A.G.K. Menon, the former convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), said the Trust, in a bid to protect Delhi’s modern heritage, had in 2013 made a list of 62 buildings of significance constructed after Independence. It gave that list to the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC), formed by the Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC). However, the HCC dismissed the list saying it was “without any basis, arbitrary and completely ad hoc”.
'No set formula'
“Identifying buildings that are of modern architectural significance is not mathematics as there’s no set formula that can be applied. We need people well versed in history, aesthetics and design who will put forward arguments and reasons as to why a structure should be labelled as modern heritage and thus protected,” he said.
Mr. Menon added that it’s being done all over the world, with UNESCO having identified contemporary structures that are of value. However in India, Mr. Menon said, the process is very opaque due to pressure from the government.
“We as conservationists have a very transparent approach to the subject. Time is not a criteria but expert opinion is. Modern heritage is constantly being created and the need to protect it is important as history is constantly in the making.”
Historian and writer William Dalrymple said India needs to radically revamp her architectural policy, which is 200 years out of date.
“There’s need to revamp India’s dated British laws. Every country has private buildings that are of heritage value and any responsible government will bring out a legislation to protect its modern built heritage. The current government, which claims to be a patriotic one, should be the first to do so. The government wants to bring back the Kohinoor and other artefacts, but it also needs to preserve and conserve its architectural heritage,” said the chronicler of Delhi, adding that even havelis of old Delhi were slowly being encroached upon and that they needed to be preserved before it istoo late. In the 30 years he has spent in India, he’s shocked to see the state of deterioration of these havelis.
“India must realise that its tourism is the goose that lays the golden egg. Countries like Italy and Turkey have successfully managed to protect their built heritage despite being affected by World War-II. Rajasthan and Hyderabad are examples of places in India that have managed to attract tourists with successful preservation of heritage,” he said, adding that Lahore, which is located in a country affected by terrorism and lack of political strategy, has been protected by a better conservation policy than India's.