The Punjab Congress on Thursday opposed the state government's reported move to convert the historic Town Hall complex in Amritsar to a commercial place "at the instance of the Badals". The Akali-BJP government, however, has denied any such move.
Addressing a press conference here, Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar stated that the Amritsar Municipal Corporation (MC) office was being shifted from the Town Hall "with the motive of handing over the site to a private party for converting the place into a heritage hotel with food courts."
"This move to shift the MC office out of that heritage building is a conspiracy of the Badals and their relative Bikram Majithia to hand it over to a private party for vested commercial interests," said Jakhar, who was accompanied by senior party colleagues Randeep Singh, MLA and Sukhpal Khaira, former MLA.
They pointed out that the resolution to shift the MC office from the Town Hall and convert it into a commercially viable as a heritage site was at the instance of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal.
Jakhar also opposed the tender notice of the Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board for shifting the Amritsar MC office to a new building.
He termed the tender notice illegal, claiming that neither the MC resolution nor the agreement between the board and the MC was given a formal nod by the government (office of the principal secretary, local bodies).
When contacted, Geetika Kalha, principal secretary, tourism, Punjab, told HT that the agreement between the Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board and the Amritsar MC and also the MC resolution were duly approved by the government and the tender was only to construct a new building for the MC so that the Town Hall heritage site could be preserved.
"The building (Town Hall) is in a shambles and needs to be preserved, and there will not be any compromise with the heritage of that place," Kalha said. She ruled out any proposal to convert the place into a hotel.
Kalhan also clarified that it was up to Amritsar MC only to decide on the fate of the heritage site, while the Board's job was to facilitate the MC in shifting its office and carve out certain proposals to utilize the heritage site in an effective manner.