DEFACE TO WIPE OUT HERITAGE
A Staff Reporter

Calcutta Telegraph, India
May 2 2006

- Delist bid alleged

Ornamentation on terrace of 2, Camac Street, a heritage building
under threat. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya About three days ago,
tenants of 2, Camac Street, listed as a heritage structure by the
Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), saw some workmen defacing some
heritage features of the building.

Early on Sunday, scaffolding was erected all around the building and
workmen, armed with crowbars, once again attacked the distinguishing
features of the building, such as the arches at the gateway and
other ornamentation.

The tenants fear that the landlord is up to no good - trying to get
delisted the building in which lived Arathoon Stephen, the Armenian
millionaire who founded Grand hotel. They have complained to the
mayor and the Shakespeare Sarani police station and it remains to
be seen what action is taken. Knocking down heritage features is a
dirty trick by which landlords get their buildings delisted.

Earlier, this was done at Alexandra Court, the huge apartment block
on Chowringhee Road opposite the Calcutta Port Trust guest house and
officers club.

Here, too, the first thing the promoter did was to remove all
the distinguishing features and embellishments. Now, it lies
half-demolished.

The same was done at 5, Russell Street, the old residence of the
bishop of Calcutta. One of the most striking features of this building,
next to the ITC glass box, was its arched gateway. It was demolished
on the night of August 25, 2001.

Some ornaments of 2, Camac Street after they were knocked down.

Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya G.M. Kapur, convener, INTACH, says
these bungalows, including Meghalaya House and 5 and 6, Middleton Row,
all part of the Royal Calcutta Turf Club, represent an architectural
typology which will vanish now that they have been delisted.

About three weeks ago, the residence of pioneering film director
Pramathesh Barua on the street named after him was demolished. The
local executive engineer was suspended by the CMC but he was just
a fall guy. Neighbours were just bystanders. Which is why Banani
Kakkar of PUBLIC feels markers should be put up in front of heritage
structures for local involvement.

Promoters have struck once again at La Martiniere for Boys. Plans are
reportedly afoot to knock down the masters' quarters on the excuse
that these buildings have a Moira Street address. The monstrosity
called Constantia has already been foisted on the school compound
that is a listed heritage precinct. Earlier, the building department
of CMC did not have a list of heritage buildings. Now it does, but
that makes no difference.

G.M. Kapur says the CMC has been a "mute spectator" of these acts of
vandalism. What is the use of the "protected list" when no protection
can be provided?

The laws operative in Bengal are weighed against landlords, who are
barred from taking advantage of their properties. Most landlords
are wary of the "heritage" tag, for it turns their properties into
burdens. In lieu of forgoing development of a heritage building,
the owner should get transferable development rights in the form of a
negotiable instrument in any other location in the city, as was done
in Mumbai long ago.