Sunday, March 3, 2002, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Industry in dire straits
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 2
Industrial units of this city once called the Manchester of India are in dire straits. Market slow-down and the rush of foreign goods has forced leading industrialists here to review their production and marketing strategies. Several industrial houses have shut down, while others are on the verge of closure.

And the worst that could happen to the industry was the September 11 attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in USA last year. Goods worth crores of rupees were either not delivered or had to be held back. ‘‘The local industry continues to shiver from the very mention of the attacks’’, revealed Mr Sunil Dat, a leading hosiery manufacturer, who exports his products to the Gulf.

Hopes of thousands of small-scale and medium-industrial houses have been belied by the Union Budget, which means tough measures in the immediate future for the already dying industry. Once famous for being the fountainhead of bicycle manufacturing, hundreds of cycle or ancillary units in the city have shut operations protesting the imposition of 4 per cent excise on the manufacturers, who are already facing stiff competition world wide from competitors from countries like China.

The Rs 3000 crore-cycle industry has shrunk by 25 per cent overnight, says Mr Onkar Singh Pahwa of the All India Cycle Manufacturers Association. The city's cycle manufacturers export nearly one third of their products, but the imposition of the excise duty would not only cripple the industry, but also cause a huge shrinkage in government earnings, making the entire process counterproductive. The small scale industries which have been hit hard by the Budget proposals may not now be able to contribute more than Rs 50 crore in revenue.

According to the representatives of the Engineering Export Promotion Council, to compete with foreign manufacturers, Ludhiana industry has over the past one year or so indulged in price-cutting, trying to absorb losses and minimize profits in a bid to prevent the foreign manufacturers from entering the market, but unhealthy policies of the government are bound to change all these. The representative remarked, "the government attitude seems at best indifferent and at worst hostile".

Hosiery industry that forms the backbone of the city's economic life, is however little relieved with the reduction of the excise duty on fabric and garments by 4 per cent from 16 per cent to 12 per cent. Having borne the brunt of losing out a lot of money from cancelled export orders and drying up of the Russian market, the reduction of excise in this sector has come as a blessing at a much-needed time. Needless to say, however, that the hosiery industry was demanding that the excise be halved to 8 per cent at all stages under.

Experts feel that more than restructuring of taxes and duties, it is a red-tape free environment that will help the city industry come out of the dumps. ‘‘The recently elected Congress government has promised a clean working environment, but one really doubts the intentions of politicians’’, say members from various associations of trade and industry. These experts say that SSI units in the hosiery sector and light-engineering sector are on the verge of closure. Associations like the Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertaking (CICU) have demanded, ''Punjab should take industrial associations into confidence to enact new policies for the revival of economy. We expect to see at least one export park of international standards in the city’’. Another sector that is facing serious threat from imports is the acrylic yarn and edible oil which can be imported without duty. The tax-free imports could result in about 50,000 workers losing their jobs in the event of all such units close down. A delegation of local spinners has already submitted a memorandum to the state and Centre governments highlighting the fact that they are unable to compete with the duty-free imports, especially when they have to pay about 25 per cent in taxes over their production cost.

The most disturbing trend, however, is the report that nearly 75 per cent machine tool units were shutting down. Of the 10,000 machine tool units many are closing down. They are selling expensive equipment as scrap to free space for more profitable units. A leading industrialist famous for his woollen products has started manufacturing trousers and shirts in the same premises after closing down the steel plan the had set up there.

High input costs have also forced a number of units to lower standards, which have made these units non-competitive in the international markets. This has resulted in an estimated loss of 20,000 jobs and around Rs 300 crore of business, according to the Ludhiana Machine Tool Makers Association (LMTMA) president, Mr Sukhdyal Singh. The annual production has also come down to around Rs 100 crore, besides the drastic fall in exports. Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Batala used to produce all kind of machinery from the agricultural engineering products to auto and cycle units.

Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh told a delegation of industry representatives shortly before the Punjab elections that he was aware of the problems being faced by the business and industry in the state and would in consultation with representatives of various associations devise methods to help various sectors come out of the recession. In tune with the promise, the state government is learnt to be contemplating a review in the state excise policy. 



16 bonded labourers rescued
Shivani Bhakoo

Ludhiana, March 2
For nearly six months their life was confined to dingy pigeonholes till the Dalit Dasta Virodhi Andolan, a society working to eradicate bonded labour rescued 16 bonded labourers from the clutches of a brick-klin owner yesterday.

These migrant labourers from Bihar include women and small children. They are still terrified as the brick-kiln owner had taken their thumb impressions on plain papers before he dumped them at the local Dana Mandi here last night. Most of these labourers are sick.

They are from Begu Sarai village in Bihar and had been working with a brick-kiln owner at Brahmbad village in the Bholath area of Kapurthala district for over past six months on daily wages. One of the released labourers, Dalip Kumar, said they had met the SSP, Kapurthala, with their representation on February 18 but no action had been taken. ‘‘With the help of an activist of the Dalit Dasta Virodh Andolan, Phillaur, we moved our application in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which appointed a warrant officer on February 28, for our release", said 25-year -old Dalip Kumar. This information was leaked out somehow and the owner with the help of police officials, took the thumb impressions of the labourers and abandoned them and their families, they alleged.

Mr Jai Singh, the president, Dalit Dasta Virodh Andolan, Phillaur, said ‘‘we will take them to Phillaur and give them proper medical treatment’’.

He said there were over two lakh bhatta-mazdoors in Punjab who were getting raw treatment from their employers.

One of the labourers said they were paid between Rs 100 to 150 per day. ‘‘Our wives and children also worked in the kiln but they were not paid. 



Residents sore over MC’s billing system 
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, March 2
The computerised billing system for civic charges like house tax, water rate and sewerage in the Municipal Corporation, which became operational some time ago, has been a source of ‘trouble’ for the city residents.

Despite a spate of complaints by people about wrong addresses, leading to non-delivery or delayed delivery of bills, addition of arrears despite being deposited and non-adjustment of paid bills, the MC administration has failed to take any corrective measures to streamline the system.

Initially, when the computerised billing for civic charges was introduced, the city population had high hopes that it would stop common billing errors and their repeated visits to the MC office for rectification of bills but to their utter disappointment, the computerised system further added to their woes.

The most common complaint of the residents about house tax, water rate and sewerage bills was inclusion of paid bills as arrears in the subsequent bills with the onus for producing previous receipts absolutely upon the residents. The civic officials attributed the problem to shortage of computer-literate staff and the present system of posting of receipts, which left much to be desired.

But that was no consolation for ‘victims’ of the wrong billing who, at times, when the previous receipts were not traceable, had no other choice but to make the payment again to avoid the disconnection of water or sewerage connections.

Mr Yash Pal Ghai, a resident of Kidwai Nagar, had paid all water supply and sewerage bills amounting to over Rs 7,000 till March 2002 but was again slapped with another bill for Rs 6,752, which included arrears of Rs 6,212. Another resident, Mrs Krishna Rani of Lakkar Bazaar, inadvertently paid interest on arrears during March last year, which had been waived off. She later sought credit of excess payment in the next bill which was allowed but the same amount was still being showed as arrears in subsequent bills.

While the sufferers due to faulty billing charged the civic staff with inefficiency and negligence, the officials admitted that with a few exceptions, the employees handling computers were yet to learn a lot. Moreover, the sacking of almost all the ad hoc computer operators due to paucity of funds by the MC in recent past, had further precipitated the problem.

The complaints, pertaining to non-delivery or delayed delivery of civic bills were also widespread when the civic body had entrusted the delivery of bills to local courier companies on an experimental basis till last year. The system having failed to have the desired results, the MC had reverted back to delivery of bills through its own staff, which had somewhat improved the situation but still there was much scope for further improvement.



PAUTA wants faculty member as Registrar
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 2
With the post of Registrar of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) falling vacant after the transfer orders of the incumbent, Mr Alok Shekhar, the Punjab Agricultural University Teachers Association (PAUTA) has once again trained its guns at getting a faculty member as Registrar of the PAU instead of a bureaucrat.

The association has decided to write to the new Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and has already drafted a letter stating to him that a faculty member can be a better choice as he would treat the university staff and their matters considerately. PAUTA has been demanding this since many years but the demand was put down by the former chief minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. PAUTA is now pinning its hopes on the new government for this matter.

The post of Registrar has remained mired in controversy for the last one year as difference of opinion prevailed among various groups of the university teaching and non-teaching staff apart from the Vice-Chancellor and the state government. Mr Alok Shekhar has been appointed Secretary, Punjab State Electricity Board, and he is yet to join on the new post. Sources said it would take some time as the present Secretary, PSEB, would be relieved from the post only after he gets new appointment.

Striving to utilise this time, PAUTA has decided to send a charter of demands to the CM and even meet the Chief Minister in this regard. The development is being watched with keen interest on the campus as a number of senior teachers are eyeing the coveted post.

The university teachers belonging to the present PAUTA group are of the view that a faculty member, if chosen for the post, would be a good decision for the university as well as the faculty members. "A faculty member understands the working of the university better that an outsider. We have been facing problems since years when we had to write to ICAR directly and it took us years to get a clarification of some clause or the other. So now we want a faculty member as Registrar who can help us in solving various problems," said Dr A.S. Joshi, vice president of PAUTA.

He also said when the university had come into existence it was written in the statutes that ‘ the university can so long take the IAS officer on deputation’ and it clearly meant that it was a temporary arrangement. He said PAUTA had been writing in its charter of demands that the university should be allowed to appoint a faculty member as a Registrar. He, however, said they had not sent any demand during the tenure of Mr Shekhar as his work was satisfactory.

Another point that substantiates their demand is that if the other universities of the state could have a faculty member as Registrar, then why not PAU. The case of Punjabi University, Patiala, is cited as an example, where a faculty member was being appointed Registrar for the last several years.

The functionaries of PAUTA suggest that the applications should be invited from the senior professors and head of the various departments of the university and a suitable person can be selected for the post for a term of four years. 



Now legislators vie for ministerial berths
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 2
As the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, returns from Delhi with the approval of his team of ministers to be sworn in on Monday, the local legislators are keeping their fingers crossed. With all the eight elected legislators optimistic about finding a berth in the ministry, none of them is prepared to entertain arguments other than their expectations.

Most of the eight legislators elected from Ludhiana district are camping either in New Delhi or Chandigarh to ensure a berth in the ministry. A Congress legislator revealed that it was almost a repeat of the pre-elections scenario when people were desperately seeking ticket. “The only difference is that there are very few people as against hundreds at the time of lobbying for party ticket”, the MLA said.

Among the eight ministerial aspirants, four have already served as ministers in the previous Congress regime headed by Mr Beant Singh, Mr Harcharan Singh Brar and Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. They include Mr Harnam Dass Johar from Ludhiana West, Mr Tej Prakash from Payal, Mr Milkiat Singh Birmi from Ludhiana Rural and Mr Milkiat Singh Dakha from Dakha (reserve) segments.

While these four have been projecting themselves as the obvious claimants for the ministerial berth, there are others like Mr Rakesh Pandey from Ludhiana North, who has been elected for the fourth time in a row and created a record each time, who are vying for a berth. Similarly, Mr Surinder Dawer from Ludhiana East projects himself as genuine contender for having defeated Mr Satpal Gosain by over 13,000 votes. Mrs Harbans Kaur Dullo from Khanna (reserve) represents the downtrodden of the society. Mr Amrik Singh Dhillon from Samrala, who has been elected for the second time, also feels himself to be a genuine contender.

While the Chief Minister has kept his cards close to his chest, well placed sources in the Congress disclosed that Mr Tej Prakash, Mr Rakesh Pandey, Mr Harnam Dass Johar were likely to be inducted in the ministry. While Mr Tej Prakash obviously owes it to his being the son of Mr Beant Singh, Mr Johar is a senior leader and has served as a minister and Speaker. Mr Rakesh Pandey is said to have the advantage of being a staunch loyalist of the former Chief Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who wants her legislators to be included in the ministry. Mr Pandey was the only legislator to have not attend the dinner hosted by Capt Amarinder after the completion of the elections.

On the other hand, Mr Surinder Dawer is reportedly being offered ministry of state, while Mr Milkiat Singh Dakha is expected to be appointed Deputy Speaker in the Punjab Assembly. And Mr Milkiat Singh Birmi, who has served as a minister in Mr Beant Singh’s cabinet, is also believed to be in the race.  



Selling delicacies or polluting city?
D.B. Chopra

Chicken stalls on the Chandigarh Road in Ludhiana.
Chicken stalls on the Chandigarh Road in Ludhiana.

Ludhiana, March 2
On the Chandigarh Road near the Jamalpur crossing, there is a row of wooden tables along the highway where chicken are slaughtered before the eyes of the customer and passersby. Next to these roadside butchers sits a middle-aged migrant with a heap of dead fish in front of him and a small weighing scale and some weights next to it. There are more fish in the pond that he has made there.

On the highway near Basti Jodhewal, amid the dirty surroundings of the Budha Nullah, there is a row of such fish ponds in which tiny fish can be seen. Close to these fish ponds are a dozen-odd meat sellers who cut their stuff in full public view. Go to any other part of the town, such as Dholewal Chowk, Sherpur or any other place, and you would find similar scenes everywhere.

At the end of a busy day, these butchers leave behind foul smell of left-overs and peels of fish. Though these sites are a favourite of stray dogs, residents are sore over the growing number of such roadside butcheries, which are adding to pollution.

Inquiries by Ludhiana Tribune have revealed that tehbazari men of the local Municipal Corporation are encouraging these butcheries by charging a certain amount every month from each one of these. The local chapter of the PFA had moved the Punjab State Human Rights Commission against the Municipal Corporation in this regard sometime back. It had stated that these roadside slaughterhouses were operating without licence and were violating human rights.

The Commission had sent an order to the civic body and asked it to comply with the same before May 21 next, which had been fixed as the next date of hearing. It had asked the Commissioner of the civic body to submit an inquiry report after getting the facts of the complaint verified by a gazetted officer.



Man arrested for killing wife
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 2
The Sadar police has arrested Kulwinder Singh, a resident of Assi Kalan village, on the charge of burning his wife to death, after she died on Thursday night at the DMC Hospital.

The victim, Ms Gurwinder Kaur, daughter of Mr Jeet Singh Garewal, got married on November 21, 1999. But her in-laws allegedly started harassing her for her failure to bring a car as dowry. She was allegedly set on fire by the in-laws on October 24, 2001 and was hospitalised in a critical condition. On the basis of her statement to the police, a case under Sections 307, 498-A and 34 of the IPC has been registered against the accused.

Mystery shrouds death: Mystery shrouds the death of Mr Surinder Kumar (30), son of Mr Tilak Raj, a resident of Mullanpur, whose body was found in his room on Thursday evening. While a brother of the deceased claimed that he had died due to excessive intake of liquor, the doctors said he had died of poisoning. The police has registered a case under Section 174 of the CRPC and sent the viscera for a chemical analysis to Patiala.

Police inaction alleged: Mr Vijay Kumar, son of Mr Radhika Parshad, a resident of Tajpur Road, has approached higher police officials against police inaction on his complaint against his landlord, who had allegedly stolen his goods from the premises and placed his own belongings there.

Mr Vijay Kumar, in his representation to the DIG, said he had started a bleaching unit in Mahavir Jain Colony three years ago after getting the place on rent from Ram Krishan and Ram Parsad. But the relations between them deteriorated and resulted in a court battle that was still on. The landlords continued to harass him. He lodged a compliant on January 2 with the Basti Jodhewal police station but no action was taken on his complaint. He alleged that the landlords carted away his goods, including machinery and stock, on the night of February 27 and placed their own goods.

Girl dies after abortion: A 15-year-old girl, who was allegedly raped by a person, died here yesterday in Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital, where she had been admitted after a quack had allegedly performed abortion and her conditioned deteriorated. The girl, a resident of Jammu Colony, who was two-month-old pregnant, had been taken to the quack for an abortion by her mother.

A person had raped her while she was alone in her house. After knowing about her pregnancy, her mother took her to a quack in the same locality on February 27. But the condition of the girl worsened and was taken to the Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital where she died on the February 28 night.

The body has been handed over to the family after a post-mortem examination. A case under Sections 304 and 313 of the IPC has been registered against the quack.

Cases of beating: Four cases of beating up and intimidation have been registered by the police. Dalam Singh, a general merchant in Sherpur market, who had allegedly sold some goods to Vidya Sagar Mishra at rates higher than those prevailing in the market, allegedly attacked Vidya Sagar and beat him up. The Focal Point police has registered a case against the merchant.

The Basti Jodhewal police has registered a case on the statement of Mr Kumar Pal, a resident of Dal Bazar, against Davinder Kumar and seven of his accomplices. The complainant had alleged that while a court case was on among the two parties, Davinder Kumar, a resident of Swatantar Nagar, along with his accomplices armed with lathis and sharp-edged weapons attacked his brother Inderpal Singh and a servant while they were asleep in a tube-well room on September 19, 2001.

The Sadar police has registered a case on the statement of Mr Amrik Singh, a resident of Alamgir village, against Charan Kaur, Mintu, Pappa and Nahar Singh, for allegedly beating up and intimidating the complainant. He had alleged that the accused beat him up when he asked them not to throw garbage near his house on Thursday.

The Sadar police has registered a case on the statement of Mr Pal Singh, a resident of Jonepur village, against Babu Singh, Kikkar Singh, Kartar Singh, Bindri, Jagtar Singh and five others, all residents of the same village. The complainant had alleged that the accused, armed with sticks and sharp-edged weapons, intercepted him on his way and threatened him.

Man dies of poisoning: Mr Manjit Singh (38), a resident of Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar, falling under the Sarabha Nagar police station, died at the DMC Hospital yesterday. He had been admitted there after he allegedly consumed some poisonous substance.

Liquor seized: The Sadar police on Thursday arrested Man Singh, a resident of Phoolanwal village, from Dulo Khurd village and seized 12 bottles of illicit liquor from him. The accused has been booked under the Excise Act.



Seminar on assets and liabilities 
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 2
With the liberalisation of Indian financial markets and growing integration of domestic markets with external markets, risks associated with banking operations have become complex, requiring strategies in management. These observations were made at a seminar on ‘Asset Liabilities’ by Punjab National Bank here today.

The seminar was held to comply with the Reserve Bank of India guidelines and to educate Branch Managers. Mr P.N. Khurana, General Manager, Punjab zone, was the chief guest, while Mr K.I. Singh, Senior Regional Manager, presided over the function. Over 50 branch managers from different branches of the region participated in the seminar.

Inaugurating the seminar, Mr P.N. Khurana, highlighted the necessity of implementation of the ALM and informed that banks were exposed to major risks like credit risk, interest rate risk, foreign exchange risk, liquidity risk and operation risk in the course of their business. Banks needed to address these risks in a structured manner by upgrading their risk management skills by adopting more comprehensive Assets Liability Management (ALM) practices.

In his address, Mr K.I.Singh informed that timely submission of ALM data was important, as besides meeting RBI’s requirements it helped banks in taking various decisions. With computerisation of all branches in the region, data processing was greatly facilitated. Mr S.C. Malhotra, Chief Manager, and Mr V.K. Sharma, Senior Manager, also addressed. Branch Managers assured the authorities of accurately and timely implementation of the Asset Liability Management concept.


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