Sidhu pays Rs 2.5 lakh as power bill of Bhagat Singh’s house, sets deadline for museum

The minister said he was pained over the recent media reports that the bill of Bhagat’s house was not cleared.

punjab Updated: Oct 02, 2017 22:58 IST
Hindustan Times, SBS Nagar
Navjot Sidhu,Punjab government,Punjab
Tourism and cultural affairs minister Navjot Singh Sidhu during a visit to Khatkar Kalan village to pay tribute to Bhagat Singh on Monday.(HT Photo)

Two days after HT highlighted the failure of the state government in paying power bills of freedom fighter Bhagat Singh’s house and of the memorial park in Khatkar Kalan village in SBS Nagar (Nawanshahr) district, Punjab tourism minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday handed over a cheque of Rs 2.5 lakh from his own pocket to deputy commissioner Sonali Giri , in favour of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL).

The bills running up to Rs 2.3 lakh remain unpaid since December as officials said the local administration had not received any funds from the state government. Officially, the bills are issued in the name of the district horticulture department.

A caretaker, RS Yadav, 50, stays at the house and maintains both the properties that share a wall. The memorial that is open to visitors is lit up, leading to the bill, Yadav says.

During his visit to the house on Monday, the minister said he was pained over the recent media reports that the bill of Bhagat’s house was not cleared and that the construction work of museum project was hanging fire for eight years due to lack of funds.

“The construction work for the museum project will be completed before March 23 next, in a real tribute to the legendary freedom fighter on his martyrdom day,” Sidhu said before handing over the cheque for the electricity bills.

The minister said that martyrs are an inspiration to the people of the nation, “but it is very unfortunate that the previous SAD-BJP government faltered in its duty to protect the heritage of the martyrs”.

The previous regime purportedly settled the issue of bills for Bhagat Singh’s properties in 2013, when the then CM Parkash Singh Badal announced that the government will waive the power bills. But the announcement was not followed by a notification from the state. This meant that the bills continued to be issued, with the government clearing these on and off.

Similarly, work at the Bhagat Singh museum project got stalled again nine months ago due to lack of funds. The project was launched eight years ago when the then Union home minister P Chidambaram laid the foundation on February 23, 2009, at a function attended by the then Union minister for tourism Ambika Soni and then CM Badal.

The delay has escalated the project cost from Rs 8.45 crore to Rs 17 crore.

Meanwhile, to promote tourism here, Sidhu said, he would take up the matter of starting special buses for Khatkar Kalan and halts of long route buses at the village. He said permanent arrangements for maintenance of the premises and paying the power bills will also be made.

First Published: Oct 02, 2017 19:19 IST