A flyover is fine, but can we please have the entrance to our city’s landmark back'
Calcutta High Court on Thursday directed the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC) to clear the mess it has created in front of the south gate to Victoria Memorial while constructing the AJC Bose Road flyover.
The bench, comprising Justice A.K. Ganguly and Justice D.P. Sengupta, asked HRBC to act immediately, following a complaint filed by the Memorial authorities, alleging that fly-ash and other building material dumped in front of the gate was creating a pollution hazard in the area. They also complained to the court that visitors could not enter the grounds through the southern gate, because of the garbage dump.
The court asked the Victoria Memorial authorities to issue photo–identity cards to its employees within a fortnight to restrain unauthorised persons from staying on the campus. Hastings police station has been directed to tender all help to the Memorial authorities in evicting unauthorised squatters from the quarters on the premises.
On the matter of rainwater seeping into the historic building, the court asked the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to file an affidavit stating the steps it has taken to repair the roof. Environmental activist and petitioner in the case Subhas Dutta, quoting from the affidavit submitted by the ASI before the court on Thursday, told the bench that it had only started the patchwork on the Memorial roof.
“The ASI had been asked to repair the roof in 1991. What has it been doing for the past 12 years'” demanded Dutta.
The ASI (Calcutta) blamed it on Delhi, which, it alleged, was delaying diversion of funds for the repairs. “As per the rule, the Memorial sends the money collected from gate receipts to the ASI (Delhi) which, in turn, sends the amount to Calcutta. While the Memorial authorities are sending the amount on time, the Delhi office is delaying disbursement of the same to its Calcutta unit,” the ASI camp argued.
The bench then ordered that henceforth, the Memorial authorities could hand over the amount directly to ASI (Calcutta).
Victoria Memorial curator C.R. Panda, in his affidavit before the court, confirmed petitioner Dutta’s allegations that heavy pollution in the surrounding area was taking its toll on the “beauty and outer surface” of the monument.
Panda told the court that rainwater leaks from the roof had damaged some important documents and paintings.
The curator also informed the court that he had failed to evict at least 56 persons who were illegally occupying the quarters on the campus, meant for Memorial employees. Panda sought a directive regarding the eviction of these unauthorised settlers, while assuring the bench that a building would be constructed outside the Memorial premises to provide accommodation to the employees.