India is one of the few nations to have a civilization from about 3000 B.C. Interestingly Indians were aware of importance of the nation’s cultural heritage and this had an important impact on successive developments. The earliest Harappa Civilization was around 2500-2000 B.C. Trees/ plants were considered important and to protect them they were given religious values. Around 1200 to 1000 B.C., India had developed art of town planning. Irrigation systems were also developed and were in use.
Different gardens of the country are living examples of how these were very much part of every Indian city even at those times. However any garden requires an extensive maintenance schedule in order to retain its good looks and charms. There are many aspects to maintaining a garden such as weeding, watering and so on. It is important to be knowledgeable about the various tasks in order to complete them in the most efficient manner possible. Garden maintenance has to be done by trained persons who know the perfect art of cutting, pruning and trimming grasses, shrubs and bushes. A possible schedule or a checklist for the various maintenance tasks required in a garden has to be made and maintained. The complete range of tasks related to garden maintenance can be divided into different sections to make the process easier. The lawn is one of the most important parts of any garden. A garden maintenance program remains incomplete without taking care of the lawn and the turf. Maintenance of the lawn includes cutting of the grass to the appropriate level, treating the lawn to ensure its health, top dressing of lawns, aeration of the lawn core, removal of old turf and its replacement, taking care of hedges and flower beds. As they add aesthetic value to the garden along with hedges. However, these two areas require a lot of attention to ensure that they remain attractive. Removal of weeds and their prevention is equally important along with trimming of hedges, weeding the planted areas, implementing pest control and disease control measures, pruning the plants to promote healthy growth, planting and seeding new trees and plants. Other areas of the garden require equal attention like washing/maintaining the paths, driveways and patios of dirt and grime, removal of the dead and dried leaves, clearing up the accumulated rubbish, maintenance of the sprinkler and other water dispersion systems if installed.
But all these things seem to be of little significance in the city of Jammu especially old city. Jammu itself is one of the oldest cities of India with numerous old gardens being developed time to time since its inception. Bag-e Bahu adjacent to Bahu Fort which is a live example of the heritage and is of historical significance for Jammu, constructed on the banks on Tawi River, the ancient fort is believed to be constructed by Raja Bahulochan hundreds of years ago. Within its precincts is a temple dedicated to the Goddess Kali, locally known as the “Bawe Wali Mata Temple” with a special significance during Navrataras as during this time almost whole Jammu along with Shri Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrims throng the temple and Bagh-e-Bahu but are greeted by broken tiles, non functioning fountains filled with stale, filthy, smelling water, liquor bottles lying here and there as if it’s a bar rather than place of religious importance, no worth mentioning restaurant/canteen, it seems as if much touted tourism promotion measures of Jammu are mere slogans only or work is done on papers only to swindle money.
Similarly Mubarak Mandi, officially named as Darbargar garden by Department of Floriculture, has been a treat to eyes for Jammuites not long ago before becoming victim of official apathy by demolition of central chabutra and outer fencing for years together, with practically no one to care of it has turned out to be a dump yard of restoration malba along with construction material, scattered leaves, broken benches, no pipes for watering, parked vehicles, this place has been virtually turned into a ware house rather than a visual treat. Open water tanks built for water for construction of central chabutra along with non functioning fountains are filled with dirty stale water, a perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Once a paradise for morning/evening walkers, much needed playing place for children in the evening with variety of birds chirping from dawn to dusk and though very much part of Smart City project this heritage place is in shambles right now.
Situation of Rani Park is no different, once a much needed beautiful aesthetic green patch in the heart of city conceptualized none other than Governor Shri Jagmohan, this park now is surrounded by permanent side hawkers under the very patronage of authorities with its front being occupied by street vegetable vendors along with stinking toilets just besides fencing. Even a small makeshift mandir has also come up under one of the trees in the park itself, when and how nobody knows. State of adjacent Dewana Mandir Park is no different, surrounded by parking and mandir with cow sheds along its boundary walls, defunct fountain, missing water cooler speaks all about official apathy only.
Yet another latest glaring example of official and political apathy is Peer Kho Park which is very much part of Jammu Cable Car project as it’s the pathway which leads to the cable car complex with Peer Kho Mandir on one side. This park has been inaugurated with much fanfare in 2018 only and exhibited as a major tourist destination within the old city with a fountain (officially named as Lord Shiva Fountain) within it along with a pathway for walking and sheds with benches for tourists as well as locals. But within a year one is greeted with sub standard broken benches, machinery lying here and there, non functional fountain, with weeds, shrubs and wild grass of few feet awaiting the public and anyone venturing out there during late evening can have an encounter with snake or other wild reptiles. If department cannot maintain a year old garden why at first place it has been developed at the expense of tax payers money which could have been utilized to maintain other gardens/parks. Floriculture department assigned with the task to maintain this garden must be held accountable for taking public for a ride.
Another notable park area is Purani Mandi Chowk Park, once a Khokka market and later developed into a park this place has been at receiving end since long. Flanked at both sides by mandirs and front facing Rajput Sabha, first it was developed as park with much needed green patch in the heart of city but later on JMC decided to build a Sulabh Shauchalaya to which locals objected and matter went to court and all the construction material was kept there for years together and in 2016 again this park was converted into a concrete slab with a unfinished fountain and main gate and tons of construction material lying there till now. JMC has practically turned this park into a dumping yard with encroachments from all sides by reharis which has turned this once a much needed treat to eyes as a sore to eyes now in one of the busiest markets of Jammu.
One can imagine if these are the conditions of gardens in main Jammu City itself under the watchful eyes of the different Government departments what will be the ground situation on the outskirts. Department of Floriculture maintains around 1300 kanals of gardens/parks in Jammu District itself at around 174 different places. In addition to their directorate staff they have aroun 150 permanent and 150 casual employees also to maintain these gardens/parks, but keeping in view the condition of various garden/parks one wonders whether these persons are really deployed at earmarked gardens or factually at some other private places. Instead of creating much needed new greener patches administration is just turning a blind eye to these old ones also and as such it’s just devoiding the city much needed green patches to relax and enjoy nature. Half hearted approach to any task has never yielded the desired results and so is the case with Jammu gardens/parks, unless until administration put up some plan in place all claims of development of beautiful places in Jammu to promote tourism are practically mere slogans with no intent, no ground work, practically meant for photo sessions only. Dearth of funds cannot be the sole reason, its intent to develop, maintain and deliver which is missing.