L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S

Manhole Death Case
Clean chit to MC staff, house owner
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 2
The municipal corporation inquiry into the manhole tragedy has given a clean chit to its employees and the owner of the house in Jeewan Nagar where the incident took place on Friday.

The inquiry, conducted by joint commissioner Ashok Bajaj, the report of which is yet to be submitted to the commissioner, has held that neither the employees nor the owner of the house could be charged with negligence for causing the death of 3-year-old Geeta.

Sources in the MC said prima facie evidence suggested that the girl had fallen into the manhole accidentally when her elder sister, who was also a minor, was carrying her. The elder one tried to remove a plyboard to pick a cardboard from the place and lost balance. The younger one fell into the manhole and drowned.

The investigation revealed that the area was transferred to the MC by PUDA, but the manhole was private and it was not constructed by PUDA. Sources said as per the inquiry, the owner of the house near which the incident took place, was renovating the house for quite some days.

He was taking a sewerage connection also and the manhole was dug in the middle of the road. As it was uncovered, the owner had placed a cardboard and a plywood over it to avoid any untoward incident. He had even placed bricks over it to warn passersby.

These girls were ragpickers and seeing a card board they tried to pick it. “When the elder one removed the bricks and picked the cardboard, the younger one fell into the gutter,” the inquiry officer held.

Ashok Bajaj, inquiry officer, refused to comment on the report unless he submitted it. He was away to Chandigarh today to attend an important meeting, otherwise he would have submitted the report today only. He added that he was yet to check records of PUDA to find out the plan of the area.

The police had booked unidentified MC employees, holding the local body responsible for not covering the lid. The MC had initiated an independent inquiry into the case.



Open manholes continue to pose danger
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 2
It took the drowning of a three-year-old girl into an open manhole to shake the MC out of its slumber and promptly buy 300 lids to cover such deathtraps in the entire city.

However, while the authorities think it is enough, many councillors feel that there are hundreds of manholes which are lying uncovered and 300 covers will prove too less for them.

The incident in which the three-year-old girl died took place on Friday and the MC bought 300 lids on Saturday, said a senior official of the MC. He added that the covers were supplied to all zonal offices of the local body from where these would be fixed at places wherever required.

Meanwhile, certain councillors complained that there were no lids in the MC store for the past many years and whenever they asked for covering the manholes, they were told that these were not in the supply.

Harbans Phanta, husband of Sunita Phanta, BJP councillor from ward number 65, said he had been making rounds of the MC office for the past many days as many manholes were lying uncovered in his area. But he was always told that there were no covers.

“They neither have meshes to cover the drains nor have cement that can be used for making lids. People have already started telling us that our government is in power and still we do not have the required material,” said Phanta.

He alleged that the bureaucracy and red tape was marring the image of the government. “If they have purchased cement and other things, why are these not being sent to the areas where these are required?”

Another councillor said there were many manholes lying uncovered in his ward. “They have not learnt any lessons from the manhole death incident. Maybe, they are waiting for another such tragedy to wake them up,” he said, adding that he had raised the matter during the last meeting of the general house.

At that time the commissioner had promised that the necessary purchases would be made soon and these would be provided in the stores. However, two months after, the promise has not been fulfilled. A senior official of the MC said the shortage would be over soon as they would get the lids within a day or two. “The lids are already there in the zonal stores. We got the supply in three trucks on Saturday. There is no shortage any more.”



Falling water table
PAU warns against early paddy sowing
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 2
As the water table continues to fall in the state, scientists at Punjab Agricultural University have warned against early sowing of paddy. As farmers have started the process of sowing paddy, the scientists warned it would prove disastrous for the water resources as the water table was declining at an alarming pace, particularly when over 100 blocks in the state had already been declared to have come under the "danger zone" of getting dry sooner or later.

N.S. Malhi, director of extension education, PAU, has appealed to the farmers of the state to abstain from early sowing of paddy. He was referring to the recent news of early sowing in the Shutrana region of Patiala district. He said "aping" this trend would spell doom for the water resources of the state. He remarked, "sow it early and perish for good".

For the past few years, PAU has launched a sustained campaign against the early sowing of paddy as it drains out maximum water leading to further decline in the water table. Warning against sowing before recommended date of June 15, Malhi appealed to the deputy commissioners of all districts to dissuade farmers from early sowing of paddy as the resultant water scarcity could have a serial effect on the country's food security.

G.S.Hira, former director of research, PAU, also cautioned against this trend and said only declaring early sowing of paddy a social crime could prevent the exploitation of natural resources.

Indiscriminate use of these resources might cause food shortage and the nation might have to depend on foreign support to survive, he argued.

Clarifying the situation with reference to water resource statistics, Hira disclosed that the water table had been declining in the state at the rate of 55 cm per year during 1993-2003. However, it declined by 74 cm last year due to early sowing of paddy.

Varinder Pal Singh, a soil scientist, disclosed that early sowing of paddy influenced environment as well. It led to increased humidity which further caused spread of diseases in paddy. This also affected the paddy sown at the recommended dates.

Moreover, the depleting water resources required greater electricity consumption to draw underground water. This would also need more powerful motors for the purpose but availability of electric power would remain the moot point, he pointed out.



5 Cong men booked on murder charge
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, May 2
The Sudhar police has booked five Congressmen, including a sarpanch of Rattowal village, for allegedly murdering an SAD activist.

Though the main accused has been arrested, the others are still at large.

Jagdeep Singh, alias Bittu, son of Dhian Singh; Jaswant Singh, son of Kartar Singh; Narinder Singh, son of Santokh Singh; Bhola Singh, son of Mehtab Singh (all residents of Rattowal village); and Nirbhai Singh of Lehra, along with their unidentified accomplice, were booked under section 302, 341, 148 and 149 of the IPC on the charge of murdering Shawinder Singh Chhinda (50), an SAD activist of the same village.

According to Sukhvir Singh, investigation officer, Sudhar police station, the accused attacked Shavinder Singh near Abbuwal village on Monday evening.

Narang Singh, brother of the victim, had reported to the police that a group of persons, led by sarpanch Jagdeep Singh, had attacked his brother with rods and sticks, and other sharp-edged weapons.

A profusely bleeding Shavinder Singh was shifted to a private hospital where he succumbed to his injuries yesterday.

Investigations by Ludhiana Tribune revealed that political rivalry was behind the incident. The rivalry dates back to 2003 when some members of the victim’s group had allegedly opened fire on the group supported by main accused Jagdeep Singh.



Youngsters want ‘raja-rani’ park on lines of Mumbai
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 2
A young love-smitten couple sits hand in hand, huddled together under a shady tree in the Rose Garden. But the starry-eyed lovers can't sit with eyes set deep into each other. For, they are forever on the lookout of burly cops or the self-styled moral police, who abhor such meetings of young hearts.

With the Mumbai Municipal Corporation carving out a unique Raja-Rani Park, exclusively for lovers, Preeti and Sudhir (not real names) feel a similar exercise in the city is needed.

They know very well how harassing the interference can be. They have seen and heard stories of sufferings of fellow love-smitten couples, who were either booked under Section 109 of the IPC that empowers cops to arrest them for loitering around and face social stigma for the 'crime' or forced to dish out heavy amounts to escape.

They, like many other such couples, meet secretly to avoid being caught. They wonder if the local authorities would take a cue from the Mumbai Municipal Corporation and earmark a special park exclusively for the lovers to meet free of any fears.

The park aptly called Raja Rani park is hogging immense attention these days leading to nationwide debates on whether the time has come to have social acceptability of the meeting of lovers.

Demand for having such an exclusive park is gathering momentum in the city. Gautam, a youth sitting with his beau in Rakh Bagh recalled how he was subjected to immense harassment in convincing an intruding cop that he was sitting with his fiancée. They were taken to the police station when they refused to grease his palms. Eventually, their parents came and freed them.

Police crime figures reveal that last year 251 youngsters were booked under Section 109 of the IPC for meeting in a garden, which under the law is termed as loitering, called archaic by those advocating police reforms. Another 92 have been booked till date this year.

Gautam desires that there should be a place for youngsters to meet. "Rich people meet in hotels and rooms but the majority of us cannot afford such luxuries. We have no option but to meet in gardens. I wonder why the cops harass us. We are not doing any crime. Being in love is such a natural feeling. Moreover, if there is openness, exploitation of girls could be less also."

A survey by Ludhiana Tribune reveals that the spots where young lovers meet in the city, amidst fears of being caught, can be counted on the fingertips. The places are Rakh Bagh, Rose Garden, Leisure valley, PAU campus and of late areas, alongside the Sidhwan Canal. The latter place is frequented more by couples going for a long ride and stopping over at an isolated till some cops notice them.

The city despite its vast size has no other place. Interestingly, the high rich class and VIPs have been organising lewd, obscene and striptease parties in select hotels. Cops have intervened in very few such parties but commoners meeting in the gardens are the target of all moral policing.

SSP R. K. Jaiswal, sharing his personal opinion, said Section 109 should not be used as it has become a tool of exploitation. "However, it has to be used when there is some obscenity or vulgarity involved. I feel youngsters should be allowed to meet freely and such a mechanism can be undertaken only with the acceptance of the society."

Municipal Commissioner Vikas Pratap said the idea of providing a secluded or exclusive place to the youngsters was an interesting one but it could lead to many controversies. He feels there are many other important issues to be handled before embarking on such an exercise.



MC Sangat Darshan
Ruckus by Cong leader, dejection of citizen mark programme
Tribune News Service

Complaints are redressed during MC's sangat darshan in Ludhiana on Wednesday.
Complaints are redressed during MC's sangat darshan in Ludhiana on Wednesday. — Photos by Inderjeet Verma

Ludhiana, May 2
Barring the ruckus created by a Congress leader during the Municipal Corporation's Sangat Darshan programme today, the programme went off peacefully and complaints of residents were taken up.

As the commissioner, Vikas Partap, was away to attend an important meeting, additional commissioner Mohinder Singh Kainth and joint commissioner B.K. Gupta supervised the redress programme.

Sham Sunder Malhotra, Congress leader and former councillor of ward number 62, got engaged in a heated exchange of words with B.K. Gupta over the issue of a water bill. He alleged that MC employees were demanding bribe from him to convert the commercial bill into a residential one.

He said he was asked to pay Rs 500 as bribe if he wanted to get the work done.

Later, several residents resented the slow pace of work of MC employees. They said the complaints were not redressed even during the sangat darshan today and they were asked to come tomorrow.

Gurcharan Singh and Santokh Singh, two residents of Kabir Nagar, said they had applied for TH-1 forms to the MC many days ago. But even after making several rounds to the office, they were asked to come later.

‘‘I came thinking that my problem would be solved today. But still they have asked me to come tomorrow,’’ said a dejected Gurcharan Singh, a senior citizen.

Meanwhile, the MC claimed that around 80 cases of water bills, 17 cases related to sewerage, complaints related to the B&R branch, eight cases of tehbazaari, 15 cases of TH-1, several complaints of non-lifting of garbage and shortage of water were received. 



Hope for smooth power in paddy season
Drinking water not to be hit during power cuts, says new CE of PSEB
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 2
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) is working towards providing a good quality regular power supply to its rural customers in the forthcoming paddy season. Besides, drinking water supply in the coming days would remain unaffected in case of scheduled power cuts.

While the board is working towards strengthening infrastructure so as to minimise unscheduled power cuts, residential customers too can look forward to better summers ahead.

"By strengthening the network, we will endeavour to provide a regular supply in the paddy season. The problems faced by consumers last year will be taken care of. We will also coordinate with the Municipal Corporation so that water supply does not suffer when cuts are imposed," said B.S. Bath, who joined today as Chief Engineer (Central Zone), while talking to the Ludhiana Tribune here.

A control room is also being opened with direct supply circles so as to monitor power supply during the paddy season. The control room would remain open round the clock. Besides, officers have been instructed to stay at the headquarters to redress public complaints.

Bath said upgradation of existing lines and other measures would be taken so that quality in supply is maintained. "Currently, the situation is under control. But for the coming days, when demand rises, a strong network will ensure better supply. The number of hours of supply and of scheduled cuts for other categories of consumers are yet to be decided."

The electricity board would soon put to operation its call centre which would include a customer care centre as well.

"We will create such an environment that electricity consumers would be certain of getting their problems resolved irrespective of the nature of complaints. The image would be of a friendly and quick organisation," said Bath.

He said board employees have already been instructed to deal with customer complaints in a cordial manner. "If the complaints can be resolved on the spot, they would be and in case the nature of complaint is such that it needs time, our staff would maintain it in their record and make sure that it is deal with on time."

For those engaging in power theft, there is bad news. The board, using its computerised billing systems, will identify areas and customers that are suspect, and deal with power theft. "Since systems are computerised it is quite easy to get details. Unlike earlier when genuine customers too had to face problems at times, now it would not happen."



Good Samaritans, doctors join hands to save life
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, May 2
But for the joint efforts, determination and will on the part of a host of contributors, staff and students of Dayanand Medical College and Hero DMC Heart Institute here, 11-year-old Rajnish would have succumbed to the potentially fatal heart disease.

Rajnish, son of a city resident with meagre resources, was originally admitted to DMCH under the care of Dr H.S. Pannu and Dr H.S. Dhooria. His investigations and diagnostic tests revealed that his heart had two severe defects - an infection of a valve and a congenital hole.

The boy was subsequently shifted to heart institute, where the cost of his treatment was worked out to be around Rs 2.5 lakh which was way beyond the means of his poor father, who worked as a daily wager with a local dyeing factory and his salary being barely sufficient to support his family of five.

The plight of the boy moved the doctors treating him so much that they took upon themselves the task of mobilising the required funds for his treatment.

“From our past experience, we have realised that residents and social organisations of the mega city are always in the forefront to help genuinely needy patients. Therefore, we decided to seek their contribution, besides providing a concession on the treatment cost,” said Dr G.S. Wander, chief cardiologist and coordinator at the heart institute.

The onerous responsibility of collecting the money for the noble cause was taken over by Dr Bishav Mohan, consultant cardiologist. “The first to make sizeable contribution for the cause were final-year students of DMC who came to see Rajnish as part of their training. An appeal was then issued to local philanthropic organisations and individuals. Confirming our faith in their generosity, the people responded enthusiastically and we managed to collect the necessary funds within a week's time. It is because of their help that we were able to replace the defective valve and close the hole in Rajnish's heart,” added Dr Mohan.

Expressing gratitude to all those who contributed in restoring the boy back to health, Dr Wander said Rajnish had since been discharged after all his reports confirmed a normal status of his heart. 



5 proclaimed offenders arrested
Our Correspondent

Jagraon, May 2
As many as five offenders have been arrested by the police for various crimes in this district.

Amrit Kumar Lusi of Mohalla Basti Mithu, Islamabad, a proclaimed offender in a case under Sections 380, 34 of IPC, registered on July 1, 2006 by the Sidhwan Bet police has been arrested at his house in Jalandhar.

This was stated by SSP Gurpreet Singh Bhullar, police district Ludhiana (Rural).

He disclosed that Balwinder Singh of Mehma Singh Wala, another proclaimed offender was arrested in a case registered by the Dehlon police under Sections 448, 454 and 380 of the IPC.

Surjit Singh of Harim Singh Wala, was also arrested by the local police. He was wanted in a case under Sections 9, 1 and 78 of the Opium Act, as far back as November 28, 1982.

On the same lines, Pal Singh of Chak Kalan village, was arrested in a case under Sections 452, 448, 427, 506, 148 and 149 of the IPC.

P.S Dakha and another proclaimed offender Guljit Singh of Patti Tihara were handcuffed in a case registered by the local police under Sections 307, 324, 323, 353, 333, 186, 148 and 149 of the IPC.

210 kg poppy husk recovered

The Raikot police, during patrolling, intercepted a truck in the area of Gabi Pulle, Raikot, and recovered six bags containing 210 kg of poppy husk.

The police arrested Pawandeep Singh, also called Pawan, and Neela and Amandeep Singh, both of Pakhowal. The police registered a case under Sections 15, 25, 29, 61 and 85 of the NDPS Act.

18 booked for assault

In five different incidents at Hambran, Sudhar, Jagraon, the Dehlon police has booked 18 persons on charges of assault.

In the first incident, Sadhu Singh, Bakhsish Singh and Satish Kumar of Gospur village, allegedly assaulted Surjit Singh of the same village with a gandasi.

The Hambran police registered a case under Sections 325, 323 and 34 of the IPC. Some dispute over land is said to be the reason behind the offence.

In the second incident, Jagga Singh, Surjit Singh, Kesar Singh and Kuldeep Singh of Chaminda village, allegedly intercepted Rajinder Singh of their village and assaulted him with sharp-edged weapons.

The Sudhar police registered a case under Sections 452, 323, 324 and 34 of the IPC.

The injured was admitted to the civil hospital of Pakhowal. Some dispute of money is said to be the reason behind the crime.

In the third incident, Aswani Kumar of Jagraon, allegedly assaulted Amar Nath of Agwar Ladhai Jagraon, with bricks.

The injured was admitted to Kalyani Hospital.

According to information, the accused allegedly used abusive language while being drunk and when he objected, he assaulted him.

The local police registered a case under the Section 325 of the IPC.

In the fourth incident, Gian Kaur, Gurbir Singh of Galib Kalan, Mandeep Singh of Dagian and Gurdev Singh of Jagraon allegedly intercepted Balbir Singh of Kaunke Kalan and assaulted him with sticks.

A case under Sections 452, 323, 294, 506 and 34 of the IPC was registered by the local police.

In the last incident, Joopa, Jassi, Bharpur Singh, Sonu, Gurpreet Singh and Gurpal Singh of Nanagal, allegedly assaulted Sukhraj Singh of their village with sharp-edged weapons.

The Dehlon police registered a case under Sections 324, 323, 506, 148 and 149 of the IPC.

Some old enmity is said to be reason behind the attack.

No arrests have been made in all these cases so far.

Proclaimed offender held

Mandi Ahmedgarh
The Sidhwan police has nabbed a proclaimed offender who had absconded after being booked for allegedly stealing jewellery and cash from a house at Bhaini Araaiean village in Ludhiana district about 10 months ago. However, no goods have been recovered from the accused as yet.

Bhupinder Singh, DSP, Jagraon, said Amit Kumar, son of Girdhari Lal of Mithu Basti, Jalandher, was nabbed from his residence by a party led by Dharam Pal, SHO, Sidhwan Bet, today.

The accused had stolen jewellery and cash from the residence of Darshan Kaur of Bhain Araaiean.



Bank of Maharashtra to expand in region
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 2
The Bank of Maharashtra has chalked out major expansion plans for Punjab and Haryana. The bank will add 50 branches across the country, and more than 15 branches in this region within this financial year. The bank would also enter into liaison with several mutual fund companies for distribution of their products and with leading brokers to provide online trading facility to its customers.

Executive Director Rajiv Madhok in an interview to The Tribune here today said: "We are making special efforts to increase our presence in this region as a part of which we would not only open more branches, we would bring most of them under CBS."

The bank, that has tied up with LIC and United India for the distribution of insurance products, is planning to liaison with several mutual fund companies this year. Besides, customers of the bank would be provided with a facility to trade online.

"The idea is to make the bank a one stop shop for customers' financial needs. From insurance to mutual funds, shares and banking ofcourse, consumers would get all kinds of services with us. We would tied up with atleast two mutual fund companies within six months and more such agreements are on cards."

Talking about the key focus areas, Madhok added that retail and lending to small and medium enterprises had been the target segments. "In Punjab, corporate lending also has given us good results."

Rising interest rates, he said, had resulted in a significant 27 per cent growth in savings. "We added 10.5 lakh new accounts last year. Growth has been tremendous."

To provide good quality consumer services, the bank availed itself of the services of professional agencies to provide training to its staff members. "This initiative has been giving good results and our staff are able to deal with consumers in accordance with the best of standards."

For technological upgradation the bank has budgeted Rs 75 crore for this year and plans to bring 600 new branches under the CBS.



Trade opportunities in Myanmar discussed
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 2
The Indo-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industries will hold 'SME India 2007', an exhibition, at Yan Gon in November this year.

U Kyi Thein, ambassador, Union of Myanmar, while giving details on business opportunities to city's industrialists said bilateral trade between the two nations had witnessed an eight-fold rise since 1980. He was addressing a seminar conducted by the Chamber of Industrial and Commercial Undertakings and Indo-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industries here today.

He said trade between the two countries touched $557 million in 2004-05. While India exports machinery, spare parts, steel, steel products and various other items, Myanmar's major export items include textiles, pharmaceuticals and machine tools.

Over 70 per cent of total export from the country goes to Asian regions and it meets 90 per cent of its import requirements from these countries only, the ambassador said.

Exhorting industrialists to participate in the industry exhibition and road show, he said the participation would contribute in further strengthening trade ties between the two countries.

President of the chamber G.L. Goenka, said Myanmar has adopted a market oriented economy and is encouraging private investment and FDI.



Seminar on scope of hospitality held
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 2
The Ivanna Institute of Hotel Management and Tourism conducted a seminar for its students on “Increasing scope of hospitality across Indian shores” here today.

The seminar was addressed by Deepak Nauria, territory manager, skilled immigration, WWICS, Col Kahlon, managing director, US Worldwide Consuttancy Services Pvt Ltd, Robinder Singh, executive chief from Toronto, Canada, and Ritesh Kumar from the Canadian Institute of Studies.

Students of the institute were given guidance about their immigration possibilities to Australia and Canada as skilled class.

Deepak Nauria asked them to beware of agencies making false promises and giving wrong information to these immigration aspirants and misguiding them in their career-making process.

Col Kahlon discussed with the students the prospects of cultural exchange and training in hospitality in the USA.

Robinder Singh discussed with the students the advantages of taking training abroad and also the upper hand a hotel graduate enjoyed when back in the home country.

Ritesh Kumar guided the students who were interested in pursuing further education overseas.

Manmeet Sodhia, director of the institute, also spoke.



Flour mill plant
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 2
Rushil Food Products inaugurated a flour mill plant here today. Narinder Chatley, director, of the company, said in a press note that the new plant, situated in a pollution-free environment, would ensure high quality in processing.



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