Saturday, April 5, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


A date with death and devastation
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Relatives of the deceased persons being consoled at Bank Colony
Relatives of the deceased persons being consoled at Bank Colony in Mullanpur Dakha where a MiG-23 had crashed on Friday. — Photo Inderjeet Verma

Mullanpur Dakha, April 4
Damaged houses engulfed in thick smoke, simmering wreckage of the fighter plane, charred bodies, wailing relatives, rescue operations and a sea of humanity was witnessed on the college road in the Bank Colony here a few minutes after the MiG-23, an IAF fighter plane, crashed into three houses killing three persons on the spot and leaving four severely injured.

The condition of all the four injured is stated to be critical since they suffered up to 80 per cent burns. They have been admitted to the DMC Hospital, Ludhiana. Those who died on the spot included Raju, his wife, Pammi, and her nephew Sunny and the injured included Bimla (75), Kuldip Kaur (47), Manjinder Kaur (23) and Gurpreet Singh (22).

It was the house of Parshottam Singh, alias Bhola, a tractor mechanic that bore the brunt of the crash and suffered extensive damage. The plane crashed into the rear rooms of the house and burst into flames.

Harpreet who had a providential escape in the air crash.
Harpreet who had a providential escape in the air crash. He came out of the room just one minute before the MiG-23 crashed into it. 

Over 70-year-old Dewan Chand, a grocer was inconsolable. In a quirk of fate, he lost his only son, Raju, and daughter-in-law Pammi. His wife, Bimla, was also seriously injured and her condition was critical. Neighbours said the family was having breakfast when the plane crashed into the house. A few minutes later, only their charred remains were left.

Fourteen-year-old Sunny, who had come for a few days to visit his aunt, Pammi’s house last night only, was among those killed. Raju and Pammi were the tenants of Bhola. Raju’s relatives said both Pammi and Raju had brought Sunny from his home at Chowni mohalla at Ludhiana. His sister had returned to Ludhiana only last evening.

Sunny had passed his Class IX examination with distinction and the family was planning a celebration. They were hardly aware that the cruel hands of destiny will snatch Sunny from their hands in such a manner.

Sunny’s parents, Jasbir Singh and Balwinder Kaur, were inconsolable. They reached the scene in the afternoon. They learnt about the accident from somebody at Ludhiana as nobody could give their contact number to the rescue team in the morning.

“Had I known a plane was going to crash on him, I would never have sent him here. He was my only hope for the future. Who will return my son now?’’ a wailing Jasbir Singh was heard saying.

Family members of Bhola, including his wife Kuldip Kaur, daughter Manjinder Kaur and son Gurpreet Singh were badly injured. Bhola had dropped them home half an hour ago when he left for his shop in the market. Hearing the blast, he rushed back home.

He saw his house was on fire and went in just in time to save his daughter before the roof of the house caved in. She had already sustained burn injuries and was rushed to the hospital. His wife was rescued by his neighbours who entered the house by climbing the roof with a wooden ladder.

His son was last seen ablaze by the neighbours while he was rushing out of the house before he fell on the ground. The neighbours put blankets on him at once and he was rushed to hospital. The families of Bikar Singh and Balbir Singh, both tenants of Bhola, were rescued by them and nobody was injured.

While death snatched away three persons, sheer providence saved a young boy, Harpreet, alias Rinku, son of Bhola’s neighbour. He was alone in the house when the plane crashed into his house. Talking to TNS he said the plane hit the room which he had left a minute ago. ‘‘I was sitting in that room only when I decided to take bath. I picked up my towel and bolted the bathroom door. I had just kept the towel inside when I heard a ear-piercing noise. I thought it was a cylinder blast. I rushed out of the bathroom only to see that the room I was sitting in had collapsed. I thought it was an earthquake. I went out only to find out that a plane had crashed in to my neighbour’s house,’’ said Rinku, who had yet to recover from the shock.

Eyewitnesses said the plane crashed at around 10. 10 a.m. Mr Kuldeep Singh Khalsa, an eyewitness, said he saw a plane in flames just few metres over his head on the main road. ‘‘I, along with some people, followed the plane which we saw hitting four houses one after the other and then crashing into Bhola’s house. We rescued a woman and then tried to rescue others in Bhola’s house. But we could not do anything as the people were already charred. The temperature of the house had risen so high that it seemed that a ball of fire had fallen on it.’’

Satinder Kaur, a woman living opposite Bhola’s house, said they heard a loud noise and felt a tremor which shook their house and the window panes were broken. ‘‘I told my sister that there was an earthquake and told her to rush outside. When we went outside, there was thick smoke all around. Nothing was visible and Bhola’s house was on fire. We ran away from the place and reached the main road only to see that hundreds of people were rushing towards our area. Then they told us that a plane had crashed and there was a threat of spread of fire,’’ Satinder Kaur said.

The wreckage of the plane was on fire for more than four hours as the fire-fighting equipment of Halwara Air Force station as well as the Fire Brigade could douse the fire only in the afternoon. The domestic goods of four houses that had suffered most of the damage were burnt to ashes. Residents, in a bid to save whatever they could, threw all household items outside their houses. While Bhola’s house was completely damaged . Three other houses also suffered damage.



Kidney scam scares off donors
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 4
The kidney scam that has rocked the state has caused severe hardship for renal transplant patients as no donors are coming forward to help even those genuinely in need of kidney transplant out of fear of action by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) conducting a probe into the scam.

Several renal transplant surgeons of the region testify that even genuine kidney donors are afraid of questioning by the police and have decided to defer their plans of donating kidneys for the time being. On the other hand, some nephrologists say that there is no reason for panic as transplant in most cases can wait for a period ranging from a few weeks to a few months.

Mr Balbir Chand, Chief Pharmacist, Civil Hospital, needs an immediate renal transplant as both his kidneys are damaged. “I got to know about my condition only a few months ago. Though I have limited resources, if I survive, I can earn and supplement any resources. But the major problem is of finding a kidney donor. Even my relatives are reluctant to come forward for help due to questioning by the police and other formalities. I have got three daughters who are of a marriageable age. If something happens to me, what will be their future?”, he asked in a helpless manner.

Mr Raj Kumar, another 50-year-old patient, complained that one of his close relatives was ready to donate a kidney to him. “But another relative of mine told him that many donors had died after donating their kidneys. So now he does not want to take any risk. I am suffering today because of somebody else’s mistake”, said Mr Raj Kumar.

One of the leading nephrologists at a renowned hospital here said patients were really facing a tough time and the media and the police were responsible for this. “I agree that patients are not getting treatment. The police is torturing doctors. Why should we come forward to save the patients? We are scared. The police is misusing its powers”, he said.

Another senior doctor at Christian Medical College and Hospital said kidney transplant had come to a halt these days and there was a huge rush for dialysis. The screening committee was hesitant to even clear the cases of close relatives (donors) of patients and the patients were suffering. A negative hype has been created by the media. “The doctors as well as the donors are now scared”, said the doctor.

Dr Rajan Issacs, nephrologist at Deepak Hospital, however, said the patients could be treated until the time the government came out with a policy. “The patients can be put on dialysis, which can save them. But certainly the problem needs a permanent solution”, said Dr Issacs. 



PU Extension Library gets facelift 
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, April 4
The only surviving Extension Library, started in 1960 under the UGC and in collaboration with UNESCO, has finally got a facelift.
The Extension Library near the District Courts is affiliated to Panjab University(PU) and was started for the benefit of the local colleges. The other two extension libraries in the country, in Madurai and in Jodhpur, have been converted into universities.

Mr Prem Prakash Verma, Chief Librarian since July 2002, says the library received a grant of Rs 8,18,440 lakh from Lala Lajpat Rai, MP, from his discretionary quota in January 2003 and the sum was utilised in giving a fresh look to the library. The paint work has been completed and the lawns manicured.

The auditorium attached to the library, where earlier a number of cultural functions used to be held, was lying unused. The roof of the auditorium was leaking and its seats damaged. A part of the money was spent on repairing the roof and getting the broken chairs replaced.

Some other items, including curtains, also need to be changed. Mr Verma says, “ The local colleges affiliated with Punjab University charge Rs 5 as the library fund. The collected funds have exceeded Rs 2 lakh. A managing committee will decide how to use these for the betterment of the library.”

The number of books in the library has also increased from 15,000 in 1960 to more than one and a half lakh. The library gets Rs 4 lakh as annual fund for the purchase of books. But Mr Verma says that they are able to purchase only 3,000 books every year as the books have now become very expensive. The library has some rare books that date back to 16th and 17th centuries.

More than 4,000 students, teachers and special members use the library. A post-graduate students, studying for his examinations, said, “The library is a heaven for students specially after the fresh new look. Earlier it was dingy as for the past 10 years no paint work had been done. The only problem is that at times important chapters are found torn from some books .”

Mr Verma says that when they discover a page missing from a book, they ask students to replace it. Old books are written off with the permission of the PU Vice-Chancellor. The book binding section continuous to repair and bind books.

The library also functions as the university information centre. It renders invaluable services to students so that they can purchase forms, including migration and duplicate forms, and other certificates.

Computers have been purchased and operators are awaited from the university. 



SARS fear grips people
Shivani Bhakoo

Ludhiana, April 4
Though not a single case of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), has been reported from the country, yet the fear of the killer pneumonia has gripped people's mind. An alert has been sounded by the authorities to deal with the SARS epidemic.

The Health Department has not received the copies of WHO guidelines, regarding the management of disease so far and the lack of information about the causative agent of the disease has left doctors puzzled.

Health officials, on the condition of anonymity, disclosed that in case of an emergency there was a shortage of ventilators, negative pressure isolation rooms to check the entry of airborne infections and oxygen cylinders in hospitals and dispensaries.

Medical experts have urged the people to remain calm and take adequate precautions. The public needs to be cautious, they feel.

A senior doctors at a hospital said, “Ideally, isolation wards should be equipped with ventilators, but the lack of awareness about the disease and ill-equipped health infrastructure would make it impossible to treat any such case reported here. This would definitely make the risk of others getting infected very high.”

The doctors have suggested that even a minor fever, accompanied with cold, cough, throat infection, headache and body ache should not be taken lightly and patients should visit a doctor immediately. The pneumonia positive patient should be isolated and one should not share bedding, towel or anything with him. To deal with such a patient, face masks and hand gloves should be worn.

When contacted, Dr S.N.Tiwari, Civil Surgeon, said in case an SARS patient is identified, he or she would be isolated immediately. “We will handle the case separately and the treatment of the patient will depend on the symptoms,” said Dr Tiwari.

It may be mentioned here that the mysterious illness has already claimed many lives in various countries. It has already spread its wings in southern China, Hong Kong and Canada and has been taken worldwide by airline passengers.

The Indian Government has already decided to screen passengers from all countries at airports for the symptoms related to unknown pneumonia.



Major changes in BSc (HSc) syllabus 
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 4
Abiding by the norms set by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the Board of Studies in the College of Home Science, Punjab Agricultural University, has finalised some major changes in the syllabus of BSc (Home Science) from the coming academic session at its meeting held here today.

Stating this, Dr S.K. Mann, chairperson of the committee and Dean of the college, said the changes had been made in order to lay more emphasis on specialised training and to enable the outgoing graduate students to become successful entrepreneurs. She said till date the college had been following “3+1” pattern in which the students were taught core subjects for the first three years and elective subjects only during the final year. However, from the next session, the college would follow “2+2” pattern in which the students would be taught core subjects for the first two years and elective subjects during the last two years.

Dr Mann said internship period for the students would now be prolonged. While earlier the duration for internship in various types of industrial and corporate units was limited to eight weeks, now the students would have to undergo training for a period of three to six months. On the contrary, the duration of rural area work experience (RAWE) has been reduced from 15 credit hours to 10 credit hours, each credit hour for practical work being two hours long.

Dr Mann said the complete BSc course would now be of 161 credit hours with a few deficiency courses of six credit hours. The students coming from medical stream would have to clear deficiency courses in non-medical subjects and vice versa. Another major change introduced in the syllabus is the doing away with the compulsion of choosing subjects related to agriculture as supporting courses. Instead, the students would have an additional option to select courses from the College of Basic Sciences and Humanities as well. The supporting courses would be of 10 credit hours duration, enabling the students to learn more about the fields they would specialise in.

Dr Mann said the students taking Food and Nutrition as the elective subject would now choose subjects such as therapeutic nutrition, dietetics and catering management in great depth during their third and fourth years. These students would have better chances of getting job opportunities as diet consultants or contractors in hotels, hospitals, hostel and campus canteens, tourist spots and other eating joints. Similarly, students opting for Family Resource and Management would take interior designing and institutional housekeeping courses in details.

The students choosing “Human Development” as their elective subject would be taught “Organisational management of early childhood programme” and “Special education for disabled kids” in more depth. Likewise, the students of clothing and textiles would be studying detailed aspects of apparel designing and textile designing, while the students of home science extension would study mass communication and information technology at length.

The Dean informed that the Board of Studies would present its ideas and suggestions before the Residence Instruction Committee (RIC) in which deans of all colleges would take part. The RIC would then send the proposals to the academic council for the final consent, she said. She said the ICAR had also offered monetary help to the college for setting up better infrastructure that would help meet the requirements of the new study pattern.



Partaking of jail food to avoid imprisonment
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 4
Not all civilians seen on the premises of any of the three jails in the city are relatives of convicts or undertrials or criminals themselves. A sizeable number of these are anxious people, without any criminal record, but forced by circumstances to visit the jail to ward off the stellar influences or change their destiny written on the lines of the hands warning of a possible imprisonment in future.

They rush to the jail for doing an upaya (solution) of the problem they can face in the future as was revealed to them by an astrologer or a palmist, whose number in our country people is large.

It sounds unbelievable in this modern, scientific age, but it is quite true. One has to just visit any of the three jails — the Central Jail, Women’s Jail or the Borstal Jail — to see the scene for himself.

Guided by the know-all breed of astrologers and palmists, the civilians visit the jail to have a lunch on its premises, or take a portion of the ‘channa sabzi’, and mix it with their food to complete the ‘upaya’. This, it is said, has saved several from a possible jail term.

Mr Chander Sharma, one such resident of Jamaplur, told TNS that he had come to eat a chapatti on the jail premises to prevent a jail term in the future. His astrologer had recommended this method to escape a possible jail term as suggested by his horoscope. He said he believed the astrologer, because several other people, he knew, had benefited from the ‘upaya’.

One can find several such people on or outside the jail premises. If sources in the jail are to be believed, the number of educated persons belonging to affluent families was much more than people belonging to the middle or the lower classes.

Recently, a retired DSP from some other district visited a jail on the recommendation of his astrologer. The sources said he did not go to the jail in his district as he did not want to be recognised. He ate the food here and then revealed his identity to a senior officer. He became a butt of a joke whether he also feared some action after the change in the government. He retired from a plum place of posting recently.

Jail officials said the spread of education had made some difference, but people still came in large numbers. On an average, one or two persons visit the jail with the ‘special request’ every other day.

“We tell them these things don’t help. One has to live a clean life to stay away from the hell-like life behind the bars,’’ a senior jail official said. But people don’t listen and request for co-operation.

There were allegations that some persons had to pay some money to get ‘dal-roti’ but this charge was denied by the jail officials. They said we allow almost all people coming to us with a request to partake of food. The sources, however said ‘sifarish’ by some influential person definitely helped.



Sukhbir is still a VIP
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 4
What is so special about Mr Sukhbir Badal? He may be like any other Rajya Sabha member or the General Secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal-Badal (SAD-B). But when it comes to the treatment accorded to him by the local police and the administration here, he certainly seems to be much more than that. As important as he used to be when his father, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, was the Chief Minister of the state and he, the heir apparent.

When the junior Badal visited Ludhiana on Wednesday, he was accorded the same treatment he used to more than a year ago. The heavy police escort with a pilot vehicle at the front followed by a number of police personnel that would make him look more conspicuous and more important than a Rajya Sabha member. And during his overnight stay in the town at the residence of one of his school time friends who resides in Gurdev Nagar area, the police arrangements were adequately proportionate to what an heir apparent may deserve to get.

It is not just the arrangements for the stately stay of the heir apparent, It is learnt that some officers in the local police and the administration also met the junior Badal at the Gurdev Nagar residence of his friend late last night. Mr Badal left Ludhiana on Thursday in the morning with full honours, otherwise reserved for the VVIPs. Heavy contingent of the police was deployed in the Gurdev Nagar area, around the house of his friend for the full night, turning the street into a fortress. But after all that is the importance of being Sukhbir Badal, heir apparent to the Akali throne.

The junior Badal, who used to be a frequent visitor to Ludhiana during the Chief Ministership of his father, had not come here for quite some time after Mr Badal lost power. It was after a long gap that he visited Ludhiana and stayed for the night here in the city. He met a number of party workers and some officials also. 



In need of new lease of life
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 4
While shopping at Chaura Bazaar you would have many times passed by Kishan, who insists on polishing your shoes. You will barely realise that this is his only hope to earn some money required for his daughter’s treatment. Kishan migrated to Ludhiana a few years ago to earn a better living. With his earnings of Rs 50-60 per day, he supports his wife Bhaku, 10-year-old daughter Maya and a toddler son. Their trauma started when about three years ago, Maya started complaining of no control over her right hand. Lately she also complained of seizures. She was given anti-tuberculosis treatment for more than a year, but her condition did not improve.

Dr Yashpal Singh, who is treating Maya at present at Christian Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) said, “She has a space-occupying lesion of the brain (tuberculoma) which is increasing in size in spite of a year-long treatment. We need to perform a surgery, excision biopsy, for a further diagnosis and for deciding on further management. The estimated cost of the surgery is Rs 30,000 approximately.

Kishan and Bhaku said, “We are poor and do not have enough money even for food. We cannot afford to treat Maya. God is great, He will do something”

All those who wish to help Maya can contact the Department of Neurology, CMCH, Ludhiana. All cheques should be made in favour of Christian Medical College and Hospital with ‘treatment of Maya’ written on the back.



Rally against VAT
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 4
The local unit of the Shiv Sena (Hindustani) today held a rally to protest against the imposition of VAT in the state. The agitators also burnt an effigy of Finance Minister Jaswant Singh and raised slogans against the government.

Addressing the protesters at the Clock Tower here, Mr Pawan Sharma and Mr Krishan Sharma, secretary-general and district president of the unit, said they were against the imposition of VAT in the state and would protest against the move by organising strikes and mobilising the business community in the state.

They said various states had openly opposed the move and taking a cue from the traders elsewhere, they would also do its utmost to stall the move which was not in the interests of either the businessmen or the common man. Given the past experiences of their community, the move would only lead to large scale surveys and raids, a situation which would be exploited by the IT authorities, he pointed out.

They also added that even small time merchants would have to employ accountants which was not possible in the times of a major slump on the market.



A clarification

The Punjab and Sind Bank has refuted allegations that its staff dispensed a wad short of currency notes as had been alleged by a local businessman on Thursday. Denying the charges against the bank, Mr Jatinder Pal Singh, Senior Manager, said the businessman, Mr Parveen Jain of Ostro Auto Industry, was neither a customer of his bank nor had he received any payment from the Master Tara Singh College branch of the bank.

Ludhiana Tribune had published a story ‘Count your cash before leaving counter’ on Friday.

He said the bank was strictly adhering to the RBI instructions regarding stitching and dispensing of the currency notes. Since the branch of the bank did not have a note counting machine, every packet was counted and signed by two officials of the bank.

The wad of notes in question could have passed several hands before it reached Mr Jain and the bank could not be blamed for the shortage of notes, he said. TNS



Tractor company ‘cheats’ farmers
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 4
A group of representatives of the Kirthi Kisan Union, headed by its president, Mr Jagjit Singh Hathur, and district secretary, Mr Inderjit Singh, met Mr M.S. Chhina, SSP here, and complained against a tempo-tractor company of Jagraon. They alleged that the company had cheated two poor farmers. The company dealt in Sonalika tractors. For the sale of a tractor, it first offered to buy an old tractor and later on, without consulting the farmers, got approved in their name a loan for a trailor. The company made a wrong calculation to hush up the matter and cheated the farmers, Mr Gurmail Singh and Mr Beant Singh of Jhorran village to the extent of Rs 20,000.

The KKU leaders, who met the owners of the company, said at first the company agreed to return the amount, but then went back on its word. The leaders have urged the SSP to take action against the erring company.

Narrating another incident, the KKU leaders told the SSP that the police had taken away Jagjit Singh on the complaint of Palwinder Singh, a commission agent of Talwandi Rai. The representatives of the KKU demanded immediate release of Jagjit Singh.


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