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PPCB invites high court wrath over Budda Nullah
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 16
Taking serious view of the report of an experts committee appointed by the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC), the Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued directions to the state authorities to stop the discharge of industrial effluents into Budda Nullah with immediate effect.

The HC Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Mr Justice Rajive Bhalla held: “The stand taken by the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) for the discharge of industrial effluents into the Budda Nullah is shocking and against law.”

“No government or state can be permitted to destroy fauna and flora or pollute water,” the Bench pronounced, further clarifying that no untreated effluents should be discharged into the nullah henceforth.

It may be recalled that the “perennial rivulet of sorrows” of Ludhiana had been highlighted in these columns, following which a suo moto notice had been taken by the HC in this context.

While appointing the monitoring committee, the HC judges asked project coordinator P. Ram, Principal Secretary, Technical Education, and nodal officer N.S. Tiwana, Executive Director, Punjab State for Science and Technology, to go through the report submitted by the committee appointed by the PSHRC.

The report of the PSHRC-appointed committee comprising Dr K.S. Aulakh, Vice-Chancellor, PAU, Dr L.S. Chawla, former Vice-Chancellor, Baba Farid Universality, and Dr Daljit Singh, Principal, DMCH, Ludhiana, would facilitate the P. Ram Committee in its work, the Bench further observed, extracting some of the observations from their report in its order.

The HC’s provisional order further reads: “The (PHRC-designated) committee has also provided inputs as to how to deal with the dreadful condition of the nullah. The recommendations include disposal of sewage, industrial effluents, animal excreta and slaughter houses, provisions of piped water supply and regulation of village waste.

“Other steps required to be followed are its restoration of its width and natural flow of water, lining to check seepage of pollutants into groundwater, separate flow of sewage, tree plantation, monitoring of water quality, operation of a new solid waste disposal system, etc.”

Photographs, which are a part of this report, clearly demonstrate the discharge of industrial effluents and sullage or sewage by villages into the nullah near Bhamian village and untreated sewage being diverted from Jamalpur sewage treatment plant into it, the order added.

The P. Ram Committee shall file status report in this regard every month detailing the steps taken by it. After taking into consideration the report of the committee appointed by the PSHRC, a monthly status report shall also be filed by the pollution board and the nodal officer before this court, the order further says.

On the averment of IHRO counsel Gurcharan Das and Gurinder Singh Lali that Ludhiana with a population of 3.5 million does not have a master plan, the Bench has asked the state Chief Secretary to file an affidavit on the next hearing, i.e. February 28, as to what is the master plan for the city.

The Ludhiana Deputy Commissioner has also been asked to submit his report with regard to the air pollution, particularly on account of pollution being generated by vehicular traffic.

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Flesh trade: Girls go into hiding fearing threat to life
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, February 16
Apprehending danger to their lives, Rano of Kilahans village and Pinky of Panchkula (not real names) have sought action against a woman of Doraha and her accomplice who, according to them, had been running a brothel and exploiting them for years.

As both victims have already been deserted by their parents, they have gone into hiding till the Payal police initiates action against all those who had minted lakhs by forcing them for prostitution at various places, including various hotels in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Chandigarh. The roots of the gang were reported to have spread to the local town also.

Payal SHO Bhupinder Singh said investigation had been initiated into the allegations and necessary action would be taken against the suspects after verifying charges levelled by the complainant. “We have already initiated investigation into the matter and have asked both parties to provide evidence in their favour,” he said.

According to Mohinder Singh of Kilahans village, who is being viewed as key to the entire case, his granddaughter Rano had been living with Gurdeep Kaur (name changed) at Doraha for a long time. Gurpreet lost her mother at the age of three. However, her grandparents spared no effort in bringing her up. “Though I had disowned my son, Mangal Singh, for ignoring his daughter, I did not leave Rano even when he (Mangal Singh) started living with Gurdeep Kaur and other women,” claimed Mohinder Singh alleging that Gurdeep had abducted Rano a day before her proposed marriage last year.

“Not only she abducted Rano, she forced her to file a complaint against me at the Payal police station,” said Mohinder Singh. Rano had then accused her grandparents and other members of the family of pushing her into the flesh trade and attempting to sell her. Intervention of the panchayat had resulted in a compromise, in which Rano had left her grandparents’ house to live with her “stepmother” at Doraha. However, when Gurdeep Kaur asked for her share in the property of her “husband” she was denied the right as she could not provide evidence of her marriage with Mangal Singh.

Mohinder Singh further told that Pinky and Rano had sought shelter in his house on Wednesday. The girls had told him that the suspects had confined them after learning that they would expose their illegal trade. “Though they had shown me an album containing pictures of girls who according to them were being exploited by the suspects, I did not allow them stay in my house. Later, I came to know that my wife, Surjit Kaur, had accompanied them to the Payal station to lodge the complaint,” said Mohinder Singh. Rano had also told her grandfather that a woman residing at Amarpura Mohalla had also been exploiting her. The suspects had minted lakhs by sending these girls to various hotels in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Chandigarh.

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DRI unearths drawback scandal
Firm owner arrested
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, February 16
Sleuths of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) have uncovered a racket of huge drawback against bogus export of garments by a local group of exporting units running into several crores over the last few years. The owner of the unit, identified as Mr Pritpal Singh, has been arrested and remanded to two days custody with the DRI for further investigation.

Even as officials were reluctant to give any details of the case, it was reliably learnt that the group had been exporting knitted garments in the name of several companies, some of which were later blacklisted by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade for scores of irregularities.

The modus operandi adopted by the firm, revealed the sources, was over invoicing of the goods, booking export consignments in the names of non-existent individual buyers and companies and thereafter, showing receipts on the basis of forged and fabricated documents to claim massive drawback as incentive for exports.

While the extent of the fraudulent drawback, extended over a period of more than a decade, was still being worked out from scrutiny of the records and interrogation of the accused exporter, it was estimated that the group had claimed bogus drawbacks of around Rs 15 crore till date.

In addition, payments for a large number of consignments to the tune of Rs 15 to 20 crore were still being shown as outstanding and the firm would have shown fictitious realisation, and again claimed drawback against these exports, had the dubious dealings not been unearthed by the watchful eyes of the DRI officials.

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Oil prices
Transporters unlikely to reduce charges
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 16
While reduction in petrol and diesel prices made city residents happy transporters said they were not open to slash transport charges.

Post reduction, petrol is available for Rs 47.20 per litre while diesel, after a Re 1 slash, is now priced at Rs 30.17 per litre in the city.

While the latest cut has been effected with a view to curb spiralling inflation, petroleum dealers and transporters said the quantum of this decrease should have been more. Even after the cut, petroleum in Punjab was the costliest in comparison to neighbouring states.

However, residents welcomed the decision and said it was much needed. "Considering the way prices were rising and essential commodities were becoming unaffordable, this cut was the need of the hour. From vegetables to food grains and pulses, prices were continuously increasing and monthly budgets went haywire. Even after the minor reduction that was done in fuel rates a couple of months ago, essential commodities were costly. I hope this cut brings the reduction in prices of essential commodities,” said Pankaj Gupta, a government employee.

Whether the government’s decision of slashing rates really contributes to check rising inflation remains to be seen but transporters in the state said they were unlikely to cut charges as the reduction in diesel rates was “meagre”.

“Considering the overall effect, rates were increased several times and reduced only twice, transporters do not benefit much. The cut in case of diesel should have been more than Re 1. In such a scenario, we will not slash our rates,” said Mr Charan Singh Lohara, Chairman, Punjab State Goods Transport Association.

For petrol and diesel dealers, the scenario does not change much as petrol is still the most expensive in Punjab in comparison to Delhi, Chandigarh, Ambala, Jammu and Srinagar. “The rate of diesel is competitive but we have lost almost half of our sales to neighbouring states as petrol is around Rs 4 higher in Punjab. Taxes are hitting the sales in the state. For us, the real benefit would accrue when taxes in the state would decline and petrol would be competitively priced here,” said Mr Ashok Sachdeva, President, Ludhiana Petroleum Dealers Association.

Mini bus owners also said bus fares were unlikely to be reduced. “When prices were increased, the government did not let us increase bus fares. Slashing fares after this decrease would mean losses which is why we are not considering any change in fares,” said Mr J.S. Grewal, district President of the Mini Bus Owners Association.

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Langars mark Shivratri
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 16
Devotees thronged Krishna Temple, Shiv Mandir at Gau Ghat and Shanglawala Shivala, the oldest temple of Lord Shiva, in the city on the occasion of Shivratri today.

Women and children queued up at temples to seek blessings of Lord Shiva. Langars of milk, bhang, poori-channa, bhang pakoras were being served at every corner. In some temples people even donated serpents made of silver in order to appease the stars and planets.

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Students’ worry still not over
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, February 16
Heaving a sigh of relief after the long-drawn out electioneering prior to their examinations came to an end, students of the area have urged the authorities to direct the prospective winners in various constituencies not to create noise pollution while celebrating their victory.

The exams should be delayed in case the administration failed to maintain atmosphere conducive for studies, demanded the students.

Students, particularly those appearing in the examinations being conducted by the state education board, said rallies, announcements and canvassing by various candidates and their supporters had adversely affected their studies. Interruption in teaching process due to mass deputation of teachers on poll duty aggravated the situation.

Ravneet Kaur, a class IX student and a resident of Pohir village, contended that her studies, like many other students, were adversely affected and interrupted due to occasional rallies and announcements by leaders of various parties. " At times, the meetings continued till midnight thus disturbing sleep also," said Ravneet while talking to the Ludhiana Tribune.

Palak Gupta, a state scholarship holder and student of local Sanatan Vidya Mandir Senior Secondary School, said the increased interest of almost all residents in politics had worsened the situation for students.

"It was not only the high-pitched sound of announcements and rallies that disturbed the studies, frequent visits of candidates, including independents and their supporters, also took a toll on their studies.

He demanded that the administration should direct the winning candidates to restrict their celebrations so that minimum disturbance was caused. 

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A urinal buried under poll promises
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 16
A need as basic as a urinal that had emerged as a main poll issue for shopkeepers and residents of Block-I in Sarabha Nagar here has been completely forgotten after the poll.

Though the MC officials had unloaded construction material at the proposed site when the issue made headlines during the elections, there is no move to construct the toilet after the poll.

The shopkeepers have no option but to relieve themselves along the boundary wall of a park. This way they are earning the wrath of residents who cannot use the park because of the stench. The situation has turned tense many a time when tempers ran high on the issue.

The only urinal in the market was demolished five months ago by the MC.

Since then, the shopkeepers have been virtually requesting MC officials and political leaders to construct a new one for them at an appropriate place, but to no avail.

When Ludhiana Tribune highlighted the issue recently, all political leaders rushed there and promised to get it constructed at the earliest. A mini-truck full of bricks was downloaded at the site along with a heap of sandstone. However, nothing has been done after that.

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PPCC legal cell hails cut in oil prices
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 16
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) legal cell has hailed the decision of the UPA government to slash oil prices.

Mr P.D. Sharma, former chairman of the state unit, Dharamjit Singh, district chairman, and Ashok Bhakri, convener, said in a press note that it was a big respite for everyone. It would reduce the cost of transportation, which will ultimately result in lowering of the prices of daily-need commodities, they added.

Meanwhile, Mr Balwinder Goel, member, Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana, Mr Rajneesh Gupta, Mr Rana Harjasdeep Singh, former secretaries of the District Bar Association, Mr Baldev Kumar Baweja and Mr R.P.S. Bhatti, both lawyers, have also welcomed the reduction in oil prices.

Secretary of Advanced Scientific Homoeopathic Association Vipan Gupta has also hailed the decision.

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Exit poll: 94 pc respondents feel drugs were distributed
Asha Ahuja

Ludhiana, February 16
A unique kind of exit poll was conducted in Punjab during the Assembly elections by Prof. Balwinder Pal Singh, Professor and Head, Department of Economics, Dr. Deepinder Singh, associate professor, L.M.H. Medical College, Ludhiana, and other like-minded social activists from all over the state, including Prof. Bhupinder Kaur from Hoshiarpur, Dr. Manmohanjit Singh, Dr. Kamal Mann, Rachpal Singh, Amandeep, Gurdeep Singh, Pukhraj Singh, Dr. Meharwant Singh, Jaspal Singh and others. The exit poll was conducted to confirm the impact of drug distribution on polls.

This exit poll was conducted in around 25 constituencies of Punjab, including Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur, Samrala, Kila Raipur, Dakha, Koom kalan, Sangrur, Dhuri, Gardiwala, Sham Churasi, Tandsa, Jalandhar, Ferozepore etc. A questioner was prepared to collect the data and 300 respondents participated in the exit poll.

About 94 per cent respondents confirmed the fact that all political parties had indulged in the practice of distributing drugs during the elections. They were asked a direct question that whether any political party offered them alcohol or any other drug in lieu of their votes. Over 58 per cent gave positive answer. Some of the respondents from urban areas adopted safe mode while answering this question.

Getting more direct, the next question was designed to ascertain the effect of this ‘bribery’ on the polling pattern. Out of the persons who were offered liquor and other drugs by the political parties, 36 per cent confirmed the fact that they have voted for the candidates and political parties who had offered them drugs. But less bad news is that 64 per cent said that although they were not hesitant in accepting liquor and other drugs from political parties, yet it had not affected their choice for the candidates and parties.

Another sad fact that has surfaced out from these exit polls is that 65 per cent respondents were of the opinion that liquor and drug distribution was more intense during these elections as compared to the earlier elections.

Commenting on the results of the exit polls, Prof. Balwinder Pal Singh said that our universities, social health groups and resourceful philanthropists should rise on the occasion and take the initiative to save the young generation from the menace of drugs, which has lately become, the 'sixth river' in Punjab.

Dr. Deepinder Singh said that from different surveys, studies and media reports, it had become an established fact that due to myopic vision, all political parties are practising drug distribution during elections for their short-term gains.

While expressing his views, Mr. Jasbir Singh said that through these studies and reports, we would make our voice audible to all sects of society. They will be sending the report to the Election Commission too.

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BSNL staff to get free treatment at Apollo
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 16
Employees of the BSNL and their dependents can now get medical treatment at SPS Apollo Hospital here free of cost following the agreement between the hospital and the BSNL to this effect.

The employees of BSNL had been demanding pacts with the leading city hospitals for a long time.

BSNL officials, led by Mr S.K. Nigam, General Manager, Ludhiana Telecom District, and Mr S.K. Jain, DEP (Administration), were extended their cooperation to ensure that the agreement for the free treatment facility was processed as quickly as possible.

As per the agreement, now all BSNL employees will have to just produce their identity proof at the time of their visit to the hospital for indoor treatment. All their bills will, thereafter, be presented to their organisation by the hospital authorities.

"Every treatment, including advance and expensive procedures, were covered under the terms of the agreements," remarked an official of the hospital.

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Seminar, poster-making contest mark camp
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 16
A family planning camp was organised by Lifeline Hospital on Gill Road here yesterday in which a team of doctors from the district health administration and the hospital conducted tubectomy operations. It was inaugurated by Dr Tejinder Pal Singh.

According to Dr R.S. Maheshwari, director of Lifeline Hospital, free shawls were distributed among those operated while incentives were given to motivators. Medicines were provided to the needy and poor patients free of cost.

A seminar and poster competition on female foeticide was also held at the hospital. Addressing the seminar, Dr Tejinder Pal Singh and other speakers stressed on the need to change our thinking over having a male child. While appreciating the efforts for conducting such camps, he said it was a need of the hour to conduct such family planning camps. He called for necessary steps to curb female foeticide.

Dr Maheshwari observed that development of India was only possible if population was kept under control and the girl child was saved.

In the poster competition students focused on brutality against the girl child and made an attempt to create awareness among the public to save her. Pooja of USPC Jain Public School came first and won Rs 2,000, Simar Singh of BCM Arya Model School was declared second and given a cash prize of Rs 1,000. Raveena of St Thomas School and Jasjit Rakhi of Springdale Public School shared the third position and were awarded Rs 500 each. Consolation prizes were given to students from KVM Senior Secondary School and DAV Public School.

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18 booked for assault
Our Correspondent

Jagraon, February 16
In two separate incidents, 18 persons have been booked for assault. In the first incident, Yadwinder Singh, Gurjit Singh, Mintu, Sonu, Raja, Akhttar Singh of Roomi and 10 other persons assaulted Gurpreet Singh of their village with iron rods. The police has registered a case under Sections 325, 323, 341, 148, 149, IPC, against them.

The reason behind the assault is that the accused, who belonged to SAD, asked Gurpreet Singh to remove the flag of the Congress which he had hoisted on his shop. When he refused to remove it, they assaulted him.

The injured has been admitted to the Civil Hospital, Jagraon. No arrest has been made so far.

In the second incidents, Rajan and Vipan, both of Shastri Nagar, Jagraon, have been booked under the same offence by the police as they assaulted Harwinder Singh of Gorsian Makhan with iron rod.

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