The danger lies in the dilapidated palace of Adel Shah

May 15 2022 | 05:21 AM IST

The danger lies in the dilapidated palace of Adel Shah

The dilapidated state of the Adil Shah Palace in Panjim poses a major threat not only to occupants passing by the building but also to more than 150 government officials working in the former “Old Secretariat” building. Strigdara Nike discovers what led to this gross neglect of the heritage structure and what needs to be done to prevent any untoward incident in the near future.

The dilapidated state of Adil Shah’s old mansion (now an old secretariat) located in the heart of the capital calls for attention and raises multiple questions. Not only the wooden beam hanging from the first floor of the building is a threat to the occupants, but also the dilapidated state of this mansion threatens the lives of more than 150 government officials who work in the former “Old Secretariat” building.

The old Secretariat Building (OSB) now in the possession of the Arts and Culture Department (A&C) was handed over to them by the General Administration (GAD) in 2006. “The impetus for handing over this centuries-old building” to the A&C department C to renovate and develop this heritage site to serve as a “centre for arts and culture” (international art gallery),” Director of Arts and Culture Sagun Velip told Herald.

In addition, Milind Mattei, Assistant Director (Culture) for Arts and Culture, said the department has completed almost all formalities to convert OSB into an “Art and Culture Centre”.

The A&C Department has identified a detailed map of the sculptures, paintings, and artwork to display in this proposed art gallery. “A roadmap for parking lots and other facilities has been drawn up taking into account public opinion and suggestions,” Matti said.

The proposal to designate a prominent museum scientist in London was moved and was in the final stage of approval when the government decided in 2017 to hand it over to Kala Academy (KA), Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Ltd (IPSCDL) and Goa State Museum (GSM), Mattei added.

Mattei detailed, “The old trust was renovated by the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation (GSIDC) at the request of the Directorate of Arts and Culture to convert it into an arts center by creating a museum and art galleries on the premises while preserving the building’s heritage structure.

“This directorate has secured the government’s approval to put forward a new expression of interest without any preconditions regarding the use of the space of the old Secretariat complex in Panjim for the creation of a world center for arts and culture,” he said.

“After obtaining approval from the Goa Government, GSIDC invited M/s ASCM Museum Consultant Pvt Ltd to make the final presentation before the Selection Committee specially constituted by the Government in 2017.”

While the process of converting the old secretariat building into an arts and culture center was underway, the government decided to hand it over to KA, IPSCDL and GSM. Part of this building was also handed over to students of Western Music of Kala Academy and a media room, Matti told.

Speaking of space allocation, Philip said, a fixed OSB space has been allocated to each of the divisions such as KA, IPSCDL and GSM by keeping in mind the heritage value.

Philip added, “While KA has now occupied more than it was allotted, many AC units have been installed by IPSCDL in their allotted space. As OSB is a heritage site, we have clearly instructed them not to drill even a single iron nail into the walls of the building. But to no avail,” he added.

Notified that there are central air conditioning units in the building, Philip said that IPSCDL staff and authorities are ignoring warnings and destroying the beauty of this heritage site.

Philip further said that the monthly water and electricity bills received by the old secretariat amount to thousands of rupees. “Because KA is part of the A&C department, we also pay our electricity and water bills. Furthermore, the IPSCDL’s refusal to pay the bill amount creates an undue financial burden on the A&C department.

Historian Prajal Sarkardandi has demanded that the Adil Shah Palace, a testament to Goa’s rich history, be declared a protected monument.

“There is no doubt that such historical monuments must be adaptively reused,” said Sakhardand. Instead of partially housing the Goa State Museum in the Adil Shah Palace, the OSB must be converted into either an art gallery, arts and culture center or the entire Goa State Museum to preserve its historical value. Goa’s history should be displayed at landmark sites,” Sakhardandi demanded.

Commenting on the government’s negligence in preserving antiquities, the eminent historian said: “These monuments should not be used as government offices, and the common people who do not understand their value also fail to preserve their historical sanctity.” He added that the government is showing a willingness to rebuild heritage structures that were destroyed during the Portuguese era but is turning a blind eye to a decade-old monument located in the heart of the capital.”

Armenio Ribeiro, an architect and trustee of the Charles Correa Foundation, believes the government should prepare a master plan on how to reuse the heritage buildings. The plan should be such that heritage sites are accessible to the public and not to a few individuals, Ribeiro suggested.

According to Ribeiro, although the heritage building can be ceded to government offices if office staff are willing to treat such public property with due responsibility, it is not very good to make a heritage building with government filings and restrict entry to the general public.

Philip informed that the A&C department has now decided to hand the structure back to GAD as per the approval of the relevant authority. He added that the process has already begun.

Former KA Secretary Pravin MS Parad said they have written to A&C management to direct GSIDC to conduct the inspection for repair and maintenance of the first floor of the OSB.

“Recognizing the dilapidated state of the building which poses a danger to its occupants, especially the Kala Academy staff and students of Western music during his visit to the old secretariat in September 2021, Minister of Art and Culture Govind Judd, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors and the Kuwait News Agency had instructed officials to carry out the inspection of the office Internal Control “.

The Department of Public Works (PWD) stated in its response that the OSB tenure was with GSIDC for major renovation and maintenance work and was not handed over to PWD.

To learn about the current status of the OSB, the Herald contacted the secretary of the current KA member, Vinesh Arlekar, who failed to provide any definitive answer as to whether any repair and maintenance work was taking place on the building and whether any response regarding the repair work was received by KA from A&C department.

“Since the Adil Shah Palace is in the custody of the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Department, you should instead ask the A&C department whether or not maintenance and repair work to the Adil Shah Palace is in progress,” Arlkar said.

The Adil Shah Palace which was built in the early 16th century by Yusuf Adil Shah was moved and taken under the rule of the state after the liberation of Goa. Located across the Mandovi River, it was initially built as a summer retreat for the governor and was later converted into the state legislature building for the Goa government.

CCF Director Nondita Corea Mehrotra said the heritage buildings are not just marble, tile and cement but the years-old structure depicts ancient culture. Heritage provides clues to our past and how our society has developed. It helps us examine our own history and traditions and enables us to develop awareness of ourselves and therefore we must be treated with great care.

Nondita added just because you are a government employee and are allowed to use the space doesn’t mean you can make any changes you want.

Archaeologist Sawani Shetye said, “Being a historian, I would like to demand that the GSM be permanently moved to the new building free of traffic congestion, adequate parking space, and a spacious site mitigating the problem of space scarcity and many of these factors.”

According to Shetye, adaptive reuse of historical monuments should be allowed with due diligence under the conditions. The government’s use of the historic structure for its own needs (such as reusing buildings by handing them over to government offices) is acceptable if the government prioritizes preserving its historical authenticity.

Heritage activist Heta Pandit has condemned the defamation of the Adel Shah Palace by government office employees working there. Historic monuments are designed to suit the local climate. It is our only duty to preserve the beauty of these sites. She asked, “Is it reasonable to puncture the walls, close the windows, and put false ceilings on a beautiful river facing the palace of Adel Shah?”

Pandit said the first thing any custodian should do is take a full stock of heritage property and then determine the most appropriate use of the property and then come up with their own conservation plans. “If there is more than one use, they should all be mixed and they should be compatible with each other,” she added.

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