India’s tallest victory tower a picture of neglect: Punjab forgets Chappar Chiri memorial
Even as Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar visited Fateh Burj at Chappar Chiri in SAS Nagar to take inspiration for a memorial at Lohgarh, capital of the first Sikh state under Banda Singh Bahadur, in Yamunanagar district, the Punjab government seems to be struggling to maintain the tallest victory tower in the country.
Fateh Burj, which commemorates the victory of Banda Singh Bahadur over Mughal governor Wazir Khan, was inaugurated with much fanfare by former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in 2011. The 328-foot tower, dedicated to the Sikh warrior, is part of a memorial spread over 20 acres in Chappar Chiri. Set up at an estimated cost of ₹35 crore, the memorial made it to the heritage map of India.
Even though the memorial receives 2.2 lakh visitors annually, the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA), responsible for its upkeep, has failed to perform its duty or attract more visitors.
Poor planning hits main attraction
The main attraction of the memorial was the Fateh Burj illumination in the evening, which changed colours at regular intervals. The special lights, which cost ₹1 crore, have not been functioning for the past three months.
Reason: Poor planning.
The lights were installed before carrying out flooring on the premises. Later, when flooring was taken up, the lights were damaged. The staff present at the memorial said it was also not easy to clean the lights. They said the Akali government inaugurated the memorial in a hurry ahead of the 2012 assembly elections, even as its construction was not yet complete.
The memorial, in fact, is spruced up for political events, and later, the authorities hardly care to maintain it. The Punjab government even purchased a lift worth ₹80 lakh to be installed in the tower. It is lying in the basement for the past two years.
Not a single show at theatre
A theatre, with a seating capacity of 100, was set up at the memorial to provide the visitors an immersive experience of the historic war that took place at Chappar Chiri in 1710. It’s been more than five years, but not a single show has been screened on the theatre so far.
Bumpy ride to memorial
The drive to the memorial can give the visitors a fair idea of what lies ahead. The potholed road to the memorial has not been repaired for years. Its condition is as bad as it was in 2012, when the previous Akali government organised its oath-taking ceremony at the memorial.
Employees say salaries not paid
The employees at the memorial say they have not been paid their salaries for the past three months. There are 14 security guards deployed at the memorial besides 12 gardeners and labourers. The security guards are registered with a private company. A guard, on the condition of anonymity, said: “We have been performing our duties with sincerity, but our salaries have not being paid.”
GMADA chief engineer Sunil Kansal said: “We keep carrying out maintenance works at the memorial from time to time. We are in touch with firms for maintenance of lights. They would be repaired soon.”
An official present at the memorial said the flooring has been completed, while gates are being constructed to install the lift.