Saturday, September 9, 2000,
Chandigarh, India
L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Family alleges poor handling of case
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — The bereaved family of 9 year-old Mahesh Kumar of Nurpur Bedi, who was kidnapped and allegedly murdered by his abductors, is demanding an independent inquiry into the circumstances leading to the death of the child. The family is alleging that poor handling of the case by the Ropar police led to the murder of the kidnapped child.

Members of the family, led by Mr Roshan Lal, paternal uncle of the boy, today met the Director-General of Punjab Police, Mr Sarabjit Singh, here today and demanded that an inquiry be ordered into the role of those police officers who were handling the case. They also accused the police of not arresting one of the accused in this case because of political pressure from two local ministers hailing from Ropar.

It is learnt that Mahesh Kumar was kidnapped by three persons on July 27 while he was on his way to school at around 7:30 am. He was a class III student in Sarb Hitkaari School in Nurpur Bedi. Hours after his kidnapping, his father, Vijay Kumar, received a call from the kidnappers, who demanded Rs 10 lakh as ransom. They reportedly told the family to arrange the ransom amount in two days and leave the same at a tubewell near a temple in the area at 8:00 pm.

“However,” alleges Mr Roshan Lal, “the investigating officer, SP, Detective, Mr J.S.Kahlon, and Inspector Lambar Singh, who was aware of the kidnapping, strangely insisted that the police would carry out the exercise of keeping the money at the pre-decided place one day in advance on the night of July 28, in spite of our objections.”

He alleged that the police went with its own plan and the kidnappers got angry. “ They called up again on the next morning at around 11:00 am. They warned us not to play smart with them and threatened to kill the child if the police was informed. We somehow managed to convince them to begin negotiation again and a new place and venue was decided. The above-mentioned police officers again insisted that their men would go to keep the money . But they did not keep the money there and we got to know about this through the kidnappers when they again called up half an hour after the scheduled time.”

He says that after this there was no communication with the accused, and they knocked each and every door in order to put pressure on the police to find out Mahesh. It was only on August 11 that the body of the child was found in Und village near Chamkaur Sahib.

He alleged that while the police had arrested two of the accused, Avtar Singh and Tarsem, and only their interrogation had led the police to the body of Mahesh, the third accused who enjoys the patronage of the two ministers hailing from Ropar, was deliberately not being arrested.


Two killed as gas tanker overturns
From Our Correspondent

KHANNA, Sept 8 — After remaining blocked for more than 24 hours, traffic was restored on the GT Road near Khanna this evening after an overturned gas tanker was removed from the road by the police after experts from the Bharat Petroleum succeeded in plugging the gas leakage from the tanker.

The tanker had truned turtle yesterday crushing two migrant labourers underneath it. According to the police, the real cause of the accident could be known only after the absconding driver of the tanker was arrested. It is suspected that the driver might have lost control in the process of saving some cyclists.

Due to the leakage of the gas from the tanker the police had cordoned off the area since yesterday afternoon. Even an alert was sounded in Libra and its surrounding villages. The travellers on the GT Road had a torrid time as the traffic was diverted towards Samrala on the one side and Payal on the other. The heavy flow of traffic on muddy link roads resulted in jams at several places adding to the woes of the travellers.

The ill-fated tanker was coming from Jamnagar in Gujarat and was heading towards Jalandhar. Experts of the company reached the site from Lalru and Jalandhar last evening, but succeeded in plugging the leakage today afternoon only.

No effect of gas leakage has been reported.


Dancing girls at drab rallies

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — Certain political parties in Punjab, galvanised into action by the announcement of the Sunam by-election, have roped in dancing girls to attract crowds at political rallies organised by them in a bid to woo voters. These girls have emerged as a major attraction at these rallies. The scene at a typical rally goes like this:

Tan Tana Tan Tan Tan Tara,
Chalti hai kya nau se barah

Such catchy tunes attract the crowds to these rallies. Soon the popular number, Dil tote tote ho gaya, sung by Daler Mehndi, was heard. The girls dancing on the stage were wearing skimpy clothes similar to those worn by Karishma Kapoors and Urmilas. The crowd was lustily cheering the girls dancing to the tune of Akhiyon se goli maare. The scene was similar to a marriage party, but here the girls were entertaining the audience at a political meeting. The crowd pullers were the girls rather than political leaders or their speeches.

In earlier times, Dhadi jathas used to sing ballets and were very popular among the people. They would appear in villages on religious festivals, melas etc. They frequently used to appear at cultural or religious or political rallies organised by the Akalis.

But as the times changed, Dhadi jathas went out of vogue and in came Punjabi folk singers and Khara singers like Kuldip Manek, Yamla Jat and Kartar Ramla. They sang with toombas or ektaras. Singers like Surinder Shinda, Parkash Kaur and Surinder Kaur, popular Punjabi folk singers were very popular for some time. Gurdas Maan not only sang, but danced too.

Soon these singers too lost their charm and were not able to hold the attention of the crowd. It was at this point that the organisers of various political meets started inviting dancing girls.                                                                                               — AA


GNP School Trust takes over
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — Following the court orders, Mr Ranjit Singh Bhail, an NRI and General Secretary of the Shri Guru Nanak Public School Trust, took over as honorary Principal of the school today. The takeover took place under strong police protection. Policemen were deployed in the school to ward off any resistance from the outgoing officials.

Mr Bhail assumed charge at around noon. He held meetings with the teaching and non-teaching staff of the school. There was, however, no resistance and the takeover was peaceful.

The change took place after Mr B.K.Mehta, Civil Judge, Senior Division, Ludhiana, issued an injunction on September 5 temporarily restraining Mr Jagat Singh and Giani Bhagat Singh from acting as secretary and member, respectively, of the local managing committee of the school. The orders also restrained Ms Kulwant Kaur Virdi who had been serving the school for the past 25 years from acting as Principal. Since the Principal had attained the age of superannuation and the trust denied to grant her any extension, she was not allowed to continue as Principal. The court entitled the trustees to take decisions on all school affairs.

The trust which was formed in 1969 had 11 members, of these five had expired. The trust now has five members with Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab, as the Chairman, Mr Ranjit Singh Bhail as General Secretary, Mr Rishvek Singh of Chandigarh as Treasurer. In addition, there are two more members, retired DGP Mangat from Chandigarh and Mr Gurbhajan Singh Gill from London.

While talking to Ludhiana Tribune, Mr Bhail said that the new Principal would be appointed within two months. Till that time he would act as the Principal with the assistance of Mr R. S. Gill as Vice-Principal. He also said that there would be no change in the staff. 


Visually impaired looking after disabled
By Deepkamal Kaur

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — Even though he is visually impaired, yet he is successfully imparting vocational training to physically and mentally challenged individuals in his centre. Dr E. M. Johnson is serving as Director and Counsellor in the Vocational Rehabilitation Training Centre.

Dr Johnson was not born blind. At the age of 23, he suffered from typhoid fever which damaged his optical nerves permanently. He did postgraduation in rehabilitation counselling and administration from Rhode Island University, USA.

At present Dr Johnson is serving as an associate member of the World Blind Union and also a member of the International Council for the Education of the Visually Handicapped. He is also a life member of the Indian Council of Social Welfare. The Indian Association for the Blind conferred on him the 20th Century Best Blind Service Award for dedicating his life in working for the visually impaired persons and associating with several such organisations.

In his centre, Dr Johnson is imparting education to the children till Class XII. The centre is affiliated with the Punjab School Education Board. Vocational training in telephone operation-cum-reception, public relations, secretarial courses, computer science diploma course, tele-printing, telex-printing and rehabilitation practitioners training course are given at the centre. Several passouts of this centre are government employees. A few individuals are also making software for the computers, others are self-employed engaged in dairy farming, tailoring or similar operations.

These days Dr Johnson is concentrating on the community rehabilitation programme under which villages of Ludhiana are being adopted. The team of doctors and trainers from the centre is making visits to nearby villages and screening the disabled who need help. The needy are supplied with medicines and given counselling. Stipends, accommodation and equipment required for the set-up of a self-employment is also provided by the centre. Till now more than 40 rural people have been trained and set up for an enterprise.

In his mission, Dr Johnson is assisted by his wife who is thankful to the Ludhiana people for the large donations made by them. But she still believes that Ludhianvis are spending more on luxuries than on any social cause.


Ganpati Bappa Moriya!
By Asha Ahuja

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — About 108 years ago, Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak started a festival, "Ganpati Bappa Moriya". The festival united most of the Indians and they jumped into India's freedom struggle. Since then this festival has been celebrated in Maharashtra with religious zeal and fervour.

In Ludhiana, this festival is being celebrated by the Ganpati Sewa Sangh with great devotion. Master artisans have been called from Orissa who are making beautiful idols of Ganesha. These idols are given to different temples in the city for Ganpati pujan and 'visarjan'.

There are various theories about how Ganpati pujan started. According to some, people prayed to Lord Ganesha to save them from demons.

Ganpati pujan started this year on September 1 on Ganesh Chaturthi, the Lord's birthday. It will culminate on September 11, with the 'visarjan' of the idols in the Satluj.

Ganpati pujan festivals are being organised all over the city to strengthen national unity, goodwill among the people and for attaining universal peace. It is believed that the people who participate in the 'shobha yatra' of Ganpati earn the merit of performing 100 Ashavamedh yajnas. People fondly sing during their prayers to Lord Ganesh :

Ganpati Bappa Moriya
Agle Baras tu Jaldi Aa

Goddess Uma, the consort of Lord Shiva, on seeing her son's unusual appearance, lamented to Shiva, "Everyone will make fun of our son. He is part human and part elephant." It so happened that little Ganesha was guarding his mother while she was taking a bath. When Lord Shiva appeared there, Ganesha refused to let him enter the chamber where his mother was bathing. Shiva, in his anger, beheaded him. Uma's sorrow knew no bounds. To console her, Shiva put the head of a baby elephant on Ganesha's body. Lord Shiva told Uma that Ganesha would represent all gods and would be called Devesh. No puja would start without invoking the blessings of Ganesha.


Greenery scarce, people throng roundabouts
By Shivani Bhakoo

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — It has been a long way from the age of bullock-carts to the age of mobile phones. The world is becoming smaller each day and technology is having a great impact, especially in cities.

Industrial Revolution has made cities, the centre of all kinds of manufacturing units and commercial transactions. If development, consumerism and high standards of living are one side of the coin, the other side reflects pollution, crowding and increased traffic.

It is a grim fact that today maximum number of asthma patients are found in big cities owing to lack of fresh air. Ludhiana is one such city. The city is becoming denser in terms of population, buildings and traffic. This has reduced its capacity to maintain or even grow more greenery.

For some, PAU and Rose Garden are a respite from the pollution and daily chores, but recently green and beautified roundabouts are places where more and more citizens like to spend their evenings. As Satish, a factory worker, remarks, “Going to PAU or Rose Garden is not my cup of tea because I don’t have much time to relax. When I go home, I sit here for a while and these gol chakkars give me a refreshing feeling.” Some of the residents feel that rapid increase in industrialisation has put a great pressure on environment, while the authorities have failed to provide them better, healthy and pollution-free atmosphere.

The beautified roundabouts have come as a great relief. For some, these are no less than amusement parks. Dimple, a regular visitor, admits, “What are we supposed to do then. We have no other option left. There is so much pollution throughout the day that by the time I go home I am fully exhausted. I take my children along and relax here for a while. I enjoy the nature and watch the Ludhianvis moving and running all around.”

Colourful flowers, variety of plants and maintained roundabouts attract many a passerby. These happen to be the latest craze for some. Colourful lighting, variety of fountains and landscaping are something new and interesting for city residents.

Municipal Corporation sources said the frequenting of roundabouts by local residents was both heartening and disturbing. “Because”, an official pointed out, “this is quite an encouragement for us. Earlier, people used to criticize and say that we were good for nothing. We feel great when people praise the efforts made by us. They like the greenery, flowers, landscaping and different types of plants. They also appreciate the cleanliness around. They come and enjoy nature. All this is really an inspiration but we are sometimes annoyed. Some of them come and disturb the beauty of these roundabouts. They pluck flowers and spoil plants. Some children start taking bath in fountains and throw papers, empty bags etc here and there without giving any thought. This kind of behaviour is very disgusting”.


Anomaly panel report criticised
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — The Punjab State Veterinary Officers Association has condemned the recommendations of the Anomaly Committee report at its meeting held yesterday.

According to Dr Paramjeet Singh, Secretary, PSOVA, the committee had recommeded three-tier scales for vets, medicos, engineers, DSPs and PCS instead of four-tier scales which have already been implemented by the state government on recommendations of the Fourth Pay Commission.

Dr Gurcharan Singh Chahal, President, PSVOA, said the anomaly committee report has one positive recommendation for Animal Husbandry Officers. The pay scales of Joint Director, Animal Husbandry, which had been omitted by the Fourth Pay Commission, have been mentioned in this report. They have been given pay scale of Rs 14300-18600 at par with the Joint Director in medical counterpart.

Dr Paramjeet Singh said that anomaly report has not mentioned anything about non-practising allowance (NPA), academic allowance, PG allowance and conveyance allowance for the veterinary officers, which were placed before anomaly committee by the PSVOA.


Unruly scenes mark Fiza’s first show

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — Never before has a cinema hall witnessed what the first day, first show of the much-awaited film Fiza saw today. It was a “housefull” and even to enter the hall was nearly impossible. The crowd outside was uncontrollable and the people who had the tickets for the show were finding it very difficult to enter the hall.

The staff of the cinema hall was unprepared for such a response for the film. Though there has been a history of crowds going berserk on the release of a much awaited film, the scene today was beyond imagination. The condition inside the cinema hall was worse than the lathi charge, which took place on the first day, first show of Refugee. The police had to pacify the audience, which had come to watch cinema legend Amitabh Bachchan’s son Abhishek Bachchan and leading film actress Karisma Kapoor’s younger sibling Kareena Kapoor. Here the hype is centred around current heart-throb Hrithik Roshan. Fiza has been directed by Khalid Mohammad.

As soon as the movie started, hooting began. The dialogues were not audible for the initial 15-20 minutes. To make matters worse, after the intermission, there was a fight between two boys in the balcony which aggravated the already complex situation. The audience in the balcony and the D circle stood up and started hooting again. People could see Coke, Pepsi bottles flying in air.

Soon, the crowd in the balcony and the boxes took charge and there seemed to be chaos all around. The crowd turned boisterous as it started throwing popcorn packets and soft-drink bottles in the air. Many in the audience grew panicky. Brawls among boys broke out at several places in the hall.

The cinema authorities swung into action. Cinema staff members, armed with hockey sticks, were seen using these at the crowd to good effect. By noon there was total chaos. People began leaving the hall. As the bottles kept flying in the air, the crashing of the glass bottles scared people. Girls who had come to watch their favourite hero Hrithik Roshan, after bunking their classes, were seen running down the steps towards the exit. After a few minutes, the terrified crowd left the theatre. Even those who were sitting in boxes were not safe as the crowd in the balcony threw bottles in their boxes.

A young boy was hurt and was bleeding profusely. He had been hit by a soft drink bottle on his face. He was rushed outside the hall by his friends. After some time, the authorities had total control of the crowd. But by that time, the damage had been done. The hall was deserted inside as many had fled from the scene.

Mr Ranjit Singh, manager of Aarti Palace, said the chaos created in the hall was due to fight between two boys. However, he said that the two boys were taken into custody. They were released only when their parents appeared on the scene. Mr Ranjit Singh said the second show of the movie went off peacefully.

— Shikha Puri


Measures for paddy procurement
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — All arrangements for the procurement of the paddy crop in the district have been completed.

This was announced by the Deputy Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sandhu, at a meeting of the officials of the procurement agencies. He advised all heads of procurement agencies to enusre that farmers, traders and commission agents did not suffer at the hands of the inspectorate staff of agencies.

He appealed to the farmers to bring their produce to the market after full maturity and properly cleaned and dried. He disclosed that the ADC (G), Mr S.R. Kaler, would personally supervise the procrement operations. Labour and transport contracts in this connection had already been finalised.

Earlier, the Deputy Commissioner addressed a farewell party organised by the foodgrain agencies at Lodhi Club in honour of the outgoing District Manager, FCI, Mr Lakhi Ram, District Manager, Punjab State Warehousing Corporation, Mr Paramjit Singh and District Manager, Punjab Agro Industries Corporation, Mr V.K. Sharma.

He also welcomed the new incumbents, Mr S.P. Singhal in the FCI, Mr S.S. Dhillon in the PSWC and Mr S.K. Bassi in the Punjab Agro.

Mr Parveen Vij, District Food and Supplies Controller, welcomed all the officers at the get-together, while Mr P.M. Sinha, District Manager, Punsup, presented a vote of thanks. Mr Bal Mukand Shara, District Manager, Markfed, also spoke.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Lakhi Ram said that Ludhiana district in Punjab had completed 100 per cent custom milling of rice on June 30, while many other districts in Punjab were still struggling with the last year's stocks. The new DM, FCI, assured that space problem would be solved in the district in the near future in order to accommodate paddy and rice with the cooperation of the district administration and the state government.

The outgoing officers were also presented with mementoes.


Anti-pollution drive from today
From A Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — “From tomorrow our city, Ludhiana is going to look cleaner. We will be trying our best to reduce the pollution level in the city with the cooperation of the residents,” said Mr Varinder Datta, president of the Ludhiana Midtown Junior Chamber. The week-long drive will start from September 9.

During this period, the Jay Cee will organise camps. It will distribute pamphlets and stickers. Banners will be put up all over the city. It will also organise an essay writing competition on environment in schools and colleges, besides a painting competition.

“A drive against polythene bags has been launched as polythene is non-biodegradable and is said to have a life of 200 years. The world must switch over to other alternatives which are natural and biodegradable,” said Mr Varinder Datta. He also made an appeal to Shri S.K. Sandhu, Deputy Commissioner, Ludhiana to ban the use of recycled polythene bags in the city.


Eye Donation Day at Niharika
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — A health talk was organised by the Niharika Ladies Club to mark Eye Donation Day at Hotel Baron here today.

Dr Baljeet Kaur Bagga, delivered a lecture on Menopause and HRT for the club members. Mrs Dolly Chabra, club President, said that the prime objective of the talk was to create awareness among the ladies.

They should not feel depressed or lethargic rather should lead a healthy life. She also informed that the club kept organising such programmes for the benefit of club members and their families as social cause.

Dr Ramesh, Director, Eye Bank Mansuran, also gave a lecture on eye donation. An eye donation slide projector exhibition was also on display on the occasion. The members of the club pledged to donate their eyes.

As a result about 45 club members were motivated to donate their eyes. An eye donation candle, Puranjyot, was also lightened to mark the occasion.


DD programme on agriculture
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — At a joint meeting between Dr K.S. Aulakh, Vice-Chancellor, Punjab Agricultural University, and Mr Ashok Jailkhani, Director, Doordarshan Kendra, Jalandhar, and other senior officers of the university and Doordarshan, it was decided that the Mera Pind Mere Khet programme of Doordarshan Kendra would be devoted purely to agriculture and repeated every morning on Doordarshan Punjabi channel also.

On Friday this programme would give information exclusively for women in the home science and related areas. In order to make this programme more interesting fortnightly agricultural news, current farm operations and dramatic programmes like bajurg sabha and khundh charcha will also be included as regular features of the Mera Pind Mere Khet programme. The agricultural and rural development features on selected villages would also be telecast once in a month. The quarterly schedule of the Mera Pind Mere Khet programme will be prepared by the university and Doordarshan authorities at a joint meeting.

Earlier, Dr Aulakh appreciated the role of television in disseminating the farm technology among the masses and hoped that active collaboration between the university and Doordarshan would continue.


CM to open Kisan Mela on Sept 21
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — The Chief Minister of Punjab, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, will inaugurate the two-day Kisan Mela of Punjab Agricultural University here on September 21. This was disclosed by Dr J.S. Kolar, Director of Extension Education, PAU, here yesterday.

Dr Kolar said that the Kisan Mela at Ballowal Saunkhri in Nawanshahr district would be held on September 8. It will be inaugurated by Mr C.L. Bains, Development Commissioner, Punjab.

The Kisan Mela at Rauri in Patiala district on September 14 will be inaugurated by Dr K.S. Aulakh, Acting Vice-Chancellor, PAU.

Dr Kolar maintained that the Kisan Mela at Bathinda would be held on September 26, while the last mela at Gurdaspur would be on September 29.


Last of the tongas on the way out

They are the last of a breed slowly on way to extinction. They are the tongawallahs of Patiala who are finding it difficult to ply their trade any longer in the former princely state which once bustled with their activity.

Despite rampant commercialisation and ready availability of fast means of transport, tongas continue to survive in the city. They are based mainly on two routes. One route is a 2-km stretch from bus stand to Government Rajindra Hospital and the other is from bus stand to Sanouri adda — which is the last stop before further travel to Sanour.

Dedicated tongas had been plying on both routes till now. But if the present scenario continues they will not be able to do so for long. The reason is the restarting of local buses in the city and on the bus stand — Rajindra Hospital route. This has struck a severe blow on the tongawallahs who are finding it difficult to find customers.

A visit to the bus stand revealed that local buses were stopping illegally on the road in front of Corner Hotel to cater to passengers coming out of the bus stand. The tongawallahs, who have their stop a little ahead, often see all passengers board the bus and vanish leaving them standing forlorn with their horses.

Avtar Singh, whose family has been plying tongas in the city for the past more than 30 years, said at one time three were 30 tongas in the city but today the figure stood at eight. He said out of these only four to five tongas stood regularly as horses of the others were sometimes hired for marriage functions.

‘’I have nothing better to do so I come here every morning and stay on till the afternoon in search of passengers ,’’ says Avtar.

Others, including his son Mahender Singh, said only people coming from the villages thought it fit to travel on the tonga.’’ Our trade depends on people from rural areas who come to Patiala to visit their relatives admitted in the Rajindra Hospital. It is these people who use our tongas due to which we are able to do business in the morning during hospital visiting hours. After 12 noon knowing we won’t attract any more passengers, we just pack off and go home’’, he says.

Most tongawallahs are finding it difficult to make ends meet and wait anxiously for the marriage season to start in the winters.’’ During this time our horses are used in ‘baraats’ ensuring a good return of a few hundred rupees. A day in the heat at the bus stand gives little. A tongawallah is not able to make more than two rounds of Rajindra Hospital in a day and usually seats around eight persons. As each person pays Rs 2 per trip he is not able to make more than Rs 64 per day. This is a pittance when one takes into account the feed of the horse and other expenses.

Interaction with tonga-pliers revealed that most feel rules should be enforced strictly and that local buses should not be allowed to stand on the road outside the bus stand for inordinate periods. They also complained that most of the buses had routes for going to various nearby villages but that most travelled illegally on the bus stand-Rajindra Hospital route.

Their mode of travel may be ancient and out of sync with present times, but they offer an advantage which few speak about — a pollution free mode of travel in the city which has lots of autorickshaws spewing poison due to use of kerosene oil as fuel. Tonga-pliers feel they should be encouraged to run on the Mall Road as they were eco-friendly and were part of the culture and ethos of the city which should not be allowed to die down.

— Jangveer Singh


4 smugglers caught 
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — Four smugglers were arrested today from near the Sidhwan Bet area in the Jagraon tehsil of this district after a joint raid by excise officials of the Ludhiana and Jalandhar districts.

Mr L.K. Khan, Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner, said 60 policemen along with excise officers raided areas around the Sutlej near Sidhwan Bet village and caught the smugglers red-handed. They also seized working stills, 12,000 kg lahan, 8 boiler drums and 500 bottles of illicit liquor.

The raid was conducted because smuggling was affecting the sale of liquor in licensed vends and there was a threat of revenue loss to the Excise Department. Ludhiana Tribune had also carried a news story on smuggling activities in the area.

Mr Khan said, earlier, smugglers used to escape by jumping into the Sutlej, but this time, the raiding teams had blocked the escape route.


Paper products become costlier
By Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Sept 8 — In the past three months, the prices of paper and paper products have increased by about 40 per cent. The is attributed to a rise in the prices of pulp in the international market along with a 100 per cent increase in the excise duty in the previous Union Budget.

After an increased focus on the use of paper instead of synthetic products for packaging, its demand has grown. In a city like Ludhiana which has a vast industrial output that requires packaging material, the demand for paper has grown manifold.

Mr Manoj Verma, Vice-President of the Offset Printers Association, says that the increase in the prices of paper products has led to a proportionate increase in the cost of exported goods. This makes these products weak in terms of cost competitiveness against the products of their international competitors.

Most of the raw material used by manufacturers of various paper products like corrogated board is imported. Some months ago, pulp, the main raw material in the paper industry, witnessed a 30 per cent increase in its price in the international market.

Reportedly, Several big paper manufacturers have formed a pool to regulate the prices to suit their own interest. Moreover, in the last Union Budget, the excise duty on paper had been raised from 8 to 16 per cent. However, the government provided an exemption to all mills where production was less than 2,500 tonnes. The exemption limit was subsequently raised to 3,500 tonnes.

Reportedly, most paper-mill owners have been managing to evade the excise duty by bifurcating or trifurcating their establishments (on paper only). However, they include the duty charges on the input costs. This has put an additional burden on local manufacturers and dealers who use their products.

According to estimates, Punjab, on an average, consumes about 4,000 meteric tonnes of paper every year. Most of it has to be imported from the other states and abroad. Several paper mills have been closed for various reasons. Traders have urged the government to help in the revival of several sick units.

Mr Parveen Aggarwal, Director of the Bharat Box Factory, said the paper mills were now dictating terms. Earlier, these units would supply the material within seven days of receiving the order. Now, these units do not send it even after a month. Paper mills in the north mostly supply the material to clients in the south.

Paper-mill owners also blame the Punjab State Pollution Control Board for creating problems for them. They said, in Uttar Pradesh, there were no pollution-related restrictions on this industry.

The increase in the price of paper has also led to a hike in the prices of stationery items. The prices of notebooks have also increased by 30 to 40 per cent.

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