Tuesday, November 21, 2000,
Chandigarh, India

L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Child kidnapped, murdered
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Nov 20 — In a shocking incident, eleven-year-old Roopak Kumar is suspected to have been kidnapped by a former neighbour for ransom and later done to death in order to avoid keeping the child in custody.

The child was allegedly kidnapped on November 8, while he was on his way to school. He was later reportedly murdered by the suspect by throwing him in front of a speeding train on the Ludhiana-Laddowal track the same night.

In view of the body having been cremated by the railway police on November 9, the police has not been able to gather any proof of the murder. This is in spite of the accused having made a confession of his crime before the police, as claimed by highly placed sources. The GRP staff had taken the body to the Civil Hospital here for postmortem examination on November 9, after which the deceased was cremated. The GRP had then proceeded further after filing a case under Section 174 of the Cr PC.

Senior police officers here, while confirming kidnapping and subsequent murder of the child, say they are waiting for SI Ram Chander, the investigating officer from the railway police. The said officer, who is in possession of the negatives of the photographs of the deceased clicked by him, is away to Jammu. The officer is expected to be back tomorrow and only after the police here gets the photographs will they have proof of the murder having been committed.

Meanwhile, a police party from the Haibowal police station searched the rail track on the evening of November 18. The police party has found the clothes of the child from near the railway line.

The child left home for school on the morning of November 8 and did not return home in the evening. His father, Mr Shankar Jha, and mother waited for him all that day and the next day, thinking that their son had lost his way and would return on his own. It was on November 10 that they approached officials at the Jagatpuri police post and informed them about their missing child.

On November 12, the police registered a Daily Diary Report (DDR) about the missing child. Even after the police had registered the DDR, Roopak’s father never suspected that his child had been kidnapped. He maintained that the child had lost his way somewhere and would be found soon.

However, a few days later, Mr Jha received a ransom note, written in Hindi, demanding Rs 50,000. The note said if the money was not delivered to the kidnappers, the child would be killed. The parents handed over the note to the police and the police was able to reach to the suspect through this note.

The suspect was staying in the same house as the Jhas in Haibowal. Of late, he was in dire financial straits. He masterminded the plan to kidnap and kill the child for money.


Goods worth thousands gutted
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Nov 20 — Goods worth several thousands were gutted in a fire in Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar here today.

The fire broke out in the afternoon in Amar Kiryana Store. It took about an hour for the firemen to control it. No loss of life was reported.

The owner of the shop, Mr Amar Chand, said the reason of the fire could not be ascertained. He said goods worth over Rs 30,000 were gutted.


PSEB engineers to hold protest
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Nov 20 — The Punjab State Electricity Board Engineers Association has attacked the PSEB management for its failure to deal with important issues and for pursuing completely ‘illogical, irrational and anti-engineer policies’, which had forced the engineers to resort to agitation from today.

In an emergency meeting of the state executive committee, held here last evening, the association decided that all PSEB engineers would wear black badges for one week, and stage dharnas at the PSEB headquarters at Patiala from November 22 onwards. The engineers would resort to ‘work to rule’ from December 4 and if the PSEB management continued with its indifferent and apathetic attitude towards power engineers, the agitation would be further intensified.

According to the PSEB Engineers Association president, Mr M.S. Bajwa, the power engineers had extended full cooperation to the present management, after it assumed office in January 2000, putting behind all service matters and issues related to working conditions. He rued that under the prevailing circumstances, engineers had to work under miserable conditions, with irrational workload in the distribution area. To make matters worse, neither means for mobility, nor material needed for replacement, maintenance and renovation were provided by the PSEB management.

Further, the board management stuck to its policy of punitive measures and suspension of engineers continued one after the other. Even the most honest officers were not spared and were transferred under extraneous pressure. Mr Bajwa asserted that the management had totally failed to address the real issues and also took an extremely weak stand at the time of tariff revision. As a consequence, the management cadre, from the level of assistant engineer to superintending engineer, and to some extent, chief engineer, were feeling completely demoralised. More so because references made by them on important matters, concerning men and material, were neglected.

The plight of retired PSEB personnel, he added, was no better. The management had failed to evolve a rational and suitable system to clear and monitor the problems of retired engineers, causing them great humiliation. Even category scales and promotional scales of power engineers were undecided and a constitution of a committee for this purpose had led them nowhere.

Mr Bajwa remarked, it was strange that certain members of the board openly pleaded their helplessness, while others were causing inordinate delay in taking decisions. The association had noted with regret that none of the issues, decided at the last meeting, where the minutes had been clearly recorded, were settled.


Mixed response to tying seat belts
By Shivani Bhakoo

LUDHIANA, Nov 20 —There has been a mixed reaction among the Ludhianvis to the orders on fastening safety belts during driving vehicles in the city. The traffic police has become strict with persons who try to violate the rules. Some have welcomed the administration’s order where others feel that fastening of seat belts is irritating and uncomfortable. Most of the people use it to avoid harassment by traffic police. They believe that they will be challaned or fined heavily if they do not fasten their seat belts.

Mr Sandeep Thapar, a local businessman, seems quite irritated with this new rule. He says driving with seat belts in the interior city is not viable. These kind of safety measures are desirable on the highways only. He adds, “There are so many turns and there are traffic lights. One has to stop at each and every minute. I basically use it to avoid being harassed by the policemen”. Mr Thapar adds that he makes it a point that whenever he drives on the highways, the use of safety belts is not missed.

According to Ms Jyoti (Juhi), a BDS student, “The concept of the belts is new for Ludhianvis. I have been driving for the past five years and I have never used the safety belts earlier. Whatever has been done, is for our safety only.” She adds that parents of youngsters have always been worrying when their children drive fast. She has faced hardly any problem with the fastening of seat belts. “One has to pull the belt and be safe and secure”, she adds cheerfully.

Mr Avaninder Grewal, an NRI, who is in the city in connection with putting up a project at Feroze Gandhi Market, expresses his happiness over the new order. He says in Canada it is a routine. He adds that the people should welcome the administration’s decision. But at the same time, the police should be a little lenient for a month as people are not used to fastening their seat belts in India, he contends .

For Navtej Singh, a local businessman, the seat belts are causing a little problem because he always forgets to fasten these around him. But on the whole, it is for the convenience and safety of the general public, he adds. He also complains, “The police should give us warning. If we do not fasten the seat belts, they try to harass us and are often in search of “something” from the public, which is very disgusting.”

Ms Shyna, another medical student, says the step taken by the administration is good. In the city itself, one has to apply brakes and has to faced lot of problems during driving. She adds that to some extent, the belts are the shields which protect people from accidents. She voices out, Since it is a new concept, I forget to put it on. When I see people tied up in belts, I put these on immediately.


Minister’s kin booked under Excise Act
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Nov 20 — A nephew of a senior Akali leader and a state Cabinet minister hailing from the city has been booked by the police along with his driver under various sections of the EC Act.

According to an FIR registered at the Focal Point police station under Section 7 of the EC Act and 420 of the IPC, Inspector Balwinder Singh Sekhon has accused Jasvir Singh Garcha and his driver, Love Kush Giri of illegally selling spurious furnace oil in the market. The police has not arrested any of the accused so far.


War memorial in a state of neglect
By Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Nov 20 — An over 150-year-old monument, Flame of Memory, built by the British in memory of the last Anglo-Sikh war, the Battle of Aliwal, stands abandoned at the outskirts of Gora Hoor village near Aliwal, some 40 km from here.

Inspite of being declared a protected monument in 1964 under the Punjab Ancient, Historical Monuments, Archaeological sites and Remains Act, the memorial is dying a slow death for want of proper care by the State Department of Archaeology and Conservation.

Though constructed by the British in 1846 in memory of more than 400 British soldiers who perished in the battle , the monument also stands as an example of the bravery of the Sikh forces who fought the British Army till the proverbial last drop of their blood.

But despite being a reminiscent of the high standards of chivalry of the Sikhs, which was recognised in a way by the British through this memorial, the monument could not attract a similar care and protection from the department and from the residents of villages located around it.

Setting an example of the official apathy, the department transferred the lone chowkidar posted in the village for its care about one year back. As his replacement is yet to be made the monument cries for care. Till the chowkidar was there, proper cleaning of a barricaded yard around it was done. Even small courts of different varieties of flowers were being maintained to beautify the place but now the place wears a deserted look.

Only a notice board of the Department of Conservation put up at the entry gate hints at the historical significance of the place. The board, however, only says that the monument is protected and anyone destroying it was liable to punishment with imprisonment or fine. Residents of Gora Hoor villager only remember that the monument was constructed by the British but when and why no one knows.

A small reference about the monument in the Ludhiana Gazetteer throws ample light on its history. It says that after the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839, the Sikh forces became divided. The British sensing a golden chance began marching towards the erstwhile Punjab to complete their dominance over the whole of India.

They were, however, not aware of the might of the Sikh forces who under the spirited guidance of several Generals, hold the territory as long as they could. One such General was Ranjodh Singh Majithia who led his forces at Baddowal to defeat the British comprehensively in January 1846.

Later, in the same month, Ranjodh Singh moved to Bhundri near the Sutlej. He raised the strength of his army to 15,000. While he was gaining strength here the British under the command of General Harry Smith ,who had the bitter taste of the defeat at the hands of the Sikhs in Badowal, were also reinforcing.

On January 28, the British moved to capture Aliwal, the key of the Sikh position. The Sikh guns were well-served but Aliwal was held by inferior troops who could not put up a spirited fight. But near Bhundri village. the Khalsa troops made a most determined stand. The most gallant part of the action was the charge by the 16th Lancers of the Sikh Infantry. It was not till the whole strength of the British Army was brought to fight that the Sikhs were defeated.

The British loss was also very heavy amounting to more than 400 men killed and wounded. As the battle marked the annexation of a major territory of Punjab by the British a memorial in the form of the monument was built.

However, the memorial built by the British was a very tall one. According to Gulzar Singh, an old villager the original monument, which had weakened considerably due to non-conservation was destroyed in the eighties during flash floods in the Sutlej river. After that the department got constructed a new but a much smaller monument. Sadly, this too is now in a state of neglect waiting for nature’s fury to bring it down.


Body found from gurdwara
From Our Correspondent

JAGRAON, Nov 20 — The body of Surinder Singh, a resident of Prem Nagar, Moga, was recovered from Gurdwara Sahib Nanaksar.

It was sent to Civil Hospital, Jagraon, for post mortem.

The police suspects some foul play and is investigating.


Water supply disrupted
By Loveleen Bains

SAHNEWAL, Nov 20 — The water crisis that Sahnewal and its two dozen surrounding villages are facing puts under a cloud all the promises made by the government.

The supply of potable water to the area has been snapped. The villages of Nandpur, Pawa and Jugiana have been without water for the past 20 days. Malfunctioning of the water supply system has put the residents in a difficult situation. Requests and reminders to the authorities concerned have proved ineffective.

The villagers say that industrial units in the neighbourhood have polluted the nalahas and ponds in the area. Effluents from dyeing, textile and chemical units have rendered even the sub-soil water unfit for consumption. They are bringing water from distant tubewells. Those unable to do so are forced to drink the polluted water. This exposes them to diseases like cholera, jaundice, diarrhoea and typhoid. Most of the migrant labourers in the area who remain busy with their work day and night, have to drink the polluted water, whatever the consequences.

The sarpanches of the villages claim that the people have resorted to agitations, written applications and staged dharnas in front of the Deputy Commissioner's office, but to no avail. According to Mr Ram Saroop Sharma, Vice- President of the Artiya Association, Punjab the Government collects lakhs of rupees from the residents in taxes but keeps mum on the issue of providing them with clean hygienic water. He said, "Ten years ago a tubewell was proposed to be installed, but it is still awaited. Nearly two lakh persons of the area wait endlessly for the water that has been promised to them. 


A unique home for the old
By Kiran Jyot Narula

LUDHIANA, Nov 20 — Shree Gita Nand Vridh Ashram in Thrieekya village on the outskirts of Ludhiana takes care of the inmates free of charge. It is not just basic necessities that it provides, it also looks after their medical needs.

This Ashram was established on May 18, 1997, and it was then home to six old men and 10 students. A brain child of Shree Gitanand ji Maharaj of Haridwar, it has its sister institutions in Mathura, Haridwar, Delhi, Kurukshetra and Samalkha.

Some of the inmates are here because they have been disowned by their families, and some have just nowhere to go. Rsksha Devi, a sixty-year-old woman currently living in ashram, is content to stay in the ashram. “They treat us well”, she said.

The ashram is designed not to gather devotees but to make the homeless elders feel at home. Every room is occupied by two seniors, and each room has and attached toilet-with geyser. Many of the inmates did not have such privacy even at home. Also, facilities such as round-the-clock water and electricity supply are a novelty to many of them. The ashram has two generators and a water tank on its campus. Cooks, cleaners, helpers, etc line on the campus itself.

Equality is not just an ideal. It is practised in day-to-day life. No one gets any special treatment. Everything is distributed equally. If an inmate has something, he shares it with all others.

Another remarkable feature of the ashram is tits gaushala. “We have 30 head of cattle. There are overhead showers and two coolers in the stable,” says the caretaker-cum-manager, Mr Azad. The milk is consumed in the ashram. The ghee produced here is used for medicinal purposes and is distributed among the needy.

Mr Ragunath Puri and his wife said: “We have no worries here. Nobody bothers us. They take good care of all of us.” This elderly couple has been here for four months now.

A Sanskrit Vidyalaya in the ashram provides free education, logging, food, clothes and all other necessities to 28 children. The only duties assigned to these children are praying, studying, distributing the langar and occasionally helping the elders when required. These children are taught Sanskrit by two full-time teachers. After the primary and secondary stage, they are sent to Haridwar and Varanasi for further education.

The day-to-day affairs of ashram are managed by a committee which has Mr Raj Kumar Jindal as chairman Mr N.D. Goyal as secretary Mr Sushil Mittal as cashier. Mr Shihupal Jain is the joint secretary and Mr O.P. Bawa and five others are members of the executive.

A unique feature of this ashram is its Vichar Kutir. As the name suggests, it is meant for meditating and praying but, there are no hard and fast rules and one can practise any religion one likes.

This 6500-square-yard paradise is currently home to 22 Vridhs, 28 children and 13 employees. The committee plans to expand it further i.e. by turning it into a four-storey affair with a staircase ramps and a lift. But to realise this dream is not easy the present monthly expenditure is Rs 60,000 to Rs 70,000. There is no government grant. Service and donations are voluntary. Most of the funds come from monthly donors. Donations vary from Rs 100 to Rs 2000. The committee also makes some collections.


Adoption of ‘multiple cane concept’ emphasised
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Nov 20 — The pro vice-chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University, Dr K.S.Aulakh, today emphasised the need to implement the ‘multiple cane concept’, in order to bring down cost of production of sugar in sugar mills as also to make them viable and compete at the international level.

Presiding over a seminar on “Difficulties of Sugar Industry in Punjab”, organised by Sugarfed, Punjab to mark the 47th cooperative week celebrations, at Budhewal Sugar Mills, about 20 km from here today, he observed that with the implementation of the GATT agreement and commencement of free trade throughout the world, a fierce competition was on. He pleaded for liberal funds for research and development in this sector, so that the industry could go in for desired upgradation of technology, which had been persistently neglected in the past.

Dr Aulakh pointed out that the sugar industry would have to take necessary steps to drastically reduce the cost of production by using need based inputs and proper management, along with economical monitoring. Keeping in view the low sugar recovery in Punjab, of 8.5 to 9 per cent, as compared to 11 per cent in other states, experts would have to find out ways and means to bring about improvement. He said that there was substantial untapped potential in Punjab, if significant variation in per hectare production of cane in the fields of different farmers was any indication.

Speaking at the occasion, the Sugarfed managing director, Mr Jagjit Puri, said that the only solution to bail out the sugar industry of the present crisis was to convert the present infrastructure to other value-added items such as generation of power from sugarcane waste, setting up refineries, liquor bottling plants, ethnol, brewer yeast tablets, fortified sugar and sweets, as was done in some of the south Indian sugar plants. He said to bring about such changes, huge capital investment was required, which could only be ensured by encouraging private participation in joint ventures, so that the existing infrastructure of sugar mill could be utilised in an optimum manner.

He informed that the amendment in Cooperative Societies Acts was under the consideration of the state as well as central Government and persons like Mr. V. Kurian, the founder of National Dairy Development Board were already in constant touch with the Central Government to amend the act in such a way that the producers could float companies, thereby ensuring the participation of the public money.

Mr Puri said that the glut situation, the liquidity crisis in the sugar industry because of huge carry-over stock since 1995-96, ample global availability of sugar, heavy export subsides in several countries including Pakistan, Brazil and European Union, coupled with low import duty encouraging large scale imports, had brought the domestic sugar industry to its lowest ebb. He informed that unmanageable stock of sugar, unbridled imports, little export, increasing sugarcane price and liquidity crisis were turning sugar factories sick in the state.

Mr Puri further said, however, a few favourable policy announcements made by the government in the year 2000, indicated that it was sensitive to the problems of the domestic sugar industry and had also altered the prospects for the sugar producers to some extent. He claimed that even today, the Indian Sugar Industry was one of the most regulated in the world and even in India, it was farmer-regulated rather than industry-oriented. Once controls are lifted, the industry has the potential to produce 30 million tonnes of sugar and grow 380 million tonnes of cane with an expansion in area of only 10 per cent, he claimed. These figures underlined the impact, the Indian sugar Industry could have on the global sugar scenario.

He further said that the effect of the policy has been more on the cooperative sector, because of the financial institutions’ reluctance to grant loans to cooperatives’ and cooperatives inaccessibility to share market. In stead of treating sugar industry as a high risk industry and notifying sugar as an essential commodity, the government should remove sugar from the essential commodities list and declare sugar industry as a preferential industry, as it processed agriculture produce. This would make banks and other financial Institutions come to the rescue of the sugar industry for providing terms loans and working capital.

In addition to the above problems, Punjab’s sugar mills were also suffering because of the high state-advised price of sugarcane. The prevailing price was Rs 100 per quintal, as compared to the statutory minimum price of Rs 58.00 declared by the government of India, Mr Puri added.


Second-hand clothes in demand
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Nov 20 — To wear second-hand foreign clothes is no more considered unacceptable. Time has passed when only labourers or the lower middle-class housewives and clerks used to buy second-hand clothes. Now the people cutting across different income groups come to the Sunday market to buy trendy and fashionable clothes in Chaura Bazar and surrounding markets.

Mr Ashwani Kumar, a wholesale dealer of imported clothes, is of the view, ‘‘We have been doing business in second-hand clothes for more than 10 years. We buy in bulk from Delhi suppliers, who import these items from foreign companies and sometimes from non-government organisations. They usually buy per quintal, not per piece. We have to pay per piece and rarely payments are made according to the weight.’’

The NGOs usually collect these items from the households at the time of Christmas in the name of charity. These are sold to the dealers and the collected amount is given to various charity organisations in developing countries of Asia and Africa.

In Ludhiana, there are more than 100 shops dealing in these imported clothes. There are a few wholesale dealers who buy in bulk and sell to small shopkeepers. Few years back, according to Mr Ashwani, the margin per item was high. Sometimes an item purchased for Rs 20 to 30 could be sold for Rs 200 to 300.

Now a number of people have entered the trade. ‘‘Despite increase in the number of buyers, the margin per piece has drastically declined. Now we will sell a coat or trousers even if the margin is only of Rs 20 to 30,’’ says Mr Shyam Lal, another shopkeeper in Chaura Bazar.

People buy these clothes not only because these are cheap, but also because of better and new stuff Gursharan Singh, a student of BA final year, says, ‘‘ I often come to the market, especially on Sunday, and sometimes get brand new shirts, shorts or trousers, which are as good as new.

Traders selling clothes on Sunday, complain they have to pay hafta to the policemen, besides Rs 200 to 300 every Sunday to the shopkeepers for sitting in front of their shops. A visit to the Chaura Bazar confirmed their allegation. Two home guards were seen collecting Rs 10 each from the shopkeepers.


Woman run over by train
Tribune New Service

LUDHIANA, Nov 20 — A woman died near Gill railway station after she was reportedly run over by the Dadar Express at around 12 noon today. It is learnt that the woman was wearing a salwar-kameez and appeared to be in her fifties.

Theft: Goods worth thousands of rupees are alleged to have been stolen from a house in New Tagore Nagar on the intervening night of November 18 and 19.

According to an FIR registered at Haibowal police station, the complainant, Naresh Kumar Singla said he had gone to Patiala on November 18 and when he returned on November 19, he found the locks of his house and his almirah broken. Gold ornaments weighing around 78 gm., silver ornaments, a CD player and one National VCR were stolen from the house.


Chaura bazar complexes need reconstruction
By Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Nov 20 — Once a majestic place in the midst of the city where even customers from far flung places used to come for shopping, Chaura bazar has seen many ups and downs in the past five decades of independence. But unfortunately, most of the shops in the area today are in a bad shape. Except a few shops on the main road of the Akal Garh Market, about 5,000 shops in the gur mandi, sarraffan bazar, parkash market, pindi street, basati bazar and Lalumal street and the interior streets are virtually going to pieces.

Since these shops were constructed more than 50 years ago, neither the tenants nor the owners of these shops have tried to improve their conditions with the passage of time. The obsolete Rent Act of the state has made it difficult for owners or builders to change the buildings, with the changing times. Shopkeepers are paying rents of only Rs 100 to Rs 500 for shops, whose market value is estimated at crores of rupees.

The owners wait till tenants vacate these shops due to the deteriorating conditions of the buildings and the suffering tenants demand big amounts, sometimes ground Rs Rs 50 Rs 80 lakh to vacate shops. Sources in the market say every month, 4 to 5 shops are vacated and sold by paying big amounts to the shopkeepers.

While explaining the root cause of the problem, Mr Som Nath Grover, Chairman, Chaura Bazar Shopkeepers’ Association, says, “In this area, about 700 shops are the property of the Wakf Board, but presently in the possession of the Akalgarh Gurdwara management, and the shopkeepers pay the rent to the management. The management as well as the tenants get Rs 5 to 10 lakh each at the time of transfer of tenantship. Neither the Gurdwara management nor the Corporation have taken any initiative to deal with the problem squarely.”

He laments that the most of the shopkeepers are staying here since the 50’s and the 60’s and lack of proper air and lighting have affected their health. He says, “Customers do not want to come to this congested area. Even our children force us to shift to better localities. At least one fourth of the shopkeepers have already shifted to other places and the rest are thinking of moving.”

Though the ‘one way traffic rule’ is being implemented since 1992, and a multi- storey parking complex has been constructed by the administration, yet shopkeepers do not care to park their vehicles in that complex. Mr Grover blames the high parking charges by the contractor for this problem.

However, the traffic policemen posted near Girja Ghar Chowk allege that shopkeepers misuse their unity to park their vehicles. Almost all of them have further encroached about 5-7 feet on both sides of the roads. The Tehbazari department of the Corporation has never tried to rectify the situation. With the result, despite one way traffic, the area always looks congested and is highly polluted. During the festival season, the problem is aggravated.

Mr Shamsher Singh, who has been running a platen printing press in the Parkash market of Chaura Bazar from the past 50 years, says “A number of shopkeepers shifted to the outskirts of the city. Due to so many markets in the area and to some extent because of their competitive rates, people have to come here. However, they are never at ease in such congested place.

Like other shopkeepers, he suggests that the Corporation should build modern shopping complexes by demolishing the outdated and old shops especially in the by-lanes.

While referring to the devastating fire in the nearby Mochpura area, where woollen goods worth lakhs of rupees was destroyed, he says, “Short-term approaches like one way traffic or cosmetic changes, like building of one or two public toilets in the market will not solve the problem. In such a congested area, if a fire breaks out, fire tenders can’t even enter the area. Authorities should immediately plan to reconstruct the areas to privide it a place in the city. 

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