Thursday, August 30, 2007

In Fazilka, farmer is a VIP retail consumer : INDIA’S FIRST FARM MACHINERY RENTAL SERVICE

Yamini Dhall FAZILKA : 27th March, 2006 : Economics Times

PRINCE Charles may not travel down to Fazilka, but he will certainly hear about the Punjab town’s experiments with silk, castor, multiplexes and imported farm equipment. This backward border district of Punjab is now a venue of some exciting experiments in rural retail and agriculture. Tucked away in the dusty folds of this faraway place on the southern tip of Punjab, is an unlikely farm equipment rental outlet, the first of its kind in the country run by local entrepreneur and farmer Vikram Ahuja, that offers a fleet of expensive and sophisticated farm tilling, sowing and harvesting machinery. Another upcoming project is an agri park that apart from helping to promote crop diversification through a novel unknown product by introducing Eri silk weaving to the area. “We already have a seed processing unit, expellers, solvent extraction unit, oil refinery, cotton ginning unit and a demo farm for Castor/Hyola cultivation and silk worm rearing,” says Mr Sanjeev Nagpal, who is heading the NASA Agro park project for Fazilka and is an ardent supporter of farm innovation in the area.

Meanwhile, Mr Ahuja’s Zamindara Engineering and Auto private Limited, inspired by US car rental models, now has four branches. “It is the first farm equipment rental firm in India,” he claims pointing to a fleet of branded tractors, locked safely in the shed. They would be out working 24x7 a month from now when the ‘season’ starts, as would the other equipment for tilling, harvesting, sowing etc. Mr Ahuja has already tied up with another national rural retail store chain to test drive this new farm service model even as he talks about extending the current business that also hosts a farmer support centre, into something more improbable; India’s first rural multiplex-mall for the small farmer at Fazilka. Mr Nagpal, who is also a convener, Agriculture Panel, CII Punjab State Council, adds a voice of belief to Mr Ahuja’s ambitions by making detail sketch of a rural hub that would provide, integrated farm services, entertainment and advice to the farmers of the surrounding areas. “This could all come together here with different counters for say vermin-compost, fertilizer, seeds and a Punjab Agriculture University advisor on the premises and maybe a small screen multiplex on the top,” he says describing the newly inaugurated Zamindara Farmer Help Centre in the district

Ten degrees of separation : Border Town Fazilka Cries For A Rail Link With Amruka In Pakistan

By C Shamsher : TNN

Page 23, Times Chandigarh, 7th February, 2007

Chandigarh: The railway track from Fazilka to Amruka in Pakistan has been there for long. But there is no train to chug along the track to take you across the border. The residents, farmers in particular, say it's a ‘forgotten' silk route (Ludhiana-Fazilka-Karachi) on which this nondescript town prospered in the pre-independence era. So much so that old- timers don't mince words in saying that it was the most prosperous town of Punjab. But that is history. In 2006, any visitor to the town would not mind saying that this town near the Radcliffe Line dividing India and Pakistan is the most backward place in Punjab. To get back its past glory, Border Area Vikas Front, an organisation working for development in the area, has sent memorandums to the Prime Minister, the government of Punjab and the district administration. All that they need is a 10 km rail link between Fazilka and Amruka in Pakistan. Once approved it could be set up in a month's time. This will not only bring prosperity to the farmers of both countries but also give a big boost to business in Fazilka, which will help it regain its past glory. Baljinder Singh, the president of Border Area Vikas Front, said, ‘‘If other borders can be opened up, why not this one. If this is done we will be able to fetch a better price for our produce across the border.'' During the pre-independence days, the rail link passing through Fazilka used to handle goods from places as far off as Madhya Pradesh. Baljinder Singh argued that the same can happen once again. Fazilka exports wool and ‘Punjabi juttis', while rice and cotton are the important crops grown in the area. Residents of the area reason that if road, rail and air link can be established between other places on the two sides of the border, then why not between Fazilka and Amruka

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fazilka Visit by Mr. Benjamin Leclair-Paquet, an Urban Planner from University of Montreal, CANADA

Dear Fazilites,

In the month of June-07, Urban Planner Mr Benjamin Laclair Paquet, from University of Montreal, Montreal Canada visited Fazilka. He is a friend of mine. On special request, i took him to see our city and invited his suggestion to improve present urban infrastructure for future generations. He liked our "City of Hospitality" very much. He developed some beautiful conceptual plan to for Badha Lake and given his suggestion to improve present urban infrastructure of the city, like waste management, good parking policy etc..

later, he sent me a beautiful writeup about our city Fazilka and he claimed his weekend in Fazilka will be among the most important memories that I take back to Canada .Here, i am sharing the same writeup and 3-D model pictures of badha lake improvement by him.

Navdeep Asija

"Fazilka Creative" by Benjamin Leclair-Paquet

THE DAY was still young when we reached the house for refreshments. For a Canadian, the heat was almost unbearable and it was nice to step inside for some time. I am told that the monsoons don’t fall too often on Fazilka, but they came down on that day. Even if the rain mellowed the heat by a few degrees, the water lemonade that Navdeep’s Janma prepared for us was certainly appreciated. Lying in the bedroom, the only area where an air conditioner made the heat bearable, we slowly drank from our glasses while looking over the pictures we had taken over the day. Frames of the local tailor with his sewing machine, the shoemaker surrounded by leather soles, the sweets vendors tempting our palettes, the city’s barber and the junior school classroom reminded me of the few hours that had just passed. I regretted that I was too shy to ask the local architect and the Fazilka Newspaper editors to also snap their pictures. . I obviously still remembered our day clearly, but I was scared that the memories would fade away and that no print would be there to remind me of this Saturday in a town of rural Punjab called Fazilka.

An hour had passed when The Doctor arrived at Navdeep’s house. ‘’Pani?, Chai? We all hurried in the living room and drank the dude wali chai still boiling in our glasses. Six o’clock was close so we quickly gulped down the hot drinks and climbed in The Doctor’s car. A few minutes later, we had reached the first barrier of the Indo-Pakistani boarder. Cars were not allowed in the last 500 meters so we walked from there. I had read about the ceremony between the two armies in my travel books, but I never imagined that I would get to experience it first hand. The music was blasting from the Pakistan side where solders dressed in a grey kurta pajamas were mimicking the ones standing few meters before my eyes. “Attention!” shouted the sergeant – and the soldiers snaped into formation. Standing 100 meters from one another, both armies were synchronized as though they had practiced this ritual for days and nights. They went on to demonstrate their skills as if it was a battle between the two clans. Before it ended, one soldier from each country allowed his country’s flag to slither down the post. A music that could have been composed for an army film’s credit title started and outlined the importance of this last portion of the event. Once down, both soldiers rushed to fold their flag to present them before their counterpart could. Raising their knees as high as they could, the two men marched away in a theatrical stride. The other soldiers followed.

The sun had almost set when we left the border zone. As we drove away, making our way through rice paddies where the sky’s reflection danced on the excess water, I saw villagers resting on tractors. The scenes of a busy day winding down made me smile. But the few bunkers hidden in this scene told a story of their own. We stopped at the War Memorial that was down the road. I went inside to sign the visitor’s book, but it was not there. On the walls stood pictures of some of the soldiers lost during the Indian-Pakistani War.
for a while, absorbing the weight of the lost lives. With a heavy heart, we climbed back in the car.

Our next stop was in front of a farm. A man wearing a lovely pressed shirt was waiting. Navdeep hopped out of the car and touched the man’s shoes. They chatted for a minute before the older man invited me to visit the land that was behind him. I think he was pleased to show a foreign visitor his vast farm, but it was I who felt lucky to have an opportunity to be shown his land. The golden pen sticking out of his pocket was a clue that he was the owner of the farm, but it was the pride with which he showed me around that gave it away. He explained me the origin of the kinnu fruits and walked me through the farm. The rains had made the farm muddy, and the man required new shoes, as the fine brown leather ones that he was wearing were not suitable to walk around.

The installations were very impressive - by any standards. Four solar panels powered the drip-by-drip irrigation system installed for the papaya trees. A large basin assured that no water was to be wasted or used at the wrong time on the farm. After some walking through the boggy paths, we headed back to
the car and reached the center of Fazilka. We stopped to grab refreshments and snacks before we headed back to the farm to use the small pool that had caught the corner of our eyes as we visited the man’s orchard. The night had fallen over the northern sky and the sun had taken most of the heat to bed, only bright stars lit our swim. Seeing so many stars in one single night made me realise me how far we were from Delhi – even if only 350 kilometers were standing between the two cities.

It was 10 o’clock when we realized how fast the time had flown by. We hurried to get going and reach a dinner some kilometers down the main road. The place was really more of a truck stop. But my hosts assured me that it was one of their favorites. The sugar cane field near by was releasing a strong smell but we were so hungry, we quickly came to put it past us. My friends were right, the restaurant’s fare was delicious, the best vegetarian mean I had eaten so far! After we finished our last drop of lassi we headed out. The Doctor dropped us home but we did not stay there for long. Instead, we walked to the end of the lane to join the wedding to which Navdeep’s family had been invited. I had only seen Indian weddings in Bollywood movies, and I was very excited to be invited to one.
As we got closer to the sound of the music we could see the lights sticking out from the sleeping city. The wedding was exactly how I expected it, just like in the movies! Over five hundred people were gathered around a vast garden decorated with round tables dressed in white and yellow clothes. As a belly dancer was moving to some remix of traditional Indian music on one stage, the bridegroom stood on a dais just next to it. Dressed in fine golden and burgundy fabrics, he was still waiting for the bride to fill the seat just next to him. As soon as the beautiful bride came into view, the crowd was silenced. She looked very elegant, almost like royalty, as she took her seat beside the groom.

My weekend in Fazilka will be among the most important memories that I take back to Canada. Thanks to the hospitality of my friend Navdeep, I was able to see a part of India few visitors can see. Thank you to everyone who showed me a special and enjoyable time in this wonderful town so rarely mentioned in travel books
Benjamin Leclair-Paquet

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

One Day Seminar on "Fazilka Vision-2047" by GWAF

A seminar entitled as VISION 2047 was held on August 13, 2007 as per the invitation issued to the Members of Press Club Fazilka and Founding members of Graduates Welfare Association Fazilka (GWAF).
The objective was to work on future plans for Fazilka region. The need arose due to general migration and brain drain from the region to National and International metros.

Mr. Devinder Pal Singh President Press Club Fazilka, Adv. Umesh Kukar, Mr. Devinder Aggarwal, Prof Dr. Bhupinder Singh were at the podium. Mr. Rajiv Prashar was the guest of honour.

About 50 people from two groups were invited to participate in the seminar and about 35 reported to make the Programme get going at 7-30 pm and the discussions were carried till 10.45 pm.
A short movie ‘Ek Bangla Bane Nyara” created by Er. Navdeep Asija was projected through LCD projector to apprise the participants of Seminar about the various aspects of life in Fazilka

The Programme was a complete success in lieu of the points focused by the speakers

Er. Nitin Setia conducted the stage management. Thanks giving were carried by Ad. Manoj Tripathi and the dinner was served by courtesy of Er. Navdeep Asija
The speakers who expressed their opinions are listed herein;
Adv. Umesh Kukar, President GWAF
Prof. Dr. Bhupinder Singh patron GWAF
Mr. Rajiv Prashar, SDM
Mr. Surinder Ahuja, Entrepreneur
Mr. Anilesh Mahajan, Journalist, Times of India
Mr. Vikram Ahuja, Entrepreneur
Mr. Manoj Tripathi
Dr. Amar Lal Baghla, Journalist, Dainik Jagran
Mr. Devinder Aggarwal
Mr. Bajrang Gupta
Er. Navdeep Asija

The deliberations at this seminar were a valuable contribution towards cultivating future programmes, which will enhance the 3Es objectives of the GWAF. The deliberations were made from local to national level problems.
Some comments, which need to be recorded, are outlined herein;

The brainpower of the region is of standards come across anywhere in the world and proper guidance will enable the youth of the area to show better performance and become achievers.
The resources in the form of better citizens by investing in Primary Education rather than Nuclear Power Plants will be a better project, so that children of 5 years age in 2007 can after another 4 years get transformed into well-cultured Indians. A start at Fazilka may be made even though the government has never cared for Human resource development for the last 60 years. India of 2047 should be inhabited by better homosapiens.

Tree Plantation in and around the town should be immediately undertaken. A belt of trees along the newly dug drain site where very large number of trees can be planted. The administrative machinery along with Forest department and Citizens of Fazilka should w3ork out the feasible plans for this venture.

Brand name in terms of products of Fazilka should be cultivated. Tosha and Sunehri Jutti have already made a mark in this direction. More effort is needed to develop call centers etc.

Global Warming is at the doors of Civilization and if left unchecked the life on the planet will be annihilated. Programmes like pedestrian, pedal power should be used.
The role of journalists was well recognized. Their responsibility was emphasized.

A Pedal Power Call Center may be installed so that citizens in residing at the periphery of the town can avail the services of pedal three wheelers (Rickshaw) by making a call. This service of Rick calling is very much desired as a very large number of senior citizens suffer from Osteo-arthritis due to Fluoride ridden ground water. This facility will of its kind in the world as with Mobile set available, the rickshaw pullers can be contactd. Some venturesome citizens have already issued Mobile sets to Rickshaw pullers to call them for movement in the town. Earlier its was done by making calls through epistles or verbal messengers

There is need for reviving the Badha Lake, which has grown dry.

The problems of citizens having lands across the Barbed Fence near Radcliff line should be sorted out at the administrative level.

The rail link to Karachi should be revived not only for the prosperity of Fazilka region, but also for the very poor people of Bahawalpur region of Pakistan.

The rail track linking Fazilka to Abohar will open up the passenger movement to Haridwar, Delhi and South India by express trains, yet it work progress is at a snail pace. However the Sri Ganga nagar-Hanuman Garh meter gauge need conversion to broad gauge so that the Rajasthan, Gujrat and Mahrashtra region is linked through rail movement.
The management of the garbage needs better tools for the scavengers. Some alert citizens have installed Vegetable waste collection through a rickshaw for disposal at Gowshalla so that it can be fed to animals.
The Ekta Udyan, Language Laboratory for Girl graduates, under guidance of Princiapl Pritam Kaur is under development and will be inaugurated soon.
News Paper Coverage:

1. Partap Kesri 15th August, 2007

2. Punjab Kesri, 15th August, 2007 (jalandhar Edition)

3. Sarhad Kesri, 15th August, 2007

Danik Jagran, Aug 14, 2007
फाजिल्का को आदर्श नगर बनाने की योजना पर जुटे माहीर

फाजिल्का-ग्रेजूएटस वेलफेयर एसोसिएशन ने फाजिल्का के विकास के लिए विजन 2047 के संबंध में सोमवार रात को लाला सुनाम राय मेमोरियल केंद्र में विचार गोष्ठी का आयोजन किया। कार्यक्रम की अध्यक्षता उपमंडल अधिकारी राजीव पराशर ने की। गोष्ठी का शुभारंभ दीप प्रज्जवलित से किया गया। एसोसिएशन के अध्यक्ष एडवोकेट उमेश कुक्कड़ ने कहा कि भारत-पाक विभाजन से पूर्व फाजिल्का एशिया की सबसे बड़ी ऊन मंडी थी। सीमावर्ती इलाका होने के कारण 1947 के बाद यह शहर आर्थिक, शैक्षणिक, राजनैतिक दशा हर वर्ष बिगड़ती गई। श्री कुक्कड़ ने जीडब्लूए की स्थापना पर भी रोशनी डाली। उतरांचल के रूड़की इंजि. कालेज के सेवानिवृत्त डा. भूपिंदर सिंह ने फाजिल्का को ग्रीन बेल्ट में तबदील करने पर जोर दिया। उन्होंने हवा व जल के प्रदूषण से बचने के उपाय बताए। सूर्य व इंसान के ऊर्जा शक्तिके उचित उपयोग के लिए लोगों में जागृति पैदा करने के लिए कहा। उद्योगपति सुरिंदर आहूजा ने खेतों में नहर के किनारे व स्कूलों में अधिक से अधिक वृक्ष लगाने के लिए सुझाव दिया। उद्योग प्रति विक्रम आहूजा ने फाजिल्का की परंपरागत तिल्ले वाली जूती व तोशा मिठाई के कारोबार को बढ़ावा देकर देश व विदेशों में फाजिल्का ब्रांड को प्रसिद्ध करने का सुझाव दिया। डा. अमर लाल बाघला ने शिक्षा के फैलाव व विद्यार्थियों को उचित करने के लिए कहा। इंडियन एक्सप्रेस समाचार पत्र चंडीगढ़ के पत्रकार अखिलेश महाजन ने फाजिल्का की सुंदरता बढ़ाने पर जोर दिया। दिल्ली से आए इंजीनियर नवदीप असीजा ने फाजिल्का धरोहर घंटाघर, बाधा झील, शहीदों की समाधि व अन्य स्थानों के विकास के लिए सुझाव दिए। नगर परिषद के पूर्व अध्यक्ष बजरंग लाल गुप्ता, दविंद्र गुप्ता, प्रेस क्लब के अध्यक्ष दविंद्र पाल सिंह व अनेक गणमान्य व्यक्तियों ने गोष्ठी में भाग लिया। उप मंडल अधिकारी राजीव पराशर ने फाजिल्का विकास के लिए सरकार सहायता व सहयोग के लिए पूर्ण आश्वासन दिया। मंच संचालन एडवोकेट मनोज त्रिपाठी व नितिन सेतिया ने किया।

If you are not able to read this, use Mangal Font to Read this

Freedom still out of bounds : Surrounded By Pakistan Border On Three Sides, Village Has Fencing On Indian Side Too

Times of India, 15th August, 2007

Mohar Jamsher (Ferozepur): After 60 years, India has too much to boast about, but for this border village freedom is still out-of-bounds. Barbed wire on three sides demarcates it from Pakistan, but the fourth side facing India is also fenced and has a gate, which opens at 9 am and is closed by 5:30 pm, according to BSF norms. Having 750 residents, it’s the only village along the Western frontier which has fencing on all four sides.

Mohar Jamsher sarpanch Harbans Singh said the village is paying the price of Independence and Partition. “We are not free here,” he said. Now he resides outside the village, but at the time he lived in the village, life was hell, he added. Recently, Lal Bai (50) lost her daughter-in-law Sheela Bai, as she could not cross the gate on her way to hospital for delivery. She along with her baby died on the spot as the gate could not be opened on time. “This is enough for others to know what kind of freedom we enjoy,” she said. In fact the BSF officers told TOI that they have orders of opening the gate only in the case of emergency that too on the orders of a DIG rank officer.

This is not the only issue, villager are facing many more problems, which could be noticed as soon as one enters the village. There’s no electricity, no telephone, no roads, no drinking water, no police, no shop, poor education, no development schemes, but only troubles. The villagers said they have only three tractors as far as automobile are concerned.

“Slowly, we all are leaving the village,” said the sarpanch. “Our village is like a jail, we have to get back at 5:30 pm,” said Balbir Singh, a local resident. The village elders said they would be happy if the village could be shifted to the neighbouring country. “Our children can’t go outside the village, our guest cannot stay over night, what freedom are we talking about,” said Lakshman Singh. “If guests come, they have to go through rigorous processes and then BSF people call us outside the village for identification,” said Balbir Singh. “Now, they have stopped coming to us. Moreover, we are finding it tough to get our sons married outside the village,” he said. “People are ready to marry our daughters but not sons,” he rued.

The Army sources said the village is located between the pillar number xxxx and xxxx and the village is cut by Sutlej river on the Indian side. For crossing the fence, on banks of the river, one needs permission of BSF and identification of the sarpanch. The BSF records of last 17 years show that local MLAs, MPs and the other opposition leaders only come here during election days. Meanwhile, SDM, Rajeev Prashar told TOI that the local administration has plans to ask Indian Army to construct roads in the village.

Poor condition of martyrs’ graves-Fazilka

Anilehs Mahajan TNN

Asafwala Sadqi Indo-Pak Border (Ferozepur): The country has entered the sixty first year of its freedom, but after seeing the condition of the graveyard in village Sainia it seems that the nation has forgotten those who laid their lives for its security. Most of them Christians belonging to north east and a few Muslims from south India, these heroes lost their lives in 1965 and 71 wars.

The condition is so bad that TOI with the help of a social activist Roshan Lal Jain had to clear up the tablets which read the epitaph of the buried. Graves were littered with mud and cow dungs and were covered with grass. Only three soldiers belonging to 3 Assam Rifles could be identified, rest eight were impossible to be identified. A few kilometres away the memorial for Hindu and Sikh soldiers along with four Muslims of the Horse Riders Regiment (Ashvarohi) is well kept and is one of the tourist attractions. The three tablets identify Sepoy Jong Bhadur, Naik K Talawara and F Hrangziki. They were killed in 1971 war. This unconcern is also creating unrest in the Army as in Punjab most of the families have ties with defence forces and have a major presence in the Indian Army. Meanwhile, Major General (retired) Amarjit Singh Kahlon said it’s time that we should undo the damage done to the national pride. The regiment of these personnel should come up and act, he added. According to the records, in this sector 4 Jat lost 69 soldiers, 15 Rajput lost 70, 3 Assam lost 39 and others 28, out of them names of 10 martyrs are missing. These are the graves of those soldiers.

A few years back local social activists tried to raise the issue but the administration did not encourage them. ‘‘We informed the district administration but nothing has been done yet,’’ said Jain. Former Army Chief General (retired) VP Malik said this is a matter of national shame. “It does not matter where soldier died and what’s his background, citizens of the country should act responsibly and maintain the graves,’’ said the General. In British era there was a war grave commission, but now there is no such provision, Malik added. “It is the responsibility of local administration to maintain the graveyard,” he added.