Monday, September 1, 2003, Chandigarh, India


L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Policy soon on unrecognised colonies
Tribune News Service

Payal, August 31
The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today said the government was preparing a policy for all undeclared and unregistered areas in various cities of the state. He said various aspects were being looked into and a policy would be announced soon so that the people living in such areas also get all civic facilities provided by the government.

Talking to reporters after addressing a state-level function organised here today to mark the eighth death anniversary of Late Beant Singh, a former Chief Minister of Punjab, Capt Amarinder clarified on a question about the supply of drinking water to 100 per cent population in Ludhiana. He said it was only in the recognised and registered colonies.

He said, the government could not do much so far for the undeclared areas and it was a problem everywhere in the state. “Even in Patiala, which is represented by me, there are 50 unrecognised colonies and I cannot provide them any facilities even when I wish”, he pointed out, while adding, “but we are forming a comprehensive policy on the issue to include such areas”.

After the Chief Minister had declared in Ludhiana that the Municipal Corporation, Ludhiana, was the role model as it had provided drinking water to 100 per cent population living within its limits, the Minister for Higher Education, Mr Harnam Dass Johar, who belongs to Ludhiana had disputed the claim and said there were scores of areas which did not get proper drinking water.

This had become too embarrassing for the local civic authorities also.

The issue was hotly being debated here. While clarifying the issue, the Chief Minister pointed towards the Ludhiana Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, saying, “you can ask him and they have provided drinking water to 100 per cent population”. Mr Gill nodded with assertion while thumping the table. However, Mr Harnam Dass Johar was not present at that time since he had already left.

The local authorities have been expressing their inability to provide drinking water to people living in the unrecognised and undeclared areas. In fact, the officials maintain, such areas have been coming up almost every month and the government was responsible for the recognised areas only. According to rough estimates, there are over 100 such colonies in Ludhiana, which have come up without the permission or prior approval of the MC and the Improvement Trust. However, the CM’s announcement today has come as a major relief to all people living in these areas. 



Family of Beant’s aide sore with govt
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, August 31
A family of Majra village, which lost its member during Beant Singh’s, assassination is sore with the Congress government for not inviting it to the death anniversary functions organised after 1995.

Ms Jarnail Kaur said it was sad that Congress leaders had forgotten the sacrifices of Ranjodh Singh, her father-in-law, and Pyara Singh, her husband who were killed by extremists due to their proximity with the late Beant Singh.

She said: “My father-in-law and Mr Beant Singh were close friends and they remained together during their political career. Though we apprehended danger to his life (Ranjodh Singh), they did not part till their last breath.”

Ms Jarnail Kaur said his husband Pyara Singh, who was a Mandi Board employee, was killed by extremists on March 3, 1995, five months prior to the death of Ranjodh Singh. Though Kamaldeep, her son got the job of a clerk in the Mandi Board on compassionate grounds, the family received no other assistance, except Rs 1 lakh given by Mr Harcharan Singh Brar, former Chief Minister.

Ms Jarnail Kaur said: “It took more than seven years to procure a death certificate of my father-in-law from the Chandigarh Administration.



Ramoowalia hopeful of Punjabi youths’ release
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 31
The Lok Bhalai Party is optimistic of securing the release of four Punjabi youths from a South Korean prison after a prisoner, Darshan Kumar, was released and deported to India a few days ago due to the efforts of the party.

Former Union Minister and party chief Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, said in response to his letter dated June 1, the Indian High Commission in Seoul has assured him of securing an early release of the remaining four youths, Jagtar Singh, Manjit Singh, Kamal Singh of Ropar and Kesar Singh of Ludhiana.

He said he was taking up the cases of other such youths who were languishing in prisons across the globe after being duped by unscrupulous travel agents. Many had been caught without valid passport or for crossing borders illegally. The problem in such cases was that they had no means of tracing the agents who duped them on alien shores, he added.

Mr Ramoowalia said in his ongoing campaign to provide relief to young married girls duped and deserted by their NRI grooms, he had succeeded in getting Ms Manjeet Kaur of Kherabad village, Ropar, a monthly maintenance allowance of Rs 10,000 from her estranged husband, Gurcharan Singh, who was settled in Germany. This he got done through the office of the Consulate-General of India, Munich.

Similarly, in case of Ms Manjit Kaur of Dayalpur village in Ajnala tehsil of Amritsar, the Consulate-General of India, Frankfurt, in his letter dated August 7, had assured him of an early action against the accused husband, Manjit Singh of Dusseldorf, Germany, against whom an FIR (No. 58, dated May 6, 2003) was registered at the Ramdas police station.

He also gave details about a fraud perpetrated by Jagjit Singh, a former Director, KLC Centre of Higher Studies, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who, during his visit to Amritsar, cheated 38 Punjabi youths on the false promise of admitting them to the centre. He pocketed Rs 75,000 from each student.

He said his efforts through the office of the Indian Mission in Kuala Lumpur had yielded positive results. The management of the centre had agreed to compensate the affected students and admit them, or even their nominees, by reducing the course fee by the amount pocketed by their former Director.

Jagjit Singh was now a fugitive against whom a case had been registered with the Malaysian police, he said.



Controversy over inauguration of bridge
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Sidhwan Bet, August 31
After the recent controversy over the inauguration of the Naushera Pattan bridge over the Beas in Gurdaspur, all eyes are focused on the inauguration of the Sidhwan Bet-Mehatpur bridge over the Sutlej which connects Jagraon directly with Jalandhar.

The bridge has become an excursion point for the people living in the Jagraon and Mehatpur areas. A number of rehriwallahas have lined up along the roads, especially in the evening to cater to the needs of the local tourists.

It is not a Congress versus Akali-BJP controversy here at least so far. But a Congress versus Congress affair. The inauguration of the bridge has already been postponed, causing speculation of some political game.

The focus of interest centres on which side of the bridge would Captain Amarinder Singh perform the inauguration ceremony. The genesis of the conflict lies in the fact that former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had to lay two foundation stones to appease Akali leaders having constituency on both sides of the bridge.

Mr Badal after laying the foundation stone on the Sidhwan Bet side flew in a helicopter over the river to the other side and laid another foundation stone there.

On the Mehatpur side, the foundation stone mentions the name of Mr Badal and Mr Gudeep Singh Bhullsar, MLA, Noormahal.

Political observers said that now Congress leaders on both sides of the bridge want the Chief Minister to inaugurate it from their side or from both sides. This has caused immense interest among political observers and the postponement is being viewed on these lines.

Mr G.S. Galib, MP, represents the Sidhwan Bet side, while another senior Congress leader represents the Mehatpur area. Both leaders were unavailable for comments. Political observers say people were watching with interest how the Chief Minister would strike a balance between the Congress leaders.



Smuggled goods lure sellers, buyers
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 31
As the local Customs Department sleeps, the sale of smuggled goods continues unabated in the city causing a loss of lakhs to the department. The most intriguing is the fact that the goods are being sold openly and the stores selling these are well known.

These goods provided a profit margin of about 50 per cent, whereas the goods imported through proper channel provide only to 10 to 15 per cent profit. Name any international brand and it is available in the grey market. Starting from electronic goods to all types of household items, anything can be bought from dealers at much less price, but, of course, without a receipt.

Television sets, mobile phone sets, watches, cosmetics, perfumes, pens, liquor, household goods and even toys are available under the known brand names. The sale is so rampant that even shopkeepers do not hesitate to tell you that the good were smuggled ones.

Certain areas of the city like Gur Mandi and Ghumar Mandi are known for the sale of smuggled goods. While numerous shopkeepers sell this stuff, some big outlets in Ghumar Mandi are during a roaring business. The shopkeepers intention is to sell smuggled goods first.

While this goes on unabated, the connivance of the Customs Department cannot be ruled out. Some retailers claim that there is a nexus between the two, otherwise, if commoners know that smuggled goods are being sold openly, how can the department be unaware of it.

The sale of these illegally imported goods is a common practice in the city. Customers also know that these are smuggled goods and there will be no guarantee as regards their quality. Moreover, shopkeepers do not give any bill for sold goods and as such if something goes wrong, he cannot be held responsible for that.

Many multi-national companies have set up centres to monitor the sale of their products, but retailers are least interested in buying goods from them.

According to sources, only big department stores are selling goods imported legally. But perhaps this is not the right and lucrative way to do business for small retailers. A retailer says, “The sales at big department stores are higher as compared to us. They can afford to do business on such profit margins, but it is difficult for us to survive by doing business this way. Moreover, every brand is not available here and importing these good legally for retailing is not a lucrative business.”



10-year jail for killing gurdwara head
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, August 31
A fast-track court has sentenced Fauja Singh of Mundian Kalan village to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment on the charge of killing Didar Singh, president of the Gurdwara Committee, Mundian Kalan, in July, 2000. The court has also imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 on the accused.

Pronouncing the judgement yesterday, the judge, Mr A.S. Kathuria, held that the prosecution had successfully proved the guilt of the accused beyond any reasonable shadow of doubt, with credible and convincing evidence. Plea of leniency by the accused was declined.

The court also sentenced Ranjit Singh, an accomplice of the accused, to go four years’ imprisonment. Two more accused, Satwant Singh and Milkha Singh, were awarded a sentence of one year each.

The dispute for the presidentship of the gurdwara and the land allotted for the construction of a girls college in Mundian Kalan village was the reason behind the murder. The accused were booked on July 16, 2000, at the Focal Point police station on the statement of Mr Kulbir Singh.

According to prosecution, in March, 2000, Mr Gurcharan Singh Galib and the Mayor announced Rs 5 lakh and 1 lakh respectively for the construction of a girls college in the village. But Fauja Singh tried to grab the land after constructing two rooms on the disputed land. Thereafter, on the complainant of Didar Singh, the authorities concerned demolished the illegal construction on July 13. 



BKU threatens stir on cane arrears
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, August 31
The Bharti Kisan Union, Punjab, today demanded that the government should ensure that the payment of sugarcane arrears was made to farmers by sugar mills before September 8.

Mr Manjit Singh Qadian, general secretary, BKU, said in a press note if the government did not succeed in getting the sugarcane arrears of Rs 120 crore released by that date, the union would chalk out a programme for launching a struggle. The decision in this regard would be taken at the 32nd annual kisan panchayat to be held at Chandigarh on September 9.

A resolution to this effect was passed at the executive committee meeting of the union here on Saturday, he added. The union also demanded that the FCI should pay drought-relief bonus to those paddy farmers whose crops were affected last year. The union also demanded that the government should also fix prices for crops like potatoes and cereals. The leaders observed that on the one hand the government was trying to encourage diversification of crops, on the other hand it was not fixing remunerative prices for potatoes etc. with the result that farmers were facing a number of problems in marketing their produce.

He said the annual kisan panchayat would be attended by at least 50,000 farmers from all over the state.

Among others who attended the meeting were Mr Shamsher Singh Gharuan, Mr Baldev Singh, Mr Sewa Singh Gill, Mr Gurbachan Singh Rajla, Mr Sukhminder Singh Qadian, Mr Baldev Singh Gumtala and Mr Sher Singh.



Freshers accorded warm welcome
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, August 31
Functions were organised in Guru Nanak Girls College here yesterday in the morning and evening to welcome freshers.
In the morning, the function started with the Principal, Ms Charanjit Mahal, according a formal welcome to the freshers. She advised the students to avail themselves of various opportunities during their stay in the college.

A cultural function was also organised. Songs, skits, dances and a choreography was presented. About 40 freshers participated in Ms Fresher contest. Ms Bhathal, Ms Cheema, Ms Tarunjit and Ms Kang were the judges.

Pushpinder was declared Miss Fresher. Priya was declared the first runner-up, while Gurparneet was declared the second runner-up. Jaspreet got a prize for beautiful hair, while Harpreet was awarded for beautiful smile.

In the evening, a welcome function was held for the hostlers. A cultural programme was also held. Hostlers participated in another Ms Fresher contest. Out of 25 contestants, Beant Kaur was declared Ms Fresher, Jaspreet and Jagmeet were declared the first and the second runner-up, respectively. Jagmeet got a prize for beautiful smile, while Gayatri won a prize for beautiful dress.



Badal belittled Sikhs, claims Mann
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, August 31
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, Akali Dal (Amritsar), today blamed Mr Parkash Singh Badal for betraying the interests of the Sikhs and held him responsible for the anti-corruption drive launched against him by the Punjab Government. Mr Mann has refused to extend any help to Mr Badal.

In response to a letter written by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, President, Shiromani Akali Dal and former Chief Minister, Mr Mann has stated , “At the outset I would like to say that your case is not of injustice and violation of human rights but of gross misuse of power by you and your family during your three terms as Chief Minister of Punjab. Whether we approve of the methodology followed by the Congress government in Punjab today to investigate various aspects of your financial dealings is not the main point. The crux of the issue is that your personal and political activities are suspect not only in the eyes of the law but also in the eyes of the common man on the streets. But following a selfish policy of self-arrangement you have not only betrayed the laudable and selfless Akali Sikh but also confused our entire nationality. On the international plane, you have maligned our entire Sikh nation.”

Mr Parkash Singh Badal had addressed a 23-page letter to Members of Parliament of various political parties following the registration of an FIR against him and his family for amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. Mr Mann also received the same letter and has sent him a six-page reply.

Mr Mann has further charged, “You and your erstwhile colleagues have a lot of questions to answer. Even if the present Congress government fails to legally indict you and your colleagues, the people of Punjab will always remember your last tenure between 1997 and 2002 as a period of loot, plunder, violation of human rights, non-performance and running a non-transparent regime. The manner in which the exchequer was looted can put the loot of India by Mohammad Ghazni, Nazir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali to shame.”

Accusing Mr Badal of extending unconditional support to the BJP in the NDA government, Mr Mann has stated, “You could not extract any concessions for the people of Punjab or for the state. It would not be wrong to say that your alliance only fetched a minister’s post in the Union Cabinet for your son. The Bathinda refinery project inaugurated with grand fanfare by the Prime Minister is today a project only on paper. Today I am trying my hardest to get their project on steam.” Mr Mann has also questioned Mr Badal why he did not take action against the Congressmen, who were facing charges of corruption during the five years of his tenure as Chief Minister. The Rs-7000 crore fertiliser scandal of the Congress government before you should have been probed. In fact now his party was trying to hand it over to the CBI for investigations.

Mr Mann has further charged Mr Badal that he failed to fulfil the promises of holding inquiry against the police officers who committed excesses against innocent Sikhs as promised in the Akali Dal election manifesto. No police officer was tried of whatever rank. Rather your government was overboard in protecting them. “Your government also did not take any action on the Tiwari Commission report on the extra-judicial murder of Bhai Gurdev Singh Kaunke.” The Akali Dal (Amritsar) chief has accused Mr Badal of not passing a resolution in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, condemning Operation Bluestar despite the fact that his party had brute majority in the last Assembly. “During your tenure between 1996-2002, anti-Sikh schismatic forces like Bhaniarawala and Ashutosh were allowed to flourish and grow,” he alleged.

Mr Mann has pointed out to Mr Badal that he failed to get the Punjabi-speaking areas of Punjab and also to get constituent status for the Punjabi languages as per Article 347.

He has also drawn the attention of Mr Badal towards the non-appointment of a Sikh as Judge of the Supreme Court and no political appointee as Sikh Ambassador or High Commissioner. “Your sloth and corrupt ways have made the energetic and proud Sikhs look like a sick race,” he said.

Mr Mann has also pointed out the silence of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the whole issue of corruption charges against Mr Badal and observed, “He can see right through you. He has not said a word public or acted covertly to bail you out of the situation. When you say the Sikhs will rise in revolt if you are arrested is completely out of the Sikh context and way of life.”

Mr Mann has concluded, “I call upon you not to disregard and dishonour the name of the people of Punjab and the Akali Sikhs by converting a purely personal problem into a civil rights or political one. I make a fervent appeal to you to reach the moral high ground. To clear your conscience by accepting all your mistakes and follies of the past is the Sikh way of life. This is your road to salvation, in this world and the next. Become a man and an Akali Sikh.”

Mr Badal has not received much response from Members of Parliament and his contention was that the letter was sent to the MPs to acquaint them with the happenings in the state of Punjab under the cover of anti-corruption campaign.



Bring villages on a par with cities, says Lal 
Our Correspondent

Mandi Gobindgarh, August 31
NGOs should come forward to launch the integrated development programme in 12,000 villages of Punjab to bring the villages on a par with cities, said Mr P. Ram, Principal Secretary, Forests, while addressing a gathering at the silver jubilee function of Gobindgarh Public School, here last evening. Under the integrated scheme, religious places in the villages should be used to provide education and medicines and promote development plans.

He lauded the role of NGOs for adopting 145 villages under the integrated scheme where sewerage, stadium, cable, solar water, nutrition to pregnant mothers and children up to the age of 6 would be provided by them. Presently, the nutrition programme was being organised by the government through the ‘aanganwadi’ workers, but it was not very successful, Mr Ram said.

Mr Ram, Mr M.P. Arora, ADC (General), and Mr Swaranjeet Singh planted saplings on the school campus. Mr Gursharanjeet Singh said Fatehgarh Sahib district had topped in the state by planting 2.47 lakh saplings.

Mr Swaranjeet Singh, president of the school trust, said the school had planted 570 saplings. The Principal, Mr Bhadur Singh, highlighted the school achievements.

Dr P.S. Jassi, a former Director of Health and now Director-General of NGOs, Mr Suresh Gupta, Mr Juggal Kishore, Mr N.C. Sharma, founder Principal of GP College, and Mr Balwinder Singh Sekhon were present, among others.



Good rainfall augurs well for Chhapar fair
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, August 31
The annual Chhapar fair — also known as the biggest rural party of Punjab that goes on for three days on the trot — will begin on September 9.
The fair is likely to draw a record number of visitors because of three main factors. First of all, good rainfall this season has taken a lot of load off farmers' minds and they are feeling relaxed. Expenses on the running of diesel pump sets have been low this time and farmers are looking forward to a good paddy harvest.

Secondly, the Chhapar village panchayat has decided to lower the rent for the shamlat land, which is occupied by shopkeepers and others business-makers at the fair. Last year, a number of shopkeepers went back without putting up their shops at the fair due to the exorbitant land rent being charged by the panchayat. It is because of the lowered rents this time that a couple of swing operators have already arrived at the fair site and are looking forward to a busy mela.

And lastly, hanges in the political scenario in the state with Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra resuming charge of the SGPC and his patch-up with Mr Parkash Singh Badal also warrant a much bigger Akali dais at the political conference to be organised by the party. For the past some years, Mr Parkash singh Badal and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra had been addressing the rural masses from separate stages. Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia would also address a political conference organised by his Lok Bhalai Party.



INTUC decries SC ruling
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 31
The Punjab unit of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) has condemned the decision of the Supreme Court declaring strikes illegal.
Addressing a meeting here today, unit chairman Balwant Rai Kapoor said the apex court ban on the right to strike was an attack on the democratic freedom as enshrined in the Constitution. The ban on strike was illogical, undemocratic and unsustainable. The Right to Freedom of Expression includes right to protest and in extraordinary and exceptional cases, to go on strike.

He said: “The right to strike is universally recognised all over the world. The ruling negates the statutory provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, and conventions of the International Labour Organisation that includes the Right to Collective Bargaining and the right to strike.”

general secretary of INTUC Shiv Gupta and president of the National Organisation of Government Employees K.R. Tripathi pointed out that under the Industrial Disputes Act, each worker in the essential services had the democratic right to go on strike after giving 14 days’ notice. Even Attorney General Soli Sorabji defended the right by saying that the recent ruling of the SC was uncalled for and beyond comprehension.

The leaders also condemned the Centre for adopting “irrational and illogical” pension schemes for government employees asking them to contribute 10 per cent from their salary. At present, only 10 per cent contributions are deducted from the wages towards provident fund and the pension fund is being maintained by the government or employers.

They also appealed to the state government to strictly implement labour laws to provide social security to workers in the private sector. Various Acts like the ESI, Provident Fund, Minimum Wages, Gratuity, Payment of Bonus, must be strictly implemented by the government.

At present no factory inspector or ESI inspector or provident fund inspector visits a factory to enforce the implementation of the Acts where 10 or more workers work either on wages or contract labour system. Private factory employers exploit labour by not paying them adequate wages in terms of minimum wages. This issue has been raised many times at various fora but to no avail, they added.


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