Monday, April 7, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Hailstorm takes heavy toll on crops
Tribune Reporters

Farmers, along with experts, inspect damaged wheat crop at a village
Farmers, along with experts, inspect damaged wheat crop at a village near Ludhiana on Sunday. 

Machhiwara, April 6
Farmers of this area have been hit hard by the recent hailstorm that damaged more than 50 per cent of the standing wheat crop in 63 villages of the Samrala subdivision. The farmers, who were praying for a few more days of sunshine before the harvesting began, are now ruing their fate and cursing the weather gods.

A quick survey of various villages by Ludhiana Tribune revealed that not only wheat, but also green fodder (barseen) for animals has been extensively damaged. The worst affected villages include Issapur, Mand Serian, Mand Fatehgarh, Jattiwal, Daulatpur, Milkowal, Mand Jodhwal, Sensowal, Rurewal, Muzzafarwal and Ramgarh. The approximate damage in these villages ranges from 75 per cent to 25 per cent.

While the awns of the plant have been damaged and the grain has spilled to the ground in many cases, at other places plants have broken in the middle and will make harvesting a hard task. All worst affected villages fall in Machhiwara sub-tehsil.

Mr Kuldeep Singh, sarpanch of Jatiwal, said it was all a matter of a few days before the crop would have been harvested. “Entire crop has been flattened or partially damaged due to the hailstorm. For some farmers, the compensation to be offered by the government will not see them through or cover up their losses”, he added.

The worst affected were those who had harvested ‘barseen’ for their cattle or for selling in the market. Not even a single field in this village had remained unaffected. It would force many farmers to procure fodder for their milch cattle from other areas, he said.

Mr Joginder Singh of Sherain village said he had suffered huge losses and would have to postpone certain social commitments till the next season. Similar view were expressed by Mr Swaran Singh of Mubarakpur.

Mr Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, who was also touring the affected areas, said the government must step in to compensate farmers, who, in many cases, were only marginal farmers and could not take the losses in their stride. “I have talked to the authorities in this context and they have assured me that a survey would be ordered”, he added. The Deputy Commissioner, Ludhiana, Mr Anurag Agarwal, along with the SDM, Samrala, and other revenue officials, also visited the hailstorms affected villages of Samrala subdivision in the afternoon. He listened to the problems of farmers.

The farmers told him that wheat and ‘barseen’ crops had been badly affected in the area. They said the loss to the rabi crops had been estimated at around 51 to 75 per cent in 15 villages, 26 to 50 per cent in 39 villages and 1 per cent to 25 per cent in nine villages of the subdivision.

While expressing sympathy with them, Mr Agarwal assured the farmers that compensation and all kind of help, as per the government policy, would be extended to them. He ordered a special ‘girdawari’ for assessing crop damage. He directed the SDM, Samrala, to complete this work in four days.

The DC said that a detailed report was being sent to the Financial Commissioner, Revenue.



Parishad holds function
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 6
The Uttaranchal Kumaon Vikas Parishad organised the annual cultural programme at Dassehra Ground, Jamalpur, here today.

The programme started with Shiv Vandana. A number of dances, including ‘ghasiari’, were presented. A play presented by local artistes was much appreciated by the audience.

Mr Harish Rawat, MP, presided over the function and honour life members of the parishad. Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, MP , was the chief guest and honour students and retired personnel.

Mr Balam Singh Aswal, president of the parishad, said the parishad had 50,000 members.



Administration lacks crisis management unit
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 6
The crash of a MIG-23 fighter aircraft in a thickly populated colony of Mullanpur Dakha in which fiver persons were killed and two seriously injured has brought to the fore the need for a crisis management unit in the district administration.

Soon after the aircraft crashed into some houses, it were the people of adjacent villages who took to dousing the fire and rescuing the victims. Though the police reached just a few minutes after the crash, there was nothing other than lathis to manage the crisis at the spot. The villagers, who had taken the rescue operation in their hands and saved some people also, were complaining that the cops did not let them do the rescue work, otherwise they could have saved one or two more lives.

But the police had its own story to tell. Cops said that they had no option but to do so as a blast could have taken place any time as the aircraft was burning and it could have ammunition also. So to save a life, they could not risk the lives of numerous people who had almost jumped into fire to save a woman, Pammi.

At the site, it was the crisis management of the district administration that was being put to test. Going by the chronology of events, one could not have a very good opinion about it. Eyewitnesses said the Fire Brigade reached almost an hour after the crash as the Mullanpur Dakha town and Jagraon do not have a Fire Brigade of their own and fire tenders from Ludhiana had to be pressed into service, which reached the spot after covering a distance of some kilometres.

The Air Force Station at Halwara has its own crash tenders but it took some time for them to reach the spot. The fire engines of the civil administration could not put out the fire even two hours after the incident, as these were using water as the extinguishing agent. But the aircraft fuel in the form of oil only aggravated the problem by surfacing on the water.

Finally a fire tender from the Air Force Station, Halwara, put out the fire by using foam instead of water. Fortunately, the fire was limited to one house only and it took around three hours to put out the fire. The tragedy could have been worse had some more house caught fire.

The situation could only be controlled after the Army reached the spot after about three hours. This was the time when one felt the need of a crisis management unit.

The proposal for such a unit for all districts has been there for a long time but due to some problems it could not be implemented. Deputy Commissioner Anurag Agarwal while talking to Ludhiana Tribune said that there was a need for such a unit with the civil administration but due to certain functional hiccups, this had not belong possible.

He, however, expressed his satisfaction over the rescue work and said that the civil administration and the defence services team worked well in tandem.



Committee on parks to approach PHRC
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 6
Fed up with making rounds of the local Municipal Corporation and writing letters to the officials concerned of the state government, the federation of 120 Park Management Committees (PMCs), covering over 400 parks in the city, has decided to approach the Punjab Human Rights Commission, besides sending a deputation to the Chief Secretary, Punjab, as a last bid to save the lungs of the city.

The federation, formed recently to take up the cause of parks after waiting for one-and-a-half years for the promised payment of maintaining green areas, held an emergent meeting today.

Mr S.S. Channa, spokesperson of the federation, said they were frustrated at the attitude of the local MC and the state government regarding saving the environment of the city. “We will file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. We have also formed a deputation to meet the Chief Secretary as a last ditch effort,” he said

The over 400 green belts in the city are virtually facing the threat of passing into oblivion following the unsavoury controversy over the payment of the maintenance fee. The PMCs were formed more than two years ago to encourage people’s participation in the management of the green belt. It also helped the MC to save some money. The work and expenses were shared under a formula.

The scheme worked wonders for few months. The outlook of the parks changed rapidly. From pig parks and unofficial garbage dump places, the parks were transformed into green belts. But all this started changing one-and-a-half years ago.

It was decided that the MC would pay Re 1 per square metre to the PMCs but then the payment was slashed to 50 paisa per square metre. The explanation given by the MC was that the state government had ordered this uniform rate for all MCs as the scheme was adopted in the entire state.

The functionaries of the PMCs rue that the state government had not only cut down the rate for the maintenance of parks by 50 per cent, it also wanted that the monthly payment for this purpose should not exceed Rs 1,000 per park, irrespective of the size of the park and further, of the total payment, claimed by the PMCs, 50 per cent should be contributed by the area residents. Since the PMCs refused to accept these terms, their monthly payments were stopped by the Audit Department of the MC from October, 2001.

“More than the non-payment of arrears to the PMCs and inordinate delay by the government in taking a positive decision, what pains us is the apathy and indifference of the civic administration and the lack of urgency on part of the MC on this crucial matter, concerning the entire population of the city,” observed Mr S.S. Channa.

The federation expressed wonder as to why the government had failed to take decision on the restoration of the old rates for the maintenance of parks and why the MC had not properly taken up the case with the government. “The issue of maintaining parks in the city might not merit top priority from the state government but for the civic body it is one of the priority areas concerning the city residents.”

According to Mr Channa, the functionaries of the PMCs had pursued the matter repeatedly with the MC Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sharma, as also with the Local Bodies Minister, and Secretary, Local Government, Punjab, Mr Sarvesh Kaushal.

He pointed out that the civic body had been spending an estimated Rs 5.5 crore on the maintenance of parks every year prior to the introduction of the scheme of private participation. Compared to the massive amount spent earlier, the PMCs were claiming less than Rs 1 crore annually as maintenance charges with far better results. 



Hosiery traders’ protest continues
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 6
While manufacturers of hosiery goods continue to suspend their work against the introduction of central excise duty on their products, some of the leaders spearheading the agitation are learnt to have already got themselves registered with the central excise commissionerate here.

Sources revealed that a leading member of the Federation of Knitwear, Textile and Allied Industries Associations had already got his unit registered with the commissionerate. The leader, who is a leading exporter, is said to have got the registration for clearing his export goods which were pending in stock.

Mr Vinod Thapar, a senior member of the association without commenting on the issue, observed that there were some exporters who had no other option but to get themselves registered since they had to clear their goods. Those manufacturers who get themselves registered by April 7 will get the benefit on their pending stock also. In case they do not get themselves registered by this date, they will not get the benefit.

On the other hand, Mr Thapar said the registration was not the main issue. He pointed out that around 300 of the 20,000 manufacturers had got themselves registered in the city. He said the manufacturers were not prepared to accept the central excise and they would oppose it.

Meanwhile, the hosiery units remained closed for the seventh day today and traders staged a demonstration in the Sunder Nagar area. Some of them also met the Union Minister, Mr Sangh Priya Gautam, and submitted a memorandum to him urging him that the excise duty be withdrawn. Mr Gautam assured them that he would put forward their point of view to the authorities concerned.



2 youths commit suicide
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 6
Depressed over the death of his mother, a youth allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree near South City early today.
Police sources said the youth had been identified as Balwinder Singh, son of Musafir Singh, a farmer Partap Singh Wala village, near Haibowal. His mother had died few months ago and he had been depressed since then.

His brother Nirwair Singh had also given a statement to the police that his brother tried to commit suicide in January also but was saved by other members of the family. Family sources said they did not suspect any foul play.

Meanwhile, a student of Class X of Maksoodran village near Doraha committed suicide by hanging himself from the roof of his house today.

According to sources, Jagdeep Singh (16), who had recently appeared in his matriculation examination, hung himself from a rope with the help of an iron hook fixed to the ceiling. He was said to be depressed for the past some time. The Payal police has begun investigation under Section 174 of the Cr PC. The body was sent for post-mortem examination.



Martyr cremated with honours
Our Correspondent

Machhiwara, April 6
The mortal remains of Havildar Gurdev Singh of 152 Sikh Regiment who had laid down his life at the Khokhri check post of Jammu and Kashmir were confined to the flames at his native village Rajewal Rajputan, near here, with full military honours today. He was killed during cross-border firing on April 2.

Havildar Gurdev Singh’s pyre was lit by his four-year-old son Juvanpreet Singh. He is survived by his wife, Amarjit Kaur, two daughters, Jashanpreet Kaur (10) and Pawanpreet Kaur (7), and a son.

His colleagues, who joined the funeral, said he had voluntarily offered duty at the post. He was injured when a bullet hit his head. He succumbed to his injuries at the Military Hospital, Srinagar.

Among others who attended the funeral were the SDM, Samrala, Mr Jaspal Singh Jassi, the DSP, Mr Gur Tejinder Singh Aulakh, Lieut-Col Kumar Sharma.



2003 ‘development year’ for MC
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 6
After achieving the distinction of providing potable water to the entire city population, the Municipal Corporation is all set to bring about further improvement in the quality of civic amenities and fasten the pace of development during this year, which will be observed as ‘development year’ by the civic body.

Addressing a joint news conference here today, the city Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, and the Municipal Corporation Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sharma, maintained that during the past 10 months, after the new House came into being, the Corporation had invested massive funds in various minor and major development works in the city and, perhaps for the first time, the budgetary targets were met up to 98 per cent without imposing any new local tax on the city population.

“With the scheduled completion of major projects like the Dhuri railway overbridge in May 2003 and the Dhandari Kalan railway overbridge in December 2003, followed by an elevated road from Jagraon Bridge to Chand Cinema on the old G.T. Road in June 2004, the city will wear a new look and the traffic movement within the city will become smooth and hassle-free as never before.”

Giving details of the development works executed during the financial year ending March 31, Mr Sharma said 451 minor development works were carried out at an expenditure of Rs 32 crore as against 81 works entailing a cost of Rs 8 crore in the previous year. Compared to Rs 93 crore spent on development works during 2001-2002, the corporation had spent about 20 per cent more for this purpose at Rs 110 crore during the year.

He said as a result of better financial health achieved through deft financial management and improved recovery, and constant monitoring of progress on a day-to-day basis, the corporation had achieved remarkable progress in the execution of ongoing projects for the construction of flyovers at Dhuri railway line, Dhandari Kalan railway line and the elevated road.

“For example, work had commenced on the Rs 32.18-crore elevated road project in May 2001 and the target for completion was December 2003. However, till June 2002, in more than 24 months only 10.4 per cent of the work had been completed at a cost of Rs 3.40 crore. In contrast, during the past 10 months, approximately 21 per cent work worth Rs 6.70 crore was completed. With the prevailing speed of work, the rescheduled completion of the project would be June 2004, whereas at the previous pace, the project would have dragged on till Dec 2008.”

According to Mr Sharma, the progress achieved at the Dhuri Line flyover and the Dhandari Kalan flyover was also in the same proportion. On the Dhuri Line flyover, 58 per cent work was completed in two years till May 2002 whereas during June 2002 to March 2003, a little more than 34 per cent of the remaining work was completed at an expenditure of Rs 3.15 crore. Similarly, on the Rs 12.75 crore Dhandari Kalan flyover, the progress in 18 months was 26 per cent till May 2002 while in the past nine months, 22 per cent of the total work was executed and funds to the tune of Rs 2.70 cr were provided for this purpose.

The Mayor, Mr Gill, observed that the then civic administration had taken in hand several major projects in a haphazard manner without going into the basic requirements like feasibility and a technical study and necessary permissions from the Railways. Due to gross financial mismanagement, the corporation, then, was faced with a severe resource crunch which led to poor progress and an avoidable delay in the execution of these projects. “However, our first priority is early completion of these major infrastructural development projects. We do not want to indulge in a witch-hunt, but if anybody is found guilty during the review of these works, to be undertaken soon, strict action will be taken.”



Mayor inaugurates tubewell
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 6
The Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, inaugurated a tubewell at Sarabha Nagar, Block: F, here today.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr Gill announced that the Gurdwara road of Sarabha Nagar would be widened and the Dhuri line flyover would be opened next month.

The area councillor, Ms Amrit Varsha Rampal, said the sewerage would be installed in Gurdev Nagar, Jagjeet Nagar and the Pakhowal road. She said sodium lights would be installed in the ward.

Among others present on the occasion were Mr Harnam Singh Machhiwara, a former councillor, Mr Ashok Arora, president, Sarabha Nagar Shopkeeper Association, Mr Ravinder Ahuja and Mr Gulab Singh.



Councillors promise development
Our Correspondent

Doraha, April 6
Newly elected Congress councillors today thanked local residents for giving them a chance to lead them.
The councillors, including Mr Adarsh Pal Bector, Mrs Priya Sharma, Mr Jasminder Singh Jassa, Mrs Kiran Bala, Mrs Harnam Kaur, Mr Surinder Pal Sood, Mr Gurnam Singh, Mrs Raj Rani, Mr Bant Singh Daburjee and Mr Sardara Singh, also thanked the Transport Minister, Mr Tej Parkash Singh Kotli, and a former political secretary, Mr Gurmit Singh.

Mr Bant Singh Daburjee, councillor and former chairman, Budhewal Sugar Mills, along with other councillors asserted that they would engage themselves in the development of their town.

The Congress has once again established itself as a strong party by winning a majority of seats in the Doraha Municipal Council poll.



Dal Khalsa lashes out at SGPC
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 6
The Dal Khalsa today urged the Sikh electorate to be ready to replace the current SGPC members with the youth and new faces. The radical group made this call at a largely attended convention held at Kot Isse Khan, near Moga. The appeal was made following the announcement of the general elections to the house in January by the Chief Commissioner, Gurdwara Election Commission.

Mr Kanwar Pal Singh, chief spokesperson, expressed serious concern over the dismal performance of the committee and said ‘cleansing’ of the institution was the need of the hour. The committee, he alleged, had deviated from the basic purpose for which it had come into being in the beginning of the last century.

He said members who were elected six years ago had failed to check the mushrooming of deras and self-styled babas in their respective constituencies. On the ongoing unity move between two warring Akali factions, he said if the objective behind the unity move was to defeat the Congress, Mr Badal should strike an understanding with other factions rather than winning back Jathedar Tohra to his fold.Mr Sarbjit Singh Ghuman, another senior activist, lashed out at the BJP government for not segregating the voting rights of sehajdharis in spite of repeated calls from all Sikh bodies, including the SGPC, to debar the former. He said by allowing a token jatha of only 100 Sikhs for pilgrimage to Pakistan, the Union Government had hurt Sikh sentiments.

Commenting on the war in Iraq, he said the bloodshed to oust the Saddam Hussein was in no way justified. He said that while they were opposed to the war, the silence of Sikh leadership on this issue was disturbing.

Others who addressed the gathering included Prof Inderjit Singh, Subedar Kabul Singh, Tarlochan Singh, Kuldeep Singh and Iqbal Singh Mann. A resolution was passed urging the President of India to do justice in the case of Prof Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, who is on death row. 



Rousing welcome to Birmi
Tribune News Service

Birmi, April 6
The Minister of State for Jails and Urban Development, Mr Milkiat Singh Birmi, today promised to develop his native village into a model village that would rival cities in terms of growth, progress and development. He also announced a grant of Rs 75 lakh for this purpose.

Speaking at a public reception organised in his honour by the people of his village, Mr Birmi said he would ensure that they got all the facilities.

The village falls in the Dakha Assembly segment which is represented by Mr Milkiat Singh Dakha. Mr Dakha was, however, conspicuous by his absence at today’s function.

Prominent among those who attended the function included the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president, Mr H.S. Hanspal, former ministers, Mr Darshan Singh Brar, Mr Ishwer Singh, and a former MLA, Mr Harmohinder Singh. Mr Birmi announced that the local MP, Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, had released a grant of Rs four lakh from his local area development fund for the village.

Expressing his gratitude to the people for ‘showering so much love and respect’ on him, Mr Birmi promised that he would always be at their beck and call. He said his doors would always remain open for them.

Mr H.S. Hanspal assured villagers that the government was committed to the welfare of the state. He said Capt Amarinder Singh was providing a clean and transparent government. He lauded the contribution of Mr Birmi.

Earlier, a rousing reception was accorded to Mr Birmi on his arrival. It was his first visit to the village after becoming the minister. Not only the local villagers, but people from the surrounding villages had also gathered here to listen to Mr Birmi. 



‘Induct MLA into Cabinet’
Our Correspondent

Ahmedgarh, April 6
An informal meeting of councillors of Ahmedgarh and Malerkotla was held here today. The councillors urged the Chief Minister to induct the MLA of the constituency into the Cabinet.

Mr Rajneesh Sharma, president, Municipal Council, said: “Ms Razia Sultana deserves a berth in the Cabinet because she represents minorities and women.” He urged the Chief Minister to fulfil the commitment which he had made during elections. Mr Sham Sundar, Ms Chitter Rekha, Yaseen, Mr Jaswinder Sodhi, Ms Santosh Rani, Mr Jaswinder Sodhi, Mr Jaswinder Lalli and Mr Kishori Lal Badhan also endorsed the demand.



Head constable booked for fraud
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 6
The district police has registered a case against a woman head constable on the charges of fraud and cheating by using fake certificates to take employment in the Police Department. Head constable Gurmit Kaur has been booked under Sections 419/468/471 of the IPC for using certificates of Amar Kaur, a resident of Guru Arjan Dev Nagar, Samrala Chowk here.

A statement in this regard has also been taken from Amar Kaur. The case has been registered after inquiry by DSP City-I. The police is investigating the matter.



Tractor-trailer overturns, 2 dead

Amloh, April 6
Two farmers were killed when a tractor-trailer laden with sugarcane turned turtle on its way to the local Nahar Sugar Mill last night. Dev Singh (55) and Jarnail Singh (30) were killed on the spot. Jarnail Singh was a close relatives of Dev Singh and was living with him at Saunti village, near here. The bodies were handed over to their kin after post-mortem examination . A case has been registered. OC


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