Friday, May 3, 2002, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


600 turn up for 70 Cong tickets
Birmi abstains, says he was busy
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 2
There were 70 vacancies and over 600 applicants — the Circuit House looked like any other interview centre — except that aspirants did not want jobs, but the Congress tickets for the coming municipal elections here. However, it was just a screening and not the final selection here today, as aspirants will have to clear two more stages before they get the tickets. The elections are to be held on May 19.

A 15-member candidates’ selection committee of the Congress headed by the local MP, Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, was conducting these interviews that were done with in a single day only. Besides Mr Ghalib, the other panelists included Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Mr Rakesh Pandey, Mr Surinder Dawer, Mr Milkit Singh Dakha, Mr K.K. Bawa, Mr Gurdev Lapran, Mr Pawan Dewan, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, Mr Parminder Mehta, Mr Amarjit Singh Tikka, Mrs Usha Malhotra, Dr Harbans Kaur and central observers Mr Ram Lal Thakur and Ms Malti Thapar.

The candidates came here with their supporters for the interviews that continued till late in the day. The average was nine candidates for each of the 70 wards, so, the panelists had to rush through the interviews. Most interviews were over within a minute each, with candidate asked about his or her name, family and contribution to the party.

Mr Ghalib said final selections would be made within a few days, where merit would be the top priority. He said by merit he meant education, clean image and loyalty. He said it was a difficult choice for the panelists, given the massive number of applicants, but the party took it as a sign of its growing popularity.

Meanwhile, differences within the candidates’ selection committee of the Congress came to the fore here today when a senior party leader and the MLA from the Ludhiana Rural constituency, Mr Milkiat Singh Birmi, stayed away from the interviews.

The party said Mr Birmi wanted the party MLAs to head separate panels to interview aspirants from their respective constituencies. This would have made him a big player in the selection process, since 34 of the 70 municipal wards fall in his Assembly segment only. In the 15-member selection committee, there are five MLAs, including, besides Mr Birmi, Mr Surinder Dawer, Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Mr Milkit Singh Dakha and Mr Rakesh Pandey.

However, Mr Ghalib said all panelists would sit together and interview all aspirants in the presence of central observers Mr Ram Lal Thakur and Ms Malti Thapar. When contacted, Mr Birmi, denied that he had deliberately abstained from the meeting. He said he had an urgent work at Chandigarh and he would attend all meetings from now on. However, he said he had indeed suggested that separate panels be made for each of the five Assembly segments here. He said this would save a lot of time, as over 600 aspirants were to be interviewed in one day.

Mr Birmi is also opposed to the party nomination of about 10 sitting and former councillors who had opposed him in previous elections. He said persons who had worked against the party only two months ago should not get the party ticket. Mr Birmi also wants tickets for five sitting councillors who have recently joined the party, but he faces stiff opposition from panelists who want only loyal party men, who have been with the Congress for the past five years, to get the tickets.

Mr Ghalib says that there are no differences within the panelists and selections would be with everyone’s consent.



BJP yet to finalise candidates
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 2
The nine-member committee of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the district was not authorised to take any final decision regarding allotment of party tickets for the ensuing civic elections. This was stated by the BJP district (urban) president, Mr Harbans Lal Sethi, while reacting to reports in a section of the Press that list of party candidates for more than 12 wards in the city had been finalised by the committee.

Mr Sethi said the process for shortlisting candidates from among the aspirants was on and interviews were still being conducted, which were expected to continue till tomorrow.

After this, members of the selection committee would visit the wards concerned and discuss the candidature with ward-level office-bearers.

“The district-level nine-member committee will forward its recommendations to the state selection committee and thereafter the state president of the party will make a formal announcement on allotment of party tickets,” Mr Sethi added.

He said the reports that party had finalised candidates were false.

“We have yet to finalise seat adjustment with our allies and only then a final decision will be taken by the state leadership,” he said.

Meanwhile, during an interaction with party activists in ward number 48, the BJP ward president, Mr Jiwan Lal Puri, and the party executive committee member, Mr Chaman Lal Chatley, criticised the sitting councillor, Mr Bharat Bhushan, whom they charged with failure as far as sanitation and maintenance of parks was concerned.

The party workers alleged that irregularities were committed in various development projects, carried out during the past five years, which called for high-level inquiry by a government agency.



MC imposes tax on signboards
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 2
Owners of industrial and commercial establishments here will, now, have to pay a tax on illuminated and other signboards.

According to Mr Prem Chand, Commissioner of Zone D, the Municipal Corporation has served notices on about 200 businessmen of upmarket commercial areas like Ghumar Mandi, Mall Road, Feroze Gandhi Market and Ferozepore Road for getting the signboard sizes assessed according to the Punjab MC Act for payment of advertisement tax.

The MC suffered a reduction in its income from advertisement tax in the past two years after directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on hoardings on the national highways and main roads within the city. In this situation, it made plans to increase revenue from advertisement tax that had come down from Rs 75 lakh to Rs 9.9 lakh in the year 2000-2001.

Mr Raminder Singh, Additional Commissioner of the MC, said: “Having received tremendous response to various schemes for increasing revenue from the display of signboards, the MC has set a target of generating Rs 2.5 crore in the current financial year from this tax. The scheme includes taxing businessmen for putting up signboards at their commercial and industrial establishments here.”

He said thousands of businessmen here did not pay the tax even after putting up numerous signboards at every conceivable vacant space outside their premises. From now on, only one signboard will be allowed to be put up free of cost. The MC also plans to impose tax on publicity messages painted on vehicles.

Mr Prem Chand said: “For non-illuminated signboards on land and buildings, tax from Rs 400 to Rs 2,400 will have to be paid every year, depending on the size of the board (from 10 sq ft to 100 sq feet). Illuminated signboards (from 2 sq ft to 100 sq ft) will attract an annual tax of between Rs 600 and Rs 6,000. Simple and illuminated signboards on vehicles will attract a tax of between Rs 1,800 to Rs 12,000, depending on the size of the covered area.



Students confused over multiple CET exams 
Deepkamal Kaur

Ludhiana, May 2
Recent decision taken by the universities of Punjab regarding the conduct of independent entrance tests for engineering courses has caused a lot of confusion among the students here.

While Punjab Technical University had earlier decided to conduct a common entrance test for admission to various colleges of Punjab as well on the behalf of Guru Nanak Dev University and Punjabi University, the two universities have later also issued their own brochures and forms for admission to engineering courses run by them. This has left the students in doubt whether they should take separate admission forms or seek admission to other universities as well through a common test to be conducted by the PTU.

With thousands of students left in this confusion, no fresh decision seems to have yet come from the office of the Secretary, Higher Education, Mr N.S. Rattan. He said he had decided to continue with the decision taken by her predecessor, Ms Geetika Kalha, by allowing the conduct of independent tests by the universities. He, however, said the Education Minister had called a meeting of the vice-chancellors on May 9 and any decision in this regard was likely to be taken at that time.

Meanwhile, the three universities seem to be adamant on conducting their independent examinations as they are busy selling their admission brochures and charging examination fee to the tune of Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,350 each. The students have complained that decision regarding conduct of multiple tests has not only caused mental stress but also added to financial burden for their parents.

It is stated on the first page in the brochure of the PTU that as per the notification issued on March 21 by the Department of Technical Education and Industrial Training, Punjab, students appearing for the CET examination by the PTU could apply for entrance test in any college or university of Punjab. It is also specifies in the prospectus that students can apply through it for admission to various B.Tech, M.Tech and B.Arch courses being offered Guru Nanak Dev University and Punjabi University.

However, Guru Nanak Dev University is selling out its own prospectus and has announced May 24 as the date for conducting its ‘‘GET-2002’’ examination. It has also declared May 6 as the last date of submission of forms for admission to B.Tech courses in computer science and technology, electronics and communication engineering, food technology, textile chemistry and urban and regional planning, besides other courses like M.Tech and B.Arch.

In its recent notice, even Punjabi University has announced its schedule for conducting entrance tests giving June 22 as the date for B.Tech course. The university has, however, not yet come out with its brochure or admission form. 



Lonely hearts at Senior Citizens’ Home
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, May 2
Octogenarian residents of Senior Citizens’ Home, Sarabha Nagar, are spending their golden year at a place which takes care of them and offers them board and lodging subsidised by the local Red Cross. However, the senior citizens are lonely, shattered after being shunted out of their homes by their children, whom they had raised with a lot of affection. The heartless sons and daughters-in-law, after turning them out in the winter of life, hardly ever come back except to seek money, if the residents happen to be rich.

Mr Madan Lal Mehra, aged 86 years, an erstwhile successful businessman, member of the Advisory Board, of the Grievances Committee and an official of the Municipal Corporation, lives in filth in his room now, as no one is there to take care of him. Turned out by his children after his wife’s death (he had built a huge house in Sarabha Nagar in her name) by his sons, he had to turn to the same Home, for whose foundation stone laying ceremony, he had assisted the then Governor Punjab, and was the first donor who helped by supplying bricks as he owned brick kilns.

Suffering from acute spondilytis and almost blind, Mr Mehra’s room spoke of his helplessness, with clothes and beddings spread haphazardly, the crockery coated with layers of dust and a soiled table cloth under the TV. Asked if he could not bring a little cleanliness to his room, he said,” I am all alone. I can barely move and see. A washerwoman comes and washes my clothes, and the next day I wear unironed clothes. A grandson visits me occasionally. An other grandson came this morning asking for a large sum of money. My sons wanted me to give them money, but I want to spend it for the needy.”

Mr Bimlesh Srivastava, who doubles as warden as well as a teacher in the neighbouring school for deaf-and-dumb children said,” Mr Mehra has given money for the installation of 18 tubewells in the schools and temples of the vicnity. He has also donated Rs 1 lakh for computers to be installed in our school. He provides for books, uniforms and even woollen clothes for children of the orphanage.”

Mr Mehra said that the Home needed a full-time warden. They had no doctor attending on them. “At night we are by ourselves. If someone gets a cardiac problem, we are helpless.” Bimlesh says there was no provision of medical aid in the constitution and surely, a full-time warden was required. “I also find the dual duty very taxing”, he added.

Another senior citizen, Mr V. P. Wadehra was extremely frustrated for he has levied a charge of embezzlement against the warden and the authorities who were shielding him. He said,” We had written to the previous DC, Mr S. S. Sandhu about it, but no inquiry was conducted. Mr Sandhu always said that he did not know of the matter. We can’t go to any ‘sangat darshans’ to register our complaints, but we do expect the Deputy Commissioner to know of our problems as he is the President of the Red Cross. One male and one female are made to stay in a double room. We object to it as this is against our culture.

Seeing the condition of the rooms, a housekeeper who would see to the cleanliness of the rooms is definitely required. Unhygienic conditions may cause illness as residents of the Home are feeble and old. Water supply is erratic and carrying buckets of water can be stressful for them. The exercise had also triggered a heart attack in a resident.

Residents feel that since they pay Rs 1,350 per month, they do deserve a better deal, including visits by official of the Administration to look into the problems faced by them. The Secretary, Red Cross, Mr Malik, was not available for comments. 



Rs 1 crore encroachment scam
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 2
While political parties are busy preparing themselves for the Municipal Corporation elections, to be held on May 19, officials of the Corporation have almost stopped the anti-encroachment drive. In fact, in a number of areas in the city, the Mayor, Municipal Commissioner or other officials have never ordered the removal of encroachments during the past many years for reasons best known to them.

A survey of the Gill Road, from Vishawkarma Chowk to Arora Palace revealed that the road on both the sides had been encroached upon by shopkeepers. Almost two thirds of the road, from Campa Cola Chowk to Arora Palace, has been encroached upon by scooter dealers, on the left hand side, and by vegetable and second-hand cloth vendors on the right hand side. What was surprising was that small-time vendors were paying Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500 per month to shopkeepers, corporation officials and traffic police to keep their business ‘running’. The total amount works out to be more than Rs one crore per annum.

Enquiries revealed that scooter dealers had set up a second-hand scooter market, on the corporation land, where hundreds of people from different parts of the state visit daily to sell and buy scooters and motorcycles. Insiders say that about 100 dealers are transacting business worth lakhs of rupees, by encroaching upon public land. Since heavy traffic has been diverted to this side due to construction of a flyover at the Dhuri railway line, there are perpetual traffic jams.

Mr Paramjit Singh Chawla, president, Punjab Scooter Sellers Association, says,‘‘ We have been requesting the Punjab Government and district administration for the past many years, to grant us land for the scooter market, but without any result. It would solve the problem of traffic congestion as well.” However, other shopkeepers maintained that they were happy at the place. The shopkeepers, on the other side, as expected, said, ‘‘ We are not doing anything wrong by taking money from these vendors, as our business also suffers.’’

An official of the Municipal Corporation, who has been given the charge to remove encroachments in this area, expressed his helplessness as he said,‘‘ We have challaned these shopkeepers a number of times, but they always come back.”



Mann supports censure motion
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 2
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President of the Akali Dal (Amritsar), was the only Akali member of the Parliament who supported the censure motion in the Lok Sabha against the NDA Government yesterday. Mr Mann said he had persuaded the other Akali MPs to follow the example of Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, Mr Omar Abdullah and TDP MPs but they all backed out as they were under pressure of their party’s support to the BJP Government.

Mr Mann further said that after the speech of Mr Waiko of the MDMK, there was pandemonium in the House as Mr Waiko accused the Congress for the anti-Sikh massacre in November, 1984.

In the wee hours of the morning, Mr Mann intervened and supported the contention of Mr Waiko. He categorically said that just as the Congress was responsible for the genocide of the Sikhs in November 1984 in Delhi and various other parts of the country, similarly, the BJP was responsible for the genocide of the Muslims in Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujarat.

Mr Mann has observed, 'The crime of genocide committed in Gujarat is the most serious and heinous known to the human kind. It is an offence in the UN Charter and the Rome Statute calls for the setting up of an international criminal court to try the crime of genocide.'

Mr Mann has also taken exception to the reports that Mr K.P.S. Gill, former Director-General of Police, Punjab is being appointed adviser to the Gujarat Government and has condemned the same. He said Mr Gill's appointment “is illegal, inhuman and unethical”.



LDA promises free drinking water
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 2
Having suffered a blow after the City Mayor, Mr Apinder Singh Grewal, along with several councillors owing allegiance to Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal Chief, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, joined the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) earlier this month, a close supporter of Mr Tohra and a former legislator, Mr Hira Singh Gabria, has formed Ludhiana Development Alliance (LDA) with several like-minded parties to contest the civic elections.

According to Mr Gabria, other constituents of the LDA were Bahujan Samaj Morcha and All India Hindu Maha Sabha. Some more political outfits and groups were also expected to join the alliance in the next couple of days.

In a joint meeting of the participating groups, held under the presidentship of veteran Akali leader, Thekedar Surjan Singh, the LDA constituents promised that if voted to power in the civic elections, the alliance would provide free drinking water and sewerage facility, exemption from house tax to commercial establishments in plots measuring up to 250 sq yard as well as basic amenities on a priority basis to undeveloped and under-developed colonies.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Gabria flayed the previous SAD-BJP regime as well as the present Congress government. He further claimed that the LDA would strive to provide a clean and effective governance to the city population.



PSEB consumers moved, queues unmoved
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 2
Officials of the Punjab State Electricity Board ( PSEB), are never tired of paying lip service for improving consumer services, but the fact remains that they have failed to provide even basic services like water or fans to the consumers, who come to deposit electricity bills.

A visit by a Ludhiana Tribune team to the PSEB bill depositing centre at the Fountain Chowk today revealed that while a large number of persons were waiting in a queue for the past two or three hours, but the queue was not moving at all. Ms Praveen of New Deep Nagar, said,‘‘ We always face difficulty while depositing the bills. There is no arrangement for water or fans. Moreover, Mr Kapoor, who used to sit here, and worked quite efficiently, is on leave today. There is single counter for the whole Civil Lines area.’’

Mr Prem Nath, a shopkeeper, said,‘‘ I had come in the morning at 9.30 am, but after seeing the long queue, I decided to bring my wife”.

A person standing in the queue revealed an interesting fact that anyone could deposit the bill ‘‘within minutes’’ if he or she paid Rs 10 to a particular shopkeeper working as a broker for an employee of the PSEB. But PSEB officials denied that they charged anything extra to deposit the bill early.

One of the PSEB employees, at the counter, said,‘‘ The people do not come early resulting in a heavy rush during the last days. Moreover, the board is not ready to employ additional persons to collect bills though the rush is increasing every year.’’ Another consumer asked if the BSNL and other departments could start a scheme to deposit bill through banks or post offices, why could the PSEB not adopt the same. 



‘Kaam, krodh, moh enemies of man’
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 2
“Religion teaches us how to achieve real and long-term victory, happiness and peace in life. This is the basic essence of religion. One needs to have strong values to succeed in life. Strength of character is first such ingredient, which provides the necessary momentum to achieve our goals in life. It is this strength that gives us power to fight all the obstacles from outside world. It is well said: “When the going gets tough, it is the tough that get going.”

These observations were made by Swami Tejomayananda, world chief of Chinmaya Mission, while addressing the audience on the second day at a discourse being jointly organised here by Ludhiana Management Association and Chinmaya Mission. Swamiji today used certain metaphors from Vibhishan Geeta, which is a part of Ramayan, to put across his points.

He said that patience also held an important place in the scheme of qualities, which ensured success and happiness. “Patience helps to move in spite of all the difficulties and negativities in the form of kaam, krodh, lobh, moh and ahankar. Without these virtues a person may be worth a million dollars but still be a worthless person.”

“The man must be good at heart and truthful in his thoughts, talks as well as deeds. Sooner or later it is the truth that prevails. Individuals who take recourse to untruthful means are bound to have a split personality, will lose credibility and will never get true peace in life. Common sense, which unfortunately is most uncommon, is also an important tool that should be used by people to discriminate between good or bad, important or unimportant. It is relevant each and every moment in life”, Swamiji added.

Earlier, welcoming Swamiji, Mr V.K. Goyal, general secretary of LMA, said that Swamiji had, behind this jovial veneer, an extraordinary sharp intellect. The easy-going and humour-filled way in which he put across, the seemingly difficult to understand concepts of Vedanta and Upanishads to his audience, was really mesmerising and was a real testimony to this fact. He said that there was nothing greater than being in the presence of the great masters who moulded you with their pure love, humility and deep wisdom in spite of yourself.

Mr Mahesh Munjal, vice-president, LMA, thanked Swamiji for his first ever visit to Ludhiana, 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.

More than 600 people from various walks of life attended the second day of discourse. The response of audience was excellent and the elite of Ludhiana seemed fascinated by the food Swamiji offered for the soul.



Three booked for fraud
Our Correspondent

Sahnewal, May 2
Three people have been booked under Sections 420 and 120B, IPC, by the Sahnewal police, yesterday. Sanjeev Malhotra, an advocate of Ludhiana, has lodged a complaint that three persons Dinesh Tak, Vicky Tak and T.R. Tak, Directors of the Primal Complex Limited, Chandigarh road, Ludhiana, have cheated him. They had assured him a plot on the payment of Rs 1000 initially but never gave him any plot, he added.

Truck drivers booked: The Sahnewal police has booked three persons in separate cases for driving recklessly and crossing the traffic lights without green signal, yesterday. Darshan Singh of Koomkalan has been booked for crossing traffic lights carelessly on his truck (PCX-2476). A case under Section 279, IPC, has been registered.

In a similar case Daljit Singh of Chabba of Amritsar who was driving his truck (PIP-5685) has been booked. A truck driver (PB09-C-6625), Lal Mohammad of Pandooa, Bengal, has been booked for reckless driving. All three have been released on bail.

Wheat stolen: About 98 sacks of wheat were stolen from the grain market of Tibba near Sahnewal, last night. Gurbax Singh of Koomkalan, who is an arhtiya in the grain market of Tibba, a village near Sahnewal, has complained to the police that on April 27, 2002, he left 145 sacks of wheat in front of his shop but on the next day he returned and found 98 sacks of wheat missing . A case under Section 379, IPC, has been registered.

Poppy husk seized:
SHO Jaswinder Singh, In charge Payal police station, has seized 90 kg of poppy husk from the custody of Kamikkar Singh of Saharan village under Sections 15/61 and 85 of the NDPS Act.



Imposition of octroi criticised
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 2
The Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings (CICU) has criticised the decision of the state government to reimpose octroi.

Mr Inderjit Singh Pardhan, president, and Mr Avtar Singh, general secretary, CICU, in a press statement today said that imposing of octroi was not much painful as was its mode of payment which was still based on conventional system of standing in long queues.

Mr Pardhan said that the collection of small amount of revenue in the shape of octroi duty, the harassment caused to the trade and industry by the corrupt staff cannot be ruled out.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal has strongly condemned the aftermath of the Punjab Government of reimposing octroi in the state.

Mr Mohinder Aggarwal, general secretary of the mandal, said that the government had betrayed the industrialists. He said that octroi was imposed in just five states.

Baba Ajit Singh, chairman, Mr Kasturi Lal Mittal, president, said that the Punjab Government should think of some other source of revenue as in case of Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan, etc to cope up the loss of revenue of octroi. They said that octroi had an adverse impact on the competitiveness of the products and should remain abolished.


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