Tuesday, April 2, 2002, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Bonded labourers begin march to Delhi
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 1
Over 100 persons, including women and children, who were once exploited as bonded labourers, gathered from different parts of the state to march in protest to Rashtrapati Bhawan at Delhi, from Phillaur, near here, today. They are holding this march on foot to protest against the dilly-dallying approach of the state government, police, judiciary and National Human Rights Commission to protect their fundamental rights.

They have threatened to self-immolate themselves on April 13, on the eve of the birth anniversary of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, the founder of the Indian Constitution, on the way to Delhi as the Indian Constitution and the state had “failed to end human slavery”. Rather, most of them had been “falsely implicated in different cases for approaching the NHRC by the police in connivance with past employers.”

Mr Jai Singh, chairman, Dalit Dasta Virodhi Front, a body fighting for anti-slavery, is leading this protest march. A close associate of Swami Agnivesh, he is fighting for the release of bonded labourers for the past many years, but he is a dejected person today. He says. “The Constitution and the SC have issued many guidelines to end human slavery, but the state government or the local administration are not ready to cooperate. They are not even ready to accept the presence of bonded labourers in Punjab, though more than one lakh persons working as contractual labourers in agriculture at brick-kilns and in factories, with less than minimum wages against their will were bonded labourers. False cases have been registered by the police implicating our workers. We have been left with no other option except to choose death instead of slavery and disrespect, as we do not want to raise a banner of revolt against the state.’’

He added that “despite 20 years of struggle against the bonded labour practice in the region through mass awareness programmes, struggles, media campaigns, writs in the Punjab and Haryana High Court and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), we have failed to get any support from the state organs.”

Addressing a small meeting in front of the courts at Philaur, he said,‘‘ Our organisation has filed more than 1000 writ petitions in the NHRC, but despite its directions to the concerned Deputy Commissioners, not a single bonded labourer has been granted any statuary relief of Rs 20,000. In most of the cases, the police and administration have taken the side of landlords, and is not ready to provide any justice.’’

He further said that according to the Supreme Court ruling and Bonded Labour Act, any person getting less than minimum wages against his will should be considered as bonded labourer, but it was common knowledge that more than one lakh persons in the rural areas of the state were employed as contractual labourers for 24 hours for just Rs 10-15,000 per annum. There were thousands of cases where landlords were exploiting them economically and physically, but the police had not taken any action despite repeated complaints.

Mr Baldev Bharti, state general secretary of the front, later said that a group of landlords from Sangrur district had attacked the bonded labourers staying at their office on Holi, but the Phillaur police, instead of taking any action against the accused, registered false cases against four persons, including a case against Mr Jaskaran Singh, son of Mr Jai Singh, to pressurise them to take back their complaints against the accused.

Mr Amrik Singh, one of the bonded labourers, recently released by the Dalit Dastan Virodhi Front, from his landlords of Kheri village in Patiala district, said that he had signed an agreement with a landlord to work as a contractual labourer for Rs 2000 per month, but he was just paid Rs 200-400 per month, and was beaten by the landlord and his men, whenever he asked for his wages or tried to escape.

Mr Siva Prasad, Deputy Commissioner, Jalandhar, when contacted in this regard, said,‘‘ I am aware about the protest march, but we would take no action as they have not complained to us. Neither will we stop them as they have every right to protest. They may be stopped if they try to self immolate themselves.’’



Sidhu’s link evades arrest
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 1
As the police has started hunt for four persons reportedly named by the detained Punjab Public Service Commission chairman Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu, one of them, considered to be the main link for Mr Sidhu and working at a senior position in Punjab Markfed, has already gone into hiding. His palatial house situated at Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar here remains deserted.

Only occupant of the double-storeyed house, constructed in an area of about 500 sq yd, is a teenaged servant Risal Singh hailing from J&K. He is serving the house for the past two years. According to Risal Singh, the officer and his family left a few days back in their two cars, Ford Ikon and Uno, for some unknown destination. Since then he had no information about the whereabouts of the family. However, Risal Singh said he was told that the family was going for the treatment of a member after she had fallen sick.

The said officer is believed to be owning a palatial house in Chandigarh also. But when asked whether the officer was carrying his cell phone with him, he replied in affirmative, but said, it may not be working, as his boss had gone out of station. When asked as how he knew that it was not working, he said he had tried to contact him, but it was switched off.

The said officer is learnt to be holding crucial link to the cases as the police claims that most of the deals were reportedly settled through him. Three other accused also reportedly finalised the deals through the said officer only, as he was believed to be more close to the PPSC chairman than others. And because of his influence and association with the PPSC Chairman, Ludhiana is said to have become the main centre in the total network which was operating and assisting Mr Sidhu.

While the police had obtained the arrest warrants against the said officer and three others a few days ago, he is still evading arrest. The said officer, who is posted in Ludhiana, is on leave since March 22. 



BKU threatens agitation for wheat MSP
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 1
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) has threatened to launch an agitation if the Union Government fails to announce the minimum support price (MSP) for wheat by April 5.

This was stated by Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, president of the BKU, in a statement here today. He said the national executive of the union would meet in Delhi on April 5 under the presidentship of Mr Mohinder Singh Tikait to discuss several issues, concerning the farming community.

Representatives of farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pardesh, Delhi and Himachal Pardesh were expected to participate in the meeting.

According to Mr Lakhowal, the MSP for wheat worked out at Rs 988 per quintal with 1966-67 as the base year and the recommendation of the Agricultural Costs and Prices Commission to raise the procurement price of wheat by Rs 15 per quintal was nothing but a cruel joke upon the farmers.

He asked the government to keep in view the report submitted by experts of Punjab Agricultural University which had said that the present cost of cultivation of wheat was around Rs 780 per quintal.

The BKU further urged the government to speed up transportation of the existing stocks of foodgrains from Punjab so that adequate storage space was made available for wheat, which was about to arrive in the mandis. The availability of empty gunny bags should also be ensured in the mandis and purchase centres.

Mr Lakhowal pleaded for immediate and fair compensation to the farmers for losses due to unseasonal rain and hailstorm.



Man crushed to death
Our Correspondent

Sahnewal, April 1
A man was reportedly killed on the spot by a speeding vehicle here yesterday evening.

According to sources, the man has been identified as Bhag Singh, a resident of Jaipura village, who had gone to Bhairomunna village to grieve the death of the daughter of Manjit Singh of the village.

He was trying to cross the road when a vehicle with red light atop coming from the opposite direction ran over the man and killed him on the spot.

The Sahnewal police has taken the body into custody. The driver sped away with the vehicle.



Cong leaders seek DYC chief’s removal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 1
Several leaders belonging to the Congress and the Youth Congress today demanded the removal of the District Youth Congress (urban) president, Mr Parminder Mehta, while levelling charges of opportunism and corruption against him.

The leaders, who included Mr K.K. Diglee, general secretary District Congress Committee, Ludhiana Urban, Mr Rajinder Nihala, vice-president DYC, Mr Mohinder Singh, general-secretary Pradesh Youth Congress and Mr Anil Dheer claimed that Mr Mehta had no base and had been thrust up on the party in Ludhiana. They alleged that, Mr Mehta had been serving his own interests rather than those of the party and that he did not care for workers .

Mr Diglee claimed that Mr Mehta had come to the Congress from a communal organisation, whose ideology was against the basic principles of the party. He demanded that some dynamic and enterprising person be appointed as the district president, who could mobilise cadres.

On the other hand, supporters of Mr Mehta levelled counter-charges against Mr Diglee and others alleging that they were “all opportunists”. In a joint statement the senior vice-president of the DYC, Mr Sarbjit Singh Bunty, and general secretary, Mr G.S. Arora, refuted the charges levelled against Mr Mehta and reposed full faith and confidence in his leadership.



YC activists demand President’s rule in J & K
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 1
Activists of Youth Congress, led by Mr Parminder Mehta, president of District Youth Congress (Urban), today took out a scooter rally in some localities and later presented a memorandum, addressed to the President of India, to the district authorities, demanding imposition of President’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir.

The rally commenced from Guru Nanak Mohalla in Sunder Nagar and passed through Ghati Mohalla, Purana Bazar, Daresi, Domoria Bridge and Civil Lines areas before culminating at the Mini Secretariat. The participants were carrying placards and raising slogans against terrorism and massacre of innocent people in J and K. Prominent among those present at the occasion were Mr Balbir Billa, Mr Ashok Arora, Mr Ravinder Syan, Mr Raj Kumar Jain, Mr Sant Kumar, Mr Inderjit Parmar, Mr Rakesh Tandon, Mr B.S. Thakur, Mr Raju Bajaj and Mr Arun Bedi.

Addressing party workers, Mr Mehta denounced the increasing acts of violence and terrorism in J and K and directly held the NDA government at the Centre and the Dr Farooq Abdullah led National Conference government in the state, responsible for the increased militancy even in the Jammu region. “Both the centre and the state governments had failed to beef up security at shrines and places of worship despite open and clear threats by the anti-national elements, he said.

The YC demanded that the state government in J and K be dismissed forthwith for its failure to ensure the safety of life and property of the people and the state be immediately brought under President’s rule with the internal security entrusted to the Army.



A welcome change
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 1
In sharp contrast to scenes of previous years on March 31, it was surely a different day this time as far as the sale and consumption of liquor in the city was concerned.

For once , no tipsy man was seen on city roads, either moving about in a jerky manner or lying by the roadside in an inebriated condition. A welcome change for the general public.

Two reasons were forwarded for the change. One, the “thekas” did not “break” as usual since the auctions held for the new fiscal year had failed to bring about any change vis-a-vis the control of liquor trade in the city. The brother of a minister in the Badal cabinet, who headed a city-based liquor cartel, managed to retain his control in spite of expectations to the contrary in the wake of the Congress victory in the recent elections.

Another factor that prevented the “thekas” from “breaking” was attributed to the festival of colours that fell on March 28 and 29, which was celebrated on March 10 last year when four bottles of country liquor were available for Rs 100 on the last day of the fiscal year. The disappointed lot of liquor-lovers this time started making rounds of various “thekas” in search of cheaper liquor but to no avail. And at the end of their futile search, they blamed it on Holi, which according to them, was responsible for depleted stocks at the vends.

Barring a few “thekas” of the town where rates were slashed by 50 per cent for an hour or so before noon , liquor was sold at normal rates throughout the city yesterday.



Patar heads Punjabi Sahit Akademi
Tribune News Service

Surjit Patar

Ludhiana, April 1
The elections of the office-bearers and members of the executive body of the Punjabi Sahit Akademi were held here yesterday. The electoral college of the premier body of academicians, writers and people belonging to the field of culture consists of 835 members, spread throughout India, some even abroad.

Noted Punjabi poet Surjit Patar was elected president. His only rival was Dr Deepak Manmohan Singh, Professor and Head, Baba Sheikh Farid Chair, Panjab University.

Mr Gurbhajan Singh Gill was elected senior vice-president who defeated Mr Jagjit Singh Anand. Prof Ravinder Bhattal became general secretary. He was pitted against Prof N S Tasneem, Sahitya Akademi awardee.

As many as 474 voters, comprising patrons, founder members and life members attended the general house presided over by the outgoing president, Mr A.S. Pooni, former Chief Secretary of Punjab.

Dr Ranjit Singh was the returning officer.

Those returned as vice-presidents are Dr Sukhdev Singh (outside Punjab and Chandigarh), Principal P.S. Bajaj, Dr Bikram Singh Ghuman, Dr Guriqbal Singh, Dr Labh Singh Khiva.

The members of executive body elected are Prof K.S. Kasel, Inderjeet Hassanpuri, Avtar Jaura, Kulwant Jagraon, Dr J.S. Nirala, Janmeja Singh Johl, Ms Sudershan Walia, Dr V.S. Soni, Dr Sohinderjeet, Dr Surjit Singh, Dr Sharanjeet Kaur, Dr Sarup Singh Alag, Dr G.S. Aulakh and Mrs Surinderjeet Kaur, Harvinder Singh (outside Punjab/Chandigarh).



Sheela, Dada win club elections
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 1
Mr Sunil Kumar Sheela and Mr Yuvraj Dada were elected general secretary and vice-president, respectively of the Satluj Club, elections for which were held yesterday. While Mr Sheela defeated Mr Anil Gupta, Mr Dada defeated Mr A S Chawla.

In a keenly contested election, Mr Sheela polled 711 votes against 593 polled by Mr Gupta. Mr Dada got 604 votes, while Mr Chawla polled 510 votes. Mr Sikander Lal Shingari got 201 votes.

Mr Gaurav Chaudhary was elected treasurer after defeating Mr Ashish Aggarwal by a margin of 63 votes. Mr Rocky Malhotra was elected mess secretary. He defeated Capt S.K. Sood by a margin of 289 votes. For the post of cultural secretary, Ms Manjula Jain defeated Mr S.P. Malik by a margin of 292 votes. For the post of bar secretary Mr Karan Singh Bal defeated Mr Sunil Bansal by a margin of 121 votes.



Youths decamp with Rs 15,000
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 1
As many as seven youths , who were riding three motorcycles, attacked a cloth merchant in the Kochhar market here last evening and allegedly decamped with Rs. 15,000 though they had to leave behind one of the vehicles.

Mr Gurjit Singh, owner of Satnam Cloth House, was sitting in his shop along with a friend, Jaspreet, when the youths attacked them with sharp-edged weapons and injured them. The assailants then robbed the cash box of the shop which contained Rs. 15,000. But when other shopkeepers of the market came to the rescue of the cloth dealer, the robbers fled the scene leaving behind one of the motorcycles. The injured have been admitted to the Civil Hospital and the division number five police has registered a case against the accused and taken the abandoned motorcycle into custody.

Mystery shrouds ‘suicide’: Mystery shrouds the death of a 20-year-old youth, whose body was found hanging by a wire in his room at a stationery manufacturing unit on the Humbran Road here yesterday.

According to information, the body of Ramesh Kumar, who became the father of a son only six days ago and reportedly wanted to settle his accounts with the firm and work elsewhere, was found hanging by the factory watchman, Lal Bahadur, who informed the factory-owner and the police.

Though a maternal uncle of the deceased, Mr Ashok Kumar, while talking to newspersons at the Civil Hospital, where the body had been sent for an autopsy, expressed reservations on the suicide theory. He said that he could not believe the suicide theory because a son had been born to Ramesh only six days ago and added that the deceased had met him on March 30 and apprised him of his situation vis-a-vis his employment. According to Mr Ashok Kumar, his nephew had told him that certain differences had cropped up with some other employees of the unit and as such he was going to ask the factory-owner to settle his accounts and seek work elsewhere. He also alleged that the factory-owner did not wait for him and sent the body for an autopsy by using thumb impression of someone else while the factory owner denied the allegation.

Meanwhile, the police has registered a case of suicide under Section 174 of the Cr. P.C.

Loan shark strikes: Mr Ashok Kapur, 34, a juice-seller of the Haibowal area , who had obtained a loan of Rs. 10,000 on an interest rate of 15 per cent per month from a loan shark , was stabbed with knives in the arms and the legs, here yesterday, by goons allegedly hired by the loan shark.

According to the victim, he had signed some blank stamp papers at the time of taking the loan and paid back Rs. 10,000 twice as interest apart from giving his scooter. He was beaten because he failed to satisfy the accused, he added. The Haibowal police has registered a case.

Dowry case: The Model Town police has registered a case of alleged harassment for dowry under Sections 406 and 498 A of the IPC and Sections 4 and 6 of the Anti Dowry Act on the statement of Ms Jaspreet Kaur, a resident of Urban Estate, Dugri Road, against her in-laws Amarjit Singh, Inder Singh, Kirpal Kaur and Palwinder Singh, all residents of Kanpur in UP. The complainant had alleged that the accused harassed her mentally and physically and demanded more dowry.

Stabbed: The Sahnewal police has registered a case of alleged stabbing under Section 324 of the IPC on the statement of Mr Raju, a resident of Sahnewal, against Ravinder Komal, a resident of Nandpur village. The complainant had alleged that the accused injured him by stabbing him with a knife and fled the spot on Saturday.

Trespass case:
Around five identified armed persons allegedly tried to enter the Dera of Satguru Jagjit Singh, yesterday night. A case has been registered at the Sahnewal police station.

Mr Jagdish Singh, a panch of Bhaini Sahib village, has complained to the police that Avtar Singh and four of his armed companions, who came in a car, had tried to forcibly enter the dera of Satguru Jagjit Singh on Saturday night. When he tried to resist, he was beaten up by these persons. Old enmity is said to be the reason behind the incident.

The police has tightened security around the dera and was on the lookout for the accused.



Case against bus driver, conductor
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 1
A couple of days after the Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh announced the free bus travel facility for police personnel, the local police has registered a case on the complaint of a cop against a bus driver and conductor.

In his complaint, Mr Shingara Singh, a constable posted a Ludhiana Police Lines said while travelling on a Punjab Roadways bus (no. PB-10-B- 9421) on March 25, he was not allowed to travel free by the driver and conductor of the bus.

He also said that the conductor, Baljit Singh and the driver of the bus misbehaved with him and his identity card was taken away by the former and was still in his possession.

A case under Sections 409, 506 IPC has been registered against the driver and conductor.



2 arrested in rape case
Our Correspondent

Khanna, April 1
The Samrala police has arrested two persons on the charge of raping a minor Scheduled Caste girl of Bhagwanpur village.

According to information available, a 16-year-old girl of Bhagwanpur village was returning to her house from her grandfather’s house around 2.30 p.m. yesterday, when Balwinder Singh, a resident of the same village, caught her and forcibly took her to his house. Later the girl was raped by Balwinder and Inderjit Singh.

On the statement of the victim, the police registered a case under Sections 376, 342, 109 and 34 of the IPC. The accused have been arrested by the police.



Dowry-seekers harass woman
Our Correspondent

Doraha, April 1
Another woman has reportedly fallen prey to dowry-seeker in-laws who beat her up mercilessly. She had been admitted to a local hospital in Doraha.

According to a complaint submitted to the Deputy Superintendent of police, Krishna, mother of the victim, said her daughter, Mandeep Kaur, was married to Inderpal, son of Shamsher Singh of Ranchi colony in 2000.

After marriage her daughter was continuously put to physical and mental torture by her in-laws for bringing more dowry and alleged that they forced her to bring money.

It was a demand of Rs 50,000 made by the in-laws, on the refusal of which, Mandeep Kaur was beaten to the extent that she had to be admitted to the hospital immediately.


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