Gone are the days when Delhi’s Superintending Archaeologist could enjoy the sunset over the Safdarjung Tomb while on his way back from work. The Delhi Circle Office of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) moved from the 260-year-old Tomb to the new General Pool Office Complex — a maze of high rises whose name matches the absence of aesthetic and amenities in it.
The ASI has held fort at the Safdarjung Tomb since the Delhi Circle was created in 1972 out of the erstwhile Northern Circle based in Dehradun.
“The upkeep of the tomb and the surrounding monuments in Lodi Gardens improved due to the proximity of the Superintending Archaeologist to them. The pathways and gardens were also created during the same time. The key feature of the tomb was the Circle Library, a Mecca for researchers in the fields of archaeology, art and architecture,” Delhi Superintending Archaeologist Vasant Swarnkar told The Hindu.
The library, which comprises 12,000 books, was located in the chambers below the domed ramparts of the tomb. ASI sources say they are not satisfied with the library room allotted by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) at their new office at Puratatva Bhawan, in Block D of the General Pool Office Complex.
“What is worse is that no one can find this place. Earlier, everyone knew that they had to take a bus till the Tomb or exit at the Jor Bagh metro station to reach our office. But now, people get lost while walking from the INA metro station. We shifted here on June 9, but a phone got installed only by June 24 after pulling a line from a telephone pillar on the road. The CPWD has still not given us internal connections for the phone lines, so people can’t even call us for directions,” a senior officer revealed.
He added: “This is a concrete jungle with cable jutting out and falling ceilings. The centralised air conditioning does not work in many rooms. There is no water supply, so we end up spending Rs.430 from our pocket on 10 water cans everyday. Don’t even ask what we do when we need to use the restroom.”
The most important public interface of the ASI with the public is issuing permissions for filming, photography and drawing for researchers. The Circle Office is the nodal office for these permits. Mr. Swarnkar confirmed that on an average, 50 permits are issued each month, although only urgent ones have been issued this month. He currently uses his personal data card as internet facilities have also not come through.
ASI sources allege that they were made to move as the Culture Ministry needed to occupy the building, which they had booked several years ago.
“No one else was willing and we were made the scapegoats,” a senior archaeologist told The Hindu. Joint Secretary Sanjiv Mittal, who supervises the ASI at the Ministry, claimed ignorance about the troubles at the General Pool Office Complex.
The unlikely beneficiaries of the move are Delhi's lovers.
“Before 1972, the Tomb was the favourite hangout of couples. Some come back even today. When the Superintending Archaeologist was here, the couples were shy, but they are back now that they are away from prying eyes,” a monument attendant claimed.