Constituted 5 yrs back, Board for Sukrala Devi, Bala Sundri Shrines fails to improve facilities

Litigations, non-seriousness of Govt create impediments

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, May 19: Even five years after its establishment with the approval of State Legislature, the Board for Mata Sukrala and Mata Bala Sundri Shrines in Billawar area of Kathua district has failed to bring much-needed improvement in the facilities thereby dashing the expectations of the pilgrims and local people. The intensity of inertia can be gauged from the fact that even comprehensive road-map for the developmental activities has not been drawn till date.
This Shrine Board was constituted on the pattern of Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine Board on the consistent demand of the people and to ensure holistic development of these two revered shrines. After passage of Bill in this regard by the State Legislature and approval of the Governor, a notification for the same was issued on April 25, 2013 while the 11-member Board was constituted on October 18, 2013.
Divisional Commissioner Jammu is heading the Board while Deputy Commissioner Kathua is the Vice Chairman and Additional Chief Executive Officer of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, Director Tourism Jammu and Sub Divisional Magistrate Billawar are ex-officio Members of the Board. Besides, there are some non-official members of the Board.
However, the Board has belied the expectations of the people and the pilgrims who visit both the shrines in large number throughout the year, official sources told EXCELSIOR, adding “there is no major improvement in the facilities at these shrines even after establishment of Shrine Board mainly because the Government has failed to bring an end to the litigations on different issues including the rights of Baridars pending in different courts of law”.
“Because of the litigations even the funds in the shape of offerings received in these shrines from the pilgrims are not put to use for the developmental activities”, sources further said while disclosing that Board has so far initiated only few developmental works which also includes installation of CCTVs around the shrines and construction of some public utilities.
Beyond this the Shrine Board has contributed nothing tangibly in respect of providing facilities to the pilgrims in commensurate to their number, which otherwise is increasing with every passing year, sources said, adding no step has so far been initiated to provide boarding and lodging facilities to the pilgrims and improve the environment near the shrines.
What to talk of initiating steps to provide all sorts of facilities to the pilgrims, the Shrine Board has even failed to come up with a comprehensive road-map for need-based and futuristic developmental activities and the concerned Government departments particularly PHE, PDD and R&B have yet not shown synergy as far as providing basic amenities to the pilgrims is concerned.
This is notwithstanding the fact that former Deputy Chief Minister and present Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Dr Nirmal Singh while chairing the review meeting of Shrine Board in the month of December 2016 had stressed that various departments should synergize their activities to come up with the developmental plan which would incorporate every sector including PHE, PDD, R&B, boarding and lodging facilities for the pilgrims.
“Even there is no visible progress on the direction regarding acquisition of land around the shrines for construction of facilities for the pilgrims and adequate number of public conveniences on Billawar-Sukrala stretch”, sources informed.
Thereafter, the then Deputy Chief Minister while chairing meeting of Shrine Board in the month of July 2017 had asked for frequent visit of senior officers of all the concerned departments to the shrines and preparing plans for the developmental activities accordingly. However, as per sources, the senior functionaries of the concerned departments rarely visit the shrines what to talk of preparation of developmental plans.
When contacted, Additional Deputy Commissioner Billawar, Joginder Singh Rai confirmed that due to pending litigations no major developmental activities could be started in the areas of these shrines and said, “the comprehensive development depends on early resolution of issues involved in the litigations”.
“The non-serious approach of the Government in resolving the issues behind the litigations and creating much-needed facilities at these shrines has exposed its tall claims about giving necessary boost to religious tourism”, sources remarked, adding “the local people and pilgrims are drawing an impression that the Government is sluggish and not taking interest in achieving the bigger goal behind the establishment of Shrine Board”.