Monday, September 10, 2001, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Is this the friendly face of city police?
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 9
While the DGP, Punjab, Mr Sarbjit Singh and the local SSP, Mr Harpreeet Singh Sidhu had made elaborate claims about the easy accessibility of the police through pagers given to them earlier this month, the ground reality is quite the opposite.

About 600 pagers were provided to the non-gazetted officers in order to make them always available to the public as well as to the department, but the reality is that the pagers have merely become another show-off electronic gadget carried by the policemen. This is so because not a single pager number has been made public so far. What to talk of the common man even mediapersons in the city are having a difficult time in contacting the SHOs in order to get details about some case.

With all the SHOs invariably said to be in the “Illaka” (field) or on “Naka” (checkpost ) duty, the journalists eager to meet their deadline ask for their pager number. Only to be told by “munshi” of the police stations that they don’t have the numbers. This correspondent tried hard to convince a “munshi” to reveal the number but he said he did not have the number and even if he did it was for police use only. One wondered whether to believe the Ludhiana SSP and the DGP or the seemingly more important “munshi”.

While the police claims to have launched people-friendly community policing, the mindset of shooing away the mediapersons and closing all doors of information still continues. This correspondent after learning about the registration of a case contacted a “munshi” for more details, but he refused even to admit that a case had been registered. When a very senior officer was contacted he said he would tell a junior to give details. However, when the junior officer was contacted he dismissed the harried reporter by saying “Leave it ji what is there in this case?” And the Ludhiana police authorities have been complaining of the Press being non co-operative.

To quote another example, the staff of the Kotwali and the Division No. 5 police stations did not disclose even a success story of the police. In a joint operation of staff of these two police stations, a number of cassettes, allegedly duplicate and pirated, were seized from Bhadaur House. However, the police was mum on the number of cassettes seized. They said the SSP sahib had ordered them not to give information to the Press.

A similar incident took place when a “munshi” of Sahnewal police station refused to divulge the names of suspects in a murder case as he had orders not to talk to the Press.

Interestingly, recently, when the press-police relations had touched an all time low due to an unsavoury argument between a DSP and some mediapersons, the SSP Ludhiana had assured the mediapersons that the relations would improve. One must mention here that the Press understands orders debarring police personnel to leak information about the department, but holding back information regarding incidents is certainly not a very wise thing to do.


Four villages without potable water supply
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 9
Thanks to callous attitude of the local Municipal Corporation, four villages near Pakhowal are without potable water for the past 10 days. The villagers are either depending on hand pumps or have to go to their fields to get water from their tubewells.

Villagers of Bahram Pur, Tungaheri, Akalgarh Khurd and Racheen are suffering due to non-supply of drinking water as the tubewell of the area is out of order.

The villagers are a harassed lot as they have to depend on hand pumps for drinking water, which they call unfit for drinking purposes. According to Mr Bahadur Singh, sarpanch of Tungaheri village, villagers had many a time complained to the Municipal Corporation for the non-availability of water but the authorities did not pay a heed to their problems.

Mr Bahadur Singh also said that he along with other villagers had gone to complain to the Municipal Corporation three days ago but the repair work was not done.

He said this was a very common phenomenon for these villages, as a month ago similar conditions were prevailing which improved only after the villagers sent a representation to the MC to get the tubewell repaired.

The sarpanch also said that the quality of water was very poor and the supply was erratic as the pipeline in these villages was corroded. He said that the villagers were suffering from many water-borne diseases, including jaundice and enteric typhoid. He said three out of 10 children were taken ill due to jaundice.

A doctor of Pakhowal village told Ludhiana Tribune that he was receiving at least seven cases of infective diarrhoea for the past many days. He said that in each village, at least 10 to 15 persons, including children, were down with jaundice.

He said that not only the supply was erratic but the water was not treated before the supply. He said the tanks were in such a bad condition that if one saw them would not drink water again.


Amnesty move on guilty cops opposed
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 9
The Janata Dal (Secular) has strongly opposed the move to grant amnesty to the guilty cops, saying that it will set a wrong precedent and will go against the legal and democratic principles of the country.

The party passed a resolution in this regard at a meeting of its core group today. The meeting was chaired by the state unit president, Mr Harish Khanna.

The party criticised the statement of the Union Home Minister, Mr Lal Krishan Advani, on the issue. Instead, Mr Khanna said, a judicial commission should be set up to probe the killings whether at the hands of terrorists or security forces.

The resolution pointed out that over 25,000 innocent youths were killed during that period in Punjab.

Another resolution criticised the Akali-BJP government in the state for having failed on all fronts. It claimed the government had not fulfilled even 10 per cent its promises.

It pointed out that the government had announced that it would work for greater autonomy to the state, besides settling various disputes with the neighbouring states, particularly those related to water.

The party also expressed serious concern over the mud slinging resorted to by the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and the Pardesh Congress Committee president, Capt Amarinder Singh, on the issue of property owned by the two leaders.

A resolution passed on the issue demanded that a judicial commission should be set up to probe these allegations and establish the truth.

Several other resolutions were also passed at the meeting which related to various problems being faced by people. This included supply of electricity, the minimum support price for various crops, closure of industries, economic slowdown and widespread unemployment in the state. It also expressed concern over the deteriorating law and order situation in the state.

Others who attended the meeting included Master Avtar Singh, Mr Jagdish Raj Monga, Mr Kuldip Singh Ghalib, Dr Sompal, Mr Gurjeet Singh Sandhu, Mr Raman Mehra, Mr D.S. Mann, Mr Rajinder Dutta, Mr Ramesh Kaka, Mr Balbir Singh, Ms Sarabjeet Kaur, Mr Ramesh Kaushik, Mr Hukam Chand, Dr Dalbir Singh and Ms Raj Rani.


Experts foresee bleak future for farmers
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 9
Agricultural experts here have predicted a bleak future for the farmers of the region especially after the nominal increase in the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy by the Central Government. The MSP has been increased by Rs 20 per quintal. They have warned the SAD-BJP government to take appropriate measures to check the wide-spread frustration in rural areas otherwise the alliance may be voted out in the coming elections.

Declining profits in the agricultural sector have forced many farmers to shift from agriculture to property dealership, labour, trade, and other professions. Farmers of nearby villages claim that their income from agriculture has declined despite marginal increase in the minimum support price of crops and free electricity and water facilities provided by the state government.

Mr Partap Singh, a farmer of Gill village, says, ‘‘The input costs have increased manifold, but the crop yield has not seen any increase. Moreover, rise in prices of all consumer goods has forced us to look for other avenues of income.’’ Various studies conducted by Punjab Agricultural University also point towards the change in occupation by the farmers.

The experts admit that Badal government has certainly benefited farmers by providing free electricity and water and by ensuring reasonable minimum support price for wheat and paddy, but due to lack of long-term strategies and innovative planning, Punjab has lagged behind many other states as far as agricultural sector is concerned.

A leading agricultural expert said, ‘‘The profit in the agricultural sector has eroded because of high crop intensity, stagnation in production level, ever-increasing input costs and lack of scope of increase in area under cultivation. Besides, more than 95 per cent of the area under cultivation is already under irrigation. So, there is no scope of increase in that, too.’’

In Ludhiana district alone, more than 27,000 applications have been lying pending with the Punjab State Electricity Board for the sanction of new tubewell connections, for the past many years. The board officials say that they are trying to clear the backlog of applications received till 1987.

The declining profit margins in animal husbandry and deteriorating condition of hosiery and cycle industries in the city have further accentuated the problem in rural areas. According to Employment Exchange sources, about 45,000 qualified persons (matric or above) are registered as unemployed and most of them are from rural areas. The high level of alcohol consumption and suicides by farmers and landless labourers are some of the disturbing trends noticed in the district.

A study conducted by Dr P. S. Rangi and Dr M.S. Sidhu on ‘Growth of agriculture in Punjab’ points out that the state may not be able to add much to its agricultural production since it is already near the saturation point as far as the exploitation of new areas is concerned.

The experts, however, say that there is a scope for increase in production of vegetables and other cash crops, provided the government provides proper marketing and infrastructure facilities. Formation of agro-processing zones, investment by some big industrial houses in agriculture and allied sectors and introduction of a direct cargo flight from the local airport to Europe and a legislation to promote contract farming are the needs of the hour to protect the interests of the farmers of the region.


Poultry farm supervisor murdered
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 9
Mewa Singh, a supervisor at a poultry farm, was found murdered on the farm premises at Neelon Khurd this morning by some employees of the farm. The Sahnewal police is learnt to have registered a case of murder against three labourers of the farm, who are missing since last night.

The accused decamped with some jewellery worn by the deceased, along with his scooter. Some cash was also reported missing from the poultry farm.

The police said circumstantial evidence suggested that robbery was the motive behind the murder though other possible reasons were also being investigated. Mewa Singh belonged to Katani Kalan village.

The incident took place in the night. The post-mortem examination report suggested that he was strangulated to death.


Zebra crossings, stop lines only in books
Kamal Kishore Shankar

Ludhiana, September 9
Even though zebra crossings and stop lines form an essential part at any traffic lights regulation system yet they appear to have no meaning for the city authorities, as they are conspicuous by there absence here. Under the Motor Vehicles Act crossing the stop line at red signal in an offence.

In contravention to rules, most traffic lights are without any stop line crossings. Some traffic lights which do have a stop line are without zebra crossings. According to the road regulation rules the width of stop line must not be less than 50mm, which should be visible with naked eyes from a set distance. But many crossings in the city are without stop lines while some stop lines are so faded that they are hardly visible even from near.

One of the busiest traffic lights at Jagraon Bridge is functioning without any stop line and zebra crossings. Zebra crossings and stop lines are also non-existent at Old Court Road, Durga Mata chowk, Campa Cola chowk and other important traffic lights, in the city, where the flow of traffic is very heavy during peak hours, making it difficult for pedestrians to cross roads. In absence of stop lines and zebra crossings, vehicles cover all the space, which is supposed to be the marked zebra crossings for pedestrian.

Absence of these marking on the road also lead to arguments between city residents and the traffic policemen, who issue challans for crossing the stop lines, which are non-existent.

One motorist, Ravi (name changed), disclosed that he was issued a challan for crossing the stop line while there was no stop line at the traffic lights on which he was stopped. “The traffic police should issue a challan for jumping the stop line only when there is a stop line. The assumption that a commuter has jumped a stop line when there is no such line is absurd. Moreover, the police must first get the proper infrastructure and only then issue challans to people for violating traffic rules.”

However, the Superintendent of Police (traffic), Mr Arunpal Singh, denied that any such incident had taken place. Moreover, he claimed that in the past two or three months, no one had been issued a challan for jumping the stop line. He further said, “In the absence of the stop line only those people are issued challan who often come in center of the crossing at red signal and they are issued challans for jumping the red light.”

“The maintenance of roads is the responsibility of the Municipal Corporation, Ludhiana. We have a monthly co-ordination meeting with the MC officials during which we inform them about the repair and maintenance work needed on the roads and it is their job to do the work on the roads,” he added.

The Senior Engineer (B&R), Mr Lachhman Dass, when asked about the absence of stop lines and zebra crossings at important traffic lights in the city, said, “Ludhiana is a big city and it is impossible to be perfect at every stage. This is maintenance work and we work in co-ordination with the traffic police and from time to time we do the necessary work. The rains continue till September 15 and the stop lines and zebra crossings often get erased. Moreover, due to the volume of traffic in the city, the roads need frequent maintenance.”

When Mr Dass was asked if there was a problem of inadequate staff and funds to maintain the roads, he replied. “There is no such problem but as you know the maintenance work continues through out the year and if we finish this in one go then what would the labourers do for whole year.”


Excise dept officials conduct raids
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 9
Officials of the Central Excise Department have launched surveys of the steel furnace plants and steel-rerolling mills in the state to check the evasion of the central excise duty.

According to information available officials of the Central Excise Department have been checking the stocks of the furnace plants and the steel-rerolling mills for the past few days. Officials raided about two dozen mills in Mandi Gobindgarh and some units in Jalandhar, Malerkotla and Amritsar on Friday.

The officials of the department, however, refused to give any details of the outcome of the surveys. They rather expressed ignorance about the surveys.

The steel furnace and steel rerolling mills owners allege that the Central Excise revenue has fallen due to the recession and the raids had been started by the department, in order to generate more revenue.

They also revealed that more than one dozen furnace plants had been closed down in Ludhiana town alone.

Mr P.D. Sharma, president, Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Punjab while criticising the raids on furnace and steel mills said the recessions hit industry was getting another blow from Central Excise Department.

He said the government had admitted that the economy was in recession and the Prime Minister was holding series of meetings to boost the economy. The Finance Minister at the same time wanted growth of revenue from the industry. Every year the department was under pressure from Finance Minister to ensure growth of 25 per cent in revenue. Industry was being pressurised through such raids. He said there were many irritants in the provisions of law which were taking a heavy toll of the industry. The provision of 15 per cent higher transaction value was one such irritant.


Open second bridge on Sidhwan canal’
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 9
Mr Dildhiraj Singh Mann, a Janata Dal(S) leader, has demanded that the traffic should be started on the second bridge at Jawadi on the Sidhwan canal.

He said the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation had constructed double bridges across the Sidhwan canal to enable the smooth traffic flow a few years ago but the second bridge had not been opened as yet. There is a traffic jam at bridge during peak hours.


Two children electrocuted
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 9
Two unidentified minor children were admitted to the local civil hospital with serious burn injuries suffered due to electrocution when they came in contact with a pole supporting high voltage electric wires at Jagraon over bridge here today afternoon.

The children were less than 10 years of age and were playing near the pole when they accidently came in contact with it. They were rushed to the civil hospital where their condition was said to be serious.


Pirated cassettes seized
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 9
In a joint raid by the Kotwali and Division No 5 police, a large number of pirated audio and video cassettes were seized from several shops in Bhadaur House Market, which is one of the largest wholesale markets of cassettes in the region.

Two shopkeepers were also arrested by the police on the charges of selling pirated cassettes. The police, however, confirmed the arrest of only one person.

While the police was tight-lipped about the raid, the number of cassettes seized and the persons arrested, the shopkeepers alleged harassment at the hands of the police. Mr Bhola, a spokesperson of the shopkeepers, said the police action was illegal as the cassettes were original.

They said the catch was that the shopkeepers were selling cassettes legally, but the copy rights kept changing hands. He said when the copy right of one company expired the other took it over, but then these companies alleged that the cassettes already made available in the market by the previous company were duplicate and hence complained to the police.

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