Shimla, May 18
After the announcement of the BJP that fifty thousand people physically will attend the Prime Minister’s address on eight years of NDA government in Shimla, concerns about the location of such a mammoth rally have caught attention. Though officials of the State government and PMO reportedly are already speculating on the location, keeping the options as Ridge or Annandale ground, the debate has now reached the public domain.
The Ridge maidan, which is currently being speculated as the venue for this event, may not be the ideal place state citizens and opposition party members of Shimla. Firstly, they argue that the Ridge may not have a holding capacity of 50 thousand people. Secondly, the Ridge is an endangered landmark of Shimla, which multiple governments (s) have been trying to conserve for the last ten years. Thirdly, if the program is held here, the Ridge, Mall Road and the approach road will be sealed in view of the security. The route by which the PM will reach the venue will also be sealed. Due to this, there will be lot of trouble in the movement of common people. Moreover, after two years of strict COVID restrictions, Shimla has this year jumped back, wherein a flourishing tourist season is underway. And, due to this peak tourism time, the city is already reeling with traffic jams, water scarcity, etc. The Prime Minister’s visit to Ridge will only double such woes because of the security protocols.
“Prime Minister of India, Narinder Modi, who has always mainly focused on public addresses to deliver his word, will get a bigger audience if he chooses the Annandale ground of Shimla,” feels S.K Sharma, a senior journalist of the city.
Usually, on their visit to Shimla, most leaders have addressed the Nation from the Ridge maidan. However, the Ridge has limited space and cannot accommodate more than 8 to 10000 people. Whereas the Annandale ground, which rests with the Indian Army, is much larger and can accommodate around 50000 people, who might want to become witnesses to the PM Modi’s address that day, he added.
Similar views have been shared by opposition party members too. “We welcome the PM to Shimla, stated Sanjay Chauhan, Former Mayor of Shimla city and CPI(M) member. However, his visit should not disturb the routine of the small town, he added. Chauhan also agrees that the Annandale ground would be a more appropriate place to make a public address viz a viz the Ridge maidan.
Moreover, in the program, along with the Prime Minister, many senior ministers of the Union Cabinet will attend the function. The arrangement of seating the honourable people in the open hall of the Takka bench on the ridge ground is also no less than a challenge for the government, he added.
The former Mayor, here also sighted a letter written to PM Modi in 2017. Then the PM was scheduled to deliver a public address in Shimla. Tikender, the then Deputy Mayor of Shimla had informed the PM about the danger which the heritage ridge is facing, as one side of this man-made Ridge has been sliding and water tanks below double the threat. Serious efforts to repair the same have been going on since 2012.
“Then the State government and PMO ignored it, perhaps now they should rethink again,” commented the former Mayor.
Sanjeev Bhushan, a senior advocate, stated, “On the one hand, the Ridge is told to be in danger and a strenuous exercise for its repair is being undertaken. On the other hand, a mammoth gathering for the PM’s address is being planned. Would it not increase the danger further,” questioned the lawer.
Here it is pertinent to mention that not even a year before, when the President of India visited Shimla, and he had changed his schedule to keep the city running smoothly. Not only that he had cancelled his few visits but also understanding the situation of the infrastructural choked Shimla city, President Ramnath Kovind left his security protocol, to reach the Mall road/ ridge, and interacted with the commuters.