Gateway to shehr-e-khaas: How tourist attraction became an accident site

By Nusrat Sidiq
SRINAGAR: Babul Iqbal, the proposed gateway to capital Srinagar’s historic old parts, known as Shahr-r-Khaas or downtown, is craving for completion six years after the work began on the project. The project initiated by the previous Omar Abdullah led National Conference government in 2011 at Baba Demb locality in Khanyar constituency was part of the beautification plan of Brari Nambal lagoon. The project was sanctioned a whopping amount of Rs 1.20 crore and introduced by the then rural development minister and Khanyar legislator Ali Muhammad Sagar to become a milestone in the capital city. The mammoth gateway was projected to be completed by 2013.
“The construction work is very slow. The workers work for few days and then they don’t show up for months together,” Arif Majeed, a local resident said.
The residents lament that instead of becoming an attraction for the locals, the incomplete gateway has turned into a cynosure.  Over the past four years, the unattended and unfinished pillars of the gateway and the abandoned work material have caused several road accidents.
“Every week one or two accidents take place at this site. Last April, two motorbike borne youth died on spot while colliding with a tipper in the evening. At least 40-50 accidents have taken place on this spot so far,” the locals rued.
“The foundation of this gate was laid to separate civil lines area of the city from Shehr-e-Khas, the historic part of the city.  The gateway was projected to be an added for the tourists who were interested in rich heritage of Shehr-e-khas,” said Abdul Qayoom Naqash, a resident of Baba Demb.
The city gate project involves many departments including tourism, SMC, LAWDA, R&B and the UEED. The construction of the gateway was exclusively entrusted to the Municipal Corporation
Nazir Ahmed, Executive Engineer of SMC admitted that the project has not been completed within the stipulated time.  “The gateway was to be completed in two years but due to delay in funds, the construction work suffered. We hope that the flow of funds would enable us to complete the project by this year,” Ahmad said.