Iconic insurance building razed

The Oriental Insurance Company building, considered by many to be the city’s first reinforced concrete cement (RCC) building in the state, will no longer stand tall on the beautiful Lower Strand Road (now MG Road) that runs parallel to the Brahmaputra.

Regarded as an architectural marvel when it was unveiled in 1938, the two-storey structure will make way for a modern commercial building.

Work to demolish the building began three days ago despite opposition from NGOs and concerned citizens.

Heritage activists and conservationists criticized owner Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India’s move to demolish the building and accused concerned authorities like Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) and the state government of not doing enough to protect one of the city’s iconic insurance structures.

Both LIC and GMDA, however, shrugged off the criticism. A senior LIC official said the new building would be better.

“Why the clamour over this so-called heritage structure? The new building will be better than the old one,” said BK Panda, SDM, LIC.
“This is a government of India property. We are not concerned with this,” said Dhiren Baruah, chairman of GMDA.

Kumudeshwar Hazarika, one of the few remaining chroniclers of the city and its history, recalled visiting the building frequently as a boy to marvel at its architecture.

“This was the first modern building in undivided Assam. It was the pride of the city,” Hazarika told TOI. The old building had a dome made of Belgian glass, which helped sunlight penetrate its interiors, he added.

Ironically, other Oriental Insurance Company buildings across the country are preserved as heritage structures.

A building of the company in Myanmar’s former capital Yangon, constructed in 1914, now houses the Indian embassy.

“The structure should have been declared a heritage building. We need a heritage act,” said Jayanta Sarma of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.

Curated from Iconic insurance building razed

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