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Concern over move to demolish building

By AJIT PATOWARY
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GUWAHATI, Aug 5 - While the Oriental Insurance Company building in the city is sought to be demolished by the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LICI) to make room for a �commercial complex�, the other buildings built by the company about a century back or so in different parts of the country are preserved as heritage structures. The private sector Oriental Insurance Company was one of the insurance entities, which later became a part of the public sector LICI in 1956.

The Oriental Insurance (Life Assurance) Company had a number of buildings all over the country and also in Myanmar (erstwhile Burma), which was once a part of the British colonies. Most of the Oriental Insurance Company buildings have been preserved as heritage structures and even in the Myanmar�s previous capital Yangon (erstwhile Rangoon) the building, which housed the headquarters of this Indian insurance company in that country, is used as the Indian embassy, claimed noted writer Kumudeswar Hazarika.

Hazarika said that the Myanmar building of the insurance company was built around 1914 to house the Burma headquarters of the company. He also maintained that the Mumbai Oriental Insurance Company Building, which was built in 1885 and bought by the Oriental Insurance Company in 1893, has been given the heritage tag and included in the heritage walk of buildings on the Dadabhai Naoroji (DN) Road. The building is located opposite the Hutatma Chowk on the DN Road.

Quoting sexagenarian businessman Gokulkanta Bhuyan of Panchavati locality in the city, Hazarika said Durga Puja was celebrated in the campus of the Oriental Building at Fancy Bazar with pomp and gaiety during the 1950s. The Dewali was also celebrated there, he said.

A portion of the first floor of this building, which was used as the residence of the manager of the insurance company, was acquired by the State government in the early 1950s to accommodate one of the additional deputy commissioners of the then undivided Kamrup district. This was due to the rise in the number of senior officers in the district headquarters and the resultant lack of residential facilities for them, said Hazarika, quoting senior advocate Akdas Ali Mir (Bhanu).

However, following the setting up of the Chandmari Magistrates� Colony, Guwahati Club Officers� Colony, Ulubari Agriculture Officers� Colony and the Chenikuthi Veterinary Officers� Colony solved this problem, said Hazarika.

According to information available with this newspaper form other sources, the Queen�s Mansion, built by the Oriental Insurance Company during the time of visit of Queen Victoria to Kolkata (then Calcutta) at the crossing of the Park Street and Russell Street, Kolkata, was sought to be demolished by the LICI. But the West Bengal government prevented the insurance company from bulldozing it because of the heritage factor. The building is now preserved by the LICI.

But in Assam, there is no such initiative on the part of the State government, local administrations, or the authorities concerned to prevent demolition of such structures. The State has also failed to formulate policies, too, in this regard. Moreover, legislation of the State on archaeological monuments is also toothless, said the sources.

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Concern over move to demolish building

GUWAHATI, Aug 5 - While the Oriental Insurance Company building in the city is sought to be demolished by the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LICI) to make room for a �commercial complex�, the other buildings built by the company about a century back or so in different parts of the country are preserved as heritage structures. The private sector Oriental Insurance Company was one of the insurance entities, which later became a part of the public sector LICI in 1956.

The Oriental Insurance (Life Assurance) Company had a number of buildings all over the country and also in Myanmar (erstwhile Burma), which was once a part of the British colonies. Most of the Oriental Insurance Company buildings have been preserved as heritage structures and even in the Myanmar�s previous capital Yangon (erstwhile Rangoon) the building, which housed the headquarters of this Indian insurance company in that country, is used as the Indian embassy, claimed noted writer Kumudeswar Hazarika.

Hazarika said that the Myanmar building of the insurance company was built around 1914 to house the Burma headquarters of the company. He also maintained that the Mumbai Oriental Insurance Company Building, which was built in 1885 and bought by the Oriental Insurance Company in 1893, has been given the heritage tag and included in the heritage walk of buildings on the Dadabhai Naoroji (DN) Road. The building is located opposite the Hutatma Chowk on the DN Road.

Quoting sexagenarian businessman Gokulkanta Bhuyan of Panchavati locality in the city, Hazarika said Durga Puja was celebrated in the campus of the Oriental Building at Fancy Bazar with pomp and gaiety during the 1950s. The Dewali was also celebrated there, he said.

A portion of the first floor of this building, which was used as the residence of the manager of the insurance company, was acquired by the State government in the early 1950s to accommodate one of the additional deputy commissioners of the then undivided Kamrup district. This was due to the rise in the number of senior officers in the district headquarters and the resultant lack of residential facilities for them, said Hazarika, quoting senior advocate Akdas Ali Mir (Bhanu).

However, following the setting up of the Chandmari Magistrates� Colony, Guwahati Club Officers� Colony, Ulubari Agriculture Officers� Colony and the Chenikuthi Veterinary Officers� Colony solved this problem, said Hazarika.

According to information available with this newspaper form other sources, the Queen�s Mansion, built by the Oriental Insurance Company during the time of visit of Queen Victoria to Kolkata (then Calcutta) at the crossing of the Park Street and Russell Street, Kolkata, was sought to be demolished by the LICI. But the West Bengal government prevented the insurance company from bulldozing it because of the heritage factor. The building is now preserved by the LICI.

But in Assam, there is no such initiative on the part of the State government, local administrations, or the authorities concerned to prevent demolition of such structures. The State has also failed to formulate policies, too, in this regard. Moreover, legislation of the State on archaeological monuments is also toothless, said the sources.