Thursday, May 2, 2002, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Railway engine catches fire
Villagers prevent major tragedy
Tribune News Service

Mullanpur (Ludhiana), May 1
Alertness of a driver and presence of mind shown by several villagers prevented a major tragedy, early this morning, when the engine of a passenger train caught fire near this village. The engine of the Ludhiana-Fazilka train was completely burnt. No one was injured.

However, the traffic remained disrupted for about 2 hours because of the incident. The train then left for Fazilka at about 8:45 am after an engine was brought from Ludhiana and attached to it.

As the train had caught fire near the village, immediate help became available. Four fire tenders, two from Ludhiana Fire Service and one each from the Baddowal Ammunition Depot and the Halwara Air Force Station, which were pressed into service, controlled the fire within a short span.

The fire broke out at about 6.45 am. Engine driver Kuldip Singh told Ludhiana Tribune that due to some fault, smoke started emanating out of the engine just before he saw flames. He immediately brought the train to a halt and called all passengers to come out.

It was a number of villagers working in the fields near the railway line that ensured there was no damage to life and property in the incident.

While the actual fire was controlled by the four fire tenders, preventive action taken by the villagers, including Joginder Singh, Raju and Mohan Singh, did not allow the fire to spread to other bogeys and they also helped in timely evacuation of passengers and luggage.

According to the eye witnesses, Joginder Singh, working in a nearby field, was one of the first persons to come to the engine driver Kuldip Singh’s aid. He helped the passengers in coming out and also began throwing sand on the burning portions of the bogey.

A number of other villagers followed suit. Joginder Singh almost got burnt when he managed to open a mobile oil tank under the bogey, which was about to catch fire. Raju and Mohan brought buckets and began throwing water on the fire beside helping the passengers. Mohan Singh also tried to detach the burning bogey but could not do so.

Their collective effort specially saved a postman and hundreds of letters and packets meant to be delivered on the way.

A police team from the Mullanpur Dakha police station also reached the site immediately and got the blocked power supply restored immediately. Due to this some tubewells near the train started functioning, which brought water supply. But due to lack of pressure it did nit help much.

It was ultimately the four fire tenders which controlled the fire completely.

The Area Traffic Manager Railways Ludhiana, Mr Kuldip Singh, said that the driver of the train, fire fighters and villagers did exemplary work to prevent the incident into becoming a major tragedy. He said the exact cause of fire could be known only after investigation of the burnt engine.



Traffic regulation plan enforced in city
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 1
The traffic regulation plan enforced in certain city areas on experimental basis during the past two weeks in the wake of ongoing construction work for the ‘Elevated Road’ Project and the flyover to replace the Lakkar Pul, has been implemented with certain modifications with effect from tomorrow.

According to the plan, finalised at a meeting presided over by the Commissioner of Municipal Corporation, Mr R.L. Kalsia, the stretch of Old GT Road in the city from Jagraon Bridge to Budha Nullah Bridge will be closed to trucks and heavy commercial vehicles while the stretch from Chand Cinema to Clock Tower and Chand Cinema to Sabzi Mandi Chowk will be a “no entry zone” for light commercial vehicles (LCV’s) and buses, respectively.

Similarly, cars and other private vehicles would be allowed to ply from Chand Cinema to Clock Tower via Sabzi Mandi Chowk, Deepak Cinema and Society Cinema. These vehicles could further proceed to multi-storey parking complex through Girja Ghar Chowk, Partap Bazar and Meena Bazar Chowk. Nigger Mandi, connecting Meena Bazar and Chaura Bazar would have only one-way movement from Meena Bazar side towards Chaura Bazar.

The meeting was attended by senior MC officials, including Mr Raminder Singh, Mr S.K. Sharma, both Additional Commissioners and Mr Gurdial Singh, SP (Traffic). Mr Sharma was appointed Nodal Officer for the effective implementation of the traffic regulatory plan.

Giving more details, Mr Kalisa told that trucks and HCV’s coming in from Ambala and Jalandhar side would follow the bypass (northern bypass) while those plying on Ferozepore-Jalandhar section will take the route along Sidhwan Canal Crossing, Gill Canal crossing, Gill Chowk, Samrala Chowk and Dr Ambedkar Chowk. Jalandhar bound heavy vehicles coming from Malerkotla side will travel on Gill Chowk, Dholewal Chowk, Samrala Chowk and Dr Ambedkar Chowk route.

The LCV’s approaching core city areas from Jalandhar side will take the route from Ambedkar Chowk towards Shivpuri Chowk, Circular Road, Madhopuri Chowk, Div No 3 Chowk, Iqbal Ganj Road, Kesar Ganj Road and Kesar Ganj Chowk. LCV’s proceeding to Jalandhar side from core city areas will move from Kesar Ganj Chowk towards Lakkar Bazar, Brown Road, CMC Chowk, Baba Than Singh Chowk, Samrala Chowk and Dr Ambedkar Chowk.

The routes for plying of three-wheelers and mini buses in the city localities have also been modified. The vehicles plying between Vishwakarma Chowk to Clock Tower will now terminate at Lakshmi Cinema Chowk and those approaching Clock Tower from Ferozepore Road would also be restricted up to Lakshmi Cinema Chowk. Three wheelers and mini buses on Haibowal — Clock Tower Chowk route would be allowed up to Gol Market near Domoria Bridge while those proceeding to Railway Station would approach from Civil Line side via Haibowal Chowk, Session Chowk, Fountain Chowk, Guru Nanak Stadium and Railway Station.

According to Mr Kalsia, keeping in view the convenience of the general public, five auto rickshaws would be allowed to operate from each side on Chand Cinema - Lakshmi Cinema Chowk, Gol Market - Clock Tower routes while two mini buses from each side will operate between Chand Cinema and Railway Station (from Civil Lines side) routes.



Jewellery seized from Dhira’s locker
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 1
The Vigilance Bureau seized 84.5 ‘tolas’ of gold jewellery valued at about Rs 4.5 lakh from a locker of Randhir Singh Gill ‘Dhira’, alleged tout of Ravi Sidhu, tainted Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission, here today. The locker was in a branch of Punjab and Sind Bank opposite Verka Milk Plant. The sleuths did not find anything else of significance there.

The bureau has also recommended that a case under the Excise Act be registered against Randhir Singh for possessing foreign liquor brands. It has also conducted an investigation into reports that Randhir and Ravi Sidhu own a 4-acre plot in Focal Point here. Today’s raid was led by the Superintendent of Police (Vigilance), Mr R.P.S. Bajwa, and the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Mr Saroop Singh Chauhan. Bank records showed that the locker had last been operated on March 21, two days before the recruitment scam was busted.

This was the second such raid here in connection with the scam. Yesterday, sleuths had raided the house of Randhir Singh in BRS Nagar. Rajwinder Kaur, Randhir’s wife, remained calm throughout the search and kept insisting that the jewellery was her own and had come to her from her mother and mother-in-law. A retired DSP of the Punjab police, who was with her, was doing most of the talking.

Sources in the Vigilance Bureau said they would question Dhira’s family later, but did not expect to find anything sensational. They said the family had received enough time since the busting of the scam to siphon out “ill-gotten money”.



Examiners in fast-check mode; God help students
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 1
After students finish their examinations, they begin praying: “God, let the examiner be in a good mood.”

Teachers cannot possibly be in a good mood when they have 60 answer-sheets to mark in three sessions every day — 8 am to 11 am, 11 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 5 pm. If one takes out 60 minutes for lunch and tea, there are only 8 hours left to mark 60 papers, which gives an average of 8 minutes per paper. In these 8 minutes, the teacher has to check the answers, do the total, write down marks questionwise on the main sheet and prepare the awards list. In this situation, will examiners be able to do correct evaluation of answers that each student takes three hours to write.

Ms Harmeet Kaur, Principal of the Ramgarhia College for Girls, said, “Teachers are under stress, but evaluation of Punjabi and English papers is easy because students finish these papers in nearly half the time. Once an examiner gets the hang of the test, he or she can mark the papers swiftly. Teachers who cannot cope with three sessions of evaluation, do 40 papers in two sessions. In case of absenteeism, the evaluation deadline is deferred. Problems arise because of staff shortage and an increased number of students. The services of experienced ad hoc teachers are taken only in dire situations.”

Another source, on the condition of anonymity, said: “Is it possible to mark 60 papers of mathematics and accountancy judiciously in one day? A large number of students get their papers re-evaluated and get higher marks than before. Before 1984, each teacher used to get a bundle of 100 papers to be marked at home over a week. After riots, on-the-spot evaluation was introduced and teachers marked 20 papers a day, which was increased to 40 papers a day. From April 16, teachers have been marking 60 papers a day, maybe because teachers want to augment their income. Each paper a teacher marks gets him or her Rs 6 plus the TA and the DA. However, they are rarely able to do justice to the hard work put in by students.”

Mr K.B.S. Sodhi, president of the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union, says: “Some teachers, who have earning spouses and are not the sole breadwinners of their families, decline to do invigilation and evaluation duties, though, according to the university rules, each teacher is required to participate in the examination process. Unless teachers evaluate test papers, how can they know the shortcomings of their students?”



Entry tax, not octroi: traders
Our Correspondent

Mandi Gobindgarh, May 1
“The Punjab Government has not properly represented the case for the abolition of octroi in towns of the state in the Punjab and Haryana High Court,” said Mr O.P. Gupta, president of the Mandi Gobindgarh unit of the Punjab Beopar Mandal, at a press conference here on Tuesday.

Mr Vinod Vashisht, senior vice-president of the AISSR (North Zone); Mr Harmesh Jain, general secretary of the Small-Scale Industries Association; Mr Parkash Chand Garg, senior vice-president of the Punjab Beopar Mandal; and Mr Subhash Chander, general secretary of the mandal, were also present there.

It was alleged that the present government had not called traders for consultation on replacing this 200-year-old system of revenue collection. The system has been abolished in all but four states. Punjab is one of the four states.

“The government should have levied entry tax on vehicles instead of reviving octroi. This will further slow down recession-hit industry and trade in the state as the cost of production will, now, increase,” traders said.

Traders said the Punjab Government should file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the decision of the High Court, failing which, they would launch an agitation. Traders had organised a rally against the levying of octroi here in August 2001. Mr Gupta said traders had given their suggestions in writing to the Chief Minister of Punjab and Dr Harbans Lal, State Minister of Forests, had assured them that he would discuss the matter with the CM.



Cong promises welfare measures for workers
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 1
The Congress today promised massive welfare measures for the workers. Addressing a May Day function here today, the Congress leaders said that the party was committed to the welfare of the labour and the working class and assured that the interests of the workers would be protected.

The main function was organised at the local Congress office, which was presided over by the District Congress Committee president, Mr K K Bawa. It was attended by senior party leaders, including Mr Pawan Dewan, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, Mr Gurdev Lapran and others. The speakers said while the party was committed to the economic reforms at the same time it was also seized of the problem of unemployment in the country.

The Congress leaders criticised the Union Government for its ‘anti worker economic policies’. They alleged that the government was blindly following the directions of the World Bank and other international organisation and not guarding the interests of the country. They said, only the Congress had a vision to maintain a balance between reforms and the interest of the working classes.

A separate function was organised by the district unit of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) under the chairmanship of its vice-president, Mr Sunder Lal Mehta. It was attended among others by the PCC Labour and Employment Cell chairman, Mr Balwant Rai Kapoor, the state general secretary, Dr Shiv Gupta, Mr Ranjit Singh, Mr V Chauhan, Mr Sushil Malhotra, Mr Prabhjit Singh Walia, Mr Harjit Nanda, Mr Ravi Wadhawan, Mr Yashpal Mittal and others.

The INTUC leaders condemned the economic policies of the Central Government alleging that the economic freedom and the workers interests were being put at stake. They also criticised the Akali-BJP government for its corruption, which was reflected in the revelations during the investigation of Ravi Sidhu’s case.



Cong meeting to select candidates begins
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 1
A meeting of the selection committee of the Congress began here today under the chairmanship of Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, MP. A central observer and senior Congress leader from Himachal Pradesh, Mr Ram Lal Thakur, also attended the meeting.

The meeting is being held to select candidates for the forthcoming elections to the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation scheduled for May 19. Over 600 candidates have applied for nomination from 70 wards.

The committee, headed by Mr Ghalib, comprises Mr Surinder Dawer, Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Mr Rakesh Pandey, Mr Milkiat Singh Birmi and Mr Milkiat Singh Dakha, all MLAs, Mr K.K. Bawa, president of the District Congress Committee, Ludhiana (urban), Mr Gurdev Singh Lapran, president of the DCC (rural), Mr Pawan Dewan, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, Mr Sushil Prashar, Ms Usha Malhotra and Dr Habans Kaur.

While the leaders were busy discussing the prospects of various candidates, there was a heavy rush of people waiting outside in the Circuit House complex. The prospective candidates accompanied by hundreds of supporters were camping outside, while trying to lobby for their candidature. The leaders said the rush of candidates was unprecedented this time. For the first time, they said, over 600 applicants had submitted their forms for the Congress nomination. Mr Surinder Dawer, who is one of the members of the committee, said it was an encouraging sign for the party.

Mr Dawer claimed that the ‘unprecedented enthusiasm’ among party workers was reflective of the party’s image and winning prospects. He maintained that merit, winning prospects and loyalty would be the main considerations while finalising the list of candidates.



Labour unions demand action against corrupt ministers
Tribune News Service

Communist leader Mangat Ram Palsa addresses a workers’ rally in Ludhiana on May Day
Communist leader Mangat Ram Palsa addresses a workers’ rally in Ludhiana on May Day. — IV

Ludhiana, May 1
It was more of rhetoric against corruption and communalism than the concern for the labour issues that marked the May Day function organised by various Left-affiliated trade and labour unions here today. And probably it was for the first time in recent years that such issues dominated the May Day function. Most of the trade union leaders, who addressed workers’ rallies, condemned the corruption during Badal regime and the communal violence in Gujarat.

Addressing a rally of workers at the local railway station, Mr Mangat Ram Pasla, called upon the workers to oppose corruption and communal violence. Condemning the ‘anti-labour’ policies of the state and the Union Government, he said, “The state government should immediately order raids on the premises of all corrupt ministers of the Akali-BJP government to recover properties and assets collected illegally during the five-year tenure. If the Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission could be involved in Rs 100 crore scandal, the inquiry into the misdeeds of corrupt ministers and other officials would lead to the disclosure of illegal money worth thousands of crores’”

Taking a dig at the similar economic policies of the Congress and BJP led NDA government at the Centre, Mr Pasla said,‘‘ The workers should not forget that both the parties are interested in retrenchment of workers, privatisation and selling of profit-making public sector units. However, they have taken no action to recover more than Rs 70,000 crore from the bank defaulters, most of whom are big industrialists.”

Regarding role of the Trade Union Movement in the changed economic scenario, he said, ‘‘We would have to launch a decisive struggle against the communalists, and anti-worker political parties which have failed to provide basic education, medical and employment opportunities to the masses. The trade unions should not only fight for their members, but they would have to stand up to protect the rights of workers in the unorganised sector.”

Condemning the attacks on Muslims in Gujarat by the cadres of RSS, Bajrang Dal and VHP, Mr Pasla said,‘‘ It is the duty of trade unions to stand against the communal violence and contribute for the rehabilitation of victims. How could any political leadership defend its members, who are involved in the electrocution, rapes, looting and killing of a particular community,” he asked.

Mr Gursharan Singh, noted Punjabi playwright, and Darpan Sabhyachark Manch, Sahnewal, presented hard hitting plays on farmers’ indebtedness and the condition of women in society.

In another rally of workers organised by the All-India Trade Union Congress ( AITUC) at Focal Point, Mr Bant Brar, national secretary and Mr O.P. Mehta, state secretary, AITUC, warned the workers that the Central and state government in Gujarat, were creating communal tension among workers to weaken their agitation. Mr Mehta said,‘‘ We should raise funds for thousands of riot victims who are staying in relief in camps under worst conditions. It would be our tribute to the martyrs of May Day.”

The members of the Moulder and Steel Workers’ Union, Istri Bhalai Sabha, Punjab Roadways Employees Union ( Independent), FCI Paledar Union ( Independent), Lok Sangarsh Committee, Jassowal Suddan, Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union and All-India Nepal Ekta Samaj and other unions organised meeting at Pratap Chowk to observe the May Day. Speaking on the occasion, Mr Mohan Singh, president, moulder union, said,‘‘ The economic policies of the Congress and the NDA government have increased unemployment, contractual labour and drastic fall in income of labour class. So the labour unions would have to launch a struggle to save their rights.”

Members of the local CPI(M-L) unit, Kisan Kirti Union, Paledar Union, PSEB, INTUC and AITUC gathered here today in Lala Lajpat Rai Municipal Park to pay homage to the martyrs of May Day. Inaugurating the programme with inqlabi song against the capitalism, various leaders criticised the Central Government for its repressive policies against the poor. They also blamed the government for allowing the foreign companies to invest in India. Reduction in subsidies in agriculture under the pressure of World Bank and IMF were also criticised.

May Day was observed by various labour unions and trade organisations here today. Marches and rallies were organised in many places in the town. Main functions were organised at the Lalheri Road Chowk and at old bus stand by the Rickshaw Majdoor Union and the Trade Union Council, Khanna, respectively.

Mandi Gobindgarh
May Day was observed here today by various labour unions. The flag was unfurled by Kashmiri Lal Gagat. Mr Hari Chand, district president of the Class IV Employees Union, alleged that the government was not sincere to implement genuine demands of the workers. The union would decide to launch an agitation against the government at May 17 meeting, he added. The General Labour Union (INTUC) observed May Day in the bus stand compound. The flag was unfurled by Mr Sadhu Singh, MLA, who announced the construction of a shed for the workers. Dr Joginder Singh Maini member, PPCC, Mr Sukhdev Singh Kukar Majra, president, Block Congress, and others spoke on the occasion. The CPI organised a function in front of its office. Comrade Natha Singh, district secretary of the party, unfurled the flag.



Know thyself first, says Swamiji
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 1
“Vedanta is the philosophy of vedas and is science of making life. It says that one should lead a life with discrimination and understanding and not based on impulses. One should also understand that it is he who himself has to live his own life and none other can live his or her life and so life should be based on self-reliance. It is dependence on others that is the main source of all the miseries and sorrows surrounding our lives whereas only independence can provide you happiness”.

These were the views expressed by Swami Tejomayanand, World Chief of Chinmaya Mission, while addressing the audience at a talk, jointly organised by Ludhiana Management Association (LMA) and Chinmaya mission. This was Swamiji’s first ever visit to Ludhiana.

He went on to say that “we generally talk about life after death, but what about life after birth? This, we often forget”. “Life is not what one thinks it to be; life is what you make it to be. Our future and the quality of life we want to live is in our own hands. Our life should depend on certain vision and values. If you don’t stand for something you will fall for everything. Vision of life has to be broad and not narrow. Narrow vision creates division in life whereas broad vision creates expansion in life”. What you want to have, values or valuables, was the question he raised to the audience while elaborating on ‘Dharma’ of an individual. He also narrated the story of Rama and Ravana to clear the context, while reading few couplets from ‘the Geeta.’

Earlier, while welcoming Swamiji, Mr V.K. Goyal general secretary, LMA said: “In the present literally-torn world, the message of our ancient scriptures has not died down. Rather it has increased manifolds because problems of mankind have multiplied and his freedom has rather decreased in the sense that the outside world, circumstances, people and situations are dictating our happiness and sorrows. We were becoming slaves to the outside world and to our senses and mind.”

“Some of us may view the Vedantist as a person who hates the world, or one who is an escapist. But in reality, only the self-realised persons are able to find the reality beneath all the appearances. The Vedantist is also able to serve the society more effectively than ordinary individuals since he has nothing to gain or lose from it and has no selfish motives and his love for the world is much more than an ordinary individual,” Mr Goyal observed.

Mr S.P. Oswal, Chairman, Vardhman Group of Industries expressed gratitude to Swamiji for his first ever visit to Ludhiana, the city known for its materialism. He added that now the people were feeling a burning desire for spirituality. There was greater awakening and a need was being felt to learn from our scriptures, heritage and discourses. Quoting Tao, an ancient Chinese philosopher, he said: “Those who know themselves are the ones who have insight. Those who know others have intelligence. Those who conquer others have force and those who conquer themselves have strength.”

More than 450 people from various walks of life attended the discourse.



Gosain raps govt on octroi
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 1
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly Satpal Gosain today rapped the Congress Government in Punjab for its approach on the issue of octroi. He alleged that the government did not defend the decision in the court which led to its reimposition.

In a statement here today, Mr Gosain reminded the Congress of its promise of abolishing octroi. He said: “It is a great betrayal of the people particularly the traders and the urban citizens”. The BJP leader pointed out that it was not just the money but the harassment caused to the business and the trading community while paying octroi.

He observed that it also led to wastage of a lot of time at the octroi posts as the vehicles had to wait for hours together to get octroi clearance. He suggested that the government should have mobilised additional resources for the development.



Pensioners’ directory
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 1
Mr Yash Pal Ghai, additional general secretary, Punjab Government Pensioners Association, in a press note issued here today informed that a telephone directory of pensioners had been released.

The members, whose names had not been included, could also furnish the relevant information to be included in the next issue of the directory, he said.



3 hurt in mishap 
Our Correspondent

Sahnewal, May 1
Three people were injured when the auto-rickshaw they were travelling in was hit by a tanker (PB10A-9792) being driven by Raj Kumar near Sahnewal, on Monday night. The injured are Ashok Kumar of Una, Deepak of Ludhiana and Harbhajan Singh of Ramgarh village. The three have been admitted to CMC Hospital at Ludhiana. A case regarding has been registered under Sections 279, 337 and 427 of IPC while the tanker driver has absconded.

4 booked:
Four persons have been booked by the Payal police for beating Manvir Singh of Dhamot Kalan village. Manvir Singh was admitted to a local hospital on Monday.

He said that four persons, Gulwinder Singh, Kamalajit Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Kamaldeep Singh, all residents of Dhamot Kalan, attacked him with sharp-edged weapons and injured him. Personal enemity is said to be the reason behind the dispute. A case under Sections 324 and 320 of IPC has been registered while no arrests have been made so far.

Cases registered: The Payal police registered three different cases under the gambling Act, on Monday. ASI Davinder Pal Singh seized Rs 245 from Bagri Ram of Dhamot village and registered a case under Sections 13/3/67 of the gambling Act. In a similar case, ASI Karnail Singh of Maloud police chowki arrested Satish Kumar of Dharampur (Khanna) and seized Rs 540 from him. 



Abducted minor girl traced
Our Correspondent

Mandi Gobindgarh, May 1
The police claims to have recovered a minor girl, Poonam, daughter of Mr Ravi Kumar Sharma, on Tuesday night from Delhi and got her examined in the Civil Hospital here on Wednesday. She was abducted on April 24.

One the statement of Mr Sharma, a resident of Batan Lal Road, Mandi Gobindgarh, the police on April 24 registered a case. Mr Sharma had alleged that Vinod Kumar, alias Guli, son of Rupa Chand, a resident of Delhi, had abducted this minor daughter. The police had registered a case.



Industry unhappy over decision on octroi
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 1
While the officials and workers of the municipal corporations and committees are celebrating the decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to quash the order of the SAD—BJP government to abolish octroi duty in the state, just few days before the announcement of elections, the traders and industrialists seem to have been caught off guard by this decision. They have blamed the government for not properly pleading the case in the court, and have demanded that the government should approach the Supreme Court for the review of this decision.

Though no one from the industry and trade has so far openly condemned this decision, which would cost them about Rs 450 crore per annum, but in private they have charged the present government of not properly pleading the case in the court, resulting in quashing of the order. On the other hand, another group blames industry itself for this scenario. One of the industrialists, who did not wish to be quoted for obvious reasons, said, “Undoubtedly, the industry, traders and transporters had benefitted from this political-cum-economic decision which became controversial as the government had made an announcement to this effect at the fag end of its term. However, no one bothered to pass on the benefits to the consumers or to suggest some alternative taxes to the government.” It may be noted that Mr Surinder Singla, Chairman, of the high powered committee on financial restructuring, in a function held here recently, had admitted that octroi was retrogressive tax, having high costs for collection, and with a wide scope for corruption.

The industry watchers say the government could impose surcharge on sales tax, specific duty on petrol and electricity consumption to compensate the local bodies. In fact, at least most of states, 18 to be precise, have already abolished octroi duty. They said government’s decision to re-impose this tax would further affect its plan to attract investors to the state. One of the economists at Punjab Agricultural University here said,‘‘ If the government does not take measures to review this development, the proposed oil refinery at Bhatinda would have to pay at least Rs 800 crore annually as octroi duty to a small municipal council. The fate of this prestigious project could be well-imagined.”

Mr Ashok Juneja, President , Punjab Cement Dealers Association, said there was no octroi duty in 18 states and its abolition was a state subject. The government should now move the Supreme Court against the decision.



Recession clouds travellers’ plans
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 1
With summer vacations just round the corner several city residents are planning to visit different exotic locations, but continuing recession is bound to hamper their plans. Travel agencies are complaining of getting very few enquiries due to the recession. According to most agents it is either the affluent or the business executives who were availing of foreign destination packages.

Mr Yashpal of Sheba Tours and Travels while talking to Ludhiana Tribune said people were opting for the packages for Europe, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Dubai. “Though we are offering the packages to Goa, Manali and Shimla also but people are more interested in going abroad these days”, said Mr Yashpal.

The different holiday packages (in India and abroad) can cost anywhere from Rs 5,190 to Rs 75,000 per person depending on the destination, air travel, accommodation, sight-seeing and meals. “Our Goa package is for Rs 16,650 per person (including air fare) and without air tickets is for Rs 11,000 for a couple (accommodation varies). But very few people are opting for the packages to Goa, Manali or Shimla”, said Mr Yashpal.

Mr Kamal Kumar from the New Kumar International Travels said they were offering holiday packages to Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Hongkong and Bankok. “Though there is not much boom this season but the interested persons are opting the packages to Thailand and Singapore. This package is for Rs 32,000 per person including all transfers, economy class travel, all meals and accommodation”, said Mr Kumar.

Another travel agent at Pakhowal Road said now more and more people prefer to go on their own. He said, "They do not want to be bound with travel agencies. Summer is the time to head for hills for a majority of middle class persons. People have limited time and since they have their own conveyance, they do not hire the services of travel agencies these days. Moreover, if they do not like a particular place, they are free to go anywhere else”, said the agent.

Mr Yogesh Goel, a city resident said he would prefer to go on his own with his family during vacations. “A trip through a travel agency is worth only if one has to go abroad, but if one has to go to a hill station in India, why should me hire the services of travel agency? I feel I will enjoy my vacations with my family without any restrictions of a travel agency”, he said.

Mr Sunil Jain, another resident, said he wanted to travel with his family in a cruise. “But I do not have any experience about cruise. One of the local travelling agency has guided me and I am quite satisfied with the package”, he said.


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