After sparring with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) for more than four years over the restoration of the 15th century monuments in Lodi Gardens — an initiative that was touted as the biggest public-private partnership (PPP) project in Delhi’s heritage conservation arena before it hit rough waters — the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has taken over the project and is all set to begin the conservation work.
The four-year-long tussle between the two bodies has resulted in complete neglect of the eight monuments belonging to the Sayyid and Lodi dynasties in Lodi Gardens, which is frequented by the who’s who of Delhi and foreign dignitaries. “There is seepage, plaster is peeling off, chajjas are missing in several buildings, concreting work needs to be repaired, openings need to be covered to prevent birds from nesting inside and plinth protection has to be provided,” a heritage conservation expert said.
According to INTACH Delhi convener AGK Menon, an agreement was signed between the two bodies over four years ago to restore five of the eight protected monuments in the garden.
The project was being funded by the Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) under its corporate-social responsibility through the National Culture Fund (NCF). Bara Gumbad, Shish Gumbad and Mohammed Shah’s tomb were to be conserved in phase 1 of the project, while Sikander Lodi’s tomb and Athpula were to be restored in phase 2.
“However, when we started work and gave the ASI our estimate, it was found that SAIL’s funds were not enough to carry out the restoration work in five monuments, so only four monuments were covered. Some time later, the ASI said it was dissatisfied with INTACH’s work. However, it has not yet told us the basis of the disagreement,” Menon said.
ASI additional Director-General B R Mani said the work carried out by INTACH was found “not up to the mark” and thus, the ASI decided to take over the restoration work earlier this year. “A government-appointed expert committee had reviewed the work and INTACH was asked to re-do the areas found unsatisfactory. Their execution lacked quality and different aspects of conservation were not reproduced as expected.
For example, the flooring done by them came off within a year. We asked them to re-do it, but they demanded additional money. The committee report, however, found their work not up to the requisite standards,” Mani said.
INTACH begs to differ. “The Detailed Project Reports and workmanship was all approved by the ASI. There were weekly inspections by ASI. Around Rs 25 lakh was disbursed and we carried out work in one tomb — the Mohammad Shah Tomb; 25 per cent work had been completed at this tomb when the ASI raised objections. The whole issue was complicated and rather opaque. We have no problem if they did not like our work, but it was the non-transparency of it all that was disappointing,” Menon said.