Saturday, September 28, 2002, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


2 die, six taken ill in gas leak
Tribune News Service


 * Panic gripped labourers’ colony at Dhandari Kalan.
 * The gas and smoke leaked from a furnace and a tyre-tube manufacturing unit.
 * Civil Hospital sources said the post-mortem examination of the deceased confirmed death due to inhalation of some poisonous gas.

Ludhiana, September 27
A couple was suffocated to death, while their four children, including one girl, and another couple were taken ill when a gas leaking from some industrial units engulfed some houses in a labourers’ colony at Dhandari Kalan early this morning.

Focal Point police sources said they were examining the matter and would take action accordingly. The gas and smoke allegedly leaked from a furnace and a tyre-tube manufacturing unit.

The deceased have been identified as Ram Naresh Gupta (45) and his wife Biti (42). Their four children — Raju, Manjit, Sonu and Renu — were discharged from the hospital in the evening after being kept under observation throughout the day. Another unidentified couple were discharged from the hospital after being administered the first-aid.

Pappu, a close relative of the victims, said the incident took place at around 3 am. He said he was woken up by the cries of some labourers. He later realised that Ram Naresh had been sleeping alone in a room next to a furnace factory and a tyre-tube manufacturing unit. The gas and smoke soon filled the labourer’s room.

Ram Naresh collapsed due to the fumes and his wife, who had gone into the room on hearing his shrieks, also fell victim to the fumes. Their children and other labourers also fell unconscious when they went into the room, but were rescued by other labourers of the colony.

Panic gripped the entire colony following the incident. The casualties were shifted to a nearby hospital, where the couple were declared brought dead. The police later reached the spot.

The Civil Hospital sources said the post-mortem examination of the deceased confirmed death due to inhalation of some poisonous gas. The viscera has, however, been sent for chemical examination for further probe to ascertain the cause of the death.

The couple were cremated at Dhandari Kalan amidst heart-rending scenes. The four children rendered orphan were inconsolable, as their future now hangs in balance.

Residents of the area demanded a through probe into the matter. Wishing not to be quoted since they work in the factories, the labourers said poisonous gases regularly emanated from the factories and there was always a risk of such a tragedy. They said the factories were not adhering to the norms of the Punjab Pollution Control Board. They warned that if remedial actions were not taken soon, some bigger tragedy could take place in the area. Residents said the gases were causing diseases in the region but neither the Municipal Corporation nor the Health Department was taking any action.


MC staff demolish complex
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 27
The building branch officials of the Municipal Corporation today demolished part of Sutlej Tower, a commercial complex on Cemetery Road in the posh shopping area of Civil Lines here, for non-payment of composition fee against violation of building bylaws.

The team of MC officials, headed by the Municipal Town Planner, Mr P.K. Garg, accompanied by a heavy police force and labour descended on the spot at around 12 noon and the bulldozer went into action. As the stairs on two sides of the building were razed, a large number of occupants of shops and offices in the complex got together and offered resistance to the demolition operation.

The MC officials made it clear that owners of the complex, despite being served several notices, had failed to pay the composition fee of over Rs 27 lakh and the civic body was left with no other alternative than to pull down the building. Till date an amount of Rs 2 lakh as part payment towards the arrears was deposited by the owners with the MC.

One of the partners of the firm, which had constructed the commercial complex and later sold the shops and offices to over two dozen different individuals and firms, who was present at the spot, made an offer to deposit his company’s share of the arrears, which according to him stood at Rs 7 lakh but the MC officials refused to accept part payment and maintained that in the event of full payment not being made on the spot, the entire building would be demolished.

The owners of shops and offices, on their part, termed the MC action as arbitrary and highhanded and their plea sounded logical too. They said all of them had purchased shops and offices from the original builders and their title deeds were also registered. They had further got the ownership of their respective shops and offices transferred in their names in the MC records and were paying house tax also.

“By pulling down the building, the MC is causing heavy loss to us while the original builders, who have defaulted in payment of composition fee, will go scot free,” an agitated owner of one of the shops in the complex lamented. He said the builder had no stake left in the complex since all the shops and offices have been sold out and duly transferred in the name of the subsequent buyers. The occupants of the shops and offices, upset over the MC action, were of the view that since the ownership of individual units in the complex had changed hands and was entered in the MC record, the new owners should have been served notices prior to demolition by the civic body officials, which they asserted had not been done.

Talking to Ludhiana Tribune, the MTP, Mr P.K. Garg, however, claimed that the new owners were aware of all the developments and were now making excuses to buy more time. “The orders for demolition were issued at an earlier occasion also and the MC demolition squad had come to the complex about a month back. The occupants of the units in the complex had sought some time to clear the arrears which was given to them without any further response from their side.”

Mr Garg said the brief given to the MC officials was very clear — recover the full amount of the composition fee or demolish the entire complex — and he appeared determined to carry out the orders. Hectic parleys between the occupants of the building and the MC officials were on till writing of this report but in all probability it seemed that the MC move would pay off.


Experts for higher paddy MSP
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 27
The retaining of the minimum support price (MSP) of paddy by the Union Government has invited strong criticism from many quarters. Even agricultural experts who are usually against the rise in MSP as it affects cultivation patterns and discourages diversification are supporting the cause of the farmers this time.

The experts agree with the farmers for demanding more MSP due to drought-like conditions and untimely rains in the state.

Dr Joginder Singh, Head of the Department of Economics, Punjab Agricultural University, said the MSP for paddy had not been reviewed at all. Talking to the TNS, he said the government should have raised the MSP at least this year when the farmers had spent extra money to arrange for diesel and for deepening tubewells.

Dr Joginder Singh expressed dissatisfaction over the rise in the MSP of oilseeds and pulses. He said if the government was thinking of making the farmers opt for diversification by purchasing paddy at such a low price, the economist said it was a very pessimistic way of diversifying. ‘’If they want farmers to switch over to oilseeds and pulses, then they should have raised the MSP at least by Rs 200 and not between Rs 10 to Rs 50. Only a significant raise can make the farmers opt for alternative crops as the paddy has been very profitable crop for the farmers,” he said.

The noted economist further said it should have been better if the government had dealt with the farmers more sympathetically considering the drought-like conditions in the state. ‘’How can we stop bothering about the crop that has been giving us so many profits?” he added.

Similar views were expressed by Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, president, Bharti Kisan Union, (Punjab), who said they would oppose the decision of the Union Government regarding the MSP of paddy tooth and nail. He termed the MSP as ‘’rubbing salt on the wounds of farmers’’ as ‘’they were at the receiving end due to one reason or the other.’’ He said the farmers along with the farmers’ organisations had rejected the MSP. ‘’We have demanded a review of the declared MSP from the government. If they fail to do so then we would be forced to intensify our agitation. Is the government not aware of the fact that we had to invest an extra amount of Rs 4000 to Rs 5000 per acre to make our crop survive?”

He stated the farmers would be meeting in Ludhiana on September 29 and prepare a strategy to oppose the MSP. He called upon all parties to join hands to fight for the farmers’ cause.

Mr Gurpreet Singh of Mandiani village also condemned the retaining of the MSP at Rs 530 for ordinary paddy and Rs 560 for grade A paddy. He termed the MSP as a cruel joke on the farmers who were already suffering due to long dry spell.

‘’The Punjab farmer is doomed. We were thinking that we would be given a bonus on per quintal of paddy in view of the drought, but the government has really disappointed us.”

Mr Charanjit Singh, a farmer of Pakhowal village, also termed the retaining of the last year’s MSP of paddy as “step-motherly treatment” by the government. “How can they leave us in the lurch at the time when we require help all the more? We are being cornered from all sides and Punjab’s agriculture was facing threat.

Already, 400 farmers in the state have committed suicides due to debt. Now do they want us to kill ourself and our families? “ he asked.

Many farmers condemned the Centre for not reviewing the price of paddy at a meeting convened by the Kirti Kisan Union at Jagraon today.

Mr Gurcharan Singh, the president of the union, said the farmers were already suffering due to the opening up of international market and the sale of paddy at such a low price would not even return the cost.

He threatened that the union had given a call for ‘rail roko’ on September 30 to oppose the MSP.


Residents oppose Dasehra mela
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 27
While the Dasehra mela at the Daresi grounds is already underway and preparations are on in other parts of the city for holding such melas, the residents of Jamalpur have decided to oppose the mela to be held in their locality.

A delegation, comprising residents of HIG, MIG and HL colonies, called upon the Additional Deputy Commissioner yesterday with a formal complaint asking for non-granting of official permission for the mela. Copies of the complaint were also given to the Estate Officer, PUDA, the SDM (East), the SHO, Focal Point police station and Ms Satwant Pappi, area councillor, DIG, Ludhiana Range and the SSP.

In their application, a copy of which was also received by this correspondent, the residents have requested the authorities concerned not to give permission for the mela in view of the disrupting of law and order in the mela last year because of a fight at the scooter parking let out on contract by mela organisers. A 14-year-old boy had sustained serious head injuries in a scuffle before he was rescued by a relative who fired in the air to scare away the attackers. The residents are of the view that the mela was a potential threat to their security as the same was frequented by criminal elements.

The application also stated that as the mela was proposed to be held in a thickly populated residential area, it caused noise pollution because of the loud music which was being played by various businessmen at the mela from 4 pm to 1 am. Besides causing unnecessary disturbance to the elderly and the students, the noise also affected patients in a number of hospitals which were situated close to the mela site.

Mr Satish Garg, who headed a delegation of residents to Ludhiana Tribune office, told today that PUDA authorities had assured them that they would allow the use of the mela site for only two days for holding Dasehra. The delegation of residents had impressed upon the PUDA authorities that they were not against the burning of Ravana and holding of a brief mela to mark Dasehra, a festival that highlights the victory of truth and good conduct over evil.

The mela organisers were keen on minting money by renting out various stalls at high rates and they were not holding any Ramlila at the mela site. Open vulgarity by girls dancing outside the ‘death-well’ to attract business, the half-nude variety shows which are mostly visited by tipsy men and the presence of petty criminals in the mela amounted to “Ravan lila”, they added .

It is worth mentioning that after Ludhiana Tribune carried a story last year around the same time (“ Mela mafia flexing muscles”), the authorities ensured that the ring-stalls and the variety shows depicting half-nude girls which had been a regular feature of the mela thus far , were not staged. True to apprehensions expressed by the newspaper about the fragility of the law and order situation because of the involvement of the mela mafia, the mela had been marred by the unruly incident in which a teenage visitor was injured.

The newspaper had also warned about the presence of pickpockets and “mufatwars” in the mela who allured innocent children and illiterate migrants by their “doctored” lottery charts and duped them. 


Arhtiyas asked to maintain record
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 27
The district administration has directed commission agents Arhtiyas of all markets in the district to maintain a record of paddy purchased below the minimum support price (MSP) fixed by the government and mention the reason for purchasing the paddy below the MSP.

These orders were given by Mr Anurag Agarwal, Deputy Commissioner, Ludhiana, at a meeting of arhtiyas, with officials here today.

Mr Agarwal told the commission agents that they would be fully responsible for ensuring cleanliness in the mandis, with power cleaners available for unloading the paddy, which was below 18 per cent moisture.

He also told the arhtiyas that they would be responsible for educating the farmers about the terms on which the paddy brought to the mandis would be procured in terms of its moisture content. He said in case heaps of paddy with higher moisture content were found on the premises of any commission agent, strict action would be taken against the commission agent.

The district administration had already banned the night operation of harvester combines and issued strict instructions to the field staff not to allow any combine to harvest at night. In case of violation, the combine would be impounded.

The Deputy Commissioner asserted that the administration would ensure that each farmer got the MSP. He said elaborate arrangements had been made in all markets for the smooth purchase of the paddy from the date of purchase likely to be announced shortly. He said the arhtiyas would also have to inform the government in case of higher number of broken grains in the particular heaps, so that the operation of that particular combine could be stopped. The government had fixed a commission of 2.5 per cent for the commission agents.

The farmers had been advised to get their paddy harvested after it was fully ripe.

All SDMs had been asked to visit the mandis regularly and to keep a strict vigil to ensure all facilities for farmers.


Online counter of phone bills opened 
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 27
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) will launch its mobile phone service by the end of October. This was stated by Mr G.S. Julka, General Manager, Telecom, while inaugurating the 23rd online cash counter in the telephone exchange building in Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar, here today.

He said with the setting up of cash counters in different city localities, the delay in depositing bills in post offices had been done away with and the subscribers need not shuttle between the post offices and the Telecom Department offices to produce proof of payment. Moreover, with the online facility being available in the cash counters, the disconnection of phones could be avoided even in case of delayed payment of bills.

Giving details of the expansion plans of the department, Mr Julka said a new telephone exchange was being set up in the Haibowal area and the necessary equipment had already arrived. The new exchange would become operational by the end of this year. He said the department had arranged for delivery of telephone bills to the subscribers through courier service in order to cut down complaints of late delivery of bills and resultant problems being faced by the subscribers.

Prominent among those present on the occasion were Mr Dalwinder Singh, Deputy General Manager, Mr Manmohan Singh, DFA, Mr Rajinder Gupta, Mr S.S. Narula, Mr Jeeta Singh and Mr Amarjit Bangar, all DEs, Mr Pawan Sablok, Mr S.M. Nayyar, Mr Jitesh Kumar, Mr Harminder Singh, Mr Lachman Das, Mr Hari Singh, Mr Suraj Parkash, all SDOs, Mr Gurdev Singh Begowalia, Mr Bhupinder Singh Mattu, Mr Kanwaljit Singh Shankar and Mr Darshan Singh, all JTOs.


Murder case solved, 4 held
Mahesh Sharma

Ahmedgarh, September 27
The Khanna police has solved the murder mystery of Yadvinder Singh of Sohian village, whose body was recovered from the fields at Ladda village on August 19. The Payal police had registered an FIR on the statement of a younger brother of the deceased. So far the police has arrested all four murder accused and recovered weapons from them.

According to Mr Paramjit Singh Saran, SSP, Khanna, the victim was running a cycle repair shop at Sohian village. His one sister-in-law was married to Jasbir Singh Jassie of Bhutta village. The victim and Jassie’s wife were allegedly having illicit relations with each other which was known to the main accused. He reportedly conspired with Baldev Singh, Amrik Singh and Sandeep Singh to murder Yadvinder.

According to the statement of Mr Baljit Singh, Jasbir Singh along with three accused came to Yadvinder’s shop in a car. They had a gala time with Yadvinder and shared drinks with him. Since then he never returned home. After his disappearance Mr Baljit Singh reported the matter to the police. On August 19 a farmer of Ladda village informed the police that a body was found lying in his fields. The body was later identified by Mr Baljit Singh.

The accused were later arrested by the Ludhiana police. They admitted that they deliberately made the victim to consume more liquor at his shop. He was compelled to accompany them to the Gurthali canal bridge in their car. On the way, Yadvinder was shot at with one of the pistols but the shot missed the target. He tried to run away but was soon overpowered and killed with a sharp-edged knife, which was thrown into the canal by the accused. The police party headed by Mr Gurdip Singh Gosal has recovered all three pistols and arrested the accused.


Body Found

Amloh: Body of Lyaquat Ali (30), a local resident, was found from Bhakra Canal on Thursday. Khushi Ram, father of the deceased, said his son had left for Sirhind, along with his friend Debi, on his new three-wheeler. The matter was later reported to the police. OC


Lotus group organises seminar
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 27
The Lotus Group of Industries on Wednesday organised a seminar to create awareness among the general public about business policies in New Zealand. The participants were acquainted with business opportunities available in New Zealand and formalities required to be completed.

Among others it was attended by Mr Peter Hobbs, Trade Commissioner, New Zealand High Commission, Mr S.S. Shergil, Commonwealth Consultant, Markfed, and Mr Darshan Singh Bains, Managing Director of the company. Mr Alastair McClymount and Mr Christopher Horton, both from New Zealand, replied to various queries of the participants.

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