Friday, June 8, 2001, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S



Encroachers having a field day in Urban Estate, Focal Point areas
D. B. Chopra

The newly put up vegetable market along the Urban Estate park on Metro Road in Ludhiana. — Photo by the writer.

Ludhiana, June 7
In direct proportion to the pace of development in the Focal Point area, encroachments along boulevards, vacant plots in commercial centers and even on public parks are on the rise.

When the Focal Point area was conceived about two decades ago to the right of the Chandigarh road, there were few takers for it as the idea of living so far from the city was not very appealing. According to some old-timers, who were among the very first to settle here, houses built by the Panjab Housing Board in MIG/HIG colonies at Jamalpur were on sale for Rs. 35,000 to Rs 45,000 but there were no buyers. On seeing the ‘forgotten sarkari buildings’, a number of opportunists with some money and links in the police and political circles took possession of some of the houses at prime locations. A similar story was repeated with regard to the LIG/MIG houses built by PUDA along the Chandigarh road. Not only were personal needs fulfilled but lots of money was also made by selling other houses which had been taken possession of by these greedy opportunists. Hence the name Dhakka colony.

And in the name of industry, there was a lone factory which manufactured electrical switches. And for roads, there was none. Residents had to negotiate mounds of sand to reach their homes. A couple of mounted cops manned a temporary police post who patrolled the area on their horses. A proper police station named the Focal Point police station with a number of posts such as the Samrala road police post which is more popularly known as the Vardhman post because of its close proximity to the mill , Sherpur post and the Dhandari Kalan post came up much later.

But gradually, thanks mainly to the enterprising spirit of the city’s industrialists, the desolate scene started changing for the better. Industrial units started coming up in the various phases of the industrial belt and so did palatial kothis and bungalows in the residential part of the area. The house that had no takers at Rs. 40,000 in the beginning is valued at Rs. 10 lakh or more these days.

Development and encroachments seem to be closely related to each other. Whenever or wherever a business area or a particular market starts attracting good business, encroachment mafia comes into the picture and leases out prime roadside spots at varying rates to different persons who automatically, by paying daily or monthly protection money, become an integral part of the mafia. But then the authorities concerned just cannot blame development alone for the menace and casually shrug the matter off. They must sit up and chew over the problem and find a lasting, mafia-proof solution.

And after nearly two decades of gradual development, the residents , who came here hoping to live in an open city with wide roads, well laid-out parks, wide boulevards with shady trees. spacious shopping complexes with plenty of fresh air and all that, are now in for a different fare. Going by the pace of encroachments, the day cannot be far when there would be no boulevards, trees, wide roads and beautiful parks. The ugly monster of congestion caused by encroachments, which made the residents seek asylum here years ago, seems to be on their trail. In fact, it has made its first move and is just waiting in the wings to go in for the real kill. For this monster is very clever. It preys upon the vacant land in bits and pieces, slowly and discreetly, roping in the area councillor, men of the Tehbazari Department and the like.

In immediate danger of this unseen encroachment-monster is the Metro Road area where there is a lot of vacant space in the form of boulevards and spacious open spaces in shopping complexes and blocks. If it is not checked in its stride, this monster would deface the beautiful Urban Estate and the Metro Road area beyond recognition sooner than later.

Take for example the case of the Metro road which is a main arterial road of the area connecting it with the Chandigarh Road on one side and the city via Sherpur area on the other. After years of neglect, this road is getting some official attention. A road divider is under construction and one hopes after the completion of which the road itself, which is broken, and the wide boulevards would also be attended to.

The exercise on its completion would certainly impart a nice look to the road but what about the ever-increasing encroachments along it.?

Most of the HIG house owners along the road have encroached upon the boulevards and made concrete constructions on the same. A couple of private nursing homes, a snooker joint, eating joints, confectionery store and the like have totally encroached upon the roadside boulevard. Money is said to have exchanged hands. By which law part of a boulevard outside a residence becomes the personal property of the house owner?

Compared to the well-to-do encroachers, a cobbler has been there with his little shop made of steel sheets under a tree on the boulevard. Then there are a number of other temporary occupants run their roadside businesses.

Going by the current rate of encroachments, it seems that the Metro road would soon be dotted with roadside rehris all along. Only a couple of days ago, the road received a stationery rehri outside a snooker joint. This is bound to encourage others and trigger a chain reaction. The shopkeepers who have included the wide boulevard portion in their premises would soon be renting it to rehriwalas in the same manner as the shopkeepers of Chaura Bazar rent out the space outside their shops to phariwallahs.

The removal of encroachments from along the Chandigarh road at Jamalpur last week due to the widening of the highway under way, has added to encroachments along the Urban Estate park on the Metro road. A new vegetable market of sorts has come up on the boulevard adjacent to the cycle-rickshaw stand along the park which would not take long to expand if not checked right now. Earlier, these people wanted to put up their shops at the cycle-rickshaw stand close to the Chandigarh road but on facing stiff resistance from rickshaw-pullers, they opted for the present site. It won’t take long for the market to expand further and further until there is no space left on the long boulevard. The encroachment mafia would have the last laugh at the government’s idea of creating a ‘role model city’ with the name of Focal Point.

A vacant plot in the commercial block located along Metro road is currently under the process of being encroached upon. The owner of a non-veg. eating joint, who has already encroached upon enough land adjoining his joint for setting up a kitchen, has ambitious plans. He has erected steel poles around an adjoining public plot being used as a thoroughfare by residents of the HIG/MIG colonies and is waiting for an opportune moment when he possibly can encircle the place to facilitate his business.

Both PUDA and the Municipal Corporation, which recently assumed control of the area, are to be blamed for the present mess of encroachments. While PUDA can be blamed for encouraging encroachments in residential areas, the Municipal Corporation’s Tehbazari Department can be squarely blamed for encouraging roadside commercial activity in its own interest. Encroachments along the Dasehra ground by roadside sellers of fruit, cigarettes, tea and fast food are already being patronised by officials of the Tehbazari Department. Most of the these roadside sellers pay a certain amount to their leader who passes the collection every month to the officer concerned. Can the job of protecting the long, wide boulevard from encroachments be entrusted to such officials?

If the authorities are really keen on maintaining an encroachment-free Urban Estate and the rest of the Focal Point area, a special anti-encroachment panel with special powers over and above the Municipal Corporation and having eminent citizens and Focal Point industrialists on it should be formed to make Focal Point what it was initially meant to be, a role-model city.


Demolition drive: residents adamant, admn gearing up
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

A signboard cautions against construction in the area with the demolished Megha Resorts, Ludhiana, in the background. The structure was demolished on Tuesday.

Ludhiana, June 7
Even as the administration gears up for the second phase of the demolition operations around the field ammunition depot at Baddowal, the residents of nine adjoining villages and the colonies continued their dharna against the demolitions for the second day today.

Acting on the March 19 judgement of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the district administration here demolished three marriage palaces on Tuesday, while notices were served to five others. The owners of these marriage palaces have been asked to demolish their structures within ten days.

Sources in the administration disclosed that in case the owners did not demolish the structures of their own, a similar operation like that on Tuesday would be carried out next week. They pointed out, that this was a long process which required many legal formalities and also men and machinery.

Some of the machines were rendered useless within a few hours of operations as these could not demolish the strong concrete structures.

The remaining four marriage palaces listed for demolition in the next phase were reportedly being evacuated by their owners. While earlier the owners were going by the presumption that the marriage palaces might not be demolished, now they seemed to be convinced about the plans of the administration.

On the other hand, the residents of nine villages and ten colonies, which had come up during all these years around the ammunition depot, continued their dharna for the second day today. The coordinator of the sangharsh samiti, said, they would soon start relay fast to protest against demolitions of their houses.

They alleged that the district administration was going ahead with the demolition drive just to save the skin of few bureaucrats whose connivance with the owners of marriage palaces was be suspected and was under investigation. They claimed that the administration had acted in haste and had done grave injustice to the owners of the marriage palaces who had invested huge amounts for erecting these structures.

Some of the residents told Ludhiana Tribune today, that they would not allow the demolition of their homes at any cost. “It would only be over our dead body”, shouted one of the women from Baba Nand Singh Nagar who was sitting on dharna on the Ferozepur road.

A retired Air Force officer said, he had constructed a house, after investing the entire earnings of his life. “Now the administration wants to demolish my house, which I will not allow to happen”, he said. There are about 100 ex-servicemen living in the area, falling within the radius of 1000 yards around the ammunition depot.

The sangharsh samiti consists of the sarpanches of nine villages. Those include Ayali, Bains, Baddowal, Jhandi, Tharike, Gahore and Betwal. The colonies include Baba Nand Singh Nagar, Avtar Nagar, Canadian Enclave, Raja Garden, Shriman Baba Nand Nagar and Virasat Nagar.

There are about 4000 houses in all these villages and colonies and most of these have been constructed after 1983. Despite the unambiguous orders of the High Court, the members of the sangharsh samiti are trying to seek refuge in the provisions of the Works of Defence Act 1903, which they claim, specifies the distance from the ammunition depot itself and not from the outer parapet.



Govt to focus on infrastructure development: Badal
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, June 7
Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab, today announced that the state was going to witness an unprecedented development during the current financial year which was being observed as development year. He said that work on the prestigious infrastructural development projects worth Rs 152 crore, including the strengthening and four-laning of main roads and construction of bridges over rivers and railway lines, had already been started.

He was addressing a largely attended rural conference at Heran village, 30 km from here, after laying the foundation stones of 66 KV power grid at Heran and a bridge over canal at Sudhar village.

Further unfolding his development plans, Mr Badal said the state government had chalked out a comprehensive integrated development plan for this financial year and funds amounting to Rs 2235 crore were being spent to carry out all kind of development projects in every nook and corner of the state. He claimed that a strong foundation for the industrial and over all development of the state had been laid with the execution of a large number of prestigious power projects, which would enhance the power production of the state by more than 1000 MW. He further claimed that over Rs 100 crore was provided by the government for completion of the Thein Dam project during the last four years, which would generate 600 MW power for the state and irrigate 3.50 hectares of land. He disclosed that the Centre had also cleared the Sharpur Kandi power project, which would further boost the power production in the state.

Referring to the serious environmental problem caused by the stagnated water in all villages due to illegal encroachments on the village ponds and manifold increase in the discharge of water, the CM announced that the government had chalked out a new scheme for the management and development of the ponds in all villages and funds amounting to Rs 100 crore had been allocated during this financial year. He said the Deputy Commissioners of all districts had been directed to prepare the estimates of these projects in their districts to make the proper arrangement for the disposal of waste water in the villages.

Lambasting on the Congress for deliberately destroying the economy of the state during the past 50 years by adopting ‘anti-Punjab policies’, Mr Badal said the successive Congress governments had never thought of the development and industrialisation of the state. “The Congress governments had snatched water, capital and power of the state under a deep-rooted conspiracy”. The Congress had also tried to exploit the farmers during the last paddy and wheat season claiming that the government would not lift their produce, but on both the occasions they had to lick the dust when the government had fulfilled its commitment to the farmers by getting special package of Rs 350 crore from the Centre for paddy purchase and got the minimum purchase price of wheat enhanced further by Rs 30 per quintal in spite of the recommendation of the Price Commission for the reduction of Rs 60 during the current season.

The CM claimed that during the last four years the SAD-BJP government, with the sympathetic attitude of the Centre, had succeeded in bringing big industrial projects worth more than Rs 45,000 crore to the state, including a single project of Rs 16,000 crore of oil refinery which would open enormous employment and trade opportunities for the Punjabis.

Strongly refuting the false propaganda of Congress leaders regarding his sangat darshan, Mr Badal asserted that there was no fault in providing direct grants to the elected panchayats for the development projects. He said these disgruntled leaders had no concrete programme for the development and welfare of the state and were only depending upon the false allegations out of frustration. He cautioned the people against the nefarious designs of splinter Akali Groups, saying that these leaders were pursuing a single point programme of unnecessary criticising his government out of frustration to directly benefit the Congress.

Reacting on the devastating implications of the WTO agreement on the agriculture, Mr Badal called upon the farmers to lay main stress on diverting from the paddy-wheat crop pattern, which was no more a profitable venture and to produce the quality food items which could fetch high price in the international market. He said with the induction of information technology, the whole world had shrunken to a small village and our farmers would also have to find the new markets for their produce in the fierce competition, which was the only way to survive. The state government was making all-out efforts to bring internationally available information on doorstep of the rural farmers by inducting latest IT equipment at all levels.

Mr Badal announced a grant of Rs 5 lakh for the development of the village and a cheque was presented to the sarpanch. He also assured to provide required funds for the development of village pond and setting up of bank branch in the village.

Addressing the function, Jathedar Jagdev Singh Talwandi, President, SGPC, said the SAD-BJP government under the leadership of Mr Badal had ushered in a new era of development and had launched prestigious developmental welfare programmes during the past four years. He expressed his gratitude to Mr Badal for releasing liberal grants for the development in the Raikot constituency during the last sangat darshan and for developing a new industrial focal point at Raikot.

Mr Jagdish Singh Garcha, Minister for Technical Education, and Mr Jagjit Singh Talwandi, Chairman, Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation, also spoke on the occasion.

Among others present at the function were Mr S.K. Sandhu, Deputy Commissioner, Mr Jaskaran Singh, SSP, Jagraon, Mr Kewal Singh Badal, vice-president, SGPC, Mr Amrik Singh Aliwal, ex-MP, and Mr Kirpal Singh Khirnia, Mr Gurmail Singh Sanghowal, Bibi Harbans Kaur Sukhana (all SGPC members).



Consumer forum quashes PUDA demand
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 7
The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has quashed a demand of Punjab Urban Development and Authority (PUDA) of Rs 71,600 on account of non-construction charges from Ms Darshan Bhatia, a resident of Dugri Urban Estate. The authority stated that it was entitled to recover non-construction charges as per rule no. 13 of the PUDA Act 1995. The forum further directed the authority to pay Rs 500 to the consumer as cost of litigation.

According to the complaint, PUDA had been recovering non-construction charges from the consumer at enhanced rates and she had been making payment of enhanced charges since 1996. She stated before the forum that the authority had raised the charges from Rs 1.50 per square yard to Rs 72 per square yard in 1999 and demanded Rs 71,600 on account of non-construction charges for the period from 1997 to 1999.

She pointed out that the as per rule no. 13 of the PUDA Act, 1995, non-construction charges could be levied at the rate of Rs 1.50 per square yard and for a period of not more than five years. As such, the non-construction charges could not exceed Rs 3,000 for a plot of 400 square yards, she added. The consumer pleaded that she had already paid Rs 27,393 as non-construction charges. She, in turn stated that the area had not been provided with basic amenities by the authority.

PUDA stated before the forum that the allottee did not construct the building within the statutory period and such, non-construction charges were rightly recovered and the disputed demand had been legally raised. The respondent stated that the consumer was bound to make the payment of the same. It was admitted that the consumer had deposited Rs 27,393 as no-construction charges. The respondent stated, “Allotment of the plot is governed by the allotment letter and provision of the PUDA Act 1995 are not applicable.” The authority denied the charges levelled by the complainant that some of the basic amenities were not provided in the area.

The forum, while citing a judgement of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, in the case Tehl Singh versus State of Punjab and PUDA said that the non-construction charged could be recovered only as per rule 13 of the PUDA Act 1995. The forum held that the authority was not entitled to recover excess charges from the consumer as claimed by the respondent.



City students fail to get result gazettes
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 7
The results of senior secondary examinations conducted by the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) were declared today, but students, as well as school and college authorities of the city, failed to get any information about the results from the board.

Most principals said that they had paid for the gazettes in advance but were now being told that they would get the same tomorrow. Several students, who tried to contact the manager of the local depot of the Board at Punjabi Bhavan, were told that the gazettes would be sent to schools tomorrow morning. Ms Usha Sidhu, District Education Officer, also expressed her helplessness in getting the results today. 



Gang selling ‘financed’ cars busted
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 7
In what may come as a rude shock to a large number of car financing companies and banks in the city and elsewhere in the state, the Ludhiana police has cracked a gang of swindlers who used to get a car financed on the basis of duplicate documents and then sell it off for at a huge profit.

Four alleged members of the gang namely Kamal Kant, Roopinder Singh, Sarbjit Singh and Darshan Singh have been arrested. As many as six brand new cars, including five Maruti Zen cars, have been recovered. They were being questioned about the total number of the companies or the banks they have fleeced. The alleged kingpin of the gang, who operated from Chandigarh, was yet to be arrested.

The police is suspecting the involvement of certain employees of the Telephone Department, the Income Tax Department and the Municipal Corporation, who allegedly helped the gang members in preparation of fake documents required to finance cars.

According to the Sarabha Nagar police, the finance companies seem to be unaware of the activities of any such gang as no one has complained about it so far. The DSP, Mr Prambir Singh Parmar, said they expected a large number of complaints now with the arrest of the members. He said earlier the police used to receive complaints against the finance companies and it was probably for the first time that a large number of such companies or banks had been duped.

Disclosing the modus-operandi of the gang, the SHO Sarabha Nagar, Mr Dilpreet Singh, said the aim of the gang was to get a car financed from a company or bank and then sell it off. For this they first took a house on rent at a fake name. They then prepared fake telephone bills and income tax payee documents. They also got xerox copies of ration cards. The members then targeted a finance company or a bank and after convincing it with the fake documents managed to get a car financed. If the financier was not satisfied with the documents, the members then prepared fake visiting cards and bills and vouchers of a trade firm and managed to get finance. After this they destroyed the papers pertaining to the ownership of the car in the name of the finance company. Their next step was to get valid registration of the cars and then sell it off. The SHO said the gang kept shifting its place of residence. The police was trying to locate the whereabouts of the Chandigarh-based member of the gang.


Telegraphically speaking!
Our Correspondent

Jagraon, June 7
The main telegraph office of this town is not equipped with any facility to send telegrams through a signal machine, fax or computer.

When this correspondent contacted officials of the Post Office, he was informed that the only way to send the telegrams available with them was the phone line through which all the messages are sent by using STD facility.

The concerned official informed that the timings for the purpose were fixed from 9 a.m. to 5 a.m. and on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. But it was found that the work started at the office after 10 a.m. and the office remained closed on Sundays.



SAD (B) consolidating vote base
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 7
The Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) is going all out to consolidate its urban vote base and bringing members of the trade and business community and urban intelligentsia in the party fold.

The party has had a communal image. The Hindu community, particularly the urban vote base, never took the party at its face value.

According to sources in the party, the lone Hindu representative in the Punjab Cabinet from among SAD-B legislators, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, Minister for Science, Technology and Legal Affairs, is playing a major role in building bridges between the ruling party and the non-Sikh community. Mr Garg, who wields a lot of influence in the trading community, has been interacting with various associations of businessmen, traders and industrialists and has persuaded a large number of them to join the party.

After several rounds of hectic deliberations and prolonged discussions between Mr Garg and key functionaries of the Ludhiana Aggarwala Cooperative House Building Society, the promoters of Aggar Nagar locality here, a large number of groups of city residents, including businessmen, traders, industrialists, doctors, advocates and other professionals, will formally join the SAD-B, in the presence of the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, in a function here on Sunday.

Mr Amrit Lal Aggarwal, a director of the Ludhiana Aggarwal Cooperative House Building Society, observed that in view of an impressive track record of the SAD-BJP coalition government in Punjab during the past four years, the combine needed to be given more time so that a large number of development projects could be completed and the state could once again usher in an era of peace and prosperity.


Gear up for poll, YC workers told
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 7
The Indian Youth Congress observer for Punjab, Mr Krishanvir Maina, interacted with various party functionaries here last evening in a bid to tone up the district units of the Youth Congress. During discussions on the party programmes and policies and the strategy on the forthcoming Assembly elections, Mr Maina exhorted the party rank and file to gear up for the elections and to formulate a result-oriented mass contact programme to mobilise the masses against the anti-people policies of the SAD-BJP government.

The DYC (Urban) president, Mr Parminder Mehta, in his meeting with the party observer, focused on the functioning of the district unit and the meetings organised by the party on block and ward levels in the district. Mr Mehta brought to the notice of Mr Maina several instances of indiscipline and anti-party activities and urged him to curb such activities. Mr Manjit Singh Humbran, president, DYC (Rural), stressed the need for better coordination between the party rank and file and the central leadership so that the workers could carry out the party programmes and policies in letter and spirit.

The Punjab Youth Congress general secretary, Mr Jasbir Johny, who led a delegation of party activists to meet Mr Maina, pleaded for five per cent party tickets in the Assembly elections for YC workers belonging to the Dalit community, as also adequate representation to them in the party units from block to state level. “The senior party leaders, who always claim to champion the cause of Dalits and weaker sections, should take a practical lead and give the Dalit youth, their due place in the party,” he said.

Mr Johny further told the party observer that in order to mobilise more and more Dalit youths in support of the Congress, the SC/ST cell of PYC would hold a state-level rally here soon. The proposed rally would also give final touches to the election campaign of the party for the coming Assembly elections.


Gurpurab celebrated
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 7
The birth anniversary of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind, was celebrated with religious fervour at all gurdwaras in the city here today. Ragi jathas and dhadis from Amritsar, Hazur Sahib and Patna Sahib enthralled the sangat with kirtan. Since early morning, devotees were involved in preparing ‘missi rotis’ and ‘lassi’ at their homes, which were brought to the gurdwara. Langars were also organised on the roadside. 



Showers lower temperature
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 7
The city had a cool cloudy day today following brisk showers, lasting about half an hour, this morning. Those who were expecting another spell of heat wave after a brief lull last week also heaved a sigh of relief.

With cool east winds blowing over the city and an overcast sky, the day was perfect for an outing. The sun made a brief appearance a little after 9 am and was soon covered by thick clouds.

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