Sunday, January 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Congress may change Jagraon candidate
Party rally cancelled at eleventh hour
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 19
The last minute cancellation of the Congress rally at Gurdwara Bhaini Sahib, near here, as the PPCC chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, was summoned to Delhi has led to the speculation that the candidates for some seats might be changed. Capt Amarinder Singh was supposed to formally kick off the election campaign in the state from this historic gurdwara after seeking the blessings of Baba Jagjit Singh.

Well-placed sources in the PPCC disclosed that there was the likelihood of the high command reconsidering the nomination of candidates in a few constituencies namely Jagraon, Kharar, Nabha and Jalandhar Central, as there was considerable resentment among activists over the nomination of party candidates from these segments.

The sources said the high command had taken note of the resentment shown by the workers over these nominations. The high command had reportedly summoned all party MPs to New Delhi yesterday. There was considerable resentment over the nomination of Mr Paramjit Singh Sibia from Jagraon. In fact, Mr Darshan Singh Brar, one of the main aspirants, has already raised the banner of revolt and threatened to contest as an Independent candidate if Mr Sibia was not removed.

Similarly, there is opposition to the nomination of Mr Bir Devinder Singh from Kharar as he is being dubbed as an outsider over there. Mr Harnek Singh has mobilised activists and they staged a demonstration in New Delhi in front of the All-India Congress Committee headquarters to protest his nomination. In Nabha, Mr Ramesh Singla has revolted against Mr Randeep Singh. Similarly, there is considerable opposition to the nomination of Mr R.K. Gupta from Jalandhar Central, where Mr Jai Kishen Saini has been organising opposition against his nomination.

On the other hand a senior party leader said, on the condition of anonymity, that there was least probability of changing the candidates at this stage. He pointed out that this might stir a hornet’s nest as there might be more dissidence. At the same time, he revealed that the party high command might also issue strict warnings to the rebels who are threatening the prospects of official candidates.

Similarly, storm seems to be brewing up within the local BJP as the RSS has completely sided with Mr Sunil Mehra, a local councillor and a strong contender for the party ticket from Ludhiana North. RSS activists, supported by a large section of the BJP leadership, have held a series of meetings to chalk out further course of action. RSS sources said the organisation had almost given its nod to Mr Mehra to contest as an Independent candidate in case the party high command did not reconsider the decision of fielding Mr Pran Bhatia from here.



Devotees take part in nagar kirtan
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 19
An impressive nagar kirtan was taken out from Gurdwara Kalgidhar in Field Ganj through the old city in connection with the birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh here this evening.

A large number of religious organisations, managing committees of various gurdwaras, social service groups, shopkeepers’ associations, traffic police contributed towards the procession.

The nagar kirtan, led by ‘Panj Piaras’, started from Gurdwara Kalgidhar Singh Sabha in the afternoon and passed through Jail Road, Field Ganj, Jagraon bridge, Chowk Ghanta Ghar, Ghaas Mandi, Chauri Sarak, chowk of division no 3, Samrala road, Chowk Baba Thaan Singh, CMC chowk, old Civil Hospital and Brown road before culminating at the starting point later in the evening.

Women devotees atop a number of tractor-trailers chanted religious hymns in addition to recorded hymns being played on PA system installed along the entire route.

Elaborate security arrangements had been made along the entire route of the nagar kirtan and a large number of traffic cops were deployed to direct traffic, which had been diverted to other roads.

The devotees were offered sweetmeats and other refreshments at a number of points along the route. The Auto-Rickshaw Union welcomed the devotees at chowk Ghanta Ghar by distributing sweets and fruits among them. The Municipal Corporation had stationed a number of water-tankers along the route.

Besides, the Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle had arranged a van carrying anti-drugs and anti-tobacco messages to enhance public awareness about the dangers of addiction. The messages also impressed upon the need to eradicate addiction from the society. A special message for the womenfolk exhorted them to undertake the task of de-addicting the youth.

In view of the forthcoming Assembly poll, various leaders showed up at Gurdwara Kalgidhar. It was also claimed in a press note yesterday that the nagar kirtan had been organised by the District Akali Jatha, Ludhiana Urban.



Viklang Kendra, residents at loggerheads over park
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, January 19
The management of the Viklang Sahayta Kendra run by the Bharat Vikas Parishad in Maharishi Valmiki Nagar, and residents of C Block of the locality are at loggerheads over the maintenance of a park adjoining the kendra.

Despite the LIT authorities making it clear that there was no attempt to encroach upon the park by the kendra, which had been authorised for maintenance work having featured in the ‘sangat darshan’ programme for two weeks in succession, the controversy refuses to die down.

Persisting with its allegation that the management of the kendra was out to grab the park, the Welfare Association of residents has charged that the people are being stopped from entering the park. Further, those working in the park have been instructed to take photographs of persons trying to enter it.

The chairman of the Welfare Association, Mr M.L. Anand, said that the Bharat Vikas Parishad, being a service organisation, was expected to act in a “decent and constructive manner”. Instead, it had entered into a confrontation with the residents over the use of a public place. He urged the authorities of the Improvement Trust to prevail upon the kendra management to construct a boundary wall towards the side of the park.



Loan defaulters bleed banks
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 19
Local bank branches have failed to recover more than Rs 150 crore from defaulters due to lengthy legal battles and cumbersome banking norms to recover loans. The one-time settlement scheme launched by the RBI has also failed to drastically decrease non-performing assets. Trade unions have alleged that despite their best efforts to improve productivity in the public sector, banks have not been able to earn adequate profits because of locking of these amounts.

According to information, there are 130 firms in the state which have failed to repay Rs 1 crore or more to public sector, private and foreign banks and financial institutions for years together, amounting to over Rs 530 crore. Out of these, about 35 firms belong to Ludhiana. The union leaders of have disclosed that the All India Bank Employees Association has published a list of defaulters at the all-India level, which has been provided to all MPs. No action has been taken so far.

The association has now released a separate state-wise list. According to the list, which includes names of the defaulters owing more than Rs 1 crore to financial institutions and banks, 33 firms of the city have failed to repay about Rs 144 crore, as on March 31, 2000. Consequently, their accounts have been declared doubtful or just losses to banks. The banks have filed suits in courts in some cases.

The list of defaulters include AG Foods ( Rs 1.94 crore ), A K Silk and Woollen Mills (Rs 4.62 crore), Arihant Cotsyn (Rs 23.90 crore), Bicycle Manufacturing Corporation (Rs 1.19 crore), Cambridge Woollen Mills (Rs 1.52 crore), Everest Woollen Mills (Rs 1.61 crore), Garg Concast (Rs 1.87 crore), Garg Forgings and Concast (Rs 3.66 crore), Ghai Agro Mills (Rs 3.90 crore), Harman Steels (Rs 1.03 crore), Indson Solvent (Rs 3.40 crore), Knitex International (Rs 1.15 crore), Ludhiana Wool Syndicate (Rs 2.90 crore), Morinda Overseas Industries (Rs 2.73 crore), Murari Woollen Mills (Rs 4.80 crore), New Bharat Chemical and New Bharat Fruit Division (Rs 1 crore), Pure Milk Products (Rs 1.58 crore ), R K Machine Tools (Rs 8.89 crore), R M Overseas (Rs 2.63 crore) and Raja Cycles (Rs 2.10 crore). Also in the list are Rakesh Woollen Mills (Rs 1.48 crore), Swastika Wool Traders (Rs 3.23 crore), Swiss Diamonds (Rs 2.66 crore), Thapar Agro Mills (Rs 13.43 crore), Thapar Foods (Rs 7.84 crore), V M Spinning Mills (Rs 1.10 crore), Vashisht Industries Products (Rs 3.88 crore), Sandhu Knitwears (Rs 3.80 crore), Shivalik Wala Steel Mills (2.38 crore), Shivalik Woollen Mills (Rs 1.07 crore), Shree Dewan Steel Rolling Mills (Rs 1.27 crore) and Single Cycles (Rs 2.09 crore).



Seven more file papers
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 19
On the fourth day of filing of nomination papers for the elections to 12 Assembly constituencies in the district today, seven more candidates filed their nomination papers .With this the total number of candidates have risen to 14. Mr S.K. Sandhu, Deputy Commissioner and District Election Officer informed that no nomination paper was received for 53-Jagraon, 54-Raikot, 56-Kila Raipur, 57-Ludhiana North, 60-Ludhiana Rural, 61-Payal, 63-Samrala and 64-Khanna constituencies. 



Dissidence headache for Makkar
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 19
Notwithstanding the claims of some Akali dissidents about fielding a rebel candidate, the final battlelines seem to have been drawn in the Ludhiana West Assembly segment. The contest seems to be direct between the Congress candidate, Mr Harnam Dass Johar, an old political heavyweight who has served as a minister and Speaker, Vidhan Sabha, and Mr Avtar Singh Makkar of the ruling SAD-BJP alliance. Given the experience and stature of Mr Johar, Mr Makkar may not prove to be his equal, yet he is trying to prove himself as a strong rival.

However, Mr Makkar is faced with opposition from his archrival within the SAD, and the party vice-president, Mr Amarjit Singh Bhatia. Mr Bhatia is an important leader in the city and has his own pockets of influence. He was a strong claimant for the party ticket. He has served an ultimatum to the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, against the nomination of Mr Makkar, which he has not withdrawn so far.

On the other hand, quite contrary to the general perception, the Congress is presenting a united face in these elections, at least in Ludhiana. Mr Johar, who has contested thrice from here and won twice, is contesting for the fourth time. His influence in the party high command is tremendous. In fact, it was this influence only that won him the party nomination despite some people having written him off.

Although Mr Johar had lost to Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, who is contesting as a Panthic Morcha candidate from Kila Raipur, in previous elections by about 12,000 votes. In the last parliamentary elections the Congress candidate, Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, had got a lead of over 7,000 votes from this segment. Mr Johar hopes to consolidate this lead as he feels he does not face any significant opposition.

Mr Johar is banking upon several factors. Besides severe dissidence in the SAD, he is also hopeful of getting most of the Hindu votes, who constitute more than 60 per cent of the total electorate. However, Mr Johar strongly denies that he is seeking votes in the name of religion. “That would be the last thing I can ever think of”, he asserted, while maintaining that like a “true Congressman I will fight elections on secular plank only”.

Mr Makkar, who is desperately seeking a rapprochement with Mr Bhatia, is hopeful that all dissidents will fall in line once Mr Badal asks them to do so. He is confident of getting the BJP votes and maintains that he is on a “firm ground”. Mr Makkar has remained as acting president of the party for the past three years.



Not so, claims SAD candidate
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 19
The acting district president of the SAD and party nominee from the Ludhiana West Assembly segment has claimed that party rebels would not make much impact on his prospects in the poll. He said unprecedented development activities in Punjab during the tenure of the SAD-BJP government and poor track record of successive Congress governments would be his poll plank.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Makkar said many of the party workers from Mr Bhatia’s camp had joined his election campaign and a seven-member committee, set up by Mr Bhatia to take up the issue of changing the party nominee with the leadership, had also virtually become defunct. He expressed confidence that better sense would prevail upon Mr Bhatia and his close supporters and they would positively respond to the call for unity, issued by senior party leaders, including the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and the former SGPC President, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi.



Gosain, Khalsa file papers
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 19
The Deputy Speaker in the Vidhan Sabha and the BJP candidate from Ludhiana East, Mr Satpal Gosain, today filed his nomination papers amidst much fanfare. He was accompanied by hundreds of BJP and Akali workers, who were shouting slogans in support of the alliance victory.

Mr Gosain’s rival, Mr Surinder Dawer, filed his papers yesterday. Not left to be behind, Mr Gosain’s supporters ensured that they outclassed Mr Dawer’s show. To add to the confidence of Mr Gosain, the district president of the SAD, Mr Avtar Singh Makkar, also accompanied Mr Gosain at the time of filing the papers. Mr Makkar took out sometime from his busy scheduled as he is himself pitted in a tough fight against the Congress candidate, Mr Harnam Dass Johar, in Ludhiana West.

Both Mr Gosain and Mr Makkar expressed confidence that the alliance was set to return to power with a thumping majority. They counted the development projects launched and completed by the Badal government. They claimed that Mr Badal had provided the ‘best government’ to the state and had not only set the state on a development path, but also had ensured peace and prosperity.

The BJP and Akali leaders claimed that the alliance represented the brotherhood of two main communities of Punjab. They alleged that the Congress had always ‘vitiated and sabotaged’ the peaceful atmosphere in the state. Mr Gosain and Mr Makkar also tried to play down the dissidence within the BJP and the SAD, claiming that it was a momentary reaction of some leaders, who will soon realise their mistake and work with the alliance.

The sitting MLA from Dhaka, Mr Bikramjit Singh Khalsa, who is contesting this time as the Panthic Morcha candidate, also filed his nomination papers today at the Mini Secretariat. He was accompanied by a senior Akali leader and former SGPC chief, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, and hundreds of workers who reached the office of the Returning Officer in big convoy of vehicles. Talking to reporters before filing the papers, Mr Khalsa expressed confidence that he would retain the seat. He claimed that he did not face any opposition. Moreover, he added, he had done a lot of developmental works in the area.



Unchecked flow corruption waters: Bhattal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 19
Former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal today lashed out at the SAD-BJP government in the state, alleging that it had crossed all limits of corruption. She remarked, “The sixth river of corruption has been added to the existing five in Punjab”.

Ms Bhattal was speaking at a function organised to pay tributes to Joginder Pal Pandey on his 15th death anniversary here today. Pandey was gunned down by terrorists on this day 15 years ago. Ms Bhattal said sacrifices of people like Pandey had ensured that Punjab stayed with India and peace returned to the state.

Pandey’s son and the sitting MLA from Ludhiana North, Mr Rakesh Pandey, who was contesting as a Congress candidate, launched his campaign today. Ms Bhattal inaugurated his election office. The function was attended by party workers, leaders and candidates. 



14 years later, he’s uprooted again
Mahesh Sharma

Ahmedgarh, January 19
Mr Kaur Chand, a migrant from Gharsana town in Rajasthan, 8 km from the border with Pakistan, will have to re-establish himself. About 14 years back, he had to leave his parental property at Shehna due to terrorism.

In view of the possibility of an Indo-Pak war, mines have been laid in the area falling between Gharsana and the border and surrounding villages have been evacuated.

Though no official notice regarding evacuation has been given, around half of the residents of his town have left on the advice of their friends in the defence services.

They have been told that only a one-day notice will be given to them in the eventuality of war.

The head of a 10-member family, Mr Kaur Chand finds it difficult to narrate the woes of migrants. He is pained at the thought of having to forego his property again. Fourteen years ago, he had sold his property at a throwaway price.

Dr Ravinder Bansal, his son, tries to console him by saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” Though he is confident that he will again establish his practice, he is worried about the future of his children, who have left their schools just before the final exams.

Getting their names entered in the voters’ list and acquiring the ration card and the domicile certificate of Punjab are other things he is worried about.

The only thing that gives him solace is that they are living in a safer environment here. He finds it hard to forget the tearful scene of dozens of families bidding farewell to their houses, fields and the people left behind.

Regarding government help, he says only those who originally belong to Rajasthan will be given assistance, if any. 



Factory worker forced to quit
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 19
Local industrialists seem to have devised new ways to cut down on labour costs by getting rid of old workers, to whom they have to pay more salary than new workers. These workers have also to be paid other benefits under labour laws.

According to information, Mr Harjit Singh, a cutter master had been working with Piyush Knitwear Company in New Shiv Puri Colony for the past nine years.

He had not been provided any receipt for salary or information about provident fund, ESI and other benefits. He had been paid just Rs 2500 per month for the past many years. His salary was raised to Rs 3500 past year and to Rs 5000 recently.

Mr Harjit Singh alleged that the his master, Mr Rajan Bhandari, and the latter’s father, Mr Hardial, had been threatening him for the past few months to resign. He had been getting more salary due to his skills as compared to most labourers in the factory.

Mr Harjit Singh said, “On January 9, I was accused of selling factory clothes outside in association with them. I was severely beaten up by Rajan Bhandari, Hardial and his neighbour D.K. Arora for no fault.’

Later they took me to the police station and threatened me of implication in a case of keeping illegal arms or selling opium. They told asked me not to come to the factory”.

The worker claimed that he had not stolen or sold anything from the factory, but the owners wanted to get rid of him.

There were a number of labourers in the factory, especially migrant labourers, who were ready to work for lower wages, he added. Earlier also, the owners had tried to turn out old workers by accusing them of theft.

He said that he had been turned out of the job without any notice or proof of theft against him.

Even his salary for the past one month had not been paid. ‘‘They had even kept my bicycle and lunch box. I fear that I may be beaten up again if I go there to get my wages and bicycle,’’ he said.

Mr Hardial and Mr Bhandari, when contacted, admitted that they had not registered any FIR or formal complaint at the police station.

Mr Hardial admitted that they had beaten up Harjit to get information. He said, ‘‘We will not take him back in any case, but are ready to pay his wages.’’

Asked about payment of his provident fund, he said, ‘‘I have no information about the funds. He had been working for the past two or three years and we owe him nothing”. He had been let off from the theft case, quipped Mr Bhandari. 


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