Ludhiana, September 22, 2015 (Yes Punjab News)
The capital of small industries of Punjab is one of the three cities which have been selected under the central government scheme of developing smart cities in the country during the next four years. The residents of this city are hoping that something good will emerge out of the new proposed scheme of smart cities.
But the moot questions who is responsible for the miserable plight of this town which generate maximum state and central revenue, which has provided maximum employment to the labour class in various industries and the residents boast of their riches. The simple answer to this question is politicians of all hues and the officers of the Municipal Corporation Ludhiana are responsible for the present state of affairs.
The present state of this industrial hub is that it is the most polluted city of the country with haphazard expansion and the population of the town has witnessed phenomenal rise. According to 2011 census the official population Ludhiana is 17 lakhs but unofficial estimates at present indicate that the population has increased to more than thirty lakhs. The town has witnessed the mushroom growth of unplanned and unregulated residential colonies around the periphery of the town which pose a serious problems of making the city beautiful and planned. The unauthorized residential colonies have cope up with the connivance of the various departments connected with the regulation of the colonies. The officials of such departments and real estate dealers have minted huge sums of money from the innocent people in the name of providing all basic amenities at the time of selling the plots and built up houses. There are half a dozen officially developed residential colonies which are known as posh colonies of the town. But these are also not fully developed and lack certain facilities.
According to G K Singh, Commissioner of Municipal Corporation Ludhiana, the city has seen 40 times increase in population and expansion since 1950.
This writer who has seen the rise and fall of this town during the past fifty years can say without any hesitation that the political parties which have ruled the Punjab state-whether Congress, Akalidal or the BJP have not played their role well in creating good cities in Punjab and all their tall claims of converting Punjab into a California of India or Switzerland of India have proved hollow. None of these parties took solid and positive steps in building beautiful cities rather they played the role of making the cities dirty and dirtier.
Ludhiana town which had a municipal committee, the status of the municipal committee was raised to municipal corporation along with the cities of Amritsar and Jalandhar in 1974.
The town started witnessing the industrial activity in 1950s and soon industrial areas and focal points for the industries were stablished without providing the necessary infrastructure for the discharge of industrial effluents with the result town started witnessing big size ponds of industrial effluents on the main highways and small lanes where the industries were setup giving foul smell.
The Central Pollution Control Act was enacted in 1970s and the states were asked to have similar state pollution control boards. Although the Punjab state created the Punjab Pollution Control Board but it did not prove effective at all and corrupt officials continued to issue NOCs by accepting small amount of Rs. 1000/- to Rs. 5000/- for the establishment of new industrial units. The industrial units came up without the provision of effluent management plants which were mandatory in certain industries like dyeing and nickel units. Soon things went out of control and the city became a ‘hell’.
The late Sardari Lal Kapoor who was known as ‘Gandhi of Ludhiana’ told this writer in 1980 as a local bodies minister in Darbara Singh Government that 60 percent of the sewerage system on national highway had been damaged because of direct discharge of the industrial effluents in the sewerage system.
The Municipal Corporation and Pollution Control Board are the major culprits in making the town polluted as the municipal corporation failed to have a storm sewer and solid waste treatment plants to treat the industrial and city sullage. Only recently three solid waste management plants have been setup by the municipal corporation which are unable to meet the daily discharge of the sullage. The industrial units have setup the effluent treatment plants but all are not functional and they function only when the authorities tighten their noose.
Budha Nulla which was known as a budha darya small stream of clean water has been converted into a storm channel as it receives the entire sewer sullage of the town. If this budha nulla was not there, Ludhiana would have become a ‘living hell’ many years ago. Therefore, Ludhianvis must bow their heads to this nulla. No serious effort has been made to clean this budha nulla and it is full of toxic arsenal materials. The residents living along the bank of budha nulla suffer from stomach aiments.toxis-budha-nulla
The late Dr. B N Uppal who did a pioneering work of canalizing of the rivers of Punjab was brought to the Punjab Agricultural University as Professor Emiritus by Dr. M S Randhawa then vice chancellor of PAU, gave a proposal of converting budha nulla into a lake in 1975 but the same did not materialize because of the indifferent attitude of the then Congress Government in Punjab. Joginder Paul Pandey who was local bodies minister in Giani Zail Singh Government did not show any interest in the same.
In 1972 a special environmental cell was created headed by the chief town planner of Punjab for the development of Ludhiana town and this cell had experts of sociology from PAU and traffic experts were invited from Mumbai. This cell submitted a huge report seeking Rs. 100 crore for the development of the town. But no steps were taken to implement the report. Interestingly, this report is not available with the Municipal Corporation.
In 1997 when SAD-BJP Government was formed in Punjab under Parkash Singh Badal, a high level committee headed by the then chief secretary was setup comprising the principal secretaries of all the departments. This committee submitted the report entitled, ‘Ludhiana action plan’. Sukhbir Singh Sandhu who was Commissioner of municipal corporation at that time did try to implement this report. But he was soon transferred under political pressure from the BJP.
After the transfer of Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, Ludhiana has not witnessed much development except that an express way has been constructed from Ludhiana to Doraha in seven years. This was to be completed in four years with Rs. 400 crore. The final cost has come to Rs. 700/- crore. One flyover has been constructed which connects Gill Road and this has lessened the traffic on the Jagraon Bridge. Besides, Budha Nulla, Ludhiana does not have any garbage dump nor it has a slaughter house and meat sellers cut the goats and chickens at their own premises. There are certain areas where open sale of chicken and fish is taking place right in the nose of the municipal authorities. Removal of encroachments on the municipal roads is the biggest problem and for the rise in encroachments – both the politicians and the municipal officials are responsible.
Having smooth vehicular traffic in the town is the major headache. Interestingly according to 2011 census, the pollution of Ludhiana is 17 lakhs whereas the number of vehicles of all types-two wheelers, four wheelers, three wheelers and heavy vehicles is more than fifteen lakhs. How would the authorities fulfill the norms of smart city of pedestrian paths and rapid local transport. Tall claims of providing metro rail in Ludhiana have been now shut down after claiming for seven years ‘metro is coming’ to Ludhiana.
The Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal immediately after 2012 election announced ‘Ludhiana Mission worth Rs. 3200 crore’ this was later reduced to Rs. 2500 crore and lately Rs. 1800 crore. But the facts remains that no amount has been provided for the face lifting of Ludhiana town and it continues to suffer badly. How long the residents can be befooled?
In view of the prevailing situation in Ludhiana, the smart city scheme would provide some relief to the residents if the same is implemented honestly and with dedication rising above all political and corrupt practices.
G K Singh Commissioner of Municipal Corporation tells me that they have setup a portal and a website and soon a special purpose vehicle (SPV) will be setup. ‘We will go to the residents and seek their views regarding the implementation of the smart city programme. It is a huge task’. Under the smart city programme, there will be no posters and hoardings. But at present the illegal hoardings are galore and posters have damaged the beautiful walls of the residential areas as well. The wards of certain politicians are making huge money out of hoardings charges. Ludhiana Tera Rab Rakha.
KS Chawla is a veteran journalist.
He can be contacted at – 9988644244