Even as the former Akali government spent Rs 160 crore on the ambitious heritage street leading to the Golden Temple, it failed to spare a single penny to construct public toilets on the way.
Thousands of devotees and tourists reach the historical Sikh shrine via Hall Bazaar, Sultanwind Gate Road, Sheranwala Gate Road, Burj Akali Phoola Singh Road, Ghee Mandi and Gurdwara Shaheedan market every day.
Earlier, there were around 12 public toilets near the shrine. However, while carrying out the beautification project, all these structures were demolished. None has come up again post inauguration of the heritage street on October 24 last year.
Not just toilets, there is no public tap installed on the way to quench the thirst of devotees, many of whom cannot spend money on bottled water or other beverages.
“Tourists visit the holy shrine from across the world. The administration should do its best to facilitate them,” said Sukhdev Singh, a shopkeeper at the Ghanta Ghar market.
As part of the Heritage Street project, the administration has also declared a ‘no-vehicle’ zone in the area. The move has made it extremely difficult for the elderly and physically challenged devotees to reach Darbar Sahib.
Although the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) made a dozen battery-operated vehicles donated by nonresident Indians available to such devotees, the number is not enough to cater to majority of them. In fact, some of these vehicles have developed snags and have not been repaired.
“The situation is disappointing,” said Gurnam Singh, an elderly devotee from Singapore.
Expressing helplessness, SGPC officials claim they have written to the district administration to look into all the shortcomings. “We have written to Amritsar deputy commissioner Basant Garg and municipal commissioner Sonali Giri,” said Golden Temple manager Sulakhan Singh, adding, “We have fulfilled our duty. Now it is up to them to take further action.”
When contacted, Garg claimed he was not aware of any such letter. He said he would check the postal records, and act accordingly. Giri was not available for comment.