Saturday, December 15, 2001, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S



Brave youths show way to police, PSEB
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Issewal (Ludhiana), December 14
The police had failed. The PSEB also expressed its helplessness. But five local youths of this village, famous for producing the highest number of decorated soldiers in the state, did what the police and the PSEB could not.

Exhibiting extreme sense of responsibility, concern and adventure, they took up the challenge of nabbing a notorious gang indulging in the theft of over 60 transformers, worth Rs 24 lakh, in this and other surrounding villages. And they achieved the target in less than a month with a round-the-clock-surveillance after waiting in vain for more than a year for these two government agencies to perform.

Living up to the tradition of valour followed since World War-I by the villagers, the youths — Harinder Singh, Baljinder Singh, Gurinder Singh, Manpreet Singh and Baljinder Singh Nambardar — who could not make it to the defence forces, showed their bravery in civil life. Not only they saved lakhs of rupees of the Punjab State Electricity Board and cured a constant headache for the police but also did a Yeoman service for the villagers, who, due to the regular theft of transformers, were helplessly watching the damage to their crops.

Already having been honoured by the PSEB a couple of months ago, when they had performed the feat, it was a red-letter day for the youths when the village Sarpanch received their bravery certificates from the district police today. The event was special as the villagers had gathered along with District Administration officials Indian Air Force officials and social work organisations to pay tributes to Flying Officer Nirmaljit Singh Sekhon at his 30th martyrdom day here today.

The story of the youths’ brave act of chivalry, as told by them and the villagers, goes like this. The local village and the adjacent villages were facing a serious problem pertaining to theft of power distribution transformers for the past several years. A gang was operating in the area. The police had been informed with regard to the theft of transformers. PSEB officials were also informed. According to an estimate, transformers worth Rs 24 lakh had been stolen from the area. This was causing huge damage to the farmers as crops failed due to shortage of water in the abscence of power supply.

As official channels-police and the PSEB- had failed to do anything in this connection, people of the area were feeling very upset. The had complained to the police umpteen times but nothing was done. The PSEB said it was beyond them to provide security to the transformers. Further, due to the thefts, they had to live without power supply for days and even for weeks. Officials of the PSEB used to take several days to provide the replacement of the transformer.

When the others were requesting the official agencies to act, these five youths one fine morning decided to take up the cudgels. They began keeping vigil in the area on different hours , especially at night. Their efforts did not produce the desired results for almost a month. A t times they were close to their target but the luck was not on their side. Experience taught them that the thieves always used to light a fire near the transformer to burn something in order to extract the valuables out of the transformer. One night they saw a fire lit at quite a distance. As they did not want to be noticed, they crawled on their elbows near the criminals and nabbed one of them.

The police was happy at their achievement but the other gang members had managed to elude arrest. The youths again entered the scene and raided a house to catch one more gang member.

The PSEB, jubilant at the prospect of an end to the crime and burden on their finances, honoured the youths two months ago, but their bravery somehow went unsung in the media.

Today when a Tribune team visited the village, it was just sheer chance that one of the villagers Manjit Singh mentioned that the bravery was not limited to soldiers only. The youths then informed that the village Sarpanch had received their certificates of bravery sent by the Jagraon SSP.

The unfortunate catch in the story was that after a gap of several months, transformer thefts have begun again. The villagers coincided it with the releasing on bail of the two criminals nabbed by the youths. As many as six transformers were reported stolen from the region in last month only.

Exhibiting the never-say-die spirit, the youths said they would wait for some time for the official agencies to act and then again re-start their operations.



MC yet to receive funds
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, December 14
With major source of revenue from octroi drying up for the civic body, and the promised funds to make up for the loss of revenue remaining elusive till now, the Municipal Corporation finds itself in a tight spot. There are virtually no funds available to meet the salary bill and pay for operation and maintenance of essential civic services.

The general mood at the meeting of the Finance and Contracts Committee (F&CC) held here today was that of gloom and desperation. The F&CC, which used to give its nod to new projects worth crores of rupee without giving a second thought in the past, deliberated mostly on economy measures. Predictably, no new estimate or tenders, as well as other works, having financial obligations, were accorded approval and were kept on the hold. Only a few proposed projects dealing with sewerage and water supply services or of emergency nature were given a go ahead.

The meeting, it was learnt, adopted a report of a sub-committee of senior officials, which had recommended several austerity measures in the wake of precarious financial situation, caused by the abolition of octroi. While the MC could not afford to curtail any expenditure on the purchase of chlorine, malathion and other essential items by the Health Department, a drastic one-third cut has been recommended on diesel and petrol for the MC vehicles.

Similarly, the purchase of 13 new fire tenders was also curtailed and it was decided to go ahead with the purchase of just six fire tenders, for which payment has already been made. The use of wireless phones and pagers by all and sundry will also become a thing of the past since the wireless phone facility will be restricted to the Commissioner’s office and the Fire Brigade. The pagers, except for those in sanitation services, sewerage, water supply and streetlights, will be got disconnected.

Other areas, identified for the austerity drive, were termination of all employees, engaged on contract or casual basis, cut on newspaper advertisement, doing away with courier service for distribution of bills, a ban on the formation of new mohalla sanitation committees and park maintenance committees, monitoring the working of employees at all levels and stern action against habitual absentees and defaulters and freezing all fresh purchases of plants, tree guards and other material by the horticulture wing of the MC.

During deliberations on the proposed economy measures, senior MC officials, including Commissioner R.L. Kalsia stressed the need to devise ways and means to generate income from Guru Nanak Stadium. One of the proposals in this direction was privatisation of the stadium, which costs almost Rs 1 lakh per month in terms of maintenance and electricity expenses alone. The MC had also incurred a staggering sum of Rs 6 crore for the creation of new infrastructure for the recently concluded National Games, while the promised reimbursement from the State Government was yet to materialise.

The only optimistic note in an otherwise bleak scenario was struck by Mr Kalsia, who told Ludhiana Tribune later that the State Government had worked out a monthly payment of around Rs 10 crore for the MC and the first instalment would be released on coming Tuesday, the next working day in the government offices, it was officially communicated to the civic body here.



Is govt trying to hush up fertiliser scandal?
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 14
The way officials of the Department of Agriculture and Markfed are trying to keep a lid on the purchase of alleged sub-standard fertiliser by the Punjab Government from the Oswal group, it appears the government is trying to hush up the matter.

Since the purchase had reportedly been approved by the Chief Minister himself as also a high-powered committee headed by the Finance Commissioner (Development) a few months ago, no one is ready to speak on the controversial deal. But officials of the Markfed have claimed that nothing was wrong in the purchase of fertiliser, and the Oswal was given this order due to the lowest rate quoted by it compared to IFFCO.

Officials in the Agriculture Department are not ready to disclose the total number of samples drawn from the stocks of fertiliser in various parts of the state, and their results. Dr S.S. Bains, Director, Department of Agriculture was on tour today. His subordinates were not ready to disclose anything pertaining to samples etc. Mr Tarsem Singh, Chief Fertiliser Inspector of the Agriculture Department, said, ‘‘We have no consolidated reports about the number of samples taken and their results. “We are trying to collect information in this connection,” he added. He was not even ready to disclose the number of samples taken last year and their results.

Inquires made from the Markfed office have revealed that about 5000 tonnes of fertiliser, found sub-standard or not up to the mark, has been already returned to the supplying company. District-level monitoring committees have been formed to check the quality of the fertiliser. Mrs H.K. Bahia, Additional Managing Director, Markfed, claimed,‘‘ The government has purchased fertiliser from the company at the rate of about Rs 7750 per tonne, about Rs 500 lower as compared to the rate quoted by IFFCO. The management of IFFCO had also tried to pressurise through the Union Chemical and Fertiliser Minister, Mr S.S. Dhindsa, even by quoting less price later, but the CM decided to clear the purchase from the Oswal group.’’

She admitted that the farmers were initially reluctant to purchase the Oswal brand of fertiliser, but they had no option. Regarding the allegations of the failure of samples on a large-scale, she said,‘‘ The samples are taken by the Department of Agriculture. There is nothing unusual in the failure of samples, as the number is so low. Secondly, the company has agreed to take back the substandard stock of fertiliser. We have already returned about 5000 tonnes of fertiliser to the company.’’

She asserted that some vested interests were trying to malign the Markfed, whose MD was just a member of the purchase committee. She said since Punjab was the biggest fertiliser market in the country, with annual sale running into lakhs of tonnes, so the opposite parties were spreading disinformation about the deal. ‘‘ Farmers have got fertiliser at the rate of Rs 419 this year as compared to Rs 445 per bag in the past years. The societies have also benefited due to the deal The quality is also good.’’

Despite her claims about quality, official sources in the Agriculture Department disclosed that there have been doubts about quality of the fertiliser being supplied to farmers through official channels. The rate of fertiliser may be lowest, but it has also been found sub-standard. Interestingly, Dr Gurcharan Singh Rajajung, Chief Agricultural Officer, and other district officers have decided to take legal action against those supplying the fertiliser to farmers. In this case, the action obviously would be taken against agriculture cooperative societies in the countryside, of which samples failed.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union has also reportedly decided to take up the matter with Union Agriculture Minister, Mr Ajit Singh, on December 18. The BKU has urged the Punjab Government to break its silence on this issue and put facts before farmers. 



Painting her passion

PORTRAITS and landscapes are the favourite themes of Poonam Tumar, a topper in MA (I) in fine arts from the Government College for Women. She says she likes to paint on realistic themes even though abstracts in bright colours are much in demand these days.

Time is a major constraint for Poonam, who belongs to Chandigarh and is a hostel resident here.

Poonam says that her mother, a doctor, is her inspiration. She takes keen interest in what she paints, the strokes she gives and the colours she uses. At times her mother also gives her new ideas regarding themes for her paintings. Even though Poonam spends hours on paintings while she goes home, her parents don’t mind but encourage her to become a better artist.



Satta sharks thrive, cops get their cut
D.B. Chopra

Ludhiana, December 14
At Cheema Chowk, one of the busiest lottery markets in the city, lottery addicts start reaching as early as 8 am. Those who have to skip their normal business for a while to have a go at a particular number of a particular lottery more often than not do not succeed in getting any tickets as the number in demand that day is already sold out. They have no reason to get disappointed as bookies come to their rescue. A paper slip indicating the time of the lottery and the number of tickets betted upon is handed out to the customer. Bets running into thousands can be placed with an assurance of getting the prize money in lakhs if the same are called correct.

The scene is no different at Ghanta Ghar Chowk, which is the nerve centre of the lottery trade, with a number of wholesalers also operating from here. A number of lottery traders and persons associated with other trades, issue paper slips in the absence of tickets. Lottery addicts have their favourite bookies. Since both parties are familiar with each other, there is little danger of the law intervening. Go to any other lottery market, whether near Kailash Cinema, in Basti Jodhewal or in any other locality of the town, the same practice is adopted everywhere.This money does not go to the coffers of the state, but to those of the sharks who control the traditional ‘satta’ and ‘darra’ business, allegedly in connivance with the police. Three persons, including the son of a Congress leader, who thought he would never be touched by the police, were hauled up by the CIA staff of the city police from Basti Jodhewal and booked under the Gambling Act. Efforts on the part of the accused to buy their way out of trouble did not meet with any success. A bribe of Rs 50,000 was reportedly offered to the official concerned, but he did not oblige.

These arrests have also raised some eyebrows about the role of the Basti Jodhewal police, which has been fully in the know of things as far as the working of these bookies is concerned. The fact that the CIA staff picked up these guys speaks for itself.

Sources in the lottery and satta business say the arrested bookies only form small fish in the vast sea of the city’s lottery trade. Every time the police cracks its whip, it has to fall on small-time operators, not the big ones. It is only when the payment becomes erratic or when the cops become vindictive due to some reason that they pounce upon a shark in the satta business. One example of such police vindictiveness was witnessed a few months back when the shop of a lottery trader, suspected to be a bookie as well, was sealed by the cops. The trader had then alleged that the police action was aimed at harassing him because he had dared to complain against certain police officials to higher-ups and the DC.



Transportation of wheat, rice hit
Infighting between truck unions
Tribune News Service

Khamano, December 14
Infighting between two factions of local truck unions over the past few days has hit the transportation of wheat and rice from two depots of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) here and also from the nearby Sanghol village.

The FCI contractors have alleged that they have not been allowed to load wheat and rice by the local police authorities who have been allegedly siding with one of the parties.

The FCI contractors belonging to the Satpal group said that they had taken the contract through official channels to transport wheat and rice stocks of the FCI. About 150 truck operators have been engaged by them to take up the stock-transportation task. However, Mr Balbir Singh and his son Janak Raj Singh, owners of a local rice mill, and other truck operators supported by them have been creating obstructions during the loading of wheat and rice because they were unable to secure the contract.

Mr Sanjeev Kumar of the group said that there was no rule to give contract to any particular union. Despite this, about 100 trucks from the local truck union and also about 30 trucks from the Khamano union had been engaged to do the job. But a group of truck operators, which had not been engaged in the transportation operations, in connivance with the local police, was not allowing to lift the stocks to the official contractor, he claimed.

Condemning the role of Mr Balbir Singh and others, Mr Sanjeev Kumar, said “We were loading trucks on November 8, but were stopped by the other party by blocking the road . The loading process was delayed for about 30 hours. Consequently, we had to pay about Rs 40,000 as fine. The police remained silent spectator and did not take any action against the opposing party, he added.

He lamented that despite complaints to the DC, Fatehgarh Sahib, SDM, and SSP, no action had been taken against the opposing party yet . He alleged, “The local police did not try to stop the faction led by Mr Balbir Singh and his son, Mr Janak Raj Singh, who did not allow our truck operators to load the special train within stipulated time. Rather the police presurised us to compromise by unloading eight trucks on December 9 when we again tried to lift the stocks. It resulted in financial loss.”

Mr Balbir Singh, when contacted in this regard, denied that he had been involved in this controversy in any manner. He said, “the contractor, working on the behalf of another contractor, was not paying market rate of Rs 2000 to the truck operators, and have rather involved the operators of Samrala to cut down the freight charges.”

Mr Suresh Agnihotri, DSP, said, “We are not siding with any party. The dispute is between truckers and the contractors and they should mutually settle the issue. Our role is limited to ensuring law and order.” Interestingly, he has also contended that the contractors should only engage local truckers as per the tradition.



Tributes paid to Nirmal Jit Sekhon
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Issewal (Ludhiana), December 14
Contrary to the normal scenario where the real heroes are forgotten, this village has not forgotten its hero — Shaheed Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon, who died fighting for the country in 1971.

Even 30 years after the late Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh sacrificed his life, these villagers have always kept his memory dear to their hearts. A visit to the village today on the occasion of his martyrdom day revealed that the hero was still living in each nook and corner of the village. In fact the villagers say that Issewal is known in the region as Shaheed Sekhon’s village . He is the only officer of the Indian Air Force to be decorated with the prestigious Paramvir Chakra posthumously.

It was after the sacrifice of the martyr that the sense of patriotism was embedded deep inside the minds of the residents of this village. Talking to the village children and youths one learnt that even after 30 years of his sacrifice, he still was as a role model for the succeeding generations. The village took pride in saying that even during the day of militancy in Punjab, when the Khalistan movement had sweeped many a youth, this village created a record where not even a single youth was attracted to terrorism.

As the Sarpanch of the village, Mr Gurdial Singh rightly said, “Our village is the only one in the region that produced maximum number of decorated soldiers in the whole country. How can the spirit of patriotism and terrorism go together? Our people crave to give their lives for the country.”

The moment one entered the village a large gate named after Flying Officer Sekhon welcomed the visitors. Then the school of the village was named after him and there was a proposal by the government to lay a road connecting Issewal to Ludhiana to be named after him. Another proposal of constructing a communication centre after his name was being considered.

Continuing with the 30 year old tradition, the villagers had organised a function in Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon Memorial Senior Secondary School here today to commemorate the martyrdom day of its great son. Another hero of the village, Air Marshall, Manjeet Singh Sekhon, who was also born in this village, at present posted in Southern Command, Trivandrum, decorated with Veer Chakra, Shaurya Chakra and Air Force medal paid tributes to the martyr by recalling his contribution and his exemplary feat in which he had shot six rival aircrafts down and had died after his aircraft was shot.

Recalling his days with the martyr, Air Marshall Sekhon said that he was very energetic, dynamic, aggressive and yet a very wonderful person. He said that on the fateful day he had engaged six aircrafts of the enemy and had injured his right arm which hadbecome limp. He kept flowing his aircraft with his left hand for some time. When he ejected his parachute did not open and he smashed his head on the ground that killed him.

A large gathering of the villagers attended the function. SDM Malwinder Singh Jaggi announced a grant of Rs 1 lakh for various development activities in the village. 



CM assures assembly ticket to non-Sikh segment
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, December 14
The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has reiterated his commitment to provide representation to non-Sikh segment of ruling SAD-B for allotment of party ticket in the coming Assembly elections in the state.

Talking to a deputation, comprising around 50 representatives of several social, religious and trade organisations, which met Mr Badal at his residence yesterday, he indicated that five party candidates would be nominated from amongst non-Sikh segment of the party, with members of Aggarwal community among them.

Giving this information here today, Mr Ved Parkash Gupta, general secretary, Aggarwal Pratinidhi Sabha, Punjab, said that the interests of Punjab and Punjabis could be safeguarded only by a government, headed by Mr Badal. “The present government have made possible an unprecedented development in the state, which was not witnessed even during 45 years of Congress rule.”

Among other members of the deputation were Mr Amrit Lal Aggarwal, president, Bharat Ekta Council and advisor to SAD-B, Mr Vijay Verma, Mr Surinder Gupta, Mr Devinder Gupta, Mr Baldev Aggarwal, Mr P.P. Kansal, Mr Narendra Jain, Mr Baldev Raj, Mr Mohinder Gupta, Mr Ashok Kapoor, Mr Sukhpal Singh and Mr Sudarshan Uncle.



Terrorist attack condemned
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, December 14
Dr L.S.Chawla, national president, and Dr Arun Mitra, national general secretary, of the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD), in a joint statement here condemned the terrorist attack on Parliament yesterday.

In a press release, they said that such activities could neither break democracy nor the confidence of the nation. They praised the alertness of the security forces who foiled the ultimate design of the terrorists.

Dr Chawla said that administrative measures could check terrorism but this evil could be finished only by a consistent struggle against fundamentalism of all hues, without any prejudice.

Mr Satish Kumar Sharma, Fellow, Panjab University, also condemned the barbaric attack on the Indian democracy by a handful of misguided, insane, anti-human and anti-democracy elements. He said that this was one of the unfortunate incidents where Parliament of the largest democracy had been targeted. He said such incidents called for condemnation by one and all.

Mr Rashpal Singh Gill, district president, and Mr Hemraj Jindal, district general secretary, of the Nationalist Congress Party, in a joint statement condemned the attack on Parliament House. At a meeting held here today, the members said that India should immediately attack Pakistan and destroy their terrorist camps.

The meeting was attended by Mr Subhash Sharma, Mr Ashok Khullar, Mr Sunil Kumar, Mr Tarvinder Singh, Mr Parvez Ahmed, Mr Surinder Soni and Mr Baljit Singh.

The People for Common Cause also expressed shock over the barbaric attack. Mr Arun Atri, president of the organisation, sympathised with the families of the police and parliamentary personnel who sacrificed their lives.



Dhiman a committed journalist
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 14
R. Dhiman was one of the pioneers of journalism in Punjab who rose to eminence by his hard work, dedication and commitment. His pen never surrendered to the “might of sword”.

Starting his career from Ferozepore in 1935 as a humble stringer, the man rose to become one of the pillars of journalism in Punjab. The big break came when the civil and military gazette, Lahore, gave Dhiman a chance to interview the then Prime Minister of Punjab, Sir Sikander Hayat Khan. This story was taken on the front page of many leading dailies.

He represented Monday Morning, a weekly from Lahore. The Civil and Military Gazette, Lahore, The Tribune, Times for India, Statesman, Hindustan Times and New Agency API which was converted in to PTI later. He also worked as a special correspondent for Amrit Bazar Patrika and Free Press Journal for Punjab. His association with the Hind Samachar Group of Newspapers of Jalandhar dates back to late sixties, which continued till his death . He worked for the PTI for more than three decades.

He launched Urdu daily Evening News but after four years in 1967, he converted it into English fortnightly, ‘News Chronicle’, which withstood the onslaughts from different vested interests for 33 long years. He also penned five books, the most famous being ‘Prosperity through peace’ which had foreword by President Abdul Nasser of Egypt . The other books of his were Punjab Directory 1957, Buddha 1956, Amritsar Congress 1956, Great Apostle 1957.

He was founder general-secretary of East Punjab Journalists and central government on different committees. He was nominated by the state and central government on different committees. Recently in recognition of his services, Dhiman posthumously received ‘Shiromani Patarkar Award’ at a function where Padamshree Dr Ramanand Sagar gave away the awards.



MC employees hold rally
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, December 14
Employees of the Municipal Corporation here today held demonstration to protest against what they termed as victimisation and harsh departmental action against several employees by the MC administration, which smacked of vindictive attitude.

The protesting employees, led by Mr Sunil Sharma, president and Mr Devi Sahay Tandon, general secretary, Municipal Employees Federation, Mr Tarlochan Singh, President, Nigam Karamchari Dal, Mr V.C. Puri, Mr Surinder Gupta and Mr Manjit Singh raised slogans against the state government and the MC’s top brass.

Addressing the employees, various speakers alleged that certain employees were being proceeded against for various acts of omission and commission, which they had committed allegedly under political influence. Mr Sunil Sharma and others charged the councillors, particularly those belonging to ruling alliance, with interfering into day-to-day working and putting pressure on the employees to get done works of their nears and dear ones.

Trade union activists impressed upon the MC administration not to resort to such provocative acts and desist from taking action against the employees on frivolous grounds failing which the situation might take a turn for the worse and the MC employees might have to resort to agitational approach to seek justice.



Govt employees hold rally
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, December 14
The Joint Action Committee of government employees organised a rally outside the Mini Secretariat demanding filling of 35,000 vacancies in various departments.

Stating this in a press note, Mr Kuldip Singh, district convener of the committee, said that various unions, including the Government School Teachers Union, the Punjab Subordinate Service Federation, the Class IV Employees Union and the Association of Ministerial Employees were demanding that in the absence of adequate staff, the employees were under excessive workload.

The teachers also condemned the practice of ad hocism and contract-based appointments. The employees criticised the move of the government to privatise various departments falling in the public sector. They also demanded promotion grade for all employees. 



Exporters worried about economic crash
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 14
Local exporters of bicycles and their parts, auto-parts and other goods are worried about their payments from Argentina, which has suffered economic crash for the past one week. They have told various shipping companies not to unload the material supplied by them to that country till they ask them to do so.

Goods worth several crores supplied by local exporters are on way to Argentina.

Industrialists says that they apprehend that their payments would be stuck in Argentina as its economy has suffered a big jolt. Local exporters had faced similar problem earlier when Mexico had faced economic crash.

The government of Argentina has reportedly imposed restrictions on the payments and on new import orders. The exporters are apprehending that the Argentina government, which is near to a default on a $ 132 billion debt, may further hike import duty and impose restrictions on the payment to mop up tax collections.

Exporters said that Argentina was a major market and engineering exports to that country and others in the Latin American market were growing at a substantial rate. It had been identified as a big potential market. However, the collapse of the economy may give another blow after the attacks on the WTC in the USA and the subsequent war in Afghanistan.

According to informed sources in the export market, the total annual exports from Ludhiana to Latin America are of about 1200 containers, including about 250 containers to Argentina, each container costing about $ 25,000 on an average. They fear that due to drastic devaluation of peso, the Argentina’s currency, the imports may come to a standstill.

Mr Satish Dhanda, vice-chairman, Engineering Export Promotion Council ( EEPC), said,‘‘ Shipping companies had already forced us to pay $ 100 per container as war-risk charges, resulting in increased costs of exports. Now the crash of Argentina’s economy would further deteriorate the condition of exporters. The devaluation of the currency would further affect our exports to the neighbouring countries.’’


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