Listed heritage buildings in Raja Mehta ni Pol: (Left) Then; (Right) Now
The model comes with a cheat sheet for blatantly defying heritage laws, tweaking documents, missing files, and how to skip past objections raised by any department against commercial development. This is the story of India’s first and only Unesco inscribed World Heritage City (WHC) getting lost to not because it’s a war-torn zone like in case of world heritage sites in the middle east, but to red tape, official apathy and the sheer numbness of the official machinery.
To begin with, the bustling Raja Mehta ni Pol has seven listed heritage properties giving way to commercial development over the last couple of years. TOI has RTI replies to applications filed by pol residents to show how a helpless Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) kept informing the town planning department, central zone office and municipal commissioner since March 3, 2014 of heritage buildings being pulled down in the pol.
In case of survey number 1211, HCC chairman P K Ghosh requests the municipal commissioner that the “owner has not followed the condition for repairs” and that directions be given to stop the construction activity. A new building has come in its place and it is commercial. Like this, there are several listed heritage buildings with survey numbers 1338, 1066, 1512, 1093, 989/A, B, 1018-1019 and some in areas like Tola ni Pol, Laxminarayan ni Pol, Brahmpuri ni Pol, Totraji ni Pol, Nani Brahmpuri , Kanjadi walo Khancho following similar suit.
In case of a building in Khadia with city survey number 531, the HCC had informed the building plan scrutiny department in Mithakali that the building was a notified heritage property. “The letter never reached the estate department or the central zone office,” says Pankaj Bhatt a resident of Kalupur. “In fact, in the RTI reply the central zone office had mentioned that the letter was missing from records.”
Another resident from Raja Mehta ni Pol, Bharat Mistry, adds, “Plans for repairs of listed heritage buildings are passed for residential purposes and are converted into commercial. Authorities have stopped coming to our pols. They don’t taken pictures. Our lanes are choked with vehicles and tempos. Most of the homes in our pol are being converted into godowns. It is a sad state of affairs.”