The tallest gateway on National Highway-1 — a 100-foot-high and as much long and wide dome — will welcome visitors to the city of the Golden Temple, one of the country’s most visited shrines.
The Rs 9-crore structure is coming up on the northern end (Delhi side) of the city, near New Amritsar and where the Amritsar bypass begins. “Taller buildings or structures may exist on either side of the NH-1 but there is no structure of such huge dimensions on the road itself anywhere in north India, which is visible from 1.5 kilometres away on a clear day,” public works department (buildings and roads) executive engineer JS Sodhi told HT in his office.
The dome (the top) as well as the base of the structure will be lit brightly to enhance its visibility on clear nights. It will act as a lighthouse landmark for visitors arriving by road. They will not have to look for road signs. The golden-looking gateway is made of steel, iron, and concrete, with lights installed both inside and outside.
“It will cover the entire eight-lane width of the NH-1 with no pillars for support in between, which will make the movement of vehicles easy,” said Sodhi, adding that the highway portion from the bypass to the Elevated Road will be eight-laned.
The project started about 18 months ago will be over by April-end, the deadline that deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has set. He planned to have smaller domes initially on all major roads leading to the city but the cost factor allowed just one, and he decided to built it on the NH-1, since maximum visitors to the holy city take this route.
As head of the committee for planning and reviewing the infrastructure development and beautification of Amritsar, the deputy CM wants all projects completed by the middle of this year. As president of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), he is keen to showcase the development of Amritsar in the next assembly elections.
Waste of money?
The deputy CM may be pleased with the majestic structure coming up on the NH-1 but former Amritsar mayor OP Soni has questioned the huge expenditure on a structure that has no public utility.
“It is a mere waste of funds that could have been utilised for public welfare,” said the four-time local legislator, adding: “With this amount, new tubewells could have been install in many parts of the city and the old ones repaired. That would have solved the drinking-water problem during summer.” In the assembly, Soni represents Amritsar Central, a constituency that mostly includes the old walled city where the drinking-water problem is serious.
Soni said that in his tenure as mayor in the early 1990s, he had foundation stones laid for two gateways, one at the west end and the other at the north-eastern end, where the new gateway is coming up. “Though not so majestic as the one coming up now, they cost just Rs 2lakh or so,” he added.