L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S

Standby fire services to burn hole in pocket
F&CC jacks up hiring charges to Rs 25,000
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service 

Ludhiana, January 4 
Taking standby fire service has gone costlier by several thousands in the city with the Municipal Corporation jacking up charges of hiring a fire engine as preventive measures for functions and rallies from Rs 500 per hour to Rs 25,000 lump sum.

In a recently-held meeting of the Finance and Contract Committee, the rate of hiring a fire engine was hiked on a plea that the organisers of functions were paying peanuts for hiring the services of the MC’s Fire Department.

Senior officials of the MC said organisers of functions had been hiring fire engines at Rs 500 per hour for places where these were not even required.

The move has, however, not gone down well with the residents as well as Opposition councillors. 

Residents claimed that it was the duty of the MC to provide free fire services in the city.

Still organisers of functions were paying Rs 500 per hour for standby fire services that were helpful in preventing major accidents.

Angry residents said these were poor measures of the MC to make revenue.

“It is strange that the MC had been claiming that the revenue had not suffered after the abolition of octroi. Why are they raising the prices of these services that are in the larger interest of general public?” asked Arvind Sharma, a resident of SBS Nagar.

He added that the MC had just given an excuse by saying that the F&CC had thought about raising the charges.

“Why could the members of the committee, who are from all parties, not argue on the issue? We are really surprised,” said Pran Nath Bhatia, former Councillor of BJP.

Mr Sharma said hiring the fire services was very convenient in the past as it prevented accidents during functions. 

“Even during some religious functions, the Fire Brigade was used as a standby. What will poor organisations do? They would have to shell a whopping sum now. Or they would avoid hiring the services altogether,” added Mr Sharma.

While a lot of hue and cry is being raised over the issue, Chief Fire Officer R.K. Sharma said he had not received any orders in this direction to date and the fire engines were being sent at the old rates.

He added that he would get the order implemented if he got directions to do so.



Muslims seek ticket for minorities from Congress
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 4
The minority cell of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee has urged the Congress to field at least four candidates from the minority communities in the state in the forthcoming Assembly elections, besides giving one Rajya Sabha seat to them.

Cell president Atiq-u-Rehman Ludhianvi has staked his claim from Ludhiana East and Malerkotla Assembly segments.

In a representation made to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Atiq-u-Rehman, who is also president of the Punjab unit of the Indian Muslim Council, claimed that there were six lakh Muslims living in the city and they deserved proper representation in the Assembly.

Atiq-u-Rehman said while the Muslims must get at least two tickets, the Namdharis and the Christians must also get one seat each.

He pointed out that the minorities had always supported the Congress. 

Moreover, he asserted that the Muslims had made immense contribution to the country’s freedom struggle.

He said it was their faith in secularism that made them reject Pakistan and stay back in India.

The Muslim leader urged Ms Gandhi to ensure that the problems and grievances of the minorities in the state were properly addressed. 

He claimed that the minorities had never supported any party but the Congress. “It is high time that the party (Congress) recognised their contribution,” he appealed.

Without mentioning any names, he said only those candidates should be fielded who had raised their voice for the minorities and contributed towards their welfare.

He said those who had resorted to excesses and atrocities on people must not be nominated lest they should get defeated and risk the party’s chances to again form the government in the state.

Copies of the letter have been sent to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, PPCC president Shamsher Singh Dullo and chairman of the Minority Cell of the AICC Imran-u-Rehman Kidwai.



Ludhiana West is bone of contention between SAD, BJP
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 4
The Bharatiya Janata Party appears to be firm on claiming the Ludhiana West Assembly segment in the seat-sharing arrangement with its alliance partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal. The party also does not appear to be happy with the manner the SAD went ahead in declaring the candidates for the constituency. 

Talking to The Tribune, the assistant in charge of the party affairs for Punjab, Mr RP Singh, pointed out that while negotiations about the sharing of seats were still going on, SAD came out with the list of candidates. He said obviously the BJP had no objection about the constituencies which were already with the SAD. But candidates for those constituencies which were not cleared mutually by the two partners, should not have been announced. 

Mr RP Singh specifically referred to the Ludhiana West Assembly segment. He went on record to say that the BJP had left the ticket specifically on the intervention of former Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who wanted Mr Mahesh Inder Singh to be fielded from there. "Otherwise, Ludhiana West has traditionally been with the BJP and hopefully it will continue to", he remarked.

When asked as to what was the way out as it would be difficult for SAD to retreat and cancel the nomination of the candidate, he said things had to be worked out. When asked whether the BJP was prepared to induct SAD Ludhiana West candidate Harish Rai Dhanda into the party as this way the party (BJP) would retain its claim over the seat, he said it was up to the party (BJP) to decide.

Mr Singh said so far no BJP leader was campaigning for Mr Dhanda. He said the local party leaders could not campaign for him until the issue was clarified. He was unambiguous and categoric in stating that "as the BJP has not given up its claim over the Ludhiana West Assembly segment, there is no chance of the party workers and leaders campaigning for Mr Dhanda".

He said it was not the issue of a particular seat only. "We want our presence and strength recognised and acknowledged", he said, while adding, "we are asking for those seats only where the BJP has a substantial and better presence than the SAD and there is nothing wrong in it".

Mr Singh clarified that the BJP had almost finalised the list of the candidates for all the constituencies it thought it should contest from, and not all the 117 Assembly segments as was being made out in certain sections of the media. 



SAD, Cong gear up for elections
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, January 4
The Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress have been in the election mode months before the announcement of the election schedule by the Election Commission.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Captain Amarinder Singh have been holding rallies and undertaking intensive tours of the state to gauge the mood of the voters and also to activate their workers. In the process, consultations regarding the alignments and shifting of workers from one party to another also started. Mr Badal in the first instance laid full stress on the anti-corruption slogan and the traditional “enmity” of the Congress for the Sikhs and its “hostility” towards Punjab.

But after sometime, he began to lay more emphasis on the developmental issues and issues concerning the poor and Dalits. It was in the wake of this phase that he promised to provide subsidised flour and pulses to the poor. This was followed by an organised campaign to highlight the corruption or what has been repeatedly called scams of the Congress regime in the rallies and through the media.

One can also observe that this time, Mr Badal has at every step been anxious to ensure not only the support of the BJP leadership but the transfer of Hindu votes to the Sikh Akali candidates. This is not to say that he is not sincere to transfer votes to the BJP candidates. In fact this is being done to counter the allegations that the BJP has never been able to transfer their votes to the Akali candidates. This has also resulted in attracting allegations that he was ignoring the interests of the Akali party.

Secondly, his anxiety is to consolidate the area of support where ever it comes from. It is in view of this policy that he entered into negotiations with such Akali segments who could be mollified by giving ticket or offering political space in the Akali party and preventing the emergence of the third front.

The merger of the Chandumajra faction has been seen in this light. By declaring the names of the candidates of more than half of the constituencies, Mr Badal has taken calculated action. The dissatisfied factions at the local levels will cry hoarse in the early days of the campaign and are expected to reconcile before such time when they can affect the prospects of the official candidates of the Akali party.

Captain Amarinder Singh, on the other hand, had chalked out his programme for the future of the Congress party in Punjab when he took over as Chief Minister. His first priority was to mollify those sections of Sikhs who had been weaned away from the Congress due to Operation Bluestar and antipathy of the central Congress leadership towards various Punjab problems. He started by projecting himself as an ardent Sikh. He ensured that all the centenaries organised by the SGPC and the Akali Dal were not exclusively an Akali affair. In the 400th anniversary of compilation of Guru Granth Sahib, he made his presence felt in the congregation along with the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. He also tactically facilitated the reading of the message of Mrs Sonia Gandhi. He declared an elaborate programme for the development of Amritsar and the Prime Minister announced the establishment of a National Institute of Studies in Guru Granth Sahib at Guru Nanak Dev University.

In the quadri-centenary of the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, Captain Amarinder Singh declared the carving out of a district with headquarters as Tarn Taran - a city founded by Guru Arjan Dev. As soon as there was a thaw in the Indo-Pak relations, he demanded the starting of the Amritsar-Nankana Sahib bus service for pilgrims. Besides, he organised the Indo-Pak Games at Patiala. This helped Captain Amarinder Singh in projecting himself as a relevant person in diplomatic areas.

Mr Amarinder Singh later shifted his attention towards peasants. In this area he ensured lifting of crops at the right time in each and every mandi and also speedy payment to farmers. On the industrial front, he conceived some mega projects through the SEZ scheme. This attracted criticism. Farmers are still agitating against the forcible acquisition of their land. How far these mega projects will generate employment will be seen later.

However, small scale industrialists are not happy with the Chief Minister and they have a grouse that he did not care to interact with them to find ways and means to save the industry and they feel they are the backbone of the Punjab economy.

The worst part of the early campaigning by both the major political parties has been that it has aroused acrimony between the two leaders — Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Captain Amarinder Singh. Such advertisements were given in newspapers that reflected bad taste. Now the campaigning has come down to development issue of Punjab as a whole.

Despite all this, the post militancy era of Beant Singh to Amarinder Singh has witnessed no fruitful development in case of primary and secondary education or in the rural and urban health care. The situation in these sectors has gone from bad to worse.

Punjabis as a whole strongly feel that the political leadership of both the parties has cheated and betrayed them and they are dismayed in not finding any alternative to them.



Sukhbir assures industry of mitigating problems
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 4
SAD general secretary Sukhbir Badal has assured the industry of mitigating its problems on a priority basis if the SAD-BJP government came to power in Punjab.

The assurance came at a meeting between SAD leaders and representatives of the Chamber of Industrial and Commercial undertakings (CICU) held here last evening.

Association president Inderjit Singh Pardhan and general secretary Avtar Singh apprised Mr Badal of the problems being faced by them after the Congress came to power in the state.

While appealing industry representatives to vote for his party, he promised that if the party came into power it would form an industrial board that would give its feedback on industrial issues to the government. 

He also assured the industry of regularising the existing small-scale industries in “mohallas” and tackling the power shortage within three years by taking power supply from Gujarat and Jharkhand plants.

All taxation policies would be reviewed afresh and made industry-friendly. Tax rate would also be reduced, he said.

The thermal plants at Lehra Mohabbat and Goindwal Sahib would be commissioned, Mr Badal added.

Among others present at the meeting were MP Sharnjit Singh Dhillon, SAD candidates Hira Singh Gabria and Harish Dhanda.



Akali leaders have  “lost mental balance”
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 4
Castigating the Shiromani Akali Dal leadership for making ridiculous statements about alleged 'disappearance' of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, senior Congress leaders Krishan Kumar Bawa, Chairman, Punjab Housefed and Mr Gurdev Singh Lapran, former president, District Congress Committee, have said such senseless observations showed the frustration and lack of real issues with the Akali leaders for the coming Assembly elections.

In a joint statement here today, they maintained that Captain Amarinder Singh, who had served in the armed forces to safeguard the frontiers of the nation, was not the one to run away from the battlefield and he would display his strength in the electoral arena. The Congress leaders claimed that the opposition parties, including SAD-B, were upset over the overwhelming response of the people to the Vikas Yatras undertaken by the Chief Minister.

Mr Bawa and Mr Lapran further said that the Congress government in the state had worked for the welfare of all sections of society, particularly the farmers and rural population, which had led to erosion of the traditional rural vote bank of Akali Dal.

They charged the SAD and BJP alliance with rousing communal feelings for their political benefit whereas the ruling Congress was seeking support of the masses in the name of development and prosperity. 

The Congress functionaries expressed confidence that the people would not be misled by motivated propaganda by the opposition parties and would once again rally round the Congress in the larger interests of the state and the country.



PAU strike continues
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 4
The ongoing strike of the students of the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) entered its 15th day today.

Even after a detailed meeting between the university representatives and students of the College of Home Sciences and the College of Agricultural Engineering here yesterday, no breakthrough was achieved and the students decided to continue with the strike.

The students are sore over the 'forced' resignation of the former Dean of the College of Home Sciences, Dr H.K.Dhillon. The PAU authorities, on the other hand, are maintaining that Dr Dhillon had sought the voluntary retirement under the VRS scheme. However, the students are not convinced with their argument. The students are also opposing the merger of various departments.

The students have been insisting that they be shown the letter of the request for the VRS by Dr Dhillon, which the authorities are refusing on the pretext that it was a confidential document and could not be made public. They have been questioning as to how the process of her VRS case was rushed through so fast.



DC orders removal of hoardings
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 4
Mr Ashok Kumar Gupta, Deputy Commissioner-cum- District Electoral Officer, taking a serious note of a large number of hoardings/banners put up by different political parties/leaders violating the Model Code of Conduct enforced by the Election Commission, has asked the parties leaders concerned to immediately remove such hoardings banners in the district. 

He declared that in case the hoardings banners were not removed, these would be removed by the administration and the cost would be debited to the accounts of political parties concerned. 

He also appealed that no such hoardings banners in violation of the Code of Conduct should be put up in future.



MC removes illegal hoardings
Tribune News Service 

Ludhiana, January 4 
The Municipal Corporation today removed illegal hoardings in the city that had come up after the election campaign had picked up.

A team removed hoardings till it was prevented to do so by supporters of Shiromani Akali Dal candidate from Ludhiana Harish Rain Dhandha, who protested against the action near Fountain Chowk in the evening.

When the team did not budge, Dhandha’s supporters forced the employees to remove all other hoardings that were put up illegally.



Kites a rage with residents
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 4
Kite-sellers in the city are making hay, with sales touching lakhs of rupees during the Lohri festival alone.

A proud owner of a six-foot kite takes it home in Ludhiana
A proud owner of a six-foot kite takes it home in Ludhiana on Thursday. —Photo by I.V.

Reluctant to come on record, those selling kites maintain that business done during the first fortnight of the year is enough to sustain them throughout the year.

City residents too are eagerly awaiting the festivals of Lohri and Basant.

Kites, “dor” (twine) and “pinnah” (a round ball around which the string is tied), associated with the two festivals, line the roads across the city these days. The young and the old alike look for “exclusive” kites to fly in the sky.

Multicolour kites, in all shapes and sizes are out to catch one’s attention in the markets.

The kites come in various shapes, like eagle, parachute, fish, owl, spiderman, butterfly, birds, dragon, aeroplane, etc.

Even those involved in other businesses switch to kite-selling during this time of the year to make fast buck.

Some of these kites are water-proof and have longer life. The price of a medium-size kite starts from Rs 30. Bigger kites can cost Rs 150. Even bigger ones, around six feet long, made of fibre sheets are sold for Rs 500 and above.

“Everything depends on the buyer. We even make customised kites as per the requirement of the customer,” says Rajdeep Singh, who has set up a stall of kites in Ghumar Mandi.

Small kites also remain in big demand. Though these cannot be flown, these are used for decorative purposes. These colourful kites are made of fancy material and wrapping papers and are available from Rs 2 to Rs 5.

Chinese plastic twine remains in demand for its reasonable price. A 200m-long twine is available between Rs 15 and Rs 30. The most expensive twine remains to be “panda No. 5”. “Discovery”, “VIP”, “BPL” and “Kala Chand” are some other forms of twines that are popular among residents.

Ravi and Deepak, selling kites near the Bhagwan Ram Charitable Hospital, say the enthusiasm among children while buying kites is immense. “Before paying for the kite, they see every aspect of it. And they have to be satisfied. After all, they want to see it (kite) fly,” says Ravi.



Pensioners rue banks’ apathy
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 4
The Punjab Government pensioners are up in arms against the pension- disbursing bank authorities for the non-payment of interim relief and hiked medical allowance along with the pension. The Government Pensioners Association has received many complaints across the state in this regard.

The Punjab Government granted certain benefits to its pensioners such as interim relief and hiked medical allowance - both benefits from November 2006. However, many banks have failed to make the additional payments along with the pension from November and even December.

Pensioners rue that the state government had granted them 'relief', but banks' negligence had turned it into 'grief'.



Reports sought on missing children
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, January 4
Consequent upon the visit of a special team of UP police, investigating the infamous Noida serial killing and sexual abuse case, to Lohatbaddi, the native village of Moninder Singh Pandher, the Jagraon police chief has sought comprehensive reports regarding missing children and women from areas falling under his jurisdiction. 

Though the counterpart in the UP police has not sought any action on behalf of the district police, the step was taken as a preventive measure and to take stock of situation in the area. 

Meanwhile, an uneasy calm prevailed in the village after police officials and media teams retreated from the house that had remained the centre of hectic activity during past few days. 

Sources at police stations falling under the jurisdiction of Raikot, Mullanpur Dakha and Jagraon police circles revealed that the SHOs at these stations had sought comprehensive reports on the present situation of those children or women who had been reported missing during the past few years. Besides scrutinising records, the officials at Dehlon, Sudhar, Raikot, Mullanpur, Sidhwan and Jagraon were seen collecting information about such cases from elected representatives and office-bearers of social organizations of their respective areas. 

Mr R K Jaiswal, SSP Jagraon, said the move was launched to review the situation as a preventive measure after the heinous crime at Noida and later revelations about origin of the main accused surfaced. "Though we have not been asked to collect and furnish any information, we decided to take to stock of the situation as a preventive measure. I have directed my team to interact with maximum number of people, besides scrutinizing records, so that comprehensive account of missing persons, willful or accidental, was ready within the stipulated period," said Mr Jaiswal while talking to Ludhiana Tribune. 



Two killed in car accident
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
A Sector 23-D resident and his friend were killed in the wee hours yesterday when a car they were travelling in and a jeep collided on the National Highway 21 near Nilokheri, about 18 km from Karnal. 

According to UNI, the victims have been identified as Surender of Sector 23 and his friend Satpal, a resident of Jammu Tawi. Surender had gone to meet his in-laws and was on his way to Nilokheri. 

The mishap occurred just when their car took a turn to Nilokheri and a jeep rammed into it.

The impact of the accident was so strong that the police had to call for a crane to take out the victims from the mangled remains of the car. Surender reportedly died on the spot while Satpal succumbed to his injuries in the Civil Hospital in Karnal later. 



Gurpurb celebrated

Ludhiana, January 4
Guru Gobind Singh's 'avtar purab divas' was celebrated in Ranjit Modern Senior Secondary School, Haibowal Kalan, on Wednesday. Students, dressed up as ‘panj piyaras’, joined the nagar kirtan with great gusto. The managing committee wished everyone a happy Gurpurab. — OC



Brig Jaswal booked
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 4
The local police yesterday booked Brig J.S. Jaswal (retd), Director, Sainik Welfare, Punjab, on the charge of criminal intimidation and insulting the modesty of a woman on a complaint lodged by Ms Raj Kaur, working as clerk at his office.

Sector 19 police station SHO Sukhdev Singh Bhullar said the case was registered on the directions of senior officers after DSP (CID) Devinder Singh Thakur submitted his inquiry report.

A case under Sections 506 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code was registered in this connection.

Senior officers had taken legal opinion on the report and then gone in for the registration of a case.

The DSP had earlier recorded statements of both parties and staff members of the Directorate of Sainik Welfare during the course of the inquiry.

A police officer said the statement of the victim in such cases was enough to book the accused.

Ms Raj Kaur, widow of an army man, who had been posthumously awarded the Sena Medal, was given the job of clerk at the office on December 5, 2000.

She had levelled allegations of sexual harassment against Brigadier Jaswal during a press conference on December 26 last.

He had denied the charges, maintaining that she had been facing an inquiry for levelling caste-based accusations against Ms Surinder Kaur.

He had said she had levelled allegations of sexual harassment to cover up for that.

Ms Raj Kaur, mother of two, was presented before the media here by All-India Anti-Terrorist Front chief Maninderjit Singh Bitta.

She stated then that she had made representations on the issue to the Chief of Army Staff, the Kendriya Sainik Board, the GOC-in-C, Western Command, and the National Commission for Women, but received no response.



Industry gets say in panel of Central Excise dept
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 4
The Central Excise and Customs Department has appointed a representative of industry as a member in its newly constituted zonal advisory committee.

The move has brought cheer in local industry, which feels it would be in a better position to present its issues to the department now.

In a communication to the United Cycle and Parts Manufactures Association, the department informed that it had accepted Mr Varinder Kapoor, general secretary of the association, as a member of the committee.

  The Chief Commissioner, Central Excise and Customs, Chandigarh zone, would be the ex-officio chairman of the committee, while the joint commissioner and superintendent shall function as secretary and Joint Secretary, respectively.

"It is after a long time that industry has got nomination in a zonal-level committee. The decision is certainly welcome and is expected to make matters easier for us," Mr Kapoor said.

After persistent demands from industry associations, the department invited nominations around four months ago. The department said that the intimation of the first meeting of the committee shall be given to the industry representatives soon.

Industry representatives said they were expecting that they would be involved by the department in case of policy decisions related to it. "Though details would be clear only after the first meeting, the department is likely to consult industry before taking major decisions. So far, communicating with high-ups in the department was a tough task, which is likely to be simplified now.”

Various industry associations plan to hold meetings prior to taking decision on the issues that their representative would take up with the department.

Mr Alok Gupta, Joint Commissioner, Central Excise, while intimating the constitution of the committee, stated: "On behalf of the Central Excise, Chandigarh Zone 4, we look forward to your active participation and contribution in effective and efficient functioning of the committee."

Expressing their happiness at the decision, Mr G.L. Pahwa, president, United Cycle and Parts Manufacturers Association, said industry is highly encouraged.



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