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Will KCR’s project bring down a heritage structure?

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on June 25, 2019 Published on June 25, 2019

The Errum Manzil in Hyderabad   -  Nagara Gopal

Telangana CM wants to build a complex where 150-year-old Errum Manzil stands

Will Hyderabad lose the 150-year-old heritage structure Errum Manzil to a modern Legislative Assembly complex?

This question is uppermost among the people of this 428-year-old city ever since Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao made the dramatic statement last week that his government would spend ₹100 crore to construct a brand new structure to house the Legislature complex and identified the 17-acre land and the iconic building built atop a hillock.

Heritage lovers, activists, residents of the neighbourhood, and the legal heirs association of Nawab Fakhrul Mulk Bahadur, who built the Errum Manzil in 1870, have written to the Chief Minister, urging him to save the palace complex with 150 rooms.

As action started picking up with visits of officials and with the date for foundation stone laying set for June 27, a PIL too was filed in the Telangana High Court on Monday.

The controversy

Known for his penchant to propose grandiose building plans, KCR has invariably landed in controversy colliding with heritage structures every time. Ever since the formation of Telangana in 2014, he has been toying with plans to build a completely new Secretariat and Assembly complex.

He first set his sights on the 65-acre Government Chest Hospital in Erragadda, a over 100-year-old Nizam era building called the Irranuma Palace. With opposition from activists, the move was shelved. Then, his attention turned to Bison Polo grounds in Secunderabad. This, again, raised a hue and cry.

But KCR did not give up. Overcoming the initial cold response, he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi as also Home and Defence Ministers and got their nod. The grounds are part of the Cantonment area and house the Gymkhana stadium. Also, part of the complex is the Parade Grounds, the lung space of Secunderabad, where the Independence Day function takes place.

The popular explanation for the move to shift the Secretariat complex is KCR’s belief in astrology and Vaastu. Apparently, the existing complex was ‘‘unfavourable” for him for an election in 2019, and he even avoided shunned going there for a couple of years.

However, after the bold decision to prepone elections to December 2018 and the landslide victory that KCR scored, things seemed to have changed.

KCR moves fast

With a friendly Chief Minister in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, YS Jaganmohan Reddy, KCR moved swiftly. He acquired portions of the Secretariat belonging to AP and quickly decided to rebuild the entire complex, and then hit upon the idea of siting the Assembly in Errum Manzil. The cost of this grand plan is ₹500 crore.

While residents of Secunderabad are heaving a sigh of relief that they will not lose the green space or have to face traffic hassles, people of Punjagutta, which is on the busy Khairatabad-Ameerpet stretch in the heart of Hyderabad, will have to face up to these issues.

The existing Legislature building, housing both the Assembly and Council, is part of the Public Gardens. The impressive structure was built in 1905 to mark the 40th birthday of the 6th Nizam, Mir Mahabub Ali Khan.

The legal heirs association, in a letter to the Chief Minister, requested him to drop the proposal, saying that an important milestone in the history of Hyderabad would go if Errum Manzil palace was demolished.

The architecture, in European style, gave it a special position among the many structures. It also housed 150 rooms, a polo ground, a pond for boating and a private forest.

According to accounts of Nizam’s history, Fakhr-ul-Mulk was a minister with the 6th Nizam and had constructed beautiful palaces.

The famous Nizam College, Chest Hospital, etc., were built by him and his descendants and handed over to the State when Hyderabad merged with the Indian Union in 1948.

Successive State governments have used the buildings as offices of the Engineer in chief, Public Works Department, Jala Soudha, etc. “The heirs also pointed out that the palace had served as the Public Works Department office for decades and had become a known landmark in the city,”, in the statement by Nawab Shafath Ali Khan, the Secretary.

Published on June 25, 2019
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