- Works to begin from Dec. 12, Govt. informs High Court
- Shifting of Government Offices from Fort underway
The State Government has given administrative approval to repair the historic Madikeri Fort at a cost of Rs. 8.20 crore. Kodagu Deputy Commissioner Annies Kanmani Joy has submitted a proposal to the Government to restore the landmark structure at an estimated cost of Rs. 8,20,45,674.
All these years, several Government Offices functioned from the Fort premises and despite this, no official took interest in repairing the structure which is in a dilapidated state. Finally, following strictures from the Karnataka High Court, the District Administration acted and has even taken steps to shift the Government Offices to other buildings to help the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) carry out restoration works.
The ASI is in-charge of the Fort and the Court doors were knocked by J.S. Virupakshaiah, a retired IAS Officer and a resident of Somwarpet who filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) contending that the Fort and Palace premises are heritage sites, dating back to more than three centuries. They are neglected and the exterior walls of the Palace are infected with fungus.
The petitioner had prayed before the Court to issue directions to the Government to vacate its Offices and hand over the monuments to the ASI to maintain it. He pleaded before the Court that there was an urgent need to save the historic monuments as incessant rains were causing harm to the structures.
Shifting of Offices
Following the PIL, the Court had asked the Administration to shift the Government Offices by Oct. 31. But there was a delay in the shifting of Government Offices and the petitioner again approached the High Court that ordered issuance of Contempt Notices to the official machinery. Fearing legal action, the officials have started shifting the Office furniture and files. The shifting has, however, not been completed despite exceeding the Oct. 31 deadline.
After the administrative approval from the Government, Revenue Department Principal Secretary N. Manjunath Prasad appeared before the High Court Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Krishnakumar on Oct. 31 and informed the Bench about the Government approval.
Works to start by Dec. 12
Manjunath Prasad told the Court that a Detailed Project Report (DPR) on the end-to-end restoration of the Fort will be prepared by Nov. 17 and tenders will be called within three days. He submitted before the Bench that the restoration works will start from Dec. 12. An affidavit too was filed in this regard.
Advocate Ravindranath Kamath, who represented petitioner Virupakshaiah, told the Court that most Government Offices in Madikeri functioned from the Fort premises since 1920. “As such, the Government has saved more than Rs. 300 crore as rent. The official machinery did not realise this and continued to neglect the Fort without realising the value of the historical structure,” he said.
‘Too little restoration amount’
Kamath contended that Rs. 8,20,45,674 was too little an amount to restore the Fort. He urged the Bench to fix responsibilities on officials and see to it that the restoration works are carried out in a systematic way.
Responding to the plea, the Court asked the Revenue Department Principal Secretary to furnish the details on which Department will take the responsibility of restoring the Fort and what is the time-line needed for the purpose. The Bench posted the hearing to Nov. 12.
About the Fort
History of the Old Fort dates back to the 17th century AD. It was built by King Mudduraja of Haleri dynasty. Tipu Sultan rebuilt the Fort with stone.
The Palace was built by Lingaraja Wadiyar II in 1812. The Fort was wrested back by Dodda Veera Rajendra in 1790 and later came under the rule of British in 1834.