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Moving ahead without the government: Bangalore’s Russell Market march 13, 2012

In the last week of February, I read about how a heritage market in Bangalore had been gutted in a fire. I remember thinking how tragic that was and wondering if an ugly mall would come up to replace it.
Imagine my surprise then to read in today’s local newspaper in Bangalore that the traders who had shops in the historic Russell Market had, on their own initiative gone ahead and rebuilt it! Not only did they spend a crore to hire a private firm to rebuild the market, they brought in city architect Anitha Suseelan who teaches in RV School of Architecture to provide inputs to the project based on documentation that the college had done earlier. There has been a reasonable attempt to salvage and restore original components and rebus the structure in its original style.
For traders, the decision to bypass BBMP (local government) and build privately was a no brainer! They were focused on restarting work. A delayed project would mean several months of livelihood lost. This way they are back in business in a month or less!
A great example of community led action and perhaps a trend setter of a new kind of urbanism. I wonder how to reconcile the excitement of this with conventional wisdom that asks every project to be approved by the government. An uncontrolled spate of anarchic building, however community centric, could create chaos! But then our present system is chaos nevertheless. So I will go ahead and take courage from Russell Markets story and wish for many more such initiatives!

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