L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Chandni death case: police raids in-laws’ house
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 19
A team of Kolkata police today raided a house in the Civil Lines area near Arya College in pursuit of four members of the Aggarwal family, who are the main accused in the Chandni dowry death case. The girl, a resident of Kolkata, had committed suicide there last year after allegedly suffering mental and physical torture at the hands of her in-laws here. The girl’s father, Mr Joginder Bansal, is a businessman in Kolkata.

The raid, however, did not prove fruitful as the accused were not found at the house. Police sources said the raid would help in getting the accused declared proclaimed offender in the case. The Kolkata police was accompanied by a team of Division No. 8 police station here. Statements of some neighbours were recorded.

Later in the evening, SSP Narinderpal Singh ordered the posting of cops near the house. He gave these directions in the presence of the Kolkata police officials led by Case Officer Jayanto Chakarvarty. Before conducting raids here, the team had raided some suspected hideouts of the accused in Indore (Madhya Pradesh) and Raipur (Chhattisgarh).

The case was hogging headlines in both the cities since the day she committed suicide. Her father made several rounds of police stations in both cities to get a case registered. The case was finally registered in Kolkata on the basis of letters written by the girl as well as the statement of a psychiatrist, who was treating Chandni.

As per the FIR lodged as Karaya police station in Kolkata, the accused were the victim’s husband Gaurav Agggarwal, father-in-law Anil Aggarwal, mother-in-law Uma Aggarwal and maternal grandfather Mahavir Prasad Lohia. The family owns a cybercafe and steels financing business. It has a big house in Civil Lines here. Police sources said the raid was conducted after a Kolkata court rejected the bail application of the accused.

Chandni, a graduate in Commerce, was married to a local businessman, Gaurav Aggarwal in February 2002. She was a topper.

Right after the engagement, Chandni’s in-laws allegedly started demanding household things for the wedding. ‘‘I gave her everything except a car and they had been demanding a luxury car. She was tortured physically and mentally. We were not allowed to call her up or meet her as we were accused of interfering in their family,” alleges her father.

Chandni got into depression after some months of her marriage. Her consultant psychologist had also told her parents in writing that if she continued to live in “unsupportive and hostile environment” it would be fatal for her. “But I still thought she would settle down soon. I thought these were teething problems.” She was allegedly kept in isolation by her in-laws for three months. She was neither supposed to visit any of her relatives nor she was allowed to make or receive calls.



Liquor policy influenced by cartel, say contractors
Kuldeep Bhatia

Ludhiana, February 19
‘The excise policy of the state government for the next financial year finalised by the Council of Ministers on February 17 was monopolistic, influenced by a powerful liquor cartel and loaded against the users.’ This was the common impression of a number of local liquor contractors and trade circles.

As a result of hike in the excise duty and additional excise duty both on Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and Punjab Medium Liquor (PML), it was a forgone conclusion that from April 1 onwards the IMFL and the country liquor would cost more. As the government had maintained that with a projected total income of about Rs 1,470 crore during next year, it did not expect much increase in the total revenue from the auction of liquor vends, the contractors were taking these observations with a pinch of salt.

A prominent liquor contractor said the government had already put an additional burden of around Rs 15 crore on the trade by jacking up the excise duty on the country liquor and the IMFL. That the policy was monopolistic and aimed at pushing out small contractors was clear from the fact that the smallest group of vends would be worth Rs 15 crore as against the previous limit of Rs 8 crore.

The trade circles asserted that even the limit of Rs 15 crore for group of vends was an eyewash and officials, obviously at the instance of their higher-ups, tended to club several groups together to show undue favour to powerful cartels. In the process, small contractors were eliminated since they were not in a position to bid for bigger groups which could be worth anything between Rs 50 and Rs 100 crore.

Another contractor, requesting anonymity, said in all probability, a select group of contractors would have monopoly over the trade in the entire state in the next financial year. Hectic activities, at various levels, were going on to create such conditions that most of the group of vends in Punjab were awarded to this particular group, claiming proximity to the top ruling party functionaries, that too at the terms of the cartel. In return, the cartel of liquor contractors was expected to make significant contribution to the ruling party in the wake of coming Lok Sabha elections.

An official of the Excise and Taxation Department, however, claimed that difference in prices of liquor in Punjab and Chandigarh was not a new phenomenon and the effective mechanism to check smuggling of liquor was already in place.



Survey on TB patients an ‘eyewash’
Shivani Bhakoo

Ludhiana, February 19
The survey conducted by the District Health Department along the Budda Nullah areas to identify the patients suffering from tuberculosis due to pollution caused by dyeing units, on February 12, 2004, seems to be nothing more than an eyewash.

The Deputy Commissioner had directed the Civil Surgeon to send teams of health officials to know the gravity of situation as thousands of cases had been reported from these areas.

As per the survey report, the teams led by the District Tuberculosis Officer visited Madhopuri, New Sabzi Mandi, Shivpuri, Salem Tabri, Guru Nanak Pura, Kundan Puri, Haibowal Kalan and Haibowal Khurd. These visited 1964 houses covering a population of 25,602 persons with 98 cases as chest symptomatic (with cough more than three weeks) and six patients were found to be taking anti-tuberculosis treatment.

Out of 98 chest symptomatic samples, two patients were found to be positive. The report further mentions that if the total population of the city (17 lakh) was covered then as per the survey, the teams will get 132 positive cases at a time.

As per RNTCP guidelines, number of tuberculosis cases was expected to be 230 per lakh population a year. “Keeping this figure, for population of 17 lakh, we expect 3910 tuberculosis, said the District Tuberculosis Officer in the survey report.

According to reliable sources, only two teams visited two or three areas along the Budda Nullah (near Jalandhar Bypass) on February 12.” The Health Department had claimed to send six teams comprising one medical officer, two nurses and one woman health officer each, but there were barely two members of the Health Department in each team.

Interestingly, sources reveal that these health officials, who had distributed empty bottles for collecting sputum, did not collect the samples from many area residents, though the officials have reportedly claimed to have covered more than eight areas in just two hours", said the person.

The Tribune had highlighted the plight of residents living in the areas adjoining Budda Nullah, where around 10,000 persons were reportedly suffering from tuberculosis.

The situation was pathetic in Bihari Colony, Shankarpuri, Guru Arjan Dev Nagar, Balmiki Ghatti where more than 10 persons lived in a small dingy room and a majority of them were migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.



3 get bail in copyright case

Ludhiana, February 19
A city court has granted anticipatory bail to the proprietor of M/s R. S. Industries, Tara Singh, his son- Kulwinder Singh and grandson-Rajwir Singh, in a case pertaining to violation of the Copyright Act. They had been booked on a complaint of Mr Anil Kumar, Director of M/s Bombay Metal Works.

The complainant had alleged that the accused were marketing the spare parts of cycles in packaging identical to the one used by M/s Bombay Metal Works.

Granting the bail, Mr S. M. S. Mahal, Additional Sessions Judge, held, “ It will be premature to draw any inference that there is any violation of the provisions of the Trade Mark Act or Copyright Act by the applicants”. OC



Another SAD list next week
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 19
SAD Secretary-General and Union Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said today that the list of candidates for the remaining seats had been drawn up and the names would be announced next week.

The minister was in town to enquire after ailing senior Akali leader Jagdev Singh Talwandi. He welcomed the decision of the latter to join the party which would act as a shot in the arm of the SAD. He described Mr Talwandi as a true Akali who had made various sacrifices for the Panth. The vast experience and political acumen of the leader would be a plus point during the elections, he added.

Commenting on the banner of revolt raised by Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra over the denial of ticket from Patiala, Mr Dhindsa said Chandumajra would ultimately toe the party line in the coming days. The protest is a natural reaction for someone who had all along felt that he would be the candidate from Patiala. His supporters too were disappointed but then only the winning candidate has to be selected, he said.

The minister said the Political Affairs Committee of the party had carefully considered the plus points and the winnability of each candidate. It was felt that Capt Kanwaljit Singh was more likely to wrest the seat from the Congress, he pointed out.

Reacting to a query about his own campaign, he said he was addressing 10 meetings and rallies on a daily basis. I have covered all main areas of the constituency once and was on my second tour. There is a huge support from the people who have fed up with the misgovernance of the Congress, he added.

On being asked whether he had met Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, he replied in the negative and said Mr Barnala and his son were not in Punjab. Mrs Barnala is here, he would meet her in a couple of days.

He confirmed that parleys with the BSP were underway, but only Mr Badal was competent to comment on the outcome. He, however, dismissed all reports on the demand of the BJP for more seats. The SAD has not objected to the choice of candidates, including film stars, by their alliance partner. We are of the opinion that even film stars have a right to contest elections in a democracy, he added in a lighter vein.



Beant Singh’s birth anniversary observed
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 19
A function was organised at Punjabi Bhavan to observe the birth anniversary of former Chief Minister Beant Singh here today.
Paying tributes to the late Chief Minister, Mayor Nahar Singh Gill said Beant Singh was a bold leader who sacrificed his life for the unity and integrity of the country, fighting against terrorists.

It was only because of the initiative of Beant Singh that Punjab had flourished in a peaceful atmosphere, he added. He announced that a statue of the departed leader would be installed in Ludhiana and the municipal corporation would provide land for the purpose.

Mr K. K. Bawa and Mr Gurdev Singh Lapran, senior Congress leaders, said a trust in the memory of Beant Singh would be set up at the earliest in Ludhiana.

They also demanded that the martyrdom day of Beant Singh, August 21, be observed as a “black day” in Punjab. On this occasion, Diwan Jagdish Chander, Mr K. K. Bawa and Ms Gurnam Kaur were honoured for their contributions in the fight against terrorism.



Iron ore export to spell disaster for industry
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 19
Expressing its concern over indiscriminate export of iron ore by major producers, the Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings (CICU) has called upon the Union Government to initiate remedial measures without any further delay lest the engineering industry should be pushed towards annihilation.

The CICU chief, Mr Inderjit Singh Pardhan, said in a statement here today that major Indian iron ore producers like National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), Kudremukh Iron Ore Corporation Limited (KIOCL) and Sesa Goa had projected to touch about 100 million tonnes of iron ore exports from our country in the next financial year.

“In view of the perpetual hike in the prices of steel since the last one year, which have gone up by around 75 percent and have virtually doomed the engineering industry in the small scale sector, the liberal exports of iron ore to the foreign countries like China, Japan and South Korea will prove disastrous.”

He lamented that the plight of the engineering industry, including bicycle and bicycle parts, had repeatedly been brought to the notice of the Prime Minister of India, the Union Steel Minister and the Union Commerce Minister, urging for immediate control over the arbitrary hikes imposed by the five big manufacturers of steel in India. However, the plea of the industrial community had so far fallen on deaf ears of the Central Government and had failed to evoke any response.

Mr Pardhan demanded that the exports of iron ore should be so regulated that it should expressly take into account the quantum of local consumption of steel by the engineering industry.

Moreover, such restrictions should be imposed on export of ore which would ensure availability of iron and steel material at reasonable and economically viable prices to the user industry.

“China have restricted the exports of steel so as to protect its steel based industry but on the contrary Indian Government is making the exports of iron ore and steel while neglecting the actual consumption of steel by domestic engineering industry.”

The CICU president fervently asked the Union Government to take concrete steps by bringing spiralling steel prices under check to safeguard the engineering industry, especially the small scale and tiny sector in order to make its so called ‘feel good factor’ meaningful and realistic.



Chamber chief pooh-poohs ‘policing’ by PSEB
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 19
The Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industry has flayed the proposal of the Punjab State Electricity Board to set up a police station exclusively for checking power theft. It said a similar move was initiated four years ago but was later dropped when opposed by industrial circles.

In a statement issued here today, the chamber president, Mr P.D. Sharma,alleged that the PSEB had again revived the proposal while completely ignoring the reality that their own personnel encourage power thefts to fill their coffers. The setting up of police stations would only harass the genuine consumers, he felt.

"Sometimes ago, the Sales Tax Department in a similar manner, convinced the Chief Minister to introduce exim form to plug sales tax evasion.

The industry raised a strong voice against this step. However, the proposal was given effect and it did not prove beneficial. Ultimately, it was withdrawn. The PSEB police station will also meet the same fate".

Mr Sharma further said there were specific examples where large scale power thefts were detected committed over a long period. However, the PSEB management had shown soft corner to the offenders, he said. Not only this, in some cases the officers in charge of those particular regions were given lucrative posts. In other cases, those charged with stealing power had gone scotfree due to political intervention, he further alleged. In these circumstances, there was every likelihood of the exclusive police stations to be misused.

"It is a common experience that the PSEB alleges power theft on very flimsy. Consumer courts have been deciding cases against the PSEB almost everyday. On the other hand, the PSEB is overlooking the power theft going on at mass scale. Even when power thefts have been detected conclusively, no FIR has been lodged with the police. It will be more practical for the PSEB to utilise the services of policemen to curb power thefts rather than setting up special police stations for this purpose."

The contention of the PSEB that the previous SAD-BJP government did not notify the setting up of such police stations just to protect the agricultural consumers was absolutely wrong. In fact, the urban consumers would face maximum harassment in such a case because the agricultural power supply was unmetered. The previous government had rejected the proposal due to stiff resistance from the industrial consumers, he claimed.


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