CHANGING WITH TIMES

A testimony to Partition, Bhargo Camp still awaits development

A testimony to Partition, Bhargo Camp still awaits development

An overview of Bhargo Camp which came into existence during the Partition to provide shelter to the people in Jalandhar. Tribune Photo: Sarabjit Singh

Aakanksha N Bhardwaj

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, September 15

Bhargo camp came into existence during the Partition in 1947 to provide relief to those, who were hurt, bruised, terrified and depressed because of it.

The air here is still dense and heavy with thousands of stories replete with the pain of Partition. When future was hazy and every hope of living was dying, when people after going through various tragedies, suffering tragic losses came here without having any knowledge of where to go and what to do, Bhargo Camp not only provided them shelter, but they also found solace here.

Sardari Lal, a Monagenarian

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There used to be fields, where Bhargo Camp was built. We used to wake up with sand all over us because initially, we used to sleep on the ground. Initially, there was no water, electricity and toilet and people used to go outside to answer a call of nature. After some years, two dispensaries - one of the Municipal Corporation and another Civil Hospital's dispensary - and two schools were opened and when I became the councillor for the first time, the sewerage was laid.

The area was made after the name of Dr Gopi Chand Bhargava, the then Chief Minister of Punjab.

Before 1949, some barracks of 12 quarters each were set up here in the camp, one quarter was 10 ft wide and 35 ft long. Sardari Lal, 90, the former three-time councillor of Bhargo Camp and who was one of the members of the allotment committee that would provide survivors with ‘atta’ and food is the eldest one in the area, who has seen it all. Even today he remembers everything, although, he forgets years and dates.

He was 17, when he came here after the Partition from Sialkot. After living in camps in Burlton Park for some time, Lal recalls how all people got shifted to quarters in Bhargo Camp that were especially built by the government for people who came here after the Partition.

Darshan Singh Kapyee visited Bhargo Camp when he become an MLA. Picture courtesy: Sardari Lal

“There used to be fields, where Bhargo Camp was built. We used to wake up with sand all over us because initially, we used to sleep on the ground,” Lal said.

He said initially at that time there was no water, electricity and toilet and people used to go outside to answer nature’s call. After some years, two dispensaries — one of the Municipal Corporation and another Civil Hospital’s dispensary — and two schools were opened and when he became the councillor for the first time, the sewerage was laid.

Several such small quarters are still present at Bhargo Camp. Photo: Sarabjit Singh

“I ensured that every household got a toilet, so that no one goes outside to relieve themselves,” Lal said. He also shared the old picture of Darshan Singh Kaypee, when he visited Bhargo Camp after getting elected as an MLA. Lal, however, couldn’t recall the year and said it was a decades-old picture.


Quarters became homes, but development still elusive

As time passed, people started working and with their hard-earned money, they made their homes. The families of a few survivors went to other places in the country or abroad, but some families here still seem to be in need of help. Due to the closure of hundreds of micro and small-scale manufacturing sports and surgical units in the recent years, thousands of workers, primarily migrants, have suffered. Bhargo Camp in the Jalandhar West constituency has the highest vote bank, but the area is without development, as when one walks in streets, one hardly sees any sign of development. Sardari Lal, said the sewerage lines that were laid decades ago were still the same and hadn’t changed. There’s a problem of limited water supply in some areas of Bhargo Camp, roads are in a bad shape and sometimes people also deal with water contamination problems. Residents said the other infrastructural development was also amiss. They said Bhargo Camp was seen as an opportunity to gain votes by leaders, who come here during elections and then forget about the place. Vishal Kumar, one of the residents, said as per his knowledge there used to be around eight parks for children as told by the elderly in his family. “But I have seen only one park,” he said.

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