The Gurdaspur district administration has announced that the restoration work of Shiv Kumar Batalvi Auditorium here is almost over and it will be inaugurated by second week of August. With the announcement, the long-standing demand of Batalvi’s, a Punjabi language poet, fans to get the auditorium renovated will be fulfilled.
The youngest recipient of Sahitya Akademy Award, Batalvi — also known as John Keats of Punjabi — has produced some of the best Punjabi poetries. He died on May 6, 1973.
In 1980, to pay homage to this eminent poet, an auditorium was planned at the heart of Batala, where he moved from Pakistan after the Partition. The then governor of Punjab Amin ud-din Ahmad Khan had laid down the foundation stone for Shiv Kumar Batalavi Auditorium. The same year, a trust by the name of ‘Shiv Kumar Batalvi Memorial Trust’ was founded under the chairmanship of the then Gurdaspur deputy commissioner Ashok Kumar Kundra and Batala sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) was made its president for the upkeep of the auditorium. However, due to fund crunch, the auditorium could not be completed for three decades.
In March 2010, however, on the occasion of 75th birth anniversary of Batalvi, at state-level function organised by the Punjab government, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal had promised to renovate and maintain the auditorium as a world-class cultural centre, in which world’s renowned artists would be invited to perform and revive the magic of the imminent poet, who had left behind indelible imprint on the psyche of all culture loving people around the world.
Subsequently, the Batala SDM and the secretary of Shiv Kumar Batalvi Arts and Cultural Society prepared an estimate of Rs 1.83 crore for the renovation, which was sanctioned and released by the state government.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Gurdaspur deputy commissioner and also chairman of Shiv Kumar Art and Cultural Society Abhinav Trikha said, “A sum of `1.8 crore was spent to turn the neglected complex into a modern auditorium. The work of fixing chair is on and will be completed in 2-3 days. The auditorium is set to be inaugurated in the second week of August.”
Though the administration had received the grant in 2011, intervention by local leaders and dispute among society members jeopardised the pace of the renovation. However, six months back, Trikha himself took over the responsibility and got the renovation completed.