Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014

Shaniwarwada Palace fort: an iconic monument badly in need of a bathroom

The central fountain is not functional. Source:Arul Horizon The central fountain is not functional. Source: Arul Horizon
Written by Garima Rakesh Mishra | Pune | Posted: June 25, 2014 8:55 am

Lack of manpower, broken walls, railings and, in the absence of a toilet, many areas inside used for urinating and defecating.

It is a place where school students are taken for educational outings, where artistes’ performances are enhanced by the structure’s larger-than-life appeal. It is a place which has served as a muse for many painters and writers. More than anything, it is a place synonymous with the city of Pune.

Built in 1746, the Shaniwarwada Palace fort is one of the most iconic structures of the city and witnesses 500 to 600 visitors daily, and many more on weekends. While a glance at the fort may give a visitor the impression that everything is well in place, a closer look tells a completely different story.

According to the replies received under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Mumbai Circle, in the year 2007-2008 and 2008-2009, the department spent a total of Rs 54,96,031 on the upkeep of the fort. However, a visit to the fort suggests that there is much that’s crying out for attention at the venue. While Rs 18,45,955 was spent on conservation and restoration of fortification walls in 2008-2009, broken walls can be found at various parts of the fort. On many of the walls, the bricks are either broken or missing.

The fort has five gates, namely Khidki Darwaja (Window Gate), Dilli Darwaja (Delhi Gate), Mastani Darwaja (Mastani’s Gate) or Aliibahadur Darwaja, Ganesh Darwaja (Ganesh Gate) and Jambhul Darwaja or Narayan Darwaja (Narayan’s Gate). Shockingly, at two of the five gates — Ganesh Darwaja and Narayan Darwaja, that face south-east and south respectively — the courtyards on either sides are used for urinating and defecating. “We were not aware about this but if such activities are happening in the fort premises, we will look into them. The reason why it could be happening is that we do not have enough manpower to monitor such activities at the fort,” said one of the senior ASI officials from the Mumbai Circle.

Giving a glimpse into the appalling state of the manpower requirement at the fort, the official added that for the entire Mumbai Circle, the number of posts sanctioned for monument attendants is 117. However, currently, there are just 56 attendants working; 61 people are yet to be recruited. “At Shaniwarwada Fort, officially there should be 10-12 people working but due to shortage, we are managing with just 5 to 6 people,” added the official. He cites another reason for such an activity — there is no toilet in the Shaniwarwada premises. “There is a toilet outside the fort built by the Pune Municipal Corporation but not many visitors are aware about it. When we had proposed a plan to build a toilet, there were objections from local political parties. Last year, we built a movable toilet for continued…

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