Operation clean-up to retain heritage tag

Hampi Development Authority to "cleanse the temple town

Published on 12 August 2011

Author(s): The Times of India/Manu AiyappaManu Aiyappa

Type:  News

It's no longer a routine sight of hippies, sound of blaring horns and noisy market stalls at the famous Bazaar Street opposite the majestic 15th-century Virupaksha Temple. Now one can hear Vedic hymns from the temple loud and clear. All this, thanks to the ongoing demolition drive launched by Hampi Development Authority to "cleanse the temple town and restore it to its golden era''.

Though authorities here give theories of excavation and traffic jams to support their unexpected drive, a senior district official, substantiating with documents, said the spur for the drive was Unesco's threat to remove Hampi from the list of World Heritage sites.The seizure of items by police over the years indicated that a sex- and drugpeddling racket had been on, but the authorities failed to act fearing stiff local opposition.

A Unesco team which visited the place a few months ago had expressed concern over illegal constructions and drug peddling, particularly at Bazaar Street and Virpapurgadda , an island located in the reserve forest area.

Taking local authorities to task, the team had asked them to remove shops at Bazaar Street. The Unesco team recently shot off a letter to the state government asking it to direct authorities to curb illegal activities near the temple , otherwise it would remove Hampi from the list of World Heritage sites.

Chastened by Unesco's threat, the authorities prepared an action plan and framed town planning guidelines to ensure the town is free from encroachments , illegal activities and hippies.

Hampi municipal officer Srikrishna said: "We will continue with the demolition drive to free the town from illegal occupation. We had to stop due to political intervention.''

SURPRISE RAID

The drive, however, has come as a bolt from the blue for the poor legal shopowners as they hadn't been given prior notice. "Undoubtedly, there were several vendors doing legal business like selling flowers and puja-related material but we all knew the thriving business of grass and charas that largely attracted foreign visitors. But police have not acted,'' said Ganswami Sidappa, who was into flower business at the place for over 15 years.

HIPPIES AND HAMPI

Hampi is attracting more hippies these days from Europe, Australia, Israel and the US. They are coming here not to look at the stone marvels, but for the exotic landscapes and seclusion, officials said. In July 2011, a non-peak season for hippies, 1,250 of them had stayed on in Hampi, some for two days and others two weeks, officials said.

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