Finally, after many inordinate delays and unforced postponements in its inauguration, following political interference, the state-of-the-art auditorium built in memory of one of Punjabi’s finest poets, Shiv Kumar Batalvi, was formally inaugurated on Saturday.
Interestingly, the inauguration was done thrice within a span of three hours by two Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders who want to eke out political mileage from the completion of this world-class auditorium.
Shiv Kumar Batalvi Art and Cultural Society chief patron and former minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan was the first to inaugurate the auditorium at around 3 pm, but within an hour, local halqa in-charge Lakhbir Singh Lodhinagal rushed to the spot and again inaugurated the auditorium.
Thereafter, Lodhinagal along with Batala SDM Saurav Arora once again reached the auditorium by 5.45 pm, with his battery of supporters and formally inaugurated the auditorium for the third time.
Though Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was scheduled to inaugurate this world class auditorium, was present in the town, he stayed away from this inauguration.
When contacted Batala SDM Saurav Arora showed ignorance to the inaugurations made by Sekhwan and Lodhinagal at 3 pm and 4 pm, respectively. “The official timing of the inauguration was 5.30 pm as mentioned on the invitation cards sent to the various persons. After 5.30 pm, Lodhinagal and other members of the society along with me inaugurated the auditorium and started the further proceeding,” he added.
Amid the political tussle between two strong SAD leaders, inauguration guaranteed that the legacy of Batalvi, who became the youngest recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award, would live on forever.
Batalvi, who penned down the best of Punjabi literature, died on May 6, 1973.To pay homage to this eminent poet, an auditorium was planned in the heart of city and the then Punjab governor, Aminu din Ahmad, had laid down a foundation of Shiv Kumar Batalavi auditorium here in 1980.
The same year, a trust by the name of Shiv Kumar Batalvi Memorial Trust was formed under the chairmanship of the then deputy commissioner.
But even after almost three decades, the auditorium could not be completed, as there were no funds to accomplish the task and the trust was left helpless.
But luckily in March 2010, on the occasion of 75th birth anniversary of Shiv Kumar Batalvi, a state-level function was organised by the government, where deputy Punjab chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal promised for the upgradation and maintenance of this auditorium to world class cultural centre, in which world-renowned artists from all over the world would be invited to perform and relive the magic of this imminent poet who left indelible prints on the psyche of all culture loving people around the world.
Subsequently, Batala SDM and secretary of Shiv Kumar Batalvi Arts and Cultural Society prepared an estimate of Rs 1.83 crore, which was sanctioned and released by the state government, giving some sort of justice to the soul of this imminent poet.
But again, the Shiv Kumar Batalvi Memorial Society, formed to oversee the construction work, had lost track of its task, following the intervention of local politicians who had nothing to do with the project. So much so that the project kept on lingering on for nearly three years before the district administration finally took things into its own hands to ensure the old and dilapidated auditorium was pulled down and in its place a new one came up. The speed of the construction work picked up in the last six months as the administration officials sidelined the society members and tasked upon themselves the work of completing the project.
Project and its unique features
Talking to HT, Shiv Kumar Art and Cultural Society president Dr Satnam Singh Nijjar said a sum of rs 1.83 crore has been spent by the government to modify the neglected building into an auditorium. He said Rs 51.15 lakh was spent on the renovation of the building, Rs 23.31 lakh was spent on the modification of open places in front and back of the auditorium, Rs 6 lakh was spent for providing more than 450 comfortable seats in the hall and balcony, Rs 19.83 lakh on sealing and sound proofing, Rs 5 lakh on modern sound system, Rs 45 lakh on the centralised air conditioning, while rs 15.04 was spent on the lightening and a same amount was spent on the construction of toilets, water supply system.