Saturday, January 14, 2001,
Chandigarh, India
L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Policies put truckers’ business in low gear 
By Manoj Kumar
Tribune News service

LUDHIANA, Jan 13 — Truck operators across the country in general and those of Punjab in particular, say that they are passing through a difficult phase. The increase in the prices of diesel and the other products has reduced their profits. The continuous slump in the industry and competitive freight rates of the Railways have forced them to bear the burden of the increased cost themselves, instead of putting it on consumers.

Mr Jagdish Chander, President of the Ludhiana Transport Welfare Association, said, “There are about 1 lakh trucks in Punjab and we are giving more than Rs 600 crore annually to the state as octroi, road tax and the other taxes. However, we are harassed by the RTOs and the DTOs on the octroi posts, border checkposts and information collection centres as we have to wait for hours everyday despite having proper documents. Illegal payments to the traffic police and tax officials makes about 10 per cent of our total costs. It affects our profits.”

What truck operators want

  • Industry status for themselves.
  • Removal of octroi in the state.
  • Instructions to officials not to harass drivers.
  • Reduction in the permit fees for entering the state.
  • Basic facilities in Transport Nagar.

More than 10 lakh persons are directly or indirectly employed in this business in the state. Truck operators have not been given the status of an industry despite a number of memorandums to the government in this regard. Consequently, truck operators cannot take loans from banks at a concession.

Mr Lekh Ram, Deputy Manager of a leading transport company of the city, said, “Our costs are increasing everyday, but the freight rates have not been revised for the past 10 years. In the past five years, trucks have become twice as expensive as before and the price of diesel has increased by more than 50 per cent. The costs of tyres and maintenance of vehicles have also increased, but we cannot pass this burden onto our customers. This is because we are competing with the other truck operators and the Railways.”

Since most of the truck operators are basically farmers, they are not in a position to seek alternatives. The government has taxed them heavily without considering the financial health of the sector.

The permit fees for entering the state has also been increased. Mr Jagdish Chander said, “This fees has been increased from Rs 1,500 to Rs 5,000 per annum per truck and it has to be deposited in advance. A nine-ton carrier going from Ludhiana to Bangalore is booked at Rs 30,000 and the owner has to pay Rs 30,000 for crossing six states. As we have no alternative, we are carrying on despite losses.”

About 40 per cent of the 1 lakh trucks in Punjab are operating from Ludhiana. Mr Jagdish Chander said more than half of the earnings of the Municipal Corporation of Ludhiana were from octroi, but the condition of roads, flood-water drainage, sewerage and lighting had not improved.

A delegation of transporters had recently met the Chief Minister of Punjab, but nothing came out of the meeting. Truck operators want that the permit fees should be decreased, octroi posts should be removed and the RTOs and the DTOs should be asked not to harass them.

The competition with the Railways has also reduced their profits. Mr Deep Narain Pathak, a truck driver, said manufacturers and traders who wanted to transport their goods without paying the sales tax, preferred to use the Railways. Parcel-booking offices of the Railways do not ask for the sales tax bills.

The introduction of the container scheme has also affected the business. Mr Lekh Ram said, “All the major traders in the city preferred to hire containers than trucks, as these were cheaper. A 20-ton container going from Ludhiana to Bangalore can be booked at Rs 180 per quintal, but hiring a 9-ton truck costs Rs 240 per quintal. Moreover, in a container, 2-ton material can be overloaded. It is almost impossible to overload trucks as there are heavy fines for overloading in southern states.”

Mr Jagdish Chander said the 9-ton loading rule was too old and technological improvements had made it possible for a truck to carry 12 tons of material. He said the government should revise the loading rules to improve the financial health of the transport sector.

The Ludhiana Transport Welfare Association has asked the state government to look into the problems of truck operators, otherwise, they will be forced to launch an agitation. Mr Jagdish Chander said a meeting of the transport unions of Jalandhar, Amritsar and Ludhiana had been called next week to discuss these problems.


KCW students go on strike
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Jan 13 — Protesting against the sudden fee hike, M.Com students of Khalsa College for Women, Civil Lines, have gone on a strike. Students allege that the college had increased the fee in mid session, contrary to the charges stated in the prospectus.

None of the 29 students registered for the second semester, even though the session was to commence from January 3. In a written statement to the managing committee, the principal and the head of the commerce department, students have said that the fee for the second semester should be reduced to Rs 5,000, as mentioned in the prospectus, or else they would not get themselves registered.

Students said that at the time of admission on August 5 last, they were told to pay Rs 12,500 in two installments. Since at that time they had paid Rs 7,500, they were supposed to pay Rs 5,000 now. However, they were being told to pay Rs 8,000 at the time of registration which they had refused since the increase was unjustified.

The students complained, saying that “The fee being levied in our college is much higher compared to the fee of the students of Kamla Lohtia SD College. If the authorities of that college are taking Rs 11,360 as the total annual charges, why are we being asked to pay Rs 15,500?”

The students said that when they took up the matter with Mr Sudarshan Singh Deol, secretary, college management committee, he said that he was not aware of the fee hike and that he would discuss it with the college staff. They said that the matter has not been settled since then and that they would continue to strike till the fee hike was rolled back.

Principal, Ms Harinder Dhillon, when contacted, said that she was on leave from the past two days and was thus not aware of the strike by the students. She said that she had not received any complaints from the students and that she would look into the matter on Monday. 


Cinema owner beaten up
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Jan 12 — In an unprecedented incident one of the partners of Raikhy cinema, Mr Vikas Raikhy, was beaten up by some unruly elements when they were asked to produce the tickets for the matinee show.

The incident occurred yesterday when a new movie Farz was being screened at Raikhy. During the show while checking the tickets the gatekeeper found three persons without tickets. When he asked them to get the tickets they started beating him up. The gatekeeper rushed to his owner, Vikas Raikhy, who came inside the hall. He reportedly asked the three persons to leave the hall since they were not carrying the tickets.

Meanwhile, one of three persons who was carrying a mobile phone called up some people. The three also threatened Vikas Raikhy of dire consequences. As Vikas went back to his office and was doing his work, about 15 people barged in and started an argument. They were carrying some iron rods. They allegedly abused Vikas and dared him to contact the police. Before he could make a phone call to the police, they manhandled him. One person hit him from behind with some sharp edged weapon. While he was bleeding profusely, all the people managed to escape.

Mr Raikhy was immediately rushed to the Civil Hospital. although he was given first aid there, he was then taken to a private hospital for a CT scan and other investigations. His condition was stated to be stable.

The police has registered an FIR under Section 307 and 323 of the IPC. However, no arrests have been made so far.

The local cinema owners have expressed grave concern over the hooliganism and lawlessness. Mr Raikhy said although they faced such type of problems earlier also but never had cinema owners been attacked and injured. The Cinema Owners Association has condemned the incident and demanded the immediate arrest of the culprits.

Although the police is said to have identified the culprits, their identity is being kept confidential as it may hamper their arrest. The police has conducted raids at several places to nab the culprits. 


Protest against child’s ‘abduction’ 
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Jan 13 — Hundreds of residents of Kote Alamgir and Islamnagar area today staged a demonstration to protest against the abduction of a child on Thursday. They blocked traffic at Jagraon Bridge for about an hour.

They were sore over police inaction. Although, the police has registered an FIR, no progress has been made so far. The child remains untraced. The demonstrators lifted the dharna only after an assurance by the police that immediate action would be taken to rescue the child.

They later went to the Police Station Division Number 5 and staged a demonstration there.

Six-year-old Amit, son of Raj Kumar, a shoe manufacturer, went missing on Thursday. So far, nothing is known about his whereabouts.

Earlier, the son of one of the servants had also been abducted. However, he was let off within two days after being injured. People are apprehensive that earlier the kidnappers might have picked the son of their servant in a case of mistaken identity, presuming him to be the son of Raj Kumar. That is why he was let off. This time the kidnappers seem to have picked up the right person.

Parents of Amit, who are from Rajasthan, have a prosperous shoe business in the city. They said, they had no enmity with anyone in the city and could not suspect involvement of anyone. They disclosed that they had not got any ransom call so far.

The police, on the other hand, maintained that it was continuing the search for the missing child. They said, a case of a ransom abduction could be ruled out.


MC office to be shifted to Sarabha Nagar
From Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, Jan 13 — The Municipal Corporation has invited architects to submit their designs for the new MC administrative-complex building. The building is to be constructed on half an acre along Sidhwan Canal, near the D-Zone building in Sarabha Nagar here. The architect with the best design will get a Rs 2 lakh award and the job of a consultant for the project. The architect with the second best design will be entitled to a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh.

The MC House had earlier given its approval for the construction of a new building as the present building was in a congested area and had inadequate office space. If a proposal for bringing more areas under the municipal limits is accepted, there will be more pressure on the existing office space.

The civic body has already finished an exercise to assess the space requirement for the new complex. The MC Chief Engineer, Mr M.N. Sharma said the ground floor of the new complex would be utilised for parking vehicles. The design would have provision for seven floors, but initially, only five might be built.

The new building will house offices of the MC Commissioner, the Mayor, the Senior Deputy Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, the Additional Commissioners, the Joint Commissioners, the Assistant Commissioners and administrative heads of all branches of the MC. It will also have a modern conference hall. The new building will also have a common canteen, dispensary, bank, post office and facilities for visitors. Four lifts will be installed in the building.

According to the MC sources, with the coming up of the new building and four zonal offices of the civic body, most of the public dealing here will be decentralised.

What will happen to the present MC administrative complex after the new building comes up, is not known as yet. Though the House has decided that the building will remain with the MC, it is being alleged that some politicians are trying to get the building sold off to an educational institution.

While senior MC officials declined to comment on the future of the building, it was learnt that top MC officials wanted to use a part of the building as one of the zonal offices and sell the rest for commercial use.


Rally against rising crime
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Jan 13 — The Communist Party of India (CPI) has flayed the worsening law and order situation, particularly in the wake of alleged killing of a young man, Avtar Singh, by a serving police officer Gurmeet Singh Pinki. In a protest demonstration and rally, organised by the district unit of the party at Clock Tower Chowk here today, the SAD (B)-BJP government in Punjab was not only charged with utter failure to come to terms with the crime wave in the state, but also with providing political protection to criminal elements.

Focussing on the failure of the city police to apprehend the prime accused in the Avtar Singh murder case, the District Secretary of the CPI, Mr Kartar Singh Bowani, questioned the police and the administration, charging them with complicity with the accused. Even though the main accused was reported to have met several senior police officers, after he was named in the FIR, he was still at large, raising doubts in the minds of the public about the ‘intentions’ of the police.

He also criticised the state government for indiscriminately providing security cover to all and sundry, including certain dubious personalities. Many of those, enjoying security cover, were said to be indulging in intimidating people and in unlawful activities, he said.


Ayappa temple to celebrate Makar Jyoth today 
By Shivani Bhakoo

LUDHIANA, Jan 13 — Like every year, Sree Ayappa temple in the city will celebrate Makar Jyoth on January 14 with religious enthusiasm. The festival is known as Mandala Pooja- Makarjyoth festival. It is celebrated at Sabarimalai in Kerala where the main shrine of lord Ayappa exists. Lord Ayappa is an incarnation of lord Vishnu and lord Shiva. Sabarimalai is considered to be a holy place like Kasi.

The basic concept of Mandala Pooja is 41 days’ continuous continence required for pilgrimage to Sabarimalai, starting from the first day of Vrischika — the fourth month of Malyalam era. During this period, devotees wear a chain of tulsi beads and blue and black clothes, leading an austere life, refraining from all family desires and taste and thinking of good things always. After the completion of 41 days’ continence, the devotees perform an elaborate pooja prior to the pilgrimage to Sabarimalai.

Makajyoth is celebrated on Makar Samkranti day (maghi). The significance of this day is that as the pooja begins at Sabarimalai, a sacred star appears high above the hills followed by a Jyoth (divine light) indicating the graceful presence of Lord Ayappa.

Millions of devotees gather at Sabarimalai on this particular day, irrespective of caste and creed from all walks of life. Devotees come from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra for witnessing the graceful presence of lord Ayappa. Seeing the Makar Jyoth is considered to the soul’s fulfillment, after stepping up 18 holy steps.

The shrine of lord Ayappa is a symbol of oneness of humanity and a pilgrimage to Sabarimalai means the journey of human soul in quest of the Supreme.

Talking to Ludhiana Tribune here today, Mr P.N. Ramanan, president of the temple, said the temple shrine in the city would open with Nirmalya Darshan, Abhishekam, Ganapati Havan followed by recitation of Bhagvat Gita. A shobha yatra will also be organised with elaborate embellishments and traditional pooja on this day. The shobha yatra will include decorated elephants. Hundreds of women and children will carry traditional thalapoli (carrying jyoth in thaals). Mr Remanan said artistes from South India will also take part in the ceremony.

Mr Remanan further added that lord Ayappa temple was constructed by south Indians residing in the city under the auspices of Sree Ayappa Sewa Sangam. Apart from Lord Ayappa there are four other temples of lord Ganesh, Devi Mata, Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and deities of nagas.

The president of the society said that Sree Ayappa Sewa Sangam plans to build a school for better education and a charitable hospital in the name of Lord Ayappa, which would be beneficial for the general public.


Sushma Swaraj to address party workers
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Jan 13 — Mr Rajinder Bhandari, general secretary, BJP, Ludhiana, in a press release informed that Ms Sushma Swaraj, Minister of Information Broadcasting, will arrive in Ludhiana tomorrow at 11.00 a.m. She will address local workers at 12 noon at Swami Viveka Nand Asharam in Model Town Extension.

Ms Sushma Swaraj will also inaugurate the conference being organised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) at Pal Auditorium PAU.

According to Mr Ashok Singhi, the Punjab unit president of the union, among others who will attend the conference will be the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, the Minister for Food and Supplies, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Legislative Assembly, Mr Satpal Gosain, Ludhiana MP, Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, Shamsher Singh Dull, MP.

Mr Singhi said a seminar on the ‘Accountability of journalists’ will also be held, besides the felicitation of the newly elected president of the NUJ Shyam Khosla.



Residents demand filling up of PUDA pond
Tribune News service

LUDHIANA, Jan 13 — Residents of LIG flats in Sector 32 on the Ludhiana-Chandigarh road near Samrala Chowk are suffering from foul smell coming out of a pond on the PUDA land since the allotment of the flats. A number of memoranda have been submitted by the LIG Flats Welfare Association on behalf of residents.

Mr T.S. Khurana, president of the LIG Flats Welfare Association, has criticised officials of PUDA for continuously ignoring the demand of residents to fill up the pond, which was a nuisance for them. During the rainy and summer seasons, the problem gets aggravated with a number of people suffering from malaria and other water born diseases. Since the association has failed to convince PUDA to fill up the pond, it is organising a free medical camp on Sunday to create awareness among the residents about health.

Interestingly, there was no cut provided on the dividers on the Ludhiana- Chandigarh road for the residents. Mr Raj Kumar, another resident of the colony, has claimed that besides 1000 residents of the colony, more than 50,000 residents of the surrounding localities had to travel at least half a kilometre towards Jamalpur to take a U turn towards the city.

The association has urged PUDA to fill up the pond and the administration to provide a cut on the dividers for them.


Lohri celebrations in Sutlej Club
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Jan 13 — Lohri will be celebrated by members of the Sutlej club on the club lawns on January 15. This time a world-renowned dance troupe from Hollywood will perform a ballet on the occasion.

Mr A.S. Chawla, general secretary, Sutlej club said that the Paris- based dance troupe comprises of seven female and four male dancers. Their performance will be a combination of various kinds of dance forms from various parts of the world such as Salsa, Labanda, Flamenco, Belly and Tap. The troupe will also perform on various pop numbers. These dancers have performed in many countries like Italy, Germany, England and France.

Mr S.K. Sandhu, the Deputy Commissioner and president of the club will be the chief guest on the occasion. The show has been organised for the club members and their families.


Artist gets police remand
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Jan 13 — The police has registered an FIR against A. K. Mohapatra of Orissa, for allegedly painting and displaying objectionable pictures of Hindu goddesses. The FIR has been lodged on the complaint of a Shiv Sena activist.

The paintings were displayed at an exhibition being held here by the Delhi State Industrial Development Corporation. Earlier the Shiv Sena activists ransacked the exhibition and forced its closure for a day. The exhibition was, however, reopened later amidst tight security.

The police had earlier detained Mohapatra after the Sena protest. However, he was let off on the assurance of some local people that he would present himself before the police if required.

The FIR has been registered in the Police Station, Division Number 5. The police officials said that Mohapatra may be summoned soon for further questioning.

The paintings of the Hindu goddesses were reportedly drawn with nude pictures in the background. This had infuriated’ the activists.

While the police has booked Mohapatra under Section 292/295A and 120-B of the IPC he claims that these were not his paintings but he had picked them up from artists of Delhi, since he could not arrange for his own paintings as he had joined the exhibition at a short notice.

Mohapatra asserted that he had randomly picked up the paintings from other artists in a hurry and had not checked them up. He claimed, since the paintings had already been and destroyed by Shiv Sainiks, he did not have an exact idea about their make up.

Meanwhile some senior officials of the DSIDC arrived here after hearing about the incident. The officials maintained that they had not checked each item displayed at the exhibition, but asserted that they would never allow anything to be displayed which would hurt the feelings of people.

The exhibition continued as usual with more people visiting it after the incident. There was a heavy rush of customers at the exhibition last evening after the news spread that it had been reopened.

According to latest report Mohapatra was produced in the court today and remanded to police custody.

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