Pune University facelift takes more time than it took to build it

Mar 24, 2014, 12:17 IST | Niranjan Medhekar

It took the British 7 years to construct the Victorian Gothic varsity building. Today, it has been eight years but its caretakers haven’t been able to complete its renovation

Back in the 1860s, the British took seven years to construct the Governor’s House — what is now the main building of the University of Pune (UoP) — at a cost of what was then £1.75 lakh (R1.75 crore). Today, it’s been eight years that repairs on the 150-years-old Grade I heritage building have been going on, with expenses set to touch £13.5 lakh pounds, or R13.5 crore.

Patching up: Work on Pune University’s main building will get over by Match 2015. Pic/Mohan Patil

The varsity administration has once again extended the deadline for its main building’s renovation, which began in 2006. March 2015 is the new time limit. Exactly a year ago, the university vice-chancellor (VC) had declared December 2013 as the deadline for finishing the renovation.

Work still in progress: The university's main building, a Grade I heritage, is covered with scaffolding. Pic/Mohan Patil

mid-day takes a look at the ongoing renovation vis-as-vis the pre-Independence construction. Governor of Bombay Sir Bartle Frere, who took charge in 1862, initiated construction of the Governor House in 1864. But he had to leave the country in 1867, four years before the work was complete in 1871, after being excoriated for the “exorbitant” expenditure on the structure.

Documents from the then-British public works department, which gives a historical account of the Governor House, state, “The expenditure (on the house) was considered exorbitant and Sir Bartle was severely criticised for it.” They add, “He defended himself ably but could not live in the house. He left India in 1867.”

Dr S M (Raja) Dixit, professor and head of Interdisciplinary Study Centre of Humanities and Social Sciences, who had penned a book on the history of UoP, confirmed these details.

“It’s true that Governor Bartle was heavily censured for excessive expenditure on his house. The structure – later converted to the UoP main building - was built excellently in the Victorian Gothic architecture. Its specialty is the 100-foot tower,” Dixit said to mid-day.

He refused to comment on the renovation which will take nine years, two more than it did to build the original structure.

Reasons for delay
When mid-day contacted the varsity VC, Dr W N Gade, about the lag, he said, “The renovation work of the main building would have concluded had it been done in a single stretch. But because of many technical reasons, it got stopped in between, and now we have started it again.”

Talking about the limitations, V-C Gade said, “As it is a heritage structure, we have to ensure that the new work is maintaining and replicating the same pattern. Skilled manpower is another issue, and fortunately we have adequate manpower as of now.”

In 2006, UoP had assigned three contractors for the work, and one of them, Arun Shanbhag, whose firm was given the responsibility of repairing and giving finishing touches to wooden structures, died in a road accident in July 2013. This contributed to the overall delay.

“Of the other two contractors who have already finished their work, we have reassigned M Devang Company, which will now complete the remaining work within a year,” a senior official of UoP said. The remaining work includes finishing of walls, final touches to sculptures set in walls and pillars, carpentry of ceiling and flooring.

March 2015
New deadline for finishing renovation of the main building

Rs 13.5crore
Estimated cost of the complete restoration

Guv didn’t get to stay at his house

Incidentally, Governor Bartle Frere, who began construction of the Governor House in 1864, didn’t ever occupy it. He left the country in 1867, four years before the building was finished, after he was panned for his extravagance on the construction spending. Former VC Dr Narendra Jadhav, who began its renovation in 2006, also vacated the post without ever getting to shift his office to a spruced-up building.

At Rs 9.5 cr, 70 per cent work done
From 2006, when the then VC Dr Narendra Jadhav started the renovation work, until now, UoP has spent Rs 9.5 crore to finish around 70% of the repairs. Another Rs 4 crore worth of work is pending, which is expected to finish by 2015.

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