Saturday, December 17, 2005

Stamped Impressions

Modelled for growth

Gurdev Singh Gill
Gurdev Singh Gill

Gurdev Singh Gill, founder member of the Indo-Canadian Friendship Society, is again back from Canada and this time with a kitty of $100,000. This founder member along with friends like Raghubir Bassi, former Vice-Chancellor of Alaska University, USA, have been credited with transforming and modernising two villages in the state. Kharaudi and Brahampur are now considered model villages of Punjab.

Gill now intends improving the lot of four new villages of Punjab — Dingranyan in Nawanshahr district, Jian in Hoshiarpur district, Jandiala and Langeri in Mahalpur district.

What the government failed to do even 58 years after Independence, Gill and his friends did in just three years. What started initially as the love for their village — Kharaudi in Hoshiarpur district — has now turned into a social cause. All the NRIs belonging to Kharaudi had collected $50,000 for the uplift of this village.

Gill and Bassi, with the help of professional NRIs, laid a sewer system in Kharaudi. They gave sewer connections to all 250 houses of the village. Besides this, a sewage water treatment plant was installed; the roads of the village were metalled; solar streetlights were erected throughout the village; an English medium school was set up; and a computer centre was opened. In short, Kharaudi witnessed a radical change.

Kharaudi further shot into fame when the President of India expressed his desire to visit the village. Soon, many NRIs all over the world started getting in touch with Gill and expressed their desire to replicate the Kharaudi model in their villages too. Motivated by the response, Gill took it upon himself to bring changes in the village of another NRI, Anant Pal Singh. This village was Brahampur in Ludhiana district.

Today, Brahampur, too, has sewerage, metalled roads, solar streetlights and computers in the village school. In addition, Anant Pal Singh offered that the villagers, if they so desired, could have a Chile lookalike — where each house is painted in a different colour. So Anant Pal Singh gave free paint to the villagers and the entire Brahampur was not only cleaned but also painted in a variety of colours.

Gill had migrated to Canada in 1949 after his matriculation. He did medicine from University of British Columbia in 1957, and became the first Indian to pass MD from the same university. For the next 40 years, he served as a doctor in Canada. Along with his practice, he remained involved in social causes. He became the first Canadian of Indian origin to receive the ‘Order of British Columbia’ in 1990 for community service. He was also decorated with a Commemorative Medal on the golden jubilee of Queen Elizabeth-II’s coronation in 2003.

At present, Gill is serving as the President of the Indo-Canadian Friendship Society of British Columbia, involved in village improvement projects in Punjab. He is also the Vice-President of the Village Life Improvement Foundation, Chandigarh.

Gill discloses, “A French Canadian John Leferbve has donated $100,000 for the use of improvement of life in villages of Punjab. John, in fact, himself tried to improve the life of villagers but gave up because of the corrupt practices in India. I do not blame him as we too faced similar hassles. For Kharaudi, we covered the entire village with one-third of the cost being projected by government officials. Thankfully, the Punjab Government gave us matching funds without forcing us to join hands with the officials. In the case of Brahampur, Capt Amarinder Singh personally brought the cheque of matching grant to the village.”

About the four new villages that Gill is now going to work on, he said, “Dingranyan in Nawanshahr is the ancestral village of Herb Dhaliwal, an MP in Canada. There are 90 houses in it and since Dhaliwal has himself donated $30,000 for the improvement in his village, we shall immediately begin work there. Jian in Hoshiarpur has 250 houses, while Jandiala and Langeri have 110 and 195 houses, respectively. We propose to replicate the experiment of Kharaudi and Brahampur in these four villages.”