Just over 100 years after the British shifted their capital from Kolkata to New Delhi, Mamata Banerjee shifted her seat of governance from the city to Howrah.
In August this year, the chief minister unveiled her plan to build a new secretariat across the Hooghly that will see Bengal being ruled from outside the iconic Writers' Buildings for the first time since 1777 when Thomas Lyon designed the sprawling seat of power for junior officials of the East India Company.
While the government expects the new secretariat to come up at Dumurjala Stadium Complex within four years, it has vacated the 236-year-old Writers' Buildings immediately to allow its restoration and shift to the 13-storey HRBC building in Howrah's Mandirtala, less than 100 metres from Vidyasagar Setu, from October 5.
The Rs 200-crore restoration of Writers', the CM's dream project, will see four of the 13 blocks built after 1947 razed to cut the clutter and congestion inside the heritage structure and take the facade closer to its original appearance. The restoration is expected to be completed within three months after which the government will move back to Writers' before making the permanent shift to Dumurjala when it's completed.Winds of Most-Awaited Change
Mamata had expressed her displeasure over the untidy look of the government departments soon after assuming office in 2011 and described them as 'ghugur basha' (den of corruption). "Just walk to the rear and you will find these jhopris (shanties). You will be amazed to find the way people are working in the shrinking space. They are also humans ... Look at all these cables hanging," she told reporters during a press conference.
The move is not just about shifting of departments. Mamata wants to break away from the laidback past, the lethargy and red tape that turned Bengal into a no-hoper. Showcasing the state begins from the CMO and the Writers' Buildings in its present form, heavily partitioned with its cubbyhole offices and labyrinthine corridors, doesn't impress. The secretariat shift is also an effort to give the state's and its government's image a makeover.
There have been similar instances in other states such as Tamil Nadu. In recent years, the Bengal government has shifted several departments out of Writers'. More departments will be moved from Writers' after the restoration.
The Renovated Structure
In the renovated structure, Writers' Buildings will only host 11 key government departments like home, finance, industry and land. Currently, there are around 40-odd departments with several directorates.
This will be first major renovation of the historic building in a long time. In early 19th century, structural changes such as addition of 150-metre long balcony in front of the building were made as the building was used to serve as the campus for Fort William College, which trained writers in Oriental languages. Decades later, it embraced the familiar Greco-Roman look with red surface of exposed brick cropping up at various points of time.
The process of shifting had already started last year. Many departments have already been shifted out of the building. Sources said four blocks — E, F, G and CGA — constructed in the post-Independence period - will be pulled down to reduce the size of the 5.5 lakh square feet area by 17,302 sq ft. The temporary structures cluttering the verandahs will also be removed. Officials wondered how this space will be replaced with 2 lakh square feet of the 14-storey HRBC building.
Among the likely new constructions will be a new cabinet room on the first floor and the remodelling of the Rotunda. The information and cultural affairs department will be renovated. The police and disaster control rooms will also get a facelift.
view of the temporary Secretariat
Nabanna - A new Innings A view of the new Secretariat Building
How the renovated Writers’
Building will look
floor will have private its share of greenery Every floor will have security
The terrace of the new building
will be equipped with solar panels
new building will be more spacious and will have more greenery
whole building will wear a corporate look
The new CMO will match
international standards while retaining a touch of Bengali culture
The much needed facelift for Writers’ Buildings is a welcome move.
Winds of change are here to stay and Team M3.tv is glad that the State Secretariat is finally getting a facelift, to match international standards.