A M R I T S A R    S T O R I E S



Golden Temple Galliara Yojna still in doldrums
Lack of foresight, govt apathy mar the ambitious
beautification plan
Varinder Walia

Phases of Galliara Yojna:

Phase one: Chowk Parag Dass to Baba Atal.

Phase two:
Baba Atal to Bazaar Papparanwala.

Phase three:
Bazaar Pappranwala to Bazaar Mai Sewan.

All these three phases have been completed.

The remaining
two phases are:

Phase four:
Guru Ram Dass Serai to Ghanta Ghar.

Phase five:
Construction of vehicles' parking, including underground parking.

While the developed countries spare huge budget to preserve their cultural heritage, the Indian Government has spent crores to destroy its own heritage. The pretext is beautifying the surroundings of the Golden Temple.

The brainchild of the Central Government, the Golden Temple Beautification Plan, also known as the Galliara Scheme, was announced amidst much fanfare in June 1988. Its objective was to remove all narrow lanes and bazaars, which proved to be a hindrance for the security forces during the infamous Operation Blue Star. Shockingly, the SGPC also became a party to destroy the rich Sikh heritage that dates back to the period of the Gurus.

The historical sites could have been preserved not only as monuments, but also as living witnesses of the age-old traditions. Mr Charnjit Singh Gumtala, former President, Amritsar Vikas Manch (AVM), said instead of playing into the hands of the Central Government, the SGPC should have opposed the move from day one. The bazaars, which had a great heritage value, were demolished to pave the way for the Galliara.

These historical bazaars included famous Bazaar Maniaran (Jhutha Bazaar), Pappranwala Bazaar, Kapda Bazaar
(cloth market) adjoining Baba Atal, a portion of Atta Mandi, Mochi Bazaar and the major portion of Mai Sewan Bazaar.

A car park in the Galliara with stagnant water and fungus
A car park in the Galliara with stagnant water and fungus

Callous indifference

The glory of the Galliara, which was started amid fanfare in 1988, started fading away due to indifference shown by all concerned. Patches of dry grass can be seen at different phases of the Galliara. The dry grassy area has become an eyesore for devotees and residents of the surrounding areas. Garbage can be seen littered all around. Sometime the migrant labourers, beggars and anti-social elements misuse the area. The district administration and the SGPC are equally responsible for the neglect of the Galliara. The SAD-BJP government did not bother to complete the Galliara, though the Akalis were the political partner of the NDA government at the Centre. The earlier three phases were completed during the Congress regime with a total cost of Rs 75 crore.

Earlier in the 1960s, many historical buildings, including Ghanta Ghar and its adjoining market, were demolished by the Improvement Trust. What is worse, the Town Hall School building -- the first educational institute established by the British in the holy city, is now being demolished for creating multi-storey parking space. Though the legendary Punjabi poet Bhai Veer Singh and other great personalities were the alumni of the school, Mr S.K. Sareen, Executive Engineer, said that the school had no historical value!

As per the official record, the project report for development and beautification of 30-m belt around the Golden Temple complex was sent to the Union Home Secretary by the Punjab Chief Secretary on June 15, 1988. This project was approved in the meeting held at the Prime Ministerial level in April 1988. The original cost of the project was Rs 119 crore. However, the cost was modified to Rs 82.75 crore. The Central Government sanctioned Rs 74.75 crore for the project, out of which Rs 70 crore were released.

The entire area was divided into five phases. About 1233 commercial plots and 391 residential plots were allotted and subsidy was paid by the MC. Similarly, 54 residential plots were allotted by the Improvement Trust.

In the original notification, it was proposed to demolish 500 buildings. This was later amended to 492, and out of these, 483 buildings were demolished. The work of demolition was started on June 9, 1988 and completed on November 13, 1988. The remaining buildings were not demolished either for security or for other reasons. But all buildings, except religious buildings were demolished.

As many as 859 families were uprooted and 500 houses and 1150 shops were demolished. The shopkeepers were resettled in various markets like Pink Plaza, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Market, IDH Market, Green Plaza. They were allotted plots for 1224 shops. The expenditure incurred on the payment of compensation of land properties and rehabilitation was Rs 80.14 crore.

The work of the Galliara has been stalled since 1997 due to political interference in shifting the IT Market facing Ghanta Ghar having 42 shops to the back of Sanglan Wala Akhara. The fifth phase, which envisages underground parking for 200 cars, ground-parking for buses, was delayed due to objections raised in certain quarters. As per the design prepared by Delhi-based Architect Ravinder Bhan, there is provision for landscaping after demolishing the market in front of the Golden Temple.

The revised plan is not far from controversies. Officials failed to involve the heritage lovers of Amritsar city before finalising the report, say observers. Mr Balvinder Singh, Reader at Guru Nanak Dev University and heritage expert, says the officials should have at least consulted the UNESCO before submitting the plan to the Central Government, since the Golden Temple is likely to be declared the World Heritage site by the next year.

The beautification plan had a bad beginning. Instead of beautifying the front side of the Golden Temple, the officials preferred to start the work from the backside by taking up insignificant phases. Scant attention was paid to the proposals made by the AVM, which had been demanding the implementation of the SC directives to control vehicular traffic around the Golden Temple on the pattern of the Taj Mahal.

Mr Gumtala, however, says the Taj Mahal is a tombstone, while the Golden Temple is a living monument, which needs more protection from pollution. In response to the civil writ petition filed by the AVM, the Pollution Control Board, in its affidavit, admitted in the court that the surrounding areas of the Golden Temple and the Durgiana Temple were highly polluted. This had not been declared by the competent authorities. The AVM has also filed a PIL in the High Court for the release of the funds for the Galliara Yojna.

Owing to fund crunch and political bottlenecks, the Central Government's scheme that was aimed at developing green belt in place of a maze of shops and other structures that ring the Golden Temple, could not be completed even after a lapse of 16 years.

The purpose of the project has been defeated with the non-completion of the remaining four and five phases. For the front side of the Golden Temple where tourists, including VVIPs, enter the shrine, a revised plan of Rs 64 crore was sent to the government on September 3, 2001. Brahm Buta Akhara was acquired by the government for the completion of the scheme and a compensation of Rs 72 lakh was also paid. But till today, the possession has not been taken. The high-powered committee, formed by the State Government to determine the fate of religious buildings, had decided to preserve Samadh and two rooms of the Akhara in the fifth phase. A part of Sangalanwala Akhara would also be preserved.

— Photos by Rajeev Sharma



'Green spaces must in Galliara Project': UNESCO nominee
Ashok Sethi

Tiny shops have mushroomed around the green belt which was created after demolishing hundreds of structures
Tiny shops have mushroomed around the green belt which was created after demolishing hundreds of structures

The UNESCO nominee, Dr Enamul Haque of Bangladesh, who was instrumental in recommending reports on various heritage sites, including Hampi in Karnataka, had also provided useful inputs for the beautification of the Golden Temple.

During his visit to the holy city to personally review the 500-page dossier for the grant of heritage site status to the Golden Temple, he felt the need to replicate the guidelines presently in operation around the Taj Mahal in Agra. This dossier was presented by the Government of India in collaboration with the SGPC and the Punjab Government

Commenting on the present status of the beautification plan of the surroundings of the Golden Temple, Prof Haque had pointed out that the government must ban the use of vehicles around the Golden Temple complex. He had also suggested that only battery-operated, eco-friendly vehicles be allowed in the area. This would save the Golden Temple from pollutants emitted by vehicles. These pollutants could cause damage to the marble and the gold plating of the Harimandir Sahib.

Dr Haque had made this suggestion in his personal capacity, since he was concerned about the preservation of one of the most sacred Sikh shrines in the world. He had pointed out that the Galliara Project should have lot of green spaces to help beautify and save the shrine from the corrosion due to large-scale movement of vehicles.

The UNESCO nominee felt that no petrol and diesel vehicles should be allowed within 2 km of the Golden Temple and that only rickshaws or electrically-operated buggies be used for ferrying pilgrims to the temple.



Verka township without basic amenities
Historical town still a backwater
Pawan Kumar

The historical township of Verka, situated on the outskirts of the holy city, has been crying for basic amenities for years together, thanks to the apathy of the local Municipal Corporation and the successive governments.

The historical Gurdwara Nanaksar and the famous Verka Milk Plant are located here. The gurdwara was built in the memory of the visit of Guru Nanak Dev, who rested here after returning from Batala and cured a boy of his aliment. Every Sunday, a large number of suffering children take a holy dip here. However, the area is still the slum-part of the holy city. It awaits a nod from authorities for its proper development.

Despite the importance of the township, it lacks proper drainage and sewage. Water logging is a common problem and water frequently collects on roads and nearby houses. Area residents complain that the authorities pass orders, but these orders are seldom implemented.

Many areas, including Indra Colony, Azad Colony and Hauldar Colony have no proper streetlighting. This makes thefts easier in the area. The local MLA had promised to give Rs 7 lakh to the electricity board for efficient power supply and for inclusion of the areas in the urban city planning. But failure to deposit the money in the past many years has put a spanner in the work.

Mr Rajinder Singh Mann, an advocate and resident of the area, rued that residents had approached political representatives a number of times, but they failed to get results. He blamed politicians representing the area for “conveniently forgetting this historical township after getting elected and showing no concern for its development”.

Politicians, including Dr Rajkumar, MLA and Parliamentary Secretary, Mr R.L. Bhatia, former MP and now Governor of Kerala, have been elected from this constituency, but have done precious little for its development, according to observers.

While Verka’s main Batala Road connects Pathankot, Jammu and Kashmir, Dalhousie and many other important places, this highway mostly remains in a bad condition. The condition of other lanes and streets continues to be even worse. No metalling of roads has been done for years, despite several assurances by politicians and district administration. There is no proper bus stand for buses which stop “any and everywhere” on main roads, leading to frequent brawls, besides making the area accident-prone.

Mr Malkeet Singh, principal of a private school in the area alleged that the government had passed a project to install five tubewells for providing clean drinking water. But the project could not be started even after many years due to which the residents were forced to drink contaminated water. The residents of the area often complain of waterborne diseases. Certain areas like Nawi Abadi, Guru Nanak Nagar, Patti Zaildara have water connections, but have not been getting water for the past few months.

Mr Sunil Datti, Mayor, Mr K.S. Kang, Commissioner and Dr Rajkumar, Parliamentary Secretary and area MLA, could not be contacted for comments even after repeated attempts.



Dasehra festivities in full swing
Rashmi Talwar

The boom of firecrackers and the symbolic destruction of “evil” by the “virtuous” marks the sacred festival of Dasehra celebrated in traditional style in the holy city of Amritsar. Preparations for the festival started a month back. Now, the festivities are in full swing.

“It’s time to enjoy. Children particularly find the festivities very engaging. Ram Lilas enacted at various localities in the evening are hot favourite with children. The live performance on the stage has all elements of surprise, joy and sadness. Of course, almost all people know the story of Lord Rama, but still Ram Lilas continue to charm the audience,” said a city resident, adding that people of all ages loved to watch the “final victory” of “good” over “evil” on the day of Dasehra that falls on October 22 this year.

On October 22, lakhs would be converging on the Dasehra Ground here. The Durgiana Temple Committee has made all preparations for the festival. “Three effigies, nearly 70-80 feet in height, would be set aflame at dusk by the arrows of Lord Rama. There is a majestically-decorated chariot to add to the spectacle,” temple authorities informed. “Each effigy has firecrackers worth Rs 5,000 attached to it. The effigies have been prepared on a bamboo frame covered with paper and coloured and tied with jute,” they added. Interestingly, some craftsmen from Kolkata have specially been called to assist in the making of the effigies.

Earlier several tastefully-decorated tableaux by various Ram Lila committees were taken out in a procession from various bazaars. The areas from where these tableaux passed included Chowk Passian, Bazaar Kaserian, Lohgarh, Katra Dullo, Katra Khazana, Katra Bhangian, Katra Praja, Khuh Suniara and Giri Raj Seva.

The “langoor” festival at the Durgiana Temple also culminates on Dasehra day. It is immensely interesting to watch langoors participate in Dasehra festivities, dancing joyfully to beats of dhols.



Toxic drain flows through city
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

City residents are drinking toxic milk and its effect is already showing in DNA damage among the residents of the Mahal village, situated near the Tung drain. The Tung Dhab drain that is laden with industrial effluents and sewage waste is the culprit. Milch animals, particularly buffalos, are exposed to health hazards as they wallow in the contaminated water of the drain, near Guru Nanak Dev University. As per reports, Amritsar has many small-scale industries, notably textile processing, woollen clothes, dyeing, electroplating, iron foundries, pulp and paper mills, glass and plastic ware. The effluents of industries are discharged into two drains — the Verka drain and the Gumtala drain, which carries paper mill and textile processing mill effluents. Both the drains fall into main the Tung Dhab drain. It does not require a particularly perceptive person to see milch animals wallowing at different places on the 20-km-long stretch of the main drain.

Senior veterinary officers said that contamination of milk starts when animals drink polluted water during the wallowing. The dairy owners hardly wash their udders at the time of milking. The consumption of such milk, they say, is a health hazard. Wallowing in polluted water could also cause skin diseases in cattle. Dr Suresh Chauhan, an Ayurvedic doctor, said that milk of such animals could be highly contaminated.

Mr Prabh Dayal Singh Randhawa , a social worker, said that Mahal and Ghanupur Kala villages were some of the most affected villages. “Hundreds of people have already suffered from chronic diseases due to the consumption of contaminated ground water, yet the municipal corporation or the district administration has failed to come to their rescue,” he alleged.

He said the situation was alarming in the affected areas, as the study conducted by the Genetics Department of Guru Nanak Dev University had confirmed DNA damages among the residents of Mahal village.



Miri Piri to organise Harbhajan Singh Yogi’s bhog
Ashok Sethi

Management, staff and students of the Miri Piri Academy for American Sikhs will perform the bhog and antim ardaas of their mentor, Bhai Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogi, on October 23 at their campus near Guru Ki Wadali, Chheharta.

The spokesman of the academy, while releasing Yogi’s life sketch said that millions of people around the world recognised the latter as a dynamic teacher and spiritual ambassador. “Yogiji’s belief in the excellence of individual has penetrated the national, the social and the economic barriers. Hundreds of people in the West have embraced the Sikh religion with reverence,” he stated. “A master of Kundalini Yoga, Bhai Sahib, also known as Yogi Bhajan, managed to harmonise mind and body. This is very relevant in the modern times,” he added.

In 1969, Harbhajan Singh Yogi founded 3HO (healthy, happy and holy) foundation. It has been a non-profit organisation. Today, the foundation has more than 300 centres spread across the globe. It has associated with it a large number of Yoga teachers specialising in Kundalini Yoga and meditation.

He also founded the Miri Piri Academy, a boarding school for international students at Amritsar. His innovative technology offers young people an opportunity to grow in strength, character and spirit to bring forth their excellence. The academy students are encourage to practice 3HO concepts.



Teaching is a mission for this award-winning teacher
Ashok Sethi

With globalisation and new-age technology making its presence felt in every field, it’s imperative to keep abreast with the latest fields of knowledge. This is particularly true for educational institutions. Keeping this in view, DAV Public School here, under the guidance of its award-winning Principal, Ms Vijay Puri, is all set to start a new course in biotechnology. “We want to equip our students to deal with global challenges and set up next-generation industry in Punjab,” explained Ms Puri.

The school principal, who has been instrumental in starting a special school for the poor and the needy, was honored by the President of India, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, during a special function held at New Delhi to mark the Teachers’ Day. The special school not only provides free education, but also offers vocational courses like stitching and tailoring to the parents of students to help them eke out their livelihood.

Talking to The Tribune, she said that the award was indeed a great honour both for her and the DAV institutions, which had provided her the opportunity to excel in the field of education. She said that the award was a recognition of the efforts of the entire teaching faculty and the management, which had given her the freedom to implement her vision to improve education in this border district. “I could not have done it alone. I am thankful to my colleagues and management for all this,” she said, adding, “Teaching is a mission for me.” The award included a silver medal and a cheque of Rs 25,000.



Eight-day Amritsar-Lahore festival starts today
Artistes rejoice as Indo-Pak cultural ties strengthen
Ashok Sethi

What’s on

Today, Iqbal Bahoo and Sayian Zahoor will render Sufi songs at Khalsa College. Multani dancers and Sufi dholias group will present folk events at Ram Bagh on October 22. Famous Pakistani Rafi Peer Group will stage a play “Patey Khan” and a 90-minute video documentary “Laatoo” at DAV College Sports Ground, Shastri Nagar and at Thakur Singh Art Gallery on October 23 and 24, respectively.

An interaction with Ms Madeeha Gauhar, Ms Zohra Sehgal and Ms Uzra Butt will take place on October 26 at the Rotary Club, Civil Lines. On the last two days, the Ajoka Theatre, Lahore, will present a play “Ek Thi Naani” at Punjab Natshala.

Thawing of tension between India and Pakistan augurs good news for theatre buffs. The eight-day “Saanjh Amritsar-Lahore Festival” starts today. The idea is to have a live performances showcasing traditional art buried in the trauma of partition. The festival is the culmination of the common dream of theatre artists from Amritsar and Lahore to bring performing artists on a common platform.

The founder of the famous Lahore theatre group, the Ajoka Theatre Group, Ms Madeeha Gauhar, and the principal of the local Spring Dale School, Ms Manveen Sandhu, set up Puranjot, a centre for preservation and promotion of heritage in Punjab. Talking about this unique project for the revival of ancient and modern art, Ms Sandhu said that the artists felt the need to conserve and relate to the present time the rich cultural heritage and values, which were the essence of the composite culture of Punjab. She added that despite many hurdles and the rather turbulent past, the tradition of rich Punjabi and Urdu poetry and music had kept open the channel of brotherhood in this border region of Punjab.

“We want to invite people from all walks of life to be a part of this exciting cultural tour. Under this joint venture of performing arts, Saanjh took its first step by organising a play on the life and the times of famous Sufi saint, Bulleh Shah, in November 2003,” explain Ms Sandhu, who is the director of Puranjot. Exhibition and seminars on photography, festival on Indo-Pak visual arts, staging of a play by young artists from Lahore schools — all are on the anvil.

The artists from Pakistan are showcasing the common heritage of the two Punjabs in the Saanjh festival. Punarjot, under the aegis of the Spring Dale Educational Society, is organising the festival. “Both Punjabs share common heritage. When the same festival would be held in Lahore, artists from here would participate in it,” informed Ms Sandhu.

Ms Gauhar, on her part, is extremely elated over the fulfillment of her “dream project”. “It would create a unique bonhomie among the culturally-starved people of Punjab across the border and Punjab here. The festival will lay a strong foundation for the future generations. Our aim to create a cultural oasis, wherein artists from both countries would be able to display their talent and exchange cultural information,” she said. Back home at Lahore, her Ajoka Theatre Group has been focusing on various social issues.



Song, scalpel go hand-in-hand for the 17-yr-old
Rashmi Talwar

Music gives this young singer, aspiring to be a doctor, ample of joy, satisfaction and that ever-elusive fame. Seventeen-year-old Navjot Kaur, a medical student at Sri Harkishan Public School, cut a Punjabi music album recently. With nine solo tracks, the album “Ishkey dey ghungaroo” includes a hit Punjabi number “Baranh Dabbe”. The song is also being aired on Alpha Punjabi and other music channels.

Music, it seems, is in her blood. Her maternal uncle, Shankar Sawney, is a noted singer. She says her grandma taught her the initial “sargam”. Trained under her grandmother to learn “shabaad” and religious poetry, she learnt harmonium as well. As a young performer at the Chandigarh Press Club last July, she found appreciation for her rendition of “boliyaan’. “Stage makes me feel alive,” she says. Even as a child, she was a keen participant in declamations, debates and inter-school competitions. She started compeering when she was in II class.

Her uncle, Shanker Sawney, helped her in her singing endeavor, she tells us. “My parents Mukhwant Pal Singh and Raghuvinder Kaur encouraged me,” she says, adding, “It was hard to study and cut an album as well.” However, she did score 83 per cent in the school board examinations last year.

Interestingly, singing is not just her hobby. She also finds solace in music. “When I am tired and stressed, I switch over to my music-mode,” she says. Her classical favourite is “tar taran hariya gur” and she enjoys folk song “kangi vahavan the dukhan merey vaal, ne maaye mei the hogi haan halo behal”.

Being a hot favourite at family weddings and get-togethers, this teenager has not let success cloud her vision. “To become a doctor is my top priority, even though music may give me instant fame,” she says as a matter-of-fact.


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