Army authorities have finally woken up to take note of the decision of the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) to demolish a British era bungalow located on the Mall Road in the Cantonment area to pave way for the construction of a five-star hotel-cum-convention centre.
The process to demolish the residential bungalow located on a 6-acre plot and belonging to the state irrigation department is in full swing. The PIDB has already selected a private firm for leasing out the 6-acre hotel-cum-convention centre site for a period of 50 years.
Naresh Vij, PRO, Vajra Corps, told HT that the army authorities had already sent a note to the Amritsar administration after learning about the purpose for which the site is being leased.
"We have expressed our concerns as the proposed hotel will be a high-rise structure overlooking the military establishment. From the security point of view, it is not proper to have such a structure. We are not contesting the fact that the plot on which the hotel is to be constructed is a government property," said Vij.
Deputy commissioner Rajat Aggarwal confirmed that he had received the note. He said he had forwarded it to the Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) estate officer, Swinder Singh.
"We have forwarded the note to the authorities concerned in Chandigarh," said the estate officer, adding that it is now up to the state government to take up the issue with the military authorities at an appropriate level.
The decision to lease out the plot was taken under the state government's Optimum Utilisation of Government Land (OUGL) policy. The government has already selected a few bungalows of the irrigation and other departments on the Mall Road and in its vicinity for the purpose. These British-period structures will be pulled down and the sites leased to private developers for commercial complexes.
NGOs, conservationists raise strong objections
A number of NGOs and conservationists have taken strong exception to the demolition of the British era structure. These NGOs include the Amritsar Vikas Manch, Mission Aagaaz, Tarksheel Society and a couple of others. They have even written to the government to halt its plans to auction the sites housing these structures of the irrigation department for commercial purposes.
Mission Aagaaz president Deepak Babbar said a number of environmentalists and conservationists had already lodged their protest with the government.
"Such types of British-era buildings were built in the midst of greenery for giving a healthy, cool and serene environment for new ideas to develop. People who remain enclosed in concrete high-rise structures cannot possibly have a positive thinking," said Babbar, calling upon the government to come out with a policy or plan to preserve heritage.