Interview: S. Muthiah

‘200 years of history lost’

Print edition : September 05, 2014

Government House, more than 250 years old, was demolished to facilitate the construction of a new Assembly complex in the Government Estate. Photo: R. Ragu

You had mentioned that you were amazed how the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) gave the Tamil Nadu government permission in 1969 to build the multistoreyed Namakkal Kavignar Maligai inside Fort St. George, which has several protected monuments. This is a clear violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act. But ASI officials argue that the Act did not then have the provision about a prohibited area of 100 metres around a protected monument where building activity is totally prohibited.

You can argue all this with the government. India has the best laws in the world and it has the worst implementation. When politics take a role in these issues, government departments step back. No government department will challenge a government’s decision. If the government is freewheeling about its decisions, nothing can be done about it unless the courts intervene.

For instance, Government House—mistakenly called Admiralty House—was a heritage building. Why did they pull it down without thinking twice about it? The DMK [Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam] government claimed to be protectors of heritage in the case of the police headquarters building. When it came to a building where 200 years of Madras Presidency history was written, it had no qualms at all about destroying it. Two hundred years of history was there in that building.

T.S. Subramanian

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