Our past helps to strengthen the future, and heritage is one of the most pivotal things that helps to preserve the glory of any state or country. Similar is the tale of Chandigarh’s magnificent heritage that continues to be our prized possession.
Considering the nonstop auctions of UT’s heritage articles, all over the world, especially in France, USA, and UK for more than a decade, I have been tracking these auctions since times immemorial and raising the issue at all the forums including spreading the orders of MHA of 22 Feb 2011 on banning the sale/removal/shifting/exports and disposal of heritage articles.
From the Memory Lane
In 2016, the new Adviser of UT, an IAS officer of AGMUT cadre Sh. Vijay Dev joined and immediately called about the issues from the residents. On the first news of the auction, he called all the officers, visited a few places with the author and immediately ordered for constituting and notifying the Heritage Items Protection Cell of UT, with Chief Architect as its Chairman. Regular meetings started and some shapes started coming up for the protection of heritage.
In 2018, when Sh. Parimal Rai was here as an Adviser, and I received information from customs officers of Tughlakabad that some articles, similar to Chandigarh Articles, were being sent to Brazil, he allowed UT to check and take a call.
The Administration, in an extremely efficient manner, sent teams of the Police and Architecture department to Delhi, who confirmed that these items are of UT including Panjab University. Finally, a criminal case was registered against the illegal exports and the trial is going on.
In 2020, Sh. Manoj Parida, Adviser UT, conveyed that this Cell is very important, and the Adviser should be the Chairman accordingly the Cell was reconstituted with the Adviser as its chairman. At that point of time, it was decided that we should spread awareness of the UT heritage to all the Indian embassies in the world and a French team should initiate a call for discussion for this whole affair.
The Pandemic Effect
The progress of this mission was hit by COVID for almost two years. But finally, the project saw the light of day and the announcement was made that a French Delegation is coming to Chandigarh from 15 November to 19 November 2022 and the program was titled “Operational mission for preserving Le Corbusier – Jeanneret heritage in Chandigarh.
This news brought smiles to all the heritage lovers of the city. The first meeting was held on 15 November, at 11 am in the Conference Hall of the UT Secretariat, which was chaired by Adviser Sh. Dharam Pal, and four key areas were framed i.e.
1. Identification of heritage including its authenticity
2. Tagging of the articles
3. Preservation and conservation of the heritage articles
4. Legal frame for protection of the articles
The French Team was consisting of Nathalie Chanvallon, a Judicial Police Officer dealing in the trafficking of cultural objects, Brigitte Bouvier, Director and Bénédicte Gandini a conservation architect of Le Corbusier Foundation, Maroussia Duranton a conservation scientist, Delphine Elie-Lefebvre a heritage restorer, Jean-Christophe Simon, an architect and Inspector General of Historic Monuments for the French Ministry of Culture.
Apart from the above, French diplomat Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens and Mr Fabrice Cotelle, Police Commissioner both posted at Delhi in the French Embassy, also joined the meeting, and conveyed their concerns and their dedication to solving the issue of thefts and auctions in France with the help of local police and CBI.
Director of Culture, Mr Sorabh Arora spoke about the Le Corbusier Foundation representative, spoke about all the issues, and introduced the project. All senior officers of Chandigarh Administration including Sh. Nitin Yadav, Home Secretary, Sh. Vinod Kavle, Secretary (Culture), Sh. V. P. Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Sh. Vijay James, LR (UT) were present at the meeting. The representatives of the PGIMER, High Court, Panjab University, and Chandigarh College of Architecture Principal were also there at the meeting.
The Way Forward
Overall, this mission can be termed as a historical mission in the history of Chandigarh, where the French delegation came down to Chandigarh, with the efforts of Administration, to resolve the four key issues, as aforesaid. The visit remains a very successful visit and a perfect beginning for the true protection of our heritage but still lot of things are to be done.
In my opinion, it is imperative to amend the list of heritage articles by adding items like Concrete Tube Light Fixtures, Aluminum shutters, ventilators etc.
Additionally, the design of all UT heritage articles should be considered as an intellectual property and as such the patents and design registration of these articles should be considered so that none can make duplicates.