LIC denied permission to “modify” Bharat Insurance Building

Bharat Insurance Building is set to continue standing as it is.

On Friday, the 115-year-old heritage structure, received a reprieve with the heritage conservation committee of the Chennai metropolitan area, rejecting a proposal to carry out “major modifications” on it.

The building has been mired in controversy for six years now, after its owners, the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), planned to demolish it.

The demolition was stayed by the Madras High Court, following a public interest litigation filed by INTACH in 2006. In 2010, LIC approached the Supreme Court against the Madras High Court’s stay order.

The apex court directed LIC to obtain permission from the heritage conservation committee before carrying out any modifications, said an official of the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA).

This week, LIC asked the heritage committee to permit them to modify the building into a “completely modern glass structure,” said the CMDA official.

A presentation was made to the committee on the proposed modifications.

“The proposal has been rejected, as LIC’s intention is not to restore the building. They want to change the entire structure,” the CMDA official added.

CMDA sources further said that had permission been granted to modify the building, the result would be the demolition of a large chunk of the structure, leading to the loss of its intrinsic heritage value.

Firm directive

The committee has made it clear to LIC that it can only refurbish the building without altering its existing architecture. With this directive, LIC will not be able to demolish any portion of the building or modify the structure, the official added.

The decision, CMDA official said, was in accordance with the goal of heritage conservation, as envisaged in the second master plan formulated for the city.

The Bharat Insurance Building is on a list of buildings included in the recent report of the Justice E. Padmanabhan Committee on hoardings.

As Chennai still does not have a complete inventory of heritage structures, this list has been taken into account on a temporary basis.

The heritage committee is also in the process of collecting data on heritage buildings of the State government, Central government, Railways, private entities, banks and institutions, memorials, places of worship and cemeteries.

The process of compilation is underway. After the list is readied, the government will notify the complete list of heritage buildings in the Chennai metropolitan area.

Rains wreak havoc

On Friday, rains inundated the premises of the building, which had no supporting scaffolding. There were also signs the building was weakening under the onslaught of the rains. Several creepers and weeds have taken over the dilapidated structure, and, as the monsoon season has set in, its condition is bound to deteriorate.

More In: Chennai