Le Corbusier, icon of European Architectural Modernism was commissioned to give birth to Chandigarh in 1950. Capital of Punjab Act and Building Rules, 1952, were enacted to christen, develop and regulate creation of Chandigarh under the auspices of a “Zoning Plan.” As a numbered plan it defined layout of every numbered sector of Master Plan of Chandigarh showing streets, boundaries of plots, open spaces, protected trees, building lines, permissible heights, site coverage and other restrictions. It was Chandigarh’s edict. Architect Charles Correa, wrote “born without an umbilical cord from the harsh plains of Punjab,” it symbolized birth of a resurgent India conceived by Prime Minister Nehru.
All who breathe fresh air in Green Chandigarh zealously guard green open spaces. Invasion, encroachment, construction, character change of Greens is sacrilege. In 1960, Defense Minister planned building a military cantonment in 2000 acres north of Sukhna Lake, the lung of Chandigarh. Corbusier wrote to Nehru saying he could not “permit this decision which would ruin the town planning principles of Chandigarh.” Nehru directed Punjab Chief Minister Kairon not to “overrule Corbusier” as “his opinion is of value.”
Today, Corbusier turns in his grave to protest meekly. Adjoining the three citadels of authority, heart of a Green is under slaughter to slice a road. Author, as a fledgling school boy since 1967 cycled to St. John’s on this road, and does till date, noticing signs cautioning care: wild animals cross this road. Is green heritage to be lost. Are green lungs “roads”. Corridors of power are silent. Zoning plan of every sector is preserved in UT Administrator’s office. 58 years ago, in Daya Swarup Nehra, High Court in 1964, facing dilemma of construction in open space meant for landscape features, ruling that Administrator has no absolute power to convert an “open space”, held, “in the present case when the zoning plan had admittedly not been varied, it is not easy to hold that the Chief Administrator can ignore it on the assumption that he is entitled to vary it whenever and howsoever he chooses.”
Ravi Kalia, Chandigarh - The Making of an Indian City, wrote to Nehru saying “the construction of the Capitol and its lateral elements has brought to Chandigarh such a marvelous landscape, which no city in the world possesses. Let us not destroy it. Violating one Green will start plunder, pillage, beginning without an end. Quoting first precedent, lighting pyres, high and mighty will gobble up Greens. On the V3 road abutting the Chandigarh Club, in Sector 2 is a huge rectangular area which is a public space. Behind this public space is a service road for access to the huge Government bungalows. In this public space i.e. a green, a road has been cut in the middle of the green for providing access to the Government bungalows directly from the V3 Road. This violates the zoning plan as a public green space cannot be used for making a road. The zoning plan of Sector 2 dated March 6, 1953 in the office of the Administrator bears testimony.
Who will build another Chandigarh. If we cannot commemorate memory of Corbusier, let us not murder its legacy. Norma Evenson, wrote “in the final analysis, a city is not the creation of its planners; it is creation of its keeping through time. Le Corbusier could not turn a provincial Indian capital into another Paris. If Chandigarh is ever to become a true city, it will be only when its people have given it a history, when it has become free of its planners to acquire a destiny of its own. Ultimately, the people of Chandigarh must achieve the city they deserve.”
Theme of India’s G20 Presidency - “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” or “One Earth, One Family, One Future.” Will we test it. Corbusier and Nehru are immortal. Their legacies live. Do we start a massacre. Residents of Chandigarh must decide. Bastille cannot be stormed. Greens cannot die.