Monday, May 12, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Man dies due to ‘torture’ by cop
Naveen S. Garewal and Iqbal Singh
Tribune News Service

Khanna, May 11
Once again, the Khanna police is in the dock. This time for the alleged custodial death of Harpal Singh, a farmer of Bhatian village. The man was picked up, but instead of being taken to the police station, he was taken to the residence of a constable and illegally detained there for the night. He was reportedly tortured there that later resulted in his death.

Mr Didar Singh Gill, a relative of the deceased, who is a working committee member of the Shiromani Akali Dal, confirmed that Harpal Singh remained in the custody of constable Santok Singh, who took him to his house in an official Gypsy, where he was beaten up throughout the night.

Relatives of the deceased alleged that the police took this action due to an old animosity as Harpal had got an FIR registered at the local police station against Santok Singh under Sections 342, 382, 427, 323, 294, 506 and 34 of the IPC and Sections 25, 54 and 59 of the Arms Act.

Mr Adarsha Pal Singh Gill, younger brother of Harpal, said internal bleeding due to severe beating caused his death. He said the SHO, Khanna, and the accused were seen travelling together in the latter’s Toyota Qualis. They had conspired to eliminate Harpal Singh, he alleged.

He said the family was being pressurised to cremate the body without a post-mortem examination. “Under such circumstance, we have no hope that the accused would be booked. Nor is there going to be any action against the accused who has exploited his uniform to kill a man,” he said.

The investigating officer in the case, ASI Ranjit Singh, however, has denied the allegations. The SHO concerned is on leave.

Meanwhile, the family has sent the body for a post-mortem examination. Senior officials said action would be taken only after the post-mortem report was received.

Local residents alleged that constable Santokh Singh had detained Harpal Singh at his residence at New Abadi. In the morning he was taken to the police station where he was again beaten up by the accused. Later, the police had registered a case against Harpal under Sections 342, 382 and 423 of the IPC.



Rights panel takes up parks’ issue
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 11
Acknowledging for the first time that the facility of a park or a green belt in an area was the right of a citizen, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC), has taken up the controversial issue of deplorable condition of over 400 parks in this industrial and most polluted city of Punjab.

Acting on a petition filed by the Federation of the Park Management Committees, a body representing 120 Parks Management Committees(PMCs) of the city, the commission has directed the Principal Secretary , Local Government , Punjab, to file a reply within a month. The petition had highlighted the present sorry state of the parks in the city. The federation was forced to knock at the doors of the PSHRC after making futile rounds of the offices of the local MC officials and senior officials of the state government. The PSHRC orders said, ‘‘The contents of the complaint make it a clear cut case of the violation of human rights relating to environs of Ludhiana city’’.

The petition levelled allegations that the government had gone back on its promise of providing money to the PMCs for the maintenance of the parks in the city. The petition was filed through a well known human rights activist and environmentalist, Mr Charanjit Bakshi.

The federation of PMCs was represented by Mr S.S Chana, Mr K.S Gill, Mr Satnam Singh Khera, Mr H.K.L Verma, Mr Pawan Sood, Mr Surjit Singh and Mr Satnam Singh. The PMCs had revived several abandoned parks in the city. Finest examples being the well-maintained parks in Sarabha Nagar.

Interestingly, it was the responsibility of the Municipal Corporation to maintain the parks. But few years ago due to resource crunch the MC had invited people to form such committees in order to involve them in the maintenance work.

The issue came to light when the much-publicised three-year-old Parks Development Scheme (PDS), initiated by the Municipal Corporation amid much fanfare, came a cropper six months ago threatening the maintenance of about 400 green belts in the highly polluted industrial city.

Sources said the committees had been formed with area residents as prominent members, who worked in tandem with the MC’s Horticulture Department and the cost of maintenance was shared. The committees functioned smoothly till a few months ago and as a result about 400 parks, that had gone to seed, were given a new lease of life.

However, due to the recent non-cooperative attitude of the state government and some MC high-ups, only six committees were actually functioning and the rest of these were there only on paper .

Sources maintain that the MC Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sharma, has been apprised of this (mis)development by officials of the Horticulture Department.

One of the main reason s for this situation, as cited by some committee members, was that the MC had stopped the flow of funds and secondly, the MC officials seemed to be in no mood to continue the scheme.

Mr S.S. Chana, a retired IFS officer and president of the Environment Development Committee, Sarabha Nagar, is one such person. He claimed that all his efforts to meet the MC Commissioner to apprise him of the problem had proved futile. He said they were facing an expenditure of Rs 2.14 per sq m in the absence of funds from the civic body.

"The MC was paying Rs 1 per sq. m only but that grant had also not been paid since February, 2002. Initially, the corporation was supposed to pay most of the amount, but then they informed the Park Management Committees (PMCs) that they would only pay Rs 1 and 50 per cent of the wages being paid to the gardener. ‘‘In no terms should the cost be more than Rs 1, 000, " he added.

He said this was unacceptable to the city residents and they had requested the MC Commissioner to call a meeting of the committees to resolve it but the request had not been accepted.

According to the sources the innovative scheme of entrusting the maintenance of parks to representatives of the area residents was launched in 1999 and the PMCs were promised a payment at the rate of Re 1 per sq m per month. In addition, a sum of Rs 2,400 was to be paid annually towards cost of plants, fertilisers, tools and implements. The MC had duly entered into agreements with the PMCs, which clearly laid down the rates at which the payments were to be made.

The scheme had evoked a tremendous response and for once the city parks had been completely transformed, all with lush green looks, shady trees and blooming flower beds.

However, in the wake of government's instructions that the PMCs be paid at a rate of 50 paise per sq yd and further that monthly payment for this purpose should not exceed Rs 1,000 per park, irrespective of the size of the park, threw a spanner in the works. The government further wanted that of the total payment, claimed by PMCs, 50 per cent should be contributed by the area residents. As the PMCs refused to accept these terms, their monthly payments were stopped by the Audit Department from October, 2001, onwards.

With payments due to the PMCs for more than a year now, quite a few committees had become defunct and persons engaged for maintenance and development of parks had to be sacked for want of funds.

The coordination committee of the PMCs had pointed out that the civic body was spending an estimated Rs 5.5 crore on the maintenance of parks every year before the scheme of private participation was introduced.

As compared to the massive amount spent earlier, the PMCs were claiming around Rs 1.5 crore annually only as maintenance charges with far better results. Further, the committee was of firm view that the MC, having signed agreements with the PMCs, was both legally and morally bound to make the payments on stipulated rates till October, 2002, when the annual agreements had expired.

The MC Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sharma, however, disagreed with the common impression sought to be created that PMCs had failed to serve the purpose and deliver the goods. 



PAU, Mozambique sign MoU
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 11
The visit of a delegation of Mozambique, under the leadership of President Joaquim Alberto Chissano, to Punjab Agricultural University here culminated in an agreement in principle to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the university and its counterparts in the Republic of Mozambique.

The proposed memorandum would facilitate promotion and expansion of international understanding, development and cooperation by stimulating and supporting educational, professional and inter-cultural activities and projects among students and staff of the PAU and the academia of Mozambique.

According to Dr K.S. Aulakh, Vice-Chancellor, PAU, the memorandum provides for mutual cooperation and collaboration in specific activities, including faculty and students exchange programme, collaborative research projects, short-term training programme, exchange of teaching materials and other related literature, development of international courses for students and faculty, participation in seminars and meetings and cultural exchange programmes.

The President was received by Dr K.S. Aulakh, Mr Anurag Agarwal, Deputy Commissioner, and SSP, Jagraon, Mr M.S. Chhina, at the Air Force Station, Halwara, where he arrived along with other members of the delegation by an Air Force plane. The delegation visited laboratories and research farms to have a first-hand assessment of the university’s research programmes in crop production, dairy farming and farm machinery.

While addressing a meeting of senior officers of the university, faculty members, students and representatives of the industry, the President of Mozambique appreciated the contribution of the PAU towards the development of India and other countries by helping them to get rid of hunger. He said the purpose of his visit was to talk about New Partnership About Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which is a holistic programme of African Union geared towards promoting a dynamic and sustainable development of Africa and its long-term objective to eradicate poverty in the country.

Apart from the President, other members of the delegation included Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Minister for Higher Education and Technology, High Commissioner of Mozambique in India and Indian High Commissioner in Mozambique. Dr Aulakh assured the visiting dignitaries of full cooperation and honoured him with a plaque, a “phulkari” and a set of university publications.



Rs 1 lakh ex gratia for victims’ kin
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 11
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today announced an ex gratia of Rs 1 lakh each to the families of those killed in yesterday’s fire incident in the Khud Mohalla area. Besides, the government will bear all medical expenses of the injured, currently undergoing treatment in different hospitals.

The Chief Minister today visited the victims’ families and patients at the Christian Medical College and Hospital here. He also ordered a survey to be conducted and completed within one month by the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Anurag Aggarwal, to find out fire safety measures and escape routes in all localities. He said similar surveys would be conducted in other districts of the state as well.

Capt Amarinder Singh said the families that had lost their earning hand would be provided with monetary compensation to sustain them for the time being. He also clarified that those who had paid money for the treatment in any of the hospitals, including the CMC, would get reimbursement. This followed complaints by some people that they had been charged in the hospital despite instructions from the government that the expenses would be borne by it. The Chief Minister also lauded the efforts and cooperation of the CMC.

The Chief Minister appreciated the efforts of the people, including the police and fire service officials, involved in rescue operations. He said the three police officials who were injured and undergoing treatment at the hospital would be promoted by one rank. The officers are ASI Amrik Singh, who has been promoted as SI, Head Constable Kuldeep Kumar, who becomes ASI, and Constable Gurmeet Singh, who has been promoted as Head Constable. While Amrik Singh and Gurmeet Singh are out of danger, Kuldeep Kumar is undergoing treatment in the ICU of the CMC.

He confirmed that eight persons had died in the incident, while 80 others had been injured. The deceased included one woman and two unidentified persons. Of the 80 injured, 45 had suffered 20 per cent or less burn injuries, while 35 others had suffered between 20 and 60 per cent burns. While seven persons were undergoing treatment in the ICU of the CMC, one seriously injured person was admitted to the ICU of the Dayanand Medical College and Hospital.

The Chief Minister also ruled out the possibility of cylinder blast as the cause of the fire. He said while the exact cause would be established after the investigation by forensic experts, it had apparently been caused by some highly inflammable substance that had been dumped there. He said while the industrial units would be allowed to retain limited quantity of material, no such dumps would be allowed and the violators would be dealt with seriously.

He regretted the occurrence of such a tragedy, but added: “We will ensure that this does not happen again”. Strict measures would be adopted and implemented across the state.

The Chief Minister was accompanied by the Minister for Higher Education, Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Transport Minister, Mr Tej Prakash, Minister of State for Printing and Stationery, Mr Rakesh Pandey, Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, local MP, Mr Gurcharan Singh Galib, Mr Surinder Dawer and Mr Milkiat Singh Dakha, MLAs, and senior party leaders, including Mr K.K. Bawa, Mr Gurdev Singh Lapran, Mr Pawan Dewan and Mr Amarjit Singh Tikka, besides senior officers in the local administration.

Meanwhile, the Indian Oil Corporation has clarified that the fire was not caused by LPG blast, as reported in a section of the media. A spokesperson for the IOC said the area was inspected by the IOC officials and its two cylinders were found intact in the kitchen.

List of the deceased: Surjit Kaur alias Bholi, wife of Gurcharan Singh Gogi; Ram Singh, son of Jai Parkash; Mohammad Irshad, son of Ahmad Ali; Mohammad Mahedeen, son of Raza; Dilnawaz, son of Alam Ansari; and Mohammad Minhas, son of Mohammad Ansari. Two bodies could not be identified.

List of injured admitted to the CMC Hospital: Harcharan Singh, Pankaj Mehra, Raj Mohan, Naseeb Singh, Parminder Singh, Amit, Gulshan Kaur, Amrik K. Singh, Joginder Singh, Minto, Rrishi, Raju, Rajdeep Singh, Jinu, Davinder Singh, Mandeep Singh, Parshotam Das, Baljinder Singh, Rakesh Kumar, Rajan, Daljit Singh, Sarbjeet Singh, Amarjeet Singh, Trilochan Singh, Tarlochan Singh, Fulfam, Gurmit Singh, Surinder Pal, Sukhwinder Singh, Harcharan Kaur, Amritpal Singh, Ajit Singh, Parveen Singh, Tirath Singh, Jatinder, Simranjeet Singh, Gurbachan Singh, Mohamad Sadiq, Gulshan Kumar, Satish Kapoor, Kamaljeet, Surinder Kumar, Brijmohan, Ravi Kumar, Gurtejinder Singh, Narinder Kumar, Badri Alam, Mohamad Jamshed, Bal Mukand, Pawan, Darshan Singh, Harjit Singh, Gurvinder Singh, Jaspal Singh, Amrit Pal Singh, Narinder Singh, Shorab, Amarjeet Kaur, Adesh Bhatia, Rajan Khosla, Rajesh Kumar, Deepak, Rajkumar, Braham Dutt, Gurcharan Singh, Jaswant, Parmod Kumar, Brij Nath, Mandeeep Singh, Mohd Israel, Kuldeep Sharma, Jaspal, Vicky, Ashu and Harminder Singh. 



‘Withdraw water, sewerage charges hike’
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 11
A joint meeting of the BJP, Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and BSP councillors and district presidents was held here today to take stock of the situation arising after the hike in water and sewerage charges by the Punjab Government. The leaders condemned the recent decision of the government and termed it “undemocratic and anti-people.”

They said the Congress had on the one hand promised free water and sewerage in the last Assembly election and on the other hand made steep hike in the water and sewerage charges. They alleged that the Congress had betrayed the people of the state.

The BJP-SAD-BSP combine has demanded an immediate withdrawal of hike in water and sewerage charges and holding of a meeting of the Municipal Corporation to discuss this issue. They observed: “People have lost faith in the Congress government”. A separate requisition signed by councillors of the BJP, SAD and BSP will be submitted to the Mayor for calling the meeting of the House.

The BJP Mahila Morcha will hold a dharna-cum-rally at Clock Tower on May 13 in protest against the hike. They will later lodge their protest against the hike with the corporate office.

The leaders also decided to hold a joint rally on May 15. They will assemble at Bharat Nagar and march towards DC office to submit a memorandum.

Further from May 19, councillors of the three parties will daily hold dharnas in front of the corporation office for a week.



PRTC to get 250 new buses: minister
Our Correspondent

Amloh, May 11
A sum of Rs 20 crore has been allocated in the Budget for purchasing 250 new buses for the PRTC/ Punjab Roadways. This was stated by Mr Tej Parkash Singh , Transport Minister , Punjab, while talking to mediapersons at Khanian village , 2 km from here yesterday.

The minister attributed the bad condition of buses to the loss suffered by the roadways which he said would be recovered by replacing the old buses with new ones. On the plying of unauthorised private buses, which causes a loss to the state exchequer and to the roadways, the minister pointed out that instructions had been issued to the District Transport Offices (DTOs) in this regard and heavy fines were imposed on these operators. The present government has not withdrawn facilities of providing free travel concessions to press reporters, students or other beneficiaries , he maintained.

Earlier, the minister addressed a gathering of more than 2,000 people in Gurdwara Shaheedan . Mr Gurdev Singh Janjua, senior Vice-President of the District Congress Committee (DCC) , had organised the bhog of Shri Guru Granth Sahib on the occasion of his son ,Parminder Singh's, marriage in the gurdwara. Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, state Minister for Public Health, said the privatisation of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) would lower the cost of maintenance and the contractor would be penalised for any lapse as mentioned in the agreement but the overall supervision would remain with the PSEB. It would benefit the consumers. He agreed to bring back the APRO office at Amloh which was closed two years ago.

Mr Mohinder Kumar Rinwa, Parliamentary Secretary, Horticulture and Environment, Mr Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, MLA, Amloh, Mr Baldev Singh Mianpur, state President , Bharti Kisan Union,

Dr Sakinder Singh , President, District Congress Committee, Mr Pakher Singh Salana, Chairman, Zila Parishad, Mr Harinder Singh Bhambri, President , District Youth Congress, Mr Tejinder Singh Sodhi, former chairman, Improvement Trust, Hoshiarpur , Jathedar Hari Singh Virk, Circle President, SAD, Mr Dilbag Rai Sood, former General Secretary , district Congress, Jathedar Hardial Singh, General Secretary , Sarab Hind Akali Dal, Mr Baldev Singh Aulukh, Amloh council chief , and Mr Gurdev Singh , Amloh senior Vice-President , District Congress, urged the gathering to follow the example laid down by Mr Janjua.

Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Minister for Sports and Youth Services , also attended the bhog ceremony.



Akalgarh market sitting on a virtual tinderbox
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 11
The tragic fire incident at Khud Mohalla near the Civil Hospital yesterday which took 10 lives besides leaving 85 injured has brought into focus the potential fire- prone markets of the city. Akalgarh market, in the Chaura bazar area, consisting of about 800 shops , is one such potential tinderbox.

Even though it is situated right next to the Municipal Corporation and the Fire Brigade Department, the market is equipped with negligible fire fighting devices. About 800 shopkeepers in the market are virtually sitting on powder keg.

If a fire breaks out in this four storied building in the congested old city area, the property worth lakhs of rupees would be reduced to ashes in few minutes. Besides this, at a time about 2,000 persons , including customers, shopkeepers and labourers , are present in the building . Just a spark can cause a loss of numerous lives as well as property.

Intriguingly the building does not follow a single fire safety measure. Reason- it was constructed about 20 years ago, when installation of fire safety measures was not mandatory as per the building bylaws. Moreover, neither the Trust, running the market bothers to adopt

fire safety measures , nor the shopkeepers take up the matter with the owner of the building.

The shopping complex, that houses numerous shops selling garments and other inflammable materials like plastic articles, can catch fire anytime. There are around 300 readymade garment shops in the market which remain overstocked as the shopkeepers are not only retailers but wholesellers also. The quantity of stock is so much that the shopkeepers have to keep their bundles outside the shops.

According to the National Building Code of India (NBCI), the business establishments should have, fire fighting installations like house reel, wet riser, down corner, yard hydrant, automatic sprinkler system, manually operated electric fire alarm systems and automatic detection and alarm system. The NBCI further states that the high rise building should have adequate water supply in case of fire and for ensuring proper water supply, underground static water storage tank and terrace tank should be constructed with specific water pumping capacity.

Fire officials state that the NBCI was implemented much later, so the building, being an old one did not follow the rules. The fire officials expressed their inability to do anything as the Fire Act had not been implemented in Punjab .

However, the fire officials said they often advice the owners of old high rise building to take necessary fire safety measures. But they could not really do much as far as enforcement was concerned.

Fire officials on the condition of anonymity stated that the Commissioner, Municipal Corporation , had been empowered under Section 273 of the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act, 1976, to restrict the use of such buildings. The commissioner under the Section 273, could also incur expenses on such buildings and the expenditure could be claimed from occupants or owners of such buildings. But till now no such repair work had been carried out by any Commissioners.

An official of the Trust which manages the building, on the condition of anonymity, disclosed, "those who mange this Trust, know that there is no rule to penalise them and that is why, they are carrying on. But now after being insisted by some shopkeepers, they are planning do something about it. "

The Akalgarh market was constructed with an idea to provide employment to the riot victims in 1984. But of late the building, constructed with a noble cause had become a big fire hazard in the Chaura Bazar Area. 



Tobacco products’ sale on the rise
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, May 11
No matter where you go — be it a posh area, a dirty road, a highway, or a small street — pouches of tobacco and sweetened beetle nut can be fund everywhere.
Hari (name changed) from Rae Bareilly, who runs a small shop under a tree bang opposite Khalsa college for Women, sells several dozens of such pouches everyday. It may be mentioned that the Supreme Court has banned the sale of tobacco products especially within 100-metre radius of educational institutions. He says, “I started selling cigarettes and soft drinks at this place 15 years ago. At that time there were hardly any tobacco pouches. But within a few years, so many brands have flooded the market. Agents come and deliver us these pouches.” He sells these pouches to migrant labourers, mostly from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and some office-going people.

According to Dr G. Grewal, “It is a recognised fact that tobacco is carcinogenic. Chewing of tobacco can cause mouth, throat and intestine cancer. For any government, health of people should be of more importance than revenue generation. The government should have 100 per cent control on tobacco industry and people must be educated about the ill-effects of tobacco. More and more people are becoming tobacco addicts. It is ruining the labour class and villagers. Nicotine present in tobacco gives a false sense of well being and after the effect wears off, the person feels depressed and reaches out for another pouch of tobacco and the vicious cycle goes on.”

It does not need much investment to set up a portable structure to sell tobacco pouches, cigarettes and ‘supari’ etc. Brij from Itarasi has one such structure in BRS Nagar. He is busy selling ‘gutkha’ pouches as even daily-wagers do not mind spending Rs 1 or 2 for a pouch. Ashok Kumar, who works at a petrol station, was buying two pouches of ‘gutkha’. On being asked if he knew about the harmful effects of chewing tobacco, he said, “I have studied up to BA. So I know about these, but I cannot help it as I have been addicted to it since childhood.”

Dr Ravinder, a homoeopath, says, “Tobacco chewing has become all pervasive in Punjab. In villages, even children have started chewing tobacco. What is the government doing? Soon the young working force will be in the grip of this addiction. Then what will happen to our prosperity? The glamour attached with these products, as shown in advertisements on television, has certainly worsened the scene. The youth should be warned against the ill-effects of these products in schools and colleges. NGOs should take responsibility of educating the masses. If we want to save our future generation, the government should impose a ban on the sale and use of these products, the loss of revenue notwithstanding.”

But the question is whether the government has the will to ban these products? Will it give preference to good health of the people over revenue generation?



Steel cartel blamed for price hike 
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 11
The constantly rising prices of steel have become a source of worry for big and small industrial units of the city. During the past one year, there has been a consistent increase in the prices of steel in the country whereas it has fallen in the international market. The local industry has been blaming the cartel of some top steel manufacturers for this hike.

According to Mr Charan Singh Kohli, general secretary , Ludhiana Motor Parts Manufacturers Association, the small- scale industry was facing problems due to the continuous increase in the prices of steel . He claimed that a number of small -scale industrial units were on the verge of closure . The industrial associations were sore with the Government of India for having failed to regulate the steel prices for the reasons best known to it. The associations maintained that the steel cartel consisting of TISCO, ESSAR, LISCO, Jindal Steel and SAIL had entered into a secret understanding and they were holding the entire industry to ransom.

While last year there has been steady rise in the prices of hot rolled and cold rolled coils in India , the prices came down by considerable proportions in the international market during the same period. The local steel giants are taking advantage of the anti- dumping duty imposed by the government. The local industry has been seeking withdrawal of the anti- dumping duty on steel imports so that the local steel manufacturers do not resort to "blackmail".

Since steel forms the basic raw material for various industries like bicycles, motor parts and other allied industries, the steep hike in steel prices has lead to the rise in the prices of products also. This has made the products uncompetitive in the international market. The industry has been pleading with the government to ensure that the steel giants of the country are not allowed to manipulate the prices as this will ultimately hit the industry across the country, hence causing immense damage to the economy.


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