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Friday, 13 April 2012

Lifeline pledge for heritage

The Raj Bhavan has stepped in to lift a 158-year-old witness of Ranchi’s history from the morass of utter neglect.
The groundwork to restore the two-storey Audrey House — an extension of the governor’s official residence — to its erstwhile glory will begin in a week with funds release. The art and culture department has been entrusted with the job to conserve the heritage structure, which will boast a museum, a library and an open-air theatre.
On April 10, The Telegraph had reported how the neglected colonial edifice was crumbling with each passing day, condemning Jharkhand’s legal think tank, which operates from the building, to a life of endless peril.
Highly placed officials at Raj Bhavan on Thursday said a detailed project report (DPR) to revive Audrey House, submitted by the art and culture department two days ago, had received the governor’s green light. The sanctioned corpus of Rs 1.4 crore will reach Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach), roped in for restoration work, by next week.
“The department had sent us a letter in the past stating that it had selected Intach for the job. They had also sent a plan of what and how conservation work needs to be done. The report reached me through principal secretary A.K. Pandey. From our end, we have asked the department not to delay the work further. I believe things will move faster now since funds are also available with the deputy commissioner (of Ranchi),” said Dipankar Panda, the deputy secretary at Raj Bhavan.
Built in 1854 by Captain Hannyington — deputy commissioner of Chotanagpur between 1850 and 1856 — Audrey House hosted the governor’s secretariat until a year ago. Currently, it houses the Jharkhand State Law Commission with its seven-odd employees.
The conservation of the historical building was first proposed in 2009, but has been stuck in limbo since.
Panda said the delay was because of some confusions in the revival plan. “The initial blueprint had proposed a museum at Audrey House. During the former governor’s period, many had objected to this because there are already a couple of museums in Ranchi. But now, we have agreed to the plan,” he added.
S.D. Singh, state convener of Intach, confirmed that they had received initimation from Raj Bhavan that funds would reach them in a week’s time. “We got a call from Raj Bhavan on the day the report was published. We were told that work orders would reach us within a week,” he said.
Singh said they had envisaged Audrey House as a cultural and heritage centre. To turn the drawing board details into reality, they would require a year and a half.
Intach experts maintained that restoration job of the building would take up most of the time because the woodwork inside had decayed. “The thickness of the walls is three inches and it is supported by thicker wooden beams, which have rotted. We will have to use special conservation technology, which will be slow and steady,” one of them said.
Detailing on the DPR, which was submitted to the art and culture department in February this year, Singh said there were seven revival components.
“The main building, which needs to be conserved, has a floor area of 30,000sqft. We are planning a museum, a library-cum-resource centre, an art conservation centre, a convention hall, an open-air theatre of 800 capacity and a tribal village display corner,” he said, adding that this utility units would ensure regular upkeep of Audrey House.
“The museum, library and art conservation centre will serve as resource cells, while the theatre will give performing artistes a great platform to showcase their talents. The tribal village corner will boast life and livelihood models of at least half a dozen primitive tribes,” Singh said.

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