A Village Too Near To Patiala Empire Yet Too Far
Chaura is the first village of the city as you move on Patiala-Rajpura-Chandigarh highway, recently upgraded to four lanes with two tolls of Rs 55 each. Barely three kms from Patiala, this village is an important link between Punjabi University and suburbs beyond Bahadurgarh to Sanaur, the home town of great character actor Om Puri and an important constituency of Punjab Legislature. Chaura, also connects the Royal city of Patiala with the border town of Shambu, Ambala City and Ghanur via Noor Kherian and Bagora. The last named is the home to first haystack and waste ‘Taap Ghar’ (power plant) in Punjab, closed for last seven months for poor connectivity and non-payment to the transporters bringing the raw fuel to the plant. No support is in sight from current Capt. Amrinder Singh dispensation for a project that was launched by the previous regime with much fanfare.
Ironically, the approach road to Chaura, which once was flanked by Hira Bagh, a property of Maharaja Patiala, that produced best Maltas (a fruit from the citrus family that has now been replaced by Kinnows) of the country on one side and former State Chief Minister Pratap Singh Kairon’s Cold Storage on the other, is in a bad shape.
The road that currently houses the 51st Battalion of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has pot holes matching craters good enough to make the swankiest cars’ floor kiss the ground. The bikers, the cyclists and the bullock cart owners have been finding it difficult to traverse on this that has almost been non-existent for many years. “Things have gone worse in last one year,” reveals Harsharan Singh, a daily commuter on the route. “We are closest to the city, but daily travel makes us feel that Patiala and Chaura are several kms apart.
The road was last laid in 2003 when every resident of Chaura and Nur Kherian had contributed their might in terms of providing manpower and transportation to move the road material. Some patchwork was done immediately after Congress party’s stalwart Lal Singh, the former Finance Minister of the State and close confidant of Capt. Amrinder had won the seat against SAD’s Tejinder Pal Singh Sandhu in 2012. For many years between 1970s to 2007, a bus service too had plied between Punjabi University and Sanaur via Chaura and Nur Kherian.
Reason for the current state of affairs of this key hauling link to some of the prominent towns in Punjab and Haryana is the fierce rivalry between the current Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD – Badal) MLA Harinder Pal Singh Chandumajra, son of former legislator Prem Singh Chandumajra (SAD) and Harinder Pal Singh Mann, popularly known as Harry Mann (Congress). Mann lost the last Vidhan Sabha polls to his name sake by a margin of about 5000 votes. While it is believed that Chandumajra is keen on redoing the entire stretch from Chaura turning to Sanaur and from Noor Kherian to Jogipur, his bête noire, Harry Mann, who is convinced that people of Chaura did not vote for him, is opposing the move tooth and nail.
Mann, the firebrand leader, who courted controversy for his objectionable speeches prior to Panchayat elections in Punjab and because of his nomination to the Syndicate of Punjabi University, has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. His inflammatory speeches before the Local Bodies polls included his controversial statement over use of Sri Sahib (Kirpan), something meant for deterrence and self defence, “for finishing off the rivals.” Mann has the tacit support of Lal Singh, who is currently the Chairman of the Punjab State Agricultural Marketing Board besides being a senior functionary of the Pradesh Congress Committee. Paradoxically Mann, a Law graduate, was once a student at an Institute in Ghaziabad where the writer was once the Director General.
Interestingly about half a decade back the district administration had unfolded a very ambitious plan for Chaura, establishing an air-conditioned international fruit and vegetable market and allowing builders to come up with approved colonies and planning a bustling shopping centre extending from the village to ‘Vadi Nadi’ and connecting it further to Sadar Police Station via scrap market. An area around the village Gurdwara and Temple complex was earmarked as parking and golf carts were planned for the posh market area. All that is thing of past today, with district administration finding itself caught between the two warring politicians! The back gate of the fruit and vegetable market which was to connect Chaura has been closed giving it only one access from Patiala-Sanaur road via Sanari Adda. The move has killed the Chaura plan that would have brought the entire village in the fold of Patiala city.
At the time of writing this piece two trucks were unloading ‘bajri’ at the beginning of the road. Sources in the ITBP suggested that some patch up work is planned up to the ITBP Battalion. However, a fervent appeal has been made by villagers of Chaura and Noor Kherian to Mr Chandumajra to use his good offices and the MLA funds to get the road to Sanaur and the road linking Noor Kherian to Jogipur and Shaikhupura re-laid. They have also written to Mr Lal Singh, as well as district authorities including Additional Deputy Commissioner (Rural Development), whose office is located on Sirhind Road and other officials to look into the miseries faced by them for being the first village and still being far away from the city.
The village Panchayat and Er Ajit Singh, who has a chunk of ‘pushteni’ land in Chaura also plan to approach Harry Mann. They feel if the Congress leader alongside Lal Singh, could press the ruling State regime to let this route be completed right up to Ambala city, the move would ease the traffic on Rajpura highway and cut down the travel time to first city of Haryana by half an hour and several kilometres. Ajit Singh is also convinced it would also be sure short recipe for Mann’s success at the next hustings.