Chandigarh admn should proactively stop theft of heritage items: French embassy attaché
The official, who was in the city, said the Chandigarh administration needed to investigate the cases of theft of heritage furniture thoroughly before taking up the issue with the governments concerned through the Union ministry of external affairs to stop the auction of such items
Police attaché of the French Embassy in India, police commissioner Fabrice Cotelle on Wednesday blamed the UT administration for not taking any steps to stop the pilferage of Chandigarh’s heritage furniture to other countries.
Cotelle, who was in the city, said the administration needed to investigate the cases of theft of heritage furniture thoroughly before taking up the issue with the governments concerned through the Union ministry of external affairs (MEA) to stop the auction of such items.
In the past few years, heritage furniture from Chandigarh has been sold off in various countries. According to police records, eight cases related to theft of heritage furniture are pending in Chandigarh, but there has been no progress.
Cotelle’s visit to Chandigarh followed the meeting of the French delegation in November last year.
On Wednesday, Cotelle also met the Chandigarh DGP and SSP to seek their assistance in checking smuggling of heritage items from the city.
During the meeting, UT officers assured to mutually share information to bring evidence on record, and then formally explore the legal channel to stop smuggling of heritage items.
On November 17 last year, a delegation from the Le Corbusier Foundation, during their visit, had given several suggestions for handling heritage items. The administration had made many promises, which remain on paper.
Foundation’s director Brigittee Bouvier had termed the smuggling and auctioning of Chandigarh’s heritage furniture unfortunate, stating that it needed to be protected by all means.
Cotelle said to stop smuggling, he had even sought the CBI’s intervention, but the agency refused. He said CBI can investigate theft of antique items, but heritage items of Chandigarh do not come under the category. The French government was serious about the maintenance of heritage, he said.
According to the Chandigarh Heritage Inventory Committee in 2012, Chandigarh has 12,793 heritage items, made and used by French architect Le Corbusier, his cousin and Swiss architect Pierre Jeanneret and others associated with the founding and planning of the city in the 1950s and 60s.
Since the ’90s, the heritage furniture, made primarily from locally available material such as teak and cane, and cushioned with sturdy cotton fabrics, has been finding its way to auction houses of other countries and is being auctioned for crores of rupees, despite a 2011 order by the Union home ministry, banning the sale and export of Chandigarh’s heritage furniture.