There was no end to the joy of 40 leprosy-afflicted patients, dependents and caretakers of Bhagwan Mahavir Kusht Ashram (leprosy home) at Doraha, following the orders of the Punjab and Haryana high court against the "vacation" of the ashram till it is shifted to a new building.
However, the joy was short-lived as the land identified for constructing the new ashram is in the middle of nowhere (in forest land), which the inmates say will add to their problems.
The state government had sent an acquisition notification to the ashram for the Ropar-Doraha four-laning project, following which the ashram management filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana high court, Chandigarh.
The high court had asked the home secretary, Punjab, the secretary, department of irrigation, Punjab, and the deputy commissioner, Ludhiana, to convene a meeting to frame a scheme for rehabilitation of leprosy patients housed in Mahavir Kusht Ashram.
The government departments convened a meeting and submitted a rehabilitation scheme in the court. The new proposed site for the ashram, behind the dispensary, on the left site of Sirhind Canal was approved in the meeting.
Though this land belonged to the irrigation department, it was transferred to the forest department long ago. The land-use of this land can be changed only after getting the approval from the competent authority in accordance with the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. Thus, the irrigation department will have to give some other equivalent area of land in lieu of this land for compensatory afforestation, which the irrigation department has agreed to.
Ludhiana deputy commissioner Rahul Tewari on being asked about the construction of the ashram said the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) being the nodal agency of the four-laning project would provide the funds to the social security department.
"After dealing with the land use change and other technicalities, it will take a year to complete the new building for the ashram. As far as the objection of the ashram inmates to the new site is concerned, I have already asked the XEN concerned to look for more appropriate space. We will complete the project keeping in mind the convenience of the leprosy patients and their families," the DC added.
About the ashram
Bhagwan Mahavir Kusht Ashram was built by philanthropists of Khanna and Doraha almost three decades ago. Mahesh is the caretaker and manager of the ashram for the past 25 years. The ashram, which supports 40 leprosy patients and 20 dependents, is run on charity/donations. There is no dispensary in the ashram and a doctor visits the ashram once a month.
Manager unhappy with allotted land
The proposed site is in the middle of the forest area that will pose problems instead of decreasing them. In absence of any transportation facility, emergency medical aid and amputations for leprosy patients will become a major problem. "We have given a representation to Payal MLA Charanjit Singh Atwal and have requested the Ludhiana DC to reconsider the allotment of the new piece of land for the ashram," said Mahesh.