LOCATED ALONG the backdrop of Shivalik hills at far end of Chandigarh, Rajendra Park is among the oldest parks of the City Beautiful. Yet decades later, nothing apart from a milestone across the road on Uttar Marg speaks for the identity of the park, which has been lying in a state of neglect ever since.
Former city architects recall that the park was named after first President of India Rajendra Prasad who had come to the city for its inauguration in 1954. Its landscape along with that of the Capitol Complex was designed by French architect Le Corbusier.
“The park was earmarked in the original master plan and its landscape was designed by Le Corbusier. It has not been developed accordingly. Even the Master Plan is silent on how it could have been developed. The vegetation is not as per the Master Plan. It is sad, because it is one of the oldest parks of Chandigarh,” says Dr S S Bhatti, former principal, Chandigarh College of Architecture, Sector 10.
Spread over 400 acres in Sector 1, near the Secretariat building, the park has been lying in a state of neglect. With no clear boundaries separating the park from adjoining land, the park is difficult to be identified by visitors, many of whom are not yet aware of the park’s legacy. The beauty of a large number of trees with round coverings has been spoiled by litter and garbage strewn all along the way.
The park shares its boundary with Naya Gaon, where a barbed wire separates the park from the road. At 4 pm, a few people who are seen visiting the park are youths on two-wheelers who take the shorter route to reach Naya Gaon on a muddy track between the mango trees, reducing the park as a mere shorter thoroughfare. People from nearby areas defecate in open in the park.
At the entrance, the security guards and police have made a checking point, where the parking space for vehicles has also been earmarked. The official residence of Haryana Chief Minister is located just opposite the park, rendering the park to be only used as a helipad for VIP visits, and is out of bounds for local visitors during such occasions.
“It is a high-security area, since official residence of CM is located along the road. That could be another reason why the park has not been developed. Because if visitors start coming, it could lead to a security breach,” says another city architect.
In 2013, the UT administration had planned to move the helipad to another site in order to develop the park as a heritage spot. According to the Master Plan 2031, the park has been recommended for the heritage status and needs to be completed as per the original plan in consultation with the Chandigarh Heritage Conservation Committee.
Ranging from shifting of the helipad to an appropriate site, removal of security tents and barbed wire fencing along the Uttar Marg, defining the edge of the park towards Naya Gaon and removal of garbage, various proposals were made, but all in vain. The park continues to paint a picture of neglect.