After nearly three years of intense negotiations on how to cordon off the Gateway of India, a fence is finally being installed around the heritage structure that draws thousands of visitors every day and has withstood two terror attacks.
A bio-foldable fence 6-feet high and mounted on coaster wheels is being set up to secure the iconic landmark. The entrance and the exit of the premises will now only be from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Marg. Earlier, there were barricades that could be moved to allow an alternative entry from opposite the Taj Mahal Hotel. The heritage committee had earlier raised objections regarding the entry-exit points and pedestrian patterns in case of a stampede. “That has been resolved now,” said a senior member of the heritage committee who didn’t wish to be named.
The project to fence the Gateway of India was stuck for nearly six months even after all permissions were sought in October 2016, as no bidder had responded to the tenders. The lack of response to the Rs 30-lakh project was due to the “specificity” of the assignment, civic officials said. However, just before the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections earlier this year, the civic body found interested bidders and work began at the beginning of this month. According to senior civic officials, “70 percent of the work” is completed.
The total length of the fence to be fixed is 100 meters, officials added. A decision to set up a canopy of tensile fabric at the entrance to the premises is also under consideration. “The fencing and canopy will offer controlled access to the premises and also provide cover and protection for checking and frisking activities,” said an official.
The Gateway of India is a Grade-1 heritage structure and has seen two major terrorist attacks. A car bomb had claimed eight lives in August 2003, and on November 26, 2008, terrorists stormed the Taj Mahal Hotel in a siege that lasted three days.
Police had earlier proposed that the fence be at least 8-10 feet high, so that no intruder could scale it. The force also wanted barbwires atop the fence, but the heritage committee rejected the ideas. “We want the fence to be transparent, see-through, so that visitors can see the Gateway of India from outside, something like the fence surrounding the Oval Maidan,” said a senior heritage committee member.
Manoj Kumar Sharma, the zonal deputy commissioner of Mumbai Police, said that the police would now be able to properly segregate the the crowd at the heritage site.
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