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Residents unite to save Kolkata's traditional homes

In a letter to the Chief Minister, the signatories have urged the state to amend laws to substantially increase the list of heritage buildings and include precincts and neighbourhoods.

Sougata Mukhopadhyay | News18

Updated:July 15, 2015, 11:59 PM IST
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Residents unite to save Kolkata's traditional homes
In a letter to the Chief Minister, the signatories have urged the state to amend laws to substantially increase the list of heritage buildings and include precincts and neighbourhoods.

Kolkata: A campaign to preserve the cultural past of Kolkata by saving its architecturally distinctive houses built during the colonial era is steadily getting louder. Although the city's civic body has, so far, turned a deaf ear to the plea the clamour is poised to become a movement in full bloom.

The architecturally fascinating living spaces of Kolkata's middle class certainly embody the city's engagement with its colonial past. Be it the Venetian shuttered French windows or the red-oxidized floors or intricate artworks in porches, balconies and rooftop cornices, Kolkata is fast losing its amazing variety of architectural beauties to its property boom. Author Amit Chaudhuri has launched a campaign to save these precious relics which are fast being converted into soulless apartments.

Chaudhuri said, "The campaign is to make people understand that these neighbourhoods are essential to Calcutta's history and Calcutta's modern history. These are houses that came up from the end of 19th Century to the middle of 20th Century. So these are modern houses of the modern city of Calcutta which is where so much happened."

Chaudhuri has received support from Calcuttans including Nobel Laureates and prominent citizens like Amartya Sen, Kaushik Basu among others. In a letter to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the signatories have urged the state to amend laws to substantially increase the list of heritage buildings and include precincts and neighbourhoods. They have also the Chief Minister urged to provide more teeth to the state heritage commission and the heritage committee of Kolkata Municipal Corporation.

Alok Kr Dutta, a resident of North Kolkata, said: "Heritage areas must be preserved by the government. Otherwise the building will go to the promoters who have already taken many buildings in this neighbourhood. The promoting business should be stopped immediately in these heritage neighbourhoods of Bengal."

Despite the steady rise in clamour for protecting its neighbourhoods from land sharks, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation thinks that the idea cannot be executed for want of money. Authorities at the city's civic body have already distanced themselves from the campaign and seem to be lending credence to the apprehension that a steady destruction of these visual beauties is inevitable.

But campaigners believed that the roadblock lies more in the rigid mind set of the authorities than in the arrangement of funds.

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