BALIDAN STHAMBH –described as India’s tallest war memorial– symbolising a rifle bayonet today stands neglected in pitch darkness staring at an uncertain future here in Jammu.
More than three years ago the then Chief of Indian army Gen Deepak Kaoopr had handed over the memorial to the state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah at an impressive ceremony but since then the memorial has been dumped by the state government pending dispute over the issue of bearing the maintenance charges of the sprawling memorial.
The Balidan stambh is only occasionally decorated during Independence and Republic day celebrations otherwise it presents a picture perfect image of neglect and shame.
The tug of war between the Indian army and the state government over the issue of bearing the maintenance charges of the war memorial is chiefly responsible for the neglect of the war memorial till date.
Since it takes at least three LPG cylinders to light the Amar Jawan Jyoti, more often than not the controlling knobs attached to the pipeline remain in the ‘off’ mode.
In the absence of regular maintenance, the black granite wall, on which the history of each of the wars fought in Jammu and Kashmir since Independence is engraved, is also losing its sheen. The boundary walls of the memorial are in dire need of repair.
Before the inauguration ceremony a formal understanding was reached between the Army and the Government to promote it as a tourist destination. But the final discussions over who will bear the recurring expenditure of maintaining the memorial and for how long remained inconclusive. Since then the War Memorial is facing neglect at the highest level.
Official sources maintained “initially the State Government had pledged a sum of Rs 1 lakh towards maintenance charges, but over two years it even stopped paying maintenance charges and did not promote the ‘monument of sacrifice’ on the tourist map of the State.”