Protection Against Beggars, Drug Addicts et al for Iconic Statue
Article by Chaitanya Marpakwar | Times Of India
Almost a year after it was restored at a cost of nearly Rs 1 crore, the BMC has decid ed to install a high-grill around the icon ic Khada Parsi statue standing at the traf fic intersection of Byculla Bridge. With drug addicts and beggars creating a menace in the locality, the statue has remained shut for public despite the makeover in June last year.
The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) has given its go ahead for the metal grills around the statue to protect it. The BMC will soon start work on the grill installation.“Drug addicts are a nuisance. They steal and destroy parts of the statue. The statue has a lot of delicate metal parts. The lamps are made of glass and run on gas. It is a safety issue too,“ said a BMC official. Apart from the grill, the BMC is also installing CCTV cameras.
BMC officials said that the grill will be made of metal and bear the heritage features of the statue. “We will ensure that the grill is tall enough so that people won’t jump over it. At the same time, it will not block the view of the statue and the water fountains at its base. It will still give a clear view of the statue to passersby,“ the official added.
The original cast-iron Khada Parsi, installed in the 1860s, had a water fountain, which was smashed by vandals. It also had lampposts, eight of which were stolen. After almost two years of effort, the features, including the fountain, were recreated by a 10-member restoration team using black and white archival photographs of the structure and special stones sourced from Bangalore. The gas lanterns will be switched on every evening from Friday. The project, announced by the BMC in 2012, was carried out by RPS Infra Projects and overseen by conversation architect Pankaj Joshi. The restored 40-foot-tall statue was formally inaugurated by Sena president Uddhav Thackeray.
The iconic statue was erected in the memory of Shet Cursetjee Manockjee, the illustrious Parsi who founded one of the first schools for girls in Mumbai, now called Alexandra Girls English In stitution. His youngest son spent Rs 20,000, a substantial sum in those days, on the statue, which was built in parts in London. The components were shipped and assembled in India.Years later, the family gifted the statue to the BMC on the condition that it would be maintained. However, the Grade I heritage structure fell into a state of neglect as flyovers came up around it.
“We have asked them to ensure that the grill doesn’t spoil the heritage character of the statue in anyway,“ said an MHCC member.
The BMC has also sought help from the local police. “We have provided enough security to the statue,“ said senior inspector Arvind Patil of the Agripada police station. “Once the grill and CCTVs are installed, it will be easier to keep vandals away,“ Patil said. Prakash Kadam, the BMC’s city engineer said that the grill and CCTV project would be completed soon. “The Khada Parsi lights and water fountain will be operational after that,“ Kadam said.