L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Politicians obstruct MC work again
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Congress councillors and their supporters prevent a JCB machine from demolishing an illegal structure at Ghumar Mandi in Ludhiana on Thursday
Congress councillors and their supporters prevent a JCB machine from demolishing an illegal structure at Ghumar Mandi in Ludhiana on Thursday. — Photo by I.V.

Ludhiana, March 2
Political interference once again prevented the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation (LMC) from taking action against a building bylaw violator when three councillors of the Congress allegedly did not allow a demolition squad of the civic body to raze an alleged illegal structure in Ghumar Mandi here this afternoon. The MC officials have announced recommending action against the councillors.

Preferring his “vote-bank” over the land of the law, Mr Gurpreet Singh Gogi, general secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee and husband of the area councillor, Ms Sukhchain Gogi, came in the way of a JCB machine, which was removing a commercial building that had been raised allegedly in violation of building bylaws.

Flanked by two other councillors, Mr Bharat Bhushan Ashu and Mr Balkar Singh Sandhu, Mr Gogi did not allow the demolition squad to do its duty. It returned without demolishing the structure.

All this happened just a few days after the city Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, had vowed at the core committee meeting that the civic body would not spare any councillor obstructing the MC work. He had warned that the councillor responsible for preventing the MC officials from performing their duty would be liable for the strictest action, including their termination from the MC House.

The Joint Commissioner of MC, Dr Jaswant Singh, who was leading the squad, told mediapersons at the spot that he would recommend action against the three councillors for obstructing the government work.

Interestingly, the senior MC and police officials, who were witness to the drama, could not dissuade the councillors. Mr Bharat Bhushan Ashu was seen talking to the city Mayor over the phone making him abreast of what was going on in Ghumar Mandi.

Soon after the team was seen coming back from the spot with the owner of the structure reportedly promising that he would himself remove the “objectionable part of the structure”.

Police officials complained that the MC had wasted their time.

Around two months ago, the city Mayor had himself stopped the demolition work at a building, which was in the neighbourhood of the building that faced action today.

Led by Dr Jaswant Singh, a team, including ATPs Meharban Singh, Tejpreet Singh, Ms Kanwaljit Kaur, a Building Inspector, area DSP Babu Lal Meena and area SHO R.S. Sohal, along with a heavy police force, went to the spot in the afternoon only to come back once again.

Earlier, the squad had gone to Shiv Mandir Road in Prem Nagar where a resident had allegedly constructed shops in her house in the residential area. Seeing the MC team, the workers started removing the shutters of the shop themselves.

Ms Beant Kaur, owner of the house, said she was told by a building inspector yesterday that it was not allowed to construct shops in a residential area.

This is not the first episode that political interference has not allowed the MC to act against a violator. In fact, it is becoming an everyday story. What remains to be seen is whether the Mayor takes any action against the councillors as he promised at the core committee meet held recently. 



Ponty likely to dominate liquor trade again
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, March 2
If the manner in which the state government is dragging its feet on the formulation of excise policy for the next year and tight wraps being maintained on the discussions taking place in the highest political circles in this regard are any indication, no major changes are expected in the new policy. As a result the “liquor cartel”, led by Mr Ponty Chadha, will maintain its stranglehold on the over Rs-1,200 crore liquor trade in Punjab.

Even as the neighbouring state of Haryana and Union Territory of Chandigarh have announced their excise policies for 2006-07, the Punjab Government is still to commence the preliminary exercise of interactions with the liquor traders at the division and district level, which, in normal circumstances, should have been completed by now.

Although senior officials of the Excise and Taxation Department are tight-lipped with the subtle indication that the matter was to be finally decided at the highest level, sources in the trade pointed out that under the influence of the liquor baron, whose proximity to senior political functionaries was no secret, the government, or the department, seemed to have given a go by to the traditional practice of intensive interaction with the members of liquor trade before the procedure for auction of liquor vends was set in motion in March every year.

The claim of the sources gains credence in the light of the high drama witnessed during auction of vends for the entire state here in March last year when it turned out to be a one-man show, with Mr Ponty Chadha dominating the proceedings all through.

During the past year, the auction of 4,310 vends of Punjab medium liquor (country liquor) and 1,344 vends of Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) had fetched a revenue of Rs 1266.09 crore which was marginally (2.02 per cent) higher than that earned in 2004-05.

The sources asserted that even though the cartel was keeping powers that be in good humour in its own business interest, if monopolistic trends continued in the auction of liquor vends, which seemed imminent, another “hard year” appeared to be in store for followers of Bacchus who would be made to pay anything from 30 to 50 per cent more for their preferred brands of country liquor and IMFL compared to prices prevailing in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh.



Substantial hike in MSP likely
Four get CM prize at PAU kisan mela
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 2
Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices T. Haque today hinted that the farmers might get a good minimum support price for wheat from the next year. He assured the farmers of Punjab that the endeavour of the commission would be to reduce income disparities and adopt an integrated system approach to improve their economies and profits in agriculture.

Dr Haque was addressing farmers on the campus of Punjab Agricultural University after inaugurating a two-day Kisan Mela. He declared the prices farmers got for their produce were not in consonance with their hard labour. He appealed to the farmers to follow the advice of PAU scientists.

As a votary of subsidies on agricultural inputs, he said these helped in lowering the cost of production. The farmers must adopt such agricultural practices and choose such crops that were market-driven, had export potential and were of high quality.

Earlier, escorted by PAU Vice-Chancellor K.S. Aulakh, he went around the agro industrial exhibition stalls put up by various departments of the university and private companies and visited the experimental and demonstration areas of the University.

Dr Haque said there were at least four pillars on which agriculture resurgence would depend — technology, biological, managerial and mechanical adoption of innovations. This would reduce the cost of cultivation.

In the given scenario, more than sympathy, farmers needed empathy of the government with corresponding policy support mechanism. And the scientists must minimise the drudgery of the farmers. “In fact during the past four of five years, not only overall profits have gone down but also in several ways, have became negative”, he added.

He presented Chief Minister’s prize to four farmers for their devotion to promoting agriculture, horticulture and allied fields. The prize carries a cash award of Rs25,000 each. While Inderjit Singh Kang of Kotla Shamspur village in Ludhiana and Karnail Singh of Marauli village in Ropar shared the Rs-25,000 award for their pioneering contribution in poultry and dairying, respectively, prize for agriculture was given to Amarjit Singh Dhillon of Bargari village in Faridkot. The prize for horticulture went to Nishan Singh Pannu of Kalyan village in Sangrur.

Dr Aulakh, who presided over the inaugural function, said in the present agricultural crisis the farmers were at the receiving end. The PAU was deeply concerned at stagnant production and dwindling incomes. It was also a matter of concern that the farmers today were reeling under a huge debt of Rs20,000 crore.

Bringing them out of debts puts great onus on the government, scientists and the commission, he added.

Setting the stage for the mela, Director of Extension Education S.S. Gill drew broad contours of what ails Punjab agriculture and farmers. He identified depleting water, un-remunerative minimum support price, slow diversification, high indebtedness and growing drug abuse as some of the major problems afflicting agriculture and farmers.

Among those present were Mr Mohinder Singh Grewal, Member of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, and members of PAU Board of Management, Ms Supinder Kaur Cheema and Mr Sant Singh Brar. Director of research Dr B.S. Dhillon proposed the vote of thanks.



Focus on water at PAU kisan mela
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 2
The annual kisan mela at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) began today with focus on conserving water.
The seriousness of the situation can be gauged from the fact that the water table is falling in 90 per cent of the state. The worst off are central districts where the area with water table below 30 feet increased from 3 per cent in 1973 to 95 per cent in 2005.

To discourage early sowing of paddy this year, the PAU has recommended that its cultivation should not be done before June 15.

Scientists say if paddy is sown on May 1, the water table will slump by 70 cm. The depletion will be 60 cm if sown around May 10 and 50 cm if sown around May 20. It will dip by 28 cm around May 30. If paddy is cultivated after June 10, the depletion of water will be only around 10 cm.

The stalls put up at the agro-industrial exhibition focused on production-protection technologies with stress on the efficient use of resources, conservation of natural resources and protection of environment. Farmers were shown new cropping systems to save water.

The exhibition with over 200 stalls covered a wide array of farm-related companies and manufacturers dealing with inputs and equipment. Though no new seeds were sold at the mela, farmers were acquainted with recommended varieties and hybrids of various crops, fruits and vegetables.

The other highlights were new production technologies for paddy transplantation, direct sowing of Basmati, usefulness of bed-cultivation of soyabean, inter-cropping in sunflower, new cropping systems etc.

In terms of protection technology, the chemical control of rice Hispa, early shoot-borer and termites in sugarcane, weed control in rice and mash etc formed part of the exposure given to the farmers.

There were stalls and field demonstrations on power machinery, home science, veterinary and animal science. Farmers evinced keen interest in competitions relating to produce and product.

The scientists and experts told the farmers to sow paddy nursery in the second fortnight of May and transplant it in the second fortnight of June. They asked them to opt for Basmati as it consumed less water.

The farmers demanded that the Commission for agricultural cost and prices should recommend remunerative minimum support price for “alternative” crops other than wheat and paddy.

Against 25-odd farm commodities covered under the MSP, the actual administration of MSP was only on wheat and paddy. Therefore, for any meaningful breakthrough in crop diversification or for making fragile contract farming sustainable, assured market and MSP are imperative. Bajra, pulses, maize, moong, soyabean and Basmati must also be procured at the prescribed MSP, they said.



Gang of nickel robbers busted
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 2
A gang of nickel robbers who had given sleepless nights to city industrialists for the past two years has finally fallen in the police net.
The city police today announced that 11 members of the about 25 member-strong gang that had stolen nickel worth crores of rupees in about more than 24 incidents in the city, apart from 12 other strikes in Delhi, Sangrur and Sonepat, had been arrested.

Though two key members of the gang, Dilip and Chanderma, having a history of crime, the police is yet to lay hands on the alleged gang leaders Ravinder Singh and Rakesh Singh, both brothers. Both belong to the city.

SP, Detective, Gurpreet Singh announced that those arrested were Dinesh, Deepak, Dilip, Jata Shankar, Raj Kumar, Uday Raj, Chedi Sahni, Kisna Kumar, Ranjit, Ravinder and Subash Kalia. The police seized a revolver, pistol and several sharpedged weapons from them.

Subash Kalia was the buyer of the stolen product. He used to buy it for Rs 400 per kg while the market rate was of over Rs 800 per kg.

Those yet to be arrested are Chanderma, Brahmdev, Mahesh, Chotta Dinesh, Balister, Varinder Kumar, Sarwan, Ravinder and Driver.

The SP said the gang used to strike in a group of over 10 persons. All stolen material used to be sold in the Sadar Market, Delhi.



Gatekeeper held in Devgan murder case
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 2
Just a few days after a special investigation team of the city police was formed to crack the murder of Prem Nath Devgan, owner of a MEFA needles manufacturing unit, a police team of the city has arrested a gatekeeper of the unit from Bihar.

According to the reports from Navgachiya town in Bihar, the police has arrested gatekeeper of the unit Rajiv, alias Bholla, for allegedly murdering the septuagenarian industrialist. He had been missing since the day of murder.

The police, however, refrained from announcing the arrest of the gatekeeper. ‘‘He is a suspect. The police team is bringing him to the city. 



Fire at textile mill, loss pegged at Rs 50 lakh
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, March 2
Goods worth more than Rs 50 lakh were destroyed in a fire that broke out at Sainik Textiles Mills Private Ltd at Kup on the Malerkotla-Ludhiana road last night.
At least seven persons were injured following the collapse of a wall during rescue operations.

According to Mr Raghbir Chand Maini, Managing Director of the company, the fire was first noticed in a cotton godown by a labourer at around midnight.

It had engulfed a major portion of the stock and a portion of the plant and machinery before the fire brigade could arrive. The fire was put out only in the morning.

It was during the operation that a wall collapsed and seven persons were injured.

The injured have been shifted to the Civil Hospital, Malerkotla.

Mr Mukesh Sharma, Executive Magistrate, who supervised the operation said a report would be sent to higher officials.



Now postman gives insurance policy too
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, March 2
Now your friendly mailman will not only bring letters from your near and dear ones but also offer insurance cover against accidental death and disability.
Under an agreement between the Department of Posts and the Oriental Insurance Company Limited (OIC), the post men would sell accidental insurance policies to the post office account holders against a nominal premium.

Holders of Post Office Saving Bank, Monthly Income Scheme and Senior Citizens Saving Scheme would be entitled to avail themselves of the benefit of personal accident death insurance cover, specially devised by the OIC for postal account holders.

Ms Manisha Bansal Badal, Senior Superintendent of Post Offices (SSPO), Ludhiana City Division, who launched the scheme at Head Post Office here yesterday, said the insurance scheme had evoked a huge response and on the opening day itself, some 300 postal account holders had purchased the insurance policies. She said that against a premium of Rs 15 per annum, the policy provided a cover of Rs 1 lakh for accidental death in any circumstances.

Maintaining that the department was continuously striving to offer innovative and value-added services to its customers, Ms Bansal said the tie-up with the insurance company was another step in that direction.

She said the postal saving schemes were the best investment options for the common people, simply because of the safety and security of the investment along with high rate of interest. With the added advantage of risk coverage through insurance policies, the postal saving schemes had become more beneficial, she added.



Youth called upon to check female foeticide
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 2
The Directorate of Social Empowerment and Economic Development, Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle, organised a panel discussion on female foeticide at Master Tara Singh College here today.

Chairperson of Punjab Women Commission Parminder Kaur was the chief guest. She called upon the youth, specially girl students, to empower themselves with the scientific knowledge and create a desirable atmosphere in the families against female foeticide.

She said: “The government is taking steps to check this inhuman practice of killing unborn girl child, but till the public extends whole hearted cooperation, success cannot be achieved. Under a plan the parents, who will go for sterilisation after the birth of two girl children, will be given special honours.”

Ms Parminder Kaur said the government was arranging camps in schools and colleges to bring the seriousness of the problem to the forefront.

In case any woman is molested or their modesty outraged they can report it to the Punjab Women Commission.

Mr Parag Jain, DIG, said the serious lacunae in the present administrative mechanism and machinery could not help much in solving the problem. More education effective measures and bold stand taken by women (mothers) themselves could help in bringing down the incidence of female foeticide.

Punjabi singer Sarabjeet Cheema said people should stop watching vulgar videos that go against our culture.

The panelists of the discussion included former Sessions Judge President of the District Consumer Forum Avtar Singh Narula, Prof Balwinderpal Singh, Head of the Economics Department, GHG Khalsa College, Sudhar, Dr Mandeep Kaur, gynaecologist, Ms Roma Kaur, International Coordinator, Study Circle, Ms Karamjeet Kaur, Financial Director of “Kaurs Magazine”.

Principal Ram Singh, chief organiser of the discussion, thanked Ms Madanjit Kaur Sahota, Principal of the college, and staff members for their co-operation.



Paramedics, health staff stage dharna
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 2
In response to a call given by the coordination committee of para-medical and health employees, Punjab, hundreds of health department employees today staged a dharna at the Civil Surgeon's office here in support of their demands.

The protest was part of a series of district-level dharnas being staged by the coordination committee.

Addressing workers, Mr Balbir Kalia, chairman, and Mr Amarjit Singh Pandher, convener of the committee, said employees posted on plan posts were being denied salaries for the past several months. Repeated representations to the authorities for the release of salaries had failed to evoke any response.

The speakers urged the government to grant the promised time scale of four-9-14 years, increase the fixed medical allowance to a minimum of Rs 500, link uniform allowance to wages and revoke the anti-employee decision to hand over the Health Department to panchayats and zila parishads.

Trade union activists served an ultimatum to the government to address the issues, failing which the committee would intensify the agitation.

Among other speakers at the rally were Mr Bhajan Singh, Mr Buta Singh, Mr Surjit Singh, Mr Gurdeep Singh, Mr Himmat Singh, Mr Surinder Singh, Ms Sarbjit Kaur Payal, Mr Dev Singh, Mr Major Singh, Mr Dalip Singh, Mr Mastan Singh, Mr Mehar Singh, Mr Malkhan Singh and Mr Surinder Singh.



Subsidies distributed

Ludhiana, March 2
Industrialists from the textile sector were distributed subsidies to the tune of Rs 1,594 crore at an awareness programme on Technological Upgradation Fund (TUF) held here last evening.

Mr J.S.Rawat, Deputy Director, regional office of Textile Commissioner, Amritsar, informed industrialists about various government policies for the sector. He said small scale industrialists could avail of capital subsidy of 15 per cent. A 20 per cent subsidy was available for power-loom units, he added. TNS



Korean Rotary team in city
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 2
Rtn Jatinder Chawla, president, Rotary Club of Ludhiana North, stated that the general survey exchange team from Rotary International, distt 3740, Korea, visited the Rotary Club, Ludhiana North, here yesterday.

Mr Hyun Kak Sin, Mr Dong Jun Kim, Mr Kyung Keun Min and Ms Eun Yong Kim were the members of the team. Rotarian Suman Chawla exchanged the club flag with Ms Eun Yong Kim, who was sponsored by the Rotary Club, Dong Seo.

The purpose of the visit was to exchange cultural and social views. 


Visitors at an exhibition of handicrafts at the Nehru Sidhant Kendra in Ludhiana on Thursday
Visitors at an exhibition of handicrafts at the Nehru Sidhant Kendra in Ludhiana on Thursday. — A Tribune photograph

Handicraft exhibition attracts people
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 2
An exhibition of handicrafts organised by Tamil Nadu is being held at Nehru Sidhant Kendra. Statues, original Tanjore paintings, embroidered items, enamelled brass articles, jewellery pieces are being offered for sale. The exhibition is on from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. till March 5.
Cotton suits are very reasonably priced at the exhibition. Crafted figurines made of sandalwood also fascinate people.



Tax surveys bother industry
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 2
Income tax surveys have become a major cause of distress to industry, the Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in a press note here today.
Representatives of the chamber apprised the Income Tax Commissioner, mr M.N.A. Chaudhary, of this problem. "He said the department does not insist on surrendering any amount during the survey. It only collects data so as to use it at the time of assessment," Mr P. D. Sharma, president of the chamber, said.

The increase of target for direct taxes by 50 per cent in case of Ludhiana indicated that an impression about tax evasion had been formed on the basis of erroneous grounds. "Only a small percentage of industry is rich and spends heavily on social functions.

This is a miniscule proportion. It is not justified to form an impression that the city has a large number of rich industrialists," he said.

The chamber said there were cases of people from several other sections of society like agriculturists who were indulging in heavy spending. "The industry should not be a target," he added.



Bank disburses loans worth Rs 67 crore
Our Correspondent

Jagraon, March 2
The Oriental Bank of Commerce disbursed loans worth Rs 67.09 crore to 1,630 farmers of the area and also 70 entrepreneurs from the SSI and SME sectors recently. Mr M.D. Mallya, executive director, who along with Mr G.K. Sachdeva, General Manager of the bank, attended a credit camp organised on the Jagraon-Ludhiana road 3 km from here, said this today. Farmers from adjoining villages were present on the occasion.

Mr Mallya lauded the role of farmers of Panjab in the national economy and impressed upon the branches of the OBC to sanction and disburse maximum loans to farmers under certain competitive schemes. Mr Sachdeva and Mr Pardeep Aggarwal, Deputy General Manager, regional office of the bank, addressed the gathering.


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