Even as the clamour for pulling down a century-old G-Block in the Secretariat complex, a notified heritage building, is rising following the collapse of the City Light Hotel and Bakery building, there is a sharp division of opinion among senior bureaucrats.
Heritage lovers insist that it is criminal to pull down a part of ancient history first by neglecting it for years and then labelling it as unsafe. The structure built in classical European style served as the centre of administration during the Nizam’s era and later when half a dozen Chief Ministers ran the affairs of the State from it.
Wary of taking a decision on the block in view of its heritage tag, the departments of Municipal Administration and Urban Development, R&B and General Administration are unwilling to take a stand. “We have forwarded the report of structural engineers to the MA&UD. It is for the department to move the file,” said R&B sources.
The Municipal Administration officials on the other hand said they had engaged a conservation engineer and architect who examined the structure and gave an estimate of Rs. 3 crore for the conservation work.
“Money is not an issue for conserving and preserving the structure. What is needed is clarity on the part of the decision-makers whether to conserve it or allow its demolition. The General Administration Department has to take the call,” said an official.
The matter was earlier handled by then Chief Secretary Minnie Mathew who was not in favour of demolition and suggested that efforts be made to preserve the building. Several senior officials too were also not in favour of bringing down the structure.
A former heritage conservation committee member said that about 10 years ago, when it was proposed to demolish G-Block and construct a new building, a petition was filed against the proposal in the court. The High Court then directed the government to take the views of the committee. In 2005, the committee recommended that the heritage building be preserved.
The government let the structure further deteriorate by prevaricating over the issue.
“If public safety is their concern, they should barricade it and start the conservation work without further delay,” said an official.
No engineer will vouch for the safety of a neglected building.
“But, when heritage buildings, which are of several hundred years old and well maintained and preserved are safe, why should one hesitate to preserve this building?” he asked.