Sunday, May 18, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Husband, friends booked for rape of minor
Girl married off forcibly
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 17
A 10-month-long struggle of a minor girl to get criminal action against her husband and some of his friends who allegedly forced her mother to marry her off without her will has finally borne fruit when the Jagraon police today registered a case of forcible marriage and rape against the accused persons, some of whom belong to affluent families of Jagraon. The police has also booked her mother for marrying off the minor girl.

The Jagraon police that had earlier allegedly not taken any action on the girl’s complaint have registered the case on the directions of the ADGP (Crime) K.K. Attri. The ADGP had conducted an investigation into the case on the orders of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC).

The minor girl, Ms Rajni Beri, braved torture at the hands of her husband and his friends, threats to her life and initial apathetic attitude of the police to get the alleged criminals booked for the crime.

According to the FIR, the accused were the victim’s husband Samir Bengali, a goldsmith and his friends Vicky and Ishu Verma who were sons of well-known goldsmiths of the town. The FIR quotes the investigation report of the ADGP as the basis for the registration of the case.

It states that Rajni Beri, a resident of Jagraon, was 16-year-old when the accused Samir Bengali with the help of the co-accused induced her mother Krishna Beri into marrying her off. She was against the marriage but was forced to undergo the ‘ring-ceremony’ on August-4 last year. Her husband was double her age.

She ran away from home the same night but was traced and brought home by the accused with the help of some local goons. She was then married off on August 9. She claimed that she was forcibly raped by her husband. She ran away from home several times but was again brought back by the accused and beaten up. The friends of her husband also beat her up.

The complainant stated that her mother eventually came to her rescue and plotted her escape.

She then approached the Jagraon police but nothing was done. She then approached the PSHRC which came to her rescue.

The ADGP mentions in his report that the accused persons have stated that the marriage was solemnised with the consent of the girl and her mother in the presence of the panchayat.

The accused said they were not at fault. The husband even stated that he had got a divorce from the girl, which was in the knowledge of the panchayat.

The ADGP found more truth in the statement of the girl. He quoted other persons involved in the case and upheld the girl’s plea.

He, however, made a charge against the girl’s mother also as she was also guilty of marrying off her minor daughter.

None of the accused has, however, been arrested so far.


Gas cylinders in coaches, no big deal for Railways
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 17
Do the railway authorities wake up from deep slumber only after they are shaken by a tragedy and do not bother about the violation of fire safety norms on a regular basis? The answer seems to be in the affirmative if the claims of a farmer from the district regarding a complaint of violation by railway employees is an indication.

A vigilant farmer from Mandiani village near Mullanpur Dakha had made a complaint to senior railway officials recently, stating that he had captured a railway employee carrying an LPG cylinder in a train.

Mr Gurpreet Singh Mandiani, the farmer, showed the documents and pictures to Ludhiana Tribune today, vindicating his claim that the railway authorities did not bother about the fire safety norms and the violators.

Mr Mandiani, showing the pictures of a railway employee carrying an LPG cylinder on board Ambala-Amritsar-333-Up passenger train, said he had captured the violator in his camera and sent the photographs to the Divisional Railway Manager, demanding stringent action against the violator. But no action has followed till date.

Meanwhile, just two days after 36 passengers on board the Frontier Mail were consumed by a devastating fire that had broken in three bogies, the fire safety norms continue to be flouted by the passengers.

While it was being stated that the piled luggage blocked the exit doors and made the tragedy more grave as the passengers could not escape during fire, the practice continued in all the trains that reached or left the local railway station even today.

In almost all sleepers and general coaches, the luggage was piled up near the doors. In some cases the luggage was so heavy that it was nearly impossible for anybody to move out in case of an emergency.

GRP jawans moving on the platforms, said the luggage belonged to the Army men so they could not do anything. Even the TTE of a train claimed that he was helpless and could not say anything to the Army men.


7 of train fire victims belonged to one family
Deepkamal Kaur

Ludhiana, May 17
The search for seven missing members of a family from Hyderabad came to a tragic end here this morning with postmortem examination and identification by relatives confirming that the seven remaining unclaimed bodies at the Civil Hospital were in fact of the missing persons. It was hard for the six members of this family to believe the truth. These persons, seated in the first 13 berths of S4 coach in the Golden Temple Mail on Thursday, had themselves sustained injuries in the blast and had hoped that the missing members would be in Amritsar.

So far the family members recuperating at Christian Medical College and Dayanand Medical College were believing that the rest seven separated from them due to panic and intense smoke at the site of mishap, and had boarded the special train from Laddowal and reached Amritsar that day. Ms Madhubani, a family member, said they had even sent their six children who had come from Hyderabad after the incident to Amritsar yesterday morning, and before boarding the train for Amritsar, they had even checked for their missing members at Civil Hospital, but owing to the mutilated state of the charred bodies, they failed to identify them.

After a futile effort, the six children, Srikanth, Shankar, Vishnu, Phani, Vansi and Kanti, came back last evening. This morning when their parents admitted at CMC and DMC were taken to the Civil Hospital, they identified their spouses and other family members, thus accomplishing the entire episode of identification and cremation.

The six couples and a daughter were on their pilgrimage as they were planning to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple and then move to Vaishno Devi. Among the deceased is one couple, D. Venketaramana and D. Rajashree, and others include Rajya Laxmi, wife of Mr D Sri Ram Murthy, Girja Devi and Radharani, wife of Mr D. Sita Ram Shastri, Anuradha, wife of Mr DV Sharma, and Mr T. Srinivasan Murthy, husband of Ms Padmavati. The only surviving couple in the entire family is Mr Uday Bhaskar, a scribe with Deccan Chronicle, and his wife Ms Madhubani.

Ms Padmavati was terribly shocked to identify her husband’s body among the deceased. ‘‘Why did God take away my husband while we were on a pilgrimage to the Golden Temple and Vaishno Devi? ’’ she was seen shouting at the site.

Coming to Ludhiana last night from Belgium, Mr Ram Krishna, son of Ms Padmavati, said that he had never imagined that his family would ever meet such a tragic end. Trying to console his mother, he said that he was happy that he was still by her. He said that the family would proceed for Hardwar tomorrow morning to perform the last rites and from there they would leave for Hyderabad.


Victims assured of best treatment
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 17
The state government has issued instructions to the local administration as well as the local hospitals to provide best available treatment and necessary follow up to the injured passengers of the ill-fated Golden Temple Mail.

This was stated by the Punjab Minister for Local Bodies, Choudhry Jagjit Singh, after he went round the CMC Hospital to enquire about the welfare of those injured in the fire as well as others who had sustained burn injuries in Khud Mohalla fire earlier last week.

The minister also talked to the doctors, who assured him of providing proper treatment to the patients.

The minister also met the Municipal Fire Services personnel who were undergoing treatment in the CMC Hospital after suffering burn injuries during the rescue operations in Khud Mohalla fire.

He assured them that their valiant efforts would be duly rewarded.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Aggarwal Sammelan has expressed its anguish over the loss of human lives in the train fire.

The senior Akali Dal leader and former president of the SGPC, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, while expressing his sympathies with the families of the train fire tragedy, has demanded resignation from the Union Railway Minister, Mr Nitish Kumar.


Dowry death in Phillaur
Tribune News Service

Phillaur, May 17
A newly married woman of Basti Jodhewal, Ludhiana, was allegedly killed for dowry by her in-laws in Phillaur early this morning causing tension in the area. Agitated relatives of the victim staged a dharna outside the house of her in-laws behind the post office in this town and later near the old police station, Phillaur, in order to get the body of the girl as well as get a case registered against the accused in-laws.

The woman’s death rocked this town today. Several social workers and concerned residents of the township joined the aggrieved relatives in the dharna. The dharna stagers lifted the blockade only after the police registered a case against the accused persons.

The victim Kanchan Rani, a resident of Basti Jodhewal belonged to the family of yarn traders here. She was married to Pardeep Kumar, whose father owns the famous P.K. Jewellers shop in the town. According to her brother Ajay Kumar, the marriage took place four months ago and a dowry of Rs 15 lakh, including a Maruti car and 40 tolas of gold jewellery, was given in dowry at the time of the marriage.

The woman was allegedly being harassed for dowry and beaten up several times. Her parents were informed early this morning that she was sick and later they came to know that she had died. Angry over the sudden death and knowing the background, a large number of relatives of the girls gathered in a colony behind post office here and started raising slogans.

The in-laws were not allowing them to take away the body which led to the staging of the dharna. The family got the body after police intervention but then there was the problem of registration of a case due to which the dharna continued.

According to police sources, the exact cause of death would be known after the postmortem examination. The postmortem report will be available tomorrow only.

The police has booked the victim’s husband and other family members on the basis of the complaint filed by the victim’s mother Saroj Devi. Some family members have been arrested also. It was a heart-rending sight at the Civil Hospital here. Relatives of the victim were weeping inconsolably and cursing the accused. The condition of the mourners was also bad as they had sat on a dharna in the sweltering heat.


Ludhiana DC transferred
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 17
In a major reshuffle , in which 60 IAS officers were recently shifted in the state , the Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana , Mr Anurag Agarwal , has also been transferred . He would be swapping places with the Deputy Commissioner, Bathinda, Mr Anurag Verma.

While his transfer has cooled the tempers of many politicians of the city who had fallen in confrontation with him over some issues, some people feel that his transfer would hamper many development projects initiated by him .

Mr Agarwal's transfer was being demanded by many Congress MLAs of the city who had been accusing him of being inaccessible and rude. Some of them had even met the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, near Sahnewal and demanded his immediate transfer. He was in the eye of a controversy recently when he had suspended the Secretary of the local Sutlej Club. He was accused of having a "dictatorial attitude" by club members.

Certain quarters, however, feel that his transfer would affect some development works being undertaken by him in the city. Mr Agarwal had recently initiated an inquiry into the fire incident in Khud Mohalla where 10 persons were charred to death. It is a general feeling that the inquiry would now take a back-seat.

He had also started surveying various buildings in the city which were not following the fire safety norms and had stated that these building would be sealed . Mr Agarwal had ordered to conduct a survey of mentally challenged persons in the district who were kept chained by their relatives. He was instrumental in rescuing many such persons. He had invited kudos from certain quarters for effectively enforcing the ban on female foeticide.

Ms Bhavna Garg, SDM (East), and Mr Ajoy Sharma, SDM (West), have also been transferred as a part of the major reshuffle in the district administration. Ms Garg will swap places with Mr Satwant Singh, Secretary, PPSC, Patiala, and Mr Sharma will be replaced by Mr M.S. Jaggi, who is presently ACA (Grievances), Ludhiana. Mr Sharma will join as the ACA , PUDA. 


Johar reviews progress of development works
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 17
Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Higher Education Minister, has said the state government was committed to provide all basic amenities to the urban population in the state and more than Rs 100 crore has already been released for carrying out these works in the different cities and towns of the state.

This was stated by Mr Johar while addressing a joint meeting of senior officers of the Municipal Corporation, councillors and representatives of the public in the Circuit House here yesterday . He was here to review the progress of various development works being done in the city.

Mr Johar said he would approach the Principal Secretary ( Local Bodies) to clear the arrears of the payments to the Park Management Committees, so that they could make further payments to the persons hired for the maintenance of the parks. Mr Johar asked the councillors and other members to get the grievances of people solved by making proper liaison with the officers concerned of the Municipal Corporation.


Bank staff strike on May 21
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 17
In response to a call given by the All India Bank Employees Association, the bank employees in Punjab will observe strike on May 21.

The strike is part of the nationwide stir against privatisation of banks and other public sector undertakings (PSUs), disinvestment, unemployment, ‘anti-labour’ reforms and alleged anti-employee policies of the government. The agitating employees will also hold a demonstration in front of Canara Bank at Bharat Nagar Chowk on the same day.


1 killed as well caves in
Our Correspondent

Sahnewal, May 17
One person was killed and another injured while they were digging a well on the Jandiali road, near here, last evening.

According to reports, Surjit Singh and Kuldip Singh of Ramgarh village were working on the well of Visakha Singh when the earth gave way and buried the two inside. People nearby immediately informed the Sahnewal police, who in turn reached the spot and after four hours of continuous struggle, could take out only Surjit Singh alive. He was then taken to the Civil Hospital, Sahnewal. Kuldip Singh, however, died and only his body could be recovered. His body was handed over to his relatives after postmortem.

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