A recent reply to an RTI query has revealed that the Postal Directorate has cleared the proposal to repair and restore the iconic General Post Office (GPO) building, a Grade-I heritage structure, despite its “deteriorating” condition.
The GPO, which is the city’s central post office, also serves as the headquarters of the Maharashtra as well as Goa circle of postal department. It handles most of the city’s inbound and outbound mail and parcels and has over 1,000 staff members working in the building.
The GPO was designed by British architect John Begg in 1902. Its construction began in September 1904 and was completed in March 1913. The structure is modelled on the Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, Karnataka. However, the structure now needs immediate repairs, says the department’s reply to an RTI query.
The Director of Postal Services (Legal & Buildings), in a reply to the RTI query, said the proposal to sanction Rs 47.59 crore for the preservation, restoration and repair of the GPO building was put forth on January 29, 2016. This plan was drafted by INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage), an organisation empanelled by the postal department.
“The proposal to repair, restore and preserve the Grade-I heritage structure, has been pending for approval from the Postal Directorate for the last 16 months,” the letter written by the Director of Postal Services, Mumbai to the Chief Postmaster General (Buildings), states.
“Although 15 to 20 per cent escalation of the project cost is expected per year, an amount of Rs 30 lakh has been sanctioned by the Postal Directorate, but the work has not yet started as the permission for the same is pending,” reads the reminder letter written to the Chief Postmaster General (Building) New Delhi by the Postmaster General office.
“Putting lives of thousands of people in danger, the bureaucrats are awaiting permission for the repair work,” said RTI activist Anil Galgali. Calling it a “bureaucratic wrangle” Galgali has now sought an inquiry into the “delay” in restoration project. “I have now written to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), seeking intervention in the matter and requesting to expedite the restoration of the Mumbai GPO. Apart from the employees, the lives of thousands of visitors to the building are also at stake. The condition of the Mumbai GPO is deteriorating badly and it needs large-scale preservation to prevent serious incidents, which is pointed out by the department itself in its letter. There have been cases of plasters collapsing very frequently and a BMC agency has already declared it as a poorly maintained building in 1995,” said Galgali.