The Centre has asked the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund (JNMF), which has been part of the Teen Murti Estate for the last five decades, to vacate the premises by Monday.
On September 11, the Directorate of Estates, under the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MHUA), had sent the JNMF administrative secretary D Balakrishnan a notice and asked it to “vacate the premises” not later than September 24.
The JNMF was told that its occupation of the premises was “without any authority of law”, and “no statutory or contractual relationship exists” between either the Centre and the Fund or the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library Society (NMML) and JNMF. It also directed JNMF to pay “damage charges for illegal occupation” with effect from August 28, 1967 and warned that further action will be taken if the premises are not vacated on time.
JNMF secretary Suman Dubey told The Indian Express that the Fund was allotted the space in 1967. “Since then nobody has ever said anything to us about being unauthorised. The Fund has shared a good working relationship with NMML, but that has obviously changed in the recent past,” he said.
NMML director Shakti Sinha said he had written to the Centre asking for more space within Teen Murti Estate for the library and archives. “A building plan for a three-story structure has since been approved by MHUA,” he told The Indian Express, adding that work will begin once the Fund’s premises is taken over.
The JNMF will find no space in the new building, which will be occupied by “non-academic” staff of NMML, Sinha said. “The plot is a little narrow so there will be a three-story building, of which half a floor will be with CPWD and the remaining with NMML,” he said. “At present, scholars do not have space for research, so we will retain the library for them and move out all non-academic staff to the new building.”
“There was no other viable spot, or we would have had to cut 50 trees.”
Suggestions to occupy parts of JNMF and make it into a “secretariat for the New Museum Project” was floated in June 2017 at a special meeting of the NMML’s executive council, a Right to Information application filed by The Indian Express has revealed.
But the objective of taking over the JNMF premises appears to have changed. In May 2018, Shakti Sinha told the executive committee that NMML is “facing severe space crunch, especially in the Library and the Archives”.
The RTI application has revealed that in NMML executive meeting on June 6, 2018, Nitin Desai, one of the members, had objected to plans to move out JNMF. Although he was not present, Desai’s comments have been recorded in the minutes – he pointed out that “any redevelopment must include the very modest space requirements of JNMF”. The minutes note that the council “rejected Mr Desai’s contention that just because JNMF had been located at Teen Murti for close to 50 years, moving it out would be interpreted as an attempt to shift away from the foundational objections of NMML.”
The Fund occupies seven rooms towards the side entrance to Teen Murti Bhawan.