean by placing all records before the Court.
The Petitioners also opposed the direction that the Tree Officer would decide regarding tree felling, especially in light of such constitutional violations, and also in view of the absence of power of the Tree Officer to go into the larger questions raised by the Petitioners.
It was further brought to the notice of the Court that the Tree Officer was functioning under duress of senior governmental authorities, which made it impossible for him to exercise his independent discretion and power to taken an impartial decision.
Given all the above mentioned reasons, it was finally pleaded before the Court to post the matter before the regular Bench so that the deeper issues were fully appreciated and until then to pass an interim order of stay on work.
But all these pleas were in vain as the Court relied merely on the claim of the Advocate General Mr. Udaya Holla that the Town and Country Planning Act does not apply to the Metro.
The Court subsequently appears to have relied on this submission, and proceeded to allow tree felling in these precious parks based merely on the review of the Tree Officer.
It is well known that in blatant violation of all norms, laws, traditions and Constitutional obligations, and as well in total disregard to the sensitivity to heritage park spaces, the BMRCL officials engaged in the wanton act of destroying the western portion of Lalbagh on the night of 13/14 April 2009.
Because of widespread public protests the issue has now assumed critical importance.
It would seem appropriate in such circumstances, especially given the aforementioned illegalities and subterfuge employed by BMRCL, that the Government would take a clear and correct stand and restrain BMRCL from implementing the southern reach of the Metro.
This particularly in light of the fact that Lakshman Park and K. R. Road parks, along with Lalbagh, are critical and irreplaceable public commons, and the State is expected to be a Trustee and Custodian to ensure their timeless protection.
Subsequent to this very disappointing decision by the High Court, Mrs. Dharma Somashekar and Mrs. Chandra Ravikumar of Sanmathi and Mrs. Kathyayini Chamaraj of CIVIC Bangalore approached Mr. Baligar, IAS, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, to seek the Government's reconsideration of its present stand to proceed with the implementation of the Metro in the southern reach.
They were stunned when greeted with ridicule and scolded for coming to the Chief Minister's office when a final decision has already been taken to put the Metro through Lalbagh and Lakshman Rao Park.
When questioned how the KIADB Notification could have preceded the Ordinance by the Governor, following a moment of hesitation, Mr. Baligar claimed that this was legal as the %u201CKIADB was an independent authority and could do as they please%u201D.
He threatened them of being in Contempt of Court by approaching the Chief Minister's and also of trying to influence the Chief Minister when the matter is sub judice.
He rebuked them for wasting precious time of the Chief Minister's office for bringing such %u201Cuseless%u201D causes to his attention and taunted to contest elections to spearhead such causes.
If this is the view at the highest level of Government, which also is the highest appellate authority for the people of the State, there is little hope for the rule of law in protecting our parks and public spaces and ensuring that public projects are implemented in a planned and lawful manner.
Notwithstanding the above developments, the Petitioners met with the Private Secretary to His Excellency the Governor of Karnataka and have submitted the enclosed representation.
It is now our hope that the Governor will take a firm and clear view on the matter that will ensure the protection of the Honour of his office, the Legislature and thereby ensure the Metro project in not implemented in blatant disregard for the rule of law.
Leo Saldanha, Coordinator, Environment Support Group
Sunil Dutt Yadav, Advocate
Vinay Sreenivasa, Volunteer, Hasiru Usiru
Pictures of a citizen group that gathered near Lalbagh West Gate on April 17, 2009, to protest against land being taken over from the protected botanical gardens and trees being felled for the construction of a metro station.
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