L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


MC okays Rs 402-crore Budget
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 16
The city is all set to witness major development worth hundreds of crores under the Centre’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission for which the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation will provide Rs 80 crore by auctioning its passive properties.

This was the major highlight of the MC’s Budget with a total outlay of Rs 402.17 crore which was passed in less than 25 minutes amid a ruckus and sloganeering by Opposition councillors.

After passing the Budget, the general house meeting was adjourned following a ruckus in the House. None of the agenda items was discussed. Earlier, as the MC Secretary read out the Budget following directions by the Mayor, Congress councillors thumped their desks declaring the Budget as passed even as the Opposition councillors disrupted the proceedings claiming that it could not be taken passed because the Congress did not have a majority on the floor of the House today.

Amid the sloganeering, two Akali councillors—Mr Simarjit Singh Bains and Mr Rajinder Singh Bhatia—were involved in a duel when they tried to reach out to the maintenance register. They thrashed each other on the floor of the House only and were seen fighting with each other after the meeting was over. However, both refused to speak to the media over the issue.

Within 25 minutes, the Commissioner, Mr S.K. Sharma, and the Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, left the House with the latter adjourning the meeting of the general house till 2 pm today. The meeting was again postponed for an indefinite period. The Mayor said they had issued an agenda already and would be hold the meeting soon.

The leader of Opposition, Mr Parvin Bansal, and Mr Harbhajan Singh Dang, an Akali leader, said they had passed the Budget in an undemocratic way as there were only 13 Congress councillors present in comparison to 22 others owing allegiance to the BJP, the BSP and the SAD. He accused the MC of making an ambitious Budget proposal while it was not able to achieve the targets during the last fiscal.

With a total outlay of Rs 402.17 crore for the fiscal 2006-2007, providing Rs 153.42 crore for development works, the proposal gave hope to city residents that there will be no slums in and around the city, more sewer pipes will be laid, more households will get potable water, more bridges will be constructed to ease traffic and undeclared areas will be declared and provided with basic amenities by the end of the next fiscal, starting from April 1.

Mr Bansal said the MC had failed on every front as far as the last fiscal was concerned. He said the MC had earmarked Rs 100 lakh for purchasing machinery while only Rs 30 lakh was expected to be spent on the same by the end of this fiscal. He added that similarly on computerisation, the MC had laid a plan of Rs 100 lakh but only around Rs 2 lakh were expected to be spent on the same. On laying water supply pipes, Rs 5 crore was earmarked while only Rs 6.5 lakh was spent.

“On both these public works, the MC has drawn flak. And here they have made bigger promises. They can spend money on public works only if they do not try to please their political bosses,” he added. He said the MC had lagged behind in collecting revenue from all sources of income against the Budget last year. He said against the Rs 1 crore budgeted income from advertisements, the MC had earned only Rs 7 lakh from the industrial city where a single board was able to fetch the MC this amount. He said there was not a single penny released to the local civic body from HUDCO and only Rs 5 crore was released to the MC by the state government against a pending income of Rs 65 crore from excise duty.

Further in the Budget, the MC has earmarked an amount of Rs 22 crore for laying new roads, Rs 44 crore for bridges, Rs 15 crore for streets and drains, Rs 8 crore for street lights, Rs 6 crore for parks and Rs 6 crore for providing basic amenities in slums.

According to the Budget estimates, octroi will remain the biggest source of revenue with a projected income of Rs 155 crore— figures for the current year in brackets (Rs 135 crore), followed by house tax Rs 50 crore (Rs 38 crore), octroi on electricity Rs 11 crore (Rs 10.50 crore), composition fee Rs 3 crore (Rs 3 crore), sale of property Rs 8 crore (Rs 5 crore), additional excise duty Rs 68 crore (Rs 14 crore), HUDCO loan Rs 53 crore (Rs 11.11 crore) and licence fee under Section 343, Rs 100 lakh (Rs 39 lakh).

Apart from development works, which will be allocated a lion’s share of the total income, Rs 88 crore will be spent on establishment, Rs 11crore on contingency, Rs 1.3 crore on capital works and Rs 4 crore on maintenance. The expenditure of the O&M Cell of the MC on establishment and that on contingency will be maintained at Rs 23 crore and Rs 10 lakh, respectively.



Cancel special MC session: Oppn
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 16
The Opposition in the municipal corporation today demanded the cancellation of the special session of the general house in which the Budget for the fiscal 2006-07 was tabled stating that they were not given a chance to debate on any of the issues.

Addressing a press conference at the BJP office here today, Mr Parvin Bansal, BJP councillor and Leader of the Opposition in MC, said if the meeting was not cancelled and the session held again, they would stage a dharna outside the MC office on March 22.

Showing a letter written to the Mayor, Mr Bansal said they were demanding the cancellation as they were not provided 72-hour time to go through the Budget proposals as stipulated in the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act, 1976,

He accused the local civic body of making announcements during the Budget session of the House only to get the applaud from councillors and not to fulfil promises on the ground. He said all promises made by the Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, proved to be tall claims.

Stating that at the time of the last proposals, the Mayor had announced that they would make CNG compulsory for vehicles plying on city roads to combat vehicular pollution, start metro rail project to ease traffic congestion and develop portable green parks for the residents. “None of those projects could see the light of the day. They did not make any effort to pursue those seriously,” said Mr Bansal.

He added that during the last Budget, they had promised the public that they would take up the issue of water and sewer bills with the state government but after their perusal, the rates were hiked manifold.

Mr Bansal said they would approach the state government to levy interest on non-payment of house tax and water loans at the rate of 6 per cent against the existing 18 per cent.

He said it was too much for the commoners who already found it difficult to pay hefty water and sewerage bills. “The rate of interest on house loans and other loans charged by various banks was not more than 6 per cent. How can they burden the public by levying exorbitant rates of interest?” he added.



Man convicted of kissing, biting minor’s cheeks
Rajneesh Lakhanpal

Ludhiana, March 16
Mohinder Singh (40) of Sidhwan Bet has been convicted of forcibly kissing and biting the cheeks of a six-year-old girl. He has been sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for six months and a fine of Rs 1,000 has also been imposed on him.

Delivering the verdict, Mr J. S. Marok, Judicial Magistrate, held that the prosecution had proved that the accused used criminal force with an intent to outrage the modesty of the girl. The Judge declined the plea of the accused for releasing him on probation, with the observation that such offences needed to be dealt with firmly.

The accused had been declared proclaimed offender in 1997. He was, however, arrested by the police.

The accused was booked under section 354 of the IPC following a complaint of Inderjit Singh of Khandoor village.

It was submitted by the complainant to the police that his daughter was playing with other children in front of the house of Darshan Singh. The accused, who was a relative of Darshan Singh, was also present there.

He took his daughter some distance away and started kissing and biting her on the cheeks. In the meanwhile, his son reached there and noticed that the accused had covered her mouth with his hand. When he asked him what he was doing, the accused ran away.

The prosecution also examined Dr Satwant Kaur who stated that she had treated the girl and there were teeth marks on her cheeks.

However, the accused pleaded not guilty and claimed false implication. He submitted that he was related to Sarwan Singh and Arjun Singh. There was a dispute between his relatives and the father of the girl over the issue of the construction of a wall. He used to help his relatives and that was why he had been implicated.



City couple found dead in Srinagar hotel
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 16
The honeymoon of a city-based couple turned into a tragedy when they were found dead in Kings Hotel, near Pehalgam, Jammu and Kashmir, this morning.

The Srinagar police and the staff of the hotel found the bodies of Pankaj Kumar Singla and his wife Poornima Singla in a room of the hotel.

The tragic news engulfed the residence of the couple in Narinder Colony in New Shivaji Nagar in gloom. They were married on March 6 and left for Srinagar the next day.

The colony, which had been reverberating with the marriage celebrations last week, donned an eerie silence today.

Pankaj was the eldest son of Tarsem Lal, a yarn trader. The family of the deceased was informed by the driver of the taxi in which they had gone to Srinagar.

The parents of the couple have left for Pehalgam. Pankaj is survived by a younger sister and a brother.

Family sources said as per the information given by the driver over the phone, the couple were allegedly found asphyxiated in a room of the hotel.

The couple had not opened the door since morning, which forced the hotel employees and the police to break its door.

Police sources said the couple possibly died due to a gas leak in the heating system.

The man lay dead on the bed while his wife was found dead near the bathroom door.

It seemed the woman had got up to stop the leakage, but collapsed near the door.

Sources in the deceased family said Poornima’s parents lived in Barnala. They have been informed about the tragedy.



Market down with bird flu
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 16
The market for poultry products, that was showing signs of revival, once again dipped after the news of bird flu from Jalagaon.

The poultry industry, that had expected customers to be back, particularly on Holi, remains depressed as no substantial rise in sales occurred yesterday.

“We were expecting things to be back to near normal on Holi. However, the news of bird flu acted as a dampener,” said Sandeep, a city retailer. Those associated with the industry, including poultry farmers and traders, now plan to continue their efforts like organising chicken melas and consumer awareness seminars.

The rate of broiler, that had dipped from Rs 33 to a low of Rs 15-18 increased to Rs 20-22 and that of eggs hovered around Rs 78-80. In the retail market, the price of dressed chicken, that had dipped to around Rs 45, increased to Rs 55 and remained at around Rs 60 last week. However, the price declined to Rs 55-58 today. No increase is likely for another week as the situation will take a little longer to get normal, say retailers.

While a planned reduction of around 50 per cent in produce, and measures like chicken melas, helped farmers a little, an estimated 60 to 80 per cent reduction in demand was witnessed during the past few weeks. Daily losses of Rs 1 crore apart, the industry suffered as even educated clientele like institutions and clubs stopped consumption.

“There is no need for consumers to panic. The fact is consumers are now aware that it is not risky to consume chicken if cooked well. Besides, we are expecting consumers to be back soon as they cannot and should not stay away from consuming eggs and chicken for too long,” said Mr Sanjeev Bassi of the National Egg Coordination Committee.

“This time people are aware. The fact is that not only chicken, even in case of vegetables one has to ensure cleanliness and remain careful. The government has handled the situation well,” said Mr P.P.S. Gill, secretary, Punjab Poultry Farmers Association.



Rain washes down farmers’ hope for good crop
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, March 16
Farmers of the area have lost all hope of a good wheat crop as these have been flattened by the winds accompanying the rain.

Mr Baldev Singh Latala and Mr Mohinder Singh Seelon, senior functionaries of the Zamhoori Kisan Sabha have urged the Punjab Government to order a survey to assess the losses due to the inclement weather and compensate the farmers accordingly.

Mr Rajinder Singh Sohi of Jandali Kalan village apprehended further dip in temperature, that might affect wheat crop.

“Though a mild shower would have washed down dust and extra insecticides from the leaves of the crops, the persistent rain has flattened the crops that would affect its quantity and quality,” maintained Mr Sohi.

Mr Tara Singh Dhillon of Ghungrana village apprehended that water lodging might further deteriorate the situation. “The condition of crops which had recently been watered has become critical,” argued Mr Dhillon. He apprehended that farmers would bear more losses this year.

A quick survey revealed that wheat crops in thousands of acres had been affected due to the rain accompanied with winds.



Cheers to the new excise policy!
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, March 16
Even as Bacchus lovers are looking forward to a welcome change in the excise policy of the state, which is bound to see a significant reduction in prices of Punjab medium liquor (PML) and Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL), the Rs 1,500 crore-plus liquor trade in the state is also on a virtual high, expecting a rational representation and a level playing field.

The new policy, which has been duly notified by the government, makes a clear deviation from the previous practice of auction of liquor vends, that too in such huge groups, which left no room for small traders. Moreover, a powerful cartel led by liquor baron Ponty Chadha had been controlling the entire liquor trade in the state.

The monopolistic trends continuing in the liquor trade during the past couple of years in Punjab were in fact a double-edged sword. It fleeced the consumers on one hand and yielded little, if anything by way of hike in revenue collection, for the government. The liquor prices in Punjab were so high under the “auction regime” in comparison to Haryana, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh that a virtual parallel trade in liquor smuggling had been flourishing for quite some time.

Sources in the Excise and Taxation Department here revealed that applications for the grant of licences for retail vends of PML and IMFL in the district would be received from March 16 to 23 and draw of lots would be on March 25 in the presence of the applicants. The stipulated application forms would be available with the office of Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner concerned on payment of Rs 2,000 each.

It was officially stated by the department here that the number of vends in Ludhiana district would be 578, of which 233 would be within the city limits and the remaining in other towns and villages. As per the revised policy, all liquor vends would sell PML and IMFL under one roof and beer will be available on all such vends. However, in case of space constraint, the licensee would be permitted to sell PML and IMFL at two different vends, located within 50 m of each other.

That the industrial hub of the state was far ahead of other districts in liquor consumption was evident from the highest quota of liquor fixed at a little more than 1.68 crore proof litres for this year as against some 1.25 crore proof litres last year. A revenue collection target of Rs 238.35 crore had been fixed for this district.

The new excise policy has laid down that the licence fee for vends within the MC limits of the city will be Rs 60 lakh, in towns with a municipal council, nagar panchayat or notified area committee Rs 45 lakh and in villages Rs 30 lakh. Cheers to the new excise policy!

The applications for licences will have to be accompanied with 5 per cent of the fee while 15 per cent of the fee will have to be deposited on the allotment before March 31.



UK college collaborates with PAU
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 16
Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, UK, and Punjab Agricultural University today decided to go in for collaborative research in agri-business and food technology, besides a student exchange programme at the postgraduate level in business management and agri-business.

Dr W. Paul Davies and Ms Caroline Mountain, who represented the RAC, held discussions with PAU scientists.

The PAU Controller of Examination and librarian, Dr S. S. Chahal, introduced the members from the RAC to the functioning of the PAU and traced its history, besides listing its achievements.



City psychiatrists receive warm welcome in Pak
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 16
Dr A.K. Kala, a city psychiatrist and Dr (Ms) Ravinder Kala, a local counselling professional, undertook a five-day visit to Pakistan on the invitation of the Lahore Mental Health Society and the Indo-Pak Punjab Psychiatric Society. The visiting professionals made presentations and chaired sessions at a workshop on 'Media and Mental Health' in Lahore on March 10.

Dr A.K. Kala addressed representatives of the media and other invitees on 'Stigma in Mental Illness' and Dr Ravinder Kala interacted with teachers and students on the subject of 'Marriage and Mental Health'. They also delivered lectures to family physicians in Lahore and Multan, advising them on how to diagnose and treat depression in general practice.

Later, the visiting psychiatrists participated in an interactive session with psychology students from Sargodha to discuss mental health problems of the subcontinent.

Dr A.K. Kala, who is also the president of the Indo-Pak Punjab Psychiatric Society, led a delegation of Indian psychiatrists, who, along with their Pakistani counterparts, organised a camp for psychiatric patients at Choti, near Dera Ghazi Khan, where 1,800 psychiatric patients were examined and given follow-up advice on treatment and management.

The camp was organised on the invitation of Mr Jaffar Leghari and Ms Mina Leghari, both members of the National Assembly of Pakistan. The parliamentarians couple appreciated the services rendered by the visiting Indian doctors. Incidentally, Mr Jaffar Leghari is the son of Mr Ata Mohammad Leghari, the last Deputy Commissioner of this city before Partition.

The visit received a wide coverage in national dailies and on PTV. A luncheon was hosted in the honour of the visiting delegation by Ms Saba Sadik, Adviser to the Chief Minister of West Punjab on Social Welfare, who officially felicitated the delegates.



A riot of colour
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 16
Holi was celebrated with fervour by city residents yesterday. While astrologers said the festival this time was for two days—March 14 and 15—it was yesterday that the celebrations were in the air. The first day was a low-key affair due to rain that kept people indoors.

Youngsters zipped on roads in their vehicles, painting the city in various hues of red, green and yellow. The police remained active and was deputed at several places to check rowdyism.

The drizzle yesterday morning dampened spirits but a bright sun brought cheer to residents who could be seen in large numbers on city roads. "Holi this time was for two days. Most of the celebration was on the second day, mainly due to good weather and also as it was a holiday on March 15," said Dr Suresh K. Sharma, an astrologer.

Apart from balloons and "pichkaris", the sale of natural colours was also high this time.

Langar was organised at several places on the occasion of Holla Mohalla.



Walking feat by Manjit Rai
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, March 16
Manjit Rai Bhardwaj of Ludhiana has completed an all-India tour and covered a distance of 10,224 km on foot. He started his journey from Srinagar on November 6, 2003, and reached Kanyakumari on April 30, 2004. He started the return journey on May 2, 2004, and reached Srinagar on August 5, 2004. His name has been entered in the Limca Book of Records.

Mr Mangat Rai is a retired clerk from the Railways and after his retirement, he decided to spend his life guiding the youth to the righteous path.

Talking to Ludhiana Tribune he said: "I took this arduous travel to spread the message of peace, goodwill, brotherhood and friendship. During the journey of more than 10,000 km, I walked 30 to 35 km every day. I addressed students of various schools and urged them to keep away from drugs and bad company.

"The students were so impressed with me that they would start walking with me for a few kilometers. I had terrifying experiences as in Srinagar I was caught in bomb blasts, but these did not deter me. My feet were badly bruised and they still hurt."

He said he wrote about his experiences and his views and they got published in local newspapers.

Asked if he had any problem with food, he said: "Kolkata onwards, I had food problems. Food habits of those states changed dramatically. Rice and fish are their staple diet whereas I am a vegetarian. Many a day, I just subsisted on milk and bananas. Even in the South, I had to eat roti made of flour which would dry up while eating. I lost a lot of weight but now I have recovered."

Sleeping, he said, was not much of a problem as he stayed at temples and gurdwaras.

Mr Gurinder Sood of the Rashtriya Vikas Manch has urged the Chief Minister to honour to Mr Rai.



Judicious use of water stressed
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 16
In efficient water management a properly levelled field enables to enhance the water usage by at least 40 per cent. Moreover, precision land levelling helps in better soil management, particularly in the high-intensity cropping regions.

This was stated by farm power and machinery expert V.K. Sharma, who is also Registrar, PAU, at the concluding function of a training programme for the officials of the state Department of Soil and Water Conservation, Agriculture and Horticulture here today.

In all, 22 officials attended the five-day training programme. Experts from the Department of Soil and Water Engineering of the College of Agricultural Engineering apprised them of efficient water management for sustainable agriculture.

The water situation, Dr Sharma said, was more alarming in central districts of Punjab where its depletion was more than 50 cm per year. In fact, he said, the replacement of centrifugal pumps with submersible pumps was a drain on the pockets of farmers and it also means higher power consumption.

For levelling of the fields, laser leveller technology has also been tested, but it is a costly proposition.

The resource person for the training programme, Dr M.P. Kaushal, head of the Department of Soil and Water Engineering, emphasised the importance of artificial recharge of groundwater through rainwater harvesting.

The participants were also given important tips on soil and water management by scientists from the Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Institute, Chandigarh, Punjab Remote Sensing Centre, Ludhiana, and CSSRI, Karnal.


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