The police chowky at Savitribai Phule Pune University, a heritage structure, was demolished on September 13 for a proposed road-widening project along the University Road..
Citizens and activists have condemned this move calling it unfortunate and ignorant. According to reports, the road department of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) never got the permission from the heritage cell to demolish the structure in the first place.
“Around 1984, there was a similar situation but citizens came together and that’s how the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) was formed.
It is very unfortunate that this has happened. It is a matter of ignorance and a skewed outlook towards development. Heritage is always considered to be coming in the way of urban development but in fact, heritage contributes to it,” states Supriya Goturkar Mahabaleshwarkar, Co-ordinator, INTACH Pune.
When contacted, Harshada Shinde, head of the heritage cell department said that the heritage cell denied permission to the road department to demolish the structure.
“We did not give them the permission to demolish the structure. They may have got it from the state archaeology department. They may have given them permission on the basis of building a similar structure inside the university premises.”
We were unable to contact the State Archaeology Department for their response, as calls to their numbers went unanswered.
Road widening has been one of the biggest priorities of the civic body in the recent years to handle commuter woes regarding traffic. Due to this, several trees have had to face the axe and now more recently, a heritage structure. In 2016, a report claimed that since the past four years, the civic body had chopped around 10,000 trees in the city.
Speaking about road widening not being equivalent to development, Sujit Patwardhan, founder of Parisar, a civil society organisation, says that road widening is done with the intention to reduce traffic congestion but the civic body has gone about it the wrong way. “We don’t need road widening at all. We need better public transport facilities. If you widen a road then you give chance to major polluting vehicles which is wrong. FC Road, Karve Road and Ganeshkind Road had banyan trees on both sides before they were cut down to widen the road. Once the road widens, then traffic increases and now the civic body has resorted to constructing flyovers. In fact, many cities in the world are demolishing flyovers as they are least desirable.”
Adding on to the police chowkey that was demolished, Patwardhan states that it is a big shame for the PMC. “There is no need to widen the University road. They didn’t have to demolish it. Heritage is the uniqueness of cities not its flyovers. They could have innovatively improved the chowkey and converted it into a heritage building. The corporation should hang its head in shame for doing this especially after committing to make Pune a Smart City which is people friendly. They will destroy the city if they continue to widen roads.”
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