To check movement of heritage furniture from the city to abroad, the heritage protection cell of the Chandigarh Administration has proposed to stock all 12,000 furniture items designed by Le Corbusier and his associate Pierre Jeanneret in one building. Chief architect Kapil Setia said the furniture items should be kept at the UT press building in Sector 18 or the CITCO warehouse. “We have given our proposal and a discussion will be held with the senior officials of the administration. There can be adequate security at the building where the furniture items will be kept,” he said.
Setia added that thousands of furniture items, including replicas, lie scattered in various buildings. Various departments have been told to prepare details of the furniture lying in their offices. A senior official of the museum said hundreds of items are dumped in the stores of various buildings — administrative buildings, Panjab University, Chandigarh College of Architecture and others. “We want more and more people to use the furniture so that they remain in use. When such items are kept in the stores, from there they become vulnerable to thefts,” said the official.
The heritage cell has also decided to recommend to the Chandigarh Administration to take up the issue of declaring heritage furniture art treasure under the Heritage Act to stop its illegal sale. The members also favoured a patent for the heritage furniture which would give the administration the power to stop its illegal sale.
Since 2011, activist Ajay Jagga had been writing to the Chandigarh Administration to probe the disappearance of furniture designed by Corbusier and Jeanneret, and its appearance at auction houses in Europe and America, where each piece was sold for lakhs. There was a concern for preserving the heritage items after the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) wrote to the Punjab government to initiate action under conduct rules against a senior government official for his alleged transactions with a businessman accused of antique smuggling of furniture from Chandigarh.
According to a showcause notice issued by the DRI on August 4, Navjot Pal Singh Randhawa who was holding the charge of director, Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Archaeology, Museums and Archives of Punjab as well until May this year before being transferred to the Defence Services Welfare department as Deputy Secretary, admitted in his statement to the agency that he “assisted” US-based Indian-origin businessman Vijay Nanda, accused of antique smuggling, “in procuring a few antiquities”.