L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S

Search on for lost daughter
Role of in-laws suspected
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 24
Ram Samujh and his two sons, Amarnath and Nikku, have been desperately searching for his daughter Rita since April 28. They suspect the role of her Khanna-based in- laws behind her disappearance. They alleged that the police was not taking any action even a month after the incident.

Although they have lodged a complaint with the senior superintendent of police, Ludhiana, nothing has come out as yet, since Khanna does not fall within the jurisdiction of the SSP, Ludhiana. They alleged that the police personnel posted at Khanna Sadar were taking the side of her in- laws.

According to Nikku, Rita was married to Ram Kumar of Khanna in February, but she did not feel comfortable there, as she was being allegedly asked to bring dowry. She returned to her parents’ home in Karnail Singh Nagar. However, in March, her husband, accompanied by his mother and two brothers, took her back.

Nikku alleged that she had called them up that she was being harassed. But they reportedly advised her to stay back there only. On April 28, Nikku got a call from his brother-in-law Ram Kumar that Rita had left for her parents' place in Ludhiana. But she never reached there.

Nikku and his brother Amarnath went to Khanna to inquire as to what led their sister to leave the home. They said, surprisingly, Rita's in-laws had not lodged any complaint with the police. Even when the brothers insisted, they were initially reluctant to go to the police station for lodging a report.

Since that moment they suspected foul play behind her disappearance. They said if the police could investigate properly and question her in-laws, they could trace the whereabouts of their sister. "But policemen at Khanna keep avoiding us on the one pretext or the other," they regretted.

They have also lodged a complaint with the State Women's Commission. "We are trying to approach everybody who we think can be of any help, but have been disappointed so far," the brothers told this reporter. They said prior to her marriage, their sister was working with a leading city hospital and she had to leave the job.



Pollution board penalises MC
Shuts down premix plant
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 24
Penalising the Ludhiana Municipal Corporation for causing air pollution in the city, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has ordered the closure of a premix unit of the civic body on the Humbran Road here.

The MC was blamed for polluting the air by not installing smoke-treatment device, resulting in thick and dark smoke directly going into the environment for the past many years.

Sources said they had asked the local body several times to get the smoke treated but to no avail. The dilly-dallying on part of the MC brought the things to such a pass that the board had to take an extreme step and the unit was shut down for the time being.

‘‘We are going to be very strict with them. If a government department is not taking the directions of the board seriously, how is a common man supposed to react? We will not allow them to play with the health of people, ’’ said an official of the PPCB.

‘‘The smoke they generated was so thick and smelly that it was near impossible to breathe in the air when the unit was operational. Many residents of the area, which is dominated by dairy owners, had complained to us. They had said that even their cattle were not able to breathe in that air,’’ he added.

He said the MC was heating bitumen in a furnace to mix it with stones to lay a road. In the process, a thick and dark smoke was generated which could be treated with the help of a device fitted with a chimney. But it was not doing so for the past many years.

Commissioner of the MC Vikas Partap said that they had called tenders for installing the device that would cost the MC around Rs 4 lakh. He added that it soon would be installed.

Sources in the MC said the plant was lying non-functional for quite some time now. The MC was depending on contractors for works like filling patches on the roads.

‘‘Earlier they used to get the premix for all repair works. Even certain roads were laid with the help of premix prepared in the plant. Now they are totally dependent on contractors, ’’ said an official.



...But what about burning of leaves?
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Safai workers of the Ludhiana MC regularly burn the dry leaves and garbage near the green belt.
Safai workers of the Ludhiana MC regularly burn the dry leaves and garbage near the green belt. — Tribune photo: Sayeed Ahmed

Ludhiana, May 24
Strange are the workings of the Municipal Corporation, Ludhiana.

While to promote the green belt and control pollution, one wing encourages tree plantation on the other hand a handful of the corporation workers destroy these plants by burning dry leaves and garbage near them for their own convenience.

The Horticulture Wing of the MC has been trying to provide "lungs" to the residents by planting saplings, wherever it is possible in the city. For this, lakhs of rupees are spent every year. Iron rings are made around the plants so that no stray animal can harm them.

The entire 1-km strip adjoining the main wall of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has been covered with these small trees. But the safai workers of the corporation burn garbage and other waste material near this green belt regularly, thus putting an end to the beautification drive of the Horticulture Department.

Malkiat Singh, security guard at Gate Number 2 of PAU said it had become a routine practice. He said that they had been trying to stop this practice, but of no use. "They are just bothered about their cleanliness drive. MC officials are spending a lot of amount on the plantation drive but they forget to maintain or monitor it on regular intervals," he said.

Another gateman of PAU, Prem Singh said the flames and fumes generated by fire posed a threat to the electricity cables, too. "The other day, one of the cables caught fire but one of the vigilant security guards put off the fire immediately", he said.

A number of NGOs are trying hard to save the environment by promoting plantation but a handful of people are regularly destroying the green belt for their own interest. The entire Ferozpore-Mullanpur road is facing the ire of the marriage palaces, which burn their waste near the green belt.



Dera row hits hotel business
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 24
Pilgrimage tourists and businessmen from other states are postponing their visit to Punjab fearing disturbance. The result is a more than 50 per cent decline in occupancy rate in hotels here.

At this time of the year, when schools and colleges have their summer holidays, hotels witness a record business. However, the situation this time is not the same on account of the Dera Sacha Sauda controversy which has created fear in minds of visitors from other states. Many hotelier said their business and permanent customers were postponing visits due to the controversy.

"Most of our permanent customers from business class and even others call to postpone the visit. They inquire about the situation and despite the fact that we try to take fear out of their minds they prefer waiting for things to get back to normal. Business has reduced to half. We are feeling it more sharply because it normally increases at this time of the year. The dera controversy has created a negative image of the state," said N.S. Nanda, president, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Punjab.

For those in the industry, heavy fixed expenses on electricity, food and salaries make the situation more difficult. A small dent in business takes much longer time for the hospitality industry to recover.

More than 125 hotels in this industrial town, on an average, record a 70 per cent to 80 per cent in normal circumstances. Industry sources said this rate has reduced to almost 25 per cent to 30 per cent these days. With a view to attract customers, some hotels are offering discounts in room rates too.

"But that too does not seem to be working. People want to wait for situation to normalise. Discounts are unable to attract them."

The city is preferred by tourists for shopping which is why pilgrimage tourists halt here. "Bulk purchases increase at this time of the year. But these days we are only waiting for customers," said Ramesh Kumar, a wholesale readymade clothes trader.

That apart, the number of press conferences has reduced. Corporates, which normally prefer Ludhiana as a launching destination for this region, are also delaying their events and conferences.

"For the hospitality industry, the situation is getting tougher and all they are waiting is for an amicable solution to the matter at the earliest. Most of the advance bookings have been cancelled and if the situation continues, the industry might not be able to recover losses,” said Amarvir Singh, general secretary, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Ludhiana.

Hotel owners said they were also facing shortage of staff. "The ones who went on summer vacations are not reporting. Industry is facing a crunch due to the ongoing situation."



Dera Sacha Sauda chief should be prosecuted, says IHRO chairperson
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 24
The International Human Rights Organisation (IHRO) today urged the Sikh leadership, including the Akal Takht Jathedar, against compromising the interests of the people while striking any peace pact under the garb of an apology from the Dera Sacha Sauda head.

D. S. Gill, chairperson of the outfit, said they were of the opinion that Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh had committed a criminal act under Section 295-A of the IPC while attiring and equating himself as Guru Gobind Singh, and thus outraging the religious feelings and beliefs of the Sikh community globally.

He asked the Central, Punjab and Haryana governments to desist from diluting the dera chief’s crime under the pretext of an apology. "He must be prosecuted in order to bring him to book, as he is not above law and is already facing charges of murder and rape," he added.

"If the baba is really a godman he should surrender before the law as was done in 1981 by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who was wanted by the police in murder cases of Nirankari Baba Gurbachan Singh and Lala Jagat Narain," he pointed out.

The Core Group of the NGO at its emergency meeting here today decided that if the respective governments tried to dilute the guilt of Sirsa dera head and failed to get him arrested under any political compulsion or pressure, it would fight against this injustice and the failure of the government in courts of law, he said.



DGP’s call to maintain communal harmony
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 24
Punjab DGP N.P.S. Aulakh today gave a call to all district residents to maintain calm and communal harmony in the wake of the Sacha Sauda controversy, while asserting that each jawan of the Punjab Police and para-military forces was prepared to ensure security of their life and property.

He was here to review the law and order situation in the district in view of the May 27 deadline given by the Akal Takht for vacating all deras associated with the Sacha Sauda sect from the state.

While fine-tuning security arrangements in meetings with DIG Ishwar Singh and officials of three police districts Ludhiana Urban, Ludhiana Rural and Khanna, the DGP specially praised the anti-narcotics drives launched in the range in which over 20 smugglers and peddlers were nabbed and huge quantity of drugs seized.

"No dera would be forcibly vacated and all security would be provided to any needy person irrespective of the group he belonged to," the DGP asserted.

The DGP inquired about the deployment of forces, especially about their strength and positioning around the deras, besides security of vital installations. He expressed his concern about the possibility of anti-social elements trying to take advantage of the situation.

Sources said the DGP has specially directed the officials to keep an eye on radical elements who may group or amass arms and ammunition.



Residents cry as sewerage blocked for 3 weeks
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, May 24
Residents of Power Colony, situated at the local Pohir road, are crying foul as water supply and sewerage remain suspended for weeks together.

Though water supply has been restored after three weeks, the sewerage is still blocked.

Interestingly, family members of senior functionaries in the Punjab State Electricity Board which is supposed to maintain the submersible pump that ensures supply are also among sufferers.

According to Sukhcharanjit Singh, president, TSU, water supply and sewerage at the colony had remained suspended for more than three weeks.

As the submersible pump had gone out of order about three weeks ago, water supply and sewerage at the colony and office remained suspended. This not only affected members of about 10 families, but also the employees and visiting consumers.

He added that confusion about the division of labour delayed rectification. Referring to the information received from officials concerned, Sukhcharanjit alleged that the authorities at the local substation and Ludhiana office were passing the buck regarding responsibility for the work.

The union president threatened to launch an agitation in case of undue delay, urging senior authorities to immediately restore the basic amenities at the colony and office.



City centre scam: 112 pen drive accounts decoded
Rajneesh Lakhanpal

Ludhiana, May 24
Vigilance Bureau today claimed to have successfully decoded 112 accounts, information about which was stored in the pen drive allegedly recovered from the Delhi-based businessman Chetan Gupta. The businessman was arrested in connection with the City Centre scam last week.

However, in the court, bureau’s special public prosecutors M L Solanki and Ashwani Bedi disclosed information relating to just one entry while remaining silent about the others and in whose names those existed.

They claimed that an entry of Rs 2 crore pertains to Gurpal Singh, son-in-law of former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh. And they wanted to enquire about the said account in detail.

They had further submitted that they wanted to enquire about the alleged Swiss bank accounts pertaining to former central external affairs minister - Natwar Singh, his son-Jagat Singh, Capt Amarinder Singh, his son-Raninder Singh and other family members.

They also said due to shortage of time they could not operate the lockers of the accused. The prosecutors demanded the police remand of the accused be extended for another seven days after looking into all these facts.

The defence lawyer strongly objected to the demand of Vigilance Bureau. He said that the alleged beneficiaries- Gurpal Singh and Raninder Singh had already been granted anticipatory bail by Justice Uma Nath Singh of Punjab and Haryana High Court today. He said the accused had already been in police remand for a sufficient period.

After hearing the two sides, Judicial Magistrate Kuldeep Singh found no cogent reason for extending the police remand of the accused. The Judge remanded the accused to judicial custody till June 7.



‘Old age pension conditions will be simplified’
Our Correspondent

Mandi Gobindgarh, May 24
Punjab Government is going to provide pension to senior citizens which include women aged 60 and above and men aged 65 and above. The provision of pension will be irrespective of whether the children of these senior citizens stay abroad, own a piece of land or a pucca house. Minister of technical education, social security and child development, Ch Swarna Ram, said this to mediapersons at Desh Bhagat Institute of Management and Computer Sciences (DBIMCS) here today.

The policy will be presented in the coming Vidhan Sabha session on June 15 for approval.

On the Dera Sachha Sauda issue the minister said Akal Takht is supreme and people have stood by its edict.

On the issue of resentment shown by leaders of anganwari workers union, the minister asserted that the department is considering their memorandum and the union members can meet him if they are not satisfied with the outcome of their meeting with the secretary.

Later, the minister distributed artificial limbs to around 250 physically challenged persons at a function held at the institute. Ortho-prosthetic care and rehabilitation centres and Sirmour Hills Rotary Club, Nahan, had extended their cooperation for this cause. 



DTO ruckus: Officials demand action
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana May 24
The staff and officers working in various government offices in the Mini-Secretariat and other locations here in Ludhiana have demanded strong action against Jassa, the relative of an Akali leader, who wreaked havoc in the District Transport Office yesterday.

Officials from different parts of the state expressed their solidarity with the Ludhiana DTO and urged the police to ensure that the culprit was suitably punished. Otherwise, they said, it would be difficult for others to perform their duties.

The matter had reportedly been brought to the notice of the senior officers in Chandigarh. Even the Akali leader whose letter Jassa claimed to possess for the special vehicle registration numbers which he wanted has distanced himself from the episode. He is learnt to have said that he could never approve of any rowdy behaviour by anyone.

The officials said, if action was not taken against Jassa it would be difficult for them to work.



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