Thursday, April 10, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Controversy mar(k)s sand mining auction
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 9
The public auction of sand mining rights in the district here today saw serious allegations of making a blatant display of ‘loyalty’ to their political masters being levelled against senior officials of the Industry Department.

While the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Anurag Aggarwal, told Ludhiana Tribune that the rights had been granted to the highest bidder at Rs 1.57 crore as against Rs 67 lakh the previous year, several eligible bidders present there alleged that the officials conducting the auction had ignored a valid bid for Rs 2.5 crore in favour of a consortium, comprising, among others, at least two persons, who were closely related to a former Union minister and a senior minister in the Punjab Cabinet.

Mr Aggarwal, however, denied this and said no one was stopped by officials from taking part in the auction. Everyone was free to participate in the bidding after making a stipulated security deposit, he maintained.

On the other hand, Mr Mann Singh Garcha, a prominent liquor contractor and brother of a former Punjab Minister for Technical Education, Mr Jagdish Singh Garcha, termed the auction a fraud. He said despite holding an order from the Punjab and Haryana High Court that he should be permitted to participate in the bidding, he was not even allowed to enter the venue of the auction at Quality Marking Centre in the office of the Industries Department at Miller Ganj. His repeated pleas for accepting a deposit of Rs 10,000 as security for participation in the auction were ignored by the department officials.

One of the bidders, Mr Kewal Chhabra said the proceeding during the auction were a clear indicator that the members of the auction committee, headed by an Additional Director of the department, Mr R.D. Sehgal, had been briefed to favour certain persons. “If that was not the case, why the officials conducting the auction ignored my bid for Rs 2.52 crore and granted the right to somebody else at Rs 1.57 crore?” he said.

Speaking in a similar vein, an agitated Mr Narinder Chatley, managing director of the firm that had the mining rights last financial year, charged the officials of the Industry Department with highhandedness and favouritism. He said no recovery was pending against the firm, but simply in order to deny it the right of participation in the auction, the firm was branded defaulter. What made the biased attitude of the officials amply clear was that director of another firm M/s Shiv Shakti Excavation Private Limited, despite having made a security deposit, was prevented from offering a bid, he alleged.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued through the office of the DPRO, Mr R.D. Sehgal, Additional Director of Industries, Punjab, said the sand mining auction in the district had fetched Rs 1.57 crore. He said last year the sand mines were auctioned in two parts at Rs 67 lakh and Rs 40 lakh, but due to some technical reasons, the second part turned out to be non-operational and a total revenue of Rs 67 lakh had accrued.



Hosiery traders to meet PM today
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 9
Hosiery manufacturers have pinned all their hopes on the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, for the withdrawal of the Central excise duty on hosiery and textile goods. At least, they hope they may be granted some level of exemption.

The manufacturers are scheduled to meet the Prime Minister in New Delhi tomorrow. The meeting was reportedly fixed by the former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. Mr Badal will accompany the traders along with a BJP MP, Lala Lajpat Rai, and some other BJP and Akali leaders of the state.

According to Mr Vinod Thapar, president, Federation of Knitwear, Textile and Allied Industries Associations, thousands of manufacturers are reaching New Delhi to express their concern over the issue.

Mr Thapar sought to clarify the issue, claiming that the demand for withdrawal of the duty by the manufacturers was genuine and justified. He denied that the manufacturers were trying to find means and methods to evade the tax. He asserted that the manufacturers were ready to pay the tax, but the procedure should not be complex.

Meanwhile, manufacturers today took out a procession on two-wheelers in the city. They passed through various hosiery markets shouting slogans against the Central excise and demanding its withdrawal. They were shouting that most of the hosiery manufacturers might be forced to close down their units as they were barely managing their survival. All units remained closed for the 10th day today.

Mr Thapar also claimed that large-scale manufacturers, including Mr Jawahar Oswal of the Nahar Group of Industries and Mr Dinesh Gupta of Oswal Knit India Limited, had also supported their demand and sought the withdrawal of the duty. Mr Thapar released two written statements of Mr Oswal and Mr Gupta, which stated that the levying of the duty on the knitwear, textile and garment industry was an untimely and unjustified step, especially for the small and tiny sector.



NRI couple found murdered in Khanna
Our Correspondent

Khanna, April 9
An NRI couple was found murdered at a house on the Samrala road last night. The couple had come to India a year ago from the USA.
According to the police, the couple was murdered due to a family dispute over property. Meanwhile, the son of the couple said on the telephone from Canada that his uncles were responsible for the crime, which might have been committed by some hired persons engaged by the former.

According to the Superintendent of Police (Headquarters), Mr S.K. Agnihotri, the police came to know about the murder when the family servant, Kunto, reached the house for her job. The main gate of the house was open and both husband and wife — Baljinder (52) and Harjit Kaur (50) — were lying dead in a room. She told about the incident to a tenant, Mr O.S. Devgan, who informed the police.

A police party, including Mr S.K. Agnihotri, DSP (City) Balbir Singh, DSP Jhilmal Singh and SHO (City) Baldev Singh Brar reached the spot. Mr Agnihotri said that the father of the deceased had prepared a will before his death in which he had given the house to his son, Dalwinder Singh. The house was presently in the possession of Baljinder.

A dog squad and finger prints experts were pressed into service. A case under Section 302 of the IPC has been registered against Dalwinder Singh, Charanjit Singh and Daljit Singh at the local police station.



NRI donates house for old-age home
Tribune News Service

Manuke, April 9
Mr Isher Singh Sandhu, a Canada-based NRI, has donated his double-storeyed ancestral house to the Manuke village panchayat to be converted into an old-age home, according to the sarpanch of the village, Mr Gurmukh Singh Sandhu.

The NRI makes no airs about it. In fact he is, too, modest to claim it saying with all humility: “There is no big deal about it as the house was lying vacant and I decided that it would be used properly. You could say I am donating it, if I had given it to somebody it is for my own brethren with whom I have grown up and spent most of my life". He is in his eighties.

Manuke is one of the biggest villages in the area with a population of nearly 10,000. The need for an old-age home here is not for the reasons like those in urban areas where the elderly are ignored and turned out of their homes. Here a number of people are not able to sustain themselves as they have no children or descendants who could take care. As they are old, they cannot even work to make a living. Hence, the need for an old-age home was urgent.

The house has been taken over by the panchayat and is being renovated and reshaped. It would be maintained by the panchayat and the destitute aged people would be provided shelter and all the expenses would be borne out by the panchayat. The donor takes pride in it saying: “I feel that the old-age home will keep my memories alive for ever and wherever I go”. The home has been named after his father’s name, Dharam Singh Sandhu, who was also a sarpanch of the village.

His family is settled in Canada. He keeps on moving between Canada and India. But whenever he is in India he makes it a point that he visits his native village regularly and frequently. He also owns a house in Ludhiana. But he feels more homely in his native village only.



Earthen pots hit markets
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 9
With the mercury rising, only cold water quenches the thirst. Despite refrigerators with the latest technology available in markets, traditional earthen pots have not lost their appeal. Pot sellers can be seen with piles of earthen pots and ‘surahis’ and willing customers testing these before buying one.

Ms Varsha, mother of two young children says,“ I always buy earthen pots and fill these up at night. When the children come from school, I always give them water from earthen pots. The children are all hot due to their long ride in rickshaw, and cold water of refrigerator causes them sore throat. Water of earthen pots is definitely safer.”

Vishnu, a pot seller says,“ Every year the production cost and transport cost of pots increase and that makes the cost of pots to go up. The customers grumble a lot when we quote the price. We are getting the pots from Moga. The breakage also has to be accounted for. Our main clients are poor people as they can never dream of buying a refrigerator.”

A family involved in making pots says,“ The slimy earth needed for making pots is not available here. We have to get it from outside and hence the cost goes up. One cannot imagine the number of pots that break while baking. It is strange that people can spend a lot of money on other things, but on a necessity like pots that gives cool water, people make a lot of fuss. Moreover our business is seasonal.”



Confusion over calculators in exam
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 9
Thirty students of BCA (II) of Arya College here are in a quandary as they were not able to complete their 'numerical and statistical method examination' held yesterday due to the confusion over the use of calculators.

According to information, a note on the paper said, "only non-programmable calculators allowed," but as the students had scientific calculators, they were asked to surrender these to the supervisors. Stunned at this, the students were not able to solve problems and are upset as only 25 per cent of the paper was attempted by them. The calculators were returned to the students during the last half hour of the examination only.

Talking to Ludhiana Tribune, a teacher of BCA (II) of Arya College, Mr Sameer Sharma, said," Actually it is not possible to solve the problems within the stipulated time without calculators. I feel that the confusion prevailed due to lack of instructions given by the university. "

He further said that the scientific calculators that the students were using were basic. The scientific calculators are of two types — non-programmable and programmable. The students were using the non-programmable ones. He said that they were going to send a list of such calculators as given by Casio to the Comptroller of examinations and the Vice-Chancellor.

“After all, the future of the students is at stake and so is the reputation of the college. In my four years of teaching, such a problem has not arisen,” said Mr Sharma.

The Principal of the college, Mr Jeevan Sharma said that the students were given simple calculators and also log books. The angry students said that they were allowed to use scientific calculators during House examinations in December and then nobody stopped them. “What is our fault then? Why should we suffer? The lapse has been on part of staff and our fate hangs in balance,” they said.

Meanwhile, at Kamla Lotia College, the students used only calculators with four basic functions of addition, multiplication, subtraction and addition.



MiG crashes opened up old wounds
Tribune Reporters

Jangpur Mohi, April 9
The MiG crashes at Mullanpur Dakha and Ambala have opened up old wounds of 85-year-old Santokh Singh, a local farmer, who lost his two sons and a nephew during an accidental bombing by an Indian Air Force plane 39 years ago. He received a meagre compensation of Rs 9, 000.

When a Tribune team meet him, he was feeding his pet dogs at his dilapidated house. Initially reluctant to recall the suffering and turmoil that he went through, he narrated his tragic tale.

Tears rolled down his wrinkled cheeks, when he narrated the sequence of events on that fateful day. “It was a sunny day and my sons — 20-year-old Paramjit Singh and 17-year-old Ranjit Singh — had gone to fields near the Basanwala well along with two of my nephews. While two of my sons and one of their cousin were resting under the thicket, the two others were sitting by an irrigating channel nearby.”

“We were used to hear the drone of planes flying overhead and hardly noticed the one which wrought havoc on my family. Some villagers came to our house and informed my mother and my wife that a bomb had fallen on them. They rushed to the fields and saw mutilated bodies and scattered limbs all around. My mother was a stout-hearted lady and immediately began collecting the pieces of the bodies. She could only find a palm of Paramjit,” he told in a choked voice.

“It seemed that destiny was telling me something. The event was the beginning of a saga of misfortunes for my family. So far I have lost nine members of my family — all four sons, my wife and a son-in-law. My wife died of heart failure as she could not reconcile to see all her sons die one after the other. I too would have followed them but for the love of my grand daughter,” he sobbed.

Entirely dependent on the income from contracting four acres, Mr Santokh Singh alleged that the successive governments never bothered to do some thing for his family. At least something can be done for my grand daughter, who is now living at village Sudhar with her aunt, he added.

He claimed that he had met Mr Gurnam Singh, former Chief Minister, who was kind enough to get orders passed from some Central agency for paying Rs 15,000 as compensation, but the then Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana ordered a compensation of only Rs 9,000 for the death of three youths.

He said he could understand the grief of those who had lost their loved ones in the crashes at Ambala and Mullanpur Dakha. “The two accidents have reopened my old wounds but I urge the authorities to do something for rehabilitating the devastated families. Speaking from experience, I can say that once the dust settles on the files, nobody does anything.”

Old persons recall that the bomb was dropped by a plane which was going to the Sodhiwala Firing Range near Jagraon. 



Case against Bush, Blair sought
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 9
The Indian Workers Association of Great Britain, a co-sponsor of the Anti-War Coalition, Great Britain, has urged Mr Kofi Annan, Secretary-General, UNO, to register a case against Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush in the court of International Justice and to withdraw the veto power of both countries, for bringing the UNO charter into disrepute internationally.

Dr Hardeep Singh, overseas spokesman of the association, issued a press note here today on behalf of the president, Mr Harpal Brar, and the assistant general secretary, Mr Surinder Cheema, demanding that Mr Kofi Annan should call an emergency general body meeting of the UNO and expel the USA, Britain and Spain from the UNO membership, besides withdrawing the Veto Power of both countries. It was also decided that sanctions should be imposed on these countries and a resolution should be moved to disarm these countries as these were posing threat to the world peace and sovereignty of other countries. They claimed that survey of the Anti-War Coalition, Great Britain, showed that 80 per cent of people of Britain and all over the world were against the unjust war on Iraq.

Iraq was attacked by the forces of these countries on the pretext of eliminating alleged Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” (WMD), but both these countries were possessing about 60 per cent of the total WMD of the world. The war had brought nothing, but death, destruction and devastation to the people of Iraq.

The association demanded if Mr Annan was unable to get such a resolution passed or get a case registered in the court of International Justice, he should immediately submit his resignation.



Popeye obsession among city kids
Deepkamal Kaur

Ludhiana, April 9
He is short, bald, ornery and downright ugly by anyone’s standards, still he has become the most talked-about cartoon character among school-going children. Popeye has become ubiquitous as kids wear Popeye, play Popeye and even carry it to their schools. Popeye’s pictures can be seen on their T-shirts, video games, puzzles, schoolbags, pencil boxes, erasers and even socks.

The obsession for Popeye probably began from the one-hour show telecast on Cartoon Network every evening. The show started with a theme that Popeye on eating little spinach becomes a strong hero. The idea behind the show was to persuade kids to start eating green vegetables. Children seem to have lost the educating part, on the other hand they have been instrumental in increasing the sales of products carrying Popeye’s pictures.

Stuffed toys of Popeye with Olive Oyl, his fickle-hearted girlfriend, have become common in kids’ bedrooms. Even the sales of video game cassettes featuring Popeye have been rising steadily. So much so that jigsaw puzzles prepared on Popeye’s enactments have also become the most sought-after indoor game among schoolchildren.

The extent of obsession for this cartoon character is such that even the parents feel amazed at it. Ms Kirti Ahuja, a housewife, said, “My four-year-old son never ate ‘palak paneer’, but the other day when I went out to buy some grocery items, he told me to get spinach. Coming home, when I started cutting it, he told me not to do so, because he would like to eat it raw like his Popeye and become strong like him.”

Sharing her experience, Ms Manpreet Bajaj, another resident, said when I took my son to buy a new schoolbag, pencil box and other stationery items for the new session, he insisted on buying only those items that had pictures of Popeye printed on them. We went to at least five shops, but we could not find things with Popeye pictures. At this, my son became inconsolable and while coming back home, he said he had seen such items at his friend’s place. We then called up at his friend’s place, talked to his mother and enquired about the shop from where she had bought those items. The next day, when my husband went to that shop and got a Popeye schoolbag and a pencil box for him, he was much excited at it.”

In yet another case, Mr Vijay Kumar, another resident, said his son was so much obsessed with Popeye that he probably spent more than six hours with it. ‘‘My 10-year-old son, Ashish, comes back from school, barely changes his clothes and takes his lunch, and starts playing Popeye jigsaw puzzles. After an hour or so, he would pick up Popeye video game and continue with it for an hour or two. Tied with this, it will be time to sit before the computer and download some screen savers of Popeye. Soon, it would be time to watch Popeye show on TV. During this one hour show, he would not let anyone disturb him or change the channel.”



Bogus voting alleged
Tribune News Service

Khanna, April 9
Allegations of bogus voting were levelled against Congress candidate Sanjay Ghai in Ward No 2 by SAD candidate Iqbal Singh. He alleged that police officials, civil and election officials helped the Congress candidate as he happened to be a nephew of a senior police officer.

He alleged that the main “satta” operator of the town who lives in Ward No 2 helped Sanjay Ghai financially in casting bogus votes through his workers. It may be mentioned here that Sanjay Ghai was declared the winner by just seven votes from Ward 2 of the Municipal Committee, elections for which were held on April 5.

Mr Iqbal Singh alleged that his supporters, including Kartaro Devi, a sitting MC and her son Mulkh Raj Marshal, were detained by the police and allegedly beaten up to demoralise the SAD candidate. He has lodged complaints with presiding and returning officers about “bogus voting”. He also alleged that his genuine votes were declared invalid during counting. 



Public urinals crying for attention

Ludhiana is the biggest city of Punjab. The government is ever challenged for providing more facilities to the city people for their convenience. So it becomes the duty of Municipal Corporation to look after the needs of the public and also to take proper care of several public facilities like water supply, sewerage system, road lights, parks, roads etc but with the passage of time Municipal Corporation officials seem to be bothering less about public good.

Due to this indifferent attitude, large amounts of money being spent for construction of parks, roads, sewerage system, road lights etc. on other models become useless. As for the convenience of the public, urinals at different places in the city need immediate attention. Officials seem to have forgotten to repair these urinals. Today these urinals give foul smell and it becomes difficult for people to pass through the area.

Rahul Trehan

Old Age pensions

The state Department of Social Welfare disburses old-age and widow pensions to eligible beneficiaries through banks where they are supposed to keep their saving bank accounts. While it is encouraging that banking habit should be inculcated , at the same time it must be realised that how difficult it is to travel for an infirm or the aged to reach from a village to a city located bank branch when many have no other family members to take them to the bank. Further, the very purpose of social welfare is defeated when the aged and the infirm are supposed to collect their pension amounts from the place of disbursement.

Further, there is no regularity in receipt of pension amounts at the banks from the state department leaving such aged and infirm senior citizens a harassed lot when they have to return empty handed.

The state government should regularly send pension amounts for credit to the beneficiaries accounts at the banks. It will be in the fitness of things if such work is handled in villages by cooperative societies in villages who may be permitted to open such accounts.

Disbursement may be made at fixed dates without fail by eliminating the role of middle men and for this purpose a state government representative may be present at the place of disbursement.

B.B. Goyal


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