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Gurpurb a silent affair at Siahar
Solitaire-studded ‘palki’ remains housed in garage
Kanchan Vasdev and Mahesh Sharma
Tribune News Service

Siahar, January 5
The birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh remained a silent affair in this village today as the Nanaksar Ashram Thath wore a deserted look due to the ongoing controversy between two groups. This was for the first time during the past many decades that the thath, managing offices of 24 thaths situated all over the world, did not organise the celebrations which were attended by thousands across the world.

The coveted ‘‘palki’’ studded with solitaires and made of pure gold, priced at crores of rupees, taken around the village every year remained housed in a hanger sized garage at the thath. While streets remained abandoned, police personnel were deployed in strength to control any untoward situation arising out of the tension. They have virtually cordoned off the thath area .

The expulsion of Baba Harnek Singh, Chairman of Trust, by Sant Samaj headed by Baba Sarabjot Singh Bedi has made the matter more complicated. The birthday of late Sant Meehan Singh, founder of the Nanaksar Sect on January 13, followed by sangrand on the next day may create more problems for the law enforcing agency which till now has been trying to resolve the issue with mutual consent.

Villagers revealed that management committee running affairs of the thaths used to organise nagar kirtan on the occasion of gurpurab during the time of Late Baba Meehan Singh. The celebrations were later shifted to January 13, the birthday of the Baba. The nagar kirtan used to be led by Guru Granth Sahib, housed in the "palki" mounted on 40 -feet- long and 13-feet wide platform. The organisers had specially erected huge poles to elevate electric power supply in the village to avoid inconvenience.

The "palki" was constructed in 1994, when all materials, including the wood , was imported from England. Unique in India, it has two alike in England. People from all over the world had been visiting Siahar especially to a look at it. Mounted on a diesel engine-run vehicle, it is controlled by the driver by close circuit miniature camera fitted on front.

Tension gripped the village as the villagers apprehended bad days ahead. While some villagers suffered injuries, a family lost its only breadwinner due to violence that took place on October 11 last year. They are anguished that the police did not arrest Gurcharan Singh Granthi and Charna Mistry, main accused in the murder case. Others are tense over the thought of being rounded up by the police in connection with incidence of violence that took place on the fateful day.

Mr Kanwaljit Singh, a Congress leader representing panchayat said, "people chose to celebrate the gurpurab at village gurdwara only to avoid any controversy. Heavy police force was deployed at the thath today. A langar was also organised at the place which was going on silently. Some persons from the village came to pay obeisance.

The police was left with no choice than frisking the visitors at the thath. Photography was banned by the police and the mediapersons were allowed to go inside after making sure that there motive was only to gather information. Mr Jagdev Singh Aandloo, a supporter of Baba Harnek Singh said he was to visit the village but after an advice from his doctor postponed his programme for two to three days. He added that he had undergone a bypass surgery. He is expected to fight his case after landing here.



Gurpurb celebrated with fervour
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 5
The 337th birth anniversary of the tenth Sikh guru Sri Guru Gobind Singh was celebrated with fervour in the city today. Bhog of Akhand Path was performed in many gurdwaras and devotees, including women and children, took part in the celebrations. In gurdwaras and elsewhere, 'langars' and 'bhandaras' (community feast) were organised.

Addressing a religious congregation at Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha at Model Town Extension, the mukh sewadar , Mr Avatr Singh Makkar , stressed on the need to seek inspiration from the life and teachings of Guru Gobind Singh.

Offering his greetings to the 'sangat', he made an appeal to be baptised and also mobilise others to adopt 'bani' and bana' (Gurbani and traditional attire). In the gurmat samagam, which commenced early today morning, several prominent 'ragis' and 'pathis' recited Gurbani.

In a function organised by the Sehajdhari Sikh Federation, the national president of the body, Dr P.S. Ranu, exhorted the members of Sikh community to spread the message of love, trust and harmony, as preached by the Sikh gurus. He said the Sehajdhari Sikhs were true followers of the Sikh tenets, the 10 gurus and Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

He lambasted the Union Government for the notification through which the Sehajdhari segment of the Sikh community was disenfranchised for the SGPC elections. Claiming that almost 80 per cent of the community was now a days Sehajdhari, he observed that the government's action had created a minority within a minority. "The step taken by the Union Home Ministry is a deep rooted conspiracy to further divide the already fragmented community." Dr Ranu also condemned the traditional Sikh leadership and the SGPC for inflicting injustice upon the Sehajdhari Sikhs and taking such steps that had become instrumental in denial of voting rights to a large section of the community.



DN Everest Public Model School celebrates Gurpurb
Our Correspondent

Doraha, January 5
Gurpurb was celebrated with fervour at DN Everest Public Model School, Jaspalon, today.
According to Mr Rajinder Sharma, president of the Association of Affiliated Schools, Punjab, Students of the school recited ‘shabad’. A fancy dress show was organised on the occasion in which students from all classes participated.

In fancy dress competition, Jasmeet stood first, Avinder second and Kamalpreet third . The consolation prize was given to Baljit and Manpreet. Mr Pankaj, Principal of the school, gave away the prizes.

Mr Harpal Singh, sarpanch and founder member, Mr Malkit Singh, Mr Harnek Singh, Mr Jaspal Singh and Mr Sadhu Ram were among those who graced the occasion.

Similarly, Gurpurb was celebrated at Gurdwara Singh Sabha, Doraha, where after the bhog of “Akhand Path,” poetry competitions and ‘kirtan’ were organised. At Gurdwara Kalgidhar Sahib, the occasion was marked with fervour and enthusiasm.

At Sahnewal, after bhog ceremony at the historical Gurdwara Reru Sahib, Bhai Davinder Singh ragi and katha vachak Iqbal Singh, regailed the “sangat” with the “shabads” and “kathas”.



Gang of narcotics smugglers busted
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 5
The Jagraon police has busted a gang of narcotic smugglers, who used women for smuggling opium and poppy husk into this region from Rajasthan.
Five members of the gang, including an alleged smuggler and two women, were arrested in Raikot during a special ‘nakabandi’ last night. About 10 kg of opium worth lakhs of rupees have been recovered from the gang members. Mr Mukhwinder Singh Chhina, SSP, Jagraon, said the involvement of women and the method of smuggling it via rail route to the Jagraon town had, however, thrown up a new challenge. Jagraon region is notorious for such activities with certain communities adopting the narcotics as well as liquor smuggling as full time profession. However, it is rare that women have been found peddling drugs.

Mr Chhina said notorious smuggler Gurpal Singh and his accomplices Amarjit Kaur, Hassan Mohammad, Charanjit Kaur and Jagjit Singh were arrested by a team headed by Mr H.S.Brar, DSP.

Gurpal Singh was the king pin of the gang and the two women used to buy opium from Rajasthan and bring it to Ferozepore via train. From there they boarded a train to Nanaksar and alighted there. The opium was carried in small worn- out bags. The police rarely used to frisk them .

The women used to buy opium at the rate of Rs 9,000 per kg which they sold at Rs 14,000 to retailer opium sellers, who in turn sold it at Rs 40,000 per kg.

Mr Chhina said Gurpal Singh was also booked earlier for opium and poppy husk smuggling and was also wanted in a murder case.

One of the accused, Amarjit Kaur's husband was working in a foreign country while the husband of Charanjit Kaur was a truck driver. 



Illegal cock-fights thrive in Ludhiana
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 5
In violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA), the erstwhile "nawabi" game of cockfighting is being organised on a massive scale in different parts of the city here every Sunday.

The speechless birds act as a pawns to bleed each other to death after being administered special drugs, ‘desi aphrodisiac’ to make them fight. Sharp-edged nails are attached to their soft feathers to provide them a weapon to kill the enemy.

The “nawabi” game has now run into the hands of slum-dwellers and lower strata of society living in villages or the outskirts of the city. They may be living in filthy conditions but surprisingly manage to dish out more than thousand of rupees per fight. The local police and the People For Animals (PFA) group has failed to check this cruelty to the birds, which is not only banned around the world but is vehemently condemned.

A Ludhiana Tribune team witnessed the excitement of one such crowd and painful deaths of cocks at Pakhowal road across the canal yesterday. Surprised at the open staging of the banned activity, the team learnt that the fight took place every week.

The team called up PFA activist Sandeep Jain to the spot. He expressed surprise at the violation and said he was far away from the place and would try to reach there in time. He, however, could not make there in time to stop the activity but claimed to have done his duty by filing a complaint with Sarabha Nagar police station. The complaint has been referred to Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar police post.

Not a single case against the violators has been registered at least in the last three years in the district, quite in contrast to the information that the cock fights are organised every week.

At the venue, one could see hundreds of people coming from places like Jagraon, Raikot and Mullanpur Dakha. Sources say that there is a vast network involved in cock-fighting and betting in the events.

Because of the high stakes involved (bets between Rs 50 and Rs 3,000 are placed), care is taken by the owners of cocks to make them a winning breed. The cocks are fed on a varied diet, including almonds, magaj and desi ghee and forcibly injected desi aphrodisiac.

Besides, the fighter cocks are massaged and their beaks are sharpened on the eve of the event. This ensures that if the cock wins the ‘bout’, the owner stands to gain an astronomical price and he sells the cock immediately at the spot.

There are two ways by which a cock losses a ‘bout’: one is if a cock goes out of the approximately 35 x 40 feet arena, which is cordoned off by a synthetic rope, and second if a cock turns his back on the opponent and walks away for at least three yards.



Bills without phone connection
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 5
After numerous complaints like delayed, missing and inflated bills, payments not being credited in subsequent bills and wrong delivery of bills from the subscribers of Reliance India Mobile, the company has earned yet another notoriety in the field of ‘customer service’ by slapping bill after bill on a city resident, who does not even have a mobile phone connection.

Repeated complaints made by the victim to the local office of the company as well as the corporate office in Mumbai have failed to elicit any response so far while the complainant was still receiving bills for the Reliance mobile No. 3141373 with past arrears being added to each fresh bill.

Mr Jaswinder Singh, a resident of Issa Nagri locality in old city told Ludhiana Tribune that he had applied for a mobile connection under Dhirubhai Amabani Pioneer Offer against a payment of Rs 500. The dealer concerned of the company told him at the time of receipt of deposit that mobile phone sets were in short supply and would be provided to him in due course. While the promised set remained elusive, Mr Jaswinder Singh received a bill for Rs 485 for the month of August, 2003, against the mobile phone, which had not been provided to him till that date.

He took up the matter in writing with the local office on September 16 and followed it up with a complaint to the corporate office on September 25, all the while maintaining that he did not have a mobile phone and that the bills were being erroneously sent in his name. While the company failed to take any notice of his complaint, the resident received another bill for September 2003 for a similar amount and yet another in December 2003, showing Rs 2,770 as due against him, including past arrears.

Interestingly, the last bills received by Mr Jaswinder Singh showed both local and STD calls having been made by him from the ‘non-existent’ mobile phone.

Officials of Reliance India Mobile, when contacted by Ludhiana Tribune, in their bid to cover up the matter, first of all termed it as a trivial issue. Then they offered to settle the complaint to the satisfaction of the customer if details were provided to them.

The local chief of the Reliance India Mobile said the company had thousands of subscribers in the city and a few complaints here and there did not mean that the customer services were lacking. The officials were evasive when asked why they had failed to act on the complaint during past three months.



Fix admission criterion for schools: LAC
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 5
Members of the Ludhiana Action Committee have urged the district administration to fix the criterion of admission to public schools. Mr Rakesh Verma and Mr Kimiti Rawal, president and secretary general of LAC, have urged the Deputy Commissioner to fix a criteria immediately as admissions to LKG are going on. The chief criterion seems to be ‘donations’.

They say that the school managements offer different reasons for taking donations. They have appealed to the Deputy Commissioner to step in and fix a criteria for admission to these schools. The talk of the town is that children of rich families would only gain admission into these schools as only such families can afford hefty donations. Middle class families cannot afford to get their children admitted to these schools.

They say that the school managements offer different reasons for taking donations. They have appealed to the Deputy Commissioner to step in and fix a criteria for admissions to these schools. In other states like Karnataka, Andhra and Kerala, admission policies are transparent. Transparency in admissions to Ludhiana schools is the need of the hour, they said. 



Rival group to approach Akal Takht 
on Harnek Singh issue
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 5
Joyous at the expulsion of Baba Harnek Singh from Sant Samaj, the rival group headed by Baba Mann Singh has decided to approach Akal Takht with a plea of excommunicating the former from the Sikh Panth.

The Baba Harnek Singh group has already rejected the expulsion orders issued by a five member panel of the Gurmat Sidhant Parcharak Sant Samaj headed by Baba Sarbjot Bedi, arguing that Baba Harnek Singh was never a member of the so-called Sant Samaj and hence could not be expelled.

Addressing a press conference here today, Mr Gurdev Singh Grewal, spokesman of the Baba Mann Singh group, said that Baba Harnek Singh was fined by the Canadian Government for $600 for driving in an inebriated condition in 2000. Providing a copy of the documents relating to the judgement, Mr Grewal said that his reports had shown 80 ml alcohol in his blood. The Baba was directed not to drive for one year in Canada.

The press conference was attended by Baba Mann Singh, Baba Sewa Singh and Baba Harchand Singh, the three sons of the late Baba Meehan Singh, and the village panchayat. They alleged that Baba Harnek Singh had allegedly planted a granthi in Siahar Thath who was a bad character and was accused in the murder case of a villager.

Mr Grewal stated that they wanted peace in the village and would do every possible effort to maintain it. He also said that the birth anniversary of the founder baba would be organised peacefully.



Yuva Morcha flays Cong misrule
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 5
Activists of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) today held a demonstration against the misrule of the Congress in Punjab and burnt the Congress party flag.
Speaking on the occasion, the BJYM district president, Mr Sanjay Kapoor, alleged that eversince the Congress took over the reins in Punjab, the condition of the state had gone from bad to worse. Even the ruling party legislators and Cabinet colleagues of the Chief Minister were levelling allegations of corruption against their own government. The so-called cleansing drive of Capt Amarinder Singh also stood exposed after the alleged involvement of his son in the foreign exchange scam.

The other functionaries of the morcha observed that bureaucracy ruled the roost in the state and democracy was being throttled by officers in connivance with the ruling party activists. A majority of the ministers and legislators were camping at Delhi, demanding removal of the Chief Minister, while the entire administrative work had come to a standstill.

The protesters announced that the party would soon submit a memorandum to the President of India to demand dismissal of the Congress government in Punjab, which, even otherwise, had been reduced to a minority.

Prominent among those present on the occasion were Mr Rajinder Khatri, Mr Jeewan Gupta, Mr Rajneesh Dhiman, Mr Om Parkash Bhardwaj, Mr Uma Dutt Sharma, Mr Gurdeep Singh Neetu and Mr Sanjeev Malhotra. 



Lok Bhalai Party foresees good show in poll
Tribune News Service

Pamal, January 5
The forthcoming parliamentary poll will be a barometer of the popularity of the Lok Bhalai Party (LBP) among the masses and we are hopeful of an impressive show all across the state, claims party chief and MP Balwant Singh Ramoowalia. He is currently on a “padyatra” from Macchiwara to Muktsar and interacted with villagers here this noon.

“During the panchayat elections, the party cornered a large number of seats and is confident of providing a third front based on ideology. This will also lay the groundwork for the forthcoming parliamentary elections where the party will contest for six seats. There is a groundswell of support from the masses for the issues taken up by us”, he revealed.

Flanked by senior leaders of the party, he said the party would fight the poll on“Vikas and Insaf” issues - development of villages and justice for the ignorant masses. No party has touched these issues in the past since the stress was to create groups in each village and target those villages which returned the opposition-backed candidates to power. The outcome was that while the villages of the ruling regime cornered all grants, the others were ignored for five years, he pointed out.

He said his party was not pursuing any big political agenda but was concentrating on the various socio- economic issues before them. No political party was addressing such issues but misleading the people by making false promises. Which party was today concerned at the rising unemployment, rising expenses of education, drug abuse or the general lack of direction among the youth, he questioned.

Mr Ramoowalia said all wining candidates would be adjusted in senior positions at the village and tehsil levels and those who romped home with impressive margins would be suitably rewarded by party posts at the state level, he added.

He said more than 10,000 girls had been saved from the clutches of greedy in-laws and fraudulent NRI grooms in the past five years. The craze to send their families abroad also saw many families giving sums ranging from Rs 5 - 14 lakh in dowry. "We have taken up hundreds of cases where the dowry amount was returned. Unfortunately, the law is diced against the brides since the property of the fraudulent grooms could not be attached in India and they could also not be brought to justice since such crimes do not come under the ambit of the extradition treaties," he pointed out.

"The Lok Bhalai Party is not only committed to take up the cause of the farmers but will also strive to provide a better deal to the Punjabi youth stranded abroad besides ensuring that girls who marry abroad are not harassed on any account," he added.

Mr Ramoowalia said all self-employed people, businessmen, traders, farmers, labourers, government and non-government employees, students, etc were feeling distressed and frustrated for which the party felt that the prevalent corruption, political bankruptcy and other malpractices were responsible.

"The party also feels that the established political parties on the strength of money and muscle power are also misusing religion to target people and deprive the Punjabis of a better and clean society, he added.



21 honoured at Braille Day function
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 5
The Visually Impaired Sports and Welfare Association honoured 21 prominent personalities who have overcome their disabilities to make a mark in society at a function held at the Lions Club here yesterday. It could not have been a more opportune day as January 4 happens to be the birth anniversary of Louis Braille. Disabled children presented a cultural programme on the occasion.

Those honoured on the occasion included Kirpal Singh Kasel, Punjabi author, Harbans Singh, R.K. Lamba, Jawahar Lal Khanna, Iqbal Singh, Narinder Singh Pannu, Joga Singh, K.R. Sood, Ajit Slani, Atma Ram Bharti, Rajesh Monga, Kirpal Singh, Surat Singh Duggal, Jagat Singh, Yashpal Gupta, Mohinder Kaur, Suvarsha Kalra and Dr R.S. Sodhi.

Kirpal Singh has written Punjabi novel ''Ward Number 10''. It happens to be the first-ever novel written in Punjabi by a visually impaired person. Kirpal Singh lost his eyesight in 1967 when he was teaching, but losing of eyesight did not let him discontinue his job. He kept teaching and retired in 1986.

Kirpal Singh has penned more than 40 pieces of writings. His books on forms of literature and origin and development of the Punjabi literature are included in the MA Punjabi curriculum.

Punjab Minister for Printing and Stationery Rakesh Pandey was the chief guest, while Improvement Trust officiating Chairman Ashok Singh Garcha presided over the function.

Association president Ankit Kapoor, who himself is visually challenged, lamented that the indifferent attitude of the government had retarded the growth of visually challenged students. "The biggest problem we face at the time of taking examinations. Instead of providing us with question papers in Braille, the universities give us a writer who is less educated than us. First, such a person is not able to perceive our ideas and secondly, we have to dictate everything which becomes quite difficult," he said.



Rly pensioners resent move to delink DA
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 5
The Northern Railway Pensioners Welfare Association has flayed the anti-pensioners and anti-employees policies of the NDA government in the Centre, in particularly the move to delink dearness allowance (DA) granted to pensioners and serving employees.

Addressing the monthly meeting of the association here yesterday, Mr Sher Singh, president of the association, remarked that the high power committee of state secretaries, set up by the Reserve Bank of India, had reportedly made the proposal in order to curtail the burgeoning expenditure on pensions. However, the pensioners would oppose the proposal to deny DA as a measure to reduce the spending by the states.

He further said the government pensioners were already a harassed lot ever since the recommendation of the 5th Pay Commission like 1 per cent hike in pension to those having completed the service of 33 years, restoration of commuted portion of pension after 12 years against the earlier 15 years.

Speaking at the occasion, Mr K.L. Chitkara, general secretary of the association, made a plea for the enhancement of medical allowance from Rs 100 to Rs 250 per month in view of high cost of medicines and medicare.



Steel price hike hits small-scale industry
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, January 5
Steep hike in the prices of steel has brought gloom to the small-scale industry and resentment prevails against the failure of the government to check the loot by the steel producers.

The steel prices have been raised during the past two days. Hot rolled coil has witnessed an increase of Rs 17,500 to Rs 21,000 per metric tonne. The public sector plant of SAIL has raised the prices by Rs 2,100 per tonne. Hot rolled coil prices have gone up from Rs 23,000 to Rs 25,000 per tonne. As a result of this hike, the cold rolled steel has gone up from Rs 29,000 to Rs 31,000 per tonne. SAIL has raised the prices of billets by Rs 1,500 per tonne and further rise is expected shortly.

The SAIL used to give a concession of Rs 1,000 per tonne which has been withdrawn now. The local producers of steel have also raised the prices and ordinary rounds are being sold at Rs 21,500 per tonne. The price of ingot has touched Rs 19,000 per tonne.

The rising prices of steel during the past few months have resulted in the setback to the steel industry and the prices of the end products are also being raised to meet the cost of production. As a result of the rise in the prices of finished goods, the demand for the same is shrinking. Mr P.D. Sharma, President, Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Punjab, said yesterday that the game plan of the steel producers looked to be very clear. The government has given the indication that there would be only vote on account and the full Budget would not be passed by Parliament this year. This has emboldened the steel producers to enhance the prices as in the absence of regular Budget, the custom duty on steel products may not be reduced.

The Government of India in the month of November, 2003, had warned the steel producers to stop raising the prices and if the same were not brought under control by the first week of December, the Government might reduce the custom duty from 20 per cent to 10 per cent from January 1, 2004.

Mr Sharma alleged that the steel producers were exporting steel at cheaper rates and getting 20 per cent export incentive from the government. At the same time they were selling steel at global rates within the country. The crude steel production in the country was expected to be 31 million tonnes during 2003 where as the consumption was 32 million tonnes.

According to Mr Sharma, the movement of steel to Punjab from SAIL is very low as the Railways are not ready to transport steel to Punjab. This is due to route restrictions. The rail track near Mandi Gobindgarh is reported to have developed some crack due to bad weather conditions. The daily requirement of steel in Punjab is one rake.

The price of steel scrap have touched Rs 14,500 per tonne and the sponge iron Rs 30,000 per tonne.

Various industrial organisation of the town have formed a Steel Consumer forum with Mr Ajit Singhkular as its convener. This forum has already taken up the issue with the Punjab Chief Minister and pressed upon him to take up the matter with the Central Government failing which the small-scale industry would perish. Besides, rise in steel prices, the prices of basic materials are also rising. The nickle price has witnessed 100 per cent rise and is being sold at Rs 1,100 per kg.


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