L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Change in liquor policy on the anvil
IMFL may come under licence system
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, February 8
The Punjab Government is contemplating bringing changes in the liquor policy for 2004-05 and may introduce licence system for the Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) and continue with the open auction for the liquor vends.

The state government is also under pressure from liquor traders of Punjab to end the monopoly of certain liquor barons. At present an Uttar Pradesh liquor cartel is having the monopoly. The Punjab Excise and Taxation Commissioner, Mr D.P. Reddy, has already started the exercise of having meetings with the liquor traders of the state in this regard.

During a meeting with the liquor traders of Ludhiana, Mr Reddy is reported to have indicated that the state government may restore the licence system with regard to the IMFL, while continuing with open auction for countrymade liquor.

The liquor traders expressed concern over the fact that officials of the Excise and Taxation Department might agree to end monopoly but at the time of auction the hammer is put in favour of those who have political clout. They stated that the Uttar Pradesh (UP) cartel has control over liquor trade in Patiala, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Nawanshahr and Hoshiarpur. Some of the ruling party leaders are also in league with them, they added. The liquor traders alleged that some of the oldest ones in the trade have been ousted due to the entry of the UP cartel.

The liquor traders said the introduction of the licence system would not cause any loss to the state revenue, rather it would help in increasing the same. The Delhi Government had introduced license system for IMFL and the revenue has gone up, they maintained.

The system was prevalent in Punjab till 1982-83 when L-2 licence system was abandoned and the auction for L-2 licenses was done away with and these were merged with the countrymade liquor vends. Since then only the latter are auctioned and L-2 vends are simply clubbed with them.

The traders allege that those having monopoly in the trade have engaged musclemen and harass small-time traders allegedly in connivance with the police.

Enquiries reveal that it was Uttar Pradesh which took the initiative of introducing the licence system to end the monopoly of certain liquor barons. These managed to come to Punjab during the SAD-BJP government.

According to a liquor trader, the Uttar Pradesh Government has increased its revenue from Rs 1,402.6 crore to Rs 2556.7 crore, registering an increase of 82.23 per cent. Besides the system has also been successful in other states, including Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashta, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Delhi. The Punjab Government earns an revenue of Rs 1,300 crore from liquor trade every year.



Bhajan backs Eradi panel report
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 8
The former Haryana Chief Minister and President of the Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee, Mr Bhajan Lal, differs with the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, on the Eradi Commission recommendations.

Mr Bhajan Lal, who was here last night to attend a marriage, at an informal conversation with mediapersons said the Eradi Panel recommendations were still valid and should be gracefully accepted by both the states. Moreover, he said, instead of resorting to arguments and counter-arguments, both states should accept the Supreme Court verdict on the SYL issue.

Mr Bhajan Lal said although he and Capt Amarinder Singh belonged to same party, the issues concerned two states. He pointed out that there could always be disagreement on certain issues, which could always be settled amicably.

He said Punjab should act like an “elder brother” and provide extra water to Haryana. He did not agree with the Punjab stand that it did not have enough water to spare for Haryana. He claimed that the excess use of water in Punjab had led to the problem of water logging and the remaining water was flowing into Pakistan. “Instead of letting the water flow into Pakistan, it should be provided to Haryana”, he said.

Mr Bhajan Lal asserted that the Congress would form the next government at the Centre and Ms Sonia Gandhi would become the Prime Minister. He criticised the BJP for raising the foreign origin issue, while maintaining that the people of the country had accepted Ms Gandhi as their leader. He claimed that the Congress would win all 10 seats in Haryana.

He said the Congress was ready for simultaneous elections to the Assembly as well as Parliament. But even if the Assembly elections were delayed, the Congress would come to power, he claimed, while hoping that the party would also win all seats in Punjab.



Race intensifies for Cong ticket
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 8
Lobbying in the Congress for the Ludhiana parliamentary seat has intensified with several aspirants joining the race. While the sitting MP, Mr Gurcharan Singh Galib, remains the front runner, the Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, has launched a mass contact programme.

It is learnt that a leading businessman from the city based in Delhi, who belongs to Ludhiana is also weighing options. Besides, Mr Balraj Bhasin, a former minister, Mr Darshan Singh Brar, is in the fray.

Although the businessman enjoys considerable clout in Delhi, he does not have any grassroots support since he spends most of his time in Delhi. His political aspirations were not too well-known till recently by.

Mr Galib remains the strongest candidate. Since he happens to be the sitting MP, he is considered to have fair chances of renomination. He has remained non-controversial and maintained a low profile. So much so, his critics count it among his demerits. He may face opposition from the family of the late Beant Singh.

The city Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, is believed to enjoy a close rapport with most councillors, including those belonging to the BJP, the Akali Dal and the BSP.

He has vigorously been campaigning round the wards and meeting people. He enjoys a rapport with the industry. Most of all, he is said to enjoy the support of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh. Mr Gill's cordial ties with senior Congress leaders like Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mr Ahmad Patel, Ms Mohsina Kidwai and Mr Manmohan Singh are only too well-known.

Also in the race is a former minister, Mr Darshan Singh Brar. Mr Brar had contested from the Jagraon Assembly segment as a rebel candidate. He won the election, pushing the Congress candidate to the third place. However, he was later reinducted into the Congress.

Mr Balraj Bhasin, a social activist and a senior member of the Congress, is also said to be in the race for the party ticket from Ludhiana.

However, it is believed that the contest may ultimately remain between Mr Galib and Mr Gill, since both belong to the Jat Sikh community and enjoy considerable clout among rural voters. In fact, Mr Gill has edge over his rivals in the urban areas as he is the city Mayor.



Industrialists meet minister on labour woes
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 8
Feeling harassed by trade unions, a delegation of some leading industrialists today met the Minister of State for Health and Heavy Industries, Dr Vallabh Bhai Kathiria. Dr Kathiria was on a visit to the city to attend a function organised by Shri Vivekanand Swarg Ashram Trust here today.

The industrialists brought to the notice of the Minister bullying tactics adopted by trade unions. They pointed out that for the past one week a leading industrial unit of the city had to suspend its operations as trade union leaders were disrupting the work. It had also hit work in other ancillary units.

They maintained that the industry in the city was already giving all facilities, including adequate wages and other benefits to workers, yet some of them were trying to disrupt the smooth functioning of units. The Minister was told that an attempt was being made to form a labour mafia, which would ultimately lead to the collapse and closure of the industry.

The industrialists said a few weeks ago an agreement was reached between the striking workers and the management in the presence of trade union leaders and senior officers of the state government. But the workers again went on strike.

The Minister reportedly assured the industrialists that he would take up the issue with the state government. He asserted that the industrial atmosphere of the city would not be allowed to be vitiated. He clarified that while the government would not allow the exploitation of workers, it could also not permit bullying by workers.

He also shared the concern that the disruption in the functioning of the industry would ultimately lead to widespread unrest. 



Govt spending 1,500 cr on infrastructure,
says minister
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 8
The state government has chalked out a plan to strengthen infrastructure in the state in a systematic manner. A sum of Rs 1,500 crore is being spent through the state Infrastructure Development Board to execute different projects, including the widening and strengthening of main roads, construction of link roads and railway overbridges. This will ensure fast industrialisation of the state.

This was stated by Mr Tej Parkash Singh, Transport Minister, while addressing a gathering at Lasara village after inaugurating a newly constructed 24-km link road from Lasara to Sihar. The link road has been constructed at a cost of Rs 16 lakh.

The minister said the government had succeeded in putting the shattered economy of the state on rails by taking strict financial measures. In the coming days, the state would witness fast development in all fields, he added. He said after a long time, international-level financial institutions had started funding various projects and the World Bank had sanctioned a Rs 800-crore drinking water project for villages.

He said the farmers in the state had been given special attention by the Congress government. During the past four seasons, the procurement of wheat and paddy had been very smooth and hassle free. He said to enhance the income of farmers, contract farming with guarantee of buying back agricultural products had been launched. By the end of 2007, an area of 10 lakh hectares would be shifted from the wheat-paddy pattern to the alternative crops.

The minister claimed the state government had also launched the Rajiv Gandhi Sanitation Scheme at a cost of Rs 500 crore to benefit 10 lakh economically backward and Scheduled Caste families. He further claimed that the government had taken concrete steps to eradicate corruption in the state.

He said development projects costing more than Rs 3 crore had been taken up in Payal constituency alone during the past two years. He appealed to the people to remain alert of the ‘false’ propaganda by Akali leaders.

Earlier, the minister inaugurated three other link roads at Ber Khurd, Chomo and Madnipur villages constructed at a cost of Rs 30 lakh.

Mr Surinder Kumar Dingra, president of the Block Congress Committee, Dehlon, and Mr Amrik Singh Rohni, member of the Zila Parishad, also addressed the function.



Villager buried alive
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 8
Kaka Singh (36) of Akhara village was buried alive while Binder Singh, also of the same village, was saved when they were digging a well at Konke Kalan village.

According to information, both were working at the well belonging to Sardar Singh when the earth caved in. Binder Singh was saved while efforts to bring out Kaka Singh failed. The body was evacuated after eight hours.

Kaka Singh is survived by his wife and three children.



SAD elections delayed again
Our Correspondent

Khanna, February 8
The process of organisational elections of the Shiromani Akali Dal, which was to be completed in February, has been delayed again due to parliamentary elections. As per party election programme, the process was to begin in January to elect circle presidents and district presidents in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. The election to the national president of the party was to be held in the first week of February.

The process of organisational elections of SAD was first delayed due to the merger of Tohra faction with the Badal faction. Sources in SAD said due to the directions of the Election Commission, it was suggested that a chance be given to the Tohra faction, as they had made no recruitment in the organisation.

The recruitment of members of the Tohra faction was started in December, 2003. The election process was delayed for some days. In the mean time, the Union Government announced early general election. The announcement of the election again affected the election process of SAD in all 17 districts of the state and other six states in the country.

However, the election for national president of SAD was to be held in the first week of February, but the party failed to elect even a single circle or district president and delegates, who will elect the president.

Sources said now with Lok Sabha elections round the corner, it was not possible to complete the process of organisational elections before the parliamentary elections. The sources said to elect the national president of SAD, 468 delegates had to be elected from all over the nation. The whole process of election would take two months. Now, the election for the president of SAD may be conducted in June after the elections to the Lok Sabha.



City youth pens Kalpana’s biography
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 8
There may be several biographies written about Kalpana Chawla, who died on February 1, 2003 when spaceshuttle Columbia crashed and the entire crew perished. But Among the Stars! Life and Dreams of Kalpana Chawla, which has been written by Gurdeep Pandher, appears to be "written from the heart".

The 26-year-old Gurdeep, a masters in public administration from Panjab University was always impressed with the life and achievement of Kalpana Chawla. And her tragic death was enough to move him to write. Gurdeep maintains, "it is a real-life tragedy recorded in black and white". The biography is illustrated also with a number of pictures of Kalpana Chawla, colleagues, family members and friends.

She belonged to a family of refugees who had migrated from Pakistan after partition in 1947 and had settled at Karnal. She completed her schooling at Tagore Bal Niketan, Karnal and obtained a degree in aeronautical engineering from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh. In 1984, she finished her postgraduation from the University of Texas at Arlington. She completed her PhD in 1988 from the University of Colorado.

She started working at NASA Ames Research Centre in 1983 and joined the Overset Methods Los Altos, California, as vice-president and research scientist. Selected by NASA in December, 1994, Kalpana Chawla went to the Johnson Space Center, Houston, for training as an astronaut. While her first space flight in Columbia in 1997 was successful, the second one ended in tragedy.

Gurdeep disclosed that while the sketchy details of her life and personality were readily available it needed a lot of hard work and research to get an insight. It took about 10 months and travelling between Delhi, where Kalpana Chawla's parents stay, Chandigarh, where she had college education, and Karnal, where she had her schooling. Gurdeep said her father, Mr Banarasi Lal Chawla, mother Sanjogta Chawla and brother Sanjay Chawla were very cooperative and forthcoming with facts and other details. He also had several meetings with Mr Harrison, the scientist husband of Kalpana Chawla.

This is the third publication of Gurdeep Pandher. Earlier he had published “Diving into Heart”, a collection of English poetry and “Mitti Dey Karr”, a collection of Punjabi poetry. Gurdeep was also the founder president of the Panjab University Young Writers Association.



Govt ‘selling out’ national interests, says CITU
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 8
The left-supported Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU) today charged the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government with "selling out" national interests to big multinational companies.

It also regretted the Supreme Court decision declaring strikes illegal.

Addressing a well-attended rally here today, the national vice-president of CITU, Mr Raghunath Singh,pointed out that the NDA had compromised on the economic security of the country.

He alleged that big public sector undertakings worth thousands of crores were being sold out for peanuts to a select few. The rally was organised in connection with the preparations for the nationwide strike on February 24 against the economic policies of the government.

The CITU vice-president maintained that the economic policies of the government had led to rise in unemployment. He observed that the economic policies of the government were dictated by multinational companies which were bent upon creating economic instability in the country.

He alleged that the NDA government was tampering with the labour laws of the country and the labourers were denied their constitutional rights.

He expressed displeasure over the SC verdict prohibiting strikes.He said the right to protest was the outcome of a long-drawn struggle and this right should not be denied to the workers.

Speaking on the occasion, the state Kisan Union president ,Mr Rachhpal Singh, ciriticised the Centre and state governments for their anti-farmer policies. He said the agriculture sector was the worst-hit and continued to reman ignored.

He observed thatagriculture did not appear to be on the priority list of the government which was keen to appease the multinationals alone.

He warned that the farmers were desperate and might be forced to take some desperate measures.

The trade union leaders sought various relief measures for workers. They warned industrial units against harming the workers' interests. They regretted the attitude of some industrial units for not watching the interests of the workers.



PSEB pensioners hail merger of DA
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 8
The Punjab State Electricity Pensioners Federation has hailed the decision of the government to solve some of their long pending demands like the merger of DA with basic pay and pension.

Mr S.K. Kapoor, general secretary of the federation, said the decision was a bonanza for them. The Central Government had taken a bold initiative in solving some of their problems, he added.



Rs 66 cr sanctioned at loan mela
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 8
The State Bank of India organised a loan mela at Rotary Bhavan, Sarabha Nagar, today. The mela was inaugurated by Mr Samir Saran, Deputy General Manager of the bank.

Loans to the tune of Rs 66 crores were sanctioned on the spot in favour of 1,186 beneficiaries. Out of these, housing loans worth Rs 31 crores were sanctioned to 650 beneficiaries, car loans worth Rs 82 lakh were sanctioned to 31 beneficiaries and business loans worth Rs 28 crores were sanctioned to 175 beneficiaries. Besides, loans worth Rs 35 crores were finalised and would be sanctioned within a week, claimed senior officials.

While inaugurating the mela, Mr Saran said the bank had always been in the forefront of nation building, be it in the field of housing, literacy, growth of small-scale industries, etc. With its automation programme, all branches were being computerised. The bank was all set to meet the growing demands of society and provide good customer services, he said.

Stalls depicting various schemes of the bank were on display. Many small-scale units and traders who were assisted by the bank also put up stalls. Fun and recreation stalls were also there for children.

The Chief Manager of the bank, Mr S.K.Kapoor, said all branches in the city, which include Civil Lines, Miller Ganj, PAU, Gill Road, Brampuri, etc. took part in the mela. Top dignitaries of the Ludhiana module, which include assistant general managers (regions), assistant general mangers/chief managers of main branches, were present at the mela and addressed the queries of customers.


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