Heritage building renovated, flouting norms

KOLKATA, 21 APRIL: As a classic example of bureaucratic callousness, the windows of a portion of the protected monument, Institut de Chandernagore (the Indo-French Cultural Centre and Museum), were blocked by the administration to use the room for keeping EVMs.
Much to the ignorance of the administration, the French used the room, which was modified for storing the EVMs, as the naval headquarters after their advent in 1673. It is the oldest part of the Dupleix Palace, former French Governor’s Residence in 1966, that now houses a library and French learning centre. The main building was reconstructed in 1994 and used as a museum that displays historical artifacts and antiques.
Ms Sripriya Rengarajan, the district magistrate and the district election officer of Hooghly, said: “The room was a small meeting hall and was being rented out. It is not a part of the heritage building. The EVMs are being transferred today for commissioning.” The assistant curator of the museum, Dr BK Makar, could not be contacted. However, a staff of the institute said that the portion being modified is indeed protected and is the oldest portion of the building. It should be noted that Dr Hari Baral, vice president of International society of city and regional planners, had written to the Chief Election Commissioner, Mr SY Qureshi, about the matter. He had forwarded the copy of the mail to the Governor stating that he has been planning to create an association in Paris ~ Les Amis Des Chandernagor (the friends of Chandernagore) ~ and that such callousness would harm the prospects of such association and also the reputation of the state government. But he did not receive any reply nor any action was taken to check the mistake. An NGO, Chandernagore Heritage, also wrote to Mr Qureshi but no action was taken.
Mr Kalyan Chakraborty, secretary of Chandernagore Heritage, said: “The room was being used for holding exhibitions and seminars. We are protesting against the move not because we are obsessed with the French culture but because of the administrations high-handedness that they dare to harm a historical treasure and get away with it.”
According to the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains (amendment and validation act) Act, ‘repair’ and ‘renovation’ could defined as alteration to a pre-existing structure, but shall not include ‘construction’ or ‘reconstruction’.
The Act states that until the heritage laws for each monument are approved by the National Monument Authority, permission for construction, reconstruction, repair or renovation within the prohibited and regulated areas will not be granted.

Soma Basu

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