Daily offering at Martyrs' Well is meagre 3.49

Daily offering at Martyrs' Well is meagre 3.49

Daily offering at Martyrs' Well is meagre 3.49
The bloodbath of April 13, 1919 at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar remains unforgettable. That day 98 years ago, troops of British Indian Army under the command of Colonel Reginald Dyer indiscriminately fired 1,650 rounds on innocent civilians who had assembled inside the park.

In 10 minutes after the troops marched in with loaded guns and backup stockpiles of ammunition, andover 1,000 lives were lost. Thousands were wounded. With small children clinging on, mothers, old and young in a desperate attempt to escape gunshots jumped in the deep well inside the park.

 But that didn't help. All died. Bodies were pulled out later. Till date, the well is revered and maintained as Martyrs' Well. The sacrifice was unfathomable and brings along memories of cruelty under the British Raj.

But something appears to be wrong, a palpable disconnect or may be even something more. The Martyrs' Well which has an every day footfall of several thousands of visitors, ironically, gets a meager offering of just Rs 3.49 on an average daily.

It's shocking, but true. That’s the trivial amount collected from the well. Coins and currency notes are often thrown inside the well from the top by visitors to the Martyrs' Well in the park.

 In fact, data collected under the Right to Information Act reveals that in the last 10 years since 2007, the total collections from the well have only been Rs 12,571. Last year, the collection was only Rs 1,167.

This Thursday, four days from now, the nation will observe the 86th martyrdom day of legendary freedom fighters--Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. The three were hanged 11 hours ahead of schedule on March 23.

The massacre at the Jallianwala Bagh left early deep impressions on the mind of Bhagat Singh. He was just 12 years old, a student at the DAV School in Lahore, when he learnt about the brutal killings. It is documented that Bhagat Singh went to the park, collected its soil in a bottle and kept it at home as a souvenir of sorts. That inspired him all the time.

But the facts revealed under the RTI by activist P C Sharma seek answers. The recent donation of gold ornaments worth Rs 5.5 crore made by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao at the Tirumala Tirupati trust that manages the revered Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh, comes in complete contrast. That was tax payers' money.

The Martyrs' Well may not be a place of worship, but has lived as a symbol no less momentous. Many Hindu temples and Sikh shrines are flooded with money and gold as offerings. The trust managing the Tirupati temple recorded a whopping nearly Rs 900 crore in its kitty last year. The temple is said to have gold reserves and 52 tonnes of golden ornaments.

The venerable Golden Temple in Amritsar has an average daily footfall of over one lakh devotees. Hundreds of crores are collected each year in offerings from people at the Sikh shrine which has an annual budget of nearly Rs 1,000 crore managed by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee (SGPC). The Mata Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu reportedly has 1.2 tonnes of gold in reserves.

For those who have visited the Jallianwala Bagh, which is adjacent to the Golden Temple, and strolled in the aisles in the park, know how the place fills you with a deep sense of patriotism. It takes you back to the days of the freedom struggle and reminds visitors of the colossal human casualties in attaining independence.

Bullet marks still wound the walls that take you straight to the Martyrs' Well. There’s more. Majority of the offerings at the Martyr’s Well have been in the currency denominations of Re one or Rs two coins only.

In the last one decade, only five currency notes of Rs 10 and eight coins of Rs 10 have been taken out of the well. It is very hard to believe as it amounts to Rs 130 only in 10 years.

Advocate and RTI activist Sharma smells a rat. He says it's an insult to martyrs of the country. Sharma believes the collection is far more than what has been revealed. He says there are close to 20,000 people who visit the Jallianwala Bagh every day. As per his estimates, the monthly collection should be in excess of Rs 50,000 which is not the case. So is the Martyrs' Well ridden with corruption? Sharma feels a probe will unearth much of it.

Spokesperson of the Jallianwala Bagh Martyr Families Committee Nainesh Behal echoed similar sentiment. He said he knows for a fact that people open their heart and wallets at the Martyrs' Well. He maintained that a committee, with public representatives on board, be constituted to look into the controversy and submit a report in public interest.

In January, Rajya Sabha MP Shwait Malik sought the resignation of leaders from the management committee of the Jallianwala Bagh after saying that the Bagh was in a dismal state.

Highlighting his point, the MP had said that even the light and sound show with a voiceover by actor Amitabh Bachchan had been lying unused for the past four years. Eyebrows were  raised at the lack of maintenance of the park. The MP announced a grant of Rs 10 lakh for the maintenance and upkeep of the Jallianwala Bagh.

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