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From a corporate honcho to social worker and now a candidate from Abohar: Meet the new Jakhar on the block

🔴 An alumnus of Mayo College, Ajmer, Sandeep studied for two years in Switzerland before graduating from Miami and working as head of Country Club in Florida. Abohar was then a speck on his horizon.

Sandeep Jakhar, Balram Jakhar, Badal family, Narasimha Rao government, Punjab news, Punjab Assembly elections 2022, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsSandeep Jakhar (File)

“Kaam bolta hai (Work speaks).” That’s the rallying cry of Sandeep Jakhar, a corporate honcho-turned-farmer who is banking on his social work to win Abohar. With his uncle Sunil Jakhar, former PPCC president, Gurdaspur MP, and three-time MLA, deciding not to contest this time, Sandeep is the new Jakhar in the Punjab poll battlefield.

An alumnus of Mayo College, Ajmer, who studied for two years in Switzerland before graduating from Miami, Abohar was just a speck on his horizon. But all that changed soon after he became a father. “Having grown up in large families, my wife, a Japanese, and I wanted the same for our daughter.” That was 12 years ago. Sandeep left a flourishing career as head of Country Club in Florida to return to farming on his ancestral land in Punjab, a state he calls “the most secular in India”.

Sitting on the Punjab-Rajasthan border, the sleepy town of Abohar has for long been associated with the Jakhars, arguably the only Hindu Jat political dynasty of the state, right from the time of Sandeep’s grandfather, Balram Jakhar, who first contested from here in 1972, and went on to become the longest serving Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Union agriculture minister during the Narasimha Rao government. “He was a visionary, this used to be an infertile belt with sand dunes, he transformed it by building the 42-km long Abohar canal here,” says Sandeep. Today Abohar accounts for 60 pc kinnows produced in the country.

The Jakhars are known for two things: farming and loyalty to Congress. Sandeep’s late father Surender Kumar was chairman of Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO), his elder uncle Sajjan Jakhar, now deceased, was an agriculture minister in the Beant Singh government , and his cousin Ajay Vir Jakhar is chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj, Indian farmers’ forum.

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For Sandeep, the journey from growing kinnows in Punjab, which he calls “the most secular state of India” to social work was seamless. “The Akali-BJP government turned their back on Abohar during the 10 years of their rule. They brought the town to its knees only to keep out Sunil ji (Sunil Jakhar), who had won three consecutive elections here.”

Sandeep decided to intervene when the town was ranked 380th out of 382 cities of India in the Swacch Survekshan rankings two years ago. Among the 13 municipal corporations of the state, it was at the bottom.

Sandeep launched his mission cleanup called ‘Aaapka Abohar, Aapki Abha’, with a team of 11 volunteers, who would clean up one area every Saturday. Today, its number has swelled to over 200, many of them doctors, teachers, advocates, students and homemakers. With door-to-door waste collection and segregation coupled with ban on polythene, Abohar jumped to 100th position among the cities and fifth among the corporations in the latest Swachhta rankings. It’s also begun to read with two new libraries and two more in the pipeline.

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Sandeep says his biggest achievement has been the reconstruction of the canal built by his grandfather after almost five decades.

A supporter of the farmers’ agitation, Sandeep is giving diversification and food processing a push by encouraging farmers to grow chillies and tomatoes that are processed at the Punjab Agro plant in Alamgarh. “The plant that used to run only a few days a year during the Akali rule now functions 200 days a year and its chilli paste is imported to the Middle East, a market that Abohar farmers have captured from Mexico.”

As he steps into mainstream politics, Sandeep admits he has big shoes to fill. But as he says,“kaam bolta hai”.

 

 

First published on: 27-01-2022 at 03:54:40 am
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