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In a first, Attari border pips Jallianwala Bagh in tourist footfall

As per the state tourism department, nearly 15,000 people witness beating the retreat, a flag-lowering ceremony, at the border check-post everyday.

punjab Updated: Sep 29, 2018 09:33 IST
Anil Sharma
Anil Sharma
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Attari border,Jallianwala Bagh,tourist
Visitors during beating the retreat ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border in Amritsar. The ceremony is being jointly followed by the two countries since 1959.(Sameer Sehgal/HT)

For the first time, the Attari-Wagah border joint check post (JCP) has pipped Jallianwala Bagh in terms of tourist footfall and has become the second most-visited destination in Amritsar after the Golden Temple.

As per the state tourism department, nearly 15,000 people witness beating the retreat, a flag-lowering ceremony, at the border check-post everyday. However, the number is around 25,000 on Saturdays and Sundays. Beating the retreat has been jointly followed by the two countries since 1959 with the Border Security Force (BSF) jawans and Pakistani Rangers displaying aggressive posturing and foot-stomping.

District tourism officer Gursharan Singh said, “Around 10,000 people visit Jallianwala Bagh daily and around 15,000 people witness the retreat ceremony everyday.”

“On weekends, the rush increases to more than 25,000. We are now considering the border as second most-visited tourist site in the city.”

Though the retreat ceremony starts at 5:30 pm, hundreds of people can be seen standing in queues from 2pm daily at the JCP. This is regardless of the scorching heat in summer.

New developments at the border

Looking at the increasing footfall, a newly upgraded spectator gallery was constructed at the JCP at a cost of Rs 32 crore.

As per BSF officials, the old gallery could accommodate only 5,000 people but the new gallery gives space to around 25,000 viewers.

The new U-shaped gallery, which seems to complement the one on the Pakistan side, has 32-meter height (equivalent to a nine-floor building). The 22 dooms constructed atop the gallery give it a heritage look.

The gallery has a conference hall, 140 public toilets, nine barracks for jawans, a medical-aid room, a meeting hall, a dining hall, a kitchen, an army weapon exhibition room and a souvenir shop.

Daily visitors count in Amritsar (as per the DTO)
  • Golden Temple: around 40,000 (1 lakh on Sat-Sun)
  • Attari-Wagah border: around 15,000 (25,000 on Sat-Sun)
  • Jallianwala Bagh: 10,000 (12,000 on Sat-Sun)
  • Durgiana Temple: 8,000 (10,000 on Sat-Sun)
  • Sadda Pind and Gobindgarh Fort: 500 for each
  • Partition Muesum: 300
  • War Heroes Memorial: 300
  • Ram Tirath: 200

Satinder Mahajan, owner of the gallery’s construction company said, “For security, we have installed 60 high-definition imported cameras in the gallery, along with a high-quality fire-fighting system. We have also constructed a museum inside the gallery which is yet to be started. The museum will depict the glorious history of BSF, its achievements and weapons, among other things”.

“A big LED screen is also installed outside the gallery. When the entire gallery is packed on Saturday and Sunday, people see the retreat ceremony live on the screen by standing outside the gallery”, he added.

Mahajan said they spent Rs 21 lakh to install a new gate at the Indian side. “The new gate provides better view to Indian spectators to look across the border. A similar gate has also been put up at the Pakistan side”, he said.

As the sun sets, both the gates at the border are opened and the flags are lowered simultaneously.

The district tourism officer said since the new gallery was constructed, the border is attracting more tourists.

Though the BSF makes people sit inside the new gallery, it is yet to be inaugurated.

On Wednesday, the gallery was to be inaugurated by BSF’s DG KK Sharma, but the ceremony was postponed till further date on Tuesday night.

The spectator gallery at the joint check-post has a conference hall, 140 public toilets, 9 barracks for jawans, medical-aid room, a meeting hall, a dining hall, a kitchen, an army weapon exhibition room and a souvenir shop. (HT Photo)

Generating more jobs

As the footfall at the border is increasing, there have been more opportunities of employment for people. Dozens of new eateries have opened near the border and it is like a fair every evening, outside the JCP.

Hundreds have been given employment at the JCP to sell tricolor flags, umbrellas, cold drink, water and other food items to tourists.

Kulwant Singh, who sells junk food at the gallery said, “More than 200 workers of the Attari and nearby villages have recently been employed here.”

Harish Sharma, a local taxi driver, said, “I belong to Chandigarh and I get around 15 to 20 customers in a month for the Attari border itself. Around 1,000 taxis can be seen parked daily here. After Golden Temple, this site has generated employment for us.”

Instills patriotism

Before the actual ceremony begins, women and children can be seen dancing to patriotic Bollywood songs at the border.

“It was my first visit to Amritsar and also to watch the Retreat ceremony here. I have never experienced this in my life. The 25-minute spectacle touched my soul and instilled patriotism in me. I feel every Indian should come here once,” said Sanjeev Kumar, a tourist from Delhi.

First Published: Sep 29, 2018 09:28 IST