Giving in to mounting criticism of its move to demolish the historic buildings of Patiala, the Punjab government now has taken a U-turn and decided to preserve these places instead.
Reversing its decision of demolishing a building near Baradari Gardens where the state had its head office of the water supply and sanitation department, the government now will turn it into an ethnic cuisine centre, on orders from chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
Under the special tourism plan for Patiala that Asian Development Bank (ADB) will finance, Rs. 5 crore will go into the installation of the ethnic cuisine centre that will showcase the famous food of Patiala such kachori and popular craft items such as paranda (hair ornament), jutti (traditional shoe) and phulkari (hand embroidery).
On February 4, Hindustan Times had reported the state government's plan to get the Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) to demolish the buildings aged more than 100 and sell off the vacated land for the development of commercial complexes.
The building in question came up at least 130 years ago during the reign of Maharaja Rajinder Singh and is associated with landmark decisions in the times of old Patiala, one of the model princely states of erstwhile British India.
"Last week, the chief minister directed PUDA not to demolish the building and instead preserve it by opening a cuisine centre inside," deputy commissioner GK Singh confirmed on Friday. "The detailed project was discussed with the CM," he added.
There were allegations from different quarters that the ruling family of the Badals was destroying Patiala's heritage deliberately to hurt his political opponents, especially the erstwhile royal family of Patiala. It went a long way in forcing the CM to change his mind.
Secretly, PUDA had even floated the tenders to bring down the building. The process stopped after HT exposed the plan. "CM wants local self-help groups involved in the reviving lost culinary traditions," said the DC. "The ethnic cuisine centre will be a complete package for visitors keen to enjoy the tastes and fashion of yesteryears and eat in utensils associated with Patiala's and Punjab's culture."
The place will also house an interpretation centre. The structure is safe, and routine repair will make it fit to hold the centre.