Kolkata

Former government power house now gives heebie-jeebies

Broken furniture and dangling wires complete the abandoned look at Writers Building now. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

Broken furniture and dangling wires complete the abandoned look at Writers Building now. Photo: Sushanta Patronobish  

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After Mamata shifted out, only five of 30 departments are located in Writers Building

Writers Building, the Raj-era heritage structure that has traditionally been the seat of the West Bengal government, now looks almost like a haunted house — nine months after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee shifted out, saying that the centuries-old structure needed renovation.

Many were incredulous when Ms. Banerjee first announced her intent last August, to move out of the iconic seat of power to a location on the west bank of the Hooghly. But true to her word, along with 11 departments and key officials, Ms. Banerjee shifted out in October and the secretariat has been operating ever since, from a multi-storey building owned by a government undertaking . The move was unprecedented.

With the hustle and bustle being gone out of the structure, it is now a shadow of its former self and its vacant spaces, high ceilings, and dangling wires etch out a light and shade matrix even during daytime. After sundown, most of the employees who work at the departments still housed there are keen to make a quick exit. And, everyone is keen not to be the last one out.

Says a woman employee, who works at the one of the departments that are still located at Writers Building, “It feels scary after dark. I try to finish my work, so that I can leave. I am afraid of getting locked in this entire building which now has so few people.” Of the 30 government departments, five are still located here.

Security too is lax with very few VIPs around. Most of the gates are closed and moss and fern grows out of the sand bags that were kept as buffers at the many entrances of this once access-controlled building.

Writers Building dates back to the last quarter of the eighteenth century when the main building was originally designed, according to official sources.

For years, it provided accommodation to the East India Company’s junior clerks called writers. It underwent a transformation in the 1880s when it acquired its red brick-style look.

Till the time when the British ruled India from here, Writers Building was a power centre and was witness to one of the most daring acts – an armed-assault on some officers of the British government by a group of three young revolutionaries — some in their teens – Benoy, Badal, and Dinesh (after whom the BBD Bag takes its name).

However, through the years, with the expansion of the government, the building underwent many ad hoc expansions and alterations with crammed cubbyholes and cables and AC ducts springing up everywhere. It was in this backdrop that the renovation was planned.

Work has begun on the renovation in consultation with the Bengal Science and Engineering College and Jadavpur University, and the government has assured that all statutory heritage bodies will be consulted and inputs taken from them.

The government also said that particular sensitivities would be honoured.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 5:45:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/former-government-power-house-now-gives-heebiejeebies/article6230359.ece

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