Will PADT decree act against the eyesores?

Raghab Sharma

January 28, 2020

8 MIN READ

Will PADT decree act against the eyesores?

The numerous temples, shrines and rest houses for pilgrims have been endangered by reckless activities of people. (Photo: Khabarhub)

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KATHMANDU: Citing the encroachment and the frequent concern from the heritage sites regulating authority, Pashupatinath Area Development Trust (PADT) has given directives to evacuate the places encroached by the vendors of various types last week.

The decree, third in the series, is expected to offer relief to the pedestrians strolling around the Pashupatinath temple by making the area free from makeshift shops.

The decree from PADT had set the deadline of one week which ended on Sunday.

PADT has asked all parties encroaching the land or area more than the original structure occupied.

“Any structure not in accord with the standards set by the Trust are subject to demolish,” the Trust says.

However, Narottam Vaidya, former Treasurer of Pashupatinath Area Development Trust sees the crooked intent of the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation in the decree. Linking the case with the livelihood of the makeshift stall owners, he claims the decision will bring more than 200 families to the street.

“Provided they are not demolished within the deadline, they shall be demolished by the Trust itself,” the PADT diktat says.

Due to the negligence of the authority and encroachment from various activities of the vendors, the glorious holy site of tutelary deity of all Hindus is on the verge of losing its cultural and spiritual value.

The numerous temples, shrines, rest houses for pilgrims and ascetics, well, open spaces, gardens and forests have been endangered by reckless activities of the people.

The areas to be affected by PADT the decree

The diktat issued by the Fund says that the vendors at the main roads, pavements, courtyard, open spaces, gardens, small shops in the Kailash Area, Mrigasthali, Gorakhnath Area, Ban Ganesh area have not only turned the eyesores for the visitors, the pollution they cause and the disturbance they create to the pilgrims and the pedestrians have caused adverse effect in the holy area itself.

Rishav Pandey, Kaski who was heading towards Pashupatinath from Guheswori was shocked to see the mess there.

“The holy site I dreamt of is like a stadium after the conclusion of the big program,” a pilgrim that day expressed his dissatisfaction with the way it all worked, “The holiness, the sense of peace and solitude, the spiritual quest the visitors expect here are destroyed by the rubbish everywhere.”

However, Narottam Vaidya, former Treasurer of Pashupatinath Area Development Trust sees the crooked intent of the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation in the decree. Linking the case with the livelihood of the makeshift stall owners, he claims the decision will bring more than 200 families to the street.

“It’s not good to deprive the people earning their livelihood selling flowers and offerings at Pashupatinath when they have got the permission to do so by applying formally,” Vaidya says, “ instead of demolishing the makeshifts, the government should go for managing such places so that the convenience of the pilgrims and visitors won’t be neglected.”

Asking people to be more judgmental on the issue he defends the decision of letting the vendors with flowers and offerings run their business by saying it is for the convenience of the pilgrims.

The former treasurer of PADT, Vaidya feels foul at the intention of the government and says, “The decree is meant to dismiss the executive members of PADT as they raised concern at the unwise influence of the Tourism Minister.” Vaidya remembered how the incumbent minister had given the verdict like playing national anthem in Sandhya Aarati at Aryaghat.

 Pitiable Cultural Heritage Site

Criticized both ways by the public as the null organization and by the government as hyper-reactive organization, the UNESCO claims to have been keenly observing the changes taking place in the Pashupatinath Area.

Although being a Party to the World Heritage Convention, it is regarded as joining hands to protect and cherish the natural and cultural heritage and also to express a shared commitment to preserving the legacy for future generations, neither the construction work in Pashupatinath area nor the management of the area itself has shown any accountability towards such commitments.

It is true that being a State Party to the Convention and getting the site inscribed on the World Heritage List, Nepal has succeeded in drawing the attention of many pilgrims and culture lovers. However, the reckless activities carried out in the name of reform are imperiling these glorious heritage sites.

Construction or renovation?

PADT is criticized for its lack of sincerity especially in the reconstruction works initiated by it. Earlier on a hearing filed to halt the construction work, the Supreme Court had issued an order to stop the ongoing construction works on the premises of Pashupatinath Temple.

The public interest litigation lodged by advocate Deepak Bikram Mishra had argued that the ongoing construction works have been hampering the environment and ecology of the area and have devalued the dignity of the glorious site enlisted in UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Unfortunately, despite the order to ‘halt’ the ongoing construction activities, PADT continued the construction.

The Trust has blatantly used PCC binding construction materials composed of cement in the 170-meter pavement leading to Bishworup temple from the main walkway through the Sleshmantak jungle.

PADT has been defending the activities saying the construction of the road would make the movement of the pilgrims and pedestrians easier.

After the widespread criticism of the public, the department of archaeology had issued an order to PADT asking it to remove the recently undertaken construction activities, but they also could not alter the adamant decision of the authority.

It is regrettable that the Trust assigned to safeguard the glorious historical and cultural sites are showing sheer negligence towards their prime duty of conserving or renovation the sites in their ‘natural’ form.

Pashupatinath Area Development Trust: A tiger sans claws, sans teeth

 Established with the objective of safeguarding Pashupatinath a center of reverence and a holy place for Hindu pilgrims since time immemorial seems like an aging tiger sans claws, sans teeth.

The clauses in the Pashupatinath Area Development Trust Act 1987 mention PADT’s objective to safeguard, maintain and develop the area and also to work to maintain protect and promote objects or sites of ancient, historical, religious, cultural and national importance, movable and immovable assets of the Lord Pashupatinath and natural heritages in the Pashupatinath area.

The PADT mandated to make ‘improvements in the holy site of pilgrimage as practicable in a planned manner and develop it as a site of international pilgrimage for the convenience of all Hindu devotees within and outside the country and of tourists’ has failed to act independently many times in the past.

Whether the campaign to free the area from these unmanaged shops and stalls and the warning to ‘demolish the stalls’ comes into effect this time will be seen in a few days from now.

The public wants the convenience, beauty, and glory of the holy site restored.

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