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Published in the 16-31 Jan 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Jagmohan – crusader for monuments
By Firoz Bakht Ahmed

"Delhi is a mistress coveted by all but cared by none!" Jagmohan often used to say while he used to pen down his columns in 1974 for The Hindustan Times about his heart bleeding for Delhi, especially Shahajahnabad. But we do have Jagmohan still in romance with Delhi at this ripe old age! Jagmohan whose fate is intertwined with controversies, is aghast at Delhi’s ghettoized culture, shocked at the catastrophic dimensions of its newly emerging class of saboteurs, and the spate of illegal and unauthorized encroachments and dangerous land and property use.

Humayun Tomb in Delhi

True, Delhi has become a bottomless hell. Laments Jagmohan, "The old Delhi cityscape is ruined. A new invasion of materialism, selfishness, greed, pettiness and intrigue has descended upon this once great city and we all seem to have been caught in its mute spectacle of silent march that old Delhi has become"
Shahjahan’s soul must now be in peace after having glanced through the thoroughly washed up and glossy Qila-e-Mualla (Red Fort) walls stretching 21, 220 square metres besides the plush grounds that were lying parched till the renovation work began. Call it tragedy or compliment that in our country if a person starts receiving brickbats that proves that he has started at serious work.

The way the laws are being flouted and mocked at, in Delhi, one is only left aghast. Truth is that during the conflagrations in Delhi, a couple of years ago, some of the elected representatives were seen hand in gloves with the violating factory owners and even allegedly urged them to resort to acts of violence and arson. Their aim was to prevent the sub-divisional magistrates from sealing the polluting units. In fact many chosen representatives incited violence against the State. Any illegal activity that is hazardous for the cause of peaceful and healthy existence of the residents cannot, and should not, be condoned. We have seen Jagmohan earlier as an uncorrupted bureaucrat who can use iron hand not to compromise with principles while in Delhi and in Kashmir as well.

Jagmohan is known for his dynamism and dashing approach to work. Not only in Delhi but all over in India, he has been synthesizing tourism with culture and clean civic life to create model tourist destinations. At Mahabalipuram, the area around the famous shore temples was a picture of squalor and remained sandwiched. All that has been cleaned up now. A remarkable landscaping has been initiated connecting the shore temple with the Arjuna penance site with a one kilometer green patch. In every state he has created at least one such hub.
The historic ambience has been created at Hampi In Karnataka, Ajanta in Maharashtra, St George in Kerala, Kurukshetra in Haryana, Red Fort, Purana Qila and Humayan’s Tomb in Delhi, Kumbalgarh, Chittorgarh and Jaiselmer in Rajasthan. Haldighati will have a sound and light show. The ASI has even notified a spot as a memorial to Chetak, the legendary horse of Maharana Pratap. Repair work at Pushkar is going on that accommodates the world-famed Brahma temple.

To supplicate culture with history, Jagmohan has made it possible for the holding of huge cultural shows every year at different places. The one some time ago at Kurukshetra conveyed the message of the Gita symbolozing India’s philosophical tradition. The next function is footed to be at the Ajanta caves.
It was Jagmohan who ventured to focus on the beauty of the islands and lagoons which are part of India’s natural heritage. In fact he formed a special committee in the cabinet secretariat to work out special tourist packages for the islands. Ayodhya, according to Jagmohan, has as much tourist potential as any other place of mythological or historical importance. He feels that by developing Ayodhya, attention from the mandir-masjid impasse will be diverted for the good.

As if this were not adequate, Jagmohan has toed an official "Look East" policy for pushing tourism in the region along with China, Korea, Japan, Thiland, Kambodia, Malaysia etc. China has already bestowed on India the "preferred destination" status. The Japanese emperor was quite impressed recently by the exhibitions in Japan on Buddhist art. The job is on the upswing.
In India during the last few months there has been a 14 per cent increase in foreign tourists arrival. The foreign exchange earnings have also increased by 16 per cent. Besides, the domestic tourism figures have increased by over three crore in the last one year.

Jagmohan, earlier as the union minister for urban development needs to be applauded for making sincere efforts to discipline the civic agencies, residents and the erratic officers. His mistake was that rather than shaking hands with the ones eating into the entrails of Delhi, he called a spade a spade in this wholly rotten and corrupt system. The way the Delhi government tried to let Jagmohan down, was nothing but vilification of the most sordid and sullied kind. The once so called heaven, Delhi is now a city almost impossible to govern.

Frankly speaking, all those who have read Jagmohan’s two books i.e. Rebuilding Shahjahanabad and The Island of Truth, should agree that there is no need to even reconsider the Master Plan. The elderly readers of The Hindustan Times must be remembering the series of articles Jagmohan had written in 1974 to give Delhi a lease of life from the myriads of problems that beset the city. Had the Mrs. Gandhi government taken up his suggestions at that time seriously, Delhi would have been a heaven by now as Shahjahan once said-Agar Firdaus bar roo-e-zamin ast/ Hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast! True, Delhi is a gem with many facets. Some dark, some bright! Is someone listening?

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