Renovation work on Dogra-era town hall in J&K’s Poonch nears completion

Poonch/Jammu, Mar 19 (PTI) Damaged in an earthquake in 2005, the historic town hall — an exquisite building from the Dogra era — is set to return to its glory days with renovation work in the final stages.

The district administration in Poonch took up the renovation of the heritage building at a cost of Rs 1.58 crore last month. The renovated building will retain its original structure and architecture, an official said on Sunday.

The people of Poonch have long been demanding renovation and restoration of the town hall, which had, in recent years, turned into a garbage dump.

“This historical building is located in my ward and soon after becoming a councillor, I started demanding its restoration,” Sunil Sharma, the Poonch Municipal Council chairman, told PTI.

The building is finally getting ready with the support of all members and “we plan to use it for cultural programmes and other small events”, he said.

The renovation work focused on maintaining the building’s original structure and architecture to ensure it attracts tourists, Sharma said.

Built during the Dogra rule, the town hall was used by the Poonch emperor for cultural programmes and religious sermons.

The building served as a food store in the 1950s before being vacated and renovated on the directions of National Conference founder and the-then chief minister Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.

It also served as the municipal council’s headquarters for several years before being declared unsafe following the earthquake.

Imtiaz Salaria, another municipal council member, said the people of Poonch were proud of the building’s history and heritage.

“The town hall is a monument and its restoration is a proud moment for us,” he said, adding it was the fulfilment of the local residents’ long-standing demand.