L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S

Punjab Votes ’07
Forgot college Mr Badal? Ab hamaari bari
27-yr-old foundation stone stares SAD chief in the face
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, January 28
Authorities may have forgotten to build the government college 27 years after then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal laid its foundation stone, but residents ensure that SAD leaders and supporters flocking the area these days are put to shame.

A leader, who could not manage to open a degree college (for which he had laid the foundation stone) during his three terms as the Chief Minister, should not dare seek votes for his candidate, say the residents.

Strangely enough, in the past 27 years, leaders of almost all political parties have addressed gatherings at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial National Senior Secondary School, but none bothered to enquire about the progress of the college project, though its foundation stone laid in 1979 stands in the third block of the school itself.

According to veteran social worker, Mr Darshan Singh Rai, Mr Badal had passed verbal orders regarding the establishment of the college in the town, but these have not been acted upon till now. He says that only the Janta College for Women and Rashtrya Adarash Mahila College are there to meet the educational needs of the women of the area. Though the educational needs of the town have increased manifold since 1979, no recognised institute has come up for imparting education to the girls beyond class XII. As majority of the parents cannot afford to send their daughters to other cities for further studies, the girls have no option but to sit idle at home or do BA privately, he says.

Mr Jatinder Bhola president, MC, said office-bearers of many social and educational had approached him to impress upon the authorities to do the needful to initiate process for opening the college. "As Mr Badal has failed to keep his commitment, during his three terms as the CM, he should not seek votes for his candidate, Mr Abdul Gaffar, at least from those living in the local town,” said Mr Bhola.



Stressed nominees take to meditation
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 28
After slugging it out throughout the day to ensure their victory in the elections, it is either meditation or exercise that comes to the rescue of candidates who get highly stressed after day's hard work.

"With over 20-30 meetings in a day, beating stress becomes critical. To overcome it, I seek respite in meditation whenever I get time, be it while travelling, or sitting in a rally. Even five minutes of calming of mind helps a lot," says Mr Harish Rai Dhanda, SAD candidate, who is a lawyer.

As these individuals leave no stone unturned in their quest for a seat of power in the run up to the elections, stress and performance blues overtake them. Consequently, most candidates take respite in their own ways to curb stress.

The stress levels are quite an obvious outcome given the toil. Even an elderly candidate like Mr Satpal Gosain of the BJP started campaigning in less than 10 days after undergoing an angioplasty.

Fear of defeat, negative campaign by rivals, consideration of money being spent on canvassing, feeling of still not being in touch with the electorate are the factors that weigh heavily on the minds of the candidates.

"The candidates have all sorts of insecurities to deal with. The worries are not less,” points out a cardiologist, not wishing to be named.

There are some who start their day with exercise to keep away from worrying.

Reveals Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi, a Congress candidate from the Ludhiana Rural segment, "I walk for 8-10 km in the morning everyday. It keeps me going in these days of hectic activity," he says.

For Mr Harish Bedi, a BJP nominee, it is meditation that brings respite from mounting stress. He meditates for an hour everyday squeezing time from his busy 20 or 30-meeting-a-day schedule.

"To avoid having a sleepless night, I go to a religious place and chant till well past midnight. And again my day starts at 5 a.m." he quips.



Hotelier’s missing driver found dead
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 28
The Shimla Police yesterday found the body of Chander Masih -- the missing driver of hotelier Mr Rajinder Basant -- near the hill town. The driver had gone missing from Shimla on December 18 where he had gone with his employer.

Though the Shimla and Ludhiana police do not suspect foul play, Masih’s relatives and friends staged a dharna near his house on the CMC Hospital road blaming the former Improvement Trustee for his death and seeking registration of a case against him. Police sources said that the hotelier had already announced lifelong pension for the aggrieved family.

However, SSP A.S. Rai said the Ludhiana Police had no jurisdiction over the case. "The Shimla Police has started proceedings under Section 174 of the CrPc after recovery of the body and they would be taking further action," he said. He said that Masih’s body was considerably decomposed.

After preliminary investigation, the Shimla Police said that the driver had consumed alcohol and could have accidentally fallen into a deep gorge and died. His chemical examination would be conducted to ascertain the exact cause of death.

Before going missing, a drunk Masih reportedly quarrelled with hotel staff in Shimla and sped away in Mr Basant’s car. The vehicle was recovered the following day in a damaged state. Mr Basant had lodged a missing person report with the Shimla Police. He owns a chain of restaurants and resorts.



Police shielding guilty, say farmers’ kin
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, January 28
Families of three farmers mowed down by a speeding car over a year ago have accused the Latala police and senior Congress leaders of Kila Raipur of protecting the suspects. They said that though a case was registered against the unidentified driver and owner of the vehicle, the police were dilly-dallying. They have now demanded a probe into the matter.

The police, however, denied they were under pressure to shield the accused and said investigations were on.

Mohinder Singh, Arjun Singh and Budh Singh, residents of Kalsian village, were run over by a speeding black Accent car near the power grid between Latala and Barudni here on November 29, 2005. They were going on their cycles to Dhulkot village to purchase a horse. The Latala police had registered a case against the driver and vehicle owner but said that they could not find any clues.

Balwinder Singh, Balwinder Singh Billu and Hardeep Singh, sons of the deceased farmers, alleged that the police was trying to shield the suspects at the behest of Jagpal Singh Khangura, Congress in charge for Kila Raipur. They said that Khangura Sr. had reached the accident spot immediately after the incident to influence the GO there to supervise the investigation.

“Influenced by Khangura, shopkeepers of Latala village who were witness to the accident and had noted down the number of the car, closed their shops and pretended that they were not present at the time of the mishap,” said farmer Mohinder Singh’s son Balwinder, who according to police report was following the deceased. Members of the deceaseds’ families led by Sarpanch Nirmal Singh and Lambardar Tirlok Singh have been shuttling between offices at Latala, Dehlon, Dakha and Jagraon in vain. They said the families had received no compensation from any government agency and urged the authorities to get the matter probed by an independent agency.

Dehlon SHO Rachhpal Singh Dhindsa maintained that the police was investigating the matter without any pressure. “The case has not been declared untraced. We want to book the culprits but have not been able to identify them.



It’s raining discounts and consumers are loving it
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 28
Announcements like “Flat 50+30 per cent off on all items”, “End of the season sale - 50 per cent off”, “Buy two pairs of shoes, get one free”, “Sale on sale” etc. are a common sight in newspapers, magazines and during Siti Cable programmes these days. Banners outside showrooms and shops also make such proclamations. City residents make a beeline to purchase items available on discounts at such sales. Even those offering discounts feel sales or discounts are the need of the hour. The practice has become the latest “market trend”.

Discounts are available on suit lengths, pullovers, jackets, shirts, trousers, bags, purses, accessories, footwear, make-up accessories and even undergarments. Be it the branded items or the regular ones on rehris, the rush of customers can be witnessed everywhere in the city.

Mr Gaganpreet (name changed), who runs a franchise of a branded knitwear company at the Mall Road here, said sales had become a routine and a market trend. Sales attracted more customers, he said. “Of course, no one can afford to sell items on losses but even little discounts were enough to woo the customers. People believe in discounts these days and we have to run our business accordingly,” he said.

Mr Amit, a college-going student, feels these offers are generally very tempting. “I get T-shirts, trousers and other accessories at very reasonable prices. When they offer 'sale on sale', the things are available at throwaway prices,” he pointed out.

Gayatri Jain, a homemaker who usually buys things from sales, says, “If one feels that the things are genuine and it is a good bargain, one should go for these. Some stuff can never be outdated, so go for these even if you have to use these during the next season. I purchase things from sales to gift these to my near and dear ones.”



Subdivision a hot issue in Malerkotla, Raikot
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, January 28
“Subdivision” has emerged as a major issue in the election campaign in Malerkotla and Raikot constituencies. While the SAD nominee in Malerkotla is blamed for opposing the decision to upgrade the town to subdivision during his tenure, Congressmen of the Raikot Assembly segment are accusing the SAD candidate of having tried to mobilise people for demanding the inclusion of the subdivision into Barnala district.

Activists of the Bhartya Janshakti Party led by Ashootosh Vinayak, in their appeal to voters, have alleged that the successive legislators from the Malerkotla constituency had been ignoring resident's demand to upgrade the sub-tehsil into subdivision.

"Interestingly, Abdul Gaffar (now SAD candidate), then Congress minister, instead of endorsing resolutions presented by a majority of sarpanches of the area and the local Municipal Council, allegedly resisted the government's proposal to upgrade sub-tehsil into subdivision level during the regime of former Chief Minister Beant Singh," rued Vinayak, adding that even the present incumbent too showed no interest in the case.

Recollecting sequence of events, Vinayak said leaders of various political and social organisation of the area had launched a move to make it a subdivision and Beant Singh had also accepted the demand. But Gaffar had made it a prestige issue that it should not be formed.

"Sardar ji, je Ahmedgarh subdivision banega tan meri lash te banega," Vinayak quoted Gaffar as having said to Beant Singh when he had come to announce the formation of subdivision at a function organised at MGMN Senior Secondary School on December 30, 1992.

Situation in Raikot is different on the issue of subdivision. Congress men led by Sudarshan Joshi, president, Municipal Council, accused Ranjit Singh, SAD nominee, of having persuaded people to demand inclusion of the town in recently constituted Barnala district.

"Had Mr Harmohinder Singh Pardhan not impressed upon the Chief Minister to keep the subdivision with Ludhiana district, the residents could have suffered a lot as due to its inclusion in Barnala district," said Mr Joshi, while talking to the Ludhiana Tribune.



NRIs back Khangura from Kila Raipur
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, January 28
Admitting that majority of the NRIs coming in support of the Congress nominee from Kila Raipur Assembly segment, Mr Jasbir Singh Khangura, lacked personal relations with the electorate of the constituency, the more privileged enthusiasts claimed their presence would extend at least moral support to their contender.

The NRIs would be encouraged to invest more money in Punjab, in case Jassi is voted in, pointed out the supporters.

Mr Vijay Sagar Sharma, an NRI settled in London, said he had noticed that Mr Khangura had received unprecedented support from members of various sections of society, including peasants, employees and traders. “Seeing his popularity among the masses, we have decided to return to our respective countries and send our friends to show their solidarity with him,” he said. About 250 NRIs had planned to visit Kila Raipur before the day of polling, he added.

Mr Sharma expressed concern over the alleged violation of the model code of conduct by majority of the candidates in the state. “It is strange that the candidates continue alluring and impressing upon the voters by one or the other method even in the presence of a brigade of officials from the civil administration and the Election Commission. This is in contrast to the election mode in England, where voters consider merits of the party and candidate and ignore all other factors like caste and creed; money and muscle,” he added.

Calling upon residents of the segment to recognise Khangura's contribution in development of the area, Mr Harminder Singh Gill, a British resident, said more NRIs would be encouraged to invest in projects in Punjab in case candidates like Jassi were elected.

However NRIs admitted that their presence would extend only moral support to the candidate. “Though we do not know people in the Kila Raipur Assembly segment, we have come to show solidarity with Jassi. We will not contribute money as he is economically sound already,” said Mr Gill.

Mr Hanuman Singla, who is known for his proximity to Mr Parkash Singh Badal, claimed the Congress nominee would benefit from the visits of a large number of NRIs as they would be impressing upon their relatives to support him.



Industrialists put weight behind Dhanda
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 28
A prominent segment of the Ludhiana industry offered its active support to the SAD-BJP candidate from the Ludhiana West constituency, Mr Harish Rai Dhanda, during a meeting organised by different industrial organisations here today.

The meeting turned out be a virtual referendum on the support of the industry in the upcoming keen battle of ballot between the Congress and its main political adversary SAD-BJP alliance, claimed Mr Dhanda in a statement here today.

Overwhelmed by the support, Dhanda assured the gathering to take up their demands with the government, if elected. He made it clear that he decided to take a plunge into the politics because the informed sections of the electorate like the industry usually shied away from it, saying the politics was a dirty game.

“The need of the hour is to get into the thick of this game with the larger aim of cleansing it. And for this, I need the support of people like you,” he said, adding that this was the only way the voice of industrialists could be effectively heard and their grievances redressed.

Appreciating Dhanda’s view as well as epitomising the industry’s sentiment, Mr Narinder Singh of Frontier Cycles, while proposing vote of thanks, said decision of well-educated and professionals like Dhanda to contest election was a welcome sign. Exhorting the industry at large to extend the whole-hearted support to Mr Dhanda, he said it would encourage more such people to jump into active politics for the sake of better governance and overall development of the state.

The prominent among those who were present included Chairman, Engineering Export Promotion Council S.C. Ralhan, president Focal Point Association Rajneesh Ahuja, president Electronic Industry Association B.S. Dhillon, Chairman Eastman Group Jagdish Singhal, former president United Cycle and Parts Manufacturers Association D.S. Chawla, president Ludhiana Chapter of Indian Medical Association B.S. Shah, Manmohan Singh Ubhi, president Ludhiana Furniture Manufacturers Association Rajinder Pal.



Poll observer appointed
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 28
The Election Commission of India has appointed Mr Sydein Abasi as the Observer for constituency 59 (Ludhiana East) in place of Mr Anil Kumar Sachan. This information was provided by the District Election Officer-cum- Deputy Commissioner, Mr Ashok Kumar Gupta.

He said Mr Abasi had reached Ludhiana and he would be staying at the Verka milk plant rest house. He would be available on phone number 2553021 and mobile number 9914061721.

Anybody wanting to contact him in connection with any violation of the model code of conduct could contact him on the given phone numbers or meet him in person at the guest house.



Gosain accuses Dawar of concealing info
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 28
The BJP candidate from the Ludhiana (East) constituency, Mr Satpal Gosain, today accused his arch rival and Congress candidate, Mr Surinder Dawar, of concealing important information regarding a defamation case against him from the Returning Officer while filing his nomination papers.

He said he had filed a defamation suit against Mr Dawar and the case was in the court of Mr S.S. Dhaliwal, Cheif judicial Magistrate, but Mr Dawar had not mentioned about it in the affidavit furnished by him along with his nomination papers.

Mr Gosain demanded that Mr Dawar’s nomination be rejected on grounds of concealing information. He said this while addressing mediapersons on the issue. He also alleged that Mr Dawar had violated the code of conduct by inaugurating a dharamshala on January 25 in his constituency.

He said he had complained about it to the Returning Officer, who had assured action against Mr Dawar, but nothing came of it.



JD(U) offers support to Gabria
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 28
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate from the Ludhiana (rural) constituency, Mr Hira Singh Gabria, today got a shot in the arm when leaders of the Janta Dal (United) announced their support to him in particular and SAD in general.

Addressing mediapersons here today, Mr Inderjit Singh Saini, state president, and Mr Amritbir Singh Gulati, chairman of the parliamentary board, said following directions from senior party leaders, Mr Sharad Yadav and Mr Nitish Kumar, they were supporting the Shiromani Akali Dal in the Assembly elections in the state.

They said the JD(U), which had routed the Congress in Bihar a decade ago, had offered its support to the SAD as both parties wanted to fight out the Congress.

The JD(U) support holds significance for Mr Gabria as the rural segment is known for migrant population. There are around 1.70 lakh migrant voters in the constituency. Mr Racchpal Singh Gill, district president of the JD(U), said Mr Gabria, who had garnered support from all quarters, was finding it difficult to target migrants. However, their support would help him on that front, too.



No posters on houses without owners’ consent
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 28
District Election Officer-cum- Deputy Commissioner Ashok Kumar Gupta has said no candidate could put his posters or banners or hoardings on the private property without the written consent of the owner.

Therefore, the public in general is requested that if any political party/candidate puts banners etc without the written consent of the owner, it might be brought to the notice of the Returning Officer or police officer or the District Election Officer concerned so that necessary action under the Defacement of Public Property Act and other laws as relevant might be taken against the defaulting candidate.

Today, Mr Gupta, along with the RO, also inspected the counting centres and strong rooms being set up for the counting of votes in Ludhiana and Khanna.



Ludhiana Calling

Residents are a happy lot, thanks to the strict enforcement of the election code of conduct. Gone are the days when loudspeakers pitched atop auto-rickshaws or cars blared ear-piercing praise of candidates and sought votes through the high-decibel requests. A few walls are being defaced with posters and banners. Election rallies are controlled to such an extent that it doesn't seem to be election season. Residents are happy but politicians are not, "The Election Commission doesn't leave any breathing space," rued one of them.

Chicken poll flavour

Liquor traders are happy these days. This is one area where the Election Commission has to work harder to stem the use of the spirit as attraction to voters and supporters. And when liquor is served can chicken be far behind. Various restaurants specialising in chicken/meat delicacies are working over time, "The parties have placed advanced orders for serving huge quantity in the evenings. We have to employ more staff to keep up the demand." said a gleeful owner of a popular dhabha.

(A)political organisations

Many social service and residents welfare organisations claim they were apolitical and dedicated to public service only. Still, most of them send press notes announcing support in favour of one party or the other. Ironically, the official note pads of the organisations claim at the bottom that the organisaiton was completely apolitical. And why not? A local leader always says that elections are like maha kumbha and even these organisations do not want to be left behind.

Deadly crossing

Three lives were lost at the “deadly” unmanned Thrike road crossing over Ferozepore railway line last week. Despite umpteen accidents, staging of dharnas, the Railways have not installed a barrier arguing they cannot put manned barriers at such crossing which are increasing with the expansion of the city. After the accident, a make-shift arrangement has been made. It is here the role of the city town planner comes under a scanner. He has to foresee the future problem crossings and offer a plan well in advance.

Friend or eve teaser

A Punjab Police constable posted to check eve-teasing outside a girl's college was on for major embarrassment. He was confronted by a girl, who took him to task for shooing away two boys. ‘‘They are my friends and you have no right to force them to go away" she shouted leaving the cop wondering on how he can identify friends from a group of oglers, who make a beeline outside girls schools and

A different baba

A baba (self-styled saint) at the Shingar Cinema road near Samrala Chowk has recently distributed some pamphlets saying “Nanak Dukhiya Sab Sansaar”. In these pamphlets, he has warned the public to be aware of astrologers and tantriks who lure people for minting money. He asks people not to waste their valuable time on such people. Labelling them as "robbers, cheats, illiterate" etc, this baba, at the same time, has asked the "depressed and frustrated" people to meet him once for a guaranteed solution to all their problems. The baba surely seems to be an "educated and different" from others, isn't he?

Religious politicians

Now the state Assembly elections are just a few weeks away, politicians have become docile, down-to-earth, concerned and of course religious (at least for the time being) too. Call them on their cellphones, and you will listen the ring tones of “Hey Ram hey Ram”, “Om Bhurbhuva Svah”, “Guru Nanak Aaye”, “Ishwar Satya Hai” and so on, instead of the regular ones on majority of the contesting candidates. It seems they all have become God-fearing, so what, if it is till the declaration of election results?

Contributed by Jupinderjit Singh, Kanchan Vasdev and Shivani Bhakoo



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