Only ground and first floor of CSMT to become museum

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New Delhi, Feb 6 (IANS) Indian Railways has revised its earlier decision to convert the entire Chhatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) building into a museum and now only the ground and first floors would be considered for the ambitious project.

The second floor of the iconic CSMT building will remain intact and continue to house the offices of senior officials and the General Manager of Central Railway.

Designed by British architect Frederick William Stevens, the 129-year-old building, earlier called Victoria Terminus, is currently the Central Railway headquarters.

The state-run transporter had earlier moved a proposal to shift the headquarters to another place in the city and convert the iconic CSMT building — which is Mumbai’s only Unesco World Heritage Site — into a state-of-the-art museum.

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The Mumbai chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach), which was asked to prepare a report, had however listed several hurdles to the move, including seeking Unesco and Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) nod for the museum project.

“Unesco has become very strict about interventions to World Heritage Sites. First and foremost, it is important to write to Unesco, apprising them of the intention to convert the site into a museum,” Intach’s Mumbai chapter said in its report, submitted last month.

“Unesco requires a heritage impact assessment report to be prepared by an expert. The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) must be approached for permissions,” Intach maintained in its report drawing the authorities’ attention to the complex issue.

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Besides, the move is reportedly facing resistance within the Railways hierarchy as a section is not in favour of moving the Central Railway HQ from the iconic landmark as the project would cost the cash-starved public transporter about Rs 153 crore — Rs 68 crore for museum and Rs 85 crore for the new headquarters.

Apart from Unesco and MHCC permissions, railway unions have also raised the red flag to the project, opposing vehemently the idea of shifting from the building, which got the Unesco World Heritage Site tag in 2004.

“The second floor of the building will not be vacated and will function as usual with the office as per the latest decision,” said a senior Railway Ministry official familiar with the development.

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However, the official said that the Railways will still seek Unesco and MHCC clearance for converting the ground and first floors into a museum. Any move on the project without the nod from Unesco would mean the building would lose its World Heritage Site tag.

Every day, more than three million suburban commuters use the station, still referred to by its old “VT” initials. The building also houses some 400 employees of Central Railway, including the General Manager’s office.

(Arun Kumar Das is a senior Delhi-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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