Tuesday, January 7, 2003, Chandigarh, India

L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


‘Injustice’ after 10 years of probe
Doc, Inspector charged ‘to save retd SSP, dead cops’
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Gurreh (Ludhiana), January 6
After 10 years of probe, the state police has, now, held a former police Inspector and a doctor responsible for the death of a youth of this village. However, the parents of the youth and the eyewitnesses in the case say that they are not satisfied at the action. The youth had allegedly died due to torture by the police.

“The inquiry is just a cover-up to protect senior police officials who were at Jagraon at that time,” says Mr Harcharan Singh, father of the youth, Sukhdarshan Singh ‘Sukha’. The accused policemen have approached the family with the offer of a compromise, but the family wants action against the then Jagraon Senior Superintendent of Police, Swaran Singh. It says that it is he who is responsible for the youth’s death.

Mr Harcharan Singh, his elder brother Mr Gurcharan Singh Mann and two key witnesses in the case, Kartar Singh and Karnail Singh, say that the youth was tortured at the Chowkimann police post late in December 1992 and the then SSP is responsible for it. “We had given statements against several senior police officials, including the then SSP. He had also beaten some villagers who had tried to rescue the youth, but no action was recommended against him.”

The then SSP, Swaran Singh, now retired, when contacted on telephone at Jalandhar where he lives, these days, said he had nothing to do with the case and the allegations were motivated. He said, “A district SSP rarely ever knows about all activities of his juniors. I had never given any order to pick up the youth. Moreover, records can prove that I was nowhere near the Chowkimann police post from December 28 to 31, 1992, when the alleged torture took place.”

The SSP said he had been transferred from Jagraon on January 1, 1993, so, he had not been able to order any investigation into the allegations. At its house here, the youth’s family said the inquiry conducted by the then IG Police, S.K. Sharma, had absolved Swaran Singh and two other policemen of the charge. The other policemen had, later, died.

“Sukha was innocent and even senior police officials told us this, later. He became one of the several thousands victims of fake encounters in the days of militancy. It took the police 10 years to take action on our complaint; even then, it only twisted the case to protect some senior officials,” said Mr Harcharan Singh and his wife Ms Pritam Kaur. They could not control their tears.

“It is no justice to absolve the two other policemen of the charge just because they are dead. Their pensions and other benefits should be freezed,” they said. The family was not relieved at the outcome of the inquiry and the registration of the case. On the contrary, it was angry. Even in 10 years, the wounds had not healed.

The family and the key witnesses are dismayed the way a Mullanpur-Dakha doctor, Harish Luthra, has been charged with causing the youth’s death due to negligence. “The doctor did his best to save Sukha and none of us accuse him of negligence. Charges against him smack of a conspiracy to shift the blame to the doctor from the SSP,” said the parents of the youth.

The family said it was shocking that the inquiry officer had acted on the statement of a villager that Sukha had met with an accident. “Except this man, no other villager says that an accident took place,” said Mr Gurcharan Singh, brother of the youth’s father.

The New Year Eve 15 years ago was not happy for the family. Every year, on New Year Eve, the recollection of it scares the family. In the last days of 1992, Sukha was picked up and tortured. He died in the first week of 1993, in Dayanand Medical College and Hospital. The family waited till 1997 to move court, as the fear of police had subsided considerably by then.

Ms Pritam Kaur, mother of the youth, said some militants had hitched a ride on their tractor when Sukha and his father had been working in fields. “The family informed the police about it and the police assured us of all help. However, within a few days of it, a police party led by Inspector Ajit Singh came to our house and took away Sukha,” she said.

The family and the witnesses went to the police station to inquire, where they were allegedly beaten up by the SSP Swaran Singh, DSP Harbhagwan Singh and SI Bhag Singh. Sukha was released after three days of it, but died soon after due to injuries sustained in custody.

The doctor, Harish Luthra, when contacted, said he was shocked at being named a co-accused. “My job is to treat a patient to the best of my abilities, which is what I did then,” he said. He does not remember the details of the case, as he does not have 15-year-old records with him, now. He is a reputed doctor of the town, who treats poor and needy patients free of cost.



MC keeps all in the family
Brings in relatives as contractors 
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, January 6
A powerful nexus of contractors, councillors and officials calls the shots in the Municipal Corporation. Several middle-rung officials and some councillors have brought in their close relatives as contractors and suppliers.

A recent incident of an MC contractor complaining to the police that another contractor, a close relative of one of the SDOs in the MC, had assaulted him for offering bid for a development work is not an isolated one. There are many such contractors, closely related to either the MC officials or councillors, who abuse their contacts to get preference over other bidders.

With the alliance of the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party losing the municipal elections and the Congress taking over, contractors and officials had to make some readjustments with the new councillors to carry on like before. The clamour among the councillors for getting the works of operating tubewells allotted to their favoured ones showed what kind of representatives the city had elected.

Though the MC development works are allotted through a system of open competitive bids, which apparently leaves no room for manipulation, councillors making recommendations is nothing new. This is where the “unholy alliance” between contractors and councillors shows up.

The unscrupulous among the officials, contractors and councillors are gaining strength and it will take a lot of determination to fight them. In the absence of effective steps by the MC top brass and the political leadership, the situation may soon revert to the old when a similar nexus had siphoned off crores of rupees of the MC by getting the contracts allotted to a select few. The chosen contractors, then, used to share their spoils with their patrons — powerful councillors and senior MC officials.

Sources say that mounting complaints of gross financial irregularities in the allotments of development works, committed when the SAD-BJP alliance was in power, have made the government think of ordering an inquiry into all major works executed in the past five years. The move, according to sources, will not only provide the government with a weapon against its political opponents, but also serve as a warning to the new councillors and officials to be fair in their dealings.



Acquisitions by banks worry industrialists
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 6
The acquisition process, started by banks against certain defaulters, has started worrying industrialists. Recently, the Punjab National Bank acquired the property of Chincky Garments under the Bank Securitisation Act, 2002. The industrialists have ridiculed the acquisition saying that the banks should start with big defaulters, with accounts running into crores of rupees.

Chincky Garments owed about Rs 18 lakh and its property was acquired a few days back. Bank officials said a mandatory 60-day notice had been served on the unit for the settlement of the account. However, the officials were silent on whether the bank was able to realise the amount after acquiring the mortgaged property.

Under the Bank Securitisation Act, 2002, passed by Parliament for the recovery of outstanding amount from defaulters, the banks need to serve a two-month notice to the defaulting unit.

The Reserve Bank of India recently issued guidelines, arming the banks with more powers. Under these guidelines, the banks can acquire running units also.

This has been done to ensure that any unit, which the bank feels is getting weak and may turn into an NPA, can be acquired so that it can fetch a better price.

Opposing the provisions of the Act, the president of the Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr P. D. Sharma, said the Act made industrial units a slave of the banks, as the latter had been given overriding powers for the recovery of outstanding dues and the acquisition of mortgaged property.

The industrial circles are intrigued as why the bank chose a small-scale unit, with an outstanding amount of only Rs 18 lakh, as against defaulters having outstanding amounts worth several crores of rupees.

Sources revealed that a rice mill owner owed a bank about Rs 35 crore and the unit had already closed down.

However, the bank had not initiated any action against the owner of the unit. Rather, a few months back, when the bank organised a conference, the owner of the said unit was the main speaker, they said.

The industrial circles maintain that the banks should adopt a sympathetic approach towards sick units. Instead of acquiring the mortgaged properties, the banks should help in their revival, as only then the banks could recover the outstanding amounts.



7 down with jaundice; ‘tap water did it’
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 6
The Health Department said here today that there had been seven cases of jaundice in the city, reported from Urban Estate Phase 1 of Dugri. The inhabitants of the area blame the Municipal Corporation for the “outbreak”. Sewage getting mixed with drinking water is said have caused the spread of the disease.

A number of persons living in the area said, for the past two months, they had been writing to the authorities concerned about the mixing of sewage and drinking water, but to no avail.

Mr Sunder Singh, one such person, said, for the past many days, black water had been coming out of taps, at times. “We have complained to the authorities concerned, but hardly anything has been done to improve things,” he said.

When contacted, Dr S.N. Tiwari, Civil Surgeon, said, since jaundice was a water-borne disease, the mixing of sewage and drinking water could be the reason for the spread. He said: “We have seven confirmed cases of it, so far. The teams of the Health Department have been sent to this area and chlorine tablets have been distributed among its inhabitants. We will take water samples from different areas tomorrow to find out the cause of the spread.”

Dr Tiwari said, if the problem had arisen due to unclean water, the Health Department could do little about it, except treating the patients.

The recent outbreak of cholera in Jagraon was also a result of sewage getting mixed with drinking water. The outbreak in Doraha and Jagraon claimed two lives.

Doctors said jaundice viruses (Hepatitis A and E) had spread through contaminated water and food. Citizens should consume boiled, clean and warm water.

The patients should not waste time in seeking medical help, if their serum level was more than 20 or there was repeated vomiting and any altercation of sensorium.



Pensioners flay Kelkar report
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 6
The Northern Railway Pensioners Welfare Association has condemned the Kelkar report on taxes. A meeting of the association members, presided over by its president Mr Sher Singh, was held here yesterday.

The association members felt that for the past so many years, the minimum exemption for income tax was Rs 50,000 plus other deductions of Rs 25,000 and for senior citizens, it was Rs 1 lakh. The successive governments failed to contain the price rise which resulted in a wage revision as also dearness allowance. Mr Sher Singh said, “Income tax exemption is not increased as a result, a major share of earned wages went to income tax, there being no relief to the working employees and pensioners. There must be an exemption limit of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh for senior citizens. Special deductions should continue against the NSC, LIC policies and conveyance, as otherwise there is no benefit to have an exemption”.

The association members said that the marginal agriculturists should not be brought under the income tax net. Only those having about 12 acres of land be made to contribute some amount on per acre basis for the welfare of the downtrodden which should not be classified as income tax. The government should impose 50 per cent tax where the profit was more than 1 crore, thus sparing the low paid and middle-class people.

The members also deplored the lame policy of the government in rendering medicare to pensioners/senior citizens which should be free of all charges as in western countries.



Cong legislators meet Hanspal on PUDA issue
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 6
The controversial allotment of more than 8,000 sq yards by the previous government and its enforcement by the district administration took a new turn today with all local Congress legislators, including the local MP, Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib and city Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, meeting the PPCC President, Mr HS Hanspal, demanding a judicial inquiry into the entire episode. Earlier, the BJP and the SAD had also raised the issue and supported the case of number of shopkeepers who were to be evicted.

Mr Hanspal assured the legislators that he would recommend judicial inquiry into the case to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh. Among others who met Mr Hanspal included legislators Mr Milkiat Singh Dakha, Mr Surinder Dawer, Mr Milkiat Singh Birmi, Mr Rakesh Pandey, the District Congress Committee presidents, Mr KK Bawa and Mr Gurdev Lapran, and senior vice-president of the Pradesh Youth Congress, Mr Amarjit Singh Tikka.

The legislators demanded that the entire allotment should be thoroughly probed and cancelled. They said while the Badal government had sold the government land on throw away prices to its favourites, it was intriguing as how the present district administration was trying to help the builder to acquire the plot. Besides, the legislators strongly pleaded the case of shopkeepers who were likely to be evicted for giving possession to the said builder.

The legislators also raised the issue of hike in the registration fee of the sale and purchase of property. The registration fee had been hiked by the Deputy Commissioner recently. It was decided that a meeting of the legislators, the Deputy Commissioner, other public representatives to be chaired by the PCC president would be held at the Circuit House here on January 10 to resolve the issue. Mr Hanspal reportedly assured the legislators that the rates would be fixed after taking the public representatives into confidence. 



YC to begin drive against corruption
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 6
The District Youth Congress (DYC) would soon launch a drive to expose corrupt government functionaries and traders.
Addressing a party workers' meeting in Bhagat Singh Colony in the Sherpur locality, the DYC president, Mr Parminder Mehta, exhorted party activists to be prepared for a mass agitation.

He charged officials of the Food and Supplies Department with being hand in glove with ration depot holders, who, he said, were openly black marketing kerosene oil and selling subsidised food grain and other essential commodities in the open market at the cost of weaker sections.

The DYC president also flayed other departments like the police, the railways and the posts, where, he alleged, corruption was rampant and senior officers were either conniving or watching the situation like mute spectators.

“Police personnel, on security duty at various places in the city, are reportedly harassing innocent people and extorting money. Poor workers even have to pay a bribe to employees in the Department of Posts for sending money orders.”

Alleging that the mechanism of complaints redressal in the municipal corporation had proved to be non-functional, Mr Mehta observed that complaints of civic services like water supply, sewerage and streetlights were not attended to for days altogether and the civic administration had failed to effectively tackle the menace of corruption in almost all departments of the MC.

He said groups of youth Congress workers would sit on dharnas and hold demonstrations against corruption and take up the matter with the administration and the state government for stern action against erring employees and officers.

Others present at the meeting included Mr Kewal Arora, Mr Raju Arora, Dr Pradeep, Mr Jatinder Sharma, Mr Ripan Rana, Mr Sonu Dua, Mr Ashok Arora, Ms Shakuntla Devi and Ms Sushila Devi.



Kanjhla decries his opponents
Our Correspondent

Ahmedgarh, January 6
Reacting to reports about the issue of presidentship of the district unit of the SAD, Mr Rajinder Singh Kanjhla has reiterated that he was made the chief of the district by the orders of the party chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

He was addressing party activists at the local office of the SAD during his first visit as the district president. Admitting factionalism in the party at the district-level, Mr Kanjhla said two factions of the party were active in Sangrur district. Though the factions, led by Mr Badal and Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, united in 1994, but a section of lower rung leaders, having alliance with the Barnala faction, felt ignored and kept petty issues alive.

Urging all partymen to shun their differences, Mr Kanjhla said, “I am loyal to my party and do not belong to any faction. I have been associated with Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, secretary-general, and Mr Badal since 1986 and am bound to obey them. My opponents must realise that my present post is till a fresh appointment is made and till then they must try to be true to the party’s expectations.”



Bus stand cries for attention
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 6
The local bus stand is in a very deplorable condition. Despite assurances and plans announced by successive governments, the bus stand lacks basic facilities. The entire bus stand is dotted with potholes. The bus bays are full of dirt and filth.

The foundation stone of the new bus terminus was to be laid by the Chief Minister on August 15, 2002. The proposed Rs 7 crore bus stand project with a provision for all kinds of basic amenities, including waiting rooms for passengers, was entrusted with the local Municipal Corporation. However, the project never started.

Later, the project was transferred to PUDA and the Punjab Roadways. The roadways authorities had conveyed to PUDA that the existing bus stand, spread over 9.92 acres, required renovation and needed proper maintenance.

The local depot of the Punjab Roadways stated that it gave about Rs 1 crore annually to the state government for the maintenance. However, not even 10 per cent of it was utilised for the same.

Besides basic amenities, the Roadways has demanded operational counters. Presently, there are 20 counters. The authorities concerned have sought more than 10 such counters.

Another major problem at the bus stand is the condition of toilets. Not only is the number of toilets much less than the required number, but also these are not maintained properly. The officials have demanded that eight more toilets, be constructed and the existing toilets be cleaned and maintained properly.

With no proper facility to park vehicles, there is usually a chaos at the bus stand. Stray animals add to the problem.

Mr Kuldip Singh, Administrator, PUDA, said the organisation had not received a penny for the project. He said the project was with the Transport Department.



Fastener makers oppose power tariff hike
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 6
An emergency meeting of the members of the Fastener Manufacturers Association of India was held here today under the chairmanship of Mr Mohinder Paul Jain to discuss the proposed power tariff hike by the Punjab State Electricity Board.

Mr Jain and Mr Narinder Bhamra, president of the association, stated that the industry was already passing through recession and this increase would put an extra burden on the industry as a result of which a large number of small-scale units face closure. Mr Jain reiterated that when the PSEB had started charging electricity bills from the agricultural sector then why was this increase being proposed. Mr Jain and Mr Bhamra said that such hike would not be tolerated at any cost and the association would start would an agitation.

Secondly, these leaders said that earlier duty on electricity was being charged at 11 paise per unit but now the PSEB had started charging duty on electricity at 5 per cent. They said that this increase in duty was uncalled for and unjustified and should be withdrawn immediately.

The association expressed resentment against the day-to-day increase in the rates of raw material like hex and round bars of steel. All the members observed that the raw material should be imported to save the fastener industry from the clutches of rolling mills.



Protest against privatisation
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 6
Members of the Coordination Committee of the Punjab State Electricity Board (both the Struggle Committee and the Employees Federation, PSEB) met here today to chalk out a plan against the government regarding the privatisation of complaint centers.

Union leaders alleged that the present government believed in anti-people and anti-employee policies. “The government refuses to recognise the hard work of employees who have dedicated their lives to electrify Punjab up to its villages. The state government believes that the public property is their own property and the people of the state were at its mercy,” said Mr S.S. Guraya, vice-president, Employees Federation, PSEB.

Mr Surinder Singh and Mr Ram Singh, state leaders of the Coordination Committee, advised that programmes given by the committee be implemented with courage. “We will organise protest rallies on January 6 and 7 and observe chakka jam on January 8,” they said.

The union leaders requested all unions to participate in the rallies against the move of the privatisation of the PSEB. The leaders also condemned the role of the Engineers Association and the JE’s Council on the issue. 



DC inaugurates Road Safety Week
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 6
With a view to create awareness among people regarding road safety and to stress the need to follow traffic rules, the District Transports Office in collaboration with Traffic Police and various other organisations, is observing Road Safety Week.

Mr Anurag Agarwal, Deputy Commissioner, inaugurated the week here today. Vehicles were checked for pollution and pamphlets were distributed among drivers and pedestrians regarding road safety and traffic rules at Bharat Nagar Chowk here.

The Deputy Commissioner said that during Road Safety Week officials of all departments concerned would implement the chalked-out programme wish an aim of to creating awareness among the people.

He said sufficient number of banners with attractive slogans had been put up on all roads in different parts of the district. “Special arrangements have been made to impart training regarding the traffic rules to schoolchildren and drivers in the Children Park, Model Town, Ludhiana. Drivers would also be educated through announcements regarding traffic rules at various traffic light points, he added.

Mr Mukand Singh Sandhu, District Transport Officer, said teams of district transport officials and the Traffic Police would distribute pamphlets on road safety with the help of voluntary organisations and vehicles would be checked for pollution level by the Motor Vehicle Inspector .

He said that on January 7, along with pollution checking and distribution of pamphlets , announcements would be made on public address systems and road safety slides would be projected at the traffic park by Traffic Missionary, Mr S.S. Juneja, and traffic staff. Medical teams of the Health Department would conduct medical examination of the drivers at different places and the reflectors would be fitted on tractor trolleys and other slow-moving vehicles on roads in Jagraon and Raikot subdivisions.

On January 8, all operations would be conducted in Payal and Doraha towns in collaboration with local truck unions and NGOs. On January 9, Khanna would be the area of focus.

On January 10, free medical check-up camps for PRTC, Punjab Roadways and private bus operators’ staff would be conducted at Ludhiana bus stand. On January 11, a special training programme would be conducted for schoolchildren in the traffic park. Painting competitions on road safety would also be organised by the Education Department, besides an exhibition, lectures and a seminar for drivers on that day. On the last day, Samrala would be the area of focus DTO added.

He said during Road Safety Week pressure horns would be removed from busses and trucks and strict vigil would be maintained to check their use.

Mr Gurdial Singh, SP (Traffic), Mr D.P.S. Mander and Mr Tarlochan Singh (both ADTOs), were also present on the occasion.



BVDS activists expelled, unit reorganised
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 6
In the wake of anti-party activities by certain functionaries of the Bharatiya Valmiki Dharam Samaj (BVDS), the National Convener, Mr Vijay Danav, announced the expulsion of Neta ji and three others from the party for four years. Others, who were removed on disciplinary grounds, were Mr Raj Kumar, Mr Surinder Bali and Mr Vicky Sahota.

Addressing a meeting of the party activists here on Sunday, Mr Danav also announced the reorganisation of the district unit with Mr Kishan Pal Bedi as district convener and Mr Vikram Chauhan as co-convener. Other new office-bearers of the district included Mr Balwinder Balli (secretary), Mr Sudhir Kumar (joint secretary), Mr Ishwar Lal (propaganda secretary), and Mr Vijay Kumar (cashier).

In a note of caution to the party functionaries, Mr Danav made it clear that discipline would be maintained at all costs and none was above the interests of the organisation. Senior party functionaries including Mr Lakshaman Dravid, Mr Ashwani Sahota, Mr Yash Pal Choudhry, Mr Mohanvir Chauhan and Mr Ashok Shudra also attended the meeting.

In a bid to strengthen the organisation, Mr Danav announced setting up a women wing, education and sports wing and bhajan mandli of the BVDS. He said the city unit would now have five zonal heads to ensure closer coordination and better interaction with the rank and file. An advisory board had also been set up to review the organisational matters and to step up work for welfare of the dalit community, he added.



World Bank loan for rural water supply
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 6
The World bank is likely to sanction a loan of Rs 800 crore for Punjab for providing drinking water to people living in rural areas of the state. Disclosing this Mr K.R. Lakhanpal, Secretary, Finance, said a project report had been submitted to the World Bank in this regard.

Mr Lakhanpal said there were as many as 11,700 villages in the state that did not get potable water. He said even after spending Rs 800 crore in the first phase, 2,000 villages would be left uncovered under the scheme of providing potable water to all villages in the state.

A World Tank team had visited Punjab in November and discussed various development projects, including projects relating to rural water supply and construction of overbridges, with Punjab Government officials. The officials are optimistic of getting loan from the World Bank.



SCL anniversary
Our Correspondent

SAS Nagar, January 6
Semiconductor Complex Limited (SCI), a Central Government enterprise engaged in the design, development and manufacture of very large integrated circuits (VLSIs) commonly known as chips, will complete 25 years of its incorporation on January 12. As part of the celebrations, the SCL planned to bring out a souvenir highlighting its achievements and future plans.


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