Friday, December 8, 2000,
Chandigarh, India
L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Cement manufacturers' decision hits builders, contractors
By Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Dec 7 — With the Cement Manufacturers’ Association of India (CMA) deciding to stop the supply of cement, there is an acute crisis in the market here. Although huge cement stocks are lying in the godowns.

According to sources in the cement trade, all the supplies of cement were stopped on November 26 by the CMA. It was for the first time today that very small quantity of cement was released by the manufacturers in Ludhiana. The sources revealed that less than 10 per cent of the total stocks was released today.

The cement manufacturers have closed down all the plants in the country. This has already sparked off steep increase in the prices of cement. While about 10 days ago, the cement was selling for Rs 150 to Rs 155 in Ludhiana, today it was sold for Rs 170 to Rs 175 per bag. While consumers were offering higher rates, but cement was difficult to get.

The local dealers alleged that a nexus had developed between the cement manufacturers and politicians here. The leading manufacturers, who are not more than 20, have reportedly formed an alliance to jack up prices. They revealed that in South the cement manufacturers were already working in a pool. The sources pointed out, while the rates of cement per bag in the North were between Rs 150 to Rs 155, in South it was selling between Rs 180 to Rs 185 per bag.

The local dealers said, in the western and the northern regions competition among leading manufacturers had restricted the prices to a reasonable level. A local dealer said the rates have already shot up.

According to rough estimates, on an average about 15 lakh bags of cement are sold in Ludhiana every month. Due to the stoppage of supply for the past 10 days, there is a crisis in the market. The builders and contractors appear to be worst hit. A leading government contractor said, most of them have to finish their works in time. Moreover this has rendered thousands of labourers unemployed.

The local traders are peeved at the silence of the government on the issue. They point out, for the past 10 days the cement manufacturers have been holding the entire North to ransom and the government has not taken any action against them. They revealed that the godowns of the leading cement manufacturers were full and they were releasing it selectively.

A senior official of a leading cement manufacturing company stationed here admitted that the cement was being held back following a unanimous decision by the CMA. He said, this was being done to meet the crisis in the cement industry due to overall economic recession.


Postal strike continues, work paralysed
From Tribune Reporters

LUDHIANA, Dec 7 — Postal services in the city remained paralysed in the city today on the third day of a nationwide strike on a call given by the Joint Action Committee of Postal Employees to press the demand for upgradation of wages for all categories of employees and implementation of the agreement signed in November, 1998.

While the Senior Superintendent of Post Offices, Mr M. K. Khan, claimed that in some city post offices, work relating to speed post and payment of telephone bills was done, all unions of striking employees asserted that the strike was total. The employees organised a rally at the main gate of the head post office, in which trade union activists warned that the strike would continue till the government conceded their demands.

The working in all post offices, RMS, postal stores depot and offices of the Department of Post was at a standstill and bags of incoming mail were piling up at the Railway Mail Service (RMS) waiting clearance.

Mr Surjit Singh, divisional president, and Mr Sadhu Singh, divisional secretary, All-India Postal Employees Union, Class IV, informed that clerical and group D staff of postal stores depot would continue the strike till the demands were accepted.

KHANNA: Postal services in the city and its neighbouring towns remained paralysed for the third day following the indefinite nationwide strike by postal employees in support of their demands.

Mr Raj Kumar Jaidka, a leader of the Postal Employee’s Union said work in all offices of the postal department had come to a standstill and there was no booking, transmission or delivery of mail in any of the post office on Thursday.

The striking employees held a demonstration in front of the Head Post Office, the rally was addressed by Lachman Singh, Mangat Singh and Surinder Singh Sandhu.

SAMRALA: Postal employees observed strike for the third day today, causing inconvenience to the general public.


Traders feel sorry for passengers, claim they had no alternative 
By Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Dec 7 — It was excruciating wait for thousands of passengers at the local and other railway stations. The passengers were at a loss for more than five hours.

Holding crying infants, passengers were asking the railway authorities why the train was not moving. But nobody was there to either inform or comfort the passengers or to persuade the agitating traders who had blocked the rail track to express their resentment against the CBI. The traders alleged their consignments of hosiery material worth Rs 5 crore were seized by sales tax officials and a team of CBI sleuths.

Mr Sukhdeep Singh, a transporter, said, “It was unfortunate that traders had to take such a step. The railway and tax officials should have resolved the matter through arbitration.” Mr Girdhari Lal, a coolie working on the railway platform, said, “These traders are often evade tax in connivance with railway and tax officials. These raids are an eyewash.” Mr Swaran Singh, president of Gurdwara Akalgarh Sahib, opined, “The traders should not have stopped the trains. The passengers should not be harassed.”

Ms Sonia Chabra, a passenger coming from Kurukshetra, said, “It is difficult to pass time in such a situation, especially when you have children with you. Such nonsense should always be stopped.” Her husband, Mr Rajesh Chabra, was critical of the police authorities who failed to take any action. He said, “The people halting the trains should be warned. It is a criminal act to stop the trains. Strict action should be taken against the guilty if they do not move after warning.”

The traders had a different story to tell. They agreed that some traders indulged in malpractices to evade tax but it was unfair to punish all traders. Mr Jagdeesh Bajaj, president of the Wool Market Association, Ludhiana, said, “The sales tax officials did not give a satisfactory answer to our question as to why our consignments were seized. Our colleagues were detained for the whole night as if they had committed a crime. We were forced to take this step because we had no alternative to solve our problem.”

Mr Prem Thapar, vice-president, Punjab Pradesh Vyapar Mandal, wanted the government to take a lenient view of the malpractices as the trade was passing through a crisis. Mr Rajesh Kumar, another trader, said, “We feel sorry for the inconvenience that the passengers had to face. But we had no other way to make the authorities understand our viewpoint. It was only after the blockade that they agreed to form a six-member committee to check the material.”


Traders refuse to pay penalty 
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Dec 7 — The stalemate over the seizure and sealing of huge stocks of hosiery goods by the CBI and ST Department officials at Ludhiana railway station continued for the second day on Thursday, with the hosiery traders insisting that their goods be released and despatched without any penalty imposed.

The hosiery traders are up in arms demanding that officials and the Sales Tax Department should release their detained consignments without imposing any penalty or impose a negligible penalty. If the sales tax authorities do not agree then they would observe Ludhiana bandh tomorrow and if necessary, Punjab bandh later.

Interestingly, the hands of taxmen are tied by the CBI directive that says to “relieve the material only after proper verification of bills or charging penalty.

It may be noted that in the morning the traders held a meeting with the D.C. in which it was decided that a six-member committee comprising SDM and the representatives of traders will make physical verification of the material and the consignments will be released.

However, when the tax officials insisted on a thorough investigation of the bills and the material, the traders backed out.

Consequently, the tax officials worked out the average quantity in the boxes and bags and calculated that Rs 4,500 and Rs 7,000 should be charged per box and bag respectively, imposing 20-30 per cent penalty.

Mr Jagmohan Sharma, president, Punjab Pradesh Vyapar Mandal and other leaders were, however, insisting that at the most they could pay Rs 1000 as penalty per box and bag irrespective of the fact that they had proper bills or not.

In fact, on the basis of a writ of a Patiala-based transport company the Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked the CBI to conduct investigation into the alleged malpractice of tax evasion by hosiery traders.

A number of traders admitted that they had to resort to other means to save taxes, but if the CBI was serious about the issue it should raid the houses of the tax officials who had collected lakhs of rupees from the traders. They were ready to pay the taxes provided the rules are simple and they were not harassed unnecessarily.

Mr Subhash Kumar, a trader from Jhansi, agreed that most of the detained consignments were without proper billing and had been undervoiced. ‘‘When we have been paying Rs 200 per box and Rs 500 per bag to the brokers of sales tax officials before entering the station then what is the point of these raids and harassment,’’ he asked.

Mr Param Pal Singh, Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner, said: ‘‘We can release the material without proper verification or without charging adequate penalty. Since our hands are tied by the CBI directives. It is unfortunate that the traders are trying to pressurise us even when they have committed crime. If they are innocent, as they claim, they should not oppose the checking.’’ 


Bar poll issues: shifting of courts, construction of lawyers’ chambers 
By Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, Dec 7 — The elections to the District Bar Association (DBA), slated for December 20, are not a matter of routine, like previous years, because partial shifting of judicial courts to new courts complex, little progress in the construction of lawyers’ chambers in the new complex and the proposed shifting of subordinate courts by March next year, are some of the issues, which will dominate the campaign and decide the mood of more than 1150 members of one of the biggest Bar Associations of the region.

Although no nomination papers were filed today for any other post, except for Mr Rajiv Duggal, who entered the electoral battle for the post of secretary, on the first day of the filing of papers, the contest for the post of the President between Mr Harish Rai Dhanda, the sitting president and Mr K. R. Sikri, who held the office in 1999, is a certainty. Mr Dhanda is expected to file his papers tomorrow (December 8), while Mr Sikri will formally join the fray on December 9, the last date for filing of nomination papers, the two contenders told Ludhiana Tribune.

Mr Dhanda, who has headed the association for three years in succession from 1996 to 1998, feels that there are no major issues involved in the elections to bar body. “The matter of construction of lawyers’ chambers has been decided and the work for construction is in the offing.” Though no formal agreement of memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been signed with the government, but the recorded minutes of various meetings with senior government officials have been received by the association, which was as good as an agreement, contends Mr Dhanda.

However, Mr Sikri strongly contests the claim. “Unless an agreement or an MOU is signed between the DBA and the government and the terms are explicitly defined, the construction for chambers in the new judicial complex can not commence.” With the shifting subordinate courts to the new complex by March next year, the lawyers will no longer be able to operate from old district courts and they will have no place to sit in the new complex, with the chambers still proving elusive.

In fact, so important is the issue of lawyers’ chambers that it will apparently occupy the centre stage in the two weeks of campaigning. Mr Sikri resented the apathy and indifference of the various government agencies and went on to the extent of saying: If the lawyers’ chambers are not constructed by that time (March 2001), we (the lawyers) will not allow shifting of subordinate courts to the new complex”. He further observed that mandatory contribution of Rs 75,000 each by the lawyers, towards cost of the chamber, was also discriminatory and unjust. “The prime land of old district courts that we are vacating and is to be taken over by PUDA for development of a commercial centre, is worth several hundred crores, whereas the entire project of lawyers’ chamber entailed a cost of not more than Rs 5 crore.”

Various other issues, likely to be taken up by the presidential candidates and contenders to other posts in the DBA are the inadequate parking space in the new judicial complex, inadequate number of lawyers’ chambers proposed to be constructed in the new complex, development of sites for allotment of residential plots and flats to advocates and grant of interest free loans of Rs 1 lakh each to young lawyers for their libraries.


Ransacking case: police to visit disputed site today
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Dec 7 — Two weeks after her house was set on fire allegedly by more than 10 persons and she and her two daughters were abused and pushed around, Aata Bai, a resident of Tihara village in Jagraon tehsil, the police will begin investigation for registering a case against the attackers.

Even though she has identified the attackers, yet the Sidhwan Bet police has not registered a case against the suspects. The woman has alleged that the police was not taking any action because a close relative of the attackers was in the Punjab Police and posted in this city. The police seeks to justify the non-registration of case by claiming that they were not convinced by the allegations levelled by the woman.

The Sidhwan Bet police would inspect the site tomorrow afternoon following directions from the SSP, Jagraon. The SSP acted on an application marked to him by the Deputy Commissioner, Mr S. K. Sandhu, here. The woman had approached the Deputy Commissioner and the SSP Jagraon after her visits to the police station of her village and other officers proved futile.

Talking to Ludhiana Tribune here today, Aata Bai narrated said she was a widow and had five daughters of which three were married. She had a land dispute with one Gurdeep Singh of village Tihara Patti. She alleged that more than 10 persons, including Gurdeep Singh and others ransacked her house and set it on fire. They also allegedly abused the Aata Bai and her two daughters. She said the attackers were drunk and misbehaved with the three women.

She owns 10 acres of land. The attackers damaged 2 acres of standing crop.

SHO Ravinder Pal Singh at Sidhwan Bet police station said the police officer referred by Aata Bai was not preventing police action.


Clock Tower shows time again
From Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, Dec 7 — The Clock Tower watch has started ticking again.

The electronic watch had stopped about three weeks ago as its motor had developed a snag. The watch had been sent to an electronics expert in Chandigarh. The motor that was needed to replace was not available in Chandigarh. It was procured from Delhi.

Mr Sudama Prasad, in charge of the tower, said the repaired watch was installed on Saturday. The clock has been running accurately since then, he added.

However, glass panes on all four dials of the big chronometer have not been fitted. So there is always a chance of the clock hand getting jerks by birds flying around the tower.


In Helen Keller’s footsteps 
By Minna Zutshi 

LUDHIANA, Dec 7 — “I do not get overwhelmed by the dark patches in life. I derive my strength from sunny possibilities, never letting setbacks in life discourage me,” says Ms Nimita Sharma.

Ms Sharma is a practitioner of Indian vocal music and at present is the Head of Department of Music in the local Government College for Women. Her visual impairment has hardly hindered her pursuit of excellence in music. From her very childhood, she dreamt of excelling in music and singing like a free bird.

She got her initial education at Government Institute for the Blind. Later, she joined the Vocational Centre for the Blind and also studied in Dashmesh High School. It was here that her aptitude for music was nurtured and it blossomed. “Dashmesh School proved to be a unique experience. All my classmates were “normal”. Only I was differently abled. But thanks to the efforts of my teachers and my parents, I never felt myself inferior to others,” says Ms Sharma with a marked determination in her voice.

Her college education brought her a string of successes that included a Colour of Honour and a Roll of Honour. She received a scholarship throughout her academic career. For her postgraduation, she chose to come to Chandigarh as there was no postgraduate course in vocal music in Ludhiana at that time. She knew she had started on a difficult journey, but she had learnt to fight against all the odds early in life.

Ms Sharma’s stay at Chandigarh opened new vistas for her; it honed her talent and gave her exposure. Once she decided to do M. Phil in music, there was no looking back. She enrolled herself as a research scholar and has almost completed her doctoral research.

Is she proud of being the Head of the Department of Music at Government College for Women at such a young age? “No”, she says emphatically. “It will be unfair on my part to be proud of something which is God gifted. But I want people to understand that my visual impairment is only one part of my personality and I should not be judged by it.”

Ms Sharma is a firm believer in God. But religion for her is not a rigid observance of rituals. Her religion encompasses trust and basic honesty. She is a realist to the core. However, she also talks of the snow-clad mountains. “The wind and the streams in the mountains give me unalloyed joy,” she says exuberantly.

Three traders allege detention, snatching of documents
From Our Correspondent

KHANNA, Dec 7 — Three local electronics goods traders today filed a complaint to the Khanna SSP against a local municipal councillor, Mr Lakvir Singh, and president of the district unit of Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Gagan Deep Singh, for snatching their documents and detaining them illegally.

According to the complaint filed by Mr Rajesh Kumar of M/s RS Electronics, Mr Jeewa Kumar of M/s Jeewan TV Centre and Mr Malkit Singh of Mohindra TV Centre, some electronics goods were to be unloaded and they paid octroi against the invoices. Mr Rajesh Kumar also paid rahdari for the goods to be taken to Lalheri village.

Mr Lakvir Singh and Mr Gagan Deep Singh, alias Bobby, came there along with their employees, claiming that they had the contract for this year asked them to show the bills and receipts of octroi and rahdari. They said the goods cost more and the bills were under value. When the dealers tried to convince them that the prices had been fixed by the company, the contractor with the assistance of some persons snatched the original bills, receipts and rahdari receipts. They threatened that they would get the traders implicated in a false case by the Sales Tax Department and allegedly detained the traders for three hours at the octroi post.


Animal Husbandry Minister honoured
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Dec 6 — The Punjab State Veterinary Officers Association organised a state-level function to honour Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala, Minister for Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development and Fisheries, Punjab, with “Punjab Rattan” at a function today at PAU.

Dr G.S. Chahal, Director Animal Husbandry, Punjab presided over the function and was awarded with ‘Veterinary Rattan’ by the association for his services in the development of animal husbandry in Punjab.

Dr Ashok Kumar Sharma, acting president, PSVOA. said an official magazine ‘Vets Bulletin’ was released by the Minister. Dr Harbans Singh Dhalla, president, PSVOA Ludhiana unit, told that veterinary officers from all over Punjab participated in the function.

A farewell party was also given to Dr B.S. Gill, Joint Director (retd.) Animal Husbandry, Punjab. Award of honour was given to progressive dairy farmers and district levels office-bearers of the association.


Flag Day celebrated 
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Dec 7 — Flag Day was celebrated here today at the mini-secretariat.

The function was presided over by the Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana, Mr S.K. Sandhu.

He said, “It is a duty of every citizen to respect the National Flag which symbolises our freedom and glory at the international level."

Among others who present on the occasion were Additional Deputy Commissioner S.R. Kaler, SDM Manjit Singh Brar, SDM Amarjit Pal, SDM Jaspal Mittal, SDM Sandeep Hans, SDM Kuldeep Singh, and Wing Commander S.S. Randhawa.


Mittal flays Basu’s remarks against RSS
From Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, Dec 7 — The Food and Supplies Minister, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, today made a scathing attack on CPM leader Jyoti Basu in retaliation to his ‘undesirable’ remarks against the RSS.

Reacting to Mr Basu’s observation that the RSS was ‘barbaric and uncivilised’, Mr Mittal said the remarks were uncalled for, indecent and violative of political code of conduct. Talking to mediapersons at Circuit House here, he observed that the veteran leader, rather than becoming sober at this ripe age, was becoming more and more irresponsible and erratic.

Mr Mittal further said that a highly patriotic and nationalist organisation like the RSS did not need a certificate from Mr Basu. Moreover, the kind of reputation, the CPM enjoyed, its leaders had no moral right to judge others. “The CPM had always been fanning communalism and its role in the pre-Partition period was sill fresh in every body’s mind.”

The minister, who is also a member of the national executive of the BJP, said Mr Basu was ditching his own party. The attack on the RSS, in fact, was out of his frustration over missing the post of the Prime Minister. “But it was not because of the BJP that Mr Basu had missed the post, but because of his own party colleagues”, Mr Mittal added.


Artiste’s death condoled
From Our Correspondent

SAMRALA, Dec 7 — A two-minute silence was observed by intellectuals, mediapersons and prominent citizens in the local civil rest house today on the death of Manjit Rai, a famous dramatist, actor and director of some series on Jalandhar Doordarshan. He was ill for the past few months.

Many writers of the area participated in his funeral today. In a condolence message, Prof Baldeep Singh, Prof Mohammad Goria Nausheharvi, Mr Braham Dev Anjan, Mr Narinder Sharma, Prof Saddi and Mr Jagdish Singh Neelon demanded a library at Samrala.


Three held on abduction charge 
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Dec 7 — The Jagraon police today arrested three persons in connection with the alleged abduction of Kamaljeet Kaur, (14) a resident of Abupura village in Jagraon tehsil, by 25-year-old married man Gurbax Singh, alias Tanny.

The girl has been missing since November 25. According to a complaint lodged with the Sidhwan Bet police station by her mother Harro Bai, her daughter had been abducted by Gurbax Singh in connivance with his family. The mother alleged that the man was already married and had lured her minor girl.

SHO Ravinderpal Singh when contacted said the police had arrested three persons — Makhan Singh, Sher Singh and Amarjit Singh, all relatives of Gurbax Singh. However, there was no clue to the whereabouts of the missing girl.


Special arrangements for delivery of passports
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Dec 7 — The Department of Posts has made special arrangements for the delivery of about 1000 passports being sent here from Chandigarh today.

Mr M. K. Khan Senior Superintendent, Post Offices, said in a release here today that keeping in view the ongoing strike of the postal employees the department had made special provision for the delivery of these passports.

He said special staff had been deputed for the delivering these passports. He said the passports had piled up due to the strike.


Two held for eve-teasing 
From Our Correspondent

KHANNA, Dec 7 — The Khanna police arrested two persons on Wednesday on the charge of eve-teasing. According to the SHO City, Mr Rajesh Hastir, the arrested have been identified as Rinku and Kala. They were arrested on the complaint of Manjit Kaur, a student of Class X. A case has been registered against them. The SHO said strict action would be taken against the eve-teasers.

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