As citizen groups put pressure on the government to save the heritage site, Janatha Bazaar loses customers.
Bangalore, April 9, 2018: Another heritage site is soon to be razed if the state government has its way. Housed in the Asiatic Building, the 52-year-old Janatha Bazaar, one of the few remaining places that speak of Bangalore’s old world charm, may soon become a memory to make way for a commercial space.
“The government has done nothing for years now. We rent the place from the Public Works Department (PWD) which owns it,” said Biradhar, the manager of the Bazaar.
“The rental contract between Karnataka State Co-operative Consumers Federation ltd. (KSCCF) which runs the store and PWD came to an end in 2009 and subsequently, a high-powered committee consisting of top bureaucrats including the then CM’s secretary was setup in 2009-10 which agreed on a 25-year agreement renewable every five years,” explained Biradar.
He added that the PWD did not renew the agreement after 2013-14 and started sending them eviction notices. The latest one came in October 2017.
The situation was widely reported again when the PWD allowed a private contractor to put up metal barricades all around the premises. A board near one of the entrances read that anyone who enters the premises will be fined Rs 1000.
A Janatha Bazaar employee from the sports division said that they have been losing revenue for the past one and a half month. The number of customers visiting his section has dropped significantly and as much as Rs 35 lakh worth stocks have been sitting inside.
Biradar said that it is mainly due to the blocking of the main gateway that many customers are finding it difficult to go inside the premises.
He added that they have stagnant stocks worth Rs 5-6 crore.
The only department making some sales is the liquor division whose stocks are worth Rs. 1 crore 10 lakh.
The situation at the textile and grocery division looked grim as it had full shelves but no customers at all.
Siddhesh R., a regular customer said that he found it difficult to find the alternate entrance and had to leave the first few days.
Biradar said that they have written six letters ever since they started using the alternate gates and the KCCF top brass is in fact moving the court to put a stay on the eviction.
He said that the KCCF which once operated nine locations in the city now operates only four. He blamed the PWD for neglecting the building’s maintenance for long.
Arvind from INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) said that they came to know about the building’s demolition plans from H S Kumaraswamy whose great grandfather was the architect of the building. They immediately started writing to the PWD and organized campaigns to raise awareness about the issue.
“We are not worried about the stocks or anything related to Janatha Bazaar. It is a heritage building and it has been listed as one under the revised Master Plan2031. The building’s structural integrity is still intact and we will produce a report on it soon, he added.
In the worst case scenario, the current staff will be transferred to other branches. He pointed out that there has been no recruitment for the past 20 years.
Located on Kempegowda Road, the Asiatic Building was inaugurated by the Mysore king Sri Kantirava Narasimharaja Wadiyar on September 11, 1935. It saw the opening of the Janatha Bazaar store in 1966 by the KSCCF.