Bihar pledges to preserve Orwell’s birthplace - again

April 24th, 2012 - 10:25 am ICT by IANS  

Patna, April 24 (IANS) Big brother should have been watching out for it. But legendary British author George Orwell’s birthplace in Bihar’s Motihari town has been lying neglected for decades with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar the latest to pledge that it would be preserved for posterity.

The Bihar government will prepare a blueprint to turn the crumbling single-storey house in East Champaran’s Motihari town, about 300 km from here, into a museum, officials said Monday, a day after Nitish Kumar visited the place.

“Nitish Kumar, who visited Orwell’s birthplace during his ongoing ’seva yatra’ in East Champaran district Sunday, ordered the officials to prepare a restoration and development plan for the neglected building,” an official accompanying the chief minister said.

Orwell is the cult author of classics such as “Animal Farm” and “1984″, which painted a grim ‘Orwellian’ picture of a future totalitarian society where big brother was always watching, has a unique India link. But successive governments have done little to capitalise on the tourism potential.

Nitish Kumar has shown keen interest in preserving Orwell’s birthplace to attract tourists from across the world and has asked that work on it should begin immediately, an official said.

Two years ago, the state government had issued a notification declaring the building a protected site. The notification for its protection had been issued under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments (Protection) Act, 1976.

Earlier this year, state Art, Culture and Youth Affairs Minister Sukhda Pandey said her department had released Rs.32.70 lakh for not just beautification of the memorial but also for construction of road and drainage work.

But it is still lying in bad shape, local residents said.

According to district officials, Orwell’s birthplace was mainly targeted by encroachers, who have been damaging it.

Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair in 1903 at his ancestral home in Motihari near India’s border with Nepal. His father, Richard Blair, worked as an agent of the opium department of the Indian Civil Service during British rule.

The house where Orwell spent his childhood has been lying neglected for decades. The dilapidated building is home to stray animals and vagabonds. A small portion was taken over by the state government. A schoolteacher now lives there.

It has been reported time and again that the roof line has bowed and buckled due to years of rain, while a large grapefruit tree has undermined the southern wall.

Only the stone floor looks solid, though it cracked during an earthquake that almost levelled Motihari in 1934.

At present, there is nothing to tell visitors that this modest two-room house was where Orwell spent the first few months of his life, tended to by his mother, Ida, and an Indian maid. Orwell and his mother left for Britain soon after.

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