In what could be termed as blatant violation of a July 2012 order of the Punjab and Haryana high court that prohibits sanctioning of fresh building plans in and around the Galiara area of the Golden Temple, a number of new constructions are taking place in the area right under the nose of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation, with officials acting as mute spectators.
According to MC sources, as many as 52 new hotels have come up in the walled city area in 2012-13, with at least 12 constructions underway and a few others, including ‘serais’ (inns) of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), nearing completion. Some others, completed recently have even started functioning in the walled city area.
The development flies in the face of the Special Investigation Team (SIT), constituted by the government to look into the matter of illegal hotels informing the court that no construction was taking place in the walled city area. Madhavi Kataria, additional secretary, department of local government, and Bikram Pal Singh Bhatty, deputy commissioner of police, Amritsar -- both assisting the SIT-- had filed their status reports in the court on August 22. MC officials, too, maintain that the court is yet to allow the sanctioning of fresh building plans.
However, the MC seems to have turned a blind eye to the unabated construction activity in the area which is for everyone to see. The construction work of as many as 12 hotels — including at Maha Singh Gate, Old Lakkar Mandi, Chowk Baba Sahib and the Galiara — is underway at present. These also include three serais of the SGPC.
The construction of a number of hotels and serais, which had started last year, is nearing completion. MC is in fact all set to include a newly-constructed SGPC serai near its Town Hall office in the list of ‘recently completed’ projects. City mayor Bakshi Ram Arora, said the construction on the serai has been going on since long and did not violate HC orders.
“The high court order is applicable over entire walled city and the Galiara area, despite which the construction of new hotels has been started there,” said Sarabjit Singh, principal investigator, Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO), which had in 2010 filed a PIL in the high court over the issue.
He attributed the development to the fact that majority officials, who had been charge sheeted in connection with mushrooming of illegal hotels, were posted in the district only. “No action has so far been taken against them, rather some of them have been posted on higher ranks,” he said.The case comes up for resumed hearing on December 19.