High-rise buildings, hoardings around Golden Temple eyesores
P.K. Jaiswar and Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, January 9
Navjot Singh Sidhu, BJP MP, has stirred the hornets’ nest by raising the issue of marring the beauty of the Golden Temple in view of the high-rise buildings and the advertising billboards, which stare down on the devotees visiting the holy shrine, in its surroundings.

Describing these structures as eyesores, Sidhu has sought the framing of a comprehensive master plan to save the periphery and design of the structures around the temple in conformity to its historical and religious architecture.

Several non-government organisations (NGOs) have joined in the chorus with Sidhu and have demanded the immediate removal of all hoardings and razing of all high-rise buildings, which dominate the vicinity and dwarf the highly respected Sikh shrine.

Charanjit Singh Gumtala, patron, Amritsar Vikas Manch, a votary for the beautification of the Golden Temple surroundings, said they were first to raise the issue several months ago about the advertising hoardings, which has marred the beauty around the periphery of the temple. He said the manch had already filed a public interest litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking action against the high-rise buildings.

He said the manch had sent various representations to the Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Dr M.S. Gill, minister of state for sports and cultural affair, Navjot Singh Sidhu, MP, and others.

He said they had received a positive response from Dr Gill, who had urged them to take up the matter with the BJP MP, who had raised his voice against these issues. However, he added that now the ball was in the court of the government and it must immediately fulfil its obligations to bring about the uniformity in rules to stop the “vandalism” of the immediate neighbourhood of the temple.

He said thousands of lakhs of devotees come to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple and these eyesores give a jarring note to their sublime journey to the abode the divine.

Brij Bedi, social activist and a conservationist of heritage sites, has lashed out at the government for its shameful callousness in allowing commercialisation of the surroundings of the Golden Temple where several hotels and commercial sites have sprung out without any clear guidelines.

He said the advertising billboards and the high-rise buildings were violating the norms set for a heritage sites like the Golden Temple, which had been rated as the sixth most-visited place in the world. He said the government must come up with a comprehensive guideline to protect not only the environment around the temple, but also come up with a blue print for the designs of the buildings surrounding the temple.

Meanwhile, commissioner, municipal corporation, D.P.S. Kharbanda, while talking to The Tribune, said the civic body had already taken cognisance of the violations by the buildings around Darbar Sahib and sent notices to almost 35 such structures four months back. He said it was up to the government to take a decision to stop the illegal construction activity around the temple.

He said since the Golden Temple had not been granted the status of the heritage site, the government would have to frame rules and regulate the construction activity around the temple as at present they were unable to take any action in view of non-compoundable offence.

What has shocked the city residents is springing up of a large scale of small and big hotels in the periphery under the Galliara project. According to information collected by The Tribune team, majority of these commercial dwellings have come up without proper sanctions and approvals. These structures are spoiling the spiritual visage of Harmandar Sahib, besides disturbing the environment and generating a lot of pollution. The NGOs felt that the government must put immediate curb on the building activities and protect the most important religious place in the city.

Deputy commissioner K.S. Pannu said they were seized of the matter and added that it was the responsibility of the corporation to take action against the illegal constructions and high-rise buildings, besides removal of hoardings in the surroundings of the Golden Temple.

Number of hoteliers, reacting to the hue and cry raised by Sidhu, said they had not received any notices to take corrective measures with regard to high-rise buildings and added that the government should frame a policy to stop all future construction around the Golden Temple as the existing hotels had been constructed for the benefit of thousands of pilgrims who visited the holy shrine.

They said they were willing to abide by the rules and added that the hoteliers and other commercial establishment owners should be taken into confidence before framing any rules and regulations.



Power, fuel crises hit essential services
Neeraj Bagga and Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, January 9
Public at large was a harassed lot following a strike by transporters and employees of state-run LPG and oil PSUs.

Inconvenience for public aggravated with the imposition of long power cuts.

A number of filling stations were shut while the few opened were seen witnessing serpentine queues of customers desperate to fill their vehicles and to collect diesel in cans to run their generators.

Some of the unscrupulous petrol and diesel outlets with stocks of fuel were observed to be indulging in black marketing and short selling, much to the chargin of the common man.

However, the government machinery was seen wanting. A harried Rajiv Malhotra waiting for his turn to get fuel for his vehicle said people were left to fend for themselves and rued that the government had not made any alternative arrangements to meet the crises.

People complained of not being able to get LPG refills, though they had made bookings before the commencement of the strike.

According to district food and supplies controller Anjum Bhaskar, all the LPG agencies were carrying nill stocks in view of the strike by transporters and employees of oil companies.

Prolonged power cuts today crippled the routine life and city came to a standstill.

The worst affected were serious patients put on life-saving respiratory machines, including ventilators, due to power failure and a shortage of diesel for generators.

A doctor, on anonymity, running a private nursing home, said the entire hospital staff were in panic as diesel supplies exhausted and they were forced to shift serious patients to hospitals with back-up generators. He said some urgent surgeries on some patients had to be postponed till the situation on power and fuel improved.

Meanwhile, banking and ATM services were paralysed as power cuts were in force across the district from 9 am till 2.30 pm. Unable to transact their money, traders and businessmen had to suffer tremendously. Textile businessman Narinder Kumar Jain rued that the collapse of banking operations had upset business as internet banking services were down. He opined that the government must provide continuous power supply to meet requirement of trade and industry which is already reeling under severe economic crisis.



After much ado, Chheharta gets Rs 30 lakh for devp
P.K. Jaiswar/TNS

Amritsar, January 9
The Chheharta industrial area, which remained no one’s baby for more than 45 years, can now hope for overall development as the government has cleared Rs 30 lakh - the estimated cost - for the purpose.

Since its inception, the industrial area was crying for attention. However, the authorities concerned had turned a blind eye to it even as industrialists had met chief ministers, PWD ministers and industrial ministers of consecutive governments and senior officials of the departments concerned a number of times, but in vain.

The Chheharta industrial area housed more than 70 small-scale units of textiles, paint and medicines. It was very difficult for workers and owners to reach their respective industrial units with bumpy and potholed roads, especially during the rainy season when large water pools came up on the roads.

Interestingly, the area also had the Central Institute of Plastic Engineering Technology (CIPET), managed by the central government.

Brij Bedi, a social worker and industrialist who has a small-scale industrial unit in the area, lamented that the corporation collected house tax but did not provide facilities in the area. He said the various governments cried hoarse about drafting an industrial policy for small-scale industries, but it still remained a distant dream. It was such an apathy by the state government which resulted in the closure and shifting of a majority of industries in the state, he alleged.

General manager (industries) D.P. Bhagat said minister for local bodies and industries Manoranjan Kalia sanctioned Rs 30 lakh for the development of the area, including laying of sewerage and metalling of roads. According to his information, the funds had been provided to the Punjab State Industrial Corporation (PSIC) which would further give it to the MC for this purpose.

He said all this was under process and the work would be started within a few months. However, Bedi said the amount was too meagre for the purpose. He urged the government to sanction more funds if it was really interested in the development of the area.



Majithia warns UPA on Amritsar airport issue
P.K. Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 9
Punjab information and public relations minister Bikram Singh Majithia today warned the UPA government that if it failed to restore the international flights from the Amritsar airport, besides announcing other measures to keep its international status intact, the SAD-BJP government would be forced to launch an agitation to protect the interest of Punjab in general and the Majha area in particular.

He was here to launch the annual calendar of the Nagar Nigam Karmchari Taalmel Dal. Majithia accused the central government of deliberately creating hurdles in the development of Punjab. He regretted that neither the union government had reduced the landing charges, nor the commerce ministry issued any notification to check the apprehensions of exporters, despite assurance by the special committee that visited Amritsar.

He pointed out that the minor issues responsible for the withdrawal of international flights could be rectified by the union government easily and further demanded to expedite the ongoing construction works at the airport.

Navjot Singh Sidhu, MP, Anil Joshi, MLA, and Shwait Malik, mayor, were present on the occasion.



Meltdown, strikes mar Lohri spirit
Tribune News service

Amritsar, January 9
The Lohri festival, known for fun, frolic and harmony among relatives and friends, has been hit hard by the global economic meltdown and strikes by transporters and employees of state-run LPG and oil PSUs.

Sales of kites, strings, eatables like gachak, rewri, sweat-meats prepared either from sugar or jaggery and til (sesame seeds), sut ladu soar close to the festival.

Tradition is to gift eatables to relatives, especially to mark the first year of a newly married couple and the birth of a baby. Lovingly, it is called the first Lohri of the couple and the baby.

Ravinder Kumar, a kite maker and trader, rued that sales of kites and strings had failed to pick up so far. Running the shop from the Namak Mandi area of the walled city, his family has been in the vocation for over six decades.

He said his family prepared kites costing Rs 5 to thousands of rupees.

According to him, kite flying had lost its pride of place among the recreational activities. Festivities like Lohri are occasions when people buy kites and strings.

He said weather had also dampened the spirit of kite flyers with fog engulfing the city for the past several days.

Lohri celebrations for 101 newborn girls

Tarn Taran: The function to mark the Lohri celebrations of 101 newborn girls was organised at Sri Guru Arjun Dev Government Girls Secondary School by the Kalapna Chawla Pragatisheel Society today.

MP Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala, who was the chief guest, called the social organisations to work for creating awareness regarding the imbalance in the sex ratio.

Talking about the progress made by the girls in every field of society, Ajnala said there was no field in which the girls had not set their mark.

The society emphasised the need to recognise the status of women by organising seminars, camps and functions. Ajnala announced to give Rs 51,000 to the society. He also gave a grant of Rs 3 lakh to the school. 



Gardened Galiara a hit with holy city residents
Neeraj Bagga
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 9
Of late, the conversion of the Galiara around the Golden Temple into a garden has provided green lungs for the residents of the highly congested walled city.

There is hardly any patch of green belt providing open space and fresh oxygen in the walled city except Jallianwala Bagh and small patches of gardens in a handful of the planned colonies.

These small patches of gardens are located in Shakti Nagar, Katra Moti Ram and some other residential colonies. However, these are small in size and are unable to attract the public.

Meanwhile, the gardens around Harmandar Sahib add to the beauty of its splendid architecture and offer an opportunity to pilgrims and tourists coming from all over the globe to savour its charm.

The garden was set up under the Galiara (corridor for the Golden Temple) scheme.

The purpose of the scheme was to decongest and beautify the area around the Golden Temple. Earlier, under several phases, many buildings were demolished and gardens set up.

The Galiara project was the brainchild of the central government planned after the infamous Operation Bluestar.

Many lanes and bazaars around the Golden Temple were demolished under the scheme.

Former government employee Surinder Singh said almost daily after paying obeisance at Harmandar Sahib, he enjoys the sunlight in this biting cold in the garden. He lives in the nearby Chatti Khuhi Chowk.

According to him, like many houses in the city his house does not receive proper sunlight. “Closely located houses do not allow free flow of air and sunlight in most of the localities of the city, he said, adding that the condition was more grim in the streets of the artery kind which were hardly two to four feet in width.”

Paramjit Kaur of Dhab Wasti Ram said the green belt had been beautified with the setting up of fountains and laying of eye-catching tiles had heightened its beauty. She and her family members have a habit to take a stroll in it at least once a day irrespective of the season.

“If the inflow of visitors picks up in the noon in the winter and it is tremendous in the summer evenings,” she said.



CM urged to implement revised pay scales 

Amritsar, January 9
The Punjab Federation of University and College Teachers Organisation (PFUCTO) appealed to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to immediately implement the revised pay scales notified by the ministry of human resource development, a press note issued here today said.

Dr S.S. Dhillon, president, PFUCTO, said the organisation discussed the notification of new UGC pay scales issued on Decmber 31, 2008, by the ministry of human resources development and its implementation in Punjab.

He hoped that the state government would implement the scheme soon. He said the central government would bear 80 per cent of the liability arising out of pay revision for the period January 1, 2006, to March 31, 2010. State governments were required to implement the scheme of pay scales as a composite scheme to avail themselves of the financial assistance from the central government. — TNS



Academy’s seminar to raise voice against terror

Amritsar, January 9
In view of the current heightened political developments in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks, the Folklore Research Academy here has decided to hold a seminar on the menace of terrorism and the role of religions in tackling the terror.

Academy president Ramesh Yadav said terrorism had emerged as a threat to humanity and the entire world had been engulfed by the attacks. He said the seminar would be held on January 11 at the S R Government College for Women in which leading social activists, religious leaders, intellectuals and mediapersons would discuss the disturbing scenario.

He said eminent journalist Kuldip Nayar, SAFMA general secretary Imtiaz Alam, chairperson of human rights in Pakistan Asma Jahangir along with Mohammad Shafiq Ahmad were expected to share their views on the burning issue. — TNS



Chanchal’s rendition of bhajans mesmerises people
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 9
Son of the soil Narinder Chanchal got reunited with the city people with his passionate rendition of bhajans of Vaishno Devi at the Durgiana Temple on January 7.

The religious musical programme was held to mark the occasion of bringing the flame from Jwalaji Temple in Himachal Pradesh.

Chanchal mesmerised the devotees with presentation of his popular bhajans. The captivated audience kept clapping all along and enjoyed each bit of the 

His Punjabi bhajans seemed more hit in the audience. It had an electric impact on the audience, which relished the religious musical notes.

Chanchal recalled his childhood and youth days lived in the city. Singing was a passion for him and musical instruments attracted him, he said.

He credited his mother for introducing to the rhythmic world of music. He said she had a mellifluous voice. He used to accompany by his mother in temples for singing, which perhaps ingrained in him the ambition for carving out life-long career in music.

With glint in his eyes, he said he used to engross so much to the tunes of bandmen playing instruments in marriages. The winner of Film Fare award for his song in Bobby, Chanchal sung sufiana, especially creations of Baba Bulle Shah. 



Manuscript Man 
Preserving history scripted in paper
P.K. Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 9
People’s spoken and written language is their most important cultural aspect. In India, over thousands of years, manuscripts have been written in a vast number of languages and each in itself symbolises the history of the country.

Thousands of significant manuscripts lie neglected, forgotten, sometimes just taken for granted, in institutions and homes around the country, in urgent need of conservation.

However, city resident Rajnish Khosla has taken upon his shoulders the mammoth task of conserving this tremendous pool of knowledge which is under a tremendous threat due to the constant disappearance of manuscripts at an alarming rate.

Abundance of such handwritten manuscripts in Sanskrit and Persian, a majority of them being about 350 to 400 years old, find a new life at his residence.

Khosla inherited these manuscripts from his forefathers who used to collect these manuscripts after travelling all over the country. Recently he approached the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM), launched by the department of culture, ministry of tourism and culture, government of India, to save this most valuable of our cultural inheritances, for digitisation of this treasure trove.

The NMM appreciated the work of Khosla for the preservation of these manuscripts. He claimed that D.K. Rana, deputy director of the mission, evinced a keen interest to help him after seeing his work. Talking to The Tribune, Khosla said the manuscripts were made of natural materials such as birch, palm leaf, handmade paper and cloth that require specialised care and conservation. He said that even the ink and colour used in writing these manuscripts were natural.

Rajnish Khosla had been conserving these manuscripts as per the guidelines of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), New Delhi, and had offered them to various religious institutions of the country.

Recently, he donated a manuscript of Hanuman Natak written in Gurmukhi language, which was probably translated during the era of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to Nanded Sahib.

Earlier, he had offered one handwritten book “Sharah Hikmatul Ain”, written in 1270 Hijri (a Mohammedan calendar), to Dargah Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, Ajmer. The book is being kept in the library of the dargah for public viewing. He had also donated a manuscript of the Bhagavad Gita to the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD).

Viswanadham Garu, museum officer of the Devasthanams, in his letter to Khosla, said, “The Bhagavad Gita will be displayed at the TTD Museum.”

Khosla single-handedly bore all the expenses (amounting to several lakhs) on preserving the manuscripts by cut-mounted vaccum technique to bind the books. Later, he framed the fragile pages in glass covers.

He has donated pages of “Markanday Puran” to the Chintpurni, Jawalaji and Chamunda Devi shrines. He has in his possession a Persian manuscript “Tibbe Akbari” written in 1190 Hijri by Mohammed Alzani during the reign of Aurangzeb. Each page of the book is encircled with gold. He said he had contacted the Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine Board for offering religious manuscripts for display so that every devotee could have access to rare and sacred documents.



Braille’s 200th birth centenary celebrated

Amritsar, January 9
French national Louis Braille, who invented the script for the blind, was remembered on his 200th birthday by the students, staff and management of the institute for the blind here.

Saurabh Kumar, a student with visual disability, presented the complete profile of Louis who had become blind at the young age and decided to create a script for the blind so that no one with a visual handicap would have to suffer to pursue his goal in life.

He said the script had made tremendous progress and now was available with computer software, providing help to thousands of blind students to pursue their passion and continue their study.

Earlier, presiding over the tercentenary celebrations, BJP MLA Anil Joshi said the visit to Andh Vidyalaya was like a pilgrimage for him where the management and the faculty were rendering a yeoman’s service for the visual disabled. He announced a donation of Rs 1 lakh and said he would contribute more in the time to come to set up a big computer lab for them. Earlier, students presented a cultural show and an orchestra performance. Later, Joshi gave away prizes and awards to the top students in the field of academics and cultural show. — OC



Hindu woman cremated in Lahore 
Varinder Walia/TNS

Amritsar, January 9
History of sorts was created when Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians of Pakistan attended the cremation of Hindu woman Raj Rani (96) at the cremation ground of Lahore.

Earlier, the final journey of a 70-year-old Hindu woman, who died in 2005, was delayed due to bureaucratic apathy and lack of cremation grounds in Lahore.

However, following community pressure, especially by Hindus and Sikhs, the then Parvez Musharraf government allotted 22 bighas along the Ravi in Lahore for a cremation ground for the first time after partition.

The deceased was the mother of Dr Munawar Chand and grandmother of Sunny Kumar, president and executive secretary of the Krishna Temple, Lahore.

In an email, Sunny Kumar said the birthplace of his grandmother was Shastri Market, near telephone exchange, Lahore. She was married in Lahore before the partition of the country. Allowing cremation of Hindus and Sikhs as per their faith and participation of such rites by Muslim brethren is considered a goodwill gesture by the government of Pakistan. Before the partition of India, there were 11 cremation grounds in Lahore alone.



CM urged to implement revised pay scales 

Amritsar, January 9
The Punjab Federation of University and College Teachers Organisation (PFUCTO) appealed to Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to immediately implement the revised pay scales notified by the ministry of human resource development, a press note issued here today said.

Dr S.S. Dhillon, president, PFUCTO, said the organisation discussed the notification of new UGC pay scales issued on Decmber 31, 2008, by the ministry of human resources development and its implementation in Punjab.

He hoped that the state government would implement the scheme soon. He said the central government would bear 80 per cent of the liability arising out of pay revision for the period January 1, 2006, to March 31, 2010. State governments were required to implement the scheme of pay scales as a composite scheme to avail themselves of the financial assistance from the central government. — TNS



Hotel industry seeks tax concession
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, January 9
The hotel and banqueting industry in the city has sought tax exemptions and other benefits in line of the concession given to the hospitality industry in the holy cities of Haridwar, Varanasi, Ujjain, Nasik, Katra, etc.

The general secretary of the hotel and restaurant association, A.P.S. Chatha, said here today that they had apprised Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal of the high dose of taxes imposed by the state government on the hotel industry. He said the government must review the entire taxation structure on the hotel industry in view of the Mumbai terrorist attack, which had effected the flow of tourist in the country and Amritsar was no exception.

He said 8 per cent luxury tax and 12 per cent tax on banqueting was a crippling blow to the hotel industry, which was already reeling under distressing economic scenario with the inbound tourist traffic having been reduced to almost a trickle. He said the Punjab government had assured them to study the entire gamut of taxes on hospitality and tourism segment and added that in view of the holy city status of the city the government must bring out a bailout package for the same.

Meanwhile, the industry has already forwarded its representation to the government through the trade board of the border region for favourable consideration.



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