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Sohana: A part urban, part rural mess

High-rise buildings overlooking low-lying waterlogged areas with cow dung cakes lined on the sides. This is a common sight in Sohana, a village that sits cheek by jowl with a bustling city.

punjab Updated: Feb 20, 2017 19:12 IST
Shailee Dogra
Water from open drains is dumped into the ponds around the village, emanating an unbearable stench.
Water from open drains is dumped into the ponds around the village, emanating an unbearable stench.(Anil dayal/HT Photo)

High-rise buildings overlooking low-lying waterlogged areas with cow dung cakes lined on the sides. This is a common sight in Sohana, a village that sits cheek by jowl with a bustling city.

Its more than 30,000 residents co-exist in a space that is part urban and part rural, with wide-ranging civic problems. Situated on the airport road, the village draws a large number of visitors as it’s home to the historic Gurdwara Singh Shaheedan.

The narrow road connecting SAS Nagar to Landran also passes through it, and the administration’s failure to enforce speed limit and check traffic violators has made the Sohana light point infamous for accidents.

Shifting of the administrative and district court complex to Sector 76 has only added to the flow of commuters on this narrow road, where long traffic jams are fast becoming a regular affair.

Thanks to its proximity to several professional colleges, the denizens of the village include a large number of students staying as paying guests. Though included in the Municipal Corporation in 2011 along with five other villages, Sohana’s fortunes remain unchanged.

SANITATION GIVES THE AREA A MISS

Garbage dumped in open areas in Sohana village, Mohali on Thursday. (Anil Dayal/HT Photo)

Heaps of garbage and polythene bags dumped in open areas are a major grouse of the residents.

Though the housing societies have the facility of door-to-door garbage collection, the dumping of garbage by many in open is what irks residents.

“Villagers dump malba and garbage in the open, which makes for very poor sanitation in the area,” rues Sukhjinder Singh, a resident of Sector 78, SAS Nagar.

Santosh Chaudhary, another resident of the area, complained of the foul smell emitting from the cow dung piled up in open areas. “The villagers use open areas to tie cattle and heaps of cow dung and cow dung cakes are a usual sight here,” said Santosh.

Pradeep Kumar, a shopkeeper, attributes the dumping of waste in the open to the fees charged by garbage collectors. “The persons who come to pick garbage from the doorstep charge anything between Rs 50 and Rs 100 depending on the floor the house is on. Not all people are ready to pay the charges.”

SEWERAGE AND OPEN DRAINS, AN EYESORE

The village has an enviable network of roads and its internal roads are pucca, but the open drains are an eyesore.

The water from the houses running through these open drains is dumped in the three ponds around the village, which emit a stench so foul that makes it well neigh impossible to pass by the area, especially in the rainy season when showers are frequent.

PERENNIAL PROBLEM OF WATERLOGGING

The government school in Sohana gets waterlogged even after a slight shower, making it difficult for the authorities to run the school.

The main reason is that the school is situated below the road level and with no proper drainage system for rainwater in the village, water gushes into it. Often, the school is either shutdown after the rains or the students are made to sit in the veranda of adjacent showrooms.

The drains of houses in the village too are not connected to the stormwater drainage, resulting in rain water making way into the houses.

BOVINE MENACE UNCHECKED

Animals are let loose for grazing, much to the chagrin of residents in adjacent areas. (Anil Dayal/HT Photo )

The villagers in Sohana rear cattle for milk, which is breeding bovine menace in the area. The animals are let loose for grazing, much to the chagrin of residents in adjacent areas. Two-wheeler riders often get hurt by running into cattle on the road. Herds of animals can be seen plonked on the airport road, thus risking the lives of commuters.

“The MC drives fail to check stray cattle in the area. Many a time, the staff that undertake special drives are beaten up by the residents,” rued Surinder Singh.

An employee of the municipal corporation complained there have been instances when men of the village have beaten up the staff, and got the animals freed. Things came to such a pass that the civic body wrote to the police for assistance during special cattle-catching drives. MC has now asked the police to depute at least 10 cops whenever such a drive is undertaken. In future, videography of all stray cattle-catching drives would be done to make the case watertight and to identify offenders.

CALL FOR SHIFTING THE DAIRIES

The SAS Nagar MC had planned to shift the dairies, and a survey was also carried out but to no avail. In a meeting of MC officials with the deputy commissioner, SAS Nagar, in May 2015, it was decided that 25 acres of shamlat (village’s common) land will be identified in the town’s periphery to accommodate the dairies, and the land would be rented out to the dairy owners. But the plan hasn’t seen any further movement.

“The proposal to shift dairies was an attempt to free the city of stray animals. But, we are yet to identify the land,” said an MC official.

Even the plan to construct a biogas plant at the proposed shamlat land, so that the cow dung could be used as organic manure remains a non-starter.

WATER­BORNE DISEASES COMMON

Villagers also face the problem of water borne diseases. Since the beginning of this month, the villagers have been complaining of diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach-ache. Over 15 cases of diarrhoea due to contaminated drinking water have come to light.

“The Dalit locality is hit the hardest due to blocked sewerage,” said Kamalijit Kaur.

The health authorities held a special medical camp and collected water samples which reportedly failed the test. But Punjab Water Supply and Sewage Board officials claim that the quality of water was found up to the mark.

ENCROACHMENTS GO UNCHECKED

Shops as well as houses extend to the edge of the road, and vehicles are parked on roadsides, making it difficult for other commuters.

“The open areas in the village are encroached upon and no one seems to be bothered. The MC has failed to check this menace,” rued Pritpal Singh. Surinder Kaur, a villager, said members of the recent anti-encroachment drive were assaulted by the villagers following which no more drives were carried out.

GROTESQUE HOLI CELEBRATIONS

Sohana is notorious for using animal carcasses to play Holi. The village has this tradition of hanging carcasses outside the houses on this festival.

The bazaar and streets of the village resemble a jungle with carcasses, bones, skulls hanging outside the houses and scattered on the road, a night before Holi. Though youngsters do it for a kick, old-timers believe “it saves the village from bad spirits.”

As Randhir Singh put it, “Hanging skeletons outside the houses, keeps evil spirits happy. We’ve seen our elders do this and now it has become a part of our tradition. No one knows when it really started but the practice has been passed on from one generation to another.”

Rajwinder Singh, a villager, said the practice is on the wane though most youngsters in the age group of 18 to 32 still indulge in it for fun sake.

He says in days of yore, the villagers used to earn their living by selling milk as the land was infertile and they did not have much water. “Since the villagers had no money to buy colours, they used to play with ash.”

“It was one of the dirtiest Holi. Earlier, people used to get ash from the cremation ground and mix it with sewerage water,” groused Sukhjot Kaur, who wants the tradition to end.

Every villager has a different take on the dirty Holi. Lore has it that the village witnessed an outbreak of an epidemic on Holi, so the villagers decided not to celebrate it. Since then, they hang skulls outside their houses to prevent mishaps.

Another tale has it that the village was “cursed” with poverty and to beat the curse, the villagers started hanging carcasses outside their houses. The police first intervened in 2008 and convinced the residents not to celebrate Holi in this manner.

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