Monday, April 16, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


The Tribune Vigil
Passengers rue deterioration in Shatabdi services
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 15
When the 2029 Shatabdi Express that runs between Delhi and Amritsar arrived here this morning, it was around 10 minutes late. Such delays are not unusual these days. During winter, it arrives late even by one to three hours. The decline in the quality of catering services and lack of world-class journey experience, as claimed by the Railways, has affected the reputation of the Shatabdi Express.

The passengers now often complain of deterioration in services and comfort despite increase in the fare from time to time. The Shatabdi fare between Ludhiana and Delhi has been increased from Rs 300 to about Rs 500 for the economy class during the past five years but there has been no substantial improvement in the services.

In the mid-nineties, when this fast and comfortable train was introduced by the government, businessmen and other upper middle class citizens in the region felt obliged towards the government for this special gift to Punjab, especially Ludhiana.

The train was taken as a viable alternative to air flights which also take approximately the same time to reach Delhi.

Many industrialists and businessmen who regularly travel on this train say that its air conditioned compartments, hot snacks, three-star hotel-like sanitation and catering services have almost become history. Since there is no alternative for them, so they have to travel by this train. The increasing business of taxis and deluxe buses is also a pointer in this regard.

The Railway authorities, however, maintain that the train remains always full to its capacity despite the introduction of a second train. There had been very few written complaints from the passengers, so there is no point to discuss the decline in service. There is no reason for them to worry about.

The quality as well as the quantity of tea, snacks and other items have declined over the past few years. Though the expenditure on catering has increased by about 25 per cent, the quality has rather declined due to indifferent attitude of the officials. The passengers are of the view that despite repeated complaints to the railway staff, they do not get any proper response. Mrs Asha Ahuja, a frequent traveller, says, “The catering services have really become unbearable. The tea is often cold and their is no variety in the menu. The crockery is not properly cleaned.”

Those who travel in the executive class are no better. The crockery has become old over the years. But the authorities have not bothered to replace it. The rates for the executive class are almost double as compared to the economy class, but there is no significant difference in the services being provided in two categories.

Some times air conditioners do not function properly. One needs a lot of efforts to find out the attendant. The music is not according to Punjabi taste and even Punjabi papers are not made available in sufficient numbers, said an NRI, Mr Joginder Singh, from the USA. The three-minute stoppage at Ludhiana should be increased to at least 5 minutes if not 10 minutes, he added.

The coaches are not properly cleaned. The seats and curtains are often too dirty. The slushy floors and lack of toilet rolls or deodorants, highlight the condition of the train. Door locks and latches are mostly broken or stuck.

Mr Pawan Diwan, a local congress leader, says, “There is no proper arrangement of even soaps and tissue papers in the toilets. The water often collects there, making it difficult for the passengers to use them.” The passengers say the serving trays and plates are often put in hot water and wiped by a dirty cloth that has been used many times. Some passengers complained of use of disposable trays and cups again and again.

Mr Amrinder Batra, a local trader, said, “How can the railways claim that this is a world-class service when dirty curtains, smelling toilets and torn seats await tourists and businessmen coming from abroad. Instead of making any improvement over the years, the authorities have failed even to maintain whatever was provided in the beginning.”

The night Shatabdi often stays for a long time outside the Delhi railway station as the signal is not cleared. On the other hand, the railway authorities say that the track between Ludhiana and Amritsar is not too safe for the fast trains as it should have been replaced long ago.

Women passengers allege that many mail passengers could be seen taking drinks before lunch, but the railway staff never bothers to stop them. As the train almost becomes empty after Ludhiana, so the risk for female passengers increases from such passengers on Ludhiana — Amritsar journey.

The recently introduced STD facility has also failed to satisfy the passengers as they blame the sound quality and the high rates charged.

Suman Munjhal, Director, Hero Group of Industries, is of the view there is a need to enhance the luggage capacity, besides changing the time of the late evening Amritsar to Delhi Shatabdi that reaches after 11.00p.m. He says, “One cannot get the flights at that time. There is difficulty to locate a hotel as well.”

Some passengers have reportedly threatened to sue the Railways for not providing adequate services.


Passengers’ complaints

  • Poor sanitation, deposit of filth under seats
  • Exorbitant charges for STD facility
  • Dirty seats and curtains
  • Stinking toilets
  • Poor upkeep and maintenance
  • Little or no liquid soap
  • No toilet paper rolls
  • Erratic sound system, no music
  • Some passengers drink in the compartment
  • Uneven seat tables
  • Broken or losse magazine baskets
  • All papers not provided
  • Catering
  • Poor quality of tea and snacks
  • No variety in menu
  • Recycling of plastic utensils
  • No paper cleaning of crockery



Night cricket craze in city
Kamal Kishore Shankar

Ludhiana, April 15
For some people weekend means spending hard earned money on eating, drinking, travelling or shopping. But for some youngsters of the city, it means playing cricket whole night till the dawn.

Night cricket seems to be fast picking up in Ludhiana. Some cricket-crazy boys regularly play cricket during night in different parts of the city. They even use private and vacant plots for the purpose. In Atam Nagar area the boys have arranged lights and other equipment in such a way that could best reflect their passion for playing. There were six teams sitting outside the ground to get a chance to play as eight teams had reached there to display their skills.

The cricket tournament is organised every Saturday. The game is played with tennis ball as for some teams it is very difficult to arrange various guards to save the players from the hard leather ball. Moreover, the tennis balls swing very much which makes the game more challenging. The limit of team members is eight only, as eleven players can not be adjusted in the small field. The overs limited to eight and no team can play without paying the entry fee.

The teams from Kidawai Nagar, Model Town, Dashmesh Nagar, Daresi and other areas participate this tournament. The winners get Rs 1,200 while runners up get Rs 600.

Trikesh Trikha of the Kidwai Nagar team, when asked about the logic behind playing whole night and spending so much of money on the electricity, he replied, “The maximum number of boys remain busy either in their business or job and do not have the time to play and especially in summers it is very difficult to play during the day time.” He disclosed that the idea behind organising this tournament is to promote the game we love.

“Ludhinana has produced many players of reckoning like Yash Pal Sharma, Chaman Lal Malhotra, Girdhari Lal, Satish Mangal, Dharm Raj Senior and Junior, Rakesh Mehra, Bal Krishan Joshi, Raj Pur and Bharti Vij, but the state government has never looked towards these players. Moreover, this is shameful on the part of the government that the city is still crying for a cricket stadium. This is why the enthusiastic players have to play in the substandard ground”, said Harshbeer Singh Gill. He lamented, “The government is least bothered as far as this sport is concerned and this is the main reason of our failure in the international-level tournaments.” He was of the view, that we have an ample number of good players but there is a need to identify the talent and promote the good players.”


Betrayal that almost killed a child
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 15
"Chindi, take care of your ‘chachi’ and my children,” said Chamkaur Singh, an Army watchman posted at Kanpur, to Chinder Singh ‘Chindi’, before leaving for his place of posting only two weeks ago. He would never have imagined that this person would betray him.

When the Armyman returned to the village yesterday, villagers greeted him with moist eyes and compassionate looks. The morning newspapers had said it all and everyone knew it.

Chindi and Chamkaur’s wife Charanjit Kaur had lured the Armyman’s 13-year-old son to kidnap and murder a neighbour’s son for money, after he had discovered their illicit relationship. The plan failed and the arrest of the boy exposed Chindi and Charanjit, after which they were arrested.

Chindi used to bring fodder for the Armyman’s cattle and was a trusted servant of the family, according to the Sarpanch of the village, Mr Sukhdev Singh. A dejected Chamkaur is now trying to salvage some pride by trying to convince his neighbour to withdraw the case against his son. The Sarpanch said Chamkaur had also sought the help of villagers for saving his son.

The Sarpanch said villagers were yet to overcome the shock, but had sympathy for the Armyman who was a simple man and always helped others. Villagers condemn the labourer for his alleged act.

The incident had taken place two days ago in Sohian village. The police said, after discovering the illicit relationship between Chindi and Charanjit for the first time, the boy had not told anyone because his mother had promised not to see that man again. However, he had caught her again with the man after a month of this incident.

According to the police, fearing that it would not be possible to hide their relationship any longer, the two hatched a conspiracy to eliminate the boy. The police said the boy used to steal and had even spent some days in a police lock-up at Sudhar village for stealing Rs 400. Chindi promised the boy that he would pay him Rs 300 and go away forever if he kidnapped and murdered a neighbour’s child.

The conspiracy was to get the boy implicated in a criminal case and continue with the relationship once he went to jail. However, when the boy, Gurdeep, had kidnapped the child and was trying to strangulate him, the child’s mother saw him and raised an alarm, which led to the boy’s arrest.

Later the boy confessed before the village Panchayat and the police that he had done so on the directions of Chindi.


BKU threatens agitation
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 15
The Bharatiya Kisan Union has threatened to start an agitation if the demand to supply electricity for 12 hours to the agricultural tubewells is not met till May 14.

This decision was taken at a meeting of BKU members held here today. Speaking on the occasion, the general secretary of the union, Mr Manjit Singh Kadiyan, said that earlier there used to be reasonable power supply for five to six hours but things had totally changed this year. Farmers were getting power supply for only two-three hours, and there were repeated fluctuations.

Worried over the unannounced power cuts, Mr Manjit Singh said there should be fixed hours for power supply.

The BKU members threatened that if their demand is not met in time, an emergency meeting would be held on May 15, in which line of action would be decided. The members also demanded that government should also give compensation for the loss to farmers during recent rains.

Mr Puran Singh Shahkot, general secretary, finance, and members unanimously decided that the minimum support price of all rabi crops, including paddy and cotton, be announced at the earliest so that farmers get some relief.


Coaching centre dupes student of Rs 2,000
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 15
The mushrooming of coaching centres in the city may have resulted in a cut-throat competition among themselves, but despite this stiff competition to attract students, it has not deterred them from exploiting the students. Many of these teaching shops give a hoot for the students once they receive their fee in advance.

Mr Rajesh Kumar Garg, a trader of Jagraon, has alleged in a written complaint to the Deputy Commissioner that Mr Navjeet Singh, director of the VIIT JEE Coaching Centre, near Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), has cheated him of Rs 2,000, besides causing him and his daughter mental torture.

In a signed affidavit, Mr Garg has alleged that his daughter, Sharuti, had joined the centre for a crash course in CET on March 31, 2000. The director asked them to pay Rs 4,200 for 40 days' coaching, including Rs 2,000 in advance. The amount was duly paid. Mr Navjeet Singh had promised that the centre would provide coaching in physics for two hours and in chemistry and mathematics for one and a half hours each daily. The centre would also conduct tests for two hours every day.

Mr Garg lamented that they were shocked when the institute failed to fulfill the commitment regarding the coaching time. The daily schedule was also changed from morning to afternoon that made it difficult for his daughter to reach there as she had to come via bus from Jagraon. Despite repeated complaints, nothing was done to redress the problem. Mr Garg added: ‘‘The director is now not ready to refund Rs 2,000 that was paid at the time of joining the course. Rather he misbehaves with them whenever they approach him.’’

The student was later forced to join another institute causing a financial loss. Mr Kuldeep Singh, centre manager, when contacted in this regard, said: ‘‘We had made commitments for seven hours daily morning schedule for coaching. We had to change the schedule as a majority of the students wanted the study time in the evening.’’ He promised to refund the money if asked with due regard.

On the other hand, Mr Garg has urged the Deputy Commissioner to instruct the director of the centre to refund the money and ensure that such irresponsible behaviour of the private coaching centres was checked so that they did not play with the career of the students.


Serving the ailing humanity
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana April 15
The Bhagwan Ram Charitable Hospital is being run by the Bhagwan Ram Charitable Trust and by the Ram Leela Committee for the last seven years in Ram Lila grounds in Daresi. The hospital will celebrate its VIIth founders day on May 1 and it can look back with pride that a small dispensary has blossomed into a full fledged 100- bed hospital.

In the beginning, there were 30 to 40 patients in the OPD and now the number has increased around 10 times. The hospital has employed 19 well qualified doctors in the 10 OPDs of medical, gynae, paediatrics, ENT, eye, skin, general medicine, psychiatry, dental and surgery. The other facilities available are hearing tests, eye lens implant, incubators, photo therapy, facilities for deliveries, leprosy and tuberculosis clinic, laproscopic operations, defibrillator, cardiac monitors, newbulizers, private rooms, modern operation theatre and labour room equipped with best anesthatics. It possesses a computrised laboratory for various pathological and investigative tests.

Dr Ramesh Thakur, Medical Superintendent, said, “We charge Rs 5 for making a card and Rs 15 for emergency card. Our fees for treatment is very reasonable. The patient has to pay Rs 40 in a day in general ward and Rs 200 in private ward. A normal delivery costs Rs 600 only. Even a cataract operation with lens implant costs Rs 600. We have a de-addiction centre also.

In last year, more than 90,000 patients were treated in the different OPDs and 1,559 operations of different kinds were performed. Our diagnostic laboratory is well equipped and more than 30,000 tests were done.”

He also informed that the TB and leprosy patients were treated free of cost. They also undertake operations for family planning. On the founders day, free eye operations and free medicines and free eye camp will be organised. The funds are met by the donations from the public.

Some NRIs also contribute generously and the new cardiac ward that has come up is due to the generous donations by the NRIs. The Sita Mandir Hall, which is in the same premises, is booked for marriages and shok sabhas. This hall, too, generates money.

The hospital does help poor patients by giving hefty concessions.

The hospital plans to introduce three new wards. It will start medical care for serious heart patients and will have an ICU and ICCU equipped with the most modern machines. The chairman, Mr Prem Prashar, and the president Mr Kewal Krishan Marwaha, appealed to the people to donate generously.



Easter celebrated in city
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 15
Easter was celebrated with great tradition here today. Special prayers were held at different churches to mark the occasion. The main function was organised at the CNI Kalvari Church, Brown Road.

Speaking on the occasion Father Ram Lal Massih highlighted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He said Jesus raised his voice against injustice and laid down his life for the humanity. It was a great occasion for the world that the Jesus rose of his grave.

Father Massih pointed out there was a dire need to follow the teachings of Jesus, which emphasised on service to the humanity. He said the message of the Lord was important in present context when there was the desperate need for peace and brotherhood in the world.

The Christians were greeted by the members of other communities who had gathered at the church to share the joy of the Easter. Prominent among them included the vice-president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), Mr Amarjit Singh Bhatia, councillor Kulwant Singh Dukhiya, president of the Indian Muslim Council, Mr Atiq-ur-Rehman, and the president of the Gurdwara Dukhniwaran, Mr Prithipal Singh.

All the leaders stressed the need for following the teachings of Jesus for lasting peace and harmony in the world. They said the teachings were more relevant today given the social and other tensions in the world. All the leaders who belonged to different communities pointed out that all the religious leaders had focussed on one thing that truth and justice should prevail.


Changing flavour of Sunday bazar
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 15
The Chaura Bazar, the main shopping centre here, sees more activity on Sundays than on week days. On Sundays, some of the regular shops open and display their wares on the make-shift tables, with colourful umbrellas atop to give them shade. There are mobilecart pushers, who traverse the entire length of Chaura Bazaar the whole day to sell their wares.

Pottery sellers with pottery of very bright colours and different items can be seen moving and sellers of peacock fans lend a great deal of colour to the bazaar.

Winter colours of orange, yellow, red, brown, black have given way to pastel colours like pink, white, grey, mauve, lemon yellow. The maximum stalls are of clothes.

Most of the people got the clothes on a contract basis from export houses. The unsold clothes are returned. They barely make Rs 5 a shirt. Some shirts are not new but are purchased from the women who sell utensils in lieu of clothes. One seller said, “The wives are sitting idle at home so they launder these shirts and make these look new.”

When this correspondent asked a shopkeeper whether they were allowed to keep the shops open, he replied, “No, but a little bit of money to the shop inspector enables us to open these. The day the checking staff has to come from Chandigarh, the inspector tips us off and we close the shops and sell some stuff on the pavements. On Sundays, we have definitely more sale.”

It was surprising to see fur coats in the market selling for Rs 300 each. One shopkeeper told this correspondent that he sold 50-60 blankets on Sunday, 30-35 shawls, 80-90 sarees. Mostly their clients were from Bihar, UP and Maharashtra. These people on their journey back from Vaishno Mata stop at Ludhiana to purchase woollens, as Ludhiana is famous for hosiery.

Shoppers on Sundays are generally people belonging to lower middle class and middle class. The clothes are affordable and the variety is astounding. Sellers say that more people come to see things on sale than to purchase these. A visit to Sunday Bazaar provides them an outing.

Thanks to superstitions, the cycle shops remain open, too, as it is considered inauspicious by many to buy iron on Saturday. The Sunday bazaar changes its flavour with seasons.


Cycle manufacturers to participate in Cologne trade fair
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 15
About 20 cycle and cycle parts manufacturers will participate in the international bicycle trade fair at Cologne, Germany. The fair will be held from September 13 to 16. It will help them assess their standing in the international market, said Mr D.S. Chawla, President, United Cycle and Cycle Parts Manufacturers Association.

He was speaking at a function organised in connection with the preparations of the trade fair. Mr K.C. Damodaran, Director, Indo-German Chamber of Commerce, said: ‘‘This would provide a unique opportunity to the Indian manufacturers to face the competition and get orders, besides showing their samples to the large-scale buyers. Trade agreements worth $ 300 billion are expected to be signed during the fair.’’

In fact, India is a regular exhibitor in the IFMA, Cologne, fair. Forty companies participated in the fair last year. Suppliers from 80 countries are expected to participate in the fair that would include Taiwan and China. 

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