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Citizens meet Sonia on Chandigarh
‘‘Disfiguring’’ Corbusier’s master plan
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

A group of eight eminent Chandigarh residents meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi
A group of eight eminent Chandigarh residents meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Saturday to appraise her about the haphazard development in and around Chandigarh. — A Tribune photograph

Chandigarh, July 23
Deeply concerned and hurt over ‘‘disfiguring’’ Le Corbusier's master plan with regards to the development of Chandigarh, a group of non-political, original inhibitors of the city, have sought the intervention of Congress President Sonia Gandhi to put an immediate end to the haphazard development in the city and on it’s periphery.

The group comprising of eight prominent Chandigarh residents met Mrs Gandhi in New Delhi on Saturday and sought the setting up of a regional urban planning authority on the lines of the National Capital Region Board for promoting coordinated development of the area surrounding Chandigarh.

Till this was done, they sought that the Government of India direct the Chandigarh Administration to put on hold and refrain from taking arbitrary decisions for changing the existing land uses and carefully drafted zoning regulations and building by-laws, such as permitting high rise buildings or apartments in sectors meant for low rise development that define the distinct open and green character of Chandigarh.

Mrs Gandhi is believed to have reacted very positively to the representation titled ‘‘Protecting or Saving Chandigarh’’ that was handed over to Mrs Gandhi in person and is believed to have assured her support in ‘‘preventing ugly structures from marring the charm of the City Beautiful.’’

The representation, which was also sent to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, reads: ‘‘Chandigarh is the product of the vision of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Le Corbusier’s genius that attracted world attention. The bold experiment of making a contemporary city continued almost unhindered under the patronage of madam Indira Gandhi and Mr Rajiv Gandhi making Chandigarh the symbol of resurgent India’’.

‘‘Chandigarh was designed with clearly defined functions to provide dignified and healthy living to all classes of citizens. The periphery control of 16 km was enacted in 1952 to check haphazard growth and ensure a greenbelt around the city for agriculture and similar uses that would provide for daily needs. Due to undesirable pressures and vested interests, Chandigarh is rapidly deteriorating. The uncontrolled growth surrounding the city in utter violation of the Periphery Control Act and emergence of ever expanding satellite towns are depriving the ordinary farmers of their lands and livelihood for a pittance. The Government is acquiring the farmer’s lands in the green belt and selling these very same lands at a huge profit to developers. All such developments and rapid growth of the city are further straining its infrastructure. It is feared that, before long, the ‘City Beautiful’ will have the same fate as other chaotic Indian cities’’.

The eight-member delegation comprised of Mr M N Sharma, Chandigarh's former Chief Architect, Maj-Gen Himmat Singh Gill (retd), security analyst and member, National Academy of Letters, New Delhi, Ms Madhu Sarin, a city-based development planner, Mr Manmohan Lal Sarin, senior advocate and a former Advocate-General of Punjab as well as Haryana, Dr R.P Bambah, former Vice-Chancellor, Panjab University. and Ms Bubli Brar, daughter of former Punjab Chief Minister Mr. H.S Brar and a PPCC member.

‘‘We, who have lived in the city since inception and participated in its growth, urge you to provide your gracious patronage and help in immediately providing protection to Chandigarh for its orderly growth and save its future’’, the representation reads.

The group suggested that in order to achieve this objective the Centre should intervene to set up a professionally staffed and accountable Chandigarh Planning and Development Authority mandated to prepare a legally enforceable perspective plan for the Union Territory of Chandigarh through extensive public inputs and consultations. The group has also suggested that this body should also have some say over issues related to growth and development of areas in Punjab and Haryana as these areas directly overburden the prevailing infrastructure of Chandigarh.

Complementing Mrs. Gandhi on her quick uptake on the issue, Mr Sarin said: ‘‘She was very positive and instead of hearing us out for 10 minutes - the time we got - she extended the meeting to 20 minutes. We told her that we were all non-political people who had been living in the city for the past 50 years. We told her that both former Prime Ministers, Mrs Indira Gandhi and Mr Rajiv Gandhi, had some close friends living in the city and therefore had responded well to the idea of preserving the city envisaged by their father and grandfather’’. The delegation told Mrs Gandhi about their apprehensions of Chandigarh going the Bangalore way.

The group proposes to start a ‘‘Save Chandigarh’’" campaign. Initially, it will start a website to promote their viewpoint and then hold peaceful marches, candle light processions to focus attention on the issue.





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