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Sifti Da Ghar in neglect (Read 3464 times)
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Sifti Da Ghar in neglect
06. Jan 2005 at 17:09
 
City no longer retains its old glory; unplanned growth
mars its architecture
* The city of gardens is now a virtual garbage heap
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi
 
 
The city can boast of many such palatial houses but civic amenities in most parts are grossly lacking  
 
Amritsar — Sifti Da Ghar (Land of Values) — promoted as parallel city to Lahore by the legendary Maharaja Ranjit Singh, is now in a state of neglect, thanks to the indifference of all concerned. Amritsar is the only city which finds mention in the Gurbani.  
 
The old city was known as the city of ponds and gardens all over the world. The names of many localities and bazaars are still prefixed or suffixed with the word bagh. This show that gardens and ponds existed in the city once upon a time. However, these gardens were usurped by the mindless growth of the city. The very names of Bagh Jhanda Singh (near Papdan Wala Bazaar), Kesri Bagh, Sakatri Bagh (Jamnu Road), Jalianwala Bagh, Ramanand Bagh (near Jalianwala Bagh), Rani Ka Bagh point towards the old beauty of the town. The mushrooming of unplanned colonies has dealt a death blow to many ponds and beautiful gardens. The city had many water channels to irrigate large residential and public parks. The picturesque city lost its many green spaces with the passage of time.  
 
The Mall, literal meaning — the shady passage way — built in the year 1880 by the British after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh seems to have lost its grandeur. The Mall was replete with history. Its glory could be imagined from the fact that a great personality like Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was born in a palatial house here. The Mall, which had only 25 to 30 houses earlier, has lately become a jungle of concrete. The first step towards commercialisation of the Mall was started by a former Akali minister who converted a part of his splendid residence into office and shops by using political clout during the hey days of militancy. Later, two big hotels — Ritz and Blue Moon, two hospitals, two restaurants besides ten commercial complexes and many kiosks — dotted the beautiful landscape of the Mall.  
 
Many more commercial complexes are in the pipeline, thanks to the local municipal corporation. The change in the houseline plan by the corporation has added to parking and traffic chaos. Footpaths have been converted into parking space, leaving little space for pedestrians. Ms Kusam Wadhwa, earlier a resident of the Mall, expressed her distress over the wanton destruction of its beauty. Recalling her childhood days, she rued that she would cycle down the shady passageways to visit her friends and relations. However, the ongoing commercialisation of the area has dismayed her. The authorities concerned allowed the change of the land-use of the area without seeking objections from the residents.  
 
While Pakistan has maintained the original glory of its Mall, the local authorities have allowed rampant commercial activities on this side of the International border. Now, the once-beautiful residential areas continue to be replaced by ill-planned high-rise buildings, which have become eye-sores. There was a time when authorities did not allow the construction of houses on less than 5000 square yards plot.  
 
The present Nehru Shopping Complex, developed by the Improvement Trust, was once a residential house of the manager of British Grindlay’s Bank in an area of 21000 square yards. The Mall also housed the residential bunglow of the mangers of Charted Bank. The Charted Bank’s Manger House has been converted into the Ritz Hotel. A large chunk of the land on the Mall belonged to the family of Rattan Chand Mehra, a noted tea merchant.  
 
While many big business families shifted to Delhi or other metro towns after the Partition, the prolonged militancy took its toll here. It forced many rich families to dispose of their properties. In process, the Mall lost its glory. The ever-changing bylaws, which suited the authorities and the vested interests, cleared the construction plan for “not less than 2000 yards”, which has lately been amended to “not less than 500 yards”. Mr Harmit Singh (Raja Batra), a resident of the Mall alleged that indiscriminate commercialisation had messed up the beautiful Mall Road.  
 
The Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM) General Secretary, Mr Charnjit Singh Gumtala, says that though the then-Punjab-Government had announced the constitution of the Amritsar Development Authority to mark the 400th year of the city, yet it has not been implemented so far. However, the Patiala Development Authority has been constituted for the comprehensive and the overall development of the erstwhile princely city. The AVM is of the view that the successive governments have failed to protect the original design of the holy city after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. There was a time when Maharaja Ranjit Singh could have the darshan of the Golden Temple from his Summer Palace (Ram Bagh) itself. However, with the passage of time, excessive construction in the city blocked the view of the holiest place.  
 
Amritsar, which was once developed as industrial and commercial capital of the region, fell on bad days due to ill-conceived plans. At one time, Guru Arjun Dev had specially brought 52 artisans of different trades to the city. He had designed the city in a way that residential area was bifurcated from the commercial area. However, in the later years, it was all forgotten.  
 
Incidentally, the city has many firsts to its credit. It was developed as the first educational centre of the region. The first Sikh-Mughal war was fought here. The first Qila Lohgarh was built here under the directions of Guru Hargobind Sahib. The city was visited by six Gurus.  
 
Before the advent of the British rule, Amritsar was much developed than Lahore. If Lahore was the capital of Punjab, Amritsar was the industrial capital of the Middle Asia at that time. According to the AVM, the Census of 1855 (after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh) showed Amritsar district to be more densely populated than Lahore. The city’s population was 112186, while Lahore was less developed and its population was 94143 only. In 1868, the population of Amritsar rose to 135813 while Lahore’s population was 98924.  
 
The business turnover of Amritsar in 1868 was Rs 690284 while that of Lahore was Rs 245445. The export from Amritsar in the same year was worth Rs 4761454 while Lahore’s export was Rs 2646017 only.  
 
British, too, developed Lahore at the cost of Amritsar, possibly with a view to open new economic avenues. The Government of India also played a negative role by giving tax holidays to Himachal and J&K. Mr I.K. Gujral, the then-Prime-Minister offered economic package to border districts, including Amritsar, but it failed to take off with the exception of giving a go-ahead to upgrade Rajasansi airport into an international airport.  
 
The NDA Government undid Mr Gujral’s announcements and instead gave facilities to Himachal Pradesh and J&K. A large number of industrial units shifted to Baddi (HP) and Jammu. Mr Gumtala says that after Independence, Amritsar should have been developed as the capital city like Lahore, which is the capital of West Punjab.  
 
The Queens Road, the Lawrence Road, the Albert Road and the Court Road, which were once the cynosure of the city, are fast becoming commercial sites. “The new commercial areas don’t have any proper parking. Vehicles are parked on the spaces earmarked for pedestrians. No care has been taken to preserve the heritage of the city. The greenery has been reduced to the minimal. The government and corporation offices in the famous Ram Bagh have eclipsed the beauty of the summer capital of Maharaja Ranjit Singh,” rues a city resident. Well, this does sum up the plight of the city, that was once famed for its architecture and planning.
 
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Re: Sifti Da Ghar in neglect
Reply #1 - 25. Jan 2005 at 02:57
 
The Union Home Ministry approved a Rs. 106-crore package for the incomplete phases of the ambitious Galiara project —-a beautification-cum-decongestion -plan for the surroundings of the Golden Temple.  
 
The union also gave its nod to demolition of the ‘heritage’ building of Saragarhi Government Senior Secondary School to make way for a multi-storeyed parking facility around the temple.  
 
A subway from the fountain crossing to the Golden Temple is envisaged in the new plan. Another subway till the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial is planned to be connected with a 220-metre-long subway.  
 
After comprehensive deliberations over several months, the Home Ministry has approved the plan with minor cuts, says Mr K.S. Kang, Cgmmissioner, Municipal Corporation. The corporation will provide assistance in implementation of the project.  
 
An alternate site has been marked for construction of a new building for Saragarhi school before its demolition. The Union Ministry has strict instructions for completion of the school building at a five-acre plot allotted to it, before its demolition. According to Mr Kang, the four-storeyed parking complex costing Rs 6 crore would include a basement with a capacity to park 1800 vehicles.  
 
Significantly, the parking top would be converted into a helipad for easy access by visiting VIPs and VVIPs to the Golden Temple. The area in front of Ghanta Ghar Chowk would be cleared of encroachments and structures for an open plaza with green spaces and fountains. Parking would be prohibited here.  
 
The first instalment of the total outlay would be received this month.
 
 
 
  Govt urged to construct Netaji yadgari bhavans  
Tribune Reporters  
 
Sangrur, January 23
On the occasion of 108th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose today, the local Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Foundation asked the Punjab Government to construct Netaji yadgari bhavans and install statues of the Netaji at all district headquarters in the state to keep the ideology of the Netaji alive for the generations to come and pay true tributes to this great freedom fighter of the country.  
 
This demand was made at a function organised by the foundation to celebrate the birthday of the Netaji here today. The function was attended among others, by Mr Mal Singh, district president of the Freedom Fighters Organisation; Prof Uday Partap Singh, a social worker; Mr Sukhdev Singh Jassal, district president of the Senior Citizens Welfare Association; Mr Raj Kumar Arora, a state-level employees’ leader; Mr Fakir Chand Goyal and Mr Harinder Pal Singh, patron and president, respectively, of the local Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Foundation. In the function, a number of freedom fighters and widows and wards of freedom fighters also participated.
 
The foundation also asked the Punjab Government to provide VIP facilities to the freedom fighters, especially belonging to the Indian National Army (INA), and their widows and wards.
 
Mr Fakir Chand Goyal urged the Union Government to celebrate the Netaji’s birth anniversary every year at the national level.
 
Prof Uday Partap Singh asked the Punjab School Education Board authorities to include a chapter on the life of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in its textbooks.
 
Mr Harinder Pal Singh expressed concern over the non-celebration of the Netaji’s birth anniversary by the administration or the government in the district. He also said the government had no time to celebrate the birthday of the Netaji as it had almost forgotten the sacrifices made by him.
 
On the occasion, the foundation honoured freedom fighters and widows and wards of the freedom fighters by presenting shawls and mementos to them.
 
AMRITSAR: The Ajad Hind Fauj Association (AHFA) and the Municipal Corporation (MC) celebrated the 108th birth anniversary of Subhas Chandra Bose here today. A function was organised at Bhandari Bridge where floral tributes were paid to him.
 
Mr K.S. Kang, Commissioner, MC, and Capt Gurdial Singh of the INA and secretary, AHFA, were present.
 
 Tribune India
 
 
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