Thursday, September 27, 2001, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S



MC contractors boycott tender calls
Apprehension on octroi front
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, September 26
Even though the proposal to do away with octroi, the mainstay of local bodies in Punjab, is yet to be given effect and there is no significant fall in the daily receipt from octroi in the city till date, the contractors enlisted with the Municipal Corporation are shying away from offering bids for the development works for quite some time now.

Sources in the MC revealed that ever since the issue of abolition of octroi became public and an atmosphere of uncertainty was created as far as the financial health of the local bodies was concerned, a majority of MC contractors have virtually been boycotting the occasional calls for tenders by various departments like B&R, electrical, O&M and supply of stores. There have been instances when tenders for development works, worth crores of rupees, evoked absolutely no response.

Knowledgeable circles attributed the phenomenon to apprehension by the contractors that once the octroi was abolished, the income of the MC would dwindle and at least for some time to come, the payments for work done would be hard to obtain. Although the state government has been making tall claims that the decision to abolish octroi would be given effect only when the alternative sources of revenue were in place, but there were very few persons, who would take these proclamations at the face value, if past experience was any indication.

“Funds collected on behalf of the local bodies by other government departments have taken, not months but years together, for disbursement in the past. For example, the octroi on liquor, collected by the Excise and Taxation Department was released, that too in part, to a number of MCs only after a writ petition was filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court,” commented a senior officer of the civic body, who did not want to be identified for obvious reasons.

That octroi is the major source of income for the MC in the industrial hub of Punjab is evident from the last year’s budget of over Rs 250 crore, in which an annual income of Rs 130 crore was projected from octroi. Talking to Ludhiana Tribune, senior MC officials apprehended that unless the government made such foolproof arrangements that the funds, generated through alternative means like entry tax or surcharge on sales tax, were readily available to the local bodies, the situation would become chaotic.

According to an estimate, there was a yawning gap of more than Rs 2 crore in the MC income from all sources, other than octroi and the unavoidable operational expenses, including salaries. Even a little delay in release of funds, coming from alternative sources, would adversely affect the development works as well as day-to-day working of the local bodies. The MC administration, while waiting with their fingers crossed for the formal announcement on abolition of octroi, had many apprehensions over the generation of revenue from alternative sources and modalities for its speedy disbursement.

When contacted, the Superintending Engineer B&R of the MC, Mr Lachman Das, maintained that at least for the time being, the reluctance of the contractors to file tenders had nothing to do with availability of funds. There might have been some delays, here and there, in making payments for the work done but these were purely due to administrative reasons. The fact was that most of the contractors had accumulated works with them and they wanted to finish the pending works as early as they could in the wake of reports that octroi was about to be abolished. He, however, agreed that abolition of octroi would have an impact, even if temporarily, on the financial health of the civic body and the contractors might have chosen to wait and watch for some time rather than taking risks.


Terrorist attacks affect hosiery industry
K. S. Chawla

Ludhiana, September 26
The September 11 strikes in the USA by terrorists have caused a setback to the export of hosiery items from this industrial hub of Punjab. There is gloom in the industry as the local manufacturers have not received enough order for the knitwear goods which include cotton, blended and woollen garments. The local hosiery manufacturers after the collapse of the Soviet Union have been concentrating on the promotion of their goods to the USA and the European countries and they had succeeded in creating a sizeable market for their products.

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon on September 11 have had detrimental effect on the industry. The local manufacturers have verbal orders from the USA for the supply of cotton, blended and woollen garments worth crores of rupees but no LCs (letter of credit).

To quote Mr Ashok Jaidka, Chairman, Wool and Woollens Export Promotion Council (WWEPC) “after September 11, we have not received any orders from the foreign buyers particularly from the USA and European countries and there is a panic among the local manufacturers.

According to Mr Balraj Kumar, a leading exporter of hosiery goods, the buyers have not opened the LCs and the shipments have also been stopped after September 11.

Mr Balraj Kumar says after USA, France in Europe has emerged the major buyer of hosiery items from India. Besides, Germany, Holland and England also buy goods from Ludhiana. Mr Jaidka pointed out that the industry was already reeling under the global economic slow down and the September 11 attacks had proved to be a disaster for the hosiery industry.

He disclosed that the export of knitwear during the year 2000-2001 was to the tune of Rs 1665.38 crore. During the current financial year, the export of the same was to the order of Rs 352.48 crore in the first quarter against the export of Rs 384.91 crore during the corresponding period showing rapid fall due to the global slowdown. The export of hosiery goods will fall further with the latest happenings in the USA.

Mr Ashwani Dhawan, a young hosiery exporter, points out that there are two seasons in the USA-Spring and Fall — and orders for the supply of goods are made during the months of November and December and March and deliveries are made in May, June and July.

Mr Dhawan says a magic show was held in Las Vegas in the USA at the end of August and countries from all over the world participate in this fair — readymade garments, including woven and knitted ones, are displayed at the fair. The orders are given at the time of the fair or after the fair. But so far they have not received any orders for the supply of knitwear goods including cotton, blended and woollens. Of the total export of hosiery to the USA and European countries nearly 65 per cent export is done to the USA. The total export of hosiery goods from Ludhiana is estimated at Rs 800 crore to the USA and European countries, according to Mr Jaidka.

France buys kidswear and ladies garments in bulk.

Criticising the policies of the government Mr Jaidka to pointed out that there is no uniformity in the same. He said under the marketing development assistance (MDA) scheme, the government was providing assistance to the units and the funds were put at the disposal of the WWEPC but this had been withdrawn now. “The government is hardly spending 1.5 per cent of the total export for the promotion of exports (marketing development) and even this is not properly utilised”, he said. The government must devise some policy for the proper utilisation of the funds and development of the markets.

According to Mr Jaidka, even the policy of giving duty drawbacks is defective and manufacturers hardly get 50 per cent of drawbacks. Mr Jaidka reveals that countries like Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and Nepal are posing competition to them in the international markets. Even South Africa is coming up in a big way to compete with Indian manufacturers. Hongkong has a liking for children frocks and has placed orders for the same. Mr Jaidka wants the government to set up laboratories of the WRA (Wool Research Association) in Ludhiana and Amritsar for the improvement of goods.

Ludhiana has been depending on the export of hosiery goods to the Soviet Union for more than 25 years and the export to the same touched peak of Rs 500 crore five years ago. In view of this huge export to the Soviet Union, the local manufacturers did not take much interest in promoting their exports to the Western market. It was only after disintegration of Soviet Union that they switched over to the Western nations and have made in roads. The export of hosiery goods to the Russian states has come down to about Rs 150 crore. But the hosiery sources allege that all this is taking place under unethical methods. The suppliers indulge in over invoicing and send their goods first to Dubai by sea and then from there by air to the buyers in Russia. They are allegedly earning dollars. All traditional or old exporters who made fortunes by exporting goods to the Soviet Union and had opened their offices in Moscow have closed down the offices.

Meanwhile, the local hosiery industry is also facing a serious slump. There is no buyer of goods and festival season is set to start in October and market is not witnessing any activity. Huge stocks of hosiery of last year have also accummulated and the local manufacturers have not received the payments of the last year as yet resulting in severe financial crunch in the market.



Loan sharks thrive as police found wanting
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 26
Notwithstanding the arrest of some illegal financiers in the city in the recent past, the business of illegal moneylenders, infamous as loan sharks, thrives in the city. The number of such loan sharks has risen to at least 40 in the past couple of months even as the police struggles to find effective ways to curb their growth.

Parallels are drawn between them and the old Sahukar system. The loan sharks wait for their prey, who due to his urgent financial need, falls in their trap. Once caught, he remains under the burden of the debt due to the high interest rate, which multiplies first after every month and then after a week and even daily. Many cases of city residents being in the clutches of loan sharks have been entered in police records. Only a small number of complaints have been made as apart from money power, the loan small sharks have enough muscle power to terrorise the debt-ridden.

Sources say at least half of the 40 unregistered financiers, who pump black money into the finance business, are new entrants. They have taken advantage of the void left in the finance market after the arrest of some illegal financiers. Police sources say their emergence has in a way defeated the purpose of curbing such a practice with the arrest of some persons. Faces have changed, but the evil practice continues.

The police is not free of allegations of shielding some such financiers. A number of media reports in the recent past have exposed the financier-police nexus. The reports say a number of leading moneylenders are using money of some police personnel as well as senior police officials, who in return are protecting them.

The activities of the loan sharks are questionable on several counts. They are illegal as they are not registered with the government. The legal financiers have to get registered with the government with the payment of fee. The government earns revenue through the financiers as they have to pay some amount regularly to the government. There is a bar on the limit of the money they can finance. The record is official and is in the knowledge of the Income Tax Department. The legal financiers can charge a limited rate of interest.

In the case of the illegal financiers, neither does the government earn any revenue, nor does the Income Tax Department get any benefit. Through the illegal financiers black money is circulated in the market. Some of them reportedly indulge in money transactions through the hawala racket.

The Ludhiana Tribune talked to a number of victims, who did not wish to be identified fearing backlash. According to one of them, though the financier was behind bars, his wife and other relatives had taken his place and had the potential to harm him.

The victims revealed that being an industrial city, huge transactions of money took place everyday. Due to the recession and competition among industrialists, many of them needed finance to carry on the projects. As finance from government agencies and banks required fulfilling of several conditions, including mortgaging of some property, the needy person sought finance from illegal moneylenders.

According to the victims, the moneylender appears as an angel initially, who agrees to lend him money on trust. He also allows the loanee to delay the payments till he weaves a strong web around the man. By the time the loanee is capable of returning some amount, he finds that the original loan amount has been multiplied several times on account of interest.

The harassment starts here. The financier mortgages the loanee’s property in his favour and starts humiliating him in front of the public to achieve his objective of confiscating all property. There have been several cases of the loanee being assaulted.

A victim, narrating his ordeal, said a muscleman of one such financier used to beat him up in the market and at his house and had detained him for several hours, forcing him to make the huge payment in a few days or hand over his property.

A senior police official admitted that the police received information about the activities of such financiers but in the absence of a willing complainant, who could not only lodge a complaint, but also withstand the adverse reaction, the police could not do much.



Traffic police for status quo on number plates
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 26
Seeking an end to confusion prevailing in the city over the issue of orders regarding number plates of vehicles, the traffic wing of the city police today announced that city residents should maintain the status quo regarding the number plates.

Those who had altered the number plates would not be challaned now as the new orders had not been notified. Those who had not changed the number plates should wait for a while till the authorities informed them to change the plates.

The SP (Traffic), Mr Arun Pal Singh told Ludhiana Tribune that there was no need to panic over the issue of number plates. As the government was still in the process of finalising the methodology and providing the required infrastructure, it had been decided at the local level that the status quo regarding the number plates should be maintained.

The SP said some decision over the issue would be reached at within a week, after which the administration would give ample time to the public to alter the number plates according to the conditions.

He again assured the public that nobody would be challaned on this issue.

There was widespread confusion among the public regarding the form of number plates. While some had changed these after the court orders, others had not done so. One could witness different types of number plates in the city.

Some persons who had already changed the number plates of their vehicles were apprehensive of being challaned as the state government had not notified the orders.

Mr Arun Pal Singh also assured the public that it would be duly informed about the developments and advised the residents not to take any step on their own.



Same person, different challans!
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 26
While the traffic police maintains that no person will be challaned on the issue of changing or not changing the number plates, some residents of Thrike village had a bitter experience of the challaning system when some policemen challaned them for improper number plates near the Sarabha Nagar main road here on Monday evening.

Jasbir Singh, one of the residents, said while the cops told them that they had been challaned for improper number plate, the challan copy said they were challaned for driving a two-wheeler without a number plate. Interestingly, when the villager approached a senior police officer with a lawyer, the officer clarified that they were challaned as the pillion rider was not wearing a helmet. At least three other villagers were also challaned in the same manner.

The villagers were sore over the cop’s action as first of all there were no orders of challaning persons on the basis of the number plates and, secondly, the cops challaned them saying something else and wrote something else on the chit. The villagers said they were peeved at the action as they had number plates, but were officially challaned for not possessing them. Then they were challaned for not wearing helmets whereas some of them were Sikhs while the rest were wearing helmets.

The SP (Traffic), Mr Arun Pal Singh, when contacted said he would check up the matter and act accordingly.


PAU accepts 10 employees’ demand
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 26
Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has finally given in to the demand of 10 employees fighting a legal battle to get their dues from the university for the past 20 years.

The Registrar of PAU today issued a circular to the Deans and Heads of the various departments to put up the cases of these employees working in their offices with the audit department immediately and to ensure the payment within a week.

The matter dates back to 1978. These employees were given incentives on enhancement of qualifications that year, but were fighting a legal battle in the high court as well as the Supreme Court.

A copy of the order, issued by the Registrar, said he had sought the intimation of the cases to his office, failing which the Dean and Head of the Department concerned would be held responsible for non-compliance of court orders.

The Registrar also wrote to the Deputy Controller (Local Audit) to admit the payment in these cases on priority basis in order to avoid contempt of court petition. The Registrar further wrote that since the Principal Secretary (Finance) had been made a party, the payment in cases of these employees should be made.

The PAU announced increments to certain employees in 1978 and the decision was implemented in 1980. The audit department had raised an objection to this and the employees had moved the court. The HC had given the judgement in favour of the employees.

One of the employees said the matter had been in the Supreme Court for some time, which had given a landmark judgement, stating that the Board of Management of the university was the supreme committee and the state government could not interfere in this.

The employees concerned are Mr Tarsem Lal, senior scale stenographer, Mr Jagir Singh, accounts officer, Mr R.N. Kalia and Mr Satish Kumar, superintendents, Mr Sudarshan Gupta and Mohan Lal Gupta, senior scale stenographers, Mr H.S. Pahwa, accounts officer, Ms Kusum Mahajan, administrative-cum-accounts officer, Mr Surinder Kumar Singla, P.A., and Mr Harbhajan Singh, superintendent.


Stock exchange elections on Sept 29
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 26
The elections of three directors of the Ludhiana Stock Exchange will be held on September 29.

The Jaspal group led by Mr Jaspal Singh, a former president and presently one of the directors, has fielded Mr Dharam Pal Gandhi, Mr Harjeet Singh Arora and Mr Rajnish Garg. On the other hand, the Singhal group has fielded Mr Dhiraj Ghai, Mr Manoj Sarna and Mr Nitin Gupta.

The position of the Jaspal group has been strengthened with the support of Dr Rajiv Kalra, one of the elected directors, and Mr T.S. Dhingra, a former vice-president, LSE, whose term is coming to an end.


Rare surgery at DMCH
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 26
Dayanand Medical College and Hospital has introduced neuro vascular surgery (aneurysmal clipping), a highly complicated surgery of the brain.

Claiming this, Dr Ashwani Kumar Choudhry, Consultant, Micro-neurosurgeon, who has visited to Germany, Slovenia and the USA to pioneer this technique, said the first surgery was successfully performed at the DMCH on September 20.

According to a press note, aneurysmal rupture (sudden brain attack) was a condition which required an emergency surgery, otherwise the patient could die within a few hours.

He said due to non-availability of this facility earlier, many patients died before reaching to Chandigarh and New Delhi, the only places where these facilities were available. Dr Choudhry claimed that people can approach the hospital in a shorter span of time, which would also decrease the mortality and morbidity rate of such patients.

He said the highest incidence of brain attack occur in the age group of 40 to 60.



War movies are the rage now
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, September 26
The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, a fortnight back seems to have proved a blessing in disguise for those giving films on rent and for bookshop owners in the city. There has been an upsurge in the number of people demanding video cassettes and CDs of war movies. Books on terrorism, especially regarding the rise of the Taliban or containing details about Afghanistan, are also selling like hot cakes.

A number of cinema halls have started screening war movies. The owner of a cinema hall showing a war movie says there has been a steep rise in sales after the attacks.

Apart from war movies, some films woven round predictions made by soothsayers, especially Nostradamus, are also in great demand.

People are hiring movies like “Pearl Harbor”, “Air Force one,” “The Man Who Saw Tomorrow”, and “Tora Tora Tora”. The attack on the WTC has renewed the craze to see “Pearl Harbor”.

According to Dr Vinay Gupta, a psychiatrist at Dayanand Medical College, “The violence stimulates and exhilarates some people, though some people get depressed. Many a people get a kick and in the kind of mental state they are they want to understand the phenomenon and want to understand the psychology of the terrorists. They think that similar movies will provide the answers.”

He continues, “For most people repeated watching of similar events proves to be therapeutic. It acts like a catharsis and relieves their fear and anxiety associated with this kind of violence. The film-makers make such films as they know the viewers are looking for gruesome and awe-inspiring movies as a certain section of people get thrilled to see acts of violence as they are not affected personally with the tragedy. Some people do not show any remorse, as witnessed on TV. Certain sects were celebrating the destruction.”

A group of men who have watched a couple of movies bases on violence say, “The World Trade Center incident was a nerve shattering experience. We were literally shaken to roots. Seeing movies like “Pearl Harbor” has had therapeutic effect. We sit glued to the TV and repeated watching of the same incidents has calmed our frayed nerves.”

Ricky and Vikas ,who have a video library are amazed to notice the public trend. They say, “The people in their 30s are hiring war movies. This kind of keenness to see movies involving terrorist activity has not been experienced by us earlier.”

Prof Rajeev Sehgal, who teaches Psychology at a local college, says people want to see similar films partly out of curiosity to find answers to many questions and partly to reduce anxiety and it desentisises the person. There is a law that says when a person is repeatedly exposed to fear producing stimuli again and again in the absence of negative effects of such exposures, fear and anxiety is reduced, he explains.

Some persons, on the other hand, are upset by the gruesome acts of violence and horrified to see so many innocent persons losing their lives for no fault of theirs. They do not wish to see such things again. They develop a phobia to violence and live in their shells.



Youth Akali factions to stage protest
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 26
The Sarb Hind Shiromani Youth Akali Dal, the All-India Sikh Students Federation, the Youth Akali Dal (Amritsar) and the Dal Khalsa would hold a demonstration and stage a dharna at Rajpal Bhawan in Chandigarh on October 5 to highlight several key issues concerning Panthic bodies in the state. These include increasing instances of sacrilege of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, release of detained Sikh youth, proposal to grant amnesty to police officers and voting rights to Sehajdhari Sikhs, among them.

Addressing a news conference at Gurdwara Akalgarh here today, Mr Karnail Singh Panjoli, president, Sarb Hind Shiromani Youth Akali Dal, alleged that ever since the SAD (B) supremo, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, assumed office as Chief Minister, there have been seven incidents of sacrilege against holy Sri Guru Granth Sahib. He said Mr Badal was not only pursuing a policy, which was against the larger Panthic interests but had gone to the extent of politicisation of Sikh institutions like Sri Akal Takht and the SGPC and turning the ruling SAD-B into his “private property.”

He rued that a large number of Sikh youth were languishing in jails for years together now without having been tried and the ‘so-called’ Akali Dal government had remained unmindful of their poor plight. Charging the government of the day and the judiciary with ‘double standards’, Mr Panjoli remarked that while two Sikh youths accused of killing the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, were hanged a decade ago, the culprits for the massacre of Sikhs, which occurred at the same time, were yet to be brought to book. Similarly, General Vaidya murder case was disposed of with undue haste and the two accused awarded capital punishment, but the suit, seeking compensation of Rs 1000 crore for damage caused to the Golden Temple complex during the Army action was hanging fire for the last several years.

The SHSYAD chief strongly opposed the government move to grant amnesty to the police officers facing charges of gross violation of human rights and indiscriminate killings of Sikh youth. The issue of voting right to Sehajdhari Sikhs in the SGPC elections, Mr Panjoli added, was being kept alive by the government with the intention of facilitating the intrusion of non-Sikhs in the SGPC, the highest temporal body of the Sikh community.

Mr Panjoli earlier addressed a meeting of the state executive of the party in which plans were drawn up for the joint protest to be held on October 5 and draft of a letter, to be addressed to all religious and Panthic bodies, was finalised. Mr Sukhwinderpal Singh Garcha, secretary-general of SHSYAD was also present.

Meanwhile, the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal secretary-general, Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, has described the act of installation of a statue of Mr Devi Lal, a former Chief Minister of Haryana at Kilianwali by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal as another betrayal. Talking to media persons here, he said Mr Devi Lal, throughout his political career, had worked against the interests of Punjab.


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