Mon­u­men­tal Fail­ure

Badal’s poll sop, a mu­seum of Sikh her­itage, may be as pricey as it is point­less

India Today - - INSIDE - by Asit Jolly

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.

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