L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Rescued youths’ tales of woe in Malaysia
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 19
Hundreds of Indian workers, especially from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, are being forced to work under life-threatening conditions in various chemical-manufacturing units in Malaysia, alleged four Punjabi youths who were rescued from a chemical factory in Malaysia, where they were allegedly made to work like bonded labourers.

The four rescued youths — Charanjit Singh of Rajpura, Surinder Singh and Karnail Singh of Shambhu village in Patiala and Parmod Kumar of Chauhan village in Pathankot — were in the city today to thank the Lok Bhalai Party acting president, Mr Avtar Singh Mullanpuri, who made efforts to get these youths rescued.

After suffering for two and a half months at a factory in Malaysia, the youths reached India last morning. They alleged that they were made to work for 18 hours a day in an environment where nobody could breathe properly. After this hard work, they were made to stay in a small room, where around 60 to 70 youths were made to share the room.

“We were not even paid the salaries as we were told that our agent had already taken the money. We were offered poor-quality rice and we were feeling too weak to work. Many of our colleagues had vomiting and breathing problem after being exposed to dangerous chemicals. If we refused to work, we were tortured and forced to work,” alleged Charanjit Singh while narrating his tale of woes.

He added that there were many youths from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh there, who were working like bonded labourers and had lost all hope to return to their country. Charanjit said it was only through a fax message from Karnail to his father that got them released from the chemical unit.

Karnail Singh had faxed their tale to his father Dalip Singh back home, who died after he could not bear the treatment meted out to his only son. But his relatives brought the fax to Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, LBP chief, who took up the matter with Indian Ambassador in Malaysia.

The dearth of employment avenues had forced these youth to allegedly fall into the trap of a Delhi-based travel agent, Gautam Dhir, who lured them to work in an electronics company in Malaysia and earn Rs 18,000 per month besides decent residence and other benefits.

The desperate youths and their parents decided that they would go and work there. They readily paid an amount of Rs 1.5 lakh each to the travel agent also and finally flew to Malaysia two and a half months ago.

But all was not well for them. They were not received by any electronics company at the airport but were detained. Next day, they were taken to a chemical factory where they were not even provided any mask or other protective shields required to work in such a factory.

Their torture started and they started making efforts to come back home.

“We have a message for the youths in India. It is better to be here and create our own job avenues rather than immigrating and fall in trouble. Our trip had cost us more than Rs 2.5 lakh each and the torture we had undergone has scarred our psyche forever. I do not think we would ever come out of the trauma we underwent there,” said Parmod Kumar.



Homeless, they are out in the cold
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, December 19
Night temperatures stay below 4 degree C and there are thousands of migrants and poor people who are houseless and homeless in the city. These people due to such force of circumstances have to sleep on pavements in the extreme cold weather. While lucky people are under quilts and sleep snugly in their beds.

Veeru, a tramp and many of his ilk, collect waste papers, cardboard boxes and other waste material lying on the roadside and make a bonfire. Its warmth helps them to sleep for a while and then the chill of the night makes them shiver. They snuggle close to each other to derive warmth. Veeru said that since he lost his job in a factory, he has been rendered jobless. He is trying to find a job but has not got it so far.

Homeless and houseless, he said that he slept in one of the corridors of the markets of the city and found some protection. But the police chased him out and now he sleeps out in the open. Veeru and many like him, migrants from several states, penniless, defenceless against extreme cold, have to sleep out in the open with mercury dipping.

Veeru and thousands like them have not been able to sleep this December as their frail frames, and very few woollen clothes, are inadequate to face the cold, icy winds and low temperatures.

They are wondering how long it would take before they become the latest figures in statistics.

They say: “There is no night shelter for people like us. The police drives us away from railway platforms and market places and bus stops. Where shall we keep our meagre bedding? We have to find a place to answer the call of nature. During night we light up a bonfire of waste material to keep ourselves warm. Even stray dogs come close to us and we let them be with us as they give us warmth.”

People talk of electricity cuts, the cold weather, the change in school timing but no one talks of these homeless people. “Why does the government have to spend money on carpeting of roads when ministers come visiting? Why can’t they build night shelters for such people and provide them with hot soup. Soup kitchens should be run for them. But who cares? They spend a lot of money on making arches for various processions but will not do anything for homeless and houseless people who are living under very trying conditions,” lamented Prof M.S. Cheema, a retired professor.



Regeneration scheme for traditional industries
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 19
Viewing the potential of growth in production and export by traditional industry, the government has launched Centre Sponsored Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI) under which clusters based upon around 500 beneficiaries would be set up in different areas.

Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner, informed that the main objectives of the scheme included development of clusters of traditional industries in various parts of the country over a period of five years, commencing 2005-06 to make traditional industries more competitive with more market driven, productive, profitable and sustained employment for traditional industry artisans and rural entrepreneurs. Other objectives would be to strengthen the local governance systems of industry cluster, improved technologies, advanced process, market intelligence and new models of public private partnerships so as to gradually replicate similar models of cluster-based regenerated traditional industries.

He said under this programme, potential beneficiaries included artisans, workers, machinery makers, raw material providers, entrepreneurs, institutional and private business development service (BDS), providers engaged in traditional industries and working in selected clusters of khadi, coir and village industries, including leather and pottery, artisans guilds, cooperatives, consortiums, networks of enterprises, self-help groups (SHGs), enterprise associations etc and implementing agencies, field functionaries of government institutions/ organisations and policy makers, directly engaged in traditional industries.

Referring to the criteria for selection, Mr Verma informed that the selection of clusters would be based on their geographical concentration, which should be around 500 beneficiary families of artisans/micro enterprises, suppliers of raw materials, traders, service providers etc located within one or two revenue sub-divisions in a district (or in contiguous districts).

The clusters would be from khadi, coir and village industries, including leather and pottery. The potential for growth in production and generation of employment opportunities would also be considered in selecting clusters under SFURTI.



PAU refused permission to sign MoU with Pak varsity
KS Chawla

Ludhiana, December 19
The Union Government has refused to allow Punjab Agricultural University to sign a memorandum of understanding with the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan due to security reasons. However, the Union Government has permitted PAU to have exchange of non-sensitive teaching materials and other related literature.

It may be mentioned here that the initiative for signing of MoU between PAU and the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan, was taken by the Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, during the visit of Mr Parvez Elahi, Chief Minister of Pakistan Punjab to Patiala to participate in the first Indo-Pak Games.

The Union Agriculture Ministry vide its letter of July 29,2005 after examining the matter permitted Punjab Agricultural University to sign an MoU with the Faisalabad university.

Captain Amarinder Singh even during his recent visit to Pakistan when he accompanied the golden palki to Nankana Sahib announced that the MoU between PAU and the Faisalabad university would be signed in February next year.

However, the Union Agriculture Ministry through its letter of December 7, 2005 has informed the Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University, Dr KS Aulakh,” that on review of the matter from the security angle it has been decided that the proposed memorandum of understanding should not be signed. The university is also advised to restrict exchanges only to non-sensitive teaching materials and other related literature, participation in seminars and meetings and cultural exchange programmes with Pakistan.”

Even while granting no objection to the signing of the MoU with Faisalabad university, the Union Agriculture Ministry had advised PAU to complete identifying particulars of the visiting Pakistani nationals. Under the MoU which was cleared by the Agriculture Ministry, the two universities were to exchange information on development, agronomic practices, scientific, development of joint research programme, post harvest technologies and warehousing and related issues.

It may also be mentioned here that the College of Agriculture which is the premier college affiliated with PAU was located in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) before Partition. It was set up at Ludhiana after Independence and later was elevated to the level of university on the model of the land grant colleges of the United States of America.

The university authorities at the Ludhiana campus are not able to cite any reasons for the sudden withdrawal of the permission by the Union Government for signing of the MoU. 



Ex-teachers allege harassment in getting dues
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, December 19
Accusing the staff at the local Block Primary Education Office of harassing them in getting their post-retirement dues, a number of retired teachers have urged the higher authorities, including the Education Minister, to institute an inquiry and take stern action against the erring employees.

However, denying charges levelled against his staff, the BPEO maintained that he had received no such complaint. According to complaints written to the Chief Minister Punjab, Education Minister and Deputy Commissioner Sangrur, at least former employees of the Primary Education Department had accused the staff at the BPEO office of allegedly delaying the clerical work in connection with their retirement. One of the employees was accused of even misbehaving with the retirees.

Talking to Ludhiana Tribune at a function held by the Punjab Pensioner Welfare Association held here on Sunday, the complainants said they had aired their grievances at a Suvidha Camp held at Ghanauri Kalan and Sangrur. “But instead of taking action against the erring employees, the district education authorities had been shielding them,” said the complainants.

Mr Baldev Singh, Block Primary Education Officer, Ahmedgarh, denied the charges and maintained that the office had since sent all files concerned with the payments of mentioned retired employees. “Moreover none of the complainants have ever brought these matters to my notice,” said the BPEO.



College staff body withdraws protest call
Our Correspondent

Khanna, December 19
The Private Colleges Non-Teaching Employees Union (PCNTEU) has decided to call off its “education bandh” and protest rally to be held in Chandigarh on December 21.

Stating this today, Mr D.K. Manro and Mr Rajiv Bhasin, president and general secretary, respectively, of the union, said the decision in this regard was taken after consulating office-bearers of the PCNTEU (Punjab and Chandigarh units).

Mr Manro said the decision was taken following the assurance given by Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, and Mr Surinder Singla, Finance Minister, that their demands would be accepted.



Parcel mafia rules the roost
D.B. Chopra

Ludhiana, December 19
The notorious parcel mafia of the city, which specialises in getting illegal hosiery parcels booked at the local railway station for various destinations throughout the country, continues to rule the roost. Efforts by the Excise and Taxation Department to curb the activities of this mafia have failed miserably, as a result of which strong mafia, which enjoys protection of a city-based Congress leader and connivance of railway and police officials, is thriving under the very nose of the administration.

In fact, the mafia is so secure that the battery of carriers employed by it do not fear the law or for that matter any exposure in the Press. A member of the mafia, when asked by this correspondent about his business, openly confessed to his involvement, saying one has to do it for the sake of the children. He was bold enough to say that he could even arrange for Ludhiana Tribune a video showing the various routes adopted by the mafia to smuggle in the parcels on to platform number one at the local railway station. “You can go on printing the news, it does not make any difference to us”, he said with a wry smile on his face.

Sustained investigations by this correspondent revealed that the traders were paying Rs 500 per parcel to the mafia, which accepts all responsibility till the same is loaded on one train or the other. This, however, does not include the rail fare. A mafia source confided that out of Rs 500, the PCR men patrolling the area take Rs 100 per parcel and similarly railway officials concerned were also being bribed heavily to keep the show running. The mafia employs scores of men on a permanent basis, while part-time services of several carriers are also availed depending upon the workload.

Vehicles of all sorts, including autos and cycle-rickshaws, are employed for transporting the parcels from the premises of traders to any of the several clandestine openings to the railway station which exist all around it. These carriers work under express instructions that, come what may, they are not to stop on the way even if they are intercepted on the way by any police or taxation official. Because the returns are handsome, these carriers ply their parcel-laden vehicles at top speed until they reach the destination. Just as the parcels are unloaded close to the railway tracks, the same are rolled by a team of waiting young carriers up to platform number one of the railway station.

One of these several openings, which existed at the foot of the demolished Lakkar bridge near the Society cinema, was recently barricaded to discourage the mafia but the “closure” has not affected the mafia’s business in the least, as there are many other such openings which cannot be plugged in any manner.

Though main entrance to the parcel office is guarded round the clock by officials of the Excise & Taxation Department, these officials are not seen around any of the illegal routes being adopted by mafia. Sources even suggest that even some of excise and taxation officials are on the payroll of the mafia.

To cope with seasonal rush, the mafia is also using other railway stations convenient to it. The railway station at Gill, the first station on Ludhiana-Jakhal section, is a great favourite.

Hundreds of such illegal parcels, having no invoice, are booked at Gill every day. As these parcels are loaded on Hissar-bound trains, passengers travelling by these trains are being put to inconvenience due to extended stoppages. But most of all, government is losing tax revenue to tune of several lakh rupees every winter season.



Akalis protest against hike in water, sewerage charges
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 19
Protesting against hike in sewerage and water charges and house tax, some Shiromani Akali Dal leaders and councillors staged a dharna in front of the Zone-D office of Ludhiana Municipal Corporation today.

Led by senior Akali leaders Mr Amarjit Singh Bhatia and Mr Hira Singh Ghabria, the protesters raised slogans against the Congress-led government in the state for burdening the poor people with hiked bills.

They also handed over a memorandum to Joint Commissioner, Dr Jaswant Singh, demanding a roll back of hike in sewerage and water charges. Addressing the rally, Mr Ghabria said the state government had announced that it would waive of the water and house tax bills of poor residents but instead of doing so, they had increased the charges manifold.

He added that even the city Mayor had promised to get the hike withdrawn but no action had followed in this regard. It was becoming very difficult for the people to pay the bills, almost doubled that the normal amount. ‘‘People were hoping that their problem would be solved soon. But it was not so. Even the Local Bodies Minister, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh had announced in a function that he would be taking up the case of hike with the Chief Minister but the raise was not withdrawn. Now the residents are forced to pay hefty bills, ’’ said Mr Bhatia.



Dullo honoured

Khanna, December 19
Mr Sahmsher Singh Dullo, president of the Punajb Pradesh Congress Committee, was honoured at Rotary Bhavan on Sunday by Block Congress Committee Khanna. Dullo was honoured by three known religious personalities of the area, Peer Gobind Nath of Kurukshetra, Swami Sachida Nand of Gaunci Di Khuhi, and Swami Matang Muni of Tukrianwala Mandir.

Earlier bhog of Sri Akhand Path was performed at Gurdwara Guru Arjan Dev at Model Town, Amloh Raod, Khanna. Later path of Sukhmani Sahib was organised. Mr Dullo presented shawls to all three religious personalities. The function was addressed by Municipal Council president Sant Ram Sarhadi, Mr Ashok Sharma, Block Congress president, Master Kuniti Nandan, Mr Bhalinder Singh, Member Zila Parshad, and Mr Jagmit Singh Sahota, president, Municipal Council, Mandi Gobindgarh. — OC



Prof Kapoor backs SGPC chief’s stand
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, December 19
Prof Prithipal Singh Kapoor, former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Guru Nanak Dev University and President, Master Tara Singh Institute of Studies in Contemporary Sikh Politics, said here today that he welcomed the statement of Mr Avtar Singh Makker, president of the SGPC, advising Mr Joginder Singh, Editor, spokesman, to not to drag the institution of Akal Takht and the Jathedar of the Akal Takht to courts.

Prof Kapoor said at the same time the SGPC should also take action against such people who were holding responsible positions in the SGPC and were publicly aligning with Mr Joginder Singh and also admiring him for his ‘bold journalism.’

Prof Kapoor hoped that the president of the SGPC would look into the matter.



Parking lots auctioned
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 19
The parking lots in Feroze Gandhi Market were finally auctioned for Rs 40 lakh with the final bidder, Mr Tarlochan Singh Safri, getting the contract here today.

There were seven bidders in the auction and the lots finally went to Mr Safri. The reserve price fixed for the lots was Rs 32 lakh. The auction for the same lots was held for the third time as it was always mired in controversies. A few days ago, the lots were auctioned for Rs 70 .5 lakh but the party had failed to deposit one fourth of the final payment and auction was cancelled. Before that also auction was postponed amid protests and allegations of favouritism.



Booked for assault
Our Correspondent

Jagraon, December 19
Kuldip Kumar, Surpal Singh, Udham Singh, Ramdip Singh and Hardev Singh were booked for assaulting Balwinder Kumar of Jagraon. The injured has been admitted to the Civil Hospital.

Meanwhile, the police arrested Buta Singh and seized 192 kg of poppy husk. The Sidhwanbet police has registered a case under the NDPS Act. — OC


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