Tuesday, October 1, 2002, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Farmers disrupt rail traffic near Phillaur, Sahnewal
Tribune Reporters

Farmers of various unions stage a sit-in on the rail track
Farmers of various unions stage a sit-in on the rail track at Phillaur on Monday. —Photo Pradeep Tewari

Today’s target GT Road

Farmers led by the Bharatiya Kisan Union would block traffic on the GT Road stretch near Khanna for an indefinite time tomorrow. The BKU leader, Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, said traffic blockade would come up on the GT Road near Gurudwara Manji Sahib Kota, between Doraha and Khanna. The BKU has decided to do the same every day.

Ludhiana/Sahnewal, September 30
Hundreds of farmers, agitated at no increase in the minimum support price of paddy, blocked rail traffic for about three hours at Sahnewal and Phillaur today. Many others staged a sit-in outside Mini Secretariat here today in response to a call given by various farmers’ unions.

The farmers, led by the Bharatiya Kisan Union, the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, the Kirti Kisan Union, the Sarb Hind Kirti Kisan Sabha and the Communist Party Marxist (Pasla), blocked the Delhi-Amritsar rail traffic at Bhattian village near Phillaur and at a level crossing near Sahnewal. Road traffic, too, was blocked in Sahnewal and it had to be diverted from Kanech towards Sahnewal. The farmers didn’t let any vehicle cross the main road of Sahnewal from 12 noon to 3 pm.

The railway staff had to keep trains away from the place of the agitation to avoid any untoward incident. While the passengers were stranded, many others at railway stations waited for hours on end for trains to arrive. The farmers squatting on the tracks were not discouraged even by the heat. Slogans echoed in the calm around the tracks.

At a huge gathering of farmers at Sahnewal, Mr Tarsem Jodhan of the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha said the Centre had cheated farmers, who had worked hard to save the crop from drought. The leaders of various unions said the MSP of paddy should be Rs 760 per quintal and they would oppose the Centre’s move to charge 7.5 per cent tax from farmers, who were already debt-ridden.

Mr Darshan Singh of the BKU and Mr Lakhwinder Singh Guani of the SHKKS said the proposal to hike the tax on electricity by 11 to 13 per cent should not be implemented. The unions said farmers who had ploughed their fields after drought should be paid a compensation of Rs 15,000 per acre each. Those who had not been able to plough fields should be given Rs 12,000 per acre each and all other farmers should be compensated at a rate of Rs 5,000 per acre each.

The other demands included that farmers should be given 50 per cent subsidy on the price of diesel and loans of small farmers be waived. Besides, farmers should be given loans at 4 per cent rate of interest per annum.

Seven unions at Phillaur said the government had forced them to choose the path of agitation. Mr Hardev Singh Sandhu, Senior President of the Kul Hind Kisan Mazdoor Sabha, said, if the decision on the MSP was not reviewed within two days, the agitation would be intensified.

Meanwhile, farmers led by the Punjab Kisan Sabha staged a sit-in outside Mini Secretariat in Ludhiana and gave a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner. They said they resented the retaining of the MSP of paddy and supported farmers who were blocking rail traffic.



Rail passengers bear the brunt
Tribune News Service

Riding a rickshaw to stop the train? Activists of the Jamhoori Kisan Union reach the venue of protest
Riding a rickshaw to stop the train? Activists of the Jamhoori Kisan Union reach the venue of protest near Phillaur on Monday. — A Tribune photograph

Ludhiana, September 30
Thousands of passengers on board the Malwa Express and the Dadar Express that pass through Sahnewal and Phillaur were inconvenienced for at least three hours as hundreds of farmers agitating over the minimum support price of paddy blocked traffic at Bhattian village, near Phillaur, and at a level-crossing near Sahnewal.

Apart from these, hundreds of passengers remained stranded at various railway stations in the state. Relatives waiting at these stations also had a difficult time.

While goods trains were halted at the Ludhiana railway station, the Indore-bound Malwa Express and the Amritsar-bound Dadar Express had to be stopped near Phillaur and Sahnewal, respectively.

A large number of passengers were seen waiting for these trains at the Ludhiana railway station. Both the trains were scheduled to reach the station between 12 pm and 3 pm. Passengers were queuing up at the enquiry counter to get the information about the trains. They alleged that they were not being entertained at the counter as the railway staff itself had no information in this regard.

Mr T.R. Rana, Station Superintendent, said the trains had to be stopped near the dharna sites as there were no alternative routes to divert the flow. He said the staff was not able to do anything as they had no orders from the top.

Passengers waiting for the trains said the information board at the inquiry counter indicated the arrival time as 4 pm, but there was no other information. The attendant was also not on his seat, they alleged.

Mr Inderjit Singh, a resident of Model Gram, said he had to reach Indore and had been waiting for the train since 1 pm. He said he kept on making enquiries from the railway officials about the arrival of the train, but they had no information. “Had they told me that the traffic would be restored only after 3 pm, I would have left the station,” he said.

Mr Prashant Kumar, another passenger, said he had to go to Delhi and had he boarded a bus, it would have been better.

Meanwhile, the passengers who were on board the train were seen whiling away their time at Bhattian village, near Phillaur. Mr Vinod Kumar, who was coming from Jammu, said he had to reach Indore in time, but he would be delayed by at least three hours now.

Mr Kailash Kumar Gupta and Mr Tarsem Kumar had to go to Madhya Pardesh, but couldn’t do anything but to wait for the train to move. They said they understood the problem of the farmers, but stopping trains for three hours was too much.



Allotment of prime land questionable
Former EO tells tale of plot scam
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, September 30
Prime land in the Model Town extension towards Dugri Road has been allotted at reserve price to certain influential persons. Anything but merit seems to be the criteria for this selection by certain officials of the Local Self Government Department of Punjab.

The department had issued orders for the allotment of 1,264 sq yd on Main Dugri Road near plots 417, 419, 421, 423 and 424 in Block ‘D’ in 1996. However, the Ludhiana Improvement Trust had refused to carry out the orders in view of the prime location of the land and pressed for its development as a commercial site.

Certain officials of the Local Self Government Department, allegedly under the influence of certain top politicians and their cronies, were breaking rules to please the benefitting plot holders. This allegation is supported by a former official of the LIT, who was at the helm of affairs between 1997 and 2000.

Reacting to a story (‘Prime Land in Dugri Becomes a Bone of Contention’) published in these columns on September 19, the then Executive Officer (now retired), Mr L.D. Gupta, said the manner of clearing the allotment of this land with a market value of over Rs 1 crore was unprecedented and indicative of favouritism and corruption.

The then EO of the trust had been told about the intention of the government to allot the land at a meeting in Chandigarh. He was told that the land would go to certain persons and he should submit a proposal in this regard. The EO had no choice but to do as directed. After the proposal was given, the letters of clearance were handed over to him on the spot. He was told to give the possession of the land to the allottees the next morning. The then chairman and the EO of the trust, however, had refused to follow these government instructions.

Mr Gupta said when he was the EO of the LIT, the government had made this allotment a prestige issue and pressurised officials to give possession of the additional land to certain persons. He said: “Persons having the power of attorney for these plots wielded a lot of influence during the regime of the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state and they could jeopardise the prospects of any official who dared to defy them.”

Legally, neither the LIT nor the state government could allot the land to the plot holders because the residential plots to these persons had been allotted by a co-operative housing society and not the LIT. “The relevant Act and a judgment of the Punjab and Haryana High Court say that the LIT can give additional land only to its own allottees, but not to anyone who has obtained plots through housing societies.”

Sources in the LIT said, in spite of resistance by successive chairmen of the LIT, a property dealer close to a retired official of the Municipal Corporation had made several attempts to push the deal through. The man was said to have prepared a strong case for giving effect to the government’s decision to allot land at 1.5 times the reserve price, but the then chairman of the trust saw through his game plan and refused to toe the line.



Cricket craze invades Borstal Jail
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 30
The craze for cricket has swept even the highly fortified precincts of the Borstal Jail here. For the first time in the history of Punjab jails, the game has been included in the recreation schedule of inmates.

With the help of the district unit of the Nehru Yuva Kendra, the jail authorities are now in the process of laying a pitch here. A playground already existed on the premises and now work is on to spruce it up. Despite repeated requests by jail inmates for the introduction of the game in the past, it could not be done earlier. Firstly, it did not exist on the list of scheduled games for the jail inmates. Secondly, kits and a proper ground for it could not be arranged due to paucity of funds.

Competitions like inter-jail sports meet and intra-jail games in the disciplines of volleyball, athletics, kabbadi and tug-of-war are regularly organised in Punjab jails. Funds for organising these games are earmarked in the jail budgets.

As no funds existed for the game of cricket, it could not be included in the schedule. But now the jail authorities, with the help of some social organisations, especially the Nehru Yuva Kendra, have overcome this problem.

It all started on Independence Day when a social organisation presented a cricket kit to the jail authorities, said Mr Lakhbir Singh Jakhar, Superintendent, Borstal Jail. This delighted the authorities and the inmates. Now there was a need of a good playground, a pitch and regular flow of funds. The interest of the inmates in the game was akin to the frenzy attached to the game in the outside world, he said. “It was here that the local Nehru Yuva Kendra offered its services. The organisation is in the midst of organising several functions and programmes for the benefit of jail inmates. It has arranged educative seminars and skits for the inmates,” he said.

Jail inmates had even staged some dramas and plays in association with kendra activists. Special programmes for educating inmates about diseases like AIDS, cancer and hepatitis were organised last week. Several drug de-addiction programmes had also been organised for the benefit of the inmates in the jail, he said.

According to kendra activists, when they came to know that the lack of funds was coming in the way of introducing cricket in the jail, they volunteered and provided the funds. “We are helping in developing the ground. The pitch is almost ready. The game will start in a few weeks,” they said.

Sources said there was immense enthusiasm among the jail inmates about the game. The jail authorities said they were contacting some teams to play matches with the inmates. Mr Jakhar said the policies of the jail authorities aimed at reforming the inmates and nothing could be better than diverting their energy towards sports. This would helps in fighting depression, loneliness and criminal tendencies, he added.



Schools yet to get exam forms
Many did not get question papers for exams
Mahesh Sharma

Ahmedgarh, September 30
Gross negligence and laxity by the Printing and Stationery Department of the Punjab School Education Board has created chaos in government high schools and senior secondary schools in the state.

Due to inadequate number of examination forms and question papers printed by the department for the September exams, heads of schools or their representatives have to shuttle between schools and distribution centres.

According to information, most of the government schools have not yet received the examination forms for class X and XII and the question papers for the September exams.

The last date for depositing the examination forms is approaching fast and teachers concerned have to request their counterparts in other schools to get these forms. It is either this or getting photostat copies made. Similarly, question papers are also being xeroxed. However, due to lack of photostat machines and inadequate power supply in villages , teachers have to dictate the question papers to students.

According to Ms Harpal Kaur, Principal, Government Senior Secondary School, Karamsar, the school had not received sufficient number of examination forms. “ We are contacting the board for more forms , but in vain. The form is so big that it has to be xeroxed in parts.”

Mr Tara Singh, Principal, Government Senior Secondary School, said his school was yet to receive the forms.

Mr Amar Singh, Principal, Government Senior Secondary School, Dehlon, said the school had not received the forms yet . “ We borrowed some from other schools to start the process of getting these filled by students,” he said.

Similarly, Ms Krishna Devi Sharda, Principal, Government Senior Secondary School, Latala, and Mr Darshan Singh Ballowal, Headmaster, Government High School, Chhapaar, too have not received adequate number of question papers.

Packets containing question papers, at times do not even have the prescribed number, it is learnt.

Sources said principals or their representatives had to travel to the distribution centres at their own expense and no allowances were being given to them.

All heads of concerned schools had been asked to visit distribution centres on September 25 vide a public notice, but questions papers for only two days were distributed.

They had to go back again on September 27 and September 29. Now, they have been told to reach distribution centres on October 2, a national holiday.



Spurt in chain-snatching cases
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 30
There has been a sudden increase in incidents of chain-snatching at Sarabha Nagar in the last one week. The incidents have specially taken place in ‘J’ and ‘I’ blocks of the colony. The panic-stricken residents have demanded better surveillance by the police in the area.

At least three women were robbed of gold chains near a park in Block-I of Sarabha Nagar in the last three days only. The women were going on an evening walk when two scooter-borne youths came from behind and snatched the chains in different incidents.

The residents said they had complained to the police in the past but to no avail. Residents said the incidents occur during the twilight of the day only but the police has not provided due security at these hours despite repeated pleas.

Ms Sudarshan Shahi was on an evening stroll when a youth on a scooter snatched her gold chain. Her daughter-in-law, Ms Samiksha Shahi, told Ludhiana Tribune that some time ago, her purse was snatched in a similar manner. They had bitter experience at the Sarabha Nagar police station where policemen refused to register a complaint.

Ms Taranjeet Kaur said few months ago her gold chain was snatched. She lodged a complaint but there was no follow-up action.

Mr Bachittar Singh, a senior citizen of the colony, said PCR cops make rounds of the colony at night but if the surveillance is also done during evening hours then the crime can be checked.



Just today between three bank holidays
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 30
Two consecutive bank holidays since yesterday have left thousands of customers in lurch. While yesterday was Sunday; today, it was the half-yearly closing of banks. Banks will open tomorrow, but close again on Wednesday, on Gandhi Jayanti.

Though some banks in the city are open on these days also, the number of such banks is far too low. Some private banks also serve customers on holidays. A number of bank customers said here today that, though it was not new for the banks the remain shut on the day of the half-yearly closing, the problem had been created by yesterday being a Sunday.

Mr Bikarmjit Singh, a local businessman, said the banks should publicise the list of holidays in advance for the benefit of the customers. Ludhiana being a leading industrial and commercial centre of the state, the closure of banks even for a few days in a row creates problems. Hundreds of crores of rupees are transacted every day through various public-sector and private-sector banks here.

While the nationalised and public-sector banks remained closed today, private-sector banks were open as usual. Though a number of persons here have accounts in private-sector banks, public-sector banks are still the preferred ones for the majority.



SHSYAD to launch campaign against social evils
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 30
The Sarb Hind Shiromani Youth Akali Dal (SHSYAD) will launch a concerted campaign against social evils and would strive to create a civilised society. As a step towards this direction, a youth convention would be convened here on November 21.

This was stated by Mr Karnail Singh Panjoli, president of the SHSYAD, while addressing a meeting of the state executive and district presidents here. Focussing on the role of youth in bringing the Akali Dal to power, he lamented that almost all political parties had done precious little for the welfare of youth after assuming power. “The youth power had played a significant role in installation of an Akali government in Punjab in 1997 but the then Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, deliberately created fierce factionalism among youth groups and the party was reduced to a mere tool in the hands of his son Sukhbir Badal,” he said.

According to Mr Panjoli, following in the footsteps of Mr Badal, other senior Akali leaders had also resorted to promoting their kin within the party, which had led to a sense of betrayal and frustration among the loyal and dedicated youth workers. The erstwhile Akali government had utterly failed to channelise the youth power for betterment of the state and the panth, and its blatant policies of nepotism had caused irreparable damage to the party, he said.

Speaking at the meeting, the party working president, Mr Randhir Singh Rakhra, and the secretary general, Mr Sukhwinderpal Singh Garcha, said the SHSYAD was about to set an example of selfless service to the organisation when all its senior party leaders, who had crossed the upper age limit of 35 years, would voluntarily retire in favour of the younger persons in the proposed convention. Other speakers gave a call to those who had formed a parallel body of youth Akali Dal, owing allegiance to Shiromani Akali Dal, to join hands with the SHSYAD and to unitedly work for the welfare of the state and its people.

Meanwhile, addressing a party workers meeting in Khud Mohalla here, the district secretary of the SAD, Mr Ravinderpal Singh Khalsa, criticised the Congress government, headed by Capt Amarinder Singh for what he described as failure to fulfill any of its poll promises and pursuing “anti-people” policies. He said rather than taking steps for the betterment of the masses, the government had scrapped various welfare schemes like shagun and old-age pension schemes. Octroi was reimposed and the people were burdened with various new taxes. He further alleged that law and order machinery had broken down in the state and the police was being used by the government in its vindictive measures against the political opponents.



Sant Samaj flays ‘Khalsa Panchayat’
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 30
The International Sant Samaj has taken strong exception to the threats issued by the self-styled “Khalsa Panchayat” to gherao Akal Takht Head Priest Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti and has maintained that such acts of showing disrespect to the chief of the highest temporal seat of the Sikh community would be suitably opposed by religious and other bodies of the community.

Sant Samaj chief Sant Shamesher Singh Jagera has said in a statement that rather than carrying out such activities which were needed to provide right direction to the Sikh community and bring back the Sikh youth to the fold of religion, the Khalsa Panchayat was resorting to acts of blackmailing and showing the entire community in bad light which was reprehensible.

He alleged that the body (Khalsa Panchayat) was an outfit of anti-sikh forces which was set up with the sole aim of embarrassing the sikh community and its leaders. Sant Jagera questioned the role of the police which was deliberately closing its eyes towards the dubious acts of the outfit. 



Yamla Jat's statue unveiled
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, September 30
A statue of Baba Bor Singh Lal Chand Yamla Jat has been established in the Tikona park.

The statue, to remember the legendry Punjabi folk singer, was unveiled by the Political Secretary to the Chief Minister, Mr Harsharan Singh. Many folk singers were also present on the occasion.

Mr Harcharan Singh said Yamla Jat had contributed greatly to the Punjabi folk music and popularised a simple instrument, ‘tumbi’.


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