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For Rs 100-cr,a swanky look,facelift for Writers’

After Shahid Minar,Victoria Memorial,Kalighat temple and the Parsnath temple,soon the Writers’ Buildings too will be a major tourist attraction in Kolkata with the government planning to open a museum in one part of the heritage building.

Written by Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay | Kolkata | Published: August 9, 2013 3:36:56 am

After Shahid Minar,Victoria Memorial,Kalighat temple and the Parsnath temple,soon the Writers’ Buildings too will be a major tourist attraction in Kolkata with the government planning to open a museum in one part of the heritage building.

The other part will be given a facelift and will turn into a swanky,state-of-the-art office complex sans all the food and other kiosks that dot the state secretariat.

The entire exercise is estimated at cost more than Rs 100 crore.

A meeting,to be presided over by chief secretary Sanjay Mitra that is going to be held on August 10,will give final touches to the plan and put on fast track the shifting of the secretariat from the Writers’ Buildings to HRBC building at Mandirtolla at Howrah by September 30.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee,who toured the building Wednesday,has set up the deadline saying she would start working from new office from October 1. The chief minister’s office,along with several other departments,will be back to Writers in a few months after the renovation work is done.

“Writers’ has become a tinderbox and it is not safe from security angle also. After renovation we will be back here in a few months,’’ Mamata had told reporters Wednesday.

According to PWD officials,of the 52 government departments,only 10,including home and finance,will be housed in the renovated office complex.

The state PWD officials even took a trip to Maharashtra to study how the Mantralaya there had caught fire some six months back. “We learnt a lesson and will implement it here,’’ a PWD official said.

However,the naysayers have already pointed out that the 14-storeyed HRBC building has a carpet area of 1.27 lakh sqft as against Writers’ 4 lakh sqft. Also only 46 cars can be parked in the basement of HRBC building while there is enough space for another 200 cars under the second Hooghly Bridge.

The the shifting of the secretariat has put in jeopardy the livelihood of the people who run the 33 food kiosks at the Writers’. “If the government does not arrange for an alternative we are doomed,’’ Dhananjoy,one of the kiosk owners,said.

The move also invited sharp criticism from the Opposition. “If she shifts the building it is good. But what is her priority? Repaying Rs 2.5 lakh crore loan,paying the DA or what? She does not take us into confidence. It is real Tughlaq style (functioning),’’ Surya Kanta Mishra,leader of the opposition in the state assembly and CPM Politburo member,said.

A Raj heritage

Writers’ Buildings was constructed in 1776 by architect Thomas Lyon as quarters for babus (writers) of East India Company. It was the second brick house of Kolkata after the one built by Robert Clive at Dum Dum. It underwent several architectural changes later and once housed the famous Fort William College of which Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was the principal. The building has libraries,which have documents related to the embryonic stage of the Raj,that are yet to be researched. There is still an underground tunnel,built by the British,that connects the building to the river Hooghly.

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