Friday, May 30, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


30 kiosks gutted in midnight fire
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Mullanpur Dakha (Ludhiana), May 29
At least 30 kiosks on an encroached piece of land of the PWD were gutted in a fire that broke out here last night even as the Ludhiana Fire Department scrambled for more than an hour to send help.

It was ultimately left to the shopkeepers and residents to fight the fire out and stop it from spreading to neighbouring houses and main bazar. The rescuers, with the help of the Dakha police, brought down some kiosks to restrict the fire to one area only.

The fire was brought under control at around 1.30 am. However, no loss of life was reported in the incident. According to shopkeepers, property worth lakhs of rupees was destroyed in the fire. The market, primarily consisting of temporary structures, has been in place for the past 50 years. The shopkeepers are fighting a case with the PWD as the land legally belongs to it.

The cause of the fire could not be ascertained. The shopkeepers however suspected sabotage alleging that the government wanted them to vacate the prime piece of land located close to the main chowk of the town.

Mr Anil Kumar, a shopkeeper, said short-circuit could not have been the cause of the fire as the market did not have any power connection.

Speaking on behalf of the agitated shopkeepers, he said the first call to the Fire Department was made few minutes after midnight. “I was sleeping in my house in Ludhiana when I got a call at 1 am about the fire and learned about the demand of fee by the Fire Department. I called them up and assured them to pay the amount. Only then did they relent. But by that time everything was over”, he said.

Mr Mohan Singh, a chemist, who lives near the fire site said panic engulfed the area as soon as the fire broke out. He said the Naujwan Sabha of the town did a commendable job in the rescue work. He said several calls were made to the Fire Department but to no avail.

Mr Kartar Singh, Divisional Fire Officer, said his employees only followed government guidelines. “If we don’t get the payment the employees have to pay from their own pocket at the rate of Rs 300 for per hour use of a fire tender.”

Interestingly, the shops are located in Municipal Council area. Under the rules, the Fire Department charges money from the MC when a fire incident takes place in its area.



Youth gets himself “kidnapped”
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 29
The details of mobile phone calls made by an allegedly kidnapped youth of Sudhar has helped the Jagraon police expose the stage-managed kidnapping case that was aimed at falsely implicating three old enemies and pocketing Rs 61,000 of kitty members by showing the kidnappers had taken the money.

The kidnapping victim-turn-accused, Gurmeet Singh, is now cooling his heals in the custody of the Jagraon police after sending the police in a tizzy two weeks ago.

Mr Mukh- winder Singh Chhina, SSP, Jagraon, told TNS that the youth had gone missing under mysterious circumstances on May 16 from Sudhar town. His father Mohinder Singh reported to the police that three persons of the town with whom he had an old rivalry had kidnapped his son to teach him a lesson.

The police picked up Varinder Singh, Ravinder Singh and their father Jagdev Singh but investigation revealed that they were innocent. The police then kept a tab on the activities of the family members and found that the family was not behaving in a normal way.

Their phone was kept under observation and it was found that the family was regularly in touch with the kidnapped youth who was hiding in the house of his friend Gursharan Singh in Haibowal, Ludhiana.

The police got the call list of the mobile number to confirm the investigation and recovered the ‘kidnapped’ youth in a raid from the house. On questioning, he revealed that he had master-minded the false kidnapping incident to kill two birds with one stone. One to pocket Rs 61,000 from members of a kitty organised by him and second, was to teach a lesson to his old enemies.

The youth’s wife Sukhjinder Kaur had, in a press conference levelled serious allegations against the police that it was not investigating the case properly. The police was criticised in media reports.

The police has booked the family members- Mohinder Singh, Sukhjinder Kaur, the youth Gurmeet Singh and his friend Gursharan Singh.

Mr Chhina said a special investigation team comprising of SP(D) Jaspal Singh Dhanoa, DSP Harjit Singh Brar and SI Jaswinder Singh cracked the case.



Hope for mentally ill villager
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ghwaddi (Ludhiana), May 29
The local Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital (GTBH) has decided to adopt a mentally challenged youth of this village who is suffering from schizophrenia for the last 15 years.

After the plight of Avtar Singh 32-year-old-youth, was highlighted in these columns, the Guru Teg Bahadur Charitable Hospital has come forward to help the youth and provide him medicines for life free of cost.

Dr Rajeev Sharma, a psychiatrist from the Department of Psychiatry, GTB Hospital, visited the patient today at his house in this village and assured his parents free treatment. After diagnosing the patient, Dr Sharma said that the hospital doctors will not leave any stone unturned to cure Avtar Singh completely. He noted that though some crucial time of treating the patient has been lost due to lack of awareness among his relatives, but hope was still there.

The doctor along with a Tribune team went to the village today to convince the parents about admitting the youth to the hospital. The family members have sought some time as they claimed they had already taken Avtar Singh to several hospitals.

Bhag Singh said that he had spent thousands Rupees on his treatment and took him to various hospitals in Ludhiana, Patiala and Amritsar but to no avail. His condition only deteriorated. After a lot of convincing by the doctor, his father said that he would be discussing the matter with Avtar’s mother when she would be back and then decide about it.

The reluctant family agreed to send the mentally-challenged person and promised that they will themselves bring him to the hospital in a couple of days as they want to make some arrangements. He added that even if the treatment was given at this stage, he would be able to acknowledge the presence of his family members and look after himself. He would be able to go out of his house and meet people. He would even be able to start working under the protection of somebody.

Dr Waheguru Pal Singh, Medical Superintendent, GTBH said that the hospital would provide indoor treatment to the patient initially. Then he would have to take medicines for a long time.

Giving details about Avtar Singh’s illness, Dr Sharma said that Avtar Singh was suffering from schizophrenia and was now showing the negative symptoms. He said that within a fortnight or so he would be able to respond to medicines but he would have to get admitted to hospital. 



Man gets life term for killing brother’s wife
Legal Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 29
A fast-track court has sentenced Sukhwinder Singh of Ghungrana village to life imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on him for killing his younger brother’s wife by setting her ablaze in April, 2001.

The victim, Amarjit Kaur, was married only a month prior to the incident. Her husband, Gurdev Singh, is already undergoing a nine-year sentence in a German jail in the same case. However, the court acquitted Surjit Kaur, mother-in-law of Amarjit, and Kamaljit Kaur, daughter of Sukhwinder, as the charges levelled against them could not be proved.

The plea of leniency made by the accused was rejected by the Judge, Mr A.S.Kathuria.

The accused were booked on the complaint of Tara Singh on April 7, 2001, under Sections 302, 498-A and 304-B of the IPC at Dehlon police station.

According to the prosecution, the accused used to harass the woman on the pretext of not bringing sufficient dowry. They used to put pressure on her to bring a car and more gold. Her husband threatened her that if the demands were not fulfilled, he would not take her to abroad with him.

On the fateful day, Sukhwinder Singh poured kerosene on her and set her ablaze. She was admitted to the DMCH at Ludhiana, where she succumbed to her burn injuries. However, her statement regarding the incident was recorded by Duty Magistrate Balwinder Kumar.



VCD expose: PSHRC orders security for 2
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 29
The Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) has directed the DGP, to provide security to Subash Katty and Bittu Chawla in connection with the VCD expose, in which more than 10 policemen were shown taking bribe.

The PSHRC gave these directions after Mr Katty and Mr Chawla informed the PSHRC that the Jalandhar police had not provided them with police security as per an earlier order of the commission. The two persons had alleged that they were being threatened by the Ludhiana police.



Residents care two hoots for authorities
Kuldeep Bhatia

Ludhiana, May 29
The anti-encroachment drives by the Municipal Corporation, PUDA and Ludhiana Improvement Trust (LIT) in the city localities and commercial areas notwithstanding, the main roads, service lanes and bylanes in the city, including the plush colonies and shopping centres are dotted with encroachments, either by temporary structures, display of merchandise, permanent cemented ramps or extension of kitchen gardens. As a result, a major portion of the road width in almost the entire city has been eaten up by encroachments and the traffic situation has assumed alarming proportions.

In the wake of slack enforcement and lackadaisical attitude of the authorities concerned the residents, of late, have gone in for extension of lawns and gardens outside their houses in a big way. In many localities, the entire stretch of bylanes and streets, on both sides have cemented structures of extended lawns, all with grills and fencing, which give a look as if the portion of public street is part of the property, owned by the respective residents. At some other places, the residents have set up temporary sheds in front of their boundary walls for parking vehicles.

With the ever increasing population and number of vehicles in the city, the traffic situation is already bad and with the proliferating encroachments, the condition has deteriorated to the extent that traffic movement even on main roads and interior areas of plush localities has become a nightmare for drivers. Traffic jams, bumper-to-bumper traffic and long queues of vehicles at all crossings has become a routine in the city rather than an exception.

According to affected residents, the width of main streets and bylanes in many localities like Urban Estate Phase I and II, Model Town, Model Town Extension, Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar, Sarabha Nagar, Kitchlu Nagar, Kundan Puri, Shastri Nagar, Upkar Nagar, New Kundan Puri, New Upkar Nagar, Green Field, Prem Nagar, Tagore Nagar and Model Gram has been curtailed by anything from 10 or 30 feet by such encroachments.

The action recently initiated by the Municipal Corporation in upmarket commercial area of the Mall Road to provide adequate parking space should serve as an eye opener and should, rather be adopted as a bench mark to rid the city localities and commercial areas of all kinds of encroachments.

In the wake of severe traffic congestion and haphazard parking of vehicles, which obstructed the smooth flow of traffic, the civic administration had removed all extensions like cemented platforms, fenced lawns and garden towards the road side and the cleared portion of the road was surfaced. The move had yielded at least 10 to 15 feet additional width of the road and ample parking space for vehicles, of the traffic.

The chaotic traffic situation and brazen manner of unlawfully occupying government land and parts of roads and streets, prevailing in the city, calls for drastic and harsh measures, which the authorities, sooner or later, would have to take if some semblance of order is to be maintained in the industrial hub of Punjab, observed a retired faculty member of the Punjab Agricultural University, who happens to be a resident of a colony seriously afflicted by the malaise of encroachments.



PSEB men sit in dharna
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 29
Employees of the Punjab State Electricity Board office in the Model Town area today continued their dharna demanding action against women of the riot victim colony, who had allegedly obstructed employees from performing their official duty on May 22.

The dharna was, however, lifted after the Chairman of the PSEB assured them that action would be taken against them. The employees threatened that if the action was not taken against them soon, they would resume the dharna after two days.

According to Mr Somnath, president of TSU, the Deputy Commissioner, Chief Engineer, Central Zone and Chairman of the Board, assured the employees of prompt action against the accused women.

The incident took place on May 22 when a team of PSEB employees assisted by four policemen raided 50 houses in the colony. The raid took a turn for the worse when the residents and the PSEB team clashed with each other.

The police booked several women of the colony the next day on the charge of obstructing PSEB employees from performing their duty.

Angry residents, however, complained to the police that the employees had torn the clothes of women and outraged their modesty. They have demanded the registration of a criminal case against the PSEB employees and the cancellation of the FIR lodged against them. PSEB employees alleged that the colony residents were in the habit of making such allegations. 



Curse of poverty
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, May 29
There are millions of unfortunate children who are deprived of the basic necessities of life and are forced by compelling circumstances to work as domestic servants. Child labour is defined as work of children under conditions that interfere with the physical development, education and recreational opportunities which they require.

The root cause of child labour is poverty. There are numerous factors which compel these young blooming children to join labour force viz. large family size, poor economic condition of the family, chronic illness as well as untimely death of their bread winners, steep rise of consumable goods, hereditary occupation of parents and above all illiteracy.

An attempt was made by Miss Ruchi Gupta, postgraduate student of the Department of Family Resource Management to study role of girl child labour in domestic work, economic contribution made by girl child labour to the family’s income, factors responsible for girl child labour participation in domestic work and problems faced by them during work. A sample of 120 labourers was selected and data was collected through an interview schedule.

She found out that a majority of these working children belonged to large families and were working since the age of nine. These girls were illiterate.

These working children were performing domestic work viz cleaning, dish washing, washing and ironing of clothes, child care and cooking. A majority of female workers from rural and urban area were working on the basis of amount of work done. On an average they worked for 5.07 hours in the urban area and 5.10 hours in the rural area. These children performed the household work in one to four houses a day. The average monthly income of female child labour came out to be Rs 501.6 in the urban areas and Rs 395.8 in the rural area.

A majority of female children in the urban areas contributed 19.0 per cent to the total family’s income; but in the rural areas they contributed 13.4 per cent to the total family’s income.

With the pooling of these girls’ money in the family income, majority of the families were able to provide better food and clothing to the family. But the girls worked under stress at times as they were scolded for minor faults.



Fire hazard dogs basement showrooms
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 29
It is not just restaurants that operate from basements, a number of garment show rooms also do so. Most of these basement showrooms contain huge stocks of synthetic material, which is highly inflammable. And none of these showrooms has adopted any fire safety measure.

In the Clock Tower area there are some showrooms dealing in readymade garments that operate from basements. While the showrooms have small space on the ground floor, these open up in the basements. Hundreds of people, and on Sundays the number runs into thousands, shop at these showrooms daily, without being aware of the risk and danger involved.

During the evening hours, these showrooms are usually overcrowded. Even walking into the overcrowded basements makes one feel claustrophobic. The showroom owners seem least bothered about the fire safety, as is obvious from the absence of fire extinguishers that should otherwise have been installed there.

The best measures these showroom owners take is to prohibit smoking inside these shops. But there is always a perpetual threat of an electric short-circuit since basement showrooms are always air-conditioned with regular power supply.

Most of these showrooms are learned to be operating without the mandatory permission. Officials maintain that these showrooms came up much before the building laws and bylaws were introduced and implemented. That is why most of these showrooms do not fulfil any conditions mandatory for operation.

The officials said there was an urgent need for a clear and specific policy for such showrooms. They maintained that the showrooms should not be allowed in the basements. In case these were allowed, they should have a wide opening to allow free movement in and out.

They pointed out that the showrooms near Clock Tower had no wide opening. In fact there was a small, not more than 3 feet wide, opening which lead to the basements. In case of any eventuality it would be difficult, rather impossible, for people to rush out of the basements, more so in chaos and confusion.



6 fire victims’ kin given relief
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 29
The Punjab Government gave away Rs one lakh each as compensation to the next of kin of the six victims of the Khud Mohalla fire here today. Compensation to the seven victims belonging to Uttar Pradesh would be sent after getting their legal heirs verified, Deputy Commissioner Anurag Verma said.

Fourteen persons lost their lives in the Khud Mohalla fire on May 10. Mr Verma said the cheque for the kin of Bholi, wife of the owner of the unit, would be presented later as all survivors of the family were under treatment at the CMC.

The Deputy Commissioner appreciated the sacrifices of the families whose members had lost their lives while carrying out rescue operations. He appealed to representatives of different sections of society to take precautionary measures against fire.



‘Corruption rampant at Sub-Registrar’s office’
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 29
The general secretary of the Pardesh Youth Congress, Mr Gurinder Singh Grewal, has alleged that corruption was rampant at the office of the sub-registrar as people had to pay hefty amount as bribe for getting their properties registered with the Revenue Department.

In a statement issued here today, Mr Grewal alleged that some revenue officials were undervaluing the properties after receiving bribe from the owners, causing losses to the government.

Mr Grewal urged the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and Minister, Mr Amarjit Singh Samra, to intervene and ensure that such practices were stopped. He demanded the transfer of corrupt officials and transparency in registration work.



Body elects office-bearers
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 29
At a general body meeting held in the dharmshala of Baba Balak Nath Mandir, Ghumar Mandi, under the chairmanship of Mr Vidya Sagar Aghnihotri and Mr Piara Lal Sharma (Patrons), the following were elected office-bearers of the Brahman Sabha, Civil Lines, Ludhiana, for a term of two years: Mr Ram Kumar Sharma — president; Mr Jang Bahadur Pandey — senior vice-president; Mr Vipin Gaur — assistant senior vice-president; Mr Sat Pal Sharma — vice-president; Mr Gopi Ram Kaushak — general secretary; and Mr Sarevesh Pal Sharma — secretary.



Seven hurt
Our Correspondent

Sahnewal, May 29
Seven persons, including a Brigadier and his wife, were injured in a head-on collision between a Santro and an Ambassador at Kanech Chowk here around 5.15 pm today.



Falling dollar rate worries exporters
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 29
The falling rate of the US dollar against the rupee is worrying exporters. During the past month, the rate of the dollar has fallen almost by one rupee. Only a month ago, one US dollar was priced at Rs 47.80. The rate came down to Rs 46.84 yesterday. However, today it recovered marginally to Rs 46.94.

Although this has enhanced foreign exchange reserves in the country, it has caused concern among exporters. Some leading exporters of the country, like the Oswals, the manufacturers of the Monte Carlo brand, are set to lose a considerable amount of money on exports. It is only the exporters to the USA who are set to lose money and not those to Europe or Japan, as the currency there has remained stable.

According to Mr Daman Oswal, Managing Director of the Nahar Group of Industries, the continuous fall during the past month has led to considerable losses. Nahar is one of the leading exporters in the country with an export turnover running into hundreds of crores.

Another leading exporter, Mr Gian Chand Dhawan of York Exports, said such problems had come for the first time. Although the rate of the dollar did fluctuate earlier also, it never came down by such margins.

The exporters cannot even wait for the dollar to stabilise. They cannot hold back their consignments. “Orders have to be delivered on time”, says Mr Rakesh Dumra of Greatway Hosiery, adding that “you cannot wait or the orders will get outdated”.



Cheaper Net via cellphones
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 29
Introducing a revolutionary Internet connectivity service through mobile phones, New Bakshi Computers announced a new economical system at the rate of 83 paise per hour.

Mr Kanwaljit Bakshi, proprietor, said there was no requirement of a telephone line, no call charges and no Internet package. The system provided 24 hours of unlimited access, high-speed connectivity and suitability even in remote areas. A mobile phone with GRPS and infra-red port was all that was required.

Talking about the cost, Mr Bakshi informed that one-time installation charges were Rs 500, the infra red port was available at Rs 1,490, while GRPS was being provided by Airtel at the rate of Rs 600 per month. He said he had brought the instrument from Taiwan and improvised it for connecting it to computer for Internet use.



Drive-in ATM launched

Ludhiana, May 29
North India’s first drive-in ATM was launched in the city yesterday. Installed by Punjab National Bank, the ATM will allow the bank’s customers to conduct transactions while sitting in their vehicles. This is the third drive-in installed in the country by the bank. The other two are in Lucknow and Nagpur.

Mr Vijay Chopra, Chief Editor, Hind Samachar Group, inaugurated the ATM at the bank’s Industrial Area branch, while the Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Mr Sudhakar Verma, was the guest of honour. The function was presided over by Mr U.S. Bhargava, General Manager, Punjab National Bank (Punjab Zone). TNS


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