Amritsar, Punjab: Even as the Union Ministry of Tourism has released a grant of Rs 2.32 crore for accelerating the conservation work of the historic Ram Bagh Garden — the Summer Palace of legendary Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh – it continues to remain one of the most neglected heritage sites.
The tussle between the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Department of Tourism and Culture, Punjab, over of the possession of this immensely significant historic structure has adversely affected its maintenance.
The historic Ram Bagh Garden was declared a monument of national importance in October 2004. However, even after the notification, the ASI does not have possession of the whole premises. It is carrying out the conservation work only on the entrance gate, four watch towers, Hamamghar, Small Baradari and Machhighar.
The remaining structures, including the main summer palace, are under the possession of the Punjab Cultural and Tourism Department.
The alleged illegal construction of the parking lot, skating ring and pavements has irked the ASI, which claims that it has only dented the heritage value of the structure.
The MC authorities on the other hand approached the court for de-notification of a major chunk of the garden’s land.
The inordinate delay in the restoration of the garden has become an issue of public outcry. Heritage lovers are disappointed with the progress as even after passing of several years neither the ASI nor the Tourism Department have complete the conservation work.
This has resulted in delay in the opening of the Summer Palace for tourists. Hospitality industry has also been pressing for its early opening to prolong the stay of tourists in the holy city.
During the conservation work, workers found some resplendent frescoes on the terrace of the palace. The only room on the terrace had been out of the reach of the visitors as it remained locked for several decades.
The wall paintings display intricate floral patterns and episodes from the ‘Raas Leela’ of Lord Krishna. The priceless frescoes are an invaluable part of Punjab’s heritage.
Morning and the evening walkers often complain that the MC safai karamcharis burn the garbage in order to escape from the process of disposing them of at the designated place.
This not only affects the health of visitors but also damages the flora and fauna of the 84-acre garden, which is an important part of the green belt of the city.
A corner of the garden has become a dumping ground for the MC staff or privately engaged garbage- pickers. Stray dogs and abandoned animals have also made it their home.
Dr Suresh Chauhan, a regular visitor of the garden, condemned the apathetic attitude of the authorities. He said originally, it was planned to restore the original form of the garden, which was constructed on the lines of Shalimar Garden (Lahore). But it is unfortunate that illegal constructions have not stopped.
Ironically, Mayor Bakshi Ram Arora’s camp office is located on its premises and Cabinet Minister Anil Joshi is also a regular visitor of the place, he added.
Source: The Tribune