Friday, September 2, 2011

CITY IMPROVEMENT TRUST BOARD - ITS FORMATIVE YEARS

At the outset, let me reproduce my compilation which was published in our local eveninger, Star of Mysore in 2005.

Reference source: Handbook of the City of Mysore, 1915, by T.G.Lakshmana Rao - Author's complimentary copy presented to my great grandfather K.Mylar Rao whose name appears " -- For Officiating Secretary to Govt." in the Appendix section ('Rules and Bye Laws).  

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CITY IMPROVEMENT TRUST BOARD - ITS FORMATIVE YEARS

In the early 19th century, Mysore was confined within the limits of Hale Agrahara, the Fort, Dodda Petta and Lashkar Mohalla. Municipal activity began sometime during the reign of HH Krishnaraja Wadiyar III about the mid 19th century. As decades passed and the town gradually evolved into a city, there reached a stage when the need was felt for a separate body that could handle the city's development, improvement and health matters.

The deadly epidemic Plague struck Mysore and took a heavy toll of life, esp. in 1898. The root cause was poor sanitation and unhealthiness. It was a grave public concern. The Municipality, with the help of the Plague Commissioner, tried to combat future ravages. Spreading the populace apart, opening out lanes and streets in congested localities and creating extensions seemed the best answer. It required heavy expenditure. By the time plans took shape, HH Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV had ascended the throne (1902). The inadequacies of the Municipality's resources to handle the demands of such crises, surfaced. The Government of H.H. Maharaja came to the rescue by appointing a committee with the Chief Engineer as the President to formulate proposals for the improvement of the city.

Improving sanitation and removing unhealthiness in the city received prime attention. During the first (1894-1902) of two important stages in Mysore's sanitary history, a Sanitary Division under Mr.Standish Lee, was established by Dewan Sir K.Seshadri Iyer. It is pertinent to mention some of the works carried out during this period before the creation of the City Improvement Trust Board:

- A portion of Purnaiah's Nalla, a deep drain cut by the former Dewan to lead water from the Cauvery to the town, which was a source of unhealthiness, was filled. This is now the Sayyaji Rao Road.
- The ditch around the Fort was filled and was converted into a park.
- Main sewers serving the KR Mohalla and Devaraj Mohalla were laid.
-Chamarajapuram (called after HH Chamarajendra Wadiyar), the first important and successful measure carried out in extending the town, was constructed.
- The supply of wholesome drinking water by a system of water pipes from the Kukkarahalli Reservoir and from the Cauvery by pumps worked by turbines. This was a material step in the interest of the general health of the city.

The second stage (1902-10), coincided with the beginning of what became the 'golden reign' of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar. Many important developments took place in right earnest, following the passing of Mysore Improvements Regulation III of 1903. Work was pushed forward vigorously by the "Trust Board", under the able officers lent from the Government Public Works Department. Mr.Seetharama Rao was the Chairman and Mr.D'Cruz was the Executive Engineer. The Mysore City Municipality was governed by Regulation VII of 1906 (Mysore Municipal Regulation). It was also a Corporation with a President as its head. He was also the Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Improvement of the City of Mysore. The Health Officer was the Vice-President in Sanitary Matters. It is worthwhile to quote excerpts of the Govt. Order No.4168-79.L.F.3602, dated 18.9.1902. The general lines on which improvements designed were:

"The slums of the city, wherever they exist, should be first improved, by knocking down unsanitary buildings, providing against overcrowding, bad drainage and otherwise defective sanitation. Proper quarters should be found for surplus population from such localities, and such assistance as is possible and reasonably practical should be extended to poor people for building proper houses. A comprehensive scheme for proper drainage should be devised, not necessarily with a view to attain theoretical, but impractical, perfection, but to meet the reasonable needs of the city."

Accordingly, unsanitary areas were removed en bloc in some localities, all the narrow lanes were widened, conservancy lanes opened for the facility of drainage, many low-lying and ill ventilated houses dismantled, and extensions were formed to provide room for the displaced population. Drainage facility was made possible practically for every house.

Up to 1911-12, the Trust Board acquired about 6,000 properties including open areas, of which 3,616 were houses, paid Rs.13.5 lakhs as compensation, spent Rs.9 lakh in drainage work and other improvements were of the highest beneficial utility and added much to the comforts, convenience and the health of the public. In 1911, Mysore had a population of 71,306 as to 68,111 in 1901. The city was divided into seven mohallas: Fort, Lashkar, Devaraja, Krishnaraja, Mandi, Chamaraja and Nazarbad. In 1913-14, there were 12,122 houses, out of which 701 were terraced, 10,838 were tiled and 583 thatched.

The appearance of Plague gradually waned away as the city's design as well as healthiness, noticeably improved, thanks to the excellent work carried out by the Trust Board. Time-honoured housing requirements, where each family needed a house with a compound or backyard attached for outhouses, cattle, etc., necessitated the creation of extensions for housing those displaced by the demolition and rearrangement of parts of the city. The work of acquisition and demolition of properties, for opening conservancy lanes, leaving air spaces, admitting light and removing congestion was completed in Ittigegud, Nazarbad, Fort and Lakshmipuram (built on the site of Old Dodda Holageri, for some time a hot-bed of plague, etc.). Edgah extension was also created.

By then, Sir M. Visvesvaraiah was the Dewan and also the Chief Engineer of Mysore. It was under his leadership that saw the system of drainage undergoing a complete change. From his vast experience, he favoured the underground drainage system that worked by gravity, to open surface drains. Many of those are still functioning - an example of "made to last" quality! The sullage water from every house in this system was directly connected to the underground street sewer and the whole sewage was brought down to one common out-fall in the valley below Doddakere, where it was treated for purification in a septic tank, and the effluents were utilized for agricultural purposes.

For many years, the CITB offices were located at the Rangacharlu Memorial Hall (Town Hall). CITB (now MUDA) built its own office buildings on Jhansi Laxmi Bai Road in the early 70s, at the very place where a very old, dilapidated set of 'dungeons' (rumoured to have had an underground secret tunnel), existed. (Is that why the 'underground dealings' still prevail in the area?).

Is Corruption Impossible To Banish from Mysore's Ultimate Defraud Authority? That is the common man's FAQ! But when someone like Mr. Pankaj Kumar Pandey comes and tries to answer it, in as transparent a manner that would have pleased Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, he is quickly packed off! Preserving such persons to serve the public would only serve the real purpose of the Authority. Let us wildly hope that, even in this 'kaliyuga era', there will be more of Seetharama Raos and Pandeys at its helm!

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The CITB started functioning on 1st January, 1904.  Brief history is also here along with two old maps (poor quality) of the city:  http://www.mudamysore.org/home.asp

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K.Mylar Rao also mentions "Trust Board Meeting" in his diary of the 1920s, indicating that he was also in the committee being one of the elite persons of Mysore, even before he retired in 1924 after serving the Govt. in various capacities and accepting the post of Chairman.  

When I read one of the old letters from a bundle, which I very long later salvaged, it came to light that he was the Chairman in 1924.  
[Offer letter to Mylar Rao for the post of Chairman, which post he accepted.]


Web grab of MUDA site.  See year 1924.

If my memory serves me right, the present Offices were built in the early 70s by Jhansi Lakshmi Bai Road.  [The Cosmopolitan Club is situated behind it]. Before the CITB building was built, it was a spot where wild bushes had grown and no one ventured.  But there was some brick structure almost buried in the earth, close to the adjacent Dr.Radhakrishnan Avenue and the lovely little 'Scouts and Guides building on the opposite side [now demolished].  We used to call it as 'dungeons'.  Once I had joined our street boys (many elder) on their wild roaming one summer evening when we were bored with cricket.  They went to this place and it was quite scary to me.  I tried to picturize the spot from memory and this is what I remembered from the same angle.  


There was a soil-debri-slope leading to the  ground below the arch on the extreme right.  I don't know if there were steps.  We tried to enter there and see what was inside!  It was dark and had more debris and wild growth. I think there was a wall about 8-10 feet away from the 'entrance' arch.  That was the only time I had gone there. Its roof was also ground for lots of moss, some lantana shrubs and some grass.  We used to wonder what it was, since no elder discussed about it.

Recently, when I mentioned about it on facebook, one of my more knowledgeable friends came up with a response that the 'dungeons' were nothing but a structure built [in the 19th century] to filter water drawn from Kukkarahalli Tank [before the Vani Vilas Water Works came into being] to be supplied to the city.  There is a natural slope towards the Palace and its surroundings where the then Mysore city existed.  It is said to also connect the other lakes towards the east in the city through small canals one of which is still seen in Subbarayana Kere.

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2 comments:

Rob Bradley said...

Dear Mr Dinakar,

I am contacting you in regards to Mr. Standish Lee mentioned in this article. He is my Great Great Grandfather and I am keen to discover if any further information exists.

I wonder if you have an email we can correspond through.

Best regards,

Robert P.B

London - UK

Dinakar KR said...

Dear Mr.Rob Bradley,
Very pleased to hear from you here! Do write to me on e-mail.
dinakar58 AT yahoo dot com
Warm regards.
Dinakar