Tuesday, May 16, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Punjabi getting its due

IN his article “Punjabi not getting its due at university” (The Tribune, April 24) Dr Amrik Singh has talked about the past performance of Punjabi University in respect of its basic mandate — promotion of Punjabi.

He has pointed out that there is something disquieting about the way the university has gone about identifying and promoting talent in Punjabi. Further he has observed that “A university has no business to exist unless it can identify talent and do everything possible to encourage it”. In addition to that he has used more harsh words here and there in this article.

To me, it seems Dr Amrik Singh does not possess full information about the sincere efforts made by the university in identifying and promoting talent in Punjabi. Therefore, it has become imperative to place the facts before the readers.

In this regard, for the general information of the readers and people who feel concerned about the development and promotion of Punjabi, it is quite important to know that for its necessary development, the language, which has attained official status and is to be used as a medium of instruction at all levels in the field of education, needs “basic material” which includes an encyclopaedia monolingual and bilingual dictionaries, subject dictionaries, technical terminologies related to various fields, reference and descriptive grammar, spelling reforms for the purpose of standardisation, graded text books and manuals for professionals, glossaries relating to different occupations and creative literature of a high standard.

Punjabi university from its very inception has been quite conscious about its responsibility. It has been producing “basic material” for which it has been mandated. It is important to note that around 650 books have been published by the university in the past seven years (1993-1999) mainly related to “basic material”. The university is well known all over the country for its publications of a quite high standard. The annual sale of books is about 32 lakhs. These books are sold on subsidised rates. This is done under language planning and the best available talent is attracted to do the job.

Dr Amrik Singh has resented that the university did not do justice to Prof G.S. Talib, Prof Harbans Singh, Prof Harbhajan Singh and a known novelist, Prof Gurdial Singh.

In this connection I would like to say that Professor Talib, in addition to his literary works, produced at the instance of Punjabi University an excellent translation of Guru Granth Sahib into English, which introduced it to the English reading world. It is his distinct contribution. During the preparation of this grand work the university provided all sorts of facilities to him, including handsome financial assistance. To confer an honorary doctorate degree for an admirable translation, without getting proper feedback, which needs time, is a matter of judgement.

Prof Harbans Singh edited the Encyclopaedia of Sikhism in four volumes and that too in English. The first volume was completed before I took over as Vice-Chancellor in May, 1993, but it was released in August the same year by the then President of India, Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma, at Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi. The rest three volumes were completed during my tenure (1993-99). The fourth and last volume was released by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in April, 1999.

Prof Harbans Singh for the last nine years before his death was unable to move owing to a severe paralytic attack. He was alone since his son and daughter had settled in the USA. One need not mention here the facilities the university provided to him till his death, which were, in my opinion, far better than conferring an honorary doctorate. The university went a step further. In recognition of his contribution and his devotion to the job, the department was named after him.

No doubt, Punjabi University could not offer professorship to Dr Harbhajan Singh and he was appointed Professor of Punjabi at Delhi University. He is known for his contributions towards the development of the Punjabi language. To recognise his service I placed his case before the Syndicate of the university which awarded him life fellowship and also conferred on him an honorary doctorate. Perhaps Dr Amrik Singh is not aware of these facts. There are certain other decisions also which were taken to promote Punjabi but these cannot be given in detail here.

Now we take up the case of Dr Gurdial Singh. He is a known creative writer of Punjabi. He was a lecturer in a government college. The university, recognising his contributions and talent, appointed him Professor at the university campus, Bathinda. After his retirement he was reemployed for a period of two years. After the expiry of his re-employment period Dr Amrik Singh recommended his case for a fellowship. Owing to some reasons, which I need not mention here, a fellowship could not be awarded at that time. But I am sure my successor or some one else at a later stage is bound to offer a fellowship to Prof Gurdial Singh. There is no escape from it. But it is very difficult to act and produce positive results.

Former Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi university


Burning of Army ammunition

It is correct to mention (“Bharatpur Blaze”, May 6) that the burning of ammunition dumps in the Army is an annual ritual, in the month of April. The authorities conveniently and without winking an eyelid blame such happenings on natural calamities or explain that this happened due to shortcircuit. A court of enquiry is a legal necessity and a formality to write off such losses rather than to bring the guilty to book. An enquiry by an officer of the rank of Major-General in the present Bharatpur ammunition dump fire case is nothing but a cover-up to write off the losses and to save the guilty from harassment or punishment.

In 1978, there was a similar type of fire in April at an ammunition depot near Naraingarh. Despite the fact that there were 70-odd officers and more than 1000 soldiers present at that place within an hour of the fire, only four or five officers and about a 100 soldiers actively participated in extinguishing the fire. They were not only able to extinguish the fire but also managed to save tonnes of ammunition by showing determination. It may be pertinent to point out that most of the officers who did not participate in extinguishing the fire had taken shelter in the Guards Room, next to the entrance gate. Even the remaining soldiers stood as mere spectators outside the ammunition dump fence. The officers and men who had risked their lives were neither considered for any citation or bravery award.

During the court of enquiry it was revealed that there was an illicit distillery functioning in the ammunition depot. If this aspect had been revealed by the then presiding officer of the court of enquiry the Brigade Commander would have never become a Lieutenant-General, and the Lieutenant-Colonel, the Officer Commanding of the unit responsible for the safety of ammunition depot, would have never become a Brigadier. Therefore, an enquiry by an independent agency is the only way to know the truth and to prevent the command influence.

Lieut-Col G. S.Ghuman (retd)

Wrong couplet

This has a reference to the letter by Mr Tara Chand of Ambota (Una) published in the Editor’s Mail column of The Tribune on May 3.

I agree with him that the Chief Minister asserts his authority well. All the same. I have to point out that the correct wording of the original Urdu couplet referred to by him is as follows:

Bahut shor sunte the pehlu men dil ka

Jo cheera to ik qatra-e-khoon nikla

It is not “Jo cheera to ik qatra khoon bhi na nikla” as it appears in the letter.

Chambaghat (Solan)


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