Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Our Heritage, Our Culture?

We will be remembered only if we give to our younger generation a prosperous and safe India, resulting out of economic prosperity coupled with civilizational heritage...Abdul Kalam

Our ex President is a great wise man too & see the way he has put forward the importance of heritage of our country. The recent news about starting a heritage walk in Pune by PMC might have gone unnoticed by many as many will say what’s there to see? few old palpitated structures which we call Wada's, some narrow crowded streets & Shaniwar Wada which has nothing to see inside except the front facade! Unfortunately then we haven't understood the meaning of the term Heritage the way Dr Kalam has. We are fortunate enough to have age old history & culture in this city. Rather the city is witness to many of the famous dynasty from Shivaji to Peshvas & undoubtedly Cultural Capitol of the State. Heritage isn’t restricted to some old structures & roads but it’s the entire culture of that era which we have to preserve. And preservation isn’t keeping some Wadas as it is but to maintain them in the form they were  i.e. in their full glory. At the same time let people of today’s genre know what is the culture they are inheriting.

Even in countries like USA who has hardly any history has preserved their heritage in great way in form of museums & libraries. Europe is most famous for conserving heritage as each country displays story of different culture & civilization & they have maintained it as it is at many places. In recent times China, Singapore has taken lead in preserving heritage & make it tourist attraction, earning huge revenue out of it. In Singapore Heritage walks have been designed with display boards all along the walk telling history of every Square on the street as well important buildings along. Even a new comer in the city can take this walk without any need of guide. And the way they have maintained the entire these routes is itself worth watching. These kind of things create a sense of belonging amongst the residents of the city, making them aware that they are part of a such a heritage as well makes the visitor know the city & its culture from a different perspective.

After all a city can’t be measured just from the jobs or entertainment places it has. A city is known by the people it has inherited & culture it carries. All around the world the city's which have preserved their heritage are considered best for the residence as its the culture which makes your life at peace & feels it with joy & that is what a man needs from the place where he lives. On this back ground what we see around in our beloved city or any such city in our country. With a few exception like Ahmadabad where rulers have taken in depth efforts to conserve the city heritage rest all its total mess & ignorance on this front. Even in Pune though now the local body has started a heritage walk with assistance of an NGO but yet the full fledged effort has yet to be seen. It’s not just showing people around but the condition of what we are showing is also important. Small things like clean Public Toilets along this path have to be taken in account which are missing at our end. We have Shaniwar Wada as iconic structure representing city's image  but if you visit it hardly anything is to se inside is a fact. Similarly the city was  Capitol of Maratha as well Peshwas & so has had many structures which were occupied by their officers i.e. Knights & Nobles but in the process of urbanization we have lost many of them. Even the planning of city in itself is a thing to preserve with arrangement of Peths (cluster of residences of different classes of the societies). For e.g. Tambat Aali means residence as well work places of Copper Smiths & so is Lohar Aali meant for black smiths & then there is Kumbhar Wada meant to be clay pot making workers as the major occupants. Then there are Peths all around Shaniwar Wada making residences of different officers as per their closeness to the Royal Family.

Have a walk through all these areas & you will know what we have lost in the process of urbanization. The term heritage is just for name sake, we neither have been able to preserve the structures nor its surrounding, leave apart the culture it was carrying. Then there are many buildings which were residences of prominent personalities & witness of many historical as well social moments. There was a system of PMC fixing a blue board on such buildings mentioning who was staying there but it’s a joke. As our responsibility towards such structures don’t end by just fixing a board saying the name of personality, if at all we can’t maintain the structure at least we can display the history happened there in written form by which the people visiting such places can know about the same  as well the work of that personality. Unfortunate is at many places even these boards are not maintained as the local body forgets about them once fixed making a mockery of the cause they have been put.

Also there has to be a plan to preserve these structures as many of their present occupants are not in position to maintain the same & as most of the structures in Pune are of clay & wood due to weathering action they have got damaged over the time & needs urgent maintenance. Similarly the streets & localities which need to preserved as heritage, there also norm of redevelopment has to be strictly worked out to maintain the charm it carried over the years.

Then we have Forts like Sinhagad & Purandar around the city along with structures like Mastani Mahal of which ruins are only left. Pune's heritage should not be restricted to these Peths & Wadas but we need to identify the structures in & around the city & need to make them know to common man. Here is what we can think of about the Heritage front...

Operation ‘Heritage Pune’ Agenda

1.    Identify all heritage structures and categorize them systematically
2.   Form a ‘Heritage Cell’ with prominent citizens, scholars, politicians and industrialists. Provide this cell adequate infrastructure, staff and budget through the public body. Identify important structures that have top priority and then work out the best strategy to preserve each one. There are structures, which are in possession of PMC, and structures which are under the possession of Property owners and sometimes their tenants’ .The priority must be given to acquire these structures so that we can preserve them in the best possible manner.
3.   Whenever the property is in possession of the tenants, offer them alternate accommodation through places available under EWS projects or by High Density reservations. We need to have such accommodations available with us on all fringes of the city so as to facilitate the shifting of tenants. When the structure is with owners we can think of giving them rebate in property tax so that they can maintain these structures. We can also recommend a separate fund in which even PMC can contribute. We may have some cess ( tax) on the buildings in Gaothan area for generating this fund. We can also think of giving TDR if we want to acquire these structures.
4.    Also, we need to give some extra FSI to adjoining structures if it’s possible for accommodating the tenants or owners in heritage structures.
5.    We need to make a heritage map of the city to promote awareness of our heritage sites as well to assist tourists. Today even a proper Puneite often doesn’t know where to look for heritage structures. Due to present situation, it is impossible to have a heritage walk. We can have a heritage drive of the Pune city and suburb with locations covering all the important structures.
6.    There must be a Heritage museum and park in the city where we can proudly display various objects from the past as well the history of our city.
7.   We can device a ‘Maintain and Earn’ scheme for the structures which are in our possession by selling advertising rights around such structures. Also public structures like the watchtower near engineering college can be covered under this scheme.
8.   There has to be a place where we can recreate and display the heritage life-style of this city.
9.   Archeologically speaking, we need to work along with institutes like Deccan College for such initiatives. A policy can be made to preserve archeological findings at locations guided by them.
10.                Initiate an awareness program in public, especially amongst the people residing in and around Heritage structures.
11. On the aesthetic front we will be working for creating the new spots in and around the city .One such ideas is creating small lakes in the Mula- Mutha river. The other could be building of a Kala Gram. Even the ruins of Khadakwasala dam can be beautified.
12.                Identify new Heritage Structures for the future. As today what is new will be historic tomorrow.
13.                Control elevations of the buildings in the precincts of heritage structures. This doesn’t seem to be a practical option in the city area but we can start a thought process.
Besides above a lot can be done provided we want to do it. Remember, no society can survive by forgetting the heritage it has. And its job of every citizen living in this city to preserve the heritage we have, then only we can call us proud citizen of the city & that is our responsibility towards the generations down the line after us!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Envo-Power Committee, Credai, Pune

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