No Mini-Secretariat At Batamaloo, Says Govt

by Fahd Khan

SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir government has shelved the plan to build the much hyped mini-secretariat at Batamaloo’s erstwhile Bus Adda even after a Detailed Project Report was compiled and the foundation stone laid by the previous PDP-BJP government.

A Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) official said the plan for constructing a mini secretariat at Batamaloo no longer exists now. “SDA and SMC (Srinagar Municipal Corporation) will explore Batamaloo Bus Adda for some other commercial project.”

He said the decision of shelving the mini-secretariat project was taken in a meeting of the Board of Directors of SDA.

The foundation stone of the mini-secretariat at Batamaloo was laid by former chief minister Mehbooba Mufi in 2018 on the death anniversary of her father and PDP founder Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. The project was aimed at bringing four dozen odd government offices, scattered across Srinagar, under one roof for the ease of common man.

The Rs 100 crore project was spread over 114 Kanals of land and was slated to be completed in two phases. The Planning and Development Department had then also compiled and released a Detailed Project Report amounting to Rs 49.93 crore for the first phase under which 32 office spaces, 80 staff rooms, 32 staff halls and two meeting halls were to be built. The mini secretariat also would have had basement parking, food courts, waiting rooms, round-the-clock banking facility and elevators.

When completed, the mini secretariat was to host around 50 departments under one roof so that people could avail of all the government’s services at one place. However, four years on, the former Bus Adda is in shambles with piles of garbage dumped at the site.

Batamaloo, one of the busiest areas in the heart of Srinagar, had been known for this famed Bus Adda which was shifted to Parimpora in 2017 following the Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s order to reduce the traffic flow in the city.

With scores of commuters from across Kashmir boarding and de-boarding at the Bus Adda before shifting, the flea market inside used to witness a huge rush of rural shopaholics. The market offered everything from jewellery items to readymade garments along with housing restaurants.

The order to move the 62-year-old Batamaloo Bus Stand had witnessed resentment from traders, street vendors and commuters. While the latter were concerned about traveling to Parimpora to catch their ride home, the former two were worried about the dip in their businesses.

Today, while the mini-secretariat has been shelved, the shopkeepers inside the Bus Stand are facing huge losses.

A small tea stall owner said, “We are around 420 shopkeepers here. The bus stand was our only source of income. People from rural areas used to shop from here but now there are hardly any people. We are in financial crisis, unable to repay rent.”

He said that the government should shift back the bus stand to return the glory of the place.

Another shopkeeper said, “The plan of relocating bus stand failed miserably. Now the passenger has to the bear more expenses to reach Srinagar. It is not only the shopkeepers who are suffering but also the commuters. We are in distress; Our children are suffering as we can’t pay their school fee”

“The Regional Transport Corporation’s own big sized buses are still plying from Batamaloo. Does that not cause traffic jam?”

Mudasir Bashir, President Bus Stand Srinagar said, “The bus stand houses 1300 vehicles including light passenger vehicles, buses and minibuses. Our business has been hampered; people usually ask this question whether a bus or sumo is going to Batamaloo or Parimpora.”

He said the government has neglected them always. “District Administration Srinagar and the Regional Transport Office TO Srinagar had assured us all the facilities here but nothing has been done”

He said the Bus Stand was relocated from Batamaloo on the pretext of making way for the mini-secretariat which hasn’t been built either leaving one wondrous about the reason for the decision.

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