Wednesday, March 12, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Entry tax to replace octroi from June 1: Lal Singh
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 11
The Punjab Government will abolish octroi from June 1 and impose an entry tax of two per cent to make up for the loss of revenue. This was stated by the Punjab Finance Minister, Mr Lal Singh, while talking to mediapersons at the SDP College for Women here today. The minister was here to preside over a function to mark the grant of ISO-9001-2000 certificate to the institution, the first in the country to achieve this distinction.

He said the previous government had resorted to abolition of octroi before poll as a populist measure without making provisions for alternative funding for the local bodies. For the same reason, the decision was later struck down by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. “The Congress had also promised to abolish octroi in its election manifesto and we have fulfilled the promise without affecting the income of the local bodies.”

Giving details of the modalities for collection and disbursement of the entry tax, the minister said with the estimated total imports of Rs 36,000 crore to the state, an annual revenue of around Rs 720 crore was expected to be generated. The tax would be collected at the entry points to the state and proportionate on-line disbursement of revenue would be done on divisional level daily to the municipal corporations, municipal committees and nagar panchayats so that their day-to-day functioning and development projects were not affected.

With the abolition of octroi, the cumbersome procedure of obtaining transit passes for transport vehicles would also become a thing of the past and the travelling time for public transport vehicles would come down, he said.

He said the government had initiated various measures to improve the standard of education, with special emphasis on women education. The educational institutions would have better facilities, strong infrastructure and competent staff to impart quality education to the children.

He said as an experimental step, five government colleges in the state would soon be made autonomous bodies so that these could create necessary infrastructure at their own level and prepare the students for the fierce competition that lay ahead of them in the fast growing world of science and technology. Focussing on the need for higher and vocational education for the girls, Mr Lal Singh said educated women would be better equipped to become economically self-reliant and could ensure better standard of living for their families.

The college Principal, Ms S.Verma, in her report, said the institution was committed to the cause of women education and the grant of ISO certification spoke volumes about the quality of education, administration of the college and all-round development of the students. The Finance Minister presented the ISO-9001-2000 certificate to the president of the college managing committee, Mr Balraj Bhasin.



Missing businessman returns home
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 11
A city businessman, Mr Ramesh Kumar, who had gone missing three weeks ago, returned home last evening under mysterious circumstances. He has no idea of his whereabouts all these days.

The case that had become a headache for the district police has become more intriguing with the arrival of the businessman and the confusing statements he is making. He has been unable to reveal how he went missing and whether or not he was kidnapped by an influential city-based industrialist.

Police sources said their suspicion that the industrialist’s family had nothing to do with the case was gaining ground. The sources said the entire kidnapping drama could be stage-managed. Ramesh Kumar was found in Haradwar by some persons who informed his family that arranged his return last evening. He, however, declined to meet the police or mediapersons. The family also dodged these agencies by saying that the businessman was not in a proper frame of mind to give any statement.

After an agonising night long wait, the businessman was finally produced before the police this afternoon. A police team headed by Inspector Wazir Singh, had been camping at his home since last evening. The sources said the businessman was being questioned at the police station but he was not disclosing the exact sequence of events. Sources said he was at a loss to tell how he had gone missing.

The man had, however, not disclosed the name of the influential industrialist’s family so far. This is contrary to what his wife, Ms Suman Sharma, and other relatives have alleged in an FIR lodged with the police.

They had directly held the industrialist’s family responsible for the disappearance of the businessman. Members of the family had also alleged that a scooter of Ramesh was found outside the office of the accused.

The case had hogged prominence after agitated relatives of the businessman had staged a dharna outside the residence of the city SSP, Mr H. S. Sidhu. The police had to use lathi charge to disperse the agitated mob.



Parks a picture of neglect
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 11
The move to privatise maintenance of parks in the city having failed due to the state government throwing a spanner in the works, parks in the mega city, almost without exception, present a picture of neglect. Lack of proper maintenance, misuse of the once lush green stretches and rampant encroachments on parks are vividly visible.

Although not an isolated instance, the biggest park in the posh locality of Green Field on the Pakhowal road is a glaring example of utter neglect and apathy on the part of Municipal Corporation as far as the maintenance of park goes. The huge spread of green land has not only been turned into a garbage dump by residents, some of the residents have illegally hammered down parts of the boundary wall of the park to make openings from the rear portion of their houses into it.

According to residents of the area, the MC had erected a three-feet high wall sometimes back to check encroachment on the park and block the illegal gates towards the park put up by some residents to facilitate entry from that side into their houses. These people, however, also razed down portions of the boundary wall located on the rear side of their houses, much to the annoyance of their fellow residents.

In face of persistent demand by a majority of the local residents, the MC once again got the boundary wall constructed, this time to the height of eight feet.

But this was not to be and showing utter disregard to the resentment of others these residents partly hammered down the boundary wall yet again to retain access to their respective houses.

The heaps of garbage in the park has become a hunting ground for stray animals. Besides, insanitary conditions in the park pose a serious health hazard to the residents, especially small children.



Traffic blocked near SDM office
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 11
Hundred of supporters of defeated candidates in the civic polls and that of Ward Nos. 12 and 19, who alleged bungling in the results by the Returning Officer under the pressure of the ruling party, led by Mr Bhag Singh Mallah, Akali MLA, and Mr Brij Lal Rinwa , president of the state BJP, today took out a procession raising slogans against the police and the civil administration and later sat on a dharna on the GT Road, near the office of the local SDM, blocking traffic for about two hours.

Highlighting the excesses by the police and the administration, Mr Mallah said he was asked to leave the office of the SDM, where the recounting took place. On the occasion, Mr Rinwa expressed concern over the high-handedness of the ruling party. The other prominent speakers were Mr Harsurinder Singh Gill, member SGPC, and Mr Gurcharan Singh Grewal, president of the All India Sikh Student Federation (Mehta ). They flayed the local SDM for not being fair during the civic polls at Jagraon under pressure of Mr Gurcharan Singh Galib, MP, and his son Karanjit Singh Soni. The leaders demanded repoll in the wards where bunglings allegedly took place.




EVER wondered the spellings programmed in a computer suggest the name of the Prime Minister of India, Mr Vajpayee as Mr Vampire, that of Mr Modi as Mr Moody, Mr Togadia as Mr Toady, Ms Mamta Banerjee as Ms Bannered, Bhadaur market as Bandar market, Captain Amarinder Singh as Captain Mariner Singh and the like? If you can’t believe it, log on to your PC and check for suggestions after typing their names.

Cricket mania

When it comes to cricket, then any surface would do. The World Cup Cricket mania has swept the city. A large number of cricket tournaments are being organised in grounds and open spaces. But the height of the people’s passion for the game can be gauged from use of Sidhwan canal bed, streets, rooftops of large markets and parking slots. Children of migrant labourers can be seen playing cricket in the Sidhwan canal river bed. Parking lots of Bhadaur House and other markets area are witnessing hard fought matches. The best was at the Sidhwan canal river bed. It remains to be seen whether the water in the canal would stop the game or the mania would be over after the World Cup.

Cricket fan

A young girl was riding a rickshaw the other day when India was playing against Sri Lanka at Johannesburg. When she was about to reach her destination, she directed the rickshawpuller to turn in a certain direction. But the latter did not pay any heed to her and went straight on and on. Panicked at his response, she started shouting at him only to be surprised later when he stopped at once hearing her noise, removed the ear-phones and explained, ‘‘Maaf karna, madam commentary mein kuch suna hi nahin.’’

Police PR

The police has never been known to have good public relations. But in this age of community policing this is the least that can be expected from the men in khaki. The recent police-terrorist encounter near Sahnewal exposed how bad the police was still in this department. The mediapersons were kept waiting outside the Sahnewal police station for hours for the details or pictures of the terrorists. The police did not convene a press conference on the issue and just sent a press note late in the evening. That, too, when the deadline of various newspapers had almost expired. By sending a mere press note the police seemed to have failed to differentiate between the success achieved in nabbing poppy husk smugglers or car thieves and terrorists threatening the security of the state. The police did amends by calling a press conference the next day but by that time the damage had been done.

Jail inmates’ appeal

Inmates of the Ludhiana Central Jail here have issued a rare and fervent appeal to Patarkar Veer in the city. Unhappy at the news reports that exposed the smooth flow of drugs in the jail premises or out-of-the-way facilities given to the inmates at a price by the jail staff, the undertrials and prisoners have in letters written to the journos requested that the news report should be well researched and balanced. The letter also contained the real purpose. The inmates said they were harassed by the jail officials after the news reports. What remains to be answered was whether the harassment meant strict vigilance by jail officials or increase in alleged demands of bribe.

Repeated classifieds

A city journalist searching a house on rent shared with Ludhiana Tribune a torrid time he had when he took help of some to-let classifieds printed in some newspapers. He selected the classifieds and rang up the landlord only to hear that the classifieds were three months’ old and the newspaper was printing it to make an impression it was a getting lot of classifieds. One harassed landlord, quite unhappy at the repeated calls, said he had already rented the house but the calls were still coming and the newspaper was still printing the classified ads despite requests to the contrary. The furious landlord, however, had not lost his sense of humour by saying that thank God the newspapers were not printing matrimonials in this manner, otherwise married persons could be getting offers !

‘Rest in peace’

We Indians are famous for making howlers with the Queen’s English and our infamous ‘Hinglish’ is known to make the British tear their hair. Continuing our campaign to maul the language, a local auto-parts manufacturing firm recently came out with a press ad telling its customers to ‘Rest in peace’ after purchase of its products. The poor copy writer of the agency that created the ad perhaps failed to realise that ‘RIP’ is an inscription found on graves, praying for peace to the departed souls.

Novel protest

Mr Jasbir Singh Gill, an activist of District Youth Congress, and obviously an ardent supporter of sacked district chief of the party Mr Parminder Mehta, is ‘bare-footed’ person these days. Upset over the removal of Mr Mehta and his replacement by Mr Komal Khanna, the disheartened political activist resorted to a novel protest, saying goodbye to his footwear to convey his protest to the party high command. While the possibility of the decision being reviewed in favour of Mr Mehta seemed to be remote, his supporter was destined for tough or to be accurate ‘hot’ time ahead all with summer season approaching when the top surface of the roads literally melts down and the temperature shoots up to high forties.

Why politicians?

Most of the educational institutions invite politicians to be chief guests at the college academic functions like convocations and annual functions. Why should the politicians be invited and some academicians? First of all, the politicians due to their numerous functions reach the venue hours late, and, secondly, they think that any public platform offered to them is to be used for highlighting the achievements of the political parties they owe allegiance to. The result is that the joy of the function goes out from students’ hearts who are seated an hour prior to the function.

Hockey sticks

At a mass marriage witnessed recently of the needy couples, it was noticed that some bridegrooms were carrying hockey sticks with them instead of customary swords. On inquiry it was discovered that the grooms could not procure swords, So the best substitute the grooms thought was a hockey stick, a symbol of protection.

Students sad

The students appearing for board examinations of CBSE and PSEB are a very sad lot these days. The reason of their great sadness is that World Cup Cricket has coincided with their final and crucial examinations. The whole nation is engaged in watching cricket matches except the students. They feel that their life is devoid of all the excitement that cricket upsets are causing. Even when they sit before the TV to see highlights, the parents nag them to study. Poor students!


Some more on the ‘Punjabi’ treatment to Gora Saheb’s English. A local functionary of the Youth, Congress came in to The Tribune office with a press release, describing himself as a ‘Wise’ (Vice) President of the party. - Sentinel



BKU to move court on sugar cane price
Tribune Reporters

Ludhiana, March 11
The Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) has threatened to move the court if the government failed to pay Rs 100 per quintal as the price of sugar cane. This was stated today by Prof Manjit Singh Qadian, Secretary-General of the Union.

While addressing mediapersons, Mr Qadian stated that the union would be forced to file a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court if the government failed to meet with their ‘‘just’’ demand. He added that the Supreme Court had vide its directive dated 31.1.2001 restored the rights of fixing the price of various crops to the respective state Governments and the Punjab government should become instrumental in getting the farmers at least Rs 100 per quintal for their sugar cane crop.

Prof Qadian said the Uttar Pardesh unit of the union had already filed a petition in the Supreme Court for directing the state government to hike the price of sugar cane. The case was being heard by a Bench of Mr Justice K.C. Balakrishnan and Mr Justice P.V. Reddy and the UP government, Cane Commissioner and all sugar mills of the state were served show-cause notices by the Bench, stated the Secretary-General.

Following their counterparts in UP, the union threatened that they would be forced to file a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court soon if the government continued to exploit the farmers by paying meagre prices for the crop. Mr Bhupinder Singh Mahesari, Secretary-General (press) called the case filed by the state government in the High Court as an eye-wash.

Stating that the farmers were already upset with the anti-farmer budget this year, Mr Mahesari said the union had decided to intensify their agitation by sitting on dharnas and blocking traffic on various roads. He said the union would sit on a dharna outside the Deputy Commissioner's office in Moga tomorrow and outside the DC office in Mansa and Ferozepur simultaneously on March 17.

He also said that a massive demonstration would be held in Delhi on March 24 in protest against the death sentence to Prof Devinderpal Singh Bhullar and other militants lodged in various jails.

Meanwhile, the state unit of the Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) has threatened that if pending demands of agitating farmers sitting on dharna at Punjab State Electricity Board, Patiala were not met at the earliest, they would resort to an agitation. These views were expressed by Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, state president of BKU, Prof Manjit Singh Kadiyan, General Secretary of the union, Mr Bhupinder Singh Mahesari and Mr Puran Shah Kot after holding an emergency meeting with the leaders of the union here today.

Prof Kadiyan pointed out that before the elections, the ruling party's main agenda was to provide power and water free of east to farmers in the state. The party came to power because of its promises. "But now, the government is backing out from its promises by saying that they did not have enough funds. Even the Chief Minister had assured that once the party came out of this financial crunch, farmers will be restored with free water and power supply", he said.

The members further added that the government was now claiming that it faced no financial crises, hence the pending electricity bills of the farmers be remitted. The farmers also demanded that they should be allowed to make use of the canal water for agriculture.

The leaders also demanded that the arrears of their sugar cane crop due towards the sugarcane mills, should be released immediately. A special meeting of the BKU activists will be held at Ludhiana on March 14, to chalk out their future course of action.



People not satisfied with govt: Sukhbir
Tribune News Service

Ayali Khurd, March 11
“The Congress has frittered away the mandate of the people in just one year since no section of the society is satisfied with the functioning of the government which is marked by a sense of total alienation among the people,” asserts MP and SAD general secretary Sukhbir Singh Badal.

He was here to attend a function hosted in his honour by Akali youth leader Manpreet Singh Mani. Those present on the occasion included Mr Darshan Singh Shivalik, Mr A.S. Makkar, state youth chief S.S. Dhillon, Mr A.S. Mallah, Mr Gurmukh Singh Giaspura, Mr Harinder Singh, and others. He was also honoured with the “Punjab Da Gaurav” award at the Model Town Extension gurdwara late in the evening.

Talking to TNS, he claimed that the party was not distressed with the outcome of the party in the MC poll. “ This was expected since the Congress had made it known that the elections were a matter of prestige for the government and that all means would be used to ensure victory, In fact, booth capturing and voter intimidation was unheard of in Punjab but now the Congress is imitating Bihar,” he claimed.

He said during his tour of the state over the past one month, he interacted with the people who told him that the there was a sense of alienation among the masses. “ All developmental activity has come to a halt and the people have no one to complain to. The MLAs claim that they cannot do anything about it since the bureaucrats call the shots in Chandigarh. The CM himself is unavailable and rarely visits any constituency,” he alleged.

Mr Badal said in the congress was talking about corruption but the ground situation is different. Every public dealing department now charges a certain percentage as the Vigilance tax which the officials claim is forwarded to the VB authorities. Similarly, the bureaucracy has been allowed to usurp all powers and the elected representatives have no say even in matters concerning their constituency.

He also claimed that the matters pertaining to Punjab are being taken up at the Young Parliamentarians Association which cuts across party lines to help the people. He said that the freeze in the MSP and the hike in fertilizer will also be taken up with the Centre soon. 



Row over induction of new ministers
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 11
While one section of the District Congress Committee (DCC) has demanded action against the DCC President, Mr K K Bawa for speaking against the induction of Mr Harnam Dass Johar and Mr Milkiat Singh Birmi into the ministry, the other section loyal to Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh is learnt to have been tacitly supporting him.

A meeting of the local leaders of the party today criticised Mr Bawa and demanded his removal. The meeting which was attended by the supporters of Mr Johar and Mr Birmi demanded that Mr Bawa should be removed from the post of the acting president as he had flouted the party discipline.

On the other hand, loyalists including the local MP, Mr Gurcharan Singh Galib, MLAs, Mr Surinder Dawer and Mr Milkiat Singh Dakha and the DCC (rural) President, Mr Gurdev Lapran are learnt to be supporting Mr Bawa in his campaign against the two ministers. Sources in the Congress revealed that Mr Bawa was confident that he would not be at a loss for speaking against the ministers.

The sources even did not rule out some tacit approval from some top leaders of the Congress to Mr Bawa’s outburst against Mr Johar and Mr Birmi. Otherwise, why should Mr Bawa unnecessarily court a controversy especially at a time when he is only the acting President of the DCC. It was learnt that not only the local loyalists but even some senior party leaders were not in favour of inducting the two legislators as the ministers and the same leaders might be speaking through Mr Bawa.

Sources close to Mr Johar disclosed that he was likely to take up the issue with the party leadership as Mr Bawa had levelled serious charges against him. He is learnt to have taken serious note of the issue as the allegations have not come from any opposition party but the district president of the party itself.

They pointed out that this has only provided an issue to the opposition as it (the opposition) could always use Mr Bawa’s allegations against the two ministers to embarrass the party and the government. Mr Johar and Mr Birmi are still in Chandigarh as they are awaiting the allocation of portfolios.



Increase in medical allowance sought
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 11
In a memorandum submitted to the Punjab Finance Minister, Mr Lal Singh, pensioners have sought a hike in medical allowance as promised in the Congress manifesto for the last Assembly elections.

Mr Yash Paul Ghai, Additional General Secretary, Punjab Government Pensioners Association, in a press note issued today said the fixed medical allowance of Rs 250 per month being paid to Punjab Government employees and pensioners since January 1, 1998, was inadequate to meet the ever-increasing cost of medicare. Since January 1998, the medicare cost had registered a rise of 39 per cent as per the Consumer Price Index/medicare cost data. In view of this, medical allowance should be raised from Rs 250 to Rs 350 per month.

Serving employees and retirees, now, pin their hope on the Budget to be presented on March 24 ,said Mr Yash Paul Ghai.



Punters at it again!
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 11
Although the India-Sri Lanka match played at Johannesburg concluded along the expected lines, thousands of punters are intrigued over some developments in the match which they suspect were deliberate. The Indian team getting out for less than 300, when everybody expected the score to be around 315 to 320, Sachin Tendulkar missing his century by three runs and the Sri Lankan team managing to pass the 100-run mark have made the punters smell a rat in the entire game.

Sources among the punters revealed that after the blazing start by the Indians and 153-run partnership between Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, the outcome of the match was a forgone conclusion. Obviously, the rate came down too much and the bookies were not offering any significant returns. Punters started putting their stakes on other options.

They switched over to other events like the total score. Sources revealed that after the scintillating performance by the Indians in the opening overs, everybody expected India to cross the 300 mark. Crores of rupees were placed on it with punters placing their bets for a 300 plus innings by India. Here it is an equal bet. If a punter places a bet of Rs 1 lakh, he gets an equal amount for a win in return and looses the entire amount over a loss. Nobody could doubt India finishing under 300 runs. But surprisingly they did, making hundreds and thousands of punters loose crores and crores of rupees on the session.

Questions are also being raised over the way Sachin got out on 97 for the second time in the tournament. While his getting out at 98 against Pakistan is understandable as he suffered from cramps and was bowled a brute delivery by Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar, people wonder as to how he could fall to a loose ball at the score of 97, when there was no pressure on him or the team. Having lost a huge amount on the session (over India scoring less than 300) punters had placed all their stakes at Tendulkar’s hundred, which looked as good as certain. And still he failed making the punters loose crores of rupees once again.

And the flashpoint for the punters was the Sri Lankan innings which everyone expected to conclude for less than 100 runs. With the score of 78 and nine wickets gone, the bookies reportedly again started offering rates for Lankans getting out for less than 100 runs. Everybody found the offer too tempting to be resisted. Sources revealed that there may hardly be a punter who did not place some money over the Sri Lankans getting out for less than a 100, which looked almost a certainty.

The sources pointed out as how Muralitharan and Dilhara Fernando could score so blazingly, hitting continuous boundaries in the dying moments of the game. And it did not take the Indians too long to get Muralitharan out after the Lankans crossed the 100-run mark. While everything was lost in the noise and din of the Indian victory, the punters have already started feeling that the cricket is still not impervious to the outside influences, specifically from the bookies.



City resident recalls SA tour
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 11
Dr Sunil Lakhotia, a city resident, could have never imagined that he would get an opportunity to go abroad to see a World Cup match, courtesy — ‘Britannia Khao, World Cup Jao’ scheme. He had won a four-day stay and a free ticket to South Africa to witness the match between India and Pakistan.

Dr Lakhotia, said it was a dream come true. “More than 250 other Indian were staying in Hotel Holiday Inn. We all were so excited that we could not sleep properly before the scheduled match,” he said in an exciting manner.

Dr Lakhotia said it seemed some wedding was being solemnised as everyone was getting ready with enthusiasm to see the match. No one had time to talk to others. He said,

“There was a spirit of patriotism and everyone was dressed up like a ‘pandit jee’, Lord Shiva, Ganpati Ji etc. Some were wearing Tricolour dresses”.

Four buses of Indians, left for Centurion city. “We reached the stadium at 9.30 a.m.” said Dr Lakhotia.

One of the fans, even shaved his head and got the map of India drawn on it, with Karnataka highlighted as he belonged to that state. When Sachin scored the runs, everyone danced carrying banners and flags. Every Indian, forgetting caste and creed embraced each other. As India marched towards the win, Pakistanis started leaving the stadium. “We were overjoyed when Indian won the match”, said Dr Lakhotia.



Public overpowers bag snatcher
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 11
A snatching bid by an alleged thief in Ghumar Mandi this morning was foiled by the victim and passersby, who caught the accused and handed him over to the police.
Balwant Singh, a stamp vendor, was passing through the Ghumar Mandi market on foot around 11.00 a.m., when a youth, identified as Surinder Singh of Thrike village, reportedly snatched a bag containing Rs 30,400 besides some documents from him.

The police said the youth did not seem to have any criminal record. He was being interrogated. The police has recovered the stolen cash and documents along with the bag.


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