Tuesday, September 3, 2002, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Toll tax evaders can’t evade villagers’ net 
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Smart routes to evade toll tax

  • Via Kanech and Rampur villages to Doraha town.
  • Via Doraha village and Rajgarh village to Doraha town.
  • Alongside Sidhwan Canal.

Ludhiana, September 2
After trying in vain to stop commuters from passing through Rajgarh village and thereby avoiding toll tax payment near Doraha, villagers have now started collecting Rs 10 for each passing vehicle on the plea of getting the damaged road repaired. The villagers have also partly blocked the village ‘phirni’ (ring road) forcing the commuters to take a longer route in their bid to avoid the toll tax payment.

The ring road of the village had got damaged within two months as the drivers of heavy vehicles had started taking an alternative route via this village to evade toll tax barrier. As no government department has come forward to repair the road, the villagers have taken upon themselves the responsibility of getting it repaired.

The sarpanch of the village said a ‘nagar kirtan’ would be passing through this village after a week, so they were repairing the road in a jiffy. “We cannot wait for the PWD to repair the road. We have decided to get it repaired ourselves. We are filling the potholes and the villagers ask for money from the commuters for the same.”

A few days ago, the villagers had even urged Punjab Transport Minister, Mr Tejparkash Singh, to allow them to put a barrier to check the flow of traffic. But he refused to oblige them saying that it was the right of commuters to use any public road.

The commuters had started using this route after the government set up a toll tax barrier near Doraha on the National Highway in July this year. Some drivers discovered new routes to evade tax and started passing through villages in the vicinity of the tax barrier.

While the drivers had been saving on the toll tax, their gain is proving to be the villagers’ loss. Few days of increase in movement of heavy traffic is telling on the roads. The two main routes to reach Ludhiana by evading the toll tax barrier are the Kanech-Rampur-Doraha town route and Doraha village-Rajgarh village-Doraha town route.

While there are two routes in the vicinity of the tax barrier, drivers choose the Doraha village-Rajgarh-Doraha town route more as compared to the Rampur route as there are two level-crossing on the latter route which remains closed most of the times. Moreover this route is longer as compared to the other one. So the roads of Rajgarh and Doraha are facing more traffic and hence are getting damaged.

A resident of Rajgarh village said the panchayat had just got the ‘phirni’ repaired, but the heavy traffic had damaged it in no time.

He further said the heavy traffic posed a threat to the lives of their children who were in the habit of moving on the otherwise peaceful roads unmindful of any danger posed by the fast moving heavy vehicles. Moreover, these vehicles caused noise and air pollution in the villages.

“It is also taking a toll on our social life. Every now and then a convoy of buses passes through our village. We can’t get together and sit on the ‘phirni’. After all we also require privacy”, another villager said.



Farmers want drought relief, free power
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 2
A heavy downpour here today failed to deter activists of five farmers’ organisations who had gathered in Chattar Singh Park here to demand that agriculture power surcharge be deferred and the state be declared drought-hit, so that, farmers could be adequately compensated. The parties decided to hold district wide protests all over the state on September 16.

The outfits were the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, the Kirti Kisan Union, the Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta), the Kul Hind Kirti Kisan Sabha and the Khetibari and Kisan Vikas Manch.

The farmers said the policies of the government were anti-people. Hundreds of workers from all over the state had assembled at the venue to listen to the leaders of these parties. Mr Sukhdev Singh, general secretary of the BKU; Mr Satbir Singh and Mr Lakhvinder Singh, general secretaries of the Kirti Kisan Union; Mr Darshan Singh of the Khetibari and Kisan Vikas Manch; and Mr Kulwant Singh, general secretary of the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, said the parties would oppose any move to impose power bills on farmers.

The leaders blamed the Green Revolution model for the present situation where farmer, caught in debt trap, “could not even afford to diversify”. “The prices of fertilizers and pesticides have shot up, making agriculture an unviable occupation for poor farmers. This has helped only various multinationls, that have made huge profits by overpricing their products,” said the leaders.

The speakers said: “Instead of launching schemes to end the suffering of farmers, the Centre and the state are busy passing the buck. Political parties have failed to plan a common programme to oppose anti-farmer policies.” A demand was raised that the compensation for the loss of crop should be fixed at Rs 15, 000 per acre for the ploughed and not less than Rs 12,000 for the unploughed land — as followed along the International Border. The demand included that farmers who had tried to save the crop by sinking money in more tubewells and submersible pumps should get compensation at Rs 5,000 per acre.

The parties said the tax on goods used in the agriculture sector should be withdrawn and the prices of diesel should be lowered. The government should ensure an uninterrupted supply of canal water at this hour.

A special survey should be done to assess the damage to the crop. Farm labourers were debt ridden and mostly bonded labourers. The government should set up fodder depots for landless dairy farmers and farm labourers should be given an allowance of Rs 2,400 each for the loss of workdays this season.

The protesters said the next of the kin of the farmers who had committed suicides should be given Rs 5 lakh each as ex-gratia help.



Gastroenteritis cases: ‘MC not at fault’
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, September 2
Reacting to the assertions of the district health authorities that breakout of gastroenteritis in the Upkar Nagar locality in the city was due to contaminated water, the Municipal Corporation Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sharma, today maintained that the MC was not at fault and there was no contamination of water in the affected areas. This has also been corroborated by subsequent chemical analysis and chlorine testing of water samples, he said.

The MC Commissioner said a team of officials of the O and M Cell and the Municipal Health Department, headed by the Zonal Commissioner (D), Mr Prem Chand , visited the area and collected water samples from a number of houses. The samples have been declared safe and they also contain the prescribed quantity of chlorine, he said.

“During a house-to-house survey, four illegal water connections were detected for which supply line had been drawn dangerously close to the main sewer line. As a measure of caution, these water-supply lines have been disconnected,” Mr Sharma added.

According to the MC Commissioner, families of six patients of gastroenteritis were migrant workers who were living in tenements, unlawfully constructed between Budha Nullah and an open drain without any consideration for basic hygiene or civic amenities.

In a special drive, the sanitation staff had cleaned the entire area, including drains. The health staff of the civic body had coordinated with the district health authorities to provide medical aid to the affected persons.

In the wake of rainy season, Mr Sharma added that MC officials had been directed to ensure a supply of safe drinking water and four samples were being collected from different colonies in four zones of the city on a daily basis for testing.

The chlorine-testing kits had been made available at the zonal level and a strict vigil was being maintained against any possibility of contamination of drinking water.

Mr Sharma issued a warning to licensed plumbers of the civic body to desist from providing an illegal water or sewerage connection. This, he said , could land them in trouble. Besides, cancellation of their licenses, such defaulting plumbers would be proceeded against under relevant laws.

Meanwhile, the City Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, today convened a meeting of councillors and other prominent citizens to discuss ways and means to deal with the situation arising from the breakout of cholera and gastroenteritis in some city localities.

He set up a sub-committee of 10 members comprising councillors and other community leaders to carry out a survey of the affected areas and submit a report for desired remedial measures.



Woman’s lone battle for justice
Wrong medication killed her husband
Shivani Bhakoo

Ludhiana, September 2
Bimla Rani lost her husband due to “wrong medication” when she was barely in her thirties. Ever since, she has been running from pillar to post to bring culprits to justice, without any success.

After falling ill, her husband, Ashwani Kumar, had been admitted to the ESI Hospital on April 4, 2001, on the basis of Bimla’s ESI Card (5603295) issued to her by an organisation where she had been working as a labourer. Ashwani had acute asthma and breathlessness. After the diagnosis and medication, he was discharged on May 10, 2001.

“When the hospital discharged my husband, it gave him a list of medicines prescribed for a patient named Raghbir Singh (Card Number 8661101). Being illiterate, we could not read the prescription and my husband started taking the medicine prescribed for Raghbir Singh, who had tuberculosis and pneumonia. When his health deteriorated, I took him to the ESI Hospital again, where I learnt that he had been taking wrong medicines. He died on May 26, 2001,” said Bimla Rani

“My huband died because of a mistake by a nurse in the ESI hospital. When I approached the hospital authorities, instead of admitting to their mistake, they said I had not read the name on the prescription. I told them I could only write my name in English; otherwise, I was an illiterate, but they refused to listen to me,” she said.

To seek justice and compensation, Bimla has written to several authorities, including the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister, the Chief Justice of Punjab, the Punjab Additional Director General of Police, the National Commission for Women (New Delhi), the Punjab State Human Rights Commission and the DIG (Ludhiana Range), but received only a standard reply every time that: “Your letter has been received and sent to the authorities concerned.”

“The system has left me a broken woman. I have sent all these authorities several reminders, but to no avail. Today, I am alone and leading a miserable life, with two children to feed,” said Bimla.

She lives in a rented house at Chowni Mohalla and is the only bread-winner of her family. “I want justice. There should be an inquiry and the guilty should be punished. Because it is at mistake, the hospital should be told to give me some compensation, as I have two children to raise,” said Bimla.



SSP orders probe against cops
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 2
Mr A.S. Rai, Senior Superintendent of Police at Sangrur, has ordered an inquiry into the allegation that a drunk police patrol party had barged into a house near Vishwakarma Temple of Ahmedgarh at 1.30 am on August 29. The owner of the house had lodged a complaint with the SSP at Sangrur yesterday.

The complainant, Mr Mohammad Tufail, has said that he was sitting outside his house during a night-long power-cut when this happened. The other members of his family were sleeping on the roof when the squad led by Assistant Sub Inspector Surjan Singh came there in a blue Allwyn Nissan vehicle from Chhanna village.

On being asked by the ASI why he was out, Mr Tufail told him he had been waiting for the power supply to resume. However, the tipsy policemen were not satisfied and barged into his house.

In spite of his protests, two havaldars, who were carrying rifles, went up to the roof and started asking him awkward questions about his mother, wife and two daughters, who were sleeping there.

The man said, since his was a Muslim family following ‘purdah’, the policemen, by barging into his house at such an odd hour and asking him such questions, had not only violated his family tradition but also hurt his religious sentiments.

Mr Tufail said, when he had tried to lodge a complaint in this regard at the police station, the city SHO, Mr Sukhram Singh, had tried to dismiss the complaint lightly. On telephone, an official answering the call at the police station, said the matter would be probed.



Farm varsity’s Kisan Mela from September 4
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 2
The series of kisan melas to be organised by the Punjab Agricultural University during September, 2002, will start with a kisan mela to be held at Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Rauni (Patiala district) on September 4, 2002. Dr K.S. Aulakh, Vice-Chancellor, PAU, will be the chief guest and it will be presided over by Mr Tejvir Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Patiala.

Dr Jaspinder Singh Kolar, Director of Extension Education, Punjab Agricultural University, said that the main purpose of these Kisan melas was to educate the farmers about the solution of the problems confronted by the Punjab agriculture, like the depletion of underground water, deterioration of soil health, pollution of environment and escalating cost of production. Dr Kolar said that for the solution of these problems, continuous interaction between the scientists of PAU and the farmers was necessary. To promote this interaction, the other four Kisan Melas will be organised by the Punjab Agricultural University, i.e. at Ballowal Saunkhri on September 10; main Campus Ludhiana September 19-20; Bathinda September 24, and Gurdaspur, September 27, 2002.

Dr Kolar has appealed to the farmers to participate in all Kisan Melas in large numbers, along with their families.



Encroachment on MC land: trader blames 
BJP leader
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 2
While the decision on the issue of demolition of 12 shops, allegedly constructed on Municipal land in Talab Bazar Market, following dismissal of the civil suit of the shopkeepers concerned, is still pending with the civic body for execution, a shopkeeper has charged a former BJP councillor, Mr Sunil Mehra, with trying to create communal tension and disharmony between different communities on the basis of encroachments by different religious institutions in the city.

The shopkeeper, Mr Vinod Jain, alleged that Mr Mehra and certain office-bearers of the managing committee had made money in the questionable deal of construction of these shops.

Mr Vinod Jain, who had submitted a memorandum to the civic body here last week demanding immediate demolition of the shops in Talab Bazar Market and an inquiry into the role of the BJP councillor for ‘abetting’ encroachment on MC land, alleged that Mr Mehra had tried to implicate him in an attempt to create communal tension in the city. He alleged that an unsigned memorandum in his name had been submitted to the civic authorities, quoting specific instances of encroachments by various religious institutions in the city, which included two gurdwaras, one mosque and a temple.

Mr Jain further alleged that this mischievous act had been done, in all probability by the BJP councillor, who was nursing a grudge against him since he had taken up the matter of encroachment on MC land and demolition of the shops in Talab Bazar Market.

The said memorandum, copies of which were also sent to functionaries of the religious institutions named in it, the district administration, the state government as well as senior Akali Dal leaders, further quoted Mr Jain as saying that if the MC authorities had failed to take action against the ‘erring’ religious bodies, “he will resort to self immolation after a fortnight”.

Mr Jain maintained that he held all the religious bodies and places of worship in highest esteem and the said memorandum was a fabrication to put him in trouble and to malign him. However, Mr Sunil Mehra, when contacted, vehemently denied the allegations and expressed complete ignorance about any such memorandum. He further claimed that he had no role to play in the alleged encroachment by shopkeepers in Talab Bazar Market. The BJP councillor said that ever since he had taken a stand against Mr Jain in a dispute between shopkeepers in Chaura Bazar, Mr Jain had been on a campaign of slander and vilification against him, levelling wild allegations.



Operators hold cable subscribers to ransom
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 2
Cable operators in the city are holding subscribers to ransom by demanding exorbitant and arbitrary subscription fee. Surprisingly, even the district administration is mum on the issue, letting the cable operators rule the roost.

It may be mentioned the operators are charging Rs 250 per month per TV set. Which means that if a household has two TV sets, the subscription fee is Rs 500. The fee appears to be rather steep when compared to other cities in the state. In SAS Nagar , the monthly fee is Rs 150 and the quarterly Rs 400.

Naturally, subscribers are resenting what they call as “blackmail” by the operators.

Mr H. S. Saluja, an engineer in Dugri, said the operators were “looting” the viewers. “Two cable distributors, Win Cable and the Siti Network, have divided the city in two parts thus creating a monopoly in their respective areas of operation,” he said.

He argued that the fee being charged was “back breaking” for people. “ Besides, there is no reason behind such high charges in Ludhiana, while tariff of all channels are same everywhere.”

Mr Saluja said that all consumers should get together and file of a Public Interest Litigation in the Punjab and Haryana High Court to “teach a lesson to the cable operators”. He urged the high court to take a suo motu notice of the issue as it concerned thousands of people in the state.

Interestingly, while on the subscription fee-issue the cable operators agree with each other, their differences on other issues are adversely affecting the consumers.

For example, the Win Cable is not beaming Zee channels like Zee movies, Zee MGM and Alpha Punjabi. And the viewers in the area hardly have any say in the matter due to its monopoly and the “ indifference” of the district administration.

So while they are being made to pay through their nose, the choice of which channel to watch lies with someone else.



Art of Living course benefits people
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 2
“The Art of Living course has given new confidence to me. Earlier I used to get very nervous thinking of my studies, but after the completion of the course, I am cool,” said Nisha, a student who just completed the 10 day course of Art of Living at Government College for Women. She further said that she joined the course not really expecting much, but the course has given her new assurance about her capability and made her more confident.

Two courses of Art of Living were concurrently running at Durga Mandir , Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar and Government College for Women. Bhagat Singh, a scooter mechanic, after completion of the six-day course at Durga Mandir said: “I had been eating paan masala for the last 15 years, and was a chain smoker. I was suffering from asthma and sinus problem, but after the course and practising Sudarshan Kriya, I have given up the bad habits and feel better.”

Mr Satpal Gosain, former Deputy Speaker also found the course nice. The course Prison Smart conducted for the inmates of Central Jail had helped the prisoners to face their remaining sentence with equanimity. Jarnail Singh a prisoner, said: “Earlier I never had sound sleep, but after the course, I sleep well and feel life is worth living.” These different experiences were collected by the volunteers of the Art of Living Foundation.

The devotees are fervently preparing for his arrival in the city on September 8.



Meeting on World Peace Day
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 2
A meeting in connection with World Peace Day was held by Art Theatre at Punjabi Bhavan here yesterday. The meeting was organised to remember those innocent people who lost their lives in World War II that started on September 1, 1939. In a press release, the director of Art Theatre, Mr H.S. Randhawa, stated that tributes were paid to the people who lost their lives in World War II.

He stated that in memory of those innocent people a play based on the “anti-nuclear” subject was being prepared in a workshop. The play, “Marsia”, is based on the world-famous creation “Progress” by John Irvin and dedicated to world peace.

In this play the central roles are being played by the renowned artistes of the theatre, Vijay Kumar and Premjit Kaur. Among the other artistes Seema, Kuldeep, Karmjit, Mandeep Kalra, Prince, Yash Dhandra, Vishal, Aman, Harpreet, Rabia and Rakesh Pathak are playing different roles. The lyrics are by Dr Surjeet Pater and music by Raj Kumar.

The events of the play will be highlighted with the help of lights, slides, chorus and music. The extreme theme of the play is to spread the lesson of international peace and universal brotherhood. The date for the performance of play will be announced in three or four days. Baljeet Kaur, Karamjeet Kaur, Apaar Singh, Tarsem Masih and Surinder Simmi were also present at the meeting. 



Protest against ‘torture’ of lineman
Our Correspondent

Khanna, September 2
A protest rally was organised in front of the office of the SSP Khanna by the Sangharsh Committee, Khanna, in protest against the alleged torture of an employee of the Punjab State Electricity Board Khanna here on Monday.

Badloo, an assistant lineman PSEB circle, Khanna was allegedly picked up by the Khanna police on August. 28 following a complaint that his son had teased a girl on the Lalheri road. The family of Badloo alleged that he was beaten up by the police. The committee submitted a memorandum to the SDM, Khanna Mr Manvesh Singh Sidhu, and the SSP Khanna Mr Paramjit Singh Sarao.

It was alleged in the memorandum that instead of taking action against guilty Home Guard official Prithi Singh on whose behest Badloo was tortured, the police has registered a false case against Badloo under different sections.

The committee alleged that taking in view the serious condition of Badloo, Civil Hospital doctors had referred him to Rajindra Hospital, Patiala.

According to a hospital report Badloo is feeling weakness in lower limbs and pain in chest.



Aashioq-e-Khwaja to celebrate Urs in city
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 2
A group of devotees from the city have formed a society, ‘aashioq-e-khwaja’, with an objective of providing shelter to the needy. For this purpose, the society has bought one acre land at Bool village, in this district, where an orphanage-cum-old-age home is being constructed.

This year too, the ‘aashioq-e-khwaja’ will organise Urs on September 14 on the Ferozepore road, Sacha Sauda Market, here to remember the great sufi saint. According to Mr Mohit Sabharwal, president of the society the main objective of celebrating Urs in the city was to make it convenient for all those devotees, who were otherwise unable to visit Ajmer during this time, to pay obeisance to khwaja.

The function, he added, would commence in the evening with the traditional lightening of candles, also known as ‘Roshni’ followed by ‘langer’. Thereafter, sufi ‘qawaals’ who were specially being invited from Ajmer Sharif, will sing paeans (hymns) in the praise of the holy saint throughout the night.



Poppy husk seized
Our Correspondent

Jagraon, September 2
The Sudhar police has arrested Balbir Singh of Pakhowal who was found in possession of 25 kg of poppy husk in a gunny bag. His accomplice managed to flee. The police has registered a case under Sections 15, 61and 85 of the NDPs Act against the accused.



UCO Bank profit takes a quantum jump
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 2
UCO Bank has earned an operating profit of Rs 140 crore for the quarter ended June, 2002, which is 113 per cent more than what was recorded during the same period last year. The operating profit for the first quarter in the previous year was Rs 66 crore. The net profit recorded for the first quarter of 2002-03 is Rs 73 crore.

According to Mr Jagdish Malhotra, assistant general manager, Chandigarh region, the increased profit had a very positive impact on the adequacy ration of the bank, which now stood at more than 10 per cent. UCO Bank’s Capital Adequacy Ration (CAR) was 9.64 per cent as on March 31, 2002.

This performance had come on the basis of higher level of business. Total business of the bank had reached Rs 40,600 crore and was higher by Rs 7,500 crore over the level of business as on June 30, 2001. This represented a business growth of more than 22 per cent over the one year period. This was one of highest growth rate recorded in the industry.

Mr Malhotra further said the treasury operation had also contributed to the higher profit to the extent of Rs 34 crore over and above the level achieved in the corresponding period last year. 


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