Wednesday, October 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Detention charge against dera chief
Illegal confinement of young girl
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Reacting to the allegations of the couple, Parmanandji, Chief Sewadaar at the Noormehal Dera told Ludhiana Tribune that the girl was not a minor and had decided on her own to dedicate herself to the dera. He said the allegations that she was forcibly confined at the dera were false. He claimed that the girl had given affidavits that she was happy and did not want to live with her parents. He said anyone was welcome to meet the girl at the dera.

Ludhiana, October 8
Close on the heels of allegations of exploitation of women in Dera Sacha Sauda, a city-based aged couple has accused Ashutosh Maharaj of the Divya Jyoti Jagran Sansthan at Noormehal of keeping their only daughter in illegal confinement for over a year.

Mr Balbir Singh and his wife Ms Surjit Kaur have in letters shot to the Chief Minister, DGP, local DC and SSP besides different newspaper offices, have accused the controversial godman of forcibly making followers and keeping them in illegal confinement against the wishes of their parents. After the sensational disclosures made against the dera chief by Puran Singh, a former driver in the dera, this is the first ever complaint from the public against the dera.

Talking to Ludhiana Tribune from their house in Block-I of Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar here today, the couple said they had literally begged for help from the district police, civil administration and the managers of the controversial Noormehlia dera for the release of their young unmarried daughter but had got no positive response.

While the dera people had threatened them with dire consequences, the local police had given them a lukewarm response by expressing helplessness in the matter. Adding to the miseries of the couple, the dera people rarely allow them to meet their daughter. Whenever they gain access to the girl, she turns down their pleas saying she was in the abode of God.

‘‘We sought the help from the local police, mediators, community panchayat in rescuing our girl all these months as it was the question of our family’s pride but now we have decided to come out as people have to know about the activities going on at the dera’’, Surjit Kaur said while crying inconsolably.

She said recent agitations against the Noormehlia sect have allayed their fears about the dera followers.‘‘ We have seen a ray of hope of meeting our daughter again.’’ she said

Surjit Kaur, who has retired from the local Sale Tax Department, has two children, a son and a daughter. While her son is married and settled in the UK, the daughter, Amanpreet Kaur, was an upcoming singer and had won prizes in several music competitions. The trophies and awards won by her are proudly displayed in the house.

Amanpreet had got offers from several music channels and was about to accept some of them when suddenly on May 2, 2001, she went to the dera with her friend and a foster brother for allegedly recording some religious songs for the dera. Things, however, changed as she never returned to her parents after that.

The couple received a shock of their lives when they went to the dera at Noormehal some weeks later only to learn that their daughter had dedicated herself to the dera. ‘‘It seemed as if some magical powers controlled her. She was rude to us and so were the other followers,’’ Surjit Kaur said.

A visibly upset Surjit Kaur asked ‘‘ what kind of religious dera this was where parents were not allowed to take their children home.’’ She said she met Ashutosh Maharaj and asked him ‘‘what kind of religious teaching was this, which separated children from parents? What kind of religious preaching was this, where children were kept in illegal confinement?’’

Surjit Kaur said she could not even talk freely to her daughter as whenever she met her as many as 13 to 15 other followers, including women, surrounded them and kept staring at her. The couple had complained to the local police against the dera officials and the girl’s foster brother and accused them of kidnapping her but the police did not take any action.

The hapless couple now wants the intervention of investigating agencies like the CBI for exposing the activities at the dera. They have also requested the state Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh to use his office in restoring their daughter to them.



Mid-day meal scheme launched
Tribune News Service


After enjoying the saffron rice, which were served to the students under the mid-day-meal scheme launched today in Lalton Kalan school and a few minutes after the Deputy Commissioner left the venue, some students were seen cleaning the utensils on the school premises. They started on the work promptly after they were told by a teacher to do so. ‘‘We keep doing such chores in the school. This is not an outlandish idea for us.’’ said one of the students while rubbing the utensils vigorously. As the teachers looked on, one of them said that the students had been told to bring their own utensils from tomorrow. ‘‘Today we offered them food in disposable plates as it was a function. We can’t spend money everyday so its better if they bring their own plates,’’ added the teacher.

Lalton Kalan, October 8
For most of the primary schoolchildren in rural areas, the lunch they carry with them means a roti and a piece of pickle. And if they are offered different dishes everyday, ranging from sweetened rice to halwa, panjiri, laddoo and soya bean products, it is definitely an occasion for them to rejoice.

Much to the excitement of hundreds of such students, the Ludhiana Deputy Commissioner, Mr Anurag Aggarwal, today formally launched the mid-day meal scheme announced by the Union Government recently, in Government Primary School, Lalton Kalan near here. He inaugurated the scheme from this village by offering cooked rice to the students.

Minutes after the DC offered saffron coloured rice to the students, all of them were seen lapping these up with great gusto. ‘‘I will tell my mother today that we get sweetened rice in the school, so I don’t need her chapatis now,’’ said an enthusiastic Jaswinder Kaur, a fourth standard student whose parents work as field labourers in the village.

‘‘My mother does not get time to cook for me in the morning. So she gives me chapatis cooked the previous night. I bring pickle with them also.’’ adds Jaswinder, epitomising the story of almost all her counterparts studying in her school.

‘‘We get the students from poor strata of society. Gone are the days when the children of well-to-do families studied in government schools. Their mothers either go to work in the fields to cut grass to feed their cattle in the morning. So they often carry the leftovers of previous night with them. Now with the scheme they would at least get some nutritious food,’’ said Mr Raj Kumar, Head Teacher of the school, adding that it would spare them of hassles they had to undergo while distributing uncooked grains to them.

In this non-descript village the teachers are happy with the scheme. The administration has constituted a seven-member committee that will bother about the transportation, cooking and distribution of food besides taking care of the funds. ‘‘We have a halwai near our school who has been assigned to cook food for the students everyday. Its only for the committee to decide what to do and what not to do. We are not to bother about it at all,’’ said Mr Raj Kumar. The DC also launched the scheme in Primary School, Dakha.

Earlier addressing the function, Mr Aggarwal said that in all 61 government primary schools of Ludhiana block-I, more than 10,000 students would be provided with cooked food worth Rs 3.50 per head every day. After successful completion of 50 days of the scheme this would be launched in all schools of the district. He said that to ensure the proper utilisation of the entire funds for this scheme, a Village Educational Development Committee had been constituted with representatives from different sections of society, including a Head Teacher, two panchayat members, two members of parents teachers association, an ex-serviceman, a retired teacher and a philanthropist.

The DC said that these village-level committees would be handed over the entire amount and they would be arranging right from the preparation of food selecting from different 15 items suggested by the dieticians. He further said that the government had also decided to handover the responsibility of spending all funds under ‘Sarb Sikhiya Abhiyan’ to VEDCs to bring about any development in schools, including construction of more rooms and toilets etc. 



PPCC media adviser commits suicide
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 8
The media adviser to the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee(PPCC), Mr Manjit Singh Malerkotla, allegedly committed suicide at his brother’s residence in Bhagwan Nagar at about midnight last.

The Congress leader reportedly consumed Celphos tablets. A suicide note was recovered from the deceased’s body. In the note, Manjit Singh said he was ending his life of his own volition and no one was responsible for it. The deceased’s note, however, mentioned that his last rites should be performed and arranged by Ludhiana DCC president K K Bawa only.

The police has taken action under Section 174 of the CrPc and not registered a case of abetment to suicide against anyone. But the family members of the deceased alleged that Manjit Singh ended his life because the Congress leaders were not properly reciprocating his hard work for the party.

Mr Rana, a son of the deceased, while talking to mediapersons, at the Civil Hospital said his father had done a lot for the party but the leaders had not done anything for him. He said his father was depressed for the last few days and ended his life out of frustration only.

The post-mortem examination confirmed the death due to some poison. The deceased was cremated at his native village, Manakwal, late in the evening today.

Senior Congress leaders led by Mr H S Hanspal, Leader, PPSC ,attended the cremation in large numbers. Punjab Transport Minister Tej Prakash Singh represented the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, at the cremation.

Manjit Singh had rejoined the Congress recently. He had left the party few years ago and joined the Lok Bhalai party of Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia. He returned to his original party at the instance of Capt Amarinder Singh, party sources said.



Gift of faith by school teacher
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 8
At a time when most people are driven by materialist pursuits and are lost in a mad race of accumulating wealth, Mrs Krishna Vasudev, an elderly woman of Atam Nagar in Model Town area, bequeathed her house, that should cost at least Rs 50 lakh, for the construction of a temple. She passed away on September 7. But much before that she had made her will that a temple should be constructed in place of her house.

The foundation stone for the temple was laid down today Swami Ved Bharti on the auspicious occasion of the Navratras. Mrs Vasudev was an ordinary woman. She had lost her husband sometime back and was living alone in the spacious house. She was teaching in the Atam Public School.

All her life she remained a devout follower of Lord Krishna and people started calling her as Krishna Behnji. Her husband Rambhaj Vasudev was a follower of Lord Rama.

Born in Lyallpur, now in Pakistan, in 1924, she had come to live in Atam Nagar in early seventies. According to Mrs Sudershan Prabha, a long-time friend of Vasudevs, Mrs Krishna was a devout person, pious at heart. Once someone pointed out to her that there was no temple in the Atam Nagar area. At that instant she decided that she would donate her house for the construction of the temple.

She always remained popular with her students and the school management. Recalls Mr Hira Lal Jain, chairman of the managing committee of the Atam Public School, Mrs Krishna Vasudev had an aura of grace around her. She practically acted as a mother-figure for the students and not just their teacher.

The managing committee of the school had organised her funeral procession with a brass band leading the procession as per a North Indian tradition when someone very old dies. And thousands of people participated in her funeral procession.

As she was the follower of Lord Krishna and her husband was the follower of Lord Rama so the temple being constructed would be devoted to the memory of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna and would be known as Ram Krishna temple. 




Come winter Navratras and the city is dipped in religious elixir. As devotees fast and pray during these days, most of the people who normally consume both alcohol and meat also resolve to abstain from these for as many days.

Apart from this, temples all over the town start witnessing hectic activity with various yajnas being held by religious and social service organisations. Satsangs and hymn-singing sessions are held in temples and houses. Housewives also prefer to have exclusive satsangs in their houses.

The enactment of Ramlila at Daresi grounds and in mohallas also lends a religious look to the city. Little boys make their own sets of bows and arrows to play their favourite characters from Ramayan.

Navratra specials

Some hotels in the city have also started making special vegetarian dishes for those who fast during the Navratras. One hotel has produced a tempting menu titled as Navratra Special. On top of the list is mausami juice followed by aloo shakar-kandi chaat, motia tikki, aloo tamatar soup, tali or fried arbi, kuttu ke atte ki poori, sabudana ke papad, angoori raita and swang ke chawal ki kheer. Indeed, a mouth-watering offer for the fasting or the gourmet , as alleged by the non-fasting. But ask those who have to live without conventional food for all these days. They find it too much, really. Living without the conventional roti and dal for a Punjabi is surely an ordeal.

Lurking danger

With the Lakkar bridge having been put out of use because of the proposed construction of a flyover connecting the old city with the Civil Lines area, the railway track area under the bridge is serving as a road for the pedestrians these days.

While most of these pedestrians are visitors to the old district courts who come from surrounding towns and villages to attend their cases in various courts, there are also shoppers, both men and women, from the Civil Lines area who prefer to make their purchases from Chaura Bazar. School students also cross railway tracks .

Sentinel observed that many a time, a train is passing and the track-crossers are waiting for it to pass while standing right in the middle of several tracks. And in their collective attention focussed on the passing train, they are oblivious of the fact that they are occupying dangerous space. A fast moving train entering or leaving the city may prove dangerous any time on an ill-fated day. One wonders why the bridge steps were dismantled so early and why the railway department was showing such apathy to its own rules which prohibit the crossing of the tracks by the general public.

Dasehra melas

A number of Dasehra melas have started in various localities of the town with great aplomb. These melas, apart from providing fun and entertainment to the family, also provide an ideal opportunity for the petty criminals to indulge in their respective activities. Pick-pockets, tricksters and dope-pushers roam about in these melas in search of prospective victims and customers.

But seldom has the police nabbed any of such criminals from a mela site so far. A pickpocket who gets caught in the act once in a while by the public manages to escape the law. Sentinel learns that every mela is ‘sold’ to a gang for a price. Whenever a pickpocket is held by the public, he is chided for not carrying out his ‘operation’ in a ‘neat and clean’ manner and sent again into the rush of mela visitors with strict orders to be ‘slicker’ this time.

Obscene movie titles

Are you keen to watch ‘Jawani ke Jalwe’? No problems. One can watch them for four times a day at a local theatre. Every week the titles of movies like ‘Jawani ki Hawa’, ‘Night of Shame’, ‘Band Kamre Mein’, ‘Raat ka Saudagar’ are getting from vulgar to obscene and becoming exceedingly difficult to tolerate. The cinemas showing movies with provocative titles are situated bang on the busy roads. It is impossible to miss such titles. Many people’s first reaction is embarrassment and then anger at being forced to be exposed to such blatant obscenity for days together. Then one wonders what is the Administration or women’s organisations doing to stop this menace.

No originality

These days almost all colleges are holding welcome functions for freshers. Most of the colleges follow the routine of choreography on film songs or perform giddah or depict some Punjabi folklore. Selection of Ms Fresher is a must with several rounds to eliminate candidates. There is no freshness in these functions. When one watches these functions, there is a feeling of ‘deja vu’. Hardly any creative items are prepared . Originality is really a casualty.

Losing heritage

Government College for Boys is no ordinary institution. It has a long and glorious history. In fact the imposing structures that present a Cambridge-like look have been continuous witness to history. Government College has produced many great men like Sahir Ludhianvi, who immortalised Ludhiana. And there are others like KPS Gill and M.S. Gill, who have studied in the classrooms of this college.

The college had the privilege of preserving the historical photographs of these personalities. But unfortunately these photographs which are an invaluable asset for any heritage are decaying as they are not being properly maintained. Probably the college authorities fail to understand the worth and significance of these photographs, otherwise these should not have gone the way they are going. Only if somebody could prick them out of their sloth.




Mayors for closer coordination with bureaucracy
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, October 8
The team of Mayors of four major towns of Punjab, which attended an international workshop on ‘‘Leadership in Urban and rural Development’’ in Bangkok from September 28 to October 2, emphasised the need for closer coordination between political leadership in the local bodies and the bureaucrats so that the policies framed by the elected representatives could be well executed by the bureaucrats.

Giving details of their 10-day tour of Hong Kong, China and Thailand, the city Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh, told that during discussions on infrastructure development in the cities, the general consensus was in favour of preparing commercially viable projects. On the issue of non-availability of adequate funds for bigger projects, the Mayors were advised to tie up with their respective governments for grant of funds from the Urban Reforms Incentive Fund and Challenge Fund, which were available under certain conditions.

Mr Gill was a member of a team comprising Mayors of four major cities, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Patiala, Principal Secretary Local Government, Mr Sarvesh Kaushal, and Director, Local Bodies, Punjab, Mr B.R. Banga, which had gone on the overseas trip, sponsored by the Institute for Housing and Urban development Studies (IHS).

The team visited several commercial and housing complexes, community centres and other public places in these countries to study the state of civic facilities, public transport system, water supply and sewerage and held discussions with officials and representatives of local government at several levels.

The participants in the workshop, while discussing the state of civic amenities in their respective towns, observed that the urban settlements had to evolve some kind of system for defined capacity of population to maintain a reasonably good level of amenities and infrastructure.

The unplanned growth of population and migration from other areas was the major cause of breakdown of civic services and had to be tackled with legislative backing. Further, causing damage to civic services and infrastructure had to be dealt with firmly.

During their stay in Bangkok, the team studied the urban transport system and had a discussion with Dr Abdul Ghayum of the Transport Division, UN ESCAP. They were also shown United Nations Regional Headquarters in Bangkok and met representatives of Codi Community Development Organisation.

According to the Mayor, the team had come across a very impressive solid waste management and sanitary land fill system in China. The civic bodies in the country motivated the households to participate in the success of the system. ‘‘The residents pay for the lifting of garbage and other solid waste from their locality to the site of solid waste plant and are also responsible for putting the garbage in binds and containers after segregation.’’ The success of the solid waste management system in China was evident from the fact that the visitors did not see any waste paper, garbage or waste material on roads and streets throughout the 100 kilometre radius of the town.

During a visit to the headquarters of Urban Development Department in Hong Kong, the team discussed the cost factor of multi-storeyed towers and maintenance of civic services like water supply, sewerage and disposal of municipal waste. According to Mr Gill, what really fascinated them was the strategic attitude adopted for minimising hazards and maximising the benefits of small pieces of land in Hong Kong where land came at a premium.

In Shen Zhen, a relatively new but small town, the visiting team keenly studied an innovative project of an industrial park. Mr Gill said, ‘‘The land of farmers was acquired for industrial purpose but in a way the acquired land still belongs to them.

The farmers get 30 per cent of the profits of the industrial unit while rest is divided among the workers and supervisory staff. Workers are provided decent residential accommodation in multi-storeyed buildings. The workers do not take time off for smoking or having tea. They take meals together in a big hall and twice during their eight-hour shift, tea is served at 11.30 am and 3.30 pm in the cafeteria at subsidised rates.’’



NRIs take up fight against power cuts
Our Correspondent

Ahmedgarh, October 8
Notwithstanding the alleged indifferent attitude of the Punjab State Electricity Board officials and relatively unorganised resentment against erratic power supply in rural areas, the non-resident Indians (NRIs) of nearby Khera village have decided to bell the cat. Local farmers have also joined them in their protest against the alleged discrimination between rural and urban people while formulating norms to supply power to these areas.

Mr Gurmail Singh Khera, an NRI, blamed the Punjab Government for adopting double standard, while formulating norms and policies to provide facilities and amenities to rural and urban areas. He said his village was one of those villages that were being devoid of adequate supply despite having being adopted under the 24-hr supply scheme. Though urban areas were getting relatively better supply without paying any extra cost, villagers were being made to pay from their own pockets in the name of providing 24 hour supply.

“When the Constitution of India provides right of equality to all citizens, why should villagers pay for such projects. Our village deposited Rs 60,000 with the PSEB office five years ago and it was made a “24-hr supply village”. Barring one year, we could not get uninterrupted supply,” said Mr Khera.

Mr Manjit Singh, another NRI of the same village, told Ludhiana Tribune that they had been persistently approaching the officials concerned for improving the power supply but to no avail. Power cuts were so frequent that, according to him, one felt like getting the supply disconnected. Power cuts of 12 to 13 hours a day have become a routine in the village. He said, “Though it is hard to prove, most of the board officials prefer diverting the supply to industries. Grid people do not listen to our grievances and when we complain to the PSEB in Patiala, we are told to contact the grid office.” Citing an example, he said the village faced power cuts on October 4 from 4 am to 6 am, 10 am to 5 pm, and again 8.30 pm to 12.30 am. “I have planned to settle permanently in my village, but I feel that we can’t acclimatise with the local system, which has become chaotic.”

Mr Surjit Singh, member panchayat, said the situation was even worse when it came to power supply to motors. He, along with other farmers of the village, maintained that during recent months, their motors did not get more than three hour of power supply on any single day. “We want assured supply, even if it comes at a cost.”

The grid in charge on the other hand confirmed power cuts as agreed by villagers but maintained that power cut decisions were taken by the power control office in Patiala.



Campaign to preserve wildlife
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, October 8
Wildlife is precious and should be saved. With rapid urbanisation, nature has to pay a lot, in form of dwindling forest and wildlife. To save the wildlife and to conserve nature, the Animal Welfare Board of India is celebrating the Wildlife Week.

Dr Sandeep Jain, Executive Member, Animal Welfare Board of India, today said that if certain steps were followed, the extinction of wild animals could be checked.

More trees like mulberry, banyan, kachnar, which could provide food and shelter to birds and animals, should be planted. Cutting of trees, which had nests, eggs and young ones of birds on them, was an offence under Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (1991).

Dr Jain suggested that paper should not be wasted and its use should be minimised. ‘‘As a piece of paper is made from a branch of tree, millions of tons of wood from trees is taken to make paper, it can be prevented by saying no to greeting cards or using recycled paper’’. In developed nations, recycled paper and soybean ink (no chemical) was used for printing. Magazines and newspapers could be shared and slates could be used in place of notebooks as paper industry was also one of the major pollutants of water.

To check pollution of water was also necessary as food of many species died with the chemical effluents, including fish, aquatic animals, earthworms etc. Using organic pesticides, fertilisers and planting trees could check this trend.

Dr Jain further added that the madaris with dancing bears and monkeys, circuses with animals should not be encouraged. The Government of India had already banned training and exhibition of bear, monkey, tiger, lion and leopard. To cage parrots, birds, deer, snakes, mongoose, tortoise etc was a criminal offence punishable with heavy fine or jail or both.

Dr Jain said, ‘‘Any offence committed which harms wildlife must be reported to Wildlife or Forest officials, police officials or Animal Welfare Organisations (such as Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), People for Animals, Blue Cross etc).

The animals/ wildlife in zoos should not be teased. They should not be given cooked food or unnatural diet. Crackers also bring havoc for birds, canines and other animals. These produce sound and air pollution apart from destroying the habitat of birds and wildlife. 



Govt flayed on welfare schemes
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 8
The local unit of the BJP has alleged that the state government has not launched even a single scheme during its tenure for the welfare of rural and urban youth in the state.

Addressing a meeting of workers here today, unit chief Harbans Lal Sethi, said apart from this the urban populace had been totally ignored in terms of release of funds for various developmental works. He said the Congress was harping on the point that the state coffers were empty, “but then what is being done to fill them?”, he questioned.

He said instead of launching new schemes to mop up additional revenue, the government was resorting to cuts in the salaries of employees and cutting back on jobs. The business class too had been affected with the reimposition of octroi, he added. 



IAF anniversary celebrations
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 8
The Air Force pledge was administered by Air Cdr S K Jayaswal, Air Officer Commanding, Air Force Station, Halwara, to all personnel on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Indian Air Force. Messages from the President, the Vice-President, the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister, the Chief of the Air Staff and the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Air Command, were also read out on the occasion. As a part of week-long celebrations, other programmes such as variety entertainment, SNCO’s ‘at home’ were also organised. A ‘barakhana’ was also organised in the Officers Mess where all retired officers were also invited. 



Nahar Group gets Gold Trophy
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 8
Nahar Exports Ltd., part of the Rs 2,000 crore OWM/Nahar Group, has won the coveted Gold Trophy for highest exports of cotton yarn in quota category and Silver Trophy for second highest exports of cotton yarn as manufacturer exporters for the year 2000-01.

Both trophies were received by Mr Dinesh Oswal, Managing Director of the company, from the Minister of Textiles, Mr Kashi Ram Rana.

“The bestowing of these awards is a statement on our commitment to produce and export the world class product in the era of global competition,” said Mr Dinesh Oswal.

The total export of Nahar Exports Ltd. during the year was Rs 292 crore and the total group export for the same year was Rs 454 crore. The company has recently launched Industrial Sewing Thread by further expanding the capacities.

All manufacturing units of the company are ISO-9002 certified and have also got Oekotex Certificates as well as Environmental Management Systems Certification.

The company is the only authorised Coolmax spinner in India from Dupont of USA.


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