The "Chipko" Of Cubbon Park
The "Chipko" Of Cubbon Park7 mins 406 7 mins 406
She was named Aranya. She was born on 1st of April, couple of decades ago, and fooled every one in the family by her gender. They were all expecting a boy. As if in a silent protest, she never cried at the time of her birth unlike other babies. Unlike other babies she was also fond of nature and outdoors and found solace in the parks and gardens, which was aplenty in the Bangalore city which she grew up. The birds, bees and the trees were her best company throughout her growing age. She lapped up stories related to the jungle like the Jungle Book, man eating tiger stories by Jim Corbett and dreamt of a career related to forest. She was thrilled to the core when she came to know of the Forest Department when she was studying in class 6 and when her Dad told her that she could compete and qualify for the Indian Forest Service, she had then decided that was it.
She joined the school scout program and later the National Cadet Corps. The exposure was good for her and she excelled as a cadet. She did under-graduation with a combination of botany and zoology while all the time preparing for the IFS competitive exam. She passed out in flying colors and came out among the top ten.
After serving as an Assistant conservator of forest, she was promoted and at a go getting age of 25 she was made the Director of parks and gardens for the Bangalore city. Her chief who was fond of her and studied the profile of hers, told her that he knew of her passion for the forests in the country side, but there is a big challenge awaiting her in the current position. Hope she would live up to the challenge and advised her to handle the challenge with tact. He sighed deeply as she left his office and muttered “may she have the courage and perseverance to face what is awaiting her.”
Aranya was wondering what the chief had meant about the challenge awaiting her. She was a tad disappointed to learn of her first posting in the urban Bangalore. Next day morning as she glanced at the newspaper her doubts got dispelled. The headlines informed her that a proposal for an elevated corridor that would run over the Cubbon Park and would bring utter destruction to it was under consideration by the state government. The purport of the elevated corridor was ostensibly for ease of the traffic in Bangalore. “Bullshit” Aranya cursed, only over my dead body she thought. Then she remembered the sage like advice of her chief, handle the problem with tact was his parting advice. Soon she got a SMS from her chief, the file on Cubbon Park would reach her office by mid morning.
Soon the citizen’s group had already started protest. Scholars from a world- famous Institute denounced the idea as a “hara-kiri.” Citizen’s group formed a ring around the park the following Sunday in which thousands of citizens: men, women and children had participated and denounced the idea of elevated corridor.
Aranya studied the file sent to her by the chief. He had asked her to quickly update the scientific information available and prepare a good case to save the park. Such a move to cut down trees had to get clearance from the Indian Forest Conservation Act, 1980 by which clearance had to be obtained from a high- powered committee of the Government of India.
She too had taken part in the citizen’s protest movement and was taking a stroll in the park. She had fond memories of the park, the toy train ride she had taken when young; the jogging sessions in her teens, picnic with friends and an occasional outing with her mom and dad. It was truly a citizen’s park, apart from providing the needed lung space for the bustling metropolitan, it had something to offer for every one irrespective of class. She found a man sleeping and she thought may be a homeless migrant resting after a hard night; she found a group of drummers beating in their own rhythm; a group of young corporate executives perhaps doing a team building exercise, some one was meditating under the tree hoping for Buddha like enlightenment; a couple romancing not being able to find some private moment or space. Budding naturalists doing some close observations and taking notes like she used to do herself. How could anyone propose such a destruction?
Bangalore, the city of lakes and garden was already a dying city. It was touted to be second city in the world to go water dry in a decade or so. It was already the number 2 city in the country next only to New Delhi for the number of vehicles clogging her roads, but unlike Delhi the roads were not there. Some one now has got an “elevated” idea. The contractors and politicians must be making quick calculations about earning potential by way of commissions and otherwise.
The CM in response to the growing protest against the elevated corridor had issued a statement calling for a public consultation on the Third Sunday of the month at 9 am in the morning. Unknown to the public and media he had whispered to his right- hand man that he must organize bus loads of men who would shout in favour of the project at the consultation. The intelligence officer had caught on to this conversation as the right- hand man issued instructions to his deputies. The intelligence officer called on Aranya to inform about the public meeting and security arrangements, had whispered about the CM’s whisper to his right-hand man. Aranya then had suggested that why does not the intelligence officer start make a counter move with the ruse of anticipating violence and get the police to block heavy vehicles bringing in people.
In the meantime, Aranya whispered to her old school and college network and asked them to alert the citizen’s groups and the scholars at the academic institute as well. The whisper grew loud and people were aghast and angered by the unethical move of the CM and made them stronger in their resolve.
On the morning of the meeting the intelligence officer had hurriedly walked into the CM’s residence and apprised the CM the intelligence, about possibility of violence by miscreants, he had picked late evening. As a result, he said that heavy vehicle movements in the road leading up to Cubbon Park would be blocked for a certain time until the public consultation gets over. CM was aghast but could not deny that violence in such a meeting would be disastrous.
When CM came to the venue, he was stunned to see the assembly of citizens gathered. There were thousands of children, college students, citizens and even senior citizens. A child walked up to him at the dais and handed over a bouquet of flowers. He saw the child pick up the mike while turning towards him. The child said “Sir, please save Cubbon park. We don’t need any bridge.”
As if on cue, the people in unison chanted the same slogan “Sir, please save Cubbon Park. We don’t need any bridge.” The entire scene was being recorded live and being transmitted. People wondered if an urban “Chipko” movement was on the rise.
The Chairman of the National Green Tribunal was watching. President of the International Green Peace was also watching this spectacle. Both decided that there was some work to do come Monday.
The CM got up and declared that he had heard the message of citizens loud and clear. He would set up a high- powered committee of both state and citizens and consider alternatives. The traffic problem was growing leaps and bounds.
The chief had whispered to Aranya “Don’t be taken in by CM’s posture. He speaks with many tongues. Your task has just begun and stay alert as ever.”
Aranya spotted the intelligence officer as he was leaving and noted that he was an attractive guy. She walked up to him, thanked him and “Coffee?” she whispered the question into his ears.