Ignored, Bharatpur monuments crumbling
- 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
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.