L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Banking services paralysed
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 24
Public sector banking and insurance services remained paralysed today in response to the nationwide strike called by various trade unions, including the All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the Confederation of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and other left-affiliated organisations.

However, the functioning was normal in private sector banks and most state and central government offices. Educational institutions also remained unaffected by the strike. There was no impact of the strike on industrial sector too.

The strike was organised against the Supreme Court verdict against holding strikes, the "anti labour" policies of the government and large-scale privatisation. The trade unions have been demanding review of the SC verdict, which they claim is in contravention to the resolutions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

The organisations which participated in the strike were the BSNL Employees Union, National Confederation of Bank Employees, Northern Zone Insurance Employees Association, Punjab Bank Employees Federation, All-India Bharat Overseas Bank Employees' Union, PSEB Employees Federation, Technical Services Union, Coordination Committee of Paramedical and Health Workers PWD (R&B), Joint Action Committee, Punjab Mulazim Sangarsh Samiti, Active Mazdoor Mukti Morcha and several other left organisations.

The workers and employees held dharnas at various places. The situation became chaotic and tense in the afternoon near the bus stand when the massive rush of demonstrators led to a traffic jam.

However, timely action by the administration prevented the situation from taking an ugly turn.

Work was normal in the industrial area. However, some of the industrial houses had declared a holiday today.

The BSNL Employees Union held a rally in front of the office of the General Manager, telecom district, Ludhiana. The speakers justified the strike and stressed the need for restoring the rights of the workers.

They criticised the government for its “anti-labour policies” and policy of privatisation. A joint rally of insurance employees was held under the banner of the Northern Zone Insurance Employees Association in front of the LIC Office at Sham Nagar near the bus stand. The Punjab Mulazim Sangharsh Samiti held a demonstration at the Mini Secretariat complex.

The Punjab Bank Employees Federation held a demonstration in front of Canara Bank at Bharat Nagar Chowk, which was attended by hundreds of employees.

The employees justified the strike, alleging that the government had ignored their interests.

JAGRAON: All banks of Jagraon, on the call of the All-India Platform of Mass Organisation, observed a strike here today, paralysing work in the banking sector. The employees in the sector said the strike was the only peaceful way to press the government to accept their demands.

Punjab Government Transport Workers Union employees held a gate rally from 12 noon to 2.00 pm to observe a token strike against privatisation. Addressing the rally, Mr Swaran Singh Hathur, general secretary, state vice-president, Mr Barjinder Singh, and Mr Amrik Singh President demanded more buses, quick disposal of MACT cases and cash payment for overtime.

Punjab State Electricity Board employees held a gate rally from 9.00 am to 11 am. Their leaders, Mr Kulwant Singh and Bhupinder Singh Brar, flayed the government decision to privatise the Board.

KHANNA: Employees in banks, the LIC, the GIC, electricity, transport, the FCI and in industries here participated in the country wide strike to register their protest against the Supreme Court verdict on the right to strike, the government’s move to privatise bankers, power, insurance and telecom sectors and disinvestment in public sector.

More than 700 striking employees took out a procession, raising slogans and displaying banners in support of their demands through the main bazaars of the city.

Later they organised a massive rally at GT Road near the CPI office.

The rally was addressed by Mr Karam Chand, President, PSEB employee’s Federation, Mr Amarjit Singh, LIC Employees Union, Mr Gian Chand, president Consumer Forum, and Mr Paramjit Singh.

SAMRALA: A strike was observed here by all bank employees of the local unit of the Punjab Bank Employees Federation, according to Mr J.P. Singh, zonal secretary. Farmers who had come here for sale deeds faced inconvenience.

Earlier, a demonstration was held in front of the Punjab National Bank, which was addressed by Mr J.P. Singh and others.



Now, Ramoowalia chants pro-industry mantra
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 24
Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, president, Lok Bhalai Party, today appeared to champion the cause of the industry in Ludhiana. His prime focus remained the “crisis” in Ludhiana-based industry, business, trade and “flight of industrial units and capital from Punjab.

In his speech at Kothari Resorts, he regretted “that other political parties and their leaders during their respective regimes have continually ignored people’s genuine demands and, instead, pursued a one-point programme to promote self-interests and of their kith and kin by exploiting religion and through political corruption”.

Thanks to the presence of noted Punjabi singer Harbhajan Mann, who is a primary member of the party, the presence of people at the rally was substantial.

Mr Ramoowalia, who is contesting the Lok Sabha poll from Ludhiana, appeared to know the pulse of the city well. He said: “The Lok Bhalai Party demands a rational industrial policy to save industry, trade and business from further slipping down and to stop the flight of capital”.

He observed that the textile, woollen and hosiery industry were hard hit and the latest to be hit was the steel and pig iron industry due to a steep hike in prices of raw material — three times more than what these were in January 2003. He maintained that it had not only directly affected daily items like autoparts, hand tools, sewing machines and cycles, but also ruined the economy of the unorganised sector. He criticised the “uncalled for raids” on business houses and traders of Ludhiana which he said were of concern to the party.

He regretted that “agriculture, transport and recruitment in defence forces, the three pillars of Punjab’s economy, have since dried up because of the faulty polices of successive state governments”.

Mr Ramoowalia demanded that the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund needed to be strengthened to mitigate the sufferings of millions of kisans and protect agriculture, farm and rural infrastructure projects. He demanded loans be granted on low rates of interest and pending loan amounts be either waived or accepted in interest-free easy instalments.

He opposed the move to privatise polytechnics, ITIs and various public sector undertakings including the PSEB and PEPSU Road Transport Corporation.



Anti-riot squad disperses agitating labourers
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 24
Remedial measures taken by the district police prevented a major law and order problem this evening when a group of labourers, responding to the strike call of national mazdoor unions, tried to attack the office of the DSP, Industrial Area, and the adjoining Sherpur police post.

Senior police officers had to rush to the scene besides calling mounted policemen and the anti-riot squad to control the mob that had almost gone berserk. The mob leaders, who were yet to be identified, were demanding the release of three union leaders arrested by the police for creating a law and order problem earlier in the city.

Mr Pritam Singh, SP, and Mr R.K. Bakshi, DSP, said the police was helpless in releasing the union leaders as they were in judicial remand. The persons agitating for their release should instead try to seek bail from a district court, they said.



A reunion after five years
Pak delegation on PAU visit 
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 24
It was a family reunion for the alumni of the College of Agriculture, Punjab Agricultural University, when they met their Pakistani counterparts after five years at the two-day boys meet, which began here today.

Members of the old boys association from Pakistan had been regularly attending meetings for the past two decades. These had to be disrupted after 1999 when the situation on the Indo-Pak border became very tense.

The college has its roots in Punjab Agriculture College and Research Institute, Lyallpur in Pakistan. The old students of the college started holding get-togethers at PAU from 1981 when a nine-member delegation from Pakistan first came to the university.

Today’s delegation was led by Dr Hafid Abdul Qayyum and Dr Saeed Ahmed, both 1945 graduates. They were accompanied by Dr Tahir Hussain, retired Dean of the college, Dr Rana Muhammad Ashfaq, present Dean and Professor of Entomology, Dr Maqsood Ahmed, Director, Research, besides six other professors, including two female staff members.

The delegation was given a warm welcome in traditional Punjabi style. Girls and boys performed bhangra and gidha all along the way as they were escorted towards Pal Auditorium, the main venue of the event.

The inaugural session of the meeting included various poetical sessions in which the members reminisced their old days in the college. The members of the Pakistan delegations also participated in the session. Dr Qayyum read his poetry in Urdu and Punjabi. His poetry focused on further strengthening of the Indo-Pak as he read out, ‘‘Viva mundian da lain aaiye Kise kum layee sanu bula laiye’’.

The Pakistani delegates also handed over a set of anthologies to Dr M.S. Tiwana, Dean of the College and president of the association. Talking to mediapersons, Dr Qayyum, the senior-most member, said he was really excited to visit India.

He said the visit was not just social as the delegation would be learning more about wheat cultivation and imparting knowledge to the Indian counterparts on the cultivation of cotton, kinnow and paddy.

The chief guest on the occasion was the oldest alumni of the college, Dr R.S. Vasudeva, a 1943 graduate and a former Head of the Department of biology. He talked about the times when he had joined the university in 1962, the year of its inception, as assistant professor in the department.

On the occasion, several members of the alumni were honoured. Dr M.S. Aulakh won the Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Memorial Award. S.N. Ranade Memorial Life Time Achievement Award went to Dr V.K. Nayyar. Dr V.K. Arora was honoured for becoming a fellow of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Dr H.N. Khajuria won the meritorious teacher award for 2002 and Dr V.K. Dilawari won it for 2003. Dr S.S. Parihar, Dr P.R. Gajri, Dr B.K. Benbi and Dr V.K. Arora won the M.S. Randhawa Best Book Award.

Ms Puneet Kaur, Ms Blossom and Ms Sarabjeet Kaur received prizes for getting the highest grades in B Sc, M Sc and Ph D, respectively. Four students of the college were also given awards for sports and curricular activities. Besides, there were awards for three best extension workers. 



Infant mortality rate in India, Pak same
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 24
Three paediatricians from Ludhiana — Dr A.S. Chawla, president-elect of the National Neonatology Forum, Punjab-2005-06, Dr Swaranjit Singh Luthra and Dr Rakesh Gupta (Jagraon) — recently returned after attending the 17th International Biennial Conference of the Pakistan Paediatric Association and the 3rd Scientific Conference of the Paediatric Association of SAARC countries at Lahore from February 19 to 21. The doctors felt that there was a need to organise such programmes in order to update the knowledge of medical community.

A former president of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) Ludhiana, Dr Chawla said more than 1,400 delegates from India, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the UK attended the conference. India was represented by around 25 delegates from Delhi, Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur, Nagpur, Chandigarh etc.

Discussion were held on perinatal and neonatal diseases, genetic and metabolic diseases, neurological diseases, asthma, infectious diseases, etc. It was observed that infant mortality rate in neonatal diseases in India and Pakistan was almost the same. In India, it was 56 per cent per thousand live births, while that in Pakistan was 60-62 per cent. But in Sri Lanka, the mortality rate was much less, just 15 per cent. The reason cited for this was that in Sri Lanka, there was adequate female literacy and 99 per cent of the deliveries took place at hospitals, whereas in both Pakistan and India, 50 per cent of deliveries took place at homes.

The members also found out that in Pakistan, most children died because of infectious diseases like diarrhoea, jaundice, gastroenteritis etc. The situation was worse than that in India.

Adolescent problems were prevalent in Pakistan society and these needed to be taken care of, said Dr Chawla. “Teenage clinics had been started at the Christian Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) about six months back. The problems of adolescents at three levels — somatic, sexual and emotional — were discussed at length,” he said.

“The Pakistani hospitality was good. Dr Sajid Maqbool, organising chairman of SAARC, and Dr D.S. Akram, president, Pakistan Paediatric Association, had arranged this three-day conference. We were served typical Indian food. There were special meals for vegetarians. We wanted to visit Nankana Sahib but some of us did not have the required permit. But they took special permission and arranged a trip to Nankana Sahib. We were escorted by their police,” said Dr Chawla.

The members said a number of issues were discussed by the medical community and it was a good interaction session.

Among others who attended the conference were Dr Jagmohan Dardi, Dr Ashwani Juneja, Dr Ashok Gupta from Hoshiarpur, Dr Surjit Singh, Additional Professor PGI, Chandigarh, Dr Udey Bodankar from Nagpur, Dr I.C. Verma from Delhi, and Dr Jairoop from GND University, Amritsar.



Dhillon is SAD candidate from Ludhiana
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 24
The prolonged suspense over the Shiromani Akali Dal candidate from the Ludhiana parliamentary constituency was finally over today after the main aspirant Mr Sharanjit Singh Dhillon was declared to be the party candidate from here.

A visibly upbeat Mr Dhillon told The Tribune that he was happy and felt vindicated that his efforts had finally paid off. He expressed his gratitude to the SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, the patron of the Youth Akali Dal, Mr Sukhbir Badal, and the SGPC President, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

The SAD candidate said he would ensure that the faith and trust reposed in him by the party was vindicated and he won the seat by a comfortable margin. He said he had no grudges or grievances against anyone as he expected everyone to help and support him. He pointed out that everyone had a right to stake his claim for the party ticket and it was up to the leadership to make a final choice.

Mr Dhillon said, he would need the support and cooperation of all the party workers and leaders to ensure a good performance by the party in the elections. He said the SAD had emerged stronger after Mr Badal and Mr Tohra joined hands.

Mr Dhillon, who is the president of the youth wing of the SAD, maintained that the party had sent a clear signal to the youth of the state that the party cared about them. He said Mr Parkash Singh Badal had already promised that the youth would be given due representation and he had fulfilled his promise. He hoped that the youth of the state would also respond positively to the gesture of the SAD and it would be reflected in other constituencies as well.



Strike by fastener unit workers from today
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 24
Apprehending mass closure of their units due to steep hike in steel prices, fastener manufacturers in the city today decided to resort to chain hunger strike and stage a protest dharna at Vishwakarma Chowk here from February 25.

To show their abhorrence at the rise in steel prices and inaction on government’s part, the units had been observing closure for two days a week and wearing black badges on working days.

Mr Mohinder Pal Jain, president, Fastener Manufacturers Association of India (FMAI), in a statement here today said the government was oblivious to the plight of the small-scale sector of engineering industry and in the absence of effective regulatory mechanism, main producers of iron and steel were dictating their own terms.

He said the parliamentary committee, headed by Mr P.C. Alexander, in its report submitted to the Union Government, had pointed out that the main producers of iron and steel had created artificial scarcity of material in order to jack up the prices. Moreover, the producers were exporting the material at a lower price and in turn were claiming 20 per cent export incentive from the government, spelling disaster for the domestic industry. The committee had asked the government to form a comprehensive long-term policy on iron and steel to save the industry from further crisis.

“The Union Government has slashed duty on iron and steel products from 15 to 10 per cent and that on high tensile items from 15 to 5 per cent, which has led to a big setback to the exporting units. Not only the are five main producers of iron and steel blackmailing the industry due to inaction on the part of the government, the local steel rolling mills are also taking undue advantage of the situation and deriving benefit from the wrong policies of the government.”

Mr Jain apprehended that if the prevailing situation was allowed to continue and the government failed to rise to the occasion and take immediate remedial steps to curb the artificially inflated prices of basic raw material, the entire SSI sector would be ruined and the state economy would suffer a severe jolt. In case of mass closure of the industrial units in the small and tiny sector, the massive industrial work force would have to face unemployment.



Encroachers re-appear near Ghanta Ghar 
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 24
Encroachers have re-occupied the vacant area opposite Guru Tegh Bahadur Market, much to the inconvenience of pedestrians. The area was cleared only last week when officials of the Tehbazari Department of the local Municipal Corporation had seized rehris in this regard.

This has put a big question mark on the efficacy of the action taken by the officials of the Tehbazari Department. Pedestrians who come to shop in the area and other passersby have to literally squeeze through the haphazard maze of rehris, kiosks and stalls dominating the place apart from the three-wheelers. Inquiries by this correspondent revealed that shopkeepers of the market allowed these rehriwallahs to carry out business in front of their shops after charging them Rs 20 to 30 per day.

Roadside encroachments in the vicinity of the Ghanta Ghar will further increase in view of the approaching summer season when a number of juice and ice-cream vendors will also come here.

The adjoining Court Road, which connects the old city with the Civil Lines through the Damoria Bridge, also presents a pathetic picture as far as roadside encroachments are concerned. Here the shopkeepers have stored the goods in front of their shops. 



Garbage piles up throughout city
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 24
With corporation vehicles remaining grounded due to lack of fuel and drivers staying away from work, garbage dumps remained piled up throughout the city for the third day today. The apparent chaos in the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation is the outcome of an arrest by vigilance officials of a clerk on charges of corruption.

Although the corporation had claimed that the garbage would be cleared by evening, no work had begun till the filing of this report. Some residents also staged a demonstration in front of the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation building to protest against its apathy and failure to clear garbage from their areas.

After the arrest of the MC clerk, who was in charge of fuel, no replacement has been made so far. As a result, the vehicles could not be refuelled.

It was learnt that most of the drivers also stayed away from work due to panic, as they feared that they might also be harassed by vigilance officials. No garbage has been disposed of during the past three days.

Agitated over the apathy of the corporation officials, angry residents of the Books Market today staged a demonstration in front of the MC office at Mata Rani Chowk. They said the market was full of garbage, as nobody had bothered to clear it during the past two days.

Residents were forced to hold the demonstration, after repeated representations to the corporation failed to yield any result.


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