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


Miracle saved us: survivors
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Dec 2 — ‘‘We have seen death pass by, taking with it our fellow passengers, but leaving us untouched’’. This is how Manohar Lal and his son, Umesh Tabri, reacted after surviving one of the worst train disasters in recent times. Both father and son, who were returning from Delhi after a family wedding, were so dazed and shocked after the accident that they could not even tell the officials their exact address.

‘‘It is surprising that the two were unscathed, while 36 others died in the collision between the Howra Mail and the goods train", says Kartar Singh of Sahdupur, who acted the good samaritan and helped the two reach home.

Ludhiana has had to pay its toll. Ram Parkash of Deep Singh Nagar was one of the unfortunate persons who died in the accident and his body was among the first five to be identified. A relative of the deceased said that Parkash was to board the morning train, but got delayed in Delhi which made him board the 3005 Howra Mail.

Another family that escaped the jaws of death, but convalescing in Fatehgarh Sahib Civil Hospital is that of vegetable seller Jai Ram Parkash. His wife, Shanti Devi, and two sons, Papu and Sanjay, were returning from Partapgarh in Uttar Pradesh after attending the engagement ceremony of a niece. Udhey Raj, another son of Santi Devi, who had stayed back with his father to lend a helping hand at his father's vegetable shop in the Rajiv Gandhi colony said that they received the information about the accident from the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Fatehgarh Sahib, after which his father left for the sight of the accident.

‘‘While the man on the next berth died of profuse bleeding, both my friend and I survived with minor bruises", says Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Constable Sanjay Kumar, who was to travel to Srinagar after disembarking at Amritsar. A completely stunned Sanjay Kumar, accompanied by yet another survivor, CRPF Constable Mohammed Junain reached Ludhiana railway station on bus en-route to Srinagar, where they are posted.

A large number of persons from among the 137 injured were scheduled to disembark at Ludhiana. These included some students returning from Delhi after taking an exam, while others were to take an exam of the Railway Recruitment Board in Ludhiana, on Sunday.

Mr Dharminder Singh, sarpanch of Jeonpoura village, who was the first to reach the site of the accident, said, "We heard a big bang around 5.30 in the morning. This was followed by yet another thud that made us run towards the site of the accident. People were yelling for help and flashing their torch-lights, as it was pitch dark. We broke open the doors that had got jammed due to the impact of the collision and moved the injured to the hospital in our tractor trolleys".

Vikas Jha, who was admitted to the Christian Medical College and Hospital with a fractured clavicle, said that he was coming to Ludhiana to take the Railway Board exam. Dharminder Singh, Raj Kishore Singh and Brij Mohan Mishra, all of whom are from Patna and were travelling with the same purpose said, "It is only a miracle that has saved us".

While all the injured are full of praise for the villagers from Shahpur, Jivanpura and Chandumajra, they are very critical of the Railway authorities, who reached the site of the accident around 9.30 a.m., nearly four hours after the collision. Volunteers from neighbouring villages and the district administration had completed nearly 95 per cent of the rescue work, by then, eyewitnesses said.


Tragedy struck as train was on time
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Dec 2 — Had the 3005 Howrah Amritsar train lived up to its reputation of being invariably late, the tragedy might have been averted. Like most other trains the Howrah-Amritsar train is known to run late usually. Unfortunately, for the passengers who died or were injured in the train collision, the train was on time today. It was scheduled to reach Ludhiana at 6.30 a.m., while it met an accident at 5.23 a.m.

The eyewitnesses told TNS that the train rammed into the bogeys of a goods train which had passed by only minutes before. The 11 bogeys of the goods train had reportedly derailed only minutes before the Howrah appeared on the scene. The derailment of bogeys was not noticed by the driver of the goods train and he reportedly went on undisturbed. The Howrah Express had left Sarai Banjara station only minutes before it met an accident. Any delay at the station may have averted the accident. Had the train been slightly late, at least till the time the driver of the goods train had found that 11 of his bogeys had got derailed, the tragedy that claimed several lives might have been averted !


Cash, jewellery worth several lakhs looted
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Dec 2 — Four persons, including a newly employed domestic servant, committed robbery in the house of a local industrialist in the Krishan Nagar locality adjoining the commercial area of Ghumar Mandi here late last night and took away cash, jewellery and other valuables, including a car.

A prominent industrialist, Mr Avtar Singh Gujral, engaged in manufacturing agricultural sprayers, his wife, Mohinder Kaur, son Charanjit Singh, daughter Arvinder Kaur and son-in-law Arvinder Singh, were administered some sedative drug in the food served to them by the domestic servant whom the family called Bahadur so that he and is accomplices could have free access to the house. While the other family members recovered from the effect of the drug this morning, Mr Avtar Singh was still unconscious and was admitted to a local hospital.

Mrs Arvinder Kaur, who was slightly indisposed last evening, had taken very little food and as a result there was little or no effect of the sedative mixed in the food on her. She told mediapersons this morning that she saw four persons with their faces muffled in her room at midnight who threatened her with dire consequences if she raised the alarm. Later they locked her in the attached bathroom.

The robbers ransacked the entire house, taking away cash, gold jewellery and other valuables, believed to be worth several lakhs of rupees and escaped, using the Matiz car (PB-10-AN-6122), owned by the industrialist, as their ''get-away'' vehicle. The police said the exact amount of cash and jewellery would be known only after Mr Avtar Singh was in a position to make a statement.

A case under Sections 457, 480, 381, 328 and 34, IPC, was registered and the police had launched a massive hunt for the culprits.


Police swoops on footpath vendors
From Our correspondent

LUDHIANA, Dec 2 — In a bid to ease out encroachments, a team of traffic police led by a Sub-Inspector descended on Chaura Bazar soon after it opened this morning and virtually pushed all the phariwallas selling garments and other items to the wall.

When this correspondent visited the bazar in the afternoon, the bazar presented a different look with pedestrians walking at ease on both sides and the flow of scooters and mobikes in the middle appeared to be faster and far less noisy in contrast to the usual blaring of horns.

Clay models donning suits and sarees outside shops selling garments, which obstructed the path of shoppers near Old Kotwali earlier, were not to be seen today. And all the phariwallas who had been selling their wares occupying a convenient space were doing business with their backs literally pressed against the wall.

Girjaghar chowk also presented a spacious look with all the corners having got cleared of all encroachments.

During the whole push-back exercise, the traffic cops effectively used persuasion without resorting to any kind of force.

Despite all this, a number of small hand-carts selling hairbands, combs and all that could be spotted at various places in the bazar. Scores of youths were selling cheap battery cells, TV remote-control guards and things like that while on the move.

A shopkeeper in the bazar was happy with the development which he termed as a welcome sign. He opined that the widening of the bazar would attract more customers as generally people tended to avoid crowded markets. He said the rehris caused a loss to shop-owners by obstructing the view as well as the path.

A shopper outside a shoe store was happy with the look of the market. He said he was pleasantly astonished to suddenly find the bazar wider than before.

It may be mentioned that Ludhiana Tribune today carried the first report of a series highlighting encroachments in the city. 


Changing attitudes on World Disabled Day
From Minna Zutshi

LUDHIANA, Dec 2 — Every year, we celebrate the World Disabled Day on December 3, yet our attitude towards the disabled continues to remain disturbingly ambiguous. Most of the time, our attitude swings between the two extremes of either patronisation or complete indifference. Is an attitudinal change, the need of the hour? Do we need to sensitise ourselves to the feelings of the disabled?

Ludhiana Tribune spoke to a cross -section of the people to know their views.

Mr Harminder Singh , a businessman says, “Disability is viewed as a kind of kink by many people. They shrink at the very mention of the word ‘disabled’. The moment they see a disabled person, they turn mechanically aloof. First of all, we need to clear our mental cobwebs, so that we can interact with the disabled with spontaneity. Why let a person’s disability put a spanner into our interaction with him or her? Moreover, it is a gross injustice to club all disabled persons into a single category. Stereotyping should be avoided at all costs.”

According to Bachan Kaur, who has been disabled since birth, “Our society’s attitude towards the disabled can be described at best as patronising and at the worst as jerky and abrasive. Either the society puts us on a pedestal and shows over-solicitous concern for our well-being or it ignores our presence to the point of callous indifference. Another thing that I have noticed is, that people think that if you are disabled, you should be an epitome of virtue. Why not let us have our share of idiosyncrasies and foibles? I would really appreciate if people talked to me on equal terms without focussing on my disability. After all, my disability is just a dot in the canvas of my life. Why make it the nucleus around which all my social interactions are centred?”

Mr Om Prakash, a senior citizen says, “I have come across people who blame a disabled person’s past karma for his present plight. They cluck their tongues in pity and offer heartfelt sympathies. Their intentions may be good, but surely they need to be alive to the sensibilities of the disabled. For a disabled person, nothing is worse than pity.”

In the opinion of Sukhvarsha Vohra, ‘’Basically, attitude has three components-affective (emotional), cognitive (thought related) and conative (knowledge based). If our attitude towards anything has to change, we must work at all the three levels. It means that we should not only remove our misconceptions regarding disability, but also change our thinking about it. At the same time, we need to reorient our emotional response, too. All this is possible only if we make a positive attitude towards disability, a socially desirable proposition.”

Mr Harbhajan Singh, a shopkeeper opines, “We should have an encouraging attitude towards the disabled. There should not be any prejudice against them. The disabled are a part of our society and we should try to bring them into the mainstream of the society.”

“The ‘us’ and ‘they’ dichotomy between the normal and the disabled should vanish. A helping hand is always welcome but the piercing glances that seem to slash through you, are quite unsettling. It is high time people understood that what counts, is strong will and resilience. Just take the example of Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist who revolutionized the entire concept of time and space with his theoretical analysis. He suffers from a crippling disease, for him, moving even his finger is an ordeal,” says a young girl who suffers from muscular dystrophy.


BJYM to concentrate on rural areas: Grewal
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Dec 2 — The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) will make concerted efforts to involve rural youth and school and college students in the party to widen and strengthen the mass base of the youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

In an interview with Ludhiana Tribune, the newly elected President of the BJYM, Mr Sukhwinderpal Singh Grewal, said that in a special campaign the party would set up block level committees and units in educational institutions, both in the rural and urban areas. "Till now, the BJYM set-up was confined to towns and cities and it had earned the reputation of being a party of urbanites. We intend to shed that label with a our presence in villages."

He claimed that efforts made so far in this direction had evoked enthusiastic and encouraging response. Not that the rural youth, in particular the Sikhs, were not keen to join the BJYM, but the fact is that nobody had made any serious attempt in this direction so far. Mr Grewal, who has earlier served as secretary of the kisan morcha of the party, was of the view that once the participation of the rural youth was ensured, the BJYM would gain greater strength and become a more broad-based party.

Asked on the possible opposition by the Shiromani Akali Dal, the major partner in the ruling SAD-BJP combine in Punjab, on the BJYM plans to woo the rural youth in a big way, Mr Grewal stated that there would be nothing of this kind. "The SAD would rather welcome if we become strong in the villages since the two parties are to contest the next assembly elections together. If the BJYM can bring in rural youth under its fold, the SAD stands to gain in the elections."

Moreover, the presence of the Yuva Morcha activists in even the remotest villages would ensure that the policies and programmes of both the state and central governments would be reasonably well propagated among rural people and it would lead to consolidation of the respective vote banks of the alliance partners, the BJYM President observed.

According to Mr Grewal, the party had chalked out an elaborate plan to enroll school and college students, and mobilising the student community to get its common grievances redressed. "We shall set up units in educational institutions and will take up the demands of the students at the appropriate level, in close coordination with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).

An advocate by profession, Mr Grewal said that the youth of today was far more enlightened but they had to be provided the right kind of motivation and direction. The BJYM would strive to seek support of the youth and students to fight corruption and other social evils with much more emphasis on drive against drug addiction.

On reorganisation of the party on the state and district levels, he informed that the state executive was almost finalised and would be announced in the next couple of days. There was no need to reorganise all the district units and performance would be the only criterion. Those district presidents, who were doing well, would be retained, while some others might be replaced by the end of this month.


Consumerism — a big show (off) here!
By Shivani Bhakoo

LUDHIANA, Dec 2 — Consumer culture appears to have overwhelmingly caught up with the people of Ludhiana. While the consumers are going crazy on shopping binges, traders and businessmen too, are fanning the fire by putting up the latest and most expensive consumer durables for sale. Markets are flooded with costly goods ranging from large screen-flat television sets, diamond studded watches, marble beds and designer clothing to name a few.

Items, which businessmen would hesitate to display in other cities, are actually sold off-the-shelf in Ludhiana. While most people are not even aware of a television set with a screen as large as 53 inches, Gary, owner of an exclusive Samsung outlet on the Rani Jhansi Road says, “We have a waiting list of people wanting to purchase this television that costs close to Rs 2 lakh”.

People of Ludhiana have an one up on the Joneses mindset and want to buy only exclusive products, says Gary. “It is this ‘show-off’ mentality of the Ludhianvis that has forced us to bring in products which are not commonplace”, he says. Several others like him are cashing in on this typical Ludhianvi trait of possessing consumer durables that add to their social status. “There are many well-educated people, including some doctors who come and ask for ‘the most expensive’ product rather than a product that suits their requirement”, says Gary.

Then there are shops like Diwan Sahib on the Mall Road which sell shervanis for bridegrooms costing rupees one and a half lakh each. “Many customers we get, do not believe in window-shopping, they want to ‘buy the best’ irrespective of the price”, says a salesman at this showroom. “There are many who just enquire, but many of them finally do buy these shervanis for their weddings”. During the peak wedding season, the shop sells between 20 to 25 designer shervanis.

The only reason Durian Furniture on Pakhowal Road has displayed an imported wood and a marble bed costing rupees two and a half lakh is, that it sells. “This is nothing, some customers ask for even more expensive beds and if we do not keep such items, we would perish”, says the owner.

A renowned jewellery showroom owner on the Mall Road, who does not wish to be identified, has displayed a diamond set worth Rs 20 lakh. “We generally do not disclose the price till we are confident that the buyer is genuine”, says the salesman there. “Sometimes, people demand something even more expensive, we then entertain such people at home as we can not afford to keep such jewellery at the shop”, says the owner.

Several exclusive watch shops have displayed wristwatches costing Rs 10 lakh or more. But the most exquisite of them all is a diamond-studded watch with the Nikka Mal jewellers costing Rs 32 lakh.

With Ludhiana topping the charts as far as consumerism goes in the country, no wonder top national and international companies vie with each other to have a presence here.


Seminar on the role of government
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Dec 2 — Notwithstanding the worldwide trend towards privatisation, the role of the government in industrial development anywhere cannot be underestimated. Although the role may not be as dominant as it used to be during the Nehruvian era, it is not at all insignificant.

These observations were made at a workshop on ''Role of government in industrial development in Punjab'' organised by the Ludhiana Management Association (LMA) here last night. However, the Director, Industries, Punjab, Mr D.S. Guru, in his presidential address maintained that the role of the government had remained that of a facilitator only. He said with the end of licence raj the role was limited to providing basic facilities only. He pointed out while earlier industries needed to seek government permission for setting up units, there was no such need now.

Referring to the export promotion, Mr Guru said the state government was preparing the export promotion policy which would be brought out soon. He refuted the claims made by certain quarters that the state government was not interested in promoting exports as it did not fetch any revenue to the state. He pointed out, besides improving revenue, the exports also helped in employment generation.

The Director said the Punjab Government was committed to providing basic infrastructure for the industrial development in the state. He claimed that the condition of roads, electricity availability, telecommunication and other related facilities were much better in Punjab than anywhere else.

Speaking on the occasion, the regional Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industries, Mr Sunil Kan Munjal, lauded the role of former Chief Minister Pratap Singh Kairon in laying a strong infrastructure for industrial development in the state. However, he remarked that in the changed scenario, the role of the state also needed to be redefined. He suggested that the state should make such laws which would facilitate the maximum investment and the minimum hassles.

The Commissioner, Ludhiana Municipal Corporation, Dr S.S. Sandhu, said that the corporation would do its level best for providing good working conditions by improving civic amenities in the industrial areas.

Prominent among those present on the occasion included the Chairman of the Ludhiana Improvement Trust, Mr M.S. Vyas, the President of the LMA, Mr Sanjay Rai, and the General Secretary, Mr Mahesh Munjal.


Scientist with a flair for poetry
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Dec 2 — Ek mein hoon, meri tanhayi hai, hum donoo ne milke mehfil sajayi hai. This couplet may reflect the mental solitude and loneliness of a man, yet he remains involved with so many pursuits in life. And the pursuits are as varied and diverse as to fly on the wings of poesy in utter imagination and to indulge in the practical world of science and environment at the same time.

Prof S.S. Sirohi, this versatile man, retired a few years ago as an Associate Professor of Botany from the Punjab Agricultural University, here. However, he continues to remain actively associated with his subject. Besides, he also dabbles in poetry and has several compositions in Urdu and English.

His books on science include Environment Education, chicory in India and one about Parthenium (Congress grass). He still continues to teach the students on these subjects as he is considered to be an authority on chicory which used in coffee.

His literary compositions include two poetry collections, Blooming Bells and Tender Traditions and Sojourn. While the first two are nursery rhymes and have been recommended in several schools, Sojourn is a collection of his English poetry.

While as a scientist he made his mark felt by his intense research in different fields particularly on the growth of congress grass, he did not lag behind in poetic pursuits. He may not be much known among the English poetic circles, but his Urdu compositions cannot be ignored.

His poetry is an outburst of emotions. Mera chehra jo qadre dag dar hai, apne dostoon ka diya hua pyar hai reflects a personal plight probably over some sense of loss. Sirohi also regrets the loss of morals and values as he says wafa dastan hai beetay zamane ki, aaj ke daur ka har shakhs gadaar hai.

Sirhoi also composes the verse that appeals to the popular taste. As Urdu poetry, particularly the ghazal talks mostly about the woman, he does not want himself to be left behind as it comes to catching the attention of common man. His flair for the popular verse is reflected in compositions like be parda ho kar jab shabab aya, mehfil mein saroor be hisab aya, raks karne lage sagar-o-meena, go ya shabnam mein lipta ghulab aya.

However, Sirohi regrets that Urdu has become a victim of sub-continental politics. While everyone is fond of Urdu poetry nobody wants to read Urdu, he points out, while stressing the need for changing the mindset. “Otherwise”, he warns, “there may not be many people left who can read and listen and taste the poetry of Mir, Ghalib, Iqbal and so many others”. Something needs to be done, lest we deny our future generations, if not ourselves, the delicacy that is Urdu poetry which can be taught and narrated in Urdu only.”


Founding the Punjabi Sahit Akademi
M.S. Cheema

LUDHIANA, Dec 2 — Though Punjabi Bhavan, like Rome, was not built in a day, it may yet take many more years to give shape to the dream of its founding fathers, Bhai Jodh Singh and Dr Sher Singh. Bhai Jodh Singh is a legend of our time. He retired as Principal of Khalsa College, Amritsar, at the age of 70. He became the founding President of the Punjabi Sahit Akademi, Ludhiana, at 72 and created a record by becoming the first Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University at 80. Even at 100, he had an enviably alert mind and a sharp brain. Only his body gave way to death.

Dr Sher Singh was a pioneering academician. He was a postgraduate in Persian and philosophy and Master of Oriental Learning,. Dr Sher Singh also obtained a doctorate from University of London and founded the Postgraduate Department of Punjabi in Government College in 1951. To create a conducive academic environment in the college, he founded the Punjabi Study Circle. He ably guided his colleagues to present papers and often took the lead himself. Noted scholars were invited to deliver lectures at the study circle meetings, including Dr Mohan Singh Diwana, Prof Teja Singh, Dr Ganda Singh, Dr Dewan Singh, Prof Gulwant Singh, Prof G.S. Talib, Prof Sant Singh Sekhon and others, during 1952-53. Dr Mohan Singh Diwana is remembered for giving a lecture on ‘Language Consciousness of Guru Nanak’. Dr Trilochan Singh, Principal of Government College, had presided over it.

The idea of starting a Ludhiana study circle was also mooted, but it failed to click. Time unfolded new situations. Dr Sher Singh and Bhai Jodh Singh were both men of vision and action. They planned to set up Punjabi Sahit Akademi with a modest target of enrolling 100 members. The Akademi was formally established on April 24, 1954. It was, at that time, perhaps the first literary organisation of its kind in the entire country. It has so far organised about 12 literary conferences at different places, including Delhi, Amritsar and Bombay. It has also held important seminars. It celebrated its silver jubilee on a grand scale. A research journal, ‘‘Alochna’’ started by the Akademi, has raised the level of literary criticism and research in our country.

Punjabi Bhavan’s foundation stone was laid by Dr Radhakrishnan, the then Vice-President of India, on July 2, 1966. The Bhavan functions as the head office of the Punjabi Sahit Akademi. It also has the District Language Office, the Punjab School Education Board Office and a book shop on its premises. The activities here are so varied that it means different things to different people. Rural youth and workers in rural areas look upon it as a nucleus of musical shows or the venue of Prof Mohan Singh ‘mela’. The urban youth and the rich come here to attend ‘star-nites’ or fashion shows. The open-air theatre is in the bhavan was named after Balraj Sahni, theatre and film actor, by Dr M.S. Randhawa. Poets get together for their monthly meetings in the committee room. Academicians, critics and students assemble in Rana Seminar Hall for exchange of ideas.

The Punjab Bhavan also houses a reference library, one of best in the region in terms of collection of books, documents and papers. Punjabi Sahit Akademi also organises academic and literary functions. It holds the prestigious Kartar Singh Dhaliwal annual awards ceremony. The academy has nine fellows at present. It has 46 patrons, 40 founder-members and nearly 600 life members. The electoral college comprises about 700 voters spread in different states and abroad from Canada to Australia. The elected body gets a two-year term. Mr A.S. Pooni, former Chief Secretary of Punjab, is the current President of the academy in his capacity as a writer and a poet. Bhai Jodh Singh and Dr. M.S. Randhawa headed the academy for 16 years each. 



Another Indian beauty, Priyanka Chopra, has won the title of Miss World and done her country proud. For the past many years, Indian beauties have dominated the world beauty scene. Not only these young girls are beautiful, but they also possess a great deal of intelligence and presence of mind. No doubt winning of a beauty crown requires team work involving dress designer, physical trainer, speech therapist, but in the end it is the young girl's own grit and confidence that makes her a winner. Congratulations! Priyanka . We, Indians, are proud of you.

As the weather has turned chilly. Hosiery owners are heaving a sigh of relief as their sales are picking up at last.

Nagar kirtans created quite a religious fervour once again. People turned out in large numbers to participate in these. There was an installation ceremony of Mata Jawalamukhi idol at Kali Mata Temple near Fountain chowk.

A flower show was held at PAU in which 52 varieties of Chrysanthemum were put on display. The flower blooms in November and December. These are of Korean and Japanese varieties. People had an opportunity of buying these plants at reasonable rates.

The new movie Jawalamukhi is not expected to be a big success. According to critics, the movie will sink without earning any profits for its producer.

Malkiat Singh and Gursewak Mann regaled the young students of Guru Nanak Dev Engineering College. It was the first show of Malkiat in Punjab. Both of them were quite a hit with the audience.

Hair colouring is becoming popular among women. It is not a laborious affair even. Hair colour and mascaras are readily available in ready-to-use form. Nail polishes are not simple affairs any longer. These are also available in many varieties with shining granules and stars.

Several seminars were organised on the occasion of World Aids Day and the message was: Prevention is better than cure. So it remains that people be told about the danger posed by this disease and educated about various preventive measures.

— Asha Ahuja

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