Notice to ex-Delhi Jal Board CEO for wrecking 15th-century monument to build bungalow
The monument was allegedly demolished by the then Delhi Jal Board chief executive officer Udit Prakash Rai to build a new government accommodation for himself
New Delhi: Several political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress, sought action from Delhi lieutenant governor and authorities concerned over the alleged demolition of a 15th-century monument in east Lajpat Nagar’s Jal Vihar in southeast Delhi for the construction of a government bungalow, on Thursday.
The monument was allegedly demolished by the then Delhi Jal Board (DJB) chief executive officer Udit Prakash Rai, a 2007 batch IAS officer. Rai allegedly got the monument demolished to build a new government accommodation for himself. The DJB had fenced the boundary wall and locked the gate and the matter came to light when officials from the Department of Archaeology visited the site in January 2023.
Delhi BJP chief Virendra Sachdeva on Thursday wrote to lieutenant governor (LG) VK Saxena seeking a high-level probe into the matter. “It is shocking that DJB carried out this blatant act of demolishing a monument during the critical Covid phase of 2021 and thereafter a huge bungalow speedily got constructed,” Sachdeva said, demanding a probe into the role of Rai and then minister Satyendar Jain.
Sachdeva alleged that the DJB demolished the monument without the approval of the ASI and the Delhi Urban Arts Commission or the erstwhile South Delhi Municipal Corporation.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government’s vigilance department on Wednesday issued a show-cause notice to Rai. HT reached out to Rai but he did not respond to queries regarding the matter.
According to the notice issued by the vigilance department, which HT has seen, the monument located in southeast Delhi’s Jal Vihar finds . mention in the Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) list of Muhammadan and Hindu monuments and is identified as “Mahal”. It was built during the Sayyid rule in Delhi in 1418.
The notice said that after visiting the site in January 2021, the Department of Archaeology wrote to the DJB seeking possession of the monument and a gateway for conservation. However, when the department returned to the site in January 2023, it found that the monument had vanished and a government bungalow stood in its place.
According to the list, the structure, made of brick masonry and red sandstone, comprised three arched courtyards on the north and south, each flanked by two compartments at either wing.
TMC MP Mahua Moitra also sought clarity from the ASI and the culture ministry on the matter. “Only in India. Fifteenth-century monument demolished to construct govt officer’s bungalow. Are the ASI and Ministry of Culture napping yet again? Urging G Kishan Reddy (Union minister for culture and tourism) to look at this,” tweeted Moitra.
However, the ASI officials said that the monument did not fall under its jurisdiction and was not centrally protected.
The notice also said that DJB was in touch with the archaeology department regarding the handover of the monument till January 2021 but the communication came to a halt after Rai took charge with effect from November 2021. It said that the communication was stopped and the construction of the residence was taken up in the meantime.
The notice also said that Rai was responsible for the demolition, violating residential accommodation rules. It added that while Rai was entitled to a type V government housing, the built-up area of the newly constructed house replacing the monument was 700 sqm, which exceeded the prescribed area of 403 sqm.
The vigilance department has asked Rai to submit a reply within two weeks of the receipt of the notice.