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Girls handed over to parents amid confusion
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 1
Seven-year-old Pooja and her three-year-old sister Shabnam’s wait ended as their parents returned today, amid confusion that prevailed after Mr Naginder Verma and his wife approached the local police, as Sharafil, the man who had left the two girls with them, failed to turn up. The two children were finally handed over to their parents at the Basti Jodhewal police station here.

“We went to Buland Shahar and wanted to visit some religious places due to which we got late. As we didn’t have the contact number of the family, we could not inform them,” explained Sharafil.

On Friday, Sharafil, who was a former neighbour of Mr Naginder Verma and his wife Reeta Verma in Kashmir Nagar, left the two girls with their family now staying in Kirpal Nagar saying that he, alongwith the parents of the two girls, would return the following day. However, when he did not return even after three days, the family approached the local police.

What added to their suspicion was that Sharafil left the girls in haste. “My husband was not at home when he came. I asked him to wait so I could contact my husband but he went out on the pretext of getting biscuits for the younger girl and handed a packet of biscuits to a child outside the house and left,” said Ms Reeta Verma.

Following that, there was no information about the whereabouts of Sharafil or the parents of the two children even after attempts were made for the same by the family.

Adding to the confusion was the fact that the parents did not drop them. The mother of the girls, Jyoti, also admitted that her sister stayed in Ludhiana. When asked as to why she did not leave the children with her relatives or took them with her, she said, pointing to Sharafil, “He said we could drop them with this family he knew.”

She was accompanied by Rishipal Singh, the father of the children today. Regarding Sharafil, Rishipal said: “He is my friend and it was just that we had to go out and we also had some work so he dropped them.”

Mr Jaswinder Singh, SHO, Basti Jodhewal Police Station, told the Ludhiana Tribune: “Rishipal, the father was booked under the NDPS Act and was in jail for six months. The mother of these children, who was alone during this period, began staying with Sharafil. We would investigate the details about her and Sharafil. The kids have been handed over to them.”

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Help must for victims with suicidal tendencies
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 1
Following a spate of suicides in the recent past, a city-based homoeopath has asked the residents to help the victims with suicidal tendencies.

Claiming that the spurt in the incidents in the backdrop of suicide by a Patiala-based trader can actually trigger the factors forcing a potential victim to end his life, Dr Muktinder Singh, the homoeopath, says identifying such a person and taking him for treatment can save his life.

Vindicating his claim, the homoeopath says it is only after the Patiala incident that reports of similar incidents started pouring in from all parts of the state. Within a few days, many people immolate themselves by adopting similar methods.

Based in the Model Town area, Dr Muktinder Singh, who follows Heinemann’s principles, says besides psychiatrists, homoeopaths can also treat a person contemplating suicide with the help of medication as well as counselling.

“As we are witnessing a number of cases of suicides in the past few days, it has become important for everyone to look for potential victims around, be it in the family, at workplace or in the neighbourhood. The person, who has lost desire to live and often claims that he would kill himself, should be taken seriously and treated.”

Stating that killing oneself is as heinous a crime as committing a murder, Dr Muktinder Singh says those people who contemplate suicide are born with a gene that could force them to kill themselves.

“In such cases extreme circumstances like poverty, hunger, separation, insult, mounting debt, death of a dear one and broken relationship prove fatal.

If you know somebody, who has often talked about killing himself and seems to be in despair, he should be taken to a psychiatrist or a homoeopath.”

He says there are some specific days when more suicides are committed. There is a research to prove that waning and waxing of moon has a lot to do with such incidents. The signs shown by the potential victims, especially teenagers, who fail to do well in exams have to be taken seriously.

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Minor fire in bank
Our Correspondent

Khanna, February 1
A fire broke out in the OBC Bank on the GT Road this morning. It was controlled after two hours. A short-circuit was said to be the reason behind the fire. Fire tenders from Khanna, Mandi Gobindgarh and Ludhiana were pressed into service. No one was injured in the incident. Some records of the bank were reportedly destroyed in fire.

SDM Jaspal Mittal said Fire Brigade official Sushil Kumar did a good job to control the fire and would be rewarded.

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Unscheduled power cuts irk residents
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, February 1
Unscheduled power cuts imposed for hours daily have caused resentment among local residents and industrialists. Industry representatives alleged in addition to the compulsory cuts, the industry was also suffering due to unscheduled power cuts.

The residents of the town and the surrounding villages are facing power cuts on a regular basis. “We fail to understand the necessity of a power cut for half an hour at 6 am daily. They could have at least adjusted the schedule so as to decrease the woes of the residents,” argued Mr Dharam Pal Sharma. He said a large number of residents had stopped going on a morning walk as it was dark and risky.

Mr Jatinder Kumar Bhola, president Municipal Council, said even services provided by the civic body were also affected as water supply and the disposal of waste water was also dependent upon the power supply. He rued that the board authorities had not responded to their appeal to reschedule the power supply. “It is obvious that residents, who do not get enough water for taking bath at proper time would impress upon us to launch an agitation against the board authorities,” argued Mr Bhola.

Mr Sanjiv Singla, an industrialist, said, “The unscheduled power cuts not only affect production and margins, but also the credibility of industrialists who are not able to meet their orders. Poor power situation has caused heavy losses to industry in this part of the state”. He said regular power supply should be ensured otherwise many industrial units would be compelled to close down their units.

Mr Jagwant Singh Jaggie, president, SAD, and Mr Tarsem Garg, a social activist, said: “Regular power supply seems to be an unachievable task for the PSEB now. Unscheduled cuts not only affect the facilities available to residents, but also their health and routine.”

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PAU gets over Rs 3 crore grant for seed production
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 1
For seed production in field crops, fruits and vegetables, Punjab Agricultural University has been given Rs 3.73 crore by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) as part of the nationwide Rs 198- crore schemes. This two-year project will operate in 85 centres with 100 per cent financial support from the ICAR.

According to the PAU’s Director of Research, Dr B.S. Dhillon, the money will be used at the university’s seed research farms at Ladhowal, Nabha and Naraingarh to provide the necessary infrastructure, equipment and machinery, for the development of seed processing units, screen houses etc.

In Punjab, 46 per cent of the farmers come under the small and marginal category and own up to 2 hectares each and whose economic condition is dismal, said Dr Dhillon.

The State Farmers Commission, in consultation with the PAU, has identified several policy intervention issues and research and development areas to strength the incomes and economies of the farmers and raise agricultural production through value addition. Dr Dhillon said, based on the feedback provided by the PAU, the commission recently made a presentation to Punjab Governor General S.F.Rodrigues (retd) in Chandigarh. In the presentation, it was pointed out that more financial assistance for research and development should be given to the PAU and its 15 Krishi Vigyan Kendras, besides enabling the PAU to further participatory research involving farmers, scientists and industry to give impetus to research and development.

The other key area of policy intervention identified by the PAU suggested to the state government included putting in place legislative mechanism to stop paddy nursery sowing before May 10, simplifying raising of loans from banks, introducing a system of payment for produce to the farmers through account payee cheques, regulating non-instiutional finance to farmers and working for investments in infrastructure and providing incentives for re-seeding second Green Revolution.

Another policy intervention, Dr Dhillon said, pertained to creating Rs 100 crore market stabilisation funds besides creating agro-processing facilities for soybean, maize, wood.

On research and development in agriculture, concern was expressed over declining investments in agriculture research. This called for increasing productivity of wheat and rice and improving yields of pulses, maize, BT cotton, popularising zero tillage, bed planting of paddy and working for new transgenic varieties and hybrids through genetic engineering.

Other areas for research and development in agriculture which Commission Secretary K.S. Pannu highlighted in the presentation were post-harvest management technology to reduce losses in grain and perishable fruits and vegetables, value addition through processing, working on bio-fuel crops like Jatropha and sugarcane and embryo transport technology for high milk production. Strengthening of extension services was also stressed.

Dr Dhillon said the PAU had identified main problems afflicting agriculture in Punjab and initiated remedial action in most cases. However, financial backing would go a long way to accelerate finding solutions to these problems. The problems pertain to over exploitation of water, which is receding at the rate of 55 cm. per year, forcing farmers to install submersible pumps. It was estimated that at least four lakh submersible pumps would be in place instead of centrifugal pumps at a cost of Rs 4,000 crore by 2010. Similarly by then, the energy requirement would triple. The low-yielding dairy animals was another area of concern which needed corrective measures to give boost to milk production because dairy section was plagued by low yield and unproductive animals.

Farmers’ indebtedness however, remained a major cause of concern with estimated agricultural advances at Rs 24,000 crore against total value of agricultural output of Rs 16,000 crore. The major source of credit for the farmers still remained money lenders and commission agents, who account for 50 per cent of the finances to the farmers. They charged high rate of interest ranging from 18 per cent to 24 per cent per annum.

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Traffic diverted
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 1
Owing to the ongoing construction of the elevated road from Chand Cinema to Jagraon Bridge, the Municipal Corporation has decided to divert the traffic coming from Ferozpore Road, Gill Chowk, Dholewal Chowk and Ghantaghar to Tool Market from February 3.

The construction work will be held from 10 pm to 4 a.m. in the morning.

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Passing Thru

Rajiv Setia
Rajiv Setia, CEO, Techno Bikes

What kind of response do you expect for the Chinese bikes launched by your company?

Rising fuel prices and problems like pollution have necessitated vehicles that are safe and solve these problems. These battery-operated two-wheelers that include scooters and also a bicycle use no petrol and are, hence, pollution and noise-free. We expect a good response considering the fact that these are economical too.

How are the scooters economical?

They are priced between Rs 17,000 and Rs 29,000 and are maintenance-free. The average is also good.

Are Chinese products relatively weaker in quality compared to Indian products. What do you say?

In Chinese markets, too you can buy products of different qualities. There could be a similar product that is low on the quality front. But we would not compromise, and these bikes are of superior quality.

What are the options and who are your target customers?

We have launched four models — Eco City, Eco Sonic, Eco Jadoo and Eco Sporty, powered by 250 watt to 450 watt engines. Our target customers are school-goers, youth and office-goers.

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Experts for cost-effective farming for better returns
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 1
The Director of Agriculture, Mr Balwinder Singh Sidhu, has attributed higher cost of cultivation to the lack of application of recommended agricultural practices by farmers, particularly fertilizer use and farm machinery.

He was speaking at the live telecast of a seminar organised jointly by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Punjab Agricultural University at Deepak village in Mansa yesterday.

He said in Punjab there was an increase of 4 lakh bags of DAP and 5 lakh bags of urea every year, whereas area under rabi and kharif crops remained the same. This indicated that though farm production costs increased returns were stagnating.

“Farmers continue to use higher ratio of NPK fertilizers 35:9.4:1 against PAU’s recommended 4:2:1,” he added.

Mr Sidhu said the state Department of Agriculture would launch a special campaign to propagate the recommendations of the university and promote its literature, particularly the monthly magazine Changi Kheti and publications on kharif and rabi crops, fruits and vegetables taking the same to the doorstep of every village.

Referring to farm machinery, he said, this had reached a saturation point. The farmers were not making optimum use of tractors. Punjab had 4.59 lakh tractors whose average annual working was barely 250 hours against recommended 2,200 hours per annum. He appreciated the role of village cooperative societies of Ludhiana and Moga, which have procured tractors, thereby discouraging the farmers not only from paying up hefty sums of money to buy tractors but enabling many farmers to sell of their tractors.

The Department of Agriculture would also help PAU to introduce information and communication technology at Krishi Vigyan Kendras and spread the message of knowledge-based agriculture.

The gathering at the seminar was also addressed by the Punjab State Tubewell Corporation Vice-Chairman, Mr. Rampal Tepai.

Experts from PAU namely Dr B.S. Chahal, Dr H.S. Rewal, Dr Jaspal Singh Virk and Editor of Changi Kheti Gurbhajan Singh Gill also addressed the farmers and answered their questions.

The seminar, among others, was also addressed by district officers and progressive farmers.

The in charge of the Krishi Darshan programme of Doordarshan, Mr Sardarjit Bawa, thanked officials of the departments of agriculture, horticulture and PAU experts for making the telecast a success and creating new awareness among farmers.

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Artistes resent obscenity during music parties
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 1
Bar girls’ dance might have been banned in Mumbai, but in most parts of Punjab and Ludhiana in particular, semi-clad dancing girls at marriage parties has become the norm these day. There are less artistes and more dancing girls during the musical performances at various marriage parties and other functions.

This has led to most artistes proficient in singing or playing instruments being rendered jobless. They staged a protest today against this trend.

Gabbar, who is trained in playing several musical instruments, besides singing, said that orchestra operators “hire a few dancing girls for a paltry amount and play music in the background.”

Another artist working with a local orchestra said for the past few months, he was not offered any assignment since his place was taken away by dancing girls. He said he was told by the orchestra operator that he no longer needed his services as he now played pre-recorded music with the girls dancing to it.

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Withdraw hike in cost of meters
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 1
The United Cycle and parts Manufacturers Association has urged the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) to withdraw the revised increased cost of meters, meter equipment and meter rentals.

In a letter to the chairman of the PSEB, Mr Y.S. Ratra, the association said it had received numerous complaints from its members and the public pertaining to the issue.

“The cost of meters and rentals is already high. There was no need to effect another increase, which the industry will not be able to afford,” said Mr Varinder Kapoor, general secretary of the association.

The association said prior to the recent circular, rentals for LT/HT and TPT meters without CT/PT units were being charged at Rs 135 to Rs 320 along with other charges totalling Rs 352 per month from February 2000 onwards.

“The OP divisions and subdivisions have charged a huge monthly rental on higher rates which has upset consumers,” the association said.

Urging the chairman to withdrawa the increase to “avoid unnecessary harassment to consumers”, the association requested him to meet industry to discuss power problems.

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Tributes paid to Kalpana Chawla
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 1
Tributes were paid to Kalpana Chawla on her third death anniversary here today. A function was jointly organised by the Punjabi Sabhyachar Akademi, Ludiana, Apna Punjab Publications, New York, and the Young Writers Association, PAU.

Gurdeep Pandher, who has authored a book on the life of Kalpana Chawla, gave a visual presentation on her life. The presentation included a number of slides and sketches about her life. The function was presided over by Dr V.K. Sharma, Registrar, PAU.

Dr Sharma exhorted the youth to emulated the achievements of Kalpana, who by virtue of sheer hardwork and her own ability had touched the skies. He pointed out that there was no dearth of talent among the youth and they only needed to work hard and channelise their energies.

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Khalsa Panchayat to launch Panthic campaign
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 1
The Khalsa Panchayat has decided to launch a statewide campaign for community reformation, according to the Panchayat leader, Mr Charanjit Singh Channi. The campaign would be launched on Baisakhi.

Mr Channi said a meeting of Panthic organisations was held here today which expressed grave concern over the deteriorating Panthic values.

The panchayat leader alleged that Mr Parkash Singh Badal and his party had failed the Panth. He accused Mr Badal of manipulating the affairs of the SGPC. He alleged that just as the gurdwara liberation movement was launched before the setting up of the SGPC, a similar movement needed to be launched again as similar forces had usurped the gurdwara wealth.

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BJP raps govt over price rise
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 1
The BJP today criticised the state and central governments, led by the Congress, for the “extraordinarily soaring prices of essential commodities”. This had completely exposed the party’s “anti-people policies”, it said.

In a statement issued here today, Mr Rajinder Bhandari, spokesman and general secretary of the state BJP, alleged that the real cause of rise in prices was additional taxes, shortage and black marketing. He said the frequent hike in the electricity rates and taxes had increased prices manifold. He claimed that the Congress government, during its regime, had revised electricity rates three times and the total raise comes to 80 per cent.

Mr Bhandari said the rise in the price of the essential commodities had badly affected the life of the masses. How irrelevant is the Congress slogan “Congress hands with common man”, he said. The reality, was that the Congress hand was with corrupt, hoarders, black-marketers and liquor and land mafia. The party was never with the common man and it would never work in his interest.

He said, in the wake of the Congress party’s misgovernance, the state BJP would continue its ongoing public awakening campaign. He was confident that people of Punjab would soon uproot the Congress government from Punjab.

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Pensioners up in arms against govt
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 1
The Government Pensioners Association has alleged that more than five lakh state employees and pensioners are up in arms against the attitude of the government towards their demands.

Mr Yash Paul Ghai, general secretary of the outfit, said during its 48-month rule and after having presented four budgets, the Capt Amarinder Singh government had failed to fulfil even a single electoral promise. The promises include increase in medical allowance and grant of house rent allowance to pensioners.

He said the fixed medical allowance of Rs 250 per month, being paid to state employees and pensioners since January 1, 1998, was inadequate to meet the ever-increasing cost of medicare. During the past eight years, the medicare cost had risen by 48 per cent as per the consumer price index. Hence, a raise in medical allowance was long overdue, he demanded.

The benefit of old-age allowance was not extended to them while they attained the age of 80 despite the Third Pay Commission’s recommendation made 17 years ago. This move involved negligible financial implications, as hardly 5 per cent pensioners survived after 80, he pointed out.

Incidentally, former MLA pensioners in Punjab were allowed this benefit at the age of 65, 75 and 80. Other pensioners are given this benefit only at two ages, i.e., 65 and 75 years and the benefit at the age of 80 had all along been unfairly denied to them.

Another complaint was that as serving employees, they were getting HRA, CCA and rural area allowance. However, after retirement, they were deprived of all such benefits.

Mr Ghai said the payscales of Punjab employees were revised w.e.f. 1-1-1996 as per recommendations of the Fourth Punjab Pay Commission. The pay panel had also recommended next pay revision after 10 years, which is now due from 1-1-2006. In view of the ever-increasing prices and various other factors the revision of pay structure and pensionary benefits had become inevitable.

Most of the state governments, including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, had already set up their own pay commissions. He urged the Punjab Government to set up the fifth pay panel without further delay.

Another grievance was that the new pension commutation formula, effective from July, 2003, had imposed a major cut in the commutation of pension of those retiring after July 31, 2003. Under this formula, a person who retires at the age of 58 gets commutation at the rate of 6.21 per cent instead of 10.46 per cent, as was the case earlier. This means that under the new rules, a retiree gets nearly Rs 60,000 instead of Rs 1 lakh.

Besides, the rate of interest chargeable on the commuted pension had been raised from 4.75 to 8 per cent. As such, this step was unjust. In all fairness, the old pension commutation formula should be restored, he pointed out.

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