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Model Town Ludhiana

In an age of glamour, glitz and glare with modelling being the in-thing, literary terms such as contents, form, style, design and trend are falling victim to consumerism and commercialism. If models on the ramp are coming up fast, models of cars are not far behind. But the model towns that we have in this part of the country are models as well as towns. And thereby hangs, not a tale, but a story, rather history of half a century!

When India became a British colony, cantonments appeared, giving rise to several types of ‘lines’. To differentiate army quarters, the Civil Lines were christened as such by way of necessity. While developing municipal functions, town and small town committees made progress. The first Model Town (near Lahore) appeared on the map as a kind of a modern township borrowing the best from the East and the West.

Hell looked like cold storage when compared to the fires of Partition. The migrants found temporary camps or shelters — the local Jawahar Nagar (camp) remained a tent-settlement for a few years. Refugees and their rehabilitation posed a national challenge as serious as war. For the urban migrant middle class, a scheme of Model Towns was envisaged and executed with rare speed. Soon, there appeared kothi-like houses in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Khanna, Sonepat, Gurgaon, Rohtak, etc. Because of Jalandhar, being the functional summer capital of the state, because of the establishment of the Department of Relief and Rehabilitation, there its Model Town took the lead.

Ludhiana’s Model Town grew fast. To start with, it had plans for 250 units, about 240 were completed. The units were of four types, i.e., A, B, C and D to clarify the graded increase in the covered area. The cost of a unit ranged approximately from Rs. 12,000 to Rs 14,000. The cost of land was Rs 1,353 per kanal (500 sq. yards approximately). The per yard price of land was less than Rs 3 Do not be surprised. At the time of the first sale in the autumn of 1948 through public auction, the highest bid of (Rs 12,000) was made by Dr Gurbakhsh Singh, and drew the cheque upon the Imperial Bank of India (the predecessor of SBI). Mr N. Sehgal, ICS, Deputy Commissioner, was surprised when told that the doctor was a double refugee, who had migrated from Rangoon in 1942 and within five years left Sargodha and Lahore. About 10 bidders could offer about 20 per cent of the cost. Money was scarce. A thousand rupees then meant a fortune!

Slowly and steadily, the Model Town expanded. New plots were carved out and developed. The number of units increased to 642. A modern market (Gole Market) with 24 shops started working from August 5, 1950, when Sewa Ram opened his legendary sweet shop. Model Town grew in area — several nagars, colonies, markets, etc. merged with it. The sprawling Model Town Extension as well as Model House evidently prove that expansion happened. Old residents sometime ponder upon the progress made. What is model about it?

Expansion is lateral. Model Town is indeed so in this respect. In academic terms, it beats several records. Its resident, Bhai Jodh Singh, was the founder Vice-Chancellor of the Punjabi University, whereas Prof B.S. Samundri was the same for GNDU, Amritsar. Almost the entire faculty of Punjab Agricultural College resided here. The scholars in the fields of literature, culture, language, science and research give it a solid academic face. Dr Sher Singh, Dr Trilochan Singh, Prof S. S. Sekhon, Dr V.B. Arun, Dr Piar Singh, Dr Goswami, Dr G.S. Bedi, Dr Hazara Singh and many more are assets to the academic world.

The founders of industrial houses Hero Cycles/Honda (Munjals), Avon, (Pahwas), Ralson (Pahwas), Bhogals of Metal Fabric and a dozen more carry a good international image. The present and ex-speaker of Punjab Assembly in addition to ministers and political heavy weights residing here lend it a political dimension. Being close to the bus stand, over-bridges and the railway station make it a central site.

Model Town has several educational institutions: Two post-graduate women colleges, a sprawling Gujjar Khan Campus, and a dozen schools, including well-established public schools. It has half-a-dozen banks and charitable hospitals, in addition to a score of nursing homes. It has the highest percentage of educated residents. Most of them carry professional degrees. A large number holds executive jobs.

It has many places of worship, some with big halls. Model Town Welfare Council is its oldest socio-cultural organisation, running a Public Library and a Community Centre, paralleling a marriage palace. It is currently developing public-parks.