British-era prison in Cuttack languishes in neglect

Bhubaneswar: The British-era jail at Dargha Bazaar in Cuttack, that once housed hundreds of freedom fighters, has turned into a grazing ground for cattle during day and an adda for miscreants at night.

With plasters peeling off the crumbling concrete walls and rusting iron grills, the dilapidated prison narrates a sordid tale of neglect.

Constructed in 1863, the jail was once home to eminent freedom fighters like Nabakrushna Choudhury, Harekrushna Mahtab, Gopabandhu Choudhury, Pranakrushna Choudhury, Malati Choudhury, Ramadevi and Annapurna Moharana.

As per reports, the prison functioned as a district jail in 1912 and as a central jail in 1936.Though a major portion of the jail was demolished by the civic body, the Ward 15 of the prison was left to be preserved as reminiscent of yesteryears.

Meanwhile, despite repeated announcements by the state government since 2010 to develop the jail into a freedom fighters’ memorial museum, the project has remained a nonstarter.

“As per the announcement, a 20-feet wall was to be built around the jail premises. However despite repeated reminders to tourism and cultural departments, the officials concerned have remained indifferent. They recall this structure only twice a year – during Independence and Republic Days,” rued local corporator, Arun Sethi.

“In absence of gate, the premise is being used to park vehicles, said Bhajagobinda Das, a security guard.
Eight years ago, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) was given the responsibility to revamp the old structure while the Cuttack Development Authority (CDA) was supposed to oversee maintenance of the structure.However, the project has remained a non-starter.

“The project was recently revised and a new plan estimated at around Rs 4 crore has been planned. The previous plan was not implemented due to some reason,” said Vice Chancellor of CDA, Sarat Chandra Nayak.

“We had earlier submitted a plan of Rs 4.86 crore for the facelift of the memorial structure. Later, we were asked for some modification in the plan and accordingly we submitted another proposal for approval of the State Government,” informed Malika Mitra, Director of INTACH.