While Badal shines, other ex-CMs’ villages remain its poor cousins
Sandhwan (Faridkot), January 20
Zail Singh, who was born here in the house of a poor peasant, was elected chief minister before he was elevated as the first citizen of the country. This hamlet on the Kotkapura-Faridkot road is today a study of systematic neglect. With a population of about 4,500, the village is without basic amenities such as clean drinking water. It lags behind in education and health services. There is no cleanliness as open sewers are overflowing. The lone educational institution here is a high school. The co-operative spinning mill, which was set up to generate employment, shut down eight year back.
“Neither were any special facilities extended nor any special status given to the village despite its association with Gianiji,” rues Kultar Singh, a former sarpanch of the village.
Sandhwan is not an isolated example. Most villages of the former CMs are in a state of neglect and in contrast to the spic and span Badal village in Muktsar district. These include Kairon, Sarainaga, Chuhar Chak, Sandwan, Kotli and Narangwal — all home to former chief ministers.
Another such village, Sarainaga, the native place of the late CM Harcharan Singh Brar, which did get some make-over during his tenure 17 years ago, is virtually in a shambles. This small village of about 2,900 residents on the Kotkapura-Muktsar road is devoid of basic necessities like adequate supply of potable water, sanitation, education and health services.
The waterworks in the village provides water on alternate days. Since the ground water is unfit for consumption, the villagers have to queue up at the single RO plant in the village. There are no sanitation arrangements and the open drainage system is overflowing with sullage in the absence cleaning arrangements.
There is only one high school and ITI which was constructed on a four-acre plot which is submerged on account of water-logging. The 166 KVA power grid at Sarainaga, supplying power to nine surrounding villages, is lying submerged after a breach in the Sarainaga drain four months ago.
The neglect has been attributed to the village’s linkage with the Congress. “I request the CM to have a sangat darshan in my village also so that he can see the true picture of neglect,” said Karanbir Brar, sarpanch and a grandson of Harcharan Singh Brar. Sadly, an iconic name like Kairon does not ensure the residents of the village of the most famous CM of Punjab, Partap Singh Kairon, the basic necessities.
Incidentally, a grandson of the late Punjab's strongman, Adesh Pratap Singh, is not only a minister in the Cabinet of Parkash Singh Badal but also his son-in-law.
A visionary, Kairon, during his tenure as CM of United Punjab (1956-1964), played a pivotal role in augmenting the educational, medical and other infrastructure for the state, yet his native village cries for attention. Located on the Tarn Taran-Patti road, the residents have no access to safe drinking water and underground sewerage system is a pipe dream. Residents recall that a decade ago, during the regime of Capt Amarinder Singh, Kairon village was brought under the ambit of Sunder Gram Yojna and Rs 1.18 crore was sanctioned for carrying out development works. But nothing came to the village after that. The village has a lone community health centre which caters to around 7,000 residents. Here too, the situation is dismal as all the specialist doctors have been transferred to the different places shortlisted to establish 100 multi-speciality hospitals under a new government scheme. Presently, only two medical officers and a homoeopathic doctor are deputed here.
There is no government-run college in the village and students study in a private college being run by a Patti-based educational society on the outskirts of the village. The Government Girls Secondary School and high school- are headless and several posts of teacher have been lying vacant for a long period. In the absence of a drainage system, the pond is overflowing, posing a serious health hazard for the residents. Chuhar Chak, the native village of former Chief Minister, the late Lakshman Singh Gill, who opened new vistas for rural development of the state after Independence, is now begging for development. With a population of more than 15,000, it is one of the biggest villages in Moga district but lacks sufficient supply of potable water despite a Reverse Osmosis (RO) plant set-up by the state government recently.
One of the two pumps at the water works is lying inoperative for the past more than one year as the power supply has been cut-off due to non-payment of the bills amounting to more than Rs 14 lakh. A new locality of more than 600 residents, which has come up along the national highway, is devoid of even an RO system.
There is one senior secondary, one middle and one primary school in the village apart from a girls’ ITI set up in 1971. The senior secondary school was established as Khalsa High School in 1904. Most of the students go to the Government College at Dhudike village, about 2 km away, for their graduation.
“For the past 40 years, the government has neither repaired the building nor upgraded the ITI even as the amount of Rs 2.5 crore sanctioned for this purpose lies unused for the past many years”, said Randhir Singh Dhillon, a resident and Chairman of the Block Samiti. He said that a building of the primary health care centre was built about three years back in the village but the health department has so far not sanctioned the posts of doctor.
Dhillon said the link roads to other villages were in a deplorable condition, “Despite several resolutions by the village panchayat and block samiti, the roads have not been repaired.”
Interestingly, panchayat has used NREGA funds to clean the biggest pond of the village, which was being used as a sewerage dump. The villagers, with the help of a few NRIs, have cleaned a 3.5-km channel of a drain, which is now being used to dispose of waste water, he revealed. This village was picturised in the famous Punjabi film ‘Putt Jattan De’ directed by Jagjit Singh who belongs to this village. Gadri Baba Roud Singh (freedom fighter), Captain Gurdit Singh Gill, Khalsa School, Naginder Singh Gill who spearheaded the movement against the Canadian government to grant rights of citizenship to the Asian community between 1940-50, famous scientist Gurdit Singh Gill, working as a scientist in NASA, are among those who have made it big.
Kotli, situated on the northwestern side of the historic town of Payal, is the native village of former CM Beant Singh, is also a picture of neglect. There are no educational institutions and the move to upgrade the only government primary school to high or senior secondary level is hanging fire. The residents are also annoyed that the move to rechristen the village as Beant Singh Nagar, as announced by former CM Amarinder Singh, has also not materialised.
Located on the suburbs of Ludhiana, Narangwal, the native village of former chief minister, Justice Gurnam Singh, is also in a long queue of places seeking some state recognition for its illustrious sons. Residents say that the facilities which were once provided by past governments were now on the decline. The girls of the village are lucky that they can study in the government senior secondary school here but boys have to attend schools beyond middle class in the neighbouring villages. One private aided college caters to the needs of higher education for boys and girls. In the absence of state funds, the lone hospital has been constructed with financial aid from locals and NRIs from the village.
Mercifully, Jandiala, the village of former Chief Minister Darbara Singh, has good road infrastructure, besides education and health facilities and transport connectivity. Residents want that it should be declared a model village. However, Surjit, a resident of the village, demanded a memorial to be constructed in the memory of the former CM.
(With inputs from Balwant Garg, Kulwinder Sandhu, Gurbax Puri, Mahesh Sharma, Nikhil Bhardwaj).