Is Delhi Worthy of Being a 'World Heritage City'?
Tolstoy, Ashoka, Joseph Broz Tito, Max Mueller, Nelson Mandela. Apart from being historic personalities they also share the distinction of hobnobbing with each other in a round about manner in the national capital.

Named after historic greats from across the world, the roads in Delhi seem to have lost their identities over time at least to the common people of the city who commute on them regularly, say various experts.

"People living in Safdarjung or Hauz Khas areas in Delhi would not know, why their colonies are known by that name. Roads and colonies have been named after great writers, poets and artistes, but people living there lack knowledge of their own recent history," says Pawan K Varma, India's envoy to Bhutan.

In cities such as London, blue plaques outside apartments commemorate the legends who had lived in that area. The plaques are permanent signs installed in a public place to link the location with a famous person or event.

The plaque schemes are also common in Paris, France, Rome, Italy, Oslo, Norway, Dublin, Northern Ireland, Poland, Canada and the United States.

Voicing concern over the neglected places especially in the national capital, which are named after the great legends, poet-lyricist-director Gulzar says, "In Russia, the reflection of Tolstoy is just so great but in Delhi which is home to literary greats such as Ghalib, his legacy in the form of the building he lived in or the streets he walked while composing his poems remain neglected."

The director was in the capital recently to attend a commemorative ceremony of Urdu poet Ghalib's 231st birth anniversary.

Not only the roads and colonies, the cities at large have been left at the mercy of their historically ignorant inhabitants who have decreased the valuable indicators of Delhi's magnanimous heritage to commercial market complexes, points out Varma, who has authored books such as "Being Indian" and "The Great Indian Middle Class".

"Shahjahanabad is such a visible metaphor of neglect. In other states, their old cities are maintained as a point of attraction. In Delhi also, the Old City is a picture of neglect" says the diplomat.

The sovereign city of Mughals which is specially mentioned in the architectural masterpieces of that era with historic Red Fort now looks more like an abused local market area with its streets laden with rubbish and pavements filled with shops and travel agencies.

"People renovate their houses and take pride in it but haveli of Ghalib is languishing in such a grave neglect. There should be a systematic movement to renovate and complete buildings once occupied by legends like him," says Uma Sharma, a noted kathak dancer. Sharma who heads the Ghalib Memorial Movement had on the occasion of the poet's birth anniversary recently organised a half-kilometre walk from Ghanta Ghar in Old Delhi to the poet's haveli. 

Pavan Varma says, "Today, the society is in the strong grip of a disease, called - tokenism. There is enough lip service about the legends like Ghalib, who have inhabited Delhi, but relentless neglect of places they lived in like his haveli at Gali Qasim Jan in Ballimaran in Old Delhi is in equal proportion."

Stressing on the reasons behind the deteriorating maintenance and growing neglect of the heritage, Academy award winning lyricist Gulazar points out that naming hotels and roads after kings and legends would not serve any honour to their achievements.

"The younger generation needs to be inspired and motivated to know its history. It is good to teach Shakespeare in schools and colleges but the curriculum should also include Kalidas and Tagore," he adds.

"The National Museum in the city receives a footfall of just 30,000 persons each year. The need is to expose the youth to such heritage centres. More-and-more innovative and imaginative tools should be employed in attracting the youth," suggests Varma.

Also, as the Delhi Government warms up to the idea of attaining a 'World Heritage City' tag from Unesco, believing that the capital is full of unique history, monuments and culture, which is worthy of the recognition and join the league of Ahmedabad, experts from different fields have a different opinion to share.

"No other city has as many standing monuments as Delhi. Campaigns should be initiated with youth to generate awareness regarding them because it is not about UNESCO giving us a status of 'World Heritage City', but it is about what we are doing for the heritage of our city," says Varma.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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