More than two years after the office of Governor shut the doors of Mehdi Nawaz Jung Hall, for holding “any political activity or any activity against the government”, a meeting will be held on December 10 to decide on giving the premises to the Indian Red Cross Society for “renovation and reconstruction”. The hall, located at Paldi’s Himavan Samaj Kalyan Kendra, is managed by a board of trustees of Governor’s Social Welfare Fund. While the Governor is the chairman of the trust, former Gujarat high court judge Ravi R Tripathi, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, noted cardiologist Tejas Patel are among its trustees.
About 10 NGOs, working for leprosy, mentally challenged children, have been operating from the premises of the Kendra for several decades. On May 26, 2015, the office of Governor O P Kohli imposed conditions for booking Mehdi Nawaz Jung Hall, named after the first Governor of Gujarat. It stated that a written undertaking stating that the hall will not be used for “any political activity targeting the state or central government” has to be given by those who would like to rent it.
A PIL was also filed in the Gujarat High Court which upheld the Governor’s decision and said that such condition did not violate freedom of speech and expression of any citizen. Several NGOs working in the Kendra’s premises fear that the hall will be demolished if Red Cross Society’s proposal gets nod. They said that in 2012, the hall had been renovated at a cost of Rs 70 lakh. “It has a sitting capacity of nearly 250 people, and there is no need to renovate it. No assessment has been made if other buildings will crumble in near future,” they added.
According to the invite sent to the trustees and tenants, it is required for the tenants to attend the meeting with an undertaking on their institute’s “letter pad that they are authorised persons capable of taking a decision”. Those not present in the meeting will not be able to dispute, it stated.
One of the trustees said that “the plan is at a preliminary stage”. “We have planned to rebuild the entire premises with multi-storied buildings to create more space. The plan, if accepted by everyone, will change the Mehdi Nawaz Jung Hall also,” the trustee added.
Mukesh Patel, president of Red Cross Society, Ahmedabad district branch, said that they are only thinking about renovation since the building was constructed in 1960s. “If anything happens, it will be a decision taken in consultation with the NGOs,” Patel said. When contacted, M M Shaikh, the press secretary of Governor, said that the concerned person is on leave.