In quest for ‘power’,Punjab pulls plug on a tradition called gheraat

Death knell 11 of 18 water-wheel based flour mills in state closed down.

Written by Goyal Divya | Moga | Updated: April 16, 2014 12:02 pm

Death knell 11 of 18 water-wheel based flour mills in state closed down.

They have been part of the folklores with many a lovers’ tales spun in the moist aroma of freshly ground wheat flour. But as things stand,the water wheel-based flour mills,popularly known as gheraat in the local parlance,may soon remain just that — part of folklores and tales.

The Punjab government,in a move to make way for micro-hydel projects (MHPs) is shutting down the gheraats located along the canals in the state — the latest casualty being the one situated at Channuwala. In all 11 gheraats,of the 18 that were still functional till just about five years ago and some more than a century old,have been shut down by the irrigation department.

All that remains of these gheraats are their crumbling structures,hiding within them stories of an era gone by and speaking volumes about the apathy of the powers that be.

Incidentally,most of these crumbling gheraats were earning from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh per month for the government and that too without incurring any expenditure. All that these flour mills required were a little maintenance of the equipment and running water from the canal to turn its wheels.

For villagers it a loss of heritage as well as loss of taste.

“The gheraat in our village was closed down after a hydel project was installed near it. The flour we used to get from this mill was nutritious and tastier. The water kept flour moist and various nutrients in grains remained alive whereas in electronic flour mills nutrients are killed as flour gets warm,” Sukhdev Singh from Channuwala village told The Indian Express.

Another villager,Shital Prakash,from Sudhar in Ludhiana where too a gheraat located on Abohar canal branch was shut down by the irrigation department,said,“The government had not put any efforts to run the gheraats even though these flour mills provided a handsome income. Gheraats were auctioned on yearly basis and a per day income of Rs 2,000 to Rs 6,000 was confirmed. If irrigation department really wanted to keep these gheraats alive,the micro hydel projects could have been set up at a distance from these mills.”

Asked why an eco-friendly technology based on renewable source of energy was being forced shut Amarjit Singh Dullet,chief engineer,canals,tried to shift the blame on gheraat not keeping up with times. “Gheraats originated more than 100 years back when canal system originated. It is not possible to synchronise the MHPs and gheraats and ultimately we had to close most of the latter,” he said,adding “seven such flour mills are still working”.

He also agrees that the gheraats were excellent source of income but added that “we are comfortably recovering that much revenue from the hydel projects.”

He said some gheraats were even earning Rs 50,000 per day.

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