For the first time in six decades, probably since its construction, the Civil Secretariat building Srinagar gets exterior white washing, giving it a new look different from the original one inaugurated by third Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad.
Talking to The Typewriter, a senior bureaucrat wishing anonymity informed that the work of white washing has been started and as of now half of the façade of the building has been whitewashed.
“The originality of the building has been lost. I do not know what was in the mind of those at the helm of affairs for taking this decision of changing colour of the building,” said bureaucrat, adding that the cemented look of building could have been preserved, even if there were some ‘leakage’, as he overheard in the secretariat.
Popularly known as the new Secretariat building, it was constructed at Shaheed Ganj locality in 1961, after space in the old secretariat on the banks of river Jehlum was felt inadequate.
As per available records, the foundation stone of this new secretariat building was laid by the third prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir Bakshi Ghulam Mohd on 15th June 1961. P N Wanchoo (then Chief engineer J&K R&B) was incharge of the execution of the project entrusted to M/S Asian Building Corporation.
The sanitary work for this building was entrusted to a Srinagar based firm M/S Bhasker Nath Raina and sons.
“About 400 labourers were engaged in the construction work and it was completed in April 1963. The new Secretariat was completed at a cost of Rs 51 Lakhs,” reads the record, adding that the building provides a floor area of about 140000 Sq ft.
A post office, Telephone Exchange and a cafeteria were also provided for the convenience of employees inside the building. A full-fledged branch of Jammu and Kashmir Bank is also operational in the premises. The secretariat building set the trend of using cement in exteriors ideally not suited and confirming with the environment of Kashmir.
“The place where the Secretariat building has come up was used to be known as Usman Zenana Park or Gole Bagh. This Park extended up to present Jahangir Chowk including the area falling under New High Court Premises,” reads Chinar Shade, a blogger.
The building was inaugurated on 3rd of May 1963 and finally occupied on 6th of May 1963 when offices moved from Jammu to Srinagar.
“This Civil Secretariat building consumed Usman Zanana Park in its steel and cement concrete. The sign board, the lush green area with cypress and weeping willows and the activities related to Red Cross Day celebrations are fresh in my memory spectrum. All government schools would join with Meena Bazar and excellent food courts. Music, drill, dance and other activities would mark the occasion with a prize distribution ceremony,” maintained Prof. Night Hafiz, as quoted by Chinar Shade.
Last time, Civil Secretariat, Srinagar was in news over removal of the flag of erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019.
On 25th of August 2019, the Jammu and Kashmir State flag was taken off the Civil Secretariat building in Srinagar and replaced with the tricolour more than a fortnight after the Centre scrapped special status of the state by modifying Article 370 and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories.
The flag, which was hoisted along with the tricolour every day atop the Civil Secretariat, was supposed to be removed on October 31 when the law bifurcating Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories will come into effect.
While taking to The Typewriter, Subash Chibber, Director Estates said that this is a routine matter.
“Since it’s an old building, such repairs and renovation are important,” said Chander, adding that last year also they polished the building to make it look better.