The Britishers had installed a statue of Queen Victoria at a chowk (roundabout) just 300 metres from the Golden Temple. Though the statue of the Queen was uprooted after partition, but the chowk continued to be called as ‘Mallaka da bothwala chowk ‘ and even to this day a majority of the city residents continue to call it as such.
However, this is all set to change now as the Punjab government has decided to install a 45-feet high statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at this point. Perhaps this step would finally erase the name of Queen Victoria and future generations will call this spot as ‘Maharaja de bothwala chowk’.
Alongside the statue of the Lion of Punjab will be the statues of two of his greatest generals and warriors---Hari Singh Nalwa and Akali Phoola Singh, who later also became the jathedar of the Akal Takht.
In addition, fountains will also be installed at this chowk, which will have an all together new landscape. The entire works will cost around Rs 2 crore.
The installation of these statues is part of the beautification plan that the government is carrying out under ` 83-crore beautification project. This project involves beautification of the most commonly used approach road to the Golden Temple that is through the Hall Bazaar.
However, the area to be covered under the project is from the Town Hall to the edge of the Golden Temple plaza, a distance of around 500 metres.
“It does not just involve beautifying the approach road to the shrine, but also restoring the heritage status of some of the buildings on either side of this road. The entire stretch will also be widened and all encroachments will be removed so as to avoid traffic jams which are quite common in the vicinity of the shrine,” Public Works Department (PWD-B&R), executive engineer (XEN) JS Sodhi stated while giving details to HT.
Under the project, a portion of the Town Hall, which is not of any heritage importance, will be demolished. This has already begun with the wall facing the Hall Bazaar side having been demolished and the mayor’s office too will be brought to the ground as it was a recent construction.
According to Sodhi, this portion of the Town Hall will become a part of the road that leads to the shrine. Right from the famous Bharava da Dhaba to Ambedkar Chowk, the fourlanned road will be widened on both sides, which was 7 metres will now be 11-metres wide.
The existing statue of Ambedkar will be replaced by a new 22-feet high statue of the stalwart, who was responsible for framing the country’s Constitution. The statue plus the landscaping of the chowk will cost Rs 1.25 crore.
In addition, public toilets are also being constructed at various spots along the road to the shrine with two such washrooms coming up near the point where the Katra Jaimal Singh Market begins. The washrooms at this particular point are important as this route will be taken by most of the devotees going back to their homes or hotels after paying obeisance at the Golden Temple.
From Ambedkar Chowk, which is near the entrance to the Town Hall to the chowk where Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s statue will be installed, the entire fourlanned stretch will be widened on either side to 8 metres.
NO TRAFFIC ZONE
The area from Maharaja Ranjit Singh Chowk to the Golden Temple will be a ‘no traffic zone’. Mechanically operated equipment will be used to check or obstruct the entry of an unauthorised vehicle in this zone. However, there will be no restrictions to the entry of ‘select’ VVIP vehicles on this stretch.
“The entry of cars and even autorickshaws basically are responsible for the traffic problems that occur on this stretch. The only way to check this is not to allow these vehicles towards the shrine. We will work this out with the local police,” Sodhi stated while making it clear that push carts will be asked to move from the area. The project also involves installation of a 16-feet high ‘jyoti’ (flame) outside the historic Jallianwala Bagh. LPG or some other gas would be used to ensure that the flame never gets extinguished.
The entire road, including the footpath, up to the Plaza outside the Ghanta Ghar entrance of the shrine, will be dug up. Uniform marble flooring will come up on this stretch.
RESTORING OLD BUILDING
According to Sodhi, the project also involves restoration and repair of old buildings, including private ones. Many of these have already been declared dangerous, but still families continue to live in these structures, he added.
The cost factor involved in this work is around Rs 6.5 crore and a beginning in this direction has already been made with the Dharam Singh Market. Just plain red or light pink coloured bricks are being used on the outer portion of the Dharam Singh market building to give it a more heritage type of look and no cement is being used to plaster the outer wall.
“While government buildings will not be a problem, but we will have to get the consent of owners of private structures. This plan also involves giving all buildings on the main approach to the shrine as well as in its vicinity a uniform look. The plan in this direction is being worked out,” Sodhi added.