The urban village
Just six years ago, Chakar, a village of 10,000 in Ludhiana district of Punjab, was plagued by litigation, murders, drug addiction and frequent violence. Three Canadian NRIs from the village, Nirmal Singh Kingra and brothers Ajmer Singh and Baldev Singh, took it upon themselves to improve the lot of their village. They gave up their comfortable lives in Canada and worked tirelessly to give the village a new look. The two brothers have spent around Rs 4.5 crore from their own pocket and projects worth Rs 1.5 crore are in the pipeline.
Ajmer Singh, who had left the village in 1967 to work in the UK and later shifted to Canada, remembers how it all began. "When my father was very sick, he told me to use the money in his account for welfare works at the village rather than transferring it in our accounts. This really moved me and my brother. With all that money, we started planning to turn Chakar into a model village."
Ajmer, who runs a transport business in Canada, spends three months in a year at Chakar. Nirmal Singh, who has retired from a job in Canada, spends six months here every year. They motivate the villagers to work while the funds are pumped in by Ajmer along with some voluntary donation from villagers.
Today, the village has so many facilities that it looks like a developed town. The NRIs built chemical-free sewerage treatment plants at all the three ponds in the village which are now called 'Babe ki lake' where people go for walks and to watch migratory birds. To wean youngsters away from drugs, they involved them in sports and development activities. The world-class Sher-e-Punjab Sports Academy with solar lights, which provides training in boxing, football and athletics, has made the village proud by winning over 200 medals in the past six years in state and national championships. When they made a defunct village co-operative society operational, it did sales worth Rs 84 lakh in just four months.