Monday, March 24, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Smart farmer runs parallel ‘toll tax’ route
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Doraha (Ludhiana) March 23
Cashing in on the people’s need to avoid the “hefty” toll tax at the barrier on the National Highway No 1, near here, an ingenious farmer has cleared a path through his fields to allow people a thoroughfare at a meagre tax of Rs 10 per vehicle.

This parallel toll tax barrier has caught the fancy of commuters even as the authorities of the National Highway Authority of Indian (NHAI) have failed to stop the farmer from doing so. “What legal right have they got to stop me?” asks the farmer, Surjit Singh.

“These are my fields which stretch from one part of the barrier to the other, and I have every right to use these as I wish,” says the farmer. He has withstood the pressure of the police to stop the practice, resulting in losses to the NHAI, which charges a minimum amount of Rs 45 per vehicle.

The NHAI had put a toll tax barrier near Doraha on the highway a year ago. The decision was mired in controversy as the amount charged as tax from vehicle owners for crossing the road was exorbitant. Various organisations had protested against the imposition of the tax.

Later, the people had started following various routes from various villages lining the highway to avoid the toll tax barrier. The easiest route was through Rajgarh village, which had given a tough time to villagers as due to the heavy traffic the ring road of the village got damaged. Some commuters had even started following the road lining the Doraha canal.

As the commuters were facing problems paying the tax, an idea struck the innovative Surjit Singh to make a passage through his fields and charge Rs 10 for each passing vehicle. In no time he cleared a part of his fields and put a barrier outside the road. Commuters, too, liked his idea and many people started using the route to avoid the toll tax barrier.

His parallel road starts right at the edge of the toll tax barrier where the central verge of the road ends. Just a U-turn from this point towards right would take you the “cheaper” barrier. If you find it difficult to locate it, just ask the guards of the NHAI posted there. They will smilingly direct you to the place.

A honk at the place will make Surjit Singh appear at the place who will charge Rs 10 from you and unlock the iron chains put up at his road. Entering from here will make you avoid the toll tax barrier within two minutes.

“Bas ji adhiye botal da intejam ho janda hai roz” (At the end of the day, I get enough money for half a bottle of liquor), he says, making a guarded statement. "Around 20 cars pass through this road everyday,” he adds quickly.

Despite various attempts to stop him from charging money and causing losses to the NHAI, he did not budge. “This is a road through my property. How can they stop me from charging money? They should tell me under which Act can my activity be termed as illegal?" asks the farmer. 



Traders plan nationwide stir 
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 23
Traders and Industrialists across the country have announced to shut their units on March 31 and April 1 in protest against the introduction of VAT and central excise tax in the country. Although the decision to introduce VAT in Punjab has been deferred for the time being, the industry feels that it should be withdrawn as it will spell doom for the small-scale industry and the trade.

A meeting of various trade and industrial associations was held here today under the chairmanship of the Akhil Bharatiya Beopar and Udyog Sangh president Bihari Lal Mishra. It was decided at the meeting that the traders and industrialists would organise nationwide protests in run up to the nationwide bandhs on March 31 and April 1, when VAT and central excise came into force. They had started submitting memoranda to legislators and parliamentarians, besides burning effigies of VAT and central excise tax.

A memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Finance Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, and the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, the Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal said the new system of sales tax, called Value Added Tax (VAT), which would came into effect from April 1 ,2002, would ruin the business prospects of the small-scale industry in Punjab.

It listed several reasons for its opposition to the VAT. These included sales tax officials would be vested with powers to raid both business and residential premises and stocks could be checked by them and sealed. They apprehended that this would see the return of inspector raj in the country.

Prominent among those who attended the meeting included Mr Sunil Mehra, Mr Mohinder Aggarwal, Baba Ajit singh and several others. They warned that in case the Centre did not withdraw VAT and central excise, they would be forced to take to streets. 



Interaction on VAT stressed
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 23
The Federation of Punjab Small Industries Association has welcomed the decision of the Punjab Government to defer the implementation of Value Added Tax (VAT) that was earlier scheduled to come into force from April 1. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced the decision to defer the implementation of VAT for the time being while inaugurating a kisan mela at PAU here yesterday.

Describing it as a welcome step, the association along with several other trade and industry related organisations said before implementation of VAT a proper interaction with the sections concerned was essential to acquaint them about the implications of VAT.

The association president, Mr V.P Chopra, said it was essential as the apprehensions of the trade and industry that the VAT in the present form was anti-industry. The earlier decision of the industry to resort to an agitation was certainly not at all in the interest of industry, trade and Punjab at large, but the government policies were compelling them for such unwanted actions.

“One wonders that why the government has to take such steps despite it has got such a vast force of top-ranking officials at its command. The Excise and Taxation Department of Punjab is also not properly equipped to handle the introduction of VAT, as it requires complete computerisation of offices concerned besides other requirements. The VAT in many other countries of the world is on a different pattern,” he added There is no excise duty, no entry tax, no local area development tax, no octroi, but on the contrary they provide social security in the form of proper medical services and civic amenities free of cost, unemployment allowance and so many other facilities to the society, the association said.

In all fairness, it is stressed that the government should not impose VAT till it is vastly interacted with the industry and trade, uniform for the whole country, enacted in all states at the same time with no Central Sales Tax at all and simplification for export from the country, Mr Chopra added.



Top priority to industry: minister
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 23
The Minister for Jails and Urban Development and Housing, Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi, has asserted that the state government is committed to solving the problems of industrialists. He said the government had accorded top priority to crop diversification and industrialisation, and the new industrial policy of the government was a right step in this direction.

He was addressing a function organised by the Vishwakarma Foundation International to honour him on becoming a minister, late last evening.

Commenting on the seriousness of the government in implementing the policy, he said Capt Amarinder Singh had a blueprint of the new industrial development plan of the state and had formed two high-level committees to periodically review the proper implementation of all provisions made for the benefit of the industry in the policy.

Mr Birmi said under the new policy, the inspector raj had been completely eradicated and provisions had been made to grow the industry in a free and open environment. He said the policy would enable the state to play the role of a “facilitator” and make “incentives” available under the changed nomenclature. He said the policy envisaged a capital subsidy at the rate of 30 per cent of the fixed capital investment up to a maximum of Rs 30 lakh per unit in three border districts and a provision of Rs 25 crore would be made in the state Budget.

Similarly, for the modernisation and upgradation of technology to help the industry, a capital subsidy of 25 per cent of the fixed capital investment up to maximum of Rs 25 lakh per unit would be given to light engineering, textiles, hosiery, knitwear, sports, agro and food processing units, he added.

The minister said to give a competitive edge to export-oriented units, the policy ensured a freight subsidy of 1 per cent of the FOB value of exports up to a maximum of Rs 50 lakh per unit and provision would be made in the state Budget for the required funds of Rs 50 crore.

He asserted that the drive against corruption launched by the government would be extended to the lower levels and warned that stern punishment would be given to those who were caught indulging in corrupt practices.

The minister assured the local industrialists that full attention would be paid to all matters related to the industry by the government.

Among others who addressed the function were Mr Mohinder Singh Bhogal, president of the foundation, Mr Ajit Singh Kular, Mr M. S. Ubhi, Mr D.S. Chawla and Mr Charanjit Singh. 



TB claims 5 lakh lives every year
Shivani Bhakoo

Ludhiana, March 23
Forty per cent of the Indian population is afflicted with tuberculosis and over 22 lakh new patients get added to this pool every year.
According to reports, tuberculosis is a major health problem in India accounting for one-third of the global TB burden. There is perhaps no other city for which World TB Day matters more than it matters for Ludhiana — the industrial capital of Punjab having the largest concentration of labourers. Poor health of workers directly reflects on the economic and social growth of the city, that is looked upon like heaven for migrant labourers.

According to the data available, one sputum-positive patient passes on the infection to 10 to15 persons in a year, if left untreated. Every year TB kills five lakh people in India. One person dies every minute due to this disease. One of the surveys reveals that nearly 60 per cent of the AIDS patients develop TB. Seventy-five per cent TB patients fall in the age group of 15 to 50 years. The disease is also the single biggest killer of young women.

The Ludhiana TB Eradication Society has taken up the challenge of eradicating TB from the city. The society, founded by Nauria Hospital, Jamalpur, has been working for TB eradication for more than five years now. Previously, the society was engaged in distributing TB medicines to patients coming from poorer sections of the society. The patients adopted by the society are given medicines at monthly camps till the completion of treatment.

Dr Satish Nauria, president of the society, said as per recent recommendation by the WHO, the direct observation treatment therapy had been adopted by the society. Under this scheme, anti-tuberculosis drugs would be given to patients three times a week. The patients living in the vicinity of hospitals will be called to the hospitals and administered drug under the direct observation of doctors. The patients residing away from hospitals will be given medicines by a trained health worker, who will go to their homes for that purpose.

The IMA has also joined hands with the society in providing centres run by its members as extension counters for this purpose. Mr Nauria said, "The industrial members of the society, who were earlier involved as only donors providing funds to the society, will now be actively involved in the new effort. Not only would they get their workers screened, but would also hold awareness camps about the disease, its causes, treatment and prevention.”

Meanwhile, the Health Department will conduct an awareness rally tomorrow. The rally will be flagged off by the Civil Surgeon, Dr S.N. Tiwari, from the old Civil Hospital.



Parking lot contractor told to pay damages
Legal Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 23
The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has penalised a contractor of a parking lot for overcharging customers and not printing prescribed rates on slips issued to them. The forum has directed the owner of the parking stand to pay Rs 10,000 as compensation to the aggrieved consumer.

Directions have been issued to the contractor of Shiv Car Parking, Feroze Gandhi Market, Ludhiana, to pay the compensation within one month of the receipt of the copy of the judgement.

The forum has directed the contractor to “prominently display the rates which are being charged from customers for parking in the parking place and also to print the same on tickets issued to customers.”

Mr Hardial Singh, president, Mr T.R.Arora and Ms Puja Diwan, members of the forum passed the orders, while disposing of the complaint filed by a consumer activist, S.D.Nagpal, of Haibowal Kalan, Ludhiana.

The complainant had contended that on May 10, 2002, he parked his scooter in the parking lot concerned. The employee of the contractor demanded Rs 10 as parking charges, but when he objected, the employee behaved very rudely and threatened not to let him take his scooter.

The complainant alleged that he asked the employee to write the amount charged from him on the slip, as there was no rate mentioned on it. But he refused to do so.The complainant submitted that the parking lot contractor be directed to pay a compensation of Rs 1 lakh for causing harassment and indulging in unfair trade practice. A notice was issued to the contractor but he opted not to rebut the allegations levelled against him. Thereafter, the forum penalised the contractor.



His faith defies his appearance
Vimal Sumbly & Iqbal Singh

Lalheri (Khanna) March 23
Karamjit Singh in his usual turban and an overflowing beard may look like any other Sikh gentleman. His external disposition notwithstanding, his faith defies his appearance. He is a Roman Catholic Christian, and a pastor for the local area, preaching faith to the people. However, conversions still appear to be exceptions only, and not as widespread as claimed to be. Only a few families have converted to Christianity.

A majority of the converted families comprise Dalits, who had been fighting a battle for survival, both social and economical. These families are scattered around villages like Bhelolpur, Umedpur, Sherpur, Chaklipur and Machhiwara.

For a majority of the people a Tribune team spoke to, Christianity does not appear to be a different faith. Most of them continue to retain their original faith, but only attend meetings and congregations, the way they attend meetings of various sects and deras. They say Sat Sri Akal even while wearing the holy cross around the neck. However, there are still some children of some families who greet one another with Jai Masih Di.

Pastor Karamjit is a neo-convert to Christianity. He scoffs off at the criticism from the public, including his in-laws. He converted because of his convictions. He recalls his past when he was a drug addict. He reveals that he even attempted suicide seven times. Despite having been married, he could not avoid the urgency for drugs and he would always succumb to it. In 1998 when his son got seriously ill, he tried everything from medicine to faith healing. Ultimately, somebody told him to attend the Sunday prayers at a Christian gathering. And his son got cured. He also got rid off the drug addiction.

From then onwards he got inclined towards Christianity. He was quite regular at the prayer meetings. As his faith became stronger, he was initiated into preaching. In 1999 he went to Raikota in Tamil Nadu to an institute of Christian learning called the World of Light. He was trained for four months. He said there were 31 other pastors who were trained along with him.

Pastor Karmajit refutes the allegations that he has been initiating people into Christianity. They are only invited to the prayers and if they feel satisfied, they continue their visits. Nobody insists them to continue. “There is no force, not even external motivation from us, but their own will that draws people towards the Christian faith”, he claims.

Pastor Karamjit has motivated his parents and his wife to convert. However, his in-laws are still resisting. They say had they known it before that he would “betray” his faith, they would not have married their daughter to him. His wife, however, has no regrets. 



Class IV staff all set for rally
Our Correspondent

Amloh, March 23
The Class IV Government Employees Association, at a meeting chaired by its state president in the Canal Rest House complex here on Saturday, assigned duties to its workers for the success of the rally to be held on Monday in front of the office of the Director Food and Civil Supplies at Chandigarh.

Addressing the workers, Mr Hari Chand, state vice-president and president of the Fatehgarh Sahib unit, said the government had failed to implement the decisions taken at a meeting with the association on September 9, 2002. Mr Prem Kumar Arora, senior vice-president was critical of the privatisation of the Department of Health, Food and Civil Supplies and turning these into corporations. In this process subdivisions of Public Works Department (PWD) had been abolished he maintained. Mr Mohan Singh Negi, finance secretary from Patiala, cautioned the government against adopting anti-employee policies in Budget session and not to force the employees to intensify the stir. Mr Baltej Singh president, Amloh tehsil , Mr Hansa Singh, president, Mandi Gobindgarh, Mr Kuldeep Singh Sakrali ,president, Bhadson circle, and Mr Surinder Kumar, finance secretary, also addressed the meeting.



Tributes paid to martyrs
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 23
The martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh , Sukhdev and Raj Guru was observed by several organisations, and people of the city turned up in large numbers to pay homage to the three brave sons of India.

At the initiative of the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD), workers of various organisations gathered at the statues of Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru and Sukhdev at the Jagraon Bridge, Ludhiana, to pay tributes to the martyrs.

Various speakers addressing the rally said they had not only struggled for India's freedom from British imperialism, but also had the vision of peace and a world free of wars. Today the whole world was threatened again with US designs. George Bush's actions were reminiscent of Adolph Hitler who had similar evil designs and pushed the world into the second World War.

Dr Arun Mitra, general secretary, IDPD, quoted a report published by the Medact Organisation of Physicians, UK, which had come out with a detailed study of the likely effects of the war. He said the UNO must intervene immediately to stop the war.

Mr Bharat Prakash, general secretary, All-India Peace and Solidarity Organisation, asked the Indian Government to take firm stand on the issue instead of taking a middle path.

Dr Upal Bharti, secretary, IDPD, Punjab , and Dr D.P. Maur, president, PAU Employees Union, also spoke.

At a ‘shradhanjali’ function organised by the Shaheed Sukhdev Thapar Memorial Trust, Lala Lajpat Rai, MP, paid homage to the great martyr Sukhdev at his native place, Nughara. People performed a 'havan' on the occasion.

Nationalist Congress Party's SC/ St Cell also paid tributes to the martyrs by garlanding their statues. The All-India Terrorist Front , under the leadership of their president Anil Sharma, also garlanded the statues.

The Shiv Sena observed silence to pay tributes to the three brave martyrs. Moulders and Steel Workers Union, Inqalabi Kender, Gobindgarh, arranged a series of patriotic plays. They staged two played—Toya and Inqulab Zindabad—under the direction of Mr Hardesh Chowdhry.

The Shaheed Bhagat Singh Youth Club also exhorted its members to nurture patriotic feelings in their hearts. The Punjab Pardesh Youth Congress also took out a ‘peace rally’ on Sunday.

The Ek Koshish, a voluntary organisation, senior officials from different service clubs, including Lions, Rotarians, Jaycees and Civil Defence, called upon all Indians to join hands together so that civilised culture could be passed upon to the next generation.

It was unanimously resolved to observe March 23 as Founders Day of the organisation , Ek Koshish, and it would be celebrated every year as ‘Kranti Diwas’ on this day. Those who addressed the audience were Lion Prem Grover, Rotarian Tejwant Singh, Jaycee Upinder Bir Singh, Rajesh Mehra, Amarjit Singh Arora, Joginder Singh Gambhir, Kanwaljit Singh Dua, Yashpal Gosain, Kirpal Singh Arora, Sarabjit Singh Shad, and Mahesh Arora.

“Music should not be confined to ‘masti’ and romance. It should also be steeped in patriotic fervour. To pay homage to three great martyrs — Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Kartar Singh Sarabha — I have brought out ‘Parnam Shaheedan Nu’”. This was stated by singer Ravinder Grewal while releasing his album at a function here on Saturday afternoon.

Talking to mediapersons, Grewal said he had been thinking of bringing out such an album for quite some time to motivate young people and his efforts had finally borne fruit. He said he would also bring out cassettes based on religious and patriotic themes in future.

Ms Jagdish Kaur, 90-year-old sister of Kartar Singh Sarabha, also attended the function. She said the then Badal government had sanctioned Rs 2,500 as pension for her. A telephone had been installed in her house, but since she could not pay the bill, the telephone connection had been severed.

Lucky Star Company has released this cassette. Mr Jasdev Singh Jassowal, president, Vishav Punjabi Sabhyachar Manch, appreciated this effort of the young singer to salute the martyrs.

Doraha: The martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh was observed at here on Sunday. Mr Kartar Singh Buain, Mr Darshan Singh Jargari, Mr Karam Singh, Mr Bobby Anand and Mr Om Parkash Bector paid floral tributes to the martyr. A rally against the ongoing USA-Iraq war was also taken out on the main road here

Ahmedgarh: The martyrdom day of Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru and Sukhdev was observed by the Mulazim Coordination Committee at the local Bhagat Singh Chowk. Activists of various employees unions, including the Trade Union Council, the Government Teachers Union, INTUC, the Workers Union Shreyans Paper Mills, the PSEB Employees Federation and the Panjab Pradesh Palledar Union, held a rally and marched through the streets. An effigy of the WTO was burnt at the chowk.


A visionary scholar

It is a rare book of appreciative landmark. Noted academician and scholar Prof Kirpal Singh Kasel celebrated his 75th birth anniversary on March 19 at Bhaini Sahib (Ludhiana). The event was historic, different as never before. He was presented Prof Kirpal Singh Kasel - Abhinandan Granth. A largely attended function of authors and critics, art connoisseurs and bibliophiles, besides an assemblage of his old students, admirers and colleagues. The audience hailed from practically whole of the state. Hola-Holi celebrations added to enthusiasm. Professor Kasel stands head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries. The 656-page book is tribute to the living legend.

His admirers voluntarily organised the “Abhinandan Granth” committee with persons of eminence as patrons. The executive board is wisely constituted. This body has prominent academician. All are Professor Kasel’s admirers with mostly former colleagues or students, disciples.

The notable fact about Professor Kasel is that he wrote a dozen of literary and scholarly books till the age of 36 (1964), confirming his ability and promising academic career. Suddenly, on a fateful day of 1964 he felt pain in the eyes. This happened at Dr Hira Singh Road, Civil Lines. Professor Kasel was teaching at Government College. Painfully and rapidly he lost his vision.

He discovered and developed a new dimension of vision. Hopefully, he turned inward, insightful. He authored two scores of literary books. While an indoor patient of the CMC, he wove the plot of a novel. When dictated, it was published as Ward No. X. He dictated poetry, reviews, articles besides research papers and radio talks. A die-hard optimist and a believer in the goodness of mother nature and fraternity of mankind, he draws the facts of life and the mysteries of the universal frame from Marxium — Spiritualism. His steadfastness is mind-boggling. He tides over agony with rare courage.

The father figure of Greek Epic poetry, Homer, was born blind. John Milton provided proof of the opening of his inner eye. Professor Kasel shares this creative virtue with legends of yore. A miracle of listening and retaining, digesting and dictating.

Prof Puran Singh was a unique person. His half a dozen essays in Hindi earned him the status of prose-stylist. Puran Singh was an intimate friend of Swami Ram Tirath and Allama Iqbal. They are all-time great of our age. Professor Kasel has translated all English works of Puran Singh. Since the loss of sight, he has written 25 books concerning Puran Singh alone. Has vision turned a visionary? His works are published by the Department of Languages, GND varsity, and Punjabi University.

The book contains 84 articles. The appreciation is well-earned, well-deserved. The effort of admirers is laudable. The work is a befitting landmark. It is heartening to note that disciples love their teacher. Colleagues admire genuine ability, free of grades-bias/gradation list, status or chair, degrees or awards. No heartburning. All love. With love to Professor Kasel, the “Abhinandan Granth” means much more.

M.S. Cheema



Steps needed to avert N-war: ex-VC
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 23
“If India and Pakistan have a nuclear war, the whole of Pakistan and about two-thirds of India will be destroyed” These observations were made by Dr Livtar Singh Chawla, founder Vice-Chancellor, Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, and president, Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD), while delivering the keynote address at a three-day global conference on nuclear weapons held in Adelaide, Australia, recently.

The conference was organised by the Medical Association for Prevention of War, Australia. Dr Chawla on his return from Australia said here today that over 100 delegates participated in the conference. Dr Chawla spoke on “Nuclear confrontation in South Asia”.

Dr Chawla said Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh would also be affected to a large extent and millions of people would die.

Dr Chawla said the two countries had not developed technology to minimise accidents, and there was a danger of nuclear weapons being used without authorisation. He said it was important to take steps to prevent the deployment of nuclear weapons by the two countries. He warned that the risk of a nuclear war between the two hostile nations was real and there was need for nuclear disarmament.

Dr Chawla called upon the International Physician for Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and peace movements to take steps to prevent any nuclear war.

He said the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development had been organising seminars and public meetings to emphasise that nuclear weapons served no deterrence.

He emphasised the need to strengthen people-to-people relations between the countries in the South Asia.

Dr Chawla also traced the history of strained relations between India and Pakistan right from 1947 which led to wars between the two countries.



Man commits suicide
Our Correspondent

Doraha, March 23
A resident of Rampur village, near Doraha, committed suicide by hanging himself from the ceiling of his house yesterday evening.
The police has sent the body for a post-mortem examination and the investigation has begun under Section 174 of the CrPC. The deceased, Gulzar Singh (70), was a drunkard, according to his wife, Mohinder Kaur. She said her husband was in depression.

Woman jumps into canal: An unidentified woman jumped into the Sirhind canal early this morning. She was, however, rescued by three employees of the Octroi Department and got admitted to Sidhu Hospital. The whereabouts of the woman could not be known as she was unconscious.

Two injured in attack:
A resident of Dharaur village and his son were injured in an attack by three persons on Saturday evening.

According to an FIR registered at the Sahnewal police station today, Darshan Singh and his son, Jagtar Singh, were attacked by Swaran Singh and Paramjit Singh (both of Dharaur village) and Jasmail Singh of Harnampura village with sticks.

Jagtar Singh received head injuries, while Darshan Singh was also injured. Both were taken to the Civil Hospital. A property dispute between the two parties is said to be the reason of attack. The accused have been absconding.


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