No permission taken before initiating construction at Samadhi of Ranjit Singh

  • Construction blocking view of listed heritage site

LAHORE: The Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) has started constructing an almonry, langar khana, inside the Gurdwara Dera Sahib (Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh) without taking prior permission from any concerned departments, Pakistan Today learnt on Wednesday.

The building of Gurdwara Dera Sahib is one of the monuments among others in the listed heritage sites of Directorate of Archaeology, where no construction can be carried out within the radius of 200 feet without taking permission of the Director General of the department. Moreover, the Punjab Special Premises (Preservation) Ordinance, 1985, also bars any modification in the monument or any construction which may cause any visual impact on the monument.

However, it can be observed that a multi-story almonry is under-construction just a few feet away from the Samadhi inside the gurdwara building.

Sources privy to the development told Pakistan Today that the ongoing construction would hamper the original entrance of the Samadhi and also the view of only existing Mughal era Roshnai Gate adjacent to the gurdwara. They said that currently an alternate entrance was made because of the deep digging next to the main entrance.

Sources informed that a number of tourists visit the monument daily while the construction was going on without taking any protective measures.

An official at the archaeology department, while seeking anonymity, told this scribe that the ETPB had carried out the construction in violation of Punjab Special Premises (Preservation) Ordinance, 1985, which stated that no construction could be carried out within a vicinity of 200 feet of a declared heritage property. He said the construction was not just within the 200 feet limit of Samadhi of Ranjit Singh but also Samadhi of Kharak Singh and Naunehal Singh.

He further added that Roshnai Gate was already damaged when Samadhi was built upon it so the construction would be of no acute harm to the gate. He confirmed that the ETPB had not been rewarded with any permission in this regard.

“The clause 5 is regarding Prohibition of Destruction of Special Premises under which no alteration in or renovation, demolition or re-erection of such portion of a special premises as is visible from outside, or any part of such portion, shall be effected without the prior permission in writing of the government or a committee,”the official said, while adding that the construction would not just hide the façade of Samadhi but also the beauty of Badshahi Mosque and Lahore Fort.

“In a meeting held almost five to six years ago, the archaeology department suggested the ETPB officials to build a langar khana inside the Atiq Stadium or to build a basement in Atiq Stadium for the purpose,” he added. However, he said that the ETPB might have taken permission from the Walled City of Lahore Authority for the construction of new building.

Upon contact, WCLA Director Conservation and Planning Najum-us-Saqib told this scribe that ETPB did not take any permission regarding the ongoing construction. He further said that it was the prime duty of the archaeology department to keep a check on such construction.

ETPB Deputy Secretary Shrines Imran Gondal told this scribe that the gurdwara was the property of ETPB which is a federal department, hence no permission was required from any provincial department. On a question, he replied that the almonry was being constructed to accommodate the yatris and it would not affect the façade of the Samadhi or other monuments.