Saturday, August 12, 2017

For Swachh Bharat: Will Punjab be third time lucky on cleanliness? Schools on test now

22 schools from state are among 643 vying for the first national Clean School Awards

After faring poorly in national rankings of cities and railway stations, Punjab will face another cleanliness test soon — in the schools this time.

Twenty-two government elementary and secondary schools are in the race for the first national-level Swachh Vidyalaya Puraskars (Clean School Awards) expected to be announced by the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry in the last week of this month. They are among the 643 government schools vying for top honours for "excellence in sanitation and hygiene practices". The Centre plans to award 100 schools each at elementary and secondary levels.

Punjab's schools in consideration are located in 12 districts with the maximum number of entries being from Fazilka, at five. Three entries are from Ferozepur, two each from Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana and Tarn Taran, and one each from Nawanshahr (SBS Nagar), Faridkot, Sangrur, Patiala and Mohali.

These schools have been selected by the state education department and the MHRD after they emerged on top in the state on parameters of cleanliness, sanitation, availability of facilities such as toilets, clean and safe drinking water, clean and green campus, hygiene habits among children, and teachers' involvement in ensuring cleanliness.

Puraskar and process

The awards are part of the Swachh Bharat Swachh Vidyalaya (Clean India, Clean School) campaign started by the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. The selection process, which was started 10 months ago, saw thousands of schools from across the country submitting their entries and go through a lengthy selection process. Besides Punjab, 25 schools from Haryana, 27 from Himachal Pradesh, 40 from Rajasthan and three from Chandigarh have been shortlisted.

Though Punjab had sent a list of 40 schools to the Centre, 11 primary and secondary schools each have made it to the final round. They are mostly located in rural areas.

Government Senior Secondary School in Dhaliwal Bet village of Kapurthala district, which is spread over four acres and has 350 students, is among them. Principal Mohinder Kaur said her school filled the self-evaluation form online last year. "The school has five parks and lawns with medicinal plants, constant supply of clean drinking water, 10 toilets, and a big auditorium. We take particular care of sanitation," she said.

Hoping for redemption

A school education department official said the HRD ministry has, in collaboration with UNICEF's water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) team, done its own independent assessment of the recommendations sent by the states. "The final awardees will be selected by a national-level committee headed by the Union secretary, school education. We are hopeful some of our schools will do well, but are keeping our fingers crossed," he said.

Maneesh Garg, joint secretary, school education, MHRD, has, in a letter to the state government, asked to complete the process of giving district- and state-level awards by August 15 and inform the ministry.

Under the Swachh Bharat campaign, the state has been a laggard so far. Not a single city from the state was among the top 100 in rankings released this year due to serious shortcomings in solid waste collection and processing and disposal. Barring the Beas railway station, most other stations in the state also did not do well in cleanliness rankings released three months ago. The Beas station, which was among the cleanest stations, is primarily maintained by Radha Soami Satsang's volunteers.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dastan-E-Azadi : यहां जलती थीं गुलामी के प्रतीक विदेशी कपड़ों की होली -

अमृत सचदेवा - फाजिल्का : यहां का आर्य समाज चौक कभी स्वतंत्रता संग्राम में भाग लेने वाले शहर के अधिकांश सेनानियों का गढ़ था। ब्रिटिश अधिकारी उस क्षेत्र को 'उग्रवादियों का डेरा' बताते थे। इसी चौराहे पर स्वतंत्रता संग्राम की बैठकें होती थी। विदेशी कपड़ों की होली जलाने जैसे साहसिक कार्य भी इसी चौक में हुए थे। आज भी यह चौक स्वतंत्रता संग्राम की याद दिलाता है। 11903 में स्थापित आर्य समाज मंदिर में ज्यादातर आजादी के परवाने एकत्रित हुआ करते थे। इसकी मुख्य वजह यह थी कि आर्य समाज मंदिर के आसपास ही स्वतंत्रता सेनानी लाला सुनाम राय, हरीकृष्ण दास जसूजा, नंद लाल सोनी, दूनी चंद बाघला व पिता जी के नाम से मशहूर गौरी शंकर के आवास थे। इन्हीं के मार्गदर्शन में ही पूरे जिले के स्वतंत्रता सेनानी बैठकों के लिए इकट्ठा होते थे। यहीं पर महात्मा गांधी के आह्वान पर विदेशी वस्तुओं के बहिष्कार के तहत विदेशी कपड़ों की होली जलाकर पूरे क्षेत्र में स्वतंत्रता संग्राम की आग को हवा दी गई थी। लाला सुनाम राय के नेतृत्व में अंग्रेजों को भारत से निकालने के पक्षधर लोगों ने अपने घरों से विदेशी कपड़े लाकर उसकी होली जला ब्रिटिश सरकार को संदेश दिया था कि आर्य समाज चौक से चल रही मुहिम का समर्थन हर प्रदेशवासी कर रहा है। उससे पहले तक अंग्रेज सिपाही जब मर्जी आकर यहां रहने वाले स्वतंत्रता सेनानियों को उठाकर ले जाते थे और जेल में बंद कर देते थे, लेकिन इसी चौक से मजबूत हुए स्वतंत्रता संग्राम ने हर गली मोहल्ले को 'अंग्रेजो भारत छोड़ो' मुहिम का ध्वजवाहक बना दिया। आज भी इस चौराहे पर लाला सुनाम राय सहित अन्य स्वतंत्रता सेनानियों के परिवार रहते हैं और आजादी की लहर को अपने बुजुगोर्ं के जन्मदिन व पुण्यतिथि मनाकर ताजा करते हैं। 1अमृत सचदेवा ' फाजिल्का 1यहां का आर्य समाज चौक कभी स्वतंत्रता संग्राम में भाग लेने वाले शहर के अधिकांश सेनानियों का गढ़ था। ब्रिटिश अधिकारी उस क्षेत्र को 'उग्रवादियों का डेरा' बताते थे। इसी चौराहे पर स्वतंत्रता संग्राम की बैठकें होती थी। विदेशी कपड़ों की होली जलाने जैसे साहसिक कार्य भी इसी चौक में हुए थे। आज भी यह चौक स्वतंत्रता संग्राम की याद दिलाता है। 11903 में स्थापित आर्य समाज मंदिर में ज्यादातर आजादी के परवाने एकत्रित हुआ करते थे। इसकी मुख्य वजह यह थी कि आर्य समाज मंदिर के आसपास ही स्वतंत्रता सेनानी लाला सुनाम राय, हरीकृष्ण दास जसूजा, नंद लाल सोनी, दूनी चंद बाघला व पिता जी के नाम से मशहूर गौरी शंकर के आवास थे। इन्हीं के मार्गदर्शन में ही पूरे जिले के स्वतंत्रता सेनानी बैठकों के लिए इकट्ठा होते थे। यहीं पर महात्मा गांधी के आह्वान पर विदेशी वस्तुओं के बहिष्कार के तहत विदेशी कपड़ों की होली जलाकर पूरे क्षेत्र में स्वतंत्रता संग्राम की आग को हवा दी गई थी। लाला सुनाम राय के नेतृत्व में अंग्रेजों को भारत से निकालने के पक्षधर लोगों ने अपने घरों से विदेशी कपड़े लाकर उसकी होली जला ब्रिटिश सरकार को संदेश दिया था कि आर्य समाज चौक से चल रही मुहिम का समर्थन हर प्रदेशवासी कर रहा है। उससे पहले तक अंग्रेज सिपाही जब मर्जी आकर यहां रहने वाले स्वतंत्रता सेनानियों को उठाकर ले जाते थे और जेल में बंद कर देते थे, लेकिन इसी चौक से मजबूत हुए स्वतंत्रता संग्राम ने हर गली मोहल्ले को 'अंग्रेजो भारत छोड़ो' मुहिम का ध्वजवाहक बना दिया। आज भी इस चौराहे पर लाला सुनाम राय सहित अन्य स्वतंत्रता सेनानियों के परिवार रहते हैं और आजादी की लहर को अपने बुजुगोर्ं के जन्मदिन व पुण्यतिथि मनाकर ताजा करते हैं। 1

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Ode to Fazilka - by Dr Meeran Chadha Borwankar

Dear Fazilka

Dear Fazilka, it was a great moment when I visited you after a long time. Yes I agree this was a huge gap and highly avoidable too. Considering what you have done for me and my family, this long wait to befriend you again is unpardonable indeed. I apologies Fazilka.

It was most heart warming to be greeted by citizens and receive a photograph of my father, a Punjab police officer of repute, awarding a student for his brilliant academic performance that saw him through BITS Plani. The student had turned grey and my father is no more. He held the citizens of Fazilka in the highest esteem and valued their bravery, their steadfast fortitude in holding on to the  last inch of land as a sensitive border town. As the commandant of 22nd battalion of BSF, he had steered the border during 1971 Indo-Pak war and watched many of his young colleagues from 3rd Assam and 4 Jat loose their lives. He mourned for them deeply but duty came first for him and his team, so BSF fought the enemy with all its might.

Fazilka town had been evacuated. But soon came back the hardy citizens and took charge of their lives again. While constructing ' Asafwala' war memorial for the martyrs, they restored the prosperity of the region by tilling their land with that extra vigor  for which they are known all over Punjab. I admire you Fazilka, for your capacity to bounce back be it after a border conflict or an agriculturally disastrous year. Your love for innovation in agriculture, in water management,  new crops and cropping patters has earned you the place of pride in the country.  You are most deserving,  Fazilka.

Meeting with my Hindi teacher was overwhelming indeed. She has turned eighty and I have greyed too. But the pride she takes in all her students has made us what we are today. Fazilka, you should be proud of the fact that one of your daughters became the chairperson of Central Board of Direct Taxes. The honesty you grilled in her made her the most efficient tax collector in the country, so that we can invest in our infrastructure and upgrade the lives of poor and needy. As early as 1960s you had believed in equality of genders and invested in educating your daughters, I am so proud of you Fazilka.

How can I forget our teachers who went around house to house encouraging children to enroll in schools and excel in studies! Today if one of your sons has graduated from IIT and Wharton USA and another from Purdue USA it is because of you Fazilka. The culture of rigorous studies and a dedicated teaching community shaped future leaders. The air filled with inspiration, the right balance between studies and recreation was bound to develop versatile personalities. How can we forget our baths on tube wells, open green fields with us running all around, the hide and seek and 'chor sipahi'? The ludo and snake and ladder? You inculcated right values and encouraged creative thinking, credit rightly belongs to you Fazilka.

Can I share a small secret with you? I had cried when my cousins from Delhi mocked  at my vernacular school, calling the building shabby and there being no chairs in our classrooms. We sat on the ground and learnt How was I to understand that it is the quality of education and not mere infrastructure that matters. I was so young. Pardon me for under-estimating you, Fazilka.

But were you not  greener and cleaner? More open too. I did not hear the usual birds chirping in the morning nor the peacock chanting, I was so used to as a child. Where have the birds disappeared? I remember the heaps of cotton and groundnuts on the sides of roads. We would cycle our way to school passing by them. I remember the only cinema hall,  outside which we would buy goodies in paper bags. Women weaving ropes from our house in the BSF campus till the town. Roads were better too and parking not an issue. The area around 'Ghantaghar' was broad; spic and span too. Yes I do remember the bazar with lot many cycles. Why are you choked with polluting traffic today?  Restore your cycles and become pedestrian friendly. Go back to the green, clean town that you once were Fazilka. I am told many young and old are trying to restore the beauty, plant trees and ban plastic, strengthen their hands. Get your trees and birds back Fazilka.

Local industry has done well and shops are full. The enthusiasm is palpable. Fazilka heritage festival showed me the spirit. I saw high energy Bhangra, heard classical music, admired the local art and craft. Met the men and women who are interested in academics and environment, who have formed forums to invigorate the local administration with fresh thoughts and initiatives. Do not let selfish leaders kill your spirit Fazilka. Let the youth take over. Let them revive your spirit and reconstruct your broken roads and electric poles. Shun the selfish and value the ones who love you and take pride in their heritage. They are proud of you, we are all proud of you.

I am sorry I have been so late in showing my love for you but I am sure you were always aware of this deep affection that we all have for you. You are our roots, how can we not value you Fazilka!


Meeran Chadha Borwankar

Former Commissioner of Police Pune. Currently Director General Bureau of Research and Development BPRD, is Maharashtra cadre IPS officer.

The writer (and her family) spent her childhood in Fazilka. Her sister, Anita Kapur retired as Chair Person CBDT