File photo of Agha Khan Palace in Pune.
Heritage and development are at loggerheads once again. An amendment to the monuments and archaeological sites Bill plans to do away with the 100-metre restriction of infrastructure work near heritage sites and News18 has learnt that Pune’s Aga Khan Palace, a national monument, could be one of the sites in danger if this amendment is passed.
According to Section 20A(4) of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR Act), no construction of any kind is permitted within 100 metres of a nationally protected monument.
In September, the National Monuments Authority had rejected the Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation’s application for the rail alignment near the Aga Khan Place. In 2016, the Bombay High Court had said that the metro project cannot go ahead without nod from the NMA.
The Aga Khan Palace was built by Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III in 1892. It played a major part in India’s freedom struggle as Mahatma Gandhi and his wife Kasturba were kept under custody here during the Quit India Movement. Kasturba Gandhi breathed her last in this monument.
At present, the Rajya Sabha Select Committee on the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2018 is conducting study visits, holding wider consultations and inviting expert views on the bill. On December 5, the select committee will meet to hold wider consultations.
Headed by BJP MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, the committee has members from different political parties who recently met to discuss the Pune Metro Rail Project. The project was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2016.
“The proposed alignment passes through the regulated area of Pataleshwar Caves and Shaniwar Wada, whereas it falls within the prohibited area of Aga Khan Palace,” said the study note of the select committee.
Metro or monument?
The panel members went to Pune for on-the-spot visit of the infrastructure projects held up due to the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and held discussion with various stakeholders.
The Member Secretary of the NMA briefed the committee that the proposed Pune Metro rail line runs at 11 meter from protected area of the Aga Khan Palace and falls within the prohibited area.
There was discussion about the Pune Metro Rail Project, where the stakeholders put forward their arguments. The committee members visited the Aga Khan Palace and Pataleshwar Caves to assess the alignment of the proposed metro projects. They were informed of the various alternative routes that were being considered and the extra costs and delays associated with them.
The Managing Director of the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited also made a PowerPoint presentation on the views of MMRCL on the various provisions of the Bill.
News 18 has learnt that in its reply, the MMRCL representative said that “the present proposal provides facility to ridership and accessibility to Aga Khan Palace. Latest technology is being adopted to ensure that the monuments are not affected and that proximity to the airport and other multi-modal transportation hubs necessitated this alignment.”
As per the study note, chairman Sahasrabuddhe highlighted different examples across the world such as in England where the subway runs below the English Parliament and in France, it runs close to old monuments.
He stressed that the committee should take a relook into the 100 metre and 200 metre regulations. “The chairman emphasised that heritage conservation is a science and any implementation should be based on established practices. The people should be sensitized about the need for the conservation of heritage and the protection mechanism requires to be reviewed,” says the note.