Friday, June 13, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Tension prevails at Aligarh village
Patch-up effort by administration comes a cropper
Tribune News Service

Aligarh (Jagraon), June 12
Barely a few hours after leaders of different political parties agreed with officials of the district administration on a fresh compromise over the issue of changing names of donors on a stone commemorating the work of filling up a pond in the village, Akali-BSP supporters, especially women, refused to honour the agreement and stalled a move to lay a stone of the rival party.

The stone was being laid by Congress workers amidst heavy police security late in the evening as per the agreement reached at a meeting between political leaders, civil administration and police officials in the office of the SSP, Jagraon, Mr Mukhwinder Singh Chhina, in the afternoon.

However, women activists of the Akali-BSP combine gheraoed the police and officials and stopped the laying of the stone. Ms Harwinder Kaur, Sarpanch of the village, led the women activists and said the stone would be laid only when persons belonging to the Congress, who had allegedly beaten up four persons of their party, were arrested.

Tension prevailed in the village for the third consecutive day, even as the police and civil administration succeeded in averting a violent clash in the morning.

Earlier, tempers ran high after differences cropped up between Akali-BSP and Congress party workers over the “peace” compromise agreed upon yesterday. Akali-BSP workers gathered at the park site, accusing rival Congress workers of breaking the compromise deal over the issue of laying two stones bearing donors’ names in the park.

A heavy police posse was deployed at the village as the situation threatened to become violent. Leaders of both groups made calls to civil administration and police officials, alleging that the rival party was disturbing the law and order situation in the area.

The police force camped in the village throughout the day. Sources said the force would be stationed there till the situation became completely peaceful. Police sources said with the first compromise not respected by some persons, the police was not leaving anything to chance and had deployed a strong police force.

According to the earlier compromise, the Akali-BSP workers, consisting mainly of Dalits, would remove the stone displaying names of politicians. They could retain the names of some persons who had donated money to fill up a large pond. Rival party workers would install their own stone on which they would display the names of donors belonging to their party or clan.

However, this morning, tension engulfed the village when Akali-BSP supporters objected to the names of certain persons included in the list of Congress workers as donors for the work of filling up the village pond.

Timely intervention by the Jagraon police prevented the situation from turning violent and all political leaders and representatives were called to Jagraon for another meeting.

Akali-BSP leaders alleged that workers of the other party were inscribing names of those persons also who had not donated money for the purpose. The other party argued that these people had donated money for the construction of a cremation ground and deserved a mention on the stone for contributing to village development.

Mr Mukhwinder Singh Chhina, SSP , Jagraon, said after deliberations, both parties agreed to install separate stones on which only the names of non-political donors would be inscribed. Congress workers have been told to write specifically that the donor’s list was for the work relating to the cremation ground and the village pond.

Senior leaders of the parties agreed to withdraw their names from the list in order to ease tension. The stone bearing names of Mr Bhag Singh Mallah and Mr Darshan Singh Shivalik would be removed as per the new agreement and the rival party would also not mention the names of any political leader.

Meanwhile, the police has deputed an SP-level officer to inquire into the violent clash between the two parties that took place on Tuesday. The inquiry has been instituted as Congress leaders alleged that only workers of their party were implicated in the case.

The controversy has erupted in the village in view of the upcoming panchayat elections. Vested interests are trying to give it the colour of a Jat-Dalit divide, even though the two community members figure almost equally in both camps. The injured persons who belonged to one party included both Jats and Dalits. So were the names of the donors belonging to both parties.

The issue centres around a pond in the village. The panchayat, headed by a Dalit woman, Ms Harwinder Kaur, and supported by Akali leaders unanimously resolved to level the pond last year. The reason given was that the pond had become a source of diseases. The pond was filled up with the help of villagers, including Jats, who pooled money for the purpose. Some NRIs also donated money.

It was peaceful till mid-May this year. The Dalits decided to lay a stone there on which the names of those donors who had donated more than Rs 1,000 would be inscribed. Congress workers, supported by Jats ,opposed it saying that this was done to garner votes. They said the name s of all donors, including Jats, should be included.

It was earlier decided that the pond space would be developed as a park. Both parties started quarrelling over naming the park. While the Akalis and Dalits wanted to name it after Shaheed Rachpal Singh, a martyr in an Indo-Pak war, Congress workers and Jats wanted to name it after the late Santokh Singh, a former Congress leader and Sarpanch of the village. His son, Jagtar Singh, is heading the Jat group.

However, Akali-Dalit workers installed a huge stone on which the names of leaders like Bhag Singh Mallah and Darshan Singh Shivalik were inscribed in bold letters. This angered the Congress-Jat group, which allegedly resorted to violence.



New water rate structure spells trouble for MC
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, June 12
The revised structure of water and sewerage rates, decided by the state government and put into effect by all urban local bodies in accordance with a notification dated May 2, 2003, would create more problems than it would solve and the government is learnt to be under immense pressure to review the matter threadbare on the basis of ground realities.

The new tariff for water supply and sewerage, while maintaining the existing monthly charges of Rs 50 for houses with plot size up to five marla, spelled a hike of 50 per cent and 100 per cent, respectively for houses with plot sizes up to 10 marla and less than one kanal and further made it compulsory for domestic connections in houses with plot size of over one kanal as well as commercial and industrial connections to have metered supply at the rate of Rs 2 per kilolitre per month. The revised rate structure also provided for phased increase in monthly charges at almost 10 per cent every year till the year 2008.

Information collected by Ludhiana Tribune revealed that there were around 1.5 lakh water connections in the city with almost 11,000 commercial connections. According to the rate structure prevalent till now, the domestic consumers were charged a flat rate of Rs 50 for water supply and an equal amount for sewerage per month while the commercial and industrial consumers had to pay twice as much for these services.

Sources in the MC disclosed that the entire existing computer software for the purpose of raising bills for the water supply and sewerage would have to be replaced for billing on the basis of plot size of the domestic consumers. Further, the process for providing metered supply to domestic consumers with houses on plots of one kanal or more and commercial and institutional supply was all the more complex and cumbersome for various reasons.

The MC officials estimated that after the ongoing exercise of segregation on the basis of plot size was completed, the number of consumers, qualifying for metered supply would swell to more than 40,000 and the task of meter reading on monthly or quarterly basis for the purpose of raising bills was simply gigantic in the wake of location of such consumers. Moreover, the system of meter reading having given a go-by decades ago, the MC has no meter readers on its rolls.

Admitting that the civic body did not have the kind of manpower needed for scrupulous implementation of the revised water and sewerage structure, a senior MC official said for quite some time, the distribution of water and sewerage bills had been entrusted to courier companies. As far as the meter readers were concerned, no such posts existed and the posts lying vacant since long could not be filled in the wake of government policy that the posts rendered vacant were deemed to be abolished. With new recruitment completely banned by the state government, employing persons on temporary basis periodically for meter reading would pose a big problem.

Sources in the civic body further maintained that the provision of metered supply of water, both in the domestic and commercial categories, would also breed corruption and render the consumers at the discretion of meter readers. “The quality of water meters available in the market at present leaves much to be desired and these, almost without exception, are bound to become rusty and non-functional over a period. The revised structure of water and sewerage rates provided that in case of faulty meter, the first bill will be raised on an average basis of the last three bills and thereafter the consumer will have to shell out three times the average charges.” As such, in cases of non-functional meters, the consumers would be easy prey for unscrupulous elements since the meter readers would have total discretion of recording fictitious meter reading, of course for a consideration.

In the face of practical difficulties, the MC officials feel that the prevailing flat rate system was more suitable and the purpose of mopping up additional resources for the urban local bodies from these civic services could have been fulfilled by a percentage increase across the board in a phased manner.



Dalits clash at religious place
Kanchan Vasdev and Mahesh Sharma

DC’s comments

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Anurag Verma, while talking to the TNS, said he had already deputed teams of administrative officials and the police to talk to the people and ease out tension in the affected areas. He said as it was a sensitive issue the administration was handling it very carefully. Regular meetings were being convened between the warring groups and all possible steps were being taken to strike a compromise between them. 

Dehliz Khurd (Ludhiana), June 12
While it is Jats versus Dalits at some places in the state causing communal tension, it is Dalits versus Dalits at a religious place in this nondescript village, about 35 km from Ludhiana, near Ahemdgarh. Politics for votes is allegedly playing an ugly role in the controversy, courtesy the impending panchayat elections.

Following the controversy between two groups of Dalits, all activities at a religious place have been suspended for the past five days. The row flared up over a minor issue of offering money at the place, when one faction managing the religious place refused to accept the ‘‘small amount of money’’ offered by the other group on the occasion of their son’s marriage.

There were allegations and counter-allegations in the village when a Tribune team visited there today. While one faction alleged that doors of the religious place were thumped by persons belonging to the other group, the latter alleged that the members of the former group had locked the place despite knowing that they would go to pay obeisance there.

Even though the clash between the two groups took place on Sunday and several persons sustained injuries, the matter is yet to settle down. Despite the fact that the police is working overtime to contain the situation, the controversy does not seem to die down and is taking political colour in the village, which has 140 Dalit votes of total 548.

The police has received complaints from both groups, but has not allegedly acted on any of it. It is being overcautious due to existing circumstances at Talhan. Investigations by the Tribune revealed that the clash took place due to a locked door of the religious place of the village.

Mr Major Singh, a leader of one faction, said Mr Gurmel Singh and Mr Ramdass, both Dalits, had been managing the religious place and organising religious functions for the past many years. Trouble started when both had an altercation with another Dalit family of same village on last Saturday. An Akhand Path was organised at the house of Mr Kirpal Singh of other faction as part of celebration of his son’s marriage.

The family had offered Rs 51 at the religious place in the evening and the other faction, managing the place refused to accept it stating that such a meagre offering was an insult. However, no clash ensued at that time. But the next day, when Mr Kirpal Singh’s son along with his relatives and friends arrived at the religious place to pay obeisance, its door was found locked.

Narrating the incident, Mr Major Singh said, ‘‘Seeing the door locked, they started beating the doors of the religious place. This was against the ‘maryada’. They could have told us to open the door. We would have never refused. But they put another lock on the door.’’ Mr Major Singh even alleged that the members of their marriage party attacked a group of persons with rods, axes and swords leaving many injured. One of the managers of the religious place was also injured.

Mr Major Singh, however, said the controversy had no religious overtures and the incident took place due to the forthcoming panchayat elections. ‘‘Some vested interests from other castes were trying to cash in on the issue for political gains, instead of resolving it.’’ he said.

Mr Balbir Singh, a member of the opposing group said, ‘‘We do not deny having locked the door of the religious place but other allegations are baseless. Rather we were attacked by the members of the other group without any provocation.’’ He said one of the members of the marriage party suffered had injury, while many others suffered minor injuries.

Mr Balbir Singh claimed a compromise was reached two months ago that the religious place should not be locked. ‘‘They had deliberately locked the door to stop us from paying obeisance on the auspicious occasion of the departure of the barat of our son. This has been done at the instance of some influential persons of the other community.” He alleged. He demanded that the affairs of the religious place should be resumed asusual. The local police claimed that it was keeping vigil on the situation and every care was being taken so that sentiments of people were not hurt.



Two years, still fighting for justice
Shivani Bhakoo

Ludhiana, June 12
Bimla Rani, who had lost her husband two years ago due to "wrong medication", has been fighting a lone battle to bring the culprits to book, but to no avail. The authorities have virtually turned a deaf ear to her appeal.

To seek compensation and justice, Bimla had written to various authorities several times, including the Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Chief Justice of Punjab, Punjab Additional Director-General of Police, National Commission for Women, Punjab State Human Rights Commission, DIG, Ludhiana Range, district administration and Senior Superintendent of Police. She got the same reply every time, “your letter has been received and sent to the authorities concerned” or “your request will be considered”.

The only bread winner in the family, Bimla has two small children to feed. She said,“I have lost faith in God and the prevailing system in the country. I am a broken woman. All my hopes to get justice have been shattered. I have been virtually running from pillar to post to bring the culprits to book who gave wrong medicines to my husband. No body gives me a patient hearing. I am made to sit for hours at the government offices and when my turn comes I am told that the official had already left.”

Bimla, who is in her thirties, lost her husband on May 26, 2001. After falling ill Ashwani Kumar (Bimla's husband) was admitted to the ESI hospital on April 22, 2001. Ashwani had acute asthma and suffering from breathlessness. He was discharged from the hospital on May 10, 2001, after his diagnosis was completed.

She further complained, “A list of medicines was given to my husband but those medicines were prescribed for Raghbir Singh, another patient. She said being illiterate we could not read the name mentioned on the prescription slip and my husband started taking the medicines meant for treating tuberculosis and pneumonia. His condition deteriorated and once again I took him to the ESI hospital where I was told that he was taking wrong medicines. I told them that it was the fault of the nurse on duty who gave the wrong prescription slip but the hospital authorities refused to listen and said I should have read the slip before leaving. My husband died and since then I have been fighting to seek justice. At least the government should mark an inquiry.”

Bimla alleged that even the officials at the Civil Surgeon’s office called her to record a statement but without taking my version said he had already prepared the reply and would send it to the Deputy Commissioner. The ESI, Ludhiana, staff had told me that my husband had died due to “wrong medication”, but the letter I got from the ESI, Chandigarh, early this month said I had lost my husband because of “irregularity” in medication.

I have two children to raise. I want compensation. Am I demanding too much from the authorities?", she asks. 



Congress committed to providing clean admn
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 12
Mr Tej Parkash Singh, Transport Minister, Punjab, is all set to witness fast integrated development, and Rs 1500 crore is being spent through Infrastructure Development Board to undertake various development projects, including construction of link roads, railways overbridges, strengthening of major roads and construction of the buildings of hospitals and schools etc in all parts of the state.

He was addressing a largely attended conference organised as a part of the special Jan Samparak Programme to apprise the people about the achievements of the Congress government during the past about one year in power at Dakha 20 km from here yesterday evening.

The Transport Minister said out of these funds about Rs 1,000 crore would be spent on the construction and strengthening of 879 km link roads spread in the whole state and Rs 200 crore was being spent on the construction of 40 railway over bridges on the rail lines at vulnerable places, where the people were facing serious problems of traffic jams on the arrival of the trains. He said the state government was fully committed for the welfare of the weaker sections of society and during this year the government had chalked out welfare programmes costing Rs 820 crore for the poor under special component plan. He asserted that the Congress government had always taken concrete steps for the uplift of the needy people whenever it came into power in the state.

Mr Avtar Singh Brar, general secretary, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, while addressing the function said the SAD-BJP government during its tenure had completely ruined the financial position of the state and now with in a period of one year, the Congress government had improved it substantially.

Mr Malkiat Singh Dakha, MLA, while speaking on the occasion said efforts were being made to elect maximum number of panchayats in the constituency unanimously so that unnecessary groupism could be avoided and pace of the development could be speeded up.



Cong promises fair poll
Our Correspondent

Amloh, June 12
The misrule and corruption of the last government in Punjab has distanced voters from the Shiromani Akali Dal, which was evident from the recently held civic elections in which the Congress candidates won with thumping majorities. This was stated by Mr Brij Lal Goel, Vice-President, Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee (PPCC) and in charge, Congress affairs, Fatehgarh Sahib district, at a meeting held at the Canal Rest House here on Tuesday.

The meeting was organised by Mr Shingara Singh Salana, president, Block Congress Committee, Amloh, in connection with the forthcoming panchayat elections. The elections would be fair and the Congress would sweep the coming panchayat elections, he added.

Mr Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, MLA, Amloh, said, "The Congress will put up candidates having a clean image and they will implement the development programmes announced by the state government. ”Mr Dharamsot honoured Mr Goel and Mr Ved Hari Krishan, district Congress chief, on the occasion.

The Congress launched the campaign by holding block-level meetings. The next meeting would be held at Chanarthal Kalan village, Sirhind block, on June 14,Mr Vaid said.

Among others who spoke on the occasion included Mr Gurdev Singh Janjua, Mr Gurdev Singh Amloh, both former senior vice-presidents, DCC, Mr Pakher Singh Salana, Chairman, Zila Parishad, Sirhind Block Congress chief Sadhu Ram Bhatmajra.



105 booths set up for gram panchayat poll
Our Correspondent

Amloh, June 12
All arrangements have been made for the smooth conduct of gram panchayat elections of 97 villages of Amloh subdivision. This was stated by Mr Amarjit Singh Shahi, SDM, while talking to mediapersons here today.

A total of 525 employees will officiate as returning officers and polling officers at 105 polling booths. Proper training to polling staff will be imparted .

According to the election schedule, nomination papers will be filed from June 16 to 19 between 11 am and 3 pm. The scrutiny of papers will be on June 20 and these can be withdrawn up to June 21.

The subdivision has been divided into seven clusters. These clusters will be in the Block Development and Panchayat office (BDPO), Market Committee office, Agriculture Development office, municipal office and veterinary dispensary. Each cluster has been allotted 12 to 14 villages.



Punjab Govt to develop infrastructure
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 12
The Punjab Government is observing 2003 as the year of development and grants will be released to rural and urban areas on a priority basis for the creation of infrastructure such as roads, pavements drains and construction of schools and hospitals.

This was announced by the Punjab Transport Minister, Mr Tej Parkash Singh, while addressing a workers’ meeting of Payal and Dehlon blocks at Payal last evening. The meeting was organised as part of the campaign to apprise the people of the achievements of the Congress government during the past 15 months.

The minister claimed that a former Congress government, led by Beant Singh, had fought a relentless battle against terrorism and had brought lasting peace to the border state. However, the “misrule” of the SAD-BJP government had pushed the state to the verge of bankruptcy. “Punjab, which had a debt of Rs 7000 crore, came under a debt of over Rs 52,000 crore due to several populist schemes and gross misuse of funds for political purposes by the government headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal.”

According to Mr Tej Parkash Singh, as a result of better financial management and an effective drive to cut down expenditure, the state had improved the situation. The government had not only raised an additional revenue of Rs 372 crore during the year and diverted 2 per cent of the total income to savings, massive funds of over Rs 1,500 crore were provided through State the Infrastructure Development Board for various major projects and development works.

Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, MP, Mr Avtar Singh Brar, Senior Vice-President, PPCC, and Mr Malkiat Singh Dakha, MLA, also addressed the function.



‘Political Jathedars causing irreparable harm to Panth’
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 12
Various panthic organisations are veering around to the viewpoint of the Khalsa Panchayat that the practice of installing “political” Jathedars of Akal Takht had done irreparable harm to the ‘panth’ and that this must be countered by the masses for the larger interests of the community.

Mr Charanjit Singh Channi, a panch of the Khalsa Panchayat, said the recent appearance of SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal and his so called apology was just a political stunt to hoodwink the masses prior to the formal announcement of unity of the Akalis. It is for the first time that an individual - accused to serious violations of the Sikh ‘rehat’ and maryada’ - was called for consultations and not summoned and was let off without even a formal apology. This had deeply hurt the sentiments of every Sikh in the world, he alleged.

“We have been opposing the installation of ‘sarkari’ Jathedars in the past and have now been approached by various panthic organisations to start an agitation to awaken the masses and put an end to such practices. The need of the hour was to free the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs from the clutches of political masters who have lowered the authority of Akal Takht by appointing ‘lightweights’, who are rubber stamps of their political masters, he pointed out.

He said for the larger cause of the Sikhs, they were willing to launch an agitation and were willing to face the obvious consequences. For this purpose, an awareness drive was under way and more than 10 lakh posters were being printed which would be sent to every village of the state besides those living abroad. History is witness to the demise of those races which did not stand up for the wrong doings of their religious and political leaders, he added. 



‘Follow path shown by Vivekananda’
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 12
The Swami Vivekananda Study Circle celebrated its foundation day at Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, here today.
The ceremonies started with gurbani followed by a bhajan by Prof Nimita Sharma. Thereafter, the teachings of Swami Vivekananda were read out by a number of followers who talked about universal tolerance, brotherhood, broadest nationalism and sacrifice. Prof Vinay Sofat, general secretary, Ludhiana chapter, explained the basic aim of the circle. He said the circle was started this day in 1994 with a view to awakening the youth. He narrated the achievements of the circle and stressed for more work in this direction. He said that as many as 50,000 students and 5,000 teachers were involved in bringing about awareness among the masses.

Swami Brahmeesh Nanda, secretary, Ramakrishna Mission, Chandigarh, was the chief guest. He explained the influence of Ramakrishna Paramhansa on Swami Vivekananda. He said the latter used to say, “A single glance of my guru could produce thousands of Vivekanadas.

The secretary said the youth of the country ought to have a lot of strength to fight problems prevalent in the social system such as corruption, fanaticism, poverty and unemployment. He said strength could be acquired by Swami Vivekanandas messages “Arise! Awake! And stop not! Till goal is reached!”, “Strength is life, weakness is death” and “See God in the poor and downtrodden people”. He said such words not only gave courage but also helped in developing new vision. He said the path shown by Vivekananda and Ramakrishna suggested that all religions were true and like different streams merging into one.

Principal Satish Soi, President, Ludhiana chapter, said it had been decided that at least 50 functions would be held in different institutions. He also announced that the 110th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s Chicago address would be celebrated on September 11. Among those present were Ms Manju Talwar, Mr D.P. Grover, Mr S.N. Lakhanpal, Mr P.R. Talwar, Dr Aanchal Jain, Mr S.K. Aggarwal, Mr T.S. Bakshi, Mr Vishal Jain and Dr Sanjeev Dawar.



CPI opposes troops to Iraq
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 12
The CPI has warned the NDA government against its reported move to send troops to Iraq, saying that it will have serious political repercussions and will also affect the image of the country.

District unit functionaries of the party - Mr Kartar Singh Bowani, secretary, Mr Om Parkash Mehta, city secretary, and Dr Arun Mitra, assistant secretary, said in a joint statement here today that by sending troops to Iraq, the Indian Government would justify the US occupation and would also send wrong signals to the world. “The Indian forces should not join hands with the allied forces which will tantamount to siding with the aggressors.”

The CPI activists said after the occupation of Iraq, the USA was faced with unrest and resistance from people of the occupied country and now the USA wanted other countries to be involved in the mess. They said India always had good relations with Iraq and on several crucial issues, Iraq had stood by India. The Indian Government would in a way betray the friendship of the Iraqi people by sending troops to assist the allied forces control the unrest.

The CPI leaders urged the Indian Government to mount pressure on the USA for immediate withdrawal from Iraq.



Marginal farmer buried alive
Our Correspondent

Ahmedgarh, June 12
A marginal farmer died when the brick wall of the well he was deepening collapsed. His body was dug out on Wednesday morning.
Mr Malkiat Singh, of Ramgarh Sardaran village in Ludhiana district said his brother Neela (40) was buried under earth while deepening the well. “Notable to afford the cost of a new submersible pump, we decided to deepen the bore and searched for traditional well-diggers. When non of them agreed to do the job, we dug the well ourselves and were about to finish the work when the back wall collapsed,” said Malkiat.

Mr Sucha Singh Masat, SDM, Payal, when contacted, asserted that there was no ban on the digging of such wells. Talking about the rescue operations, he said, “We made all possible arrangements immediately on receiving the information. Besides civil engineering staff and officers, we called Kala and Joga Singh, traditional well-diggers, who had been honoured on Republic Day. An ambulance and a team of doctors were ready for emergency”. 



PSEB staff flay Power Reform Bill

Ludhiana, June 12
Employees of the PSEB today condemned the passage of the Power Reforms Bill, 2003, which would put an additional burden on people of the state. The board is proposed to be trifurcated into the distribution, transmission and generation corporations.

The employees said the government was bent upon selling the vast infrastructure of the board to private companies which would hike the power tariff making it out of the reach of not only the common man but the entrepreneurs also. This was being done by a section of the bureaucrats for their vested interests. TNS



Farmers hold dharna

Khanna, June 12
Irate farmers and workers of the Bharti Kisan Union staged a dharna in front of the office of the Superintendent Engineer Punjab State Electricity Board Circle Khanna in protest against the irregular supply of power for the past three days in the villages of the surrounding area.

Today the farmers and workers of the Bharti Kisan Union under the leadership of Netar Singh Nagra gathered out side the office of the S.E. Hanna. They started shouting slogans against the S.E. and gheraoed him for more than two hours. They alleged that power was not being supplied to the villages, including Daudpur, Chack Mafi, Naulari, Gandua and Kauri for the past three days. The Dharna was lifted only after the supply of power was ordered by the S.E. Mr H P Singh. OC



Tribune employee bereaved
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, June 12
Shashi Saini, mother of Mr Sukhjinder Saini, computer system technician with The Tribune, passed away after a brief illness last night.

She was 52. She was cremated this afternoon. She is survived by her husband and two sons.



Man held with poppy husk
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 12
The Salem Tabri police arrested Inder Singh alias Shinda, of Lalton Khurd village yesterday and seized 25 kg of poppy husk from his possession. The accused was booked under Sections 15, 61 and 85 of the NDPS Act.

Gambling case: The division number two police arrested Amarjit Singh of kucha number 5, Field Ganj, yesterday and booked him under Sections 13-A, 3 and 57 of the Gambling Act. The accused, from whose possession Rs 147 was seized, was later granted bail.

Case of fraud: The division number four police registered a case under Sections 420 and 34 of the IPC against Sunil Kumar alias Sonu and Rajesh Kumar alias Raju of Gopal Nagar, near Kot Mangal Singh, and Lucky yesterday. While Sonu was arrested, others fled. The accused used to stand in front of post offices and banks, offering new wads of Rs 500 notes in lieu of notes of Rs 100 denomination. The wads being offered by them contained slips of paper underneath notes.

Dowry case: The Civil Lines police registered a case under Sections 420, 378, 406, 498-A and 120-B of the IPC yesterday on the statement of Ms Simranjit Kaur Virk of Khandur village, against Sarvinder Singh, Ajit Kaur, Amrinder Kaur, Davinder Pal Singh, Jasmer Kaur, Mandeep Kaur, Ishar Kaur, Narain Singh and Charan Kamal Kaur. The complainant had alleged that the accused used to beat her up and demanded more dowry.

Forcible possession: The division number six police registered a case under Sections 451, 448, 506, 511 and 34 of the IPC yesterday on the statement of Mr Tanbir Singh Advocate of Krishna Nagar, against Sewa Singh and Malkit Singh. The complainant had alleged that the accused, with the help of others, tried to take forcible possession of his plot on March 4.

Theft bid: The division number seven police registered a case under sections 457, 380 and 511 of the IPC yesterday on the statement of Mr Surinder Singh of Guru Arjan Dev Nagar, against Avtar Singh alias Sonu, Laddu and another person. The complainant had alleged that the accused were trying to break open the lock of the house belonging to Mr Harjit Singh at midnight. While Sonu was nabbed at the spot, others fled.

Scooter stolen: The Jodhewal police registered a case of theft under Section 379 of the IPC yesterday on the statement of Mr Gurdeep Singh, of Ram Vihar. He had reported that his scooter was stolen from in front of his house on Tuesday night.

Two arrested: The Salem Tabri police arrested Inder Mohan and his son Kirpal Dass of Panjabi Bagh Colony yesterday and booked them under Sections 295-A and 34 of the IPC for hurting the religious feelings of Mr Sarup Singh, head sevadar, Dera Sant Dass Darbar Udasi Ashram, Panjabi Bagh Colony. The complainant had alleged that the accused abused him and hurt his religious feelings on Wednesday morning.

Liquor seized: The Civil Lines police arrested Dula Nand, a migrant labourer from Bihar, from Railway Colony yesterday and seized more than 11 bottles of illicit liquor from his possession. He was booked under the Excise Act.



Ludhiana bicycle parts’ industry in doldrums
Chander Suta Dogra

Mandi Gobindgarh, a small township about 50 km from Ludhiana, is Asia’s biggest scrap market. It is also the major supplier of secondary raw material for the cycle industry. But there, too, fuelled by lifting of export restrictions, burgeoning exports mainly to China have left little for Ludhiana’s industry. Prices of raw material have gone up by about Rs 2000 per tonne since October 2002. Today import tariffs are not low enough to make sleek, sophisticated Chinese and Taiwanese bikes cheaper than Indian alternatives. But peak customs duties will be further reduced to 10 per cent by 2005 as per WTO obligations. Then India’s sturdy Roadster model will meet stiff competition.

Exporters competing with relatively cheaper and better-produced components from China and Taiwan have set off a back-breaking price war in the Ludhiana industry. Under pressure to sell at cheap rates, quality has become a casualty and the vicious circle is steadily swallowing up many units. Some larger companies have also begun importing cheaper and better components from China. A recent study on the impact of WTO on the Cycle Parts Industries, conducted by the Union Government’s Development Commissioner for Small Scale Industries, feared that soon these Indian companies might set up production bases in China. Two, Eastman Industries and Sadem Industries, have in fact already done so, and a couple of others are toying with the idea.

MADAN LAL is a labourer working in a bicycle handle-making unit. He knows that handles, sold for Rs 60 to Rs 63 per piece a year ago, should ordinarily be sold for Rs 67 to Rs 70 now. But he is wondering why they are selling for just Rs 60 this year. He worries about his employer paying him his full salary.

Ram Shankar is a foreman earning Rs 2500 per month at Amardeep International, a small unit located in Industrial Focal Point. He says that out of 25 labourers who used to work her about two years ago, only ten remain.

“Nowadays we don’t get any overtime and production is almost half of what it was earlier,” he observed. “Just see, there is hardly any raw material on our premises. And out of our 13 machines that make carter pins, only one is working today. I can’t understand what is happening.” But he does understand if things to the same way for another month or so, he, too, will have to pack his bags and head for his village in UP.

India is one of the world’s major manufacturers of bicycles and bicycle parts, producing 13.1 million bicycles in 2000. The Ludhiana cluster produces about 60 per cent India’s bicycles in the large and small-scale sector, and more than 80 per cent of the parts and components in the small and tiny sector.

About 30 per cent of the cycle parts manufactured in Ludhiana re exported, and the rest bought up either by major cycle manufacturers or sold in the spare parts market. Today this industry comprising some 4000 units in crisis, thanks to economic liberalisation and lifting of trade restrictions. And with it 200,000 workers mainly from UP and Bihar.

Basically the problem is WTO-inspired export incentives have severely disadvantaged the Indian cycle parts industry. Through incentives, Indian raw material producers make more money exporting. This has led to shortages and price increases. Key locally-produced raw material is at least 50 per cent more expensive than last year. Indian mild steel sheets and coils are 20 per cent more expensive in India than abroad.

In short, Indian parts makers are denied a level playing field. Indian raw material is available a lot cheaper abroad benefiting foreign cycle parts makers, who use it and export lower parts back to India. Naturally, local bicycle manufacturers prefer to source parts from abroad. The parts industry’s exports have already gone down in the face of stiff competition from mainly Chinese goods.

According to the United Cycle Parts Manufacturing Association (UCPMA), about 20 per cent of the small and tiny units have closed down and another 40 odd per cent have become sick in the past two years alone.

An AC Nielsen survey conducted recently revealed that the cycle parts industry shrank by 20 per cent in the last one year. Production of cycle parts went down by 22 per cent and that of completed cycles by 7 per cent.

Ludhiana, Punjab’s commercial hub, originally acquired its reputation through its huge bicycle parts industry. The industry was started by Ramgarhia Sikhs, traditionally blacksmiths, because of a shortage of UK-imported bicycles and parts in World War II. The Ramgarhias began making crude substitutes to tide over the shortage. Later when major Indian cycle manufacturers like Hero. Avon, Atlas and TI Industries set up operations, they tapped local enterprise. Hundreds of small units developed that supplied parts made to specification.

Today SAIL, TISCO, ESSAR Steel and others who used to supply the bulk of the cycle industry’s raw material prefer exporting their produce to avail of various incentives. Consequently, prices locally have shot up from approximately Rs 13,000 per tonne last year to Rs 18,000 or Rs 20,000 per tonne now. Prices of nickel, another raw material, have gone up from Rs 300 per kg to between Rs 550 an Rs 600 per kilogram in the last six months.

According to DS Chawla, president of UCPMA, the Indian steel major are exporting at prices significantly lower than they are supplying to local industry, and also capitalising on a shortage-induced demand.

Then, skewed government policies make steel imports unvilable for small players. For example, on some raw material formerly imported from CIS countries, the government has levied stiff anti-dumping duties pricing it out for small manufacturers.

The Indian government has also made it mandatory for companies exporting hot rolled coils and sheets to India to comply with Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). Out of 20 companies that applied for BIS certification about a year ago, only one German company qualified. This limited potential sources to a few companies and significantly jacked up costs.

Questioning the government’s policies Jaspal Singh, a small producer, asked: “If BIS standards are mandatory for foreign companies wanting to export to India, then whey not for Indian iron and steel companies?”

Besides, under the Duty Entitlement Passbook Scheme, Indian steel majors benefit from 20 per cent duty free important of goods against exports. But smaller manufacturers pay import duty of 40 per cent on cold rolled sheets, a primary raw material, and 25 per cent on secondary material.

“Manufacturers should have access to quality raw material at international prices,” says another manufacturers. “We should be given a level playing field before being expected to compete in the changed scenario, more so once the support measures available in the earlier protective environment have been withdrawn.”

“We know that once Chinese cycle parts are easily and cheaply available in India in the next year or two, the industry will get a bigger beating”, says Nachattar Singh, whose ancillary industry has manufactured pedals and axles for Avon Cycles for the last two decades. “Although our raw material prices have gone up by about 12 per cent, Avon has only hiked the priced paid for parts by three per cent.”

His once 50-strong work force has come down to just 20 in the last two years, and machines lie idle for the better part of the day.

Larger units re-structuring to increase cost effectiveness now insist on receiving components on a just-in-time basis, and also have longer payment periods — up from a maximum of 45 days to over 90 days. For the small manufacturer already finding it difficult to procure expensive raw material, payment delays are proving to be the proverbial last straw.

For the cycle parts industry, reeling under stiff competition in the export market and reduced import tariffs, the future is dark. About 80 per cent are in the unorganised sector, mainly located in narrow lanes and by-lanes. These units run largely on obsolete, labour-intensive machinery, are unable to produce better-finished products. Only a handful of bigger manufacturers are investing in new machinery.

Technological up-graduation is not easy. Industrialists point out that in China interest rates are 3 to 4 per cent. Here loans for the small-scale industry are available at between 10 to 15 per cent, and electricity and good quality raw material is more expensive.

The investment limit of Rs 1 crore also comes in the way of installing sophisticated machinery. It has been proposed to raise the limit to Rs 5 crore, but government approval is slow in coming. Clearly, unless steps are taken to make available raw material at international prices and modernise existing units, Ludhiana’s famed cycle parts industry, which has contributed so much to Punjab’s economy, is doomed.

Grassroots Features Network



Shopping scheme winners
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, June 12
As part of its ongoing summer shopping bonanza, Ebony, one of the largest retail store chains in India, today announced the name of the lucky couples who had won two free return tickets to Australia. Noted model Mandeep Walia along with Mr Rakesh Malhotra, Chief Operating Officer, Ebony Retail Holdings Limited, made the announcement at Ebony’s local store here. The outfit had launched the promotional scheme on May 22 across all eight stores in India.

The scheme, “Ebony Se Australia Tak” provided 10 lucky Ebony customers with free return tickets to Australia. With a purchase of Rs 1500 or more, customers were given a lucky draw coupon that entitled them to win free return tickets to Australia. This scheme is valid till June 30.


Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
123 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |