The Rajasthan government is set to demolish the historic Laxmi Vilas Hotel for constructing the Rs 100-crore Mahatma Gandhi museum project despite facing protests. As per a Times of India report, the government has called for tenders to demolish the structure surrounded by the ecological zone, built during the tenure of Sawai Man Singh II, the last ruler of Jaipur.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had announced the construction of the Gandhi Darshan Museum and the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Governance and Social Sciences project in the 2021-2022 Budget on land situated inside Central Park.
However, the decision to raze the heritage hotel that houses 40 palatial rooms has not gone well with environmentalists and the opposition.
A member of the erstwhile royal family of Jaipur and currently Rajsamand MP, Diya Kumari remarked, “It has come to my knowledge that the state government was planning to demolish the hotel located in Central Park. The building has historic and heritage value. To my mind, such a structure should not be demolished. If a museum or an institute has to be made, it should be done within the same building.”
Additionally, activists who have been fighting a case for the past 20 years to preserve the ecological park have also taken strong objection. Yogesh Yadav, the president of the Central Park Bachao Sangharsh Samiti revealed, “The land was acquired for public utility and not for a multi-crore rupee project. It’s an ecological and no-construction zone and a violation of Supreme Court orders. For the past 20 years, we are fighting to maintain the sanctity of this green zone. The government, however, is coming up with fancy projects to benefit the influential. We will approach the court again.”
As per the report, the Jaipur Development Authority had taken possession of the hotel, Kanak Bhawan and a horse stable at Central Park spread across nearly 35,000 sqm following a Supreme Court order on May 5, 2017.
The environmental activists, however, allege that the JDA has been making use of the land as per their whims and fancies with complete disregard to orders.
Speaking about the change in power, a senior official said, “When the BJP government was in power, a proposal was received to dedicate the building for public use and a yoga or wellbeing centre be developed for morning walkers.”
Commenting on the demolition of the heritage hotel, a JDA official said, “The last date for submission of expression of interest is July 15. The firm winning the contract can take away the materials after dismantling the structure. Soon, the authority will appoint an architectural and engineering consultant based on quality and cost-based selection system (QCBS).”
Surrounded by greenery and jogging tracks, a golf course, a polo ground, Lakshmi Vilas hotel has been a popular tourist destination from the time it was converted to a heritage hotel in the early 1970s.