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Pledge to correct a ‘folly’
- Suicide attempt directs attention to heritage structure

Patna, June 18: The 220-year-old structure known as Gol Ghar is to Patna what Qutub Minar is to Delhi and Charminar to Hyderabad.

Adorning tourism brochures, the structures provided vantage points to viewers and suicide points to jilted lovers.

Now two suicide attempts from the Gol Ghar in the last 20 years, the latest on Sunday, have made the state government sit up.

The number, says art and culture minister Janardhan Singh Sigriwal, is not alarming enough to call for closing the structure for people and tourists yet.

But if more suicides are attempted, the government would be forced to prevent visitors from entering the premises, he cautioned.

He also claimed that work would start in December to refurbish the 29m structure with 141 stairs.

The department, he added, has set aside Rs 1cr for the project. Better security, lighting and possibly a sound-and-light show are on the anvil, he indicated.

The entrance, however, retains a plaque which declares that under the inspiring leadership and guidance of “chief minister” Rabri Devi, the state government has initiated a “development and beautification” plan of the Gol Ghar. The plaque displays the date February 6, 2006.

The Gol Ghar, known as “Garstin’s Folly” by historians, was constructed by Captain John Garstin in 1786.

But although it was meant to serve as a granary, points out K.P. Jaiswal Research Institute director Bijay Kumar Choudhary, it was never used as one.

It was clearly impractical to store grains in the 29m structure and take them out through an opening at the top.

The opening , informs Choudhary, was closed barely a few years after construction.

Since then it has served as a free watch-tower and allows 15 to 20 people to stand together. Hundreds of curious visitors climb the stairs every day and their number swells in winter and during political rallies. But nothing so far has been done to preserve the crumbling edifice.

Neglected by successive governments, the structure is in a dilapidated condition. It has developed cracks from within and looks shabby.

The solitary security guard was shifted out two years ago and the lone hand-pump was uprooted and taken away by vandals.

Surendra Prasad, selling snacks to the visitors since 1976, said: “I have seen Gol Ghar going from bad to worse. Several highrise buildings have partly obstructed the view now. Even the Ganga, which once flowed at a stone’s throw distance, has drifted away.”

It is treated as an abandoned structure, he laments.

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