L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S

Khud Mohalla fire: Life term for accused
Rajneesh Lakhanpal

Ludhiana, March 6
In the Khud Mohalla fire case, accused Gurcharan Singh, alias Gogi of Khud Mohalla, has been convicted and awarded life sentence. The fire had claimed 16 lives.

The Court of Additional Sessions Judge, Mr H P S Mahal, held that the prosecution had successfully proved the guilt of the accused beyond any reasonable doubt. So he had been awarded rigorous life imprisonment. A fine of Rs 7,000 was also imposed upon the accused.

The massive fire had broken out on May 10, 2003, in the hosiery of the accused, located in a narrow lane in Khud Mohalla near civil hospital. The tragic part was that most of the victims, who perished, had actually entered the building to save the persons trapped inside.

The fire had engulfed several adjoining residential buildings as well. Four fireman of the local municipal corporation, who were trying to douse the fire were also badly injured. Five policemen had also suffered minor injuries.

There were more than 25 persons inside the ill-fated building, including labourers and family members of the accused, when the fire broke out. Such was the impact of the fire that six persons were charred to death in just a few minutes. Some of them had even been reduced to ashes. The location of the hosiery in narrow lanes of the old city had hampered speedy rescue and fire fighting operations.

Later, a case under sections 302, 304-A, 436, 337, 338 and 23 of the Petroleum Act was registered against the accused at Division No. 3 Police Station, following a complaint by Tarlochan Singh of Khud Mohalla.

The complainant had submitted to the police that on the first floor of the hosiery of accused, a huge quantity of wool was lying. A drum containing 200 litres of Benzene (a chemical) had also been kept by him in the house. When the fire broke out, the accused had started pulling the drum containing benzene, which then spread in the street. As a result of which many persons had been caught in the fire and died.

Deputy district attorney A S Chadha had apprised that the prosecution had examined 53 witnesses to prove the guilt of the accused. The witnesses included the victims who were injured in the fire incident and eye witnesses.

He further apprised that during enquiry the police had recorded the statements of several persons, who had said that they had heard the accused quarrelling with his wife. Thereafter he started beating up his wife. In their presence the accused had poured some acid or other material from a drum, lying in his house, on the body of his wife. Then he set his wife ablaze with a match stick. Due to this reason, the fire had spread in the house of accused as well.

But later a majority of the eye witnesses had turned hostile in the court. They claimed that the police never recorded their statement. Some of them gave altogether different statements in the court in order to save the accused.

But certain witnesses like, Jasbir Kaur of the same vicinity whose husband had died due to the fire, had been adamant. She categorically stated that the accused had set ablaze his wife and due to which the fire spread claiming numerous other lives as well.

However, the accused had pleaded innocence and claimed false implication due to public outcry. He stated that he never set ablaze her wife. He also claimed that he was not responsible for breaking out of fire.

After hearing the rival contentions of the parties and scrutinising the evidence produced by the prosecution, the court found the accused guilty and sentenced accordingly. 



14 students not allowed to take board exam
School failed to provide roll numbers 
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 6
As many as 14 students of Middle standard (Class VIII) failed to take their board exam today as their names or roll numbers were not in the list issued by the board. Today was the first examination for Class VIII.

It was due to the "callous attitude" of the school authorities, who issued "duplicate roll numbers" to these students in the morning today. But the centre superintendent did not allow those students to sit in the examination as their names were not in the list.

Parents of the students said that their wards had been taken for a ride. Inderpal Singh, father of Parmeet Singh, a regular student of Nav Bharat Model School, Basti Jodhewal, said that he did not have even a vague idea that his son would not be allowed to sit in the exam.

He said that they were given assurances by the principal of the school in the morning. "When we asked him to issue the slip of duplicate roll numbers, he told us to write it on the cardboards saying he will personally submit all roll number slips at the Adarsh Nagar, Giaspura centre, after half-an-hour. We are so disturbed that we do not know whom to approach this time," he said.

Another parent Paramjit, whose son Paras Verma studies in the same school, said that six students of the same school and eight others from another branch of the same school (Nav Bharat School) had failed to take the exam.

“The principal did not have any duplicate roll number slips, he just made a fool of us. Had he told us about this earlier, we could have done something of our own. At this stage, where should we go?” asked Paramjit.

“We tried to explain everything to the persons on duty at the centre but they said that they could not help in this situation. In the absence of roll numbers, how could they allow our wards to take the exam?" he said.

The parents further alleged that they were trying to contact the principal since morning but to no avail. “He picked up his phone once and asked us to maintain calm. He said nothing could be done this year. We tried to contact him again but he had switched off his mobile phone. We went to the school but were told that the principal had gone out of station," said another angry parent.

Till the filing of this report, Ludhiana Tribune also tried to contact the principal but to no avail.

Meanwhile, Major Singh Sandhu, District Education Officer, Secondary, said that there were 395 centres in the district and more than 40,000 students had appeared in the exam today. "Everything went well. The staff on duty as well as students appearing in the exam were told not to bring their mobile phones in the centre. We will inform higher authorities if anybody is found guilty," he said.



‘Underfed, cows lived in unhygienic conditions’
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, March 6
The former management committee of Seth Gobindmal Chanan Ram Parmapati Gaushala, Kaind village, led by Virender Puri, a self-styled baba booked by the Dehlon police under section 429 of the Cruelty to Animals Act for allegedly detaining cows and committing cruelty against them by starving them; did not take care to feed cattle properly living at gaushala, found a team of veterinary officers of the state Animal Husbandry Department.

While animals were underfed and emaciated, those rescued have been found living under unhygienic and starving conditions.

According to report submitted by veterinary officers led by Dr Ramesh Chhabra, SVO, the cows and calves living at gaushala had been living under unhygienic conditions and were fed dry fodder only.

"The post-mortem examination revealed that both of them were underfed. Heaps of polythene bags recovered from elementary canal of the cow showed that it had to take inedible substance to suppress its hunger," disclosed Dr Deshdeepak Talwar, veterinary officer, Dehlon.

Referring to contents of the report submitted by team of veterinary officer, including Dr Ramesh Chhabra, Dr Kiran Vir and Dr Gurdarshan Singh Sahnewal besides him, Dr Talwar said the female calf had suffered from pneumonia also. A majority of animals and deceased cow were emaciated.

Report further established that sheds were not properly maintained and unhygienic conditions had resulted in multiple wounds on limbs and abdomens of the cattle. The concentrates and green fodder were lacking in food for the cows.

"The veterinary officers were of the view that the cows had been fed on dry fodder only," claimed Dr Talwar adding that weekly examination would be conducted on the animals in future. The team was deputed by the Ludhiana district administration to verify charges leveled by Harish Chhabra, a trustee of the gaushala who had accused Virender Puri president of the trust and his associates of allegedly detaining and starving cows and diverting funds collected from the donors of the area. According to him, a large number of cows had died due to the negligence of the workers deputed for taking their care.

Activists of various social and religious organisations had launched a crusade against the alleged cruelty meted out to cows but no action was taken against the self styled baba. Ultimately, the Dehlon police registered a case against baba and his associates and arrested them after rescuing from irate mob on last Friday.

The administration in an effort to establish charges ordered medical examination of surviving cows and post-mortem examination of the dead animals. 



Tohra group emerges stronger
K S Chawla

Ludhiana, March 6
Equations have changed in the politics of the Shiromini Akali Dal and the erstwhile Tohra group which was feeling marginalised for quite sometime has emerged stronger with the elections to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha.

Hira Singh Gabria, now minister in the new SAD-BJP cabinet and president, city Akali Jatha, and Bikramjit Singh Khalsa - the two loyalists of Gurcharan Singh Tohra have won the elections. The third loyalist of Tohra Maheshinder Singh Grewal lost the elections from Payal Vidhan Sabha segment because of the presence of a rebel Akali Dal candidate and opposition from within the Akali Dal.

Ludhiana Akali scene was dominated by Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, MP, and comprising the group of Jagdish Singh Garcha, Avtar Singh Makkar, president SGPC , Amarjit Singh Chawla and this group had opposed the allotment of ticket to all the three above mentioned Tohra loyalists.

The Akali Jatha has been witnessing strong sea-saw games during the past few years. Amarjit Singh Bhatia, vice President of the Shiromini Akali Dal, at one time was strongly opposed to Hira Singh Gabria and was siding with Avtar Singh Makkar group. But later, three leaders, namely Makkar, Gabria and Bhatia, joined hands when the dominant Jat group of the Akali Dal led by Sharanjit Singh Dhillon and Jagdish Singh Garcha tried to over and them and dubbed them as poor urban leaders.

But with the elevation of Mr Avtar Singh Makkar as President of the SGPC, the equations witnessed a change and Mr Makkar joined hands with the Sharanjit Dhillon- Garcha group and Hira Singh Gabria and Amarjit Singh Bhatia were forced to remain united. They two are even united today.

Since Jagdish Singh Garcha has lost the election from Kilaraipur segment and the Ludhiana west segment has gone to Mr Harish Rai Dhanda , the balance of power has tilted towards Gabria- Bhatia group. Gabria-Bhatia group has the support of Maheshinder Singh Grewal too who commands influence despite losing the elections as he continued to be close to the Chief Minister and general secretary of the Akali Dal and also member of the political affairs committee of the SAD.

Darshan Singh Shivalik, who has been elected from Dakha segment, is a protege of Sukhbir Singh Badal and may remain neutral for the time being.

Bikramjit Singh Khalsa has emerged stronger in the district since he has defeated the biggest congress gun Shamsher Singh Dullo from Khanna, segment of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. He is completely with the Gabria-Bhatia group.

In the rural area of the district, the Akali Dal has received a setback with the defeat of Badal loyalists namely Mr Ranjit Singh Talwandi (Raikot ) and Mr Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal (Kumkalan). Mr Jagjeewan Singh newly elected akali MLA from Samrala is a strong Badal loyalist.

Harish Rai Dhanda may like to retain his independent stance since his candidature was opposed by Mr Makkar and other local leaders. 



Budget has burdened public: BJP
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 6
The Union Budget will put an extra burden of Rs 3,000 crore on public despite that the common man was already reeling under pressure of high inflation, said Ashok Juneja, finance secretary, Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), Punjab, in a press note issued here yesterday.

Condemning the budget provisions, he said the increase in exemption limit in case of income tax was negligible. "Income tax rates have not been reduced despite the fact that whenever rates have been reduced the revenue of government increased. Higher the tax rates lead to higher evasions only."

Mr Juneja added that if rates became reasonable high amount of unaccounted for money could come in the main flow and contribute to the overall development of the economy.



Ex-Headmaster denied info under RTI Act
Our Correspondent

Doraha, March 6
Pawan Kumar Kaushal, a retired headmaster, has been running from pillar to post since four and a half months to get information from the DEO(S) about his unwarranted pensionary benefit. He had sought information under the right to information (RTI) Act about his 6-month ad hoc service.

Kaushal says that his six-month ad hoc service had hitherto remained unaccounted for pension and pensionary benefits by the authorities concerned.

As per a decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the service rendered should be counted for pension and pensionary benefits. The office of the secretary, department of school education, through a letter dated May 29, 2006, had asked the authorities, including the district education officers, to count the service of employees rendered on an ad hoc basis for the purpose of pensionary benefits.

Kaushal said the AG, through a letter dated August 7, had asked the DEOs of Ludhiana to send his revised pension case after including the service rendered on an ad hoc basis. To know about the status of his case Kaushal had applied then for information under the RTI Act on October 12, but even after the expiry of the stipulated time period of 30 days, the information eluded him.

Kaushal had also informed the state information commissioner and the chief information commissioner about the callousness of DEO(S), demanding necessary action and an adequate reply.

On December 1, 2006 that the state information commission (IC) Punjab made it mandatory for the DEO(S) to provide information within 15 days’ time period but the latter took no pains to supply any such information to the former.

Ultimately, the state information commissioner fixed February 26, 2007, for hearing from the district education officer (S) or through an authorised representative, who should be well-conversant with the facts of the case but astonishingly the DEO(S) still paid no heed. Now the state information commissioner had issued a fresh notice of hearing to the DEO(S) the date for which has been fixed on be April 2, 2007.



Social worker dead

Mandi Ahmedgarh, March 6
Renowned social activist Savita Karir, mother of Kuldip Karir, senior sub judge, Patiala, died after brief illness here yesterday.

She was 85. She is survived by four sons and one daughter. She was cremated in yesterday. — OC



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