Tuesday, February 20, 2001,
Chandigarh, India
L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Residents served with inflated water bills
By Kuldip Bhatia

LUDHIANA, Feb 19 — Paying water supply and sewerage bills is not enough but the residents are supposed to keep the receipts in record for years together and produce the same as and when the MC chooses to demand these. That is what has been happening in the city for quite some time now with widespread resentment prevailing among the city residents.

There have been numerous instances of the residents being asked to pay up arrears pertaining way back to 1991 and in some cases, as old as 1983. Very few people would be maintaining a record of the payments and preserving the receipts for such a long time and failure to produce a receipt or provide other documentary evidence is considered a case of non-payment and the residents are made to shell out the payment in the face of threatened disconnection of water and sewerage connections even if they have already paid the bills.

Many councillors, including the group leader of BJP councillors Mr. Pran Bhatia told Ludhiana Tribune that most of the arrears being demanded by the MC after a lapse of a decade or more, have been duly paid by the residents, but the payments were not posted in the receipt registers by the concerned MC employees. He alleged that the number of residents, who were slapped with inflated bills, ran in thousands, a claim refuted by the MC officials, who point out that there might be some posting lapses but most of the arrears being demanded were ‘genuine’ and the councillor was blowing the magnitude of the problem out of proportion due to vested political interests and to show the MC officials in bad light.

The officials, dealing with the water supply and sewerage bills in the MC, do admit that in some cases bills duly paid by the residents might have been shown in the arrears due to non-posting, most others owed money to the civic body but did not want to pay. A large number of residents, who were served notices to clear their arrears, were trying to take advantage by raising a hue and cry of inflated bills. “In genuine cases, the residents were permitted to make current payments and given required time for production of receipts or other documentary evidence of having made the payment.”

A councillor, belonging to the ruling combine, said the MC income had decreased and it was no where near the targets fixed in the budget for the current financial year. May be to cover up the shortfall in the budget, the MC was resorting to the tactics of sending inflated bills and improving its receipts. However, the MC officials termed the charge as a wild accusation. “Mere addition to amount due will not make any difference to the income projected in the budget, unless the amount was actually realised,” was the convincing reply of the civic body officials.

The harassed residents, served with inflated bills, have created an embarrassing situation for the councillors, who find themselves helpless in the matter if the so called defaulters do not possess proper receipt of the payment having been made of the amount shown as arrears. Many councillors, whom Ludhiana Tribune spoke to, apprehended that the next elections being just a year away, their electoral prospects might be adversely affected if a reasonable solution to the problem was not found soon. 


Action panel for CBI inquiry into Pinki’s activities
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Feb 19 — The Avtar Singh Gola murder case action committee will hold a dharna on February 22 in front of the DC office to protest against the administration’s “indifference” and the “tacit support” of some police officials to shield Gurmeet Singh Pinki, who is accused in the murder of Avtar Singh, a 20-year-old youth, on January 7 in Maya Nagar in the city.

Addressing a press conference here on Monday, Mr Prem Singh, grandfather of the deceased, alleged that Pinki was freely moving in the city and Maya Nagar area despite being in judicial custody. A case has been registered against him for murder but his contacts with senior police officials, diminishing enthusiasm of the action committee and public have encouraged him to approach the parents of the deceased to accept a compensation and take back the case.

Mr Prem Singh said, “Pinki has offered Rs 20 lakh to the family through his counsel Mr Kuldeep Singh to take back the case. We have been threatened with dire consequences if the case was not taken back.’’

‘‘We feel cheated the moment we remember our son and see the faces of his sisters,’’ said Mr Prem Singh with tears in his eyes.

Regarding the “indifference” of the district administration, Mr Prem Singh said, ‘‘The district commissioner and the SSP had promised every kind of help and strict action against the accused at the time of cremation but nothing has been done till today.’’ Isn’t it surprising that Pinki was freely moving in the city?’’ he asked.

Mr Tarsem Jodhan, president, Lok Sangarsh Committee, and convener of the Avtar Singh Gola murder case action committee accused the Deputy Commissioner of not providing any financial help to the family. ‘‘ It was under his administration that the a murderer was moving freely in the city. Such kind of freedom is not provided even to political convicts,’’ he added.

Mr Jodhan, has demanded a CBI inquiry into the past activities of Pinki, who is alleged to be involved in terrorist activities before joining the Punjab police.

Mr Charan Singh Luhara, general secretary, Akali Dal (Mann) and member of the action committee, alleged that it was the failure of the Badal government that police officials involved in terrorist activities were in the force. He demanded action against the police officials who were supporting Pinki directly or indirectly.

He alleged that Pinki was trying to blackmail senior police officials to save him in any way or he will expose their past deeds. Interestingly, many police officials are not ready to make any comments in the case.

Mr Jagjit Singh, general secretary, CPI(M), and other members of the action committee have demanded immediate suspension of the Superintendent of the jail and the doctor who had illegally allowed Pinki to come out of jail.

The action committee has urged the public to participate in the dharna in full strength on February 22 to force the administration to take action against the police negligence and adequate compensation for the family. It has warned the DC and Mr Satpal Gossain, Deputy Speaker, Punjab Vidhan Sabha, to sanction the compensation package for the family soon that they had promised at the time of cremation of Avtar Singh otherwise the action committee and public would be forced to expose their “crocodile tears”.


Cracks in the action committee?

THE 31-member action committee seems to be losing its steam after the initial enthusiasm. Mr Tarsem Jodhan, convener of the committee, said some of the members of the committee were running away from the mass protests. The committee had spent about Rs 35,000 on the case though the total collection was about Rs 11,000. “We are ready to give our time and energy to fight a long battle against the accused. But some of the members wanted to compromise with him as the amount offered, reportedly Rs 20 lakh, was the best bargain in their view.”

“We would provide every support to the family in its battle to get justice, provided it does not concede defeat in between which seems impossible for the moment,” said Mr Arun Katyal, general secretary, District Congress Committee (I) Urban.

Mr Katyal accused the local MLA of the Congress party and some political leaders of the ruling parties for trying to jeopardise the efforts of the action committee.

Mr Jodhan added, “ No one knows the future of the trial, but we would carry on our struggle till justice is done with the family.” 


Excise Dept lets erring officials go scot-free
Liquor vends licensee case
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Feb 19 — Is the Excise Department itself to blame for facing a loss of more than Rs 2 crore of revenue which was not paid by about five liquor vend licence holders?

While the department has booked one such defaulter, Roop Lal, for non-payment of the licence fee, the background of the case regarding the auction of vends, their subsequent allotment and breaking of the syndicate, suggest that there is much more in the case than what it appears to be.

According to the sources, the department’s move of encouraging new licence holders, mostly belonging to other districts, has backfired. The department had gone out of way to attract and encourage these licence holders by allowing them to escape the mandatory payment of 12.5 per cent security deposit to be paid by the licensees at the time of auction or by March 28, 2000. However, in the case of these licence holders the department had, allegedly at the behest of an influential political leader, given a special relaxation to them.

As per the rule 7 of the Excise Policy, the bidder has to deposit security at 7.5 per cent at the call of the hammer and the remaining 5 per cent by March 28, 2000. The collection is authorised to receive late payment of security with late fee at the rate of 2 per cent on the delayed payment up to April 10, 2000, only instead of cancelling the vend.

Even though the rule states clearly the last date for depositing the security, the department gave them a go-by in order to please these new licence holders close to an influential political leader. Surprisingly, while action has been initiated against Roop Lal, other alleged defaulters, one of whom does not operate on his own name, have not been touched yet. These defaulters are learnt to be operating Roop Lal’s vends now.

Mr L.K. Khan, AETC, who joined much after the auction controversy declined to comment on the issue. He only said the department had to do a number of things for earning more revenue.

Another official of the department, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the department’s zeal to break the syndicate and bring new licence holders has backfired. These clever businessmen understand the compulsions of the department and indulge in employing pressure tactics to earn more profit.

Another pertinent question that deserves to be raised is that after such laxity on the part of the Excise Department is that whether it will initiate action against the erring officials of the department or not.


PHRC upset at insanitation
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Feb 19 — The Punjab Human Rights Commission (PHRC) has taken a serious note of the failure of the local civic body to provide basic civic amenities in Preet Nagar Colony of New Shimpla Puri here.

On a complaint of a social worker of the area, Mr Balbir Aggarwal, who is also the Vice-President of the district unit of the Nationalist Congress Party, the commission has asked the MC Commissioner to appear before it on April 18.

The complainant said residents of the area had taken up this matter with the MC many times, but nothing had been done to improve the situation. Pigs kept by some persons in the colony had made life hell for others.

Mr Aggarwal also said in his complaint that the garbage that had been spread by the pigs all over the colony had often led to the outbreak of many infectious diseases.

He said the matter had also been brought to the notice of health officials and the district administration. After residents of Preet Nagar persisted, the district and civic body officials decided to shift the pig farms out of the city, but the decision remained only on paper.

The complainant said the civic body, health officials and the area councillor were neglecting the colony. There was no systems of sewerage, water-supply and streetlights here and roads had potholes.

Despite repeated attempts to approach them, health officials of the MC and the area councillor declined to comment on the issue.


Silver rath to lead Shivaratri shobha yatra
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Feb 19 — For the first time, a hand carved silver chariot will lead the shobha yatra on Shivaratri, likes of which were used during the Mahabharat and ancient times.

The committee members were excited as they were able to complete the 14 feet long, 14 feet high and 71½ feet wide silver chariot on time. Sunil Mehra, president of the Shivaratri Mahotsav Committee, Ludhiana, said they had set up a Shivaratri fund and people had contributed generously. The committee has brought craftsmen from Amritsar, who had worked in Golden Temple and Durgiana Temple. Ravinder Singh, leader of the 16-member team which have been working on the rath for last six months, said that 225 kg of silver has been used on the rath.

“I have been working on this rath for the last six months and I do not know how these months have flown by. I am enjoying my work. This is my first chance to work independently and I do not think there should be any difference in the attitude whether one is working for a temple or a “gurdwara”, Mr Ravinder Singh added.

The yatra will start from Daresi Ground and ropes of the rath will be pulled by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister of Punjab and Mr Brij lal Revana, State President, BJP, and the Deputy Speaker, Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Mr Satpal Gosain. The yatra will be attended by many eminent religious figures also.

The yatra will have 400 tableaus comprising kirtan mandlis, school bands and children performing drills with lazium. About 251 members of the committee dressed in pure white will lead the procession which will finally culminate at Sangla Wala Shivalaya.

Mr Charanjit Bhargav, General Secretary of the committee, said “seven years ago, we had taken two vows. We had decided to get a silver rath made and the second vow was to set up Shiva Vidyalayas which would give fine and inexpensive education. So far we have succeeded in constructing a magnificent rath.

The shobha yatra will start at 11.00 a.m. from Daresi Ground and the procession hopes to reach at Sangla Wala Shiva by 8.00 p.m.


Kanwarias — ardent Shiv bhakts
By Asha Ahuja

Feb 19 — With Shivratri just a day away, Kanwarias — staunch believers of Lord Shiva have once again sprung into action. They take their annual journey to Haridwar for procuring holy water from the Ganges to bathe the Shivling.

A jatha of 21 people, comprising 8 constables from Punjab Police started from Ferozepore Police Lines on February 6. They left by train to Hardwar. After collecting water in urns, which they have to keep in a wehngi, they cover it with a yellow cloth embellished with gota to make it look festive and visible from a distance. They were travelling on foot to Ferozepore from Hardwar, and were caught by camera-men on the streets of Ludhiana.

Constable Rajesh Kumar Sharma, Dheeraj Khera and Deepak Sharma told this correspondent that, “We started this ritual from the past five years. This ritual was started by the then Ferozepore SSP, Siddharth Chattopadhya. A new Shiva temple was raised on November 21 in 1991. So we decided that we should get water from the holy Ganges and bathe the Shivling.”

Satish Kumar Shukla, their leader said, “We have to be very sure about the purity of the water. We never keep the urns down on the ground, for it would mean disrespect to the holy water. We walk night and day and hope to reach Ferozepore on February 20, a day prior to Shivratri. Next day, in a grand shobha yatra, we will go singing and dancing to the temple.”


Move to install cameras at traffic light chowks
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Feb 19 — The local traffic police is experimenting on a novel idea to educate people about traffic rules. Under the scheme, cameras will be installed at various traffic light chowks in the city to detect violations of traffic rules.

According to SP (traffic) Arun Pal Singh, the people who violate traffic rules, like jumping of red light and crossing of stopline, generally do not accept their fault. They insist that they are not at fault and cops are unnecessarily challaning them. Under the new scheme which will be implemented shortly, if the experiment is successful, cameras will be installed at every traffic light chowk which will record the number plate of vehicle and violation done by it.

“We will not challan the violators on the spot but will note down the numbers and take the details from the District Transport Officer and then challan the person for the violation. We have kept another option for the violator. We will ask him to take lessons in traffic rules at the nearest chowk for half an hour or otherwise get challaned. This scheme will automatically make people aware about traffic rules,” said the SP.

The scheme was experimented here today at Bharat Nagar Chowk in the morning and evening. 


Minor girl missing for five days
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Feb 19 — The Ludhiana Police remain clueless with regard to the alleged abduction of a minor girl from Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar (BRS), suspected to have been lured by some unscrupulous person on Valentine’s Day. The polio-stricken girl, Manju, was last seen by her sister, Ninawati, while being taken away by an unidentified person on a bicycle.

Despite several complaints, the Sarabha Nagar police did not register any case till Monday evening, despite the fact that the BRS Nagar Welfare Association met the concerned police officials, along with Shiv Kumar, father of the girl.

Talking to Ludhiana Tribune, Shiv Kumar and Malti, who run a clothes-ironing shop in the area said, “We suspect that a boy known to Manju may be involved in the kidnapping”. The girl had to be taken out of school over a year ago, when the suspect had made a similar attempt to lure Manju into eloping with him.

Enquiries made in the vicinity from where Manju was reported missing, revealed that the girl used to work as a domestic help in the neighbourhood. Ms Satinder Khurana, who knows the family for the past decade or so, said “Shiv Kumar and all members of his family are very decent people, who did not have any enmity with anyone”.

The police have interrogated the suspect, who works as an attendant in a dental clinic, but the police remain clueless so far. A case has been registered under Sections 363 and 366 of the IPC by the Sarabha Nagar police station.


Defence docs do good job at Bhuj
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Feb 19 —A surgical team of the Air Force station, Halwara, has returned here after performing hundreds of operations in quake-hit Bhuj. The team was led by Wg Cdr A.K. Baral, (Anaesthesiologist). It was around 2.30 p.m. on January 26 that the station received a message from the headquarters that a special surgical team had to proceed to Bhuj to render urgent medical help to earthquake victims. Immediately, the team led by Wg.Cdr. A.K. Baral and comprising Sqdn. Ldr. Anil Kumar (surgeon), Sgt D. Singh, Cpl Mishra, Cpl Sharma — all medical assistants, was constituted and dispatched, along with operation theatre equipment, drugs, medicines and bandages.

The surgical team of 9 Air Force Hospital was air lifted the same day at 1600 hrs. After a brief halt at Delhi for some more medical supplies, it reached Air Force station Bhuj around 2100 hrs. “There was a total breakdown of communication and power supply and on that the dark night, we somehow managed to reach the military hospital at Bhuj”, recalls Wg Cdr Baral.

In the compound of MH, there were scenes of death and destruction every- where. At Bhuj, there seemed to be crushed and mutilated limbs dangling everywhere, shattered homes and patients coming in endless streams without any place to stand. As the civil hospital of Bhuj had collapsed completely, MH Bhuj was the only medical establishment left where operations were being performed since 1000 hrs on the same day.

More than 4000 patients lying in the open compound of MH Bhuj were waiting to be operated upon. “The most difficult part for us was to decide which patients to take in first”, he recalls, while adding, “Finally we had to take the tough decision of prioritising patients. Those who required immediately resuscitation to save their lives were taken up first. Then came those who required immediate and early surgery”.

As the MH Bhuj building was also severely damaged, the team started operating in open air tents with generator lights. The original surgical team of MH Bhuj, who were operating from 10 a.m. the same day, were relieved by the team from Halwara in the night. The team also replenished the fast depleting stock of medical supplies.

In between, there were after shocks and tremors but the team continued to work on. Throughout the night of January 26, the following day and also the next night operations were carried out non-stop, with small breaks for tea and biscuits.

Gradually, other surgical teams of the army joined MH Bhuj. A total of four operation theatres were set up in tents. All surgical teams are on working non-stop till the evening of January 28. Till the evening of 29 MH Bhuj was the only place where major surgeries were being done.

Till January 31, the Air Force Team of 9 Air Force Hospital Halwara, completed about 1,200 major surgeries. The total number of surgeries performed at MH Bhuj, including Army, Air Force and Navy teams crossed more than 8,000, making it probably one of the biggest medical emergency tackled successfully by the defence forces.



7-day working week at SBOP
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Feb 19 — The State Bank of Patiala started the seven-day working week in its Kitchulu Nagar branch and extended working for 10 hours and round-the-clock facility to customers through the ATM at Jalandhar.

Mr R.S. Nanda, General Manager, said that the bank was opening specilalised branches such as SSI, hi-tech, agriculture, international, corporate, industrial finance and personal banking to provide focused services to the selected clientele. 


Rally by furniture manufacturers
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Feb 19 — The Ludhiana Furniture Manufacturers’ Association held a rally today to protest against the registry of a false case against Mr Sukhwinder Singh, association member.

Mr Niraj Chawala, president of the association, in a press conference, alleged that a false case had been registered against Mr Sukhwinder Singh on the false complaint of Mr Varinder Kumar, patwari, who was caught red handed while taking bribe of Rs 10,000 from Mr Sukhwinder Singh himself.

Relating the background of the case, Mr Chawla told the media persons that Mr Sukhwinder Singh, a furniture trader of New Janata Nagar, had gone to Mr Varinder Kumar to take documents of his own plot required for sale. He met him at his office in Giyaspura locality. He was asked to pay Rs 15,000 for that purpose and finally the deal was settled at Rs 10,000.

In between, Mr Sukhwinder Singh lodged a complaint with Mr R.P.S Bajwa, S.P., Ludhiana Range. Consequently, Mr Varinder Kumar was allegedly caught red- handed while taking the money. A case was registered against him, but he got bail on January 27, 2001. Interestingly, he was not suspended from duty and he joined later. He asked Mr Sukhwinder to forgive him and get back the documents.

On reaching his office, Mr Sukhwinder was implicated in a case of attack. Currently, Mr Sukhwinder Singh is in judicial custody. The association has asked the administration to intervene to save Mr Sukhwinder Singh.

The association has warned that it will organise a rally on February 20 and a procession from Bharat Nagar Chowk to D.C. office if Mr Sukhwinder was not released. All the furniture shops in the city would also remain closed on that day.

Incidentally, Mr Manider Singh, president, the anti-Corruption Federation of India’s Action Committee, is sitting on hunger strike in front of the new court to protest against the illegal confinement of Mr Sukhwinder. The strike has entered the fourth day. 


Resentment prevails in Khatri Sabha
From Our Correspondent

KHANNA, Feb 19 — Resentment prevails among the Khatri community of the city due to a tussle between two groups in an executive body of the Local Khatri Sabha, which led to police interference here today.

The Khatri Sabha was constituted a few months ago, for the betterment of the community. A 21-member executive committee was elected. Mr Jit Rai Khanna was appointed patron of the sabha and Mr Vinod Ghai and Mr B.C. Bassi were elected president and general secretary of the Sabha respectively.

On February 2nd, Mr B.C. Bassi called a meeting of the Executive and announced the appointment of Mr K.L. Sehgal as cashier of the sabha in place of Mr Bhandari who was removed from the post in the said meeting.

On 9th February another meeting of the Executive of the sabha was called to confirm the proceedings of the last meeting. But a clash occurred between two groups in the executive committee of the Sabha led by Mr Ghai and by Mr B.C. Bassi’s respectively. Some members suffered minor injuries. Mr Bassi group staged a walkout and alleged that other group had attacked them.

In that meeting Mr Ghai’s group removed Mr Bassi and appointed Mr B.C. Bector as new General Secretary and also rejected the proceedings of the last meeting. They also alleged an illegal withdrawal of Rs 10,000 from the account of the sabha.

On February 17th, the Bassi group planned to call a general body meeting of the Sabha to tell the happenings in the executive of the sabha.

Today, Mr Bhandari, the cashier of the Sabha, who was removed by the Bassi group filed a complaint with the police alleging that Mr Bassi and Mr Sehgal had withdrawn Rs 10,000 from the account of the Sabha.

Mr Bassi when contacted said that they had not done any thing illegal. They had withdrawn an amount of Rs 10,000. He said Rs 5,000 were expended earlier for the Sabha and the rest Rs 5,000 were withdrawn for the Gujarat Earthquake Relief Fund.

He said the bank manager had also confirmed that there was no illegal action involved in withdrawing this amount.

Mr Ghai when contacted on telephone said that he was busy and would talk later but could not be contacted again.

Investigation in charge of the complaint, Mr Harbhajan Singh, Inspector Anti-Fraud Staff, Khanna, recorded the statements of both the parties today.


Kainth addresses rally
From our Correspondent

AMLOH, Feb 19 — “Social and economic conditions of Dalits has no chances of improving as long as Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes, labourers and small farmers do not come on one platform under the banner of “Bahujan Samaj Morcha”(BASMO)” said Mr Satnam Singh Kainth, national president of the party, while addressing a gathering at the old grain market, Amloh on Sunday.

He was critical of the Bahujan Samaj Party head, Mr Kanshi Ram, for his remarks that having no talent in Dalit class, he had to instal a Jat as the state chief minister, he remarked that in a democracy on the basis of voting strength, any person could become the chief minister with the support of five MLAs belonging to BSPA.

Mr Kainth further criticised the double policies of BSPA, which blamed the BJP for trying to change the constitution while supporting it in the Parliament on the Aydhya issue. The conference passed resolutions to implement Mandal Commission report, provide free electricity and free education to the children belonging to the Dalit class.


Will forged
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Feb 19 — A case of forgery and cheating was registered under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471 and 120-B of the IPC against Gurinder Singh, Kuldeep Kumar, Ramesh Kumar, son of Mohan Lal, Mrs Raj Rawai, Mrs Asha, daughter of Mohan Lal, and Ram Piari, wife of Mohan Lal, resident of Kundan Nagar, Model Town, Balwant Singh Rathi, a resident of Ashok Puri, Civil Lines, and Balwant Singh, a resident of Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar.

Renu Shah, wife of D.K. Shah, had lodged a complaint on November 20 last that the accused had prepared a forged will after the death of Mr B.K. Shah which did not mention any property share in the name of Ranu Shah, wife of the deceased.

No arrest has been made so far in the case.

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