VOC school, Puducherry will be restored back to old charm soon after a long delay!

 Both old and historical  schools - VOC school and Calve College govt. HS school of Puducherry are undergoing repair and restoration after a prolonged protests from the public after 2012. Though the Thane cyclone in 2014 gave a wake up call, again there was another long delay due to redtapism.  Only in the middle of August 2021 the  Puducherry Smart City Development Limited (PSCDL) gave approval to restore the two school buildings initially. A sum of Rs.2.8 crore  was allocated for VOC school (1886) and Rs.4.8 crore for Calve College govt. school (1875 CE) and the wok will be done by private firms. 

VOC school, Puducherry. thehindu.com
On Dcember13 2014 a group of experts from the ASI and IISc visited VOC Boy's school, Puducherry to assess the damages to the old buildings. The boys’ school built in 1886 (earlier known as the Ecole Primaire de Garons) was renamed after freedom fighter, lawyer  and first Indian who started the Swadeshi Shipping company in colonial India V.O. Chidambaram Pillai,

VOC school, Puducherry helpmecovid.com

VOC School, Puducherry facebook.com

The old school was  slowly crumbling and took additional beating after the Thane cyclone.  The school followed the French system of education until 1960 and  later  switched over to Tamil  medium of instruction.  The school with a hoary past had excellent teaching staff, one of them being Tamil poet Bharatidasan. 

The building was  not periodically  maintained  and only classes 11 and 12 were allowed to function in the inner most part with a separate entrance. This part  was  cordoned off from the heritage structure to avoid damages and accidents. Rest of the  classes were shifted to other govt. buildings. The students were put to untold hardship as the repair work was not prioritized. 

The irresponsible official apathy persisted notwithstanding the fact that the ASI, in a report in 2012, had mentioned about the poor state of this school as well as other schools -  Calve College Govt. HSS and   Pensionnat De Jeunes Filles, only French Girls' high school. Again there was no action to save the historical school buildings despite protests against the ruling government from the parents  Had immediate action been  taken way back in 2012, much of the damages to these school buildings could have been avoided thus saving the higher costs of repairs with the passage of time. INTACH also made a futile attempt to get the government to act on the dying buildings.  The government missed the opportunity to restore the V. O. C school long ago.  INTACH in the past did carry out some repair work and after a study in 2004-05 they gave an estimate of just  Rs. 40 lakh to repair and restore the school building  and now the cost estimate is around Rs. 4.5 crore.

The collapse of the 144-year-old Mairie (Town Hall) Building, the seat of municipal administration (including mayor's office) in the French era and one of the primary landmarks of Puducherry,  on the 29th of November. 2014 due to heavy NE monsoon rains made the officials wake up from their  long hibernation. The sudden collapse of the roof made them  understand the real threats being faced by the  aging and neglected heritage buildings in the union territory. As for the schools, the students were put to maximum hardship besides their school work and and heavy syllabus. 

 In dealing with heavily damaged  historical structures of  diverse architecture with distinctive  aesthetic appeal, the conservation engineers have to spend extra time and use matching construction materials, etc.,  to restore them back to the original look, a tough job that needs additional planning, implementation of old  construction technique and  sourcing right materials, etc.  The massive building is a dominant one in this area with a large frontage along the street bounded by the road on three sides. It is at the corner of Mission Street and Nidarajapayer Street of Puducherry.