A narrow road dotted with potholes leads you to Chappar Chiri, a model village that made its way to the heritage map of India after the construction of a magnificent memorial dedicated to Sikh warrior Baba Banda Singh Bahadur in 2011. But the namesake memorial has failed to change the fortunes of the village, which is yet to get the basic infrastructure in place. Nor did the swearing in of the Punjab Government at the memorial in March 2012 have any effect on its civic amenities.
Seated on the Kharar-Banur road, the two villages—Chappar Chiri Kalan and Chappar Chiri Khurd—are home to mostly ex-servicemen thanks to a government policy of allocating land in the village to World War 1 and World War II veterans.
The large number of posh houses in the village with ultra modern facilities belies the lack of basic infrastructure such as unbroken roads, covered drains and uninterrupted water supply. Despite being a planned village, there is rampant encroachment. Be it the green belt or government land, all have been encroached upon by locals.
A ROAD TO ACCIDENTS
The lone road leading to the village, which has been serving as its lifeline for long, and draws a heavy rush of commuters travelling to Kharar from SAS Nagar, is in a shambles but no one is bothered.
The road leading to the memorial is also full of pot holes. Sudhir Sharma, an employee of a private company in SAS Nagar, rues that the SAS Nagar administration has failed to repair the road despite repeated requests. “The only time it swings into action is when there is a government function. Then, they do some patchwork to give the VIPs a smooth ride,” he complained.
Ram Baksh, who works with a private school in the village, says, “Recently, chief of the Radha Soami sect was here at SAS Nagar, so his followers filled up the potholes with mud. The other day, a loaded tipper got stuck in that mud, thus blocking the road. It took more than 12 hours to remove it and restore the normal movement of traffic.”
The villagers were pleasantly surprised when paver blocks were heaped on the roadside two months ago, but there was no action after that. “They continue to be dumped by the road, and there is no sign of any movement toward paving the road,” groused Kulwinder Kaur, a villager.
SOS TO CM
The roads were subjected to a cursory patchwork even when the Punjab Government held a much acclaimed laser show at the memorial to mark the 350th martyrdom anniversary of Baba Banda Bahadur in June 2016. Irked at this neglect, Manleen Kaur Rekhi, a resident of Shivalik City and a student of Panjab University, urged Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to issue directions to get the road repaired but to no avail.
“Two link roads leading to Industrial Area, SAS Nagar, are in a very deplorable condition for the past three years, leading to many accidents on the stretch,” said Rekhi.
She rued that there was no move to repair the roads despite the fact that a number of programs such as Sirhind-Fateh Day/ march were organised here. “A religious program held at the open-air theatre of the Chappar Chiri memorial, was attended by Education Minister Daljit Singh Cheema, MP Prem Singh Chandumajra and SGPC president among others, but there has been no move to repair the roads.”
Rekhi said she even complained on the 1905 helpline of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal two months ago, and was assured of action, but nothing was done on the ground.
A SMELL MOST FOUL
Despite being a model village, the drains in the village are yet to be covered. Consequently, a foul smell always hangs in the air. Mann Singh, a villager, said MNREGA was responsible for the upkeep of the pucca roads, but there was no effort to cover the drains.
The swanky SUVs parked in the village houses speak of general prosperity, but garbage continues to be dumped in open, and there seems to be no effort by the villagers to pool their resources for a garbage disposal system.
HEALTH AT STAKE
The village has a middle school, but there is no primary health care centre. The villagers are largely dependent on SAS Nagar or Chandigarh in case of any health-related issues.
Malkiat Singh, a villager, said the government had earmarked eight acres of land for the government school, but the school utilised only part of the land. “The rest has been gobbled up by residents. The administration can use this land for building a dispensary or a hall for holding community functions,” he said.
THE LEGEND OF BANDA BAHADUR
Chappar Chiri has an important place in the Sikh history as it was the site of a historic battle between the Sikhs led by Banda Singh Bahadur and Wazir Khan, the imperial faujdar of Sirhind, on May 12, 1710. The latter was killed and the Mughal army routed. The Sikhs occupied Sirhind two days later. This battle was a stepping stone to the establishment of the first Sikh Raj in India in 1711.
No memorial was, however, built to commemorate the historic battle till the 1950s when the two villages jointly established a gurdwara called Gurdwara Baba Banda Bahadur, which sits by the side of the metalled link road joining the two villages. The gurdwara, which used to be managed by a committee representing the two villages, has recently been handed over to the SGPC.
A TOWERING VICTORY
It was in November 2011 that the SADBJP government led by Parkash Singh Badal built a memorial to Baba Banda Singh Bahadur at Chappar Chiri. The 328-foot-high victory tower Fateh Burj is purportedly the tallest memorial tower in the country. A stainless steel khanda sits atop the dome on the tower. Its eight sides have arches overlooking a water body.
The memorial also has statues of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and his five generals, namely, Bhai Fateh Singh, Bhai Aali Singh, Bhai Mali Singh, Bhai Baj Singh and Bhai Ram Singh atop six mounds around the water body.
Besides the statues, the memorial boasts an open air theatre with a capacity of 1200 people.
A MUSEUM DEMANDED FOR MAN SINGH
Families of World War 1 and II veterans at Chappar Chiri are now demanding a memorial to display their memorabilia, including medals, letters of appreciation and photos. Their proudest possession, the Man Singh Trophy, gained recognition after Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted a replica to his then Australian counterpart Tony Abbott. In addition to the trophy, the families claim they have medals from soldiers during World War I and II, letters of appreciation, and pictures of soldiers at various battlefields.
The trophy is named after Man Singh, a soldier in the Sikh regiment, whose family lives in the village. The regiment served in World War I in Egypt, Gallipoli, Sinai and (the then) Mesopotamia from October 1914 to May 1917.
The Man Singh trophy commemorates the brave action of the battalion’s soldiers. The trophy is named after Man Singh, a soldier who distinguished himself for his physical prowess and agility. At 6 ft 4 inches, Singh was so strong that he could easily cross high wire obstacles and broad ditches, vital for trench warfare during WW-I. He could also lob a grenade up to a distance of 50 yards.
The little statue has some peculiarities, like the shoes worn by Singh appear to be on the wrong feet, the satchel on his back hangs with one strap only; in place of grenades, he is carrying cans of condensed milk, and the bolt of his rifle is in the unlocked position. All Sikh regiment battalions have a replica of this trophy in bronze.