44 heritage havelis in Old Delhi face threat, says Union minister Vijay Goel
At least 44 notified heritage properties in the Walled City have fallen prey to unauthorised construction, Union minister and former Chandni Chowk MP Vijay Goel said on Monday.
The minister said havelis, including those having historical significance, have either been converted into commercial complexes or multi-storeyed residential buildings.
Goel, founder of the Heritage India Foundation (HIF), the said worst-affected neighbourhoods are Kucha Pati Ram area of Sita Ram Bazaar and Ballimaran.
The foundation works for conservation and protection of the heritage and historical inheritance.
“At least 44 havelis have already been destroyed. Corrupt officials of the corporation are unable to prevent these structures and stop illegal constructions. Now, a big building has come up just opposite Town Hall,” Goel said at a press conference held at his residence.
Blaming the civic agency and the state government for the mess and illegal construction in old Delhi, Goel said immediate attention is required to protect heritage in Chandni Chowk or else it would turn into a ‘concrete slum’.
The Walled city has 783 heritage structures, including 229 historical buildings indentified and notified by the state archaeology department.
“I myself complained to the municipal commissioner and the deputy commissioner of the area about illegal construction in havelis but no action was taken. The Shahjahanabad Redevelopment Development Corporation (SRDC), set up for conserve and promote heritage in old Delhi, has also been ineffective and is only passing proposals,” Goel said.
A Delhi government official associated with the Shahjahanabad redevelopment project said Goel might be right and so a proper investigation should be initiated to find out the exact number of havelis that have been damaged.
“It is quite possible that new construction may have been raised after demolishing notified havelis. The SRDC has been forwarding complaints about illegal construction in heritage properties to the North Delhi Municipal Corporation. It is civic agency’s responsibility to keep a check on them,” the official said.
But a senior municipal official privy to the development said the complaints were sent to the corporation way back in 2016.
“No other complaint was received recently. We frequently take action against illegal construction wherever we find it. Recently, we sealed 10 properties in old Delhi for raising unauthorised construction,” said the official.
In April, the Delhi High Court had termed destruction of old Delhi havelis as “extremely serious” and sought responses from the municipal corporation and Delhi Police after a petition highlighted unauthorised construction in heritage structures, including at Haksar ki haveli in Churiwalan, where former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru married Kamala Nehru in 1916.
Goel is also organising a march in Chandni Chowk on July 5 to create awareness about heritage in old Delhi. Several experts and historians are likely to be present on the occasion.