Piles of paper and furniture mar the splendour of the 210-year-old architectural landmark

A 210-year-old architectural landmark of the city is today a dumping ground. The terraces of Rajaji Hall (earlier known as Banqueting Hall) which hosted meetings of the State Assembly in 1938-39 are now home to piles of paper and furniture belonging to the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission.

The bureaucratic waste that has occupied the premises of the magnificent hall for nearly three years is stalling much-needed maintenance work, say staff at the building.

The structure that was built in the form of a Greek temple and is adorned with rows of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns, comes under the jurisdiction of Public Works Department (PWD).

A senior PWD official, on the condition of anonymity, said that they have written to the TNPSC several times asking them to dispose the waste strewn across the open terraces of the hall. However, the latter has failed to act. Staff members responsible for the maintenance of the hall say that the heritage structure cannot be spruced up unless the waste is cleared.

“We want to renovate this structure. But the procedure to clear the waste means that we will have to wait for some more time to be able to carry out our maintenance work”, said a staff member. The requests to clear the waste get enmeshed in bureaucratic red tape, falling on deaf ears, staff members added.

TNPSC officials however say they began using this structure as a ‘store room’ when they moved out of their previous office near the hall to a makeshift location.

“It was the government that allotted us this structure to keep our files,” they added. “We could not move all of our records from the previous office. So, we use Rajaji Hall. There is a procedure to clear the waste. We have to follow it and the waste will be cleared,” said R. Nataraj, chairman, TNPSC.

The stately building was commissioned by Edward, Lord Clive the Second, (son of Robert Clive of Plassey fame) Governor of Madras between 1798 and 1803. Ever since, the building has undergone renovation and remodelling several times. Today, a visitor would be greeted with heaps of waste strewn across the terraces that are enclosed by rows of arches held together by columns and low walls.

“It is an indication of how we treat our priceless heritage. There is no plan. There is no action. Just neglect. And it is sad that this is happening considering that only recently, they completed restoring the structure,” said V. Sriram, a heritage expert.

Recently, there have been claims that the foundations of the Rajaji Hall were impacted by the construction of the new Assembly-Secretariat complex. A structure constructed by the erstwhile bureaucracy to celebrate the splendour of the Raj is a victim of the apathy of its successors.

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