The UT Administration has miserably failed to check the easy flow of heritage furniture items from Chandigarh to foreign markets. Data reveals that as many as 40 heritage furniture items from Chandigarh were auctioned in the last one-and-a-half years at various auction houses abroad for a whopping amount of Rs 2.14 crore while the administration remained a mute spectator.
Finding that items were being ‘moved out’ in the garb of scrap from government departments, Ajay Jagga, member of Heritage Protection Cell, has written to the chairman of the Heritage Protection Cell, Kapil Setia, to ensure that all of UT’s scrap auctions should be subject to clearance of appropriate committees.
These items that have been going under the hammer abroad include teak stools, coffee tables, executive desks, arm chairs, lounge chairs, book cases, manhole, and demountable bed. They belonged to UT’s administrative buildings, Panjab University and Punjab and Haryana High Court. Last year, the UT Administration had directed all the departments to make an inventory of all heritage items with them. It was proposed to have a storage house where these items could be kept. But nothing was done after that.
Heritage Protection Cell and Chandigarh Conservation of Heritage Committees have been mute spectators to the auctions that have been taking place for years. In 2016, four persons, including a junk dealer, were held for theft of heritage chairs but even then, there has been no end to auctions. Investigations at that time had pointed out the involvement of a Mumbai person who had expressed his desire to purchase this furniture owing to its high value in foreign markets. However, nothing was done to establish the chain involved in the issue.
“In view of the constant auctions of Chandigarh heritage items in foreign markets, it is requested that all the auctions of UT’s scrap of old furniture, manhole, concrete tube light fixture, which are of heritage value should be subject to clearance of an appropriate committee,” said the letter written by Jagga.
It was stated, “Further, all sold items should be subject to an invoice with the picture of the item being sold, so that the heritage items (procured by other means) should not be permitted to be sold against the invoice of the other products, so as to enhance the value of heritage items. Since, in the international market, the value of the items and evidence is subject to its ownership/year of manufacture etc, so we must ensure that all auctions should be subject to certificate that no heritage is being auctioned.” Another auction of two items is being held in New Zealand on June 25 now.