Pune Municipal Corporation officials offer lip service on Zero Stone restoration
City historian Mandar Lawate said that the Zero Stone was an important milestone as it was always installed outside the GPO by the British and was used to measure the distance between towns and cities.Updated: Jul 05, 2017 15:15 IST
Displaying complete lack of sensitivity towards the city’s heritage, Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) heritage cell executive engineer Harshada Shinde said on Tuesday that she was unaware of the significance of heritage structure Zero Stone outside the General Post Office on Sadhu Vaswani Mission Road in the city.
The Hindustan Times has been highlighting the need for restoration and beautification of the heritage monument lying utterly neglected under the watch of PMC.
The 0 km or the 0 mile milestone is a very important part of a city’s heritage as that marks the point from where distances are measured between cities. It is thus the oldest milestone of the city, not necessarily located in its oldest locality.
City historian Mandar Lawate said that the Zero Stone was an important milestone as it was always installed outside the GPO by the British and was used to measure the distance between towns and cities. “The British considered the post office as a central place and counted the kilometres from there,” he said.
While some years ago, the Zero Stone was half-buried under the pavement as a result of carelessness on the part of a civic contractor, the structure is now used as a storage spot for brooms and sundry items by a roadside tea vendor.
Last week, Pune postmaster general Ganesh Sawaleshwarkar told Hindustan Times that since the Zero Stone was located on a footpath maintained by the PMC, outside the premises of the GPO, it was for the PMC to undertake its maintenance and beautification. As a temporary measure, the GPO could provide a canopy to offer some protection and mark its significance, he said.
Shinde said she would await a letter from the GPO about their proposal, “whereupon it will be presented to the heritage committee and then we will take a decision”. She said she had joined the heritage cell recently and needed time to check the status of the structure.
Sham Dhavale, former executive engineer of PMC Heritage said that he was happy that Hindustan Times was relentlessly reporting on the neglect of the Zero Stone and creating awareness about it.
Dhavale said that during his tenure he had created a raised platform and had stone pavings fitted around the structure but somehow, over the years, it got neglected. “It is our moral duty to protect our heritage sites,” he said.
Reacting to the reportage by HT, conservation architect Kiran Kalamdani sent HT a sketch of the beautification that could be undertaken by the PMC to protect the Zero Stone.
“When I read the story in HT about the postmaster general showing keen interest in helping to preserve this heritage monument, I made a special sketch to show how the Zero stone could be protected,” said Kalamdani. He suggested that a finely dressed basalt stone column and pediments should be used in the beautification as a tribute to Andrea Palladio, whose designs were used in building the GPO.
“There will also be a signage on the pediment explaining the historic importance of the stone. It will cost approximately Rs two lakhs,” he said.