L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Brazen evasion of sales tax on hosiery goods
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, October 22
With the festival season on and the hosiery business in the city at its peak in the wake of the forthcoming winter, massive sales tax evasion is taking place right under the nose of the enforcement authorities, including sales tax officials and the police.

While a group of operators, commonly known as ‘peti (package) mafia’, continues its lucrative business of booking packages of hosiery material in huge quantities at the local railway station as well as at some of the smaller railway parcel booking offices around the city, the enforcement wing of the Excise and Taxation Department seems to be clueless about how to tackle the situation.

The fact that the well-knit and highly resourceful gang of operators working at the railway parcel booking office has been able to outmanoeuvre the enforcement wing of the Excise and Taxation Department and both the railway and the city police till now, gives credence to the common allegation that the authorities are a party to the sales tax evasion, simply because the peti mafia is keeping them in good humour, besides pulling the right strings.

For almost a month now, officials of the Sales Tax Department have been camping at the railway parcel booking office, and with the assistance of the railway police, have apparently taken several steps to check the transportation of packages containing hosiery goods, which invariably did not have proper documents, to the booking office, but without much success so far.

The innovative ‘peti’ mafia appears to be always one step ahead of the enforcement authorities and comes out with alternative ways to carry out its nefarious activities without any interruption. If well-placed sources in different components of the ongoing racket are to be believed, the despatch of hosiery goods worth several hundred crores through the Railways to all parts of the country during this season, brings easy money, and lots of it, for conniving sales tax officials, police, porters and carriers.

It was reliably learnt that for each package of hosiery goods successfully booked at the parcel office and loaded in the train, around Rs 500 is paid to the ‘peti’ mafia by the manufacturers and traders and the booty is shared at different levels between the railway, sales tax and police officials directly in proportion to their ‘cooperation’ and the risk taken by them in letting the tax evaders off the hook.

Even as the sales tax officials claim that their attempts to regulate the entry to parcel booking office have yielded results, the fact that the carriers, employed by peti mafia, using three-wheelers and rickshaws, have been able to hoodwink the officials by using alternate routes and book a large number of parcels tells an entirely different story. In the process, the Sales Tax Department has been losing massive revenue.



Badal alleges misuse of official media
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 22
A former Chief Minister and leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today alleged that the Congress government in the state was misusing the official machinery against Opposition parties. He alleged that the way official electronic media was being misused by the state government, with the help of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre, made it too obvious that they were aiming at the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

Mr Badal observed that there was no need to repeat the telecast of the debate on the root causes of militancy in Punjab. He expressed surprise as to what was so special about the debate that it was being repeated. He said the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, appeared to be too much fascinated about what he said and did in the Assembly and wanted to repeat it again and again.

He regretted that despite strong protests by the SAD, the Doordarshan authorities, obviously at the instance of their masters in Delhi, had gone ahead with the repeat telecast. Moreover, Mr Badal added, the debate had already been telecast live the same day. “Everybody knows that nothing came out of the debate so what was the use of repeating it?” he asked.

Mr Badal said, “We have been maintaining right from the beginning that the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, was trying to divert the attention from the real issues of development and unemployment”. But people would not be misguided by the shenanigans of the Chief Minister as he stands exposed in the masses for his all-round failure, he added.

The SAD-B chief alleged that the Congress was trying to weaken his party. They had done it earlier and had gone to the extent of supporting militancy with the same purpose. “They have always failed and they will fail once again”, Mr Badal asserted.

Mr Badal accompanied by the party Secretary General, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, General Secretary, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, and others had come here to pay homage to Basant Singh Khalsa on his death anniversary. Mr Bikramjit Singh Khalsa was also present on the occasion.



Apologise for aiding ultras, Birmi asks Badal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 22
Chief Parliamentary Secretary Malkiat Singh Birmi has said SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal and other Akali leaders should tender an apology to the people of Punjab as they were completely exposed during the debate in the Assembly for their support and connivance with the terrorists, who killed over 20, 000 persons.

He was addressing a gathering of people at Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar Park here today.

Mr Birmi said by objecting to the telecast of the debate through various channels Mr Badal had accepted in principle that the Akalis were responsible for the whole turmoil. Now why was the former Chief Minister making hectic efforts to stop the telecast on the TV channels, when he had openly demanded during his speech to give proper coverage to his speech through the electronic media, he questioned.

He said Capt Amarinder Singh had exposed behind-the-scene activities of Mr Badal and other Akali leaders before public and aiding and abetting terrorists.

Mr Badal had ample time to put forth his point of view on the subject and maximum time was given to other SAD leaders, but they completely failed to convince people. He said that as the whole discussion, including their speeches, were being televised why was Mr Badal rattled now, he asked.

Mr Birmi said during the debate Mr Badal and other Akalis had tried to put the whole blame for terrorism on the Congress and now the repeat telecast of the whole debate clarified the situation before the people.

He also claimed that now the SAD leaders were desperate as they did not have any anti — Congress agenda to go with to the people.

He claimed that the government had provided eight hours of regular power supply for irrigation to the farmers even by purchasing power from other states at much higher rates.

Mr Birmi said the state government had also embarked upon an ambitious programme to provide potable drinking water to all people in 128 municipal towns of the state by March 31, 2006, with an investment of Rs 189.31 crore. Likewise, 100 per cent population in 35 towns would be provided with sewerage facilities at a cost of Rs. 87.27 crore by the end of next financial year.

Those who addressed the meeting included Mr K.L. Chhabra, Municipal Councillor, Mr Ramesh Kumar Pappu, president, Municipal Council, Sahnewal, Mr Jaswinder Singh Sandhu, Chairman, Market Committee, Sahnewal, Mr Avtar Singh, Mr Sukhwinder Singh Jhajj, Mr Bittu Atwal, Mr Surinder Kumar Bitta and Mr Baljit Singh.



Rani Khannam enthralls audience
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, October 22
Rani Khannam, a renowned exponent of Kathak, performed at Guru Nanak Public School Auditorium, here, today. She was accompanied by Harimohan Sharma on tabla and Rajesh Pandey on harmonium, who also performed Gayan.

The performance was organised by the SPICMACAY (Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth). Rani's performance with her rhythmic and graceful movements spellbound 
the audience.

The artistes were welcomed by Navpriya Kaur, a students of Class IX. The programme started after the lamp was lit by Mr Jasbir Singh, president, school management committee, Prof Bajwa, member of the committee, Principal R.S. Gill and the artiste herself.

She gave a repeat performance of her dance at Alpine International School. 



‘Iodine deficiency causes mental retardation’
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, October 22
The district health administration yesterday conducted an awareness programme on iodine deficiency to mark the “Global Iodine Deficiency Disorders Prevention Day” at Dr B.L. Kapur Memorial Hospital here. Dr A.S. Sidhu, Medical Superintendent of the hospital, presided over the function, which was attended in large numbers by nursing students and both medical and para-medical staff of the hospital.

Dr Sidhu and other speakers focused on several health problems created due to iodine deficiency while emphasising the need for consumption of iodised salt, which could make up the iodine deficiency in the human body.

According to Dr Sidhu, the deficiency of the micronutrient not only causes goitre but gives rise to serious mental and pregnancy-related problems among children and women, respectively. “Lack of sufficient intake of iodine can cause problems like low IQ, lack of interest in studies, delayed physical growth, particularly muscular development, dwarfism, general lack of energy, physical deformities, deafness 
and muteness among 

Similarly, women with iodine deficiency could suffer from abortion, still birth, lack of mental and physical growth of foetus and physical complications after delivery. Dr Sidhu disclosed that besides human beings, lack of iodine could affect even animals, which could have shown signs of poor production of milk, eggs, wool and meat as well as reproductive loss.

In her message on the occasion, the Civil Surgeon, Dr Rajinder Kaur, pointed out that the iodine deficiency was today one of the major causes of preventable mental retardation in the world. With iodine deficiency being prevalent in all states in the country, the regular consumption of iodised salt was the only way to ensure the regular intake of iodine in required amount.

She further informed that iodine was an essential component of ‘thyroxine’ hormone, produced by thyroid gland, which regulated the body mechanism to ensure generation and utilisation of body energy as well as optimal mental and physical development of all human beings.



Follow norms of delivery, LPG dealers told
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, October 22
The District Food and Supplies Department has cautioned the LPG distributors in the city against indulging in malpractices while directing them to follow the norms laid down for booking of LPG cylinders and delivery of the same strictly on the turn basis.

The District Food and Supplies Controller (DFSC), Ms Simarjot, said in a statement here today that the department was keeping a watch on the LPG distributors and strict action would be taken against defaulting agencies. She said the district administration had convened a meeting of the sales officers of all oil companies to streamline the distribution in the wake of acute scarcity of the LPG in the region.

At the same time, a drive was launched to curb the misuse of domestic LPG cylinders for industrial and commercial purposes in the city and 10 such cylinders being put to commercial use were seized. An action had been initiated against the defaulters.

Ms Simarjot said the department had taken strict note of complaints that LPG distributors were forcing consumers to buy other items like tea leaves, rubber tubes and pressure cookers. “The LPG distributors as well as the oil companies have been directed to desist from this practice.” She asked the general public to intimate the department if any distributor resorted to such malpractices.

She maintained that the prevailing shortage of the LPG was a direct result of short supply by the oil companies to the extent of almost 40 per cent and the situation would improve only when normal supply of the LPG was restored. However, the date of the LPG supply by the companies, sale by local distributors and backlog was being monitored on a regular basis to ensure a fair distribution.



Project to combat environmental health crisis
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, October 22
As part of a proposed civil society action plan to combat environmental health crisis facing Punjab, several community-based health research projects have been planned. These will be initiated by health and medical institutions and NGOs working in the field of community health.

One such project, concerning the presence of pesticides in breast milk, conceived by Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH), here, is almost ready for launch. The project is being conducted under the leadership of Dr Praveen Sobti of the Department of Paediatrics, in collaboration with the Department of Community Medicine of the hospital.

Stating this here on Thursday, Dr GPI Singh, Professor and Head, Department of Community Medicine, DMCH, informed that in a bid to effectively tackle the environmental health crisis facing Punjab, a series of technical deliberations had been initiated at the behest of the Kheti Virasat Mission, Punjab, a voluntary organisation active in the field of eco-health issues.

As part of the programme, two eminent environmental health scientists Dr Ashutosh Halder, Genetic and Reproductive Biology expert from the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, and Dr Chander Bhushan of the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, had made detailed presentations on the increased incidence of cancer due to excessive use of pesticides in the Malwa region of the state at Mohan Dai Oswal Cancer Hospital here earlier this week.

Dr G.P.I. Singh, who was the convener of the meeting, explained that the time had now come to bolster government efforts regarding serious environmental health issues facing the state.



Industrialist rues closure of factory gate
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 22
A 32-year-old sewing machine parts factory in Urban Estate, Phase-I, here, is on the verge of closure, with the Punjab Urban Development and Planning Authority (PUDA) developing a public park in front of the factory and closing the main entrance to the factory with iron grills.

While the local PUDA authorities claim that they had provided a small entrance to the factory following directions of senior officials, the owner of the unit, Mr Satish Kumar Behl, said his Citizen International had suffered on account of the closure of the main gate.

He said his building could be auctioned anytime by a bank as he had suffered losses.

He said another 25 industrial units, manufacturing small parts of sewing machines and dependent on Citizen International, were facing closure due to lack of business.

Mr Behl said PUDA had closed the main gate around five years ago and he had made a number of representations to various authorities, including the Chief Minister, but to no avail.

Senior officials of PUDA had also written to the local authorities to provide a passage to him, but all directions had fallen on deaf ears.

The report of the Land Acquisition Collector and the Revenue Department had categorically stated that the building of the factory could not be called an encroachment as it existed even before the PUDA Act was notified.

‘‘Though the reports had asked for compensating me, the local office has failed to comply with the directions,’’ said Mr Behl, adding that an iron grill was put up outside his factory which had no approach.

Surprisingly, while the PUDA authorities had closed entry to his unit and another plot in his neighbourhood, all other houses were allowed entry from the park only.

‘‘If I am an encroacher on public land, all other persons having houses near mine are also encroachers. If they can be allowed entry to their houses why should I suffer? ’’ asks Mr Behl.

He added that the local authorities had not even bothered about the letters of the Chief Minister’s office and PUDA head office.

‘‘They all are bent upon harassing me. They have not even sent any report to the CM, ’’ rued Mr Behl.



Prohibitory orders withdrawn
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana. October 22
The decision on the disposal of thousands of explosives stored in the dry port here now lies with the state Home Department. After the last minutes cancellation of the disposal last evening due to non-clearance from the Ministry of Defence, the district administration today referred the matter to the state Home Ministry for further orders.

Mr Ajmer Singh, Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC), has also withdrawn the orders of the imposition of Section 144 of the CrPc banning movement within 1 km around the Dhandari area from October 22 and 23.

Interestingly, the administration withdrew the orders late in the afternoon where as they were made to be in force in the morning itself. Persons living in that area or doing business, however, did not suffer any harassment as no barricades were put up by the police to implement the orders.

The ADC released a press statement stating that operation for the disposal of explosive material has been deferred after a communication was received from the Army stating that clearance from the Ministry of Defence was required for the purpose.



Bank manager falls from building

Ludhiana, October 22
A bank manager got injured after he fell from third floor of a shopping complex at College Road here today afternoon. While his family members claimed it was an accidental fall, police suspected that the man had tried to commit suicide. Victim, Mr Rajinder Kumar, a manager with a private bank and a resident of Ghumar Mandi, was admitted to CMC Hospital where his condition was stable. TNS



Govt urged to release 4 pc DA
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, October 22
The Punjab Government has been urged to release dearness allowance (DA) of 4 per cent to its present employees and dearness relief (DR) instalment to its pensioners and family pensioners on the pattern of Central Government employees and pensioners.

The Central Government has already announced 4 per cent increase in DA instalments for its employees and 4 per cent DR for pensioners since July 1, 2005. The Punjab Government follows the same pattern. Mr B.R. Kaushal, Chairman, Pensioners Information Centre Management Committee, has urged the state government to announce the release of DA/DR before Divali.



Undertrial escapes

Ludhiana, October 22
An undertrial in a murder case escaped from police custody at the District Court complex today after hoodwinking a Punjab Police constable.

Undertrial Kulwinder, alias Lalli, made good his escape when he took the permission to go to the toilet. He pushed the constable at the door of the toilet and fled. The Division No. 5 police has booked the constable, Sukhjinder, for dereliction of duty. — TNS



Murder accused acquitted

Ludhiana, October 22
The Sessions Judge, Mr Harbans Lal, has acquitted Dhani Ram and Ram Bahadur of Vehra Sherpur Khurd from the charges of murdering Dharminder Kumar, as the prime prosecution witnesses turned hostile.

The accused were booked under Sections 302, 323, 506, 148 and 149 of the IPC at the Focal Point police station on March 27 this year.

Three other persons were also booked by the police. Since they were found to be juveniles at the time of the offence, their case is being tried by the Juvenile Justice Board. OC


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