Sunday, June 8, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Dust clouds engulf city
Residents panic, experts say nothing to worry
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 7
With the maximum temperature recorded at 43.2°C in the city today, a thick blanket of dust clouds engulfed the city during the morning hours. Besides lowering the visibility to a considerable extent the dust clouds caused breathing problems to the residents.

Instead of having a relief from the blistering heat the residents were in for a major problem, thanks to the humidity that rose above normal in the city. It was a day of dust and sweat for most of the residents .

Mixed with the pollution in the city, the dust clouds were causing breathing problems and eye allergies to the residents. PAU experts attributed the change in weather to a low-pressure area formed in the region due to dry conditions accompanied by winds from the west that bring dust particles with them.

The condition was similar in the countryside of the district where the dust clouds had affected the visibility in the region. The dust was thicker in the countryside as compared to the urban areas.

The residents were taken for a surprise in the morning today when they saw a ‘‘fog-like-situation’’ in the city. They could not understand how fog could engulf the region despite the persistent hot and dry weather.

The commuters were seen on the city roads with their faces covered. Even during the day, sun was not effective giving an impression that the city was covered under clouds. During the afternoon hours also the visibility was affected. Unfortunately the residents who were hoping for the rain were once again disappointed.

With the dust particles suspended in the air the residents were complaining of sore throat and nasal, respiratory and eye infections. The condition specifically worsened in this polluted city where SPM on a normal day was 600 micro grams against the permissible limit of 200 micro grams.

After travelling on the city roads on an uncovered vehicle one could experience a fine layer of dust on one’s exposed parts of the body. The commuters were feeling a burning sensation in the eyes. Residents said that they had seen other dust storms but those storms settled down soon after some hours. They say that they had not witnessed such situation in the city before.

At the countryside the farmers were panic stricken as they felt that the falling dust would ruin their crops as it would block the respiration in the vegetative parts of the plants. A farmer of Pakhowal village said that he was worried as a layer of dust had formed on the paddy plants.

The agricultural experts, however, ruled out this possibility. They said that a light shower of rain would wash the dust layer off the plants. They appealed to the farmers not to panic under these situations.

The meteorological experts attribute d the formation of dust storms to the dry weather. They said that the dry winds blowing during these days carried the dust particles to a certain height. The heavier particles settled down but the lighter ones remained suspended in the air for long durations and form dust clouds.

According to Dr Sukhdev Singh Hundal, Professor of Agrometerology in PAU, the same phenomenon had taken place in the district that had led to the dust clouds.

He said that the dust would settle down only after rain showers. He said that there was nothing for the farmers to panic as the dust would not do any harm to the crops as these were in young stage.

He said that these clouds had, however, increased the suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the air that would definitely lead to respiratory problems in humans.

Dr Hundal also ruled out any possibility of rain in the coming 48 hours in the district. 



Exchequer suffers Rs 3 cr loss; 20 booked

Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 7
The local Vigilance Bureau has booked 20 persons, including two serving district development and panchayat officers (DDPOs), for causing a loss of Rs 3 crore to the state exchequer by indulging in illegal sand mining in Manewal village.

A high-level inquiry conducted by the bureau has thus gone some steps ahead of an inquiry conducted by the district administration here, which had found seven persons responsible for the scam.

Ludhiana Tribune had earlier carried an exclusive report about the incident of illegal sand mining in the village. The accused even used a fertile land for mining sand by showing it as barren in official records.

Some contractors of a company, allegedly in connivance with officials of Mining and Panchayat Department and village panchayat, had been mining sand for the past three years. The total loss caused by them was estimated at Rs 3 crore.

Those booked include two DDPOs — Bhajan Singh and Balbir Singh, who were then BDPOs — panchayat secretary Devinder Singh, Sarpanch of Manewal village Gurnam Singh, five panchayat members, four contractors — Amandeep Singh, Pargat Singh Madan Singh and Gurdial Singh — mining officers Harchand Singh Marwaha and Gur Ashish Singh and nine contractors of Gurnam Mineral Company. They have been booked under Sections 420, 409, 465, 467, 468, 471 and 120 B, IPC, and 13-1-CD of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The case has been registered against them on the basis of an inquiry conducted by the department following a complaint. Sources in the bureau said the panchayat of the village had passed a resolution and showed the land as barren and proposed to give it to a contractor for levelling.

The contract was proposed for Rs 25,000 and the officials of the Panchayat Department allegedly allotted the contract without verifying the facts. The contractors, however, started mining sand from the place and sold 20,000 truck-loads of sand within three years. A truckload of sand costs Rs 1,500. When the bureau checked revenue records, the land was found out to be a fertile one where various crops had been sown over the years.

An earlier inquiry by the then SDM, Ms Bhawna Garg, had found that the sand miners had been mining sand even after the expiry of their contract. After the inquiry, seven persons were booked on the directions of a former Deputy Commissioner. Those booked were Amandeep Singh Behlolpur, Pargat Singh, Madan Singh Machhiwara along with their helpers, including Gurdial Singh, Sampuran and Amrik Singh Gehlewal.

A case under Sections 406 and 379 of the IPC was registered against the accused. The police had seized four trucks and three tractor-trailers. The drivers of the vehicles, Sikander Singh, Harminder Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Gurdev Singh and Shankar, had also been arrested from the site.



Cong flays ‘martyrdom’ to Bhindranwale
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 7
The Congress today criticised Akal Takht’s decision to declare Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale as a martyr. Several Congress leaders, in separate statements, observed that granting martyrdom to Bhindranwale would amount to endorsement all what he stood for and could also once again lead to violence and terrorism in the state.

Senior vice-president of the Pradesh Youth Congress, Mr Pawan Dewan, while criticising the decision alleged that Akal Takht had done it at the instance of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). He alleged that the SAD was now trying to own the ‘terrorists’ for petty political interests. He alleged that Bhindranwale was the founder of militancy in Punjab, which cost so many lives of innocent people in the state.

The Shiv Sena (Hindustan) has also criticised the move of Akal Takht alleging that this amounted to encouraging terrorism. In a joint statement issued here today the president, Mr Pawan Gupta, and the general secretary, Mr Pawan Sharma, alleged that Bhindranwale was responsible for the murder of hundreds of innocent people in Punjab. They said, about 25,000 people were killed in the state during the terrorist violence which was allegedly initiated by Bhindranwale.

The Shiv Sena leaders questioned the logic of granting martyrdom to Bhindranwale asking as how a person who ‘misused’ the holy shrine of Darbar Sahib and was responsible for killing of thousands of innocent people, both Hindus and Sikhs, could be described and declared as a martyr.

In another statement former vice-president of the District Youth Congress Ludhiana (urban), Mr Kewal Arora, also criticised the decision of Akal Takht saying it would unnecessarily raise a controversy on an issue which had already died down. 



Talhan violence: security beefed up in city
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 7
In the wake of the violence involving Dalits and Jats at Talhan village in Jalandhar district, security has been tightened in the city at sensitive spots where there was a sizeable population of Dalits. Security has also been stepped up along railway tracks to prevent any damage to railway property, after what happened near the Ram Nagar railway station yesterday.

Various Dalit organisations in the city have condemned the violence and demanded a CBI inquiry into the episode. Organisations have also decided to send delegations to Talhan village to help in restoring peace in the area. They have sent rations and other items of daily use to the village which has been under curfew for the past two days.

They have also demanded action against government and police officers who allegedly failed to take timely preventive action. The organisations have threatened to launch an agitation if the government does not accept the demands of the Dalits.

Securitymen have been posted on round-the-clock duty at Basti Jodhewal, Chowni Mohalla, Jawahar Nagar Camp, Kundan Puri and Shiv Puri area. The PCR personnel are also conducting special patrolling in these areas. Special attention is being given to religious places run by Dalits in the sensitive areas.

A general alert has been sounded in the city to check the flaring of violence. Police sources said officers of different police stations had been directed to remain in touch with Dalit and Jat leaders.

The sources said the police had stepped up vigil as it was not taking any chances. With tempers running high in Talhan and Jalandhar, there are fears that the violence could spill over here.

Tension had engulfed the Basti Jodhewal area and Shahi Colony last evening and this morning following a meeting by some Dalit organisations in these areas. A heavy police force was deployed here as a preventive measure.

A joint meeting of several Dalit organisations, including Bhartiya Valmiki Sabha, Budh Dharam Prachar Samiti, Valmiki Sewak Sangathan, Dr B. R. Ambedkar Youth Federation and Welfare Society and the SC, ST, OBC Employees Federation, Punjab, submitted a memorandum to the local Deputy Commissioner to express their anguish at the incident and forward their demands to the state government.

The organisations have demanded a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the family of Vijay Kumar, who died in police firing, and action against police officials for ordering policemen to open fire.

They have also demanded the cancellation of all cases registered against the Dalits in this episode. The organisations were represented by Lala Jeewan Kumar, Vijay Desawar, Surinder Bali, Jaswant Singh, Chander Shekhar Sahota, Narinder Gharu, Rana Mal Teji and Vicky Sahota among others.

Another organisation, the Vishwa Guru Ravi Dass Mission, has sent two truckloads of rations and other utility items to Dalit families in the village and Jalandhar.

Mr Jaswant Kataria and Mr Shiv Ram Saroay, chairman and president of the mission, said in a press note here today that the situation at Talhan village worsened because of the failure of the police and civil administration to handle it. They also held politicians responsible for the violence. They said the mission had apprised the government long ago of the possibility of tension in the village but nothing concrete had been done.

The meeting unanimously resolved that only a CBI inquiry into the issue could bring out the truth and identify the guilty persons. They have urged the government to provide security to the injured Dalits as the police is allegedly pressurising them into making statements in their favour.

The mission has also appealed to the Dalits and Jats in Talhan and other parts of the state to maintain peace and harmony.



Leaders appeal for restraint over Talhan violence
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 7
Cutting across party lines, leaders of different political parties today appealed to people to exercise utmost restraint and not get carried away with the propaganda by certain vested interests following the incidents at Talhan village in Jalandhar district. They appealed to people to ensure that they were not misled by the provocations by some anti-social elements.

Expressing concern over these incidents, senior BJP leader and Member Parliament, Lala Lajpat Rai, said although such an incident was highly deplorable, it needed to be nipped in the bud, lest it may spread over other parts of the state. He observed that the issue was mismanaged right from the beginning till it reached a flashpoint. He appealed to all religious, social and political organisations to ensure that peace was not sabotaged at any cost. He demanded that the people responsible for this situation should be severely penalised.

A senior Akali leader and former Minister, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, pointed out the failure of the administration to handle the situation properly. He said had the issue been handled properly at the proper stage, the unfortunate incidents could have been prevented. He demanded a probe into the entire issue to find out as who was responsible and what were the motives involved. Mr Grewal demanded that the culprits must be identified and punished as they had once again threatened the peace of the state.

A Congress leader and Ludhiana East MLA, Mr Surinder Dawer, while regretting the incidents blamed the Opposition parties for the incident. He alleged that the BJP was trying to gain political mileage out of the issue. He pointed out, it was a BJP leader who was actively spearheading the campaign. He claimed that only the Congress had performed a positive role in the situation. Mr Dawer alleged that the Talhan incident was the result of the divisive politics of the Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP. He claimed that all through their political history these parties had been dividing people on caste and religious lines and the current incidents were the result of that divisive policy only. 



Police remand for 9 officials
Legal Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 7
Duty Magistrate Jasbir Singh today remanded nine officials of the Punjab Water Supply and Sewerage Board, in police custody till June 9. The officials were arrested by the Vigilance Bureau in connection with the Rs 4.5 crore scam.

Superintending Engineer A.S.Mommi, Executive Engineer M.L.Bansal, SDOs Gurmail Singh and Chaman Lal, and junior engineers Sukhbir Singh, Raj Kumar, Kamaljit Singh, Mohan Singh and Avtar Singh were produced in the court in the afternoon.

The prosecution sought the police remand of the officials on the plea that sufficient time was needed to properly investigate the case, for which a custodial interrogation was necessary. Convinced by the submissions made by the prosecution, the Duty Magistrate remanded the accused in police custody till Monday.

Apart from the nine officials, the Vigilance Bureau had also booked eight contractors but they are still at large.



Murder of SAD leader’s son: main suspect held
Our Correspondent

Doraha, June 7
The main suspect in the murder of the son of Mr Bharpoor Singh Rauni, Circle President, SAD, was arrested by the Payal police last evening. Police sources said Jarnail Singh, son of Gurdial Singh of Rauni village, had admitted to having committed the murder. The other three suspects, including Gagandeep Singh, alias Nona, son of Jarnail Singh, are still at large.

Amrik Singh Rauni was murdered on May 29. The brother of the victim said the four suspects killed him with a sharp weapon. Meanwhile, Akali leaders and workers have urged the police to nab the other suspects.

A number of Akali leaders, including Mr Parkash Singh Badal, former Chief Minister, Mr Jagjiwan Pal Singh Gill, in charge, Payal constituency, and Mr Jarnail Singh Shahpur have expressed sympathies for the aggrieved family members.



Rs 372 cr more revenue generated: Beermi
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 7
The Punjab Government had launched a special campaign to apprise the people of the state of all development and welfare schemes. And for this purpose block-level meetings of public and party workers would be organised. This was stated by the Minister of State for Jails and Urban Development, Mr Malkiat Singh Beermi, while addressing a block-level worker meeting at Kohara, about 15 km from here, today.

Focusing on the achievements of the Congress government, the minister maintained that the government had fulfilled the poll promises made to the electorate of providing a clean and transparent government and improving the pathetic financial condition of the state.

“We have been able to check corruption in government departments to a great extent, though it has not been rooted out. The effects of a relentless campaign against corruption are there for everybody to see and members of public should also join hands with the government to rid the entire system of the menace .”

Mr Beermi urged the party functionaries to identify corrupt employees and bring them to the notice of party leaders. To streamline the functioning of all government departments, the Chief Minister had directed all ministers and legislators to conduct surprise checks on government offices.

Crediting the Beant Singh government for restoring peace by eliminating terrorism in Punjab, Mr Beermi said Beant Singh had made the supreme sacrifice in the fight against terrorism.

He charged the Akali factions with pushing the peaceful state towards militancy for political motives which had led to a decade of bloodshed, besides entailing a debt burden of more than Rs 7,000 crore.

The SAD-BJP government of Mr Parkash Singh Badal made the state bankrupt through several populist schemes and gross misuse of funds for political purposes. This increased the debt burden of the state to Rs 52,000 crore.

“The deft financial management by the Congress government has yielded positive results and the state has turned the corner. By pursuing the policy of ‘cutting expenditure and mobilising resources’, the government has generated an additional revenue of Rs 372 crore during the year and 2 per cent of the total income is being diverted to savings.”

According to the minister, the government had earmarked Rs 2,000 crore for the repair of roads and Rs 45 crore was recently released for diversification of agriculture on the basis of Dr S.S. Johl Committee's recommendations.

Mr Harmohinder Singh, president, District Congress Committee (Rural), Mr Isher Singh Meharban, a former minister, Mr Avtar Singh Brar, vice-president, PPCC, and Mr Jaspinder Singh, general secretary, PPCC, also addressed the meeting.



Anti-encroachment drive yields results
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 7
The crackdown by the Municipal Corporation against encroachments in the city during the week has produced results. On several of the city roads which were included in the first phase of the drive, the temporary encroachments like rehris, pharis and roadside vendors had disappeared and there was a marked change in flow of vehicular traffic.

Even though the magnitude of encroachments in the city was gigantic and would need determination and tactful handling, the MC administration was, to begin with, focussing on temporary encroachments like hand carts, vending on roadsides, extension of sales counters on foot paths and ‘misuse’ of roads, streets, parks and other open spaces for commercial activity in different city localities.

The MC Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sharma, claimed that during last couple of days, the tehbazari staff of the civic body had maintained pressure on several problematic areas like Mall Road, College Road, Cemetery Road, Ghumar Mandi, Rose Garden, Maharani Jhansi Road, Bindra Ban Road in the Civil Lines area, Janakpuri, Shingar Cinema Road, CMC Road, Kidwai Nagar, Chaura Bazar, Partap Bazar, G.T. Road, Gill Road, Miller Ganj, Dhuri Line, Old Sabzi Mandi, Daresi grounds, Div No 3 Chowk, Transport Nagar, Metro Road, Basant Park and Jaimal Singh Road to ensure the rehri and phariwalas were not allowed to locate themselves at a particular place and create obstructions in the traffic movement.

The civic body staff had seized a large number of hand carts, chairs and benches, sales counters, commercial goods, fruit and vegetables and other eatables during the campaign. For subsequent default, the vendors would have to pay heavy fine for release of their merchandise which would also prove as a deterrent.

Mr Prem Chand, Joint Commissioner, who had been entrusted with the responsibility of overall supervision and monitoring of the anti-encroachment drive, said a survey of permanent encroachments such as misuse of parks or other vacant sites of the civic body, unauthorised extensions of residential or commercial premises towards roadside, public streets or foot paths was being conducted on war footing in all four zones of the city. In the second phase of the campaign, expected to commence in next few days, the MC would concentrate on permanent encroachments and major violations of building bylaws which would be completed by coming Monday. The drive for clearing encroachments would commence immediately thereafter.

Over 36 civic employees, assisted by adequate police force had been deployed to make rounds of the identified areas in two shifts from 7 am to 10 pm to keep a strict vigil so that the street vendors and rehri-phariwallahs did not create any obstruction to traffic and movement of the public on roads and streets. The MC staff had been explicitly instructed to lay emphasis on preventive action and not to allow the unlawful occupants to settle down at one place.

The MC campaign against encroachments received a shot in the arm as the shopkeepers on Shahpur Road, one of the most congested commercial areas near CMC Hospital, agreed to voluntarily remove encroachments and extension towards the roadside and footpaths. According to the area councillor, Mr Rakesh Parashar, who was actively involved in achieving this objective, the Congress legislator, Mr Surinder Dawer formally demolished a part of a cemented structure on the road. Mr Dawer also laid the foundation stone of the work for widening of the road at a cost of Rs 6.40 lakh to provide easier access to the CMC Hospital.



Residents go without water for days
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 7
Residents of the Ward 55 in the Islam Ganj area of the city today held a protest against the alleged failure of the city administration to provide regular supply of water for the past one week. The residents claimed that they had been carrying buckets of water from other localities for household purposes. They demanded the immediate removal of Councillor Neetu of the said ward, and the immediate restoration of water supply.

Flaying the civic administration for failing to provide regular supply of water and clean sewerage in the locality adjoining Gopal Mandir, Mr Inderjit Singh Gaba, unit president of the Dr Ambedkar Janhit Ekta Mission, said the people of the area would continue with their protests till their grievances were redressed.

Some representatives of the mission, who visited the Tribune office, said they had already apprised the authorities concerned about their problems. They said neither the councillor nor any official had made any effort to get the water supply restored.

They said the sewerage of the area was blocked and dirty water was flowing in the streets. The representatives appealed to the district administration to intervene in the matter.



Woman, 2 kids run over, killed by train
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 7
A woman and her two minor children were crushed under a train near Dhandari railway station today.
The woman, identified as Jyotsana Vati, was crossing the rail track with her two sons, one aged four years and the other just two months old, when they were run over by the train. The bodies were identified by migrant labourers living in slums near the railway line. The woman was a migrant labourer and belonged to Uttar Pradesh.



Missing youth was murdered, says police
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, June 7
With the arrest of three persons, the police claims to have solved the case of a missing youth of Kanganwal village, who was suspected to have been killed by his wife and her paramour. The youth, Balbir Singh, had been missing since May 25.

According to Mr A. S. Rai, Senior Superintendent of Police, Sangrur, and Mr Rachhpal Singh, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Malerkotla, Mr Hari Singh of Kanganwal village had informed the local police that his nephew, Balbir Singh, had gone missing under mysterious circumstances from his farm house.

While the police was looking for the youth, Hari Singh told the police that Samsher Singh, another acquittance of the family, had seen the victim’s wife and her paramour throwing a body into a canal.

A police team headed by Mr Ravinder Singh, SHO, Sadar police station, started a hunt for the youth’s wife, Mandip Kaur, her paramour, Gurmeet Singh, and Jugnu, a migrant labour, who later surrendered before the police.

Preliminary investigation revealed that the youth was married to Mandip Kaur of Jammu Colony in Ludhiana about 15 years ago. Five years ago, his wife began an affair with Gurmeet Singh of nearby Dhaler village. The couple lost its son, some six months ago with only daughter left behind to hinder their routine which continued for around five years, Mandeep and her paramour Gurmeet decided to eliminate Balbir.

Mr Rai said the lovers conspired to eliminate Balbir in such a manner that nobody could suspect them. On the night of May 24, Mandip made her daughter sleep alone in the courtyard. When Balbir fell asleep under the effect of sleeping pills in milk, Gurmeet and Jugnu strangled Balbir to death and threw his body into the nearby canal.

The suspects were seen by Samsher Singh. On the basis of his statement, the local police registered a case under Sections 302, 201 and 34 of the IPC and started a hunt for the suspects, who later surrendered.



Trader beaten up, robbed
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, June 7
A local industrialist was beaten up and robbed by three miscreants near Dehlon village late last night.
Mr Vikas Kumar, a partner in a cotton mill, said that he was travelling in his car when three car-borne youths forcibly stopped him. While one of them kept sitting in the car, the other two dragged him and beat him up with a baseball bat and rods till he became unconscious. On regaining consciousness, he found that miscreants had decamped with Rs 30,000. A seriously injured Vikas was given treatment by a private doctor and examined at Civil Hospital, Dehlon, today.

Mr A. S. Khaira, SHO, confirmed having received a complaint.



3 beaten up by neighbour
Our Correspondent

Khanna, June 7
Three persons, including a woman, were allegedly beaten up by their neighbour at Bhamadhi village, 10 km from here, last night.
Guddo, a neighbour of Ram Pal, called the latter’s daughter to her house yesterday afternoon. She told the girl that her mother, who is separated from Ram Pal, had asked to meet her. She also promised to pay the bus fare to enable her to go to Ludhiana.

The child told all this to her aunt and Ram Pal, her father, at night. The girl’s father, aunt and uncle went to the neighbour’s house. They were allegedly beaten up by the neighbour and her family members. They received injuries and were admitted to the Civil Hospital, Khanna.


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