Architects, historians and art organisations are rallying to save the exhibition halls from demolition. But the government appears unmoved.
Last year, architect and planner Arun Rewal started a petition on Change.org to appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to save three iconic buildings in Delhi’s Pragati Maidan from demolition. The Hall of Nations, Hall of Industries and Nehru Pavilion, the petition says, are acknowledged the world over as “icons of modernity”. To raze them would be to destroy a part of our heritage.
The Indian Institute of Architects made a similar plea around the same time. “We have learnt that some of the iconic structures... which stood testimony to the nation’s prowess in structural engineering and architecture... are being demolished,” the national body of architects said in a letter to the Indian government. It beseeched against the razing of the structures.
By all signs, the entreaties have swayed nobody.
It was in November 2015 that the demolition of the exhibition halls at Pragati Maidan, under a redevelopment project proposed by Commerce Ministry’s India Trade Promotion Organisation, was confirmed. In their stead, the government plans to construct a state-of-the-art convention centre, a hotel and a parking lot – much to the horror of Indian architects.
In a written reply to the Lok Sabha in 2015, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “As per preliminary details of phase-I, it is proposed to develop 100,000 sq. m. of exhibition space and a 7,000 seater convention centre along with support facilities and parking space for 4,800 passenger cars. Other details, such as funding and schedule of completion, are yet to be firmed up.”