Originally Mandi Bahauddin was a village called as Chak number 51. It started expanding after the completion of Rasul Hydroelectric Power Station on Upper Jhelum Canal in 1901. Today, Mandi Bahauddin is an over crowded market town famous for its agricultural markets (Grain Market, Vegetable Market and Livestock Market) and local industry of making colourful bed legs.
The name Mandi Bahauddin originates from two sources: Mandi (market) was prefixed because it was a flourishing grain market and Bahauddin was borrowed from nearby old village Pindi Bahauddin, which has now become part of the town. After the partition, thousands of refugees from India rehabilitated on the evacuee property of Sikh and Hindu landlords. Lately, after the construction of Rasul Barrage, people from the belt along southern edge of Salt Range up to Pind Dadan Khan and other areas across the River Jhelum came settling in the town. Due to migrations and increase in business activities, the town has expanded in all directions. The result is that more than half of the population is living outside municipal limits without any civic amenities. More unplanned localities and kachi abadies are coming up everyday. The tendency to move from rural areas to urban centres is on the increase.
People from adjoining villages come to exchange their agricultural products like grain, chickens and Ghee with matchboxes and other commodity items and see the ‘bright lights’ in this dusty town. Donkey carts to heavy vehicles are plying indiscriminately on any road they feel like. The town roads have bumps, wobbles and unauthorized speed breakers (sleeping policemen). The right of way has been shrunk due to encroachments and fast growing traffic. Most cross-junctions like Hospital Chowk, Gurha Chowk, Sut Sire Chowk, College Chowk and two railway crossings are always busy and there are no traffic signals.
The sugar mills constructed ‘farm to mill’ road that can be used as a bypass for the traffic not concerned with the city. But it is not being utilized because there are no arrangements to divert the heavy traffic on to the 20 feet wide metallic road. Mixture of slow and fast moving traffic, lack of footpaths, parking facilities, presence of bus and wagon terminals and many tonga stands has aggravated the situation in this agricultural market town. It is located away from Grand Trunk road but well linked with Pind Dadan Khan, Jhelum, Kharian, Lalamusa, Gujrat, Gujranwala and Sargodha with railways and good road network.
The small town having gridiron pattern (all roads and streets meeting at right angle) has developed haphazardly into an overcrowded city. Rehries and temporary shops have intruded all the main bazaars. The rehriwallas have a strong union. They thwart any effort by municipal authorities or district administration to remove the encroachments. The result is that what to talk of vehicles even the pedestrians cannot pass through the bazaars. Dual carriage way was introduced from Sadar Darwaza – gateway built in 1930 – to municipal committee office but the encroachers have also occupied this bifurcation.
The right of way on roads going out of the town has also been reduced due to unchecked encroachments and linear development along the roads. Number of shopping centres has come up in the residential areas. Beside sugar mills, local shaped industrial concerns are spread in and brick kilns around the town. Bed legs and colourful furniture are famous products of the town. Commercial and industrial activities in the residential areas have put a great pressure on the demand of already deficient houses.
Grain Market is located in the centre of the town. Goods’ Forwarding Agencies and lack of amenities have made miserable the lives of merchants and customers of the Market. Large number of goods’ trucks is always standing in the 4.3 acres of market area, which adversely affect the business. The surrounding area of town’s landmark and highest building, majestic Jamia Mosque built by the corner of Grain Market is also noisy and bustling with commercial activities of ‘Lohar’ bazaar.
Even worst is the condition of Vegetable Market. There was time when much of what is today Sabzi Mandi was tranquil and pollution free market consisting of few shops. People could go to the market and buy some of the freshest fruit, vegetables and some of the choicest of spices, nuts, meat and chicken. But now it is very difficult to move in and out of this largest perishable’s market in the area because there is no regular sweeping or lifting of garbage and all the free space has been occupied by vendors who buy any one item in the morning and sit on ground to sell inside and around Sabzi Mandi.
Well chalking is another problem of the town. Political, religious, commercial slogans and different advertisements can be seen all over the town. Political slogans respecting one candidate who contested last elections, every time from a different platform can still be found written on the walls of the town.
Besides going to nearby Rasul Barrage for eating fish Kabab, there are no recreational or cultural facilities and no healthy activities Mandi Bahauddin that was made district headquarters in 1993. This has far eaching effects on the youth of the town. They are seen playing cards on roadsides or snooker in corners of every street. Large numbers of video shops have come up and are doing good business. Video shops rent TV, VCR and as much as five films at a time even in the period when multi channel satellite has become a household item. There are two old cinema houses with 803 seating capacity. Degree colleges (one for boys and one for girls) are doing good jobs but given the resources of the municipal educational institutions, they are not enough for the youth of the area.
A Lalamusa-Sargodha-Khanewal railway is a profitable rout. At present only one Peshawar-Karachi train – Chenab Express – runs on this route. It could be useful to introduce at least one more Peshawar-Karachi express train for passengers, agricultural products produced in the area and a few of the minerals from Salt Range. This track is linked with Khewara Salt mines as well. Moreover, this track is strategically important in case of any threat to Peshawar-Lahore-Karachi main railway track. In that case, Lalamusa-Sargodha-Khanewal rail route could take all the rail traffic.
The “Mandi Bahauddin Development Plan 1986-2012” has not even come on the tables of people responsible for is execution. But a possible nice start for the town may be to declare at least two bazaars (Sadar Bazaar and Committee Bazaar) totally pedestrian, vehicular traffic and
animal transport contained out. Any body listening please!