Hall of neglect in heart of city

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By SUMI SUKANYA
  • Published 10.02.11
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Patna, Feb. 9: Shri Krishna Memorial Hall has been serving the purpose of town hall in the city for the past 18 years. But barring once in 2008, it was never renovated. It is a quintessential case of what lack of maintenance can do to an architectural masterpiece.

Popularly known as SK Memorial Hall, it is probably the only place in the capital where about 2,000 people can sit together in an air-conditioned auditorium and watch cultural, political and other events. But the government apathy towards it has reduced the comfort of audience.

According to sources in the divisional commissioner’s office, where one has to book the auditorium, SK Memorial Hall perpetuates the memory of Bihar’s first chief minister Shri Krishna Sinha. The tortoise-shaped building, whose foundation stone was laid in 1963, is considered as a major architectural addition to the state capital post-Independence. With broken bucket chairs, cracks in floor and ceiling, stained walls and overworked air-conditioning system, the auditorium today reflects a miserable picture of a glorious past.

Officials concerned admitted that SK Memorial Hall was a major source of revenue to the government but it had been a victim of negligence.

“The auditorium was thrown open to public in 1993. Since then, we have been seeing 15 events every month in the building. Lakhs of people come to the auditorium. But the government has never sanctioned enough funds for the maintenance and renovation of the hall. Apart from minor repair works and whitewash, major works have never been carried out. The current rate of booking the venue is Rs 44,000 for every six hours,” said a senior official in divisional commissioner’s office.

An employee of the auditorium said the last time the auditorium saw some maintenance works was in 2008 when President Pratibha Patil had come to Patna.

“Prior to her visit to the venue in February 2008, the building was painted and cleaned thoroughly. After that many VIPs, including Prime Minister of Mauritius, have come here but we have not seen any detailed renovation of the auditorium,” he said.

“The chairs, made up of plastic on iron frames, are uncomfortable and handrest of most of them have come off. They were never changed after the auditorium was inaugurated. The wooden walls flanking the main stage from both sides are also in a pathetic condition because political parties and other organisations nail banners and posters on them despite it not being permissible. We often ask them not to do so but they do not listen to us. Also, the sitting capacity of the venue is 1,816 but more than 4,000 people throng the place whenever there is a function and we cannot do anything,” he said.

The employee added that the air-conditioning system of the auditorium had developed a snag over the past few years. “We have been hearing that the system will be changed but when we do not know,” the employee said.

Residents also demanded repair of the auditorium.

“There is no alternative of SK Memorial Hall in the city but its condition is bad. Every time a VIP visits the place, the authorities paint the building from outside but interiors are not taken care of. The government should turn the auditorium into such a beautiful venue that every resident should be proud of it,” said Saloni Chaudhary, a college student.