Prime real estate in and around Dadar has been opened up for development, with the Bharatiya Janata Party -led Maharashtra government dropping a proposal to declare the area around Dadar’s Hindu Colony as a heritage precinct.
The draft heritage list, published in 2012, had proposed declaring Hindu Colony — comprising the Kareghat Road, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road, Sir Bhalchandra Road, Lakhamsi Nappo Marg and Hindu Colony Roads number 1 to 6 — as a heritage precinct.
The proposal was, however, contentious as politicians and residents opposed the idea. They said their buildings were nearly a century old and were in urgent need of drastic repairs and redevelopment.
“The precinct has been dropped as per a report from Mumbai’s municipal commissioner. However, 15 individual sites, parks and structures in Hindu Colony have been given heritage tags,” said an official from the state urban development department.
The report of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner to the state urban development department cited recommendations of the Dinesh Afzalpurkar-led heritage review committee while supporting the deletion of Hindu Colony precinct from the list. The panel was set up in 2013 to scrutinise the draft heritage list in light of the thousands of suggestions and objections from the public.
The municipal commissioner’s report said, “The heritage review committee also suggested either planned or guided development, or a comprehensive development be adopted for this area. I am in agreement with the recommendations given by the heritage review committee.”
Hindu Colony was developed in the early 1900s as one of the city’s first planned precincts. Conservation experts say the entire area, of Hindu Colony, Parsi Colony, Maheshwari Udyan and Five Gardens was developed as a town planning ensemble around the city’s tram line, which has now been replaced by the arterial Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Road, making the area’s planning and structure relevant even today.
The then Bombay Improvement Trust had taken up the Hindu Colony area for development with the buildings having a mix of Indian and Islamic features, known to be part of the Indo-Deco architectural style.
The list of 15 sites within Hindu Colony that the state has identified as individual heritage sites include Raj Griha (Dr. BR Ambedkar’s house), Vaidya Garden, Dadkar Garden, Poddar College, Ruia College, a water fountain on Lakhamsi Nappoo Road and so on.
DM Sukhthankar, a former bureaucrat, said, “Shivaji Park and Hindu Colonies are amongst Mumbai’s oldest colonies and some kind of control is necessary. Abolition of the precinct tag will totally destroy the visual similarity in the colony with high-rises cropping up. It is a more pro-builder approach and reflects pressure from those in favour of redevelopment.”
Besides, the state government has also decided to downsize the proposed Parsi Colony heritage precinct and merge it with the Five Gardens precinct. Among other structures, the 50,000-square-foot heritage property of Lincoln House, which was recently bought by industrialist Cyrus Poonawalla for a whopping Rs 750 crore, has been retained as a Grade III heritage structure, despite the draft list recommending it to be tagged as a Grade II site. The chief minister’s Malabar Hill residence, Varsha, which was earlier a Grade II site, has been downgraded to Grade III. Similarly, the state’s official guest house, Sahyadri, originally a Grade III structure, finds no mention on the state government’s new list.
Nayana Kathpalia, an urban renewal expert working with NAGAR, a local non-government organization, said, “The government is trying to obliterate the history and architectural ethos of the city. For precincts, the published list does not even specify the precinct’s exact geographical boundaries. It is completely unacceptable.”
Activists also slammed the government for failing to separately mention a comprehensive list of all deleted structures citing reasons for the deletion.