Sunday, April 6, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Thousands jobless as hosiery units remain shut
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 5
Thousands of workers of hosiery units have been rendered jobless as the nationwide strike entered into the sixth day today. The strike was likely to continue till April 10, when the former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has arranged a meeting between traders and the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee. The manufacturers are protesting against the Central excise duty being levied by the Union Government on knitted fabrics, garments, textile and textile articles in the Budget 2003-04.

The Minister of State for Printing and Stationery, Mr Rakesh Pandey, and the local MLA, Mr Surinder Dawer, also joined the demonstration and extended their support to the manufacturers. Mr Pandey and Mr Dawer said, they would try to use their influence so that the Central excise duty was withdrawn.

There are hundreds of hosiery manufacturing units in Ludhiana employing about more than one lakh skilled and unskilled workers. Most of the labourers are working either on contract or as daily-wage workers. Since the units have remained closed during the past six days, the labourers have been sitting idle. The hosiery manufacturers are expressing helplessness to the employees claiming that they will not be able to run their units under the present circumstances.

Most of the labourers are from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The hosiery manufacturers, desperate since they have not got any encouraging response from the government, have threatened to bring out the labourers on streets to stage protest demonstrations. They warned that in case the situation turned out of hand, it would be the government which should be blamed.

The manufacturers claimed that the Central excise would ruin the trade and it will provide an excuse to the officials to harass the manufacturers. Mr Vipan Dhand, a leading T-shirt exporter said, the apprehensions of the manufacturers were justified. Moreover, Mr Dhand observed, this would not generate any additional revenue for the government. He said, those who were used to tax evasion, would continue to evade tax and it was all done in connivance with the officials of the Taxation and Excise Departments only. He said that none of the small or middle-scale manufacturing units had applied for the registration with the Central Excise Commissionerate.

On the other hand, a spokesman of the Central Excise Commissionerate here claimed, “An encouraging response has been received from traders engaged in the manufacture of knitted fabrics and garments on which a new levy of central excise has been introduced”. The spokesman said that till date many manufacturers had already got themselves registered with the department.

The spokesman informed that the Central Board of Excise and Customs had provided to allow the credit of duty in respect of inputs as well as inputs contained in finished goods lying in stocks on March 31, 2003, if the said declaration was made on or before April 7. He said the manufacturers had, therefore, been advised that every manufacturer, who was engaged in the manufacture of said articles, must get himself registered with the department and file the declaration with the department regarding inputs as well as inputs contained in finished goods lying in stocks on March 31, by April 7.

To facilitate the industry to file the details in time, the Central excise offices located at Prem Nagar and Dandi Swami Chowk, Ludhiana, would remain open during office hours on April 6 (Sunday) to receive the declarations.



Hundreds came to help at crash site
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

It was Sukhwinder Singh Sukhi, a youth of Shahpur village, near here, who saw the pilot, Flt. Lt. B.S. Gill, of the plane ejecting while the tail end of the craft was on fire. He saw him descending down. Sukhi was the one who went near him, helped him unlock his parachute and offered him a glass of water. Then he stopped a car coming on the way and rushed him to Sarabha hospital, from where he was taken to Halwara by Air Force personnel. On the way Sukhi dialled the phone number of Air Force station from his mobile and made the pilot speak to his seniors at the Air Force station. 

Mullanpur Dakha (Ludhiana), April 5
It was an overflowing spirit of human kindness that bound them after the tragedy that struck the residents of this township after an IAF fighter plane, MiG-23, crashed in a house killing five and seriously injuring two in the morning yesterday.

In the catastrophe that struck the residents of this town, the humaneness of the people surfaced in abundance with people helping each other forgetting the barriers of cast and creed. Seeing so closely the people belonging to various villages descended on this town and started the rescue work without waiting for the rescue team of the administration.

While it took around 45 minutes for the fire engines to reach the spot, according to eyewitnesses, hundreds of people from adjacent villages started dousing the fire in Purshottam Singh alias Bhola’s house that was the worst hit after the crash. Within a few minutes numerous buckets reached the spot and the people started putting water on the house.

Within a few minutes after the plane nose-dived into Bhola’s house, people with a spirit to help the victims rushed to the spot caring little for their own lives. They would, however, remain unsung. The real act of bravery was performed by a team of villagers who had rescued Bhola’s wife from amidst the flames by climbing the roof of his wall with a wooden ladder. Her condition is, however, stated to be critical.

Even though the occupants of various houses were rushing out many people were entering there to rescue those stranded. Some villagers had even tried to rescue Pammi, wife of Raju, but before they could do so she was charred to death and her cries were not heard any more within a few moments.

The families of Bikar Singh, an ex-serviceman, and Balbir Singh, both tenants of the Bhola, were rescued by the villagers only. Just after they came out of their houses the roofs of their houses fell within a few minutes. Had the rescue work been delayed, the casualties would have been more.

When the rescue operation was in progress, residents of the town were offering water and tea to the members of rescue team. 



Plans that went awry after crash
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Mullanpur Dakha, April 5
About 12 tolas of gold jewellery and some newly stitched bridal suits retrieved from under the debris of the MiG-23 crash hit house of Purshottam Singh, alias Bhola, here today bore a tell-tale sign of how human plans going awry by the cruel stroke of destiny.

The jewellery and dresses were meant for the 23-year-old Manjinder Kaur, Bhola’s daughter who became the fifth victim of the air crash today afternoon after succumbing to over 90 per cent burn injuries suffered yesterday morning. An SHO said the jewellery belonging to the family of Deewan Chand melted due to the excessive heat as the fighter aircraft had virtually exploded in their house.

Family sources said the marriage plans of Manjinder Kaur were finalised recently and her marriage was likely to take place in the next few months. Her father Pushottam Singh was highly excited about the event and was collecting the marriage items himself.

Today, he was at a loss to reconcile to the untimely and cruel manner of the death of his near and dear ones. His son Gurpreet Singh had died last evening of burn injuries. His wife Kuldeep Kaur was oscillating between life and death at DMC hospital Ludhiana.

Both Bhola and Deewan Chand were seen at the crash site today morning all desolate and melancholic. Both have lost all their relatives barring their wives who are in serious condition.

Gurpreet Singh Mandiani, a farmer of a nearby village, urged the Air Force officials to change the route of their training sorties far away from human population.

Wg Cdr Dharam Punni, who was camping at the site in a makeshift tent room, said the Air Force team had collected wreckage of the aircraft from the crash site and surrounding place. All these were being analysed and an investigation of the wreckage was under way. He said the condition of the pilot, Fl. Lt. Balwinder Singh Gill, was improving. The pilot has revealed to him that he ejected after saving the Gujarwal and surrounding villages and had never thought that the plane would go that far.



Poor response to new CBSE courses
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 5
While the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has taken an initiative to introduce advanced courses for its students in the current academic session, it has received a poor response to these newly introduced courses from the local affiliated schools.

The schools have blamed the Board authorities for delay in informing them about the introduction of new courses, lack of complete details of the syllabi of these courses and unavailability of books on these subjects at the beginning of the session.

Of nearly 20 schools affiliated with the CBSE, none has applied for a high-tech course in ‘Multimedia and web technology’ introduced for the students of plus one. Just one school, BCM Arya Model Senior Secondary School, has taken the plunge to opt for an optional course in ‘Life skills’ introduced for the students of Class VI.

Even the courses on ‘Bio-technology’ and ‘Entrepreneurship’ introduced by the CBSE last year have received a feeble response this year again. While DAV Public School and BCM Arya Model Senior Secondary School had started the course on ‘Bio-technology’ last year, just one school, Kundan Vidya Mandir, has introduced the course this session. The same school has also taken another initiative to get permission for the course in ‘Entrepreneurship’.

Many schools here said they were unable to apply for the new courses on time since they did not receive the circular on time from the Board authorities. Ms H.Mallaki, Principal, St Thomas Senior Secondary School, said even though the information was available on the official website of the Board, the authorities should have also issued one circular about it.

Replying in a similar manner, Mr R.S. Gill, Principal, Guru Nanak Public School, said, ‘‘Had the Board authorities ensured timely intimation to schools regarding the introduction of the course along with complete details, we would have given it a thought. Since the new session has already begun, we would now plan about these courses in the next session.’’ Ms Manju Parkash, Principal, Tagore Public School, also said she did not have any information.

However, Mr R.S. Grewal, Principal, GGN Public School, replied differently. He said laughingly, ‘‘Since the courses are still in their experimental stage, we do not want to be guinea pigs. Let others apply for these, deal with initial hick-ups and give suitable feedback, then we will take our decision. We want to play it safe with the students.’’



Doraha MC poll: Congress wins in 10 wards
Our Correspondent

Doraha, April 5
The Congress won in 10 out of 13 wards in the Doraha Municipal Council poll today. The results were declared late in the afternoon. The winners include Ajit Kaur from Ward No. 1, Navjeet Singh Ward No. 2, Adarsh Pal Bector Ward No. 3, Priya Sharma Ward No. 4, Jasminder Singh Jassa Ward No. 5, Kiran Bala from Ward No. 6, Harnam Kaur Ward No. 7, Surinder Pal Sood Ward No. 8, Gurnam Singh Ward No. 9, Raj Rani Ward No. 10, Bant Singh Daburjee Ward No. 11, Sardara Singh Ward No. 12 and Harwinder Kaur from Ward No. 13.

The winning candidates of the SAD are Ajit Kaur from Ward No. 1 and Harwinder Kaur from Ward No. 13. An Independent candidate, Navjeet Singh, won from Ward No. 2. It may be noted that all candidates fought the elections independently, though they were supported by different political parties.

Meanwhile, the MC elections recorded 83 per cent votes. Of the total 14,194 votes, 11,900 votes were polled, said Mr Sucha Singh Mast, SDM, Payal.

In 13 wards of Doraha, 34 candidates were in the fray. It may be mentioned that 70 candidates had filed nomination papers. The Congress had fielded candidates in all 13 wards, while the SAD was contesting from 11 wards.

The polling ended peacefully, barring a few incidents of man-handling in some wards. Bogus voting was also reported in some places. The day witnessed enthusiasm among voters right from the morning. Long queues were observed in front of most of the booths till the afternoon. Supporters of contestants were busy enthusing the voters to vote in their favour. The entire township wore a festive look with colourful banners and flags fluttering in the air.



2 hurt in Khanna MC poll violence
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Khanna, April 5
Barring one incident of violence in which two persons were injured, the polling for the 27 wards of the local Municipal Council passed off peacefully. There were also allegations in Ward No. 2, where a relative of a senior Punjab police officer was contesting that the police harassed his opponents and even detained many of his supporters.

Two persons were injured in Ward No 17 where supporters of Mr Ashok Tiwari of the Congress and Mr Dinkar Kalia, an independent candidate, took out swords to intimidate each other. The police reportedly registered a case and the injured were rushed to hospital. Otherwise, the polling passed off peacefully in the remaining 26 wards.

It was a keen contest for the 27 seats of the Khanna Municipal Council. The presence of some influential candidates like Mr Sanjay Ghai from Ward No 2 made the contest more interesting. He happens to be closely related to a senior officer of the Punjab police. Mr Ghai reportedly won by a margin of over 300 votes, but not without widespread charges of favour from the local police and the administration.

Mr Ghai, who was contesting on the Congress ticket, was pitted against Mr Iqbal Singh of the Shiromani Akal Dal and the BJP. Mr Iqbal Singh reportedly lodged written complaints with the election authorities that the supporters of Mr Ghai were casting bogus votes, but nobody seemed to listen to his complaints, he alleged.

Interestingly there were reports of about 19 Pakistani nationals having been included in the voters list in Ward No 9. Since nobody complained against them, their names were not deleted from the list. They had reportedly migrated from Pakistan only a few years ago and settled down in Khanna. Their names were included in the voters’ list.

Results of 10 wards had been declared till the filing of this report and most of these were bagged by the Congress. The officials said brisk to heavy polling was witnessed in all wards with a total of about 75 per cent voters casting their votes.



‘Farmers under 5,700 crore debt’

Amloh, April 5
The fruits of freedom have not yet reached the common people. Whereas the poor have become poorer and the rich have become richer after 55 years of Independence. This was stated by Mr Mangat Ram Pasla, state Secretary of the CPM (Pasla), at the second death anniversary of a freedom fighter, Sahib Singh Salana, who was a jail companion of Shaheed Bhagat Singh. Mr Pasla Singh was speaking at Salana village, 5 km from here, on Friday.

He said due to the anti-people policies of the government, farmers were burdened with a debt of Rs 5,700 crore. The government was bent upon privatisation of health and education which would then become costly and out of the reach of the common people.

Mr Sadhu Singh Dhramsot, MLA, Amloh, lauded the role of a freedom fighter, Sahib Singh Salana who had remained underground and in jails for more than 25 years for the freedom of the country and after that he did not accept any concession from the government.

Among others, Mr Pakhar Singh Salana, Chairman of the Zila Prishad, Mr Chander Shekhar, state general secretary, CITU, Mr Ram Singh Secretary, CPM, for Patiala and Fatehgarh Sahib districts, Mr Balbir Singh, telephone employees’ leader, Mr Desh Raj Mehta (92) from Khanna, Mr Azad Khatra (MCPI), Dr Ram Nath (90) from Delhi and Mr Jarnail Singh also spoke.



Pensioners flay MLAs’ pay hike
Our Correspondents

Ludhiana, April 5
The Government Pensioners’ Association has flayed the unjust hike in salaries/allowances of Punjab ministers and MLAs.
Mr Yash Paul Ghai, additional general secretary of the association, in a press statement today said more than seven lakh Punjab government employees including those working in various boards and corporations and pensioners were agitated over the way public funds were being pocketed by the Punjab ministers and MLAs. After coming to power in February last the year Punjab Government had been blaming the previous Akali- BJP regime for having emptied the coffers. However, the Congress regime had now allowed a six-fold increase in salaries of ministers, three time hike in various allowances and perks of both ministers and MLAs apart from several other concessions and entitlements.

Government pensioners had a grouse that the congress regime had also allowed former MLAs, the old age allowance at the rate of 5 per cent, 10 per cent and 15 per cent of the basic pension on attaining the age of 65, 75 and 80 years, respectively. However, this benefit was allowed to pensioners only at two stages i.e. 65 years and 75 years, though the third pay commission had recommended the third stage also for old age allowance. The income tax due to salaries and allowances available to ministers was paid by the state government. Contrary to this, pensioners paid income tax on their pensioners/allowances though the fourth Punjab Pay Panel had recommended the reimbursement of income tax paid by them. However, the state government had turned a blind eye to this recommendation.

A fixed medical allowance of Rs 100 per month available to former MLAs had been hiked to Rs 500 per month and say a five-fold increase. Contrarily, employees and pensioners were being paid Rs 250 per month and no raise had been allowed to them during the last five years. Besides, reimbursement of medical expenses incurred on indoor treatment had been allowed in full to former MLAs, however, employees and pensioners were not compensated fully. The monthly basic pension of former MLAs had been enhanced from Rs 15,00 to Rs 5,000, more than a three fold hike. DA/DR on basic pension at par with employees and pensioner was also allowed to them.

Earlier, salaries and allowances of Punjab ministers, MLAs and former MLAs were revised in 1998. However, within a period of less than five years, another hike had been effected. Contrary to this, several major recommendations of the fourth Punjab Pay Commissioner which submitted its report on pension on February 20, 1998, still remain unimplemented

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena (Hindustani) has flayed the hike in salaries and perks of Punjab ministers and legislators.

The district chief of the party, Mr Krishan Sharma, said the government on one hand was claiming that there were no funds for important development works and providing concessions to different sections of the society, on the other the ministers and legislators had been given a manifold increase in their salaries and perks.

The Anti-Corruption Council of India has also criticised the decision, terming it as self-pampering. In a joint statement, functionaries of the council observed that the government employees and various other sections of society were being denied financial benefits. But the government had gone ahead hurriedly in allowing a huge increase in salaries, allowances and perks with the opposition parties also giving their moot consent.



Govt move on power Bill draws flak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 5
Privatisation of power and the passage of the Punjab Electricity Amendment Bill, 2003, came in for severe criticism from technocrats and various categories of consumers at a seminar on “Challenges Before the Power Sector in Punjab” organised by the PSEB Engineers Association here this afternoon.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr M.S. Bajwa, president of the association, said the power Bill had been rushed through and no public debate had been conducted by the government. The Haldea committee recommendations had made the intentions of the government clear that it wanted to privatise the power sector and had not learnt any lessons from similar failed attempts in other states in the country.

Eminent agriculturist J.S. Hayer said “We are signatories to the WTO and in the light of the changed scenario, we must welcome all new developments with an open mind”. On this, economist S.S. Gill alleged that the USA had not ushered in a new era of progress but was bent on cornering emerging markets and consolidating its hold on the oil reserves of the world.

It was targeting developing nations across the world by bringing in agreements which favoured them and the WTO was an apt pointer in this regard.

He also observed that the amendment was not a step in the right direction. 



Machhiwara BDPO booked
Our Correspondent

Machhiwara, April 5
Machhiwara Block Development and Panchayat Officer(BDPO) Rana Partap Singh Sidhu has been booked by the police under the Prevention of Corruption Act, following a complaint registered by Mr Gurdeep Singh of Behlolpur. 



Shopping festival opens
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 5
Want variety in jewellery, including diamonds, Thewa from Jaipur, pearls from Hyderabad and 24 karat gold jewellery? These are all available under one roof as jewellers from Delhi and Jaipur are showcasing their designer collection in a concept shopping festival at Hotel Friends from today till April 7.

The festival is also offering antique jewellery, the authenticity, originality and purity of which can be tested. A wide range of linen and household decoration items, besides clothes for men and women are also available.

Thewa is the art of making jewellery from Rajasthan. Thewa pieces are handcrafted over a period of one month by skilled artisans.

The concept of shopping for a wide variety, under one roof in air-conditioned comfort, has been appreciated by residents of the city.


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