Thousands of people are willing to shell out money from their pockets to preserve Dr Homi Jehangir Bhaba's legacy. With Dr Bhabha's sprawling bungalow, Mehrangir, situated in the posh Malabar Hill area of South Mumbai, scheduled to go under the hammer on June 18, the National Federation of Atomic Energy Employees (NFAEE) is trying its best to prevent it from being auctioned.
"We are ready to contribute two days' salary so that the reserve price can be collected from various agencies under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). Once purchased, the DAE should take care of it," said Ram Dhuri, who is president of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research Staff Association, and is also associated with the NFAEE, which has more than 70,000 employees.
The bungalow, with a built-up area of 13,953 sq ft and plot measuring 17,150 sq ft, is currently under the custody of the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) and attracts a reserve price of Rs257 crore. Apart from willing to contribute money, NFAEE staffers have also started an online petition, requesting the NCPA (belonging to the Tata Group) not to auction the residence of the father of the Indian nuclear programme. "Please do not go for the auction of Dr Bhabha's home. Make it a monument of Dr Bhabha," the petition's message reads.
The employees have even approached Ratan Tata, former chairman of the Tata Group, to save the landmark three-storey bungalow from going under the hammer. They feel the retired industrialist can intervene and ensure that the bungalow is converted into a monument. After all, Dr Bhabha's residence is like a temple for those in the field of atomic energy.
"In 2010, we were assured that Mehrangir will get heritage status, but that has not happened. We have already passed a resolution in our union's meeting and informed the DAE chairperson about our intentions," said Prashant Worlikar, president of the Atomic Energy Workers and Staff Union.
Dr Homi Bhabha was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1954. He died in a plane crash near Mont Blanc in January 1966 while he was on his way to Vienna, Austria.