While the civic body says the market encroaches upon stormwater drains, vendors at allege that it is a part of a larger plan to build a parking lot.

Bluru civic body to raze Murphy Town vegetable market vendors protestPhotos by Guna, vendor at Murphy Town Market
news Civic Issues Friday, November 30, 2018 - 15:52

Early on Friday morning, an earth mover arrived at the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike vegetable market in Murphy Town. The vendors, wary of the BBMP, gathered around the officials, waiting for an explanation from the authorities.

"Over the last few decades, every time an earth mover arrived, it spelt trouble for us. Then the BBMP officials told us: 'We have been instructed to demolish the market as it is encroaching on the rajakaluve (primary stormwater drain).’ We were shocked," says 51-year-old Babu, who has been selling vegetables in Murphy Town for 40 years now.

Scared for their livelihoods, the vegetable vendors begged the BBMP authorities to give them a grace period of 10 days to sketch out a backup plan to move their wares out of the structures.

"We are planning to apply for a stay order. We have not encroached on any stormwater drain. The drain is located on the other side of the market. You can see for yourselves. Besides, BBMP constructed this market in 2005 and gave it to us free of cost in 2015," Babu alleges.

On July 31, the Karnataka Lokayukta had issued an order to demolish 37 shops located in the BBMP vegetable in Murphy Town, adjacent to the heritage meat market. The Lokayukta's order was passed after Munilakshmi, Deputy Commissioner (Market) of the BBMP, submitted a report to the Lokayukta stating that the shops were encroaching on the primary stormwater drain.

"Based on the high court judgement in 2011 which states that structures cannot be built on stormwater drains, I had submitted the report," Munilakshmi says.

However, shop owners allege that the BBMP only wants to demolish the vegetable market as a long-laid plan to destroy all of the Murphy Town market slowly to make way for a multi-storeyed parking lot.

"This market was constructed in 2005. Before the structure came up on this land, we had set up temporary stalls with tarpaulin sheets and sold our wares. I have been selling vegetables here for over three decades. The rajakaluve is located on the other side. No one has encroached up on it and it was there before and it is there today. They just want to demolish all the buildings here like they did the library," says Guna, a 41-year-old vegetable vendor.

Although the structure was constructed by the BBMP in 2005, the shops were inaugurated only in 2015 by the then CV Ramanagar MLA S Raghu and BJP MP PC Mohan. Vendors at the market say that BBMP officials are pulling out loopholes out of thin air in order to silence them.

"When they informed us that the old library would be razed, we had protested. They came in late and night and demolished it. Back then, they said that the building was a hazard as it could collapse at any moment. Now, it is the encroachment. In 2017, when we found out that the BBMP plans to bring down the entire market to construct a multi-storey parking lot, we had opposed it. They are doing it slowly so that there is no opposition," Guna added.

In March 2017, the BBMP's standing committee for taxation and finance had announced that 13 markets in Bengaluru – Austin Town Market, Moore Road Market, Murphy Town Market, Darjipet Market, Ballapur Market (Avenue Road), Srirampura Market, Akkipet Market, Magadi Road Market, Balepet Chowk Market, SKR Mutton Market, Cubbonpet Market, Sirsi Circle Market and Chikkamavalli Market – will be converted to parking lots.

The BBMP had decided to bring down these market, some of which are located in heritage structures in order to generate more revenue by building parking lots.

However, this is not the first time the BBMP has decided to demolish the heritage structure, which is almost a decade old. In 2014, the BBMP had floated a plan to construct a shopping mall after demolishing the Murphy Town Market.

"Although the vegetable market building is relatively new, we know the ultimate plan is to demolish the whole market structure," Guna says.

An iconic market of old Bengaluru

In the early late 1800s, named after Lieutenant Colonel Stuart George Knox, Murphy Town was then known as Knoxpet. Once a suburb of the Bangalore Cantonment, the area was populated by the families of Tamil soldiers of the Madras Sappers, tannery, leather and pottery workers who had migrated from the then Madras Presidency.

When the plague hit Bengaluru in 1898 due to the poor sanitation facilities in Knoxpet, the British decided to rebuild the entire locality.

In 1937, after the construction was complete, the area was renamed Murphy Town after WH Murphy, the then Executive Engineer of the Bangalore Civil and Military Station.

This time around, 310 single homes and 108 double homes were along with temples and churches. In the middle of the area, space was made for a market.

In the 1900s, when the British were stationed in Bangalore, the Murphy Town Market catered to the needs of the British who had settled in the city.

With third generation vendors holding up their families' businesses, Murphy Town Market is a symbol of the Old Bengaluru and a reminder of how the structure has sustained families for over seven decades.

"Now there is not much outrage that the vegetable market is likely to be shut down. Slowly, they will begin finding faults in the shops in the main market. We are only scared because it will affect our livelihoods," Babu adds.


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