CHAKWAL: The Kallar Kahar Museum remains yet to be opened to the public, three years after it has been completed.
Some of the few employees hired for the museum have long left after they were not paid their salaries by the Punjab Archaeology Department from June of last year onwards.
The artefacts and other items in the museum, including fossils from 50 million years ago, are at risk of damage and being stolen as there is no one to look after them, while the Punjab government has made no indications of announcing vacancies at the museum.
The establishment of the Kallar Kahar Museum was announced by the Punjab government in 2008 when it realised, albeit later than it should have, that one was needed in Chakwal, especially for preserving dinosaur fossils, and those of other animals, that were found in the area.
Other than the main building, the museum was to have three additional galleries and a two-story hostel. The project was scheduled to be completed by 2009 and was estimated to cost Rs15 million.
Work on the project was stopped shortly after it began when water spurted out from where the hostel was to be built. The building department, without informing the Punjab Archaeology Department, changed the location for the hostel and built a two-storey building.
The archaeology department was in for a surprise when they made a visit to the site and found a two-storey hostel built on a different location, now barring the historic Takht-e-Babri out of sight. The second storey of the hostel was then demolished to correct this.
The revised project was then awarded to another contractor in 2009 who promised to complete work in a year but could not because of an unavailability of funds.
In 2011, the project was included in the Chief Minister Development Programme and was finally completed in 2012, three years after it was supposed to at a cost of Rs17 million instead of the afore estimated Rs15 million.
Without permanent staff, there is no one to look after artefacts and fossils, including dinosaur bones found in Chakwal
The archaeology department was given control of the building and because of a shortage of funds; the department could not inaugurate the building, or even put in cases in the galleries or recruit staff.
The remaining work was completed in 2013 and instead of appointing staff on a permanent basis; the archaeology department hired a curator and six other staff on a contract of six months in April 2014.
Since then, employees have been coming in for their duties at the museum but have not been paid since June 2015.
The curator of the museum, Shoaib Alam, has not been paid since March of last year.
An employee of the museum said: “Life has become so much harder and I am living from hand to mouth. Before I joined here, I could at least bring in some money home after a hard day’s work.”
Another employee said: “I am now living off money loaned from family and friends.”
Two employees have left their jobs when they could no longer afford to maintain their families.
“They don’t pay us regularly, salaries come very irregularly,” an employee said.
A deputy director at the Punjab Archaeology Department, Mohammad Afzal Khan, told Dawn that the museum staff will be paid soon.
“We have to seek an extension for the project every year which is why salaries could not be released after the project expired in June last year. Its extension from June 2015 to December 2015 has been approved and we have sought a further extension till June 2016,” he explained.
In reply to a question about hiring permanent staff, he said a feasibility report had been prepared which will likely be approved next month.
“Without permanent staff, we cannot open the staff to the public because it will pose security risks,” he said, adding that after permanent staff was employed, the artefacts discovered in Chakwal will be placed in the museum.
Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2016