A broken wall at the Audrey House in Ranchi on Monday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Forgotten history is seeing a faint ray of hope — once again.
The crumbling Audrey House in Ranchi, mired in red tape since 2009, on Monday spurred Governor Syed Ahmed to seek an immediate report from the state convenor of Intach on how and when conservation of the 158-year-old edifice would get underway. Raj Bhavan sources said Intach boss S.D. Singh had been issued a strict deadline of 11am on Tuesday.
A detailed project report (DPR) to revive the iconic two-storey building, prepared by Intach in February, had received the governor’s go-ahead in the first week of April.
The art and culture department had thereafter released a corpus of Rs 1.4 crore, sanctioned under the 12th Finance Commission. But, the funds continue to remain idle in an account maintained by the district administration though Raj Bhavan had promised that groundwork would begin within a week of its release. This seeming lip service has understandably embarrassed the governor, who is stepping up conservation gear.
On April 10, The Telegraph had highlighted the pitiable condition of Audrey House, which once functioned as an extension of the governor’s secretariat. It had been reported how the neglected colonial edifice was crumbling with each passing day, condemning the lone Jharkhand State Law Commission office and its seven-odd employees to endless peril.
Speaking to The Telegraph recently, Ahmed had emphasised that he was keen on Audrey House’s revival and would rename it Indira Gandhi Museum. He even said that the detailed project report for the second phase too was ready and Rs 5 crore had been allocated under the 13th Finance Commission.
Intach convenor Singh said he would submit his report within the stipulated time and seek shifting of the law commission office first so that conservation work could begin. “We have to revive the edifice in the first phase and this is tricky during monsoon. Though 70 per cent of the building is not occupied, any untoward incident will hinder restoration work altogether,” he pointed out.
Singh said the walls of Audrey House were three inches thick and supported by thicker wooden beams. “But, 70 per cent of these have been damaged by termite. We will use special conservation technology to replace the rot. Thereafter, the structure will have to be redone. The original building was made of brick, mud and lime, but time and again repaired with cement and sand patchwork,” he explained.
Built in 1854 by Captain Hannyington, then deputy commissioner of Chotanagpur, Audrey House has a floor area of 30,000sqft. While the first phase will conserve the building, the second will establish a museum, a library-cum-resource centre, an art conservation centre, a convention hall, an open-air theatre of 800 capacity and a rural hut depicting tribal life.
“The museum, library and art conservation centre will serve as resource cells, while the theatre will give performing artistes a great platform to showcase their talents,” Singh said.