A case was slapped against him and a Amritsar court issued warrants for his arrest as he dared to demolish the extended portion of a house that was encroaching onto a street in his village.
However, this did not deter Amarjit Singh, 58, the sarpanch of Naushera village from performing his duties. He even went to court with the relevant papers to explain that the accusations of using 'abusive' language against a particular community were baseless. Ultimately the court decided the case in his favour, but not before giving him a scare.
Backed by his fellow villagers, irrespective of their political affiliations, Amarjit took up one scheme after another for the development of the village and for the welfare of its residents. Blue (Akali) and white (Congress) turbans stood by him as he took the rounds of government offices and spent nights scanning the revenue records of his village to identify common village land which he could use for common welfare of all after freeing it from encroachers.
Ultimately the hard work of five years paid off, when Naushera was selected for a national award under the Panchayat Empowerment Accountability Incentive Scheme (PEAIS) by the union ministry of panchayati raj. Amarjit will be in New Delhi to receive this award from the Prime Minister on National Panchayat Day celebrations on April 24.
“I could never have achieved this without the support of the people of the village. This award belongs to each and every household of Naushera,” said Amarjit, while talking to HT in his village on Monday.
Village garners maximum points
Of the five villages of Punjab, which have been selected for this award, Naushera in the Verka block of Amritsar district garnered the maximum points. Each of the five selected villages will be given an additional grant of Rs. 5 lakh each by the union ministry. Naushera got 77 points out of 100. Other villages are Harnampura in Ludhiana (72 points), Fatehpur in Jalandhar and Talwandi Bharat in Gurdaspur (52 points each), and Hakam Singh Wala (40 points).
For the selection of villages for the award, teams from the sub-divisional level to the state level conducted periodic inspections. Thereafter a team from the union panchayati raj ministry visited the village for compilation of the final report.
Water supply and sanitation
Perhaps the most characteristic feature of the village is the World Bank-sponsored water supply and sanitation scheme.
The scheme was launched as a pilot project in this village after Amarjit came forward to convey to the deputy commissioner that he would get the scheme implemented in his village. To show his enterprising qualities, the sarpanch was quick to deposit the 5% share of the village in this Rs. 1.5-crore scheme.
The total length of the underground water supply and sewerage pipes in the village is 27 kms-the maximum length for any village in the state.
For population of around 7000, there are 1100 household water connections, 15 community connections including those in schools and three connections at the three cremation grounds. Besides there are 15 free connections given to those who cannot afford paying monthly charges.
A committee headed by Mohinder Singh, a retired school teacher and a village resident oversees this scheme and is responsible for collecting the monthly rent.
“I have formed committees in the village and these look after different the projects. That is why I say it is team work,” said the sarpanch.
RTI rules on display
Visit the community hall on the road leading to the village and a visitor is taken aback when he or she sees the RTI rules displayed on a notice board.
“Ask us for any information after depositing the fee and you will have it in no time,” said the sarpanch.
The community hall has the latest voters' list on display, besides the list of old age and widow pensioners and the amount being given to each physically challenged person in the village. There are six orphans in the village, who also receive a monthly grant from the panchayat.
A retired officer of the state audit department, Narinder Singh Dhami, who belongs to the village, is in-charge of all matters related to finance and the transparency in panchayat's finances is one of the hallmarks of Naushera.
The village has two primary, one high school post office, dispensary, aanganwadi and 'patwarkhana', all housed in concrete structures.
The commitment of the sarpanch can be judged from the manner in which he took pains to go through the revenue records for identifying the panchayat land along a 2-km link road. This land had been encroached upon not only by farmers but even by the Indian Air Force (IAF), which has a radar station on this road. Thereafter, he took rounds of various government offices and even went to Delhi for showing the records to the defence ministry and finally got the land freed from illegal occupation.