Patna’s Over Century-Old Heritage Market Demolished In Smart City Project


Patna:  The over 100-year-old Gole Market in Patna, a unique heritage building constructed as the Bihar capital’s first planned municipal market, has been demolished by local authorities as part of a Smart City project.

The demolition work began on Friday and by Sunday the historic landmark, located in the heart of Patna and endowed with beautiful red-tiled roof, was reduced to a skeletal shell.

“The Gole Market was demolished as part of a major redevelopment project of the railway station area under the Smart City initiative. Other markets lining the streets are also being knocked down as part of the mega project,” Patna Municipal Commissioner Anupam Kumar Suman told news agency Press Trust of India.

As part of this Smart City project, the now-dismantled Gole Market, located near Patna Junction, will make way for a seven-storeyed commercial complex and a modern municipal market along with a vending zone will come up in the area adjoining the Station Road, he said.

Popularly known as Gole Market, among the local people, it was Patna’s first planned municipal market designed by architect Joseph Fearis Munnings while he was planning the layout of the “New Capital” city of colonial Patna after the creation of the new province of Bihar and Orissa in 1912.

Despite the historical value of the building, the demolition has drawn feeble protest from citizens of the city, but many people in Patna are angered by this “shocking move” of the Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC).

“This is just madness. It was a historical building and should have been preserved. But, instead of restoring and reusing it as a cafe or something, the corporation razed it,” said city-based researcher and author Arun Singh.

“One by one the local government is knocking down heritage buildings in the city. This is an attempt to erase the colonial history of Patna in the name of development,” he alleged.

In December last year, the 133-year-old Anjuman Islamia Hall, perhaps the first public hall of Patna, was demolished to make way for a modern complex.

The heritage market had faced decades of neglect and its occupant shopkeepers had been feeling the shadow of the wrecking ball for years as local authorities had planned a redevelopment project much earlier too, which kept on getting stalled, a local shopkeeper, who did not wish to be named, said.

“My grandfather had a meat shop in it during the British time, and elite of the city would come in their cars to buy meat, fish, chicken, eggs, grocery and milk. It should have been preserved,” he said.

City-based 84-year-old architect and INTACH Patna Chapter Convener J K Lall also expressed shock and anger over the demolition of Gole Market.

“It was a unique single-storeyed building with a raised central hexagonal core topped with elegant red-tiled roof and two flanks came out of it and again it was topped with red tiles of the colonial-era Burn & Co. It was a perfect building and a perfect setting for a heritage cafe,” he told PTI.

“Smart City also means preserving our architectural legacy and not just building new ones,” he said.

PMC Commissioner Suman, when asked why the building was demolished, said, the Gole Market was “coming in the middle” of the layout of the Smart City project plan.

“There were suggestions made to us by a few heritage lovers to preserve the building and reuse it as a cafe. We tried but the market structure was coming in the way of the plan. So, we had no option left but to knock it down,” he said.

“Also, besides the fact that it was designed 100 years ago by Munnings as the first municipal market, there was not much heritage value of it. And, sometimes we have to lose something old to build a new, better future,” the municipal commissioner said.

However, the iron shell of the building and whatever can be salvaged will be stored and later reused in a new gazebo at the site, Mr Suman said.

“That gazebo will be built with new material and old material from the dismantled Gole Market. We are trying to look into our archives to know about the history of the building, which along with old pictures would be displayed there, so that people will know there was a Gole Market here,” he said.

Retired bureaucrat R N Dash, who served as the district magistrate of Patna from 1972-74 and Divisional Commissioner from 1983-85, also said that demolition was a “wrong move” and that restoration and proper rehabilitation of local shopkeepers should have been planned instead.

“The overall master plan should have ensured the preservation of the market and other heritage buildings, and Smart City project should have factored that in. Converting it into a cafe was a good idea and people coming to these complexes would have visited too, so it was a win-win situation,” he said.

Ironically, Gole Market was also listed as a heritage building in a 2008 Bihar goverment publication — Patna: A Monumental History.

Mr Singh, whose book “Patna – Khoya Hua Shahar” came out early this year, talks about the history and glory days of this market, located in what is termed officially as the New Market area, falling between the railway station rotary and the Patna GPO roundabout. 

“In its heydays, it had a rose garden around it and six routes leading to it from the streets around it.

“British people including European women would visit there as would the Indians in their cars. Instead of restoring old charm, as done world over, Patna is wilfully destroying its own heritage,” he rued.

Flood of stink in parched city


The capital may be reeling from an acute water crisis but a locality in the heart of the city is crippled by flood, albeit of drain water.

A roughly 150-foot stretch of the main road that connects Vidyapatinagar Colony in Ward No. 2 with Gandhinagar Colony and Kanke road has been under knee to ankle deep drain water for 10 days. The reason, said local residents and Ranchi Municipal Corporation sources, is the discharge of the existing sewage onto a waste land has been choked by the land owner, a grade-IV employee of the civic body.

Bhartendu Kumar Jha, a resident of the locality, said it is a problem that recurs twice or thrice every year.

“The road is inundated by drainage and sewage water. Ranchi Municipal Corporation is aware of this problem but the municipal authority never showed interest for permanent solution of the problem. I informed RMC officials and they once visited the locality and returned without giving any solution. Ranchi’s civic guardians apparently have always been immune to such criticism,” Jha said.

Sources in the civic body said the RMC employee and his family members own the 10-cottah vacant plot which is used as the discharge area of the drainage, and they have blocked the discharge.

“In the last two months, we received around two dozen complaints from local residents who said that some unknown person choked the drainage. Every time we cleaned it, the next day the drainage was found choked again,” said an RMC employee who pleaded anonymity.

Residents are being forced to stay indoors due to the overflowing drain.

“We are living in a hell with foul smells, insects and reptiles all around,” said Shiv Kant Mishra (75), a pediatrician whose house is situated next to the vacant plot.

“I can’t even go out of my house as my premises are flooded. The drain water has polluted my well. Parents face problem to visit my home,” added Mishra, who on average treats 40 children at his home clinic.

Raman Kumar, assistant to gynaecologist Sunita Jha who runs her private nursing home in the colony, said patients are not coming these days and they take medical advice over phone.

“The road is narrow and full of potholes and flooded so it is risky for pregnant women to visit the nursing home. This is one of the busiest roads of the colony, but unfortunately the RMC doesn’t care for basic civic amenities,” said Kumar.

Residents fear the worst is yet to come; schools are due to open next week after summer vacations. Vidyapatinagar Col-ony has a population over 10,000. Gandhinagar has four schools including DAV, and health centres such as CCL Hospital.

Most of the children of the locality study at these schools.

“My two daughters study at DAV school. I am worried how they will go to school,” said homemaker Sabita Mishra. “They will have to travel an additional kilometre. For the past 10 days me along with my children and husband have been living with my parents at Boreya.”

Around three years ago, the civic body had sanctioned Rs 36 lakh to extend the drainage pipe to Gandhinagar. However, work was stopped midway. The RMC reasoned that it would be an unnecessary expenditure since the mega drainage and sewerage project for Ranchi under the JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) has already been kicked off including at ward number 2.

“Do we suffer till our locality is covered under JNNURM? This project is already running late,” said resident and shopkeeper Bapi Chatterjee.

“My business has suffered. We are always neglected by RMC.”

Contacted, Ranchi deputy mayor Sanjeev Vijayvargiya said: “I personally called the land owner, who is an RMC employee, to allow his land as outfall but he gave cold response. Last year we decided to extend and connect the drainage with that of Gandhinagar. But the authorities of Central Coalfields Limited denied permission. We are trying to find an alternative.”

Homemaker Anita Jha said the locality would hold meeting within a couple of days “to decide whether to pay tax to the RMC”.

She added: “We the housewives have been facing problems. During the Assembly election we will surely teach the government a lesson.”