November 3, 2021 1:44:29 am
More than a month after a major slab of the pre-Mughal historic Lehripura Gate in Vadodara came crashing, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) is yet to begin the repair work on the gate as the Building Project Department and the Futuristic Planning Cell (FPC) shift the onus on each other.
On September 22, two days after the slab collapsed, Mayor Keyur Rokadia had, along with VMC officials and a team of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), visited the site to ascertain the damage caused to the structure. In the primary examination, the damage appeared to be due to a faulty beam joint, officials had said. The structure, restored by the ASI following an MoU with the VMC in 2018 at a cost of Rs 75 lakh, is now awaiting a major repair.
Deputy Municipal Commiss-ioner Alpesh Majumdar, also the in-charge Additional City Engineer for the Building Project Department, said the ASI will repair the structure as it was yet to issue a completion certificate to the VMC for the work originally undertaken in 2018 but the onus of having the structure repaired lies with the Futuristic Planning Cell (FPC) of the VMC.
Majumdar, who had overseen the first repair work undertaken by the ASI, said, “The ASI will have to rectify the damage to the structure… They have told us that they are gathering details of the restoration work done earlier from the officials, who were then part of the Vadodara circle of the ASI. The onus of overseeing the repair, however, lies with the FPC, as per a 2017 order of the VMC commissioner… The building department is not directly responsible for this work.” When contacted, an Additional City Engineer and Head of the Department of the FPC, Dhirenkumar Talpada, told The Indian Express that the cell was not responsible for the four gates. Talpada said, “The original restoration of the gates was done by the ASI under supervision of the Building Department. It is the Building Department that has to undertake this work.”
While Talpada said he was “unaware” about any order of the VMC commissioner directing the FPC to look after the historic gates, the circular, accessed by The Indian Express, dated March 10, 2017, states, “The work on the renovation, strengthening, beautification of lakes in the city, as well as restoration of historic buildings, is currently undertaken in the city. Under this activity, the strengthening and beautification works of Sursagar and Siddhnath lakes in the city is on along with the work on heritage city development of the walled city area of Vadodara, in between the four historic gates. The work is currently under the Housing Building Department. But considering other facts, it has been decided that the works will now be the responsibility of the Futuristic Planning Cell.”
Majumdar had earlier told this newspaper he had written to the ASI in 2018 asking for the repair work to be expedited as the roof was not ready even after five years of making the payment. “In 2018, there was no damage to the structure but it was incomplete and we had reminded the ASI about it. The VMC had made payment for the restoration work in 2013 itself and yet, the ASI had not completed the work. However, even today, we do not have any completion certificate from the ASI nor is there a break up of accounts of Rs 75 lakh given to the VMC, despite reminders sent in 2018,” he said.
According to Majumdar, some parts of the then derelict structure fell in 2013-14, also posing danger to the movement of traffic through its arches. The VMC had then safeguarded the structure to avoid casualty during traffic movement and approached the ASI for repairs. The ASI had collected drawings and erected the replica but has not yet handed over any completion certificate or accounting of funds to the VMC.
Last month, in a letter to the Mayor, the Congress leader of opposition Ami Ravat had questioned the absence of a completion certificate and demanded a vigilance inquiry against the engineers, who “did not supervise” the work of the gates. “The gate is almost 510 years old… The work done must have been of a faulty design and of inferior quality that its roof collapsed. Have the VMC engineers even bothered to check if the repairs were done after the notice of 2018 or not?” he asked
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