Monday, September 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Master swindler arrested
Top shots’ bid to save him
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 8
Despite the efforts of many senior police officers to secure the release of a master swindler, a group of businessmen belonging to Delhi, Faridabad and Ludhiana stuck to their guns and refused to let the police browbeat them at Sarabha Nagar police station late last night.

As many as 15 businessmen alongwith a police party raided a house in Block-E of Sarabha Nagar and nabbed the alleged conman, Harpal Singh, from his rented apartment there. The moment the busineesmen had landed at the house, they and some policemen started receiving phone calls from some senior police officers trying to save the man.

But the businessmen withstood the pressure and got the man behind bars besides the registration of a case of cheating against him. The accused, however, enjoyed the luxury of a mobile phone even in the lock-up. Even some mediapersons saw him using a mobile phone in the lock-up.

He had allegedly pocketed more than Rs 5 crore from scores of businessmen after winning their trust by lending them large sums of money without any collateral. He then used to borrow money from them as his victims readily obliged him in lieu of previous transactions between them.

His modus operandi was to scout for people who had suffered losses, whom he promised to bail out with remedies from Vastu Shastra. Some of his victims had, interestingly, furnished bail bonds to get him released from police custody earlier. His victims had been following him from Delhi, Faridabad, Ludhiana and from other parts of Punjab and Haryana.

Mr Vinod Jain, a local businessman, is learnt to have played a key role in the arrest of the conman. He, along with Mr Rana Rattan, Mr Prem Bhuttani, Mr N.D. Bhatia, Mr Ankush, Mr Manohar Lal and several other victims, hailing from Delhi, Faridabad and Ludhiana, told Ludhiana Tribune that the accused had been declared a proclaimed offender in several police stations.

They said the police of several states was looking around for him. This group was also on his trail for the past several weeks. Police sources have confirmed that cases against the accused were registered in Rani Bagh, Sarojani Nagar and Khan Market police stations in Delhi. He has also been accused of stealing, robbing and even rape.

Mr Rana said the man cheated him of Rs 50 lakh. Mr Prem Bhuttani, who is the brother-in-law of the accused, has also been cheated of Rs 11 lakh. The accused also cheated Mr N.D. Bhatia of Rs 42 lakh.

The accused runs some finance companies at Janakpuri and Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar in Ludhiana. Two months ago, he was allegedly saved by a local jeweller in Ludhiana, when a team of Delhi Police had come to nab him.

Mr Bhupinder Singh, a local businessman, on whose complaint the case was registered against the accused in the Sarabha Nagar police station, said the man had illegally impounded his car and had got a false case registered against him.



Baba ‘elopes’ with disciple
Mahesh Sharma


  • He used to hold religious congregations and religious discourses in this area of Malwa.
  • His communication skills and simple lifestyle used to draw massive gatherings.
  • About a week back, the baba reportedly picked up Rano (not her real name) in a white Maruti car from her village and the couple eloped.
  • Friends and relatives suspected that the baba had taken shelter at some dera in Gobindgarh and Khanna areas.
  • The Dhuri police and the district police maintained that the police could not initiate any action until it received a formal intimation from the family or relatives.

Ahmedgarh, September 8
A so-called saint, known as ‘Dhulkotla baba’ has allegedly abducted one of his female disciples from Babanur village in Sangrur district. Though a week has passed, the parents of the girl have not reported the matter to the police. Some relatives of the girl are learnt to be in search of some goons who may finish the matter.

According to sources, the said baba, who is in his mid-thirties and has white patches in his black beard, used to hold religious congregations and religious discourses in this area of Malwa. His communication skills and simple lifestyle used to draw massive gatherings to his diwans. He used to preach the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib in such a manner that organisers of diwans in villages had to wait for their turn and the baba used to exhibit his busy schedule to elevate his own status.

A number of families never used to take any decision without the baba’s consent. He had inspired thousands of youths to get duly baptized.

About a week back, the baba reportedly picked up Rano (not her real name) in a white Maruti car from her village and the couple eloped. Her parents could only know late in the evening when they started searching for her. When they reached the baba’s house, he was also found missing.

Investigations revealed that Rano was engaged to the son of a landlord and her consent had been taken before the engagement. The marriage was to be held two months later. In the meantime, the baba reduced and ‘abducted’ her. Another girl from Patiala district reportedly accompanied them.

Although the girl’s parents consoled themselves, some relatives were in search of some goons to finish the matter. Whether some gang had been contacted was not yet clear. Friends and relatives suspected that the baba had taken shelter at some dera in Gobindgarh and Khanna areas.

Though the people of the area were criticising the baba for abducting the girl, those present at religious places at Dhulkote village showed ignorance about the incident. They maintained that none of the saints settled at religious places at the village had a shady image.

The Dhuri police and the district police maintained that the police could not initiate any action until it received a formal intimation from the family or relatives. People of the area feared that the story of Rurka might be repeated, in which a girl who had cloped was allegedly killed by one of her relatives.



Liquor smuggling rampant in district
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 8
If the rivalry between two Akali ministers was the cause behind large-scale smuggling of liquor in Ludhiana during the SAD-BJP regime, business rivalry between Congress politicians and liquor contractors, was facilitating smuggling of liquor in the district now.

The police and the Excise Department officials of Ludhiana revenue district were of the opinion that liquor smuggling would end after the change of the government, but their guess was not right. The scene of liquor smuggling is almost the same with only key players and the routes changing with the time. The police and the Excise Staff is again working overtime to check the illegal practice. Liquor contractors have again formed their own armies of armed workers to check the inflow of liquor in their areas. Chase of smugglers by the police, excise staff and private guards has become a routine affair. Besides this, special ‘nakas’ erected to search suspicious persons and vehicles have also become the order of the day in rural areas.

Earlier, liquor smuggling was rampant only within the city. Liquor was sold in small pouches and pints on scooters, ‘rehras’ and cycles in the area of opposite parties. Now, liquor is being smuggled into the district from almost all surrounding districts. Smuggling of ‘cheap’ liquor from Chandigarh was also rampant

Due to the emergence of monopoly of a liquor contractor, Ponty Chadha, in the district, the price of liquor sold here is more than the liquor price in other districts, especially Chandigarh. Smugglers, supported and sheltered by some politicians, including Congress leaders, buy cheap liquor from vends near the Ludhiana district boundary or from Chandigarh and route it in the district. Hand of workers of some liquor contractors close to some ‘well-known’ politicians has not been ruled out by officials in the Excise Department and the police.

Lower rates of liquor at Chandigarh were the main reason behind liquor smuggling. Seizer of hundreds of pouches and bottles of country and English brand liquor from various parts of the district during the past one month was a clear evidence of rampant liquor smuggling.

While the seized bottles carried a declaration ‘For Sale in Chandigarh only’, pouches, sold by a distillery in Mohali, were also for sale in Chandigarh only. Last week, nearly 40 workers of a Ludhiana-based liquor contractor chased a vehicle used for smuggling of liquor. The vehicle driver sensed the danger and changed the route to Himachal Pradesh, but he was caught and handed over to the Himachal Police. A case under the Excise Act was registered against the driver and the liquor confiscated.

Sources said Director’s Special, Sixer and Hero brands of liquor were smuggled the most. Pouches of Hero brand liquor, which contain liquor equal to a pint, are available at the cost of Rs 110 per case of 50 pouches. On the contrary one pint of liquor is available for Rs 25 in Ludhiana. The cost of one case of pouches would be thus more than Rs 1,200 in Punjab.

Sources said the smugglers settle for less than Rs 600 per case and were still making huge profits. The profits were not that high in case of Sixer and Director’s Special brands, but these were still attractive enough for smugglers to take risk.



Robbing to build love nest
Tribune News Service

Koom Kalan, September 8
Love makes people do strange things. Two lovers, Raju and Raveena, belonging to financially weak families of Jandiali village near Kohara on Ludhiana-Chandigarh road, who had vowed to marry, decided to loot shopkeepers or liquor shops in the area to mop up money to lead a comfortable life.

They allegedly looted a liquor shop at Razul village on the Machhiwara road on September 3. They could pocket only Rs 6,050 as the booty had to be shared with a third accomplice, Manohar, who also had no criminal background. He joined the duo because he was under a huge debt.

But their plans failed Friday night when a team of Kook Kalan police station caught Raju and Raveena while trying to sneak into a fete at nearby Kot Ganguwala village.

The couple told The Tribune that they were in love and wanted to marry. Raju, alias Phool Chand, belonged to Uttar Pradesh and Raveena hailed from Bihar. They had come to Punjab several years ago and settled in Jandiali village.

Raju had tried his luck in different businesses but suffered losses. He was currently running a meat shop. Raveena also had no source of earning. It was Manohar, a cassettes shop owner, belonging to the same village, who allegedly gave them the idea to rob people and make a fast buck.

Raveena along with Raju went to Bihar in late July and brought a pistol from there on August 18.

Manohar and Raju then robbed a liquor shop at gunpoint on September 3. They even stabbed a worker of the shop, who tried to chase them. The couple admitted that they were planning to commit more robberies and then settle down elsewhere.

They have been booked under Section 397 and 34, IPC, and 25, 69 of the Arms Act. However, Manohar is still at large.



Amputated leg found in garbage dump
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 8
A decomposed amputated leg was found in a garbage dump in Krishna Nagar here today.

The leg, wrapped in bandages, was spotted by some rag-pickers who were busy rummaging through the garbage in the afternoon. They immediately informed the police, which sent the decomposed leg for examination to the local Civil Hospital.

Sources in the police said they were suspecting that the leg was thrown by some nursing home after amputating it. They also said the leg might be of some diabetic patient as it appeared to have been amputated due to gangrene. They said chances of some crime behind the amputation of the leg were remote.

The police sources said the leg was that of an adult. They further said they were checking the records of nursing homes to get the information about amputation done in the recent past. Matching the records with the report from the Civil Hospital, it would be easier to identify the nursing home where the operation was done, they added.

The task of checking the records may not be easy as a large number of hospitals and nursing homes exist in the area. The police said it would wait for the medical examination report first.

This is not an isolated incident when biomedical waste has been dumped in the city in a similar manner. There are numerous hospitals and nursing homes providing latest medical facilities that do not comply with the directions of the Pollution Control Board on the dumping of hospital waste. Barring a few major hospitals, most of the nursing homes are without any disposal system.

It is a common practice to find soiled cotton and bandages and other materials dumped in open plots of the city. The residents, living in the vicinity of such plots, have often complained to the authorities to solve their problems, as this can lead to many infectious diseases, but nothing has happened so far. 



BKU condemns withdrawal of free power
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 8
The Bharatiya Kisan Union, Punjab unit, yesterday condemned the decision of the Punjab State Electricity Board Regulatory Commission to withdraw the free power supply to the agricultural sector.

Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, president of the BKU, in a written statement demanded that the decision should not be implemented as it would add to the pressure on the farmers who were already facing numerous problems due to the drought-like-conditions in the state.

Mr Lakhowal said the government led by Capt Amarinder Singh had breached the trust of the farmers whom he had promised a free power supply in his election manifesto. Stating that the Badal government had provided the free power supply only after seeing the problems of the Punjab farmers, the president said the Congress led government had let them down.

Prof Manjit Singh Kadian, its general secretary, said the union is organising the meeting of various farmer unions on September 15 when the farmers would join hands against the decision and oppose it tooth and nail.

Meanwhile, various farmers unions, including the Kirti Kisan Union, Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, Hind Kirti Kisan Sabha and Kisan Front on Sunday jointly condemned the decision of the commission.

Mr Hardev Singh, vice-president of the Hind Kirti Kisan Sabha, in a written statement, demanded that the decision should not be implemented as it would add to the pressure on the farmers who are already facing numerous problems due to the drought-like conditions in the state. He said the present government was testing the patience of the farmers who will not take anything lying low and the anti-farmer policies of the government would be opposed tooth and nail. 



Nothing much to write home about
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar delivers a lecture at a function
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar delivers a lecture at a function organised by the Ludhiana Management Association in Ludhiana on Saturday.— Tribune photos

Ludhiana, September 8
Full supplementary pullouts in newspapers, massive advertising campaign that would match probably the best in the marketing world plus posters and banners spread across the city seemed to have worked well for the volunteers of the Art of Living Foundation (ALF) to manage a red-carpet welcome for their Guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in the megacity. The reception was well organised in the five-star Park Plaza with hundreds of keen and curious listeners awaiting the Guru to speak.

The programme, organised by the Ludhiana Management Association (LMA), started on time. Attired in immaculate white dhoti kurta, the Guru was sitting on the dais all alone, for his presence was made to be divine far beyond the reach of ordinary mortals who could only queue up to prostrate before him, but not sit beside him.

The hype created over the part few days did not match the event in due proportion. The evening proved to be uneventful despite the Guru trying to make the session humourously interactive. He spoke precisely for 25 minutes and subsequently invited questions from the audience, that was mostly drawn from the elite of the city’s society. It included leading businessmen, prominent bureaucrats and politicians.

The spoke Guru on the topic ‘Stress elimination and productivity enhancement’, especially chosen by the LMA for its members. The Guru preferred to be more general and holistic rather than specific to confine himself within the definitions of the topic. According to him, stress is caused once people get formal.”Be informal like a child”, he sermonised, while disclosing that he had himself refused to grow and was childishly innocent.

There was nothing special about his sermon except some humourous remarks punctuated in between. To make the audience feel more involved and responsive, he would ask again and again, “is everybody present here”. Far below the expectations the tryst with the Guru did not bring about any excitement, much less the joy that it was expected to bring.

Although the question-answer session was slightly live because of its interactive nature, there were some people who felt that their questions were not placed before the Guru as they were screened out in advance. There were some moments of laughter over some questions like why he did not marry. To this he remarked wittily, “Since I am a child and have not grown up and will remain like that so I need not marry”, sending the entire jam-packed hall into fits of laughter.

This was followed by someone saying that he resembled Osama bin Laden, to which he remarked, “Don’t tell the Americans”. However, his reply was more elaborate as he explained the difference between the two. He pointed out that, he (Sri Ravi Shankar) stood for peace and world brotherhood while Osama thought quite otherwise. The explanation was certainly the best of the evening.

Although appearing to be childishly innocent with a perpetual smile on his face, he felt slightly irritated over a question as to why despite the presence of so many godmen, the country remained backward. He said that the term godman was being used in a derogatory sense quite often. He said the spirituality in the country is due to the “godmen” only. Quoting some survey, he claimed that India was the third most happiest country in the world, while Bangladesh topped the list.

The session ended with a few breathing exercises with people being made to take long breaths with programmed thinking. That was the meditative session. Many people, mostly women, rushed towards the dais to seek blessings from the Guru and implored him to place his hand on their head.



Two liquor smugglers caught
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 8
In a joint exercise, the Dehlon police and a team of the Excise department caught two liquor smugglers trying to smuggle a country liquor brand “Jugni” in Ludhiana district.

The smugglers have been identified as Kuldip Singh and Naranjan Singh, and 12 bottles of the liquor have been seized from them. Sources said the route was one of the most used one by the liquor smugglers. Several cases of smuggled liquor have been seized from this route in the past one month only.



Industrialists resent power tariff revision 
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 8
The proposal of revision of the power tariff retrospectively has caused considerable concern among the industrialists who see the proposal as ‘‘irrational and uncalled for’’, which would ultimately hit the industry hard. Industry, they pointed out, was passing through deep recession and the tariff revision with retrospective effect would further aggravate the problem.

Commenting on the proposals, the president of the Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr P.D Sharma said, ‘‘Revision of power tariff retrospectively is a very irrational step and no industrial consumer can bear the heavy financial loss on account of such revision’’.

He disclosed that the indication of the amount on account of the revenue gap for the PSEB had also unnerved the industrial consumers in particular. He observed that the ‘‘Punjab Government is playing a crude political game in this matter which will harm the industrial economy of the state’’. Mr Sharma maintained that the loss of revenue to the PSEB on account of highly subsidised power tariff has to be made up by the state government in cash failing which the PSEB will put this burden on other consumers.The fresh proposals are being viewed by the industrialists as the last straw as they claim that not many industrial units will be able to bear this shock owing to overall recession prevailing for sometime. The industrialists have been feeling that they are being made the scapegoats for keeping the political party’s vote bank in good humour. ‘‘The Congress government seems to be following in the footsteps of the Akali government, thus belying the hopes of the industry’’, an industrialist remarked.

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertaking (CICU) has also resented the hike in power tariff. Mr Inderjit Singh Pardhan, president and Mr Avtar Singh, general secretary of the CICU, have condemned this hike and said instead of setting its own house in order, the PSEB had found the least resistance path of increasing the power tariff to cover up its own inefficiency.


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