From broken roads, improper drainage, and streets littered with cow dung, Dr Gurdev Singh Gill transformed the face of 16 Punjab villages with an investment of only Rs 16 crore. The retired physician from Vancouver is going to do more, but without involving the government.
The Indo-Canadian Friendship Society of British Columbia (ICFSBC) led by him is involved in eight village-betterment projects in association with India Canada Village Improvement Trust. It has finished eight similar jobs already in collaboration with the NGOs (non-government organizations) based in Chandigarh.
For non-resident Indians (NRIs), it takes two to tango; but the Punjab government doesn’t seem to agree. Starting a publicity-driven “development wave” campaign, it had promised to go fifty-fifty in sharing the expenses, if NRIs (non-resident Indians) helped bring sewerage and piped water to native and adopted villages. A couple of years ago, the government raised its promised share to 65%, and then 75%.
In Chandigarh to talk about how a different approach is required to finance these projects, Dr Gill said: “We have decided not to depend on the Punjab government anymore. We are going ecofriendly and independent.” Former Canadian minister Herb Dhaliwal, patron of IndoCanadian society, who was also present, said 16 village projects were complete “but we do not wish to work with the Punjab government on the remaining four, since working with it leads to unnecessary delay”. “Auditing and verification takes too long,” said Dhaliwal, adding that the initial enthusiasm of Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal and Congress leader Captain Amarinder Singh had waned, and the NRIs now felt let down.
“We were to transform 20 places into model villages, which we plan to do it without the government’s share of help,” he added. Asked why the state government had failed to deliver, Dhaliwal said: “The bureaucracy has been difficult to deal with. The chief secretary gave me all sorts of assurances, but it was empty talk. The government helps only as long as it serves its self-interest.”
The NRIs feels that the CM isn’t doing much also to help the Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat campaign. “There is so much filth in the villages that no government can be unaware,” said the former Canadian minister, who plans to do innovative fundraising for the village improvement trust.
The NRIs are satisfied that eco-friendly, sustainable, and affordable projects aided by them have brought clean drinking water, underground sewerage, waste-water treatment, concrete streets, and solar street lights to at least some villages.
“We are looking at more corporate donations and remittances from more NRIs. We are very passionate about our cause, whether the government helps or not,” said Dr Gill.