The Western Railway has started the extension of pit line at the north end of Ahmedabad railway station’s platform number one as part of its ambitious project to handle care and maintenance of coaches of long trains to improve passenger movement and reduce overcrowding on trains.
However, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has issued a notice to WR, stating that it was violative of the Protected Monuments Act because it is within 100 metres of the twin brick minarets at the Ahmedabad railway station which date back to the 16th century.
Arun Malik, superintending archaeologist of Vadodara Circle, said ever since the notice was issued a month back, the railway department has not sent any reply or the explanation. “We have issued the notice and are waiting for their response. When the notice period is over, we will issue another notice from the circle office and take further, action including file an FIR,” Malik said.
“Any construction of this kind is clearly in violation of the ASI regulations and it is not permissible,” he said. He said there was no talk between Railway and the ASI so far.
Ahmedabad Divisional Railway Manager Dinesh Kumar said, “It is a matter between two government departments. We do not need to disclose to others what transpires between them. We are in talks with the ASI.” He said, “Our station is a dynamic asset.” Explaining the need for the pit line, he said , overcrowding for trains bound north and east regions would be eased as trains with 24 coaches will be easier to run to and from Ahmedabad.
The walled city of Ahmedabad was last year declared India’s first world heritage city by UNESCO. The Protected Monuments Act defines the radius of 100 meters around a monument as protected and does not permit construction in such prohibited areas, except under certain conditions. However, a bill amended the provision of the act to permit construction of public works in prohibited areas for public purposes.
Kumar, said, “We will continue the dynamic construction. We are bringing high speed train to platform number 12 because it is a new project, while pit line is not a new project.” Pit Lines are washing lines with open dumping pit at base throughout the track. These pit are utilised to drain out sewage water (washroom and coach interior cleaning), thorough checking and repairing coach base parts.
P K Ghosh, who heads AMC Heritage Conservation panel, said he would also bring this to the notice of the ASI. Asked if there was any way to justify the conservation, he said, “Unless there is express permission granted by the National Monument Authority, such activity cannot be allowed around a protected monument.”
Very little is known about the brick minarets, but according to the records of the Archaeological Survey of India, the high minarets were built in early 16th century after rule of Mehmood Begda. Over the time, the base of the minarets has been damaged, so they were preserved due to heir impressive appearance. These are only towers in Ahmedabad which are made of bricks instead of sandstone. There is no mosque as of now with these minarets but they have been listed by the ASI as a protected monument under the ASI Act.
Last time, the ASI repaired them was in 2001 when earthquake rattled the city. Bricks from Punjab and Aurangabad were used in the work. Now, the public access is denied to them for safety reasons.