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Sardar Ganda Singh Oberoi – The Idol of Impartiality

By | April 1, 2016 | 4 Comments

Sardar Ganda Singh Oberoi

Sardar Ganda Singh Oberoi was the founder of Oberoi Sports in Sialkot city. Area of his factory comprised of many acres east and west of the start of Paris Road. Bounds of eastern part were common with Sialkot Railway junction. The adjacent part of railway had a track for turning the face of that time steam engines. This eastern part of the factory had all necessary machine installations needed for processing and production of various sports items, with the admin setup situated right near the southern main entrance which exists intact to date. There is a northern big gateway which also speaks of the grandeur of the biggest factory of that time in Sialkot. The western part of the factory was situated between Paris Road and Ketchery Road. From the start of common point of the two roads, this western portion of the factory, also in many acres, extended up to the present General Post Office which has been constructed in the property of Sardar Sahib, then known as Ganda Singh Ground. It comprised of necessary minor installations for manufacture and finishing of cricket bats, hockey sticks, badminton rackets, etc. This part had only one big gateway at Paris Road and did not have any entrance on the Ketchery Road. Entering the gateway there used to be a fire place enclosure for seasoning glued joints of the items to make these firm for final finishing. All disciplines and securities of both parts of the factory were highly tight and nobody was permitted entry / exists without checking.

Second son of Sardar Sahib, Sardar Hardev Singh and his Wife

Construction work on each of the two sections of the factory premises were sound and well designed. Almost entire boundary limits of each portion comprised of halls and rooms with considerably spacious open area in the middle. The administrative sections were highly organised and disciplined. Records of service of hundreds of workers were well maintained. Regular workers and craftsmen were paid lucrative salaries, more or equal to the salaries paid to senior officers of the British Government. Workers and employees were eligible to provident fund scheme. There were cases of workers or their family members paid there provident fund even years after partition of British India in 1947.

Disciplines of the factory were tight and uncompromising. Late coming was almost zero and nobody could leave the factory except for acute emergency. Nobody was permitted to carry away even a tiny stick out of the raw material stocks.

Willow for cricket bats and “Toot” for hockey were transported from Kashmir areas. “Baid” for bats and hockey handles was brought from parts of India. Natural rubber sheets folded in 4 cubic feet blocks were imported from Malaya (now Malaysia) for manufacture of football bladders.

Expert for every item of sports goods had been appointed for final approval of the finished products. The quality control supervisors had authority to reject the faulty products. Mr. Muhammad Illyas of Muhalla Mubakar Pura was expert to pass the cricket bats. In case of needed improvements and repairs, he used to mark with pencil on each bat. The practice eliminated complaints about the supplied products.

Oberoi Sports had a branch in Jammu (Kashmir) where the craftsmen of the main factory used to go for production, for periods of 1 to 2 months. The idea might be to make use of Kashmiri willow and other material inside Kashmir instead of its transportation.

Around the end of 1920s Sardar Oberoi felt that factory’s production of cricket bats was not of the quality that he really desired. He made up his mind to select expert craftsmen from Sialkot for manufacturing high standard quality of cricket bats. On the appointed date candidates appeared for interview and practical test. Among them there were Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. After the practical test Sardar Sahib selected two gentlemen as regular employees of the factory. One of these two persons was Mr. Nazeer of village Baunkan near Pakka Garha on Sialkot-Wazirabad Road, and the second was Mr. Allah Rakha of Jamnu Muhallah adjacent to present Sardar Begum Hospital which at that time used to be the District Hospital. Mr. Nazeer had an exceptional working capability. If he scrapped a bat with his “randa” towards final finishing, the surface used to be so perfect that it did not need smoothing by sand paper. Children and decedents of Mr. Nazeer still live in village Baunkan. Children of Mr. Nazeer adopted their own small businesses. There is no information about any of them getting education of any level. Mr. Allah Rakha later settled in Muhallah Dara Arainyan where he died during January 1952. The only son of Mr. Allah Rakha became a graduate engineer who worked on country’s outstanding projects. His grandson has turned out to be an exporter of surgical and beauty instruments, earning foreign exchange for the country. Sardar Oberoi fixed the salary of each of these two craftsmen at Rupees 60 per month which was later increased to Rupee 70 per month. It may be mentioned that the salary of a policeman at that time was Rupees 3 per month which was later increased to Rupees 5 per month, just before the World War II. Today it is difficult to imagine the currency value and market prices at that time. Rupee 1 was enough to stock month’s rations for a medium size family of four to five members. The smallest coin called Damri had its value in the market. Damri was a fraction of one Paisa, 64 Paisas were equal to one Rupee. In between paisa and Damri there used to be a coin called Dhaila and its currency value was well above Damri. You can assess the generous standards of the payments to worthy craftsmen by the owner of the factory. This fair generosity caused the high standards of items produced. Every single worker worked with utmost diligence and honesty.

So Sardar Ganda Singh Oberoi was the idol of merit, impartiality and generosity. His factory used to supply sports goods to whole of British India. Due to respect and regards for quality productions, the factory became supplier to the global British colonies and later to many parts of the world. In spite of the enormous riches, Sardar Sahib lived in a very simple house, parts of which still exist north of Sialkot telephone exchange (main office Paris road).

Oberoi-house

Sardar Ganda Singh Oberoi’s old house where he lived, till death.

Sardar Ganda Singh loved the territory of Sialkot very much. He spent his money in various public welfare works. He was the founder of Ganda Singh High School with vast open areas for play grounds and green patches. The school had a big library having thousands of books, all arranged by Sardar Sahib. The entire area of this Ganda Singh High School is now fully occupied by Government Women Degree College Sialkot.

Sardar Sahib remained chairman of Sialkot Municipal Committee. It was during his tenure of chairmanship when he tried to give a beautiful shape to Sialkot city. If you visit Muhallah Mubarak Pura, you will find some very wide streets between Khadim Ali Road and Chah Jattan. It was an effort to shape the city wide, open and neat.

With the increase of his contacts and visitors, Sardar Sahib planned to construct a larger residence in some acres of land situated north of present location of General Post Office, constructed in property of Sardar Oberoi which was called Ganda Singh Ground adjacent north of the western portion of the factory. This ground was general for sports activities of the young generation. Structure of the residence was constructed without finishing when Sardar Sahib expired. Later the construction works were continuing when partition occurred. Half of the semi finished construction still exists. (Photo)

(1st pic) Sardar sahib's new house which was under construction at the time of India-Pakistan partition. --- (2nd pic) Remains of a swimming pool in the court yard of new house.

(1st pic) Sardar sahib’s new house which was under construction at the time of India-Pakistan partition. — (2nd pic) Remains of a swimming pool in the court yard of new house.

Most of the employees of Oberoi Sports were Muslims. The very head of overall administration and management was Khawaja Hakim Deen, generally called Head O. He had multi directional responsibilities and, in all fairness, he did full justice to his job. For every worker and employee, the impact of his personality was like that of a General. Disciplines and standards maintained by him were no weaker than defence forces of any country.

There is every justification for the idea that the factory premises must have been preserved under Auqaaf (govt. department). Children and decedents of so many Muslims employee of the city are indebted to it as they have grown and progressed with sumptuous salaries of their forefathers, during a period when it was not easy to get a job and a job with so generous returns.

Sardar Ganda Singh loved Sialkot very much. At the time of delivery of his youngest son, he and his wife, were out of Sialkot. When the delivery time came near, Sardar Sahib rushed over to Sialkot. It is said that he desired that his child should start process of breathing in atmosphere of Sialkot.

It is a catastrophe of circumstances that a person, who had been so impartial and so generous, is not remembered among people of Sialkot. His factory that had been a monument of pioneer achievements, has not been preserved, but subjected to ‘Bandar Bant’.

To the best of available information, recorded and authentically quoted, there has not been a single person during the period from 1920 to 1945 who practically served the financial, environmental, educational and social interests of the citizens of Sialkot like Sardar Ganda Singh Oberoi. What is then the justification for not naming the institution or the library both established in his personal property, after his name? It clearly reflects on our overall partiality and prejudice attitudes towards a great personality in the region in that era of quarter a century. Islam does not teach partiality. Islam teaches justice. It is a sign of thousands of years of slavery that the Muslims of the region have learnt hatred and partiality and practically apply it as and when they deem fit.

You visit offices of Sialkot Municipal Committee, you will find senior most employees there refusing to have any record of Sardar’s tenures as chairman. You visit the Allama Iqbal Library on Paris Road, they will tell you that there is no material available with them regarding the life and social services of Sardar Sahib. It has been learnt from a close friend of late Mr. Riasat Ali, the librarian of Allama Iqbal Library, that he possessed a photograph of Sardar Sahib with Maulana Ibrahim Mir Sialkoti along with other dignitaries. That invaluable photograph is now missing altogether. You visit the government degree college for Women, you will hardly find any lecturer or professor who knows the founder of the premises of the educational institution where he is donating his services.

Spot of his final cremation that had been fairly constructed and preserved by his children, opposite to British government time Naika Pura Police Station (previously known as Naika Pura Chauki) has also been subjected to ‘Bandar Bant’, occupation, legal or illegal and it is hard to precisely locate it now.

It has been an abnormal catastrophe never known to human history that property of children of a person who treated Muslims employee of his factory with outstanding regards and generosity, had been subjected to terrorists’ attacks in Mumbai by Muslims terrorists of Pakistan, according to Indian government’s confirmations. If Indian government is truthful in its claim, the planner and organizer of the attacks must be tried for justice.

Any book named “History of Sialkot” missing an extensive account of Sardar sahib, comes down to be named “Post Partition Sialkot”.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Sardar sahib was my mother’s great grand father.
    I keep listening to stories from my grandmother.
    I even have some old pictures of Sardar Sahib which I would love to share.

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