Sunday, June 3, 2001, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S



Missing youth case heads towards dead end
Reports of compromise after payment of money
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 2
More than a month-old mysterious disappearance case of a city youth Jaswinder Singh Anokha, who was allegedly picked up by some cops from a police post near Arora Palace, seems to be heading towards a dead end. The family of the youth has, in an identification parade, reportedly refused to recognise officials of the police post in question even though there are reports that a compromise deal of Rs 2 lakh has been struck in the case.

A resident of Basant Nagar , Anokha, went missing on April 25. His family members, including his father and two brothers, had accused a police party of having picked him up.

After the publication of this news, the police swung into action and a case against unidentified staff of the Arora Palace post was registered. An action committee of the Bharatiya Balmiki Sabha was also formed to contest this case.

However, according to a member of the sabha, the family and the police has allegedly reached a compromise and a payment of Rs 2 lakh has been made to the family even though there is no clue about the whereabouts of the youth. While there is no concrete proof about the deal, the act of the family members of not identifying the Arora police post personnel recently in an identification parade hints at some deal.

Interestingly, the family, which used to live in a kutcha house till recently, was busy in additional construction work of the house when a Ludhiana Tribune team visited there to know about the whereabouts of the youth. While Jaswinder’s father Tarsem Lal was not at home, his other son Santokh Singh said they could not identify the police personnel as the police party that had come to pick up their brother was in civil dress. He denied any compromise deal and said the police was not doing anything in the case.

According to DSP Gurjit Singh, who is investigating the case, the identification parade has almost proved the innocence of the police personnel of the Arora Palace post who have been booked in the disappearance case.

Surprisingly, while the media and the police were interested in the case the family seemed to have lost interest for reasons unknown to him, he added

He said though the family, which had earlier gone to the Press, claiming the police had picked up the youth, was now not meeting him and seemed uninterested in pursuing the case. He said nevertheless his investigation was on and he would take it to its logical conclusion.

Anokha was allegedly picked up by seven police personnel, two of whom were in uniform, on the night of April 25. They had scaled the walls of his house and had taken him away in a Gypsy. The youth was earlier also arrested under the NDPS Act. His family had reportedly said that as the police had earlier also picked him up they did not bother much but when the youth did not come back for a week they got worried and began inquiries.

They had then claimed to have got proof of the police action of picking up Anokha.


Conman arrested
Tribune News Service

The alleged conman, Zuber Ahmed, a resident of Gurgaon in Haryana, arrested in a raid at a house in Haibowal.

Ludhiana, June 2
The CIA wing of the police today claimed to have achieved a major success with the arrest of a member of a gang of cheaters who duped several city residents by selling them fake gold bricks.

The alleged conman, Zuber Ahmed, a resident of Gurgaon in Haryana, was arrested in a raid at a house in Haibowal. The police recovered a fake gold brick from him. The police is now on the lookout for three persons — Azad, Mussa and Pappu — who, according to the arrested man, are other key members of the gang.

The modus operandi of the gang was to lure prospective buyers of gold bricks. Two of them would in normal conversation with a “client” inform him that a person had found gold bricks while doing some digging work in his house and wanted to sell the same.

The gang members would then offer to act as middlemen and promise that the brick, whose market value was somewhere around Rs 10 lakh, would be available in Rs 4 lakh.

In this manner they are reported to have duped several people. According to the police, one of their victims gave them Rs 3.5 lakh and jewellery to buy a brick. In his haste to buy the brick, he gave away his bracelet and gold chain but was later shocked to learn that the brick was a fake one. He later learnt about it but felt embarrassed to report the matter to anyone.


Woman lodges complaint against husband, in-laws
Our Correspondent

Sahnewal, June 2
A case was registered yesterday against the husband and in-laws of a woman at the Sahnewal police station on the basis of a complaint lodged by the latter in the form of an application to SP (Traffic).

Gurmit Kaur, daughter of Mohinder Singh of Bhattian village in Ludhiana district, stated that she was married to constable Tapinder Singh of Sahnewal on September 29, 1999. She said it was Tapinder’s second marriage and his first wife, Chinderpal Kaur, was kicked out of the house after being tortured by her husband and in-laws.

Later, Tapinder married Gurmit Kaur with whom same story was repeated. According to Gurmit she was physically and mentally harassed by Tapinder Singh, her father-in-law Piara Singh, mother-in-law Hardas Kaur, brother-in-law Kewal Singh and sister-in-law Tarjit Kaur (Kewal Singh’s wife).

She said, “On January 29, 2001, she was tortured to the extent that she left the house of her in-laws and came to her parents at Bhattian.”

“Not only this, she stated in the FIR, “My husband had illicit relations with Tarjit Kaur and when I tried to stop him, he revolted and threatened me.”

A written complaint in this regard was submitted to SP City II and then to SP (Traffic), on the basis of which a case was been registered under Sections 406, 498-A and 495 of the IPC against the husband and in-laws of the girl.

The dispute cell under the command of Deputy Superintendent of Police Gurmail Singh and Superintendent of Police (Traffic) is investigating the matter.


Lawyers call for strike on June 4
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 2
Lawyers allover the state will observe a strike on June 4 in protest against the ‘police failure’ to arrest five persons who had attacked and injured a city advocate 10 days ago.

The Ludhiana District Bar Association gave this call here today after meeting of the Bar, while condemning the alleged police inaction in the case and decided to observe the one-day strike. In a press release’ Mr Rajiv Duggal, general secretary, District Bar Association, said even though 10 days had passed since Mr Harish Narang, an advocate, was attacked and injured, the police was yet to arrest anyone in the case. This was despite the fact that an FIR had already been registered.

Mr Narang had also sent letters to the Chief Secretary, the DGP, the Punjab Human Rights Commission, the Home Secretary and the Punjab and Haryana High Court urging them to intervene in the matter as he faced threat to his life due to the non-arrest of the five accused.

Mr Narang accused the SSP Ludhiana, Mr Kuldip Singh, of ‘helping ’ the accused. In the signed letters he alleged, ‘‘The SSP has issued specific instructions that no culprits should be arrested ’’. The advocate also alleged that the senior police official was close to the accused.

Mr Kuldip Singh, SSP, however denied that he was helping anyone. The SSP said “The allegation was baseless and without any substance’’. He said he had no intimation of any strike by the lawyers.

Mr Narang and two other persons were beaten up by five persons in the city on May 22. They suffered several injuries.

In his letters sent to various authorities Mr Narang alleged that he was standing outside his house when five persons attacked him and his client on May 22. They ran into the house but were attacked. He said even though the bail application was rejected the police had not arrested anyone so far.


Rs 2.5 crore for development works
Our Correspondent

Amloh, June 2
Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab, has sanctioned Rs 2.5 crore for development works in Amloh constituency. This was stated here today by Mr Balwant Singh Shahpur, MLA, Amloh, while addressing a gathering at Anian village, 1 km from here, after the inauguration of a 1.10 km stretch of road from Anian to Bholia village.

The MLA suggested that gram panchayats of Anian and Sounti villages should pass resolutions for the allotment of 5-marla and 2-marla plots out of shamlat land to the Scheduled Castes for the construction of houses and pits for garbage.

Mr Shahpur claimed that premix roads joining Salana-Channo, Gunian Majra-Dhatonda villages were laid in a single night. He said cheques worth Rs 20 lakh had been given to beneficiaries under the Shagan scheme in May. Rs 3,000 would be paid for the construction of latrines for deserving houses in the villages. 


Boy sodomised by 3 youths
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 2
The Model Town police booked three persons last evening on the charges of sodomising a 10-year-old boy as the relatives of the victim alleged they were facing difficulty in moving out due to the fear of the three accused.

Dharampal, a resident of Abdullahpur Basti, said three persons Gogad, Vijay and Gaggu, all aged between 18 to 20, sodomised his son on May 29 in their house where they had called him over to watch an adult movie.

He said he complained to the police late as the three youths had almost forced them to stay inside. He claimed that his younger brother could not open his shop in Atam Park for three days due to the fear of the accused.

The boy was admitted to the civil hospital yesterday. According to the doctors, they have sent swabs for examination to a chemical laboratory in Patiala. SHO Model Town Police Station, Randhir Singh, when contacted, said he had conducted raids at various hideouts to arrest the accused.


Freedom of speech ‘denied’ to PAU teachers
Show-cause notice issued to professor
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 2
Close on the heels of the controversy over ‘gagging’ of academicians at Punjabi University, Patiala, Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), has issued a show cause notice to one teacher for speaking to the Press on university affairs.

Dr R.K. Batra, Professor of English, Department of Languages, Journalism and Culture, today said that he had been issued a show-cause notice by Dr K.S. Aulakh, Vice-Chancellor, last month for speaking to the Press about the appointment of Dr Aulakh as Vice-Chancellor.

The show-cause notice, which was issued to Dr Batra read, “You have violated rule number 9 and 19(1) of the PAU Employees Conduct Rule, 1967, while talking to the reporters. You said that Dr Aulakh’s appointment as Vice-Chancellor of the PAU was not in accordance with the rules and regulations of the university. You have been found guilty and you should tell that why the action should not be taken against you under the rules governing the condition of service of the PAU employees.”

The notice was signed by the VC on April 19 but the copy of the same was delivered to Dr Batra on April 30 and he had to furnish a reply to the authorities within a month of the receipt of the notice.

Dr Batra had already submitted his reply that he had not violated the PAU rules. In his reply he said that he was being accused of speaking to the Press while it was Dr Balwant Singh, a former professor of the PAU, who had said that the appointment of Dr Aulakh as VC was not in accordance with the rules of the university. Dr Batra said that whatever was being attributed to him was in fact a part of petition (no. 2041) filed by Dr Balwant Singh in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Dr Batra alleged that the charges were being fabricated against him with the intention of harassing him and subject him to mental torture. In another letter addressed to the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Batra alleged that till date there were many professors who had spoken to the Press against the university as well as the government and no action was taken against any of them by the university authorities.

He alleged that another higher official had even gone on record criticising the Academic Council of the university about the designation of a professor. Dr Batra said that he had urged upon Dr Aulakh to apply rules evenly and uniformally to anybody who flouted them.

Dr Batra said that the rule number 9 of the PAU rules did not say anything about the teachers but for the employees. It stated, “No ‘employee’ can say or express his opinion against any policy of the university, state or Central Government.” He further said that the rule did not apply to the teachers and was only for the university employees.

The Vice-Chancellor was not available for comments.


Medical representatives deny selling physician samples
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, June 2
Medical representatives, members of two associations, the Punjab & Chandigarh Medical & Sales Representatives’ Union (PCMSRU) and the Punjab Medical Representatives Association(PMRA) have refuted the allegation levied on them in an article ‘Physicians’ samples ‘not for sale’ that appeared in the Ludhiana Tribune on May 30.

They admitted the market was flooded with samples, spurious and sub- standard drugs and the black marketing of medicines was rampant. But the Federation of Medical Representatives Associations of India (FMRAI) and medical representatives were fighting against this menace. On June 7 last year more than one lakh medical representatives resorted to complete strike demanding from the Central Government as well as the pharmaceutical industry to stop the sale of samples, spurious medicines and sub-standard drugs. The FMRAI had been demanding from the Central Government to institute a CBI inquiry into the black marketing of drugs. The union and Medical Representatives would give documents to the CBI in case of the inquiry.

Again in January, 2001, the medical representatives resorted to one week’s strike and one of the main demands was again to stop the sale of samples and spurious and sub-standard drugs by the pharma industry. The union has filed a public interest litigation (PIL) at the Patna High Court. The PMRA said that physician samples came through various channels. Many a times those samples which were available in the market were not received by the medical representatives.

Even samples of expensive medicines were either not given to them or in small quantities to be given to selected doctors. Now-a days samples of those companies were also available in the market which were sending the samples directly to the doctors through couriers and did not have any medical representatives. It clearly indicated that medical representatives were not a party to any malpractices.

According to the PCMSRU the companies were dumping a huge quantity of samples and sales stocks directly from the factories. That was how such samples and sales stocks cost 30 to 40 per cent less than the MRP. Since all such supplies were made without bill and these were in abundance in the market and were sold under the garb of samples.

Many companies were manufacturing spurious and sub-standard drugs. As per their estimate, in the pharmaceutical industry of Rs 16,000 crore, drugs worth more than Rs 4, 000 crore were sold through black market. Medical representatives were fighting against this menace.

Neither the doctors, nor the chemists or their organisation had raised any voice against the sale of samples and black marketing of drugs. They claimed that it was on their complaints that many raids had been conducted and big haul of samples and uninvoiced drugs had been caught. Even media had given coverage to their crusade against black marketing of drugs.


Visually challenged couple marries
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 2
They might not have seen different hues of the world but happiness filled their lives today with various colours of rainbow. Two visually-challenged tied their nupital knot amidst the chantings of mantras at the local Ram Darbar temple.

Hem Lata, working in the vocational rehabilitation training centre (VRTC) married Devinder Kumar in Kitchlu Nagar. The happy couple stepped into a new phase of life with blessings of all present.

The wedding became possible due to the assistance of the Workers Welfare Society of the VRTC and the National Federation for Blind (NFB), Punjab Branch.


Lobbying begins for ticket
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 2
Although the elections to the Punjab Legislative Assembly may be months away, hectic lobbying for getting the party tickets has already started in almost all the political parties including the BJP, Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal).

Given its small presence in the urban areas, the ruling SAD has not many stakes in the three seats of Ludhiana Urban. Although Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal was elected from Ludhiana West on the SAD ticket in the last assembly elections, this time the BJP is unlikely to leave the seat to its alliance partner. Mr Grewal has already parted company with Mr Badal and continued his loyalty to Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

The only seat that the SAD(B) has a claim over, is Ludhiana Rural represented by Mr Hira Singh Ghabria, who also has shifted loyalties to Mr Tohra. Immediately after the division, the SAD(B) supremo and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal nominated Mr Sharanjit Singh Dhillon for listening to the grievances of the people of the area. And Mr Dhillon acted as a defacto MLA of the area with his considerable hold over the administration.

On his part Mr Dhillon has mobilised several local Akali leaders to his side. Besides his proximity with the Chief Minister Mr Sukhbir Badal has also helped him to widen his support base. Not just that, Mr Dhillon has been issuing and providing grants in the Ludhiana Rural assembly segment for various development works with the obvious motive.

However, Mr Dhillon claimed that he was not lobbying for the party ticket and was only performing the job he had been assigned by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.


Residents protest against construction of road divider
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 2
Protesting against the construction of a road divider near the bus stand flyover, residents of the area staged a dharna here today claiming it to be an inconvenience to the public.

The construction of the road divider had been planned by the Municipal Corporation to remove a major traffic bottleneck as all buses coming from the Samrala Chowk to the bus stand used to cross the road down the flyover towards the right side for moving to the bus stand, thus, blocking the traffic.

However, residents of Sham Nagar, Sita Nagar, Harpal Nagar said that the way from their residences to Bharat Nagar Chowk would be blocked. They said that even the way to public utility offices, including the State Bank of India, LIC Office, Provident Fund Office, Punjab National Bank, Railway mall godown and engine shed would also be blocked for residents of the area due to this construction.

Even the shopkeepers of the area said that their sales had gone down soon after the divider construction started yesterday. Mr Harpal Singh Arora, president, Dhayan Chand Complex Shopkeepers Association, opposite to bus stand, said that the customers were finding it difficult to reach their shops.

Members of the association demanded that either a narrow passage be left between the divider or a chowk with traffic lights be constructed so that commuters did not find it inconvenient to reach their destination.

However, Mr Arun Pal Singh, SP Traffic, who reached the spot to pacify the protesters, said that the divider did not block any route. The residents could cross the flyover, take a U-turn slightly ahead of the new divider and reach their destination. He said that the divider would help in smooth flow of traffic and buses coming via Samrala Chowk, which had become a nuisance for the area, would now be moving left after crossing the flyover to reach the bus stand.


Encroachers rule the roost in commercial complex
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 2
A majority of shopkeepers in the prestigious Dhayan Singh Commercial complex near the general bus stand on the link road in the city are upset, thanks to some shopkeepers in the market, who in connivance with the Municipal Corporation staff are holding the entire market to ransom by encroaching upon the pedestrian footpath and open spaces in front of other adjoining shops.

The problem is further compounded by erratic parking of vehicles by visitors to more than 90 shops and a score of offices, including two banks and an LIC unit in the complex, on the main road and the side facing the entry to the general bus stand. Several tourist transport companies operating from the complex also cause a major obstruction in the flow of traffic by haphazard parking of buses on the roadside, at times leading to traffic jams on the general bus stand - Link road crossing, located at the mouth of the Link Road flyover.

According to Mr Gurdial Singh, managing director of a construction company, the shopkeepers have submitted a signed representation to the Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, alleging that a few shopkeepers in the market, selling chana-bhatooras, tandoori roti and other eatables, had encroached upon the footpath. Not only this, open space in front of other adjoining shops, was also being used by these shopkeepers in an unauthorised manner by putting chairs and tables for the customers.

Some other shops, dealing in lottery tickets, are also a permanent source of nuisance to business houses, offices and the customers visiting these establishments. Lottery shops, says Mr H.S. Malhotra, director of a firm, are frequented by all sorts of people, some of whom, at times, are drunk or under the influence of intoxicants. Noisy duels and brawls among the lottery addicts, or between lottery-sellers and customers are routine, with other shopkeepers made to suffer in the process. There were unconfirmed reports of ‘satta’ operations being carried out from the complex, pointed out one shopkeeper, who did not want to identify himself.

The shopkeepers further charged in the representation that certain MC employees were in league with the offenders, as a result of which, all attempts to remove the encroachments were foiled. They further rued that the sanitation level, both inside and outside the market, was pathetic because of eating joints, putting up of tandoors and throwing away of waste material here and there, much to the annoyance and discomfort of other shopkeepers in the market.

The shopkeepers in the complex have urged the MC authorities to immediately remove the encroachments, including the rehris permanently. They also want effective measures to regulate the parking of buses and other vehicles, as also regular arrangements for cleaning the pavement and open spaces all along the complex.


AISSF scoffs at sangat darshans
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 2
The All-India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF) has scoffed at the sangat darshan programmes of the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, saying that it was a political stunt, aimed at wooing the masses in the last year before coming Assembly elections.

Addressing a meeting of federation activists here last evening, Mr Sukhdev Singh Mander, president, district (urban) unit of the AISSF, ridiculed the government claims of observing the year as “development year”. “Why did the SAD-BJP government, headed by Mr Badal, not observe a development year earlier and has taken up the agenda of development only now, when elections are at hand ?” he said.

Charging the Chief Minister with nepotism and promoting his own family, he alleged that Mr Badal had struck a deal with the BJP, under which, the Rajya Sabha seat, belonging to SAD had been given away to BJP in return for a union Cabinet berth for Mr Sukhbir Badal, who was recently elected to Rajya Sabha. Mr Mander asserted that the Rajya Sabha seat in the SAD quota should had been retained by the ruling party. The Chief Minister, who also headed the SAD, had betrayed his own party, he added.

The meeting discussed the detailed programme for observing martyrdom day at Amritsar on June 6.


Lok Morcha to take part in June 4 rally
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 2
The Lok Morcha, Punjab, comprising the Moulder and Steel Workers Union, Lok Sangharsh Committee, Hosiery Workers Union, will participate in the June 4 rally at Khanna to demand the release Mr Harjinder Singh, president, Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union.

Mr Harjinder Singh was arrested in the wake of the burning down of octroi post, following the lifting of road blockade by residents of Bhattian village after a village resident was run over by a Gypsy of the octroi staff on May 19.

Mr Kasturi Lal, president, Lok Morcha, Punjab, claimed that Mr Harjinder Singh was being falsely implicated in the case of burning of octroi post and that the case registered against him be withdrawn. 


Flavour of the week

SINCE the schools and colleges have closed, traffic has eased off to quite an extent. Hapless students packed like sardines in three-wheelers, rickshaws, and buggies have vanished as well as the ‘little ones’ burdened with heavy bags. Even the ladies’ clubs have closed for summer months. So, the women, too, can relax as these clubs always have some competition for others going on. People are keeping themselves cool by dipping in the few swimming pools of the city. For a city of this size, there are too few a pools. No wonder all of them remain over-crowded. Mrs Bali, who frequents a pool daily, is worried about conjunctivitis which afflicts swimmers during this period and which is highly contagious.

A few showers of rain did cool the atmosphere, but the aftermath is worse. The rising heat and humidity have worsened the condition. Flies and mosquitoes, that the rain brings in its wake, have brought along a host of diseases. So, the doctors have to work till late hours in order to cope with the heavy rush of patients. The diagnostic clinics are having a roaring business because the doctors don’t move ahead without blood tests, urine tests, etc.

In spite of the heat, several book release functions, painting/photography exhibitions and similar events keep taking place. AA


United India Insurance to tap rural market
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 2
The United India Insurance, which at present has about 30 per cent share of the total Rs 300 crore general insurance market of Punjab, has planned to tap the rural market in a big way. Out of the total Rs 85 crore business of the company in the state, the share of the rural market has been about 25 per cent till now.

These views were expressed by Mr S.P. Chhatwal, coordinator of the Regional Training Centre of the company here. The centre has been set up to train new agents and employees of the company.

Speaking to the Ludhiana Tribune, Mr Chhatwal said: ‘‘ In view of the increasing threat from private insurance companies, our company has decided to tap the hidden rural market of the state. It has not been properly explored due to lack of adequate trained agents, and thrust on the urban market. Today the general insurance is not limited to cattle and pig business. Rather it has an enormous potential in view of the high income growth in the agriculture sector.”

He added that since the private companies were expected to target the corporate sector, the United India Insurance had decided to concentrate on the rural market where it would have a competitive edge over others due to a large number of local experienced staff.

Mr Chhatwal disclosed that the company’s business in Punjab was expected to increase to Rs 90 crore in 2001-02 as against Rs 73.5 crore during the previous year. Regarding the impact of the current recession, he admitted that initially the company had felt some setbacks. However, due to concentrated efforts of the employees and new business strategies, including a special training programme for all its employees, the trend had reversed, he added.

Mr Chhatwal said: “The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority has proposed that the new insurance agents will be given licences after passing an examination prescribed by it. The present training programme is being conducted under the guidelines of IRDA.”

Regarding the present programme, he revealed that 35 candidates from all over the state were participating in the 25-day training programme. On completion of the training, the candidates would be required to appear in an exam conducted by the IRDA, and they would also be interviewed by the company. After that, they would be issued licences to conduct general insurance business, Mr Chhatwal added.


Waste dealers hail cut in octroi
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 2
The Punjab Waste Dealers Association (Woollens and Synthetics), at a meeting held here today, hailed the decision of the state government to cut the octroi on all kinds of waste. The government had recently reduced the octroi from Rs 25 per quintal to Rs 10 per quintal in the state.

In a memorandum submitted to Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab, Mr Balram Dass Tandon, Minister for Food and Supplies and Mr Adesh Partap Singh, Minister for Excise and Taxation, Mr B. R. Handa, the president of the association, said, “The government should waive off 4 per cent sales tax currently imposed on waste in order to help us.”

The meeting was attended by Mr Dhander Madaan, Mr Kapil Mehra, Mr Jaswant Rai, Mr Kapil Madan and Mr Mohinder Kapoor, among others.


Industrialists threaten stir against PSEB
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 2
The Ludhiana Small Scale Manufacturers Association (LSSMA) has threatened to launch an agitation from June 11 against anti-industry policies of the state government, indiscriminate increase in fuel surcharge and the rate of advance security deposits (ASD) by the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). The board has recently enhanced the rate of the ASD from 33 per cent to 100 per cent for all categories of consumers. It has also raised fuel surcharge by 11 paise per unit in a phased manner during the last six months.

Mr Harish Khanna, president of the association, at a press conference called here today, informed that the members of the LSSMA would gherao the Chief Engineer of Ludhiana on June 11 in protest against the hike, and would also burn an effigy of the Chairman of the board.

He alleged that the board has substantially increased advance security deposits and fuel surcharge without taking the consent of the state regulatory authority commission, though the commission has been specifically set up by the state government to regulate the power tariff in the state.

Mr Khanna said the policies of the board were proving detrimental to the industry in general and small-scale industry in particular. The high tariff and anti-industry policies of the Punjab Government have resulted in the closure of more than 20,000 industrial units in the state. Moreover, the flying squads of the board have disconnected the electricity connections of various units on flimsy grounds. Instead of checking the wide-spread corruption among PSEB employees, the board was harassing the consumers, alleged Mr Khanna.

He claimed that the performance of the PSEB had been continuously deteriorating. Having failed to meet the electricity demand of the state, it has resorted to long hour power cuts. It does not even have fund to replace the outdated supply lines or burnt meters. Mr Khanna also alleged that the board had enforced inspector raj and raid raj on the consumers.

He urged the regulatory commission to direct the PSEB to withdraw the hike in ASD and fuel surcharge and not to increase the tariff and other charges without consulting it. If the board did not follow the instructions of the commission, what was the purpose of wasting money on it, Mr Khanna asked.

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