Amritsar — Mecca for eye surgery
Varinder Walia & Ashok Sethi

Dr Ranbir Singh with his sons Dr Rajbir Singh (2nd R) and Dr Preetam Singh (back) and his grandson Dr Ajay Singh in front of Dr Sohan Singh’s portrait.
Dr Ranbir Singh with his sons Dr Rajbir Singh (2nd R) and Dr Preetam Singh (back) and his grandson Dr Ajay Singh in front of Dr Sohan Singh’s portrait. — Photo by RS

For more than a century Amritsar has produced noted eye surgeons, both form the Royal British Army as well as from our own. The holy city is also called the ‘Mecca’ for treatment of eye ailments’. Textbooks still carry note of ‘Amritsar technique’, for cataract surgery perfected by Col Dr Henry Smith of the Royal British Army.

With the establishment of the Government Medical College in the early 20th century Amritsar came to be regarded as a major medical center in north India. Like Ludhiana is known for hosiery, Aligarh for locks, Ferozabad for glass bangles, Moradabad for brasswork and Surat for diamonds, the city came to known for ophthalmologists, whose pioneering efforts revolutionised inter-ocular lens implant surgery.

After Partition, Ram Lal Eye Hospital was the only institution in north India to offer a post-graduation degree — DOMS and later on MS in ophthalmology. Before the Partition only Stanley Medical College, Madras, offered the degree.

The hospital has produced talented eye surgeons who have rendered pioneering services in prestigious institutions like the AIIMS, Delhi; Maulana Azad, Medical College, Rohtak and the PGI, Chandigarh.

The names include Dr Dhanwant Singh, Dr Sohan Lal Sharma, Dr P. K. Khosla, Dr Inder Bhatia, Dr S. M. Sood, Dr Prem Mehra, Dr Prem Virdi, Dr Pasricha, Dr Kataria, Dr Anil Bhatia, Dr K. D. Singh, Dr Dinesh Sharma, Dr Mohinder Singh (London), Dr Mohinder Singh (Bahrain), besides others.

Gone are the times when eye surgeons had limited services to offer and were known for ‘eye camps’ only, often armed with just a humble torch. Now, ophthalmologists have the state-of-art diagnostic and surgical tools. Many diseases which were untreatable a few years back don’t fall in that category any more.

The list of such stalwarts is long but Dr Tulsi Das is considered the legendary father figure of ophthalmology. He started the famous Ram Lal Eye Hospital as a department for the Government Medical College that eventually played a pivotal role in making the city a major eye centre.

Sardar Partap Singh Kairon, the then Chief Minister, entrusted the responsibility to Dr Tulsi Das for setting up PGI at Chandigarh in 1962.

He became the founder Director of the prestigious institute. He later served on board of the Tribune Trust and then became its president.

He was also the President of the Medical Council of India and the country honoured him with the Padma Bhushan.

Dr Om Parkash of Satyam Netralaya, on the Mall Road, inherited his uncle’s mantle. The cataract unit of his hospital is headed by Dr Rohit Om Parkash, who carries the family tradition forward. The cataract unit is one of the most advanced in the region. Dr Rohit was one of the earliest to introduce phaco-emulsification technique for cataract removal in 1995. Under the watchful patronage of his uncle, Dr Om Parkash, young Dr Rohit became an enthusiastic and quick learner. Dr Om Parkash himself has introduced a new procedure in inter-ocular lens implant through the posterior chamber.

The reigns of Ram Lal Eye and ENT hospital was handed over to another legendary ophthalmologist, Dr Man Singh Nirankari. An eye surgeon of international repute, he had the distinction of producing many promising eye surgeons.

His son Varinder Nirankari followed in his footsteps and became a renowned cornea surgeon in the USA. The nursery of eye surgeons suffered a jolt after Dr Daljit Singh’s resignation. The city has regained glory with the present incumbent, Dr Baljit Singh Dhillon, set to present a paper at Las Vegas, the USA, in November.

There is hardly any eye ailment which cannot find treatment in the city. Dr Daljit Singh transformed the traditional cataract treatment and brought inter-ocular lens implant machinery from the USA under the Rotary International Grant Scheme.

He also took initiative to train young doctors in this procedure and developed a unique system for IOL implant.

The contribution of the family of Sardar Bahadur Sohan Singh is perhaps unparallel. The fifth generation of doctors are continuing and keeping the tradition alive.

Even though cataract surgery is available in all cities yet Amritsar remains the preferred destination. Dr Daljit Singh’s name became synonymous with this particular surgery.

Until recently, patients with cataracts — the gradual clouding of the eye’s lens — had to undergo invasive surgery, followed by several days of in-hospital recovery to correct the disorder.

With steady advances during the past three decades, patients now have to undergo minimally invasive surgery.

In India, lens implantation was introduced by the pioneering efforts of Dr Daljit Singh in 1976. Since then, it has been a roller-coaster.

Through years of sheer hard work and research, he created a system of lens implantation, which was later taken up by other doctors who came to him for training. Dr Daljit Singh in collaboration with renowned ophthalmologist Dr Fugo of the USA invented ‘plasma scalpel’ for glaucoma and cataract surgery. It saved the loss of ocular tissues and could be used for vascular and ENT surgeries.

Dr Daljit Singh’s two sons — Dr Ravijit Singh and Dr Kiranjit Singh — daughters-in-law Dr Indu R. Singh and Dr Seema Kiranjit Singh form a formidable a team of eye surgeons.

Dr Daljit Singh treated noted celebrities late Giani Zail Singh, President of India, late Chaudhary Devi Lal, Deputy Prime Minister and Mr B.N. Pandey, Governor of Orissa.

In collaboration with the Department of Human Genetics in Guru Nanak Dev University, Dr Daljit Singh isolated three new genes that cause congenital cataract.

His crowning glory was restoring vision of 11 children who lost their eyesight in LPG cylinder blast during the Independence Day celebration in Orissa.

Local doctors have strongly advocated for eye donation and have set up special teams for the retrieval of cornea and educating people on the noble cause.

In the old city is the eye hospital founded by Sardar Bahadur Dr Sohan Singh, at a site purchased as a family haveli in 1916.

The hospital is named after Dr Sohan Singh, who was a gifted teacher of ophthalmology and an exceptionally talented eye surgeon, apart from being a philanthropist, educationist, sportsman and connoisseur of music.

The British government conferred the title of Sardar Bahadur and appointed him as an honorary eye surgeon to the Viceroy of India.

His eagerness to see Indian ophthalmology come up to world standards made him travel far and wide to places such as London, Vienna, Berlin and Paris to acquaint himself with the latest advances in the treatment of eye diseases.

He passed away in 1961 and his ophthalmologist son, Dr Ranbir Singh, stepped into the shoes of his illustrious father.

Dr Ranbir Singh received part of his post-graduate training at Moorfield’s Eye Hospital, London, where he concentrated on squint and contact lenses.

He retired as Head, Department of Ophthalmology, Government Medical College, Amritsar, in 1974.

Today at ripe age of 90 he is still active as a consultant.

Dr Ranbir Singh’s two sons, Dr Rajbir Singh and Dr Preetam Singh, are also qualified ophthalmologists.

Elder of the two brothers, Dr Rajbir, joined him in practice in 1978 after completing his training in vitreo-retinal surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, the USA. Dr Preetam joined him full time in 1991 on completion of his specialist training at the prestigious Sankara Nethralaya Eye Hospital in Chennai.

Following the family tradition, Dr Rajbir Singh’s son Dr Ajay Singh, has emerged as a promising ophthalmologist.

He joined the hospital as junior consultant after completing Retina Fellowship at the UCSF.

Dr Rajbir Singh is an avid wood carver and has a little workshop of his own where he enjoys carving beautifully designed and finished models of dainty toys and curios.

Dr Preetam Singh is a keen aviator and linguist. He is equally proficient in spoken and written German. He is also a talented artist and a painter.



Pesticides affecting reproductive health of Punjabis
Ashok Sethi

Dr S. G. Kabra, from the Institute of Health Management Research (IHMR), Jaipur, said Punjab needed to reorient its agriculture based on chemical fertilizers and other hazardous pesticides to avoid a catastrophic health scenario.

Punjab is going through an unprecedented environmental health crisis and according to a survey excessive use of pesticides was affecting the reproductive health of females in the state.

Addressing a seminar at the Pingalwara here recently to create awareness in the public on health issues, Dr Kabra said Punjab had the highest probability of pesticides exposures on a large percentage of its population.

He said it was a well-established fact that growth of cancer was also linked to pesticides, besides other factors.

A recent survey had pointed out high exposure to chemical poisons had a direct impact on the reproductive system of women.

High foetal loss in Punjab was mainly due to spontaneous abortions, miscarriage and stillbirths.

Giving new dimensions to the research, he said high ratio of females babies died during premature births. This study has alarmed the medical fraternity.

The pesticides content in the environment was also affecting the males. Dr Kabra said semen quality deteriorated due to exposure, which also resulted in poor health of babies.

The survey also found a high ratio of neural tube defects (NTD) in Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana.

Lack of nutritious food, requisite and important vitamins led to severe deficiencies in babies, out of such cases 80 per cent were girls.

In other states it could be attributed to poverty but Punjab, which is a rich state, should not face such a problem.

He said the government must set up a high-powered commission to determine the cause and fallout of the excessive exposure to pesticides and chemical fertilizers. 



Oriental Bank to focus on rural areas
Our Correspondent

The Oriental Bank of Commerce has decided to increase its annual funding by more than 30 per cent to boost sagging agriculture in the country.

The Executive Director, Mr Allen C. A. Pereira, said the bank had given agriculture advances of Rs 4,800 crore and expected to increase its lending considerably in next few months.

The bank has over 568 rural branches in the country and more would be added to give thrust to the rural economy.

Earlier, inaugurating three fully-computerised branches in the border belt of the state, Mr Pereira said the bank would give priority loans to small and medium enterprises.

The bank business would achieve a target of Rs 100,000 crore by the end of current financial year.

He inaugurated a special rural credit camp in Gurdaspur district, where 80 beneficiaries, majority of them from the poor sections of the society, were given loans under Oriental Bank Gramin Project. 



Punjab needs policy change
Tribune news Service

Urbanisation and development should go hand-in-hand said Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia, a noted economist and Vice Chairperson, Punjab State Planning Board, at a conference on “Housing and Colonisation” organised here recently by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Dr Ahluwalia, while deliberating on the subject, said Punjab should focus on crop diversification to boost sustainability in agriculture and for this there was need to develop the infrastructure that in turn would raise the value of crops. She said that enhanced agricultural productivity coupled with strategic location, dedicated freight corridor brought to the heart of Punjab has opened up newer domestic markets and several opportunities for exports.



Nandini’s short stories present pain of relationships
P. K. Jaiswar

Steeped in rich tradition of Hindi literature, Nandini Malhotra has come out with a short stories book ‘Ek Haqiqat Ek Afsana’. A collection of 22 stories, the book makes interesting reading, which succeeds in binding the readers through its excellent narration.

The theme of the stories is complex emotional relationships between a man and woman. Nandini has the ability to present them through various vicissitudes manifesting life, its ups and downs, emotional tides, happiness and sorrow and travails of tragedy; that they are not only myths but also part of lives of many people.

Born on August 3, 1968, Nandini Malhotra has taught in the Army School, Amritsar Cantt, for the past 12 years. She has been inspired by great Hindi literary giants and stalwarts, Munshi Prem Chand, Gulshan Nanda, Mahadevi Verma and others, which also shows in her writing. Taking a cue from these literary personalities, Nandini was able to coin her own style to understand human behaviour in the wide spectrum of rainbow colours. The characters of her stories reflect the pain and understand the tragic emotions, through which probably manifest her own confusions.

Launching her career as a writer of serious short stories, Nandini said it was she had been jotting her observations for the past 10 years. She finally dug out stories which she had penned in her dairies and which had been out of sight for years.

Nandini started her formal entry into the world of literature with prompting from the Editor of the Dainik Tribune, Mr Kamlesh Bharti. Her first story ‘Chai Ka Cup’ was published in Dainik Tribune. She said Mr Bharti provided her the right platform for human stories. He later encouraged her to write a book after seeing her talent and writing style.

She tries to portray materialist attitude in the present-day society and relationships due to which human emotions and sensitivity are disappearing. The relationships have confined from ‘I’ to ‘myself’ resulting in the tragic break-up of families and social set-up, she added. Her characters belong to the people, who would find themselves in one of the characters of the stories.

Nandini said her first story in the Hindi Newspaper was the turning point in her career as a writer. Through this book she added that she would like to acknowledge the encouragement received from large number of admirers and fans.

Her short stories and poems were also published in other Hindi newspapers. She takes keen interest in drawing, painting, acting and direction. She has also written an one-act play. 



Divali — time for potters to make money
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

With the approaching festival of Divali about 300 potters of the holy city get busy in preparing ‘divas’ and other items, besides raw material for the ‘anaars’ to be supplied to manufacturers of firecrackers.

This is the only occasion for the potters to make hefty earnings. With the introduction of fridges and water coolers long ago, people don’t use earthen pots to keep drinking water cool.

Tall narrow-necked ‘martabans’ and similar specimens of earthenware have disappeared from Punjab. Only festivals remain when clay pottery is produced.

Earlier small children, especially girls, loved to possess these earthen toys. These traditional earthen toys generally served a two-fold purpose —playthings for children and decoration pieces for adults. Today’s children have plastic and electronic toys and video games.

Potters are also a disappearing tribe.

There was hope when Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav ordered the use of ‘kular’ to serve tea, said Om Parkash, a potter. However, he added that they had to suffer losses on that account too as the vendors at railway station had stopped demanding them.

The popularity of the clay toys is diminishing by the day.

Some miniature dolls in clay, animals and kitchen utensils, roughly coloured with kharia mitti and decorated with motifs in bright colours can be seen sporadically.

Earlier, potters took the clay to make diyas, toys and flower pots from community ponds, but now they have to purchase it, further reducing profits.

The world of these colourful and joyful toys has gradually receded into the background, yielding place to cheap plastic products flooding our markets. The folk objects made by professional potters or toy-makers have no market; so they are giving up their occupation.

Mr Om Parkash said many had left the profession as it had become difficult to make both ends meet. He said even his children were not interested due to low profits and poverty.

The day is not far when the art of pottery would fade away, though some educational institutions having employed them to teach their students the art of pottery to keep it alive.



Hanuman’s blessings and Langoorwala Mela
Tribune News Service

What ‘Durga Pooja’ is to West Bengal and ‘Dandiya’ is to Gujaratis, Langoorwala Mela is to the holy city of Amritsar.

Couples come to the ancient ‘Bara Hanuman Prachin Mandir’ in the famous Durgiana Temple to seek blessings for a male child.

When their wishes are fulfilled they come to pay their thanks and seek blessings during the Langooranwala Mela, held during the navratras.

The mandir has an idol of Lord Hanuman in a sitting posture. The only replica can be seen at Hanuman Garhi Temple, Ayodhya.

Sons born with blessings of the deity, dress as langoors during the mela, according to the mythical of regiment of the monkeys of Hanuman.

Dressed in bright red outfits, embroidered with silver and golden trimmings and motifs, wearing conical caps, faces smeared with fuller’s earth and make up like langoors complete with long tails and silver colored staffs in their hands, they dance to drum beats for all nine days of ‘navratras’ in a procession.

The parents sleep on floor, observe fast, avoid footwear, eat vegetarian food uncut with knife and recites verses from the Ramayana for the entire period. The mela concludes with the Dussehra festival when langoors finally take off their langoor outfits near the banyan tree at the Hanuman Temple and the mothers untie the thread on the ancient tree after the wish fulfillment.

Mrs Sudha Sharma of Haridwar had come here six years ago to participate in a marriage of a relative.

She learnt of the Bara Hanuman Mandir. She made a wish that for her daughter, who already had two daughters, to have a male child.

Now, she had come along with her daughter and son-in law for thanksgiving and to seek blessings.

According to temple sources, thousands have arrived here from far-flung areas in the country and abroad to pay obeisance at the nine-day ‘Langoor-wala Mela’, which began on September 23 at the beginning of navratras.

According to legend, Lord Hanuman was tied to this banayan tree by luv and kush, sons of Lord Ram, when they captured him.

So, couples tie a red thread to the branches of this banyan tree.

Lord Hanuman, according to the epic Ramayana tried to recapture the ‘Ashvamedha’ horse let lose after the ‘Ashwamedh Yajna’ performed by Lord Ram to stake claim on territories wherever this horse set foot. Lord Ram’s twin sons, who lived in exile with their mother Sita, caught the horse.

A temple was built at this place, and tree is said to be as old as the temple itself. 



McDonald to open outlet in holy city
Our Correspondent

The world’s largest fast food chain, McDonald, would launch its maiden restaurant on the outskirts of the holy city. It would be the first ever-international food chain to have its presence here.

McDonald, with 30,000 restaurants in more than 119 countries, would invest about Rs 400 crore to add restaurants over the next three years in India. These outlets would be spread evenly over the non-metro (tier-II) cities and eastern part of the country.

Apart from this, its one franchise would be opened in Celebration Mall that is under construction.  

Mr Vikram Bakshi, Managing Director, McDonald’s India (North), informed that 25 of these outlets would be started in north Indian cities.

McDonald, which began by opening two restaurants in Delhi, has now 93 outlets across the length and breadth of the country. Interestingly, it has entered its 10th year of operation in India with a steady growth rate of 40 per cent compounded annum growth rate. 



DAV International bags overall trophy
Our Correspondent

The local DAV International School bagged the overall trophy at the All-India Mahatma Hans Raj Aryan Youth Festival while Police DAV public school,

Amritsar, and Dr Bhalla DAV School, Batala, finished second and third. As many as 16 schools from all over the state participated in the festival. The school won first positions in 13 competitions.



Don’t shun drug addicts, help them, say experts
Tribune News Service

A seminar on ‘Drug Addiction and Youth in Punjab’ was organised by Guru Nanak Dev University in which experts and social scientists presented a unanimous view that the evil of drugs could only be eradicated with the active participation of the public.

They further opined that drug addiction was a disease and drug addicts should not be considered as social outcasts. Proper counselling and rehabilitation of addicts by experts was the need of the hour, they said.

Dr (Mrs) S. Sanan, Project Coordinator of the Drug-Addiction Centre of Guru Nanak Dev Hospital, said corruption was primarily the privilege of the older generation and much disliked.

It was resented by the young and addiction was affecting the youth of the country. She said students and youth in academic institutions were like uncut and unpolished diamonds and required special care.

Earlier, in his inaugural address, Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jai Rup Singh, termed drug addiction as the biggest enemy of youth. He announced that the report submitted by this university on drug addiction to the Punjab Governor would be published in a book and distributed to all educational and public institutions of the state.

Mr. S.S. Shrivastva, Senior Superintendent of Police, said drug addiction could only be rooted out with the effective cooperation of the society, NGOs and government organisations.

He said police alone could not fight against it. He suggested that the students come forward to identify the addicts and convince them to get rid of the habit, instead of shunning them.

Mr Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh, DIG, Prisons, Central Jail, cautioned youth against the use of drugs and getting involved in criminal activities.



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