Lt Gen J F R Jacob, who passed away Wednesday, is credited with bringing Chandigarh on the global map of recognition. Several projects that changed the character of the city beautiful were launched between November 27, 1999, and May 8, 2003, when Lt Jacob was the Punjab Governor and UT Administrator. The Rajiv Gandhi Chandigarh Technology Park, which is spread over 350 acres, is the brainchild of Lt Jacob, better known as ‘Jake’ in military circles.
Former union minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who was the Chandigarh MP then, says, “My idea was to take some office space on rent and provide facilities to entrepreneurs. Gen Jacob, however, took the idea to a different level and proposed establishing an IT hub. The entire credit of setting up the IT Park goes to him,” says Bansal, adding that he was a very amenable person who was open to ideas.
The War Memorial at the Bougainvillea Garden was planned during Gen Jacob’s tenure. Laying the foundation stone in April 2004, he termed it a “shandar yadgar” (magnificent memorial). The memorial has the names of martyrs from Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.
A popular hangout spot for youngsters these days, the Stop and Stare in Sector 10 was also Gen Jacob’s brainchild and inaugurated during his tenure. Gen Jacob would also interact with the students who gathered there.
The Hop-on Hop-off bus, which is a popular tourist attraction, was started in the city during his tenure. That is the only bus that continues to take tourists around the city. The bus stand in Sector 43 was also inaugurated by Gen Jacob.
SAD leader Harjinder Kaur recalls that Gen Jacob was instrumental in getting the functioning of the Municipal Corporation streamlined. She says, “It was due to him that the city got six community centres within a few months and the foundation stone of the seventh was laid. He was full of energy and addicted to his work. He is fondly remembered by everyone he interacted with. There were many green belts that were created during his tenure.”
A trademark style associated with Gen Jacob was his impromptu visits to different places in the city, such as hospitals, educational institutes, and tourist spots, to interact with city residents. The credit for upgradation of the hospitals in the city goes to him.
Gen Jacob is also credited with creating awareness about having cycle tracks in the city. While the concept was mooted by Le Corbusier, it lacked implementation. Gen Jacob took up the issue and ensured that work on constructing cycle tracks was started. The work on the concept of having a grid system for CTU buses was initiated by him and implemented later.
Congress leader Subhash Chawla, who was the Mayor in 2003, said, “It was Gen Jacob who started the concept of conducting inspections at night. He himself used to visit bus stands, hospitals and other places at night. He was a social worker.”
A K Malhotra, General Manager of CITCO, recalls a visit that Gen Jacob made to the Sukhna Lake. Interacting with an aged vendor at the lake, he asked him if he faced any problems there. Unaware of who Gen Jacob was, the vendor narrated to him his tale of woes. “Gen Jacob then ordered officials that no one would remove the vendor from the spot till he was in the city. He was very compassionate towards everyone and was known to be in touch with the city residents. Several tourism projects came up in the city during his tenure,” says Malhotra.