The delectations of history and heritage leave many unmoved, especially votaries of modern architectural monstrosities, the flagpoles of so-called ‘progress’. For them, the past, indeed, is a foreign country. Nitish Kumar appears to be at a loss to understand the fuss around a centuries-old building in the Patna Collectorate complex, which his government wants to demolish to construct a ritzy highrise in its place. “How can an opium warehouse from the colonial times be a historical structure?” the Bihar chief minister wonders. The CM, evidently, hasn’t had time to get into the immensely significant socio-economic role opium played in northern and eastern India, its part in the migration of Indians, its export to China, subsequent resistance and the Opium Wars all the way to the rise of Chinese nationalism.
“People say it is a historical building but as per the report of the Director (Archaeology), it was built by the Dutch East India Company to stock up opium and saltpetre,” Nitish says. “We also know that shooting of Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi was held there, but these things do not bestow any special historical significance.”
Ahead of the assembly elections due in October-November, Nitish has been on an inauguration spree. He inaugurated six government buildings worth Rs 85.69 crore through a video conference, and laid the foundation of 23 others worth Rs 536.53 crore, which included a five-storey Patna Collectorate complex to be built at an estimated budget of Rs 186 crore. The ambitious project, spread over 3,484 sq. metres, will have 39 buildings, including the district magistrate’s office.
Construction of a new collectorate has been on Nitish’s wishlist for years. “Owing to damaged structures on Patna Collectorate campus, we have been trying to build a new...