A walk down 8th Cross lane in Bengaluru’s Malleshwaram will no longer be the same.
The once-magnificent and close to a century old Villa Pottipati was razed to the ground on Monday by private developers, and with this the city has lost another charming British bungalow, once so ubiquitous in the Garden City.
The building, until recently, was operating as a heritage hotel, run by Neemrana Group – which restores heritage structures, including historic forts, and operate hotels out of them.
Someone named Rama Reddy had bought the building from the British owners of the house and decided to destroy it.
The development has saddened heritage enthusiasts in Bengaluru, but it has also sparked off a much-needed discussion on conserving the remaining heritage structures in the city.
Priya Chetty Rajagopal, an activist and founder of Heritage Beku collective, said the demolition of the vintage building is “heartbreaking”, but is of the opinion that “there are some things which we can control and something which we can”, this being a private building.
“We literally feel like our stomach dropped out. As an old Bangalorean, for me this is a tragedy beyond words. We are all gutted. First of all, we need a Heritage Commissioner and then an endowment trust set up to protect these structures. But the focus should remain on public heritage,” she said.
She pointed out how the city had a Heritage Commissioner until a decade ago, but doesn’t have one now.
“It is not elitist, heritage is requires collective ownership. You and I own it. So we have to keep an eye on other heritage buildings. Overseas they have managed to tackle this problem by incentivising property owners and the will of the authorities too needs to be changed. We have to introduce history and culture in elementary school textbooks. Regarding all of this, we have sought an appointment with the Chief Minister and Chief Secretary,” she added.
Recently the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike was the subject to the wrath of heritage activists as the council chose to bring down many ancient structures citing safety issues or even to build an Indira canteen.
Leo Saldanha, of the Enviornment Support Group is of the opinion that the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike should set aside 5% of its annual budget for the upkeep of heritage structures in the city.`
“One way such heritage buildings can be saved is to insist the BBMP set aside 5% of its revenue so that can exclusively be used for conservation. The fund can be used to buy such properties and can be overseen by a House Committee with inputs from various subject experts. It could coordinate its work with Metro Planning Committee and produce public reports quarterly. This Heritage Fund can also solicit CSR grants to bolster its kitty,” Leo said.
He added, “The city has produced five billionaires, and over 1,00,000 millionaires. They should at least step up and say enough is enough because they have enough money.”