Transparency and a Mud Pack

The surge in technology has paved its way through the barriers of the functioning of age-old government bodies, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi in particular. With repeated PILs to the Archaeological Survey of India about the sordid state of the Jama Masjid, the master plan for the redevelopment of the largest mosque in the country has been uploaded on a newly launched website.

This web page was set up at a cost of Rs 1.25 Lakh and will allow one to know as much about the project as one wants to (this includes the controversies that surround it) with the click of a mouse. In the words of the Municipal commissioner, the project has raised a number of questions on its feasibility and thus arose the need for such transparency. To work on its downtrodden image, it has decided to launch a portal for suggestions and feed back which, like files in a government office, will stay posted without action.

For the record, the MCD has submitted four plans till date with the Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC). But the DUAC had objected because of environmental concerns, the commercial aspect and over the sacrificing of history. In its final plan, MCD has proposed to raise the level of the forecourt to a height of 15 feet to make room for more devotees. This area was excavated in the 1970s to make space for Meena Bazaar traders. When these traders are relocated, this space can be utilized for devotees. Another proposal in the final plan is that of a two-level parking at a safe distance of 220 meters, along with the erection of a Mughal-style wall that will enclose a green space of more than 25 acres. The Akbarabadi Mosque, demolished in the British period, will also be excavated and preserved to help restore the original look of the monument. Pictures of what the Jama Masjid looked like in the 1970s have been put up on the website.

With a budget of 300 crores and a project spanning over years, the bureaucracy shall play a major role with the heritage experts already starting to blame the civic agency for being too “commercial” in its approach, and sacrificing on the cultural aspect. The agency, reprimanded by the High Court (HC) and the DUAC, in turn blames the architects for delaying the processing of the redevelopment and thus the need to launch such a portal as a lifesaver.

But the situation is not all that bad. The work was initiated last year with ASI repairing the broken flooring, fixing seepages in the main dome and replacing the damaged jhajjas. The initial phases of work concentrated on areas that required immediate attention. On the lines of the Taj Mahal, multani mitti is being used to reinstate the lost glory and original design on the gates blackened with age. A lengthy procedure involving layering the gates about five to six times, taking about two to three years will last for about ten. Such a mud pack shall make the intricate mughal craftsmanship and exquisite engravings wrapped under years of neglect a sight to appreciate. Soon enough, Delhi is going to be Delhi again.

Deshan Tucker


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