L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Tax evasion accused find support in Dawar
Vigilance orders another probe
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 18
The city today once again witnessed a major showdown between the local Vigilance Bureau and employees of the Industrialists and Municipal Corporation and politicians with the latter succeeding in getting another inquiry ordered into the case of tax evasion involving 17 -MC employees and certain industrialists.

Vigilance Bureau officials were reportedly facing pressure for daring to check the alleged corruption. Going by the sentiments of the political leadership, it appears that the conflict will not be resolved until the case was withdrawn and a vigilance official concerned transferred.

A drama was witnessed at the Circuit House today when local MLA and Parliamentary Secretary, Surinder Dawar, flanked by a number of industrialists and councillors belonging to his camp, came out openly in support of the accused in an alleged tax evasion scam and tried to prevail upon the senior vigilance officials.

There was heavy police security.

Amidt raising of slogans by various Congress and BJP workers, Mr Dawar held a closed-door meeting with IG, Vigilance, C.S.R. Reddy, who had come especially from Chandigarh. They came out of the meeting venue later and announced that another investigation would be conducted.

The Ludhiana Vigilance Bureau had recently ruffled feathers of many officials of Municipal Corporation by booking 17 persons, including five MC employees, for evading tax worth lakhs of rupees by using residential area near Tajpur Road for commercial purposes with the help of false building plans.

It seemed that in a calculated move leaders came out one after the other and made tall claims to their supporters that they had prevailed upon the senior vigilance official and the booked industrialists would be bailed out soon.

The SSP Vigilance, Mr G.S. Dhillon, who had dared to act against the defaulters was seen defending himself.

Mr Dawar even went to the extent of demanding the transfer of the SSP. ‘‘We are the representatives of a democracy and he does not listen to us. ’’ he told the mediapersons angrily while threatening that he would stage a dharna if his demands were not met with.

The 17 persons accused in the case are-Anita Aggarwal, Sulochana Gupta, Rashmi Gupta, Arun Gupta, Rakesh Gupta, Ravi Gupta, Agya Devi, Urmila Gupta, Suraj Prakash, Sheela Devi, Vijay Kumar, Pinki Bawa, Charanjit Kapoor, Gurpinder Singh and MC employees including Ramesh Kumar, building inspector, Harjit Singh, junior draughtsman, and Neerja Bhatti, head draughtsman.



IAF surprised at rejection of Halwara air base
Bush’s proposed visit
Tribune News Service

Halwara, January 18
The US Embassy’s rejection of the Halwara air base for landing the US Air Force One plane of President George W. Bush on his proposed visit to Laddowal village, near Ludhiana, has taken Indian Air Force officials here by surprise.

No official of the embassy or any other concerned with the visit (the dates are yet to be finalised) had visited the Halwara Air Force Station to find out if the runway was adequate for the landing of the aircraft.

Station Commander, Halwara, Group Commander Rakesh Marwaha told Ludhiana Tribune that the rejection of the air base for the landing of President Bush’s plane seemed to have been made on presumption only.

“We do not know the exact size of the aircraft but still no one has actually inspected the runway or talked to any official before rejecting the Air Force station,” he said.

Sources said the size of the plane might in fact not matter much as the station was well-equipped to handle any aircraft.

President Bush had reportedly accepted the invitation of Mr Rakesh Bharti Mittal, who owns telecom giant Bharti Telecom and belongs to Ludhiana city.

Mr Mittal is setting up the state’s first “model farm” — Field Fresh Foods Pvt Ltd, a $ 50 million venture at Laddowal village.

For this purpose, Lady Lynn, Chairman of Field Fresh Foods, had reportedly convinced President Bush to visit Laddowal.

It was suggested to him that his plane could either land at Halwara Air Force Station or Raja Sansi Airport, Amritsar, or at Chandigarh. He could then fly to Laddowal in a helicopter. Halwara air base is the closest one to Laddowal.

The same process was followed during the visit of former US President Bill Clinton when he had visited Nyala village in Rajasthan in March, 2000.

His plane had landed at the Jaipur airport and the President had then flown to the village in a helicopter.

The Chief Minister is reportedly taking up the matter with the Prime Minister, besides US Ambassador David C. Mulford.

The state government is keen on the visit of the US President, especially since he will fly down for an agro-farming venture, which may prove crucial for the agriculture sector in the state.



National School Games opened
Our Sports Reporter

Ludhiana, January 18
Braving the chilly weather, sportspersons from across the country attended the inaugural function of the 51st National School Games which got off to a colorful start at Guru Nanak Stadium here today.

More than 2,000 players experienced the rich Punjabi culture which was presented by schoolchildren.

Earlier, Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Education Minister, Punjab, inaugurated the games and took salute during an impressive march-past.

Competition in softball, handball, hockey, basketball, boxing and wrestling would be held during this mega event which would conclude on January 23.

Mr Johar called upon the players to compete with a spirit of sportsmanship. He said Punjab was extending welcome to the players from other states and would make efforts to make their stay comfortable and a memorable one.

He also said sweaters would be provided to the players from the South as they did not bring them along due to warm weather there. He said to encourage students in sports, suitable employment opportunities would be provided to outstanding players in various departments of the government.

The Education department with a view to improving the health of students had also introduced traditional physical activities like yoga and gymnastics in schools.

Mr Johar said more stress was being laid upon the all-round development of students. The minister said the state government had spent Rs 4 crore on the development of sports in schools. He stressed upon the need to select players from the primary level and provide them extensive training so that they could compete at the international level.

He directed the Education Department to ensure sufficient board and lodging facilities, besides good food and medical facilities to the participants.

Jashandeep Singh from Faridkot, a national handball player, and Harneet Kaur, a national basketball player from Muktsar, took oath on behalf of the participants to play in the true spirit of the game.

International hockey players Hardeep Singh Grewal, Ramandeep Singh Grewal and Jagdev Singh Grewal were honoured for their performance and contribution to the promotion of sports in the state.

Among others present on the occasion included Mr Malkiat Singh Dakha, MLA, Mr Gurkirat Singh Kotli, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, Mayor, Mr Jagmohan Sharma, DCC (U) president, Mr Dimple Khanna, president, District Youth Congress, Ms Tejinder Kaur, Principal Secretary, Education, Mr R. Venktaraman, Special Secretary, Education, Mr Yash Pal Mehra, DEO (S), Ms Harvinder Kaur, DEO (E), Ms Manjit Kaur, Deputy DEO (S), Mr Jagdish Marwaha and Mr Bittu Bhullar.



36 PAU students get placement
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 18
Students of PAU’s Department of Business Management doing MBA in Marketing and Finance and in Agri-Business could not have asked for more. They get job offer from private sector companies ranging from banks to insurance. At least 36 MBA students of Punjab Agricultural University have got appointment letters with an average annual pay package of Rs.2.6 lakh to Rs.3.58 lakh.

Prof. and Head, Dr. S.K. Singla, said the placement process which started on January 7 saw 36 out of a total of 45 students getting placement. As many as nine private companies, interviewed the students in the past ten days.

The PAU admits 50 students annually. The Department conducts its own entrance test for admission to MBA (Agri Business). Only science and commerce graduates securing first division (more than 60 per cent marks) are eligible for admission to MBA programmes.



Bus driver gets 1 year in jail
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 18
The Judicial Magistrate, Mr Jaspal Verma, has convicted bus driver Ram Chand Singh, alias Pali, of Kirri village, Sidhwan Bet, and sentenced him to one-year rigorous imprisonment for causing an accident and injuring persons. A fine of Rs 1000 was also imposed on the accused.

Pronouncing the judgement, Mr Verma held that the guilt of the accused had been proved without doubt. He had caused grievous hurt to persons by driving his mini bus rashly. The Judge turned down the plea of the accused to release him on probation.

An F. I R was registered against the accused at the Kotwali police station under Sections 279, 337, 338 and 427 of the IPC on March 8, 2003, following a complaint by one of the injured-Suman Jain. The complainant submitted to the police that she along with her son, Kashish, and father-in-law were going in a rickshaw to the railway station. When the rickshaw reached near Master Tara Singh College, mini bus driver by the accused hit the rickshaw.



Bagga comes to the aid of Badal’s wife
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, January 18
Former Punjab Sports Minister Nusrat Akram Khan Bagga has come to the aid of Ms Surinder Kaur Badal, wife of former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, by asserting that during her recent Pakistan visit she had not met any of the controversial Sikh figures, including Dr Ganga Singh Dhillon, president of the USA-based Nankana Sahib Foundation.

Terming the allegations levelled by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, president SAD (A), as baseless, he apprehended that the unwarranted controversy over such things would disrupt the ongoing peace talks between the two neighbours.

Mr Bagga, who returned from Pakistan after visiting religious places there along with members of the Badal family, claimed that they had gone to Pakistan to pay obeisance at certain religious places and did nothing that could be gauged as detrimental to the peace and integrity of either India or Pakistan.

“Unfortunately certain political leaders, including Mr Mann, do not like the normalcy and peace restored in the state and wanted to disrupt the same. Even the present statement issued by Mr Mann seems to be issued at the behest of either Congress leaders or certain radicals,” said Mr Bagga while talking to Ludhiana Tribune.

He further argued that the secret meeting “conjured” by Mr Mann was neither possible nor desired by Ms Badal.

He called upon leaders of all political and social organisations to isolate disruptive forces and impress upon the Union Government to withdraw the notification that declared the state as disturbed and allow easy visa to Pakistani nationals.



Kashyap sheds light on Info Act
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 18
Chief Information Commissioner, Punjab, Rajan Kashyap today said the Right to Information Act-2005 was a revolutionary step in Indian democracy as it empowered common citizens to have an insight into the functioning of the government in more transparent manner.

Explaining the salient features of the Act to senior functionaries of Punjab Agricultural University at an interactive session here last evening, he said access to information empowered the common man because knowledge itself was power and the Act ensured that information that could not be denied to Parliament or state legislature should not be denied to any person.

Mr Kashyap said India was the 55th country to have come up with such an Act to ensure transparency and accountability in the government and public sector undertakings or non-governmental organisations funded by governments.

The Act ensured public participation and allowed any citizen to seek any information that had to be supplied in a time-bound manner.

Mr Kashyap urged the university officials to study the Act in consonance with the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments for a wider and clearer perspective.

“This will enable the university to develop a vision and create better awareness among its clients i.e. farmers and policy makers,” he added.

Vice-Chancellor K.S. Aulakh, who presided over the session, said the university functioning was already transparent, which had made academic and administrative decision-making processes efficient and accountable.

Mr Kashyap, who also gave the background of the Act, said India was far ahead of the United Kingdom when it came to accessing information.

In the UK, freedom of Information Act-2000 was being implemented in stages, whereas, in India the Act had been implemented in one go, he quipped.

He also referred to the advantages and disadvantages and shared the views of the participants that certain provisions of the Act had to be fine-tuned and made congruent with the existing laws.

Quoting Article 19, which recognizes right to information to citizens, he said the Fundamental Right to the Freedom of Expression could be exercised only if there was freedom of information and the given framework effectuated “Right to Information”.

Referring to the role of the State Information Commission, he said legal framework specifically empowered the common man to seek information, which would ensure clean governess.

The Act would also facilitate fair decision-making in the corporate sector and encourage private-public partnership and bring about a greater level of private investment.

Referring to the future prospects, he listed some emerging positives. These would ensure undue secrecy within the government vanished, information technology literacy would become essential and in the long run reduce paper work.

As to the inherent dangers in the Act, he said initially there would be paperwork for short time, demand for frivolous information, harassment of senior workers and shirking of responsibility by officials.

However, these teething problems, since the Act came into operation only in October, 2005, would vanish once the systems became operational.

Mr Kashyap was informed that the university had appointed an Information Officer, an Assistant Information Officer and that the Registrar acted as Appellate Authority.

The Vice-Chancellor agreed with Mr Kashyap that the Act should enable the university to develop an overarching website listing university’s achievements and open its portals to common citizens.

Dr Aulakh presented a memento to the Chief Information Commissioner.



Tax professionals decry audit provision in VAT Act
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 18
The Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana will consider and solve all grievances and problems of tax bar associations of Punjab. Mr Harish Rai Dhanda, Chairman, Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana, addressing a seminar on ‘Professional dignity of tax bars’ here last evening, organised by the Punjab Tax Bar Association (PTBA), focussed on day-to-day problems of taxation bar members. Tax practitioners from all over the state and office-bearers of tax bar associations from all districts attended the seminar.

Mr Dhanda said the Bar Council at Chandigarh always kept doors open to the professional fraternity for the purpose of conducting meetings, deliberations and seminars, as also for discussing problems.

He said issues raised by tax practitioners would be appropriately taken up with the Punjab Chief Minister and other ministers concerned.

In his presidential address, Mr Sudarshan Kapoor, president, PTBA, pleaded that under VAT-2005, there should be no audit or certification provisions for traders and industrialists since audit was already done under the provisions of the Income Tax Act.

“There are no audit provisions under VAT in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka and other states. It was nowhere mentioned in the white paper issued jointly by the Finance Ministers of 17 states that audit or certification will be required under VAT.”

Mr B.R. Kaushal, vice-president, and Mr Lalit Takyar, secretary-general of the association, were of the view that it was not the audit but just certification regarding correctness of certain entries which could also be certified by advocates and income tax practitioners.

They demanded that in case provisions for certification were not dispensed with, then advocates and income tax practitioners should also be allowed for the purpose of the certification.

Mr Ashok Juneja, chairman, PTBA, Mr Sudhir Mehra, general secretary, and Mr Raj Paul Gupta, finance secretary, pointed out that in appointing members of the appellate tribunal under the VAT Act, there should be no discrimination against the advocates.

The participants deliberated on several other issues which included smooth functioning of the VAT regime, upgradation of computer networks, enhancement of staff strength, doing away with detention of vehicles at barriers on minor or technical grounds, making available forms C, F and H, expedition of VAT refunds, enhancement of the turnover audit limit under the Income Tax Act from Rs 40 lakh to Rs 2 crore and speedy disposal of cases pending in appeals.

Prominent among the speakers were Mr Bal Krishan Gupta, Mr H.R. Saldi, Mr Pankaj Arora, Mr Prem Kumar Bansal, Mr P.C. Garg, Mr Ajay Chaudhary, Mr Ajay Paul Singh, Mr Tarlok Bhalla, Mr I.S. Malhi, Mr Arun Kanwal, Mr Varinder Sharma, Mr Inder Sain Sharma and Mr Vijay Kumar Mago. 



Dalit identity discussed
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 18
A seminar on Dalit identity — formation, cultural transformation, spiritual regeneration and political assertion — was organised by the Political Science Department of the GCW here today. Ms Gurkanwal Kaur, Minister of State for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, Social Welfare, Women and Child Development, presided over the function. The Principal of the college, Ms Prabhjot Kaur extended a warm welcome to the chief guest and other distinguished guests.

Ms Sukhwinder Kaur, Head of the Department of Political Science, was the stage secretary and introduced the guests to the audience. A resource person, Dr Ronki Ram, Reader, Deptt of political science, Panjab University, Chandigarh discussed about the foundation, existence and development of Dalit Identity.

Members of the panel included Mr Amarjit Singh Grewal, Dr Prithipal Singh Sohi, Mr Kuldip Singh and Dr Surjit Singh.

Ms Gurkanwal Kaur said Punjab should work as a community for development and words like Dalits should not exist in anybody’s vocabulary. It was high time that division on the basis of caste should be done away with. Expressing concern over the declining sex ratio in Punjab, she exhorted girls to excel in their respective fields.



Foundation stone of bridge laid
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 18
The Minister for Science and Technology, Mr Rakesh Pandey, laid the foundation stone of a bridge on Buddha Nullah in New Kundan Puri here today. The bridge will be constructed at the cost of Rs 32 lakh. It will solve the traffic problems of residents of New Kundan Puri. Mr Pandey also inaugurated the work of installing new tubewell worth Rs 10 lakh. Mr S.K. Sharma, Commissioner, MC, and Mr Nahar Singh Gill, Mayor, was also present on the function.


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