Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Demolished heritage...

 Once again we show case the attitudes we have as a nation that chooses to be selective in its upholding of traditions and heritage. Yesterday, a beautiful old palace building, the Nazarbaug Palace, situated near the old city area of Baroda was torn down to be able to facilitate development plans for that space. A large contingent of activists for conservation of heritage properties have been long on the war path with the to oppose this terrible act of destruction, but as is always the case, the abilities of power to manipulate a system for corrupt gains always appears in this day and age to win such battles and fudge the rule book in their favour.

The prevailing Vadodara Municipal Corporation have turned a blind eye to the demolition knowing fully well about the amendments in the General Development Control Regulations of 2012 under chapter 28 of the Heritage Regulations which defines the process of listing and grading heritage properties as mandatory for protection against such acts of vandalism. The current owners who received this property within the dispute settlement of the Gaekwad property litigation  case are completely aware of the rules they are violating, however who cares to be concerned about ethics in the face of larger personal revenue gains today….? To many who look at conservation issues with an eye on progress and development  and the monetary gains to be cashed in on (excuse the pun!),  will sell you a Mayawati-style dream of developmental progress that thinks nothing of damaging the foundation structure of the Taj Mahal as an off shoot of such planning schemes. 

I came to the city of Baroda in 1967. I still can recall that first evening driving from Makerpura to the cantonment area in Fatehgunj and being mesmerised by the layout of this green city as it stood in pristine splendour with its neat roads and quiet order, sparkling like a unique gem. Full of trees, each area of the city with is dwellings and market places, university campus areas, and large public gardens were magnificent to perceive; all holding the concept of an architectural and city planning design that came from informed ideas of experience.  This beautifully laid out city held the potential of defining future development and urban planning that could have continued to be in keeping with its existing elegance,  and enhanced the grandeur  of this domed city, if little thought had been applied.  Instead we got a "doomed" city that crammed commercial enterprises higgledy -piggledy and without any conscience keeping ever caring to note the ensuing damaging consequences of such actions.

Crores of rupees will be spent on lavish Indian weddings and sports extravaganzas, but the private and public sectors fail to recognise how important the preservation of heritage really is.What they need to do is to address this with committed seriousness that holds accountable actions as visible inroads of  change towards the apathy we possess regarding conservation issues.  But no...Instead we have a paan-spitting-urinate-in-public attitude that views the entire city as its personal garbage dump, so where do the finer issues of pride and heritage fit in to this crass make-your-money- and move-on trend. 

A mall or ugly high rise apartment building will now come up upon the "grave site" of this old palace. Still partially standing tall the beautiful Nazarbaug Palace continues to hold its delicate charm preserving to its very end the regality of its origins even when its desecration will soon obliterate its physical presence on earth. Who will come forth to mourn this annihilation, or will we just drown this tragedy in the blaring of horns from packed roads with SUV's and Audi's showing off the wealth of muscle power? After all,  to the ignorant and corrupted its merely a pile of rubble with nothing too much of value to pilfer. History be damned, no?!

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