ASI fails to stop encroachments

NEW DELHI NOV. 24. It might be a week to celebrate heritage for the Archeological Survey of India. But if the condition of some of their "protected'' monuments is anything to go by, there seems to be very little to celebrate.

And probably, nothing illustrates this point more than the recent High Court ruling which directs demolition of Delhi Development Authority Officer's Club by November 29, which is built well within the "prohibited'' area of 300 metres of the Siri Fort wall, a "protected'' monument.

But while the ASI might succeed in getting the Club demolished, there are other "protected'' monuments within the Siri Fort area, which have not only been encroached upon, but have structures built much closer to them than the Officer's Club. And the demolition of this one structure will not save the crumbling walls of Siri Fort.

Not far away from the Siri Wall is the Tohfe Wala Gumbad -- while a blue ASI board declares it "protected'' and warns anyone against damaging it -- a brick wall is built right on top of existing wall of the building. It also has a government school right next to it.

The Baradari in Shahpurjat village, which dates back to the Khilji period, is difficult to find in the midst of small by- lanes of this urban village. Used as a buffalo shed, this ancient monument has been "grabbed'' and if it weren't for the arches it would be difficult to recognise it as a piece of history.

While protection doesn't automatically guarantee survival in ASI regime, the blame can't entirely lie on their shoulders. As urban villages are part of what was earlier known as the `Lal Dora' area and building regulations are not always adhered to.

During the 1900, a red line was drawn around villages, which restricted them from expanding beyond these lines. However, after Independence, when most of these villages became urban villages, it became mandatory for all buildings within this area to conform to city building bylaws, but this did not always happen. While the Municipal Corporation of Delhi claims that by the time these village become urban, they had already violated the laws. Unfortunately, monuments have the most to loose in this situation.