Hyderabad: A week after the Telangana High Court cleared decks for construction of a new complex for Telangana state secretariat, the state government on Tuesday started demolishing the existing buildings.
Authorities deployed bulldozers, earthmovers and other machinery for the demolition work which began in the early hours of Tuesday.
Police erected barricades on the roads leading towards the secretariat and diverted the vehicular traffic. The restrictions in the busy area near Hussain Sagar lake in the heart of the city led to traffic jams at various points.
People on their way to offices and workplaces were caught unawares. Some of them were seen arguing with the policemen.
The government also declared holiday for the secretariat employees working from temporary offices at BRK Bhavan near the old premises.
With the demolition of all 10 blocks spread over 25 acres, the premises which used to serve as the seat of governance in undivided Andhra Pradesh and saw rise and fall of many governments will slide into history.
With the demolition, one of the few surviving symbols of Hyderabad heritage will also become history. One of the buildings was constructed in the 1888 during the times of Seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, the last ruler of erstwhile Hyderabad State. Known as Saifabad Palace and built in European architecture, it used to house the office of Nizam's Prime Minister till Hyderabad's accession with the Indian Union in 1948.
Subsequently, the palace designated as 'G' block (Sarvahitha) served as the office of the chief ministers of undivided Andhra Pradesh up till N.T Rama Rao.
His successor M. Channa Reddy built the 'C' block and shifted the chief minister's office and all his successors till undivided Andhra Pradesh's last chief minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy functioned from there.
The 'G' block, one of the last surviving pieces of architecture of Nizam's administration has since been lying unused and reduced to dustbin to dump old furniture.
After bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, the blocks were distributed between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for their secretariats. 'C' block was one of the buildings allotted to Telangana but Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao has been functioning from his official residence 'Pragati Bhavan'. He went on record that the Vaastu of the entire secretariat complex is inauspicious.
He initially planned to acquire Bison Polo ground in Secunderabad to build a new secretariat but had to drop the proposal as the defence ministry refused to hand over the land to the state government.
It was on June 27 last year that the chief minister had laid the foundation stone for the new secretariat. Subsequently, secretariat was temporarily shifted to BRK Bhavan.
As Andhra Pradesh had already shifted its capital to Amaravati, the new government of YSR Congress Party handed over the secretariat buildings in Hyderabad to Telangana.
However, the Telangana government could not go ahead with the demolition as some leaders of opposition parties and concerned citizens moved the High Court, seeking direction to the government not to demolish the existing structures.
The petitioners termed the government's plan for building a new secretariat as a waste of public money. They argued that the existing structures were in good condition and can meet all the requirements.
The government, however, submitted to the court that the buildings were constructed without safety norms and that the state needs an integrated complex with modern amenities to ensure smooth functioning of offices of the chief minister, ministers, secretaries and others.
The High Court on June 29 dismissed petitions challenging the government's decision to raze the old buildings and build a new complex in its place.
The court ruled that building a new secretariat is a policy decision by the government and the court can't interfere with it.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister's Office on Tuesday released the design of the proposed secretariat building saying it may be approved.
The government plans to complete the work by June 2, 2021. Mumbai-based architect Hafeez Contractor has designed the five-lakh square feet complex to be built at a cost of Rs 400 crore.