Even as a year has been elapsed since the ministry of home affairs (MHA) had sanctioned a new viewers’ gallery project for the Attari border, the ambitious plan continued to exist on paper with work on the ground yet to kick off.
With nothing happening on this front, the Retreat Ceremony — a grand attraction for tourists coming here from across the world — continues to be a chaotic affair for the visitors due to lack of space.
The situation is such that even Border Security Force (BSF) jawans, who conduct the ceremony, find it difficult to manage the visitors, who flock there in huge number to witness the ceremony.
The existing gallery has a capacity to accommodate 4,000 people, while tourists’ footfall is more than 10,000 everyday to witness the ceremony.
The number of visitors increases even further during weekends and vacations, which leads to chaos in the gallery. Not only tourists have to struggle to get a glimpse of the high-intensity drill, but many have to return disappointed due to heavy rush.
In October 2013, the MHA had sanctioned the new gallery project that was estimated to come up in 21 months at a cost of around Rs 23.98 crore.
However, of the estimated 21 months, 12 have already been passed while the project, as per BSF sources, cannot move beyond tendering process.
Although BSF as well as government officials often talk about the expansion of the gallery, but things remained on paper only.
Designs for the planned gallery
As per information, the authorities have worked out various designs for the proposed gallery; however, it is learnt that apart from having a new outer gate, the gallery will be constructed in a semi-circle pattern to give tourists a clear view of the ceremony.
In recent times, the attraction of the flag lowering ceremony — wherein BSF jawans and Pakistani rangers show tough gestures and engage in heavy foot stomping — has multiplied manyfold and the event has become an important part of tourism in Amritsar.
Lack of basic amenities
It’s not only the congested gallery that troubles tourists here, but the lack of basic facilities — such as a few toilets, haphazard parking lots, lack of proper eateries — also adds to their woes.
BSF deputy inspector general of police (DIG) MF Farooqui said, “It’s true that the project exists on paper only as the construction has not been started yet; however, the department concerned has started tendering process yet again and hopefully the construction will start soon.”
“We face difficulty in managing visitors as the gallery has a capacity to accommodate around 4,000 people whereas more than 1,0000 visitors flock to the Attari border to witness the ceremony,” he added.