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Monday, 5 March 2012

Heritage awakening
- Steel city Rotary Club on calendar campaign to conserve old buildings, capital takes a cue

Every building has a story to tell and a century-old city is on a silent mission to preserve their tales.
A group of citizens under the banner of Rotary Club of Jamshedpur has launched an awareness campaign to conserve structures of heritage value dotting the steel city. As a baby step towards achieving this goal, the club has brought out a calendar showcasing heritage edifices built on this Tata turf since it began operations in 1906.
Former district governor of Rotary Club (Jamshedpur) and hotelier Ronald D’Costa, who has been instrumental in making this initiative a preliminary success, said the heritage calendars with the date of inception of each building had received a good response in India and abroad.
“I took a bunch of six calendars to the US in November 2011 and Loyola School (Jamshedpur) alumni settled there lapped up the souvenirs. Back in Jamshedpur, the remaining six pieces were also bought by Rotary Club members despite a high price tag of Rs 300 each,” D’Costa said.
Buoyed by this accomplishment, club members are planning to make the calendars in a bulk for distribution amongst citizens so that they become aware of the heritage value of the buildings and do everything within their capacity to conserve the structures.
“The new calendars will not just have photographs, but also detail the architectural and historical significance of these buildings,” D’Costa said, adding that they were directly approaching the common man because the district administration and urban guardians had long chosen to look the other way.
The club also plans a brochure on heritage buildings for distribution at important functions and among corporate houses. There will be two categories in the brochures — bungalows owned by individuals and public buildings.
Some of the bungalows that have made to the Rotary Club heritage list include the Modi House (1941) in the Circuit House Area, which boasts a distinct architecture — round-edged building — from the World War II period and the Regal Mansion (1939). Other buildings given the special tag include Beldih Church (1923), St George’s Church (1916) and Tata Institute of 1913 (now The United Club).
City architect Vineet Sinha said the Rotary Club initiative was very heartening.
“These old buildings are architectural gems and need to be protected from crude plastering and tiling. The administration should strictly ensure that posters and signage do not mar the imposing edifices. However, there is no legislation to enforce architectural control at the moment. The owners of the buildings should undertake internal modification only after scrutiny by a qualified panel of architects,” he added.
Sinha also suggested that the local urban body (read Jamshedpur Notified Area Committee) should draft and implement a bylaw to make renovation work of all old buildings approved by conservation specialists mandatory.
Unfortunately, the district administration and local urban bodies are silent on the issue of preserving these old buildings. Since some of these buildings have not yet received heritage tag from the state or Union governments, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), too, has not taken any step towards their conservation.
“However, as conscientious citizens, we should do our bit to generate awareness among the masses and pressure the authorities to protect buildings of architectural importance,” said city-based construction and architectural designer R.K. Mangal.
Jogesh Gambhir, district governor of Rotary Club (Jharkhand-Bihar), said he wasn’t aware of the initiative. “There are 90 clubs in the region, six each in Jamshedpur and Ranchi alone. This may be the campaign of an individual club,” he said.
Gambhir, however, added that since Ranchi had many sites and buildings of historical importance, the drive could be replicated in the capital as well. “The proposal is yet to come to me. After assessing feasibility, I may think of sharing the idea with clubs in Ranchi,” he said.

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