GUWAHATI, Aug 2 - City�s oldest insurance company building, the 78-year-old Oriental Insurance Company Building, in the Fancy Bazar MG Road area, is facing the threat of demolition. According to reports, the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LICI), which is now the owner of the building, is planning to build a commercial complex at the site of this building, which has all the qualities to become a heritage building.
Noted writer Kumudeswar Hazarika said that the construction of the two-storied building was completed by the then private sector Oriental Insurance Company in 1937.
According to knowledgeable circles, the building was built in a spread-out device and it had cost the Insurance Company around Rs 33,000 then. This particular device structure has the heritage value, said these circles.
It has a dome at its top, which is fitted with Belgium Glass, so as to illuminate its interior with the help of sunrays. This was a unique thing for the people of the entire undivided Assam, said the knowledgeable circles, adding, the building could survive the jolts of several earthquakes, including the 1950 Great Assam Earthquake.
Hazarika said that before this building came up on the said plot, there was an Assam type house owned by a British tea planter. The Oriental Insurance Company purchased the plot and constructed this building.
He said that the building was a landmark of old Guwahati and with its sprawling courtyard and structural beauty, it was a centre of attraction, particularly during the Diwali nights, when it was illuminated with garlands of electric lamps. People used to throng to view this scene in hordes. The stretch of the Lower Strand Road (now MG Road) along the Brahmaputra, in which this building is situated, remained a crowded area during the Diwali nights till Independence.
The ground floor of the building was used as the office of the Oriental Insurance Company and a part of its first floor was used as the residence of the manager of the Insurance Company.
But later on, two Assam-type (AT) houses were constructed in its courtyard and atop the roof of its first floor also an AT structure was erected. All these activities robbed the building of its original beauty, said Hazarika.
Instead of demolishing this building, the LICI authorities may restore the old shape of the building and develop it into a museum of the insurance sector of the country, suggested the noted writer.
It needs mention here that the Oriental Insurance Company Building near the Dalhousie Square (Now BBD Bag) in Kolkata, which was constructed by the Oriental Insurance Company at the same time, has now become a heritage building.
The Kolkata Metropolitan Building situated at the juncture of the Jawaharlal Nehru Road and SN Banerjee Road was saved by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) from being demolished. The demolition operation of this building started by the LICI was stopped by the KMC and the civic body compelled the former to preserve it as a heritage building.
The Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) and the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) should jointly prepare a plan to preserve such heritage structures of Guwahati, several circles here opine.