Monday, October 15, 2001, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S



Passengers inconvenienced, courtesy traffic police
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 14
Hundreds of passengers travelling to different places or coming to Ludhiana were literally taken for a ride by overzealous cops. In a late night swoop, the traffic police officials stopped all private vehicles and seized their documents. The vehicles which did not have any documents were impounded, leaving hundreds of passengers in the lurch.

The worst was the stopping of three buses carrying students of the Guru Nanak Khalsa College for Girls Model Town outside the Ludhiana railway station. The students were returning from Chintpurni after a picnic when they were stopped. All protests of the students and teachers fell on deaf ears.

It created panic among the parents as the girls were stranded outside the railway station for over two hours till 11 pm. Many parents reached the railway station but unsuccessfully argued with the police.

The police did not spare buses coming from Delhi on way to Jammu or Jalandhar and vice versa. The passengers were taken aback as it was difficult for them to make alternative arrangements late in the night. A number of them huddled themselves into buses of various roadways, like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr Avinash Singh, who was on way to Delhi along with his wife from Jalandhar, said he was made to wait for over three hours. “We fail to understand what made the traffic officials to act in an overzealous manner and stop all private buses”, he protested, while pointing the predicament of hundreds of passengers.

While the privately-operated buses were held up along with hundreds of passengers, many taxi operators made hay charging exorbitant fare from helpless passengers. The commuters were critical of the police and expressed surprise as to what made it detain the buses midway “without any rhyme or reason”.

Some bus operators alleged that the police was trying to put extra pressure on all of them and did not make any distinction between legal and illegal operators. They said the only reason forwarded by the police was that the buses were violating parking norms outside the Ludhiana railway station.

Thousands of passengers travel daily in private buses which are reportedly more comfortable compared to government buses with same fare, making them more popular. The Punjab Roadways has been protesting this for a long time and attributes losses partially to these operations. 


Kidney racket: cops’ role to be probed
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 14
The sensational kidney racket in the city, which reportedly involves some persons in the medical fraternity, Health Department employees and some policemen is getting murkier as even names of some politicians who used their influence to bypass rules and got kidney transplantation of their relatives done, have also sprung up in police investigation.

The police investigation says that at least two politicians, one serving and the other a former minister, had availed the services of the accused agent Amritpal Singh. Reliable sources said records of several such cases were being collected. Many skeletons are coming out of the closet with each passing day of investigation into the racket that came to light a few days ago in the city following a complaint of three donors and the subsequent arrest of an agent in the racket.

Swinging into action today over allegations of involvement of policemen in the racket, the district police became the first department today to announce an inquiry into the allegations of involvement of some of its employees in the racket. The Health department and some private hospitals which have been named in the racket ware yet to do so. Interestingly, there has been mention of the Municipal Corporation in police verification as the claims of a donor of being a close member of a recipient’s family is also cleared after checking his antecedents by the MC.

The district police has announced inquiry into the startling disclosure made by the accused Rajesh Kumar that he along with the other accused Amritpal Singh was caught by officials of the Moti Nagar police two months ago and let off after payment of Rs 90,000. The police will also inquire how the complainants got through a police verification even as the police officials were uncertain whether any such verification was done in this case. The police action comes in the wake of news reports published today in these columns that a number of policemen were involved in the case.

SP City-1 G S Sandhu told Ludhiana Tribune that an inquiry had been ordered into both allegations. He, however, added that the police was ascertaining whether any such verification was done. He said as per his knowledge nothing in this regard was ever done.

Interestingly, Ludhiana Tribune has got reliable information that the absconding accused Amritpal Singh, the keyman in the racket, was giving some “monthly” to a couple of SHOs in the city. Police sources claimed that the man originally operated same racket in Jaipur in Rajasthan and shifted to Ludhiana because of fear of the Rajasthan Police.

He bought a house in Haibowal and stayed there for some time while doing some business in shoes. After some months he allegedly re-started his kidney business. A police official of Kotwali, who somehow got information about his antecedents, swooped on him and demanded a “monthly” share. Their partnership continued for several months. Later on as his activities became suspicious he sold off his house and shifted to focal point where also he opened a partner shop with some policemen. Meanwhile, a spokesperson of the DMCH said that the hospital staff was in no way involved in any such racket and only operations were done here. The spokesperson said each case was cleared by a screening committee and it rejected several cases if it was not convinced. The spokesperson said the hospital staff had no relation with the accused.

Meanwhile, the DMCH Employees Union today expressed deep concern at the alleged kidney racket. The president of the union, Mr Chander Mohan Kalia, urged the hospital management to clear its name as the hospital staff was not involved in any illegal kidney transplantation.

Dr Gursharan Singh, president district unit of the IMA, also demanded a thorough probe into the matter. He said the IMA does not accept that the doctors could be a party to any such activity. He said the doctors always have patients’ concern in mind.

Meanwhile, Rajesh kumar, the only person to be arrested in the case so far, was remanded to judicial custody by a duty magistrate in the afternoon. He was arrested two days ago. The main accused Amritpal Singh has not been nabbed so far. The police did not conduct any raid since last evening as it was busy in making arrangements for the visit of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to the city today.


Badal: one judicial probe in Bir case
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, October 14
The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has said that there will be only one judicial inquiry into the recent incidents of burning of ‘Birs’ and sacrilege against Guru Grant Sahib in Punjab.

After the conclusion of the Agarsain Jayanti celebrations at Aggar Nagar here today, he said the government had already made a formal request to the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to designate a Judge for this purpose.

When asked about the setting up of a three-member probe panel, comprising two retired Judges of the High Court, by Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Mr Badal said the matter would be sorted out in consultation with the SGPC chief.

On the issue of expected expansion of the Union Cabinet by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, on Monday, the CM declined to comment on the controversy surrounding the reinduction of former Union defence minister, Mr George Fernandez, into the Cabinet. Mr Fernandez had stepped down after allegations of his involvement in the Tehelka case.

The CM said the Cabinet reshuffle was a prerogative of the PM. He said Punjab had not sought more ministerial berths in the Union Cabinet.

Mr Badal said the procurement of paddy in this season had been smooth, so far, and, weather permitting, the procurement would be over in abouut 10 days from now. He said, besides the provision of all facilities in ‘mandis’, farmers of the state had been assured of getting a minimum support price for paddy. “There has been no complaint regarding the procurement,” he said.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sandhu, the Additional Deputy Commissioner, Mr A.K. Sinha, and the Additional Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation, Mr Raminder Singh, were also present on the occasion.


Badal calls for safeguarding peace and amity
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, October 14
The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today gave a clarion call to the people of Punjab to safeguard the hard-won peace and communal amity in this border state. Speaking at a function to mark Maharaja Agarsain Jayanti at Aggar Nagar Dasehra Ground here, he said the teachings of the Gurus for mutual love and trust could be utilised as guiding principles for this purpose.

Recalling the black days of senseless violence and bloodshed, which lasted more than a decade in the state, Mr Badal said the biggest achievement of the SAD-BJP coalition government headed by him was strong bonds of brotherhood and communal harmony. “By creating an atmosphere of trust and brotherhood between the different communities in Punjab, I have fulfilled one of the greatest missions of my life.” He strongly pleaded for collective and concerted efforts for creating a classless and progressive society, based on social justice and equality as preached by Maharaja Agarsain.

Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, Minister for Legal Affairs, Punjab, Mr Amrit Lal Aggarwal, President, Bharat Ekta Council and Chairman of Reception Committee, Mr Pradeep Mittal, President, Akhil Bharatiya Aggarwal Sammelan, Mr Nand Kishore Goenka, member, Agroha Vikas Trust, and Mr Ram Parkash Garg, Chairman, Punjab Land Development Council also addressed the function and focused on the significant role of the Aggarwal community in the freedom struggle and nation building in the post-independence period.

The Chief Minister regretted that the present state of the country was not what the great freedom fighters and martyrs had dreamt of. India, which once upon a time was known as land of gold and even now was rich in natural resources, was among the poorest countries in the world. A majority of the population was living below poverty line and the per capita income was among the lowest. He lamented that society had witnessed social degradation and there was a mad race for amassing wealth by certain individuals. “Such unethical practices and traditions must end if we want to create an ideal society as conceived by great saints and gurus.”

Mr Badal pointed out that Punjab had been on the forefront, during the freedom struggle and in the national reconstruction. More than 80 per cent among the martyrs, who laid down their lives during the war for Independence, were from Punjab. Prominent among them were Bhagat Singh, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Lala Lajpat Rai and Udham Singh. It was solely due to the sacrifices made by these great sons of the soil that the country attained its freedom from 200 years of British rule.

The Chief Minister made a mention of the significant role played by the Aggarwal community in the nation-building activities. Tracing their close bonds with the sikh community, he said it was Lala Todar Mal, a prominent member of Aggarwal clan, who had arranged land at Sirhind for performing the last rites of Baba Zora Singh and Baba Fateh Singh, the two sons of Guru Gobind Singh.

Mr Badal announced that the government would provide land at reserve price, in addition to a grant of Rs 5 lakh, for the construction of Aggarwal Bhavan at Mohali. He further announced the acceptance of a demand by Aggarwal Sabha to declare October 17 a public holiday in memory of Maharaja Agarsain.


BJP for stern action against miscreants
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 14
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has demanded stern action against all those responsible for acts of burning of birs. A resolution condemning these acts in the state was passed at a special meeting of the district presidents and senior office-bearers of the party here today.

The meeting was held in connection with the preparations for the All-India Working Committee meeting of the party being held at Amritsar from November 2 to 4. All the state office-bearers, morhca presidents, district presidents, generals secretaries and presidents of all the 140 mandals of the BJP attended the meeting which was presided over by state general secretary Avinash Jaiswal.

Mr Jaiswal hailed the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, for his “outstanding performance” and pointed out that this fact had been acknowledged in a survey conducted by a leading English weekly of the country which had described Mr Badal as the best Chief Minister of Punjab so far.

The BJP leader lambasted Congress leaders for trying to sabotage the peace in the state and malign the Akali-BJP government. He claimed that the party had no issue with which it could go to the people so it was trying to spread lies and canards. He pointed out, the PCC president, Capt Amarinder Singh, stood exposed as he had been charged by his own party leader Mr Maninderjeet Singh Bitta with having appointed a terrorist as an office-bearer.

He said, the greatest achievement of the Akali-BJP government in the state was the peace and development. Three resolutions were passed at the meeting. General secretary Narotam Dev Ratti condemned the sacrilegious acts by some miscreants and urged the Chief Minister that such attempts on the part of vested interests should be firmly dealt with and the guilty identified and brought to book.


3,000 employees or 3,000 bonded labourers?
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 14
About 3,000 employees of 141 panchayat samitis in the state are protesting because the Punjab Government has not paid them their salaries for the past two to four months. The Finance Department of the state has to pay them about Rs 3 crore in salaries and this has been continuing for the past two years. Sources in the department said emplyoees of these samitis, who form the backbone of about 12,000 panchayats in Punjab, may have to celebrate this Divali without any money in their pockets.

Mr Malkeet Singh, a leader of the Punjab Panchayat Samiti Employees Union, said, “The government has distributed cheques for crores of rupees among panchayats at ‘sangat darshan’ programmes, but it says that it does not have money to pay the samitis men who do most of the work for panchayats. It seems that we are in Laloo’s Bihar and not Punjab,” he said.

The union leaders said the government had not ensured the timely payment of salaries, despite repeated protests. Workers of the samitis had staged several protests in Chandigarh, but nothing had been done to improve the situation.

They said, under the Panchayati Raj Act, the zila parishads and panchayat samitis did not have adequate financial powers, so these were not able to pay their own employees. How could anyone execute development works in this situation? These local bodies had been dissolved by the ruling alliance in 1998, soon after coming to power, as part of political games, they said.

Under the Panchayati Raj Act, the samitis were expected to have executive powers to run primary schools, village health systems. These were also supposed to control tubewell operators, patwaris and the other rural workers. Officially, the samitis are dependent on village panchayats, who are expected to provide them with 20 per cent of the revenue from the ‘shamlat’ land. However, panchayats in the state have not been doing so.

Sources in the department said the government had appointed employees of the Department of Rural Development and Panchayats, besides regular staff, on these samitis. The department employees, however, were getting salaries regularly. The union leaders said, due to the division of employees into these two types, there was no coordination between them and the work was suffering.

Another employee, who did not wish to be quoted, said, “We are like bonded labourers of the government, who are not paid for months together. Now, we have decided to approach the High Court to get our salaries.”

Mr Mandeep Singh, Director of the Department of Rural Development and Panchayats, when contacted in Chandigarh on telephone, said, “The payment of salaries has been delayed because we get money from the liquor tax account on quarterly basis. The department has already received a Rs 7.5 crore grant and Rs 3.25 crore for would be released by the next week towards the payment of salaries. The department is trying to convince the government to release the quarterly grant in advance, so that, the salaries can be paid on time.”

Sources in the department said the government was considering a proposal to terminate the services of about 500 panchayat secretaries who had been appointed on ad hoc basis.


Smog causes respiratory diseases in region
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 14
Contrary to the claims of the Deputy Commissioner that the smog engulfing the region for the past two days was not a matter of concern, the residents have already started developing symptoms of various ailments due to the smoke.

Ludhiana engulfed by smog at night due to the burning of paddy stubble. RB

While the Deputy Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sandhu, yesterday said that there was no reason for the residents to panic as the smog was a natural phenomenon during this season, city hospitals have already started receiving patients complaining of difficulty in breathing and irritation in the eyes.

The city has been witnessing cloudy evenings for the past two days, thanks to the rampant burning of paddy stubble by farmers despite warnings by the agricultural experts and environmentalists that the process can ruin the soil health and environment.

While the smog was being witnessed in the evenings, the smell of smoke was even being felt during the daytime also. The environmentalists are of the opinion that due to fall in temperature the smog was getting collected near the surface of the earth as the smoke being generated was getting mixed with the fog.

It is not only in the city that the smog is engulfing, in villages the situation is even grimmer. The villagers are witnessing smoke all through the day and facing a poor visibility during nights. A local doctor in Pakhowal village told Ludhiana Tribune that he was receiving patients, particularly the children with bronchitis and other respiratory problems and irritation in the eyes.

Dr Baldeep Singh of Deep Hospital said that he was getting patients complaining of bronchitis, laryngitis, distress and difficulty in breathing. He said that the scenario was going to continue during the next two weeks as the smog was so thick that it would take that much time to settle.

He said that the children were more in distress as they had smaller respiratory passages and were complaining of difficulty in breathing. He said that last year also a similar situation was witnessed and many patients with these diseases had reported to him. He said that this smoke which had resulted in the formation of smog after getting mixed with mist was dangerous for the asthma patients.

He advised the residents to cover their noses with a clean cloth while going out in the smog. He also advised the residents to wear glasses to protect their eyes from the smoke which was causing irritation and reddening of eyes.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioner has advised the farmers not to burn the paddy stubble and incorporate it in the fields. He said that after talking to experts he was advising the farmers as it was more economical for them as they would not require much money to spend on the chemicals to kill the pests which are known to attack the crop after the incorporation of the stubble in the fields.

Mr Sandhu also said that the burning of the stubble was detrimental for the health of the soil as it killed the micro-organisms beneficial for the soil and burnt the micronutrients also.


Learn English, have confidence
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, October 14
Everyone has the desire to have a good job, personality and confidence, for which the knowledge of English is a must here. Such desires give business to institutes of English where teachers promise to make students, businessmen and housewives fluent in the language. With globilisation and computerisation influence the world, English has risen in importance because of its global reach.

Poonam Sethi of one such institute here said her institute, that had been established in the 1980s, had helped thousands of students from all walks of life learn spoken English. She said this had helped these students clear interviews and tests like TOEFL and the IELTS.

Poonam said, “The motto of the institute is ‘from no English to know English’. We have devised various need-based courses according to the knowledge base of students. The basic course is for students, housewives and those preparing for interviews. Students show dramatic improvement in the course of these two-month courses. Specially programmed Computers help students use the correct grammar in spoken English. When they are fluent in English, their personality undergoes a huge change. They become more confident. In these classes, students learn with all modern audio-visual aids.

There are also courses for those who have the basic knowledge of English after having studied it in colleges, but are shy and tongue tied. They are scared of making mistakes and becoming laughing stocks. Such students are motivated to remove the ‘t’ from ‘can’t’ to prove that they ‘can’. The courseware has been modeled on western techniques adapted to the local conditions.

After one acquired confidence, the next step is the teaching of phonetics with the help of computers. A special software teaches students the correct pronunciation of each word. Unlike Indian languages, English is not phonetically sound — one does not pronounce words as these are written. Learners have to master these sounds after listening to correct pronunciations on taped conversations. “Reading is of no use, if you do not practice how to speak correctly,” says Suresh Nahan, a teacher of spoken English.

Ms Gurmeet of another such institute is foreign trained. She said, “We have young learners who wish to improve their spoken English to gain confidence. Most students do not approach teachers with their difficulties as they are too shy to ask questions in English. We alos have need-based courses for those who have to face interview boards for jobs. The class strength is small, so that, every student gets personal attention.”

Brides-to-be who have to travel abroad and rich businessmen feel inadequate if they cannot converse with foreigners. Housewives need to have accents that they can flaunt at kitty parties. Anxious parents want their children to be good in English to be good in studies. The world, it seems, is keen on learning English, especially spoken English, for grabbing tremendous opportunities that comes it way because of fluency in the language.


Gambling season picks up in Ludhiana
D.B. Chopra

Ludhiana, October 14
Scene I: Some men are sitting in a small circle in a less frequented part of a city market. Their common interest is centered on a pack of playing cards which is being shuffled by one of them.

One of the men places his bet in the form of some crumpled currency notes in front and calls for the ‘queen’, his favourite card, while others wait for their turn. Engrossing business, indeed. Would the card be ‘in’ or ‘out’, is the question that provides the real thrill of the whole thing. The more a gambler losses, the more desperate he becomes. He goes in for bigger bets in the hope of making good his loss. Sometimes he succeeds while on other occasions he does not. Such are the vagaries of the game.

Scene II: Four men are closeted together in a room in a residential colony and playing rummy with high stakes. The moment anyone of them makes a noise, yelling at the unwanted card or something else, he is chided by others for doing so. Reason, the noise could arouse suspicion among the neighbours who could inform the police.

Scene III: At a ladies club, rich moms and grandmas while away their leisure time, playing ‘kanwa’, an improvised form of ‘flash’. Bets run into even lakhs of rupees. In other clubs of the town also, men and women indulge in rummy, flash and so on. The only difference is that instead of cash, they use tokens which can be encashed later.

Scene IV: A cluster of shoeshine boys are haggling over a particular bet in the back lane of Bhadaur House market along the drain. The boys are out to try their luck with their meagre earnings. Either they go home with a couple of hundred rupee or nothing at all.

Scene V: A small group of beggars near Durga temple on the Club road, who are high on marijuana chilums, are throwing a dice called ‘daana’ to decide the stakes. It matters little to them whether they win or lose. But gamble they must, come what may.

Come festival season and it is business time for a large number of people who arrange ‘safe places’ for the gambling fraternity in return for a specific share or a fixed sum per hour. If the place is raided by the police, it is the gamblers’ bad luck.

In case there is a police raid, which is rare, all the gamblers lose all their money as the same is taken away by the cops. They are let off after they agree to pay a certain amount per head the next morning. Even if a ‘parcha’ is registered, the amount shown is only peanuts as compared to the actual amount seized.

The police, which has no way of knowing where the gamblers will be meeting on a particular night, is generally, informed by a dejected loser who wants to settle a score with the winners.

The city police and its CIA staff books on an average a couple of gambling parties everyday. Most of the persons apprehended thus are commoners. Seldom does the city police catch big-time gamblers.

The amount involved in gambling during these days exceeds crores, according to conservative estimates. But compared to it, the seizuers claimed by the police are not even the tip of the proverbial iceberg.


Phone subscribers seek IT return exemption
Tribune News Service

Khanna, October 14
The United Welfare Club, Khanna, through its president Girish Kant Mehta, has written to the Ministry of Finance, to exempt telephone subscribers from the mandatory filing of income tax return. In a letter written to the Finance Minister the club has stated that about 90 per cent of the telephone subscribers were paying about Rs 200 per month as telephone bills. So these persons could not be placed in the higher income group, liable to pay income tax.

According to the letter, the mandatory provisions for the telephone subscribers should be linked with the amount of telephone bills like club membership fee of Rs 25,000 per year, to file the income tax returns.

Members said as per notification (No. 507-E dated June 11, 2001) the senior citizens above age of 65 years were already exempted from filing IT returns. They demanded that the filing of income tax returns against two provisions such as telephone subscribers and residential/commercial building clauses under the 1/6 scheme of income tax should also be reviewed.


Add a touch of green to plush interiors
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, October 14
“Potted plants have become an integral part of our life and are used for decorating homes, apartments, hotels, offices and public buildings. Attractive and decorative potted plants can be grown in these locations with adequate knowledge of many interdependent factors affecting plant growth. Potted plants are grown under different situations. For good plant growth, ideal light, temperature and humidity are the main factors,” says Dr J.S. Arora, former Head Department of Floriculture and Landscaping, Punjab Agricultural University.

“Potted plants, are grown under partially shady conditions and high atmospheric humidity. While the plants are moved from such growing environment into home or office, interiors, they need time to adjust to the darkness and drier conditions. Insufficient time or care may result in yellowing of leaf, droppage of foliage or complete loss of the plant. To illustrate this, the best example is of croton plants. When shifted to colder conditions from warmer conditions, these shed the leaves and in many cases plant dies,” he adds.

According to Prof J.S. Arora, various kinds of plants are being grown, varying from seasonal, plants, perennial herbs, shrubs, trees and foliage plants, in pots of different kinds, designs and shapes. “All these plants differ in light, temperature and humidity requirements. The selection of the plants should be done judiciously according to the microclimate of the place where these plants are to be kept. By and large, for interior decoration, the foliage plants are mostly grown in the pot which requires less of light and medium temperature,” he explains.

The pots of different sizes and made up of different material are used for growing potted plants.The pot should be impressive and appealing. The selection of the size of the pot depends upon the nature of plant and place to be decorated. Precautions should be taken that it has holes. For interior decorations, saucer of the same material should also be used which will avoid the spillage of excess water from the pot. Most common size of the pot used is 22.5 cm to 30 cm. These pots should be economical,” he states.

“Light is the most important factor responsible for photosynthesis, growth and brightness of foliage. With inadequate light, photosynthesis will be insufficient for growth, resulting in plant deterioration and ultimately death. The three variables concerning light — intensity, quality and duration — are important. A good pot mixture should serve as a reservoir and should hold water,” he asserts.

“Plants require little fertilisation. Rapid growth is generally undesirable and plants may outgrow. Special indoor fertilisers are available for various kinds of plant material. Each pot has a drain hole in the bottom, which should be covered with pebbles in inverted position in such a way so that provides proper drainage. It will help in proper soil drainage and check waterlogging. The pot should be filled with prepared soil mixture, leaving 2.5 to 5 cm of the pot, he contends.

According to Dr Arora, one can plant foliage or green plants to enhance the beauty of rooms and can plants like ferns and crotons. “In the winter one can plant aster, petunia, iceplant, dahlia and chrysanthemum. Watering is important and plants wilt if not watered. Keep foliage clean and gently wipe the leaves with a moist tissue or a wet soft cloth to keep the foliage sparkling. Remove stubborn residue with a small amount of handsoap added to water, he says.

“Repotting should be done in July and August or February and March. Insects and pests should be controlled by insecticides and fungicides. These should be of low toxicity, he warns.


Festive season brings cheer to sellers
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, October 14
During the recent season of ‘shradhs’ and one-long month of ‘laund’, considered inauspicious according to religious beliefs, the market was lack lustre. Shopkeepers had sleepless nights and boring days as customers were few and far between, leading to a lot of tension. They could forsee the huge losses staring them in the face.

Mercifully the markets are again looking up. Marriage season is beginning after October 16. Exhibitions of consumer goods are being organised at different places heralding a good season for sellers.

The CII fair is going to be held this month from October 19 on the PAU grounds.

Sulkashan Jain, a shopkeeper in Ghumar Mandi, said, “It is for the first time that we heard of this month ‘laund.’ I was told that it comes after 150 years. Thank God, it comes after such a long period, for if it came every year, we would be ruined. The summer season has been extremely lean for us. This year the NRIs have not arrived and that, too, has added to the slump in the market. Notwithstanding the unprofitable season, we have to stock the shop with different varieties for festive and winter season. The sales have picked up slightly from last week but we definitely hope for an upward swing in our sales after October 16 when the month of ‘laund” ends. We hope our misery would end too.”

Markets have banners of ‘sale’ displayed outside. Even designers are offering hefty discounts to clear off the summer stock and make room for new designs. One of the shopkeepers of Chaura Bazaar, said, “Even if we give 30 per cent discount and tempt customers by offering discount up to 50 per cent, we do not stand to lose money. The 50 per cent discount is the “catch” as it is offered on only a few and not very popular items. But undoubtedly the year has not been very good for us. Less sale means less profit. Profit or no profit, we have to maintain monthly overheads. We have to pay salaries, maintain airconditioning. The frequent power breakdowns also added to our woes.”

We hope to give customers new designs, varieties, fabrics etc for the festival season and winters. Softer tones of summers have given way to brighter hues of winter wardrobe. The fabrics are heavier, but nonetheless the short sleeves will remain in vogue he added.


Set up department of gold’
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 14
The Sawarankar Sangh has urged the Union Government to establish a separate department of gold to boost the manufacturing, trade and exports of gold ornaments. In a memorandum submitted to the Central and state governments, the body has urged the government to provide backward castes’ status to the Suniyara community, which had more than one crore population in the country, so that they could also get educational and social benefits. There should also be a provision of reservation of seats in the state legislative assemblies and Parliament for the members of the community.

Elaborating the problems faced by the goldsmiths, Mr Suresh Verma, district president of the Sawarankar Sangh, said, “Thousands of the goldsmiths in the city are forced to live on subsistence wages due to ill-conceived policies of the government and opening of imported machinery and ornaments in the country. The government should ban the import of machinery and ornaments to save us from unemployment and subsequent starvation.”

The association has demanded a comprehensive law to deal with gold smugglers. Mr Verma said the government should completely open the import of gold to boost the industry, besides ensuring strict punishment to the gold smugglers. He suggested the government to ban the inter-state trade of jewellery in a phased manner to encourage the making of gold ornaments in the state.

The goldsmiths denied the allegations of the Punjab State Pollution Control Board that small cottage units of goldsmiths were causing pollution. They said a goldsmith’s unit hardly caused pollution equivalent to the smoke of a cigarette, so these units should be exempted from pollution laws.

Mr Verma alleged that a number of goldsmiths were often harassed by the police in theft cases, though they could not identify the thieves themselves. He said the police should take into confidence the office-bearers of the association while making any investigation into gold theft cases.

He said, “The government should consider the demands of the community, which was passing through difficult times. Like the Departments of Coal, Energy and Textiles, a separate department should be established at the Centre to take up the issues concerning them.”

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