Kejriwal govt ready to pour cash on Old Delhi havelis

  • Neelam Pandey, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 17, 2015 08:05 IST
Atam Prakash Agarwal at his haveli, in Naughara, Chandni Chowk. It is among the few heritage havelis in Old Delhi that have been restored by their owners. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)

Delhi’s old havelis, fallen into ruin and neglect, may regain their glory, but in the form of heritage hotels and restaurants, museums and art galleries.

The government is planning a capital grant of Rs 2 crore and a loan of up to Rs 5 crore to the owners of such property in a bid to restore the city’s heritage and attract tourists at the same time.

The plan has been prepared by the Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC) and will be tabled in the cabinet soon for final approval.

There are approximately 525 havelis in Shahjahanabad from the 19th and early 20th centuries, according to a senior SRDC official. Barring a few that are still used by their original owners as residences, the majority of these once-majestic structures are crumbling, hemmed in by encroachments, turned into godowns and warehouses or tangled in tenancy and ownership feuds.

“These havelis are a valuable part of the heritage of Shahjahanabad. Hence, we have decided to provide a capital grant to their owners to take up restoration work. We will also help them get loans, which they find difficult to do,” said a senior SRDC official.

Owners will be allowed to convert their premises into hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, museums and art galleries among others. The government hopes this will boost heritage tourism in the city.

“The SRDC will provide a single-window system for extending benefits to applicants for the purchase and restoration of heritage buildings and their conversion into adaptive re-uses,” said Vijay Singh, advisor to the SRDC.

In order to achieve the twin aims of conserving Old Delhi’s heritage havelis and attracting tourists, the Delhi government will allow the owners of such structures to convert them into restaurants, eateries, cultural guesthouses, galleries and museums. The havelis are a distinct part of the cultural heritage of the city of Shahjahanabad. But many of them are lying in ruins or have been turned into godowns by the traders in the area.

Only some such as Chunamal ki haveli, Atam Agarwal ki haveli have been restored by their owners. The Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Corporation (SRDC), the authority designated to restore and redevelop Old Delhi, has also decided to give tax sops to the haveli owners so that they could take up projects without any hassles.

“A large number of havelis have been converted in to godowns and warehouses. Due to an unorganised growth of commerce and wholesale trade in the Walled City, these havelis come on a premium since the traders need space for godown. The traders are ready to pay hefty amounts of money as rent. Also, a large number of havelis have been either demolished or re-built illegally into shops, flats or warehouses. These havelis are a valuable part of the heritage of Shahjahanabad and needs to be protected and conserved,” said a senior SRDC official.

The official said there are approximately 525 havelis in Shahjahanabad that were built in the 19th and early 20th century. Nitin Panigrahi, DGM projects division of SRDC, said they are hopeful that the incentives will prevent the owners from allowing the misuse of their heritage havelis for commercial gains and restore them instead for boosting tourist inflow in the Capital. Notified havelis and other such are already exempted from paying property tax.

“All authorities concerned are being requested to issue orders for tax exemptions. Since heritage havelis older than 80 years may not conform to fire regulations, special provisions will be framed in consultation with the fire department,” the official said. The SRDC will also develop civic infrastructure on priority wherever there is a cluster of havelis or heritage structures.

“Special care will be given to such areas while laying electricity, sewer and water connections, street pavement, telephone lines, street lights, road signages,” said a senior Delhi government official. The SRDC will acquire havelis under litigation and use them for public purposes,” added the official.

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