Saturday, September 21, 2002, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Zinda dance a show of exploitation
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

HEIGHT OF EXCITEMENT: Visitors to Chhapar Mela enjoy rides on the second day of the mela on Friday. — photo Pradeep Tewari

Chhapar (Ludhiana), September 20
Even as the dancing girls performing the controversial zinda dance continues to remain the main crowd-puller in the historic Chhapar Mela and provides huge profits to the organisers, the dancing girls call their profession an unremovable curse thrusted on them by their past generations.

Their life story is akin to what is heard about the exploitation of dancing girls in metropolis cities like Mumbai. A conversation of few minutes only brings to your mind the tragic portrayal of a bar girl by Tabu in the acclaimed movie Chandni Bar, who tries her level best to get her children out of this muck but is helpless.

Such shows which have become a must in the Chhapar mela every year sadly bring to the fore that there are hundreds of such characters in the rich state of Punjab also, for whom Zinda dance is the only avocation for generations. A profession taught and forced on them by there own mothers, who claim that it is less shameful than begging on the roads or dying of starvation.

Every year Chapar Mela gets extensive media and public attention. Pictures of the girls dancing before males, most of them of their grandfathers’ age or of their younger brothers , are splashed but the life story of the girls remain hidden. The tale of their exploitation continues. Anybody who tries to meet them at the show has to face the stern opposition by the organisers of the show or of burly bodyguards of the girls. A team of Ludhiana Tribune met many such girls today at the mela, huddled together in a corner of the tent where a stage is set for them to dance. Smell of cheap cosmetics and perfumes filled the already suffocating chamber where they were all getting dressed up for the show that pulls hundreds of men of all ages and colours.

Their life is like a hair-raising tale which smacks of poverty, sheer exploitation and a feeling of remorse. Many have tried to get out of it but they are stuck in the vicious circle, where only the death can rescue them.

‘‘I am paid Rs 500 for 24 hours a day. I have to dance like a machine round the clock, in front of all men who are gaping at me and passing all sorts of comments on me. But what can I do ? I have no other option,’’ says a girl while fitting into a small cloth in the name of a skirt.

‘‘We have to wear these scanty clothes. Otherwise nobody would come. We all know that they don’t come to listen to our songs but to watch us semi-nude.’’ said a 16-year old adding, ‘‘I was brought into this profession by my own mother...........’’. Before she could complete the sentence her mother rushed in,‘‘I had lost my husband when she (her daughter) was just three. I was not educated so could not earn anything. All my relatives turned their back to me. So I met a group of dancing girls and started going with them. I danced for 10 years. Now she is 16 and earning more than I was. I taught her dancing and dressing up. She is a favourite with the organisers.’’

Another woman, who was in her late 30s, was applying make up on her daughter’s face. When she was asked why did she force her daughter into this profession, she blamed it on her husband, ‘‘Her father does not do anything. He sits at home. I had started dancing for money. I am growing old now and my daughter has to do it to run the family.’’

‘‘You know males? Their sense of possession is finished when there is a question of easy money,’’ she added very bitterly. ‘‘I don’t know whether somebody would marry her or not. I started it after marriage. I hope she would find a husband who would take her out of this muck,’’ said this mother in a whispering tone even as the loudspeakers in the tent blurted at the top of their voice.

Even though the girls said that they were not getting more than Rs 500 per day for dancing during which they had to change their dresses ‘thousands times’, an organiser, Kholu Ram Lalka, who claimed to be a former Municipal Councillor of Mandi Ahmedgarh claimed that he paid them Rs 5,000 a day. ‘‘I treat them like my own daughters,’’ he immediately replied to a question that what did he think about these girls. But when he was asked why did he need to make them dance in the scanty clothes if he considered them their daughters, the man asserted, ‘‘It is my business. But their relationship with me is as pious as with my own daughters.’’

The Tribune team caught up with a man, visibly a septuagenarian, supporting a flowing grey beard, who was seen sitting in the show to know his opinion, ‘‘I pray to God that all such people vanish from the earth. They have made this place a miserable one. I have never been there,’’ he said and disappeared from the scene in no minutes.


National awardees showcase their craft
Asha Ahuja

Mangat Ram
Mr Mangat Ram, who received National Award for his work in lac and decorations on ‘charkha’. 

Rajinder Parsad
Mr Rajinder Parsad, a National Award winner, holding his masterpiece made of sandal wood.

Ludhiana, September 20
Finest craftsmen from all over India have arrived to showcase the magic, and traditional values of their craft. Among them are many national and state awardees displaying their unique craft for which they were awarded. Ludhiana Tribune spoke to three National Award winners and one state awardee on the intricacies of their craft.

Rajinder Prasad’s fingers carve intricate designs on ‘sandal wood’ just like artisans carrying out ‘filigree work’ in silver. Rajinder says,” This type of sandal wood carving is called ‘under cutting’ work”. His family has been into making artifacts, jewellery from sandal wood since generations. He does not have the conscious knowledge when he picked up the tools and started carving. The 4-inch piece in his hand with under cutting is unique to his family. They carve out an elephant through the holes and fashion the ‘Ambari elephant and a king and queen riding it’.

Rajinder adds,” I had made a similar piece in ivory years ago. (ivory was not banned during those days) Giani Zail Singh, had said that he had not seen anything so exquisite in his life though as President of India he had seen numerous masterpieces of craftsmen. I got the National Award for best craftsman in 1984. The Government of India signed a treaty with Tunisia to exchange the artisans so that both countries could benefit from each others’ craft. I went to Tunisia for a period of six months to teach my skill. The people liked my craft so much that they got my stay extended.”

Rajinder belongs to Bandwal in Haryana. He is teaching this craft to his son and nephew so that the family tradition does not become extinct. He buys sandal wood from Delhi though it comes from forests of Karnatka. Mangat Ram and Raj Kumari are both National Award winners. Raj Kumari earned this recognition in 1973 for painting a dome in Harminder Sahib. Her husband, Mangat Ram, received this award in 1986 for the intricate mirror work done on a ‘charka’. They say,” Not only we make lac bangles in hundred myriad designs using natural vegetable colours to give mind boggling variety in different shades but also fashion beautiful artifacts like vases with small glass pieces and embellished with tiny beads.’

The lac grows on trees and generally they get it from Delhi and Bihar. Lac is washed after removing the wax and melted with the colour they want. On heating, the lac becomes very pliable and can be given a shape of their choice. Raj Kumari said,” These days bangles and ‘kadas’ made of lac are in fashion , so we have a good sale. We also have ‘kundan’ work with stones on lac. After shaping the ornament, we put a thin sheet of silver and colour it. The work requires a great deal of patience. Throughout the entire day, we are able to make about 60 bangles.

Mangat Ram feels that he should pass his art to others. For this purpose he has opened a training centre for girls and boys.

Mr Prem is a state awardee and Kala Nidhi Award has been bestowed on him in 1995. He specialises in weaving bamboo in Phulkari style. He says,” I keep trying out new methods of weaving in jute too. I have participated in many ‘crafts mela’. But I am a dejected crafts man as I find a lot of admirers but very few buyers. NZCC is doing a commendable job by providing a good platform for artisans. But it is not enough, public ought to be more supportive. The same persons who would not bargain in shops, often ask for things at reduced rates which we do not think is fair at all.”


13 panchayats deny police-smuggler nexus
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 20
The allegation of police-bootleggers nexus, as made in a resolution by the panchayat of Kot Umra village, seems to have taken a beating with the panchayats of 13 nearby villages passing a joint resolution to express solidarity with the Jagraon police and condemning the Kot Umra panchayat for passing a ‘politically-motivated’ resolution.

A copy of the joint resolution passed by the panchayats of these villages states that the resolution adopted by Kot Umra village is politically motivated as sarpanch Balraj Singh is an Akali leader and he wants to settle a score with police officials. The resolution has been signed by 13 sarpanches.

The joint resolution condemns the allegation that several women of the village were helping smugglers. Mr Balraj Singh had claimed that it was common to see women involved in bootlegging and drinking liquor.

Mr Major Singh, sarpanch of Bhainirain village, acting as a spokesperson for the panchayats of 13 villages, said they were shocked to know about the resolution as it portrayed the womenfolk in bad light. He claimed there had been a decrease in incidences of liquor smuggling in the region in the past two months.

Kot Umra village has been witnessing an unprecedented police and public attention ever since Ludhiana Tribune reported about the passing of the resolution. Apart from visits by Jagraon police officials, CID has also gathered information from the village and sent it to the government. A state-level officer is also inquiring into the allegations.

An investigation conducted by the Jagraon SSP, Mr Mukhwinder Singh Cheena, also hints at that there was a political angle behind the passing of the resolution. While sarpanch Balraj Singh has been sticking to his guns, other panchayat members have reportedly washed their hands of the resolution. They have claimed that the sarpanch had passed the resolution on his own and briefed about it to the media.

Mr Cheena said, according to his investigation, sarpanch Balraj Singh had allegedly filed false affidavits through a person for his personal gains.

Mr Balraj Singh had claimed before the media that through that resolution the village panchayat wanted to shake the state government out of its slumber. He had said that the brewing and smuggling of liquor had assumed alarming proportions in the villages coming under the Bhundri police post due to the active support by the police.

He had claimed that several women had also joined the smuggling bandwagon as it had become quite a lucrative job. Several widows had also joined the profession.

Talking about the involvement of the police, the village panchayat had said that the police got free supply of the best liquor from smugglers.

The resolution further stated that the smugglers had been pressurising women of the village to join the profession. The villagers had complained to the officials at the Bhundri police post about one such incident recently, but no action had been taken so far, it had claimed.


Honesty is still alive
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 20
A DMCH doctor, Mr Raman Sachdeva, has proved that honesty was still alive. He found Rs one lakh from a roadside but without succumbing to any temptation, he returned it to the rightful owner through the city police.

Police sources revealed that policemen at the Sarabha Nagar were taken by surprise yesterday when Dr Sachdeva informed them that he had found Rs one lakh lying on the Mall road near a bank. The doctor handed over the money to the DSP, Mr R.S. Parmar. Later, it was found that the money belonged to the owners of Sarvpriya Autos Ltd.

The owners were delighted to know about the recovery of their lost money. They told the police that they had gone to the bank to deposit the amount, but Rs one lakh fell from the bag.

They, however, will get the money after getting clearance from the Deputy Commissioner and the Senior Superintendent of Police.

Dr Sachdeva, an M.S. in the Department of Orthopaedics in the Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, said he could not take something which did not belong to him.


Govt committed to provide more amenities
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 20
The Punjab Minister for Local Bodies, Choudhry Jagjit Singh, today affirmed the commitment of the Congress government, headed by Captain Amarinder Singh for accelerated and planned growth of towns and cities and to make available better civic amenities to all sections of the people.

Addressing a news conference in the office of the City Mayor in the MC headquarters here during his first official visit since the new civic body came into being, the minister maintained that urban development was among the top priorities of the government. “We wish to provide facilities like water supply, sewerage, better roads and street lights to cent per cent population of the towns and cities and for development works, including those related to infrastructure development. Funds will not be a constraint.”

He said the government had made adequate provision for required funds for the local bodies and the first installment of Rs 15 crore was distributed among urban local bodies for different kinds of development works recently. As a part of the development grant, he presented a bank draft for Rs 2.59 crore to the local MC, which was received by the City Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, and the MC Commissioner Mr S.K. Sharma.

In a special word of commendation for the MC administration here, Choudhry Jagjit Singh expressed his satisfaction that the civic body was surplus in funds, which was a rare distinction. “The MC administration had not only cleared its old liabilities worth around Rs 18 crore and had cash reserve of more than Rs 6 crore, the major development works and special projects estimated to cost Rs 109 crore are under various stages of completion.”

He disclosed that all the four Mayors of the Municipal Corporations in Punjab, namely Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Pataiala, accompanied by the Principal Secretary, Local Government and Director, Local Bodies, Punjab, were proceeding on a study tour of China, Thailand and Bangkok to see the state of civic amenities and civic administration in these countries. The expenses of the 10-day trip would be borne by Housing and urban Development Corporation (HUDCO).

The minister assailed the Union Government for its failure to announce MSP of paddy and further alleged that it was out of a well thought out conspiracy between the NDA government at the Centre and its ally in Punjab, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), that the MSP had not been announced even when paddy had started arriving in mandis. The centre was out to embarrass the Congress government in Punjab and SAD-B was a part of the conspiracy to harass the farmers.

He said the state government had much earlier impressed upon the Union Government to direct the procurement agencies to enter the market by Sept 21 and to announce the MSP by that date but no heed was paid to our pleas. According to latest reports, the Central procurement agency would start its operation by Oct 1 but in the intervening period almost 30 lakh tonnes of paddy would have arrived in the market and the farmers would be left at the mercy of the traders and the middlemen.

Later, the minister addressed a meeting of the civic officials and also interacted councillors in an informal meeting.


Pherurai case

Ludhiana, September 20
Pressure by the Jagraon police on commission agents in Raikot proved fruitful today when two persons handed over some cash and vehicles allegedly belonging to former SSP Gurcharan Singh Pherurai to the Jagraon police.

Sadhu Singh, a farmer deposited Rs 5.50 lakh with the police. The farmer deposited the amount at the Raikot police station and said it was given to him by the former SSP through an arhtiya, who is a Congress leader also.

The second person was Harcharan Singh of Pherurai village who handed over a tractor and a Gypsy to the police. He stated that the accused cop had given it to him to keep it for him. TNS


Badal goes on Chhapar rally promotion spree
Our Correspondent

Sahnewal, September 20
Mr Parkash Singh Badal, former Chief Minister yesterday visited Sahnewal to urge Akali workers to gear themselves up for the forthcoming Akali conference at Chhappar on September 21.

The SAD chief exhorted party leaders and workers to make the rally a grand success.

Addressing a gathering at Gurdwara Reru Sahib, he said,” Every government tries to assert itself in the most positive manner after coming to power. But for the first time, a party, after coming to power has tarnished its own image by its anti-farmer, anti-employee, anti-trader and anti-industrialist policies.”

He urged the Akalis to forget their petty interests and fight against the hate campaign launched by the Congress government. He said, “The Congress government cannot dampen our spirits. We are ready to fight against every injustice”.

“ People are now repenting for their decision to bring the Congress to power six months ago, he said. He asked the Akali leaders and workers to make the party stronger by planning future strategies.

“Farmers will have to suffer more as paddy is ready for sale but the MSP was yet to be fixed . If Capt Amarinder Singh does not solve these problems the farming community well suffer,” he added.

The meeting was also addressed by Baba Jagroop Singh, circle president, Jathedar Gurmail Singh Sangowal, member SGPC, Jathedar Santa Singh Umaidpuri, former chairman Market Committee, Sahnewal, Jathedar Pal Singh Grewal , former chairman , Mr Hakam Singh Giaspura, former chairman, Mr Tejinder Singh Sahnewal, president SAD (Rural), Jathedar Ajit Singh Sahibana, general secretary, Mr Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, president, Youth Wing SAD, Mr Jagdish Singh Garcha, MLA, Mr Amarjit Singh Bhatia, vice-president, Jathedar Jagdev Singh Tajpuri, former minister, Mr Jagjiwan Pal Singh Gill, Akali leader, Jathedar Dya Singh, district Jathedar and Mr Amrik Singh Aliwal, former MP.

Among others who were present also included Mr Pawan Kumar Tinku, Mandal president , BJP, Thekedar Ajmer Singh Bhagpur, Mr Charan Singh Aalamgir, Mr Mann Singh Garcha, Mr Harminder Sandhu and Mr Jora Singh Duri.


Self-employment scheme
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 20
A self-employment scheme, launched by the Union Government during 1993-94 for the unemployed youth, had made much headway since its inception. The nodal agency under the scheme, District Industries Centre (DIC), had been instrumental in providing employment to 1,008 unemployed youth in the last financial year.

During the current year, under this scheme, out of 232 sanctioned cases, 150 candidates were imparted training for their respective self employment project. While distributing certificates to the trainees at the District Industries Centre here, Mr R.P. Sandhu, Joint Director, PMRY, advised the candidates to maintain discipline, punctuality and to work hard to remain successful in their life.

Mr Harbans Singh, General Manager, DIC, assured to provide every possible help to the candidates during the process of getting loan from the banks. He said the R&D Centre for Bicycle and Sewing Machines provided training to the beneficiaries at the Quality Marking Centre here. Mr A.S. Sidhu, deputy manager, focussed on the salient features of the scheme.


Social organisations hold meeting
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 20
A special meeting of leaders of various religious and social organisations of the city was held at Valmik Brahmalya in Kila Mohalla under the chairmanship of Dr D.P. Khosla, patron of the main Dalit organisation of the city.

Dr Khosla said the local corporation had given a contract worth Rs 22.25 lakh to M/s Gill Associate during the tenure of a former councillor, Mr Suneel Mehra, for the beautification of the Daresi Ground. The money was sanctioned for erecting a boundary wall, for fixing the grills on the walls and gates, for constructing footpaths and for installing fountains in every park and planting the saplings of decorative plants.

Mr Khosla further said 70 per cent work was finished at the time of Mr Mehra. The Municipal Corporation had spent Rs 22 to 25 lakh on the beautification of the ground so far. Mr Khosla alleged that a sum of Rs 3 lakh only had been given by the Ram Lila Committee for organising Dusehra festival. The people would not allow the committee do so as they want a park near their localities.

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