Chandigarh: Heritage items dumped in dusty cobwebbed heaps in government offices in this union territory are now being carefully cleaned, numbered and restored. The reason: the administration wants to prevent their smuggling as the artefacts are fetching thousands of dollars at auctions abroad.
Senior administration officials say an inventory is being made to ensure that the items linked to the city`s heritage since it was founded in the early 1950s are not lost again.
"We have identified various heritage items at different places in Chandigarh and they will be preserved appropriately," Chandigarh`s home-cum-tourism secretary Ram Niwas told reporters.
"A proper inventory will help us keep a tab on the artefacts and also help us stop any kind of smuggling of these items out of the city and the country," he added.
Reports in the last four-five years revealed that auction houses in European countries and in the US were selling heritage items from Chandigarh, especially those linked to its French founder-architect Le Corbusier and his team.
The administration became concerned about the city`s heritage finding its way illegally to these auctions.
"As far as possible, we will try to conserve the heritage items at the same places where we found them. But we will take the decision on their security depending on the circumstances and on the basis of experts` guidance," Niwas said.
Scores of items like furniture, tapestry, drawings and other things, designed, made and used by Corbusier, his cousin Pierre Jeanneret and others associated with the founding and planning of Chandigarh, have been sold off in auction houses in Britain, the US and other countries in recent years.
A dining table sold off as junk by Panjab University fetched nearly $12,000 at an auction in Chicago, US, in April.
Even manhole covers in Chandigarh, having the sectoral map of the city on them, have been stolen in recent years and sold off in auction houses abroad. One manhole cover fetched $21,600 at an auction in 2007.
These manhole covers were designed by the founder-architects. An inventory on the remaining heritage manhole covers has also been made.
The union ministry of home affairs had recently directed the administration to preserve items related to Corbusier and his team and take pro-active steps to safeguard such articles.
Following this, the home secretary directed all heads of departments to ensure the preservation of heritage furniture, sketches and drawings, tapestry and other items linked to the city`s founder-architect and his team.
Niwas said a three-member Chandigarh Heritage Inventory Committee, led by Chandigarh College of Architecture principal Pradeep Bhagat has identified enough heritage stock from 21 departments during its inventory. The inventory was done in government libraries, offices, educational institutions, Punjab and Haryana assembly complex and other institutions.
"Most of the departments have prepared the inventory of items except for Panjab University, PGI (Post-graduate institute of medical education and research), PEC (Punjab Engineering College) and the Punjab and Haryana High Court," the official said.
"The inventory committee has been asked to complete the work for the remaining departments and submit a report," he added.
The expert committee also highlighted the unique items noticed by it during its visit to government departments in recent months. These include a V-shaped wooden rack in the Central State Library in Sector 17.