Wednesday, April 23, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Family robbed at gunpoint
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 22
Four armed miscreants robbed a family of a dairy owner near Ramgarhia Girls College, Millergunj, Ludhiana, of Rs 50,000 and 80 tolas of gold jewellery items, this afternoon.

The masked robbers entered the house of Mr Pritam Singh at around 1.15 p.m. and decamped with items within 15 minutes. At that time two daughters-in-law of Mr Pritam Singh were inside the house along with a three-year-old boy. The women could not resist much as robbers pointed a pistol at the boy to force them to obey their orders.

One of the women, Gurjit Kaur, got minor injuries when the robbers snatched earrings and a nose pin. She and her sister-in-law, Manjinder Kaur, also suffered bruises on their wrists when the robbers tied them with a chair before decamping with the booty.

According to eyewitnesses, the robbers fled towards the Jagraon bridge. Mr Jasbir Singh, a relative of the victims, said he along with some other persons tried to nab the robbers.

The police has sounded an alert in the city. Several checkpoints have been put up. The police is in the process of preparing a computer sketch of the robbers as per the description given by the victims.

According to the victims, the robbers were clean-shaven and were speaking Punjabi. They seemed to have all details about the activities of the family members. The family had withdrawn the jewellery from the bank locker a few days ago to attend a marriage last evening.

The women and the boy, Tannu, were visibly terrified by the incident. Ms Gurjit Kaur and Ms Manjinder Kaur said they were sitting in a room when the robbers barged into the house and forced them to obey their order. The police has registered a case of robbery.



Girl accuses mother of forcing her into prostitution
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Phillaur, April 22
The Phillaur police has launched an investigation into a complaint of a 22-year-old girl of this town who has accused her mother of forcing her into prostitution.

The girl had appeared before Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, Jalandhar, yesterday and lodged a complaint against her mother. The SSP had deputed the Phillaur SHO to conduct an inquiry into the allegations.

Mr Varinder Kumar told TNS over the phone today that although the girl, Rani (name changed) had made a serious allegation, the police could not act just on her complaint, He said as per information received by him there was a property dispute among the family mentels and allegations and counter-allegations were being made.

He said the police was looking into the veracity of several complaints made by the family members. A few days ago, a cousin of Rani had alleged that she was beaten regularly by her (Rani). This girl, Priya (name changed) was an orphan and was living with Rani’s mother, who was her maternal aunt.

Priya had alleged that Rani did not like her staying with the family and was beating up her regularly. She was, in fact, forced to stay away from the family. Police sources said Priya was living at different places now and her antecedents were being checked.

Rani had alleged that her mother was subjecting her to mental and physical torture for the past several days in order to force her into prostitution. She alleged that her mother was into the flesh trade and wanted to make money by trading her daughter. She said that she wanted to lead a peaceful life by marrying a boy of her choice.

Both the girls were untraceable when a TNS team visited the colony today to inquire into the complaints. Area residents said on condition of anonymity that they too were puzzled by the complaints and had no clue if the allegation of prostitution was true or false. Residents said there was a property dispute among the family members.



Air Force warning on stubble burning
Tribune News Service

Halwara, April 22
The authorities of the local Air Force station have started giving an early warning to farmers not to burn wheat stubble around the station as it produces thick smog which causes difficulty in flying.

The warning has been given to the farmers residing in the vicinity of the Air Force station through special meetings with sarpanches of nearby villages. This is the second time that such an exercise has been undertaken.

Earlier, in October last year, the authorities had tried to prevent farmers from burning stubble by organising meetings in a similar manner but the move did not have the desired effect.

Sources at the Air Force station said the MiG crash at Mullanpur Dakha recently was an apt warning to the Air Force authorities as well as the farmers regarding the destruction which a crash could cause, both in terms of human loss as well as loss of property. According to the authorities, smog can cause a crash anytime.

Wg Cdr Halwara Air Force station, Dharam Punni, said they had tried to educate the farmers regarding the danger of burning stubble. Continuous talks with the farmers would have the desired affect, he said.

He disclosed that the Air Force had also tried to strike a rapport with the farmers. We had even invited farmers and their children to visit the station, he said.

Farmers in the state were following the age-old practice of burning wheat stubble that caused smog and air pollution, besides damaging nutrients in the soil and killing agriculture-friendly worms and insects.

After scaring environmentalists and agricultural experts, thick smog from the burning of paddy stubble had engulfed the Air Force station reducing visibility and hampering smooth operations in October last year. Thick smog had reduced visibility for the pilots from 5 km to 1km only, affecting practice sorties and other vital exercises of the front line station.

Air Force authorities have appealed to farmers in 14 villages, near here, to immediately stop burning paddy stubble.

The Halwara Air Force station is one of the most vital defence installations of North India. Air Force sources said considering the tension on the border, readiness for any event was necessary. The smog could affect operations in case of any eventuality.

Air Force sources said if the burning continued, the authorities would seek the help of the district administration in initiating strict action against the farmers.

The district administration had been invoking such a ban every year but the orders were being violated with impunity. It was common to see farmers setting their fields on fire but no action had been initiated in this regard.



Post offices to go hi-tech
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 22
Post offices in the city are all set to go hi-tech with the Department of Posts making an effort to make the post offices here more people-oriented by launching customer-friendly schemes.

If all goes well, mobile bills of various companies will be collected at post offices and delivered to customers by postmen. Money orders will be delivered within two days.

Besides, all 50 post offices here will be given a spick and span look and the employees will be sensitised about customers rights. The post offices will also be made approachable for the physically challenged persons.

This was stated by Ms Manisha Bansal Badal, Senior Superintendent of Post offices, Ludhiana, while addressing mediapersons here today. Stating that the Postal Department had started making changes to suit the customers in the fast-pacing world, she said the department would issue 'loyalty cards' to their regular customers of the International Money Transfer Scheme to appreciate their loyalty towards the department. Customers with loyalty cards will be given preference over other customers while effecting payments.

Special training will be organised for the postal staff to sensitise them about the needs, requirements and problems of the customers.

A Post Forum comprising eminent residents of the city, representatives of business houses, educational institutions and welfare societies had been formed by her. A quarterly meeting of members of the Post Forum and the postal staff will be held to redress the grievances of the customers and bring improvement in postal services according to the requirements and demands of the customers.

She said she would launch a cleanliness drive in post offices to make atmosphere in post offices hygienic, cleaner and conducive to the health and well-being of the customers and the staff.

She said post offices would be made accessible to the physically-challenged with the construction of ramps for wheelchairs, railing and writing of signs in Braille on the counters.

She said the department had come up with a number of schemes, including the collection and delivery of bills, installation of drop-boxes for the collection of cheques, collection of payment from the premises of customers and verification of addresses of new subscribers.

She said the department had developed a high speed software that would enable faster and foolproof delivery of money orders.

She said the International Money Transfer Service was being offered at eight post offices in the Ludhiana City Division, including Head Post Office, Sub-Postmaster Ludhiana CPO, Sub-Postmaster Millerganj, Sub-Postmaster Model Town, Sub-Postmaster PAU, Sub-Postmaster L.R. Market, and Sub-Postmaster Madhupuri.



Schools fail to produce admission records
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 22
Representatives of the managements of two local schools, who were summoned by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau, appeared before the investigating officer of the bureau at Chandigarh today but failed to produce relevant record on the plea that the record was not immediately available. However, the schools have given an undertaking to cooperate with investigations of the Vigilance Bureau pertaining to the complaints that parents were being forced by these schools to pay donations which were being siphoned off by the school management in connivance with senior district officials.

The Punjab Vigilance Bureau is learnt to have told the schools that it will consider their request for granting more time for the submission of record. The schools have been asked to wait for a fresh notice regarding the next appearance before the Vigilance Bureau.

The Punjab Vigilance Bureau had issued notices to four city schools and asked two schools to appear before the investigating officers on Monday while the other two were asked to appear, along with all relevant records of admissions, on Tuesday. The school managements that appeared before the investigating officer at Chandigarh were those of DAV and Sacred Heart in Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar.

The schools — Sacred Heart, Sarabha Nagar, and Sacred Heart, Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar, DAV, Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar and Guru Nanak Public School, Sarabha Nagar — have been asked to present themselves before the investigating officer and bring records pertaining to admission to LKG class held during the past 10 years.

Even as the schools have expressed inability to present records pertaining to admissions, the Vigilance Bureau officials are believed to considering some relaxation to the schools by asking them to present all records pertaining to admissions over the past two years.

While, the schools have been told that they would be summoned again in a week’s time after the scrutiny of the submitted records was completed, Vigilance Bureau team is believed to be going about the investigation in a very sensitive manner as senior civil and police officials are reported to be involved in the “admission scam”.

Meanwhile, pressure is said to be mounting on the Vigilance Bureau to go slow in the case due to the involvement of senior bureaucrats. A senior government functionary at Chandigarh told The Tribune “making recommendations should neither be considered illegal nor unethical as people have hopes from their elected government that works on the principal of give and take. How do you expect your work to be done when the opposition is in power?” So far, only Guru Nanak Public School has submitted the past two years’ record while the remaining three schools had sought more time for the same.




With the mercury soaring in the city during the month of April it seems that it is going to be a difficult summer this time. The temperature has already started crossing 39° Celsius. It has become a difficult time for the young girls to venture out in the sun that would ensure an ugly tan. It has become a common practice to see girls carrying umbrellas, donning face masks and sun gloves. One stark difference of an eye for beauty and colour between boys and the girls is that girls would always look for something colourful and the former would go for anything no matter if its dull.

Deceptive looks

Recently mangoes have flooded the market, ending the long wait of hundreds of mango lovers for a sumptuous treat on this king of fruits. Though the mangoes in the market are a delight for the eyes, but they are quite a disappointment when it comes to taste. The poor taste has resulted from a bumper mango crop that has forced fruit vendors to use artificial means to ripen them. The chemicals used make the fruit very attractive from outside but a big disappointment inside.

VIP parking

The parking outside the office of the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) in the Mini Secretariat is virtually inaccessible to the public for reportedly security reasons. But if you happen to be a VIP of sorts or have some clout with the local officials or perhaps even the traffic cop on duty, you may be lucky to get a nod allowing you to park your vehicle there. Since this parking is almost vacant while the adjoining paid parking area is bulging, it may be worthwhile considering issuing parking passes for those visiting the secretariat on a regular basis. This may help in reducing parking hassles.

War criminals

Hundreds of Saddam Hassain fans in the city have expressed severe disappointment over the manner in which pictures and statues of Sadam’s have been uprooted and destroyed by coalition forces in Iraq. Any survey conducted in the region at this point would show anti-US sentiments to be the strongest, especially when many Indians working in Iraq have been rendered jobless due to the war. With no “weapons of mass destruction” having being found as yet, there is growing demand for booking the US President and British Prime Minister as “war criminals”

Selective press conferences

The district police has deputed a woman police officer to check up with the complainants if the police action on their complaint was satisfactory. The public relations exercise is done to improve the image of the men in khakki. But the police continues to maintain a distance from some select mediapersons who are critical of its functioning. So much so that the police has started convening press conferences of selective mediapersons only, who toe their line. One such press conference was convened by a DSP recently, even though only officers of the SP level are entitled to speak to the press. All efforts of good public relations are damaged if the requirements of the fourth estate are not met. After all journos only want accessibility of an officer to all the mediapersons and not to a select few. Journalists in the city have to, at times, call up senior range or state level officers to take version of local stories. This only causes problems to the seniors but fortunately they are quite responsive.

Mobile phones

The general public is benefitting a lot from the launching of free incoming calls by all mobile phone companies. All officers who were never available in their offices are now easily accessible on the cell. Earlier, the PAs or receptionists did not tell the mobile numbers as the calls were costly but now the scene has changed. These employees do not hesitate in saying‘ mobile kar lo’. Journalists are benefitting also. Even operators of police officers tell the mobile phone numbers. It is another matter that the police may or may not answer the call of a journalist.

Cut short

At a function held recently, the organisers kept on repeating that they had to ‘cut short’ the function because the chief guest had to leave by a certain time. Sentinel heard some members of the audience saying ‘so far he had repeated ‘cut short’ 16-times. It was ‘sweet sixteen’, but more than 16 times, it was sweet no longer. Infact the entire audience was tired of hearing that the organisers were ‘cutting short’ the programme due to paucity of time and yet kept repeating themselves and wasted time.

Phulkaris and not shawls

The former Prime Minister of India, Mr I.K. Gujral, was the chief guest at a function held recently. He along with some other distinguished persons were awarded shawls as mark of honour. Mr Gujral said in his own inimitable manner that since they were being honoured in Punjab, they should have been given ‘phulkaris’ and not shawls as ‘phulkaris reflect the tradition of the ‘land of five rivers’.

Tail Piece

Heard at the local Mini Secretariat: “Public servants or civil servants should be redesignated “Lord sahib” in keeping with their attitude of avoiding the public.”

— Sentinel



Groundwater: 70 blocks classified as dark areas
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 22
Enhanced irrigation requirement for intensive agriculture in Punjab has resulted in over-exploitation of groundwater resources leading to an alarming decline, more than 23 cm each year, in water table with 70 blocks in the state being classified as dark areas where water exploitation exceeds 85 per cent.

This is a matter of grave concern for scientists and farmers alike. The declining water table in these states has resulted in decrease in yield due to increase in suction lift, a need for lowering the existing centrifugal pumps at an exorbitant cost, an increase in total operating head of pumps necessitating replacement of the existing horizontal centrifugal pumps by expensive submersible pumps.

The dark area comprises the whole of Central Punjab including, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Sangrur, while 15 blocks of the state have been classified as grey, where the groundwater depletion is about 65 per cent. White areas, where the depletion level is about 35 per cent, fall in the south-west Punjab and the Kandi belt. But experts are of the view that this area will remain this way because of the depth (200 - 300 feet), at which water is pumped out and is not for the average farmer.

According to Dr N.K. Narda and Prof D.S. Taneja, Head, Department of Soil and Water Engineering and Senior Resident Engineer, PAU, it is a misconception that the abuse is on account of free power, but in reality is due to water that is becoming more expensive.” “Pure water is essential for farming and the same cannot be said of groundwater in most parts of the state. That is why huge amounts are spent on digging wells to lowering the installed pump sets and given the condition today, sowing and nurturing a crop is impossible without submersible pumps.”

“It is a good indication that the government has at last woken up to accept the oft stressed fact by scientists that there needs to be a restriction on sinking new tubewells. The farmers must be made aware that they must make do with the existing ones. They have yet to realise the importance of conservation of this exhaustible natural resource,” they pointed out.

“There are more than 10 lakh tubewells, power and diesel operated, in the state which are well above the desirable limit. As per estimates, a crop on a five-acre farm can be raised with a three-and-a-half inch bore tubewell. But the incidence of such small bores is negligible in the state. Such is the mindset of farmers that various schemes like drip irrigation and sprinklers have not found favour with them despite subsidies by the government,” they pointed out.

Nobody really thought about the consequences of following the wheat — paddy cycle at the onset of the Green Revolution in the 60s. Today, we are facing the consequences.



Truckers’ strike enters ninth day
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 22
The truckers’ strike entered its ninth day today leading to a rise in the prices of vegetables, fruits and some other essential commodities. However, the supply of petrol and diesel remained consistent as these had been exempted from the strike.

The strike has had its impact on various sections. And the worst effected appeared to be the dhaba owners on the highways. They mostly depend on the truck drivers. The dhabas wore a deserted look today with the number of customer having fallen by over 90 per cent.

Bansi Lal, a dhaba owner on the GT Road on the city outskirts, disclosed that the flow of customers had fallen.

The collections at the octroi posts of the Municipal Corporation also remained affected. The employees at the Jalandhar by pass octroi post revealed that the collections had gone down by over 75 per cent as no goods had been transported during this period. The collections otherwise amounted to lakhs of rupees daily.



Wives come in support of hosiery manufacturers
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 22
First it was the naked protest, then the prayer meets and now it was the turn of wives of hosiery manufacturers to protest against the imposition of central excise duty on hosiery and textile goods. They came out on the roads today banging their utensils to express their resentment against the government.

Hundreds of women carrying dish plates and other utensils held a procession shouting slogans against the government. They demanded withdrawal of the central excise duty on hosiery and textile products saying that this will ruin the hosiery industry. Meanwhile the strike entered its 23rd day today.

In a separate statement, Mr Joginder Kumar, president, Federation of Tiny and Small Industries of India, alleged that it was the CII, which put up the proposal in October, 2001, to bring parts and accessories of cycle and cycle rickshaws under the excise duty. 



SAD seeks cassette’s withdrawal
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 22
The vice-president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Harpal Singh Kohli, has demanded the withdrawal of a cassette by Bhotu Shah and Kake Shah, two Punjabi singers, as he alleged that the cassette contained some imitations of a ‘ragi ‘ and these hurt his religious sentiments. He has also demanded unconditional written apology from the two singers.

The controversy pertains to the cassette titled ‘’ Bhotu Shah Ji Dussange’’ and particularly regarding the song ‘Eme roula pei gaya’. Apart from the two singers, the legal notice has also been sent to the Plasma Entertainment Private Limited, Gujrat Complex, Jyoti Chowk, Jalandhar, which has allegedly released the cassette.



Give pre-arrest notice to cop’

Ludhiana, April 22
Acting on an anticipatory bail application filed by Inspector Paramjit Singh (former SHO of the Sadar police station), a city court has directed the police to serve three-day notice on the Inspector, if he is required to be arrested. The court has fixed April 26 as the next date for hearing arguments on the bail plea.

Meanwhile, the regular bail application filed by Mr Grewal would come for hearing tomorrow. OC



Cultural mela on April 25

Ludhiana, April 22
A North India Trade and Cultural Mela will start on April 25 and continue till May 4. It will be held on the playground of the Government College for Women. The Minister for Jails and Urban Development, Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi, will inaugurate the mela which will be open to public from 2 pm to 10 pm every day. OC



Villagers block highway
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 22
Upset over the non-supply of drinking water to nearly 20 colonies in Mundian Kalan village falling under the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation, hundreds of residents today blocked the Chandigarh-Ludhiana highway for two hours causing immense inconvenience to commuters. The dharna was lifted only when officials of the civil administration and the police assured the residents.



Principal, son beat up student
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 22
In a shocking case of corporal punishment, a four-year-old boy, student of Navyug Public School Jassowal, near here, was allegedly beaten up mercilessly by the school Principal and her son.

A case has been registered against the Principal, Ms Baljit Kaur, and her son, Surinder Singh, Sections 323 and 342 of the IPC. The student, Charandeeep Singh, was brought to the Civil Hospital for a medical examination today late evening.

According to the police, Surinder Singh was not even an employee of the school but to used come there to ask questions from the students. He had asked some questions from Charandeep which he failed to answer.

He was, then, allegedly beaten up by Surinder Singh and later by the Principal. The boy received bruises on various parts of the body. No arrests have been made.



JE held on graft charge

Ludhiana, April 22
The Vigilance Bureau claimed to have caught red-handed a junior engineer (JE) of the Punjab State Electricity Board at Rohno Kalan village 15 km from Khanna, while he was taking bribe from a farmer here today. SSP (Vigilance) Kanwarjit Singh Sandhu said DSP (Vigilance) Diljinder Singh had caught JE Subash Chander while taking a bribe of Rs 1000 from a farmer, Sohan Singh of the village. A case has been registered against the JE. TNS



Industry hit by SARS
Shivani Bhakoo

Ludhiana, April 22
The local industry has been seriously hit after the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in China and surrounding countries. Industrialists are reluctant to take part in ‘China Cycle 2002 Fair’, one of the largest fair of cycle industry which is scheduled for May 2, 2003, at Shanghai (China). Though local participants have asked the Chinese authorities either to postpone the event or change the venue due to the SARS fear, the authorities have refused to oblige them.

Mr Neeraj Dhanda of Sadem Industries said because of the SARS attack, the bicycle business had suffered to an extent. He said people were reluctant to visit China as they fear that they might catch the viral infection. “ The work has also been hit and we are depending on telephones and fax messages. One of the major fair in cycle industry will be held in the first week of May and there will be very less participation. The authorities have not postponed the show, but we are definitely going to miss a good show, ” said Mr Dhanda.

Mr Anil Jain of Venus Fabrics said though their work was not directly hit, definitely the SARS threat had created a panic among people worldwide. “ One of our meetings was going to be held at Hong Kong but the venue has now been changed to the USA due to the SARS threat. People are scared and are hesitant to visit places like China, Hong Kong and Thailand. Nobody wants to put his life at risk,” said Mr Jain.

Mr Navneet Chabra from Metro Tyres also shared similar views. He said,“ One of the biggest trade fairs in cycle industry — ‘China Cycle 2003 Fair’ will witness less participation this time.”

Not only the cycle or yarn industry, but also people dealing in electronic toys, batteries, stationery goods also complained to have been hit by the SARS threat. Mr Daljit of Archies Gallery, Sarabha Nagar, here said they were getting limited supply of soft and electronic toys. “ We work in a chain but now that people are not visiting China. We are not getting enough products. People have started clearing their old stocks at high costs. But once the threat is over, everything will be alright, ” said Mr Daljit Singh.


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