Saturday, June 3, 2000,
Chandigarh, India
L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Sahir Ludhianvi centre project shelved
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, June 2 — ''Masroof zamana mere liye kyon waqt apna barbad kare (why shall the busy world waste time on me?). These immortal lines from the pen of acclaimed lyricist, poet and writer Sahir Ludhianvi have been proven true in this city, the place where he was born and spent most of his youth.

The state government had announced setting up of a Sahir Ludhianvi cultural centre in the poet's memory near the Pakhowal road here in 1992 as a tribute to the poet. However, even after eight years the project is gathering dust in files of the Improvement Trust and the latest one heard about it is that the trust has shelved the plan. The 1.25-acre plot earmarked for the centre, where even a foundation stone announcing the commencement of construction work can also be seen, has now been chosen for a multi-storeyed commercial complex.

The Padam Shri award winner poet had transformed the Hindi film music with his literary lyrics. Little wonder that he was the cynosure of all eyes not only in India but also attracted awards like the Soviet Bhumi Nehru award presented by the erstwhile USSR Government. His collection of poems, apart from his hit film numbers which are popular even today, provided him an immortal figure. The poet, who died 20 years ago, also made the city world famous with his pen-name Ludhianvi.

But the city has failed to return the honour in equal terms. Efforts made by the Sahir Ludhianvi

Memorial Trust to persuade the state government for erecting a suitable memorial in the poet's everlasting memory bore fruit in 1992 when the late Governor Surendra Nath announced the setting up of a cultural centre in Sahir's memory in the city under the state government's policy to encourage multi-culture activities.

On march 25, 1995, late Mr Beant Singh, former Congress Chief Minister of the state, laid the foundation stone of the centre. The proposed plan passed by the Improvement Trust included construction of a large auditorium, an audio-visual centre, a library containing books of all languages and also setting up of a printing press to encourage budding writers.

In a resolution passed by the trust it was decided to sell the land to the Sahir memorial Trust at the rate of Rs 300 per square yard. However, this could never happen as with the change of government, rethinking began on the project among the Improvement Trust officials. Ultimately, the trust decided to withdraw the project and instead initiated plans for constructing a modern multi-storeyed commercial complex in its place.

While the shelving of the project was a tremendous setback for Sahir's fans in the city, the Improvement Trust officials said the project was not commercially viable. Talking to Tribune News Service, Mr Madan Mohan Vyas, Chairman of the trust, said they would have suffered a loss by selling the land to the Sahir Memorial Trust at a cheap rate of just Rs 300 per square yard as decided by the government. He said moreover the government later approved a project of a Guru Nanak cultural centre whose construction undertaken by the district administration is nearing completion. This place could be used for cultural activities and, thus, there was no need for a new cultural centre at the earlier decided place. Mr Vyas said the government also saw reason in our arguments and, thus, the project was abandoned. The Improvement Trust has began process of constructing a commercial centre at the site which had a shopping complex on the front and super-de luxe residential flats at the rear. He said the layout plan of the project had also been approved and the tenders would be called shortly.

Mr Vyas stressed that they were not against setting up some memorial to the acclaimed poet. He said instead the trust was willing to offer any other piece of land for the construction of a memorial to Sahir Ludhianvi.Back


Both God and government seem to have given up hope on Ludhiana
From A.S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, June 2 — The annual outbreak of gastroenteritis and cholera in certain localities of Ludhiana which has so far resulted in four deaths and hospitalization of more than 100 persons has highlighted once again the miserable living conditions which its citizens are forced to suffer year after year.

To an outsider Ludhiana looks at first sight like a city abandoned by God as well as the government. Everything which can go wrong here, has gone wrong.

It is well known that it is the most polluted city of Punjab. Civic services have all but collapsed. There has been a haphazard and mushroom growth of residential colonies all over the city. Air and water pollution has come to be accepted as a fact of life. The Municipal Corporation is unable to provide a regular garbage removal service to nearly half the city. Sewerage system has collapsed in several parts of the city. Outbreak of jaundice and gastroenteritis is not unknown and is, perhaps, looked upon as an act of God. Nearly 40 per cent of the city’s population has a reliable source of water. There are colonies along the Ring Road where a pot of water will change colour within minutes.

Roads are congested. Traffic is chaotic. Little attention is paid to traffic lights by pedestrians as well as vehicular traffic. Unlike most other cities, people do not shake their fists in anger after a collision. They just shake their heads and move on. Narrow lanes are choked full of foul smoke-emitting auto-rickshaws fitted with noisy diesel engines. But instead of diesel, these monstrous contraptions are run on kerosene. The of noxious fumes they emit are dangerous not only for those who travel by them but also for those who go past them. It would seem that all pollution vehicles rejected and thrown out by the Delhi Administration have found a save heaven in Ludhiana. A large number of the auto-rickshaws are not even registered and ply without any check from the civic authorities.

Attempts by the district administration to restore some order on the roads by putting a ban on-petrol driven auto-rickshaws lead to howls of protests from the politicians who lose no time in flocking to the office of the Deputy Commissioner and prevail upon him to relax the ban. Presumably, they are more worried about the well-being of their vote banks represented by the auto-rickshaw drivers than the silent, suffering citizens of Ludhiana they profess to serve.

There was no local bus service till a few months ago. It was discontinued in 1991-92 because of continuous losses, leaving the travelling public at the mercy of auto-rickshaws and cycle rickshaws. How the local bus services operated by the Municipal Corporation, was suffering loses in a megacity where hundreds of thousands of people travel every day, is a mystery waiting to be unravelled. Private buses have now been introduced on certain routes in the city but they have proven to be unequal to the task of solving the traffic problem of Ludhiana. If anything, they have added to the traffic congestion on the road because of their penchant to park bang in the middle of the road, even in congested localities like areas around Clock Tower. They move at will, stop at will, picking up and dropping off passengers without any regard to the traffic conditions on the roads.

Encroachment on government land is a way of life here. Roads, parks, open spaces, nullahs, khalas (water courses) are preyed upon on a regular basis and any attempt to remove them is resolutely resisted through manpower or money power or, if everything else fails, through political pressure. and in almost all cases, it succeeds. Little wonder, the civil authorities have resigned themselves to their fate and make little attempt to hide their helplessness.

Ludhiana has a well-meaning politician as its Mayor in the person of Mr Apinder Singh Grewal, but the problems of the megacity are so many that he does not know where to begin. He identifies pollution, encroachment and traffic management as the there major problems of the city.

The Ludhiana Municipal Corporation’s budget for 2000-01 totals nearly Rs 270 crore but more than 65 per cent of the money has been set apart for the payment of salaries and allowances its staff. Only a small portion of the money has been earned for developmental works.

Ludhiana’s population varies with the clock. At night, it is estimated at around 25 lakh. During day time, another five lakh people descend on it from the surrounding areas to earn their livelihood by toiling in its factories.

The Mayor regards the period between 1970 and 1991 as the “darkest period” in the history of the city. The growth of terrorism which held sway in Punjab for more than a decade has been a major contributory factor in the haphazard and uncontrolled growth of Ludhiana.Back


Almost every school has kids hooked to drugs
From Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, June 2  — "What ? A Class II student is a drug addict!" This was the shocking reaction of the activists of a visiting anti-drugs social work organisation of the city when a school principal informed them of the recovery of a popular and cheap drug gutka from such a small child.

That the drug menace had penetrated deep into the lives of the youth and even children was made evident when the school principal informed them that this was not a case in isolation as earlier the school had suspended three minors for being addicted to drugs.

"My mamaji used to eat it from a small pouch. I tasted it once and have grown fond of it," the innocent child told the activists. When asked why he took it regularly, he replied, "No doubt it's bitter, but I always long for it."

The shocking social workers who requested for anonymity said that on subsequent visits to several other schools in the city, they soon realised that they had touched the tip of the iceberg only. "For, almost every school reported discovering a minor hooked to some kind of drug at one time or the another," the organisation revealed.

The drug addiction menace in the city which is the highest in the state and probably in the northern region has assumed alarming proportions. Previous studies or analyses of the abuse proclaimed that either labourers or grown-up youths from the affluent society were into the bad habit.

Dhakka Colony, Habbowal Colony and localities around the railway line of the city abound in drug abuse and trafficking. A visit by The Tribune team in Dhakka Colony, the most notorious place for drug-peddling, revealed that every kind of drug, from gutka to brown sugar, was available here. A few youths, apparently hooked, were lying near a heap of garbage. A stoutly built man answered the queries by a rude,"Tumko kya?" About the availability of drugs, he said every kind of drug in the world reaches here and a number of other reporters had already written about them. "We don't care," he said.

According to Mr Sarbjeet Singh, founder Chairman of YES, a social work organisation, the free availability of drugs like gutka, charas, ganja, opium, poppy husk and zarda was destroying the new generation and the authorities had not succeeded in curbing the menace. He said the probability of child drug addicts was high as a large number of youths of all strata of society had already become addicts.

Quoting from a recent study done on the hostlers in the city by Dr Raj Kumar, a psychiatrist, he said that every second male and every ninth female hostler was an addict. The study said that the menace was spread uniformly among the rural and urban youths of the district as 43 per cent urban and 38 per cent rural youths were addicts.

A survey of the few drug de-addiction centres in the city also corroborated the assertions that more and more teenagers were becoming addicts. According to Dr Deepinder Singh of the Aas Kiran Drug De-Addiction Centre here, more than 70 per cent patients coming for treatment were less than 20 years of age. He said while the youths took to drugs due to a multitude of factors, including it being a status symbol, escapist tendencies and lack of proper care and attention from the parents, the children were getting hooked just to satisfy their curiosity about an eatable commonly taken by some elder member of the family.

Mr G.S.Sandhu, SP City, said the police had conducted several raids and closed a number of shops, especially khokhas, selling gutka near educational institutions. However, he said the menace can be curbed by an equal and sustained movement by social workers and parents. He said after receiving reports about the spread of drug-addiction to even minors, the police has decided to step up the campaign.

According to him, sociologists should suggest means of keeping the social fabric, especially of the family ties, intact. He said experience showed that the labourers were taking drugs under compulsion to work as it gives them a temporary kick.

Children or youths of well-to-do families were becoming addicts due to depression or unsatisfying relations.Back


A park that is a panorama of Punjabi culture
From Kuldip Bhatia

LUDHIANA, June 2 — When we talk of public parks in green belts in the city, what immediately comes to mind is patches of uneven grass, unchecked growth of weeds, broken grilles and fences and a picture of utter neglect, all that in case the public park has not been encroached upon by unscrupulous persons.

But a small yet meticulously nurtured square of green in Lajpat Nagar, just opposite general bus stand, presents a story in contrast.

The park, brainchild of BJP councillor Inderjit Panchhi, who lives at a stone’s throw, amply shows what an innovative idea, coupled with the will to succeed can achieve. The place is literally a panorama of Punjabi culture. Put up all around the park are most colourful and enchanting life like statues, depicting different aspects of rural life and Indian culture.

If it is a farmer, accompanied with his wife, going to fields in one corner, a group of bhangra and gidha dancers adorns the other side. A tigress suckling her cubs appears unmindful of a cobra curled up with its hood held high. A couple of rural women prepare lassi in a ‘chatti’ and pound spices in a ‘koondi sotta’, another woman is grinding grain on a ‘chakki’ while a snake charmer, squatting nearby tries to cast his spell on a snake. For those keen on mixing their morning walk with religious rituals, a number of idols of gods and goddesses have also been put up.

The whole scenario is an imaginative and breathtaking mix of rural life.

In the middle of the park stands a fountain with its surroundings concrete and stone structure painted in bright colours which animate the whole set up. The place could do with a little more landscaping and grass cover for the visitors, which Mr Panchhi assures would be in place when the park formally opens to public in next couple of days.

“What exactly motivated me to conceive the idea and give shape to this unique park in a rather neglected colony was the desire to change the habits of the residents, who were literally in love with garbage and stench”, Mr Panchhi said when asked how the idea struck him.

“Thereafter, it was just like a commitment and I let nothing come in the way”. Mr Panchhi (who represents Ward 39), told that the whole project had cost around Rs 2 lakh which were raised through voluntary contributions.

The Municipal Corporation, he informed, did chip in with some civil works, fencing, painting and manpower but the statues have been put up with the help of residents, friends and well-wishers. A number of Bengali artisans, engaged in making clay idols and toys, were employed for these creations.Back



Power cuts irk residents
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, June 2 — Residents of New Kitchlu Nagar and its surrounding areas today said they were a harassed lot due to frequent and long power cuts in their colony.

In a press release, Mr N.K. Jain, spokesperson of the residents, said yesterday the power went off at 7 p.m. and was restored at 4 a.m. He said while the residents were suffering due to power failure, the callous and unsympathetic attitude of the electricity board employees towards their grievance hurt them more.

He claimed that when the SDO concerned was contacted, he said the JE should be told about the problem, who in turn sent them to the local complaint centre. When the matter was again brought to the notice of the SDO, he said he had talked to the junior employees and the grievance would be redressed.

However, the employees at the complaint centre said they had no vehicle and could come only when the complaints sent some vehicle, Mr Jain claimed. He said this afternoon the supply again went off and had not resumed till evening.Mr Jain demanded immediate action against the erring officials. He urged the PSEB to take measures in ensuring regular power supply to the residents.


A treat for government school kids
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, June 2 — Thousands of students going to government primary, middle and high schools located in the rural areas and poor localities of Ludhiana are in for a treat this summer: they will have jute mats to sit on, ceiling fans overhead to beat the heat and pucca toilets.

The programme for making the schools more attractive for the students will cost the district administration more than Rs 1.10 crore and will be completed by the end of next month, according to official information available here.

The absence of these basic facilities in government schools was one of the major reasons for the large number of dropouts from the educational institutions. The girl students and female staff in the middle and high schools felt particularly handicapped in the absence of toilets.

Since most of the panchayats and parent-teacher associations lack funds to provide these basic amenities, the schools were forced carry on as best as they could.

The district administration carried out a survey some time ago to determine the exact nature and extent of the problem.

It found that more than 6,000 ceiling fans worth Rs 35 lakh were required in the primary schools. Another Rs 30 lakh was required to provide jute mats for the students in these schools.

It was also found that 99 middle schools are without toilets in the district where students, particularly girls, faced a serious problem. In many cases, girls preferred to abandon studies and stay at home to facing an embarrassing situation at school. Each toilet cost an estimated Rs 56,000. It was estimated that a total of Rs 55.44 lakh was required for the purpose.

The district administration then convened a meeting of the district officials where it was decided that some funds from the Red Cross would be utilised for providing these facilities at the schools. It was also decided to raise funds for this purpose from certain prominent industrialists of the city.

The installation of ceiling fans and provision of jute mats and the construction of toilets in all the schools has been completed . Ludhiana has now become the first district in the country to provide education-friendly atmosphere in all schools.Back


Teachers flay transfer policy
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, June 2 — The Government School Teachers Union, here yesterday, strongly criticised the decision of the Punjab Government and the Education Department which said teachers who had stayed for 15 years in urban areas would be shifted to rural areas. Mr Charan Singh Saraba, General Secretary of the body, and Mr Avtaar Singh Ferozepore, President of the union, said on one side, the department had invited applications regarding the transfer of teachers till May 15, while on the other, it had suddenly announced the transfers of teachers. They said any such policy should have been announced before May 15.

Mr Saraba said as no detailed policy in this regard had been made public, it was suspected that all this was being done by the authorities to accommodate certain teachers in cities. He said all this had created a lot of confusion and resentment among a large section of teachers.

Government school teachers of Punjab have appealed to the Punjab Government and the Education Department to withdraw this decision. They demanded that transfer rules and rationalisation policies should be made in consultation with various teachers' unions.

Mr Saraba urged the other teachers' unions to hold a joint discussion on the issue on June 5 and decide the future course of action.


PAU employees threaten stir over pay
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, June 2 — The PAU Employees Front has threatened to launch a stir and hold a protest rally this month, in case the Executive Council fails to make the administration accept their long-pending demands.

In a joint statement issued to the Press here today, Mr Avtaar Singh Deol and Mr J.R. Bansal, Chairman and Secretary of the front, respectively, said that after the rally, dharnas and marches would also be organised by the employees.

The university employees have been demanding implementation of the G-4 scales with effect from January 1986, regularisation of 63-day strike period, restoration of the secretariat pattern etc. 


Cash, jewellery worth Rs 2 lakh stolen
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, June 2 — Two unidentified persons broke into the house of Mr Sudesh Sharma in Kitchloo Nagar around 3 this morning and decamped with cash and jewellery amounting to Rs 2 lakh.

It is learnt that the thieves break opened the grill of a window and after entering the house, break opened the almirahs and decamped with around Rs 50,000 and jewellery worth Rs 1.5 lakh.

It is also learnt that even though the family members were asleep as the thieves were at work in their house, a neighbour saw them running away around 3.45 a.m.

Thieves' gang busted: The Focal Point police has busted a gang of thieves and seized a large number of arms and ammunition from them, besides two scooters and one tractor.

Mr Paramjit Singh, SHO, Focal Point, informed that the police was holding a special naka at T-point, Jamalpur, when they received reliable information that a gang of four thieves comprising Sanjiv Khanna, Harpal Singh, Harpreet Singh and Suresh Rai was hiding nearby and was planning to commit some crime. The police then conducted a raid and arrested all the accused and seized three pistols, seven cartridges, two knives and iron rods.

Liquor seized: Twenty bottles of illicit liquor were seized by the police from Baltej Singh at the local Bus Stand on Thursday in the afternoon. The police has registered a case under sections 61, 1 and 14 of the IPC.

Man injured: Radhe Shyam received multiple injuries when his scooter was hit by a truck (PB-10AL-5861) near Partap Chowk. A case under sections 279, 337 and 427 of the IPC has been registered.

Kerosene seized: The police has seized 2,400 litres of kerosene meant for public distribution from Surinder Kumar, Babu and Mitta while the accused were transporting this from Malerkotla in a Tata 407 vehicle at Chowk Dholewal. A case under section 7 of the Excise Act has been registered.

Theft: Thieves broke into the house of Surinder Kaur on the night of May 31 at Vikas Nagar and decamped with gold jewellery and cash worth Rs 28,000. A case under sections 457 and 380 of the IPC has been registered. Back


Problems of liquor shop owners mount
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, June 2 — The problems of the new liquor contractors in the city continue to mount as the members of the old liquor syndicate, led by a close relation of an Akali minister, have now allegedly resorted to arm-twisting tactics in order to hamper the business interests of the new contractors.

The latest case adding to the woes of these new liquor contractors (all these new liquor contractors having nine of the 11 groups are new to the city and a few are new in this business) is the alleged locking of a shop of Grand Wines by the landlord for the alleged non-payment of rent.

This liquor shop located at Muradpura was locked by the owner of the shop this morning on account of the alleged non-payment of rent since the new contract was given to the firm on April 1.

However, the police later intervened and the possession of the vend was again given back to the contractor, Mr Bhupinder Singh, after the matter was sorted out. It is, however, alleged that this possession was done because the members of the old liquor syndicate had not paid the rent to the landlord even though the new liquor contractors had paid almost four to five times higher rate for the transfer of possession of these new liquor shops.

Incidentally, the locking of the shop by the landlord today was also illegal as he had also taken possession of the around 100 cases of liquor which were present in the shop.

Meanwhile, the new liquor contractors are alleging that even as the police has now started cooperating with them in catching the liquor smugglers and the sale of illicit liquor is being curbed to some extent, the old liquor syndicate has now resorted to bolder ways of troubling these contractors. During the past fortnight itself, at least three cases of violence and looting of liquor shops of these contractors have been reported.Back

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