Mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharyya wants the list of 1,300 heritage buildings in the city to be pruned to a more manageable size after a thorough scrutiny.
“The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) is in charge of the management and control of heritage structures in the city area. The fewer the number of heritage structures, the better they are managed,” he stressed.
The list of heritage structures in Calcutta has grown so fast over the past 10 years that it is worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records. There has been a 1610.5 per cent growth in the number of listed structures, from 76 in 1996 to 1,300 in 2006.
However, opinions differ on whether the count is too high or not. Historian Pradip Sinha says the city’s past is like “miniature Indian history. Calcutta is a colonial city, a banian city, a swadeshi city and a kind of renaissance city”. It is also a “resurgent city… (that) I don’t know,” said Prof Sinha. It has so many aspects many other Indian cities do not have.
Since the CMC has no active preservation programme and the listing is for academic or historical purposes only, it would not be right to delist buildings, he added. “Certainly not on a moment’s decision.”
Heritage status is conferred on a structure, the mayor said, for its importance in society, in architecture and in history. The status cannot be conferred to meet popular demand.
Municipal commissioner Alapan Bandyopadhyay said on Tuesday: “We have constituted a sub-committee under the seven-member permanent heritage committee of the CMC to evaluate which heritage structures are worthy of being preserved.”
The sub-committee includes historian Barun De, state archaeological survey head Goutam Sengupta, architect Anjan Mitra and heritage expert Debasis Basu.
In the first phase, 154 buildings have been identified in the list of 1,300 that were given heritage status only on account of their association with luminaries of the 19th or early 20th centuries. These structures, apparently, have neither any architectural nor historical importance.
Coming out in support of the mayor’s statement, deputy municipal commissioner and director of Town Hall Dipankar Sinha said while submitting the list of 1,300 structures, the heritage committee had said it had been drawn up “superficially”. Case in point: the CMC’s failure to include in the list the demolished Dunlop House.
The sub-committee is now busy grading these 154 structures. “The de-listing of a structure will be made only on the basis of the heritage committee’s recommendation,” said municipal commissioner Bandyopadhyay.