Claims and counter claims have been made regarding the violation of a court order that had stayed the construction of the Orange Line Metro Train Project near 11 heritage sites. It has been reported in the media that the contractor has started work on the project near Chauburji, one of the protected heritage sites but government representatives claim that they are committed to following the court order. Since the start of the Orange Train Project, it has been embroiled in problems. The Punjab government embarked on the project without proper planning. That is the reason it is proving to be a great nuisance instead of a relief initiative. This arbitrary style of work prompted the judiciary to intervene and issue a stay order against the construction work for the OMT project within 200 feet of 11 heritage buildings along its route. Though the court has used its legal prerogative, the suspension of work on such a mega-project on which huge public funds have already been spent is another debatable subject. A middle way needs to be agreed upon to avoid maximum financial losses.
The fact that a court order has halted the construction is a manifestation of shortsightedness on the part of the Punjab government. Putting the cart before the horse, the Punjab government started the project without addressing the reservations of citizens and environmental experts. Before a mega-project is initiated it is important to take into account the dynamics of various factors like land acquisition, drafting of an efficacious design keeping in view the overall character of the city, safety of heritage sites and implementation methodology. There is no disagreement on the construction of modern mass transit infrastructure, but it should be done after preparing a fault-free design that does not result in becoming a burden on the citizens or the economy. Instead of constructing development projects in a haphazard manner, the Punjab government needs to adopt a sensible approach, give an ear to the advice of experts, and refrain from following the whims of an individual, no matter how powerful.
The Punjab government needs to understand that its partisan approach is not in the interests of the country. Keeping in view political considerations, the Punjab rulers are bent upon completing the project at any cost before the next general elections, which is a politically expedient, hurried approach. Continuing development at the cost of culture, heritage and other national assets while putting aside technically more feasible solutions is lamentable. The Punjab government needs to take civil society, UNESCO and other stakeholders on board prior to launching any development project/scheme. It is also hoped that necessary measures will be taken to address the genuine concerns of citizens and experts regarding the faults in the project, and find a proper solution so that the multi-billion project is completed without further controversies. *