Amritsar, Punjab: It is a race against time, not only for the architects, engineers, designers and interior decorators but also for the numerous masons, wielders, and labourers that are on the mission to meet the Diwali deadline for completing the Golden Temple Plaza coming up outside the Clock Tower entrance to the shrine.
After missing out on the last Diwali deadline, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal want the project ready under all circumstances by the coming festival of lights on October 22 for the lakhs of pilgrims that will visit the shrine. “We will have it ready by the end of October,” said public works department (PWD) executive engineer JS Sodhi.
The plaza will be an area outside the Golden Temple main entrance to make it more beautiful. The CM had had changes made around the Taj Mahal in mind when he suggested the project. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandik Committee (SGPC) had proposed it several times.
The narrow lanes and the overcrowded markets around the shrine had outlived their purpose. With more pilgrims visiting the shrine every day, the need for a bigger approach had risen.
In June 1988, the beautification of the 30-metre periphery of the shrine began, leading to first a green belt around a major portion of the Golden Temple. The area in front of the Clock Tower entrance remained untouched for various reasons until 2010, when the-then deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu, on the instructions of chief minister Badal, drafted a development plan, assigning the design work to SS Behl, professor in the Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) department of architecture.
The construction contract was given to Srishti, a company based in Punjab and Delhi, with the PWD as supervising authority. “The plaza will be a marble top with a basement as the centre of activity,” said Behl, adding: “The structure must be on the same level as the Clock Tower entrance marble floor and not an inch above.”
HISTORY OF DELAY
In the winter of 2011, the CM laid the foundation stone of this state-funded project and set a two-year deadline for completion. However, the engineers and the PWD found the task difficult, as they hit a network of underground watersupply pipes and sewers. It was pulled out and new pipes were laid. As the major portion of the plaza was to be below the ground level, it involved massive digging.
The CM moved the deadline from Diwali in 2013, based on the recalculation of the problems. For completing the plaza top, the deadline was Diwali 2013, and for finishing the project it is Diwali 2014. Executive engineer Sodhi claims the top will be ready within the allotted time but work on the boundary was still on.
Environmentalists have questioned the idea of marble top, local NGO (non-government organisation) Mission Aghaaz being one of the chief critics. “Green top would have been pleasing to the eyes,” said NGO chairman Deepak Babbar, explaining: “In summer, the white marble will reflect heat to the eyes and walking barefoot on the hot surface will be difficult.”
Also bitter are the 17 families who run shops on both sides of the Clock Tower entrance. These shops rented out by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) do good business of selling religious portraits and the items of faith. The SGPC has moved court to get these premises vacated.
“We will seek legal remedy, as this concerns the livelihood of our families,” stated Parminder Singh, owner of Gift House outside the shrine.