Tuesday, May 13, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Only God can prevent tragedy in Pindi Street
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 12
It is just a chance that tragedy has not struck the Pindi Street, the main drug market of Ludhiana as also of Punjab. The narrow lanes and bylanes of the Pindi Street literally remain blocked, rather choked, during the day with a number of two-wheelers, bicycles and cycle-rickshaws remaining parked there for full day. It is difficult to walk even on foot.

Otherwise the place has all the makings of a tragedy that can happen anytime. There are no escape routes at all. The narrow lanes with vehicles parked all around leave little scope for anyone to move. And in case there is any tragedy like fire or an earthquake, only the worse can be imagined. And worst of all there are no preventive fire-fighting measures taken by any of the shopkeepers.

Pindi Street forms the part of Chaura Bazar. Being the main drug market of entire Punjab, with a number of wholesalers and retailers having their outlets there, the place remains crowded and congested throughout the day. “The most unfortunate part is that people park their two-wheelers right in front of the shops leaving not an inch for the pedestrians”, pointed out one of the shopkeepers in the street, who is running a medical shop there. He admitted that the fault was of the shopkeepers only.

The markets of the city are quite old. “The market is there for so many decades...it started when the lanes were sufficient for parking bicycles. But now people have other vehicles and some people do not mind even driving their four-wheelers into the street”, said another shopkeeper. At the same time it is difficult to expand the lanes. Nor is it possible to shift the market.

However, a number of shopkeepers have already moved out of this place to Civil Lines. But others have started their business there. The shopkeepers said the main problem was that of the parking. “People do not like to walk even the shortest distances and they just want to part their scooter right outside the shop, step in and leave”, said the shopkeeper, while adding, “there are some customers who do not even like to get down and they order things without switching off the engine”.

There are absolutely no fire safety measures taken by anyone, except one or two fire extinguishers installed by some shopkeepers. But these also seem to have been outdated. It is only a kind of a tragedy like Khud Mohallha that makes the shopkeepers feel concerned. And the concern vanishes within a few days and it is back to square one.

No matter what is the extent of risk of fire in Pindi Street, the fire safety seems to be their last concern. Even some people do not feel bothered at all. “You cannot shift the market. You cannot stop customers from coming here and no fire safety measures are ever adequate. We can trust God only”, remarked a young medical store salesman. And rightly only God or a miracle can save Pindi Street in the event of a tragedy.



‘Wonder drug’ for male child still sells
Deepkamal Kaur

A banner hangs across the lane in Pindi Street, Ludhiana, with claims by a drug manufacturer assuring the birth of a male child
A banner hangs across the lane in Pindi Street, Ludhiana, with claims by a drug manufacturer assuring the birth of a male child after consumption of his drug.

Ludhiana, May 12
In a bid to exploit the weakness of people to have a son, a local drug manufacturer is “guarantying” the birth of a male child after consumption of his medicine.

Medication, he claims, has to be started immediately after the conception. The drug is being sold openly in Satti Sudan Gali of Pindi Street, with considerable number of people visiting him to procure the “magic medicine”.

While the administration claims to be taking steps to ensure that the PNDT Act was not being flouted, there are people who are flouting the Act with impunity. While scanning centres continue to remain under the eye of the administration to ensure that they do not conduct any sex-determination test, the self-claimed doctor, who claims to manufacture his own drug with striking results, seems to be crossing all limits by claiming to ensure the birth of a male child.

And he seems to be cashing in on the desperation among couples who want a male child at any cost for various family or social reasons. The drug manufacturer even disapproves of the scientific principle, according to which the sex of foetus is decided right at the time of conception depending on the “X ”or “Y” chromosome passed from the father.

On the contrary, he claims that sex is decided in the mother’s womb during the first semester of pregnancy. He claims that expectant mothers have to take the medicine for the first three months after conception and the cost of the medicine is Rs 5,000 per month. He says the medicine is not readily available and that it is manufactured only on order after advance payment is received from the patient.

Ironically, people also seem to be getting carried away by the claims of the “doctor”. They do not mind paying the hefty sum despite the fact that there is no guarantee whether the drug will work or not. Shopkeepers in the vicinity reveal that there is usually “good rush” of people for his “wonder drug”. However, none of them could confirm whether any of the couples who used his medicine did get a son or not.

Violating the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable) Act, the drug manufacturer has even displayed a huge banner across the lane. Still no check has been made either by the Drug Inspector, Civil Surgeon or the administration and the practice continues unabated.



Admn to honour 7 for bravery
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 12
The District administration today decided to honour seven persons living in the neighbourhood of the hosiery unit in Khud Mohalla who had rushed to help the trapped workers on Saturday afternoon, soon after the fire broke out. The decision would be formally announced later.

According to the residents, firemen had mistakenly emptied a drum containing thinner (benzene), as a result of which a big ball of fire erupted from the house and engulfed the crowd.

According to the list prepared by the police today, the seven persons identified for bravery awards and certificates are: Mr Joginder Singh, son of Mr Tara Singh; Mr Kamaljit Singh, son of Mr Joginder Singh; Mr Jatinder Pal Singh, son of Mr Harnam Singh; Mr Ashu Makkar, son of Mr Sohan Lal; Mr Bal Mukand and Mr Raj Mohan, both sons of Mr Ram Lal; and Mr Amit Kumar, son of Mr Anil Kumar.

Meanwhile, all shops in Khud Mohalla, the scene of daylight inferno in which several persons lost their lives and scores sustained burns, remained closed today.

The narrow street of the old locality, located on the rear of the CMC Hospital, wore a deserted look this afternoon with three policemen from the nearby Division No. 3 police station guarding the gutted building.



Alert villager foils robbery
Our Correspondent

Sihar (Ludhiana), May 12
An alert villager from Sihar, about 7 km from here, foiled a robbery attempt in his house late last night. According to the police, Mr Raghunandan Sharma, an ex-serviceman, exchanged fire with intruders for several minutes, forcing them to flee.

Mr Sharma, who is also a Congress member of the block samiti, was alerted by the barking of a dog. By the time he got up, one of the robbers had jumped in his house and opened the door for the other robbers. Mr Sharma’s son Aman, on seeing the intruders, took his father’s firearm to him. Mr Sharma fired at the miscreants who fired back. The exchange of firing continued for some time.

The incident took place at about 9.45 pm. No one was injured in the firing. Sensing trouble, the robbers fled in the fields and the Sharmas tried to contact the Malaudh police post located nearby.

Several residents who heard the gunfire shots did not dare to come out. They ventured out only in the morning. Even though a complaint was registered, the police visited the site on Monday evening. The chowki in charge, Mr Darshan Singh, when contacted said he was on leave, while the SHO, Payal, was ignorant of the incident.

Inquiries from villagers revealed that three strangers were seen roaming in a jeep last night. Peeram Bahadur and Karan Bahadur, watchman, told Ludhiana Tribune that of the three persons, one was wearing a turban and a police uniform. Police sources said there was no night patrol at the time of the incident. The watchmen said the jeep occupants acted as if they were policemen.



‘Tantrik samrat’ exposed
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 12
It is a classic case of exploitation of gullible people, particularly those believing in supernatural powers, miracles and influence of evil powers.
Taken in by massive publicity blitz by so called ‘tantriks’, thriving in the city and believing that they possess supernatural powers, Mr Parshottam Lal, an employee of the local milk plant here, fell prey to one such ‘tantrik’ and realised his ‘folly’ only when he had become poorer by Rs 4,200, without any of his problems having been solved.

The victim, who narrated his tale of woes in the meeting of the Tarksheel Society in Punjabi Bhavan here, said his two sons had started some business, but it was not going on well. On being told by somebody that some evil spirits might be casting influence on the financial condition of the family, he, along with his wife, visited a ‘tantrik samrat’, operating near Campa Cola Chowk in the city.

“The ‘tantrik’ charged Rs 400 from me and assured that problems being faced by my sons in their business would be solved within three days. As nothing did happen during this period, we again approached the ‘tantrik’, who demanded Rs 4,000 more for clearing the evil effect of ‘kali mata’. I only had Rs 3,800 with me at that time which I reluctantly paid to him”, he said.

As there was no visible improvement in the situation, he visited the ‘tantrik’ yet again. Having realised that he had the victim hooked, the ‘tantrik’ played another psychological trick to extort more money by instilling fear in the mind of the couple. When they came to him for the third time, the ‘tantrik’ handed over a bowl of black lentil to Parshottam Lal and asked his wife to pour water on it. As was intended, the lentils immediately caught fire and the tantrik told the couple that ‘kali mata’ wanted five he goats sacrificed for which they would have to pay Rs 16,000, otherwise one of their sons would die.

Mr Parshottam Lal said he could not arrange the money demanded by the ‘tantrik’ and on the advice of one of his friends decided to approach the Tarksheel Society.

The activists of the society took a spot decision and in a bid to expose the ‘tantrik’, went to the Simla Puri police station. The police summoned the ‘tantrik’ to the police station where he confessed that he possessed no magical or supernatural powers nor did he know any ‘tantra vidya’. He also returned Rs 4,200 taken from the victim in the presence of the rationalists.

The Tarksheel Society, while asking people not to fall prey to the ulterior designs of so called ‘tantriks’, has urged the district administration and the police to take suitable action against such unscrupulous persons.



Darkness at noon
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 12
Moderate showers this afternoon brought the much-needed respite from heat and suspended dust particles for the past two weeks.
Ever since the beginning of the harvest season and stubble burning, people had been experiencing vision and respiratory problems. The city and its surrounding areas had been having partly cloudy conditions for the past three days. It became dark before the rain.

The brief spell of rain that lasted for about half hour was enough to settle the dust and bring down temperature. 



Erratic power supply impeding diversification: BKU
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 12
The Bharti Kisan Union (BKU)has called upon the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) authorities to ensure daily power supply of at least eight hours. It has said that erratic power supply is affecting diversification process and negating the concerted efforts by the government to reduce area under paddy cultivation in the state.

The state executive of the BKU, which met here under the presidentship of Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, noted with regret that the farmers going in for diversification were finding it difficult to irrigate alternative crops like sugarcane, vegetables due to inadequate power supply.

Giving details of the deliberations, BKU secretary-general Manjit Singh Kadian said the meeting demanded assured power supply for 12 hours everyday to rural feeders keeping in view the ensuing sowing season for paddy, which would commence from June 1. The PSEB was also asked to improve the transmission and the fault rectification systems to minimise tripping and delays in restoration of supply.

The BKU reiterated its demand for scrapping the recommendation for freezing the crop prices and wanted immediate announcement of minimum support price (MSP) for the forthcoming crops. According to Mr Kadian, the MSP for paddy should be fixed at Rs 759 per quintal, cotton at Rs 3250, pulses at Rs 2860 and sugar cane at Rs 143 per quintal on the basis of price index for the year 1966-67.

Expressing its resentment over exploitation of sugar cane growers at the hands of sugar mill officials, the BKU urged the government to initiate necessary steps for early payment of the balance amount of Rs 30 per quintal which was withheld by the mills at the time of purchase.

Those present at meeting were of the view that Sugarfed had proved to be a white elephant and had failed to achieve the desired results. “The government would do well to disband the outfit and allow the sugar mills to operate independently,” they said.



Resentment among Cong leaders
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 12
Resentment prevails among local Congress leaders over the shortlisting of some of the candidates for the post of the District Congress Committee president Ludhiana (urban) by the Pardesh Congress Committee President, Mr H.S. Hanspal. Mr Hanspal is learned to have submitted a list of four candidates to the AICC General Secretary, Ms Mohsina Kidwai.

The Congress leaders are apprehensive that Mr Hanspal may manipulate the nomination of a particular person as the DCC president, who has no political stakes and no political background. His name is said to be on the top of the list that contains three other names also. The contender is a leading businessman of the city.

The local leaders loyal to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, are intrigued over the names of two persons, whose affiliation to the former Chief Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, is well known. A senior leader of the party maintained that their names were deliberately included in the final list submitted to Ms Kidwai. 



CPM to join state-level rally
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 12
The CPM has expressed solidarity with four Left parties and supported their decision to hold a state-level convention at Jalandhar on June 8 against the anti-people policies of the Union and Punjab Governments. This was stated at a meeting of the Punjab state committee of the party which met here under the presidentship of Mr Puran Singh Burj Mohar.

Mr Jagjit Singh Lyallpuri and Mr Kuldip Singh spoke on the economic and political scenario after the US invasion of Iraq. “Even on the Kashmir issue, although a welcome step, the Indo-Pak talks were being held under US pressure. Indians are in favour of a peaceful solution in the interest of the Kashmiris as a whole, but the USA and its allies have their strategic interests in the region, of which the governments of India and Pakistan, should be vigilant,” they said.

The party opposed the increase in college and university fees, besides the costly health services. It took exception to the use of “trishuls” by Hindu radical bodies to spread “communalism”.

It said corruption was rampant and even the judiciary had not escaped from it.

The party also supported a strike by workers and trade unions on May 21 and asked its units to make it a success.



Death toll goes up to 10
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 12
The death toll in Saturday’s fire tragedy has reached 10 with two more seriously injured dying in Christian Medical College and Hospital here today. They have been identified as Jaspal Singh and Gulshan Kaur. Both of them had been admitted in the ICU. There are six more persons in the ICU with doctors describing their condition as critical but stable.

Blood donation camp for victims: The District Congress Committee (Urban) will organise a blood donation camp at the CMC tomorrow for those injured in the fire incident at Khud Mohalla here. OC


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