Amritsar, Punjab: Even as Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has announced preservation of the holy city’s heritage under the National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), the ongoing restoration work on various key heritage sites calls for immediate attention.
The preservation work at these sites has been going on at a snail’s pace for the past several years reportedly due to lack of funds. This has done no good to the holy city’s tourism prospects. Among the prominent heritage sites whose preservation work has been delayed inordinately include the Gobindgarh Fort and the Summer Palace of the legendary Sikh ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Ram Bagh garden.
Besides, a number of heritage structures in the city, including various bazaars in the old walled city, 12 gates around the walled city, the heritage wall around the old city, various temples, Qila Ahluwalia etc are lying in a shambles and crying for attention.
The Gobindgarh Fort was constructed by the Bhangi Sikh Misl, which was later extended and developed by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It is a fine example of a special defence mechanism initiated by the Sikh army against artillery attacks. The fort, which remained in the possession of the Indian Army after Independence, was handed over to the Punjab Government in 2006 and since then the restoration work is going on. According to the authorities, only 50 per cent of the preservation work has been completed so far.
The Summer Palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Ram Bagh is also undergoing preservation for the past several years. It includes the fountains, the Baradari, the Hamam Ghar and the Machhi Ghar among other structures. A portion of the historic garden is under the possession of the Archaeological Survey of India while the remaining part is in the possession of the Department of Culture and Tourism of the state government. The huge garden replicates the Shalimar Gardens of Lahore (Pakistan).
The Union Ministry of Culture has reportedly approved Rs 200 crore to make Amritsar a tourist hub by undertaking projects to restore monuments. The posh Mall Road area developed during the British era has been turned into a commercial area where huge shopping malls have come up in the recent past while many heritage trees were mindlessly chopped by the administration in the name of development.
Recently, state tourism secretary Raji P Srivastava reviewed various tourism development projects in and around the city. While inspecting work at the Ram Bagh, known as Company Bagh, Raji asked the officials to complete the work in time so that these sites could be opened for tourists soon.