L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


It was a political potpourri
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 18
It was a wait of different kind that brought politicians from different parities together on one waiting ground. The venue was the makeshift helipad on the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) campus where several Akalis, partner in the NDA government and Congress leaders ranging from the state Congress president to the Cabinet minister sat in wait for the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr L.K. Advani.

Mr Advani did keep his date with Ludhiana to participate in a function organised by a vernacular newspaper, but he arrived two and a half hours late due to bad weather. Senior politicians who had gathered to receive Mr Advani, utilised this opportunity to have an informal tete-a-tete, making occasional digs at each other.

The local MP, Lala Lajpat Rai, took the lead in getting chairs arranged in such a manner as the Congress and BJP leaders sat adjoining to their political rivals. “It's a rare occasion when so many leaders with different ideologies are meeting in such an informal manner”. Ever since it was announced that Mr Advani would be delayed due to his late landing at Karnal, where he was to address a public meeting, most politicians left the pandal and gathered at the helipad.

It was a lighthearted conversation where the otherwise tone of scathing attacks turned into pleasantries, but not without having digs at each other in a lighthearted manner.

Lala Lajpat Rai introduced the Punjab Education Minister, Mr Harnam Dass Johar, as a "Jan Sangh" worker under camouflage in the Congress. ''Badal sahib, Johar has been a Jan Sanghi all his life, its only recently that he switched loyalties towards the Congress. If we offer him the ticket, I am sure he'll come back as his heart still beats with the Jan Sangh tune," Lala Lajpat Rai was heard saying.

All those who spent time together included Mr Badal, Mr Johar, Bibi Jagir Kaur, Punjab Congress president H.S. Hanspal, Kum Kalan MLA Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, BJP state vice-president Avinash Jaiswal, Punjab's Jail Minister Malkiat Singh Birmi and former minister Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal. Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, who was expected to be present, was conspicuous by his absence.

Mr Badal and Mr Birmi were seen having a heart-to-heart talk. Mr Badal asked Lala Lajpat Rai to organise a joint press conference while they waited for Mr Advani. However, the security arrangements came in the way.

The PAU saw the arrival of several important dignitaries; most of whom had to wait for hours to hear what Mr Advani had to say. These included top bureaucrats and industrialists from most parts of the state. The occasion was to celebrate the starting of a fullfledged Ludhiana edition of the newspaper.

When Mr Advani finally arrived, BJP general secretary M. Abhas Naqvi and Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa accompanied him. Other leaders like Capt Amarinder Singh, Mr Raj Nath Singh, Mr R.P. Rudy and Mr Arun Jaitley, who were expected to accompany him, were absent. Mr Badal left soon after greeting Mr Advani, while the others at the helipad stayed back and shared the dais with the Deputy Prime Minister.

The Congress infighting was very visible with Mr Birmi ignoring to acknowledge Mr Johar's presence on the stage during his speech. Similarly, Mr Johar too only referred to Mr Hanspal while choosing to ignore the other Congress leaders present.

Mr O.P. Munjal, Chairman, Hero Cycles, enthralled the audience with his poetry on the occasion.



205 employees of PLDRC retrenched
Families on brink of starvation
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 18
The families of 205 employees of Punjab Land Development and Reclamation Corporation (PLDRC), Laddowal, near here are on the brink of starvation, as they had not been paid for an year. Also the state government has issued them retrenchment notices after the dissolving the corporation a month ago.

Not being able to bear the shock of losing the jobs, two employees died of heart attack after they were relieved by the government.

A few more have even been admitted to hospitals after they were shown the door. Not only this, the employees had not been paid the salaries for the past one year.

The employees were retrenched after the corporation was dissolved in December last year as it had suffered huge losses.

The state government had decided to transfer 1,100 acres of land, out of 1,550 acres belonging to PLDRC at Laddowal, to Punjab Agro but the fate of the employees and their families would hang in balance.

Sick of knocking at various doors for the last one month to keep their kitchen fires burning, the employees have decided to launch a massive protest. They claim that they had been working in the department for the past 25 to 30 years and had given their best years to it. But now when they had the responsibility of their children and were unable to find other jobs in this age, the government had treated them like this.

The crisis had dawned upon these employees in 2001, after the 20-year-old lease of the erstwhile Central State Farm to the Central Government expired and over 2,700 acres of land was returned to the state government.

The state government had, in turn, distributed the land among Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), the PLDRC and the Punjab Police, while retaining some of the land with itself. The PAU had got 1,250 acres, while the PLDRC and the police department were transferred 1,550 acres and 50 acres of land, respectively.

As per an agreement between the state and the Central Governments the liability of these workers rested with the state government, which had in turn passed it on to the PAU and the PLDRC, who got major chunks of the farmland.

The government had given the responsibility of 183 employees to the PAU and 205 employees with the PLDRC.

At that time also the employees were not absorbed anywhere for at least an year. Then three persons committed suicide only then the state government woke out of its slumber and absorbed the employees. ‘‘Is the government waiting for us to follow the same dangerous path?’’ asked Karam Chand, a retrenched employee.

Mr Dalip Singh, general secretary of PLDRC Employees Union, said that if the government had transferred land to Punjab Agro, it could have transferred the employees too. ‘‘If the PAU was told to absorb 183 employees, why can’t the government ask Punjab Agro to follow suit?’’ he asked.

Mr Roshan Lal, president of the union, said that Sunita, a 35-year-old senior clerk, died of heart attack after she was retrenched. Another employee, Bhajan Singh breathed died due to stroke after the notice. 



Standoff with workers continues
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 18
With the unrest among the workers of Nova cycles and other industrial units continuing, the District Magistrate, Ludhiana, Mr Anurag Verma, in an order issued here today imposed Section 144 of CrPC and banned holding of demonstrations, dharnas, rallies and assembly of five or more persons in the jurisdictions of the district.

The orders would come into effect from tomorrow onwards. These would, however, not be applicable on marriages and condolence meetings.

The District Magistrate said that he had been informed that some organisations were planning to organise protest rallies and dharnas in the coming days, which may cause damage to the public and private properties and peace in
the district. He said that these orders had been passed ex-party.

The District Magistrate further informed that in special circumstances, the public meetings and religious processions could been arranged by procuring prior permission from the SDM concerned.

Meanwhile, the standoff between the agitating workers of the industrial units continued as the meeting between the management and workers in the presence of officials of the Labour Department continued till late last evening. The participants said that the talks failed to broker peace as both the parties stuck to their stands.

Another meeting was organised by the Labour Department in the evening today which was going on till the filing of this report.

Reacting to the imposition of Section 144, CrPC, Mr Sarbjit Sarhali, president of youth wing of Indian National trade Union Congress (INTUC), said that it was gagging the poor workers who had chosen the warpath because justice was not being meted out to them.



Shiv Sainiks burn effigy of Hurriyat 
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 18
Activists of the Shiv Sena (Hindustan) led by its general secretary, Mr Pawan Sharma, and local chief, Mr Krishan Sharma, today organised a protest march against the ‘soft’ policy of the NDA government towards anti-national elements. They also burnt an effigy of the militant outfit Hurriyat Conference here.

The protesters, raising slogans against the weak-kneed policies of the Centre, started their march from Railway Station and after passing through Raikhy Cinema Chowk they reached Clock Tower Chowk, where the effigy of Hurriyat Conference was burnt.

The placards carried by the Shiv Sena activists, carried messages like ‘do not bow before terrorism’, ‘revoke Article 370 or quit’ and ‘talk to victims rather than militants’.

Speaking at the occasion Mr Pawan Sharma and other leaders of the party flayed the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, describing it ‘anti-Hindu’ for inviting hard-core terrorists, including functionaries of the Hurriyat Conference for negotiations.

They said the policy of appeasement and having a soft attitude towards Muslim terrorist bodies and Pakistan had worsened the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The government was bending over backwards to talk to militants while the Kashmiri Pandits, who were the victims of terrorism, had been left to fend for themselves.

Mr Sharma, while maintaining that the party would continue its battle against terrorism, announced that the Shiv Sena would take out a ‘rath yatra’ against militancy which would culminate at Srinagar on January 26 (Republic Day) where a saffron flag would be unfurled at the Lal Chowk as a symbolic protest by Hindus against Muslim militant outfits.

In an attack on the ruling BJP, the Shiv Sena functionaries charged the party with changing its stand for political benefits.

“The BJP first turned its back towards the Ram Mandir issue and thereafter did an about turn on scrapping Article 370.” They were confident that the BJP would have to pay a very heavy price for going back on its long-pursued policies in the next elections and the electorate were bound to teach a lesson to the opportunist politicians.

Among others present at the occasion were Mr Suresh Manchanda, Mr Shiv Murti Sharma, Mr Anil Singla, Mr Parveen Mittal, Dr Pawan Sharma, Mr Krishan Bansal, Mr Kuldip Singh, Mr Shamsher Singh Maan, Mr Ravinder Kumar, Mr Naresh Bhardwaj, Mr Digvijay Singh, Mr Sunil Kashyap, Mr Krishan Lal, Mr Rajesh Kumar, Mr Raju, Mr Ram Kesh Yadav, Mr Amit Bhardwaj, Mr Sachin Sharma, Mr Mohinder Singh, Mr Shiv Poojan Pandey, Mr Inder Raj Giri and Mr Jiwan Singla.



Grahak panchayat members meet PSEB Chief Engineer
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 18
To highlight the excesses of the Punjab State Electricity Board(PSEB) on the consumers, a deputation of the Akhil Bhartiya Grahak Panchayat met Mr A.S.Khangoora, Chief Engineer, West Circle, PSEB, in his office.

Led by its chief, Mr H.S. Sachdeva, the deputation comprised Mr Sant Singh Chawla, Mr G.D.Bansal, Dr S.B.Pandhi, general secretaries of the unit.

During the hour-long discussion, Mr Khangoora was made aware of the poor working of PSEB employees which causes undue harassment to consumers. A seven point memorandum highlighting the excesses of ME lab officials, dispute settlement committee members, computer data feeding staff, load-checking staff members was also submitted to the Chief Engineer.

The members suggested that the PSEB should change defective meters immediately and charge for the disputed period on average basis and not on maximum basis. ME lab officials should keep a check on cases of power theft and register complaints only if the meter's seal was found broken or tampered with.

The DSC Head should stop harassing consumers and send a copy of the judgement to the party along with instructions to update entries in computers before dispatching the next bill. Computer data centre should make sure not to make double entries.

The load checking staff should be taught to note down genuine load on the basis of point system and not to include load of geysers/heaters/UPS along with points and power points. The Chief Engineer was requested to include representatives from public sector in the committee for quick decision.

They pointed out three to five members of the PSEB should be in the committee. Predictably, the committee takes the side of the board even though many complaints referred to it are genuine.

Defective meters are not replaced immediately inspite of numerous complaints. The bills during this period are sent on a maximum basis rather than average basis, members of the deputation stated.

The harassment by ME laboratory officials was also taken up in the meeting. The defective meters are sent to the lab. The meters of those who do not bribe the staff are termed defective as a result of which they have to pay heavy fines. Consumers are also not informed about the outcome of various cases. Similarly, the amount once added as sundry charges become arrears in the next one.

The amount is doubled by adding the same amount as sundry charges in the next bills adding to the arrears.



Padma Shri to Munjal welcomed
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, January 18
The Ludhianvis are proud of their hero, Mr Brijmohan Lal Munjal, Chairman, Hero Honda, who has been awarded the Padma Shri for his contribution in the industrial development of the country.

The president, Punjab Beopar Mandal, in a congratulatory telegram to Mr Munjal has said that the award of Padma Shri has enhanced the prestige and honour of whole of Punjab and Punjabis and has sent jubilation all around.

Mr S.P. Oswal, Chairman, Vardhman Group, has also hailed the award of Padma Shri to Mr Munjal and said that Mr Munjal has made rich contribution in the industrial growth of the country as Chairman of the CII and of Hero Honda.

Mr Munjal was adjudged the businessman of the year a few years ago and the best manager of the corporate sector by the EconomicTimes last years.


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