Wednesday, November 7, 2001, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S



Cong men try to disrupt CM’s sangat darshan
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

The police arrests Congress leaders in Ludhiana on Tuesday when they were moving towards the venue of the Chief Minister’s sangat darshan. — RB

Ludhiana, November 6
A number of Congress workers were arrested today by the police when they tried to force their way to Mullanpur, where the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, was presiding over a special sangat darshan programme of the Dhaka assembly segment. The Congress workers were prevented by the police from heading towards Harsheela Resorts, the venue of the programme.

Congress leaders, who included the local MP, Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, the District Congress Committee, urban and rural presidents, Mr Surinder Dawer and Mr Gurdev Singh Lapran, the national chairman of the Indian National Youth Congress (urban development cell) Mr Pawan Dewan, Mr K.K. Bawa, Mr Amarjit Singh Tikka and scores of other workers gathered in front of the Verka Milk Plant and staged a dharna, blocking the busy Ludhiana-Ferozepur Road.

However, traffic was diverted to ensure its smooth flow. The police team, led by the SP, city, Mr Pramod Bhan and the SDM (East) Mr Kuldeep Singh, tried to pacify the agitating demonstrators to lift the dharna. However, the agitators continued with their slogan shouting against the Chief Minister, Mr Badal and wanted that they be allowed to proceed towards the venue of the sangat darshan.

Meanwhile, the younger lot among the leaders consisting of Mr Dawer and Mr Dewan insisted on moving ahead. They tried to force their way past the police and tried to board the police vehicles which were parked along the road.

Some of the Congress workers, sent to different police stations including the Sarabha Nagar, Model Town and the Sadar police stations in their own vehicles to register their presence in protest. All the leaders were later produced before the local SDM who released them on bail.

Tactful handling on part of Mr Bhan and Mr Kuldeep Singh prevented the situation from taking an ugly turn as the police exercised restraint in dealing with the situation. The administration and the police had also ensured that the protesters did not reach the venue with police check-posts set up at three places on a stretch of about six kilometre. All vehicles, which passed through this route were thoroughly frisked to ensure that they did not carry any Congress worker or leader.

Later in a joint statement, Mr Ghalib, Mr Dawer, Mr Lapran, Mr Dewan and Mr Bawa criticised the local administration for preventing them to reach the spot so that they could register their protest with the Chief Minister. They alleged that the Badal government was feeling panicky and was trying to gag public opinion.


Beopar Mandal alleges harassment
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, November 6
The Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal has lodged a strong protest against uncalled for and avoidable harassment of the traders and industrialists by officials of the Sales Tax Department and Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). In a memorandum submitted to the Punjab Chief Minister Mr Parkash Singh Badal here, a deputation of the mandal called upon the government to immediately concede to all pending demands, relating to sales tax structure, and abolishing of octroi to fulfill the poll promise made by the SAD-BJP combine at the time of last assembly elections and disband the PSEB if it did not improve its working.

Giving this information, the PPBM General Secretary Mr Mohinder Aggarwal, said that the memorandum submitted to the Chief Minister was earlier discussed and finalised in a meeting of the steering committee, held here under the presidentship of Mr Amrit Lal Jain. Others present in the meeting were Mr Pyare Lal Seth (Amrtisar), Mr Tarsem Jain (Jalandhar), Mr Sunil Mehra, Mr Ajit Singh, Mr Sunil Maria, Mr Sunil Parbhakar, Mr Vaneet Handa, Mr Kasturi Lal Mittal (Ludhiana), Mr Rajinder Singh Josh (Sangrur), Mr O.P. Gupta (Mandi Gobindgarh) and Mr Nirmal Malhotra (Patiala).

The Beopar Mandal took strong exception to the undesirable treatment meted out to members by the taxation officials under sections 13(3) and 14(B). The sales tax check barriers, abolished by the government, had come back in the shape of Information Collections Centres (ICCs). These centres, meant to pass on the relevant information to concerned district sales tax authorities for verification, had started detaining goods on different pretexts, such as under-valuation, fictitious consignors or consignees and other discrepancies in invoice.

It further demanded that rate of sales tax on yarn for the manufacture of textile fabrics should be reduced to 2 per cent on the pattern of Rajasthan Government in view of the severe recession gripping the textile industry. To pull the hosiery industry out of a crisis, the rate of sales tax and Central Sales Tax (CST) on hosiery and readymade garments be also cut down to 2 per cent. Similarly, Central Sales Tax (CST) on green tea be abolished to save the more than 200 years old market of green tea in Amrtisar and to clear the confusion regarding the stage of tax on fibre and waste, the relevant notification should be rescinded and till then, the traders should be allowed the facility at whatever stage they had traded these products. The mandal flayed the move by the civic body to charge house tax from hotels on commercial rates and demanded that hotels, being an industry, should be assessed and charged house tax on the pattern of industries. Charging the government with betrayal on the issue of abolition of octroi, the PPBM observed that the SAD-BJP coalition government had taken as long as four and-a-half years to initiate necessary steps to do away with octroi. However, before the decision could be formally announced, the Punjab and Haryana High Court intervened in the matter and stayed the decision.  The Beopar Mandal pointed out that harassment of traders and other categories of consumers by the PSEB had assumed alarming proportions and the corrupt functionaries of the board had come out with novel methods to fleece the consumers. There being little chances of financial recovery and improved performance by the PSEB, it should be disbanded and the power generation and distribution be handed over to private hands.



Ethiopian national found dead in hotel room
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 6
Mystery shrouds the death of an Ethiopian national, who was on a visit to the city industries as a member of an African delegation. His body was found in a room in Maharaja Regency Hotel here today morning.

Though the police has claimed that the man had died in his sleep due to cardiac arrest, it has not completely ruled out foul play and is waiting for the report of the chemical examination of the viscera of the deceased.

The post-mortem examination conducted by a board of doctors, which was video-filmed also, as required under the rules for the examination of a foreign national, also suggested that the man had died due to heart failure, the police said.

According to Mr Vikas Srivastava, General Manager, Maharaja Regency Hotel, the Ethiopian citizen, Mohd. Zamil (55), was found dead by other members of the delegation in his room in the hotel where he was staying for the past two days. He said when after knocking at the door for quite some time, he did not respond, the hotel staff and other delegates peeped in through a window on the other side of the room and found him dead.

A police party from Division No. 5 police station and senior police officers rushed to the hotel.

The police has so far not found any evidence suggesting some kind of foul play but the investigation was on. The police said no money was stolen from the room and there were no marks of any injuries on the deceased’s body. The man also had cordial relations with other members of the delegation.



Marriage palaces: report submitted to HC
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, November 6
The Punjab Chief Secretary, Mr N.K. Arora, has submitted his inquiry report on construction and demolition of marriage palaces on the Ferozepore road, along the field ammunition depot of the Army near Badowal, to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

A two-judge Bench comprising Mr Justice N.K. Sodhi and Mr Justice N.K. Sood had given its verdict on March 19 and directed the owners of the marriage palaces falling within 1,000 yards from the outer parapet of the 17, FAD, Badowal, to file appeal against the verdict in the Supreme Court within 15 days.

The Chief Secretary was directed to hold an inquiry into the construction of the marriage palaces and fix responsibility against officers of the district administration for the construction of the marriage palaces in an alleged violation of the provisions of the Defence Works Act.

The administration, served notices on the owners of the marriage palaces to demolish the structures within one month, failing which the administration would demolish the same. The administration demolished four marriage palaces on June 5. Some of the aggrieved owners filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court and got stay order as a result of which a few marriage palaces were not demolished. The petition of these marriage palaces is pending in the Supreme Court and will come up for hearing this month.

Mr Arora refused to disclose the findings of the inquiry, but confirmed that he had submitted the report to the Punjab and Haryana High Court before the deadline given by it. The High Court is expected to examine the report of the Chief Secretary within a month.

It may be mentioned here that after the demolition of the marriage palaces, allegations of bribe seeking were levelled against the office of the Chief Minister in Chandigarh. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal taking a serious notice of the allegations had directed the Chief Secretary to probe into the allegations. 



Jain’s bail bond cancelled
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, November 6
The Additional Sessions Judge today cancelled the bail bond of Anil Jain, facing trial for the murder of his brother Sunil Jain and ordered the accused to be summoned through warrants of arrest for December 4, the next date of hearing.

Earlier, Mr Jaswinder Singh, counsel for the accused, moved an application seeking exemption from personal appearance for his client, as he was pursuing his bail matter in Delhi. The bail application was opposed by the complainant and the Assistant Public Prosecutor, who appeared for the state. It was averred that bail of the accused in another case State Vs Anil Jain was cancelled by the High Court and in order to avoid his arrest, he had absconded. As such his personal appearance should not be exempted.

On October 31, personal appearance of the accused was exempted as Ms Sangeeta Jain, wife of the accused had given an undertaking to produce him in the court today. The judge observed that neither the accused Anil Jain nor his wife Sangeeta Jain were present. Moreover, the bail matter, in which accused was said to have gone to Delhi was fixed for November 6 as per version of counsel for the accused. So there was no justification made out for his not attending the court today .

The court further ordered that the request for exemption for personal appearance was disallowed and noted that the failure of Ms Sangeeta Jain to produce her husband in the court today, as promised, was an act of disobedience of the order of the court. 



Dark Divali awaits Panchayat staff
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 6
Employees of the Panchayat Samitis here are fearing that they may have to celebrate Divali without any money in their pockets as the state government has not released the salary of these employees for the past two months. The salary has been delayed as the Finance Department has reportedly not released grant for the purpose.

Sources in the Department of Rural Development and Panchayats said the employees were facing this condition for the past many years. The department gets monthly grant of Rs 3 crore from the account of state excise duty. The financial condition of these Panchayat Samitis which do not have adequate financial resources, was very critical. Consequently, the Panchayat Secretaries, Sewing Instructors, Panchayat Officers and other staff of these samitis in the district were waiting for their salaries.

Mr Malkeet Singh, a union leader of the Punjab Panchayat Samiti Employees Union, said, “The government has distributed cheques worth crores of rupees to Panchayats in sangat darshans and other political programmes, but it does not have enough money to pay even the salaries of the employees, who virtually execute all the development work of the panchayats. The salaries have been delayed for several months on one pretext or the other.”

Leaders of the union alleged that the government had not ensured the timely payment of salaries to the employees despite repeated protests. The workers had repeatedly held dharnas and rallies in Chandigarh to protest against the stepmotherly treatment, but nothing has been done to rectify the situation.

They said under the Panchayati Raj Act, the Zila Parishads and Panchayat Samitis were not provided adequate financial powers by the state government. Consequently, they are not even able to pay the salaries of their employees, what to talk of any development work. Further, these local bodies had been dissolved by the Akali Dal and BJP government in 1998, just after coming to power, due to political reasons.

Ironically, under the Panchayat Act, the Panchayat Samitis were expected to be entrusted with executive powers so as to run the primary schools, village health system, and to have control over tubewell operators, patwaris and other rural workers. They are officially dependent on village panchayats, which are expected to provide them 20 per cent of the revenue from the “shamlat” land, but panchayats do not provide them these funds on one account or other.

Another employee, who did not wish to be quoted, said, “We are forced to work as bonded labourers of the government without any payment for months. Some of us have even decided to approach the High Court to get regular salary.” The morale of the employees has also nosedived due to the delay in the payment of salaries.

Mr Mandeep Singh, Director, Department of Rural Development and Panchayats, when contacted at Chandigarh on phone, admitted, “The salaries have been delayed as we are getting money from the liquor tax account on quarterly basis. The department has already received a grant of Rs 6.5 crore and the salaries would certainly be released before Divali.”




Like previous years, city residents will spend crores on firecrackers on this Divali, too, wasting money unnecessarily besides creating noise and air pollution. While some schools and NGOs in Delhi, Chandigarh and other cities have launched campaigns for noiseless and pollution-free Divali celebrations, no such effort has been made in the city so far. The authorities of Brail Bhavan, situated on the Chandigarh road, have urged parents and school principals to encourage children to donate money for the education and care of orphaned and physically and mentally challenged children, instead of wasting it on firecrackers.

Fancy dress shows

Fancy dress shows held in schools reveal the aspirations of tiny tots for their future career. Even the students of classes Nursery or Pre-Nursery express their desire to act like a character of their choice. However, most of them pose as a teacher or a doctor. In a recent fancy dress show held at Hollyhock Playway School (see picture), kids acted like doctors, teachers and security guards.

Apni mandis

Apni Mandi’s were started a few years ago with an objective that the farmers could bring their produce from the fields and sell it to the customers directly. A board was generally put at these mandis to display prices of various vegetables so that everyone got vegetables at fair price. But the things have changed a lot and traders have started selling many other household items at these mandis. In fact the number of such traders is so large that they have started dominating the poor farmers. These mandis look like melas. Going by the numbers of cars parked along the road, it appears that the sale is brisk. Whether or not the farmers get the benefit at these mandis is another thing. The latest to join the bandwagon are the modern milk sellers. Their vehicles can be seen parked at these mandis. After making purchases at these mandis, people buy milk as these milk sellers sell it cheaper in the evening. Presence of these traders at these mandis was adversely affecting the interests of poor farmers.

Coin business

Taking advantage of the shortage of change, a number of persons in the city have made a flourishing business in providing currency notes and coins of small denominations to shopkeepers, rehriwalas, autorickshaw and private bus operators. These persons collect change from beggars, officials of religious places or from small shopkeepers at a premium. These persons then supply it at a higher price to other shopkeepers, and transporters. Some transporters reveal that sometimes they require change so badly that they agree to pay Rs 100 for change of Rs 80 to 85.

Overzealous officer

An IPS officer in the city police has become a pain in the neck for the gazetted and non-gazetted officers. The officer has an uncanny knack of visiting a police station at an odd hour unnecessarily and calling the police officers at far off places in their respective areas. The officer seems to have exact information about the time when a cop or officer is about to leave for his home after a tiring day. He then calls him at an inconvenient places. Police personnel are irritated at the cop’s behaviour. Recently a senior officer was on leave and there was a tug of war between two IPS officers over the issue of being deputed in his place. The junior police officials and cops were sandwitched in the struggle as one officer gave one direction while the other gave a different order. These police personnel heaved a sigh of relief when the senior officer concerned resumed his duty.

‘Flying’ on the roads

It is very common to see the words “Pilot” or “Captain” written on the doors of bus drivers’ seats of a number of buses. Drivers of these buses also try their best to prove these words true by driving recklessly on the busy roads. They drive vehicles as if they were flying a plane. They are least bothered about any other vehicle on the road as if they are in the open sky. The only difference is that, unlike a pilot in the air, these pilots on roads can stop their vehicle any time and anywhere on the busy roads. Moreover, while overtaking they observe no speed limits. They forget that they are driving a heavy vehicle and bring the vehicle to a halt anywhere on the roads to pick up passengers. This reckless attitude of theirs causes a lot of inconvenience to other commuters.



Divali revellers, beware...
Shivani Bhakoo

Ludhiana, November 6
With the festival of Divali round the corner, people, especially children, have started purchasing a variety of crackers to celebrate the festival, unaware of the fact that the fire-works can cause many lifelong injuries.

Ludhiana Tribune spoke to a number of doctors to know the repercussions caused due to bursting of crackers in a careless manner.

Dr G.S. Dhami, a leading ophthalmologist in the city, said he started receiving patients with eye injuries after Dasehra itself. “But there is definitely an increase in the number of such patients during Divali days. We call it blindness due to Divali or crackers”, he said.

Eye injuries are caused due to the ‘bow and arrow’ crackers or ‘unintended flying’ crackers. “Injuries occur when these particular crackers are burst in the wrong direction. Nobody knows which side these arrows will go. These can cause serious eye injuries. The crackers can damage the retina, can cause deep injury to the eye, rupture the veins or even cause blindness in severe cases. In some cases there is a burning sensation in the eyes (without an injury)”, said Dr Dhami.

The eye specialist also cautioned that sometimes the shells of some of the crackers also cause eye injuries. He said 20-30 patients with eye injuries were received on the Divali night itself. These eye injuries should be considered seriously. “One should immediately consider an eye specialist even if the injury is not serious”, said Dr Dhami.

Dr Dhami said small children should not be allowed to burst crackers on their own. Parents should buy good quality crackers.

Dr Dinesh Trehan, a surgeon, said the most common burn injuries were on the hand and face. “Though a majority of these are minor injuries, these are deep which can later affect the functioning of the particular area,” said Dr Trehan. He said that the injuries usually occurred when children burst crackers in their hands. The crackers should be burst away from the body and, if possible, a long stick or candle should be used. Cotton and pure wool clothes were the safest. Proper gloves should be used while bursting crackers. Terene, cashmilon and silk clothes should be avoided because these are highly inflammable. Safe, light and good quality crackers should be used to avoid any mishappening.

Dr Naresh Malhotra, an ENT specialist, said that the noise caused due to crackers was also harmful. Hearing loss can also occur in some cases due to over exposure to noise produced by these crackers. “We receive 3-4 patients daily who complain of several forms of hearing disorders. They complain of pain, ringing sensation, etc. In some cases the ear goes numb due to noise caused by the crackers”, said Dr Malhotra. He said the persons who had some ear injuries earlier should particularly remain indoors.



What’s the truth about BT cotton
Manoj Kumar

Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 6
The Punjab Government has failed to order an inquiry into the illegal sowing of BT cotton, that is , genetically modified cotton which is claimed to be resistant to bollworm, in the state. The Union Government has already asked the Gujarat Government to burn the BT cotton, illegally sown over 11,000 acre as it has not been cleared for commercial purposes.

The managing director of Navbharat Seeds who appeared before the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee ( GEAC), yesterday, admitted that the company had distributed the ‘Navbharat 151’ cotton seeds to Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra and Punjab. He promised to furnish details of the districts and agencies in which it was supplied in a week’s time. However, officials in the state Agriculture Department claimed ignorance about the BT cotton’s sowing in the state.

Mr Ranjit Singh, Deputy Director, Cotton, Department of Agriculture, said,‘‘ The department has no knowledge about the illegal sowing of BT cotton. So there is no question of ordering any investigation to find out the area, where its seeds might have been sown. We are, though, coordinating field trials of BT cotton at five places, including two in Muktsar and one each in Bathinda and Ferozepur districts, under a national project. A private company ‘Monsanto’ has given the work of field trials to another company Mico.’’

Brushing aside the reports of presence of BT cotton in the state, he said, ‘‘The company did not have adequate seeds even for the field trials, what to say of supplying it to farmers. We had asked it to conduct trials in seven districts, but due to lack of seeds, trials are being conducted only in four districts. Further, the farmers would not spend money on these costlier seeds, whose results are yet to be confirmed.’’

Experts at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), here, are also tight- lipped about the sowing of BT cotton and the claims of it being bollworm resistant. Dr G.S. Chahal, Cotton Expert at PAU, said,‘‘ We had asked the government to provide us the seeds for field tests, however, the company declined to give it to us. So its results have not been verified by the university.’’ The sources said PAU had proposed to use the technology in its own varieties, but the MNC declined to share the technology with it due to high profit margins in the seed trade.

Oblivious of the tussle between different agencies, the cotton producers in the state are, however, once again preparing themselves for the crop failure. The situation is reported to be marginally better than the neighbouring states of Haryana and Rajasthan, but the state government has not prepared any action plan to compensate farmers for the crop loss due to attacks of the bollworm.

Mr Ranjit Singh said the cotton crop in Punjab was expected to yield about 14 lakh bales against last year’s production of 12 lakh bales. However, the increase in production was due to increase in the area under cultivation from 4.74 lakh hectare to 5.93 lakh hectare. The yield is rather expected to decrease.



Ice-cream vendor murdered
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 6
No clue has been found as to the identity of four persons, who allegedly stabbed an ice-cream vendor to death in Issanagar colony of the city late last night. The Division No. 2 police launched the investigation last night only, but no headway has been made in the case till today evening.

The police believes that either personal enmity some argument with unknown persons could have led to the incident. The police has ruled out the possibility of robbery or snatching as the motive, since about Rs 300 in cash and a watch was recovered from the deceased by the Civil Hospital doctors, where the seriously injured man succumbed to his injuries.

According to the FIR lodged on the statement of an eye-witness, the deceased, Sudama, was an ice-cream vendor who did business in the colony. Last night, some unknown persons were seen fighting with him. Suddenly, the persons pounced on the vendor and inflicted multiple stab injuries on his chest, stomach, arms and legs.

The injured man was taken to the Civil Hospital, where he breathed his last.



Corruption charges against Telecom Dept
Shivani Bhakoo

Ludhiana, November 6
The National Sulabh, a non-profitable voluntary social organisation from Sri Ganganagar, levelled corruption charges against the Telecom Department, Ludhiana, alleging that five out of the six tenders for the maintenance of the Ludhiana Secondary Service Area (SSA) were rejected on the basis of “minor errors” found in the technical bid by officials without opening the financial bid. The organisation even alleged that a party from Yamunanagar, which had been allotted contract, had “bribed” telecom officials.

Mr Satyapal Zandu, spokesperson, National Sulabh, said the Telecom Department had invited tenders for the maintenance of the SSA, the technical bid of which was opened on October 31.

He alleged “The officials did not bother even to open the financial bid. They said the rejected tenders did not bear any stamp. We are sure that the officials were interested in the sixth party because it had surely ‘gratified’ them”.

The spokesperson claimed that if the department had given the tender on merit, the department would have saved Rs 20 lakh annually.

The organisation had also complained about the matter to the Union Telecommunications Minister, the Director-General, BSNL, the CMD, BSNL, and the CVC cell, New Delhi.

When Mr S.R. Srivastava, General Manager, Telecom, was asked to comment on the issue, he said, “The allegations are absolutely baseless. These five parties did not qualify in the technical bid itself, how could they be given consideration in the financial bid?”.



Construction of overbridge begins
Our Correspondent

Khanna, November 6
The construction of an overbridge on the level crossing on Khanna-Samrala road has been started. Gammu India Private Limited, the company which has started the work, has closed the road for heavy traffic on the GT Road and Samrala Road crossing and on the other hand near Arti Industries. The traffic towards Samrala now has to pass through Libra village and Kauri bypass, whereas the traffic from Samrala to Khanna has been diverted from Arti Industries to Lalhei road level crossing.

Project incharge O.S. Devgan told the Ludhiana Tribune that the project would cost Rs 6.94 crore. The length of the bridge will be 920 metres and height 8.23 metres. It will have 24 pillars on either side of the railway line and will be completed in nine months.

The work to widen Khanna-Samrala road is already in progress. This road will connect Khanna with Nawanshahr and Pathankot on the completion of the bridge on the Sutlej. As a result the distance to Pathankot will be reduced by 60 km according to sources. This project will help in the development of the villages on this road.


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