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Daring heist at SBI branch
3 robbers walk away with Rs 46.15 lakh
Manish Sirhindi & Gurminder Singh Grewal
Tribune Reporters

Khamano, October 24
In spite of a high alert sounded in the state after the Ludhiana blast, it just took less then 25 minutes for three men in their late 20s to rob the main branch of the State bank of India of Rs 46.15 lakh in broad daylight here today.

The three armed with firearms tied four employees and two customers inside the bank and made good with the cash after getting hold of the vault keys.

The three men arrived at the bank at 9.20 am and entered the premises by telling the peon that they had come from the SDM’s office.

After gaining assess into the bank, the robbers trained a revolver on the template of peon Baldev Singh and held him hostage.

As security guard Prem Singh reached the bank, he was also detained by the robbers.

One of the robbers then started cleaning the veranda of the bank to avoid unwanted attention of passersby.

Gurpal Singh Khamano, a local resident, who along with Gurdeep Singh of Hawara village was taken hostage by the robbers, said as they entered the bank, two robbers placed revolvers on their head and asked them to sit down.

After this, two assistant mangers — G.K. Narang and Ram Prakash — reached the bank and suffered the same fate.

They were asked to hand over the keys to the vault, which they did. The robbers then tied them with ropes.

The robbers had little difficulty opening the vault and fled in a white Zen car along with the cash at 9.45 am, Gurpal Singh said.

The local police station is situated just 300 metres from the bank. The police was informed and a team of top officials reached the bank to take stock of the situation.

The police pressed a dog squad into service and questioned bank employees and eyewitnesses for hours.

The police claimed that the bank staff had grossly violated bank instructions.

ADGP law and order Chander Shekher, who reached the spot, said there had been “flagrant violation on part of the employees”.

On being asked if it could be the handiwork of a terrorist organisation, as had happened in the past, the ADGP said it would be premature to comment on the issue but the police would work on this theory also.

A case has been registered under the relevant Act.

The police later whisked away the guard and assistant manager Ram Prakash from the bank in a CIA staff vehicle to “assist” them in preparing sketches of the accused.

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Special kids lighten others’ home 
Shivani Bhakoo
TNS

Ludhiana, October 24
About 12 special children, whose own future seems to be in dark, lighten the homes of others during festival days by making beautiful candles and “diyas”. They, as the students of the social welfare office near the Gill Bridge here, are taught to use their imaginative skills for making candles and other articles by their teacher Bahadur Singh.

Though the centre was established by the government but it has hardly done anything for its betterment. Bahadur Singh, who has been teaching in this office for the past 28 years, finds it difficult at times in the absence of any support from authorities concerned. “Initially there were two teachers to teach these special children but one got retired a few years ago. Since then the post has been lying vacant and authorities have not even bothered to fill the vacancy”, he added.

Talking about these children, Bahadur Singh said they behaved better than their normal counterparts. They never created any problem. He said it was good to see their imaginative and creative skills. “They are to be affectionately dealt with. They need love, care and attention. They make beautiful coloured candles and “diyas”. I try to teach them to make other simple articles. It is good to see them working patiently”, he said.

On an average these children make about 3 quintal of candles and “diyas” every year, which are absorbed by the department officials and employees only during the Diwali season. Other than candles, they make duster and cotton socks. Now they have been asked to make greeting cards. “You get everything when the things prepared by them are appreciated by their parents. They are surprised to see them working”, said the teacher adding that he was trying to make them financially independent but we alone can not do it. “It should be a joint effort. The government can play an important role in shaping their future. Parents also need to be supportive”, stressed Bahadur Singh.

The two brothers, Palwinder Singh and Mukhwinder Singh, said they never felt helpless in life. “It is all in the mind of society. The centre can run very well if the government takes initiative in maintaining it. I feel if we are provided with some loan, we can become financially independent”, said Palwinder Singh adding that they felt bad when other NGOs provided better facilities to the special children.

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31 bonded labourers walk free
Jupinderjit Singh
TNS

Ludhiana, October 24
Playing a Good Samaritan, the Sahnewal police spent money from its own pocket for sending 31 labourers, including 15 minors and five women, released from the bondage at a brick kiln yesterday evening, to their home near Meerut today morning.

A Sahnewal police team got the victims released on the orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. They along with their five to 10-year-old children were allegedly forced to work in bondage.

The rescued labourers, mainly members of six migrant families, had no money to return home. Sahnewal SHO Gurjeet Singh along with other cops arranged for their journey back home on a train.

It was Babu Ram, a labour leader, who had moved the High Court seeking “freedom” for trapped families. He claimed before the court that the victims were being badly exploited and left poor and starved despite day and night of work.

He said he had been left with no option but to move the court as no local authority came to their rescue.

The court directed the Ludhiana police to raid the brick kiln and rescue the families. The Sahnewal police booked its owner, Darshan Singh, and his son, Teenu, for keeping the families in bondage and for violating the Act.

Under the Act, bonded labour is banned and minor children cannot be employed for doing the work. Police sources said the a few labour contractors based in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar is also to be blamed for the problem.

These contractors hire labourers by taking money from the brick kiln. The labourers are employed work on contract for a certain period.

However, the contractor, who is basically a middleman usually, takes much more from the owner than what he pays to the labourers.

The police was investigating the role of the middle man in this case.

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Franchisee ‘ripping off’ BSNL
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
A franchisee of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) is allegedly defrauding the telecom operator of lakhs of rupees by directly giving e-pins of recharge coupons for printing to a private company against the agreement reached with the BSNL.

A complainant has alleged that a franchisee has been passing on the work of printing recharge coupons to another direct-selling agent of the BSNL.

In a complaint lodged with the BSNL general manager, a resident, Rishu Bansal, has said that Rajan Electronics, a franchisee for Jagraon and Ludhiana, receives e-pins from the BSNL. Under the agreement, the franchisee is to print the e-pins as per the format provided by the BSNL. Thereafter, these coupons are to be sold in the retail market.

The franchisee gets half per cent extra commission, in addition to the normal 6.5 per cent for printing.

“The BSNL franchisee is taking CDs of e-pins directly from Chandigarh and instead of printing them, is giving them directly to a private company, Oxigen, which itself is a direct-selling agent (DSA) of the BSNL for e-pins,” alleged Bansal.

While a DSA is entitled to get 5 per cent commission by taking e-pins from Rajan Electronics, this agent gets 6.5 per cent, while an additional half per cent goes to Rajan Electronics, an act which is causing revenue loss to the BSNL, said Bansal.

“While the commission of the DSA is 5 per cent, Rajan Electronics is providing them with the CD on a higher commission of 6.25 per cent making it convenient for the company to compete with other franchisees of the telecom operator across the state. He is not printing or selling any of the recharge coupons at all.”

This act is resulting in a revenue loss to the BSNL as well.

The fraud is likely to run into lakhs of rupees due to high quantum of work involved.

While the general manager, telecom, Ludhiana, was not available for comments, a senior official said on the condition of anonymity that the complaint was being looked into by the head office  and an appropriate  action would be taken if necessary.

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‘Pebble’ gang strike at jeweller’s shop
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
Two members of the “pebble” gang struck at Bhola jewellery shop in Sahnewal yesterday afternoon and decamped with gold and silver jewellery worth Rs 6.50 lakh.

One of the accused distracted the shop owner by throwing pebbles at his Matiz car parked outside the shop. The other slipped into the shop and ran away with a large silver bowl in which gold ornaments were kept. Though the incident took place last afternoon, an FIR regarding the theft was registered today. The duo is notorious for snatching and shop lifting. Virinder Kumar, the shop owner alleged that the thief fled even as two PCR cops stood near the market.

He also alleged the Sahnewal police did not alert the cops on the national highway despite information that the two accused were seen boarding a bus towards Khanna.

SHO Gurjeet Singh said the culprits would be arrested soon.

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Power tariff hike
Shiv Sainiks hold protest 
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, October 24
Activists of the Shiv Sena (Thackeray) and the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Suraksha Samiti today held a protest march against the increase in power tariff.

Led by Pritpal Singh Pali, Anil Sahni and Gulshan Malhotra, the march started from Old Sabzi Mandi Chowk and passing through Town Hall, Girja Ghar Chowk and Chaura Bazar, culminated at Clock Tower Chowk.

Addressing party workers, Rajiv Tandon and Amar Takkar, charged the SAD-BJP government in Punjab with bias.

They said the government was meting out a discriminatory treatment to the urban population. While farmers and rural people were being given free power, the rates of electricity in urban areas had been increased.

This was bound to have an adverse impact on trade and industry.

The hike would throttle the small industry, particularly the hosiery and knitwear segment in Ludhiana.

The sena and samiti leaders alleged that the government had gone back on its poll promises and several recent decisions of the government proved that the rural population was being given more and more facilities at the cost of urban tax-payers.

They said the hike should be slashed, if not withdrawn altogether.

In a scathing attack on the BJP, the speakers called upon the party to make its stand clear with regard to safeguarding the interests of urban people, along with members of trade and industry. 

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BJP dharna against DFO
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
Activists of the BJP today staged a dharna against the divisional forest officer (DFO) who had got a BJP leader booked in a case of threatening him for allowing construction on forest land.

The police had booked Varinder Singh, a resident of Mullanpur, and Sukhminder Singh Grewal, former state president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha.

DFO R.R. Kakkar had complained that Grewal had called him up after posing himself as a state leader of the party.

The BJP decided to send letters to forest minister Tikshan Sood, stating that Grewal had just called up the DFO asking for his time to listen to a member of public, Varinder Singh.

Grewal said it was his duty as leader of public to facilitate meeting between an official and a commoner.

“I just called him up so that he could listen to Varinder Singh. I did not pressure him to get any work done. And he is levelling allegations that I threatened him,” claimed Grewal.

He added that he had received a call from a social worker to put in a word for Varinder Singh.

“I just did that. And look at the way it has been blown out of proportion.”

The BJP activists demanded the withdrawal of case against Grewal. They also demanded that the ongoing inquiry against DFO in a corruption case should be expedited.

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Budda Nullah
Give land or build parallel drain, say dairy owners
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
Having been issued notices for throwing cow dung into the Budda Nullah by the municipal corporation, the Dairy Owners Association today took up the matter with officials stating that it was the civic body that had asked them to do so 23 years ago.

A delegation of dairy owners on the Tajpur Road, led by B.S. Oberoi, met joint commissioner M.S. Kainth and told him that the municipal corporation had shifted dairies outside of the city two decades ago.

It was the civic body that had constructed drains for dairies that emptied into the nullah.

“At that time they told us to go near the nullah so that sewers did not get choked. But now things have changed. They do not want us to dump our waste in the nullah,” said Oberoi.

The association demanded that they should be given another water body parallel to the nullah that should be connected with a treatment plant.

“We even asked the corporation to give us land somewhere else so that we can shift the dairies there. We also met officials of the industries department, who assured us of installing a cow dung treatment plant like the one in Haibowal,” added Oberoi.

He said the industries department had sought a piece of land from the municipal corporation in front of Central Jail some time ago but the municipal corporation did not respond. “If they do, then our problem will be over.”

The municipal corporation had recently issued notices to dairy owners on the Tajpur Road asking them to stop discharging dung into the nullah, following orders of the High Court that had asked the state government to ensure that the nullah was not polluted.

Later, the Punjab Pollution Control Board also issued notices to electroplating and dyeing industry.

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Councillor halts demolition drive
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
The demolition squad of the municipal corporation had to return midway from HIG flats at the Rani Jhansi Road after razing the wall of a room that was constructed in contravention of rules here in the morning.

The squad had gone to a flat and to demolish a wall of the room on the top floor of a flat. The demolition was under way when a councillor and his brother arrived at the scene and intervened.

The owner of the flat said there were many houses that had illegal construction but no action was taken against anyone. 

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Heist
‘What else are we supposed to do?’
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Khamano, October 24
“What are we supposed to do if not rob banks? We are highly qualified but have no jobs,” is what one of the robbers had said while answering a query of Gurpal Singh, one of the hostages.

The manner in which the three men carried out the robbery at the SBI branch here has left the police baffled.

Bank officials have a lot of explaining to do on as to why keys to the bank premises were in possession of a peon and why the gunman was not in possession of his weapon.

Under the bank rules, suburban branches cannot hold cash over Rs 15 lakh in the vault. The staff clarified that the bank carried out huge transactions every day due to paddy season. The police did not seem to buy it.

ADGP Chander Shekher said the police would look into the reason why so much money was being kept in the bank.

Bank officials, however, were tightlipped over the incident. Bank manger S.S. Bhinder refused to speak to media. Assistant manager G.K. Narang, who was also taken hostage by the robbers, remained in the bank, away from media glare.

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Bhardwaj elected BJP dist chief
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
Om Parkash Bhardwaj of the BJP was unanimously elected district president of the BJP at Smiti Kendra last eveningafter the rest of the 11 candidates withdrew their nominations.

As soon as his election was announced, the hall reverberated with slogans by another candidate, Ravi Dhawan, who claimed that he had not withdrawn his name.

Mahajan, however, showed the withdrawal form of Dhawan signed by him. Later talking to the mediapersons, Bhardwaj said his mission was to serve the people.

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Cell phone ‘disconnected’ without notice
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
Ashok Kumar, an investment adviser, has alleged that his mobile phone company disconnected his number without prior intimation five days ago.

To add to his agony, his Airtel number, which he had been holding for the past five years, was allotted to someone else.

“It is shocking. I have paid rental in advance and the number I have been using for five years has now ceased to exist. I had given this number to all my contacts and am incurring heavy business losses due to the negligence of the company,” he complained.

Kumar alleged that he never sought disconnection of the number and it was on October 19 that he learned that the connection had been disconnection.

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Letters
Mall culture

With the burgeoning of malls in the city, a question which still remains unanswered is that are shopping malls really shoppers’ paradise. The shops in these malls are of branded companies and the prices of the commodities are out of common man’s reach. Majority of people visit these malls only to do window shopping. Even shopkeepers are not doing good business. Though food- joints and cinemas are doing a brisk business but what about shops? Ludhiana is expected to have more malls in the coming year but do they really have a shining future?

Birkamal Kaur, Ludhiana

Readers are invited to mail letters (not more than 200 words) at "ludhiana@tribunemail.com" or post the same to The Tribune, 1, 2 Improvement Trust Building, Badaur House, Clock Tower, Ludhiana.

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Dharna by industrialists

Mandi Gobindgarh, October 24
Industrialists and activists of the Congress staged a dharna against power hike at Loha Bazaar here today.

Addressing a gathering, Amloh MLA and member of the All-India Congress Committee Sadhu Singh Dharamsot lashed out at the BJP for its failure to protect the interest of industry.

He said the SAD had misled people by assuring to allow “kundi” connections during campaigning. However, power tariff had been hiked and industrialists asked to deposit power bills in advance.

“Trade and industry will not be able to compete with their counter- parts in neighboring states in such circumstances,” Dharamsot said.

It is upon the BJP to decide whether to stand with people or the SAD, he said.

Those who spoke included PPCC secretary Harinder Singh Bhambri, MC chief Jagmeet Singh Sarhota, Punjab Youth Congress secretary Varun Bansal, district Congress chief Sandeep Singh Ball. — OC

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