Monday, August 30, 2010

BALIATI PALACE, MANIKGANJ, BANGLADESH



Tax farming is a system of organising the financing of government that seems to be as old as civilisation itself.

Awarding to favourites, or auctioning to the wealthy, the right to collect taxes almost assumes abuse and exploitation, and Baliati Palace is almost certainly an illustration of that reality.


The practice has long, at least up until the advent of real parliamentary governance, been part of the practice of governance in UK, so it would come as no surprise that the East India Company.. ‘The Honourable Company’.. should decide upon the practice as a means of maximising its income.


So it was that a successful Salt Merchant named Govinda Ram Shaha, sometime in the middle part of the 19th Century, appears to have acquired the office of Zaminder for a part of the fertile and trading area of Manikganj.

Creating for himself, and for the four sons of his first marriage, then the three sons of his second, the sprawling, largely neo classical palace at Baliati, he established for all a lifestyle that leaves even today’s visitor almost speechless.

Better preserved, in part, than most... probably due to the occupation by the Dept of Archaeology of two blocks of the main four.. it is, nevertheless, like so many such buildings in Bangladesh, already showing signs that most of the buildings are beyond repair, or even stabilisation.

Which is a pity, given the great appeal of such buildings to tourists across the developed world, as evidenced by the more than 4 million members of the UK National Trust and the millions of overseas visitors attracted to buildings in their care. It is such attractions that appeal to so much of the top end, professional classes of tourist, creating foreign earnings, and, above all,jobs!


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