The vision of Edwin Lutyens, the British architect who built 'modern' Delhi, included a graceful assembly of white, colonnaded bungalows set in sprawling lawns on wide, leafy avenues. This is where India's governing class - government officials and ministers - would live in elegant splendour. This vision survived for some years after independence from the British Raj in 1947. Indian members of Parliament lived and entertained in style, in homes that were the envy of everyone who walked past them. Gleaming white in the bright Indian sunshine, the bungalows are timeless and imposing, yet small in scale - and therefore approachable. By law, these homes are heritage buildings that cannot be tampered with or altered - just as no British prime minister can impose his or her own personal likes and dislikes on No10 Downing Street. They are part of 'New' Delhi (as opposed to the old Muslim quarter), which was built between 1911 and 1931 - when the British moved their capital from Calcutta. But gradually, over the years, the ministers and officials who lived in these residences began to inflict their own tastes on them. Ugly 'improvements' soon became visible. Politicians began adding extensions, putting in partitions, covering the verandahs and extending the servants' quarters onto the lawns. In one case, they even built cowsheds - and let cows graze on some of the most expensive property in the country. Conservationists looked on in horror at these disfigurements. Not only were they illegal, but they were ghastly - even to the untrained eye. In 2002, the World Monuments Fund in New York named Lutyens' Delhi on its list of the world's 100 most endangered heritage sites because of the unauthorised alterations made to the bungalows. Said architect Ratish Nanda: 'In other countries, leaders and lawmakers lead from the front in creating awareness about the need to preserve their heritage and culture. But here, they lead in illegal constructions and alterations.' Some years ago there was even talk that municipal authorities planned to replace the bungalows with concrete apartment blocks. Finally, someone in the government woke up to the desecration. The Urban Development Ministry is now working out guidelines to protect the bungalow zone from the whims of their aesthetically challenged residents. The idea is to work out a code preserving the outward integrity of the bungalows, while permitting internal modernisation. One minister has even set a personal example. Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz inherited a bungalow totally deformed by additions from his predecessor. When Mr Soz moved in recently, he ordered the illegal extras to be demolished, restoring the original vision of Lutyens' Delhi.