Controversy over the Amritsar Improvement Trust’s move of giving children’s park, a sizeable portion of historical Ram Bagh garden established by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, into private hands refuses to die down as Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) activists warned of indefinite stir on the issue on Wednesday.
The heritage garden is owned by Amritsar municipal corporation (MC) and Archeological Survey of India (ASI) has been assigned to preserve its heritage structures. However, the civic body further gave it to the improvement trust for maintenance and care.
After obtaining no objection certificate (NOC) from former MC commissioner Pardeep Sabharwal, the trust gave its children park for `25 lakh to a private firm for 11 years. The move was opposed by mayor Bakhshi Ram Arora and councillors of the ruling SAD-BJP as well as Congress, who argued that neither the trust has power to give it to a third party nor the commissioner to give NOC.
However, Punjab local bodies minister Anil Joshi openly advocated the move citing that the park cannot be well maintained and cured without giving it to a private firm. He termed it good method to cure the public property.
To cancel the NOC given by the former commissioner, a resolution was passed during the MC house meeting held on November 5. In the resolution, the councillors including Surinder Singh (SAD) raised the issue that there is no mention of third party in the NOC.
Objecting over the development, AAP leaders including Prof HS Walia and Ravinder Sultanwind said, “If the House has cancelled the NOC, why the trust is not cancelling agreement with the private company. Isn’t the trust aware of the cancellation of NOC?”
They said, “We will submit a copy of house meeting proceedings and a memorandum seeking the cancellation of the agreement on its basis. If no action is taken within two days, we will launch an indefinite stir outside the trust office.”
The AAP leaders also pointed out that if the ASI can serve the notice to those who constructed buildings in the 300-metre radius of the garden without its permission, why did not it take notice of the construction work in children’s park where the private company is also setting up shops.”
They also complained that despite the request made by them under the Right to Information Act, the trust is not giving the copy of the agreement which is necessary to take matter to the court.
Meanwhile, Rajkanwalpreet Singh Lucky, leader of opposition in MC house said, “Only the House has power to decide over the issue and its decision should be implemented at the earliest.”
When contacted, trust chairman Suresh Mahajan, also a BJP councillor, said, “The agreement was materialised on the direction of state government. So, it can only be cancelled on the direction of the same”.