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Some Things Just Don’t Change 3
If only govt had kept awake...
Kanchan Vasdev and Jyotika Sood
Tribune News Service

 The stretch of nullah that was cleaned by Budda Nullah Development Committee led by senior officer P. Ram in Kum Kalan village.
The stretch of nullah that was cleaned by Budda Nullah Development Committee led by senior officer P. Ram in Kum Kalan village. Photo: InderjeetVerma

Ludhiana, January 16
Had it not been for “petty politics”, Budda Nullah would have been a clean water body by now.

It could have been yet another Kali Bein-fame success story, had the state government risen above party politics and helped the Budda Nullah Development Committee led by Baba Jaspal Singh Baddowal to carry on with the work.

But for the lack of administrative support and the will to clean the water body, the mission started by a strong army of 5,000 kar sewaks led by Baba Baddowal would have been completed.

In December 2006, the then Principal Secretary, P. Ram, had roped in a religious leader of Baddowal village in his mission to clean up Budda Nullah. The motivated volunteers, including villagers, college students and disciples of Baba Baddowal, started the cleaning operation from Dhanansu village and proceeded towards Ludhiana as well as Macchiwara.

The entire 10-km stretch from Kum Kalan to Karaur village was widened and cleaned. Medicinal plants, too, were planted on both sides of the nullah. Unforunately, the mission hit the roadblock when the district administration dilly-dallied on demarcating the nullah land. Villagers alongside the nullah started protesting and the development committee had to suspend their project and finally abandon it.

“We were hit by a propaganda that the work was started during the Congress regime and we were helping the Congress. So the incumbent government never helped us. In fact, we always faced a spoke in the wheel of our mission,” alleged Jaswant Singh Chapa, president of Budda Nullah Development Committee constituted by P. Ram during the regime of the Congress.

He alleged that whenever they went to the senior officials asking for demarcation of the nullah, nobody was sent to the site. Even P. Ram took up the matter with the higher authorities several times. Finally, he also went quiet, added Chapa.

Baba Baddowal, who was mobilising his kar sewaks, who had pressed their tractors and other machines into service and extended all kinds of help for the project, did not take it kindly when Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal asked Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal to clean Budda Nullah.

"Though the Chief Minister has visited Ludhiana several times since his party came to power, he never visited the nullah site where cleaning was being taken up. He could have come to the villages and inspected the work. Instead, he was reported asking Baba Seechewal to help him clean it. This really angered me. That means he does not want us to work. The reasons are best known to him," said Baba, bitter at the treatment meted out to him.

He added that he was ready to take up the work again if the administration was willing to demarcate the land. "My commitment towards the project can be gauged from the fact that my followers are still looking after the saplings planted by us during the mission. The saplings have not died. They stand as a testimony to our commitment," he said adding that they had asked for two years’ time to clean the rivulet. Had everything gone their way, it would have been cleaned properly today.

During the last two years, notices were issued to dyeing and electroplating units several times. They were asked to stop discharging or face closure. But all these notices turned out to be mere pieces of paper. Nothing changed. No unit was closed.

Chief Minister Badal also made announcements at various functions that he had ordered the Punjab Pollution Control Board to take strict action against the polluters. A high drama was witnessed when the power connections of polluting units were announced to be disconnected.

Everytime one elected representative or the other earned bouquets from polluters for taking up the matter with the Chief Minister. The units continued to work. All this despite the fact that in February 2007, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had issued directions to the state authorities to stop the discharge of industrial effluents into Budda Nullah with immediate effect.

Yogesh Goel, chairman of the Punjab Pollution Control Board, said, "Things are moving in a positive manner. We are not sitting idle. We had directed the Punjab State Electricity Board to disconnect the power supply of some units. However, as Industry was already affected by global melt down, strict action was pending. "

A remarkable direction by the HC Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Rajiv Bhalla stated: "No government or state can be permitted to destroy fauna and flora or pollute water," clarifying that no untreated effluents should be discharged into the nullah henceforth.

The HC's provisional order also stated that the (PHRC-designated) committee had also provided inputs as to how to deal with the dreadful condition of the nullah. The recommendations included disposal of sewage, industrial effluents, animal excreta and slaughter houses, provisions of piped water supply and regulation of village waste.

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