Friday, February 28, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Little protection to ‘protected’ monument
Maharaja’s palace a picture of neglect
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 27
‘Protected’ monuments in this ancient city are in a dilapidated state, owing to their negligence by the authorities concerned. The historic Ram Bagh, which was got constructed by the legendary Maharaja Ranjit Singh on the pattern of Shalimar Bagh in Lahore, is in a pitiable condition.

The protected monuments in the city include the Summer Palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Service Club, a bathing tank, reading room, four watch towers, and Baran Dari. The total area is 728 kanals, three marlas.

Interestingly, the Director, Cultural Affairs, and the Museum Department, in a communication to the Deputy Commissioner, Amritsar, dated July 8, 1999, had urged handing over charge of buildings situated in Ram Bagh after its declaration as protected monument.

The letter reads: “You are well aware that the whole of Ram Bagh has been declared protected as per the Government of Punjab notification dated October 8, 1997. This garden is to be developed as per the rules of the department.”

It was stated that no activity was to be allowed at Ram Bagh, including marriage parties and political rallies. It was also decided that clubs functioning in the garden shall be closed and shifted elsewhere, keeping in view the heritage value of the site.

A copy of the letter was sent to the Municipal Corporation for ensuring eviction of clubs from the historic building.

President of the Amritsar Vikas Manch Charnjit Singh Gumtala said it was shocking that even after Independence, district administration and other authorities concerned had failed to ensure the eviction of clubs, despite the site having been declared protected by the state government.

He said as per the resolutions passed by the corporation, the lease period of the clubs had already expired. The lease of Amritsar Club had expired on October 30, 1988, and Lambsdon Club on October 31, 1989.

In a unanimous resolution, the local Municipal Corporation had vide-resolution July 1, 1994, decided that excess land in possession of clubs may be got vacated immediately. It had also identified encroachments by the clubs.

In order to maintain the original glory of Ram Bagh, Mr Gumtala said all private clubs: Amritsar Club (Deputy Commissioner is president of the club), Service Club, Lumbsdon Club and Tennis Club should be shifted from Ram Bagh precincts.

Even as the Director of Monuments, Archaeological Survey of India, in a communication to Directors of Archaeological Departments of all states, has directed making of provisions so that construction of shopping complexes, expansion of dwelling areas, construction of high-rise modern buildings and hotels is allowed only 500 metres from the protected monuments, many such buildings have mushroomed around the monument.

Another point raised by the ASI, that no new building is added in the ‘protected’ area, is also being violated.

The Government of Punjab, Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, vide notification dated April 10, 1997, had ordered protection and maintenance of ancient and historic places under Section sub-section 4 (1) of the Punjab Ancient and Historic Buildings and Sites Act, 1964.

Mr Gumtala said instead of handing over the charge of Ram Bagh to the Conservator, Department of Cultural Affairs, the local SDM had decided to charge lease money from ‘violators of law’, which would ultimately help in continuance of clubs in the building.


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