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(ARCHIVE) Vol. Vol. XVIII No. 15, november 16-30, 2008
Threat to Rajaji Hall
from new Assembly?
(By A Special Correspondent)

The building of the new Assembly complex in Government Estate may threaten Rajaji Hall (the former Banqueting Hall), according to structural experts. The laying of the foundations for the proposed new complex will weaken Rajaji Hall, they feel. The two-hundred-year-old Rajaji Hall is the sole remaining heritage building in Government Estate. In the absence of a Heritage Act, there is very little that can be done to protect the building if the Government goes ahead with the Assembly complex.

Rajaji (Banqueting) Hall in danger?

The construction agency that has been awarded the contract for building the new Assembly building is now working on sinking its foundation using a technique known as driven piles foundation which sends shock waves that vibrate outward. This work is now going on at less than 20 feet from Rajaji Hall. Experts feel that an alternative method of bored piles ought to have been used; the technique now being used is only meant for places which have adequate space between buildings. The new Assembly is designed to have driven piles foundation at a number of spots and this only increases the danger to Rajaji Hall.

The Madras High Court has clearly laid down directives and passed strictures regarding the use of driven piles within city limits. The new method for laying foundations may well be in contravention to this.

Government has responded by saying that it will build a seven-foot trench separating Rajaji Hall from the site. But this, according to experts, is simply not enough.

The danger to Rajaji Hall comes at a time when the Government has already faced considerable flak for demolishing Government House, the erstwhile home of the Governors of Madras for over 250 years, to build the new Assembly. It had also demolished Gandhi Illam, formerly a guest-house on Government Estate, which later housed a museum commemorating the Father of the Nation. Responding to criticism, the Government initially declared that Kalaivanar Arangam and Rajaji Hall would not be demolished. A few months later, it decided that Kalaivanar Arangam would have to go in view of modifications in the plans for access to the new Assembly. Now, it would seem to be the turn of Rajaji Hall.

The Hall, which has been witness to many historic functions, was restored at enormous expense a few months ago and has been a vibrant venue for several events involving the public at large. One of the criticisms against locating the new Assembly here was that the Hall would become inaccessible. But now, with its very existence being in doubt, matters look very bleak indeed.

The continued inaction on the part of successive state governments in getting a Heritage Act in place has resulted in Chennai losing out on most of its architectural landmarks. A list of such buildings together with a draft Heritage Act has been with the Government for long. Another committee appointed by the Government to look into the listing of all heritage buildings possessed by the Government is yet to make its report.


In this issue

Threat to Rajaji Hall...
Canal restoration in city...
The Parsis of Madras...
A slum that found hope
Historic residences...
Other stories in this issue...

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