DC against construction along fort

The case came to light last month when after 36 shops owned by the corporation along the outer wall of Quila Mubarak were sold to their tenants. As only ground floors of the shops had been built earlier the shopkeepers applied for building the first floor and were given permission by the corporation to do so.

The Archaeological and Cultural Affairs Department came into picture after one shopkeeper started constructing the first storey. The shopkeeper was served a notice by the department which also took up the case with the Municipal Corporation. The corporation, however, expressed its inability to do anything in the case as the shops had been sold to the tenants under due procedure and that all formalities had been completed while sanctioning the building plans. The construction of one shop has been completed while the other shopkeepers are adopting a wait-and-watch policy.

Now in a letter to the Principal Secretary, Department of Cultural Affairs, Patiala Deputy Commissioner Jasbir Singh Bir said Quila Mubarak was the core around which the city had been built and that it was facing a risk of falling into obscurity due to the likelihood of construction of the first floor of shops along its walls.{pagebreak}
The letter, which has been written to Principal Secretary G.S. Cheema, states that the construction activity was taking place because the corporation was sanctioning building plans in violation of the Punjab Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1964. It states that any construction on top of the ground floor of the shops would be violative of the Act as it would obstruct access to and convenient inspection of the historical monument. Besides, the letter states that the construction would also deface the fort by way of covering its present facade.

The letter states that already the fort is not being maintained properly due to paucity of funds and since t of the people of Patiala have some linkage or the other with the royal history of the erstwhile state, the unchecked construction was adding insult to injury.

The Deputy Commissioner has urged the Principal Secretary to look into the matter personally and sort it out with the Local Government Department. He has also urged that the medal gallery be opened to the public so that the priceless treasure can be appreciated by all.

According to sources, literal interpretation of Section 30,1 (i) of the Act states that whoever destroys, injures, alters or defaces a protected monument shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend till three months or with a fine which may extend till Rs 5,000 or both.

The shopkeeper are, however, in no mood to relent on the issue. They say they have been in possession of the shops as tenants after Independence and that the corporation had sold the shops to them at the rate of Rs 8,000 per square yard. This, they claimed, entitled them to carry out construction on the first floor. They said the facade of the fort would not be affected by the construction activity as it was not decorated along the area in which their shops fell.

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