Saturday, November 10, 2001, Chandigarh, India

 

L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S

 

 

‘Sacrilege’ leads to group clash
Protesters block road, tension engulfs city
Tribune News Service



A traffic jam as a result of the protest. —Photo Inderjit Verma

Ludhiana, November 9
Tension engulfed the city this morning following a confrontation between Guru Ravidass Mandir Committee and Amrit Sanchar Jatha, a Sikh organisation, at a place of worship at Basti Jodhewal last night. The groups were at loggerheads over the move of the Sikh organisation to question the teachings of a granthi and the worshipping of Guru Granth Sahib, that according to the organisation, amounted to sacrilege.

Angry supporters of the granthi and members of the committee staged a two hour dharna on the Jalandhar bypass road this morning to protest against the release of three members of the jatha who had been handed over to the police by members of the committee. The dharna was lifted on an assurance of senior police officials that due action would be taken against the culprits. The road blockade caused a massive traffic jam at the Jalandhar bypass which took over four hours to be cleared.

A huge crowd converged on the place and the situation remained tense throughout the day. Activists of the Sikh organisation, along with members of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and other Sikh organisations, assembled in large numbers in front of the Basti Jodhewal police station. A heavy police force was posted in the area to prevent any untoward incident.

There were different versions about the provocation and the sequence of events. According to representatives of the committee, about 10 to 12 persons came to the place of worship in a Sumo and tried to commit sacrilege besides questioning the granthi over his teachings. The members of the committee alleged that the persons tried to stop the worshipping of Guru Granth Sahib.

Mr Bansa Ram, Mr Telu Ram and Mr Nikka Ram, representatives of the committee, alleged that the persons tried to commit sacrilege, at which a number of members of the committee called in the police and handed over three persons of the group to the police. They said the police, later released the persons, due to which they staged a dharna in front of the police station last night and blocked traffic on the Jalandhar bypass today.

Mr Jaswant Singh Cheena, a member of the jatha, Mr Balwinder Singh Bains, president of the Youth Akali Dal and other Sikh leaders refuted the charges and alleged that the members of the committee had aggravated the situation. They said a group of members of the jatha had gone to the place of worship to have a discussion with the granthi. They saw an idol and Guru Granth Sahib being worshipped together, which was against the Sikh maryada. They alleged that they had gone without any violent motive, but were unnecessary harassed.

The Vishwa Guru Ravidass Mission, a non-political organisation, decided at a meeting to send a delegation across the state to apprise the government of the attrocities being reportedly committed on minority communities, especially Dalits. Mr Jaswant Kataria and Mr Shiv Ram Saroay, chairman and president, respectively, of the mission, said the alleged attack was an attack on secularism and freedom of religion. The mission also decided to take up the matter with the SC-ST Commission, the state government and senior police officials.

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Irregularities alleged in MC tenders
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, November 9
All norms and regulations were thrown to the winds and established practices flouted with impunity in the receipt of tenders for various city development works in the Municipal Corporation office here on Thursday. A number of MC contractors called up the newspaper offices to allege that some of the contractors were being prevented from offering their bids, while a lobby of powerful contractors had pooled their rates for the bids, which would cause massive financial loss to the civic body.

Inquiries made by Ludhiana Tribune revealed that the allegation of certain contractors that they had been prevented from offering bids was indeed true and some of the contractors, claiming proximity to councillors, kept sitting near the box at the stipulated time for filing tenders in the office of Superintending Engineer, B and R of the civic body to ensure that only some “selected” contractors could offer bids. It was further learnt that the officer concerned was not present in his office at the time fixed for the receipt and opening of tenders and the tenders received for different works, were not opened, in a gross violation of the Detailed Notice Inviting Tenders (DNIT).

It may be recalled that the contractors had been boycotting the tenders for almost two months, to press their demands, which included the removal of the quality control agency M/s SGS India and time-bound payments for the works, executed by them. It was only after the contractors were assured of timely payments and firing of the agency that they had responded to the call for tenders for the first time on Thursday in more than two months.

That the entire process was under shadow and the senior officers and certain councillors were hand in glove in unduly favouring a select few contractors was corroborated when some of the contractors narrated the farce which took place yesterday to one of the MC Additional Commissioners. It was alleged that some of the ‘dummy’ tenders filed by some of the contractors did not comply with the mandatory condition of depositing the requisite earnest money.

The contractors also brought to the notice of the senior MC officials that the tenders received in the afternoon yesterday, were not opened thereafter and were lying unopened in the tender box till this afternoon, which was against the condition laid down in the DNIT stating that all tenders, received by the specified time, would be opened thereafter in the presence of the tenderers or their authorised representatives. “The pooled rates, offered by the group of contractors, are 15 to 18 per cent higher than what are normal bids and the extra profits, milked from the MC, will be shared by all, including the councillors, officials and the contractors,” the complainants charged.

When contacted, the MC Commissioner, Mr R.L. Kalsia, told Ludhiana Tribune that he had also received complaints of certain irregularities in the tendering process. He said explicit orders have been issued to streamline the work of receipt and opening of tenders and report has been called for violation of norms and conditions, specified in the DNIT. On tenders, offered on inflated rates as a result of pooled bids, Mr Kalsia said necessary steps will be taken to save the MC from any kind of financial loss.

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World Bank grants Rs 2,243 lakh to PAU
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 9
Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has been sanctioned an amount of Rs 2,243 lakh by the World Bank and also it has become the leading university in the country to have 92 National Agricultural Technology Projects (NATP).

According to Dr M.S. Tiwana, Dean, College of Agriculture and Nodal Officer NATP, the projects are aimed at developing improved technologies to meet the challenges of food security, sustainability and rural poverty by improving agricultural productivity, conserving and managing natural resources like land, water, environment and bio-diversity.

He said the sanction of so many projects by the NATP was the result of more than four years of strenuous efforts put in by scientists and working out a long term strategy of meeting the enormous challenges before the scientists, planners and policy makers through revitalising the entire National Agricultural Research System and introducing new models of technical dissemination.

Dr Tiwana said all projects sanctioned to PAU have got practical utility and the motive of the research was to conserve soil health and water resources, provide value added diversification and catalytic impetus to the ongoing research and extension efforts.

He said of the 92 projects sanctioned to PAU, the university was a lead centre for 16 projects. He said all those projects were sanctioned to PAU on the basis of the merit of the submitted projects at an all-India level which went through scrutiny at several stages by expert committees.

The varsity has also formed a site committee to monitor and review the progress of the NATP projects with the Vice-Chancellor, Dr K.S. Aulakh as Chairman and Dr Tiwana as member secretary.

Dr Tiwana said under those projects the major component was the human resource development which involved training at international and national level.

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Telecom Dept, police at loggerheads
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 9
The district police and the local Telecom Department are at loggerheads over the issue of payments due for services provided to one another. While the Telecom Department claims that the police owes it about Rs 30 lakh on account of non-payment of telephone bills, the police says the Telecom Department owes it over Rs 70 lakh on account of non-payment of salary to two police personnel posted as guards with the Telecom Department for the past two decades.

The claims of the police have given a new twist to the issue of non-payment of telephone bills. A number of telephones of police officials had either been disconnected or rendered one way by the Telecom Department in the past. After some calculations by the police recently, it had been found that the Telecom Department owed money to the police.

The GM, Telecom, Mr S.R. Srivastava, had at a recent press conference, claimed that the police owed it about Rs 30 lakh and as a result, a number of telephones with the police could either be rendered one way or disconnected. The police had been taken aback and had expressed surprise and dismay at the statement.

Sources said after about 100 telephones with the police were disconnected about six months back, police officials had been corresponding with the Telecom Department over the payments due. Police sources said they had not disclosed their claims earlier as they did not wish a controversy.

According to a police official, two police personnel had been posted as guards with the Telecom Department when terrorists were active. According to rules, the police paid salaries to the two police personnel and the Telecom Department deposited an equal amount with the police.

According to the official, checking of records had revealed that the Telecom Department had not paid the amount for the past two decades. He added that a number of letters had been sent to the Telecom Department and it had agreed to connect to the telephones again.

The controversy surfaced again after the latest statement of the GM, Telecom. Mr Srivastava agreed that the police claims were correct, but it owed the amount to the Telecom Department after the adjustment. He said he had received letters and had directed his staff to do the calculations. He added that the department had adjusted the amount payable and had released the telephone connections earlier.
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Woman raped
Our Correspondent

Khanna, November 9
A resident of Jullajan village was allegedly kidnapped and raped by four persons for 17 days. A case has been registered and investigations are on.

The police said one of the accused had been recognised as Balwant Singh, alias Banti, of Fatehpur village. The 26-year-old woman in her complaint, said she, along with her five-year-old son was going from Jullajan to her in-laws’ house in Sarud village in Sangrur district on October 13 at about 8 am. She added that she was kidnapped by four or five persons after she was made to fall unconscious.

She alleged that they took her to their house, tied her up and raped her for 17 days. 

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Tribes Dal seeks quota in jobs
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 9
The All-India Tribes Dal, a body of depressed scheduled castes including Sansi, Boria, Bengali, Teha, Biharia and Sikligar, have urged the President of India to intervene to provide them their due rights, which includes the status of ‘scheduled’ tribes and reservation in government jobs and state legislative assemblies and Parliament.

In a meeting held here yesterday, Mr Rana Bawa Singh Sansi, Chairman, All India Tribes Dal, alleged that though these depressed communities had been included in the list of ‘ criminal’ tribes, and recognised as tribes by the British government, after Independence, the government had not cared to delete their names from the list of police records, rather they were included in the scheduled castes. It has failed to benefit them due to lack of political clout and a small minority population.

He disclosed that in a memorandum submitted to the president, they had urged him to include them in the list of scheduled tribes so that they could get reservations in government jobs and state legislative assemblies and Parliament. He asked the President to suspend elections of the state legislative assemblies of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, U.P. and other states till their respective governments provided them ST status.

He alleged that the state and Central governments had not implemented the orders of the National Human Rights Commission regarding the declaration of these communities as ‘Scheduled Tribes’ since 1996.

In a signed statement, he claimed that the National Human Rights Commission had instructed the Punjab and Central governments on November 22, 1996 to declare these tribes as Scheduled Tribes, but the order was yet to be implemented.

He said, ‘‘The Commission had asked both the governments to provide all benefits to these communities which are currently provided to the Scheduled Tribes, including 7.5 per cent reservation in government jobs. The commission had also asked the Central government to provide a grant of Rs 50 crore and the state government to provide Rs 10 crore to constitute a special fund for these communities in the state.’’

He alleged that the state and Central governments had agreed before the commission to provide all these benefits, however, despite repeated representations to the state, Central government, Prime Minister and President, the orders had not been implemented till today. It had resulted in loss of education and employment opportunities to these depressed tribes, who were mostly ignorant of their rights.

Mr Rana disclosed that these scheduled tribes were declared criminal tribes by the British government and that the order was revoked by the Indian government on August 31, 1952. The communities were included in the scheduled castes list.

However, no benefits have been provided to them resulting in law levels of poor education and reduce social and political status of the community.

They are considered as criminal tribes by the state police and are mostly ignored by the main political parties due to their low population.

He said these depressed tribes have a population of about 15 lakh in the state, 10 lakh in Haryana, 2 lakh in J&K, 70,000 in Chandigarh and more than two crore in Rajasthan, U.P. and other states.

Dr Pramod Kumar, Director, Institute for Development and Communication, Chandigarh, ‘‘A study was conducted by the institute to determine the present status and a comprehensive package to improve their socio, economic and political conditions. There is a need for social and political interventions to empower these tribal people, who have remained mostly illiterate, poor and politically untouchable.’’

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Centre to assist in tourism projects
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 9
The Union Government will provide all necessary assistance to the state government to develop Ranjit Sagar Dam as one of the prominent tourist spots in the state. The state government has already decided to develop Ranjit Sagar Dam and the Harike lake as tourist spots.

This was disclosed by Mr Jagmohan, Union Tourism Minister, to a delegation of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Punjab, at New Delhi. Mr N.S. Nanda, President of the association, submitted a memorandum and a copy of the Punjab tourist guide to him.

He urged the minister to take up the problems of the tourism industry with the state government. The problems included higher power tariff, house tax and luxury and entertainment tax. The hotel industry in Punjab is passing through a very bad period, said Mr Nanda.

Mr Jagmohan was speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the Tourist Reservation and Information Centre at Le- Meridian hotel. Mr B.K. Gupta, President, Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India, while welcoming the chief guest, requested him to announce a special package to exempt the hotel industry from the levy of luxury tax and other such taxes, at least for one year. The flow of foreign tourists has sharply fallen after the recent terrorist attacks in the USA and war in Afghanistan.

According to Mr Nanda, the minister was aware of the problems and crises in hotel and tourism industry. He had already written to the Finance Minister for giving financial relief to the industry. The minister said the government had decided to decrease the entry fees at various tourist sites for non-Indian passport holders. He further announced that all cases of cheating of tourists and their harassment would be taken up.

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MC meeting adjourns without business
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, November 9
In a dramatic turn of events, the much hyped general house meeting of the Municipal Corporation was adjourned today without transacting any business other than making obituary references to four victims of a fire tragedy in Jawahar Nagar locality here on Tuesday, condemning the terrorist attack on World Trade Center (USA) and paying homage to senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Madhav Rao Scindia.

As the meeting started, several councillors, including Mr Kulwant Singh Dukhia of the SAD, demanded that the MC should take serious note of the fire mishap and also come out with a relief package for the family of those killed in the fire.

The city Mayor, Mr Apinder Singh Grewal, said he respected the sentiments of the councillors and announced that except for paying tributes to the victims of the tragic incidents, no further business would be taken up and in a matter of 20 minutes, the meeting was adjourned without fixing any date for the next meeting. The house was also informed that immediately after the meeting was over, the Mayor and the MC Commissioner, accompanied by other senior civic officials, would visit the bereaved families of the fire victims and convey the decision of providing Rs 50,000 as exgratia grant to them.

However, there is more to it than meets the eye in the adjournment of the meeting which was called after a gap of almost four months. In the wake of the developments that took place during the past two-three days, which made it clear that the quality control agency M/s SGS India was bound to be sacked and the decision was a mere formality to be performed in the House meeting, it was in the air that somehow the meeting would be put off to gain some more time to make another bid for damage control exercise, which might or might not pay off.

It is a well known fact in the MC circles that the city Mayor has a soft corner for the quality control agency and during an informal chat with officials and some councillors, he is said to have remarked that in case the general house voted in favour of firing the agency, he would record his dissent. Even on earlier occasions, when fingers were raised against retaining the agency, Mr Grewal has more than once come to its rescue and defended the decision.

While the tragic fire in Jawahar Nagar, which claimed four lives, came in handy for the adjournment of the meeting to an unspecified date, the Mayor as well as the MC administration were also saved, for the time being, from castigating criticism of councillors, belonging to all major political parties, including those from the ruling alliance. Majority of the councillors were sore at the agenda for today’s meeting, saying the policies and programmes for development were given a go by and almost all items, submitted by the councillors, for discussion in the house, had failed to make it to the agenda.

Meanwhile, the MC general house decided to recommend the names of two firemen who were the first to reach the spot within few minutes after the fire broke out for the Presidential Fire Services Award.

Mr Kartar Singh, Assistant Divisional Fire Officer, and Mr Ravinder Kumar, Sub Fire officer, who were checking hydrants in the area, were the first to reach the Arya Samaj Market where a fire had broken out on Tuesday.

While Mr Kartar Singh directed the rescue operations standing close to a wall that was about to collapse and retrieved a couple of bodies from the inferno, Mr Ravinder Kumar was quick to spot a little girl who was trapped on the second floor of the building. He made a dash and brought her out risking his own life.

The Mayor, who had witnessed the bravery displayed by the firemen during the whole operation, spoke highly of the officers at the meeting. He was joined by other councillors and corporation officers, and it was resolved to recommend the names of both the officers for the highest award for firemen.

Mr R.L. Kalsia, Commissioner, said the officers had done an excellent job and they deserved to be honoured.

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Breach in channel plugged
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, November 9
The breach in the Mukerian Hydel Channel has been plugged and all four power houses of the Mukerian Hydel Project have been generating power for the past four days.

The breach in the channel was reported on October 9, as a result of which all four power houses of the hydel power station stopped generation. The power houses are now generating 45 lakh units of power daily, providing relief to power consumers in Punjab.

With the fall in temperature, the consumption of power in the state has come down to about 6 crore units daily, against a daily requirement of more than 10 crore units of power in summer. The maximum daily consumption had been 11 crore units.

The PSEB authorities have started getting reduced supply of power from the central power projects to cut down on the cost of power. The PSEB is drawing 1.4 crore units of power from central projects against 2.4 crore units daily in summer. The cost of power supplied by the central power houses is high compared to hydel projects.

The PSEB authorities are avoiding power supply from the national thermal corporation and the nuclear power corporation. At the same time, PSEB is selling 27 lakh units of power to Jammu and Kashmir daily under the banking agreement.

Under this agreement, the PSEB sells power to Jammu and Kashmir during winter and gets back the same during summer. The PSEB, besides shutting down one unit each of Bathinda and Ropar thermal plants, has closed two units of Ropar plant because of fall in demand.

The coal position of the three thermal plants of Punjab is also stated to be satisfactory now. Bathinda has coal for 10 days, Ropar for nine days and Lehra Mohabbat for seven days.

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Bowling alley at Sutlej Club
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, November 9
Another recreation facility for club members and their dependents, a bowling alley, was inaugurated by Mr S.K. Sandhu, Deputy Commissioner, and its ex-officio president, at the Sutlej Club here recently.

The bowling alley is four-laned and equipped with gadgets from All Means Fun (AMF), a US-based company. Fluorescent lanes for night bowling are its most attractive feature. Mr Ajit Singh Chawla, general secretary, and Mr Navneet Malhotra, sports secretary, respectively, of the club, said the complete ‘Entertainment Complex’ would also have video games, cafeteria, pool tables and a lounge. They said the alley could be used for international meets by commercial establishments.

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Projects for benefit of jail inmates
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 9
Three projects aimed for the benefit of inmates of the local Central Jail would be inaugurated by Mr Ajit Singh Kohar, Minister for Prisons, at a function in the jail premises tomorrow morning.

Mr R.S. Chalia, ADGP (Prisons) and Mr D.R. Bhatti, Director, Punjab Police Academy Phillaur, would also participate in the function.

According to Mr G.S. Sidhu, Superintendent, Central Jail, three projects would be launched in the jail with the collaboration of an NGO.

These were, an AIDS awareness campaign, de- addiction drive and meditation and yoga camps. He said these projects would help in accelerating the reformist process in the jails.

A cultural function would also be organised in the jail on the occassion.

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Sonia to visit Ludhiana
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 9
Congress President Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to visit Ludhiana in the middle of December.

Stating this here today, Congress sources said the date would be finalised within a week.

Ms Gandhi is scheduled to attend an ex-servicemen’s rally. The sources claimed that her visit was to boost the morale of the party workers in view of the coming assembly elections. She would not address any public rally.

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Govt decision hailed
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, November 9
The Ludhiana District Cinema Owners Association has hailed the decision of granting 33 per cent relief from lump-sum Entertainment Tax being levied at present by the government. Mr Gurcharan Singh, president of the association, in a press conference today said that the decision was taken at a meeting of cinema owners with the Chief Minister.

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Punjab targets Rs 500 crore vegetable exports by 2005
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 9
The Punjab Agriculture Export Corporation ( PAGREXCO) has signed a memorandum of understanding( MOU) with APEDA, an agency of the Union Ministry of Commerce, to establish an agricultural export zone for producing vegetables in Punjab. The area under the project would cover the districts of Patiala, Ludhiana, Sangrur, Fatehgarh Sahib and Ropar. The project involves a capital investment of Rs 26.77 crore, including government support of Rs 11.83 crore and private investment of Rs 14.94 crore.

This was disclosed by Mr Jagjit Singh Ghungrana, Chairman, Punjab Agro Industries Corporation, here last night. Addressing a press conference, he said,‘‘ The MOU was signed between both the agencies at Delhi last week. Under the project, 5000 acre would be developed through contract-farming for producing vegetables and fruits for the international market by the end of 2002. The state government has a target of Rs 500 crore worth of annual exports of processed vegetables and fruits by 2005.’’

The project is a part of the Centre government’s policy announced by Mr Murasoli Maran, Minister of Commerce, during the 2000-01 budget, to set up agricultural export zones all over the country.

Elaborating the development of infrastructure for the export zone, Mr Ghungrana said,‘‘ The facilities of pre-cooling, washing, sorting, grading, polishing, packaging, cold storage, refrigerated transport vans and X- screening would be established to ensure quality products for the premium segments in the domestic and foreign markets.’’

He admitted that there was need for replacing the traditional wheat- paddy crop rotation, which was no more viable due to declining prices of cereals. He disclosed that the state government was already providing 25 per cent subsidy to exporters of processed food items on transport and packaging. The present project was part of the state government’s efforts to ensure adequate profits to farmers.

Mr N.S. Brar, executive director, Punjab Agro Industries Corporation and Additional MD, PAGREXCO asserted that the farmers would benefit in terms of strengthening of backward linkages with a market-oriented approach. The investment in infrastructure facilities would also bring down the cost of production and improvement in product quality and packaging.

Mr Ghungrana also informed that three food parks were also planned to be set up in Fatehgarh Sahib, Amritsar and Bathinda. The first park would be set up at Fathegarh district. An MOU was expected to be signed with a leading MNC of the country in this regard soon . 

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Cycle market: whither Chinese?
Vimal Sumbly

Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 9
Leading cycle manufacturers in Ludhiana feel that a phobia has been created about the “Chinese invasion” in the cycle market. Cycle and cycle parts manufacturers are not at all worried, as they believe that various myths related to Chinese cycles have already been exploded.

According to Mr R.D. Sharma, chairman, Safari Bikes Limited Indian bicycles are not only cost-effective in cumulative terms, but are more durable. He pointed out, that no Chinese bicycle can be made available in India for less than Rs 600 after paying all the duties. “And we are producing better bicycles at a lower price”, he disclosed, while arguing that the Indian bicycles are more durable.

Mr Sharma started his Safari conglomerate as a small unit trading in bicycle exports in 1994. Within a span of seven years, it has become one of the leading bicycle manufacturing units of the country with a daily production of 5,000 bicycles. In 1999, Safari bicycles got the ISO 9001 recognition and this year it was awarded the Int’l Europe award for Quality. He was presented the award in Geneva on October 22, 2001. Besides, the company has also been awarded the International Star Award for quality production.

The company has now come out with a new range of bicycles starting from Rs 555 onwards. The bicycles were launched at a function yesterday, presided over by the Deputy Speaker of the Punjab assembly, Mr Satpal Gosain. Besides leading personalities from the cycle industry including Mr M.S. Bhogal and Mr Kular were also present on the occasion at the launch.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Gosain appreciated the efforts of the local cycle manufacturers in producing bicycles of international quality. He pointed out that thousands of bicycles were being exported from Ludhiana in spite of heavy competition.

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