Renovation work at the Shiv Kumar Batalvi Auditorium, lying incomplete for the past three decades, has been suspended once again, courtesy an apathetic attitude of the district administration.
In 1980, the then Punjab governor had laid down the foundation stone of the auditorium. The same year, the Shiv Kumar Batalvi Memorial Trust was formed under the chairmanship of the then Gurdaspur deputy commissioner while the then Batala SDM was made its president for its upkeep.
Local artists and residents are not able to organise any cultural function at the auditorium and they have to depend upon marriage palaces. The Shiv Kumar Batalavi Trust has also failed to organise any function in the memory of the poet for many years.
In March 2010, on the occasion of the 75th birth anniversary of Batalvi, a state-level function was organised where deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had promised to transform the auditorium into a world-class cultural centre.
Subsequently, Batala SDM and the secretary of Shiv Kumar Batalvi Arts and Cultural Society prepared an estimate of Rs. 1.83 crore which was sanctioned by the state government and the construction work was started.
The state government had announced to organise a state-level fair every year. The fair was organised in July 2010 but no function has been held since then.
After several reminders, the Punjab government granted Rs. 1.80 crore to the district administration in 2012 for completing the auditorium. But the construction work was suspended in July 2013 after spending Rs. 60 lakh.
Pleading anonymity, a member of the Shiv Kumar Art and Cultural Society said the construction of the auditorium was hanging in the balance due to a tussle between the two Akali leaders of the area.
Both the leaders were trying to nominate their supporters into the society and therefore pressured the administration to replace some of the existing members, he claimed.
Besides, there was a dispute among the society’s office-bearers over the installation of air-conditioners in the auditorium, he added.
The public works department (PWD), executing the renovation work, had awarded a tender for a centralised air-conditioner at Rs. 34 lakh. The move was opposed by society president Satnam Singh Nijjar, who claimed that the centralised AC should not have cost more than 24 lakh, as a result of which the work was stopped.
Satnam Singh Nijjar said during the last meeting of the society, he had raised objections over the wastage of Rs. 10 lakh in the installation of air-conditioners.
He also showed a copy of the estimate in which a private contractor was ready to install the air-conditioner of same specification for Rs. 24 lakh which was given by the PWD for Rs. 34 lakh.
Gurdaspur DC-cum-society chairman Abhinav Trikha agreed to his objections and asked the PWD for necessary changes but the administration stopped the work on the auditorium and failed to conduct any meeting thereafter, he claimed.
Abhinav Trikha said the construction work was going on and the departments concerned had floated tenders in this regard.
The work on allocation of tubewells in the auditorium had already been completed, he claimed. About the installation of air-conditioners, he said there were some technical problems following which they had prepared a fresh plan and sent it for approval.