Saturday, June 19, 2021

Hyderabad loses a landmark

Hyderabad: The Mississippi Hangar in Gowliguda, one of the iconic structures of Hyderabad, might have collapsed but will remain a fond nostalgia for many.

The hangar, which served the people of the erstwhile Hyderabad State, the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh and now Telangana for nearly nine decades, was where many started their lives in Hyderabad.

Built with iron by Butler & Co of the USA in the 1930s over an area of 1.2 acres adjacent to the Musi River, the hangar was first a bus depot with 27 buses and 166 employees for public transportation under the Nizam’s Road Transportation Department. It was an alighting point for the people of Hyderabad to reach various destinations within and also outside the State.

In the 1950s, it was taken over by the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transportation Corporation and was christened as the Gowliguda Central Bus Station (CBS). The APSRTC started operating buses to various destinations, including Bombay, Shirdi and Bengaluru among others places besides using it for plying buses within the city.

The hangar started losing sheen after the APSRTC came up with the Mahatma Gandhi Bus Station (MGBS) at Imlibun in 1994. All the intra and inter-State buses services which once were operated from the CBS were shifted to the MGBS and the hangar was turned into a garage for repairing and parking RTC buses. It was re-opened for public transportation later and was re-christened City Bus Station (CBS).

Neglected for several years, the Mississippi hangar crumbled after the pillars corroded and turned weak.

“First we thought that monkeys might have been moving on the top. Suddenly, the entire hangar came down. We had already sensed trouble and stopped bus services on June 30,” an official said.

Anuradha Reddy of INTACH said they had asked the TSRTC to take up repair works of the hangar. “We have been asking the TSRTC to repair the damaged portion of the hangar and recently too, we gave our recommendations. But nothing moved forward,” she said.

Catered to needs of 85,000 people a day

The Mississippi Hangar used to cater to the transportation needs of over 85,000 people every day. About 2,500 buses used to make trips from the hangar every day besides offering parking for 85 buses at night.

Mississippi Hangar

It was also the stop for over 250 buses to inter-change every day.

However, with question marks over its stability, well in advance before it collapsed, officials had made alternate arrangements for passengers.
“Every day, 85,000 people used to commute from the CBS. We stopped the bus services and also closed down some shops as the iron pillar on one side had bent over,” an official at the bus station said.

The hanger also become a place for photos and selfies. Many thronged the CBS to witness the historic hangar after it collapsed.

Future bleak for shopkeepers
Uncertainty looms large over the future of shopkeepers at the CBS after the hangar collapsed. To make a living, several people from various parts of the State had established their shops in the hangar, which housed 24 shops, including tiffin and juice centres, bakeries and so on.

Om Prakash, a bakery owner, said he had set up a bakery through a tender process of the TSRTC for a period of five years.

“It’s not even six months after I set up the bakery and this unfortunate thing has happened. We have no idea what to do with material worth Rs 2 lakh,” he said. Another shopkeeper, R Srikanth, urged the RTC to relocate them within the CBS.

“We were given empty space and with over Rs 1.5 lakh, we have developed the infrastructure. Now, all the money has gone in vain. We want the RTC to rehabilitate us either on the same premises or in any depots in Hyderabad,” he said.

Private complex likely
Soon after the Mississippi Hangar collapsed at Gowliguda, rumours spread like wildfire that the TSRTC had deliberately neglected the structure and had even demolished it partially to construct a complex.

However, terming the rumours baseless, TSRTC officials said no such attempts were made. In fact, such a move would prove counter-productive for the corporation since finding an alternative location for the operations in the hangar was not an easy task, said TSRTC Executive Director Purushotham Naik.

He further said the corporation would now have to identify a location to park buses at night and to relocate commercial operations from the hangar. Since the structure was nearly nine decades old, the corporation was also exploring possibilities of constructing a complex at the site for generating additional revenue, However, no decision was taken yet.

Hangar heart of transportation in its heydays: Historians

Old timers, history buffs and heritage experts from Hyderabad fondly remember the impressive and imposing hangar which in its hey-days was the heart of transportation for the city.

According to historians, before Mahatma Gandhi Bus Station at Imlibun came into being, the huge hangar was the main bus terminus for buses that travelled to districts from Hyderabad. In fact, the double-decker buses used during the Nizam’s period were serviced at this hangar.

“When the Nizams launched bus services in Hyderabad State, this hangar was used as a garage and parking place for double-deckers. Repairs and services of these buses were taken up in the hanger. It was inaugurated between 1936 and 1937,” says city historian MA Qayoom.

Heritage experts said the structure was a World War-II hangar that was bought by the Nizams. “About 40 years ago, as a kid, I used to accompany my mother to the hangar to catch a bus for Nizamabad. In those days, the hangar was a hectic bus station. Buses used to arrive from districts and start from there. It was a piece of Hyderabad history,” says historian Dr Md Safiullah.

The noted historian lamented that had the authorities maintained the hangar from the beginning, the collapse could have been avoided.

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