Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu said Monday the Centre has “rejected” the state’s request for a special Rs 2,145 crore financial assistance for Sikhism founder Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th birth anniversary celebrations.
Punjab had placed the request to fund the events connected with the birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev, which falls in November next year.
The Centre has cited that it has a total budget of Rs 100 crore for all commemorative functions to be organised in various parts of the country pertaining to 550th birth anniversary celebrations, Sidhu said.
“The Punjab government had demanded Rs 2,145 crore, which has been rejected totally. The Centre has cited that they have earmarked Rs 100 crore for the celebrations to be held all over the country. Moreover, they said out of this Rs 100 crore nearly half the amount has already been spent,” Sidhu, who is Tourism and Cultural Affairs Minister, said at a press conference here.
The Congress leader released minutes of a meeting of the National Implementation Committee (NIC), headed by a central minister, held on July 30 this year, and claimed that the Centre has offered only Rs 35 crore to Punjab for the event.
Notably, in June this year, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in a letter to the prime minister had sought an assistance of Rs 2,145.31 crore from the Centre for commemorative projects and undertaking various infrastructural projects in towns and cities associated with the first Sikh Guru.
Sidhu said he had earlier written a letter to the Centre seeking special package of Rs 100 crore for the historic Jallianwalla Bagh National Monument.
He said he had written letter way back in January stating that there should be a cafeteria, modern amenities, landscaping, world-class light and sound system at this place as in April 2019, the country will be observing 100 years of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
Sidhu said though a “small amount” has been released, the Punjab government is awaiting permission from the Centre for initiating renovation works at Jallianwala Bagh.
“If Centre does not give permission, I will take it to the Cabinet. We already have Rs 8 crore (from Centre), the Punjab Finance minister has announced Rs 10 crore, we have asked for additional Rs 30 crore, but we need Centre’s permission. The Jallianwala Bagh Trust is headed by the prime minister,” he said.
He said that the work must start now “otherwise we will be left with no time. The tendering process will take 2-3 months”.
Sidhu warned that Punjab will strongly resist any move if Jallianwala Bagh is given to any corporate house or individual entity under “adopt a heritage scheme”.
“We will strongly object if Jallianwala Bagh is given to any corporate house or private entity for adoption. Already we have seen adverse public reaction as it happened in case of the Red Fort in Delhi. We cannot accept that tomorrow any private body will start charging entry fees or put up its own plaques at the site,” he said.
He claimed that he has written a letter in this regard to Union Minister of State for Tourism K J Alphons.
Sidhu, however, said if any private company or individual would like to spend money for the monument’s upkeep, without expecting anything in return, that will be acceptable.
“My point is that we want to maintain solemness of the site and not create any picnic spot there. We will not allow Jallianwala Bagh to be given for adoption or on contract … Jallianwala Bagh is not for sale,” he said.
“So, I have written a letter stating that we are not ready to give Jallianwala Bagh for adoption like the Red Fort,” he said.