Days after Hyderabad’s iconic Charminar suffered damage after a piece of stucco work on one of its minarets fell off, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is responsible for the monument’s upkeep, and the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) are involved in a stand-off.
It was late on Wednesday when a portion of the lime stucco work got detached from the granite slab on the minaret facing the Mecca Masjid and fell off, reportedly after unseasonal rains in the city, causing mild panic. While incidents of lime plasters peeling off are not new, the latest damage raised new concerns about the safety of the heritage monument as the size of the chunk was 2 metres by 88 cm.
As soon as it fell, ASI officials began assessing the reasons for the mishap and one issue looked into was the Charminar Pedestrianisation Project (CPP), which had been taken up by the GHMC last year at a cost of Rs 35 crore. The CPP aims to pedestrianise a radius of 220 metres around the Charminar by diverting vehicular traffic through the Inner Ring Road and the Outer Ring Road. As part of the CPP, heavy machines were used by the GHMC in and around the 428-year-old monument, which had raised some concerns at the time.
However, the municipal body has denied this, saying that the CPP caused no problems to the structure.
Additional Commissioner, GHMC, Musharraf Faruqui, who visited the spot on Saturday, said, “It was part of the structure restored recently by ASI that has collapsed and not the old structure.”
In a press release, the GHMC also pointed out that the CPP actually diverted hundreds of vehicles that ply close to the Charminar on a daily basis and pollute the area. This, the municipal body argued, also reduced vibrations and protected the structure from pollution. Musharraf also said that it was the restoration quality which was under scrutiny after the incident.
This has also been the bone of contention between the two organisations for a while now.
Speaking at an event in the city in August last year, Milan Kumar Chauley, ASI’s Superintending Archaeologist in Hyderabad, had said that the state government was going ahead with its CPP plans without consulting the ASI, adding, “The water and drain pipelines during the CPP works were laid without studying the problems it would lead to, in the monument in the long run.
The ground was dug up and pipelines were laid in a haphazard manner around the monument. The Charminar stands on a foundation of huge volume of granites and in the long run, if water seeps, it could cause irreparable loss to the monument.”
Speaking to #KhabarLive, Chauley denied the claims made by the GHMC and said that he was not going to indulge in a blame game.
“We have the records. The GHMC official in question has nothing to do with the conservation of Charminar. The plaster that fell off recently was placed in 1824 by the Nizam of Hyderabad at a cost of Rs 1 lakh. It is documented. Work related to the plaster was taken up at the time because similar incidents had been reported. So, the Nizam at the time took up re-plastering of the minars. The core is intact,” he said.
Asked about the status of the restoration work, Chauley said, “Preliminary assessment has been done and we will take up scaffolding in around 7 to 10 days. We have to take care to ensure that 10 to 15 people should be able to stand on it at a height of 56 metres. Wood will be used instead of iron as it is more flexible and also lightweight. After this, the restoration will begin.”
The Charminar was built in 1591 by Mohammed Quli Qutb Shah, the fifth king of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. The 428-year-old edifice stands 160 feet from ground level. The monument has four minarets, after which it is named. #KhabarLive