Kids Corner


Tarsem Singh's Mission: To Clean Up Amritsar




He does not come across as a government servant at first glance.

Dressed like a Nihang Sikh, Sardar Tarsem Singh hits the roads every day to get the city's public properties freed of encroachment that dot its every nook and corner, paying no heed to political or any other "pressure".

A superintendent with the Amritsar Municipal Corporation, Tarsem has earned the name of "Demolition Man". Accompanied by a group of four or five employees, two policemen and a huge crane, he would select one colony, public park or some other site every day and embark upon the difficult task of implementing the law to remove illegal structures, stalls, makeshift shrines and concrete hedges.

"I will get the city rid of all encroachments. I will make Amritsar look like Singapore, provided there is no political interference in my work," says a confident Tarsem Singh. He may sound too ambitious, given the scant regards the influential and the commoners give to norms, but his month-long drive has already started yielding results. With hundreds of illegal structures removed from roads, the flow of traffic is now smoother.

"I have full powers to do my job and will not spare anyone, rich or poor. I face a lot of opposition from the public whose structures I raze down, but they have to turn silent when shown the law books," he says, adding that his life is under threat but he is not scared.

He says his target has till now been the small violations that obstruct the flow of traffic and the footpaths illegally occupied by shopkeepers, but he will soon target the big fish, too.

His first success was the removal of kiosks (temporary shops), following the directions of the Punjab High Court, which had sought removal of illegal occupants while hearing a public interest litigation. Successive senior administrative officials and the Municipal Corporation functionaries had liberally doled out kiosks, leading to a menace as these temporary structures were gradually becoming permanent.

"The administration had been sleeping on the issue. I approached the court, which gave directions to implement the law," says Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) Vice-Chairman Kirpal Singh, who had filed the litigation on rising encroachments in the city.

Tarsem Singh, meanwhile, says they will not stop until the desired results are achieved.

He admits there are large-scale encroachments in the city. "I hardly come across a house, even in posh colonies, that has not usurped the area outside it. People have made gardens and lawns after constructing concrete and permanent iron hedges on the road in front of their houses. And they are not ashamed. When shown the law books, they try to laugh it away," says Tarsem, who works as Inspector in the land department of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation.

Corporation Commissioner D.P.S. Kharbanda says Tarsem Singh is one of their most committed officers and he volunteered to take up the task of removing encroachments.

"He has all the support from us. There were strict directions from the High Court and we need to implement the law in its true spirit. We are happy that an officer like Khalsa is doing it with courage," says the Commissioner.

The sailing has, however, not been smooth for Tarsem Singh. "The residents would oppose our drive by pelting stones and abusing us," he says.

Regarding his outfit, he says he is basically a religious man who listens to gurbani daily, adding that his attire has been an advantage in his work.

"This dress of a traditional Sikh warrior has given me an edge over other officers. People respect me and when I give them reasons quoting law, they listen to me with interest," he says, caressing his long salt-and-pepper beard with pride.


[Courtesy: Indian Express]

July 30, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Gur Singh (Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.), July 30, 2010, 9:46 PM.

Being a Sikh and a human I do not support injustice. S. Tarsem Singh might be doing an honest job, but before getting excited one must always keep in mind that in India it is the past-time of govt. officials to break the homes of the poor on the premise of illegality and keep pampering the Satyams ... Also, It always alarms me when some Indian newspaper uses religion lingo to promote any particular cause. It would be more efficient business if officials break the illegal citadels of the rich first, small time offenders would give up on their own.

2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), July 31, 2010, 12:12 AM.

"Nischai kar apni jeet karon." Well done Singh Sahib Tarsem Singh ji. Carry on fearlessly. Someone should even make a documentary to tell the world that Singhs can move mountains too.

3: Taran (London, United Kingdom), July 31, 2010, 9:57 AM.

Surely if Tarsem Singh wears the bana of a Nihang Singh, then he shows that his work ethics are also like the Nihangs'. But he may be an exception. May be we need more Nihangs in public posts then. How about the Babu culture. It takes months or years for a file to move from one table to another. No wonder India's corruption index is in the top 10 of the world. Without getting rid of corruption, India's great GDP growth rate is useless. I was just reading news in some paper yesterday that a bridge collapsed somewhere, in fact it was only constructed 2 years back. All the public money is going through the drain and when times would get tough one day (like they have in the west now) India will not even have a beggar's bowl! It may sound shocking, but it's true!

4: Harnam Singh (Amritsar, Punjab), July 31, 2010, 10:18 AM.

I suggest we do not jump to conclusions. Many of the encroachments being torn down are in front of shops and businesses owned by multi-millionaires!

5: Gurinder Singh (Stockton, California, U.S.A.), August 01, 2010, 12:00 AM.

I come from Amritsar. I have gathered that Tarsem Singh is acting like a true Khalsa. He favours none. If a structure is illegal, it has to go. May Waheguru bless such selfless and upright souls. India needs many Tarsem Singhs to clean its towns and cities.

6: Sen (Delhi, India), August 22, 2010, 11:02 AM.

Excellent job by Sardar Tarsem Singh. He should be give a free hand to make the holy city of Amritsar become a global tourist place that is clean, well-administered and a shiny example of what can be acheived by an upright and committed officer. PLEASE KEEP IT UP. Imagine if only 10% of the Indian government officials were as committed as this Sardar ... India would be a beautiful and a well-administered country appreciated the world over.

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