112-year-old Victoria hostel is decrepit due to bad maintenance

Remember the 19 century General Post Office (GPO) building in Rajaji Salai whose roof collapsed during the monsoon last year?

Come this monsoon and the fate of the Victoria Students’ Hostel could be the same, fear inhabitants of the 112-year-old structure. The building which has been listed as a Grade I heritage structure in the Justice E Padmanabhan Committee report is decrepit due to decades of bad maintenance.

Located in a narrow lane – that bears the same name as the building – in Triplicane, Victoria Students’ Hostel struggles to house over 300 students of Presidency College. With leaking pipelines, dilapidated rooms, broken balconies and decrepit toilets, the building which was established in 1900 by T. Namberumal Chetty wears a haggard look today. At least 20 of over 120 rooms of the building are severely damaged, said A. Muthukumar, a student. “We live in the fear that the roof would come crashing down while we are asleep. I think this is the only hostel where boys still bathe in an open bathing area. And, despite such bad facilities, we pay around Rs. 1, 500 every month as rent,” he said.

Due to lack of space, three or sometimes more people crowd into what are supposed to be single rooms said a hostel official, on condition of anonymity. “We are entirely dependent on the government for proper renovation as we receive paltry sums as funds which quickly disappear in repairing the perennially seeping pipelines,” he said.

After repeated complaints, it was only recently that the special secretary of the government visited the hostel and promised it would be renovated soon, he added.

Asked about the proposal to repair the structure, the officials of the Directorate of Technical Education (DoTE) indicated that a plan for restoration was under way. “The roof is damaged beyond repair and seems likely to collapse; hence we propose to replace it. Plus, the rooms, pipelines and toilets would be fixed and this would cost nearly 2.5 crore,” said an official.

Conservation Architect K. Kalpana noted that realistic assessment by some conservation architects should be done before the government takes up such renovation process. “The signs of leaking pipelines in a building point to the slow killing of the building. During the monsoon, the students should be shifted elsewhere and a temporary support for the building’s beams should be given,” she said.

Officials at DoTE hinted that it may take at least a year for the restoration process to begin.

More In: Chennai