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All India Radio cum DD Tower in Amritsar may never be finished

PUNJAB NEWS EXPRESS | May 14, 2021 11:19 AM

By Harjap Singh Aujla
I am a civil engineer ever curious to observe and study the construction of uncommon types of structures. The first tall structure I observed being built was the 100 meter high steel television tower at village Basarke Gillan in Suburban Amritsar. Meant for government TV, It was the third of its kind in India after Delhi and Mumbai DD towers.

It is now being used by DD and private Amritsar based radio channels. Its construction started in 1972 and was completed in 1973. The second was the television cum radio tower at village Khurla Kingra in Jalandhar, this 200 meter high reinforced cement concrete tower took more than 2 years to build. The third was 250 meter high DD Tower at Pitampura in Delhi. It took three years to build.

The only structure, which refuses to be complete is the 300 meters high steel frame All India Radio cum DD Tower at village Gharinda on the Amritsar – Lahore G.T. Road in Amritsar. This tower was once completed in 2013, but the DD authorities refused to accept its completion. It has taken the longest time in the history of towers in India and yet it is deemed incomplete. A minor tilt in its vertical alignment in the upper portion, which could have been ignored, became the reason of its rejection, resulting in wastage of precious time and money.

I can roughly recreate the timeline of its construction. The foundation work started in late 2006. The fabrication work on the 300 meter high steel frame super-structure started in 2007. The contractor worked very slowly and finished the job in 2013. In the construction phase no one from DD or Prasar Bharati seems to have inspected the quality of work. I have been visiting India from the USA in every winter and visiting this site, but I never saw a DD or Prasar Bharati engineer at the site and the watchman never told me of any visitation by the technical staff.

The Director general of All India Radio Mr. Fayyaz Sheheryar on one of my visits to his office in Akashvani Bhawan New Delhi told me that the completed structure is slightly bent in its upper reaches and as such cannot be accepted. The new government took over in May of 2014 and after a couple of years of discussions started constructing a stay wires supported 100 meter high tower near it in 2017 and the AIR transmitting antenna was transferred to it in September of 2018 and commissioned. After that all of a sudden in 2020, another contractor started dismantling the presumed to be the bent portion. By now virtually a year more has elapsed, the dismantled portion has not been rebuilt, nor the work on its reconstruction has started. The staff members at the site were promising start of work in March 2021, but no work has started.

I am pained to admit that this tower is one of the biggest shames of the Government of India. Fifteen years have passed since its construction started. When it will be completed no one knows?. The cost of original structure was nearly Rs. 17 crores, out of which probably 14 crores was paid to the contractor. Another 1 to 2 crores were spent on the construction of temporary tower near it. I don’t know the cost of the new dismantling work and re-construction work, it must be several crores of rupees. Practically this is the most wasteful project of Prasar Bharati. Its importance to the nation cannot be underestimated

Lahore is the second largest city of Pakistan, with over one crore population and Amritsar is East Punjab’s second largest and politically most important city. Lahore is also the only mega-city of Pakistan within the FM reach of All India Radio. Radio Pakistan Lahore armed with three medium-wave and three FM transmitters can talk regularly to Amritsar and it is doing so, but when Amritsar will be able to talk back as effectively to Lahore, no one knows for sure. With a 100 kilometer range of the 300 meter high tower, India was hoping to cover 35 million population in Pakistan, including the entire pre-1947 Lahore division consisting of huge sized districts of Gujjranwala, Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Lahore, Gurdaspur and Amritsar. In addition to covering 3.5 crore population in Pakistan, it would have covered additional 1 crore in India in the present districts of Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Tarntaran, Ferozepur and Kapurthala minus Phagwara sub-division.

In better times, the All India Radio Amritsar would have become an instrument of peace and friendship between Pakistan and India. It could have played the choicest Punjabi and Urdu music from India and Pakistan. But during the conflicts, India could use this radio station to rebut the propaganda unleashed by Radio Pakistan. Ultimately it could have its own studio complex and become a multi-channel radio station like those of the largest cities of India.

But so far due to a long period of neglect, this project has disappointed the people of Punjab. It presently covers less than 1 crore population in Pakistan, where as it could cover 3.5 crores. To me it appears that for want of a God father, this project is facing hurdle after hurdle at every stage. Who creates these hurdles can be a good guess?

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