Mumbai: Slum dwellers make the Khada Parsi their home

Squatters and druggies are back, using the foot of the restored heritage monument as their shelter

Merely two years after its restoration, the iconic Khada Parsi statue in Byculla is under threat again, thanks to local slum dwellers, who have turned it into their home. This is happening despite the fact that the Brihanmum-bai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has plans to monitor and safeguard it. But at present, the plans have not moved forward.

After laborious restoration that lasted close to two years and costed close to Rs 1 crore to the BMC, the Khada Parsi Grade 1 heritage monument at Byculla junction is once again threatened by encroachers. On Sunday, a family of five with their mattresses and a broken chair had moved into the well around the cast iron statue that is one of only two of its kind in the worldAfter laborious restoration that lasted close to two years and costed close to Rs 1 crore to the BMC, the Khada Parsi Grade 1 heritage monument at Byculla junction is once again threatened by encroachers. On Sunday, a family of five with their mattresses and a broken chair had moved into the well around the cast iron statue that is one of only two of its kind in the world

Conservation architect, Pankaj Joshi, who was commissioned by the BMC to restore the iconic statue said, “It is very sad to see this piece of history being subjected to vandalism. There were plans to fence the area around the statue and install CCTV cameras, but it doesn’t seem to be working. The material used for the restoration is of great quality, but it is barely secure.”

mid-day had earlier reported about the BMC’s plan to install CCTVs around the statue on February 7 last year, in the report ‘8 CCTV cameras to keep a watch on Khada Parsi statue’.

Joshi said that he has seen junkies use the foot of the statue as a haven at night, while squatters also use the space as a shelter. “No matter how many times the BMC removes the encroachments, they are back again. The city needs to take their historic monuments seriously,” he said.

BMC says
The BMC officer from E ward said, “I know about the problem, as slum dwellers are residing inside Khada Parsi statue. But the proposal to improve it and put fencing lies with the heritage committee. Unless they don’t give a go ahead, we cannot take adequate steps. CCTVs too have been planned.”

The Khada Parsi statue
The 40-foot tall, cast-iron monument in Byculla, has a statue of Seth Cursetjee Manockjee (1763-1845), a 19th century Parsi businessman and education reformer, perched atop a Corinthian pillar with sculptures of four mermaids surrounding the base. It is one of only two such statues in the world, the other being the statue of Cires in Chile. The BMC had completed restoring the over 150-year-old plus statue — which is a Grade I heritage monument — in June 2014. The estimated cost of the project was just under Rs 1 crore and Rs 6 lakh is spent annually for its maintenance.

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