Attention – Due To Allegations of Plagiarism, This Article Is Highly Suspect 

In the United Kingdom, which has many historical structures, the buildings which are listed or which lie within a conservation area are protected by law. Any repairs, alterations and modifications that are required to be done are meant to be done by firms and architects who are qualified in restoration work and who will keep the historical and heritage aspect in mind while undertaking repairs. Such a requirement has actually put an enormous burden on the traditional landed aristocracy, who without their feudal incomes to under write their expenses find it difficult to maintain the heritage status on many of the buildings that are part of the estate. 

 

In India, we face an unfortunately different situation. Although we may have as many and more ancient monuments and heritage sites to be proud of and preserve, our priorities are different. Instead of preserving our culture and history as living reminders from the past, we are busy being pragmatic and conserving the present instead of the past. This is sad. 

 

The Indian Express reports that in Delhi, old buildings and structures are being mercilessly razed by builder’s mafias so that they can build residential flats there and sell them make a fast buck. Delhi is effectively today a city of migrants, a city without roots or a soul and the only place that one might find some vestiges of it are in the old walled city of Old Delhi. Although Delhi as a city is full of ruins and most of these ruins are of huge historical value, the heritage buildings of the walled city of old Delhi have a special charm of their own because it is a living and breathing city, unlike the ruins of Tughlakabad or Mehrauli. 295 

 

The question will never be fully settled- is the past more important than the present and in terms of our planning, priorities and budgetary allocation. Ultimately in a country like India, a developing country, never mind its current economic boom, the choice would be dictated by budgetary constraints and compromises necessitated by our huge population and inward migration into Delhi. If the city is not to be swathed by slums and shanties even more than it already is, vacant space needs to be cleared to make space for planned low cost housing, to that extent; some compromises might need to be made with preserving heritage sites, even though this might be sad. We don’t have a cash rich National Trust like in the UK to own, preserve, maintain and even make some profits out of these precious sites. The supposedly autonomous, government funded INTACH whose web site is even hosted on government servers is a very poor country cousin. 453 

 

So what is the lament about? it is about this, that even after taking into account all the ground realities in Delhi and the fact that we do not live in a perfect world, the 2021 Master plan for Delhi has set a renewal plan for Old Delhi under the ‘special area’ plan keeping in mind at least some, if not all of the unique characteristics that make the walled city what it is. But the pity is that even those are being flouted.

The Indian Express story goes onto say that as the construction boom goes on; more areas of the WalledCity are coming under the builder’s hammer. Kucha Chelan and Lal Gali in Delhi Gate bazaar and Gali Kale Khan in Pataudi House have nothing but flats. And Chitli Qabar, Gali Shankar and Matia Mahal are next in the line. Such rampant construction has disfigured the area’s heritage character. There are havelis now that are left only with their majestic gates; the rest constitutes flats and shops and with the nexus between builders, civic officials and local politicians, none of whom it would appear had history in their text books, the only heritage we will soon have left will be blocks of brick and concrete.

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