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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Lack of funds hits Viceregal Lodge’s restoration work

A plan for its restoration was prepared in 2013, wherein the repair’s cost was estimated at Rs 92 crore

india Updated: Aug 14, 2019 22:43 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times, Shimla
Algae and mosses on the outer structure of the Viceregal Lodge in Shimla.
Algae and mosses on the outer structure of the Viceregal Lodge in Shimla.(Deepak Sansta/HT)

Viceregal Lodge is one of the few buildings that had been witness to country’s freedom. But, lack of funds has apparently hit restoration work of the building – that houses premier Indian Institute of Advanced Studies – and plans for its preservation are gathering dust.

The Lodge was summer residence of Indian viceroy during the British rule, who governed India between 1886 to 1946.

During the British Raj, several significant strategies were devised and discussed upon in the building that post-independence was converted into a Rashtrapati Niwas.

Built over the observatory hill and spread over 110 acres, the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies had in 2013 drawn a master plan for the restoration of this majestic building, which still attracts tourists in large numbers. More than 1.6 lakh tourists had visited the Viceregal Lodge in 2018.

According to estimates drawn in 2013, the total cost of restoration of the main building was calculated at ₹92 crore. The proposals were cleared by the institute’s governing body and were further sent to the ministry of human resource development.

“For the past six years, the building is awaiting funds. Back portion of the structure is bearing the brunt of weather,” said an official, who did not wish to be named.

He added that the institute only had funds to carry out routine repairs. “There is a dire need to restore the British-era structure,” the official maintained.

Vagaries of weather have caused delamination of cobblestones used in its construction. Repeated alterations over the time have often compromised the building’s historic interiors and extensive water ingress and leakages are threatening the architectural safety of the building.

There are deep structural cracks on the south face of the building. Cracks are visible in the lower basement and service area near the kitchen. Weathering of stone joints and delamination of stone masonry can be witnessed in large parts of the building too.

The overlay of modern interventions, such as changes in toilet fittings, has resulted in deterioration of the structure. Modern fittings in the washrooms has purportedly resulted in water leakages.

Built in 1888, the building hosted historic Simla Conference — a meeting between the Viceroy of India, Lord Wavell, and political leaders of the All-India Muslim League and the Indian National Congress.

The meeting was to advance India towards self-rule. The conference was to propose constitution of a new executive council. It was intended to be an entirely Indian council with equal number of Hindus and Muslims.

The conference continued from June 29 till July 14. It was attended by leaders, including Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Maulana Azad, Liaquat Ali Khan and Master Tara Singh. Mahatama Gandhi was also in Shimla, but did not attend the meeting.

The meeting staggered till the viceroy admitted that it was a failure.

First Published: Aug 14, 2019 22:42 IST

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