Friday, May 16, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Train fire tragedy shocks residents
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, May 15
Close on the heels of a devastating fire, which struck the Khud Mohalla locality in the old city last week and claimed 13 lives, besides rendering more than 70 persons injured, the fire in coaches of Golden Temple Mail, in which 38 passengers, including women and children, were charred to death near Ladhowal on the outskirts of the city, has shocked the entire population of the industrial hub. Senior leaders of almost all the political parties have expressed their sorrow over the tragedy befalling the passengers of the ill-fated coaches of the train and have called for immediate assistance to the families of the dead and meticulous treatment to the injured persons.

The Punjab Minister for Higher Education, Mr Harnam Das Johar, and the Minister of State for Jails and Urban Development, Mr Malkiat Singh Beermi, while offering condolence to the families of the victims of the tragedy, have assured that the government would not be found wanting in providing compensation to them and ensuring the best possible treatment to the injured persons. Mr Gurinder Singh Grewal, general secretary of the Punjab Youth Congress, has also expressed a sense of shock over the tragic fire accident.

The activists of the District Youth Congress (DYC) will perform a havan yagya in Congress Bhavan here tomorrow to pray for the peace of the souls of more than 50 persons, who had perished in a devastating fire at Khud Mohalla in the city on Saturday and the tragic fire in three coaches of the Golden Temple Mail, near here, today.

This was announced by Mr Parminder Mehta, former president of the DYC, while speaking at a prayer meeting organised in the New Vishnupuri locality to pay homage to the two fire tragedies. He said the party workers would also observe a day’s fast, praying for the speedy recovery of the injured persons undergoing treatment in the city hospitals.

The president of the Shiromani Youth Akali Dal (Badal) Mr Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, has expressed shock and anguish over the rail fire tragedy. He urged the Union Railway Ministry and the state government to immediately provide adequate compensation to the next of kin of the deceased passengers and to ensure proper treatment for the injured persons.

Former Deputy Speaker of Punjab Vidhan Sabha has expressed shock at the death of 38 people in rail fire. Wishing speedy recovery to the injured passengers, he said it was the second major tragedy, striking in the city after the fire at Khud Mohalla, which had claimed 13 lives. He said the entire city population was in a state of shock over the massive loss of human lives during the last one week. Mr Gosain made an appeal to the members of trade and industry, social and voluntary organisations to contribute liberally for providing timely assistance to the next of kin of the deceased persons and the injured, admitted to local hospitals.

The Nationalist Congress Party (SC/ST Cell) has expressed its sympathy with the family members and dependents of the victims of fire havoc, which wrecked three coaches of the Golden Temple Mail near the city. The district president, Mr Raj Kumar, accompanied by other party workers went round the local CMC and DMC hospitals, where the injured passengers were admitted. He expressed confidence that the government would provide suitable compensation to the next of kin of the deceased and others, who were injured.

The Janata Dal (United) held a prayer meeting to mourn the death of rail passengers in the massive fire and two minutes’ silence was observed in memory of the victims. The party urged the government to grant a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the families of dead passengers and proper treatment for the injured free of cost.

The International Sikh Dharam Parchar Manch President, Mr Ravinder Singh Bedi, while expressing shock at the tragedy befalling upon the rail passengers, has called upon the railway administration and the government to ensure immediate disbursement of ex-gratia grant and compensation to the families of the dead passengers and proper treatment of those injured.



Schools flout fire safety norms
Deepkamal Kaur

Ludhiana, May 15
While the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) has made it mandatory for all its affiliated schools to be well-equipped with fire-fighting systems, a majority of the city schools are playing with the lives of innocent children and flouting the norms with impunity.

Since all high and senior secondary schools have a laboratory, the Board had directed the authorities to have one fire extinguisher exclusively for the science laboratory, one for hall (if any) and another to be placed in the corridors within the vicinity of the classrooms. However, many schools, with a strength of even above 1,000 students, have not paid heed to the directions till now.

The Board had even directed the schools to get their fire-fighting systems checked and seek written approval from the district fire officers. However, a fire officer, on the condition of anonymity, said no school in the city had got any approval from them for over the past one year.

The fire officer said all those schools having generators, science laboratory, canteen or kitchen must have fire extinguishers in ready to use condition. He said since all schools had inflammable materials such as wooden furniture and doors, they all must have proper fire-fighting systems.

In a survey conducted in the schools in the Civil Lines area yesterday, a majority of the schools were found to be ill-equipped as far as such systems were concerned.

Sanatan Vidya Mandir, a senior secondary school, is without any fire-fighting system. Ms Sadhna Sharma, Principal of the school, said the school management probably did not feel the need to have any such system as the entire building was quite well ventilated.

New Senior Secondary School in the Civil Lines was also found to be without any fire-fighting system. Mr M.R. Bhatia, Principal, said the science laboratory had one small extinguisher from “Ceasefire”, but it could not be seen fitted anywhere. The science teacher said the attendant might have kept it in one of the cupboards.

Nav Bharat Public School, another school in the Civil Lines, did not have any fire extinguisher in ready-to-use condition. Mr C.M. Handa, Director of the school, when asked about it, procured it from a cupboard. He admitted that he had not installed it anywhere as he did not feel the need. He said he had purchased it at the time of affiliation in 1997, but later it was removed as some students had tried to mishandle it.



Ditched accident victim needs help
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, May 15
A young migrant worker, Kali Patri, hanging between life and death after a nearly fatal road accident, finds himself ditched by those responsible for causing the accident. His bicycle was hit by a car. No family members, relatives or friends, are there to support him during his convalescence and recovery, which would still take a long time, if at all.

The private nursing home in the city, to which the victim was referred for specialised treatment, also finds itself in a piquant situation with no one ready to foot the bill for the treatment. Other agencies like the government, the NGOs and voluntary bodies are also not coming forward to lend a helping hand to the victim of the accident.

According to Dr Manoj Sobti, Head Neuro Surgeon at Sobti Neuro and Trauma Centre, here. Kali Patri was initially admitted to a hospital in Ferozepore after sustaining severe head injury when his bicycle was hit by a car. The patient was referred to the neuro centre for further management where CT scan showed bleeding deep inside the brain, close to vital organs leading to swelling in the whole brain.

"The prognosis at that time looked bad which was explained to those who accompanied the patient as also to the owner of the vehicle that had hit the youth. After the vehicle owner promised to pay for the treatment, the patient was shifted to the Intensive Care Unit and was kept on respirator for a few days. Once his condition stabilised a bit, the patient was taken off the respirator and a hole was made in the wind pipe to enable him breathe and another pipe was placed in his stomach through the nose for feeding him."

Dr Sobti said once the condition of the accident victim started improving, those responsible for the accident, abandoned him and refused to pay for the super-speciality treatment, medicines and tube feeding. Being a migrant, the victim has no family members or relatives here. "Even after one-and-a-half months of treatment, the patient is still in a vegetative state but has good chances of survival provided he is properly tended to and cared for, which seems to be a remote possibility in the prevailing scenario."

Dr Sobti says it would be unethical on the part of the institution to stop the treatment and let the patient go towards certain death. But, at the same time who would provide for the medicines and food, and for how long ? "The institution is unaided and self-funded and it is virtually impossible, without putting drain on the resources, to continue to provide super speciality treatment to poor patients free of cost.

He was of the opinion that in the wake of many a precious human lives being lost due to want of money, the government or the NGOs should take a lead in providing social and health security to the poor and added that a legal frame work should be in place for making it mandatory for the general insurance companies to pay the cost of treatment of accident victims, directly to the hospitals or other health institutions.

But will Kali Patri survive all these odds to see another day, will some good Samaritan will come to his rescue with enough money to sustain him during the treatment or will the hapless youth die a premature and unnatural death — is a million dollar question, eluding a definite answer, at least for the time being.



PSHRC takes up satta operators’ plea
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 15
Taking up a petition filed by two alleged satta operators -Subash Katty and Bittu Chawla- that some Ludhiana cops were threatening them with dire consequences, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission(PSHRC) has directed the SSP here to immediately inquire into the allegations and provide them security, if need be.

The two alleged satta operators were main players in the sensational CD expose case in which they had brought to the fore the corruption in the Police Department by secretly recording a video film in which 11cops were shown taking bribe from them.

The police had arrested all accused cops. The satta operators, in their petition before the commission, alleged that the cops were intimidating them to withdraw the case.

According to a copy of the orders dated May 14 received here today, the PSHRC said in the light of the serious allegations made in the complaint, the case should be registered.



Hope for Sukhdev memorial
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 15
Hope has once again risen for the conservation of the ancestral house of martyr Sukhdev Thapar, as today on the occasion of his birth anniversary an old tenant living in the house agreed to vacate it.

Mr Vinod Thapar, Chairman, Sukhdev Thapar Memorial Trust, told Ludhiana Tribune that an old tenant in his house, who was proving to be the biggest hurdle in the way of the conservation of his house, had announced that he would be vacating the house soon as he also wanted to do his bit for the preservation of the dilapidated house.

While the trust organised an eye check-up camp outside the house and performed a havan to mark the martyr’s birthday, the district administration conveniently forgot the day and did not bother to celebrate it officially. Not even a single function was organised in the city by the administration.

Although the officials were busy in making arrangements for the rescue operations for the victims of the Golden Temple Express tragedy, there were allegations from the different quarters that while the birthdays of politicians were celebrated with great pomp and show, those of the martyrs were forgotten easily. The fact that the martyr belonged to Ludhiana and was born and brought up in the city made the oversight moe gross.

Resentment prevailed among the people who said the government had failed to do anything for the preservation of the house. While several proposals had been mooted for the preservation of the house, where the great martyr was born and brought up, the memorial could not see the light of the day due to certain reasons, including bureaucratic hurdles, certain disputes and some other problems.

In fact the biggest problem in the way of preserving the house, which is in a dilapidated condition in the Nau Ghara area, was the rehabilitation of tenants who had been staying in the house for several years. Although the Sukhdev Memorial Trust, set up in the city by some of the martyr’s relatives, had tried its level best to rehabilitate them certain hurdles had prevented them from doing so. The place was visited by certain filmstars, including Raj Babbar, who had promised some monetary help at that time. But it was yet to arrive. The district administration had, in June last year, roped in some industrialists to rehabilitate the tenants and preserve the memorial but nothing could come of it.

Mr Thapar said with the rehabilitation of the tenant, the martyr’s house would finally be converted into a memorial. He added that although some senior officials of the administration were averse to the idea of memorial on the plea that there was no parking space near the house, the trust was determined to get it preserved.

He said some industrialists were ready to help the trust in the preservation of the memorial by rehabilitating the tenants.



Romance of reading withers
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 15
The other day a list of best 50 novels by women writers appeared in many dailies. Incidentally, Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize-winner, “The God of Small Things”, was voted the 20th best in the list.

Ludhiana Tribune spoke to a cross section of people to find out whether they had read any book out of the 10 best sellers mentioned in the list: “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte, “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte, “Middle March” by George Eliot, “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier, “Persuasion” by Jane Austen, “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, “Emma” by Jane Austen, “Unless” by Carol Shields and “To Kill a Mocking Bird” by Harper Lee. In spite of the fact that many movies and serials based on these books have been made, people more or less were unaware of these classics.

Ms Shivani, Vice-Principal of a school, says, “I have not read any of these works. I generally read books pertaining to children as I deal with them. Knowing that I lacked reading habits, I am trying to inculcate reading habits in my daughter by reading out to her every night.”

Ms Daisy Pruthi, Principal of another school, says she is fond of reading and takes out time for it. She says, “Children do not like to read as they want ‘action’ rather than passive activities like reading. Parents also hate spending money on books as they feel good clothes are a better investment.”

Arun, a dentist, says, “We had a good library in school, so I was fond of reading and found these classics in the library. I am happy that I read them. At this time I recall Francis Bacon’s lines: ‘Reading maketh a man’. Books have helped me a lot in attaining maturity.” Lakhanpal and Afridi, both lawyers, looked quizzically when asked if they had read any of the 10 books. They said only books they had been reading were law books.

Bikram, Vishwas, Renuka, Baljit, all college students, said, “Life is for fun. Do not ask us to waste our times on reading books. We are tired of reading college books for our exams. Give us a break please.” Similar was the response of Sheena, Mandy, Rajat, Kishor, school students, who said they were “allergic” to the printed word. They said, “Reading books is queer when there is so much excitement in life.



Complete flyover project

I am a regular reader of your esteemed newspaper for the past 50 years. I am running my business on the main GT Road and am facing great hardships due to gross negligence of the authorities in completing the flyover under construction from Jagraon Bridge to Chand Cinema. The project, which was started with great fanfare and speed, now seems to have come to a halt. I think only God would know the completion date of the project.

I urge the authorities concerned to come out with some explanation for the delay and inform the public as to what is the real hurdle in the way. The need of the hour is to restart the construction on a war footing and complete this project by schedule time.

Kuldip Thapar

Don’t underestimate people’s power

If sloganeering and issuing statements in the press could make a difference, then Ludhiana would have been a beautiful city long long back. This is in context to the statement of Ludhiana Mayor Nahar Singh Gill’s statement in columns of the newspaper on April, 28, 2003. Likewise, the Municipal Commissioner, too, has been making statements before the press on the same lines.

I, being one of the over two million citizens, am waiting for these gifts. The only gift the residents of the city, particularly those living in Dugri, Urban Estate I and II, get are broken and potholed roads which are an apt pointer of the state of civic affairs in the city. Green belts have been encroached upon or are poorly maintained and garbage lifting leave much to be desired. This is the result of all those statements by the Commissioner promising the moon to the public. Now the Mayor has joined issue with the Commissioner.

However, the public has no option but to wait till the promises are fulfilled. But I can assure the Mayor and other politicians that the public has also learnt to wait for five years only as has been proved earlier many a time when they defeated the non-performing governments, be it of the Congress or the Opposition.

Major S.S. Khosla

No to casinos

The decision to open casinos taken by the Punjab Government in the state is not a healthy step for our youth. If these casinos see the light of the day, it will disturb the social structure.

Since the Congress came into power, it has done nothing for the welfare of the state till now. Whatever it has done, especially the crusade against corruption, is negated by levying of fresh taxes and the Cabinet expansion and raising the salaries of the Ministers, MLAs, Speaker along with many other facilities.

The current move is being taken under the garb of development of tourism in the state. The decision has evoked strong opposition from all around. All social organisations, political parties and intellectuals have raised their voices against this undesirable step, which will ruin our social, moral and ethical values.

It is bad luck for the state that those who were protected from this menace will be encouraged to step into this world which would ultimately lead to an increase in the crime ratio of the state. Instead of giving the right directions to our youth to lead a respectable life in society, this step will only misguide them.

There are many other ways to develop tourism in the state and to earn a lot. Development of historical and religious places in the state could become a good source and much fruitful for the state exchequer.

Kuldip Singh Kreer



Restaurant owner assures cooperation
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 15
Reacting to the orders of the district administration to close down the restaurants operating from the basements, some of the owners today said they were prepared to cooperate with the district administration to ensure fire safety measures.

Mr Sayam Tiwari, Managing Director of the Saubhagiya Restaurant on Mall Road and Sarabha Nagar pointed out that they were as much concerned about the security of the customers as anyone else. He said, although the restaurant was operating from the basement, all fire safety measures had been adopted. Assuring his cooperation he pointed out that the restaurant was open to inspection .



Id celebrated
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, MAY 15
Id-ul-Milad, or the sweet Id, was celebrated with religious fervour all over the town and its surrounding areas , today.

Muslims in large numbers gathered at the mosques of their respective areas to offer their prayers in the morning. After that the Muslims greeted the Sikhs and Hindus on the occasion. Sweets were exchanged and distributed freely throughout the day.



Send off

Ludhiana , May 15
Aas Kiran Centre, Model Town Extension, today gave a ceremonial send off to four persons on their successful de-addiction treatment at the centre, according to press release by the centre. OC



Move on power tariff worries industry
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 15
The reports regarding the possible hike in power tariff to the tune of 10 to 15 per cent have sent shock waves in the industrial sector of Punjab.
The industry, which claims to be reeling under recession, has warned that it will oppose any such hike. It was pointed out that only in October last year the power tariff was increased by about 11 per cent.

Mr Inderjit Singh Pardhan, president and Mr Avtar Singh, general secretary of the Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings (CICU), have criticised the proposal.

Mr Pardhan said a Division Bench of the Supreme Court in its judgement had clearly mentioned that the consumers should be charged only for the energy consumed by them on the basis of the average cost of supply of energy and if the state government chooses to subsidise the supply of energy to any class of consumers, the same can be done provided the burden of loss suffered is borne by the state government.

The expected per unit rate to be charged from the consumers has been shown as Rs 3.20.

At present the domestic consumers using more than 300 units are paying Rs 3.51, commercial consumers Rs 4.05, small power consumers Rs 3.05, medium supply Rs 3.46 and large supply consumer Rs 3.55 per unit per month which is more than the calculated per unit rate by the PSERC. As such these do not seem to be justified.

The hike in power tariff coupled with the increase in the prices of HR coils, CR coils, strips, MS round and other steel products will hasten the closure of industries in Punjab.

It is feared that if this proposed hike in power tariff is implemented, over 70 per cent of the industries in Punjab will close within five to six months.

Mr Pardhan and Mr Avtar Singh urged the Chairman, Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission, that while finalising the new tariff the industry which was already reeling under recession may not further be burdened by hike in power tariff.



New product

Ludhiana, May 15
A new product ‘Sandochew’ was launched in Ludhiana by Novartis India Limited. Dr Iqbal Singh Ahuja of Iqbal Nursing Home was the chief guest. He appreciated the efforts of the company to give good and tasty medicine to patients. TNS


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