Badal’s poll sop, a museum of Sikh heritage, may be as pricey as it is pointless
Badal’s poll sop, a museum of Sikh heritage, may be as pricey as it is pointless.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is staying away from the inauguration of the Khalsa Heritage Centre ( KHC) at Anandpur Sahib on November 25 but he may not be missing much. “He would have been unveiling an incomplete, poorly conceived and bungled experiment,” says George Jacob, its founder director. The Rs 365- crore centre, conceived as the nation’s largest contemporary heritage venture nearly 14 years ago to mark the Khalsa tercentenary in 1999, is nowhere near completion. But Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is rushing into its opening in a bid to beat the model code of conduct coming into force in mid- December ahead of the Assembly elections scheduled for February 2012.
Only 14 of the 25 exhibit galleries are ready but Parkash and his son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, are going ahead with godman Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Asha Bhosle as guests. “Appropriately enough, Badal
sahib (the Chief Minister) will press the button to declare the centre open. It was his dream to build this ajooba (wonder),” says Punjab Finance Minister Upinderjit Kaur.
Designed by the Boston-based Jewish architect Moshe Safdi, the centre, a 100-acre complex, will house 25 exhibit galleries spread over 6,50,000 sq ft. The project has been plagued by delays primarily caused by bureaucrats’ reluctance to delegate control to internationally renowned experts who had been especially hired for it. There have been 14 resignations and departures during the past two years. Los Angeles-based Kristin Ann Kelly of the J. Paul Getty Trust, who was hired as chief museum consultant for the project, left in disgust late in 2010 stating she had been “silly and naïve” in be- THE KHALSA HERITAGE CENTRE (ABOVE); AN EXHIBITATTHE CENTRE lieving that the Punjab government wanted to do something new and world-class. Even Jacob, a CanadianIndian museum expert who was appointed KHC director for a five-year term in January 2010, was inexplicably shown the door 10 months later. Benefits were restored to him by the Punjab and Haryana High Court though the case is still under litigation. Key positions like administration, finance, security, human resources, marketing, education and outreach, support systems and engineering services are unmanned.
At current prices, KHC is expected to annually require Rs 20 crore besides salary expenses. With the government deciding against ticketed entry, no one at the centre or the Anandpur Sahib Foundation, which is responsible for supervising the KHC project, has the slightest notion where the funds will come from. Envisaged as a self-sustaining institution that would tell the tale of one of the world’s youngest religions, the Chief Minister’s gift to voters risks being doomed as yet another bureaucracy-driven failure.