11 years and Rs 1-cr later, conservation work on Patna’s Gol Ghar still not complete

Source: hindustantimes.com

Conservation works at Patna’s Gol Ghar, a colonial-era monument, seem to be a typical case of bureaucratic apathy and red tape.

The structure is a granary built in 1786 by the then Governor General of India, Warren Hastings, following the famine in Bengal and Bihar in 1770. It was designed by the British architect, Captain John Garstin.

A few years ago, this pillar-less monument developed long, deep cracks above its entrances in all the four directions. Steps of its spiral staircase too developed cracks and were crumbling. Alarmed at the impending loss of the city’s history and heritage, Bihar’s archaeology department requested the Archaeological Survey of India to take steps to stop further damage and decay of the monument and handle its conservation work.

The ASI head office approved conservation plan for only 100 steps of the monument while the spiral staircase at the structure has 281 steps. To review this discrepancy and to get the things revised, the ASI (Patna Circle) has scheduled a meeting onFriday.

“We have invited some experts to suggest how to go with the work now,” H C Naik, ASI’S superintending archaeologist, Patna Circle, said.

The conservation works at the monument was started in 2008 and Rs 1.05 crore out of Rs 1.35 crore provided by the state’s archaeology department has already been spent. “Now it’s difficult to say who planned this kind of conservation works and got it approved. Many among the officials who had worked on this project might have got transferred or might have retired from the office,” Naik said.

“But it has got the ASI, Patna Circle, in the dock. Only 100 of the 281 steps can be repaired and restored under the approved conservation plan. Who will take care of rest of the structure,” he said.

“Also, the restoration work of this level will also give the monument an ugly look. The original steps were built of cement while the ASI is using lime mortar for conservation works and the difference between the two varieties is too glaring to remain unnoticed,” Naik said.

State’s archaeology director Atul Verma said the ASI was assigned the project as it has the expertise and experience in the conservation and restoration of monuments. “The state archaeology has already provided Rs 1.35 crore for conservation works. Now that the project will be revised, the budget of the project too is expected to increase,” he said.