L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Councillor's son held for merchant's murder
Illicit relationship suspected motive
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 2
The district police today claimed that a Janakpuri-based cloth merchant, Ashoki Lala, whose body was found from Jainpur village, near Hambran, on New Year eve, was murdered by four persons over an allegedly illicit relationship with a woman municipal councillor of the Congress.

All the accused have been arrested. They are: the woman's son, Avtar Singh, and son-in-law, Kulbir Singh, and two close friends of Avtar Singh, Satwinder Singh and Inder Singh.

DSP Sukhdev Singh Kahlon and Inspector R. S. Sohal, SHO, Sadar police station, claimed at a press conference today that Avtar Singh was upset over Ashoki Lala's alleged illicit relationship and had planned the cold-blooded murder.

According to the police, the accused were planning the murder for the past two months and had developed a close relationship with the deceased. On December 31 night, they had a party, after which they took Ashoki Lala out in a car towards Hambran and killed him.

The man was allegedly first strangled with a clutch wire in the car and then stabbed several times. He was later stripped and acid was poured on his face to make the body unidentifiable. The accused were so enraged that they even threw acid on his private parts. This is what led the police to the illicit-relation theory.

"I have no regrets for the murder," said the main accused Avtar Singh, who runs a chemical laboratory with his elder brother. "The man was a Ravana for us and he deserved what he got," he said at the press conference in Sadar police station.

"The man was giving a bad name to my family. I have done no wrong. The law would not have punished him," he said when asked why did he not complain to the police about the activities of the man.

He said his brother-in-law, Kulbir Singh, had known that he wanted to take revenge, but his two friends had no idea about the plan. "They were with us, but did not know we were going to kill him."

DSP Kahlon said the accused had tried to disfigure the face by pouring acid but could not succeed, as the entire face was not damaged. Following the recovery of the body, the police traced the family after going through the reports of missing persons lodged in different police stations.

Initially, robbery was suspected as the motive behind the murder, but the manner in which acid was thrown on the face and private parts, pointed towards illicit relationship.

Mr Kahlon said the woman councillor had so far not given any statement to the police. Her family had said that she was out of station.

The police had so far also not found any evidence suggesting her involvement in the case.

The police had questioned the woman's husband, who corroborated the illicit relationship story.


Tension at Siahar continues
Kanchan Vasdev and Mahesh Sharma
Tribune News Service

Siahar/Ludhiana, January 2
Tension continued at the Nanaksar Ashram Thath today following the press statements and advertisements regarding the claims and counterclaims of two rival groups over the control of the dera in Siahar village. The control of the dera involves authority over a huge property in Punjab besides over 7000 acres of land in Canada.

The faction in control at present today demanded a CBI inquiry into the entire episode and the arrest of those who attacked the dera two months ago. They alleged that the police was siding with the other group owing to pressure from a senior Congress leader.

Heavy police force was deployed at the village today to prevent any untoward incident. The administration is keeping a close watch on the activities of the key members of the rival groups.

Interestingly, both the warring groups — of Baba Mann Singh and Baba Harnek Singh — have been accusing the police of supporting the other faction. A meeting of the supporters of Baba Mann Singh with officials of the district administration to effect a compromise between the two parties failed.

Sources reveal that senior officials had tried to bring the two groups to the discussion table and resolve the dispute over the control of the Nanaksar Ashram Thath, mother temple of 24 Thaths world over. However, the talks failed last week when the faction led by Baba Mann Singh declined the rival's offer to drop the claim over the land on which "Darbar Sahib" is built in return for keeping control over all other properties with it.

Tension increased on Wednesday when the Baba Harnek Singh group issued an advertisement in a daily accusing Baba Mann Singh, Harchand Singh and Sewa Singh (all sons of Late Baba Mihan Singh, founder of the sect) of misguiding the sangat.

The name of Mr Buta Singh, a senior Congress leader, also figured in the advertisement.

Baba Mann Singh, who had been accepted as chief of the Thath by a section of the sangat, denied the charges levelled by the other group against him and his brothers. He said, "Even a court at Ludhiana has vacated stay orders that the other group had got by concealing the facts regarding land at Sihar."

He claimed that the three brothers had inherited the "Darbar Sahib" land from their father and the rest of the property had been subsequently purchased by the sangat. Reiterating his earlier stand, he said, "The sangat has sought my services as a sewadar at the Thath and I will never betray them. The traitors of the sangat are trying to serve their vested interests."

Mr Kanwaljit Singh, a Congress leader, said, "We had been trying to make the two groups compromise, but the efforts bore no fruit”.

While Mr Parmod Ban, SSP, Khanna, was not available for comment, Mr Ajmer Singh Ramana, SP (Headquarter), said the police was yet to complete the investigations.

Meanwhile, supporters of Baba Harnek Singh staged a dharna outside the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Ludhiana, and handed over a memorandum of demands.


Another ‘kabootri’ racket busted
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 2
Ditched by her boyfriend in the UK, separated from her husband in Germany and deported to India under controversial circumstances, a UK-born graduate girl, Jaswinder Kaur Jassi, duped at least 10 youths of Ludhiana and Nawanshahr districts of lakhs of rupees on the pretext of taking them abroad.

The woman got married to 10 youths, belonging to different places in these districts and then disappeared. Her accomplice and the middle man in the marriages was her maternal uncle, Major Singh, who has been arrested on the same charges by the Nawanshahar police a couple of weeks ago.

Inspector Gurbans Singh, SHO, Basti Jodhewal told Ludhiana Tribune that they had received several complaints against the woman and her maternal uncle of running a "kabootri racket". He said the duo charged Rs 10 to Rs 12 lakh per marriage from gullible youths, who were willing to put anything on stake for going abroad.

The SHO revealed that the woman was on the run and he received a tip-off that she night visit her relative's house here before fleeing the country. A police team succeeded in catching her.

The police official said the woman, who was very good looking and was born and brought up in England, succeeded within no time in entrapping youths.

At least Rs 10 lakh were taken from each victim. The woman does not even remember the youths and said she could recollect the names of only three or four of them.

The police disclosed that the woman was ditched by her boyfriend in the UK after which he got married to an Indian in Germany. She developed some differences with the man who got her deported.


Man kills wife, surrenders
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 2
Upset over his wife’s alleged illicit relationship, Nanak Dass, a resident of Kailey village near Gurusar Sudhar, hit her on the head, causing her death, in his house last night. He surrendered to the police at about 2 am after committing the murder.

Nanak Dass has been booked under Section 302 of the IPC. The SHO, Gurusar Sudhar, Inspector Jasbir Singh, said the man was peeved at the alleged illicit relationship of his wife Paramjit Kaur (40) with a PSEB employee. Despite being cautioned, the woman allegedly continued the relationship. She had two sons and a daughter, who was married.

According to the police, the man worked in a vegetable market in Raikot. He came home late last night and caught the two in his house. While the PSEB employee fled, the man gave his wife a good beating. In his statement to the police, the man said he was so enraged that he threw a rod on his wife without the intention of killing her.

The rod hit the woman on her head, causing her death. The incident took place at about midnight. The man surrendered to the police in the presence of a local leader. Police sources disclosed that the marital discord arising out of the alleged illicit relationship had led to the intervention of the panchayat at least three times. Senior officials of the PSEB had also intervened. The panchayat had worked out a compromise between the couple on all occasions.


It’s a changed CM, says Hanspal
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 2
Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president H.S. Hanspal today defended Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, saying he had changed his style of functioning and was accessible to people and the party. He said the Chief Minister routinely attended to the public and also visited the party office to listens to people’s problems.

Talking to reporters after inaugurating a knitting exhibition here, Mr Hanspal hoped that the crisis in the party would soon be resolved. He said that the party high command had summoned all party legislators from the state. They would be given individual hearing by the three-member panel in Delhi from tomorrow.

While hinting that there would not be any leadership change in the state, Mr Hanspal ruled out the appointment of any outsider as Chief Minister. He said the situation might not arise at all, as the issue would be resolved very soon.

Asked why he had not initiated any action against the dissidents for indiscipline, Mr Hanspal said that since they had directly approached the high command, he could not do any thing. But he hastened to add that the Congress had a democratic set up and all voices had to be heard.

The PCC president seemed to squarely blame the Punjab Vigilance Bureau for the Tej Parkash episode. He said it was “negligence” on the part of the bureau and its Director had to pay for that. He defended Mr Tej Parkash, saying that his credibility could not be suspected.

Admitting that the current crisis had severely damaged the image of the party in the state, he hoped it would not have any adverse impact on the Congress prospects in the forthcoming General Election. He claimed that the Congress would unite and present an impressive show during the elections.

Regarding his own stand in the current crisis, the PCC president maintained that he belonged to everyone and all the 62 legislators belonged to him. He said that although the crisis had become serious, it had not reached the point of no return.


Simplify tax laws, says BJP
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 2
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made a strong plea for the simplification of taxation laws and to remove harsh provisions of the value added tax (VAT) before it is given effect in April 2004, as proposed by the government.

According to the party finance secretary, Mr Ashok Juneja, who is also a taxation adviser, the meeting of the state executive, held under the presidentship of Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, reiterated its commitment to work for the welfare of trade and industry in the state as also to create a tax-friendly environment in which commercial activity could flourish. In particular, the party wanted amendments in the proposed VAT Act and Rules 2003 in consultation with representatives of trade and industrial bodies. Further, it also called for the simultaneous implementation of VAT throughout the country.

Mr Juneja claimed that the erstwhile SAD-BJP government had implemented many a trade and industry friendly policies like the summary assessment scheme, deemed assessment, abolition of Sales Tax Form XXII-A and doing away with sales tax barriers. The then government policies had a positive effect and there was a significant rise in the revenue. However, the Congress government had completely reversed the taxation policies and the trade and industry were badly hit due to introduction of exim form, entry tax and bringing several small trades like dhabas under the sales tax net.

"The so called Information Collections Centres (ICCs) are virtually functioning like barriers where vehicles are detained on frivolous clerical and technical errors. Large-scale sales tax raids being conducted in an indiscriminate manner are also having an adverse impact on recession-ridden trade and industry. The trading community is living under a constant fear which is not conducive to the prevailing economic scenario."

The BJP launched a scathing attack on the Congress government for turning a volte face on abolition of octroi, which was among one of the poll promises of the ruling party. Mr Juneja said the previous government had done away with octroi but it had been reimposed by the Congress government under the garb of court directions.

The meeting placed on record the good work having been done by the Union Finance Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh, by making income tax laws more simple and to convert the taxation system into taxpayer-friendly.


Insects in biscuit packet!
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, January 2
Next time you happen to buy a pack of Parle biscuits, check it before munching it as it might carry insects. This is what happened with Mr Vikas Passi, a resident of Upkar Nagar Colony in Civil Lines area here.

Mr Passi, who brought the packet of biscuits to the Ludhiana Tribune office said the packet of Parle Magix biscuits was purchased from a grocery shop in the colony. On close inspection one of the two packets had a powdery substance in it and insects could be seen crawling over it.

The customer obtained the telephone numbers of the company’s corporate office in Mumbai and informed them of having been given a pack of biscuits which was not fit for human consumption. But what Mr Passi got was evasive response of the company.

In response to his complaint what the victim received was a letter terming Mr Passi as a victim of unfortunate circumstances. A couple of days later a local representative also came to meet the customer but his attitude was no different from that of the company.

An agitated and upset Mr Passi said, “What hurts most is that a reputed company should pass off substandard and defective edible stuff to its customers and then try to get away by attributing the lapse to circumstances beyond their control. It means they refuse to own responsibility.”

He wants the department concerned to take stern action against such defaulting companies.


Two killed as car hits truck
Our Correspondent

Sahnewal, January 2
Two persons, including a child, died on the spot when the car they were travelling in hit a truck due to poor visibility, near Sahnewal, early this morning.

Harwinder Singh, a resident of Patiala, was on way from Jalandhar to Patiala along with his mother Manjit Kaur, wife Kamaljit Kaur, daughter Amrita Preet Kaur, sister Parminder Kaur and brother-in-law Sohan Singh in his car when the incident took place. Dense fog is believed to have caused the mishap.

Sohan Singh and Amrita Preet Kaur, both of whom were occupying the front seat, were killed on the spot while Manjit Kaur, Kamaljit Kaur and Parminder Kaur sustained injuries and were admitted to a hospital.

The bodies were taken to the Civil Hospital, Ludhiana, for a post-mortem and were later handed over to relatives of the victims. The police has registered a case under Section 174 of the CrPC at the Sahnewal police station.


PSEB men stage dharna
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 2
Members of the Employees Services Union, Punjab State Electricity Board, staged a dharna at the Sunder Nagar unit of the board against the privatisation move here today.

Mr Kewal Singh, president of the union, said if the board was privatised, it would hit the agriculture and industrial sectors.


BSNL to recover Rs 34 crore from subscribers
Tribune news service

Ludhiana, January 2
The Ludhiana circle of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited is to recover Rs 34 crore from its subscribers. While most of the subscribers owe less than Rs 1 lakh, about a hundred are supposed to pay over Rs 1 lakh. There are some wilful defaulters also who owe over Rs 10 lakh to the BSNL. The long list of defaulters includes several government departments and officials also.

Sources in the BSNL disclosed that the amount was pending for quite some time and efforts were on for the early recovery. During past couple of years the BSNL has been able to recover some amount which was pending for years.

The sources revealed that legal process had been started by the nigam to recover the pending amount from the defaulters. It was learnt that most of the defaulters who owe limited amount to the BSNL had come forward for the settlement of their dues. But it were the big defaulters who were creating problems for the department.

In some cases it is not the actual subscriber, against whom the telephone was originally allotted, who owe the money. This is because of the fact that some subscribers would sell off their connections to other customers without bringing it on record or to the notice of the Department of Telecommunications (the previous avatar of the BSNL). Some of such subscribers have defaulted in a major way and it is difficult to trace them. But the department has imposed penalty on the actual subscribers against whom the number stands allotted.

However there are some wilful subscribers who have over Rs 10 lakh pending against them. It was learnt that such subscribers would get the connection and avail all the facilities, including the STD and the ISD. They would clandestinely use their telephone as public call office (PCO). By the time the department would issue the bill and the subsequent notices and reminders for the recovery the bill amount would cross the Rs 10 lakh mark. Although the department has initiated legal action against such defaulters but it will take some time to settle the cases and recover the amount.

To deal with such wilful defaulters the department is learnt to be thinking to monitor such numbers which are frequently used. With the staff scarcity, the department may find it difficult to monitor each and every number.


Encroachment charge baseless, say traders
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 2
Responding to notices served by the municipal corporation to hundreds of traders in Chaura Bazar for allegedly encroaching upon a part of the road, the Ludhiana Traders Association has refuted the allegations, terming these as misdirected and contrary to facts.

Talking to Ludhiana Tribune, Mr Jawahar Wadhera, president of the association, claimed that in 1972, the then municipal committee had entered into an agreement with shopkeepers under which extension of two and a half feet on each side of the road by way of cemented platforms (tharas) or steps for elevation into shops as well as sun shades over the extension were allowed to be constructed.

“In fact, construction work was also carried out by the then civic body at shopkeepers’ expenses and the purpose behind this exercise was widening and beautification of one of the busiest commercial centres and to provide a uniform house line to all shops on both sides of the bazar from Girja Ghar to Ghas Mandi,” Mr Wadhera said.

In support of the claims of the shopkeepers, the association had also submitted a copy of the agreement signed between the representatives of the Ludhiana Shopkeepers Association and the then Deputy Commissioner and president of the municipal committee to the MC authorities through the Assistant Town Planner (Zone A), Ms Kanwaljit Kaur, whom a delegation of the association met yesterday.

Mr Wadhera wondered as to how an act, duly permitted and executed by the civic body itself more than 30 years ago, could be termed as encroachment. “Some MC employees have either deliberately or inadvertently committed this blunder for reasons best known to them, but the traders will not take things lying down. We are not prepared to be penalised for a fault of others and will continue to fight against the high- handedness of the MC administration.”

Asked whether the shopkeepers were paying rent and licence fee for the extension granted towards the roadside, as provided in the agreement, Mr Wadhera maintained that the MC staff was collecting rent from the shopkeepers from time to time. However, even if there were arrears towards the rent payable by shopkeepers, the MC, at best, could initiate proceedings for recovery of the arrears, but by no stretch of the imagination, the shopkeepers could be accused of encroachment.

The association has called for cancellation of the notices served upon the shopkeepers in Chaura Bazar to set the record straight. Mr Wadhera also urged the civic administration to see reason and not to go ahead with any such action that might precipitate the situation.

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