Gurugram’s heritage structures fall into disrepair, courtesy official apathy
The department of archaeology and museums has no curator, conservation expert and surveyor to do its job of protecting Gurugram’s monuments. Lack of political will and poor awareness among the people ensure there is no hope for the decaying, decrepit historical structures.gurgaon Updated: Aug 12, 2018 06:47 IST
Worn out plaster, chipping paint, cracked roofs, decrepit structures and encroached is how most of the heritage structures in Gurugram are. No wonder, the city, despite having a significant number of historical structures, fails to attract tourists. Those under state protection lack visitor-friendly infrastructure, others which are not have either been encroached or facing extinction.
Damaged by the vagaries of time and human apathy, these remnants of history are waiting for a fresh lease of life. But the process of restoring these monuments to their past glory is difficult and must overcome several hurdles.
The Department of Archaeology and Museums is tasked with the upkeep and maintenance of heritage structures in Haryana. It came into existence in the shape of a cell under the Control of Education department in 1969. It became an independent department in 1972 with a small staff and a meagre budget.
Four decades later, the body continues to be crippled by a shortage of staff and budget. The government is struggling to carry out the recruitment of technical staff and experts in the department. Banani Bhattacharyya, deputy director, Department of Archaeology & Museums, said vacancies are being advertised since 2010 but getting the right people to fulfil the posts is difficult.
“There is no technical staff. We do not have many archaeologists. There is no assistant curator, no conservation expert and no surveyor. We have been advertising the posts since 2010 but have not been able to get staff. Finding the right candidates, who match the qualifications, is difficult,” said Bhattacharyya.
The process of taking up heritage sites for conservation is also slow and tedious. Many sites are mired in litigation or fall in Lal Dora areas. “We have surveyed monuments across the state and sought information from different district administrators so that we can proceed with the listing process. Many sites fall in Lal Dora areas and taking possession of them requires approval from the district commissioner. These issues need to be sorted before any action can be taken,” said Bhattacharyya.
With the state department struggling to manage the sites under its protection, expecting maintenance of other structures is a long shot, say experts.
“The government protects 33 sites. They are not even able to maintain the sites that are under their protection, leave alone expanding the list or doing anything beyond that,” said Parul Munjal, associate professor, Sushant School of Art and Architecture.
“The district administration office has no capacity within the organization to address the aspect of heritage. However, there is potential to improve the state of affairs by bringing in people who are oriented to make heritage a part of the discussion. If corrective steps are not taken, the city’s heritage will continue to remain stuck between the state department, which is unable to fulfil its role, and the district administration, which has no capacity to maintain them,” said Munjal.
Heritage experts pointed out that monuments located in south Haryana suffer due to lack of documented history. There is hardly any information beyond what is mentioned in the gazetteer.
“There was a huge amount of turmoil in this region because of which there is hardly any historical documentation available except for the gazetteer,” explained Munjal.
The fact that Gurugram is far from the state capital also influences the attention of the government, Munjal said. “The Capital being Chandigarh, they (officials) sit so far away from the city. There are no local offices here. The situation is way better in Chandigarh or northern Haryana,” she said.
KC Yadav, historian, said there is a dearth of institutions that enable people to interact with heritage and cultural activities in the southern parts of the state. Yadav recalls how the previous government under Bhupinder Singh Hooda had commissioned him to establish a one-of-its-kind body known as the Haryana Academy of History and Culture.
“The body was the first of its kind and had a very rich collection of books and artefacts. In 2008, when the academy was to come up, officers said that it was going to be set up in Chandigarh since all other academies were based there. I objected and said that it should be in Gurugram, near Delhi, so that it would bring the crowd from the Capital. Delhi’s consciousness about heritage and history would rub off on it,” said Yadav, who was the founding director of the academy.
With its office in Haryana Institute of public administration (HIPA), the academy was mandated to document, compile, and publish books relating to the history of Haryana.
“We set up a library which served as a repository of records concerning the state. People from Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard used to visit it,” said Yadav.
In July 2016, the Khattar government ordered the relocation of the academy from Gurugram to Kurukshetra, depriving the city of the premier institute.“When the government decided to move the academy to Kurukshetra, I told them that they were destroying it. It would break the flow of visitors. However, no one listened. Now, it’s in a pretty bad shape. The institution has almost been destroyed,” said Yadav.
Poor visitor experience
Protection of monuments in an isolated manner that doesn’t factor in the needs of visitors is also a dampener. With an absence of visitor interpretation, heritage enthusiasts say that there are hardly any incentives for people to visit heritage sites. The lack of facilities for visitors deters first-time visitors and spreads negative word-of-mouth publicity instead.
“If the intention is to promote tourism, at least the basics have to be taken care of. There are no signages, in terms of interpretive signs. There is nobody to share information about the site. There are no facilities for visitors. One has to even struggle to find out the nearest washroom,” said Munjal.
Navin Piplani, a conservation architect, said the government had failed in introducing the city’s heritage to the people. “I meet people who tell me that they are going to Delhi for heritage activities. This means that the people know what heritage is, they are aware and hence they are going. If such places are present in Gurugram itself, they’ll visit the places too. For this to happen, the government needs to ensure that visitors have a takeaway value,” said Piplani.
No incentive to preserve
While the city is making great strides towards urbanisation, heritage has taken a back seat. With growing pressure of commercialisation, heritage structures owned by private individuals are disappearing by the day.
“No incentives are being offered to people who take care of these structures. What motivation do they have to undertake the maintenance of these historical places? Due to increasing pressure of commercialisation, new structures are coming up in their place which are completely devoid of the characteristics of the original period they belonged to,” said Munjal.
Piplani added that it was crucial that the government offered incentives to people to own up to their heritage.
“Gurugram has enough to be called a heritage city. However, this requires that the government makes necessary efforts to preserve the heritage for the people of Gurugram,” he said.
First Published: Aug 12, 2018 06:47 IST