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MP funds for heritage keep

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has announced that he will ask parliamentarians and legislators from Bengal to release money from their local area development funds for conservation of heritage buildings in Calcutta.

“I am not opposed to conservation of historic buildings. My problem is that I am penniless and there are too many such structures crying for attention. So, the funds will have to come from the MPs,” Mukherjee said on Monday. The number of heritage buildings in the city has already crossed the 1,300 mark and 95 per cent of them are dilapidated. There exists an act governing conservation of heritage buildings, but nothing gets done because of a paucity of funds.

“A pool of Rs 40 crore can be created every year if all the MPs and MLAs contribute 20 per cent of their respective development funds allotment to the heritage preservation fund. We find we have wasted the perfect opportunity to create a fund of Rs 200 crore over the past five years,” said Mukherjee, also an MLA.

“I am writing to the central and state governments with a proposal to make it mandatory for all MPs and MLAs to contribute at least 20 per cent of their development funds for heritage preservation,” said Mukherjee.

Welcoming the mayor’s proposal, CPM legislator Sudhanshu Sil said: “The idea is fine, but I would like to have five per cent of the heritage fund reserved for maintenance.” Explaining his stand, Sil said an MP could well fund the deployment of half-a-dozen air-conditioned ambulances, but in the absence of a maintenance fund, it would be impossible to run them for long.

As an example, he cited the old Jorabagan police station building, declared a heritage structure because it had housed the original Scottish Church School. Lack of maintenance had ruined the edifice, and the police station had to be shifted into a newly-constructed building. The heritage structure remains uncared for.

A similar condition prevails at the century-old bathing ghats and burning ghats along the banks of the Hooghly, he added.

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