Monday, December 31, 2001, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S



Criminals kidnap wrong man
Semblance to goon lands Sirhind resident in deep trouble
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 30
In an unusual case, a resident of Sirhind town underwent torture at the hands of a gang of criminals for his resemblance to an alleged criminal, Hyder Ali. The gang, mistaking him for Hyder, kidnapped him to take money. The state police is at its wits end over the identity of the gang. The victim was inflicted with burn injuries with cigarette butts.

Sources said after the resident reported the matter to the Rajpura police, an alert had been sounded in the entire state about the presence of such a gang. The police is so far groping in the dark as neither has it heard about any criminal named Hyder Ali, nor has it any information on the activity of this gang, which was said to be charging in lacs for getting illegal work done. The police has no clue about the nature of work they were undertaking.

The victim, Pushpinder Kumar, alias Gagu is the son of a prominent industrialist of Sirhind town. Last Friday, he had gone to Mandi Gobindgarh regarding some business, when five armed persons kidnapped him near Nirankari Bhavan and took him away to an unknown place in a Toyota Qualis. They beat him, saying he was Hyder Ali and demanded Rs 14 lakh from him.

According to a statement given to the Rajpura police by the victim, despite his repeated pleas that he was not Hyder Ali and the criminals were mistaken, the beating continued. The victim said he was then taken to a dark room at some unknown place where the kidnappers continued to torture him. Addressing him as Hyder Ali, the kidnappers accused him of having taken Rs 14 lakh from a client on behalf of the gang. They demanded their share in the amount.

The kidnappers inflicted burn injuries on his arms and legs with cigarette butts. Later they brought an old man asking him to recognise whether the victim was Hyder. The old man said he was not. He also received a beating as the kidnappers suspected he was hand in glove with the alleged criminal.

The victim was released after a few days. He was drugged and when he woke up, he found himself abandoned in Rajpura. He reported the matter to the police there, which registered a case.

The Mandi Gobindgarh police and the Fatehgarh Sahib police was, meanwhile, also in search of the industrialist’s son as his scooter was found near Nirankari Bhavan at Mandi Gobindgarh. An official of the Mandi Gobindgarh police said they were at a loss to explain what exactly had happened.

He said the police has no record of any criminal called Hyder Ali. 



Anything for nation’s honour, say Muslim compatriots 
Mahesh Sharma

Ahmedgarh, December 30
While most Muslims in the area are disappointed over the Union Government’s decision to suspend transport services between India and Pakistan, there are some who say they don’t mind the decision if it means protecting the country’s honour.

Mr Zakir-ur-Rehman, a former local body employee and social worker of the town, said. “Except for those few who have their blood relatives in India, no other Pakistani national has a soft corner for Indian Muslims. The Mohajirs in Karachi are treated as second-rate citizens. We cannot expect respect there?”

Recalling his visit to Karachi, he said he had seen ‘namaz’ being performed under police protection at a masjid there. “If the Pakistanis apprehend attack on masjids in their own country, how can they say that they are more secure there than here”, he questioned.

Mr Hazi Ali Asgar, said for a moment he had, felt sad over the prospect of not being able to meet his relatives living across the border in the near future, but now he was reconciled to the fact. Also, he recalled during his visit to Pakistan, he had heard people accusing Indian Muslims of ‘Hindu-ising’ their rites and customs.

“We have to live like prisoners during our stay there and only Allah can save us if we are caught breaking a rule, even unintentionally,” he added.

Describing, Indian Muslims’ condition in Pakistan as unenviable, Mr Yakub Khan said: “While non-Muslim Indians treat us as aliens, Pakistanis do not consider us ‘true’ Muslims.”

He said so disappointed was he by his Pakistan visit in 1966, that he tore up his passport soon after his return.



Chill to them means brisk business
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 30
Continuous cold in the region for the past several days has brought cheer to hundreds of big and small hosiery manufacturers. During the past one week they have registered a massive increase in sales, that is said to be highest in the past two seasons. Last year, due to the warm winter huge stocks had piled up as hosiery manufacturers could not find many buyers.

A random survey among leading hosiery manufacturers revealed that most of them were expecting to clear off the pending stocks. Mr Girish Kapoor, managing director, LWS, a leading brand of sweaters and other woollen products, hopes that with the onset of winter, the manufacturers may be able to make some gains over the previous year.

Mr Kapoor said the World Trade Centre bombing on September 11 had severely hit the town’s hosiery business. Exports had come to a zero. So the manufacturers had to depend mostly on the domestic market. However, due to the shrinking winter season, the domestic market did not offer any promise. Besides, the winters had remained comparatively warm during the past four years.

After successive setbacks, coupled with the WTC bombing and its aftermath, hosiery manufacturers this year had remained cautious, lest their stocks piled up in the godowns. The manufacturers seem a bit optimistic now. Mr Sunil Datt of Sunil Fabrics, manufacturers of Donna Nova brand of sweaters, said in case it remained cold a few more days, huge stocks would be cleared. He pointed out: “This is not just in Ludhiana, but in the entire region from Delhi right upto Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir where the weather has its impact on the hosiery sales”. He said he had received encouraging reports from dealers in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.

Mr Charanjit Singh of the Knitwear Club, Ludhiana, a representative body of hosiery manufacturers in Ludhiana, was guarded in his optimism. He said though the recent chilly weather had boosted the demand for woollens and sweaters, two or four days of business could not help the entire hosiery industry already facing an acute slump.

Mr Akash Bansal of Rage Knitwears is cautious in his approach. Although Rage has remained a popular brand with a lot of appeal among the young women, he feels the industry is faced with an acute recession. “Every big and small manufacturer is very cautious at this time because there is no guarantee from the market”, he remarks.



Several Oliver Twists on city streets
D.B. Chopra

Ludhiana, December 30
The existence of another syndicates in the city which forces orphaned and kidnapped children to beg has came to light with the recent arrest of four of its members by the police of division No 2.

According to the police version, a resident of Agra, who was on a business trip to the city, recognised his nephew, who had been abducted some years ago, begging in the streets.

The child’s interrogation led to the identification of certain persons who were hauled up. Later, three of them were allowed to go while the fourth was booked.

Though the police version raises some doubts, it confirms the fact that a number of begging syndicates are active in the city which force children to beg at a daily wages ranging from Rs 60 to Rs 70 or even more, depending on how much a particular child is able to ‘earn’ at the end of the day.

Investigations by the Ludhiana Tribune reveal that most of these syndicates are being run by beggars themselves and others criminals as ‘side business’ to ensure regular income.

Children are bought and sold, re-sold and passed on from one syndicate to the other, but never allowed to run away. The fear of the God or rather that of the Satan is instilled into this innocent hearts early and they dose not even think of escaping. It is sheer terrorism against children.

Investigations further reveal that some dons of these begging syndicates operate from, among other places, a place of worship which has been the centre of a controversy recently.

Some other places from where these dons operate are the railway station, Lakkar Pul, another popular temple in the Civil Lines and the Laxmi Cinema Chowk.

The interrogation of the accused may lead to further clues. May be after Navin, who was recognised, as the police says, by his uncle, it may be the turn of some other unfortunate kids to be liberated from terror.



Cut in STD rates lend a ring to traders’ voice
Tribune Reporters

Ludhiana, December 29
Industrialists and traders here have hailed the announcement of the Union Communication Minister, Mr Pramod Mahajan, yesterday, that the BSNL would cut down the peak-time STD rates by over 60 per cent from January 14. They consider it a New Year gift from the government to the recession-hit industry.

Telecom subscribers had been waiting for this announcement for the past few days, after the announcement of Bharti Telesonic’s Mr Sudhir Mittal that the company proposed to slash national long-distance (NLD) rates by 50 per cent from January 26. The industry leaders said the BSNL had taken this decision to blunt the proposed cuts in the rates by its counterpart in the private sector.

Mr D.S. Chawla, President of United Cycle and Cycle Parts’ Manufacturers’ Association, said, “Industrialists, who are the bulk users of the STD facility, welcome the decision. This will encourage manufacturers to adopt telemarketing and use fax, the Internet and the other telecom options liberally. However, in comparison to the developed world, our telecom rates are still higher.”

Sources in the BSNL say that the Ludhiana telecom district, which has maximum telephone connections in the state, will benefit substantially from the decision. With the cut in the rates, the department is expecting an increase in the number of lines. The fall in monthly revenue from the district, which is about Rs 20 crore at present, will be compensated by this increase, as it happened earlier after the rates were slashed.

They say that, in spite of the entry of Connect in the land-lines operations, the number of telephone connections has increased from 1,78,389 in April, 1998, to 2,62,249 lines by August 2001. The BSNL has reportedly added 78,000 lines to the network in that period. Mr V.S. Srivastava, General Manager Telecom of Ludhiana, said, “Customers will benefit from the government’s decision and there will be no congestion with the expected increase in the STD traffic, as we have enough capacity to deal with the situation. We are also going to offer special discounts to bulk subscribers who pay more than Rs 1 lakh in bills.”

Trader, who are mostly dependent on the BSNL telephones, have also welcomed the decision. However, some of them say that, besides the STD rates, the government should also have announced some cuts in the rates for local and international calls. Mr Sital Gupta, Managing Director of Fitex India Limited, exporter of auto-parts, is among the skeptics.

He says that, “The proposed cut in rates will have an insignificant effect on exporters’ expenditure as we have to communicate mostly to foreign buyers and dealers. We subscribe to foreign telephone companies whose rates are much lower than the BSNL’s charges. The government should now announce a cut down the rates of international calls and give an efficient service to promote tele-density in the country.”

While subscribers and industrialists are happy at the decision, the STD-PCO owners in the city say that the move will force them to shut down their business.

Mr R. Sharma, who runs a PCO shop at the railway station, says that the Communication Minister, Mr Pramod Mahajan, has taken a hasty step. “The revised tariffs will badly affect our business. The peak-hour tariff for the distance slab of 200 km to 500 km will come down to Rs 4.80 per unit and the non-peak-hour tariff will be Rs 2.40 per unit. Our per unit commission will also come down automatically. The affect this cut on the PCO owners has not been considered by the minister,” says Mr Sharma.

Mr Gurdeep Singh, a PCO owner of Ghumar Mandi, says that there are over 3,500 PCO owners in the city and their business will be affected by this step. “We cannot even think of survival after this decision. Our commission has come down another 50 per cent with this announcement, so, we’ll have to look for some other work.”

Mr Nikku, who runs a PCO booth on the premises of Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, says that, with this decision, unemployment will also increase. “The calls to Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala and Chandigarh are already being charged at local rates, but this decision will force us to close our shops,” he says.

Mr Neeraj Ghai, another PCO owner, however, says that the decision will not effect his business much. He says that, “Earlier, people used to wait for non-peak hours to make calls, but now, when the rates have been slashed, they will make more calls than before in peak hours, between 9 am to 8 pm.”

Ms Sarabjit Kaur, who has a PCO shop on the Ludhiana-Chandigarh road, says that, “I am a widow and I have to look after my three children. Do you think, I’ll be able to survive on this meagre commission. I am not even educated, so, I cannot even think of changing my business.”

Mr Avtar Singh, a physically challenged person who has a PCO, says that he cannot work anywhere else because of his disability. “This announcement has come as a shock to me. My family is dependent on this business and if profits vanish, how will we survive? The government should be considerate towards disabled, widows and senior citizens,” says Mr Avtar.

Mr Gyan Singh, an octogenarian who runs a small PCO in Civil Lines, says that he has only one son who is unemployed. “My unemployed son has his own family and all are dependent on my business. We cannot survive with another 50 per cent cut in our income,” says Mr Gyan Singh.



Villagers find 85 live grenades in canal
Lovleen Bains

Doraha, December 30
Eightyfive live grenades, noticed in the Sirhind river by villagers, are reportedly lying in the canal. Army personnel have not reached the place yet for clearance.

According to Mr Ishwar Singh, SSP, Khanna, “We have written to the Deputy Commissioner in this regard, but no Army official has arrived yet. However, they are expected shortly. A protection guard has been deployed at the place so that no untoward incident may occur.”

“There is no conspiracy involved in the case. It is a routine matter because the grenades have come with the iron scrap into the canal. Similar type of live shells were found 5 or 6 months back and removed with the help of the Army”, he added.

Meanwhile, the villagers of the area were concerned over the issue. They were eager to see these removed, lest a mishap occurred.



Trains cancelled

Phillaur, December 30
The Northern Railway today cancelled 4681/4682 Amritsar-New Delhi Super fast Express and 2497/2498 Amritsar-New Delhi Shan-e-Punjab trains. Meanwhile for the third successive day most mail, express and passenger trains were running two to nine hours behind schedule owing to poor visibility caused by thick fog. OC



I have not met CM: Tohra
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, December 30
The President of the All-India Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, today denied that unity talks with the rival Akali Dal led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal were in progress and reiterated that there could be no unity unless Mr Badal sought forgiveness at Akal Takht and Bhai Ranjit Singh was reinstated as Jathedar Akal Takht.

Talking to mediapersons Mr Tohra denied he met and Mr Badal in Chandigarh last night. Without naming any leader of the Akali Dal he alleged charged that those talking of unity were actually responsible for the disunity in the Akali Dal. They have made Mr Badal swear that he will not have any rapprochement with me”, he said.

Answering a question, Mr Tohra said he had nominated his team to have discussions on the issue of distribution of ticket for the Panthic Morcha aspirants.

Mr Tohra said there would be a fight between the ‘chor’ and ‘sadh’ (corrupt and honest) in the ensuing elections to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. He maintained the Congress was a divided house and Mr Amarinder Singh wanted to become the Chief Minister without winning the elections. The former SGPC chief assailed the BJP-NDA government for creating a war hysteria and maintained that Punjab would be the worst sufferer as it would become a theatre of war.

Mr Tohra emphasised that the government should not think of war and use the maximum diplomatic pressure to achieve its objectives. He said the government wanted to derive benefit from the hysteria in the elections to the UP and Punjab Vidhan Sabhas.

Mr Tohra said residents of villages along the Indo-Pakistan border with migrating from their homes and they were in a miserable plight. The Army had laid down mines and they were not being allowed to irrigate their fields.



Development grants being misutilised
Our Correspondent

Machhiwara, December 30
Grants sanctioned by the state government for rural development are reportedly being misutilised by rural development and panchayat department officials with the support of some politicians.

According to information, a JCB machine sent by the panchayat department a few months back had been detained in the local nagar panchayat office for not paying octroi. Now the same machine was reportedly being used by private road builders at Rs 2500 per day whereas rates fixed by the department concerned were between Rs 400 and Rs 500 per hour.

After seeing this machine on the Khanna-Nawanshahr road, someone went to the local BDPO. On being asked, the BDPO argued that it was better to send machines at less rates rather than detaining these like other block offices. No demand for these machines had been made by panchayat samiti offices.

A sarpanch elected in a byelection following the death of a Dalit sarpanch of a village on the Rahon road was reportedly not being handed over the records. Many irregularities were reported to be the reason behind it.

As per instructions of the panchayat department, if a sarpanch loses majority, only gramsewaks or panchayat officers can be appointed administrators. This rule was being violated by a panchayat secretary.



NCP alleges bungling in selection of teachers
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 30
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has levelled allegations of irregularities and bungling in selection and recruitment of teachers in government-owned schools in Punjab.

In a signed statement released to the press today, the president of the Punjab unit of the party, Mr Swarn Singh, alleged that the process of selection had been vitiated by the criterion adopted by the Departmental Selection Committee (Teaching) for the selection of candidates for the posts of teacher. He said while the selection committee had allotted 35 per cent marks each for bachelor’s degree and B.Ed. examination, respectively, it had allotted a maximum of just 2 per cent marks for first division in the master’s degree and the remaining marks for interview.

He alleged that a high percentage of marks for personal interview had been set apart so that certain candidates with low merit could be accommodated. He added that a large number of candidates who had no academic merit had been recommended for appointment.

He also questioned the propriety of the outgoing SAD-BJP alliance to fill a large number of teachers’ posts at the fag end of its term. He urged the Chief Minister to order a high-level inquiry into the affairs of recruitment of teachers and take action against all those who had indulged in corrupt practices. 



Honour for Ranjit Mani
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 30
The board of directors, Events and Show Organisers, has decided to honour singer Ranjit Mani during a fashion show to be held on January 5, 2002, at Taksonz Party Palace, Dugri Road.

The managing director of the company, Mr Harjeet Singh Narang, said: “At the board meeting, the members unanimously resolved to honour famous Punjabi singer Ranjit Mani with ‘Kala Shiromani Award’ for his contribution to the Punjabi folk. The board members also resolved to honour such outstanding personalities in the field of culture in the near future.”

The meeting was attended by chairman Yashpal Gosain, directors Pardeep Munjal, Sandeep Kumar, Arun Goyal, Avtar Singh Bitta, Parminder Singh, Amarjeet Singh Arora, Baldev Kashyap and choreographer Inderjeet.



Ex-servicemen offer to serve nation
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 30
A number of ex-servicemen, have offered to fight for the nation in case of war or to help the district administration in civil defence work.

The Ex-Servicemen Association, based in the city and having members from all over the state, have offered their services for the nation and are willing to contribute in any capacity. The president of the association, Col Rajinder Singh Sohi (retd), while talking to Ludhiana Tribune, said they were willing to rejoin the Army in case of a war.

He said he had been working in the Corps Signal division of the Army and was willing to work if the country required him. He added that he was well versed with the tasks involving sorting and delivering of mail as he had been looking after mail services in the Army.


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