The Indian Oil refinery in Bal Jattan, Panipat. | Photo: Manisha Mondal/ThePrint
The Indian Oil refinery in Bal Jattan, Panipat. | Photo: Manisha Mondal/ThePrint
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Sonipat/Panipat/Gurugram: Unaffected by the Covid-19 crisis yet, some ‘rich’ villages in Haryana have come out to help the state government, together sending donations amounting to as much as over Rs 50 crore to the relief fund.

At least five village panchayats have contributed to the Covid fund in the last few months — Gurugram’s Palra, Sonipat’s Sersa and Rampur, Panipat’s Bal Jattan and Narnaul’s Nasibpur. While Palra donated the most at Rs 21 crore, Sersa, Rampur and Bal Jattan gave Rs 11.5 crore, Rs 2.5 crore and Rs 10.5 crore, respectively, according to the villages’ panchayats.

The latest to contribute, Nasibpur, gave Rs 5 crore on 30 July. Narnaul Block Development & Panchayat Officer Pramod Kumar said the village was motivated to contribute after an appeal to the effect by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.

ThePrint visited these villages to speak to the panchayat leaders who said there are enough funds with them to make these contributions, with the villages doing well in most areas of development.

Rajesh Kumar, a panchayat member in Sersa, said the village is among the wealthiest in Sonipat. “The land of panchayat has been acquired by the Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development and Haryana government over time. We don’t exactly know how much land has been acquired, but we had enough money in the gram panchayat’s account,” he said.

The gram panchayats receive the money in these accounts from the government for expenditure on the development of village.

None of these are hit by the Covid crisis so far either. Except for Parla and Nasibpur, which saw a couple of cases — now recovered — the other villages have not seen even a single case. The villagers can even be seen roaming around without masks.

At an intersection in Bal Jattan village, men sit without enforcing physical distancing. | Photo: Manisha Mondal/ThePrint
At an intersection in Bal Jattan village, men sit without enforcing physical distancing. | Photo: Manisha Mondal/ThePrint

“We strictly followed all the lockdown guidelines and did not permit anyone to enter or leave the villages when the pandemic started,” Sersa sarpanch Neelam Devi said.

Haryana has so far recorded 40,843 Covid cases and 474 deaths.

Narnaul BDPO Pramod Kumar said the district followed standard procedure to fight the pandemic and suspected patients were kept in home isolation.


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‘For betterment of others’

The first Haryana village to claim the limelight was Bal Jattan, 15 km away from the city of Panipat. Among the richest villages in Haryana, it donated Rs 10.5 crore to the relief fund in April.

Surrounded by an Indian Oil refinery, a naphtha cracker plant, and a rubber plant, the village has over Rs 125 crore in its account, according to its panchayat member Rajesh, who uses only his first name.

He said the village has funds at its disposal as around 400-500 acres have been acquired over the years for the refinery and plants.

In Palra, Sarpanch Munesh Devi said the village got inspired by Bal Jattan’s contribution and decided to go ahead. “We decided to donate the money after mutual agreement so that the money can be used for the betterment of others,” she said. The panchayat, which benefitted from land acquisition over the years, still has around Rs 21 crore in its account.

Gurugram District Development & Panchayat Officer Narender Sarwan told ThePrint that besides Palra village that donated Rs 21 crore, many others in the district are contributing to the fight against Covid in non-monetary ways. He said some are donating PPE kits, while others have been distributing food among the needy.


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CCTV cameras and Murrah buffaloes

These ‘rich’ villages also claim to be well-to-do otherwise even as villagers say that issues like education, electricity and sewage persist.

In Sersa, CCTV cameras line the streets and people’s courtyards. Panchayat member Rajesh Kumar said almost every second person in the village has own house, vehicle and farm. “Electricity and sewage issues continue to remain unsolved, though,” said Kuldeep Singh, a resident.

Sersa villagers also have the Murrah buffaloes, known for high fat-rich milk production, in nearly every second home. The village is also planning to install a solar power plant, and is waiting for a nod from the government.

However, the ‘Star Puruskar Gram Panchayat’ winner for its efforts in education has only one school, that has classes only till 8th standard. It also doesn’t have any primary healthcare centre. In case of emergencies, the villagers rush to Sonipat or Delhi.

The residents of Bal Jattan complained about pollution due to refinery and chemical plants, which is leading to serious health issues among the villagers. However, the panchayat doesn’t want much from the government.

“We do not expect anything from the government. The village has enough money, but we only need permissions to carry out development activities in the village,” said Neelam Devi.

Palra has also requested the Haryana government to allow the only middle school in the village to upgrade till the 12th grade.


Also read: What the history of smallpox can tell us about Covid management


 

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