Crawford Market's fountain restoration coming apart due to apathy
The ornamental artefact dates back to 1865, and is the only one of three fountains at Crawford Market that is located inside the market building; the other two stand on either side of the 147-year-old structure
The first phase of the restoration of Crawford Market is not even done, and it is already coming apart, thanks to vandalism and next to no maintenance. One of the three fountains at the market, restored just last year, is already damaged. Some have dumped garbage on the 153-year-old fountain, while others have spat on it and even scribbled on the stone plinths.
Just last year, the fountain was restored at a cost of Rs 5 lakh. At the time, there were several layers of oil paint that had to be scraped off before the structure could be refurbished, said an official from the civic body's building maintenance (BM) department.
The fountain, restored just last year, is already laden with garbage, scribbles and spit stains (circled)
The ornamental artefact dates back to 1865, and is the only one of three fountains at Crawford Market that is located inside the market building; the other two stand on either side of the 147-year-old structure. Today, the fountain is laden with discarded plastic bags, paper cups and water bottles. Some people have dumped their garbage there, while others have left spit stains and scribbles on the stone. Apart from the fountain, the lanterns hanging from the ceiling have also not been cleaned in a long time, and are covered with cobwebs.
Turns out, the Rs 300-crore restoration contract does not include a maintenance clause, and none of the departments of the BMC are willing to take the responsibility.
Even the expensive light fittings have been left dirty and full of cobwebs. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
Whose job is it anyway?
Before the restoration work was taken up in 2015, maintenance of the heritage structure was the responsibility of A ward for all repairs costing less than Rs 25 lakh. For anything above that, the market department would float a tender for the same.
Currently, phase I of the restoration project is being overseen by the BM department, and the second phase will be taken over by the building construction (BC) department. The second phase is expected to begin later this month, and contractors have been appointed to carry out the work. Conservation architect Abha Lambah is in charge of the entire project.
Officials from the BM department stated that once significant portions are restored, they are handed over to the market department. "We restored the fountain last year, and till date, we have reconstructed 585 shops. Once we were done with the work, we handed it over to the market department. Maintenance and cleanliness is now their responsibility," said an official from the BM department.
However, officials from the market department begged to differ. "The market department doesn't do any civil work. We only look after cleanliness. Since the damage has happened within the warranty period, the building maintenance department should look after its maintenance," said an official. Ratnakar Karale, chairman of the Mahatma Phule Market Dukandar Sewa Sangh, said that despite several complaints, the BMC has refused to take responsibility for maintaining the structure.
'We pay BMC to do this'
"We have written to them and have met senior officials to point out the problems after the restoration work was done. There are leakages and expensive lamps are covered with pigeon droppings and cobwebs. But no one takes responsibility. The lamps are so tall that if one of them stops working, it's not possible for us to fix it," he said.
He added that the shopkeepers are willing to pay more rent to the civic authorities if they maintain and provide security for the heritage structure. "The BMC maintains gardens, which don't give them any revenue. Crawford market is an A-grade market and we all pay the BMC. It's their duty to keep it in good condition," he said.
For civic commissioner Ajoy Mehta, vandalism is more to blame. "If the market association takes over the responsibility of maintaining and safeguarding Crawford Market, the Corporation will take it up for repairs. We cannot keep repairing if acts of vandalism continue to damage the structure," he said. Architect Lambah could not be reached for comment.
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