SAVE J.K. GROUNDS… SAVE J.K. GROUNDS…

From today’s Star of Mysore:

The announcement by the State Transport Minister N. Cheluvarayaswamy yesterday that he was thinking of turning the J.K. Grounds into a so-called “hi-tech” bus station revives an old debate. There can be no question that Mysore deserves a bigger, better bus station than the horrendous one that we are currently blessed with. But the ease with which our politicians routinely eye the J.K. Grounds is not merely an indication of bankrupt thinking but an indication of the complete lack of vision that has marked our City’s planning and growth (at the hands of post-independence Maharajas and their diwans).

The plan to turn J.K. Grounds into a bus station has been broached several times before and the arguments in its favour have always been the same. That it is spacious enough. That it is close to the business-centre of the City. That it is close to the railway station. And that the approach roads are spacious. However, every single Minister who has come up with the idea has also shown a singular lack of desire to protect what is one of the great open, lung spaces in the middle of the City, and to no one’s surprise Cheluvarayaswamy does not buck the trend.

There are three key reasons why J.K. Grounds should not be killed. The chief one is that it is close to the KR. Hospital, Cheluvamba Hospital and Veterinary Hospital. Hospitals and their inmates need peace and quiet, and a pollution free environment not the noise and fumes of a thousand buses. But there are two other equally important reasons. One, J.K. Grounds is a lake which has been turned into a playground. We should not kill playgrounds. And two, the railway offices in front of the grounds is a heritage building, whose beauty should not be marred by an obscene hi-tech structure.

However, unlike previous ministers Cheluvarayaswamy’s “threat” should be taken more seriously because the JD(S)-BJP government is precisely the kind of government which will ride roughshod over public opinion in the name of development. Indeed, the tone and tenor of the transport minister bodes ill. He says he will talk to the district in-charge minister D.T. Jayakumar and the transport officials before arriving at a decision. How can a momentous decision like this can be arrived at without involving the Mysore City Corporation, the town planning authorities, or our heritage-wallahs?

In many ways, J.K. Grounds provides an epitaph to the Mysore Medical College under whose purview the grounds come. Instead of using the grounds to the fullest, instead of setting an example to fellow citizens that sporting activity can lead to a healthy body, our doctors and medical students have been too busy making money and mugging up. The result is that the grounds have gone to seed. Which is what makes the grounds so attractive to every Minister, who can only see contracts and shopping complexes in the wide open space.

The need of the hour in Mysore is to learn from Bangalore. And the need of the hour is to take any and every measure that will decongest the heart of the City. Building a bus station at J.K. Ground will only lead to congestion of the kind that has killed Bangalore.