The Peerbhoys, who once ran the Matheran Light Rail (MLR) system, are trying to reclaim their 2,000-sq-ft bungalow before the 102-year-old rail system gets a UNESCO Heritage status.
“It would be difficult to make changes once Matheran is given a heritage status. We are pursuing the Central Railway to hand over the bungalow for us to develop it into a museum,” said Ali Akbar Adamjee Peerbhoy, grandson of Adamjee Peerbhoy who developed Matheran in the early twentieth century.
The railways have been using this century-old bungalow close to the station, as a rest house since 1952. Peerbhoy wrote a letter to the Central Railway, Railway Board at New Delhi and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee asking them to help get possession of the bungalow.
“I wrote a letter a month ago and the decision lies with the rail authorities. This is the only opportunity when I would be able to showcase memories of MLR and our family’s contribution in its development,” added Ali Peerbhoy.
The Peerbhoy family wants to convert this bungalow into a museum at an approximate cost of Rs 5 lakh. It will display old documents and designs of Matheran before the rail tracks were laid and artifacts belonging to the family.
In October, a team from UNESCO visited Matheran. A team is expected to visit in July, to finalise the process.
“I haven’t seen the request and it wont be possible for me to comment on the implication of the request on the UNESCO world heritage site, for which the MLR is a forerunner,” said Rajesh Agrawal, Executive Director (Heritage), Railway Ministry.
CR chief PRO, S. Mudgerikar said, “I will have to check if such a letter was sent before commenting.”
“There are too many decisions that have to be taken not just by us but also the ministry. When the government and railway ministry took these structures, the private owners were given compensation against them,” said a senior railway official on condition of anonymity.
“We cannot take it as an individual case, else other private owners who gave their land would come asking for it.”