Implementation of Master Plan for historic Mubarak Mandi complex still a distant dream

Govt finding it difficult to arrange Rs 523 cr for project
Ongoing work fails to get impetus despite Guv’s directions

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Sept 22: The implementation of comprehensive Master Plan prepared for historic Mubarak Mandi complex after long drawn exercise is still a distant dream as Government is finding it difficult to arrange Rs 523 crore required for conservation work and adaptive re-use of the palace within the projected time-frame of five years.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that last year it was decided that a comprehensive Master Plan should be prepared through a reputed consultancy firm so as to lay focus on each and every building in the historic complex from conservation point of view.
Accordingly, a Project Management Consultancy (PMC) was engaged and after long drawn exercise a comprehensive Master Plan was prepared and submitted to the Mubarak Mandi Heritage Society for approval of the Government. Thereafter, the Master Plan was forwarded to the Tourism Department for further necessary action as its end.
In the Master Plan, the PMC, which has been engaged for five years, has suggested measures for restoration of the entire complex as well as its reuse. The PMC has projected requirement of Rs 523.28 crore for both the activities within the time-frame of five years, sources informed.
The then Governor N N Vohra was given presentation on Master Plan and requirement of funds during the District Development Board meeting of Jammu district held on July 26, 2018. On August 20, 2018, Mr Vohra, while expressing dissatisfaction over the pace of work on the historic Mubarak Mandi complex, asked the Secretary to Government, Tourism Department to urgently review every aspect of the project and send his recommendations to the Chief Secretary within seven days.
“Though Tourism Secretary after detailed examination of the Master Plan made some suggestions to the Chief Secretary as desired by the then Governor yet implementation of Master Plan is still a distant dream as Government is finding it difficult to arrange Rs 523.28 crore for the historic complex’s complete conservation”, sources said.
They further said, “after detailed deliberations it has now been decided to approach Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for Rs 523.28 crore financial assistance so as to take up Mubarak Mandi conservation work on large scale without compromising on the quality and original architecture”.
However, sources expressed inability to specify the time-frame for making formal request to the JICA through Government of India. “Moreover, it is not known whether JICA will consider the request of the Government for such a huge financial assistance”, they added.
“Due to this nobody knows when the restoration work of Mubarak Mandi complex will get necessary impetus”, sources said while disclosing that at present work is only going on Royal Court building and central courtyard, which was damaged due to mismanagement besides some beautification works are being executed by the Floriculture Department in consultation with Mubarak Mandi Heritage Society.
They further said that there was no perceptible change in pace of ongoing work in the complex even after numerous directions from the Governor and senior functionaries in the administration.
“It is pity that even after serious concern over pace of work from the then Governor N N Vohra the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has failed to gear up its activities”, sources regretted, adding “even manpower engaged for the ongoing work has not been increased following directions from the former Governor”.
When contacted, Secretary to Government Tourism Department Rigzin Samphel confirmed that Government has planned to approach JICA for Rs 523 crore aid. He, however, claimed that present pace of work on the complex has now been geared up.
It is pertinent to mention here that on July 12, 2018 EXCELSIOR had exclusively reported that the concern for the Mubarak Mandi complex, a dying sheen of Dogra dynasty, has remained confined to the cursory visits by the bureaucrats as restoration work has yet not picked up the required momentum, which otherwise is imperative to prevent further damage to the already crumbling heritage.
Moreover, Governing Body of the Mubarak Mandi Heritage Society, which is supposed to take all vital decisions vis-à-vis restoration of this historic complex, has not met during the past nearly two years.