Saturday, February 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Lok Jan Shakti orders probe
Maintains Gen Secy has been implicated
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 15
While maintaining that the police has implicated a leader of the party in a car theft case, the Punjab unit of the Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJSP) has said it has ordered a high-level probe into the allegations. The party has also announced that if found guilty, party membership of the accused will be cancelled.

The party's decision to conduct an independent probe into the case apparently came after consultation with Mr Ram Bilas Paswan, President of the party and Union Minister for Coal and Mines. The state unit had also sent a complete report of the case to Mr Paswan.

A General Secretary of the state unit of the party was arrested along with a terrorist-turned robber on the charges of stealing 17 cars from different places in the city. The police had shown some of the recovered cars to mediapersons and produced evidence of the involvement of the politician.

Mr Kartar Singh Patna, Chief Secretary of the state unit of the party, told Ludhiana Tribune that they had consulted Mr Paswan and had ordered a high-level probe into the case. He maintained that the party believed that the party leader had been falsely implicated either because of some political rivalry or at the behest of the other accused, Jasbir Singh, who might be hoping of a reprive if he named some politician.

Mr Patna, in a press note, said the accused, Gurdip Singh, had been working with the party for the past three years and as per the knowledge of the party leadership, he was not doing any illegal work of any nature. Mr Patna added that the accused was a car dealer and might have bought or sold some stolen car given to him by the main accused, Jasbir Singh. He claimed that the General Secretary of the party did not even know how to drive a car.

Police sources maintained that there was no false implication in the case, as was being alleged by the political outfit. They said the main allegation against the political leader was that he had arranged fake documents of the stolen cars and had helped in their sale or purchase.


Government in inertia
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 15
With more than a week left for counting and all indicators leading towards a Congress government in the state, the existing political leadership supposedly ruling the state has been left “powerless”. With votes yet to be counted, it is bureaucracy that seems to be running the roost.

In Ludhiana, considered to be the political and industrial capital of the state, there seems to be a political vacuum. The ruling Akali-BJP alliance leaders are maintaining a low profile and are reluctant to come forward. The Congress leaders have adopted the wait and watch policy.

“This is total bureaucratic governance this time”, remarked a local leader of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal. He pointed out that this reminded one of the militancy days when the state was under President’s rule. Punjab remained under President’s rule for over five years during militancy and it was the bureaucrats alone who called the shots.

It is not only the general public which is feeling a chasm due to the absence of political representatives. “Earlier, we would approach our MLA or some senior party leader to accompany us to some officer, but nobody is prepared for it now”, said a BJP worker. He hoped that the things would settle down after the results were declared.

Senior officers in the administration have started feeling disinterested in pursuing their job with seriousness. Admitting to this fact, a middle-rank officer in the district administration pointed out: “There is a sense of uncertainty in everybody’s mind as nobody is sure what will happen after February 24. So why should anyone burn his fingers”.

The apprehensions among the officers, about their possible (read certain) transfer in case the current regime is replaced by the Congress, seem to be making them meticulous in the performance of their duty, lest they invite the wrath of someone who may matter tomorrow. “So the best thing is to avoid any important decision at this stage”, said an officer.

In all probability most officers, if not all occupying important positions in the district are likely to be replaced by those loyal to the new regime.


Election staff alleges harassment
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, February 15
Employees of government departments, local bodies, semi-government, autonomous bodies, boards and corporations, deployed on election duty, have alleged that they have been harassed, victimised and have not been paid election duty allowance. Further the treatment, meted out to them on the polling day has been quite bad, they have alleged.

Several complaints received by Ludhiana Tribune indicated that the designated officers, supervising the election arrangements, had acted in a whimsical manner and had exercised their ‘discretion’ in payment of emoluments to Presiding Officers, Polling Officers and other staff on duty. In particular, the employees kept in reserve had been discriminated against and were paid a pittance instead of being treated on par with those on active duty.

It was learnt that some lecturers of the Government College for Boys, deployed on duty in the Ludhiana North and Ludhiana West constituencies, had lodged a protest against the discriminatory treatment meted out to the reserve staff on the day of polling and had prevailed upon the supervisory officials to pay the reserve staff, what was due to them under the norms.

Certain officials of an insurance company lamented that against the regulation allowance of Rs 330 for polling officers, they were paid only Rs 165 despite protests. Those under paid included some persons, who were earlier kept in reserve but at the last moment, were assigned active duty, which they performed till night of February 13. The employees, kept in reserve, had also participated in complete rehearsal of election duty, along with others, who were on active duty, it was added.

The staff on election duty further rued the fact that the supervisory staff, to whom the EVMs and other official record, pertaining to polling, was to be handed over at different places in the city, had not been properly trained and briefed. The resultant confusion and procedural wrangles caused inordinate delays and in some cases, the staff on poll duty was relieved several hours after the polling ended. The total absence of transport arrangements and food for the employees, made the matters worse, particularly for those, who had to commute to nearby towns and villages to go home.

The District Elections Officer-cum-Deputy Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sandhu, however, maintained that under the norms, an equivalent of 10 per cent of the total deployed staff was kept in reserve and payment of allowance would be on par to all of them, provided those in reserve were present throughout the day. He said any discrepancies in payment of election duty allowance, would be removed and the matter would not be left to the discretion of the supervisory officials.

Mr Sandhu further said that the delay at the time of handing over the EVMs and other official record to the designated officers might have been caused due to the reason that EVMs were used for the first time for polling and the officials were being over cautious to leave any thing to chance.


PCCTU demands voting right for poll staff
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 15
Demanding right to vote for government and semi-government employees engaged on election duty on February 13, the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU) has written to the Chief Election Commissioner, Mr J.M. Lyngdoh, to make suitable arrangements to enable them to exercise franchise before the declaration of results.

In the letter, Prof K. B. S. Sodhi, president, PCCTU, has stated that thousands of employees on polling duty were deployed at polling booths far off from their constituencies. Hence, they could not cast their votes.

Prof Sodhi said since the elections results would be announced on February 24, there was ample time to make suitable arrangements to help such persons vote.

Besides, he said, the remuneration paid to the employees was too meager and humiliating for the arduous job performed by them. He said the presiding officers were paid only Rs 400 each while the polling officers were given Rs 315.

Prof Sodhi said the remuneration should be revised by at least 100 per cent with retrospective effect. He said the employees also be paid for conveyance and halting allowances separately as per the government rates.

He said state electoral officers and returning officers should ensure comfortable board and lodging facilities for the staff at the polling booths.


Cops hand in glove with fraud accused?
D. B. Chopra

Ludhiana, February 15
The Kotwali police has failed to take any action against an accused in an alleged fraud case registered under Sections 406,420,506 and 34 of the IPC on October 10 last year on a complaint by Mr Sandeep Singh, a resident of Deepak Cinema road.

The complainant, who is an orphan without any brother or sister and lives with his aunt, knows the accused as they have a sanitary workshop below his house. According to the FIR, after the death of his parents, the accused, Pritpal Singh and his sons Ramanpal Singh and Parampal Singh, started impressing upon him in 1995 to go to some foreign country where he could make plenty of money. Lured by the idea, the complainant asked them about the money required but expressed his inability to pay the whole sum in one go.

The accused agreed to take the money on instalments following which he started giving the money through bank cheques and within two years paid Rs 2.81 lakh — Rs 2.71 lakh to Pritpal Singh and Rs 10,000 to his son Ramanpal Singh. The accused had assured the complainant that Parampal Singh, who is settled in Delhi, had good connections in the Capital and was in a position to arrange a visa.

In the meantime, the daughter of his aunt got married to Ramanpal Singh in June 1997. Mr Sandeep Singh, who had been asking the accused to return the money, diluted his demands keeping in mind the newly-created relationship. But when he again started demanding his money back, he was assured that his work would be done soon. The complainant further stated in his complaint that when Parampal Singh came from Delhi to the city about six months ago, he again approached the accused and demanded his passport and visa. At this, the accused demanded more money. On threatening a legal action, the accused started intimidating him.

Mr Sandeep Singh told Ludhiana Tribune today that whenever he contacted the police officers concerned no action was initiated. For reasons best known to them, the cops continue to dilly-dally with the case on one pretext or the other.

A couple of days ago, he managed to persuade a police official to accompany him to the residence of the accused in Sarabha Nagar where Pritpal Singh was present but the officer refused to take him into custody on the argument that he was an old man. He further told that now the accused had taken shelter somewhere else in the city even though the police has assured him of an early action.


Police clueless in child murder case
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 15
Mystery continues to shroud the murder of 12-year-old Sultan Ali, whose body was found in an agricultural field near Bonkar Dogran village on Monday last. Though the police questioned several villagers in this regard, no one could provide any clue about the murderer. The police was sure that the boy was murdered elsewhere and the body was dumped later in the fields.

The police suspected that the child was killed after a failed attempt to sodomise him, though the post-mortem examination did not confirm this. The police was awaiting the chemical examination report on swabs collected from the body. It also explored other possible angles of the murder, but could not find any proof.


Relaxing time for candidates
Shivani Bhakoo

Ludhiana, February 15
After the hectic campaigning schedule and electioneering, candidates contesting from various constituencies in the city are heaving a sigh of relief. Many of them said results do not matter as the very fact that they were able to move the public with their ideas was more important. However, some others have left everything to God.

Mr Avtar Singh Makkar, SAD-BJP candidate from Ludhiana West constituency said, though the polling was over and comparatively it was a relaxed period yet he was visiting and thanking his party workers. “I am thankful to all those who helped me and stood by me during these days. I am still meeting many people and have been telling them that I will try to do everything possible for them in the future”, said Mr Makkar.

Mr Makkar said he was a true Sikh but had respect for all other religions. He said that he believed in destiny. “Guru Maharaj has taught us to be ‘sehej’ in all circumstances. One should not forget God in good as well as in bad times. So I am regularly praying to God, who is my well-wisher”, maintained Mr Makkar. He said he had finishes all his pending works these days and was visiting his family and friends.

Mr Harish Rai Dhanda, an independent candidate from Ludhiana West remarked, “stagnation leads to death”. He said,” I don’t think my routine has changed after polling. In the mornings and evenings, I have been meeting people. I am thankful to those who have supported me all these days. Let the result be in anybody’s favour but I am convinced. I have been able to create awareness among people. To an extent, I am able to move the educated people because it is very difficult to convince them. It will definitely be a bonus if I win”, added Mr Dhanda.

Mr Dhanda said by the grace of God, his well-wishers and supporters had reposed faith in him. “I did not have to pay any worker. I had all educated volunteers like doctors, lawyers and engineers with me”, he added.

Mr Pran Bhatia, contestant from Ludhiana North constituency said he was much relieved and was feeling good after the hectic days. But he said he was on the move even after the elections. “I have been meeting people and thanking all my supporters for all the cooperation. I will definitely serve for the development of the city. I am very hopeful about the results. “24 tak hamari kismat machine mein band hai” (our fate has been sealed till February 24 in the voting machines), let us hope for the best”, added Mr Bhatia.

Hoping to return to the Assembly, this time from Kila Raipur, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal of the Panthic Morcha said there was nothing new in the daily routine, except that it was slightly more hectic. He pointed out, “Once you are in the public life, you have to remain active and with the people”. Now Mr Grewal has started “thanks giving tours” of the area.


Heavy rural turnout a relief for alliance
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 15
A large turnout in rural Assembly segments and the rural areas falling in the urban constituencies in Ludhiana district seems to have come as a great relief for the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Badal (SAD-B) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Conversely, the low turnout in the urban constituencies also seems to be music to their ears. The leaders of the ruling alliance seem to be optimistic on the large turnout in rural areas, considered to be Akali stronghold.

Without attaching much significance to the pre-poll survey and trying to play down their impact, the SAD-B and the BJP leaders maintained that the results would be “quite contrary” to what has been predicted. They pointed out, the pre-poll surveys never take factors like polling percentage in account, before drawing their conclusions.

Senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha member Lala Lajpat Rai is of the opinion that there may be some truth in the pre-poll surveys. He said: “The people involved in surveys go precisely by the rule book, while the ground realities are entirely different”. He agreed that sometimes the pre-poll surveys are correct, but these cannot be taken at their face value.

Moreover, Mr Rai said, the poll surveyors presume a constant percentage everywhere, which is not correct. There is a massive difference in polling percentage in Ludhiana only. While in the Samrala Assembly segment there was the highest polling percentage at 71, in Ludhiana rural it was 44, the lowest in the district. Mr Rai asked: “Will this not make any difference?”.

Another senior Akali leader and president of the Youth Akali Dal, Mr Sharanjit Singh Dhillon pointed out, presuming that there is a particular factor in favour of or against any particular party or the leader, it is consistent, irrespective of the region or area in the state. It will work in favour or against anyone only when the voter turnout is constant all over the state. If there is a variation in poll percentage in different constituencies, it will have a varied impact on the electoral outcome.

This is precisely what the Akalis are now expecting from the large turnout in rural areas. The party sources revealed that notwithstanding their apparent reaction to the election surveys, they took these seriously and did last-minute efforts to ensure maximum voting in their strongholds, which is obviously the rural constituency. So they worked hard to ensure maximum polling in rural area. This factor, the party sources revealed, will definitely make an important difference to the electoral outcome.

The ruling alliance is also counting on the populist measures that have mostly been farmer oriented. The SAD-B expects “good dividends” from the “free electricity” supplied to the farmers in rural areas and substantial hike in the minimum support price for wheat and paddy. “That gives me the added confidence that the ruling alliance will return to power, no matter what the media predicts”, remarked Mr Rai.



Opinion divided over poll survey credibility
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 15
Opinion seems to be divided among people over the credibility of the pre-poll opinion surveys. However, it is the political affiliations and inclinations that determine whether these are accepted or rejected. While common people feel that “more or less the surveys are correct”, those who have been shown to be at a loss reject it outrightly, while others remain silent.

The whopping figure of 91 seats “granted” to the Congress by a particular private TV channel has left many people aghast. Even the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president, Capt Amarinder Singh, has been maintaining that his party will get around 80 seats, while the TV channel is giving his party 10 more seats.

People wonder what the basis of the conclusions drawn by the TV channel is. Mr Girish Kapoor, a leading industrialist of the region, observes that while most people do expect the Congress to form the government with comfortable majority, nobody is ready to accept that the party may get over 90 seats, as predicted by a TV channel. He pointed out: “The TV channel has kept the methodology a guarded secret, so it is difficult to believe whether the survey conclusions would prove to be accurate or not”.

On the other hand, political affiliations also determine whether the survey outcome is acceptable or not. Mr Ramesh Joshi, convener of the Urban Development Cell of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC), maintains that the surveys have so far been “almost accurate with some margin of error”. He criticised the BJP leaders for demanding ban on poll surveys just because the outcome was not to their liking. He asked: “Do the BJP leaders hold same opinion about the poll surveys in Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal, where the party is placed ahead of others?”.

But Mr Chaman Lal Chaitely, a senior BJP leader, differs saying that the surveys have not always proved correct. Citing examples, he pointed out, that surveys had never predicted the return of Ms Jayalalitha to power in Tamil Nadu. Nor had anyone predicted the return of Mr Digvijay Singh in Madhya Pradesh. “These are only a few examples to prove that surveys are not always and necessarily accurate”, he pointed out.


Cong win certain: Bawa
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 15
The District Congress Committee (Urban) acting President, Mr Krishan Kumar Bawa, has claimed that victory of the Congress on all seats in the city as well as in Ludhiana rural and Dakha seats is a certainty if the enthusiastic response of the electorate is any indication.

Mr Bawa, who visited more than 36 polling booths in Ludhiana West, Ludhiana North, Ludhiana East, Ludhiana Rural and Dakha constituencies while polling was in progress on February 13, said in a press note that party activists had reported a good turn-out of voters and a positive response towards the party.

Others accompanying Mr Bawa were Mr Gurbhej Singh Chhabra, a member the PPCC, Mr Rajinder Palta, Mr Ajaib Singh, Mr Ravinder Sehgal, Mr Amarjit Singh, Mr Ravinder Kaushik, Dr Hardev Singh, Mr Rajinder Rana and Mr Amar Nath Bharti.

Mr Bawa claimed that the Congress would form the next government under the leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh. He observed that Mr Parkash Singh Badal had seen the writing on the wall and his remarks that he would accept the mandate of the voters was a virtual admission of defeat.

The District Youth Congress President, Mr Pawan Diwan, and the PYC General Secretary, Mr Akshay Bahnot, also claimed that the party would form the next government in Punjab with a thumping majority.

In total disagreement with the claims by Congress functionaries, the Shiromani Akali Dal Youth Wing termed opinion polls and exit polls, as false and baseless.


Baba Bedi for unity among Akalis
K. S. Chawla

Ludhiana, February 15
Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi, convener of the Panthic Morcha, has said here that his next aim would be to formulate single and cohesive SAD based on the constitution of 1920 and contest elections to the SGPC General House.

In an interview, Baba Bedi said he had been authorised by the sangat to bring the warring factions of the Akali Dal on one platform and he had succeeded in forming a united Panthic Morcha which had contested the Vidhan Sabha elections in Punjab. With this the first phase of his programme had been completed and the process for the second one would start now. He said the immediate task before him was to establish one SAD and this would be achieved before Baisakhi, 2002. “After this I would play the role of conscience-keeper of the Akali Dal and return to my religious duties,” he said.

Thanking the people for their response to the Panthic Morcha, Baba Bedi said the public at large had given them an overwhelming response and “we will be able to throw a new leadership in the days to come. This leadership will be committed to the welfare of the state and would be based on values as envisaged by the Gurus and the concept of ‘Haleemi Raj’. “The Panthic agenda which revolves around the Anandpur Sahib resolution would form the basis of our activity,” he said. He added after the Vidhan Sabha poll, the next field of the work of the Panthic Morcha would be to prepare for the SGPC elections and a campaign for the registration of SGPC votes would be launched soon.


Long queues and locked loos at reservation centre
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 15
Railway authorities may claim that they have increased the number of the computers at the railway reservation centre here, but the hardships of common man seem to be unending due to the shortage of staff, frequent break down of the computer network link and insensitive rules. The presence of a nexus between booking agents and some Railway officials too add to their problem.

A visit to the railway computer centre revealed that though the railways had installed 11 computers, including one each for enquiry and charting purposes, three computers were out of order, due to snapping of link with the Jalandhar network. Passengers who were having a tough time getting a ticket at the remaining counters, complained that two other attendants at the counters had been missing for the past half an hour, as they had reportedly gone for some personal work. Some of the booking clerks were busy issuing tickets to the persons, who had entered from the back door.

Mr Ram Parkash Singh, a migrant labourer, who had been waiting there for the past three hours to get a ticket for Gonda, said he had been coming there for the past two days, but without any result. However, he added, “My colleague who had paid Rs 100 extra to a booking agent, got a ticket immediately. I am unable to pay the extra amount so I have to wait.”

The enquiries also revealed that some of the railway employees get a commission of Rs 20-50 per ticket from the booking agents, who charge up to Rs 50-100 per ticket from their clients to speed up the work. Employees, however, denied this allegation, and said, “We issue tickets sometimes to a few persons, who are sent here by senior officials, without charging anything extra.” Interestingly, one of the senior Railway officials was also seen getting money in his office, from the ‘recommended ’ passengers and later making tickets at an unmanned counter, where about 30 persons were waiting.

Sources, however, maintained that two booking agencies, Nanda and Friends Travels, do not have their own computer network to issue tickets. So these agencies send their employees here to get about 500 tickets every day. These tickets are also arranged from the back door entry after allegedly paying a cut to the officials. The officials at the booking agency, too denied this allegation and said that they got tickets only through lines.

Adding to the woes of common man public toilets at the centre were found to be locked from outside. Even the reservation forms were not kept at the fixed place, and as a result there was a long queue even to get these. Officials said due to frequent power failure and lack of any back up arrangements to run the system, they had to suffer the wrath of people often. Further there was a shortage of staff. One of the employees disclosed that the Railway Vigilance Office had recently charge-sheeted some of their colleagues for issuing more than six tickets, as permissible under the present rules, on the same address. They said, “Though there are some genuine passengers but we ask them to stand in the queue again and again to get more than six tickets.”

Mr Subhash Chander, Chief Reservation Officer, declined to respond to all these complaints saying that he had been debarred by the senior officials not to talk to the press. Mr Kuldeep Singh, Area Traffic Controller, also declined to comment on the issue.

Mr Rajesh Khare, PRO at Jalandhar, could not be contacted as he had not provided any contact number.


Parties mark Valentine’s Day
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 15
A dance party was organised at the Sutlej Club to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The club was decorated with heart-shaped balloons, roses and red ribbons.

Youngsters and others, accompanied by their Valentines, looked enthusiastic. The young couples were dressed in their best outfits. Black and red colours dominated the scene. A majority of youngsters were holding flowers and friendship bands in their hands.

A huge dance floor had been made for dancing couples and over 1000 persons danced for over three hours with D. J. Bhanu, who played a variety of latest romantic numbers in Punjabi, Hindi and English.

The club had arranged for some models from Delhi who sashayed down the ramp throughout the celebrations. The pretty female models wore traditional outfits like sarees and short suits in bright colours like orange, green, red and yellow colours. They were accompanied by some male models.

The youngsters enjoyed every minute of the show. Various stalls of eatables were organised for the members and the guests.

Show-Biz Media, an even management and advertising company, also organised a fashion show ‘the flowers beauty show’ and a Valentine’s dance party at Hardy’s World last evening.

Ms Kriti Kohli, organiser of the show, in a press statement said that various models from Delhi and other cities of Punjab participated in the show. The main attraction of the show was the round in which the models walked on the ramp wearing dresses made of flowers. Mr Chander Shekhar, IG, Punjab, was the chief guest.


City NIFD centre rated ‘best’
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 15
Ludhiana centre of the National Institute of Fashion Designing (NIFD) has been adjudged as “the centre with best academic performance award” at the annual convocation held at Chandigarh.

Out of 600 students who attended the convocation, 125 students were from Ludhiana. Out of 118 centres of NIFD operational in India and abroad, Ludhiana centre was given ‘the centre with best academic performance award’ for the academic year 2000-2001.

This award is given on the basis of academic standards being maintained, course delivery methodology, extra-curricular activities, documentation systems, market feedback and placement of students after completion of course.

On this occasion, awards were given to toppers of each department — Karuna and Shruti (fashion design), Amandeep and Nidhi (textile design), Deepti and Neetu (interior design and Shilpa (knitwear design and technology).

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