DevelopmentHigh Court

Zero Funds for Zero Mile Upkeep: HC Seeks Reply from District Collector

Zero Mile monument maintenance funds: The Zero Mile monument, a Grade-1 heritage structure in Nagpur, has found itself in a state of neglect due to the lack of necessary funds for its maintenance. Recently, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court stepped in, questioning the district collector on the unavailability of funds that has led to the public works department (PWD) halting any restoration work. This article delves into the details surrounding this issue, exploring the legal, administrative, and cultural aspects of the situation.

Understanding the Significance of Zero Mile Monument

Historical Importance

The Zero Mile monument is not just a geographical marker but a symbol of Nagpur’s rich heritage. Erected by the British, this monument marks the geographical center of colonial India, making it a significant historical landmark.

Architectural Beauty

This Grade-1 heritage structure boasts unique architectural features that reflect the colonial era’s grandeur. The monument comprises a stone pillar, a beautiful garden, and four horses made of sandstone, representing the meticulous craftsmanship of the time.

The Issue at Hand: Lack of Maintenance Funds

Role of the Public Works Department

The PWD is responsible for the upkeep of this heritage site. However, due to the absence of allocated funds from the district collectorate, no maintenance work has been initiated, leaving the monument in a state of disrepair.

High Court’s Intervention

In a recent hearing, the High Court, led by Justices Nitin Sambre and Abhay Patil, sought an explanation from the district collector regarding the delay in providing the necessary funds. The court emphasized the importance of preserving the monument and suggested that if the district collectorate is unable to provide the funds, the matter should be escalated to the state government.

Legal Directives and Obligations

The HC highlighted the provisions under the directive principles, particularly Article 51A of the Constitution, which mandates the state to protect its cultural heritage. This legal framework underscores the state’s duty to ensure the preservation of historical sites like the Zero Mile monument.

Challenges in Preservation Efforts

Lack of a Functioning Heritage Conservation Committee

Advocate Gemini Kasat, representing the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC), pointed out that the Heritage Conservation Committee has not been reconstituted for a long time. The committee’s inactivity has further stalled any restoration efforts, as all permissions related to heritage sites must come from this body.

Expired Tenures and Interim Orders

The tenure of some committee members has expired, and some members have passed away. Currently, the remaining members are serving based on an interim court order, which is not a sustainable solution for long-term heritage conservation.

Previous Attempts and Setbacks

Sub-committee Formation and Initial Plans

In an earlier court directive, a sub-committee under the heritage committee was to be established to oversee the restoration and maintenance of the Zero Mile monument. In 2020, the PWD presented a timeline for a structural audit and restoration, but these plans were never realized.

Intervention by Builders Association

A builders association had offered to assist in the restoration, receiving permission from the heritage committee. However, this initiative fell through, leaving the monument’s future uncertain.

Financial Hurdles

In 2022, the PWD requested Rs 25 lakh from the district collectorate for restoration work. With no funds allocated, the restoration project remains in limbo, highlighting the financial challenges faced in preserving heritage structures.

The Way Forward

High Court’s Expectations

The High Court has made it clear that the district collector must provide the necessary funds or escalate the matter to the state government. The court’s directive aims to ensure that the monument receives the attention and resources it deserves.

Reconstitution of the Heritage Conservation Committee

The reconstitution of the Heritage Conservation Committee is crucial. The state Urban Development Department has been tasked with addressing this issue, which is essential for any future restoration efforts.

Community and Government Collaboration

A collaborative approach involving the local community, government bodies, and private entities could be the key to successfully restoring the Zero Mile monument. Public awareness and support can also play a significant role in heritage conservation.

The Zero Mile monument stands as a testament to Nagpur’s historical and cultural heritage. However, its current state of neglect underscores the urgent need for funds and a functional heritage committee. The intervention by the High Court has brought this issue to the forefront, urging the district collector and state government to act swiftly. By addressing the financial and administrative challenges, there is hope that this iconic landmark can be preserved for future generations to appreciate.

1. Why is the Zero Mile monument important?

The Zero Mile monument marks the geographical center of colonial India and is a significant historical and architectural landmark in Nagpur.

2. What is the current issue with the Zero Mile monument?

The monument is in a state of neglect due to the lack of allocated funds for its maintenance, causing the PWD to halt any restoration work.

3. What role does the Heritage Conservation Committee play?

The committee is responsible for granting permissions related to heritage sites. Its inactivity has stalled restoration efforts for the Zero Mile monument.

4. How has the High Court intervened in this matter?

The High Court has asked the district collector to explain the delay in providing funds and suggested escalating the matter to the state government if necessary.

5. What are the possible solutions for preserving the Zero Mile monument?

Reconstituting the Heritage Conservation Committee, allocating necessary funds, and fostering collaboration between the community and government can help in preserving the monument.

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