|Broken garden lights and missing water taps (above) on Wednesday rob Ranchi’s Tagore Hill of its glory. Pictures by Hardeep Singh
The carefree laughter and easy chatter of schoolchildren as they settled down for yet another day of activities would have anyone believe that Tagore Hill is a vibrant cultural hub.
A symbol of culture and learning it is, being associated with the family of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
But vibrant? Certainly no, if one goes by the cracked stairs leading to Tagore’s elder brother Jyotindranath Tagore’s retreat on the 300ft hill, the peeling walls of a temple-like structure atop and the incomplete boundary wall.
But for these times when Pachishe Boishak is near and NGOs like Society for Preservation of Tribal Culture and Natural Beauty (SPTN) organise programmes to pay tribute to the bard and his scholar brother, who bought the place in 1908 and built two monuments named Brahma Sthal and Shanti Dham, the historic site remains a forgotten legacy.
In the latest blow to the site’s long-pending conservation plans, about Rs 73 lakh provided by the Union tourism ministry lapsed in November last year after lying unused for five years with the Ranchi district administration. Ironically, sources pointed out, the same month, the state government gave a no-objection certificate to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for declaring Tagore Hill as a national heritage.
“The funds were granted when incumbent Ranchi MP Subodh Kant Sahay was the Union tourism minister for removing encroachers from Tagore Hill and rehabilitating them. But the money could never be used,” said a source.
Not only this, a hefty sum of Rs 84 lakh was granted by the state tourism department in the same period for constructing a boundary wall around Tagore Hill.
Today, half the work is done. The status of the money granted isn’t known to anyone.
SPTN’s head Ajay Jain, who has been fighting for the conservation of Tagore Hill for the past decade, claimed that he was yet to a response to an RTI query about the funds.
“Just half the boundary wall has been built, but it has been shown on paper that work has been completed. So, I finally filed an RTI in August last year, but got no response. I am not saying nothing has been done but whatever is happening will not do any good to Tagore Hill,” he said.
He pointed out that Rabindranath Tagore memorials existed everywhere in the country, but his elder brother Jyotindranath, who lived here on Tagore Hill, was only unique to Jharkhand.
“This place is important because Rabindranath Tagore became famous only due to his brother’s contribution. No one knows this. Conservation plans should highlight this truth and not merely concentrate on building some modern buildings,” he added.
Two years ago, a separate beautification-cum-conservation project was mooted from late Rajya Sabha member, scholar and tribal ideologue Ram Dayal Munda’s MPLAD funds. About Rs 95 lakh was sanctioned for setting up an akhra (open air theatre), bathrooms, and other amenities. But no one remembers the ambitious project.
Then there are the usual problems of defunct water kiosks, lack of security, no seating area or toilets just like other tourist spots across Jharkhand.
According to Jain, the walls of a temple-like structure atop the hill have started peeling of.
“The temple is over 100 years old and naturally, it has witnessed a lot of wear and tear in the absence of any restoration effort. Recently, I have seen many damaged bricks,” he said, adding that he sought the President of India’s intervention.
“Pranab Mukherjee is coming to Jharkhand on May 10 for attending a convocation ceremony (Dhanbad’s ISM). I have sent a letter to his office, urging him to visit Tagore Hill on that day. I don’t know if his office can reschedule his itinerary,” Jain said.
Ranchi deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey, who held a review meeting on Wednesday on progress of various development works in the city, took stock of the status of Pahari Mandir, Jagannath temple and Tagore Hill.
“Whatever funds we got from the tourism department, we used it for undertaking various works at Tagore Hill. Yes, we couldn’t use the funds allocated for anti-encroachment drive. Now, we don’t have any more money. So, whenever the tourism department gives us money, we will initiate other works,” he said.
Will Tagore Hill ever be restored to its former glory?