Tuesday, July 8, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Enteritis claims infant’s life
Hundreds infected in city locality
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Doctors attend to patients suffering from gastroenteritis in Ludhiana
Doctors attend to patients suffering from gastroenteritis in Ludhiana on Monday. 
— Photo Inderjit Verma 

Ludhiana, July 7
Belying the claims of the district Health Department and the Municipal Corporation regarding their preparedness to check the spread of water-borne diseases and ensure supply of potable water to low-lying areas and slums, hundreds of residents of the New Puneet Nagar locality have contracted gastroenteritis.

While a seven-month-old girl has already succumbed to the disease, the outbreak is spreading among other residents. Almost all residents in two streets of the area have either contracted the disease or are recuperating. According to the Health Department and MC authorities, the contamination of underground water, which is used for drinking by the residents in the absence of potable water supply to the area, has caused the outbreak.

This is despite the fact that the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation had claimed that it was the first MC in the country to supply potable water to the entire population of the city. Ironically, the Commissioner, MC, Mr S.K. Sharma, had recently received a national award for his efforts to provide potable water to the population.

A visit to the area by the Ludhiana Tribune team today revealed that almost all members of at least 800 families living in the area were down with the disease and the rest were catching the infection fast. Sensing the gravity of the situation, the local Health Department today started a medical camp in the area.

Dr Babita, Medical Officer from Revamping Centre, Basti Jodhewal, talking to TNS, said most of the residents were showing symptoms of dysentery.

Pooja, who lost her seven-month-old daughter, Priya, due to the disease, said she was also suffering from gastroenteritis for the past week. Similar is the condition of all her family members, including her three-year-old daughter. “I never knew the disease would take away my daughter. She died within two days. Now I am not taking any chances and have shown all of them to a doctor,” she said.

At least 10 registered medical practitioners (rmps) practising in the area are receiving many cases of gastroenteritis everyday. Mr Hardeep Singh, an RMP, said he was receiving at least 10 patients everyday. He said the number would be higher in other such clinics as his clinic was located away from the area.

Residents of the area complained that they had no water supply line in the area and had to depend on water drawn by a hand pump for their everyday needs. They said the water was smelly and discoloured, possibly due to the contamination by Budda Nullah passing near the colony. The Buddha Nullah at this point receives sewage water collected from all over the city.

“The water stinks as if it was mixed with dung and urine. If we keep it for around 15 minutes, it becomes pale. But what can we do? We have no other option but to drink it,” says Ms Rita Varma, a resident.

The president of the residents’ welfare society of the area attributed the unavailability of potable water and proper sewerage system to discrimination. “Our councillor has not redressed our grievance about the water supply because we did not vote for her during the MC elections,” said Mr Sudarshan Kumar, president of the welfare society.

Mr A.K.Gupta, Executive Engineer, MC, and Mr Subash Dua, Superintending Engineer, MC, who were reviewing the situation in the area after the outbreak, said the MC could not do anything about the water supply and sewerage system in the area as it was low-lying area. They said the contamination was caused due to the disposal of sewage in kutcha pits dug by residents in every household. “As they were drinking water from a hand pump, they were drawing contaminated water,” the officials said.



Lobbying on for nomination
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, July 7
With the government setting the process for nomination of trustees of various Improvement Trusts in motion, intense lobbying is on to get a berth in the Ludhiana Improvement Trust. Three councillors have to be nominated as trustees. The government has already named three trustees from amongst the political activists for a period of two years.

That the nominees would come from the Congress is a foregone conclusion because the party holds a comfortable majority in the Municipal Corporation. The panel of names has to be forwarded by the Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, to the Department of Local Government. However, the Mayor would also have to give due weightage to the word put in by senior party leaders in this regard.

While the contenders, more than one dozen of them, were exploring different channels to seek recommendations from the party leadership, both in Chandigarh and the Capital, local ministers and party legislators had also joined the fray to get their close supporters to the trust.

Sources in the Congress said though the councillor from ward No: 60, Mr Rajesh Jain (Kala), was among the front-runners in the race for being a blue-eyed boy of the Minister for Local Bodies, Choudhry Jagjit Singh. Mr Harnam Das Johar, Minister for Higher Education, is learnt to be pushing the candidature of Mr Bharat Bhushan Ashu, councillor from ward No: 48, and one of his staunch supporters, while the Minister of State for Printing and Stationery, Mr Rakesh Pandey, has put in the name of Mr Satnam Singh Ahuja, councillor from ward No: 63, for nomination to the trust.

Two first timers — Mr Sanjeev Talwar and Mr Rakesh Parashar — both claiming proximity to Mr Surinder Davar are also vying for the coveted post as the Minister of State, Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi, is yet to make his choice public. Even though there are no hard and fast rules to this effect but perhaps going by the 33 per cent reservation for women, it is a general feeling among the Congress councillors that one of the three trustees will be a women councillor. Among the women councillors from the ruling party, Ms Asha Garg (ward No: 11), Ms Amrit Varsha Rampal (ward No: 41), Ms Malkiat Kaur (ward No: 56) and Ms Ravinder Kaur (ward No: 17) are doing the rounds for being prospective candidates.

The sources claimed that from among the local leaders of the ruling party, in all probability, Mr Johar would be able to prevail upon the high command to see his nominee through along with Choudhry Jagjit Singh, who holds the portfolio of Local Bodies. Mr Pandey may find himself outwitted for the simple reason that he is backing the wrong man. His candidate — Mr Ahuja, had contested the election as a rebel candidate and was even expelled from party. Although he was readmitted to the party along with several others but showing more favours to him was bound to convey wrong signals to the party ranks.

Going by the fact that Mr Davar had so far failed to find his name in the recent nominations of MLAs to several boards and corporations, his recommendation was not expected to carry much weight and as far as the nomination of a woman councillor was concerned, if at all it comes, might be a total surprise, the sources claimed.



Improvement Trust chief vows to end corruption
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, July 7
The newly-appointed Chairman of the Ludhiana Improvement Trust, Mr Ashok Singh Garcha, has expressed his determination to end corruption in the Ludhiana Improvement Trust. But he is facing difficulties in his crusade as there is lot of political interference from the state government.

After a long gap, Ludhiana Improvement Trust has got a well meaning person as chairman. The improvement trust has a track record of having persons at its helm who have faced vigilance probes and also criminal cases were registered against some of them. The Punjab Government has nominated four trustees of the LIT who are related to local Congressmen.

Mr Garcha is upset that the state government did not consult him before making the nomination of the trustees and he has written a letter to the Chief Minister protesting against the same. He is finding it difficult to operate in the face of political interference. The employees of the trust are also allegedly not extending him the needed cooperation as they have the backing of the politicians of the ruling party.

The situation in the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation is not different notwithstanding the claims of the administration of undertaking huge development works.

The general house meeting of the municipal corporation on July 3 exposed the functioning of the municipal corporation when an overwhelming majority of the councillors expressed resentment at the lack of development works and failure of the authorities to solve the problems of the town.

Contrary to the claims of the municipal authorities, some of the major development projects like the elevated bridge or elevated road from Jagraon overbridge to Chand Cinema continue to suffer. The work on this prestigious project of the municipal corporation was suspended in January because the authorities could not remove the obstacles in further carrying out the work.

The claims of providing 100 per cent water supply to the city have also proved wrong and the councillors cried hoarse in the general house meeting.

The dispute between the park management committees of the city and the municipal corporation has not been settled for the past two years and the maintenance of the parks has gone to the dogs.

The Executive Engineer (Horticulture) has been shifted to the Amritsar Municipal Corporation as the authorities feel that Ludhiana is ‘already very green’ and there is no need to plant more trees in the town. Ludhiana is the most polluted town environmentally. It suffers from noise pollution, air pollution and underground water pollution.

The corporation generates the highest revenue but the state administration is not concerned about the plight of the town thanks to the patronage of the officials by certain ruling class politicians.



Where migrants are taken for ride by property dealers
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, July 7
The outbreak of water-borne diseases in illegal colonies along the Buddha Nullah have become a common occurrence during monsoons. And this will continue to remain so in the near future since officials express their helplessness, except for sending medical teams and water tankers during crises. However, they are quick to counter queries on the powerful land mafia- politician-officer nexus and instead lay the blame on the residents.

But what are the options before the people, mostly migrants and daily-wagers, who have been taken for a ride by property dealers. This went on for many years till The Tribune in December 2000 exposed a massive land scam in which 172 acres of the government land was sold by private persons with the connivance of Revenue Department officials. After a crackdown by the administration, cases were registered against many property dealers in the Tajpur area, some of whom are behind bars, but no action has been taken against the guilty officials till date.

Even as these localities along the nullah have gained infamy as a water-borne diseases prone area, construction activity continues and not many are aware that the administration had stopped all construction activity since February. The people were also warned against paying of instalments to the ‘owners’.

A visit by a Ludhiana Tribune team to New Puneet Nagar and Baba Jiwan Singh Nagar, two of the four illegal colonies on the Tajpur road, today revealed that new houses were being constructed. While the lensman tried to click the pictures persons present on the spot tried to stop him.

Interestingly, the residents aware of the topography of the land — seven to eight feet lower than the nullah — but are not aware that they had been duped by unscrupulous dealers into buying agricultural land belonging to the government. As per law, the land can never be registered in their names.

Despite the fact that the administration and the police department was tipped off about the massive land grab by some complainants and the media, nothing substantial was done by the officials to bring the guilty to the book. The police and the administration have even conducted inquiries into the case, but no action has been taken against anybody. Eyebrows are being raised as to why no FIR has been lodged against the guilty officers who actively connived with the land mafia till date as revenue records show that it is an agricultural land while in reality not even a single plot is being used for agricultural purposes. It is turned into a fully residential area.

Officials, on the condition of anonymity, admit that Kuliewal village, which now falls within the limits of the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation, is a highly potential residential and commercial area. In the revenue estate of Kuliewal village there exist about 72 acres 4 kanals and 11 marlas of ‘gair mumkin’ land in the ownership of the government, which now falls in Swatantra Nagar, Puneet Nagar, Baba Jeevan Singh Nagar and Savan Vihar.

Over the years many people encroached upon this land and have constructed their houses. Many people have simply constructed the plinth or four walls to assert their possession and in some cases within the four walls they have constructed a small room with 4 inches thick walls and iron/ cemented sheet to reinforce their possession.

Explaining the modus operandi of the land grabbers, the officials said that over a period of time the ‘girdwari’ entries of the government land had been changed to show that it was under ‘nazaiz kaabja’ and it continued to be the same even when they were not actually cultivating the land.

These entries were misused by the land grabbers in making fraudulent transactions. On the illegally occupied land, the mafia cut plots of various sizes and then constructed plinths and boundary walls around the plots. These constructions were used to lure the prospective buyers and agreement of sale was executed in favour of the buyer, who had no knowledge about revenue matters.



Farmer killed in crossfire
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, July 7
A farmer of Sarabha village in Ludhiana District, who had given a lift to two migrant labourers trying to escape after looting the son of a poultry farm owner at Dango village, was killed in an exchange of fire between miscreants and the poultry farmer at Shahpur village here today.

According to sources, the two migrant labourers involved in the incident were Lamboo and Anil. They had recently got employment at Deol Poultry Farm at Dango. In the morning, they saw Jagmeet, son of the poultry farm owner, receiving some cash from some customers. After the customers left, the duo robbed Jagmeet of the cash at gunpoint and locked him in a bathroom at the poultry farm and ran away.

After walking some distance, they requested the driver of a tractor-trailer for a lift. The driver, Avtar Singh, agreed to drop them at Sarabha village. He did not know about the incident that had taken place at Dango village a few minutes ago.

In the meantime, Jagmeet came out of the bathroom and narrated the story to his father, Rajinder Singh. Armed with a double-barrelled gun, they started hunt for the migrants in a Tata Sumo and intercepted the tractor near Shahpur village.

When they challenged the escaping miscreants, they were attacked with a crude grenade, but it did not explode. This was followed by an exchange of fire between two parties. Avtar Singh was killed in the firing, while miscreants fled towards the fields.

All efforts by passers-by and villagers to nab them proved futile. Mr Harjit Singh Brar, DSP, Raikot, said the police had registered a case under Sections 302, 382 and 34 of the IPC and Sections 45, 54 and 59 of the Arms Act. A pistol, two unexploded grenades, a live cartridge and five empty cartridges were found near the spot.

Members of Avtar Singh’s family said he had gone to Phallewal to bring a machine for installing submersible pump. He is survived by his widow and two minor sons.

Residents of Sarabha village, however, claimed that the fatal shot had come from the gun of the poultry farm owner.



Monsoon on, weed yet to be removed 
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, July 7
While the monsoon has already hit the region, the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation is yet to complete the work of removing water hyacinth from Buddha Nullah. It causes the flooding of nullah every year, spreading infections and adding to the woes of residents living near the water body.

Even as the work to remove water hyacinth started a month ago, the weed is giving workers a tough time. Every year, one or the other locality situated alongside the nullah is flooded due to overflowing and sewage enters nearby houses. The reason is the poor drainage that gets choked due to the overgrowing weed.

Workers said the machines deployed to pull the weed out were proving ineffective as the plants of weed were entangled with each other leading to huge mass of vegetation. They said they were breaking the huge mass into smaller parts and then pulling these out with the help of ropes.

The MC employees present on the spot said the labourers had to enter the dirty water of the nullah to remove the weed. They said its growth was enough to block the flow of water.



Kids hooked on horror films, parents a worried lot
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, July 7
Ram Gopal Varma, director of “Bhoot”, claims at the start of the film that he does not believe in ghosts. According to Dr A.K. Kala, a psychiatrist, Varma cannot get away with doing a disservice to society by making a film which deals with the supernatural. These kind of movies have an adverse effect on children who are taught to develop rational attitude. After watching these kind of movies, children grow up with a non-scientific temper.

He says children have nightmares after seeing such movies, besides experiencing anxiety.

This new trend of making horror films by Bollywood has brought about a change in the psyche of children, thus worrying parents. “Bhoot”, a success at the box-office, attracted many children, who pestered their parents to take them along for seeing the film. Sources reveal that 70 per cent of the viewers of “Bhoot” were children.

After the release of “Bhoot”, two other films, “Saaya” and “Hawa”, which also have supernatural elements, were released. After viewing these films, some children are only interested in talking about ghosts at home and schools.

Dr Kala says this happens because the children in reality are scared, so they are using “counter- phobic mechanism” to overcome their fear by talking about it constantly and wearing horrific masks and frightening other people.

Ms Kumud, mother of two young children, says, “I never wanted them to see ‘Bhoot’ as I knew from the title that it might be a scary film. But we never know the psychology of these children.

Instead of getting scared, they have brought masks with grotesque faces, and wear them and appear before us suddenly to scare us. All this is the effect of the horror movie.”

Some mothers are complaining that after viewing “Bhoot” their children had nightmares and screamed for several days. Ms Ruby says, “‘Bhoot’ and other horror movies have set a disturbing trend.

The children are keeping skulls in their rooms. Posters and dolls of horrible creatures from ‘Bhoot’ are available. Friends of my children are feeling proud putting them on their bedroom walls. My children are also pestering me to buy them a skull. I shudder at the thought that a number of films dealing with horror and the supernatural are ready for release. What kind of children we want — those who believe in supernatural things or those who want to seek the truth?”



Kurtis the new craze
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, July 7
Kurtis are in vogue this season. Fashion designers have come out with short kurtis of about 26 to 28 inch in length. Since the length is much shorter than normal kurtas, these have been aptly called ‘kurtis’.

Ms Rimple Narula, who helps her husband, Harpreet Narula, a fashion designer, in designing clothes, says, “Kurtis are doing extremely well as youngsters feels that it gives them Indo-western look. Moreover, these are more pocket friendly and make a complete outfit with jeans. For casual wear, cotton and linen ‘kurtis’ serve the purpose and for formal wear, kurtis made of georgette, embellished with swaroski stones, zardosi embroidery, look elegant.”

Both light and bright colour linen kurtis are in vogue. Georgette kurtis are good in hot humid conditions. For evening wear, crepe and silk kurtis are being preferred.

Ms Rimple Narula says, “Kurtis have revived Kashmiri embroidery. Kashmiri ‘paisley motifs’ are back. Similarly, chikankari from Lucknow has got a new lease of life. Beautiful designs in chikankari work are in vogue. Kurtis are available in straight-cut and loose fitting.

Ms Renu, a salesperson working in a prestigious showroom on the Mall Road, says, “Girls are crazy about kurtis. Kurtis in summer georgette are the most popular. Double-shaded kurtis, embroidered kurtis and those with thread work are all selling like hot cakes. These can be worn with trousers, jeans or parallels.”

Rupali, Mona and Harshita say, “We find kurtis very stylish and feel smart wearing these with jeans. These are available at all stores and the variety is mind-boggling. These are really cool.”



Discussion on novel held
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, July 7
The Punjabi Novel Akademi organised a discussion on “Kaurav Sabha”, a novel written by Mitter Sen Meet, as part of the first novel festival at Punjabi Bhavan here yesterday. Dr T.R. Vinod, Dr Joginder Singh Rahi, Kaka Surjit Gill and Dr Dhanwant Kaur presided over the function.

The discussion on the novel was divided into two sessions. In the first session, the main speaker was Mr Surinder Kumar Duveshwar. He said the novel portrayed the internal struggle of man in a materialistic world. The writer also talks about the behaviour of corrupt political leaders, he said.

Mr Karamjit Singh said the novel discussed in detail the changing pattern of society. Dr Mann Singh Dhindsa said it also talked about the crumbling judicial system.

In the second session, Dr Jaswinder Singh was the chief speaker. He said the theme of “Kaurav Sabha” was different from other Punjabi novels. He said the characters of the novel appeared life-like and the incidents were close to reality.

Dr Gulzar Mohammad, Baldev Singh Dhaliwal, Dr Gur Iqbal Singh, Mr Surjit Riaz and Prof Ram participated in the second session.



Autorickshaw drivers flay traffic police
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, July 7
Members of the Clock Tower Autorickshaw Union have flayed the traffic police for not allowing plying of auto-rickshaws from the Jalandhar bypass towards the Dugri road, allegedly at the behest of the mini-bus operators.

According to president of the outfit Babu Madan Lal, their parking areas have been taken over by mini-bus operators causing losses to auto-rickshaw operators in the city.

The stands near the Clock Tower and the one on the Jalandhar bypass have been wound up on the orders of senior police officials.

He said a delegation met the DC here today, who instructed the ADC to resolve the issue.

It was decided that three auto-rickshaw drivers could park their vehicles near the Clock Tower and wait for customers and two could go towards Dugri. But this was not implemented by the SP, Traffic, he said. He appealed to the DC to intervene in the matter and resolve the matter amicably.



Girl run over by train
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, July 7
A two-year-old-girl of Baba Deep Singh Nagar died here today after she was run over by a train. She has accidentally stepped on the railway track near Rore Phatak, while playing.

Nona the only daughter of her parents, had gone to play with her friends.

Her Mother, Harpreet Kaur, said her husband had gone to Dubai in search of greener pastures and she was living with her father in Baba Deep Singh Nagar. She said that Nona’s father did not know about the incident as he could not be contacted.

Eyewitnesses said the driver of the train saw the girl but before he could stop the train she was already run over.



Steps to combat pollution
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, July 7
The Rotary Club, Mid Town, has planted 1 lakh trees in 2003. The president of the club, Mr Mahesh Munjal, says the club is planning to introduce “electronic countdown” at red lights so that drivers can switch off their engines. This will not only reduce pollution but also save fuel. The club has set up an endoscopy unit at Krishna Charitable Hospital where poor patients can get this test done free of cost.



Cycle industry in doldrums
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, July 7
Increasing steel prices and the falling dollar prices have hit the cycle exports hard this year. According to the figures available from the last year, the cycle exports recorded a fall of Rs 55 crore this year against the last year. If the situation continues like this, the exports are likely to fall further thus hitting the industry hard at home. While the bicycle exports last year were to the tune of Rs 855 crore, this year these have come down to Rs 800 crore only.

Mr R.D. Sharma, Chairman, Safari Bikes, manufacturers of Hibird bicycles, which is mainly exported, said the steel prices had witnessed a massive increase during the past one year. The steel prices had increased by about Rs 7000 per tonne in the past one year only. Coupled with this was the falling price of the US dollar against the rupee.

The engineering industry has been crying hard for over one year against the group monopoly of the five big steel manufacturing units in the country which include the Tata Steel, Jindal Steel, Ispat Industries, Essar and the Steel Authority of India Limited, which have been manipulating the prices of the steel.

Mr Sharma suggested that the government should at least monitor and regulate the steel prices if it wants to save the industry. 


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