Heritage panel chief says a politician or two on board well help conservation cause

Including a few politicians as members in the Mumbai Heritage Conservation committee (MHCC) could possibly aid heritage conservation efforts in the city, said committee chairperson V Ranganathan on Monday.

In a candid discussion with Newsline, Ranganathan, who retired as chief secretary in September 2002, advocated the involvement of political persons to add momentum to the two-decade-old heritage conservation movement.

"Many heritage conservationists feel that involving politicians and political parties will draw attention away from the primary cause of the movement. However, I feel that public figures should be involved. Through their involvement, they can be sensitised to the need for preserving heritage and educated on the challenges of balancing this with development demands," Ranganathan said.

"Rather than excluding them from the various committees of the state and central government for protecting heritage, I feel, if one or two politicians are included, it will strengthen the effort as they represent the support of the masses. I know many may not agree with this statement," he added.

Over the past one year, since the new MHCC was formed in July, politicians have clashed with heritage conservationists on various occasions since the newly proposed heritage list of 948 structures was published by BMC on July 31, 2012.

Most famous among these has been the categorisation of Shivaji Park precinct, which surrounds the Grade-I listed Shivaji Park, as a heritage precinct. Rival factions Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) even joined hands to oppose the heritage tag for the Marathi-populated area that has long been recognised as a bastion for political supremacy.

During the budget discussions of BMC in September, 2012, municipal councillors across the political spectrum rose in opposition to various buildings, and precincts that feature in the new heritage list.

In the 40 hours of discussions that spanned over 10 days, 109 of the 227 corporators spoke on this issue. Over 70 per cent of them protested the inclusion of a number of proposed privately-owned heritage structures in their precincts. This included standing committee chairperson Rahul Shewale, Shiv Sena leader Yashodhar Phanse, MNS leader Dilip Lande, Congress leader Dnyanraj Nikam, senior Congress corporator Pravin Chheda, BJP leader Dilip Patel, among others.

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