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Metro versus monuments
akshima kalla | 03 Mar 2011

The railway linked different parts of India and provided the better means to travel and transport things but also eventually it altered the character of many buildings and places.

A SENSE of deja vu comes to my mind when I usually hear or read about destruction or defacing of the Indian monuments. And feeling of deja vu comes to my mind because of this question that- whether the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation actually is riding over the heritage of these monuments. This question is raised by peeping into the fact that Delhi metro is spoiling the look of the historical places and green belts by coming in the way of its natural beauty.

It is reminiscent of what followed post the introduction of the railway system in India in 1853. The railway linked different parts of India and provided the better means to travel and transport things but also eventually it altered the character of many buildings and places. This metro muddle is not only violating the social responsibility of DMRC but also violating the laws.

If we take some examples from the past, they are, old brick structures at Harappa, the very same place after which India’s most ancient civilization is known were also dismantled to provide ballast for the Lahore-Multan railway line. And another instance witnessed in past is that of the destruction of 36 temples at Tigawa in Jabalpur, also in the search of ballast.

At that time British rulers allowed such destruction and damage of the national monuments and old structures because the vast profit that they incurred from these railway lines and ballast were more important than the heritage of their colonial state.

Now, whether the parts of Delhi’s past, from the Red fort to Bahawalpur House, will be compromised by the DMRC as it constructs Central secretariat to Kashmiri Gate line, now this will continue the colonial past, where the monuments and places sacrificed for a rail system. And today, the time is different from that time because there are various laws and legislations which provide a security blanket around monuments. Besides all these legislations and laws, DMRC is not perceived as either being sensitive to monuments or green spaces or the character of urban spaces.

Some recent instances are, in 2006, it was planned to construct an elevated corridor of concrete very close to Qutub Minar, which failed to materialize because of the public pressure and their outrage. But there are many corridors that cut through the green spaces like Maharaja Agarasen Park near Kashmiri gate and within the green spaces Nehru place. Is this due to the lack of sensitivity on the part of DMRC officials?

Another current instance, is that Master Plan for 2011 mandates restrictions on tall buildings in areas like Civil Lines and North Delhi Campus, but DMRC has turned their ears deaf and ignored the laws by auctioning the land and has allotted it to the powerful builders.

If this remains the situation and the prevailing circumstances don’t change, then the political elites need to intervene in this matter as it is matter to ensure that the laws passed by Parliament are followed in national capital because as the metro is expanding its operations, then such violations will increase manifold in other cities across India.