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Court call for Victoria upkeep

Calcutta High Court on Tuesday passed several directives to reduce the burden of pollution on the Victoria Memorial Hall. The court also directed the authorities to take appropriate steps to save the structure, as well as the valuable documents kept inside.

A division bench of Calcutta High Court, comprising Justice Ashok Ganguly and Justice Sailendra Prasad Talukdar, directed the Calcutta Police to evict all squatters residing in the quarters inside the Memorial compound as soon as possible.

The Hall authorities had allegedly faced resistance earlier while trying to evict the settlers, and had lodged a complaint with Hastings police station against them.

The court also asked the state pollution control board (PCB) to file a status report, after conducting the necessary tests, on the pollution levels at the Memorial and its surrounding areas within a month. The PCB is also to inform the court about the measures taken for maintenance of the structure.

The court directed the pollution board to collect drinking-water samples from the compound, to be examined at a testing facility. These results, too, are to be submitted in court.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has already filed its report on the steps taken to stop rainwater leaks from the main dome, the roof of Prince Hall, the Durbar Hall and Royal Gallery.

According to ASI representatives present in court, the structural conservation and chemical preservation of the monument was entrusted to the ASI, though the superintendent present could not give details about the chemical preservation methods employed.

Subhas Dutta, environmental activist who had initiated the case relating to the pollution of the Victoria Memorial, informed the court that more than Rs 1 crore had been allotted for the chemical preservation of the Memorial, of which the ASI spent only Rs 28.85 lakh. He claimed that no steps had been taken to chemically preserve the outer surfaces of the Memorial.

Curator C.R. Panda was directed to file a report within a month on the progress of the maintenance work of the ASI. So far, a “clean drive” has been apparently undertaken at the curator’s direction, the court was informed.

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