Tuesday, May 27, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Army man murdered in city market
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 26
In a shocking incident, an Army man, who had just returned from the national frontiers in Arunachal Pradesh, was chased and done to death in a brutal manner by four members of a neighbour’s family in street number 9, Himmat Singh Nagar in Dugri area here late last night.

The Model Town police was conducting raids to nab the four accused even as mystery shrouds the real reason behind the fatal attack on Havildar Kuldip Singh, posted with 19 Sikh Regiment. The family of Kulwant Singh, prime accused in the case, had gone absconding last night itself. One of his daughters-in-law left behind was rounded up by the police to know the whereabouts of the accused.

The police has booked Kulwant Singh, his wife, Surjit Kaur, and sons, Pala and Harmohan Singh, for the murder of the Army man. The houses of the victim and the accused share a common wall.

Both the houses presented contrasting pictures. While the victim’s house was flocked by aggrieving friends and relatives, the house of Kulwant Singh wore a deserted look. A lone policeman was put on duty in the house. The police had provided security in order to protect the property of the accused from any violent backlash by area residents or members of the victim’s family.

Police sources said the families were not on talking terms for the past more than a decade. Family members were tight-lipped about the cause of the attack or the reason behind the acrimonious relationship between the two families. Sources, however, suggest that an illicit relationship between two persons of these families several years ago was the bone of contention between them.

Mr Kulbir Singh, brother of the deceased, said he was unaware of any immediate provocation by his brother or other family members that could have instigated the attack. He and his wife, Jaswinder Kaur, only commented that there was some problem about a decade ago. They did not elaborate on the incident that had taken place at that time.

A large number of residents of the colony, who did not wish to be quoted, said no family in the colony was on good terms with the accused. On the other hand, everyone was praising the soldier.

Meanwhile, the officials of the 19 Sikh Regiment have in a fax message to the local Army authorities informed them about the incident and asked to extend all kind of help to the family members of the deceased.

Kuldip Singh had come on leave from duty in Arunachal Pradesh. The incident took place late last night when he was sitting at Guru Nanak Music Shop, near his house. The assailants, including a woman, took him by surprise and attacked him with sticks and swords. The soldier first tried to defend himself, but then ran for safety.

He was chased, overpowered and killed much to the shock of several eyewitnesses present in the market at that time. The accused then ran home, locked the house and fled.



Probe in VCD expose under a cloud
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 26
The Punjab Government’s commitment to conduct a fair and through probe into the infamous VCD expose has come under a cloud as none of the inquiry officers in the case has so far questioned the alleged satta operators, Subash Katty and Bittu Chawla, or told them to join investigations.

More than a month has passed since the government had ordered probe by several agencies into the case that exposed rampant corruption in the Police Department. Of the announcements, the government has already gone back on the decision to conduct a probe by a special investigation team (SIT) led by ADGP K.K. Attri, as announced in the last week of April.

The Internal Vigilance Cell of the Punjab Police was also said to be carrying out investigations into the case. None of the officers of the cell has so far contacted Subash Katty or Bittu Chawla.

The government had announced that a probe would be conducted into the police-criminal nexus, as exposed through the VCDs that showed 11 policemen accepting bribe from the two alleged satta operators.

The Ludhiana police is also carrying out separate investigations into the case. Mr Gurpreet Singh Toor, SP (Detective), is heading the investigating team. However, the two alleged satta operators are yet to be called for questioning or recording their statements.

Only the Vigilance Bureau, Ludhiana has recorded the statement of the two alleged satta operators. But this agency is not conducting any detailed investigation into the case. Sources in the Vigilance Bureau said they had prepared only a source report in the case. Earlier, there were reports that the bureau was conducting a parallel inquiry into the case.

Subash Katty and Bittu Chawla confirmed that no one has called them so far. They said they had no hopes from the police and were waiting for the decision of the Punjab and Haryana High court into the matter. In a petition before the High Court, they had demanded a CBI probe into the case.

Both accused the government of washing its hands off the matter. They said the VCDs showed policemen taking the names of senior officers belonging to Ludhiana. However, it was the Ludhiana police, which was entrusted with the investigations into the matter. “ We had requested the government to assign the inquiry to some other police district, but our request was not accepted,” they said.

Mr Gurpreet Singh Toor said there was still a lot of time for the submission of challan into the case and the two alleged satta operators would be called later on.

Officers of the Internal Vigilance Cell of the Punjab Police could not be contacted. Sources, however, confirmed that the two operators had not been called so far.



Fire safety norms given the go-by
Shivani Bhakoo

Ludhiana, May 26
Fire safety norms continue to be flouted in the city with impunity despite two major incidents of fire in which many lives were lost.
Owing to the lackadaisical attitude of the authorities concerned and the non-implementation of the Fire Safety Act in the state, almost all buildings in the city lack fire fighting equipment.

A survey by Ludhiana Tribune of the offices, both government and private hospitals, cinema halls, schools, colleges, restaurants and Punjab Agricultural University revealed that buildings lacked the fire-fighting equipment.

Five buildings of the Fire Services Department in the district, constructed at a cost of over Rs 4 crore are lying vacant which otherwise were to be functioned from January 1, 2003, according to the municipal corporation authorities. These five buildings have been constructed in different parts of the city including Haibowal, Sunder Nagar, Transport Nagar, adjoining Luxmi Theatre and Gill Road, the most congested areas of the city with high fire threat perception.

A fire services official said he had a doubt weather these ‘show-pieces’ would be put to use because all necessary equipment was available with the authorities, who it seemed were waiting for some VIP to inaugurate them.

One of the officers revealed that there was an acute shortage of staff in the department. The department required 161 firemen and only 100 were on the rolls. Over 30 more posts had been sanctioned but the recruitment process will take a long time.

One of the fire safety officials, when contacted on condition of anonymity revealed that almost all buildings were without fire-fighting systems. Schools, colleges, government and private offices and even the city hospitals lacked the necessary equipment. “The department had sent more than 50 notices to various industrial units and others to get fire-fighting systems a few months ago but the effort went in vain when people started asking as on what grounds the department was sending notices when there was no Fire Safety Act in the state. Because there is no penalty for the violation of the fire-safety norms, fire safety cannot be ensured anywhere”, said the officer.

Meanwhile, Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner, when contacted said in the absence of the Fire Safety Act, there was an immediate need to educate the masses regarding fire-safety norms. “From July onwards, we will be launching an awareness drive in which students of various schools and colleges will be taught about the precautionary measures”, said Mr Verma.



Minister orders action against jail staff
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana May 26
The state Minister for Jails, Housing and Urban Development, Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi has ordered that action be initiated against the Jail Superintendent and other employees after he detected serious irregularities after a surprise check at the local women jail.

During the inspection, the minister detected serious irregularities that included supply of poor quality food, improper cleanliness and poor lighting. On inquiry the jail Superintendent told the minister that the inmates were served one vegetable and dal at every meal, but verification by the Minister revealed that only dal was served and too was a day old.

In another hall, the minister found 17 children were provided with three beds. The Jail Superintendent had earlier told the minister that there was no dearth of beds or space for the inmates. Mr Birmi also discovered that a Nigerian woman had been confined to solitary confinement in a dark room labelling her to be mad. But on the interaction with the woman, the minister found that she was all right and was behaving in a civilised manner and there itself Mr Birmi ordered she be kept outside the locked room in company of other inmates.

The minister also noticed poor lighting arrangement at the cutting and tailoring training centre and the trainees complained about the problem of poor visibility. Cleanliness was also not up to the mark in the women jail. The minister issued on-the-spot verbal directions to the Jail Superintendent to rectify all shortcomings and irregularities, so that the inmates could feel comfortable in the jail.

Later in the day, the minister inaugurated a new English medium block in Everest Public Senior Secondary at Gyaspura and distributed the prizes to the out standing students.

Addressing the function Mr Birmi called upon the management to accommodate some poor students, who were unable to pay their fee to continue the study in their school.

He also told the school management to lay more stress on vocational education.

He announced a grant of Rs 25,000 for the school. Among others who addressed the function included Mr Hakam Singh Gyaspura, Mr Sardul Singh Grewal, Mrs. Sushil Malhotra and Mr S. K. Sharma, president, managing committee, of the school. 



Dharna by truck, trailer operators
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 26
The trailer and truck operators in the mining business sites in the city are up in arms against the administration, which has allegedly failed to check the illegal charging of royalty by a contractor.

Atleast 1000 operators, today sat on a dharna outside the office of the General Manager, Mining Department near Dholewal Chowk here and demanded that the contractor should be asked to stop charging royalty from them.

They said they had submitted a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner on May 21 stating that employees of the contractor, Mr Manjit Singh, were charging Rs 300 as royalty from the tractor-trailer operators and Rs 400 from truck operators for mining red and black soil from atleast 186 sites in the city.

Mr Baljit Singh, a leader of the union, said as per the directions of Mining Department only Rs 50 could charged from a tractor-trailer and Rs 150 for a truck but the contractor was issuing “kuchchi” receipt and charging four times the actual amount.

Moreover, he alleged that the contractor was not supposed to charge royalty from the red and black soil miners as the contract was only for the sand mining. He was fleecing those who were not into the sand mining business.

The operators said that a truck full of red and black soil was sold for Rs 900 and they had to pay Rs 450 to the owner of the field, Rs 200 were spent on diesel and around Rs 100 were given to the labour. “If we pay Rs 300-400 as royalty, what will we earn? We are doing this work for the last 20 years and never had faced such a problem.”

Mr Baljit Singh said after they kept sitting on a dharna outside the office of the GM, he called them inside and told them that he could not do anything against the contractor. He said the employees of the contractors had started giving original receipts when they came to know about the raids.

After being told by the GM, the operators went to meet the Deputy Commissioner. Mr Harjinder Singh, president of the union, after meeting the Deputy Commissioner said he also refused to help them.

Mr Harjinder Singh threatened that they would not seek anybody’s help now and would handle the situation themselves. He said that the Deputy Commissioner showed his inability on the grounds that it came under the jurisdiction of the Mining Department. “Now we will not be responsible for the consequences. Its a question of the bread and butter of atleast 1000 families, who will starve if the problem is not taken to a logical solution,” he said.



Lok Bhalai Party to look into Haryana Sikhs’ problems
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 26
The Lok Bhalai Party has come forward to resolve the problems being faced by the Sikhs in Haryana and has constituted a 12-member committee to look into their grievances and suggest remedies.

The national president of the party, Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, said the SGPC received donations totalling Rs 15 crore annually from various historical sites in Haryana yet not even 2 per cent of the money was spent on the upkeep of gurdwaras or spent on dharam prachar and other allied activities.

He said the chief of the Haryana Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Mr Jagdish Singh Jhinda, in a latter had lamented the fact that the committee had not spared a thought for the Sikhs living in the neighbouring state. Their children were becoming apostate and had no option but to go outside the state since the SGPC had not opened any technical or medical institute in the state during the past 40 years.

Mr Ramoowalia said a 12-member committee — Mr B.S. Virk, Sant Jagjit Singh Lopon, Mr Avtar Singh Mullanpuri, Mr Paramjit Singh Sidhwan, Mr Amrik Singh Varpal, Jathedar Baldev Singh Narike, Jathedar Malkiat Singh Ghuman, Jathedar Malkiat Singh Boparai, Mr Balvinder Singh Mahi Nangal, Jathedar Ajit Singh Brar, Jathedar Avtar Singh and Jathedar Jarnail Singh — to look into the grievances and suggest remedies. He said his party was committed to solving the problems of Punjabis in India and abroad.



Poor sanitation gives sleepless nights
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 26
Sanitation in Miller Ganj area near Dholewal chowk has gone to the dogs, thanks to the indifferent attitude of the municipal corporation. The blocked sewers has led to the flooding of a vast area in front of the State Bank of India branch, which has forced residents to spend sleepless nights due to the overwhelming stench. The stagnant sewage has also become a health hazard as it has become an ideal mosquito-breeding place. According to residents of the area, safai karamcharis of the municipal corporation had come on a couple of occasions but failed to clear the mess.

“Customers going to the bank and the bank staff have to suffer only for limited hours, but we have to suffer all the time because of the stench,” said Mr K.K.Verma, who runs a shop opposite the bank.



Hike in power tariff flayed
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 26
A host of organisations have criticised the move to hike power tariff and privatisation of power. Different organisations of the city have joined hands to raise their voice against this move of the state government. Mr Jaswant, president, Inqalab Kender, Vijay Narian, of the Moulder and Steel Union, Mr Bhajan Singh of the Democratic Teachers’ Front, Prof A.K. Masleri of the Bhagat Singh Vichar and many other leaders of various unions flayed the policies of the state government.

They condemned the Punjab Government and the Electricity Regularity Commission for the power hike. They said the PSEB was itself responsible for being in the ‘red’.

Instead of taxing the poor the PSEB should set its own house in order with the abolition of free education for girls coupled with high fee structure, education would be come a distant dream for the economically weaker sections of the society, they said. These steps were being taken under the directions of the World Bank and the WTO, they alleged.



And the shows go on

Ludhiana, May 26
It is time for the matinee show of an English movie at one of the cinemas near the local railway station. At 12.45p.m. there is a group of persons comprising teenagers, middle-aged and the old, huddled together trying to have a look at the porno photographs displayed in a corner near the booking window. The crowd slowly enters the hall. Among the late comers , believe it or not, is a uniformed policeman, who probably did not buy a ticket.

Cinemas, which wanted to mint money by screening poor prints of old , B-grade English movies, started the practice of adding some porno clips about 10 years ago. It started with one cinema and others followed.

Slowly, other cinemas which were going through a lean patch because of their inability to buy and screen latest Bollywood releases, also resorted to the easier way of pulling the crowds.

Investigations by the reporter revealed that a clandestine laboratory was working at one of the cinemas on the GT Road . Its owner had recently bought sophisticated equipment from Chennai for mixing scenes from video films and also manufacturing 70 mm prints which he then distributed to other cinemas.

The role of the police, particularly PCR teams patrolling areas near these cinemas, is also questionable. Residents of the city, who are perturbed over the trend, point out that while the police was booking people watching porno movies in their houses, these cinemas were carrying on with impunity.

The manager of a cinema, which shows such movies quite often , said they ( the cinema owners) had no other choice in view of the lumpsum, hefty entertainment tax being charged by the district administration. But he could not explain how other cinemas which were screening only censored Hindi films, were surviving.

In the past couple of years, a couple of cinemas have been raided and booked for screening porno stuff. But it seems that the police is following the policy of pick and choose. Some of the more influential owners of certain cinemas have never been raided so far. And the shows goes on.



Balmik samaj annual day
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 26
The Balmik Adi Dharam Samaj celebrated its annual day to honour those who have rendered special service to the community. This year the function was celebrated at Nehru Sidhant Kendra here yesterday. Mr Tej Parkash Singh, Transport Minister, Punjab, was the chief guest. Special attraction of the function was Mr Harbans Singh Nagi who released the cassette on the teachings of Balmiki.



Hamdard injured
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 26
Mr Barjinder Singh Hamdard, Chief Editor, Ajit group of newspapers, suffered minor injuries in a road accident near Qadian Chowk Jalandhar on bypass road today. He was travelling in a car that was hit by a mini truck. 



BJP leader’s nephew arrested
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 26
While announcing the arrest of Anil Sharma, a notorious criminal, the district police today levelled strong allegations against a former BJP minister of patronising the criminal for his interests.

Though the police did not name the political leader and said his name and the degree of his involvement in the case would be made public after a few days of investigation in the case, the identity of the leader is a well-known fact in the city.

He is a nephew of a senior leader of the BJP, who held an important position in the previous SAD-BJP government in the state.

Mr Harish Kumar, SP (City-I) disclosed to mediapersons that Anil Sharma of Durga Puri Haibowal was wanted in about 20 cases of extortion, kidnapping, violence, hawala and fake currency rackets, car theft, attempt to murder and illegal transport business in the region.

When asked about the involvement of the political leader, Mr Harish Kumar said, “During initial questioning the accused has revealed that he was close to an important political leader of the city who patronised and used him in property dispute cases and compromise cases”.

He also disclosed that the leader used him to threaten his political opponents.

He said the press would be informed about the name of the leader when they get evidence against him. He said the entire police team involved in the arrest of the criminal was being recommended for suitable reward and promotion.

He was arrested from Mohalla Kahiratian by a police team headed by SI Gurpreet Singh. On being challenged he and his accomplices tried to escape.

He also fired at the police party with his .30-bore Chinese-made pistol, which he had reportedly purchased from Meerut.

The police has also arrested Rishi Seth an accomplice of the accused and registered a case against Sunil Kumar (brother of the accused) in this regard.

The police has also released a list of about 20 cases registered against him in Ludhiana and Jalandhar.



Parliamentary panel on industry in city
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana May 26
With a view to study various problems and financial constraints being faced by the automobile and auto-parts industry in Punjab, a team of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Industry, consisting of eight members, visited G.S. Auto International Industrial Unit at Dhandari Kallan, near here today. The team was led by Mr M.M. Aggarwal, M.P. It also held discussions with a number of industry representatives.

Addressing the meeting, Mr. Aggarwal said the committee was reviewing the problems of automobile and auto-parts industry with regard to finance and insurance. Besides, it will also study the local constraints and submit a report to Parliament. The house would then decide on a required legislation to make the automobile industry in Punjab and other parts of the country fully competitive with the multi-national companies which were coming fast into the country. He admitted that the big multinational companies were advancing in the new markets in the developing countries and the local producers were facing a lot of problems, as these units have limited financial and other resources.

Lala Lajpat Rai, MP and member of the committee, said the committee was persuading banks and other commercial institutions to set up sufficient number of training institutions for young entrepreneurs, so that they could adopt modern technology in their units and explore international markets for making good returns.

He said the committee had asked bankers to come forward to provide liberal finances to the industry, which wanted to modernise units for enhancing the quality and acceptability of products in the market. He said the committee would also suggest ways and means to check the foul practices, including misuse of trade marks in the industrial sector to avoid false competition. He said the committee would stress upon the need of full coordination between banks and industry to check the financial difficulties faced for the industry.

He said Punjab National Bank had agreed to set up 10 agro training and development centers in Punjab to impart training to the young industrialists for upgrading and modernising of their units.

Mr Jagat Singh, managing director of G.S. Auto International, while welcoming the members of the committee highlighted the problems of automobile industry.

He demanded more incentives for the medium-scale industry to enhance the quality for competitiveness, bring about changes in education policy to produce ‘right talent at right age’ for the industry, reduce power tariff on industrial sector, streamlining of government departments dealing with the industry, avoid mutable taxation and provide raw material at reasonable prices.

The other members of the committee included Dr M.N. Das, Mr. A.C. Jose, Mr P. Rajendran, Mr Chunni Lal Thakur, Mr Thomas Hansda and Dr Foguni Ram.



Govt to take steps to save industry, Bir Devinder
Our Correspondent

Mandi Gobindgarh, May 26
The government would take steps to save industry in the state which had faced hard days during militancy period and thereafter suffered due to adverse policies adopted by the governments, said Mr Bir Devinder Singh, Deputy Speaker, Punjab Vidhan Sabha. He was speaking at a function organised by Mr Harinder Singh Bhambri, District Youth Congress chief, to honour him and Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, Minister for Public Health, who belongs to the tehsil.

Commenting on the performance of the previous Akali-BJP government, the Deputy Speaker said it was known to the outgoing government that it would not return after the poll. So it adopted such policies that made the state bankrupt. “The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) had its plan of Rs 100 crore in 1980, whereas now it has to pay Rs 600 crore per annum as interest on loans of about Rs 1500 crore. How it can provide free power to the farmers?” he said.

Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, Minister for Public Health, was critical of the Central Government allegedly for spoiling the industry of Punjab by providing concessions to the industry in Himachal Pradesh. A delegation, led by Capt Amarinder Singh, had earlier held discussion with the Prime Minister and the Union Finance Minister and apprised them of the situation. The delegation had asked to extend same concessions to the industry in Punjab so as to check unemployment and save economy of the state.

Mr Surjit Singh Rakhra, Akali MLA from Samana, was also present at the function. He appreciated the working of Mr Bir Devinder Singh and Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa.

Mr Chanan Singh Matharu, vice-chairman, Steel Rolling Mills of India, said with the announcement of concessions to industry in Himachal Pradesh, 60 furnace mills had applied for licence there, whereas there were not as many industries in this town, known as the steel town of Northern India.

Mr Sukhwinder Singh Bhambri, former President of the Municipal Committee of Mandi Gobindgarh, thanked the guests. Mr Joginder Pal Singla, local council chief, Mr Sandeep Singh Bal, Mr Narinder Singh Sekhon, Mr Shabbaz Singh Dhillon, Mr Ravi Jassar, Mr Rajiv Sood and Mr Rajinder Kumar Tittu were also present on the occasion.



Scrap dealers resent TDS
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 26
In its ongoing campaign to tighten and strengthen the tax regime, the Union Finance Ministry is learnt to have introduced 10 per cent tax on source for all types of scrap dealings. In fact the provision was introduced in the Finance Bill 2003 which was presented in Parliament along with the Union Budget and has been noticed now by the affected dealers.

The scrap dealers have been maintaining that Section 206C of the Finance Bill 2003, will spell doom for them as their turnover is too small. In a memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, copies of which were sent to the Finance Minister and other Finance Ministry officials, the Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal has demanded the withdrawal of this provision. Or at least, those traders, who are having the permanent account number (PAN) should be exempted. Because, it pointed out, they are already assessed regularly for their turnover and tax.

Justifying their opposition to such a provision Mr Mohinder Aggarwal, general secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal and Mr Sunil Mehra maintained that most of the scrap dealers had very small turnover. They carried out their business with very limited financial resources. Once they started depositing the TCS (tax collection at source), their money would get blocked.

Mr Aggarwal and Mr Mehra feared that this will again lead to harassment and corruption. 


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