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DDA sings conservation to save officers' club

Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar

The club building had come up at Siri Fort in violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites Act


  • DDA discovers that the space at Vikas Minar set for displaying heritage of Delhi as "inappropriate and unsuitable"
  • Identifies the officers' club building as the ideal place to showcase Capital's history

    NEW DELHI: A small space in the basement of Vikas Minar was what the Delhi Development Authority identified in 1994 for the purpose of "conserving and displaying the urban history/heritage of Delhi as planned and built since 1911, which can be open to the public, students or urban education and urban experts''. However, it was only later that DDA discovered that the space was "inappropriate and unsuitable for the purpose''.

    Interestingly, this fact finds mention in a letter written by the DDA Vice-Chairman, Madhukar Gupta, to the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India, C. Babu Rajeev, to plead DDA's cause for retaining hold on the Officers' Club building which had come up at Siri Fort in violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.

    After having been found in the wrong by ASI for violating the Act, the Delhi Development Authority has been trying hard to keep its hold over the building by claiming that it intends to use it for conservation, preservation and display of Delhi's urban heritage.

    Following a letter by the ASI Director-General in February 2005 in which he had stated that he had "decided that ASI may take over the building and use it for requirements relating to the conservation and preservation of heritage'', DDA woke up to the role of protecting the Capital's heritage.

    The DDA Vice-Chairman wrote back stating that "DDA is engaged in a number of projects for the conservation/development of urban heritage in close coordination with ASI and discussions have also been held at the level of Secretary Culture in respect of some such projects/proposals.''

    Further, Mr Gupta wrote that "DDA has also set up an "Urban Heritage Foundation'' under the Delhi Development Act, which is headed by the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi for identifying, preserving and protecting the non-listed monuments, hitherto unknown.''

    The letter also stated that "a number of projects have been taken up for restoration of urban heritage under the auspices of the foundation'' and "heritage awards have also been instituted''. Noting that "conservation has been an area of significant importance in the activities of DDA'', the letter also brings out the way in which DDA accords "importance'' to such a key area.

    Mr Gupta wrote: "For the last many years we had also been trying to identify a suitable space for conserving and displaying the urban history/heritage of Delhi as planned and built since 1911, which can be open to the public, students or urban education and urban experts''.

    Finally, the letter notes, that in the year 1994, "a small space in the basement of Vikas Minar'' was identified for the purpose and efforts were initiated in this direction. But after finding such a "small space'' for urban heritage, DDA discovered that it was "inappropriate and unsuitable for the purpose''.

    In this light, Mr Gupta further wrote that "there has, therefore, been a debate that the DDA's HRD Institute building would be an ideal building for conservation/preservation and display of Delhi's urban heritage, which could also showcase independent India's quest and achievements in the urban field ''.

    Moreover, "in this background,'' the Vice-Chairman wrote, "it is proposed that the building in question be developed as a heritage Centre as a collaborative venture between DDA and ASI''.

    But despite the letter, DDA found little support on the issue from ASI which realised full well that the Authority which had identified an "inappropriate and unsuitable'' small space in Vikas Minar basement for preserving the Capital's urban heritage was more keen on retaining the Officers' Club building for its 1,600 club members rather than for any noble cause.

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