Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Riddle of Russell market

There are two riddle questions that seem to come out of the fire that damaged the Russell market ten days ago.

1. What really caused the fire – conflict or neglect? 
I read in The Hindu on 25 Feb 2012 Bangalore's Russell market gutted that it was an electrical short circuit that caused the fire. But, the vendors say it is a big plan of the government to get them onto the footpath and out of the 2-acre property. One vendor I spoke to said “How could an electrical short circuit spread so much and destroy such a large part of the market in a time period of half an hour?”. Another vendor insisted on explaining that “The Fire Department was also with THEM. They were dousing water with high pressure pipes onto the cast-iron columns instead of onto the wood that was on fire. You see, that is why the cast-iron pillars are now bent, whilst the fire continued to spread and cause damage”. Speaking to the vendors six months ago, I had learnt that the rent paid by each of the shopowners inside the market building is Rs.200 per month. They do not want to pay more. The municipal corporation has been refraining from proper maintenance as a result. Why have the vendors not agreed to paying more? Why has the government kept away?

2. Will the government eventually demolish the market building to build a mall?
The government has been denying having any plans for acquisition of the Russell market property to build a mall here. Municipal Commissioner M K Shankarlinge Gowda  has said “There are no plans before the BBMP to demolish the existing structure. Besides, it is not a suitable place to build a shopping complex” (Source: IBN Bangalore)

But, the vendors have formed a new association last week, where the fruit vendors, the vegetable vendors and other small vendor groups can collectively form a stronger force that the government cannot displace. They had a puja on last Thursday morning which received some media attention. I learnt from the Secretary of the Vendors association that they were so determined now to hold a grand Exhibition in December (it was an old tradition during the British times) at the Russell market and that there was nothing the government could do to take their market away from them.

It’s difficult to know what is true, but important nevertheless that we find the right answers because in all of this conflict and neglect, we almost LOST a historic market of the city. If perceptions need to change, how do we do that? If perception IS reality, then, how do we effect change?
I am posting here some photographs from last week's visit to Russell market the morning of the Puja. It was a complete change from the days immediately after the fire, pictures of which are at:
Russell market after the fire

The main entrance of the Russell market on 1st March - the day of the Puja

The priests from Muslim educational institutions all over the city being served a meal after the reading of the Quran.

This was the part which had been damaged completely and can be seen in the previous post pictures as well.

Some of the vendors intermittently came in to participate in the Puja. In one side of the market building, business was going on as usual.

While the priests read, the chaiwallah looked on.

While the priests read, the newspaper reporters and the television channel photographers documented what went on. 

Life was getting back to normal on the day of the puja 

There was after the Quran reading, a Hindu priest performing a puja.

Was this the same market courtyard we had seen a week ago?


Krunal said...

it seems life is seeping back into the market, nice reportage

Indian Bazaars said...

Krunal: Thanks for leaving a comment. Every day, there seems to be another step forward and it has been so interesting to know about.