Heritage buildings in Mangalore face an uncertain future, thanks to the state government neglecting to restore them, and in some cases, even deciding to demolish few of them.
Real estate businesses in the coast acquiring heritage sites for converting them into commercial and residential complexes has only made the situation worse.
Take the case of University College, which rose to prominence after Rabindranath Tagore delivered a lecture there in 1920.
The college auditorium, called Rabindra Kala Bhavan, where Tagore gave his speech, was declared as a heritage site by the ASI. However, the government is yet to give its consent for restoring the structure for reasons best known to itself.
The state of the 140-year-old court hall in Mangalore, which is the oldest of its kind in the state, is even worse. The government is contemplating to demolish the building and construct a parking space for the new court building, which is adjacent to the court hall, in its place.
According to the records maintained by the court, the building was constructed in 1873 and had served as a district court hall for over 110 years till the annex was built in 1983.
Legal luminaries, however, retained the old court house as an unofficial heritage structure and used it only for ceremonial functions.
After a new multi storey court complex, towering over the old court hall was built, the PWD, citing the paucity of parking space for the new complex, proposed to bring down the 140-year-old structure.
Needless to say, the PWD has grossly neglected the old structure and no maintenance work has been taken up for the past five years.
However, a few activists have strongly objected the proposal to raze the building and want it to be officially declared as a heritage spot.
“We have been fighting for retaining the building since 2008, but the PWD says it has to be demolished as the new multi storey building does not have parking space,” said senior advocate and former Bar Association president SP Chengappa.
“It appears like our struggle to retain the building is eroding day by day as the PWD is strongly pushing its agenda,” Chengappa said.
Senior advocate Padma Prasad Hegde said: “The PWD should have made a provision for parking at least 200 cars in the basements of the new multi storey complex itself.
“The old court hall is where top legal luminaries like had argued. In 2008, Justice Santosh Hegde and Moily had advocated for the retention of the building and wanted the law department to apply to the central government for declaring the building an heritage site, which is yet to happen.”