A few years back when the Arvind Kejriwal government installed CCTV cameras in the national capital it was publicised as a pathbreaking step to ensuring the security of the citizens. The Aam Aadmi Party claimed credit for this achievement. However, the least known fact is that around 150 km east of Delhi Purkazi, a small Nagar Panchayat in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, this feat had already been achieved.
Purkazi is a small town on the Muzaffarnagar-Haridwar highway with almost 80% Muslim population. Zaheer Farooqui, Chairman of the Nagar Panchayat installed I.P C.C.T.V (Internet Processing Closed Circuit Television) Cameras in the nooks and corners of the town way back in 2018. These cameras could read the number plates of vehicles and also helped catch criminals and were also installed at all the entries and exits of the town.
The exercise bore its first fruit when the Muzaffarnagar Police nabbed a person from Uttarakhand, who had raped a six-year-old Dalit girl near Purkazi. Tanvir Alam, a tailor from the town, says that Uttarakhand police examined the footage from the cameras to solve cases. Several women said that the cameras have made the town a safer place for them.
An office building at Purkazi
All the cameras have loudspeakers installed with them to provide a central audio announcement system. The announcement system is used to tell people about government policies and alert them in emergencies.
While the cameras are providing security, a well-equipped gymnasium for women is creating awareness. The gym has come as a boon for Muslim women whose health and fitness have drastically improved. With government funds, Panchayat established a ladies’ gym in 2019. Everyone was skeptical of its success at a place where women were traditionally kept in purdah but today every day Shaheen Usmani, the trainer, comes to the gym wearing her burkha. Once she enters the place, she takes it off to begin training the women.
Usmani says, “I don’t know the reason behind it but the gym has improved the reproductive health of women in the town.” Today the gym boasts almost a hundred members.
Medical staff at resource cetnter, Purkazi
At the other end of the town, Nadeem Tyagi tells me about the success of the men’s gym, which was opened by the Panchayat in the second leg. Tyagi says, “Before this gym came up, the youth indulged in drugs. The gym has given them a place to redirect their energies constructively.”
The young villagers preparing to join the Army and police are taking help from the gym with a nominal fee of Rs. 200. The gym is free for the poor.
A common perception is that Muslims do not take an interest in the establishment and maintenance of gaushala (cow-shelter). When the government released funds for the establishment of gaushala several Panchayats did not use those funds, while many others established small gaushala.
This Muslim town used the funds to establish, what is claimed to be, the first double-storeyed government-owned gaushala in the country.
Cows at Gaushala
The gaushala has separate sections for calves, pregnant cows, injured cows, and old cows. It has a solar panel for electricity and a fodder-cutting machine. A veterinary doctor visits the gaushala daily for a health checkup. The dung is used to produce manure which is further sold to raise revenue for the maintenance of the gaushala.
When several heritage buildings in urban areas are in want of proper maintenance citizens of Purkazi have developed Suliwala Bagh (garden of the gallows) into a pilgrimage. The site is witness to the hanging of Indian revolutionaries during the First War of National Independence of 1857. Every year thousands of people gather at this place on 15 August and 26 January for unfurling one of the largest Tiranga Yatra in any Nagar Panchayat.
Purkazi Nagar Panchayat is judiciously exploiting the government funds for an all-around development which can be a model for many other towns.