Sobha Singh (builder)

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Not to be confused with Sobha Singh (painter).
Sobha Singh (1890-1978)

Sobha Singh OBE (1890–1978) was a civil contractor and a prominent builder of Lutyens' Delhi and real estate owner of Delhi.[1] He is the father of famous Indian writer Khushwant Singh. As a witness in the Assembly Bomb Case, Sobha Singh identified martyrs Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt after they threw bombs at the Delhi assembly in 1929.[2]

Early life[edit]

Sobha Singh was born in 1890, in the village lura Hadali in Khushab, Shahpur District - then part of British India (now Pakistan). He was the elder of the two sons of Sujan Singh and Lakshmi Devi, the younger one being Sardar Ujjal Singh,[3] who was a Member of Parliament in India from the state of Punjab.

After a few years at school in Amritsar, he joined his father's business of civil construction dealing in the laying of railway tracks and the digging of tunnels.[citation needed]

Witness in the Assembly Bomb case[edit]

Sobha Singh was a witness in the assembly bomb explosion incident on April 8, 1929. He identified [4] Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt after they threw bombs at the Delhi assembly in 1929. Subsequently Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were sentenced to death for their role in the assassination of Saunders.[5]

Career[edit]

When Hardinge, the Viceroy of India, announced the plan to move the British Indian capital city to Delhi was along with the Coronation Durbar for King George V and the Queen Mary, would take place in Delhi in December 1911, Sujan Singh and 22-year old Sobha Singh, who was then a contractor working on the Kalka-Shimla railroad, shifted base to Delhi as building contractors. Building contracts then being given out. Sujan Singh-Sobha Singh were accepted as senior-grade contractors. Plans for the new city were drawn immediately after the Coronation Durbar.

The Foundation stones had been laid by the King and Queen. After this the architects, Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker wanted to change the site from where the foundation stones had been laid to Raisina hill and the village of Malcha. Sobha Singh had the foundation stones removed during the night and then take them 11 km across the city and replant them on the new site. The construction of the plans were taken up after World War I (1916–18).

For the South Block and War Memorial Arch ( now India Gate), Sobha Singh was the sole builder. He also worked on some parts of the Viceregal House (now Rashtrapati Bhavan) and Vijay Chowk.

The South Block in New Delhi for which Sobha SIngh was the sole contractor.

Sobha Singh bought as much land in Delhi as he could. He bought several extensive sites at as little as Rs 2 per square yard, freehold. There were few other takers, and he came to be described as adhi dilli da malik (the owner of half of Delhi).[6] He constructed many residential and commercial buildings, including the Connaught Place market complex,[7] as well as the Chelmsford, A.I.F.A.C.'s Hall, Broadcasting House (All India Radio), The National Museum, Dyal Singh College, T.B.Hospital, Modern School, Deaf and Dumb School, St. Columba's School, Red Cross Buildings and Baroda House. Outside Delhi, he built the High Court and Government Medical College at Nagpur and the Pasteur Institute at Kasauli.

Sobha Singh was a person of modest education but his success as a builder made him one of the wealthiest persons of Delhi; also, a prominent member of the social elite. He also became the first Indian president of the New Delhi Municipal Council and held the post four times, in 1938, 1942, and 1945-46.[8] Appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1938,[9] he was subsequently appointed a member of the Council of States.[citation needed] He also built Sujan Singh Park, near Khan Market New Delhi, New Delhi's first apartment complex, which only had bungalows till then, in 1945, designed by Walter Sykes George and named after his father.[10] Sobha Singh died in Delhi on 18 April 1978.

Legacy[edit]

Sobha Singh left a large part of his private estate to a charitable trust, The Sobha Singh Trust, which maintains homes and hospices for the terminally ill and aged all over the country, most recently it built, a dharamsala, within the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital complex, in New Delhi in 2005[11]

He also presided over some of the institutions funded by it like the Deaf and Dumb School and the Modern School. Among his last grants was one for Bhagat Puran Singh's Pingalwara home for the destitute in Amritsar.

In 2006, India International Centre (IIC) organized the first Sir Sobha Singh Memorial Lectures, in which the inaugural lecture titled, ‘My father, the builder’, was given by his son, writer Khushwant Singh.[12]

Personal life[edit]

The younger brother of Sobha Singh, Sardar Ujjal Singh (1895–1983), later became a parliamentarian, and Governor of Tamil Nadu (1966–71).[3][13]

Sobha Singh was married to Lady Sardarni Vira Bai (Lady Varyam Kaur). They had four sons Bhagwant Singh, Khushwant Singh (journalist, and author), Major Gurbakash Singh and Daljit Singh and a daughter, Mohinder Kaur, who was the mother-in-law of Rukhsana Sultana and grandmother of Indian film actress, Amrita Singh. His grandson Tejbir Singh, is the editor of Seminar magazine, and married to journalist and publisher Malvika Singh, daughter of journalist Romesh Thapar.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lutyens' Legacy Forbes, February 7, 2007.
  2. ^ Indiatoday article
  3. ^ a b Welcome to Memorable relics
  4. ^ "Khushwant Singh accused of twisting facts to shield father in Bhagat Singh case". Retrieved 02-07-2012.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ "Ordinance No. III of 1930". Letters, Writings and Statements of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his Copatriots. Shahid Bhagat Singh Research Committee, Ludhiana. Retrieved 29 October 2011. 
  6. ^ Who built New Delhi? www.delhilive.com, February 13, 2008.
  7. ^ Connaught Place
  8. ^ Ex-Presidents New Delhi Municipal Council.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ "Making history with brick and mortar". Hindustan Times. September 15, 2011. 
  11. ^ Caring for the care-givers Indian Express, April 10, 2005.
  12. ^ Back to the glorious past by Humra Quraishi, The Tribune, July 23, 2006.
  13. ^ "Past Governors". Raj Bhavan, Chennai, Official website. 
  14. ^ "'Delhi, the perpetual city, has a soul unlike Mumbai'". Hindustan Times. December 6, 2013. Retrieved 2014-01-22. 

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