Breaking free from shackles
As 200 inmates of the Amritsar Central Jail embrace books, Sanjay Bumbroo and Ashok Sethi write on the new wave of enlightenment that is set to transform their lives
The reforms set in motion in the Amritsar Central Jail have borne fruits as over 200 jail inmates, including hardcore prisoners and women, have joined various courses offered by Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and Guru Nanak Dev University (GND varsity), which has established distance education centre this year.
Brainchild behind the reforms DIG (Jails) Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh says education is a vital instrument for correcting various convicts and those hauled up in jails.
He points out that Project Education is part of the multi-pronged strategies adopted for the reformation in the jail here, which has now been designated as Sudhar Ghar.
Enunciating his priorities for changes to be brought about in the jail administration, the DIG says prisoners are part of the society and it is their responsibility to help them become part of the main stream.
The objective behind the project is to utilise time of prisoners and develop positive and constructive thinking in them.
He feels that it is small but significant endeavour to imbibe creativity in the minds of criminals.
He says these activities are not only helpful in imparting education to prisoners but have proved as an important medium to manage stress.
This will in turn enable them to contribute positively towards society.
A library has been set up for prisoners with books donated by the community, he adds.
A school has been established on the premises after renovation of the existing infrastructure, where educated prisoners have been inducted as faculty members.
“It is a project for prisoners, by the prisoners and of the prisoners.”
The Principal of the centre is a prisoner with Master’s of Science degree and PhD.
Faculty members are amongst the educated ones, most of whom are graduates and post-graduates.
Coordinators and assistant coordinators have been nominated amongst prisoners at each level.
The project has been segregated into different departments.
1) Faculty of Higher Education: This faculty organises preparatory and refresher classes for students who are pursuing for BA, MA, Giani, MBA and other post-graduate diploma courses.
2) Faculty of continuing education: In this faculty prisoners who want to pursue Classes X and XII are provided basic guidance and refresher classes.
3) Faculty of Languages: In this basic knowledge of various languages - Punjabi, Hindi, and English - is imparted. Many students are pursuing English-speaking course.
4) Faculty of Computers: A special literary campaign has been launched for all illiterate inmates, he adds. This will go a long way in providing education to all at the most elementary level so that no one remains without basic knowledge.
Creating computer literate
With a view to imparting vocational education, a full-fledged computer teaching centre, initially meant for jail inmates to provide basic learner’s course, has been set up with the help of some computer-literate prisoners and computers donated by various NGOs.
The GND varsity has set up its education centre on the jail premises to impart vocational training free of cost to prisoners. Currently, certificate courses in computer basics, Electronics and TV Maintenance, and Dress Designing Cutting and Tailoring (for women) are being offered in the centre.
In the second phase, courses in carpentry and fabric painting are likely to be added. The duration of these courses is six months.
This centre is affiliated with and managed by the Department of Adult Continuing Education and Extension.
The university has made provisions in the annual budget for this purpose.
It is noteworthy that many of the officers, including the Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent are also pursuing various courses, especially Certificate Course in Human Rights.
To encourage community participation, a project supported by the community has been undertaken wherein people willingly come forward to donate books, stationery and other study material.
The India Vision Foundation is playing a key role in supporting this project. Some of the prisoners are also supporting the project by donating books, computer sets and other materials.
A new chapter in the ongoing reform process was added when the present incumbent decided to start a quarterly newsletter, “Momentum”, replete with detailed information about the jail activities and various facets of development.
The magazine received accolades from people from various walks of life, including a former retired bureaucrat N.S. Rattan.
In his personal note to the DIG, he complemented the latter for reaching out to people through this medium, which would bring home events and happenings in the confines of the jail.
In his editorial note, the DIG felt that the process of learning, performing and reforming had been initiated, which had received acceptance not only by the inmates but by various NGOs and welfare organisations that had been coming forward with material help to uplift the lives of the inmates.
Taking cue from Dr Kiran Bedi, who had single-handedly transformed the New Delhi’s Tihar Jail, the DIG built a team of prison officers and warders to earn the confidence of prisoners.
This took him closer to both administrators and inmates and the task became easier.
Children, who have been lodged with their parents in the jails, will now be able to compete with their social counterparts outside.
These children who are in the age group of 3-6 years have been admitted to Government Primary School and the prison authorities provide them support so that they are able to receive education.
The India Vision Foundation (IVF), a trust headed by Dr Kiran Bedi, has been providing guidance, reading material, stationery in addition to motivation to pursue studies and later become self-dependent.
Recently, it organised an exhibition “Fashion Forecast” in which various products manufactured by jail inmates were displayed and sold to public.
These included soft toys, decorative candles, embroidered clothes, furniture, etc.
This was for the first time in Punjab that a jail had put up a stall at a national-level exhibition.
The Amritsar Central Jail, in association with the IVF, has also initiated programmes for women empowerment.
Under the scheme, women inmates are being trained in weaving, making toys, stitching and making embroidery items.
Women inmates are also taking keen interest in education and health advocacy programmes.
A crèche for the wards of the women prisoners has also been set up.
The Local Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) has also come forward to start various projects on the premises.
Experts of the Home Science wing of the KVK have been teaching inmates in making candles, preserving food, painting fabric and making pots.
They will also train inmates in growing flowers, fruits and vegetables.
In 1574 A.D the fourth Sikh master Ram Das laid the foundation of the holy city of Amritsar. Finding the air and water of this abode healthy, he made home by the side of the pool regarded as blessed with miraculous power of healing. From this ‘pool of nectar’ the city got its name, which ultimately became the abode of spiritual health.
The city of Amritsar sends across a message of peace, love and brotherhood and the holy shrines provide eternal peace and solace to people tired by the rat-race, and the din of life. In the modern era, my city provides all the dimensions of healthcare - physical, mental, social and spiritual.
I feel blessed to be a citizen of this holy city known as the ‘Abode of God’. Born in Ferozepore I was brought up in remote Dhanaula village in Barnala district. I was planted here at Amritsar by the grace of God to serve humanity and have now settled permanently in what actually is the city of my forefathers. The city, famous for Harmandir Sahib and other religious shrines, is also known for world-class medical facilities it offers.
The progress and development of medical science in this part of India is an integral part of the history of Amritsar.
Hakims and vaids such as Faquir Chand and Banwari Lal are still remembered, but they have been over-shadowed by allopathic medicine at the start of 20th century. The Government Medical College started as a small school by the British army in 1928 for medical diploma (LMS/LSMF). Col Henry Smith, who always had a cigar in his mouth, was an internationally known eye surgeon.
The Victoria Jubilee Hospital, Princes of Wales Hospital, popularly known as Zenana hospital (Dhab Khatikan near Hindu College), Lal Hospital were a gift to the residents to keep them in good health. Many Indian philanthropists continued the legacy of the British and constructed various hospitals - TB Hospital and Sanitarium, Ram Lal Eye and ENT Hospital and Ram Saran Das Kishori Lal Kakkar Children Ward (Hospital). Later, all these hospitals became a part of the Glancy Medical College (now the Government Medical College, Amritsar).
Many stalwarts of medicine are still remembered. Sardar Bahadur Dr Sohan Singh, Dr P.N. Chuttani, Dr A.N. Goyal, Dr Santokh Singh Anand, Dr Yudhvir Sachdeva, Dr Tulsi Das, Dr Sant Ram Dhall, Dr R.P. Malhotra, Dr G.M Taneja, Dr N.L. Chitkara, Dr Man Singh Nirankari are considered father figures.
All these physicians and surgeons belonged to the first generation of Indian doctors in the post-Partition era. The second generation of famous doctors includes Prof (Dr) Inderjit Dewan, Padma Shri Dr Daljit Singh, Dr Harcharan Singh, Dr Karam Singh Garewal, Dr M.L. Chugh, Dr Inderbeer Singh, Dr Hardas Singh Sandhu, Dr C. Phillips, Dr Balwant Singh Tung, Dr Harbilas Rai, Dr Ved Gupta, Dr Bhagwant Rai, and Dr B.L. Goyal.
The Government Medical College acted as a mother institution for other institutes. It provided the best medical teachers to internationally known institutions such as AIIMS, New Delhi, PGI Chandigarh, Mulana Azad Medical College, Delhi, and many other premier medical colleges of north India for four decades.
Its students are spread all over the globe. This institution produced physicians and surgeons who earned name and fame in the field of medical science and brought laurels. The tragic fact is that now it seems a curse has fallen on this esteemed institution; it has become anaemic due insensitive management and apathy on the part of the government. It needs efforts to revive and nurture this age old tree of knowledge.
During our student days, the area around the medical college had open fields and students usually visited Lawrence Road, Bhai Veer Singh Kothi, Jamun Wali Sarak, Adarsh Cinema Chowk, and Company Garden. Then Mall Road used to be beautiful, with ornamental trees, beautiful palms and flowerbeds on the sides of the road till the Cantonment area. Bhapa Fruit Shop, Mangal da Dhaba, Napoli, Natraj, Crystal, Odean restaurant and Giani Tea Stall were famous among the medical and dental students.
The city is now fast becoming an important international hub for medical tourism. Escorts Cardiac and Super specialty Institute, Fortis Hospital, Nayyar Heart and Super Specialty Hospital are famous for cardiac, and orthopaedic services. Amritsar is also famous for eye care facilities; these include Dr Daljit Singh Eye Hospital, S.B Sohan Singh Eye Hospital, Dr Om Parkash Eye Institute, whereas Optico, Aya Singh and Sons, Sant Singh opticals provide good services as opticians, comparable to the best across the globe and are quiet popular among NRIs.
The Punjab Government Dental College and Hospital, Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Medical and Dental Sciences and Research are other institutions coming up with advanced medical and dental care. Many charitable hospitals, such as Sri Guru Ram Das Hospital, Baba Deep Singh Charitable Hospital, Mata Kaulan Ji Mission Hospital, Sewa Samiti, Bhai Khaniya Ji Charitable, Smt Parvati Devi Hospital provide free, subsidised and affordable health care services to the masses.
I feel proud that I am part and parcel of the holy city and able to render health and eye-care services to the citizens of this holy city.
Unsung Punjabi star
No one remembers Punjabi cinema star Yash Sharma. His first death anniversary fell on December 29. Neither the state government nor the film fraternity has come forward to observe the anniversary.
Once a heartthrob of the Punjabi film audience, Yash died in oblivion and penury at his relative’s house in Amritsar last year.
He played major roles in more than 100 Punjabi films, apart from some Hindi films.
Starting his career in 1966, he worked in the film industry for four decades.
His first film was “Khed Preetan Di”. Among his popular films are “Mere Apne”, “Shehnshah” (both Hindi), “Sarpanch”, “Mele Mittran De” and “Mamla Garbar Hai”, “Jat Punjab Da”, “Deson Pardes”, ‘Tere Rang Niare’ and “Mitter Pyare Nun”.
He became a household name after his blockbuster film “Sarpanch”. In fact Sarpanch became part of his name.
He worked in the Punjabi film industry, but didn’t shift his residence from Punjab .
He suffered a paralytic attack after Varinder, another Punjabi star, was shot dead by terrorists. Neither the state government nor the local artistes bothered to visit the bed-ridden artiste, recalls Rakesh Pappu, his nephew.
Born in 1934, Yash graduated from the local Khalsa College. He was the captain of the “bhangra” team of the college.
He introduced elements of “ludi”, “shami”, “hirappa”, “chhaal”, “pathani naach”, “Sialkoti bhangra” in the traditional “bhangra”.
He was honoured with “Abhiney Samrat” by the Mohmmad Rafi memorial organisation. Besides being a character artiste and villain, Yash also ventured into direction, production and distribution of Punjabi films.
Later, he worked in Punjabi serials on Doordarshan and many stage plays. His famous plays include “Tajmehal Pe Ek Raat”, “Hasrat”, “Under Secretary” and “Kabuliwala”.
NRI woman alleges fraud by step-mother, sons
A Canada-based NRI, Kulbir Kaur, has complained to the DGP alleging that her stepmother and stepbrother have fraudulently grabbed her share of land and property by misusing her power of attorney.
Acting on the complaint, the DGP marked an inquiry to SSP S.S. Srivastava, who further appointed DSP (Civil Lines) to hold an investigation into the case.
In her complaint, Kulbir Kaur alleged that taking advantage of her absence, her stepmother Sarabjit Kaur and her (Sarabjit’s) elder son Parminder Singh, both residents of Amritsar, grabbed 27 kanals of land at Manawala, eight kanals at Kashmir Garden Colony at Gumtala and a palatial house in posh Kennedy Avenue here.
She said her mother Varinder Kaur died in 1972, after which her father Kashmir Singh married Sarabjit Kaur from whom he had two sons - Parminder Singh and Harinderpal Singh.
She said her father died in 1983. After his death, Sarabjit Kaur and Parminder Singh got her and her sister’s name omitted from the “intekal” of properties while she was away to Canada.
She further alleged that the accused had tempered with her power of attorney and sold the land to Sarabjit’s younger son Harinderpal Singh.
She alleged that when she demanded her share of property she was threatened and harassed by the accused.
She urged the police to take the passports of the accused in possession so that they could not flee abroad.
She also expressed fear for her life from the accused. She urged the authorities to take immediate action in this regard.
She added that the accused were already facing a case registered against them at the local Civil Lines on the complaint of Dalbir Kaur, wife of Jailpal Singh (maternal uncle of Kulbir Kaur), in which the accused were absconding.
Two inquiries were conducted in the case by DSP and SP-rank officials, she added.
Mr Srivastava said the matter was being looked into and it would be premature to say anything till the inquiry was over.
Parminder Singh could not be contacted in spite of repeated attempts.
Dr S.K. Bhatia, Professor of English, Guru Nanak Dev University, has been selected for Rashtriya Gaurav Award by the India International Friendship Society (IIFS), New Delhi.
The award has been awarded to Dr Bhatia keeping in view his meritorious services and achievements in the field of literature. The award will be presented to him in the first week of January in New Delhi.
The award is given to those specialising in fields like science and technology, education, industry, fine arts, politics and social work, for their distinguished services.
The IIFS will also organise a conference on “Economic Growth and National Integration”. Delegates, ministers, Members of Parliament, industrialists, social workers and others will attend the seminar.
Past recipients of the award include Mother Teresa, former Vice-President B.D. Jatti, Justice M. Fathima Beevi, former Air Chief Marshall N.C. Suri and former CBI Director Joginder Singh.
The IIFS is a non-governmental society that has been working for the past many years in the service of countrymen. The society has organised such seminars in the past also. — OC
ICFAI on UGC’s varsity list
The University Grants Commission (UGC), in a notification on November 1, 2006, has included the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India University (ICFAI), Tripura, in the list of universities maintained by it under Section 2 (f) of the UGC Act, 1956.
Stating this in a press statement, Senior Manager, Media Communication of the university, R.S. Prasad said the university offered programmes in finance, management, banking, insurance, accounting, law, Information Technology, arts, commerce, education and science and technology at bachelor’s and master’s level on full-time campus and flexible learning formats.
He said the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India, the sponsor of ICFAI University, was established in 1984 as a non-profit educational society.
Currently there were over 12,200 CFAs and MBAs who had successfully graduated from ICFAI and affiliates.
Babu Ram heads hawkers’ union
Babu Ram Sharma has been unanimously elected president of the Newspapers Distributors Union here.
The other office-bearers are: chief patron - Karam Chand Sharma; senior vice-president - Kishore Chand Sharma; vice-presidents - K.C. Bhalla and Manohar Lal Sharma; general secretary - Arun Kapoor; joint secretaries - Amrik Singh and Surinder Kumar; speakers - Partap Singh Rana and Des Raj.
Those elected members of the advisory committee are: Balbir Singh Jagga, Mast Ram Sharma, Pars Ram Sharma, Rikhi Ram Sharma and Bhumi Chand Sharma; and executives: L.S. Thakur, Ramesh Verma, Kishori Lal, Ravinder Kumar and Ashok Kumar.