Monday, May 19, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Truck destroyed in fire, major tragedy averted
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 18
Having learnt lessons from the two recent fires in the city, the firefighters averted a major tragedy when they put out a fire that could have turned a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) godown into yet another inferno.

Started by a short circuit, the fire completely damaged a truck and reduced 27 tins of paint to ash before the fire was extinguished.

The incident took place this afternoon when a truck laden with paint tins got entangled in electric wires while reversing, causing a short circuit in Phase 6, Focal Point. The truck belonging to the Sankat Mochan Road Line Transport was completely burnt. Tins of Thunder Bolt air drying synthetic enamel loaded in the truck also caught fire instantly. A scooter parked nearby was also damaged in the fire.

Mr Moti Lal Tewari, manager of the transport company, immediately alerted the Fire Department that rushed four fire tenders to the spot. Timely arrival of the fire tenders helped them put out the fire before it could reach the adjoining gas godown belonging to Arun Gas Company.

The driver of the truck, Babu Nath, said: “As soon as I heard the crackle of sparks, I jumped out of the truck. There was no time to pull the truck away from the site. Within seconds the truck was in flames and the fire spread to the tyres bursting them.”

But for the timely fire control, it surely would have resulted in a major tragedy as the gas agency did not have any firefighting equipment, sand or water. Besides, the slightest of fire would have turned the gas cylinder dump into an ammunition dump. Just behind the wall of the gas agency is the Dhandari dry port that had hundreds of containers lined up, waiting for loading of goods released from the custom house. 



Probe team re-enacts scene
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 18
As part of the ongoing investigation into the cause of fire that ravaged three compartments of the Golden temple express, killing 36 persons, the inquiry team headed by the Commissioner, Railway Safety, today re-enacted the scenario on the day of the train fire to ascertain its exact cause. Coach S-6 that narrowly escaped the flames was subjected to stringent tests, including putting it through a short-circuit, at the railway yard here today.

All findings of the investigation are being kept a secret and will be disclosed to Railway Minister Nitish Kumar in about two weeks’ time, the investigating team told The Tribune.

Meanwhile, the inquiry team also held a court at Railway Guest House where statements of several eyewitnesses, passengers, ticket collectors and the guard of the train were recorded.

The findings so far have established that in about eight minutes, the fire that had started from coach S-4 had spread to all three compartments. In a model created at the Ludhiana railway yard, where the burnt compartments had been parked, several experiments involving wool waste, wool top, and kerosene were conducted. The model was even put through short-circuiting.

Later in the day the inquiry commission examined the driver of the train, Mr Tirath Ram, its guard, Mr Panchan Yadav, and ticket collectors, Mr Ajit Kumar who was attached to coach S-5, Mr Jai Vir Singh, attached to S-4, and the train superviser Mr Sudhir Parkash. The inquiry commission members confirmed that the three (superviser and ticket collectors) had been placed under suspension till the findings of the inquiry commission were made public.

Among those examined by the inquiry commission were the AIG (Railways), Mr S.S Bawa and Ms Madhu Sharma, a passengers travelling from Mumbai to Jalandhar. The two had claimed that they were the first ones to notice the fire and raise the alarm. Mr Kartar Singh, Divisional Fire Officer, Municipal Corporation, Ludhiana, who on receiving the information about the fire had rushed five fire brigades, was also questioned.

Led by the Commissioner, Railway Safety, Mr Bhupinder Singh, the team is looking into all aspects of the fire. Special attention has been paid to four theories. As per the first theory, a stove burst could have caused the fire, the second theory says that throwing of a cigarette butt on a leaking stove could have caused the fire; the third theory blames it on a short-circuit, while the fourth one is the theory that says that Border Security Force Head Constable, Ravinder Kumar had seen smoke coming out of an unattended bag.

Mr Bhupinder Singh has already recorded the statement of Head Constable Ravinder Kumar personally. Ravinder Kumar, who lost his two children while saving other passengers, is recuperating from severe burn injuries at the Christian Medical College and Hospital (CMCH).

The Commissioner, besides looking at the causes of the fire is also expected to make recommendations that will prevent similar incidents.



Man detained illegally for 17 hours
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 18
A man was allegedly kept, under illegal detention for about 17 hours and ill-treated by Sunder Nagar police post officials in order to pressurise him for presenting his son before the police.

The police said his son was wanted in a dowry case but the victim claims that he had disowned his son much before his marriage. Inquiries have revealed that so far the police has not registered any case against him yet he was forcibly confined in a room of the police post without food or water for this long period and not even allowed to make a telephone call to his family members or friends.

He was picked up from his residence near Sunder Nagar at 4.30 am on Friday and released at about 11.30 pm only after the intervention of Mr Arun Pal Singh, SP(H).

The shattered man, Mr Sushil Kumar, narrated his tale of woes to Ludhiana Tribune today. He said he tried to meet senior officers earlier but because the officials were busy at a meeting, he could not air his grievances and demand action against the officials of the Sunder Nagar police post.

He said his son, Sandeep Kumar, was not on cordial terms with him for the last several months. His son even got married against his wish. In disgust, he left home and started living elsewhere but then, under the pressure of his wife and relatives, he returned. However, the family members could not get together and ultimately his son and daughter-in-law left the home to live at some other place.

He said, later, the in-laws got his son booked for demanding dowry. He said he was also an accused in that case but no case was registered against him. On his application to the city SSP, the case was referred to the matrimonial dispute centre in the Police Lines. The orders were in his favour. However, as per the policy of the Centre, the copy of the orders or a compromise is produced before in a city court only.

Mr Sushil Kumar said he was being harassed by officials of the Sunder Nagar police post for the last several months but he never imagined that he would be treated in this regard.

He said he was abused and ill-treated in the police post and was not even given a drop of water till the evening. ‘‘ When the senior officers intervened, I was offered cold drinks and food, which I refused as I only wanted my immediate release ’’

An official of the Sunder Nagar police post talking on the condition of anonymity admitted that the man was picked up. He did not deny or confirm that a case was registered against him. The official said there was a complaint against him at which he was picked up.

Mr Sushil Kumar, however, carries newspaper clippings in which he had disowned his son a long ago. He said he was shocked that the Ludhiana police was still following the old police method of detaining the family members of an accused to secure his arrest. Senior police officials were not available for comments.



Girl sends greedy groom packing
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 18
A Ludhiana girl has set an example for others to follow by refusing to marry a Delhi-based man who was demanding Rs 30,000 from her father here last evening. High drama took place at her residence in Baba Deep Singh Nagar when the girl told the groom to go back after he insisted that he would take her only if her father fulfilled his demands.

Not only this he have to leave empty-handed, but he was also made to drink sewer water. His new clothes, said to be gifted by the girl’s family, were removed and he was handed over to the police.

Geeta (21), daughter of a migrant labourer from UP who works as a mechanic in a local factory, took this step when her groom and his sister demanded cash reimbursement of taxi bills.

“After all rituals were over and I was getting ready to leave for my in-laws house, I heard heated arguments. When I came out, I saw my groom demanding money from my father and threatening him that if we refused to do so he would not take me with him. My father kept requesting him and even collected Rs 10,000 from relatives present on the spot. However, he was unrelenting and my father started crying. I then decided I will not marry him, come what may.’’ she said. She had been working as domestic help for the past several years.

‘‘For some moments, everybody was shocked and they could not believe their ears. They thought she had gone berserk and nobody would marry a rebel like her. But she insisted and even told the groom to leave the house immediately,” said Ram Sarup, her father.

The family had spent Rs 1 lakh on household things and arranging for meals for the marriage party. The groom’s family had earlier said they did not want anything but the girl.



Rs 225 cr to be spent on water, sewerage
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 18
The Punjab Government has launched a drive to ensure adequate water supply and proper sewerage facilities in all cities and towns of the state. The government has already released Rs 145 crore for the purpose in the first phase. Municipal councils (MCs) in 43 towns have started the work that would cost the government Rs 225 crore. This was announced by Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Local Bodies Minister, while addressing a function after laying the foundation stone of sewerage and water supply projects to be executed at a cost of Rs 21.66 crore at Khanna last evening.

He said the government had decided to accord priority to basic amenities. At present, in 133 towns of the state, drinking water was available to only 75 per cent of the population and sewerage facility to only 52 per cent, he said.

He said the government had decided to abolish octroi the state and the decision would be implemented from July 1. He said with a view to compensating the municipal bodies, a local area development tax had been imposed at the rate of 2 per cent on the total arrival of material in the state, which would fetch over Rs 750 crore.

He said the government was laying the foundation stones of projects after releasing the required funds. The previous SAD-BJP government had been laying the foundation stones without earmarking the funds, he claimed.

The minister handed over cheques for grants amounting to Rs 1.37 crore for development works in Ludhiana district, including Rs 81.91 lakh to MC Khanna, Rs 15.07 lakh to MC Doraha, Rs 14.50 lakh to MC Machhiwara, Rs 13.91 lakh to Samrala, Rs 5.69 lakh to Maloud and Rs 5.77 lakh for Payal.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Tej Parkash Singh, Transport Minister, Punjab, said the financial condition of the state had improved and financial institutions had agreed to fund development projects and welfare programmes of the government. He said the current financial year would be observed as development year and more than Rs 1000 crore would be spent on development.

Mr Shamsher Singh Dulo, MP, demanded more funds for the development of Khanna. Among others present at the function included Mrs Harbans Kaur Dulo, MLA, Mr Amrik Singh, MLA, Samrala, and Mr N.S. Gill, Mayor, MC Ludhiana.



Encroachment drive makes no headway
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, May 18
Even as the plan, drawn up by the district administration to clear encroachments on the approach road to Christian Medical College & Hospital (CMC&H), is still to make headway, the tragic fire accident that took place in the Frontier Mail near the city on Thursday has once again brought to the fore the need to take drastic measures in this respect and that too without losing time.

In the wake of the fire that broke out in the Khud Mohalla locality last week and claimed 13 lives, the district authorities had taken cognizance of the chaotic traffic conditions on the road leading to the CMC&H and traffic jams due to the encroachments which, sometimes caused fatal delay for critical patients being taken to the hospital.

Deputy Commissioner Anurag Aggarwal along with officials of the Municipal Corporation and the traffic police, had taken a round of the road and issued directions that all temporary and permanent encroachments should be cleared within 24 hours.

However, the notices issued to shopkeepers and rehri wallahs have evoked protests from unions. 



Students threaten stir, demand re-examination
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 18
Hundreds of students of Government Colleges of Hoshiarpur and Ludhiana and the PU campus in Chandigarh have asked the Controller of Examinations and the Vice-Chancellor that instead of giving them grace marks for setting an out-of-course mathematics paper (No. 604) for the MA and M.Sc courses, the PU should conduct the examination again. Lalit Gupta, a spokesperson of these students, said the number theory and complex analysis paper conducted on April 29 should be conducted again, as questions of 80 marks had been out of course.

Students Lalit Khanna, Nitin Jain, Abhishek, Monisha, Ashu Arora, Anshu Jain and Sheetal of Ludhiana and Chandigarh students Pramod and Geetmala, have said that the mathematics paper was of the IIT and M.Phil standard.

Students who had been hoping to come in the merit list said the out-of-syllabus paper had ruined all their hopes. They will also lose scholarships of Rs 1,200 each which they were getting. The prime condition for getting scholarship is to obtain 60 per cent marks, but, since the paper was out of syllabus, they will not be able to meet the pre-requisites for getting a scholarship. Poor students studying on the basis of money received in scholarships will be forced to discontinue studies due to paucity of funds.

These students said even if they were given grace marks, they will not be able to meet the conditions for taking the UGC test conducted to appoint college teachers. The students have written to the President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam; the Higher Education Minister, Mr Harnam Das Johar; the Vice-Chancellor, Prof K.N. Pathak, and the Controller of Examinations of Punjab, that if re-examination was not conducted, they would go on indefinite fast and even move the High Court.



Joggers’ paradise lacks security cover
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 18
The sprawling Leisure Valley with its colourful shrubs, manicured lawns, gurgling fountains and an undulating joggers’ track on the Convent Road, of Sarabha Nagar is like an oasis in the concrete jungle of the city. It is picturesque and offers great delight to walkers. It has been developed by the Municipal Corporation and the experience of walking in this valley is ecstatic.

Leisure Valley has come up slowly, but steadily in the green belt and is well planned with benches placed for the convenience of the tired walkers. The PAU lawns were earlier, the destination of morning walkers living in Sarabha Nagar, BRS Nagar and Aggar Nagar, but Leisure Valley, now offers a delightful option.

Senior citizens sit in groups and relax after taking a round and exchange notes. Now that lights have been put up, walkers can take a stroll even after sundown when it gets cool. The only problem is that walkers do not feel safe. They say that the MC should deploy some security guards at the valley. Keeping the growing lawlessness in mind, walkers say that they can enjoy their leisure time more in Leisure Valley if they feel secure. 



‘Cong should stick to manifesto’
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 18
Despite promises made in the Congress election manifesto, nothing has been done so far by the Congress government for the welfare of employees and pensioners. The party manifesto had promised a hike in medical allowance, rent allowance to pensioners, and implementation of pending recommendations of the fourth Punjab Pay Commission.

More than 5 years have passed since the commission report containing 10 major recommendations concerning pensioners was submitted to the state government. The Badal government implemented two recommendations, pertaining to the revision of pensions and grant of old age allowance at the age of 65 and 75 years. The other recommendations are still pending. Pensioners say there is no point in setting up pay commissions if its recommendations are not implemented.

Merely blaming the previous Alaki-BJP government for every problem will yield nothing. The Congress should generate resources to fulfil its promises, they said.



Exempt Sikh women from wearing helmets: IHRO
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 18
Sikh women should be exempted from wearing helmets as was being done in the UK, the USA, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia besides other countries across the globe.

Taking up the issue with the Punjab Government, the International Human Rights Organisation (IHRO) has appealed to the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to exercise his powers and issue a notification under Sections 129 and 138 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, exempting Sikh women from wearing helmets.

Recalling the genesis of the issue, Mr D.S. Gill, chairperson of the outfit, said in 1939, when some self-styled Panthic leaders tried to enforce the use of helmets on the Sikhs at the outbreak of the World War II, the SGPC referred the case to Maharaja Yadavinder Singh of Patiala and assured to abide by his decision. The maharaja decided that Sikhs should not wear helmets because it was as act of apostasy. This fact has been reported by freedom fighter Bhai Randhir Singh in his monograph “Bhari Bhujan ko Bhari Bharoso”.

“We hope you shall uphold the great tradition, established by your father 64 years ago, and earn the gratitude of the Sikh Panth,” he added.

He pointed out that in the UK, the USA, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia the Sikhs — as a community — have been exempted from wearing crash helmets and in 1972 the UK Road Traffic Act was amended, and the amended Section 32(2) was known as the Motor Cycle Crash Helmets (Religious Exemption) Act, 1976.

Quoting some extracts from the proceedings of the Sikh Case in the British Crown Court and British Parliament, where in the House of Lords the Bill to exempt the Sikhs from wearing crash helmets was presented by Lord Avebury (now IHRO European Adviser), on October 5, 1976, he said late Dr Trilochan Singh, an eminent Sikh scholar, appeared as an expert witness in Aylesbury Crown Court of Judge Lawrence Verney, on February 18, 1976, in which he argued the case at length.

The scholar argued: “The question here is not of the turban and crash helmet, as the prosecution sees it. The question here is of law, which has caused grave injury to the sanctity of the turban. A Hindu, could not, under any circumstances, accept a law that compels him to take beef, nor a Muslim to obey a law compelling him to take pork if the government proves that it is done for their physical well being. For a Sikh, to wear a cap, a hat or a crash helmet is an act of apostasy.

“Laws, said Plutarch, are like a spider’s web. They hold the weak, but the rich and powerful escape it”. The case was decided by the British Crown Court on the basis of statement of late Dr Trilochan Singh and Lieut-Gen Sir Reginald Arthur Savory, and Judge Lawrence Verney brought out two points in his historic judgement — that he was convinced that the Sikhs would not wear helmets under any circumstances and that the Sikhs were not consulted before the Bill was passed.

Mr Gill said the CM would also agree that, in the enactment of the impugned Act, the Sikhs in India too were not consulted.

Ironically, in UK, the parliamentarians advocated the cause of the Sikhs, taking into consideration religious freedom and tolerance. But in India, the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 was passed without taking into consideration the Sikh Moral Code of Conduct (Rehit), and without consulting the Sikhs and above all in contravention of religious freedom enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution of India, Mr Gill added.

Keeping in view that in almost all countries, the laws have been suitably amended to allow the Sikhs to follow their religion and the powers of the state government to amend the provisions, immediate intervention as Head of the Government and as a Sikh has been sought.

He contended that the provisions of the Act were self-contradictory and self-defeating. Turban is not a headgear. On the one hand it exempts the Sikhs from wearing a helmet, if he is wearing a turban, on the other hand women of the Sikh community have been discriminated by enforcing them to wear a small turban (Keski). Even baptised women are never asked to wear small turban (Keski) over their heads at the time of baptism even at Sri Akal Takht Sahib — a practice started by Bhai Randhir Singh among the women baptised by him.

“There is no provision even in the Constitution of India by which you can discriminate on the basis of caste, colour, creed or gender. In this impugned Act, Sikhs have been discriminated by making a demarcation of Sikh men and women, and specifying a dress for the women, which is not even enforced by the Sikh Divines while baptising women on Sri Akal Takht Sahib.”

According to the Moral Code of Conduct (Rehit), it is a curse for a Sikh to wear a cap; and a Sikh who wears a cap is an apostate, he added.

“As the provisions of the Act infringe the religious rights and the ‘maryada’ of the Sikhs, we, as a human rights NGO, have decided to seek your intervention in the matter,” he said.



Employees to block traffic on May 21
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 18
To protest against the decision of the Central Government to retrench 1 crore workers and close down of over 1 lakh small-scale units, the Punjab Subordinate Services Federation (PSSF) has decided to participate in the nationwide strike on May 21 and block traffic in all parts of the state.

The call has been given by all national trade unions and over 50 national federations of employees who allege that the policies of the Amarinder government, too, have been anti-employee and anti-farmer.

In a communique by the PSSF, the spokesperson of the federation, Mr Ranbir, said 50,000 posts had been abolished, but a jumbo Cabinet had been imposed on people. 


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