Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal's repeated promises to maintain the sanctity of Kali Bein, declared a 'holy' spot by the state government due to its association with the first Sikh guru, and assurances that there would be no paucity of funds for this purpose, seem to have fallen flat, with untreated water being released into the rivulet, after it bypasses the sewage treatment plant (STP) set up here.
The chief minister is expected to visit Sultanpur Lodhi on Sunday to participate in the Gurpurab celebrations in the gurdwaras situated on the banks of Kali Bein.
Visiting the STP on Saturday, an HT team noticed that the 25MLD plant, for which the Centre gave a grant of Rs. 12 crore under the National Canal River Conservation Plan, set up here in 2007 to protect Kali Bein from water pollution was proving to be of no use due to lack of maintenance.
Most of the sewage water is released into the rivulet untreated, while what little water is treated is also not of good quality, and is mixed with untreated water before being released into the rivulet.
"People have a religious faith in Kali Bein, and take dips in the water and even consume it as 'parshad'. The state government and civic bodies, which are responsible for releasing untreated water into the bein are putting lives at risk. We have raised the issue at many meetings and the CM has assured help, but nothing has actually improved," alleged environmentalist Balbir Singh Seechewal.
The STP is being controlled by 14 employees, headed by a supervisor. They disclosed that most parts of the STP were lying non-operational due to lack of maintenance.
"The reactor unit is not working, the final finishing pond is full of waste (gaar) and the municipal committee has not invited tenders for cleaning it in the last three years. Besides, the bio-gas plant is not operational, pipes need to be replaced and fit-boxes are also not in working condition," an employee disclosed.
He added, "Nearly Rs. 1 crore are required for repair and maintenance. As the gauge meters to check the inflow of water are also out of order, we are not in a condition to take in the full amount of sewage water for treatment, because it would destroy the already-crumbled machinery. This is why most of the water is being released untreated."
The employees also rued non-payment of salaries by the municipal committee last month.
"The contractor is not paying us even minimum wages," an employee alleged.
Supervisor Surjit Singh admitted that were shortcomings in the machinery due to lack of repairs, but denied any laxity on part of the staff.
"I joined duty in April this year and have tried to engage my staff according to their best possible utilisation. It is up to the government now to release funds for the necessary maintenance," he said.
Additional deputy commissioner-cum-administrator of the MC GS Khaira, claimed, "The system has several problems. I have taken charge of the MC three days ago and am already evaluating the shortcomings. We will try to make it operation very soon."
Historical relevance of Kali Bein
Kali Bein was declared 'holy" by the state government due to its association with first Sikh guru Nanak Dev. As per the janamsakhis (birth records), five centuries ago, Nanak went for his daily bath in the rivulet, but disappeared. While his friends and followers feared that he had drowned, his detractors started rumours that he had robbed his employer's stores and run away. Two days later, when he reappeared 2km upstream at the spot now known as 'Sant Ghat', Nanak's first words were, "Naa ko Hindu, na Musalmaan" (there is no Hindu, no Muslim). Here, along the Kali Bein, he composed the Japji Sahib (containing the Mool Mantar) and from here he undertook his first two Udasis (religious journeys).