HEAVY RAIN at Sultanpur Lodhi and Dera Baba Nanak on Thursday threatened to play spoilsport ahead of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak, causing massive damage to structures including the tent cities.
At Sultanpur Lodhi, three policemen on duty were injured when part of a structure collapsed on them. Rain water entered the main pandal, exhibition sites and langar halls, most of which have been put up in low-lying fields, which turned into puddles of slush.
At Dera Baba Nanak, rain caused massive damage to the tent city established by the Punjab government for a function related to the Kartarpur Corridor opening. This also put a question mark on whether the Dera Baba Nanak Utsav, which is scheduled to kick-off with a speech by the Dalai Lama on Friday, would proceed as planned.
An exhibition on Guru Nanak’s life organised by the Punjab tourism department in Sultanpur Lodhi suffered much damage as its outer structure partially collapsed and water entered the site.
A big welcome gate near the Holy Bein also collapsed.
Though rain water did not enter individual tents, power was disconnected as a precautionary measure. Big hoardings were also ruined.
Three police officers received minor injuries when a hoarding fell at the railway station. ASI Balwinder Singh sustained head and chest injuries while ASI Makhan Singh got an ankle injury. They were referred to a private hospital in Jalandhar. Four other people also sustained minor injuries, police sources said.
The Punjab government has set up a tent city on a sprawling 30 acres of land at Dera Baba Nanak to accommodate around 3,500 people a day after the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor. This tent city has 544 European style tents, 100 Swiss cottages and 20 Darbar-style accommodations.
The main pandal has a capacity of 30,000 pilgrims, who are expected to converge here on each day of the Dera Baba Nanak Utsav between November 8 and 11. However, on Thursday, the pandal was under water, and puddles of mud made movement impossible.
“For now I have no confirmation that the Dalai Lama is coming. There was a lot of rain today and we are still assessing the damage caused by the rain. We will decide on the future course of action only after that,” said Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner Vipul Ujjwal when asked if there was any change in the November 8 schedule.
The tent city project was developed at a cost of Rs 4.2 crore. On Thursday, some police officers who were already staying there were seen walking with their shoes in hand. There was no electricity here as well.
“There couldn’t be a better tent than this, but the rain was very cruel. But we haven’t been defeated. We will restore the tent city. We expect Friday to be a sunny day,” said a Congress party leader who did not wish to be named.
At Shikar Masian village, a stage is being constructed for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, from where he will deliver a speech. The tent is still under construction and work had to be stopped due to rain.
“The damage is not much and we will cover up,” said an official.
Sources said that construction work at the Kartarpur Corridor terminal site was also hit by rain. However, officials claimed they would make the required arrangements for the event.
Both the state government and SGPC are keeping their fingers crossed due to the inclement weather. Sultanpur Lodhi MLA Navtej Singh Cheema said they are taking care of each and everything.
Currently, there are around 1 lakh visitors staying at Sutanpur Lodhi and its surroundings, including thousands in the three tent cities, langar halls, including government department personnel.
On Thursday over 3 lakh pilgrims visited the town. All seven gurdwaras, the government pandal which has a capacity of 20,000 pilgrims and nearly 70 langar halls were jam-packed.