Friday, March 14, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Struggle brings award, not justice
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 13
Even two years after she raised her voice against the evil of sexual harassment, Nisha Bhatti’s, wait for justice has not ended. Nisha Bhati, a former student of the Government Polytechnic for Women, Jalandhar, was allegedly sexually harassed by the Principal of her college and his son.

She had taken up the cudgels against the sexual harassment of the inmates of her hostel and had dreamt of seeing the guilty behind the bars. But despite her best efforts to bring the guilty, to the book, she feels her struggle has not yet ended and she requires to come up more strongly against them.

Nisha, who is presently a student of Ludhiana Polytechnic, was honoured today by the International Human Rights Organisation (IHRO) and was declared Brave Girl of the Year for refusing to bow under the pressure of influential persons, whom she had accused of harassment.

She was honoured at a function organised by the IHRO at the District Courts complex here today. She was to be honoured with four other girls on the occasion of International Women’s Day, but she was not able to make it for the function due to security reasons.

Nisha is receiving threats from the accused. After her two-year-long fight for justice, she has realised that she has to start from a naught once again as the inquiry report submitted by the college in her case has failed to satisfy her.

Speaking to Ludhiana Tribune, she said she was going to lodge complaint with the Punjab State Women Commission. The commission had ordered an inquiry into her case after she had complained to its Chairperson. Surprisingly, flouting the directions of the Supreme Court that the panel set up to inquire into any case of sexual harassment should have at least 50 per cent women members, including the Chairperson, Punjab Technical University had entrusted the inquiry to Mr R. Sharma, Principal of Regional Engineering College, Jalandhar.

Stating that the inquiry was a “one-man-show”, Nisha said she had refused to accept the findings of the committee and would submit an application to the commission again demanding an action against all those who were trying to shield the guilty.

She said she was threatened of dire circumstances and was even offered lakhs to keep her month shut, but her desire to teach the “wolves” a lesson made her cross all the difficult roads.

“More than me it was my mother who encouraged me to keep standing strong,” said Nisha. Her husband, who married her despite the episode, was very supportive, she said.

“The Principal of her college kept threatening us, but we did not budge from our stand. I knew it was not a fight for one girl, rather it was a fight for the entire community,” said Ms Ratan Bhati, Nisha’s mother.



No action yet in bank scam case
Our Correspondent

Khanna, March 13
Despite an inquiry conducted by four senior managers of Ludhiana Central Cooperative Bank, Khanna branch, reporting bungling of bank funds, no action has been taken so far in the case. The inquiry conducted on the directions of the state Finance Minister, Mr Lal Singh, had found after physical verification that the loans were advanced to firms which were non-existent. Even the Finance Minister had recommended action against the guilty persons.

According to information, several complaints were lodged with the higher authorities alleging frauds being committed at the bank's Khanna branch. In the complaints it was alleged that the bank officials took bribe before advancing loans. However, the Manager of the Khanna branch denied the charges and said the complaints had been made due to factionalism among the branch employees.

The inquiry team comprising Mr Jagdish Chawla, Mr Bachhitar Singh, Mr Nachhtar Singh and Mr T S Aujla said in the report submitted to the District Manager of the bank, Ludhiana, that while checking the loan documents of a few firms and conducting the physical verification of the units it had been found that the borrowers had not purchased the items mentioned in the bills attached in the files of some firms manufacturing readymade garments .

It was also found that the bills submitted by the firms to the bank were bogus. The bills attached to the loan files of Raj Garments, M/S Jassi Traders, Laxmi Atta Chaki were fictitious, the report said. It said the norms were not kept in mind while allowing the borrowers to operate accounts and the documents were not properly signed. During the physical verification it was found that some firms like Rita Handloom, Swarn Dupatta House, Darshan General Store, Hari Singh and sons and Chauhan Karyana Store were non-existent.

The report said it was obvious that the branch had not observed the rules while sanctioning loans. It was learnt that the vigilance wing of the bank had also conducted an inquiry into the matter.

Mr Amar Pal Bhullar, Assistant Registrar of the Finance Department, while confirming the inquiry, said Mr Darshan Singh, Assistant Registrar, who had the inquiry record, was away.

The Manager of the Khanna Branch said he had passed loans only to existing firms. However, some firms may have closed due to some reasons, he added.



MC spends five times more on development
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, March 13
The cash-rich Municipal Corporation has spent a staggering amount of Rs 100 crore on various projects and development works in the city during the current financial year as against just Rs 18.45 crore approved by the MC General House for this purpose. This is perhaps the first instance that the development expenditure has been many times more than the allocation.

During an exhaustive review of the progress of ongoing development works with the officials of building and roads branch of the civic body, the MC Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sharma, noted that a sum of Rs 47 crore had been paid to contractors as running payments or against works completed by them. The ongoing special projects in the city worth Rs 76 crore included the elevated road project, flyovers at the Dhandari Kalan railway crossing and the Dhuri line crossing and buildings of fire stations in various localities.

In addition, development works worth Rs 19 crore were under progress in different wards. The process for floating fresh tenders for development works estimated at Rs 12 crore had also been initiated.

Mr Sharma claimed that since June, 2002, when he took charge, the pace of work on special projects had been stepped up considerably. As against mere 9 percent work done on elevated road projects from May, 2001, to June, 2002, as much as 27 per cent work had been completed during the past eight months. Similarly, several measures were taken to ensure completion of the Dhuri line flyover and the Dholewal flyover under a rescheduled programme by April, 2003, and July, 2003, respectively. The executing agencies had been issued strict directions to adhere to the schedule of progress.

“Work is in progress on the project to ensure potable water supply to the entire city at a cost of Rs 12 crore and will be completed on schedule by this month. The entire expenditure on this scheme is being provided by the MC from its own resources. Work on a massive Rs 150 crore sewerage project for the city, which was suspended for some time, has also been resumed.”

Mr Sharma further said repair work of all major and minor roads, service lanes and bylanes had been taken in hand which was expected to be completed during this month. Under the ongoing programme, road markings would be repainted and street light poles or grills along roads would also get a fresh coat of paint.



Kidnapping case may fall through
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 13
The police has initiated the process of cancellation of a criminal case against owners of Adya Exports, a leading industrial family in the city, who were accused of kidnapping a city-based businessman, Mr Ramesh Sharma, on February 24. The businessman had returned home two days ago on his own.

“Following his statement before the police that he was under acute depression due to personal reasons and had gone away on his own, we have started the procedure of the cancellation of the FIR in the much-publicised case ’’ revealed a senior police official to Ludhiana Tribune today.

Mr Ramesh Sharma has in a statement to the Division No. 6 police station said that he stayed in Hardwar all these days. He said he was depressed and had gone away on his own. He did not name Adya Exports or any other person as responsible for his disappearance.

The police, however, has not so far decided on whether to book the businessman's family under Section 182 of the IPC or not, for making a false complaint to the police. Ms Suman Sharma, wife of Mr Ramesh Sharma, and other relatives had lodged the FIR with the police, accusing the owners of Adya Exports of kidnapping her husband.

“We have yet to decide on this issue’’ said a police official. He said Mr Ramesh Sharma and the other complainants had been directed to file an affidavit in a court in which they would give details about where the businessman was.

The Adya Exports owners had been accused of kidnapping the businessman as they had some dispute over a payment with him. A scooter of the businessman was found outside the premises of Adya Exports at Focal Point.

Some office-bearers of a manufacturers association had also claimed that Mr Ramesh Sharma had told them that he was going to Adya Exports. The incident took place on February 24. When the businessman did not return, the family complained to the police. Some arguments took place between the police and the complainants. The latter staged a dharna outside the Sherpur police post for a couple of hours and then staged another dharna outside the residence of the city SSP, Mr H.S. Sidhu.

They were lathi-charged and booked for causing nuisance and blocking traffic.

Police sources said the cases against the family would stay and take the natural course of action.



Gurdev allowed to attend Budget session

Ludhiana, March 13
The District Courts, today allowed former Agriculture Minister Gurdev Badal, accused of amassing property worth crores disproportionate to his known sources of income, to participate in the Budget session of the Punjab Legislative Assembly, scheduled to start tomorrow, subject to the permission by the authorities concerned of the PGI, Chandigarh, where he is presently admitted due to some heart ailment.

Mr Inderjit Kaushik, Additional Sessions Judge, Ludhiana, passed these orders while disposing of an application of the accused seeking interim bail for attending the Budget session of the state Assembly. Though the court did not grant him interim bail but allowed him to attend the Assembly.

The counsel for the accused pleaded before the court that his client is an elected MLA and wants to discharge his duties.

The Additional District Attorney, Mr Mitter Sain Goyal, strongly opposed the contentions raised by the counsel of the accused. He said, “ the accused is admitted in the PGI due to health problems, it is beyond comprehension that now he is seeking an interim bail, if he is fit to attend the Assembly why is in the hospital, he should be in the jail.” He stressed that the petition of the accused is liable to be dismissed.

The Former minister is in custody since November, 2002. His bail application was earlier dismissed by the court with the observations that the accused being an influential person, may tamper with the evidence of the prosecution. Thereafter, he filed a bail application in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which is still pending.



Walk to PAU, show I-cards
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 13
All those who go for a morning or an evening walk to Punjab Agricultural University will now have to get an identity card issued from the Estate Office. Outsiders will also have to abide by some new rules and timings set by the university authorities.

Dr V.R. Sharma, Estate Officer of the university, said the step had been taken keeping in view some untoward incidents that had occurred on the campus in the past few months. He said some women entering from the gate near Kitchlu Nagar had complained about chain-snatching incidents in evening hours. Cases of plucking of flowers and plants under research had also been reported by scientists of various departments, he said.

Dr Sharma said outsiders would not be allowed to enter the campus during office hours. However, they could visit university from 5 am to 8 am and from 5.15 pm to 8.30 pm. He said the outsiders could be penalised if they were found entering the research farms through kucha roads or destroying ornamental plants on the campus. However, all other roads and pavements, even till CIPHET, would be open for outsiders during allowed timing, he said.

Dr Sharma said the outsiders would have to deposit an amount of Rs 10 to 15 for getting identity cards. He said almost same amount would be charged for parking vehicles on the campus. He said he had held two meetings with them and a final decision was taken yesterday in the presence of nearly 20 representatives.

While some walkers have favoured the step saying it would ensure security for them, others said there were still several loopholes that needed to be pluged. Ms Seema Bharti, a housewife, said it was a right step as it was meant for ensuring safety of outsiders. She said at times when PAU roads were crowded and she had to take a deserted path, she felt very insecure. She might not face a similar problem from next month onwards, she said.

However, Mr Rahul Bedi, a government employee, opined differently. He said the university authorities should exempt the government or semi-government employees, who carry their own identity cards, from the hassle of getting new identity cards. He said the security personnel deputed at gates might keep such cards with them at the time of entry and return these when the outsiders returned from the campus.

Mr Joginder Singh Bakshi, a businessman, said the step was not a foolproof measure as bad elements could still make way through PAU gates.



126 get degrees at convocation
Our Correspondent

Mandi Gobindgarh, March 13
As many as 126 students were awarded degrees at the 30th annual convocation-cum-prize distribution function of the Jawahar Lal Nehru Government College for Girls Mandi Gobindgarh at Tooran village, 4 km from here, on Amloh road yesterday. The DPI (Colleges), Ms Nisha Sharod, was the chief guest and delivered the convocation address. Ms Randeep Kaur, a BA-IIIrd student, was awarded the roll of honour while prizes were distributed to the students for their achievements in sports and academics. She exhorted the students to work hard.

The college principal, Ms Kusum Ahuja, in the annual report of the college highlighted the achievements of the students in academics and co-curricular activities.

Later, the students presented a colourful cultural programme.



1,000 cr to be spent on development projects
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 13
To distribute grants for development projects among villages out of local area development funds, Mr Gurcharan Singh Galib, Member Parliament, organised a mass grant distribution function of the district at Rauni village in Payal last evening.

Cheques amounting to Rs 60 lakh were handed to the panchayats of 33 villages jointly by Mr Tej Parkash, Transport Minister, Punjab, and Mr Galib. Addressing the function, Mr Tej Parkash Singh said the government had decided to observe the next financial year as ‘development year’ in which every village of the state would be given substantial grants. He said during the current financial year, the government with its efficient and proper management of finances succeeded in overcoming badly shattered financial condition of the state and during the next year funds over Rs 1,000 crore would be spent on various development projects and welfare programmes in the state.

The minister said the government had decided to develop two villages from each of 141 development blocks at a cost of Rs 1 crore, as model gram and had arranged funds amounting to Rs 141 crore for this purpose. Funds worth Rs101 crore had been released under this scheme.

He said to ensure the proper distribution of funds, the most effective process for the release of grants through the District Planning and Development Boards, which was virtually scraped by the previous government had been reactivated and during the current financial year funds amounting to Rs. 18 crore were being spent on different development projects. Out of these, Rs. 13.93 crore would be utilised in the rural areas, where as Rs 4.07 crore would be spent in urban areas of the district to provide basic amenities to people.

The minister asserted that the government was fully committed to the welfare of weaker sections and assured that the back log of all old pensions up to December, 2002, was being cleared within a few days and funds amounting to Rs 102 lakh had been sanctioned for this purpose for Ludhiana district alone.

He said during the process of verification of the pensions sanctioned during the SAD government around one lakh ineligible cases were detected and some complaints had also been received about deletion of some genuine cases, which on verification of the SDMs concerned would be reconsidered.

Mr Galib said all villages in the list of the Payal constituency, submitted by Mr Tej Parkash Singh, had been given grants and the remaining would also be given cheques at another function.

Mr Sumer Singh Gurjar, ADC, said the old-age pensions were being released shortly till the month of December, 2002. 



SGPC poll not before Nov
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, March 13
More than 57 lakh voters, including 7.52 lakh Sehajdhari Sikhs, have been registered in Punjab for the election to the general house of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee by January. In Haryana, the number of voters registered is 34 lakh, including 5 lakh Sehajdhari Sikhs.

The last date for the registration of voters for the elections was February 28.

According to Justice J. S. Sekhon, Chief Commissioner, Gurdwara Elections Commission, Union Government, has extended the term of the commission by another year from February 28.

The registration of voters for one seat each of Union Territory Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh is 16,000 and 24,000 respectively.

The elections are likely to be held not before November this year as the preliminary process for printing of voters lists would be completed by April 17.

Justice Sekhon said then the objections would be received and the final publication of the electoral roll would be completed by September. After that the process for holding the elections to the 170-seat general house would be started.

Meanwhile, the Union Home Ministry has not taken any decision on the issue of debarring the Sehajdhari Sikhs from casting their votes and lowering of the voting age from 21 years to 18 as recommended by the SGPC.

Prof Jagmohan Singh, General Secretary, Akali Dal (Amritsar), expressed his surprise over the unprecedented high number of Sehajdhari voters in Punjab and Haryana.

He maintained that in 1996 general election to the SGPC, the number of Sehajdhari voters was less than 5 per cent of the total voters.



Residents want probe into forged FIRs
Our Correspondent

Doraha, March 13
People of the Sahnewal area along with the representatives of all parties, including the Congress, the SHAD, the SAD(B), the BJP and the BSP have demanded an independent inquiry into the allegedly forged FIRs against the President of the civic body of Sahnewal.

In a letter to the Chief Minister, Punjab, they have sought redressal of the problem of Mr Shamsher Singh Kaile, President, Nagar Panchayat, Sahnewal who they said is suffering due to the high-handedness of a local Congress councillor.

The said councillor under some political and bureaucratic influence wants to remove, Dr Kaile, unceremoniously from the post of the President of Nagar Panchayat, Sahnewal.

According to Mr Santa Singh Umaidpuri, former Chairman, Market Committee, Sahnewal, Mr Baljinder Singh Dharaur, President, Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Jai Kumar; and Mr Pawan Kumar Tinku, Secretary and Mandal President of the BJP, respectively and few other leaders got together at the committee office today and told mediapersons that Mr Shamsher Singh Kaile had appeared before the local MP, Mr Gurcharan Singh Galib, in order to submit his resignation as he was being continuously threatened by the local Congress councillor but Mr Galib asked him to continue on his post and conveyed the same to the Congress councillor.

He further said the said councillor continued to harass the President and got three forged FIRs lodged against him and his Vice-President, Mr Kuldeep Singh. They also met the Chief Minister in this regard who ordered the Principal Secretary, Mr Sinha, to inquire into the case and cancel the FIRs.

But, they said, “the situation worsened and another forged FIR was lodged against the president at the Sahnewal police station by the councillor.”

The copies of the letter have been sent to the DGP Punjab, Chief Vigilance Officer, Punjab and SSP Ludhiana. They have collectively demanded the cancellation of the “forged FIRs” against the President of the civic body.



PSEB employees sit in dharna
Our Correspondent

Doraha, March 13
Employees of the Punjab State Electricity Board yesterday staged dharna for two-hours at Doraha, Sahnewal, Dhamot, Jarg, Payal and Rumi subdivisions against the move to privatise electricity.

The employees of the electricity board of Doraha subdivision, including Mr Tarsem Lal, secretary, Technical Services, Union, Khanna; Mr Kuldip Singh, Head of Junior Engineers’ Doraha division, Mr Nachattar Singh, president, TSU; Mr Jeet Singh, president, MSU stopped work for two hours and organised gate rallies in front the of PSEB office at Doraha. They raised slogans against the Haldia Committee and also burnt effigies.

They raised their voice against privatisation which they said would prove fatal for people who would by burdened by heavy bills. “The privatisation of electricity would make the small farmers more debt-ridden.

They are already on the verge of extinction. The privatisation of power supply shall sound a death-knell for the insufficient farmers,” they said.

Similar rallies were also organised at Rampur, Dhamot, Jarg, Payal Rauni and other subdivisions.



LJP rally in Delhi on March 27
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 13
The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) will organise a national-level “Bharat bachao” rally in Ram Lila Maidan in Delhi on March 27.
This was stated by Mr Amar Singh Mehmi, state president, and Mr Kartar Singh Patna, secretary-general of the party, after their return from Delhi. They said the decision to hold the rally is to focus on the burning problems of masses was taken at a party meeting.



Govt for incentives to industry
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 13
The Punjab Government is committed to providing an “inspector-free raj” to the industry in the state. It will try to minimise its role and would act more as a facilitator of the industry in the state. It has earmarked Rs 100 crore for providing various incentives to the industry particularly in terms of special subsidy during this year. The amount is likely to be enhanced over a period of time.

Disclosing this to The Tribune in an interview here, Director Industries, Mr S.K. Sandhu said the government had accorded top priority to the revival of sick industrial units and also helping the industry in technological upgradation. The government will provide 25 per cent subsidy to the industry for this purpose to a maximum amount of Rs 25 lakh per unit. A sum of Rs 25 crore has been meant for this purpose. Similarly, the government will also be providing freight subsidy to the tune of Rs 25 crore to the exporters every year.

As a special measure to provide boost to industrialisation in the border areas, 30 per cent special subsidy would be provided to the unit holds establishing industry in the border areas. A sum of Rs 30 crore would be spent on this subsidy in the first year.

In order to provide a hassle-free industrial atmosphere in the state, the director said, the octroi was being abolished and it was being replaced with the local area development tax. 


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