From the shame of being a hub of crime and drug abuse, this small village has come a long way to being proud. Today, Chakar, 60 km from Ludhiana, is known as the ‘first model village of Punjab’.
In June last, when Sangrur deputy commissioner Arshdeep Singh Thind visited Chakar, he had brought more than 35 village panchayats along, so that they could draw inspiration.
Thind wanted the panchayat team to see how Chakar was treating its sewerage water to water fields, and how its ponds had been turned into lakes for boating.
Thind also wanted the visitors to see how happy Chakar was — the village men and women content with the work opportunities, and the youths, earlier consumed by the demon of drug abuse, now sweating it out at the Sher-e-Punjab sports academy and the six village gyms, one for girls.
And discipline? Chakar panchayat has a uniform too — white ‘kurta pajama’ and maroon turbans for males and white Punjabi suit with maroon dupattas for women.
It was in February 2011 that Chakar took it upon itself to turn its fate around. An excited Major Singh, the village sarpanch, swells with pride as he shows around the under-construction panchayat house. He says it will have two suites where tourists can stay overnight, a dining mess and an “internet room”.
Also, the village’s recently constructed and renovated bus stands have separate waiting areas for men and women, besides toilets, something that was missing before. Major Singh also says to widen the streets and promote cycling, villagers have been told to remove all encroachments so that a separate cycling and pedestrian paths could be built.
The village also has a dedicated place where villagers throw their daily waste. The place is surrounded by walls where cow dung is dumped and later used by farmers as manure.
So much for greenery that Chakar claims to have planted more than 35,000, a third of them fruit-bearing.
‘Thanks to NRI brothers’
While Chakar panchayat members praise the villagers for their cooperation, the village is particularly grateful to its “NRI brothers”
“The NRI sons of the village converted our village to heaven... but despite spending so much money on the village they do not wish to come into limelight,” Major Singh says.
Nirmal Kingra, an NRI from Chakar who spends half of the year in the village to keep a tab on the construction work, says government funds account for only 2% of the total development cost. “That support also came after asking several times,” he says.
There are many who want the government to do more. “Sadly, the Punjab heritage and tourism promotion board has never made a single effort to popularise our village,” says Balwant Singh Sandhu, a professor, who has also penned a book on Chakar. Well, that’s a first too, perhaps.