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A shattered philanthropic dream

For the last nine years,Jagdish Lal Ahuja has earned the blessings of a lot of underprivileged members of the society.

Written by Express News Service | Chandigarh |
April 16, 2009 3:33:43 am

For the last nine years,Jagdish Lal Ahuja has earned the blessings of a lot of underprivileged members of the society. Nearly 1,000 people at the PGI and half the number at the GMCH-32 used to get free food daily served to them by him.

But the philanthropist had never thought he would ever see a day when he would have to put an end to all this. With tears in his eyes and a choked voice,Ahuja said his adverse financial condition did not permit him to continue with the voluntary work.

“All these years,I have given people a complete meal prepared by 25 workers in the bhandara (where food is served for free to all). Today,all that I can afford are a few bananas and biscuits. I want to serve the poor as I have seen a lot of poverty in my younger days. I just hope God will make me capable again to serve the poor with the same fervour,” said the 60-something businessman who deals in bananas. Ahuja lives in Chandigarh with his family.

Driven by the paucity of funds,despite selling off his property in the tricity,Ahuja had initially decided to stop his bhandara from Wednesday. A huge banner saying free meals will not be served any longer had been put up at the GMCH to convey the message to the regulars. But seeing the rush of people who gathered around 2 pm for food,Ahuja had a change of heart. “I can’t turn away hungry children. They came to me asking for something to eat. I gave them bananas,which I can afford. As long as I can do this much,I will continue feeding them,” he said.

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Ahuja said a lot of people from the city had offered him monetary help to sustain the bhandara,but he refused saying he did not believe in donations.

In 2003,he had sent an application to the Chandigarh Administration,seeking a piece of land to build a night shelter for the poor. “I wanted to run a night shelter at very nominal rates. But I didn’t get a positive response,” said Ahuja.

For the regulars,who used to get a full meal complete with chhole,rice and chapattis,the end of the bhandara was a huge setback. Krishan Kumar,who landed in GMCH after an accident,was one of them. “I used to depend on the bhandara for my one proper meal of the day. I just hope it is revived soon,” he said. In the evening,Ahuja could be seen distributing bananas and biscuits at the PGI.

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First published on: 16-04-2009 at 03:33:43 am

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