Saturday, October 6, 2007

Success story of Bhagat Singh's village

Khatkar Kalan (Punjab): It may seem ironic but almost every family in the prosperous ancestral village of Bhagat Singh, one of India's best known revolutionaries who took on the might of the British, has a person who has gone abroad. In a year (2007) when the 100th birth anniversary of one of India's leading freedom struggle martyr coincides with the 60th year of the country's independence, Bhagat Singh's village, Khatkar Kalan, lives in the glory of his name. The toil, sweat and sacrifice that Bhagat Singh gave for the country's freedom struggle against the British rule is today relegated to just a museum in his memory at the entrance gate of the village, 80 kilometres from Chandigarh on the highway to Jalandhar.

Bhagat Singh was hanged with two other revolutionaries, Sukhdev and Rajguru, on March 23, 1931 for their involvement in what came to be known as the Lahore conspiracy case. The village where Bhagat Singh was neither born nor did he live there permanently has become the most modern and developed ones among all villages in India, with money from Non Residential Indians (NRIs) showing all over the place. "Out of the 2,000-odd population of our village, almost every home has a NRI connection," prominent villager and Nihang leader Kashmira Singh, said.

The NRI pomp and show cannot miss anyone's eye. Grand houses with modern construction, most of them two or three-storey ones, huge gates, sweeping driveways, cars and bikes are the order of the day. A turn from the Chandigarh-Jalandhar highway leads to a magnificently built welcome gate towards this village that is associated with Bhagat Singh's name. Blacktop roads, tiled pavements and concrete roads inside the narrow lanes of the village tell the story of its prosperity. Not to miss are the Rs 20 million public park with lush green grass, fountains, under paths and flower beds.

The ancestral house of the revolutionary, where he came a few times, is a national heritage. "We know about Bhagat Singh, He was a martyr. He sacrificed his life for the country. We are proud to be living in his village," the children say in turns, when asked about the village and its most famous name. The village has captive solar power generation plant of its own, from where it fulfills its power needs.

The village is indebted to former President A P J Abdul Kalam for coming to this village in 2002 and giving it the solar power station and other amenities. "No one bothered about the village for many years. It was neglected. Much of the work here happened after President Kalam visited our village. Even though the villagers were not allowed to meet him freely, they are indebted to him," Kashmira Singh said.

Others like ex-serviceman Gurmel Singh pointed out that there are still several things to be done for this village. "We were promised a 60-bed hospital by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi. All we have now is a five-bed dispensary. We expect Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to come here for the 100th birth anniversary of Bhagat Singh," Gurmel Singh said. Annually over 25,000 visitors stop at the museum of the revolutionary on the highway. The museum even contains a newspaper soaked with the blood of the martyr. The relatives of Bhagat Singh, including some nephews, religiously visit the village on some occasions. (IANS)

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