Sunday, September 24, 2000,
Chandigarh, India
L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Manpreet, Vishal were married: police 
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Sept 23 — The scales today turned in favour of the UT Home Secretary, Mr. R.S. Gujral, with the police finally managing to secure evidence proving the earlier marriage of his bride, Manpreet Oberoi with Vishal Aggarwal.

According to information available from highly placed police sources, the local police party, led by SI Dharam Pal, who had been sent to New Delhi in order to procure evidence of marriage, has obtained certain bank documents that could confirm that marriage had taken place.

It may be noted that till date, the police had been unable to prove the marriage between the two accused — Manpreet and Vishal Aggarwal. At the time of the registration of the FIR under Sections 495, 420 and 120-B of the IPC, the police had only a few photographs of a birthday party of Manpreet’s daughter, where Vishal was seen actively participating and Manpreet wearing sindoor.

It is learnt that the police has now obtained documents to prove that a bank account of Manpreet in the Bank Of America, Barakhamba Road branch, New Delhi, now amalgamated into ABN Amro, after she was introduced by Vishal Aggarwal, was being operated in the name of Manpreet Oberoi. Her residential address was mentioned as A-54 Defence Colony and the form described her marital status as married. Later, this bank account was jointly operated by her with her father, S.S. Oberoi.

Incidently, Vishal Aggarwal, who also had an account in the same branch of the bank, had also claimed himself to be married and had given A-54, Defence Colony as his address for correspondence.

The police is also reported to have obtained another letter from the said bank branch wherein Manpreet had later approached the authorities and requested them to let her use her maiden name— Manpreet Oberoi, instead of Manpreet Aggarwal, as her transactions were being carried out in her maiden name.

Other than this, the police team has also approached the authorities of the Vasant Valley School in Delhi, where Manpreet’ s daughter, Mallika was studying. It is learnt that the child’s name was first changed to Mallika Aggarwal and later to Mallika Oberoi. The police has also procured an OK Play Fund Card in the name of Mallika Aggarwal.

Sources inform that the police party had also contacted a previous landlord of the couple, while they were residing at Lajpat Nagar in Delhi. The police party is also reported to have contacted a few neighbours, landlords and former employers of Manpreet, OK Play India. Even the visiting cards of the UT Home Secretary’s bride, while she was working there, introduced her as Manpreet Aggarwal, Manager, Marketing.

It is, however, learnt that none of the proofs seized till date provide conclusive evidence of the marriage between the two accused, in the case registered by the UT Home Secretary R.S. Gujral. Nor have any of the people contacted by the local police in Delhi expressed their willingness to testify about the marriage.

Interestingly, sources in the police also claim that at least two Chandigarh-based relatives of Manpreet are likely to give affidavits to the police stating that they had attended the marriage between Manpreet and Vishal in Delhi. Sources also inform that the police investigation has revealed two more conspirators in this case- Mrs and Col Preetam Singh, who are close relatives of Manpreet who have allegedly been actively involved in arranging the alliance between Mr Gujral and Manpreet Oberoi.

The Senior Superintendent of Police, Mr Kuldeep Singh, when asked about certain media reports about the police planning to cancel the FIR, denied this and said that investigations into the case were on and that the police would soon present the challan in the court.


Uninhibited growth of medical labs
By Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Sept 23 — Ludhiana has witnessed an uninhibited and unrestricted growth of medical laboratories during the past few years. Most of these laboratories are said to be run by unqualified people, posing a risk to the health of general public. Most of these laboratories are reportedly thriving on the ‘cut system’, which offers commission to the referring doctors.

A number of doctors have reportedly brought the issue to the notice of the local health authorities, as the unrestricted growth of such laboratories can only be at the cost of the public health.

A well-known physician practising here for the past over 20 years said that the problem is likely to assume serious proportions as there was no check on opening such laboratories. Most of the test results are not credible, he added.

On the other hand, medical authorities have been expressing their helplessness in taking any action in this regard. A senior functionary of the medical department claimed that there was no provision asking the medical laboratories to take prior permission or get themselves registered. However, the argument appears to be unconvincing given the fact that even for a simple medical shop or wholesale medical business, a licence is required from the government.

While the problem is not that serious in the urban areas because of the awareness level of the people, in rural areas, however, such medical laboratories do a brisk business. In rural areas unqualified people, like simple matriculates have started such laboratories. It has been observed that people, who serve in various medical laboratories for a year or two, irrespective of their educational or technical qualification, start their own labs.

Apart from the absence of any regulatory authority, it is the relatively small investment which is encouraging more and more people to start new labs. A laboratory can be started with a colomimeter, centrifuge, microscope and some glassware costing not more than Rs 10,000. The job becomes easier with the easy availability of certificates like DMLT, (Diploma in Medical Technology), which is reportedly on sale for a petty amount.

Regretting the growth of such laboratories in Ludhiana, a doctor remarked, “the reports of such labs create problems for us in treatment, as most of the time the reports are wrong and even fake. Our integrity and credibility also becomes doubtful whenever we try to convince the patients to go in for a cross-examination”.

Interestingly, there are very few laboratories in the city which fulfil all the norms. A doctor pointed out that as the main tests are in the fields of biochemistry, pathology and microbiology, each test needs a different degree of education like a MD in microbiology or pathology. Except for the labs in the DMC and CMC, there is not a single lab in the city which has specialists for these areas.

The doctors pointed out that false reports and fake certificates issued by these laboratories land them in unnecessary litigations, as the therapeutic part of the treatment is mainly dependent on investigative work. They suggested that the labs should be brought under the purview of some regulatory authority to avoid unnecessary hurdles in the functioning of the doctors.


Chipko’ movement planned in Ludhiana 
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Sept 23 — Angry at the move of the Northern Railways, Ferozepore division, to chop off 296 trees at the railway station here, the taxi, auto-rickshaw and rickshaw operators’ unions along with the coolies union and various environmentalists today announced to launch a ‘Chipko’ movement from tomorrow, if the authorities went ahead with their plan.

A committee formed by the union leaders, which includes Mr Madan Lal , Mr Gulzar Singh (taxi unionists), Mr Krishan Lal ( rickshaws), Mr Jagdish Chander (coolies) and Mr Subash Chander (auto-rickshaws) under the convenorship of Mr Sham Singh Harika, an environmentalist and local Akali leader, today in a meeting resolved to launch the movement in order to protect the young peepal, neem and banyan trees. It was decided that activists of the four unions, along with environmentalists of the city would embrace the trees tomorrow morning, when workers of the contractors employed by the railways would come to cut the trees. The members resolved to face the axe, rather than allow an damage to occur to the trees.

The union leaders said the railways had contracted the Punjab State Forest Corporation for axing the trees. Interestingly, unconfirmed reports say the contract mentions cutting down of the dead or dry trees only. But due to unknown reasons, workers had started cutting young trees. No tree was, however, cut today.

Mr Harika said cutting down of trees, especially peepal, neem and banyan species was nothing less than murder. He claimed that a Supreme Court order bans any such exercise. He said the move of the railway authorities of axing the trees was beyond comprehension, as no kind of development activity can be done at the site.

The union leaders said they would, under no condition, allow the railway authorities to go ahead with their designs. They said they were opposing the move, as they had planted and nurtured the trees like children. The unionists said it was a pity that lesser educated activists like them were trying hard to protect the greenery while the public was a mute spectator.


Circus tigress dies mysteriously 
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Sept 23 — Twenty days after losing her mate, a tigress of a circus company died under mysterious circumstances here today.

The second death of a circus animal in the past few weeks here has raised doubts on the safety of the other such animals. A circus had arrived in the city only a couple of days ago. The circus company had camped for some days at the venue of Chappar Mela near here about 10 days ago before arriving in the city.

The circus owners could not be contacted, but a doctor who had been called by them said the tigress had died. “The animal was already dead when I reached the circus camp,” he said.

Prince, a tiger had died on September 3 due to chronic pneumonia and gastric ulcer. He had fallen ill in Jaipur, a month before his death. The tiger’s death had alarmed the circus company and the people of the city. The second such death has further scared them.

A spokesman of the People For Animals demanded a high-level enquiry into the two incidents. The body has urged the District Administration to order a thorough medical examination of all animals of the circus company.

The spokesman said the circus owners were not keeping the animals according to specifications laid down by the Kerala High Court. He alleged that the animals were not only kept in small enclosures, but also given inadequate food.

According to sources in the Veterinary Hospital of the Punjab Agricultural University, the carcass of the tigress was brought to the hospital at about 10 am for post-mortem. However the details of the post-mortem report could not be known.



Excise raids on bootleggers 
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Sept 23 — Excise officials of the Ludhiana and Jalandhar divisions raided three villages along the Sutlej yesterday and seized a huge quantity of raw material and equipment used by bootleggers.

The officials, however, failed to arrest any smuggler. At least six bootleggers who were busy in distilling alcohol managed to flee when the officials approached them from the Ludhiana and Jalandhar sides of the river. The low-level of the water in the Sutlej helped the smugglers in escaping.

According to sources, the joint raids were conducted simultaneously in Bhodar, Bute Dian Channan and Tuli Dian Channan. The officials seized 95 tarpaulin sheets, 250 kg lahan, six stills, 11 drum boilers and about 500 bottles of illicit liquor in the raid.

Sources said the bootleggers had increased liquor production in view of the festival season. They said the department would have lost a huge revenue if this liquor had reached the market.



Exploring commercial floriculture 
By Manoj Kumar 
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Sept 23 — Agriculture in Punjab is dominated by the wheat-paddy cropping cycle. Different experiments for crop diversification have failed to yield desired results, possibly due to lack of marketing facilities and required infrastructure, like back up cold storage facilities, air- lifting of perishable commodities and a good communication network. However, recently a Ludhiana based company ‘Genesis Seeds’ led by Mr Chaman Lal Chatley has tried to introduce commercial floriculture in the region with good results. These observations were made by Dr Houchang Khatamian.

A renowned expert in the field of ornamental tree plantation, floriculture and tissue culture, Dr Houchang is a Professor in the Department of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreational Resources, at the University of Kansas, in the USA, he is on a two- week visit to India under the ‘farmer to farmer programme’ sponsored by Winrock International organisation, aided by United States Agency for International Development.

Dr Houchang, who has visited various countries like Holland, Pakistan, Australia and Russia, is involved in teaching, research and extension programmes. He is of the view that there is scope for commercial floriculture, especially flower-seed production in Punjab. He says that weather conditions in the region are conducive for at least 30 flower crops like verbena, phlox, bellis, vida, hellichrysum, salvia, euphorbia and nicoticina.

It may be mentioned here that American companies contract Indian companies to supply flower seeds. A farmers can earn upto Rs 60,000 per acre by sowing a crop of verbena. Seeds are supplied free of cost by the company. These are planted in February-March and flower seeds are ready by the end of April. The production varies from 200-250 kg per acre, and sold at Rs 300 per kg. About 150 acres are presently covered in Ludhiana district under this programme.

Dr Houchang, who was born in Iran, has done his Masters and Ph.D from the University of Guelph in the Ontario province of Canada. Then he shifted to Kansas University of the USA of which he is now a citizen.

Now in his fifties, Dr Houchang also visited Pakistan as a floriculture consultant in 1994. “I was in Islamabad for a month and I found farmers on both sides of the border hardworking and ready to embrace technology. Once they were convinced of the feasibility of modern crops they would do their best to make it a success story,” he says. After the WTO implementation, there seems to be lot of scope for floriculture production by Punjabi farmers for the European and American markets, he added.


Hike in power charges flayed 
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Sept 23 — Mr Sukhdial Singh and Mr Kirpal Singh, president and general secretary of the Ludhiana Machine Tools Makers Association (LMTMA) have condemned the Punjab State Electricity Board’s decision to enhance the monthly minimum charges on electricity with effect from August 1,2000.

They said the industry, particularly machine tools, is passing through very critical period due to recession. The industry has not yet swallowed the bitter pill of recent hike in electricity charges. This additional burden has hit hard the industry and further aggravated the problem. The industry is not in a position to absorb this additional burden.

They further said the output of machine tool industry has come down to less than 25 per cent, many units have closed down and many other are on the verge of closure. Due to reduction of work the machinery is not being used to its capacity and even the sanctioned load is not fully utilised and the medium and small consumer is forced to pay a monthly bill from Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000. This way the industry will come to a standstill thus rendering thousands of workers jobless. The president and the general secretary urged the PSEB to withdraw the hike in monthly minimum charges immediately.

In a separate press note Mr Mohinder Pal Jain and Mr Narinder Bhamra, chairman and general secretary of the Fastener Manufacturers Association of India, have also urged the board to withdraw these charges immediately to save the small scale industry.

They further said that no unit could avail the benefit of the VDS scheme due to the condition of NOC from the Municipal Corporation and the Pollution Control Board. They urged the government to withdraw these conditions and extend the date of VDS.


National highway blocked by BKU 
From Our Correspondent

SAHNEWAL, Sept 23 — Traffic on the National Highway Number 1 remained disrupted for a considerable time yesterday when the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) staged a dharna against the new policy adopted by the government for the purchase of paddy.

Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, president, Bharatiya Kisan Union, and Prof Manjit Singh Kadia, general secretary, BKU, also organised a farmers’ conference under the presidentship of Mr Jagir Singh Noorpura, district president. They condemned the dual policy of the Central Government regarding the purchase of paddy from the 21st of this month and the real picture behind it.

Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, president, BKU, addressing the conference said, “The government has been exposed at last. Mr Shanta Kumar, Centre Minister, had said earlier that the factory owners must be forced to buy half of the paddy. Only then would the government and the FCI purchase paddy on the 21st of this month.” “This statement,” Lakhowal said, “was baseless. they are advancing new excuses every day and when the day of purchase of paddy arrived, the purchase committee did not accept the same on the pretext that the husk on the rice has turned black. The government should have no objection on this ground as the rice in the husk is not affected to the least by the outer covering. These are just the double standards of the government.”

The BKU has now decided to stage a protest in front of all the DC offices in Punjab.



MC to issue NOCs for load extension 
From Kuldip Bhatia

LUDHIANA, Sept 23 — The hue and cry being raised by the trade and industry over non-issuance of no objections certificates for regularisation of excess load and extension of existing load under the voluntary disclosure scheme introduced by the Punjab State Electricity Board has made the Municipal Corporation authorities relent at last. Applications for this purpose are now being entertained.

Several industrial bodies had been repeatedly urging the PSEB to withdraw the NOC clause. These bodies has also been urging the MC to issue the NOCs if the condition was not relaxed by the PSEB. Industrialists here were sore at the attitude of the PSEB, which they said, had resulted in making the VDS a farce. They said hardly any industrial unit would benefit from the scheme that would end on September 30.

With the MC authorities deciding to grant the NOCs after the completion of all formalities, a rush of applications is expected. Unless a time-bound schedule for issuing the NOCs is framed, the purpose of the exercise will be defeated, according to representatives of the industry.

The MC Additional Commissioner, Mr Dilip Kumar, told the Ludhiana Tribune that the MC staff had been directed to expedite the issuance of NOCs. “Because the VDS is to expire on September 30, it does not mean that an NOC should be issued just like that. It will have to be ascertained whether the unit is located in a commercial or industrial area and house tax and water charges on commercial rates have been paid or not. Holding the requisite licence for a particular trade or industry is also an important precondition for obtaining an NOC,” he said.

He said, in any case, the NOCs would not be issued to units functioning in notified town planning (TP) schemes. “In case of the units in areas not notified as residential or commercial, applicants will have to first procure the NOCs from their nearest neighbours.”

Meanwhile, the Ludhiana Machine Tool Makers Association has urged the PSEB to extend the VDS to a suitable date because not a single NOC had been issued by the MC so far. The body said a large number of commercial and industrial units would be deprived of a chance to benefit from the scheme if it was withdrawn on September 30. In a letter to the Chairman of the PSEB, the General Secretary of the association, Mr Kirpal Singh Sagar, has urged the board management to extend the VDS to another date, so that a maximum number of consumers can get their load extended or regularised.



Minority not a numerical concept’ 
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Sept 23 — A two-day seminar on minorities and subalterns, with special reference to the Indian context, organised by the Sirdar Kapur Singh Memorial Trust of Jagraon, began in Punjabi Bhavan here today.

In his inaugural address, Mr Gurbhagat Singh, a former professor of English and Dean Languages of Punjabi University at Patiala, said the turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir, North-East and Andhra Pradesh, besides the recent violence in Punjab, proved that everything was not right with the Indian democracy.

He said the groups that were violently protesting against the system that had neglected them were “minorities” as well as “subalterns”. He said, primarily, minorities and subalterns were not numerical concepts. The so-called minorities referred mainly to groups that were suppressed due to their distinct territory, language, traditions and ethnicity, but were otherwise worthy of becoming nations. The label “minority” was imposed on these potential nations for bringing them into the nation-state. If they did not accept it, state allowed the use of violence against them.

Mr Gurbhagat said it was important to understand the problem related to the nation-state model that Indian leaders adopted before and after the Independence. The Indian subcontinent developed from the village-based small democracies that, due to language differences, further developed into distinct regions. The continent’s inaccessibility due to the surrounding seas and the Himalayas helped these regions in developing internal and external trade, besides nourishing native traditions and languages. There was an almost negligible interference in their progress. These regions with their autonomous cultures were ready for asserting their independence by the onset of the 12th century. Long before the advent of the 19th century nation-state model, the Indian subcontinent had realised the reality of autonomous cultural regions.

In his keynote address, Mr Anurag Singh, said it was unfortunate that the human face of democracy had been demolished in the past 50 years. He said this had been done by following the policies of humiliation and suppression of minorities, particularly the Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Dalits and tribals. He said this had given rise to armed resistance throughout the country, particularly Punjab, Kashmir and North-East. Mr Anurag Singh said Operation Bluestar was a tragedy fashioned by deliberate planning.

Mr Asish Gupta, Secretary General of the North-East Coordination Committee on Human Rights, also read out his paper on the occasion.


Validity of meeting questioned 
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Sept 23 — Mr Sukhpat Rai Wadhera, vice-president, and Mr Balraj Kumar, general secretary, New Senior Secondary School, Sarabha Nagar, have questioned the validity of the general body meeting convened recently by the president, Mr Sunil Marhia, at which three new members were inducted into the managing committee of the school raising the strength of the body to 19.

The matter came to the fore following publication of a news item in Ludhiana Tribune about the expansion of the school’s managing body. The report was based on a press release issued by Mr Sunil Marhia in which he had stated that the three new entrants had been unanimously elected to the school’s managing body.

Following the publication of the news, Mr Dewan Jagdish Chander, a member of the parents’ body of the school and a former president of the school, wrote to the general secretary, Mr. Balraj Kumar on September 19, wanting to know about the said meeting.

Mr Balraj, in his reply the next day, said that he had not called any meeting of the general body nor given any consent for the same. He neither had received any notice of the meeting nor had any knowledge of any such meeting.

The same day, Mr Sukhpat Rai Wadhera, senior vice-president, wrote to Mr Sunil Marhia asking him to send a copy of the minutes of the said meeting at the earliest. The attention of Mr Marhia was also drawn to the fact that only the general secretary was authorised to call a general body meeting. “On the face of it, all decisions taken in a meeting improperly called are illegal”, he added.

Mr Sunil Marhia, however, when contacted by Ludhiana Tribune denied the allegations as baseless. He said, as president, he was also empowered to call a meeting of the general body according to the school constitution. He said notices for the meeting had been duly sent on August 1 last, well in advance, to all the 1500 members. If somebody chose to stay away from the meeting, the management could not be blamed for that. He said expansion of the managing committee had been done in the larger interest of the school.


An honest gesture 
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Sept 23 — In a rare gesture, a man returned Rs 2 lakh he had found by chance to its rightful owner.

On September 21, Rajesh Aggarwal, a chartered accountant, had parked his car near a service station on the Dugri road. When he returned, he found a black colour bag lying on the bonnet of his car. Initially he was reluctant to check the contents of the bag, fearing it could be some dangerous thing.

However, he mustered courage and opened the bag. He found four wads of Rs 500 notes, besides a pass book of Ludhiana Central Cooperative Bank. He rushed to the bank and checked up with the cashier and the passbook about the account holder, Ravinder Singh Sodhi.

After satisfying himself about the rightful owner, he revealed to the manager of the bank that he had found Rs 2 lakh. The manager instantly called up Mr Sodhi on his cell phone, who reached the bank within 10 minutes.

It was incredible for Mr Sodhi to believe his eyes. He had lost all hope of finding the Rs 2 lakh he had lost. Mr Sodhi offered Rs 5000 as a reward to Mr Aggarwal. Although Mr Aggarwal declined to accept the reward, on continued insistence of Mr Sodhi he took Rs 5000 and added Rs 2100 more from his own pocket to it and donated the amount to a Vidhwa Ashram.

The management of Ludhiana Central Cooperative Bank organised a function to honour Mr Aggarwal for his honest gesture.


Facilities at railway station to be upgraded
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Sept 23 — The Indian Railways has set apart a sum of Rs 70 lakh for the upgradation of facilities available at the Ludhiana junction railway station.

This information was given by Mr S.P. Mehta, Zonal Manager, Indian Railways, at a meeting of the Northern Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee, held at New Delhi a couple of days ago. Of the total, a sum of Rs 10 lakh has already been released and work on the upgradation of the railway station has commenced.

A railway overbridge connecting platform numbers 4 and 7 is being constructed while more booking windows, toilets, waiting rooms are also being provided. In a bid to improve sanitation at the railway station, a new system of “pay and use” is being introduced for toilets. Jet cleaning machines and scrubbers are also being provided.

A new reservation counter is being opened at Dhandari, which is frequented by migratory labour working in the factories of Ludhiana.


Rice millers to continue strike 
From Our Correspondent

MACHHIWARA, Sept 23 — Condemning the conditions laid down by the Punjab Government for crushing paddy, Mr Tarsem Lal Saini, president, Punjab Rice Miller Association, has refused storage and milling of the paddy purchased by government agencies.

Mr Saini was speaking here at a meeting of the Rice Millers Association Machhiwara. He also spoke at meetings in Samrala, Khanna and Amloh. The association rejected new specifications announced by government and said that rice mill owners who are already passing through a tough phase cannot produce paddy under hard conditions.

The association demanded minimum power rate to be immediately decreased as shellers cannot be run for full time due to lack of storage capacity. According to the association, quality rice can be obtained up to March 31 and it would not be possible afterwards due to rains and bad weather.

Mr Saini said rice millers would not sign any agreement and milling would be done without storage according to the demands of the government. He added that milling would not be done unless rate of milling empty bags was not announced


Restore peace in West Bengal’ 
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Sept 23 — The Marxist Communist Party of India (MCPI) has expressed concern over armed clashes between rival political parties, resulting in murders, lootings etc in a large number of villages in West Bengal and has called upon all political parties, especially the Trinamool Congress and the CPM to work towards containing violence and restoration of peace in the state.

The meeting of the central committee of the party, held under the presidentship of member-polit-bureau, Mr M. Onkar (Andhra Pradesh) further expressed resentment against the nefarious designs of NDA government for using the opportunity to intervene by way of using Article 356 of the Constitution.


One killed in road accident 
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Sept 23 — A scooterist, Rajan Handa, was killed when his scooter was hit by a tractor trailer bearing registration number Pb-37-6145, near Sardar Petrol Pump at around 8 a.m. on September 22. The police has booked the driver of the tractor, Balwinder Singh, under sections 279, 427 and 304-A of the IPC.

Car stolen

A Maruti car (PB-10 AD-6153) was stolen from the Satluj Club parking here last night. The car belonged to Mr. Basant Singh.

Murder bid

Devinder Singh was reportedly attacked by three persons with sharp edged weapons after he tried to intercede with assailants who were fighting with another person.

According to the information available, all the accused, Puran Singh, Pala Singh and Subhash, were fighting with a man on the Rahon Road. When Devinder Singh tried to intercede, he was attacked by the accused with sharp edged weapons. A case has been registered under Sections 307 and 34 of the IPC.

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