Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Marriage Gardens" of Bhopal

Lion City marriage garden
The properties in Bhopal on the Indore Road along the banks of the Upper Lake that are used for wedding receptions have been in dispute for a long time. These are not only located in the catchments of the Lake but are also discharging their wastes into it. On several occasions the civil society representatives have taken up the matter with the
Municipal Corporation but all of them got the stock reply that nothing could be done as there was a stay by a court in the matter relating to their demolition. Even the Bhopal Citizens’ Forum had taken up the matter several times but it was fobbed off with the same reply.

All of a sudden three such structures on the lake shores were demolished and with that the whole secret was exposed. It seems owners of these properties, called “marriage gardens” as receptions followed by weddings are being held in them, were illegally letting them out for the purpose. Authorised only to operate non-polluting gyms in them, over time they illegally expanded their respective properties encroaching on areas that did not belong to them and let them out to all and sundry for holding wedding receptions. None in the municipal corporation objected as indeed any revenue official. This has been going on for years and the owners of these illegally occupied properties made fortunes through their unauthorised and illegal activities.

All this was made possible by bribes. Reports have now appeared in the press that “hafta” (weekly payments) and “maheena” (monthly payments) were being made. The court had stayed action on the gyms and not the action on illegally run “marriage gardens”. Wrong interpretation of the stay order of the court, most probably by design, enabled the unchecked continuance of the illegalities. The field staff of the Municipal Corporation had been reporting against them but the same were, apparently, suppressed and were not acted upon. While the owners of the properties made fortunes, the concerned municipal officials also enriched themselves.

Reports have also appeared that the Municipal Corporation is in the process of getting at the bottom of this veritable scam. Nothing might come off the inquiry as numerous municipal officials – petty and big – are involved. They would see that the inquiry fizzles out. Clearly, the illegalities could not have continued for so
Another view of Lion City marriage garden
long in the face of public opposition unless everyone concerned in the municipal corporation, from top to bottom, was involved. After all, the matter related to illegal use of very valuable properties of the town. It is, therefore, necessary that public pressure for action against the defaulters is intensified and Municipal Corporation is forced to close down these so-called marriage gardens forthwith.

As one looks at it, a very strange picture emerges. The Municipal Corporation is the custodian of the Upper Lake which only means that it is responsible for its protection and conservation. There is a very vital reason for it and that is it draws millions of litres of water from it for distribution among the people of Bhopal. And yet, seemingly, it is the custodian’s acts of omissions and commissions are harming the Lake and polluting its waters.

Allowing the “marriage gardens”, to discharge its wastes into the Lake is not the only instance of its inaction. It has for years failed to plug several drains that empty muck into the Lake despite expenditure of crores of rupees and formulation of several projects. Another major instance of its inaction is allowing motorised boats to ply in the Lake after having banned them as far back as in 2005. Recently, even the councillors wanted the motorised boats out of the Lake. But, the spineless Municipal Corporation has somehow not been able to act for and behalf of the people of Bhopal to whom it owes its existence. It seems to have surrendered before the politically powerful Tourism Corporation, the operator of the boats. Nowhere in the world are motorised boats running on internal combustion engines allowed to ply in a water body that is a source of drinking water.
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DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION Rama Chandra Guha, free-thinker, author and historian Ram Chandra Guha, a free-thinker, author and...