Friday, May 2, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


PMT racket continues despite crackdown
Deepkamal Kaur

Ludhiana, May 1
Claims by police officials of having busted a racket pertaining to leakage of question papers of the Pre-Medical Test (PMT) conducted by the CBSE notwithstanding, agents involved in the ‘business’ continue to approach students without any hesitation offering ‘guaranteed admission’ in exchange for a pre-determined amount.

Several students in Ludhiana, who appeared for the test on Sunday, continue to receive phone calls from agents assuring them that they will not only find their names in the list of selected candidates, but will also be well-placed in the merit list in return for Rs 2 lakh. They say this amount is peanuts compared to the donations that range between Rs 30 and 40 lakh.

Some parents have also claimed that they are still getting phone calls from agents.

Ms Ranjit Kaur, a teacher at Sacred Heart Convent Senior Secondary School, said she was surprised when she received a phone call from an agent last Friday asking her to pay an amount of Rs 2 lakh for getting her son admitted to any medical college of their choice. When she refused, the agent started negotiating and said she could even pay an amount of Rs 1 lakh for the time being and the remaining amount could be paid after the admission. When she said she could not afford to pay that much amount, the agent said she could pay just Rs 50,000 now and the balance could be paid in instalments. She said the agent even lured her by saying that he could make sure that her son’s rank was between 150 and 200. He also told her that he would let them know the result at least four days before the official declaration of the result.

Out of sheer curiosity to know about the modus operandi, Ms Ranjit Kaur told the agent that she was ready to pay Rs 50,000, but he would first have to tell her as to how he would do it. The agent said he could do this by some computer manipulation in which he would feed an answer sheet prepared by him against her son’s roll number.

Since then she had received two more calls from the same person, but she had snubbed him and told him not to call her again, she said.

She said she, her son and her husband had lost faith in the way the CBSE-PMT was conducted. She said tall claims made by the CBSE Chairman about free and fair conduct of the test had been shattered. She called for a thorough investigation into the racket by the Vigilance Bureau.

In another case, a parent who did not want to be quoted, said he had contacted a local agent at the time of submitting his son’s application. He said the agent had assured him that his son would get a seat in Maulana Azad Medical College, if he paid him Rs 5 lakh. He said the agent himself filled up his son’s form, while he simply had to sign it.



Workers' issues highlighted on May Day
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 1
Various labour outfits, political parties and employee unions observed International Labour Day in the district today.
The Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), at a function held at New Kundan Puri, condemned the state government for not declaring a holiday today under the Factories Act or the Negotiable Instruments Act so that lakhs of labourers could observe the day and recall the sacrifices of the Chicago martyrs.

Mr Sunder Lal Mehta, president of the union, alleged that no labour law was being implemented in the factories and contractual labour was the norm. There is no social security for labourers in case of accidental loss or death and the owners pay no compensation. Citing an instance, he said there were more than 5, 000 hosiery units in the city but these were not covered under the factories, gratuity, ESI, bonus or other allied Acts. Exploitation of workers was going on with the "support" of the Labour Department, he alleged.

The local unit of the Congress (Urban) held a free medical checkup camp on the occasion. A large number of labourers were examined and provided with medicines. Mr Malkiat Singh Dakha, MLA, addressed the gathering and assured workers that more houses under the economically weaker section category would be constructed for them. The working class was the backbone of the party and their interests would be watched by them, he added.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) held a function on he Deepak Cinema road to mark the Labour Day and claimed that the workers' interests were safe only with the party. Mr D.P. Khosla, a senior functionary of the unit, said it was ironical that all other parties never bothered to take up the cause of workers all year round but came out with lengthy statements on this day. He said the BSP was the only party which had brought in awareness in the labour class about their rights all over the country.

The Moulder and Steel Workers Union observed the Labour Day at a function on Gill Chowk and dedicated it to the victims of the recent Iraq war.

The Joint Council of Trade Unions also observed the Labour Day where the AITUC national secretary Amarjit Kaur also took part. She said given the state of the working class, the observance of this day was all the more relevant. Most of the countries in the world were being run on the dictates of the international monetary agencies and the Word Bank.

She said the government was bent upon destroying the public sector units and was least concerned about the galloping unemployment rate. “People are crying for basic amenities like water, health care, education, roads and infrastructure but no one is paying any attention to them. More and more legislations are being enacted which are not in the interest of the common man. The same is true for even profit making organisations which are being sold at throwaway prices”, she said.

The Government Classical and Vernacular Teachers Union also observed May Day and demanded early implementation of demands already accepted by the Education Minister.

Mr H.S. Dhindsa, president of the union, said the demands include appointment of Headmaster of elementary schools from the CV teachers having experience of teaching till Class VIII and having higher basic pay.

A function was organised by the Uttariya Railways Mazdoor Union at the railway station to pay the homage to the martyrs of Chicago on the occasion of May Day here. Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Higher Education Minister, presided over the function.

Paying his tributes, Mr Johar described the labour and working class as the most important organ of any country. He claimed that the Capt. Amarinder Singh’s government was fully committed for the welfare of the weaker sections, particularly those belonging to the working and labour classes. He said during the short period of one year the minimum wages for the workers had been revised and annual Kirt Shiromini and Kirt Vir awards had been constituted for out standing workers.

Fatehgarh Sahib: May Day was observed by various trade unions in the district. Employees, labourers and farmers took out processions through the main bazaars of Sirhind. They were raising slogans against the contract system and disinvestments policy of the government.

Addressing the gathering, Mr Hari Chand, president, Class IV Government Employees Association, paid tributes to the martyrs of May Day. Mr Amar Nath, general secretary, Trade Union Council, criticised the government for promoting privatisations in the government departments and in public sectors like the PSEB, PRTC, Punjab Roadways and Tourism. He said with privatisation, private owners would fleece the public. He urged the government to rethink about its policy, otherwise they would be forced to initiate agitation. It would also increase unemployment, he added.

Mr Malook Masih, president, FCI Paledar Union, Mr Labh Singh, secretary, Mr Kulwinderjit Singh Jolly, PSEB, and Mr Manjit Singh, PSEB, also addressed the gathering.



Labour Day means nothing to these workers
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 1
While the entire world is talking about the rights of the workers as today is the May Day, four such workers, who had won accolades six years ago for their exemplary work of retrieving the bodies of various persons buried under several feet of sand in a local colony, are a disappointed lot.

These ‘gottakhor-mallahs’ (divers), were promised cash prizes and a job in the Municipal Corporation or district administration by the officials concerned after they had toiled hard for almost three days to retrieve the bodies of three labourers after they had got buried in a well. But six years after, they continue to knock at the doors of the government urging it to fulfil its promise but have only received a cold shoulder response.

The four expert well-diggers — Satyan Sahni, Rutal Mahato, Naresh Shah and Bablu Shah — have met all officials of the district administration and Municipal Corporation several times but to no avail. Two of them, Naresh and Bablu, have even left the city and gone back to their hometown in Bihar.

Narrating their tale of woes, the duo, Satyan and Rutal, who are hopeful that the promise would be fulfilled one day, have not left the city as yet. ‘‘I was told that it was ‘mazdooron ka din’’ (Labour Day) today and we would be taking out a big rally so that our grievances are heard. So we decided to meet the officials instead of participating in the rally. But nobody was available today. I have already sent a telegram to the Chief Minister and Deputy Commissioner asking them to fulfil the promise made to us.’’ said Satyan.

Recalling the time of the announcement of the promise along with producing supporting documents, they said that in May, 1996, three well-diggers had died after a well which they were digging had caved in consuming their lives. Officials of the district administration and the Municipal Corporation soon descended at the site but could not retrieve the body. Someone told them about the divers, who were called immediately.

Satyan and Rutal claim that municipal officials led by an Executive Engineer, who is now promoted as Superintendent Engineer, promised a cash prize and a government job to all if the three bodies were retrieved. The divers got on to the work despite the fact that the walls of the well were caving in.

As the risk grew, the labourers demanded some additional equipment but the request was turned down. Some officials of the administration got angry and told them to stop the work. The administration began the work on its own but it failed miserably.

In the process, seven days passed and residents started demonstrating against the administration for failing to retrieve the bodies. After one such demonstration, the divers were again called. This time according to the labourers, the administration did as demanded and soon all the bodies were retrieved.

However, the labourers were not given the promised jobs and since then they have been knocking at the doors of the MC officials, district administration and even political leaders for their prize.

After many rounds of the offices concerned, the labourers finally managed to get an award of Rs 1000 only besides being honoured at Independence Day 1997 but the promised price was not forthcoming. One of them was given only a temporary job in the corporation, which too was taken back.

Airing their grievances, the divers also produced documents of their work in which they saved lives from Budda Nullah, Sutlej river, and also retrieved several other bodies , not caring for their own lives.



High BSNL rates ‘scare’ subscribers
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 1
The exorbitantly high tariff being charged by the BSNL on the outgoing calls to mobile phones of other service providers has provoked widespread criticism from the subscribers. A wide section of subscribers told the Ludhiana Tribune here today that the new tariff regime was ‘‘exorbitant and arbitrary’’ which should not be accepted by the subscribers.

From today onwards the tariff being charged by the BSNL on each call to be made on a cellphone is six times more than what it used to be earlier.

As a result not many people were found making calls on mobile phones. There was too much confusion about the new tariff regime since not many people were clear about various plans on offer.

Rajinder Sharma, a leading car dealer, wondered why the BSNL needed to effect such a steep hike in the tariff. He pointed out that it was an unprecedented hike, as six- fold hike had been quite unheard of so far. ‘‘It is surprising that the BSNL has introduced such a tariff structure which will discourage its own subscribers from making calls to subscribers of other service providers’’, he said.

While anyone calling from a landline was charged Re 1.20 for one pulse of three minutes till yesterday, now the pulse has been brought down to just 30 seconds (from 180 seconds earlier), without any reduction in the per billing pulse rate. He said the tariff was too high for an average subscriber.

His opinion was shared by other subscribers like Mr Harjinder Singh. He demanded that the BSNL should review the tariff regime as it would not be possible for the common subscribers to make calls to cellphones.

‘‘If you are not able to utilise the telephone services properly then what is the use of having them?’’, he asked. He pointed out, "A simple call to a mobile phone will cost more than an STD call, even if the cell user (you are calling) happens to be sitting next door only’’.

Most of the cellphone subscribers contacted by the Ludhiana Tribune revealed that they had received a minimum number of landline calls today. Even those who did call rushed through the call trying to wind up the conversation as fast as possible. Most people felt that the BSNL needed to clarify the issue and new tariff plan properly so that there was no confusion among the subscribers.



Saluting National Flag through poetry, music
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, May 1
Never before has the city witnessed such a galaxy of maestros ranging from the doyen of Hindustani classical singing, Pandit Jasraj, magical flute player Hari Prasad Chaurasia, tabla maestro Shaafat Ahmed Khan, fusion music player who has given mandolin the same status as Bismallah Khan has given to shehnai, U. Srinivasan, kanjira player Selva Ganesha, vocalist Durga Jasraj, poet for all seasons Javed Akhtar, tabla maestro Vijay Ghate and director of Tiranga Vikram Sharma.

They are all here in connection with the staging of Tiranga, a musical narrative about the National Flag. The programme will be held under the aegis of the Ludhiana Sanskritik Samagam. In the words of Durga Jasraj, “I conceived the idea of presenting Tiranga as I wanted to remove prejudices and wrong religious connotations associated with it. We need to educate Indians about the significance of Tiranga. Youngsters should know what changes it has undergone to reach its present state.”

“Tiranga is the strongest symbol that gives us a national identity. It gives a feeling that we are Indians first and then Hindus or Muslims. It will be a unique show with plenty of sound and light effects, free poetic freedom and great visual impact. These will be a lot of experimentation with Indian classical music. We are not glamourising tradition, but taking it to children as they will appreciate it,” she says.

The most notable thing about Tiranga is that when Durga talked about it with President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, he said he also wanted to work for it. He gave Durga a week’s time to give him the blueprint. The President asked her to show him the research done on the background and history of National Flag. He himself had arrived with his file of research done on the flag. He gave them some facts about the Tricolour.

The next step was to find sponsors for the show. When Durga approached Mr Brij Mohan Lal Munjal of Hero Honda, he said ‘yes’ to sponsoring of the project.

Later, all maestros were contacted. Javed Akhtar was asked to write about the colours of Tiranga.

The event will include an eight-minute documentary on evolution of the flag. It will show the modern generation the struggle of their fathers and forefathers. Later, it will be a show of sound, colours and spontaneous music by Indian’s best musicians. All this will be interspersed with divine poetry of Javed. The whole effect will be ethereal, says Durga.



Shattered Nisha returns medal, certificates
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 1
Reality has finally dawned upon Ms Nisha Kaura, who after years of tirade against corruption has reconciled to the fact that it is money and not mere recommendations that can secure a job for her. Her complaint to the Punjab Lok Pal against irregularities in the selection of science teachers cost 100 teachers their job, but her gold medal in chemistry and a degree in education have failed to secure a job for her.

Ms Kaura became a media celebrity for raising the issue about role of money in government appointments in the form of a letter to former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. Once The Tribune published the letter, it led to an inquiry indicting former Punjab Education Minister Tota Singh and a team of bureaucrats.

She has been trying unsuccessfully so far to get a science teacher’s job with the Punjab Government. She hails from Raikot and has a brilliant academic record — class X (76 per cent marks), BSc, Medical, (72 per cent marks), BEd (72 per cent marks) and MSc, Chemistry, (83 per cent marks, Panjab University topper). Now, she has decided to give up her efforts and consider herself to be an illiterate for the purpose of securing a job.

Exhausted in her efforts, she has once again written a letter to the Chancellor of Panjab University that gave her all her degrees. This time she is not complaining, she has simply decided to return her gold medal and certificates that she received at the 52nd annual convocation of the university in January this year.

She has written that despite being a winner of gold medal, she has failed to get selected as a science or JBT teacher. Since here selection as a teacher could not materialise despite a recommendation by the Chancellor and the judgment of Justice D.V Sehgal, Lok Pal, Punjab, who upheld her stand that selection of teachers involved extraneous considerations, she has decided to return all her certificates and medals on the occasion of Labour Day. Now she will start looking for some work as an uneducated labourer, she has written.

“Please accept these certificates and the gold medal and sell these to a person, who can buy a job with the help of these documents,” she has said.



Congress colluding with criminals: BJP
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 1
The open support extended by a front organisation of Congress to the district police in the wake of startling disclosures made in the video CD, recorded by alleged criminals, took another turn today with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) charging the ruling party with being hand-in-glove with anti-social elements.

The district president of the party, Mr Harbans Lal Sethi, said in a statement that the way some of the Congress and Youth Congress functionaries were supporting and taking out processions in favour of police officials involved in the video CD disclosures, clearly proved that a nexus existed between corrupt police personnel, Congress functionaries and hard core criminals.

He further remarked that with the patronage and protection being provided by the local Congress leaders to the police and criminals, the Congress government in Punjab, headed by Captain Amarinder Singh could not escape its moral and constitutional responsibility of getting the matter investigated from CBI so that the real truth came out. “If Capt Amarinder Singh is really serious in his determination to root out corruption he must give a commitment of taking exemplary action against his own party men, who are found guilty in the CBI probe.”

Joining issue with certain local Congress functionaries, Mr Sethi made an open offer to get the assets of former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Mr Sat pal Gosain inquired into albeit with a condition that similar investigations should be conducted into the wealth and assets of prominent Congress leaders, ministers and legislators as well.

Meanwhile, Mr Sat Pal Gosain, who had demanded dismissal of the Congress government for alleged dubious dealings of the police personnel as exposed in the video CD made by Subhash Katty and Bittu Chawla, maintained in a statement that the duo, with alleged criminal links, was not present in the press conference held by him on April 28. He said his party unequivocally stood against the nexus between corrupt policemen, the criminals and politicians, which was very much evident from public exposure of misdeeds of the police personnel.

In a bid to soften his stance towards the district police chief, Mr H.S. Sidhu, the BJP leader made it clear that the criticism of the police top brass in the said press conference was not aimed against any individual but against the superiors in their official capacities. In any case, the head of the Police Department had to own the responsibility of the wrong doings of his juniors and could not just run away from it.



Gosain tirade spurred by ‘petty politics’
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 1
Several Congress leaders today criticised the senior BJP leader and former Punjab Deputy Speaker, Mr Satpal Gosain, for his campaign against the Senior Superintendent of Police. They alleged that Mr Gosain has some personal interests to serve and he was “unnecessarily dragging the district police chief into a controversy”.

Addressing the May Day function at the Circuit House, the local Congress leaders, led by the Ludhiana East MLA, Mr Surinder Dawer, observed that the BJP was trying to politicise the administration for petty reasons.

The Congress leaders, including Mr Milkiat Singh Dakha, the DCC presidents (urban and rural), Mr K.K. Bawa and Mr Gurdev Singh Lapran and the Mayor Mr Nahar Singh Gill maintained that the government, led by the Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, had done a commendable job in providing a clean and transparent governance to the people.

Mr Dawer also announced that the local Congress unit will organise a political rally on May 9, which would be addressed among others by senior party leader and the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad.



MC turns blind eye to effluent menace
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, May 1
Effluent discharge, mixed with chemicals, metals, lime and cement, from a tool factory on Ghora Road in Ward No. 56, is causing immense damage to the main road and sewerage in the locality apart from making life of the residents of the area miserable.

The affected people, including area residents, owners of some other adjoining industrial units and their work force, are upset over the apathy of the defaulting units, which they observed had resulted in damage worth crores of rupees to the civic infrastructure, besides creating insanitary and unhygienic conditions in the locality.

Residents of the area rued the fact that the menace had continued for the past so many years, without attracting any penal action from the Municipal Corporation even though the issue has been brought to the notice of the senior officers. They further stated that the civic body itself had sustained heavy losses in terms of damage to roads and sewerage network over the years.

To further add to the woes of the people, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) had also been sleeping over the crucial issue despite persistent attempts to initiate some action.

In a bid to focus on the perennial problem of the residents and add weight to the their plea for justice, the area councillor, Ms Malkiat Kaur, has now taken up the matter with the MC and the PPCB authorities.



Shiv Sena seeks probe
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 1
The Shiv Sena (Hindustan) has sent a memorandum to the Governor demanding a probe into fleecing of parents by some school authorities.
Mr Pawan Sharma, General Secretary, said the school authorities were fleecing the parents by asking them to pay for donations to get their children admitted to school. He said while some affluent parents managed to get their wards admitted to reputed schools of the city, it was a major problem for the parents from economically weaker section who felt that the capabilities of their children were overlooked during admissions.

Mr Sharma said the schools were also charging a huge amount in the name of building fund, admission fund, sports fund, library fund and miscellaneous fund. He pointed that some schools forced the students to buy books, copies and uniform from a particular store at exorbitant prices and earned a commission out of it. 



Jeev Yatra from May 3
our correspondent

Ludhiana, May 1
The Shri Atmanand Jain Mahasabha (Uttri Bharat) is organising a three- week 4,000 -km - long Jeev Daya Yatra in commemoration of the 26th centenary birth celebration of Bhagwan Mahavir Swami . Nearly 1,000 persons will take part in the yatra. The yatra will be flagged off on May 3 at 8 pm.

The main purpose of the yatra is to inculcate the spirit of 'ahimsa parmo- dharam ' and spread the message of 'jiyo aur jeene do' among the new generation. All creatures inhabitating this planet along with humanity have the right to live.



JE arrested for amassing wealth
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 1
The local Vigilance Bureau today nabbed a Junior Engineer working with the horticulture wing of the local Municipal Corporation for amassing property disproportionate to his known source of income.

Sukhdev Singh Chauhan, JE, was accused of making false bills worth lakhs of rupees and causing a loss of the same amount to the corporation.

Sources in the Vigilance Bureau said an inquiry was on against the JE as the bureau had received several complaints against him. The DSP (Vigilance), Mr Darshan Singh, had found that the accused possessed property worth Rs 18,73,000 and owned a house, a car and a scooter. He had also forged two bills worth Rs 6 lakh and Rs 48,000, respectively.

He has been booked under the Prevention of Corruption Act.


Poppy husk seized
Our Correspondent

Machhiwara, May 1
The police seized 10 bags of poppy husk from the possession of Gurcharan Singh and Bachittar of Ranwan village after conducting a raid at their house last evening. The culprits were arrested on the spot. Talking to mediapersons, the SSP, Khanna, Mr P.S. Sarao, said the raid was conducted after getting a tip-off from some informers.

According to villagers, the process of selling poppy husk had been going on for the past many months. The accused had admitted that they were addicted to poppy husk, but had denied being involved in its sale, according to the police.



Headless body found
Our Correspondent

Machhiwara, May 1
The Machhiwara police today found a headless body of an unidentified youth from the fields of Khokhran village.
According to Mr Dilbagh Singh, SHO, Raj Naresh Singh, a villager , informed him about the body at 8 am. When the police visited the place, the body was found wrapped in plastic bags. According to the police, the man was first mercilessly beaten and then murdered by a sharp -edged weapon. The Machhiwara police has registered a case under Section 302 of the IPC.



Labourer killed

Sahnewal, May 1
Shambhu, a 35-year-old labourer, died after he fell from an under-construction wall at Phawa Khagat village here last evening.

According to the police, Shambhu, was helping masons in constructing a wall of a house, when he fell down. He died on the spot. His body has been sent for a post-mortem examination. The police has registered a case. OC



Hosiery manufacturers to continue stir
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 1
Against expectations that the Union Government may grant them exemption or at least provide them the choice of opting for the Central excise duty, hosiery manufacturers here are a disappointed lot as the government has refused to grant any exemption or option.

The hosiery manufacturers have decided to continue their ongoing strike. They have called a meeting on May 5 to chalk out a strategy.

Disclosing this here today, Mr Vinod Thapar, a representative of the Federation of Knitwear, Textile and Allied Industries Association , said the Rs 25 lakh exemption limit provided by the government on the unbranded products was too less to be acceptable.

He said the manufacturers do not want exemption. They only wanted the government to continue with the earlier practice of options. Only those who opted to pay the central excise should be asked to pay and not all others.

On the other hand, experts observe that the government had already agreed to the demand of manufacturers as they were seeking exemption for the unorganised sector which includes small manufacturers only. 


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