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Girl held captive in Singapore
Makes SOS calls home, crying for return
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 27
She had left the country in search of greener pastures two years ago. But she ended up sending SOS calls to her parents back home that she was being kept captive in Singapore and was desperate to return.

Ms Veerpal Kaur, (22), daughter of Mr Mohinder Singh of Dhulkot Kalan village in Moga district, had gone to Singapore two years ago through a Moga-based agent. She was sponsored by a conduit of the travel agent to work there as a babysitter and domestic help.

She had hoped that the economic status of her poor parents would improve by working abroad. Unfortunately, the parents are now running from pillar to post to get her released from alleged captivity. Her captors are demanding Rs 4 lakh for her release.

Though cases of exploitation of youths at the hands of travel agents for sending them abroad are numerous, it is probably for the first time that exploitation of girls has come up. The incident exposes that not only youths but unmarried girls too are being fleeced by travel agents.

Talking to The Tribune here today, the parents of the girl said they were contacted by the travel agent who had promised to send Veerpal to Singapore where she would work as a babysitter or maid with a Punjabi family. He had promised that her parents would be paid Rs 5,000 per month back home. The family had paid Rs 51,000 to the agent.

Mr Mohinder Singh, a labourer, thought that she would make enough money that he would spend on her marriage. Veerpal sent only Rs 49,000 during the first six months of her visit and later they did not receive any money. The parents pleaded with a woman named Sunita, who had sponsored her to Singapore, but she refused to send her back, stating that she had stolen $18,000 from her employer’s house and she would be sent back after she paid the money back.

Veerpal is the youngest of three daughters of Mohinder Singh and Ajmer Kaur. She had immigrated in March 2002, thinking that her money would help her poor parents who work in other farmers’ fields. ‘‘I had spoken to her over the phone last night. She was crying and talking incoherently as if she had lost her mental balance. She was repeatedly saying that she wanted to come back. But she won’t be able to pay R 4 lakh to be back,” said her mother.

After requesting the travel agent and the sponsor, the parents today visited Mr B.S. Ramoowalia, former Member Parliament and president of the Lok Bhalai Party, who has been taking the cause of NRI victims and youth harassed in countries abroad. Mr Ramoowalia said it was startling that even young girls of Punjab had fallen prey to the travel agents, who wooed them by offering them the jobs. He said he had received cases of many such girls and written to the Indian Ambassador at Singapore, Mr P.P. Shukla, to take up her case and get her rescued. He added that he would be writing to the Malaysian Embassy through the Ministry of External Affairs also.

However, Mr Parminder Singh, the travel agent from Moga, has denied the allegations. Speaking to TNS over the phone, he said she had stolen the money from Mr Gurdeep Singh’s house at Singapore where she was working as a maid. He added that the family was so nice that they had not even complained to the police about her as she had the responsibility of her poor parents and she might have done this under some compulsion.

He alleged that she had paid the money to some other agent, who had promised her a permanent Singapore visa. He alleged that her father also knew the agent who belonged to a village in Amritsar and had visited his house where his daughter had sent some clothes and a mobile phone set for him. 



All roads lead to Latala
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News service

Latala (Kila Raipur), February 27
All roads in the district led to this little-known village that hosted the state-level convention to mark the completion of two years of the Congress government in power. Never have the residents from the dozen odd surrounding villages seen such a galaxy of political leaders. With the exception of two or three members of the Punjab Cabinet, every minister was present.

Even though the leaders present did not have much to say or share with the rural folks, who turned out in good numbers to occupy almost every place in the village stadium, they tried to humour them with the anti-Badal rhetoric. The heartening moment of the day was the special Rs 6 crore rural development package for Ludhiana district announced by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh.

The crowd was kept guessing on the party candidate from the Ludhiana parliamentary constituency as the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president, Mr H.S. Hanspal, declared that the announcement would be made according to the choice of the party high command led by Ms Sonia Gandhi.

The entire village seemed to have turned out in the stadium. It was like a village fair with almost the entire Cabinet and some senior Congress leaders, the district and police administration having descended on the little hamlet

The organisers had done well to keep the crowd involved with two well-known Punjabi singers Pammi Bhai and Mohammad Sidqiue regaling them with popular numbers. And outside there were hawkers selling fruits, snacks, toys and other things usually found in village fairs.

Acknowledging the presence of the crowd, the Chief Minister told the gathering that he had secured a Rs 1600-crore grant from the World Bank for providing clean drinking water to every village in the state.

Even as most speakers lauded the efforts of Mr Jagpal Singh Khangura, in charge of the Congress for the Kila Raipur Assembly segment, for bringing developmental projects to the area, the Chief Minister was specific when he said, “I know the link roads in the area are in a bad shape, but the government will ensure that all these are re-carpeted before the end of the current financial year.” The Chief Minister pointed out that the Khanguras had given up luxurious comforts in England and returned to their homeland to serve their own people.

Though several demands were raised on the occasion by leaders that included abolishing of the octroi and speeding up the legal process by holding trials on a daily basis in fast track courts, the Chief Minister said he had inherited a state that was in a financial mess and it would take sometime before all the aspirations of the people were fulfilled.

The villagers also acknowledged the gesture of the Khanguras, the family which had left in the late sixties for England and returned with a big bang. The family is involved in some philanthropist ventures and has provided computers to various schools. Mr Nihal Singh, a local resident, pointed out the attention the village had managed to get with so many leaders and officials coming here. Nothing would go unnoticed, he pointed out.

Mr Jagpal Singh Khangura and his son Jassi Khangura acknowledged the support and cooperation of the villagers and also that of the Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and the AICC general secretary Ms Ambika Soni for choosing Latala as the venue for celebrating the completion of two years in power. 



Interest on house tax arrears waived 
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 27
Continuing with its policy of granting sops to the urban population, particularly the members of trade and industry, the Punjab Government has waived the interest accrued on house tax arrears as a one-time measure, provided the principal amount of arrears of the house tax was paid on or before March 31, 2004. Earlier, the government had allowed the urban local bodies (ULBs) to accept payment of arrears of water and sewerage charges without interest till February 29, 2004.

According to an office order issued by the Department of Local Government, Punjab, an amount of almost Rs 105 crore was outstanding on account of house tax arrears in the towns and cities of the state which included Rs 43.19 crore as element of interest. On account of poor recovery of house tax arrears, the ULBs were facing a severe constraint of resources.

The matter was placed before the Cabinet sub-committee on fiscal management and on the basis of its recommendations, the government had allowed waiver of the entire portion of accrued interest on arrears. The government had also directed the local bodies to spend the amount thus realised on strengthening of delivery of services like water supply, sewerage and road network.

The sources in the Municipal Corporation here disclosed that the amount of accumulated arrears of the principal amount of house tax outstanding for past many years were to the extent of more than Rs 25 crore and a sizeable amount was expected to be recovered by the end of this financial year under the one-time facility of the waiver of interest.

The MC has set up special counters here for the collection of water and sewerage charges and house tax bills at the zonal and sub-zonal levels in public interest. Special camps for the collection of house tax arrears would also be arranged at the ward level in a couple of days.



YC leader threatens fast over cop’s posting
Tribune News Service

I will look into it, says CM

The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today said he would look into how the posting orders of Shamsher Singh were issued. He was talking with reporters after a political rally at Latala village.

The CM expressed ignorance about the policeman despite being reminded by reporters that he had honoured the policeman at an I-Day function in Patiala in 2002 but had later said that there was no place for “corrupt officials” like Guddu after his alleged misuse of power in the Daler Mehndi case.

It is being alleged that a Congress minister is instrumental in the fresh posting of the controversial policeman.

Ludhiana, February 27
A youth Congress leader today threatened to stage fast unto death in front of the house of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, in Chandigarh if the state government did not revoke the orders of posting controversial policeman Shamsher Singh Guddu as SHO, Basti Jodhewal police station, here.

The “tainted” policeman, who, besides coming under cloud for mishandling the Daler Mehndi case, is facing a number of cases in different police stations and with the Vigilance Bureau, was today posted as the SHO, which sparked off protests by city residents. The protesters were fighting cases of misuse of authority by the policeman during his previous stint here. The Congress leader along with other alleged victims feared that the policeman would be in strong position to influence cases against him.

Inspector Shamsher Singh Guddu has been posted in place of Inspector Gurbans Singh Bains, under whose jurisdiction tension had broken out last evening. SSP Narinderpal Singh said Mr Bains had not been penalised for yesterday’s incident, as he had done a commendable job. He said postings and transfers were a routine affair.

Shamsher Singh has, however, brushed aside the protests saying that he had been acquitted of all charges by DIG, Patiala, in an inquiry conducted by him on the orders of the state DGP, Dr A.A. Siddiqui.

He said when senior officials had acquitted him of the charges, the FIRs lodged here had no relevance. He added: “I had never acted personally against the so-called victims and had just worked as per the law,” he said.

Mr G.S. Grewal, general secretary, Punjab Youth Congress, and one of the alleged victims of the controversial policeman, announced that he would go on hunger strike against the decision.

He said the party would find it hard convincing people about providing good administration if such policemen were given postings in the same district where a number of FIRs were already lodged against them.

Shamsher Singh figured in news in December last year after he was sent on premature retirement by SSP, Mansa. He was, however, reinstated by DIG, Patiala Range, P.S. Sahota and posted at Faridkot.

Three alleged local victims of policeman had been crying foul since then. The victims alleged that instead of arresting him, the police authorities had let him off the hook.

Shamsher Singh has had a love-hate relationship with the present government. He was honoured by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, at the I-Day function in Patiala in 2002 for his “good work”, but was unceremoniously transferred from the district and sent on forcible retirement for alleged mishandling of the Daler Mehndi case. He was the main investigator in the case.



BSP all set to go it alone
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 27
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is all set to contest elections on all 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state on its own.
This was stated by the state president of the party, Mr Avtar Singh Karimpuri, while addressing a party workers’ meeting at Jaspal Bangar village. The meeting was called to remember five party workers, who were slain in 1992. However, he said, the party workers would abide by any decision of the party  leadership as regards any alliance with other parties.

He said with different factions coming back to the party mainstream, the party workers were feeling confident. He welcomed Mr Satnam Singh Kainth, Mr Devi Dass Nahar and Mr Ram Lal Jassi back to the BSP fold.

He said booth-level committees were being set up to coordinate with party candidates. Dwelling upon the five-point programme launched by the party all over the country, he said the party was aiming at providing land to landless farmers, giving Dalits their due share in every sector, ensuring uplift of scavengers and ridding the country of ‘manuvadi’ colonialists.

He ridiculed the claims of the NDA government about development saying the facts and figures being given by the government were juggled and inflated.

Party leaders felicitated family members of five party workers, Mr Nachhattar Singh, Mr Nazar Singh, Mr Amar Singh, Mr Swarnjit Singh and Mr Harjinder Singh.

Prominent among others present at the meeting were Mr Parkash Singh Jandali, Mr Inderjit Singh, Advocate, Mr Gurmel Singh Pehlwan, Mr Hardev Singh Jarg, Mr Gurdial Chand, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhamot, Mr Om Parkash Chauhan, Mr Ram Chand Talwandi, Mr Dev Raj Bhatti, Mr Charan Das, Mr Balwinder Bitta, Mr Ram Moorti, Mr Beant Singh Barewal, Mr Shiv Chand Gogi and Mr Bahadur Singh Sarinh.



Badal misleading people, says SAD (A)
Our Correspondent

Mandi Gobindgarh, February 27
The Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD) has been misleading people by organising ‘anti-repression rallies’ whereas it supported the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) to get it passed in Parliament, said Mr Ravinder Singh Khalsa, president of the youth wing of the SAD (Amritsar). Talking to mediapersons here yesterday, Mr Khalsa flayed the use of gurdwaras by Mr Parkash Singh Badal to celebrate his birthday and said that he incited the people to save his family from the hands of the law for being allegedly involved in cases of corruption. Mr Badal never organised any movement for the release of the Sikh youth lingering in jails for the past 18 years, he added. He was also critical of the SGPC chief Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who had earlier been equating Prakash Singh Badal with Babar, he said.

The SAD (A) has decided to begin its campaign for the parliamentary elections after the bhog of akhand path on March 1 at Fatehgarh Sahib in favour of its candidate Bhag Singh Sutrapur for the Ropar (R) constituency. OC



MC to continue fight against graft
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 27
The Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Grewal, has reiterated his commitment to bring transparency in the day-to-day functioning of the Municipal Corporation and to continue the fight against corruption.

In a press note issued here today, Mr Gill said under the ‘award and punishment’ policy of the civic administration, honest, sincere and hard-working officials were duly recognised, whereas the corrupt, negligent and careless ones had to face departmental disciplinary action.

Commenting on the arrest of an MC employee, Kishan Lal, by the Vigilance Bureau, he said the fraudulent act of an individual employee and a few others, who might be in league with him, had been blown out of proportion by terming it as a ‘big scam’. In fact, it was a delinquent act of an individual employee, who had misused his position for personal gains.

“The MC administration has been, from time to time, making internal checking of the working of the different departments. Besides, there is a resident audit wing in the civic body to check their working, particularly the financial transactions,” he said.

He said the MC had appreciated the act of the Vigilance Department in detecting fraudulent activity of the said employee and had extended full cooperation in taking the matter to its logical conclusion. He said the incident should serve as a warning to other officials and it should be understood very clearly that the defaulting employees would have to face strict disciplinary action.

“In a bid to effectively check recurrence of such financial irregularities, the MC has taken several measures to strengthen the system of internal checking. Under the revised system, which has been brought into effect, the Assistant Engineer or the Junior Engineer of the zone concerned, the employee of petrol pump and driver of the vehicle shall jointly sign the petrol or diesel slip. An entry will be made in the register which will be further verified by the SDO of the zone concerned. Apart from this, the officers have been deputed to make checking on the inter-zonal level.”



MC workers oppose octroi abolition
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 27
The Municipal Workers Union and Municipal Safai Mazdoor Union, affiliated to the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh today organised a protest gate rally at the MC headquarters demanding the revival of the facility for recruitment on compassionate grounds for eligible family members of employees dying in service.

Former Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Mr Sat Pal Gosain, who is also chairman of the Municipal Safai Mazdoor Union, Mr Balwant Rai Mattu, Mr Lovely Pal Disawar and Mr Khelar Chand Gupta addressed the rally. They flayed the government for its delaying tactics and evasive attitude on this crucial matter. They said the ruling Congress would have to pay a heavy price in the coming Lok Sabha elections for pursuing anti-employees policies.

The trade union activists further cautioned the government against the proposal to abolish octroi lest the local bodies should face a severe resource crunch and all developmental activities were disrupted. Mr Khelar Chand Gupta, general secretary of the union, remarked that the national level meeting of mayors had supported octroi, which was a major resource for urban local bodies. The Jyoti Vasu Committee had also made similar recommendations and the experiment of abolition of octroi had failed in many states that had implemented it.

In a detailed memorandum submitted to the MC officials, the unions further demanded that the contract system of labour be abolished.



PAU guards harass sick woman
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 27
Throwing sensitivity to the wind, security guards at Gate No 4, Punjab Agricultural University today allegedly harassed an aged and sick woman. They turned her away from the entry gates on the pretext of riding in a private vehicle. The woman was made to cover a long distance to reach her house. All pleadings of the woman that she was a resident of a colony on the premises of the university and could walk with great difficulty because of a serious trouble with her knees fell on deaf ears of the security guards. They told her to either walk the distance to her house or take permission from the Vice-Chancellor to ride in the private vehicle.

University Vice-Chancellor K. S. Aulakh had issued controversial orders that no private vehicle would be allowed to venture into the university.

This has led to several ugly scenes at the gates especially Gate No 4, in the past also as people wanting to visit their friends or relatives have been denied entry. People have objected to the orders, saying that the university was an educational institution and not an Army or police cantonment where such stringent orders were practised.

The old woman is a relative of a journalist, who had taken the elderly woman to a city doctor in his car. When they returned, the security guard on duty, who had earlier no objection to the entry and exit of the car refused to let the vehicle in.

The journalist and the aged woman pleaded that she was a resident and the guard could keep the registration copies of the vehicle, but he did not budge from his stand. He reportedly said, ‘‘Go to the the VC, who has issued these orders.’’

When the woman went in the same car to the other entry gate, No 2, the guards again stopped the car and informed that security officials from Gate No. 4 had warned them about this car, saying that the persons boarding this car were indulging in ‘awaragardi’ (loitering around) and should not be allowed in.

The elderly woman lost temper and took the guards to task for not allowing her, a resident of the university to go in. ‘‘It was an emergency. I cannot take vehicle permit pass issued by the university for all the vehicles in case of emergency’’ she argued.

Insiders revealed that the university security guards were causing such trouble almost every day and harassing a lot of residents. The order to keep private vehicles at bay was issued by the VC to prevent people using the university as a short cut to reach Ferozepore road or Shaheed Joginder Pal Pandey road.

It may be mentioned here that the university officials had in the past tried to stop several journalists from venturing into the university for filing some news report that had gone not well with the authorities.


Fire destroys office records
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 27
A fire which broke out in the office of the Registration Records spread over the entire records kept there during the late last night in Tehsil Campus, Jagraon. According to information, most of the records pertaining to registered sale deeds, mortgage deeds and wills were previously stored in the room from 1974 till date and only three days ago, the record pertaining 1974 to 2000 was shifted to another room. The fire which broke out at midnight was noticed by one of the police personnel and the fire brigade was called.



Man held with 1 kg opium
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 27
The Shimla Puri police yesterday nabbed a man hailing from Rajasthan with one kg of opium and booked him under Sections 18, 61 and 85 of the NDPS Act.
In a statement here today, the police said the accused, who lives in Midda village of Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan, was arrested from Barota Road in the locality yesterday.

Held with pistol: The Salem Tabri police yesterday arrested Vikas Goyal, a resident of Model Gram, near Kochhar Market, and booked him under the Arms Act following the recovery of a .315 pistol along with two live cartridges.

Scooter recovered: The Civil Lines police yesterday arrested Surinder Singh, alias Billa, who lives in Gaggo Majra village in Patiala district, and recovered a stolen scooter from his possession. A case under Sections 379 and 411 of the IPC has been registered against him.

Fraud alleged: The Sarabha Nagar police has registered a case of fraud against Bhupinder Singh of Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar under Section 420 of the IPC on the statement of Mr Balwinder Singh, a resident of Takka village in Kapurthala district. The complainant had alleged that he had paid Rs 3.32 lakh to the accused for sending him abroad. But the accused neither sent him abroad nor returned the money. No arrest has been made so far.

Cases of assault: The Haibowal police yesterday registered a case under Sections 323, 324 and 34 of the IPC on the statement of Mr Charanjit Singh, a resident of Bhundri village, against Jagmohan Singh, alias Happy, Inderjit Singh and Jaswinder Kaur, alias Jassi, all residents of Joshi Nagar in Haibowal. The complainant had stated that he had given a loan of Rs 10,000 to the accused. When he asked for a refund, the accused picked up a fight with him and attacked him with sharp-edged weapons. He had to be admitted to the DMC Hospital.

Another case of assault has been registered at the same police station under Sections 323, 341, 354 and 148 of the IPC on the statement of Ms Kamla Rani of Kamla Nagar in Haibowal Kalan, against Mange Ram, his son, wife and daughter, and Pal and his wife, all residents of the same locality. The woman had alleged that the accused had intercepted her on a road and outraged her modesty.

Injured: The Sahnewal police has registered a case under Sections 279, 337 and 427 of the IPC on the statement of Mr Sarwan Singh, a resident of Sahibana village, against the driver of a vehicle that hit the cycle-rickshaw he was travelling on before speeding on the evening of February 24. The rickshaw-puller, Major Paswan, and the complainant were injured in the accident.

Two held: The Sahnewal police yesterday arrested Balwinder Singh, a resident of Manjali Kalan village, and Jaswinder Singh, another resident of the same village, and booked them separately under the Arms Act. The police said the accused were arrested following seizure of knives form their possession.

Liquor seized: The Sarabha Nagar police yesterday arrested Ram Parkash, of Mohalla Islam Ganj, and booked him under the Excise Act following recovery of around 8 litres of illicit liquor from his possession.



Man held for bid to inject HIV+ve blood

Khanna, February 27
The Khanna police has arrested Bahadar Singh who allegedly tried to inject a woman with HIV positive blood on Wednesday.
The suspect had been arrested from Nabha by the DSP, Samrala, Mr Jasvir Singh. The suspect denied the allegation and said he had not met the complainant for the past 20 days. He admitted that he knew with the complainant. OC



Knives seized from three

Doraha, February 27
Three ‘kamanidar’ knives were seized from three persons by the Sahnewal police yesterday. Cases have been registered under Sections 25, 54 and 59 of the Arms Act against Balwinder Singh, Jaswinder Singh, both of Manjali village and Satjiwan Singh of Nandpur Colony, in this connection.


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