Sunday, May 11, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Salary scam in MC
Safai karamcharis short-changed since long
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 10
The new system of payment of salaries to safai karamcharis through cheques has left a large number of beneficiaries claiming that they have had a sudden and significant rise in emoluments as compared to their take-home salary (in cash) until now.

Apprehending massive irregularities in payments of salaries to municipal ‘safai karamcharis’ here in the past, functionaries of the Municipal Karamachari Dal and the Bharatiya Valmiki Dharam Samaj (BVDS) have called for a high-level inquiry to identify those responsible for economic exploitation of illiterate MC employees and bring them to book.

On the basis of recommendations of the National Commission on Safai Workers, the civic administration had recently adopted this system of payment, while, earlier, salaries were paid in cash.

At a press conference on Friday, activists of the Municipal Karamchari Dal, Mr Vijay Danav, Mr Lakshman Dravid and Choudhry Yash Pal, alleged that till the implementation of the new system, most safai karamcharis had been unaware of their actual salaries and used to take home, in cash, whatever was paid to them by the employees concerned in the Accounts Department of the MC. “The system of payment of salaries through cheque came as a pleasant surprise for many employees, since they, now, received Rs 500 to Rs 1500 more than what they were getting earlier in cash.”

Mr Danav said there existed a massive racket of economic exploitation and fleecing of the poor safai karamcharis in the MC, who, being illiterate, used to give their thumb impressions on payment receipts, while actually, they had been short-changed all through with the difference pocketed by employees of the Accounts Department. Some of the workers who had found their salary paid through cheques in excess of what was being paid earlier (by cash), were produced before newsmen.

The union leaders further charged that the 2,000-plus safai karamcharis might have been collectively cheated of crores of rupees over the past many years. A high-level inquiry, preferably by the CBI or the Vigilance Bureau, was sought to bring out the truth.

Meanwhile, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the District Valmiki Sabha have hailed the MC decision to pay salaries to the safai karamcharis by cheques. At a party workers’ meeting, Mr D.P. Khosla, former BSP vice-president, said the BSP and the Valmiki Sabha had been pressing the civic authorities to implement the recommendations of the National Commission on Safai Workers.

He said the racket had been continuing for the past many years and similar irregularities were being committed by those maintaining the provident fund (PF) accounts of the workers. The MC administration should immediately provide its workers with passbooks of PF accounts to make the entire process transparent and check bungling.



It was a tragedy waiting to happen
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 10
The fire in a hosiery unit in the congested Khud Mohalla of old city that killed 10 persons and injured 85 has brought back into focus inadequate firefighting infrastructure in hosiery units of old city, high-rise buildings and government offices.

While the New Delhi administration had recently sealed fire-prone residential and commercial buildings in the wake of the court’s order in the Uphaar tragedy case, the Ludhiana administration woke up only today after the fire charred to death six persons and killed four more later. It left 15 critically injured and 55 with burn injuries.

After the Dabwali fire, in which, hundreds of children had lost their lives, the then District Magistrate of the area had ordered strict enforcement of fire-safety rules to ensure that such incidents were not repeated. Unfortunately, here, the rules were not followed in letter and spirit.

The hosiery unit in Khud Mohalla is in a congested area, so, fire engines could barely reach there, so, long water pipes were stretched to the spot to douse the fire. Though the cause of fire is being probed, the presence of canisters of benzene which is used by hosiery manufacturers to remove stains from yarn points to the possibility of this inflammable material being the cause of the fire.

The fire struck when workers were inside the units. The workers could find no exit and got trapped. The tragedy has exposed the danger to the lives of thousands of others like them who are working in small units in congested areas like Phalai Bazar, Hindi Bazar, Dal Bazar, Rai Bahadur Road, Purana Bazar, Vakilan Mohallan, Brahmpuri, Kucha Pandit Beli Ram, New Shivaji Nagar, bylanes of Shiv Puri and Purana Bazar. A few years ago, many persons had died in Purana Bazar after a fire in a factory there.

Mr S.K. Sharma, Municipal Commissioner, said Khud Mohalla was a “non-planned area” that had come into existence much before the Municipal Corporation.

He said there were indeed hundreds of fire-prone factories in the old city, but the MC could do little in this regard.

“We cannot throw everyone out. Had there been one or two units, we could have done something. Thousands of workers are dependent on these factories for their livelihood. We can neither demolish these building nor ask these to be shifted.”

All high-rise building, factories, the LPG godowns and congested old markets of the city have been identified as fire-prone. The design of every high-rise building here has to be approved by the Fire Department before construction, but nobody really cares. After the construction is over, it is impossible to install certain essential firefighting equipment.

It’s usual for all to blame the Fire Department for the loss, but no one spends even a little amount on fire safety. Many factories are located in residential area, which increases the risk of fire manifold. In spite of strict orders to gas agencies, the godowns of some of these are still in densely populated areas.

A fire officer, when contacted, said: “In every street, there lives a politician and we can’t afford to lose our jobs. When we inspect any commercial premises, businessman complain against us. Owners of factories having no firefighting equipment are always ready with excuses.”

The fire officer said: “Fire-safety measures include that every factory should have two or more exit doors, so that, at the time of fire, workers may find it easy to escape. There should be enough sand, water and carbon dioxide extinguishers on the premises, depending on the space and the number of workers.

Persons working in the factories, marriage palaces, hotels, restaurants and government office should have hand-on training in using firefighting equipment.



Life term for kidnappers
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 10
The two accused in a Rs 10-lakh ransom and murder case were sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment by Mr Baldev Singh, Sessions Judge, and were also ordered to pay a fine of Rs 10,500 each.

The two accused Jatinder Kumar, alias Bawa (26), and Nirmal Singh, alias Nimma (23), residents of Phase-II, Urban Estate, Dugri, had kidnapped a nine-year-old boy in March, 1999 and had brutally murdered him when they failed to get the ransom amount. The deceased, Harnam alias Harman, was a student of Atam Public School and was strangled with a rope.

“The offence committed by the accused is of heinous nature, so they do not deserve leniency,” observed Mr Baldev Singh, while declining the plea of leniency raised by the accused on the pretext that they are poor. The case of the third accused, Amit Kumar, was sent to the Juvenile Court, as he was underage at the time of the commission of the offence.

The accused were challaned under Sections 302, 364-A (kidnapping for ransom), 201and 120-B of the IPC read with section 34. An FIR was registered in the case at Sarabha Nagar Police Station, here on March 26, 1999.

The father of the missing child had submitted to the police that he was running a tractor spare parts factory on Daba Road. On the fateful day, when he returned home for lunch, his son was not there. He was told that he had gone to play with his friends in a park.

At about 7.30pm he received a telephonic call from somebody who told him that his son had been kidnapped and he should make arrangement for ransom of Rs 10 lakh, added the complainant.

During investigation, SHO Baldev Singh recorded the statements of numerous persons and Dr Rajinder Kumar of Haibowal Kalan named the accused persons. The interrogation of Amit Kumar led to the recovery of the body of Harnam from a deserted quarter in Dugri. The police also recovered a gold ring of the boy, which he was wearing at the time of his death. Later, Jatinder Kumar and Nirmal Singh made an extra-judicial confession before a person, who produced them before the police.

However, during the trial, the accused claimed that they never made any extra-judicial confession before anyone, and not committed any offence. They asserted that they had been falsely implicated in the case but failed to show any reason for their false implication.



Day to remember lifetime of sacrifice
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, May 10
“Mother’s love means a lifetime of devotion and, sometimes, a lifetime of sacrifice,” says Dr Savita, studying for MD Paediatrics in Christian Medical College. She says: “I will always remain indebted to her, for she has been constantly sacrificing for me. Now that I am married and have children of my own, I understand more what all she has done for me and still continues to do. I place her above God. Mother, I salute you on Mother’s Day.”

Sartak Sharma, 9, and Rahul Sharma of class IX, who were buying cards for their mothers, said, “We love our mothers, who are like Gods to us on the Earth. We love them for doing hundred and one things for us every day.”

Ms Garima, a medical student, says: “After I read about growing cases of breast cancer among women, I have decided to persuade my mother to go in for mammography, for which, I’ll pay from my pocket money. I want my mother to live a healthy life.”

Mr Gurvinder Singh of Archies’ in Sarabha Nagar says: “In the past four days the sales of Mother’s Day cards have increased tremendously, with children being major buyers.”

Ms Upasana Aggarwal, a local defines the word Mother as: M is for the million things she gives me; O means she is growing old; T is for the tears she shed for me; H is for her heart that is of pure gold; E is for her eyes that shine with love for me; R is for the right things she tells me to do. My world is my mother.

Rupesh, a college student, says that he loves both his parents, but his mother is like a safety net, who will always save him when he flies high.



Encroachments, insanitary conditions 
bane of residents
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 10
Unabated encroachments and extreme insanitary conditions created by unauthorised settlers and jhuggi dwellers all around are the bane of the residents in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar on the Pakhowal road, a residential colony developed by the Ludhiana Improvement Trust (LIT).

According to residents of the E block of the colony, a cluster of jhuggis around the super deluxe flats have made the life of the people miserable. The unlawful occupants, many of them having set up dairy farms and piggeries, were responsible for making a mess of the public health and sanitation. “The cattle are tied up or left to graze in parks. A large population of pigs scatter garbage and domestic waste material all over the places and at times these also attack children.”

Mr Tarsem Singh Sembhi, president of the Residents Welfare Association, says that the pathetic level of insanitation in the colony and the apathy of LIT authorities towards the woeful condition of the residents had given rise to alarming number of mosquitoes and flies in the area, exposing the people to serious health hazard. He said the LIT had ambitious plans to construct an ultra-modern city centre to give impetus to commercial activity in the area but they appeared helpless when it came to removal of encroachments. With the result that the rightful owners of the plots, where jhuggis were located, were made to move from pillar to post to get possession of their plots and commence construction.

As if that was not enough, the condition of the parks in the colony further added to the misery of the residents, Mr Sembhi rued. While the LIT seemed to have washed its hands off the parks and green belts as far as their upkeep and maintenance was concerned, many of these places were being used as toilets by the jhuggi dwellers. Due to persistent neglect, most of the parks had turned into garbage dumps or happy hunting grounds for stray animals.

The area residents, having made several representations and personal visits to the LIT officials, were at a loss as to what to do next to improve their living conditions, which were somebody else’s doing. One of the affected residents remarked, “We can just wait with our fingers crossed and hope for the authorities to move in action.” 



Roll back hike in user charges: residents
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 10
Residents continue to criticise the state government for hiking the water supply and sewerage charges, saying that the company had betrayed the masses by going back on pre-poll promises.

The Ludhiana Welfare Society has termed the phased increase between 10 per cent to 50 per cent for the next four years as unjustified and arbitrary. Mr Manjit Singh Matahru, president, and Mr Inderjit Hassanpuri, patron of the society said in a joint statement here yesterday that the hike would put a burden on the low and middle income groups.

They said a 35 per cent increase in the metered supply of water and forcing people to install their own water meters, would hit the poor the hardest, and would be tantamount to the denial of basic civic amenity.

The society urged the government to roll back its decision.

The New Millennium Club of Urban Estate, Dugri, has also condemned the increase in user charges. Mr Kuldip Singh Kreer, president of the club described the hike as unjustified. He said ever since the Urban Estate locality had been transferred by PUDA to Municipal Corporation for maintenance, the water supply to the area had been affected. With the mercury soaring and the PSEB resorting to scheduled and unscheduled power cuts, the water supply had been hit. He urged the government to withdraw the hike in user charges. 



Stone laid for footbridge project
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 10
'With stepped up pace of development and marked improvement in the delivery of civic services, the Municipal Corporation has done the industrial capital of Punjab proud and has set an example in civic governance for others to follow.' These observations were made by Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, MP, while addressing a function after laying the foundation stone of a footbridge near the Government College for Women on the Ferozepore road.

The city mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, the MC Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sharma, and the senior deputy mayor, Mr Prem Mittal, were also present on the occasion.

Mr Ghalib made repeated mention of the improved financial health of the civic body and its performance during the past one year.

"The city has achieved a distinction of being the only urban settlement with 100 per cent water supply to the residents, work on several major and routine development projects is going on at the desired speed and adequate funds are available for development works."

Speaking at the occasion, Mr S.K. Sharma claimed that the civic body was all set to bring about further improvement, both in the quality and delivery of civic amenities in the city.

He said many more innovative development projects were on the anvil in the current year which was being observed as 'development year' by the civic body.

The mayor focused on the development projects in the pipeline, particularly for the under-developed areas.

He said availability of funds would be no constraint for the need-based development of all city localities.



‘Duped’ man approaches Taraksheel Society
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 10
The Taraksheel Society, formed to expose tantriks and other conmen, has been approached for help by Mr Purshottam Chand, a resident of Shimla Puri.
Mr Purshottam Chand alleges that he has been duped by a tantrik, Moin Samrat, who is running his ‘dera’ on Gill Road and advertise in dailies regularly. He claims to have unique powers to cure all ills and problems regarding home, health, unemployment, etc. Mr Purshottam Chand went to the tantrik for solution to his domestic problems. He paid the fee of Rs 101. He was told by Moin Samrat that Kali Mata was chasing his children. To ged rid of this problem, Rs 3,160 were needed. Mr Purshottam Chand was scared and deposited Rs 300 on the spot and on February 16 paid Rs 2860. Moin Samrat gave him a list of ingredients needed for “hawan” which cost him another Rs 575.

Moin Samrat apparently did some “hawan” to satisfy Mr Purshottam Chand. During “havan”, Moin Samrat told Mr Purshottam Chand that some bad spirits had appeared and they demanded some sort of sacrifice for their appeasement.

Mr Purshotam Chand and his wife were terribly afraid and decided to sacrifice a goat to save their children. After sacrificing a goat. Moin Samrat asked them to sacrifice five more goats. He asked them to pay Rs 16,000 cost of the five goats. He paid Moin Samrat Rs 3,000 and asked for some more time to arrange the balance sum.

Mr Purshottam Chand, fed up of spending so much money, approached the Taraksheel Society for help.



Azad disappoints Cong workers
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 10
A Congress Working Committee member and president of the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee Ghulam Nabi Azad disappointed hundreds of party workers who waited for him for hours here last evening. Although the leader did come, but he did not bother to get down from the car. Instead he waived to them from inside the vehicle.

Mr Azad was here to address a public meeting at Rampur village, about 30 km from here.



Literary symposium
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 10
A literary body, Pamkati, comprising new genre poets, held a symposium with the assistance of the Punjabi Sahitya Akademi at Punjabi Bhavan today. Poet Jaswant Zafar was the chief guest while the president of Sirjandhara, Mr Karamjit Singh Aujla, was the guest of honour.

Harjit Ratta, Ram Singh, Bhikhi, Karamjit Grewal, Prof Inderpal Singh, Pukraj, Budh Singh Neelon and Tejinder Dhillon recited their poems.

Mr Surjit Patar, president of the Adademi said it was wrong to say that poetry had no future.



Milkfed to strengthen coop movement
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 10
Milkfed is committed to improve the condition of farmers who are passing through a lean phase besides strengthening the cooperative movement in Punjab, says Mr Gurbachan Singh Babehali, the newly elected Chairman of Markfed. He was on a visit to the city today.

He said the farmers were suffering losses on account of the rising prices of inputs like fertilisers and diesel and the falling ground water. 


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