L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S



PM unlikely to make any concessions
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 5
Congressmen, especially those contesting on the party ticket, are all charged up since they feel that with the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here tomorrow half the electoral battle has been won.

The PM will address a public rally at in support of the 12 party candidates at the Government College for Women, Rakh Bagh, tomorrow noon which will be attended by thousands of workers and supporters of the party. Activists and leaders are working around the clock to make it an impressive show of strength so as to send a strong signal to the voters.

Senior leaders told TNS that although the PM would not be able to make any concessions or announce new schemes since the Code of Conduct was in force, yet the cadres would be motivated by his visit. Besides, the huge crowds would surely leave an impact on the minds of the electorate, they pointed out.

‘‘Dr Manmohan Singh has an image. And he has already won over the hearts of the Punjabis with his honesty, dedication and humble personality.

His vouching for their public service will add to the winnability of the candidates, " said Mr Jagmohan Sharma, District Congress Committee Chief.

He added that by choosing to come to Ludhiana, the PM has sent a subtle message across the masses that he was counting on their mandate in his party's favour. ‘‘Tomorrow's rally would be a pointer towards the outcome of elections. It is upon the organisers to handle the gathering since as we are expecting that the venue chosen for the event will prove too small. But then his security aspect too cannot be overlooked,’’ he added.

A Congress candidate said that when he got to know about the rally, he became sure that now all the 12 seats would be in Congress kitty. Similar sentiments were echoed by several other candidates and poll managers.

‘‘With him taking interest in our constituencies, we are working with a renewed vigour. We have made our campaign all the more forceful, ’’ added another leader.

Meanwhile, the administration has said that fool proof arrangements have been made for the visit.

Setting aside the allegations that the rally was being held in violation of the code of conduct, he said that the venue had been chosen in view of the security consideration of the PM and that the local congress unit had footed the bill for the venue.

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Election duty: Women likely to get relaxation
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 5
Women employees may be given relaxation in election duties this time. Taking a soft stance, the Election Office is considering cancellation of duties of women for polling subject to availability of manpower the decision would be taken soon.

"We have sought report from all the 12 constituencies. If we are able to make do with the available male staff we will cancel duties of women in elections," Mr Ashok Kumar Gupta, Deputy Commissioner-cum-Election Officer told the Ludhiana Tribune.

Over 600 women were put on election duties of the total more than 10,300 presiding officers, assistant presiding officers and polling officers.

The 12 constituencies here will have over 2,500 presiding officers, an equal number of assistant presiding officers and 5,300 polling officers.

Following a large number of complaints from women the Election Officer is taking a lenient view of the same.

Most of the women complained of hassles involved in going to far off villages on duty.

Meanwhile, the election office is flooded with complaints from employees from various fields even as rehearsals for poll duties have begun.

The rehearsals for election duties today took place in Rotary Club, Government College for Women, Government College for Boys, Arya College for Boys, BCM School Shastri Nagar, G G N Khalsa College for Women and Multipurpose Hall opposite Guru Nanak Stadium. The rehearsals will further take place on February 9 and 12.

Particularly the teachers and bank employees are complaining that public work is suffering on account of a large number of staff members in their departments put on duty.

Significantly, the Election Officer today asked banks to retain their women employees who have been put on duty.

Meanwhile, the issue of the alleged purchase of Electronic Photo Identity Cards also caught the attention of the District Election Office, which directed all the Returning Officers (ROs) and flying squads in the district to exercise strict vigil in their areas and to take immediate action in case they got information of any such activity.

Mr Gupta also issued warning that any one found guilty of purchase or sale of EPICs would be dealt with sternly. "A case will be registered against those found guilty."

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Voters in a dilemma over wrong I-cards
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 5
Several hundreds of voters will not be able to exercise their franchise in the coming Assembly elections on February 13 due to the wrong voter identity-cards issued by the Election Commission of India. Despite making frequent rounds at the offices of the concerned officials to rectify the mistake, the voters are being given the answer "we are sorry as nothing can be done at this moment".

A medical representative at Shimla Puri, Mr Harpreet Singh, said his photographs were clicked in mid October 2006. His voter card was delivered to his neighbour in his absence a few days back. To his utter surprise, the identity card showed the photograph of a female. He thought that it was wrongly delivered, but on the same card, his name, his father's name, age and address were correctly mentioned. Harpreet went to the EC office here but he was told that it was too late and the process was over.

Harpreet's is not an isolated case. Many other voters in the city have one complaint or the other regarding discrepancies in voters cards. What irritate the voters most is that in the absence of proper guidance, they do not know how to follow their case.

A senior citizen and a resident of Civil Lines, Mr Baldev Goyal, said being a responsible citizen, he had always been casting his vote. But the voters I-cards were creating a lot many problems this time. "We were not issued cards for a long time though the photographs were clicked at GGN Khalsa College five months back. When we were issued the same, the address of my entire family members was mentioned wrong in all cards. We told the delivery man about the mistake, he asked us to wait till some official representative came to collect the same for correction. A week is left for the elections and no one has come yet. We will not be allowed to cast our votes", he complained.

An official with the District Administration said these people believed in complaining. He said voters issued wrong I-cards were given many opportunities to fill a form (for correction) alongwith Rs 25. Many people filled the forms and they were issued the correct cards well on time. "We will not go to their places and ask for corrections. They create unnecessary nuisance now when they come to know that they will not be able to cast vote. They can contact their respective Returning Officers to know whether anything can be done at this stage", he said wishing not to be quoted.

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Working overtime to upset Cong applecart
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 5
High on secular agenda in the city this time, the SAD-BJP combine is working overtime to harvest its benefits in the coming elections.

The four candidates, Mr Harish Bedi (BJP), Mr Satpal Gosain (BJP), Mr Harish Rai Dhanda (SAD) and Mr Hira Singh Gabria (SAD) are out in the fray in North, East, West and Rural segments respectively.

Mr Harish Bedi is a man behind mobilisation of youth wing of the BJP. His capability to mobilise workers has earned him a ticket, which had many contenders. Though those denied ticket are working against him, he is harping on anti-incumbency factor. Moreover, he is going from door to door meeting people of this constituency.

He is pitted against Mr Rakesh Pandey, a state minister, and has been working hard to intrude into his pocket borough. He is putting in more than 18 hours everyday. Mr Satpal Gosain is fighting against his arch rival, Mr Surinder Dawar in Ludhiana East. He had been active in the constituency during the five years not letting the sitting MLA to rest. In fact, he had been keeping a vigilant eye on all the development works in his area and raised a voice whenever he smelt a rat. Despite having undergone angioplasty a few days ago, he is giving his enemy a tough fight.

Mr Dhanda’s pitching against Congress’ Mr Harnam Dass Johar in West, known as a Hindu stronghold seat, is being considered as Mr Parkash Singh Badal’s master stroke. By fielding him, the senior Badal has not only targeted Hindu votes but also provided the electorate with a well known person in city circles. Although his move backfired to some extent when some Akali leaders did not work for Mr Dhanda for sometime. Senior Badal had to pitch in himself and give a straight talk to them stating he wanted this seat at any cost. 

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Boycott Congress, says Mayawati
Says Cong has insulted Kanshi Ram
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 5
Bahujan Samaj Party supremo and former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Ms Mayawati today made an emotional appeal to people to boycott Congress in coming elections as Congress-led UPA government had not announced national mourning after her predecessor Kanshi Ram's death.

Urging upon the electorate from a rally in support of BSP candidates in city, Ms Mayawati said that when Kanshi Ram had died, everybody irrespective of caste, creed or political colour was grief stricken. But the Congress led government did not feel the need to announce a national holiday.

‘‘By doing so Congress has insulted not only Kanshi Ram but the entire Dalit Community. He was a leader of masses and he should have been accorded due respect in his country, for whom he worked throughout his life. Time has come to rout such an insensitive party.’’ remarked Ms Mayawati from the dias amidst huge applause by gathering.

Holding the BJP and SAD also responsible for this ‘‘insult’’, Ms Mayawati said that being in opposition these parties should have made some noise. ‘‘But they preferred to remain silent, ’’ she said.

Asking the people to strengthen the hands of her party candidates, she said BSP was fighting from all the 117 seats. She said she had no alliance with any party.

In her 45-minute address, she invited the non-Dalits to join her party. ‘‘Anybody working for the betterment of minorities is welcome. He would be considered for leadership at various levels, ’’ she said.

She said neither the Congress nor the SAD had worked for the welfare of dalits in Punjab. ‘‘They had been working for the betterment of industrial sector because they have been taking help from them in some manner or the other.’’

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‘SAD will not allow land acquisition’
Our Correspondent

Amloh, February 5
“No land will be allowed to be acquired by the government around Amloh”, this was stated by SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal here today. He was addressing the election rally of SAD candidate Satwinder Kaur Dhaliwal organised at grain market here. He also released a calendar of the Karamchari Dal on the occasion. On the demand of the residents of the area, he promised to erect a boundary wall around the local Bir (forest). He said the Congress Government had failed on all fronts in the state. “The Industry is shifting out of the state and how the Captain will give employment to the unemployed youth. He (captain) after coming into power had banned recruitment, abolished vacant posts, law and order vanished as was evident from deaths in police custody, stopped concessions of people given by SAD government”, said Mr Badal.

The BJP National president, Mr Raj Nath, lashed out at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for failing to control hike in the prices of essential commodities.

The SAD candidate, Bibi Satwinder Kaur Dhaliwal, criticised the government for failing to curb atrocities on women.

Former minister Dalip Singh Pandhi, former MLA Balwant Singh Shahpur, circle president Hari Singh Machhrai, Karamchari Dal chief Karamjit Singh Belagrana, BKU chief Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, former Gobindgarh Council chief, Sukhwinder Singh Bhambri, Aggarwal Sabha chief Gobindgarh, Om Parkash, Amloh urban SAD Chief Hari Chand Mittal, Amloh former council chief Tejwant Singh advocate also spoke on the occasion.

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‘Cong govt destabilising national economy’
Mahesh Sharma

A section of the gathering at the SAD rally at Latala near Mandi Ahmedgarh
A section of the gathering at the SAD rally at Latala near Mandi Ahmedgarh on Monday. — A Tribune photograph

Mandi Ahmedgarh, 5 February
The SAD nominee from Kilaraipur received a shot in the arm, when a large number of activists and leaders of the party and it ally party BJP thronged the grain market, Latala, the native village of the Congress nominee.

Addressing the rally, Mr Om Parkash Chautala, former Chief Minister Haryana, accused the Punjab Government of destabilising the national economy by throwing the farmers of the state into vicious cycle of penury. " Punjab, like Haryana was a agrarian state and the economy of all sections of society depended on the prosperity of the peasants of the state, the Punjab instead of proving to be a ‘wheat bowl’ of the nation became a burden on the Central pool due to the defective policies of Captain Amarinder Singh," said Mr Chautala urged the Punjabis not to repeat the mistake that had been committed five years back.

Comparing the Congress regime with that of Sadam Hussain, Sukhbir Singh Badal, youth SAD leader, alleged that Captain Amarinder Singh had withdrawn majority of facilities that had been provided by Mr Parkash Singh Badal during his tenure as the Chief Minister.

Mr Jagjit Singh Loponwale, Mr Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, MP, and Mr Jagdish Singh Garcha also spoke on the occasion.

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Khirnia to work as ‘sewak not leader’
Our Correspondent

Khamano, February 5
The Akali Dal-BJP candidate from the Samrala constituency area was weighed against coins in every village of the tour programme.

Mr Jagjivan Singh Khirnia, the candidate, at Amrala village said he would serve as a sewak and not as a leader after winning the seat. He charged that the present MLA of the Congress from Samrala nominated all his near and dear ones on all key posts of Khamano and common people as well as local Congress leaders were deprived of their rights.

He said the Congress MLA was trying to woo voters with money, mobiles and wine, but people could not be fooled all the time. He promised that he would solve the problems of people at the village level to save their time and money. He said the Akali Dal-BJP in Punjab will sweep most seats in Punjab.

The Kisan Union leader, Mr Karnail Singh, Newa Jatana, youth leader Gurdeep Singh Ghuman, BJP district secretary Kuldeep Madaan and some other leaders also addressed the gathering. Bibi Baljit Kaur, Amrala ex-sarpanch of the village, thanked all guests and promised help to the villagers of Amrala.

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Votes yes, liquor no!
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 5
He is an educationist and a human rights activist-turned-politician. Armed with his experience in various fields, Prof. Jagmohan Singh, a SAD (Amritsar) candidate from Ludhiana West, ‘‘wants to make a difference in Punjab politics.’’

Aiming at ‘‘clean elections’’, a diehard opposer of distribution of liquor to garner votes, Prof Jagmohan claims he would not spend a single penny to buy voters with narcotics and liquor.

A soft spoken former Professor from University of Mumbai, who is known for his oratorial skills, Prof. Jagmohan is winning over the hearts of people with his conviction to his purpose- of converting dirty game of politics to a cleaner one.

‘‘When I go and meet people of my constituency, I tell them I will not give them liquor. Still many gather and listen to me. There are a lot of right thinking people who want to elect noble men, ’’ he says.

Calling himself a feminist to the core, this first timer takes no time to tell about himself that though Panthic agenda remains his top priority, he would address many other issues starting from universal suffering to rights of women, keeping the youth away from narcotics to local issue like gaining notoriety of city as crime capital of the state.

A post-graduate in commerce with specialisation in Cost Accounting, he has been working in various capacities with the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) led by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann.

Being a founding father of the Indian People's Human Rights Commission, based in Mumbai, Prof. Jagmohan is a graphic designer by profession and is a qualified print technologist.

He is a vast reservoir of knowledge of Sikh affairs and is proficient in English, Panjabi, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati. He also has a working knowledge of French.

"1 will work for enhanced education facilities, improved health standards, uplift of the underprivileged clean elections, good governance, denouncement of right-wing politics of the two-party system in Punjab and upholding human rights and people's rights", he says.

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Defacing of private property irks house owners
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana February 5
Ignoring the instructions given by the Election Commission candidates belonging to various political parties are continuing to deface private property by pasting posters on walls of houses in different localities in the city. This has led to strong resentment among the house owners. The posters of various candidates can be seen pasted on the front and side walls of privately-owned houses in localities near Ayali Chowk covering Avtar Nagar and Sunder Nagar. The residents allege that the posters are pasted either early in the morning or late in the evening as most of the times they get a surprise in the morning.

The posters belong to almost all candidates contesting from Dakha constituency. Mr Hatinder Singh, a resident of the area said, "When political parties spoil private and public property in this manner the common man gets disheartened and loses faith in the whole process. There are many other ways to seek votes. We had got our house painted near Divali and they have spoilt it all".

"The posters pasted outside the houses also give an impression that the inmates are supporting a particular party or candidate. Why should we give such an impression? Common man should not suffer in the election procedure", said another resident of the area.

"As the election fever tightens its grip, other campaign material like flags, posters, pamphlets etc can be seen scattered around our houses. The other day some supporters of a contestant came in the area and asked if they could hoist flags of a particular leader on top of our houses?", said Mr Sucha Singh, a resident of the Sunder Nagar area. 

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Voter disillusioned, but where is the alternative?
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, February 4
The Punjab elections have put the electorate to serious thinking as to which of the two major political parties - Akali Dal and the Congress - is sincere to the state as well as the electorate. The present government of politicians of both the parties has been responsible for serious crises in pre-Punjabi Suba and the post-Punjabi suba periods. The delay in the formation of the Punjabi-speaking state created such problems which have defied the solution till date.

The Akali Dal leaders, who promised heaven and skyhigh standards to the people after the formation of the Punjabi-speaking state, could only foment such tragedies in the wake of ‘dharamyudh morcha’ that hurt the sentiments of the large section of the population.

For the Operation Bluestar, both the Congress and the Akali Dal have to stand in dock. The Operation Woodrose and Black Thunder also alienated the Sikhs. The so-called healing touch never came.

The state was governed ruthlessly by the police, bureaucrats and the Governors for nearly a decade. When wisdom dawned on the powers that be in Delhi, the restoration of elected government was thought of in Punjab and promises were held to Punjabis in the form of Rajiv-Longowal accord.

During this period, the Akalis were left with only Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra. Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and Mr Surjit Singh Barnala were swept away by the current of the Rajiv-Longowal accord. While Tohra continued to be honest and fair representative in the Sikh mainstream, Mr Parkash Singh Badal adopted one-point agenda of seizing power.

The methods adopted were to be castigation of the Congress for all ills of the Punjab and promising impossible to the electorate to seize power. In his anti-Congress policy, he was befriended by the BJP at the national level. His contacts with the erstwhile Jan Sangh leaders helped him in this exercise.

The Congress had no stalwart in Punjab. Mr Beant Singh was swept through the storm of militancy period and there was no choice with the Congress to wear the mantle of chief ministership of Punjab when his party got a thin mandate after the Akalis boycotted the elections in 1992. After the assassination of Mr Beant Singh, it was demonstrated full well that the Congress had no charismatic personality in Punjab. With the result in 1997, Mr Parkash Singh Badal was returned to power. It was his third stint as Chief Minister.

In the preceding campaign he had raised hopes and aspirations of the people sky high. He had promised to weed out corruption from the administration, ensure release of detained Sikh youth in different jails in the country, reform the education system and set up ‘adarsh’ schools in the rural areas. He also promised to better the rural health system. Off all the things, he promised industrialisation of the state and also provide remunerative prices to the farmers for their crops.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal had also fought elections on the promise that Chandigarh would come to Punjab and distribution of river waters with the adjoining states to the benefit of the Punjab because he had himself opposed the Rajiv-Longowal accord.

Mr Badal had promised to institute Maharaja Ranjit Singh Award with a sum of Rs 25,000 for weeding out corruption. But corruption became rampant and he along with his family members and the erstwhile Akali ministers of his government are facing trial on the charges of disproportionate assets.

Not a single Maharaja Ranjit Singh Award was given for catching a corrupt bureaucrat or any civil officer. Mr Amrik Singh Aliwal, once close confident of Mr Badal, made a sensational revelation about the sincerity of Mr Badal towards the Punjab problems on January 21 at a meeting at gurdwara Shaheedan at Ludhiana.

He disclosed that he was travelling with Mr Badal from Amritsar. When they reached near Beas, he asked Mr Badal now was the right time to initiate steps for the settlement of Chandigarh and river waters issues since they were having good neighbourly governments in Haryana and at the Centre.

He said Mr Badal admonished him and told him ' toon chup karja koi nawan panga naa chherian, sanoon kise ne Chandigarh nahin dena nahi kise ne panian da masla hal karnahai' (you keep mum and do no start any new controversy as no one will give us Chandigarh nor settle river waters dispute).

Not only this, not a single ‘adarsh’ school was set up in Punjab nor steps were taken to build the rural link roads. This was not done because Mr Badal would only travel by helicopter from his official residence in Chandigarh to various destinations in Punjab.

Captain Amarinder Singh emerged leader of the Congress during this period (1997-2002). He had been a Congressman prior to the Operation Bluestar and also remained in the Akali Dal for a decade. He had understood the psyche of the Akalis and he could not find his place in the Akali Dal.

The Congress wanted a leader. Hence, Captain Amarinder Singh was named as President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress. He snatched power from Mr Badal in 2002 Vidhan Sabha elections on the issue of corruption in the Akali Dal government. Initially, his tirade against corruption impressed the people. The Punjab Public Service Commission's Ravi Sidhu scam of jobs for sale made a great impact.

Badal also lost sympathy of the people and he as well as his erstwhile colleagues faced serious charges of corruption. This raised the hopes of the people from Amarinder Singh. But soon the whole charm began to wear out.

During his five years term, corruption can not be said to have ebbed or suppressed. Rather, the corruption rates have increased and the poor man has been the worst victim of this menace. The common man has not got any relief during the five years raj of the Congress.

Not only this, the state government was a party to certain corporate companies and hundreds of farmers were put behind bars. A number of them lost their lives. Why do the politicians resort to such tactics and ruin the small innocent farmers.

The benefits of globalisation in Punjab have brought controversies and hue and cry that has led to the levelling of charges and counter-charges against the leaders of both the parties. In the game, the common man is the loser.

The small farmers are a bewildered lot. The prices of land have sky rocketed. But what about the forcible acquisition of land for the SEZs and the corporate secret wherein many small farmers have been deprived of their land without being paid reasonable compensation and they have been prevented from getting the market price.

The voters are frustrated. They look at the unsavory advertisement campaign by both the political parties with skepticism and they do not believe both the parties. But where is the alternative?

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Probe sought into death of woman
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, February 5
Various social, constitutional and religious organisations of the town have urged the state and Union governments to impress upon the Gujarat Government to conduct a probe into the death of a local woman, who, according to her parents, had been killed by her husband who allegedly pushed her from the sixth floor of a building. The Gujarat Police is allegedly trying to shield the suspect.

In a communication sent through Ms Razia Sultana, MLA Malerkotla, office-bearers of certain organisations led by Mr Jatinder Bhola, president, Municipal Council, have urged the President of India, the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of Punjab, to impress upon the Gujarat Government to order a probe into the death of Shashi Bala, daughter of Surinder Kumar Sharma, a resident of the Batta Bagh area here.

The parents of the Shashi Bala had accused her husband Amit Kumar of murdering her in connivance with his mother Chanchala Devi last Friday. But the Gujarat Police, instead of booking the suspects under Section 302 of the IPC, had tried to shield them by terming the murder as a case of suicide.

According to Jatinder Pal Sharma, brother of the deceased, Shashi had married Amit Kumar on October 26, 2001 and the family had spent a huge amount on the marriage. "We had decided to marry Shashi, who was running a coaching centre to Amit as he was working in a local industrial group. Though we had given sufficient dowry to Shashi, Amit and his mother Chanchala Devi started harassing her and asked her to bring more valuables and cash from time to time," said Mr Sharma.

Amit later left the job at the local industrial unit and shifted to Ahmedabad. As Shashi, who was an M.Sc in maths was earning good income from her coaching centre, her husband started shirking work and took to addiction. He used to pressurise Shashi to dispose off a plot that she had purchased.

It was on Friday evening that Shashi told her parents on telephone that Amit had threatened to kill her if she did not sell the plot and hand over the money to him. "On sensing the gravity of situation we decided to go to Ahmedabad the next day and told Shashi and Amit about the decision. But before we could start our journey, we received the unfortunate news that she had been killed," sobbed Mr Sharma ruing that even the suicide case was registered only after intervention of Ms Razia Sultana.

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Poll duty keeps bank staff away, customers waiting
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 5
Bank customers in the city had to face inconvenience today as cash transaction was stopped at a number of branches due to a large number of staff members being put on election duty. Not only was common man hassled as most banking business came to a halt due to this but business units also suffered.

"I needed cash urgently. Since I do not have an ATM card, I came to the branch in the morning. After waiting for quite some time, they asked me to come again later. But even now there is no business. They are telling us that their staff has gone for election duty but what are we to do in such case,” rued Sanjiv Kumar, a customer of Bank of Baroda.

Branches of several public sector banks put their shutters down on account of staff shortage. Long queues of customers, waiting for branches to open, could be seen outside banks.

"I had come to deposit cash to pay for my loan instalment the due date for which is today. But they are not accepting cash. It is sheer harassment of customers," said Satish Kumar, a businessman.

Bank employees, who blamed the election office, said excessive shortage had made it impossible for them to function. "We can't help it. Of the total nine staff members, six in our branch have been put on duty. The situation is no better in many other branches. How can branches function in such conditions," an employee of a leading public sector bank said.

Some banks even complained that 100 per cent staff had been put on election duty. "All the staff members of Co-Operative Bank , Civil Lines, have been put on duty as a result of which 54 branch offices and the head office in Ludhiana remained closed on January 31. It would remain closed whenever there are rehearsals," complained the Sarpanch of Pakhowal village.

Unions of bank employees said if the election office did not take a serious view of the situation even clearing houses might suspend work in the coming days. "Employees of commercial institutions should not be put on duty as it leads to heavy inconvenience of public," said Mr Naresh Gaur, general secretary of the Punjab Bank Employees Federation.

Employees of some banks also complained of misinformation0n by their own offices to the election office. "Complete list of employees was not sent in case of our bank as a result of which employees in zonal office have not been put on duty at all whereas branches are not able to function," an SBI employee said.

Meanwhile, the Election Officer, Mr Ashok Kumar Gupta, said: "Adjustments have been made. I have asked most branches to retain their women staff and those staff members who are required for urgent duties like handling cash and keys. We are taking due consideration and the aim is only to carry on poll duties smoothly and not to cause problems in the functioning of any segment." He said the office would consider genuine cases in future as well.

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Computerised railway booking office opened
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 5
The Department of Railways opened a computerised railway office on Gill Road, here, today. The office was inaugurated by Chief Booking Supervisor Ashok Kumar.

Inaugurating the office, Mr Kumar said now people would not have to stand in queues to obtain tickets.

He said a facility to book tickets three days in advance would also be available at this office.

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Steel price hike makes going tough for
engineering units
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 5
Steep hike in steel prices is causing hardship to engineering industry which has urged the Steel Ministry to take corrective measures in this regard.

A rise of Rs 3,000 to 4,000 per tonne has been registered in the rates of HR Coils within a month. Prices of steel strips and MR sheets too have witnessed a similar increase. "The untimely and arbitrary hike has disturbed the smooth functioning of manufacturing units in engineering industry," said Mr Avtar Singh, general secretary, Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings (CICU).

Industrialists said as a result of the increase it had become difficult for them to execute the orders already procured by them. "Mill owners were supplying steel rounds at the rate of Rs 24,000 per tonne whereas now this rate has been increased to Rs 27,000. Since we had procured orders at previous rates it is not possible for us to complete our orders now lest we incur heavy losses," said Mr G.S Kahlon, president, Auto Parts Manufacturers Association of India.

Urging the Centre to put a cap on increasing trend of steel prices, local Industry said it would not be able to function if the existing circumstances continued.

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