Whose baby is Jammu’s ‘Balidan Stambh’ the Pillar of Sacrifice?

A view of Balidan Stambh in Jammu on Wednesday.
A view of Balidan Stambh in Jammu on Wednesday.

JAMMU, Sept 15:

Constructed in the year 2008-09, named as ‘Balidan Stambh’?the Pillar of Sacrifice ‘dedicated to martyrs’, who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty for the pride of the country is craving for attention because the monument has no permanent caretaker.
Whose baby is the Balidan Stambh situated in the heart of the Jammu City? A brain child of the Indian Army, the monument could have been a world class asset from tourism viewpoint but unfortunately, no clarity yet prevails on its caretaker that has left it on the mercy of the God, said a retired Army official.
He says, astonishing, asset dedicated to our bravehearts is wanting for its maintenance. Perhaps, the administration, tourism department and other stakeholders should have voluntarily come forward and made this monument a prominent destination and promoted it all over the country.
Brigadier (retd) Anil Gupta revealed that it is a foundation of the then Chief of Army Staff, Gen N C Vij. Gen Vij during his visit to Jammu had asked for a place to construct the memorial that should be visible from every part of the Jammu city, said Brig Gupta sharing the idea of initiative taken by the Indian Army.
The site and the design finally approved and the construction started in the year 2003-04 and in 2008-09, it was ready, he disclosed. Brig Gupta said many important measures and decisions were taken to promote this place with regard to tourism, adding Army has to take care of it while roads and other facilities had to be taken by the administration before handing it over to the Tourism Department but it could not materalise.
Army presently organizes band shows and other events at the venue. Rather, it should have been a center of attraction. It is a historical monument, said the former Army officer.
Another Army officer said the then Army Chief NC Vij, who is also a resident of Jammu, had decided to build a sacrifice pillar.
He had also laid the foundation of the pillar. The army had got it constructed and handed over to the tourism department of Jammu and Kashmir Government, so that this place can become famous among tourists visiting Jammu, he said.
The officer said the then Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, inaugurated the sacrifice pillar on November 24, 2009 and announced to take it from the army, but till date it is not clear who has the responsibility of its maintenance.
Director, Department of Tourism, Jammu, Mr Vivekananda Rai said, this can be a good spot for the tourists. We are looking into how it can be made operational and what steps can be taken to promote it on a larger scale so that more tourists can be attracted.?
The mention of Balidan Stambh is also made on the official website of Department of Jammu Tourism in its heritage and monuments section. Deputy Commissioner, Jammu, Anshul Garg when contacted, said, Jammu Municipal Corporation had desired to look after this monument.
Recently we held discussions on this with the JMC officials and the Mayor Jammu following which written correspondence also started. JMC is looking after Smart City Project and they have also shown interest in maintaining this asset, said the District Administrative Officer, further adding that a comprehensive plan is being prepared on how it can be maintained and taken care of besides its promotion so that the asset can be utilised.
Soon the ongoing deliberations will be formalised and ‘Balidan Stambh’ will become the center of attraction, Garg said. However, Jammu Mayor, Chander Mohan Gupta said that the matter has already been taken up with the Army authorities.
We have taken up the matter with the Indian Army and are planning a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which is in the pipeline and hopefully it will soon be done so that this monument is maintained, acknowledged and promoted all over the country, said the Mayor.
The country’s first of its kind, sixty meters high in the shape of a soldier’s gun, the names of 4877 martyrs are inscribed on 52 pillars around the country, who died defending the motherland in five wars with Pakistan and China. Some of the pillars are dedicated to 543 soldiers who were martyred in the Kargil War. Of these martyrs, 71 were from different districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
The pillar was constructed at a cost of Rs 13 crores. Due to lack of maintenance, the sacrificial pillar is in shambles. The flame keeps on burning. The locals have also rued the government’s apathy towards the monument terming it ‘disrespect’ to our martyrs, said Sham Chander, a shopkeeper near the pillar site. Presently, the spot has no entry without permission (only on special occasions) for a common and cops of Jammu and Kashmir are manning its security at the entrance. (UNI)