British-Era Patna DM office building and other heritage structures pulled down to build a new complex!!

Patna District Magistrate building. Bihar

Patna District Magistrate building. Bihar

Across India many historical sites including temples (in Tamil Nadu) heritage structures,etc  are being  pulled down with impunity and in the last one decade the frequency of demolition is on the increase. What is saddening is this kind of demolition spree is going on due to arbitrary decision taken by the ruling ministry of the state  government, overriding opposition from heritage activists and historians, who are keen to see them saved for the posterity.  A gloom of melancholy descended on the capital city of Patna when a colonial collectorate complex was finally razed to the ground in May 2022 after the Supreme Court Verdict. 

The Patna Collectorate located on the banks of the river Ganga, Patna city, Bihar  consisting of five buildings  faced demolition  several years ago - way back in 2017. This more than 250 year old structure built in Dutch and English architecture is so massive, the staff in charge needs 150 0dd keys to open the rooms, etc. Many offices in the buildings  had vacated the premises and the state government decided to pull  down the entire complex. 

Patna District Magistrate building.

After the state government decided to raze Patna Collectorate in February 2016, the civil society and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) opposed the move. The then Dutch ambassador Alphonsus Stoelinga  chipped in and wrote to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, requesting  him to preserve the “shared heritage”.

One of the scenes in the Oscar-winning film Gandhi directed by Attenborough was shot in the DM office Hall of the building decades ago.  In that though  Mahatma Gandhi refuses to pay Rs 100 as fine to the court for allegedly disturbing peace the judge still grants him bail. Then Gandhi comes out the courtroom and waves to the crowd from the first-floor verandah. The front portion of the building,  with big pillars, was shown as Motihari jail in the film.

 Since 2017 the demolition of the old colonial building had been under litigation and finally Supreme Court in 2022 took a verdict in favor of the ruling Bihar government.

The Dutch-era Record Room building, which had high ceilings, massive doors, and very old and unique skylights on roof, was also razed to the ground.  The historical artefacts included  old safety vaults, clocks and furniture, hanging skylights, an ornate iron-made spiral staircase mounted on its western facade, vintage steam roller, old printing machines, etc.

In May 2022 the Supreme court gave orders paying the way for the demolition of DM office building, etc. The 1938 built District Board office was the first one to be felled down.  Upon the SC's verdict in favor of the state, the then Bihar CM Nitish Kumar dedicated to the public the first phase of Rs.3831 crore express way, project, etc. Part of the 20 km elevated roadway would pass from the front of the Collectorate Ghat.  

Patna District Magistrate building. Bihar

Despite protests from the public and heritage lovers the government  had the bulldozers  moved in and  demolished the historical heritage structure and this irresponsible act made the heritage enthusiasts  crest fallen in pain.

Turned into rubble. Patna DM bldg. Bihar

Above image:  What was once a colonial complex, the seat of the district administration, in May 2022  was turned into mounds of rubble. It was said to have been built in the early 20 Century in European style with  ancient-looking pilaster Corinthian columns in its iconic Meeting Hall which  housed  the centuries-old Land Acquisition Office building in the sprawling 12-acre complex.

"As a nation and as a conscientious society we must respect our history and heritage, else history will not respect us.  According to INATCH's Governing Council member G.M. Kapu. If we don't keep the monuments fresh and maintain them by preserving their sheen, at stake will be roots of the nation. In the case of loss of a long-cherished heritage building be it temple or old historical building what we lost is its roots.