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Ignored, Bharatpur monuments crumbling

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  • ymalaiya
    Ignored, Bharatpur monuments crumbling SUKHMANI SINGH BHARATPUR, JANUARY 14: And you thought the only thing worrying Bharatpur was the dwindling numbers of
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 9, 2002
      Ignored, Bharatpur monuments crumbling


      BHARATPUR, JANUARY 14: And you thought the only thing worrying
      Bharatpur was the dwindling numbers of birds. There's more bad news
      from the erstwhile Jat principality which, apart from the bird
      sanctuary, also boasts of an ancient fort and other monuments which
      few want to protect.

      For the dapper Raoraja Raghuraj Singh, scion of the former Bharatpur
      royal family, the degradation of the family properties, dating back
      to the reign of Maharaja Suraj Mal, is both painful and sad. But
      successive governments in Rajasthan have never been known to accord
      priority to ``Jat'' interests.

      Not much remains of the imposing Lohagarh fort, once known as one of
      most ``impregnable'' forts in the north. Scores of hovels have sprung
      up inside, virtually destroying its outer mud wall.

      Though a board of the Archaeological Survey of India proclaims that
      it is a ``Protected Monument', the board guards a slum cluster
      instead. The outer canal surrounding the fort, known as Sujan Ganga
      Nehar is aptly described by a local as ```one of Asia's biggest
      septic tanks''.

      Once regarded as ``sacred'' and full of fresh water which formed the
      town's water supply, now the entire sewage of the town collects here,
      giving it a slimy and noxious appearance. Says District Collector
      Subodh Aggarwal,``A recent test revealed that the bio-oxidation level
      of the water is twice the limit for human consumption, and contains
      methane and nitrogen.''

      Now judicial activism has come to the rescue. In response to a 1996
      PIL filed in the High Court this September, the court ordered the
      state chief secretary to constitute a committee whose thrust would be
      suggestions for providing a pollution-free environment and ``basic
      clean living, alongside removal of all encroachments in the city''.

      A report on this has to be submitted to the court by March this year.
      The administration has finally been prodded into action. Says
      Aggarwal,`` Chief Justice Lakshman has rightly pointed out that you
      can't have an island of beauty (the sanctuary) in a sea of filth. We
      have formulated a 8.5 crore project to clean the Sujan Ganga and
      remove encroachments. The Municipal council is flush with funds, we
      just needed political clearance. Our drive against encroachment has

      Predictably though, he's facing stiff resistance from the city's
      traders. There is still no move, however, to restore monuments within
      the fort precincts which are in an advanced state of decay. The
      ancient Kishori Mahal, named after and once home to Maharaja Suraj
      Mal's wife, now houses a hostel for SC, ST youth and is surrounded by
      shanties. One of its carved minarets has totally collapsed, while the
      other presents a drunken ready-to-fall appearance. The inner
      badminton court where the women of the royal household once played
      now forms part of the hostel's makeshift kitchen. The walls are
      covered with graffiti.

      In the sanctuary too, just the shell remains of a royal hunting
      lodge. Thanks to protracted litigation between forest authorities and
      the royal family, most of the summer retreat has been plundered with
      even windows ripped out by vagrants. Yet Raoraja has faithfully
      preserved piles of documents and Raj memorabilia which he plans to
      mount as an exhibition this year.

      Eight years ago he even approached the state Archaeology Department
      with a proposal to take back the palaces of nearby Deeg, the original
      capital of Bharatpur, on a 99-year-lease. ``I cannot bear to see the
      state it is in. So I found a German sponsor who was prepared to
      restore it and convert it into a hotel.'' But he still hasn't got a
      reply from the state government.

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