Monday, June 30, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Panchayat poll peaceful
More than 70 per cent turnout
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Bhutta (Ludhiana), June 29
Contrary to expectations of large-scale rigging and violence by the Congress during the panchayat poll in this politically important district, polling passed off peacefully with no untoward incident reported till late in the evening. Ironically, minor incidents were reported from the booths and villages which had not been declared sensitive and most sensitive by the administration.

Approximately 70 per cent people, including a record number of women, cast their ballot amid tight security arrangements though allegations of partiality by the polling staff in favour of the ruling party abounded. However, Congress workers and leaders denied any campaign to coerce the voters and said that they had only stepped in to remove any misunderstanding.

An extensive tour by TNS through various blocks of the district revealed that despite the intermittent showers and a dust storm at some places, there was a lot of enthusiasm among the voters. The young and the elderly could be seen making their way to the village government schools where the candidates and their polling agents handed out slips to the people bearing the their booth and vote numbers.

At Khasabad village, polling had to be stopped for more than two hours after the villagers found that some ballot papers belonged to another village. Commotion prevailed as the opposing parties levelled allegations against one another. The polling staff informed the district administration, following which senior officers reached the spot and defused the situation.

It was found that one set of ballot papers were from another village and did not have the election symbols of two panches. Surprisingly, the polling officers did not notice this discrepancy and allowed the people to vote. It was only after some of them went outside and informed the candidates that their symbol did not exist on the ballot that the matter was raised by the villagers. Polling was resumed later.

Similarly, at Sekhan village in Dehlon, voting had to be cancelled after it was found that the election symbol of one of the panches had been wrongly printed. The SDM, Payal, who reached the spot brought the matter to the notice of the State Election Commission which directed postponement of the poll.

The candidates and villagers were sore that care had not been taken while printing the ballot and now they would have to spend more money in keeping their flock together.

In Saharan Majra village, Mr Raghbir Singh, Chairman of the Milk Plant, Ludhiana, and general secretary of the SAD, alleged that the son of a senior Congress leader came to the polling booth in his village and called the two presiding officers outside, bringing polling to a halt.

He reportedly gave them some instructions which was resented by them. The people raised slogans against them and urged the police to act, but nothing came out of it. Finally, the duo left the venue and polling was resumed. Mr Raghbir Singh added that he had brought the matter to the notice of senior officers.

In Burj Hari Singh, near Raikot, a person was injured in a scuffle between Congress and Akali workers. Sources said Preeta suffered minor injuries after supporters clashed with one another outside a polling booth. The elders of the village intervened and the matter was amicably settled.

In separate cases of bogus voting, two persons were detained and let off by the villagers following the intervention of senior Akali and Congress leaders. Isher Singh was detained by one of the candidates when he attempted to cast a bogus vote in Daudpur village. Similarly, another person was detained while doing the same thing in Hargobindpur village, near Chhapar.

On its part, the district administration had taken elaborate measures to prevent any untoward incident. A large number of police personnel had been posted in the sensitive and very sensitive villages.

Bhutta was one of those villages where the entire panel of the Akali candidates was painted prominently on the walls of the village leading to the school. A large number of Opposition and Akali workers were present in strength in this village as compared to other Akali-dominated villages in the district.

No untoward incident was reported from any of the 21 sensitive and very sensitive villages till the filing of this report.

It was interesting to see that the record turnout of women in the villages where a woman candidate was contesting. Braving the rain and the dust storm, women voters could be seen waiting patiently to cast their ballot. 



400 of 404 Alipur voters cast ballot
Bhushan Sood

Amloh, June 29
Villagers showed a keen interest in the panchayat elections today with nearly 90 percent polling reported in 77 villages out of the 95 in Amloh block. Eighteen panchayats were earlier declared elected unopposed and in Ramgarh and Raipur Arian, the election of panchayat members was held unanimously.

Two duty magistrates and seven supervisors were appointed for poll duty and given a control room at Amloh. Elaborate security arrangements were made in 19 sensitive villages but no untoward incident was reported at any polling booth. Eighty seven parties were deputed for the conduct of elections at 87 polling booths in seven clusters.

Braving the rain, voters poured into the polling booths and stood in long queues for their turn.

At Alipur Sandal village, 400 out of 404 votes were polled up to 4 pm. At Waraichan village, 608 out of 685 voters turned up and at Akalgarh, 482 out of 592 votes were polled.

At Tohra polling station, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Member of the Rajya Sabha, was the first voter to cast his vote at 8am. Mr Balwant Singh Shahpur, former Akali MLA from Amloh polled his vote at 8 am at his Shahpur village.

Dr Harbans Lal, Minister for Forests, thanked the people for casting their votes and said more than 80 per cent panchayats supported by the Congress had been elected due to the development policies of the government and ‘scandals’ of the Akali government.



Women voters outnumber men
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 29
Even as the idea behind women’s empowerment through reservation of seats in the panchayat elections is yet to be realised fully, women voters voting for women candidates in the rural areas of the district call it a day of reckoning.

They opine that the opportunity to choose a woman candidate, who will have better understanding of their problems, definitely points towards women’s empowerment. “For generations we did not have a voice. We were always in the background and had male representatives. But now we feel that we will have a forum to air our grievances with a woman as our panchayat head,” said women voters in the district who were exercising their right to vote in villages reserved for women candidates.

Although it is said that women act as proxy leaders only, the women voters were hopeful that with their representations in power, the problems concerning them would at least be given a hearing. So they were not allowing any of their friends to waste their votes. Their stand was strengthened by the fact that women voters outnumbered their male counterparts in the villages which are reserved for women sarpanches.

“Our village has been reserved for a woman for the first time. We are hoping to elect the best candidate who will help us in solving our problems. Moreover, it will be a woman-to-woman communication in our village. It is really going to help matters,” said Ms Harvinder Kaur of Jarkhar village in Dehlon block.

“We have inhibitions about talking to a man openly. It will take us many years to be on equal footing before talking to a man. Moreover, men tend to overlook the problems of women. It gives me immense satisfaction to elect a woman leader who will be my representative,” said Ms Gurmeet Kaur, a resident of Siarhh village, which has been reserved for a woman candidate.

Similar views were aired by Ms Paramjit Kaur of Jarkhar village. She said their main expectation from the sarpanch was the development of the village, which had taken a backseat for the past few years. “I am a working woman and I leave for my office at Ludhiana in the morning. There is no water supply in our village though it is very near to Ludhiana city. I have to complete my household work in the morning due to the water problem. I face many problems on account of it. So I want my candidate to help us in such matters,” she said.

Ms Amandeep Kaur from Siarhh village was enthusiastic as she was casting her vote for the first time. “We have seen male representatives for the past many years. This time we have a chance to see the contribution of a woman sarpanch. We hope she will fare well and be sympathetic towards us.”

Most of the women Ludhiana Tribune spoke to voted for elections without the use of intoxicants. They said if the women were all set to be in power, this would help eradicate the evil of liquor and other intoxicants that were distributed in the villages during elections.

“If women take the lead in villages, they will definitely ask their workers and voters to give up liquor. If a handful of women manage to do so in their respective villages, it can be a good precedent in the state,” said a voter.



Booze parties mark election day despite ban
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Barundi (Ludhiana), June 29
Despite the order of the District Magistrate regarding the closure of liquor vends and ahatas in view of the panchayat elections, liquor continued to flow freely in the countryside today. While it was being sold in a clandestine manner, the candidates served liquor openly to woo voters.

Even as owners of various liquor vends situated in interiors of the district chose to keep their shutters down, they deputed their workers outside the vends, who were selling liquor from the backdoor.

However, the workers before handing over a bottle made sure that the customer was a ‘‘genuine’’ one and was not of laying a trap for them. The violation of the orders negate the very purpose of the ban which is aimed at maintaining peace in the area and prevent any untoward incident under the influence of liquor.

The Tribune team visited a number of villages in the district and found that despite the ban, it was not very difficult to buy any brand of liquor. The only problem was that buyers had to shell out extra money as the liquor was being sold on the black market.

The team witnessed the entire scenario by standing at a safe distance from a vend on the Siarhh-Mandi Ahmedgarh road, which is not a very busy road. The workers were lying on cots under trees near the vend. After they spotted the prospective buyers, they got up at once. When a member of The Tribune team asked for liquor, a worker got ready to sell a bottle but was then checked by his colleague who seemingly had got suspicious.

Inquiries from residents of Siarhh, Jhammat, Bhutta, Butahari, Dehlon, Barundi and Pakhowal villages revealed that candidates literally flooded the villages with liquor last night. Interestingly, a number of empty liquor bottles were being used for supplying water to voters and electoral staff in various polling booths.

The District Magistrate, Mr Anurag Verma, had ordered the closure of country and foreign liquor vends on June 28 and 29 under Section 54 of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914.

Not caring two hoots for the ban, most of the villagers were found under the influence of liquor as it was being served during the daytime also. Some workers were especially assigned the duty to please voters by offering liquor. The booze parties were being organised at a small distance from polling booths. Invitations were being sent for grand parties in the evening after the declaration of results.

Besides the violation of the ban on liquor, violation of the Defacement of Public Property Act was also witnessed in the villages. Posters and pictures were seen pasted on walls, buildings, notice boards, telephone poles, exchanges and other public places.



BSNL freebies only on paper
Naveen S. Garewal

Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 29
The claims of the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) of going allout for facing stiff competition from competitors in the telecom sector have been contested by the nigam’s subscribers in the city. The subscribers allege that several months after the BSNL announced free of cost add on services, the city telecom circle is yet to provide these. On the contrary the department refuses to let go of its red tape policies by asking subscribers to fill any number of forms, without bothering to act on them.

Several telephone exchanges in the city are yet to provide the caller Id facility to residents despite repeated requests. Caller Id was one of the free add on service that the BSNL announced for its subscribers in January this year. In Ludhiana the Bharat Nagar, Mata Rani, Transport Nagar, Microwave exchanges near Arora Palace do not provide the caller Id facility. In the Bharat Nagar exchange, despite best efforts by the engineers they have been able to programme the exchange to the extent that it displays 0161 on Spice phone, indicating the city but not the number.

While, most of these exchanges are state of the art Fetex 150 exchanges, there are some Nec exchanges, all with caller Id support. Interestingly, several officials of the department have spent some time in Japan training to learn the use of the latest exchanges. It is very surprising that all outgoing calls from these exchanges when received on Reliance or Connect numbers can sense the numbers, but when calls are made to Spice phones, the numbers are not sensed. Similarly the department has expressed its inability to provide caller line identification facility on phones from these exchanges.

Several other free facilities being advertised by the BSNL since January this year include call forward, call waiting, phone plus facility, abbreviated dialling, hot line, call transfer, automatic wake-up, reminder call service, call hunting, service calling line identification presentation (Clip), etc. While, some services have been activated, the department wants a written application for enabling the other features. Subscribers argue “when all these facilities are free, why not enable them by default rather than asking for written applications”.

An aggrieved subscriber, Mr Rohit Handa said: “The state of affairs of the department can be gauged from the fact that the website of the Punjab Telecom Circle is inaccessible despite hours of trying. Once the Internet hours on BSNL expire, one can purchase additional hours only from the telephone exchange in Bharat Nagar only on working days during working hours. In contract the Internet packages from private ISP are available even in grocery stores”, he said.

Despite best efforts, a Telephone Advisory Committee (TAC) member in the city has failed to persuade the department to give up the red-tape attitude and ask the employees of the BSNL to adopt an attitude that can compete with the private operators in the telecom sector.

The department while promoting its services says “gone are the days when basic telephone was used only to make and receive calls. With the aid of state-of-the-art digital exchanges, BSNL offers you a host of phone plus services, converting your old basic telephones to a sophisticated tool which can be used for a variety of applications. All the phone plus facilities are available free of cost with effect from January 22, 2003”. Subscribers however say that the department has done precious little to implement what it advertises.

What has further complicated the issue for the subscribers in the city is the differences amongst the employees of the BSNL, some of whom have now been accusing the other of aligning themselves with private telecom companies and allegedly giving out secrets of the BSNL to these private operators. In fact some insiders allege that the free facilities are not being provided to the subscribers to provide an edge to the private competitors.

One group of employees at the Dholewal exchange has accused senior officials, including DET of passing sensitive information to Reliance Infocom. The department has, however, contradicted the charge.



Government rejection of MC decision dictatorial: BJP
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 29
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has taken exception to the Punjab Government’s decision to reject the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation resolution on waiving the interest charges on the arrears of house and water taxes. It alleged that the Congress government was acting in a dictatorial manner by rejecting a resolution passed unanimously in the House by the elected representatives of the local body.

A meeting of the BJP councillors was held here today under the chairmanship of its district president, Mr H.L. Sethi. The party condemned the May 5 decision of the Congress government in the state rejecting the “unanimously passed resolution of the corporation regarding the waiver of ‘interest charges’ on arrears of house tax and water charges.”

The party observed that the language used in the communication to the MC was “threatening and abusive” and betrayed the dictatorial and autocratic mindset of the powers-that-be. The party leaders pointed out that the Municipal Corporation was an elected body and responsible for the grass-root governance in the urban area. “It has every right to take a decision in public interest and the state government should not overstep its brief by scuttling the powers of the local bodies,” the councillors warned.

The party maintained that the ‘interest charges’ on house and water tax areas were supposed to go to the corporation funds and the corporation had every right to waive it. The state government had exceeded its right and powers in rejecting the unanimous resolution of the elected body which is law for the municipal area of the city. “The letter is dictatorial and anti-public,” it said, while declaring that the BJP councillors would oppose any reversal of the resolution.

The BJP also dared the Congress councillors to spell out their position on the issue. “If they (the Congress councillors) really have public interest in mind, they should oppose the move of the government and ensure that their rights are not encroached upon...because they are public representatives and have to keep public interest. 



Cong welcomes raids on Badals
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 29
Several Congress leaders have supported the Vigilance Bureau for conducting raids on the properties of Mr Parkash Singh Badal and his family with the aim of unearthing what they call “ill-gotten wealth”.

A statement issued by Congress leaders of Ludhiana district said “the ongoing raids were a part of the anti-corruption campaign launched by the Chief Minister Punjab, Capt Amarinder Singh, as per his promise made during the last Assembly elections.”

The statement has been signed by many leaders, including Mr Gurcharan Singh Galib, MP, Mr Surinder Dawar, MLA, Mr Malkiat Singh Dakha, MLA, and Mr Nahar Singh Gill, Mayor, Municipal Corporation of Ludhiana.

These leaders have criticised the threats by the Akali Dal leaders saying that they would resort to agitations leading to traffic jams and dharnas if the raids on Mr. Badal’s properties did not stop.

The Congress leaders said their party workers would give a befitting reply in case any attempt was made by the Akali Dal workers to take the law into their hands, thereby harassing the people. They said if Mr Badal felt that he was innocent, he should not feel unnerved, but should rather have full faith in the judiciary of the country, on whose permission the searches were being carried out.

They said the Punjab Government had sought directions on searches from the court by presenting evidences of corruption. The Congress, they said, was committed to making Punjab the first corruption-free state in the country.

Meanwhile, the president of the District Congress Committee Urban, Mr Jagmohan Sharma, in has address at the block-level meeting said the raids on Mr Badal’s properties were a welcome step towards tightening the noose around the Badals, who he alleged, had misused their official position for accumulating wealth. He assured the government that his supporters would foil any attempt of the Akali Dal to disrupt normal life on the issue.



Fake cosmetics flood market
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 29
Duplicacy is the name of the game. Cosmetics and toiletries have become an important part of one’s life due to heightened advertising of these products. Women, both rural and urban, are becoming conscious of their looks. The cosmetic industry has grown over the years and markets are flooded with innumerable beauty products. Markets have plethora of Indian and imported brands from all over the world.

With so many products in the market, the customer is flummoxed as several imitations of brands have also flooded markets. Nirpinder of BRS Nagar, who sells imported items like deodorants, creams and shampoos, says, “I know that the bottles with printed prices are genuine, but those with stickers on it are 50 per cent fake and 50 per cent genuine. It is very hard for customers to find out the fake products from the original ones. There are many factories near Mumbai that are engaged in making duplicate stuff”.

Mr Nand Lal says, “We buy genuine stuff from Delhi. Actually custom officials confiscate stuff from the passengers, who bring cosmetics in excess and do not pay the custom duty. Later such stuff is auctioned. We buy these and do get receipts. But many others do not sell genuine stuff, so stigma gets attached to all sellers. Indian companies are very good at imitating products. In Ludhiana, a large section of population is migrants from Bihar and UP. Since most of the women are illiterate, shopkeepers bring fake nail polishes, creams, oils, powders, rouges and lipsticks and find willing customers specially in localities like Shimla Puri”.

“Cheap ingredients in cosmetics can cause skin infections. Many people come to us with blotches on their faces caused by sun blocks of some dubious firms. Sometimes, the skin is so badly scarred that it takes many months to heal. It is always better to buy cosmetics from original distributors. Quality of product must be assured. One should buy cosmetics from appointed distributors or standard shops,” says Rippy of Shahnaz Beauty Parlour.



NGO marries off 3 poor girls
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 29
Three girls, Miesriez, Ranjit Kaur and Lokesh never thought that they will get married as their parents could not bear the expenses of their marriages. In stepped Maa Bhagwati Club, an NGO that arranges marriages of destitute girls.

Today the marriages of these three girls were organised by the club in Gurdwara Shree Guru Singh Sabha, Deep Nagar. The marriages were conducted by Head Granthi S. Harmeet Singh.

The president of the club, Mr Avinash Sikka, and Mr Sukhdev Thapar welcomed the grooms and their families. The city Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, and the Director of Small Scale Industries and Sports Corporation, Mr Amarjit Singh, blessed the newly weds. Ms Rakhi Bhandari, ADC, also blessed the couples

They Mayor said social service was the best form of service. He lauded the efforts of all members of the club who organised marriages of poor girls from time to time.

Mr Dimpi Makkar, Mr Anil Gaggar, Dr Jagmohan Chopra, Mr Kewal Krishan, members of the club, and many other persons gifted household items like beds, clothes, utensils, etc. to the new couples.


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