Revenue sites morph into layouts yet kids cannot play
I spent the best part of my childhood playing cricket with other children in the neighbourhood. It was not really street or gully cricket, but cricket played in a certain wide open space just a kilometer from where I lived, that all of us called ‘smashaana’ grounds, smashaana being the Kannada word for cemetery.
The rather morbid name came not from how desolate these grounds felt, but because at one edge of these grounds, there were a few burial mounds of those who once owned all this land.
These grounds were nothing but the wide expanse of land between two planned layouts of the 1970s/1980s — GKW Layout and Canara Bank Colony. At some point it served as agricultural land, but for many years, a few decades even, it spent time as ‘revenue land’ waiting to get converted into city, like areas around it, and while it did so, for children from parts of the city nearby it was just the most convenient place to play cricket.
Over the past few weeks in this column, we have seen how Bengaluru as a city grew, planned extension by planned extension. First thanks to the two Kempegowdas, then later thanks to those who ruled from Mysore as well as the British. And in modern times, thanks to the City Improvement Trust Board (CITB), which was later succeeded by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA). They all built well planned urban settlements that give much of Bengaluru the character that it has today.
But these localities were not planned in such a perfect way that they all fit perfectly into each other like a jigsaw puzzle. There were always gaps. A lot of these gaps in the 20th century were comprised of what were called ‘revenue land’ or ‘revenue sites’.
Technically, these were parcels of land that the state’s Department of Survey and Land Records, whose offices are in the rather pretty Revenue Surveys Offices building at KR Circle, recognise as agricultural land that should generate a certain amount of revenue for the government.
But given their location within the ever expanding boundaries of what was being considered the city of Bengaluru, these lands kept getting sold to realtors who had no plans of using it for agriculture. It took such parcels of land many years to get legally recognised as urban residential land, but they inevitably did get recognised as such. It even led to some uniquely Bengalurean legal documents such as the ‘B Khata’.
A rather significant chunk of the BBMP limits of what constitutes Bengaluru today consists of revenue sites that have been regularised into residential layouts. Some of them bear the names of those who purchase them. Often co-operative housing societies.
For example, the smashaana grounds of my childhood is today a crowded layout called Vyalikaaval Layout, for a bunch of old money bags from Vyalikaaval near Malleswaram formed a housing society that could afford to buy and develop the land. But most of them bear the names of landowners whose property it used to be. Krishnappa, Bhadrappa, Patel Chinnappa, and many such. To me, these landed people are as much builders of modern Bengaluru as Kempegowda or any other governing authority we have had since.
While the urbanisation of these revenue sites have definitely played a big role in the growth of Bengaluru as a city, for me, personally, the biggest loss is that any cricket among neighbourhood children now is limited to the streets or to very overcrowded playgrounds, and even most of those are sadly getting converted into parks for older people with voting rights to walk many rounds in.
(Thejaswi Udupa is a writer who thinks of Bengaluru as home and, naturally, has very strong opinions about the city and its boundaries)