Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Plan to restore GPO still on paper

The Hindu: Mumbai: Wednesday, June 14, 2017.
More than a year since the Postmaster General (PMG) of the Mumbai region said that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) be signed with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) to restore and preserve the General Post Office (GPO) in Mumbai, little has moved forward.
Data accessed under the Right to Information Act (RTI) by public interest activist Anil Galgali reveals that the January 29, 2016, letter according “urgent priority” to the work meandered between postal divisions for months. Five letters on the subject were issued and despatched from the PMG’s office in January, February, August, September and November 2016.
INTACH is a private trust that has the requisite expertise to handle heritage architecture restoration. Divay Gupta, principal director at INTACH, told The Hindu, “It is true that we were approached two years ago to take a look at the condition of the GPO building. Our preliminary assessment was followed by our advisory to cordon off areas of the building that were in a very bad state and faced imminent collapse that could cause serious injuries. We had suggested this as an immediate first measure that would entail no cost, but would ensure no loss to life or limb occurred.”
Danger to hundreds
Mr. Galgali says that the PMG had directed urgent and immediate action as the heritage building functions as the headquarters of the postal department and is visited by hundreds of people, besides the 1,000-plus government staffers who work there.
The GPO chief had also pointed out in his January 2016 instructions to the head of the State buildings department that portions of the ceiling in different places had collapsed, even injuring a woman, who had sued the postal department.
In response to his RTI query, the postal department informed Mr. Galgali, “Civil suit number 4735/2012 was lodged by a woman injured after a roof slab collapsed. The case is sub-judice (and the process of) fixing of vicarious responsibility upon the department (in currently ongoing over the incident).”
Sheer negligence
Mr. Galgali said the negligence of the postal department officials was glaring. “Consider the fact that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation-approved Mumbai Heritage Committee declared four of the 633 heritage structures in Mumbai as ‘poorly preserved buildings’, which included the GPO building. The GPO also got the distinction of being the only government building amongst the four dilapidated heritage structures; the three others, including the Watson Hotel building, are private structures.”
The GPO’s restoration and maintenance was expected to cost ₹47.58 crore in 2015, with an expected cost escalation of 10 to 15% per annum.