100 buildings near ASI sites in Ahmedabad under CBI scanner | Ahmedabad News


AHMEDABAD: Ahmedabad stood tall after becoming India’s first World Heritage City five years ago. But the city’s intrinsically crafted heritage and its hard-fought status threaten to be jeopardized by encroachments and tall buildings – many of which were built by obtaining no objection certificates illegally from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
A probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has alleged that some civic officials in connivance with ASI and National Monument Authority (NMA) officials granted NOCs to private persons to construct residential and commercial buildings around centrally protected monuments in the Walled City in exchange for monetary favours.
The CBI has now sought files of at least 100 such sites where construction took place between 2006 and 2018, said sources. This is after seven projects, including certain units in the Ravi Estate in Dudheshwar near Darya Khan Ghumat, were found to have furnished forged NOC of the ASI, an AMC official privy to the development said.
As per rules, construction in 300m-radius of an ASI-protected monument in the Walled City can take place only after obtaining NOC from the ASI.
Between 2006 and 2018, AMC’s urban development department passed plans for at least 100 construction sites after taking NOCs from the ASI. However, the officials did not develop a system to verify whether the NOCs were genuine or forged,” said an AMC official.
“At several places, NOCs were forged or tampered with to raise the height of the site beyond the limit sanctioned for areas around protected monuments,” said the official.
Sources in the heritage department said that permission to raise height or build a basement can be given only after ensuring that the construction would not damage the monuments. Providing forged and fraudulent NOCs does not serve that purpose, they added. Last October, the CBI registered a fraud case against three ASI officials of Vadodara circle – Shivananda Rao, former superintending archaeologist; Arifali Agaria, senior conservation assistant; and Rajesh Johri, conservation assistant. Two middlemen from Ahmedabad city, Ramesh Parmar and Kanu Parmar, were also booked in the case. The case had come to light in 2020. An inquiry was launched after a complaint was made by the ministry of culture in connection with buildings constructed in the area around Biwi ki Masjid and maqbara (tomb), both national monuments.
“The investigative agency found that, in 2018, an individual from Ahmedabad arranged for Rs 30 lakh through an angadia in New Delhi for issuance of revalidation letter signed by then Member Secretary, NMA, New Delhi for construction on his premises,” said a CBI source. The probe alleged that various individuals from Ahmedabad had paid bribes ranging from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 30 lakh to get NOC letters for construction work near the protected monuments. The CBI then slapped notices on 132 different individuals, including eight government officials. “Three were from ASI, one from NMA in Delhi and four senior AMC officials. Twenty-five middlemen working for government officials and at least 100 other individuals are under the radar for obtaining NOCs through illegal means,” revealed an officer from the Delhi CBI.
A CBI source said, “The accused committed irregularities while granting NOCs for construction, extension for construction, reconstruction in prohibited and regulated areas of centrally protected monuments. They violated rules and regulations under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act.” Heritage experts blame the administration’s apathy as one of the major reasons why such illegal constructions are rampant. “Unesco chose Ahmedabad for its ‘living heritage’. The officials need to connect with the community and work toward preserving the heritage. They need to ease people’s lives by simplifying the process of granting permission for modification of structures to accommodate growing families or to upgrade facilities,” said an expert.





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