L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


MC lays budget proposal worth Rs 355 crore
Rs 175 cr to go towards development
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 29
Residents of the city can hope to see the completion of the Elevated Road Project by the end of this year, more bridges to ease traffic, no slums in and around the city, more sewer pipes and potable water connections, and basic amenities in undeclared areas by the end of the next fiscal year starting April 1.

These were the highlights of the budget of the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation that was presented in the MC General House, with a total outlay of Rs 354.88 crore for the fiscal year 2005-2006 providing Rs 175.65 crore for development works, amidst raising of slogans by some councillors of the BJP, who claimed that the MC had not been able to achieve the set targets during the current financial year.

The proposal was presented at a specially convened meeting of the General House presided over by Mayor Nahar Singh Gill. Some opposition councillors led by leader of opposition in the MC Parvin Bansal raised slogans when the former was discussing the budget.

Mr Bansal claimed that the MC had earmarked Rs 151.95 crore for development works last year while only Rs 86.21 crore was spent.

While Mr Bansal said the MC had fallen far behind in revenue collection from all sources of income against the proposed budget last year, Commissioner S.K. Sharma claimed that it was confident of achieving the targets as per the revised budget.

Answering a question raised by Mr Bansal in the House, Mr Sharma added that the civic body was all set to achieve a target according to the revised budget to the tune of Rs 219.38 crore.

He added that as per the proposed budget in the current financial year, the state government and HUDCO owed the civic body around Rs 104 crore in the form of additional excise duty, devolution of taxes and loans.

Announcing development works for the city, Mr Sharma said the MC would construct more bridges and overbridges in the city to ensure smooth flow of traffic, regularise all undeclared areas and provide them with basic amenities.

He said by the end of the next fiscal year, the city would be made slum-free as the MC would provide basic amenities to all slums.

He added that the MC had earmarked Rs 35 crore for laying sewerage, Rs 13 cr for providing water supply and Rs 5.5 crore for providing basic amenities to the slums.

Presenting the budget, Mr Sharma said according to budget estimates, octroi would remain the biggest revenue earner with projected income of Rs 135 crore (as against Rs 121 crore this year), followed by house tax Rs 43 crore (as against Rs 35 crore), water and sewerage charges Rs 28 crore (as against Rs 20 crore), octroi on electricity Rs 10.50 crore (as against Rs 9.7 crore), composition fee Rs 3 crore (as against Rs 2.75 crore), sale of property Rs 5 crore (as against Rs 2 crore), additional excise duty Rs 65 crore (as against Rs 6 crore), HUDCO loan Rs 42.27 crore (as against Rs 7.31 crore) and license fee under Section 343 Rs 1.05 crore (as against Rs 95 lakh).

He added that apart from development works, which would be allocated a lion’s share of the total income, Rs 103 crore would be spent on establishment, Rs 11.08 crore on contingency, Rs 3.10 crore on capital works and Rs 62.03 crore on other works in general and O&M cells.

The Commissioner also announced that the expenditure of O&M Cell of the MC on establishment and that on contingency would be maintained at Rs 21 crore and Rs 8 lakh, respectively.

Mr Sharma said the work on the Elevated Road Project had been expedited and was expected to be completed by the end of this year.

He added that the work on the Dhandhari bridge would also be resumed after clearance from the railway authorities.

All councillors of the MC, including those owing allegiance to the Congress and the SAD, welcomed the budget.

Parliamentary Secretary Surinder Dawer, District Congress Committee (Urban) president Jagmohan Sharma, and SAD leader in the House Harbhajan Singh Dang welcomed the budget in different statements to the press.



3-day bandh against VAT from today
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 29
Industry associations here will observe a 3-days bandh, beginning tomorrow, in protest against the implementation of VAT. The bandh will be marked by dharnas and protest demonstrations.

“We have decided to put up black flags outside all factories to mark the protest,” said Mr Varinder Kapoor, general secretary, United Cycle and Parts Manufacturers Association.

“Not only has the government ignored our pleas to withdraw harsh provisions in the draft, there will be no uniformity in implementation as the five BJP-ruled states have deferred it,” Mr Kapoor said.

Industrialists contended that lack of uniformity in implementation would increase the burden of taxation.

“The government had assured us that there would be equal tax liability, but in case of Punjab the taxation rates are much higher in comparison to other states,” said Mr Amrit Lal Jain, state president, Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal.

He said “while essential commodities like pulses, salt, wheat and rice are tax-free in Delhi, in Punjab a 4 per cent tax has been imposed on them”. “Similarly there are several commodities which attracts 4 per cent tax in other states, but it is 12.5 per cent in case of Punjab which is unjustified,” Mr Jain said.

The mandal also said the implementation of VAT would encourage inspector raj. “They are to impose penalties and harsh measures, would further encourage corruption and inspector raj.”

Mr Tulsi Das Jaitwani of the Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal said all industries across the state would observe the bandh as implementation of VAT would act as a severe blow on the industry which was already facing troubles.

The Ludhiana Car Parts Dealers Association said car parts dealers would support the bandh and outlets would remain closed.



Petrol stations closed today

Ludhiana, March 29
Long queues at petrol stations were witnessed today as petrol pump owners put up notices of closure tomorrow against the implementation of VAT. Panic- stricken people rushed petrol stations to get fuel tank in their vehicles filled.

Over 1,300 petrol stations in the state will remain closed in protest against the implementation of VAT. “Punjab is the only state that has included petro products under VAT. The move will result in a steep increase in petro prices,” said Mr Ashok Kumar, general secretary, Ludhiana Petroleum Dealers’ Association.

According to petroleum dealers, a 10-15 per cent decline in revenue collection was likely after April 1. This, they said, would occur as petro products in Punjab would become the costliest in the region, as a result of which, people would prefer to go to adjoining states.

The dealers said the Punjab Government had already imposed a cess on petrol and diesel in the budget. VAT would worsen the matter, they said.

“While on one side, an increase in the prices would affect common man, customers would also shift to adjoining states,” Mr Ashok Kumar said.

Panic gripped residents, who feared the bandh might extend as the industry, too is observing a 3-day bandh against implementation of VAT. TNS



Chemists to join strike against VAT
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 29
More than 25,000 retail chemists in the entire state along with nearly 10,000 wholesalers in the trade will stop making fresh purchase of medicines from April 1 against the introduction of the value added tax (VAT) in the state. Besides, the medicine traders will also take part in the three-day nationwide strike against the new tax regime.

Claiming this here today, Tikka Dalip Singh, president, Mr Harish Kapila, vice-president, and Mr G.S. Chawla, general secretary, of the Ludhiana District Chemists Association (LDCA) told Ludhiana Tribune that the struggle by the chemists and druggists would continue till the government conceded their demands relating to the imposition of VAT on medicines. They said the entire responsibility for shortage of life-saving drugs in case of extended agitation and resultant loss in revenue would lie upon the government.

The LDCA office-bearers said the president of the Punjab Chemists Association, Mr Surjit Mehta, had led a delegation of members of the trade to meet the Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, and the Excise and Taxation Minister, Mr Sardool Singh to apprise them of the complex tax structure on medicines under the VAT system. 



BJP vows to fight on against VAT
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 29
Leading a roadshow organised by Trade and Industry Cell of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against introduction of value added tax (VAT) in the state from April 1, the state unit president of the party, Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, today vowed to continue the fight against the new tax regime, which was detrimental to the interests of traders.

Accompanied by party activists and district level functionaries of BJP and its trade and industry cell, Mr Khanna launched the road show from Shingar Cinema amid enthusiastic response from the traders and shopkeepers of the city.

Before culminating at the Clock Tower Chowk where the BJP chief and other party leaders addressed a rally, the road show passed through busy commercial areas of Baba Than Singh Chowk, Division No 3, Ghas Mandi, Chauri Sarak and Chaura Bazar.

Speaking at the rally Mr Khanna and other speakers charged the Congress government in Punjab with showing undue haste to slap the new system of tax even as the state VAT Act was yet to be adopted by the Assembly. Even otherwise, keeping in mind the stiff opposition by the trading community, the government should have shown some respect to sentiments of traders and shopkeepers and the VAT should have been deferred till the time when it could be introduced simultaneously all over the country.

The BJP leaders alleged that the Congress government, headed by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was deliberately pursuing such repressive policies under the influence of bureaucrats just to cause avoidable harassment to the traders. The real objective of VAT to bring uniformity in tax rates and other provisions of taxation would only be achieved if a single ‘National VAT’ Act was formulated and implemented in all states at the same time.

Mr Khanna said the party was aware of the inconvenience caused to members of general public due to three-day strike against the new tax system from March 30, but still the people should bear with the traders and shopkeepers and express solidarity with them as the prices of essential items were bound to rise once VAT came into force. Not only this, unlimited powers given to the enforcement officials would also breed corruption.

Prominent among others present at the rally were Dr Subhash Verma, district president of the BJP, Mr Sat Pal Gosain, state president of Trade and Industry Cell, Mr Shakti Sharma, Mr Lalit Sharma, Mr Ashok Loomba, Mr Sanjay Kapoor and Mr Rajinder Khatri.



Experts dwell on aspects of VAT
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 29
The Gujranwala Guru Nanak Institute of Management and Technology (GGNIMT) organised a seminar on “Vat — rationale, procedure and problems” for students of MBA and BBA.

Prof Arvind Malhotra, member of commerce faculty, Panjab University, Chandigarh, was the guest speaker, while Mr Ashok Kumar Juneja, chairman, Punjab Tax Bar Association, was the chief guest.

The seminar began with a historical backgrounder of Vat. Prof Malhotra said France was the first country to implement Vat in 1954. The success of Vat in France motivated several other countries to introduce the legislation and today as many as 160 countries were under the system.

Professor Malhotra said: “Value added tax is a modern simplified multi-point system of taxation where tax is levied and collected at each stage on the value addition with a provision for set off against tax paid at the various stages.”

He said the older system of taxation under the PGST Act suffered from various bottlenecks like under-billing, selling of goods without bills, tax evasion, undervaluation of goods at the first stage, etc. and all such malpractices led to generation of parallel economy and huge sum of black money.

Laying stress on the advantages of Vat, Prof Malhotra said: “The beauty of Vat lies in accountability of each and every transaction ensuring transparency, increase in government revenue, sharing of tax burden and reduction of tax evasion.”

Mr Juneja while addressing the students dwelt on the stringent measures in Vat which had made the business community upset. He said grievances of the community should be addressed before it was implemented.



Steel price hike from April 1 to hit industry
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 29
A rise in the steel price has affected the production of engineering goods and small scale manufacturers are in soup. The prices of steel have witnessed upward trend since the presentation of the Central Budget in which the Central excise duty has been raised from 12 per cent to 16 per cent.

The announcement by main steel producers to enhance the prices from April 1 has further added to the woes of engineering industries. The Tata group has announced to increase the price of steel by Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 per tonne. SAIL has also declared that the steel prices will be raised. from April 1. The steel prices have risen by Rs 1,500 per tonne within a week.

Mr Inderjit Singh Pradhan, president and Mr Avtar Singh general secretary, of the Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings, expressing their concern over the rising of steel prices, said the engineering industries had been facing the wrath of the main steel producers for the past two years. There was almost a 100 per cent increase in the steel prices.

The NDA government had reduced the Central excise to 8 per cent from 12 per cent and the UPA government first restored the reduction to 12 per cent and again further raised it to 16 per cent.

They said they had informed the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and the Steel Minister about the adverse affect of the hike in the steel prices and sought their intervention to save the small scale industry.

Mr Avtar Singh disclosed that the export of engineering goods would be hit after April 1 when VAT was implemented.

The prices of iron scrap have also risen by Rs 1,500 per tonne as the locally available scrap was quoted as Rs 19,500 per tonne while the imported scrap wasquoted as $315 per tonne respectively. Sponge iron was also at Rs 1500 per tonne.



Property dealer jumps to death
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 29
A 56-year-old property dealer today reportedly committed suicide by jumping to death from Surya Towers (Ebony building) today. The police could not find any reason or motive behind his suicide despite questioning family members, relatives, friends and office employees of the deceased till late evening.

The body was taken for post-mortem nearly two-and-a-half hours after the incident.

Jaswinder Singh Bakshi, who ran Deep Real Estate Office in Fountain Plaza, allegedly committed suicide at about 9:45 am today. He jumped from the roof of the six-storey building and fell on the exit driveway of the basement parking.

The police claimed that his trouser belt broke after it seemed to have got entangled in a mercury lamp attached to the building. The deceased’s turban was found on an advertisement board near a staircase.

Though there were several persons in and outside the building, nobody claimed to have seen him going to the roof using the lift or the stairs or falling down. Many, however, claimed they heard a loud thud and then saw a body.

Inspector R.S. Sohal, SHO, Division No 5 police station, said no suicide note was found from the body. The deceased lived at Housing Board Colony in Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar. He is survived by his wife, two daughters and a son who had emigrated to Australia two weeks ago. One of his daughters was married. The family has no clue the reason for his committing suicide, Mr Sohal claimed.

He said the relatives did not suspect any foul play. They had also claimed that the deceased did not have enmity with anyone.

The police also checked up with some employees in his office who stated that the man had no financial difficulties. The police was conducting investigations under 174 CrPC hoping to get some clues to solve the mystery.



Passing Thru

Mr Ashok Shah
Mr Ashok Shah Zonal head (North), LIC

How is the LIC of India gearing up to the competition put up by private players?

Private players have helped us as the awareness generated by them is contributing towards increasing the sale of insurance products. With their entry, changes have been there. While we have had an advantage due to our diverse network and credibility, we have also started laying emphasis on employees’ training. We are focusing on making them more professional.

What kind of insurance products are popular these days?

People are increasingly going in for unit-linked plans. This can be called as a trend in the low interest rate regime and bullish capital markets. However, it is helping customers as well as us because the unit-linked plans give us a qualitative increase in market share.

How about the untapped potential in this market?

The fact that the share of insurance in the GDP is very low indicates the vast untapped potential. We are focusing on high networth individuals — the upper middle class and middle class segments — which are expanding exponentially. And this applies to rural as well as urban markets

— Shveta Pathak



Auction held despite protest
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, March 29
Despite a strong protest by activists of the Fruit and Vegetable Commission Agents Association and Rehri Union, the authorities at the local Market Committee auctioned the contract for the collection of market fee at the grain market here today.

The residents of the town and surrounding villages had to go without fresh vegetables and fruits as the vendors and shopkeepers observed a complete bandh today.

Fourteen traders from the state participated in the auction held under the supervision of Mr R.C. Jindal, District Mandi Officer, and Mr D.S. Walia, Executive Engineer. Mr Davinder Singh won the contract.

Mr Sinder and Mr Tarsem Lal Kapila chairman and member of the market committee, respectively, said the auction was held under security as the activists of the two unions opposing the auction had turned unruly. Mr Davinder Singh has been allowed to collect market fee for one fiscal year at the contract price of Rs 8.8 lakh.

Mr Om Parkash Jain secretary of the committee, said the body had collected Rs 4.08 lakh as market fee and rural development fund during the last year and the contact was to be auctioned above Rs 5.1 lakh. “However seeing the potential of the market, the contractors showed overwhelming interest in the market,” remarked Mr O.P. Jain.

Mr Manmohan Singh, president of the Fruit and Vegetable Commission Agents Association alleged that the committee authorities had ignored the interests of the vendors and petty sellers. “Ours being a small town, vegetables and fruits are brought from Malerkotla and Ludhiana and the market fee was already paid on them,” argued Mr Manmohan Singh. He threatened to launch a stir in case the previous position is not restored.



Minority panel chief meets Aulakh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 29
National Commission for Minorities Chairman Tarlochan Singh today met and congratulated Dr Kirpal Singh Aulakh, Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University, for continuing in office for another four years.

On a visit to the city, he went to the university and extended his greetings to the VC. Mr Tarlochan Singh said the PAU had produced scientists who served not only Punjab but also other states as well. Many of them were of international repute and had been credited with ushering the Green Revolution in the country.

He assured him that he would take up the issue of financial problems being faced by the university with Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar soon. 



4 held for replacing autorickshaw engines
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 29
The Kotwali police today claimed to have busted a gang involved in unique crime. It unauthorisedly fitted diesel engines in the place of petrol engines in old autorickshaws and then sold them off illegally using registration copies of old petrol-using threewheelers.

Addressing a press conference here today SP (City I) R.K. Jaiswal said SHO Kotwali Harjinder Singh arrested four members of this gang and recovered 15 such autorickshaws from them. The gang had caused a revenue loss to the state exchequer besides causing air pollution, he said.

The arrested gang members were Tarlok Singh Bedi, Jag Parsad alias Motu, Raj Kumar, alias Bittu and Ashwani Kumar alias Happy. Jag Parsad belonged to Bulandpur district in Uttar Pradesh while the other accused were local residents.

The police claimed that the accused used to purchase old autorickshaws at throwaway prices at the rate of scrap and then used to fit diesel engines in place of petrol engines. They might also have stolen these vehicles and later sold them off or gave it to other persons on daily rental.



1,008 bottles of liquor seized
Our Correspondent

Khanna, March 29
The Khanna police seized 1,008 bottles of country -made liquor being smuggled from Chandigarh to Amritsar yesterday at a naka near Bullepur village. According to the police, a naka was set up at Bullepur village on the GT Road, Khanna, following a tip-off. A tempo (PB-12C 1849) was stopped and during search the liquor was seized.

Narinder Singh of Ibrahim village in Dera Bassi was arrested in this connection. He told the police that the liquor was being smuggled from Chandigarh to Amritsar. The police has registered a case.


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