Saturday, August 11, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

R. S. Gill is no more
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 10
Mr R. S. Gill, the doyen of hydro-electric engineering in erstwhile Punjab and father of the former Director-General of Police, Mr KPS Gill, died here early this morning. He was 93.

He was cremated here this afternoon. A large number of bureaucrats, including retired and serving civil servants and police officers, engineers, eminent citizens, leaders of various political parties and others attended the cremation.

Bhai Ashok Singh Bhagrian performed the “ardas” before Mr KPS Gill lit the pyre.

Mr R. S. Gill, who rendered services for the completion of three major hydro-electric of the State — Bhakra Dam, Beas Dam, and Ranjit Sagar Dam — was also the Chairman of the Board of Consultants and Construction, Planning and Equipment Committee of Ranjit Sagar Dam.

Born on April 3, 1908, after graduating in civil engineering from King’s College, University of London , he joined Irrigation Branch in 1943. After partition, he was selected to work as Officer on Special Duty dealing with the sensitive problems of water disputes.

In 1948, he along with seven engineers went to the USA for carrying out the specification, design and drawings of the prestigious Bhakra Dam. He remained actively associated with the project until 1960. He was responsible for the design of the spillway and its appurtenant works. In 1960, he was elevated as Chief Engineer and took over charge of the Beas Dam project, including the Pong Dam and the Beas-Sutlej link. In the same year, he took over as General Manager of Beas Project and Secretary to Government of Punjab.

In 1967, Mr Gill was appointed Chairman of the Punjab State Electricity Board. It was he who introduced the concept of thermal generation.

In 1977, he joined the J&K Government as Commissioner and Secretary. Many hydel projects were executed under his stewardship in the State. After retirement, he continued his contribution towards the engineering profession in various capacities, including as Consultant and as Adviser.

Mr Gill, one of the tallest hydro-electric engineer Punjab has ever produced, also served on the Technical Advisory Committee Salal Hydel Project, Punjab Planning Board; governing council of the Central Water and Power Research Station at Pune; Yamuna Hydro-Electric Project-II; Inter-State Soil Conservation Board of Punjab and Himachal; and member of Board of Consultants, Brahmputra Flood Control Board.

He was a member of the Indus Water Commission team that visited Pakistan in 1972. A widely travelled man, he was member of the Indian delegation to the International Congress on large dams, both in India and in Italy. He visited the USA, Canada, Japan, France, Italy and Switzerland on official assignments.

According to family sources, the bhog and antim ardas will be held on August 18 at the Sector 8 Gurdwara from 1 to 2 p.m.

Meanwhile, the engineers, staff and workers of the Ranjit Sagar Dam project have expressed their deep shock at the demise of Mr R. S. Gill. In a resolution passed at a meeting here today, they described Mr Gill as an eminent engineer who worked tirelessly on the major multipurpose river projects and remained associated with the Ranjit Sagar Dam from the beginning to its completion.


To a grandfather with love
Punam Khaira Sidhu

He was an immaculate dresser, this graduate Civil Engineer from Kings College, London. He lay now calm and serene, at the end of life’s journey, dressed in his favourite suit and tie. His silver beard was neatly tucked into place by his devoted grieving family. His wife Satwant, a doctor, who had nursed him tirelessly in his last days, his daughters Jyoti, Guddi and Nina, their husbands, his sons, KPS Gill and Birendar and their wives and his grandchildren who stood huddled close to the pyre unwilling as it were to let go of the man of steel who had formed the backbone of their family for almost a century. He was 94.

As a young girl preparing for the Civil Services exams I thought I knew all there was about the Punjab river waters dispute. But that was until I had a talk with R.S. Gill. In 1947, as an OSD, he had dealt with the claims of Punjab on Pakistan before the Arbitration Tribunal was set up. The depth of his knowledge, his insights into the politics of the dispute, was a talk I will never forget. It was also a valuable first lesson in the machinations of bureaucracy and politics.

His achievements were prodigious by any standards. He had served as Chairman of the Punjab and J&K State Electricity Boards. He had worked on the Bhakra Dam project, the Beas project for the Pong Dam, the Upper Sind hydel project and the Jhelum hydel project and finally the Ranjit Sagar Dam. He was a consultant with various engineering colleges, IITs and projects as far as Kuwait and Libya.

But above all he was a much loved and respected man both within his family and for those outside like us. After my grandfather passed away, Rachpal Singh Gill was to our family the only grandfather we knew.

If he had to be described in one word it would be the Punjabi word “Syana” and the English word “sterling”. In addition to being wise, he was mature and farsighted. Perhaps that is why whenever anyone had a problem, he or she, consulted him. And he always found time for everyone. He was a stickler for discipline adhering religiously to his schedule. The timing for his meals, his bath, his walk, was strictly implemented. The only other person in my acquaintance who is such a sticker for discipline is Khushwant Singh, another prodigiously talented man. R.S. Gill was also a keen chess player. He was a keen observer of human nature with an unfailing memory for names and details.

The last time we visited him in hospital was when his pacemaker needed a change. He returned from hospital to make a full recovery until the final accident. An almirah under fabrication sat balanced precariously. He was taking a look at it when if fell onto him. He was in pain — multiple fractures including one on the neck of the femur. So back to the PGI it was. For his family who nursed him so lovingly, it was painful to see him suffer.

Yesterday there was an official party. But we were committed to visiting him in hospital. We missed the party to visit him and spend time with him. He held my husband’s hand and told him that he had read about his organisation’s work which was doing a fine job. He remembered my sons’ names and enquired about each of them. When I told him that we would pray for him, he said, “a grandchild’s prayers are always answered but, child, I don’t have the strength to fight this time.” I have never dared hug him when he was well, but I asked if I could hug him there in the hospital bed. “Of course”, he said. So carefully avoiding the tubes and all, I did hug him.

The news came the next morning that he had passed away. At night we were grateful for those precious moments with him. Goodbye Gill Uncle, we’ll miss you. To the grieving family we can only say we all stand with you in your hour of grief for the wonderful man we have all loved and lost.

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