King’s palace, a heritage club
Manish K. Singhal

The building as well as the Lumsden Club is part of the holy city’s heritage, says Mr Jawahar Lal Mehra, president of the club. The club was started in 1909 by Mr L.F. Lumsden, the then Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar.

The club has a card room, bar, billiard room, lawn tennis and badminton courts. Situated on the fringe of Ram Bagh, the building was used as a summer palace by the last Sikh ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Spread over an area of 15,022 sq yd, the Lumsden Club is one of the three British time clubs. The other two are the Patiala Club and the Kasauli Club. The members of the three clubs take pride in maintaining these clubs as heritage sites.

Presently, the Lumsden Club has around 1,200 members, says Mr Vijay Kumar Tandon, general secretary of the club. The members celebrate all functions collectively and contribute a nominal fee. The club has waived the subscription from all senior citizen members.

“We all have cordial attitude towards one another. We join hands in good and bad times,” said Mr Mehra.

All food items are prepared in desi ghee. Its fish preparations are famous.

“Our friends from far areas, including neighbouring countries, come here to have fish. The club has preserved the minute books since 1930. It contains the names of presidents, executive members, office-bearers and rates of food items. The fish plate that cost five annas is now available for Rs 90. All those entries have been done by hand and with blue ink.”

In the year 1936, the club president was Sardar Bahadur S. Santokh Singh and in 1942 Rai Bahadur L. Parkash Chand Mehra. Dewan Dilbagh Rai, Honorary Magistrate, also became the president of the club.

Mr Jagjit Singh, the oldest member of the club, who was honored last year by the club members. The club manager, Mr Kewal Krishan, recalls that Mr Jagjit Singh was of his age when he joined the service in the club.

He has been serving the club since 1944. Now 83, he works for 10 hours daily for just Rs 5300 per month.

The old man with trembling voice said :“I tried to help the unemployed youth to get jobs by approaching the members for their sake”.

He joined the club as clerk on May 15, 1942 on a salary of Rs. 20 per month plus D.A. of Rs 2 per month. He has worked as bar tender, party in charge. Among the leaders he served in the club were Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, V.V. Giri and Giani Zail Singh.

Born on April 1, 1924 in district Hoshiarpur, Mr. Kewal Krishan did his matric and joined the club. “I have one daughter Parveen Kumari (56) and son Harish Kumar (45).” Harish runs a tent house in Amritsar in the name of Grover tent house and his daughter Parveen was married to a businessman in Ropar about 26 years back. “Inme se kuch aise sahib hain jo kabhi mere samne bache the but aj mere sahib hain (There are some members who were children at that time but now have grown up and I say Saheb),” Mr. Krishan said.



NRI’s gesture
Our Correspondent

Ms Prabhdeep Kaur, who has been working as a registered nurse in California for the past 12 years, has still great affection for Indians.

Daughter of Mr Swarn Singh Pannu, a retired headmaster and resident of Chutala village (Tarn Taran), Prabhdeep has been helping needy students of government schools for the past three years regularly.

This time she sent sweaters that were distributed among students of Government Elementary Schools in Palasour, Bugha, Mughal Chack Gillan and Walipur. 



Six months later, road lies in a shambles

The Amritsar-Ferozepore road passing through Tarn Taran was re-laid about six months back but already the road is full of huge potholes, causing great inconvenience to residents as well as visitors. The wretched condition also greets devotees and foreign tourists who visit the Darbar Sahib to pay obeisance.

The road was repaired by the Public Works department (PWD) at a cost of Rs 10 lakh during the 400th death anniversary of the fifth Sikh Guru Arjun Dev, the founder of the town.

Due to inappropriate carpeting of the road water accumulates at various places. Small potholes have become craters as the PWD failed to initiate any remedial measure. Heavy vehicles often get stuck, for hours or even days, disrupting traffic.

The PWD has filled these potholes with earth, which now makes the whole stretch dusty.



Dalits still ‘cry for liberation’
P.K. Jaiswar

Contrary to the government reports that ‘everything’ related to Dalits was progressing at a ‘satisfactory’ pace, their situation and living conditions in the rural areas of Punjab is miserable. The tall claims made by the government regarding providing of free and compulsory education to them remains a distant dream while their school dropout rate was up to 90 per cent by Class X.

These are the findings of study conducted by Dr R. B. Singh, Head, Deparment of Political Science, BUC College, Batala. A gold medallist from Panjab University, Chandigarh, he had been a senior research fellow of Dr BR Ambedkar Chair, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

In the study published in his book “Cry for Liberation”, released here, the author has tried to look into the lives of Dalit working women in rural areas of Punjab, their socio-economic level, political empowerment and struggle for liberation.

For the study, 300 Scheduled Caste working women, selected from 15 villages - eight from Gurdaspur and seven from Amritsar district - were taken as sample.

In 300 families of 15 villages, not a single child was found pursuing education after Plus Two, although they were aware about the importance of education. However, they were also aware that studying in poorly run government schools would not enable them to compete with the children studying in good, private and English medium schools. The ‘cheap’ education in these government schools, which just provides them pass certificates, is playing havoc with their life.

Further, studying in these schools in the company of landlords’ children‘did not let them do labour’ while they had no resources to fulfill their aspirations and dreams. This results in bad company and drug addition. Most Dalit women faced the problem of their children having fallen prey to drug traffickers.

Though Dalit women realise the importance of small families, mothers-in-law compel them to have larger families due to desire for more male children. However, the sex ratio in Dalit families was better than in urban families. Their poverty, backwardness and faith in old customs prevented them from female foeticide.

The picture of caste-based discrimination or atrocities was different in the two districts. In Amritsar district there was hardly any case of atrocities while in Gurdaspur district, caste-based discriminations still existed.

Dr Singh said the general awareness level was still very low among Dalits working women due to high illiteracy rate and they believed in evil spirits. The religious missionaries, who claimed to liberate them from evil spirit, allegedly targeted them due to their low awareness and illiteracy. Thus, there were high conversion rate found in these Dalit villages, he added. Conversion of Dalilts to Christianity was high in Amritsar district. Earlier, it was more concentrated in Gurdaspur district.

The talks of women rights by government and non-government agencies hardly contributed in their empowerment or development. Most of them did not have knowledge of their rights and government welfare schemes.

About the political empowerment of Dalit working women, Dr Singh said the research found that although Dalits were seen very active during election time and they enthusiastically participated in the political process, their participation was almost negligible and the political empowerment of these Dalit women remained an illusion. 



‘Krishi ka Rishi’ attacks organic farming
P. K. Jaiswar

‘Krishi ka Rishi’ Subhash Palekar, hit out against organic farming, saying it was not an alternative to conventional farming. It was more dangerous than and as poisonous as chemical fertilizers farming, he said while participating in the state-level ‘Zero Budget Farming or Natural Farming workshop organised by the Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM) and All-India Pingalwara Society (AIPS) at Manawala branch at Amritsar.

More than 100 farmers from all over the state participated in the workshop.

Mr Palekar, a farmer in Maharashtra, said the ‘so-called expert-oriented organic farming with vermi-compost was more expensive than chemical farming. Small and marginal farmers reeling under severe debt could not afford it.

Mr Palekar said heavy and poisonous elements such as cadmium and lead were used which caused cancer and other diseases.

He gave tips to participating farmers regarding natural farming to effectively use old and natural ways to increase production without extra expenditure. Mr Davinder Sharma, renowned agriculture expert and journalist, inaugurated the workshop. He said the government was patronising national and multinational companies, who were patenting the ancient and highly effective Indian agricultural knowledge and techniques, against the interests of farmers.

Renowned environmentalist Mr Sunder Lal Bahuguna, Bibi Inderjit Kaur, president AIPS, Mr Umendra Datt, officiating president, KVM and Dr R. S. Ghuman, chief economist, Punjabi University, Patiala, were also present on the occasion. Mr Bahuguna and Bibi Inderjit Kaur also released the Punjabi translation of book “How to Practice Natural Farming” written by Mr Subhash Palekar.



Sarais languish as owners await licence
Manish K. Singhal
Tribune News Service

Apathy of the local administration and rampant corruption in different departments has left owners of guest houses in quandary. The sarais (guest houses) are languishing as the owners are unable to get licences even after completing all formalities.

Small hotels mushroomed in the walled city during the past decade were given permission under the Sarai Act. Two conditions were mandatory under it before Independence; the owner should not be a cheat and secondly the building should be in good condition. There was no change in the Sarai Act even after Independence, said Mr Satnam Singh Kanda, a senior Akali leader.

Now, the local administration has put up several conditions due to which owners are unable to get valid licence.

According to Mr Kanda, “I applied for a licence years back. Every time officials from different government departments would come and took bribe, threatening to close down the hotel otherwise. Now I have completed all the formalities but still there is no licence.”

He further said officials from Town Planning Department came to his guest house and took Rs 10,000 from his son on the pretext that they would pull down the structure otherwise, “while they had no right to do so.”

“During the British, there was a rule that the minimum fees were to be deposited in Lahore to run these hotels. Since then, there has been no improvement in those rules and regulations.

“Different government departments including fire, Municipal Corporation, tax departments, health, water supply, electricity department, town planning and many more come and take their share starting from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh from the guest house owners”, said a hotel owner on condition of anonymity.

These guest houses are in the walled city that was built by Guru Ram Das, fourth Sikh Guru and the Town Planning Department has nothing to do with the walled city as it was the area that was hundreds years old.

According to Mr Surinder Singh, President of Hotel Association, walled city, said, “The corporation rules and other departments of the district administration are basic hurdles in getting the licenses. We have fulfilled all formalities of different departments but still have not got the licence.”

The District Commissioner issues the license.



My City
Wither green spaces?
Charanjeet Singh

People of Amritsar are known for their enthusiasm to live life to the full. After bravely bearing the brunt of the Partition, Indo-Pakistan wars and militancy, life may have returned to normal but the residents will not be able to easily escape the pollution caused by automobiles and industrial units. They have wrecked the green patches of the city.

No doubt, urbanisation and modernisation are symbols of development and the holy city is fast achieving them but residents are oblivious to the ill-effects of the dwindling green patches of the city.

With growing awareness about commercial interests and hassle-free availability of resources, the city is developing residential colonies, shopping complexes, multiplexes, malls and spacious marriage palaces. As a result, orchards and flower gardens have declined to a great extent, threatening the beauty of city and increasing pollution.

About 20 years back the city was surrounded by a large number of pear, guava, peach and plum orchards. Cutting down of fruit trees started in the 1980s and is still in progress. The eastern side of city had dense plantation of pear and guava orchards, but now these have been converted into residential colonies like New Partap Nagar, Partap Avenue, Sant Avenue and New Amritsar.

The situation worsened due to the constant rise in population, migration of rural people to urban area and the desire of people living in the old city to live in open, spacious surroundings.

People migrated from rural areas due to militancy and for better education opportunities. As the demand of land for houses increased, nearby Mahal, Sultanwind, Vallah, Manawala, Daburji, Heir, Verka villages merged into the city. The returns from orchards were overcome by the hike in prices of land and the greenery of the city was converted into residential colonies.

Once Golden Avenue was occupied by pear, peach and flower orchards while Ranjit Avenue by pear, guava and ber. Now not a single orchard survives in the area.

If we have to put the city back on road to regain its lost greenery, glory and charm, there is a great need to check the increasing land under residential colonies and to plant new orchards and flower gardens to provide clean, green and pollution free life to residents of the holy city.



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