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Delhi: Pragati Maidan’s Hall of Nations demolition triggers outrage

About half a dozen bulldozers worked overnight on Sunday at Pragati Maidan to pull down five iconic buildings — Hall of Nations and Industry. Next to come under the hammer is Nehru Pavilion.

delhi Updated: May 01, 2017 09:09 IST
Sanjeev K Ahuja
Sanjeev K Ahuja
Hindustan Times

About half a dozen bulldozers worked overnight on Sunday at Pragati Maidan to pull down five iconic buildings — Hall of Nations and Industry. Next to come under the hammer is Nehru Pavilion.

Indian trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) razed the structures two days after their architect Raj Rewal lost the case in Delhi high court on April 20. Conservationists are perplexed as the demolition took place as one petition by Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) to save these structures is still being heard in the same court with next hearing slated for May 1.

ITPO is setting up a world-class Integrated Exhibition-cum-Convention Centre (IECC) with project value of Rs2,254 crore. The complex will have hotel, mall/multi-level food court, water bodies display, helipad and other tourist attractions.

Read more:Pragati Maidan makeover mired in legal trouble, could miss deadline

The five structures — one of Hall of Nations and four of Hall of Industries — were commissioned in 1972 and the architect claims that these were the world’s first pillar less concrete frame structures.

AGK Menon, former convener, Delhi Chapter INTACH said, “It’s all over now. As the ITPO did not wait for the court to pronounce its decision, we have lost all hope. Hall of Nations was demolished quietly on Sunday night when the entire world slept. As these iconic buildings no more exist, we cannot move the apex court.”

The Hall of Nations was the venue of Asia 1972 — the third Asian International Trade Fair coinciding with the India’s silver jubilee year of Independence.

The Hall of Nations was constructed in 1972.
The Hall of Nations was constructed in 1972. ( Handout )

In a joint statement by architect Raj Rewal, structural engineer Mahendra Raj, former convener of INTACH, Delhi Chapter AGK Menon and president, Indian Institute of Architects Divya Kush said, “We consider the demolition of the Hall of Nations at Pragati Maidan an act of outrage. The case was being heard in the Delhi high court and the hearings were scheduled on April 27 and May 1, 2017.”

“In fact as an answer to our letter to the Prime Minister, the ministry of commerce indicated to us to find an amicable resolution with the trade fair authority. But obviously somebody in the ITPO had other motives,” the statement said.

In a written statement, ITPO CMD LC Goyal said the execution of IECC requires dismantling of Hall No. 1 to 6, 14 to 20 and state pavilions, including Hall of Nations, Nehru Pavilion and Hall of Industry — which he claimed are not classified as heritage buildings.

“Earlier a PIL and two writ petitions filed by India Institute of Architects in Court of Delhi were dismissed. Presently, a writ petition filed by INTACH is pending in the high court of Delhi. The high court on April 20, 2017, has dismissed another writ petition filed by Raj Rewal seeking to declare and preserve Hall of Nations, Hall of Industry and Nehru Pavilion as work of art of national importance. An appeal has been filed against the dismissal, but there is no stay granted by the court in any of the writ petitions against demolition of structures envisaged in the re-development of Pragati Maidan,” Goyal said.

Goyal said the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) has maintained that only those buildings which are at least 60 years old can be considered for inclusion in the heritage list.