Tuesday, March 26, 2002, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


MC proposes Rs 338 cr budget
Estimate unrealistic, say SAD councillors
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, March 25
Having fallen short of the budgeted estimated income of Rs 300.68 crore for the year ending on March 31, 2002 and forced to go in for a revised estimated income of Rs 218.80 crore, which seems within reach, the Municipal Corporation General House today unanimously adopted yet another unrealistic Rs 338-crore budget for the next financial year.

The meeting of the General House held to discuss the budget proposals, which lasted for almost one-and-a-half hours, was presided over by the City Mayor, Mr Apinder Singh Grewal, while the MC Commissioner, Mr R.L. Kalsia, replied to various points raised by the councillors.

The highlight of the meeting was participation of the two Congress legislators Mr Harnam Das Johar and Mr Surinder Dawar, who were elected from Ludhiana West and Ludhiana East constituencies in the city, respectively, during the recently held Assembly elections. While cutting across party lines the Mayor, the MC Commissioner and councillors accorded welcome to the Congress legislators one of the Congress councillors, Mr Balkar Singh, personally distributed “laddoos” to celebrate the party’s victory in the elections.

According to budget estimates for the next year, Rs 266 crore (78.70 per cent) income will accrue from general heads, another Rs 30 crore from O and M cell (Water Supply and Sewerage) and Rs 42 crore (12.42 per cent) from loans and grants. As against a total sum of Rs 95.93 crore spent of development works during the year, as much as Rs 193.98 crore (57.39 per cent) has been earmarked for development works in the city, which includes those of general nature and water supply and sewerage projects.

The establishment expenditure during the next financial year would mount from Rs 75.76 crore to Rs 85 crore (25.15 per cent), the contingency from Rs 12.38 crore to Rs 13.50 crore (4 per cent), the capital works from 4.40 crore to Rs 6.25 crore (1.85 per cent) and miscellaneous expenses from Rs 29.18 crore to Rs 39.26 crore (11.61 per cent).

Many councillors, including Mr Kulwant Singh Dukhia, Mr Harcaharan Singh Gohalwadia of SAD and Mr Pran Bhatia pointed out that budget estimates were far too unrealistic and the civic administration should have adopted a practical approach and fixed achievable targets. Mr S.S. Ahluwalia, group leader of Congress councillors, Mr Sat Pal Puri, Mr Sham Sunder Malhotra and Ms Indu Parashar, the party councillors stressed that while dealing with cases of violation of building bylaws in the city, the MC should keep in view the genuine problems, particularly in cases of people having small houses and limited resources.

Summing up the mood of the party councillors, former Speaker of Punjab Assembly and the city MLA, Mr Harnam Das Johar, moved a resolution for providing free water supply and sewerage facility to the residents of the city. He said the Congress government, headed by Capt Amarinder Singh was committed to provide relief to urban sections and the party legislators would take up the matter with the leadership soon. He also suggested that all city localities within municipal limits be deemed as ‘approved colonies’ for grant of basic amenities and in cases of violation of building bylaws the responsibility of officers deployed in that particular area should be fixed and stern action should be taken against them.



Redressing public grievances
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 25
The decision of the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Anurag Aggarwal, to “streamline” the grievances redressal system in the district has taken many people by surprise, including those who have remained associated with the Sangat Darshan programmes.

It is difficult to understand whether Mr Aggarwal is working according to the brief from the top or not.

On March 21, he told the media, that their were certain “weaknesses in the current system”. He thinks that the complaints should be screened before being presented at the sangat darshan programme, now called Public Grievances Redressal meeting. According to him, more than two thirds of those complaints are not public grievances, but “petty private disputes”.

Sangat Darshan was conceptualised as a forum for redressal of public grievances which included private problems, including “petty” or “personal”.

A senior official, who was associated with the sangat darshan programme said, the forum was open for all and there was no scope for screening these complaints. He pointed out, “what may seem to us as a petty or private dispute, must be holding a lot of importance for the complainant...if we do not entertain him, where should he go...people come to us with great expectations”.

On March 21, a meeting of the Public Grievances Committee was held under the chairmanship of Mr Aggarwal. He claimed that most of the previous complaints had been disposed off to the satisfaction of the complainants.

He observed that there were two weaknesses in the current system. First, since the complaints were entertained only on the day of the meeting of the grievance committee, that too only a few hours before. Second, there was no screening of the complaints, as a result more than two thirds of them were not public grievance but were related to “petty private disputes”.

In fact the DC does not seem to have been properly informed. Because the complaints listed for a particular day are received at least one week in advance, if not more than that.

He stated that to strengthen the present system it has been decided that there would be screening of the complaints and those which are related to public grievance or are serious complaints against government departments would be entertained. These complaints can be given to DC, ADCs and SDMs. This will enable people living in far flung areas to register their complaints. For proper monitoring of the complaints, the whole system would be computerised.

Again many questions are being raised about the “screening” of the complaints, as most of the complainants, who come with great expectations would not be heard, which goes absolutely against the basic concept of the Sangat Darshan. In fact in Ludhiana district Sangat Darshan programme had proved to be a great success.



Alas! No luck third time 
‘Lagaan’ loses Oscar match
Kamal Kishore Shankar & Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, March 25
Millions of Indians, who had prayed for the success of ‘Lagaan’, the only Indian film nominated for this year’s 74th Academy Awards in Los Angeles in the best foreign film category, were disappointed. Most of the people and critics were of the view that ‘Lagaan’ had a tough competition from the French film ‘Amelie’ and ‘No Man’s Land’ from Bosnia as these films had won awards in other film festivals. Yet Aamir Khan and Director Ashutosh and a large number of Indians had pinned their hopes on ‘Lagaan’. The hopes had been rekindled when Sir Mark Tully, a former BBC correspondent in India, said that ‘Lagaan’ was the best film he had ever seen.

Many Indian critics said that since ‘Lagaan’ was a period film and different from the rest of films, it might have appealed to jury members and foreign audience.

Talking to people, Ludhiana Tribune found that by and large people were disappointed as ‘Lagaan’ lost at Oscars.

The length of the movie could be one of reason. The movie is technically very sound and different from the stereotype Hindi movies. They say that the cricket match between the British and the Indians could not be chopped off as it shows the struggle for freedom at that time.

Surjit Patar, a renowned poet says, “I would have been more than happy if ‘Lagaan’ would have got an Oscar. I had decided yesterday that if the ‘Lagaan’ would get the award , I would celebrate”. He thinks that whatever the reason for missing the Oscar, the movie is a successful experiment. He feels that this movie will definitely be treated as a masterpiece in Hindi film industry.

Mr Bhajan Lal, an entrepreneur, is of the view that it has been a wonderful attempt by the ‘Lagaan’ team to produce such a movie which will be remembered as one of the successful experiments by Bollywood.

A postgraduate student, Ms Nitika is of the view that the story is different and the presentation by all artistes is ultimate.

Another academician, Ms Inderjeet Gill Vashist, says that the movie has been appreciated by the people across the country, but perhaps it may have not met the parameters required for an Oscar. She says it is a very good attempt and this will enable the other film makers to focus on the message they want to disseminate among the masses.

Mr Harminder Singh, a businessman, is of the view that long duration of ‘Lagaan’ may perhaps be one of the reasons for missing an Oscar. He thinks that the cricket match could have been shortened.

Pappo Abnash, a social worker said, “I was quite disappointed as I thought ‘Lagaan’ was a very well-made film. The last catch was so exciting. In fact, the film had gripped the audience. Music score was excellent. I feel very hurt that the film did not get an Oscar”. Mr Param Verma, a computer engineer said, “Well! I never thought ‘Lagaan’ would really get an Oscar. I know that even talented actors like Richard Burton who was English, never won the Oscar. Americans are for their own people. Even the Black actors do not get many awards. Sydney Poitier, Halle Berry and Denzel being the only exceptions."

But Vishal, Mohini, Rakesh, all avid movie watchers said, "It is a shame that ‘Lagaan’ did not win an Oscar. We have been praying. We know that merit alone does not count. A lot of publicity and hobnobbing with people who matter is also required. Aamir had been doing that, but still India did not get an Oscar. Sad, indeed!"

Mr Kapil Mahajan, a businessman said, "Prize award ceremonies everywhere have become big business. Merit is secondary. May be from Aamir’s experience other Indians will learn how to sell their product well. It is how you gift wrap your product that matters. But definitely we were so close and yet so far. The punters were also busy speculating. Many would have lost huge amounts betting on ‘Lagaan’."

‘Mother India’ and ‘Salaam Bombay’ were the other two Indian films to reach to the nomination stage and people were hoping against hope that India would be third time lucky, but alas no such luck.



Major clash averted during Moharram procession 
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 25
A major clash was averted here today during the Moharram procession near Sherpur Chowk after the BJP, the Shiv Sena and other Hindu organisations protested against the display of green flags with a crescent on them, alleging that these were Pakistani flags. A senior BJP leader and former Deputy Speaker in the Punjab Assembly, Mr Satpal Gosain, also reached the spot and lodged a protest with the administration.

While the Hindu organisations’ activists were alleging that these were Pakistani flags being displayed during the mourning procession, the Muslims argued that these were simply the Islamic religious flags which were raised on every religious gathering. However, this was not acceptable to the BJP, Shiv Sena and other activists who insisted on the removal of flags.

As the situation seemed to take a tense turn, a heavy contingent of police force was rushed to the spot to diffuse the tension. Although Shia Muslims, who take out mourning procession, are not much in number here, they are, however, joined by the Sunni Muslims on the occasion of Moharram to mourn the killing of the grandsons of the Prophet Mohammad. The mourning procession today started from Basti Jodhewal and after passing through various places, concluded at Sherpur.

At Sherpur, when people noticed green flags and banners with crescent on them, they started protesting. A large number of people surrounded the procession. Mr Gosain, while objecting to the flags. claimed that these resembled the Pakistani flags. He pointed out, it was natural given the current situation, for the people to get apprehensive.

He said, it was difficult to convince the people that these were simply religious flags and not the Pakistani flags. He said that he only conveyed the sentiments of the people to the administration, which then took appropriate measures.

The state president of the Indian Muslim Council, Mr Atiq-ur-Rehman, condemned the incident and said it was simply harassment. He asked,‘‘What is the fault of Muslims, if Islamic religious flags resemble the Pakistani flags?’’.

He, however, appealed for peace and brotherhood and pointed out that people in Punjab had always stood by secular traditions. ‘‘That is why the situation as never been let out of control here despite so many provocations,’’ he observed.

Although the crowds belonging to both the communities had already dispersed, yet the heavy contingent of police continued to remain deployed in the area for the entire day.

There is no concentrated settlement of Muslims in the area and they are spread all over the city and most of them have migrated form other parts of the country like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.



Minister assures MC staff of salary
Our Correspondent

Amloh, March 25
A deputation of municipal employees, who had agitated against the abolition of octroi, led by Mr Som Nath, local president of the Class-IV employees union, met Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, State Minister for Public Health, here on Sunday. They told the minister that they had not been paid their salaries for the past two months. Councillors, who were also part of the delegation, urged the minister to use his good offices to get the sewerage project in the town completed.

The minister assured the employees that he would get the salaries released.

At another function in the Municipal Council's complex here on Sunday evening Mr Baldev Sedha, president of the council honoured Mr Sadhu Singh Dharmsot, MLA, for his victory in the Vidhan Sabha elections from the Amloh Assembly segment. Mr Baldev Singh Aulakh, Councillor, appealed the Chief Minister to induct Mr Dharamsot in the Cabinet. Mr Jiwan Kumar Puri, Councillor, demanded that a grant of Rs 15 lakh for the upgradation of Bazar Road should be released. Mr Dharamsot promised to get it released. The minister also promised that Government Girls College, Mandi Gobindgarh, the only government girls college in the district, would be housed in a new building the on Amloh road.



Coming to terms with tragedy
Our Correspondent

Ahmedgarh, March 25
He dreamt of celebrating the birth of his grandson with a party which could have been attended by dozens of senior defence personnel besides members of his family, friends and relatives, but nature has left him all alone to mourn the death of the five persons whom he loved the most including his wife Baljit Kaur, daughter Rupinder Kaur, son-in-law, Major Arvinder Paul Singh Garcha, grand daughter Alisha and six-day-old grandson who was yet to be named.

Col Sunder Singh Garcha started his marital life with Baljit Kaur of Chhapar village and couple was blessed with a daughter and a son. While he was posted at Assam his newborn son died of jaundice at CMC. After the death of their son, they brought up the daughter Rupinder with love and utmost care. After completing her studies she was married to Major Arvinder Singh of Boha village. In the third week of March Rupinder, who was earlier having one daughter, was blessed with a male child.

Col Sunder and his wife decided to celebrate the occasion once their son-in-law came from Ferozepore. Despite technical problems Major Arvinder was granted leave to see his newborn son. But destiny willed otherwise as on March 17, Major Arvinder who was an efficient rider, para-trooper, swimmer and driver could not stop his car from falling into a canal which resulted in the death of five members of his family.

Watching with stony silence the toys belonging to three-year-old Alisha and those bought for the newborn, Col Garcha shivers at the thought of loneliness which he has to face throughout his life. Trying his best to come to terms with tragedy Col. Garcha has decided to serve the society for rest of his life by forming a society for orphans and needy children.



A man with many faces
Our Correspondent

Baljit Gaddu
Baljit Gaddu

Ludhiana, March 25
Baljit Gaddu is an ordinary man. But he becomes extra-ordinary when he changes his face, his expression, his entire get up and assumes a total different personality. Baljit saw in films, villains like Amrish Puri, Ranjeet, appearing in different get-ups. This aspect of personality change fascinated him. Baljit, only a matriculate, lives in an obscure village Gurre, tehsil Nakodar, and wants to do something unique to come in the eye of the public.

Being a photographer, Baljit has a keen eye. He started studying faces. Like a true artist tried to fit on his face the images ranging from an 8-year man, madman, Rajasthani, Punjabi folk singer, filmy villain to an intellectual.

To take the image of a villain he shaved off his hair and grew a beard. He uses ordinary paints to colour his beards and other easily available materials. To look like a beggar, he did not wash his hair for two months much to the disgust of his family. He grew nails and he begged a beggar to give him his ‘kurta’. He went begging to his house. Sure enough his family did not recognise him and gave him some food and told him to eat outside. When he tried to enter the house, they pushed him out. He had difficulty convincing them that he was their Baljeet.

A self taught, talented in Baljeet wants a break. He wants that his talent should be used.



Sahit Academy poll 
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 25
The elections of the Punjabi Sahit Academy will be held on March 31. As many as 838 writers and intellectuals staying in India and abroad will cast their votes. Fortythree candidates are in the fray. The last date for the withdrawal of forms was yesterday.

Deepak Manmohan and Surjit Patar are in a straight contest for the post of president. The returning officer, Principal Surjit Singh Bhatia, said Jagjit Anand, Deepak Manmohan Singh, Prof Mohinder Singh Cheema and Prof Gurbhajan Gill are contesting the elections for various posts.

For an NRI seat, the contest is among Dr Narvinder Singh Kaushal, Dr Sukhdev Singh Sirsa and Dr Krantipal. For the post of vice-president, the contestants are Dr Guriqbal Singh, Principal Prem Singh Bajaj, Mohinderdeep Grewal, Karamjit Singh Aujla, Dr Bikram Singh Ghuman, Dr Guriqbal Singh, Dr Labh Singh Kheeva and Dr Joginder Singh Kairon.

For the post of general secretary, Prof Narinjan Tasneem and Prof Ravinder Bhathal are contesting. For the 15-member interim board, one member will be elected from outside Punjab and Chandigarh. For this seat, Dr Harvinder Sirsa is the lone contestant.

For two reserved seats for women, Dr Sharanjit Kaur, Nirmal Jaswal, Dr Kulwinder Kaur Minhas, Sudarshan Walia and Surinderjit Kaur Maidan are contesting. For rest of 12 members’ seats, 18 members are in the fray. Principal Bhatia informed that Dr Joginder Singh Nirala, Inderjit Hassanpuri, Kulwant Jagraon, Bhoopinder Singh Harsh, Dr Vidvaan Singh Soni, Mr Bhupinder Jagraon, Dr Gurchanra Singh Aulakh, Dr Sarup Singh Alag, Prof Avtar Jaura, Raj Kumar Garg, Prem Bhushan Goel, Dr Mohinderbeer, Devinder Singh Sekha, Subhash Kalakar, Dr Guriqbal Singh Sandhu, Prof Kirpal Singh Kasel, Janmeja Singh Johal, Dr Ravinder Singh and Dr Surjit Singh Muktsar are contesting. 



Train blast case transferred
Our Correspondent

Khanna, March 25
The Doraha train bomb blast case has been transferred to the Khanna police from the Railway Police for further investigation.

SSP Khanna Devinder Singh Garcha said Pakistan-based ISI’s hand was suspected in the blast. He said a team of police officials would be constituted to investigate the case. However, he refused to elaborate further.

It may be mentioned here that three persons were killed and more than 25 injured in the blast that occurred at Doraha in Sutlej Express recently.



Seminar on Punjab economy
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 25
Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia, Director and Chief Executive, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, will deliver a lecture on ‘Punjab Economy—challenges ahead’ on March 27 at a seminar on the state’s economy. The seminar will be organised by the Ludhiana Management Association (LMA) at Park Plaza hotel in the evening.

This was stated by Mr V.K. Goyal, general secretary of the LMA, in a press note issued here today. He stated that Mr Surinder Singla, Chairman, High Powered Finance Commission, Government of Punjab, would preside over the function. The seminar is being organised due to the need for a faster growth rate in the state. Mr S.P.Oswal, Chairman, Vardhman Group of Industries, will also speak on this occasion.



Doctor, industrialist commit suicide
Our Correspondent

Ahmedgarh, March 25
The body of a homoeopathic doctor, Bakhshish Singh, was found hanging from a girder in his house on Sunday night. The body was first seen by his brother. According to the wife of the deceased, her husband had committed suicide.

The couple was childless and had adopted a daughter. The deceased committed suicide while his wife and daughter were away to Dera Bias.

In another case, Mr Madan Mohan Mehta, an industrialist, burnt himself to death in the office of his factory. His wife, Mrs Veena Mehta, told the police that deceased was in depression due to financial reasons.



Tipsy cop fires in air, injures relative
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 25
The Salem Tabri police has booked an ASI posted at PAP, Jalandhar, on charges of firing in the air from his service revolver and injuring one of his relatives in an inebriated condition at a marriage party, here last night.

According to information, ASI Himmat Pal Singh had come to the city to accompany a marriage party. He started firing in the air to express his jubilation on the occasion. But since he lost balance while doing so, one of the bullets hit one of his relatives, Mr Jagdish Lal, in the shoulder who was immediately rushed to the DMC Hospital.

Police inaction alleged: The parents of Geeta, who was allegedly strangulated to death on February 21 by her in-laws in Bangaru Mohalla, have been running from pillar to post to get the accused arrested.

A relative of the deceased said the husband had been nabbed from Delhi, other accused in the case were roaming freely. The police did not seem to be interested in arresting the other accused for reasons best known to it. Every time, the relative said, they visit the police station of Division No. 3, policemen adopt dilly-dallying tactics.

Forgery accused held: The city police has arrested the accused in a forgery case on charge of offering a bribe of Rs 1 lakh to one of the officers investigating the case.

Mr H.S. Sidhu, SSP, said in a press note here on Monday that on March 23, a case under Sections 467, 468, 471, 420, 120-B of the IPC was registered against Tek Chand and others. The accused were involved in the illegal business of preparing forged documents like driving licences and registration certificates of vehicles. Mr Baldev Singh was directed to assist the investigating officer. On Sunday, Tek Chand contacted him and offered him Rs 1 lakh as bribe to help him and his son out of the case.

The SSP said Mr Baldev Singh reported to him. A case under the Prevention of Corruption Act was registered at the Focal Point police station and a trap was laid by the DSP, Industrial Area, Mr Sneh Deep Sharma, with the help of the DSP, City-II, Mr P.B.S. Parmar, and the SHO, Focal Point, Mr Sandeep Kumar. Tek Chand was arrested on the spot with Rs 1 lakh, added Mr Sidhu.

Woman elopes: A resident of the Kidwai Nagar area falling under the Division No. 2 police station, and mother of three children, has allegedly eloped with Arjun. The woman also took along one of her children. The husband of the woman has lodged a report with the police.

Three arrested: The Division No. 3 police on Saturday arrested two youths and a girl while they were roaming near the railway station under suspicious circumstances and booked them under Section 109 of the IPC. The arrested persons have been identified as Parvesh and Shamshad, who told the police that they belonged to Bihar and they had allured the girl, a resident of Delhi, and brought her to the city. They had just arrived in the city by a train and were looking for a room when a police patrol party questioned them on the basis of suspicion.

In-laws arrested: The Division No. 5 police on Sunday arrested five persons on charge of dowry murder of Jyoti, a resident of Dayal Nagar. Mr Rajesh Kumar, a resident of Janak Puri, has alleged in his complaint that his sister had been murdered by strangulation by her in-laws. Jyoti was married two years ago and her in-laws had been harassing her for more dowry. The accused arrested by the police are Gaurav, husband of the deceased, Iqbal Singh, father-in-law, Neelam, mother-in-law, Vicky and Rinku.

Robbery case: The Haibowal police has registered a case of armed robbery in which Ms Parveen Bhalla, a resident of Haqiqat Nagar, was beaten up and tied by robbers while she was alone in her house a couple of days ago. In the complaint, the victim has named Jarnail Singh, an employee at the Sapna TV showroom, and Amrish Khanna, a resident of Haibowal, and another unknown person.

According to the complainant, the accused entered her house at around 1.30 am and started beating her up. After she fell unconscious because of the beating, the accused decamped with Rs 3.70 lakh and some gold ornaments.

Two stabbed: The Division No. 7 police station has registered a case of alleged stabbing against an unknown person on the statement of two victims, Ashok Kumar and Pankaj, who were stabbed by the accused on the Tajpur road on Sunday. Both have been admitted to the Civil Hospital.

According to Pankaj, the accused, had a tiff with Ashok Kumar some days ago. Last night, the accused attacked his friend with a knife. When he rushed to his friend’s rescue, the assailant stabbed him as well.

Commuter attacked: A three-wheeler passenger, Sanjay, who had come to the city from Lucknow on a business trip and hired a three-wheeler to reach Shingar Cinema was allegedly attacked and injured by the driver of the vehicle after a dispute arose between the two over the fare.

The victim, who has been admitted to the Civil hospital, alleged that the driver after beating him fled with his belongings and Rs 2,000 which were in a briefcase. The police has registered a case.

Case registered:
A weightlifting machine, which has been stolen, was recovered from the possession of Balwinder Singh of Lohara village, according to the complaint lodged by Mr Swinder Singh of Pawa Khagat village. A case was registered at the Sahnewal police station under Section 379 of the IPC.

One booked: A case has been registered at the local police station on the complaint of Balvir Singh Bhola of Jandiali village. He has alleged that Surinder Singh of Guruharsahaye took away 75 boxes of mineral water, 36 boxes of soda water and 20 bottles of soft drink soda without making any payment.

Liquor seized: The police seized 25 bottles of illicit liquor from the possession of Gurmit Singh of Jamalpur Colony. He was booked under Sections 61, 1 and 14 of the Excise Act.

Driver booked: A driver, Hans Raj, of Khanna has been booked by the local police for creating nuisance and blocking traffic in the main bazaar under Section 283 of the IPC.

1 arrested: Dehlon police arrested Kuldip Singh and seized a .12 pistol and four cartridges from his possession. A case has been registered against him under the Arms Act. The said accused was required by the police in a case registered under Sections 382/34, IPC, since September 9, 2001, and in another case under Sections 382/506/34, IPC (26.9.2001) as he along with Harjinder Singh of Bassian village had snatched a gold karra in gun point from PSEB employee Bhupinder Singh of Ahmedgarh. Harminder Singh of Bassian was arrested on the spot whereas Kuldip Singh had managed to flee from the spot.

During interrogation Kuldip Singh confessed that he was involve in stealing Rs 8,000 from the cash box of gurdwara Chidi Sahib Swaddi Kalan. Jagdev Singh of Swaddi Kalan, Seber Singh of Rurka and Mohan Singh of Mor Karima were his accomplices. He also confessed having snatched a gold chain and a gold ring near Nurpur village from a scooterist and a purse containing Rs 1,500 from a woman accompanying him. He also disclosed the names of his other accomplices.



Traders’ reminder on ST barriers
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 25
The pressure of industrial and trade associations to implement pre-election promises, has put the Punjab Government in a tight spot. It is finding it difficult to implement its promises, made by senior party leaders before elections without realising the financial implications for a debt-ridden state. It can now implement them only by displeasing the Centre, World Bank or the judiciary and leading towards bankruptcy.

The government has already tied its hands by announcing to continue free power to the agriculture sector, to abolish sale tax barriers and not to raise taxes on the industry. The industry and traders' associations, which had openly supported the Congress, are want the government to keep its election promises no raise in taxes and doing away with sales tax barriers, (read freedom to evade taxes).

Interestingly, the Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal has strongly condemned the state government's decision to put up "sales tax barriers" on all the major railway stations, arguing that it was against the spirit of Capt Amarinder Singh's press statements, issued after coming to power. These barriers have been set up at Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar railway stations over the past one week to check huge tax evasion by a section of hosiery and other goods' traders.

Incidentally, the Excise Department had to pursue a long battle in the Punjab and Haryana Court to get the directions issued to the Railway Ministry to set up these check points. The officials in the Excise Department say that after the installation of Information Collection Centres (ICCs) at all the entry points of the state under previous government's policy, the ST collections had significantly increased. A section of hosiery traders and others, however, continued to divert their trade through railways to evade taxes.

The officials said that the Railways had declined to allow them to put up any check points, claiming that it was an autonomous department of the Centre and state departments could not intervene in their functioning. However, in December 2000, on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the CBI had raided the local railway station premises and realised more than Rs 1 crore from hosiery traders in lieu of tax evasion. Now with the intervention of the High Court, the Railways has reportedly agreed to allow the ST Department to put up ST barriers and the police to check any material, being transported through the railways.

However, condemning the move, Mr Sunil Mehra, state general secretary and Mr Mohinder Aggarwal, district general secretary, Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal, respectively, said, ‘‘The state government has cheated us by putting up these barriers against the CM's promise. It would only lead to more exploitation of the traders and industry by the inspectors." Mr Sunil Mehra said, "The government should devise other measures to deal with the HC directions.’’

Regarding the reported move to raise power tariff, they said that instead of raising tariff, the state government should check wide-spread corruption and inefficiency in the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). The industry was not in a position to face any increase in tariff. The Beopar Mandal has warned the government to launch an agitation if the state government failed to implement its promises. Mr Mehra disclosed that a meeting has been called next month here to consider the next course of action. 


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