L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


Curfew overshadows bandh call
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

After having tense working conditions of over 48 hours, police personnel heave a sigh of relief, with situation slowly coming back to normal on Monday.
After having tense working conditions of over 48 hours, police personnel heave a sigh of relief, with situation slowly coming back to normal on Monday. Tribune photos: Himanshu Mahajan

Ludhiana, December 7
Curfew overshadowed the Punjab bandh call given by panthic organisations in the city, as all areas remained closed, affecting normal life once again today.

Activists of Panthic organisations did not need to go out and force closure of establishments, as curfew made them achieve their goals. An uncomfortable silence prevailed on the roads that remained deserted throughout the day.

All markets, educational institutions, private establishments and industry remained closed for the second consecutive day today even as the residents cried hoarse for shortage of essential commodities. They hoped that situation returned to normal tomorrow.

The curfew remained imposed throughout the day, while it was lifted from three parts for three hours in the evening. The curfew was relaxed in Model Town, Sarabha Nagar and Division number 5 areas from 5 pm to 8 pm.

During these hours, residents in these three areas came out of their houses and resorted to panic buying of essential commodities like flour, sugar, vegetables and fruits.

While the curfew was strictly implemented on the Ferozepore road and old city parts only, the lanes and bylanes of the city did not witness strong imposition. Women were seen sitting on the streets and many children had a good time using roads as cricket grounds. Many people were seen enjoying the sun in the parks near their houses in outer colonies.

Earlier in the day, residents rued that they did not get their supply of milk, as the police did not allow the milkmen to enter the city. The supply by Verka proved inadequate for the entire population.

Residents also complained that there were no vegetables in the market today, as no vendor was seen selling these on roads.

At places, cops were seen using force on violators, who were trying to break the cordon of the police. At several places, cops were shooing away such people.

Shopkeepers rued that it was the third consecutive day when their businesses were affected. The worst hit were the daily wagers, who said they had no ration left for today. They said they would sleep with empty stomach today.

Several rickshaw-pullers dared to come out on the roads. Some were sent back, while others waited for clients while making them comfortable at a safer place. ‘‘I have earned Rs 20 today. Yesterday I did not earn a single penny,’’ said Ram Narayan, a rickshaw-puller on a Model Town road.

As educational institutes were closed today, exams of several colleges, schools and universities were cancelled. Students were lamenting that they would have to prepare for the examination yet again.


Road transport hit
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, December 7
Commuters and a large number of other city residents had to face a great hardship today, with road transport remaining completely disrupted for the third consecutive day today.

Curfew was imposed in the city following violence by migrants on Friday night and clashes between radical Hindu and Sikh groups over a religious function on Saturday.

Like yesterday, no private or government bus was allowed to leave the general bus stand, nor were buses permitted inside the city, as all entrances were heavily guarded by contingents of the police due to the imposition of curfew, with no relaxation till 5 p.m. coupled with the call for Ludhiana bandh against the death of a person in police firing.

Curfew was relaxed in some parts of the city at 5 p.m.

Hundreds of city residents had to go back disappointed from the bus stand after waiting for different lengths of time when they found that there were no chances of the transport services being resumed during the day. Quite a few employees of government and semi-government departments, who had come here or gone out on weekend, were stuck and failed to join duty due to the disruption of road transport.

JS Grewal, district president, Mini-bus Operators Association, who is also secretary general of the Punjab Mini-Bus Operators Association, lambasted the state government, specifically the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, for what he termed as “total collapse of administration and policing”.

Talking to Ludhiana Tribune, he blasted certain senior leaders of the BJP, an ally of the ruling SAD-B, charging them with vitiating the atmosphere of the industrial capital of Punjab. "For their vote bank politics and other vested interests, these political leaders are fomenting communal and regional tension. The administration had also gone soft on followers of Ashutosh Maharaj at the behest of Badals, as they were backed by BJP leaders and the ruling party did not want to displease its ally," Grewal maintained.

He said over 400 mini-buses, plying in the district were a feeder service, ferrying passengers between the city and rural areas and three days of disruption had cost the mini-bus operators anything over Rs 12 lakh. "Even if the buses were not allowed to ply, the operators will have to pay all taxes and incur other operating expenses."

The Ludhiana depots of the Punjab Roadways and Pepsu Road Transport Corporation had also suffered losses of of more than Rs 10 lakh each due to the operations remaining paralysed for the past two days, stated Rajeshwar Singh Grewal, General Manager, Punjab Roadways.



Despite curfew, liquor vends remain open
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 7
Despite curfew, liquor vends remained open in various parts of the city today. Liquor was sold openly, allegedly with the backing of cops.

Tipplers were seen lined up outside some liquor vends and when nearby residents complained about the opening of liquor shop, cops looked the other way.

"I believe these liquor vend owners are above law. When the entire city has been closed down following curfew, I fail to understand how these shops have been allowed to sell liquor," said Anirudh, a student.



Hospital emergency, OPD services hit
Anshu Seth
Tribune News Service

The corridor of a private hospital wears a desterted look as people were unable to reach the hospital due to curfew
The corridor of a private hospital wears a desterted look as people were unable to reach the hospital due to curfew 
in Ludhiana. Photos: Himanshu Mahajan

Ludhiana, December 7
Health services were badly affected by the curfew that was imposed for the second consecutive day, with patients in need of emergency treatment unable to reach hospitals.

Though SPS Apollo Hospital’s emergency wing received 60 queries today only 15 patients made it to the hospital. People were apprehensive about going there due to its location at Sherpur Chowk, which comes under the ‘sensitive zone. There were only 20 patients at the hospital’s OPD as against 500 on normal days.

A patient from Poda village, Uma Devi, had to be brought to the hospital on an auto rickshaw for her delivery. However, due to the nonfunctional laboratory the staff on emergency duty was unable to conduct some necessary tests, which resulted in an unavoidable delay.

However, the staff on emergency duty when contacted claimed they had ensured patients were being taken care of on priority basis.

Narmada Shankar, Uma’s husband, said, "The administration should provide SOS services to those in need of emergency medical aid whenever there is a curfew, so that the lives of patients is not endangered." Similarly, it took over two hours for Vikas Goyal to take his ailing mother, Madhu, to the emergency wing of DMCH.

"My mother was referred to DMCH from CMCH after her condition deteriorated. However, the police instead of helping harassed me. I was forced to go from one place to another. Eventually, at Jagraon bridge the Rapid Action Force personnel came to my rescue and gave me a clearance to take my mother to the hospital,” said Vikas.

The city’s major hospitals saw a sharp fall in the number of OPD patients. Christian Medical College & Hospital received just 150 patients as compared to over a thousand on other days, while there were only 250 patients at Dayanand Medical College & Hospital, down from 1,100 on other days.



Curfew Fallout
Hosiery manufacturers feel the heat
No buyers in peak season; losses run into lakhs per day
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 7
Industry seems to be passing through the worst times. After global recession and power cuts, violence has made the things worse. With no work for the past four days, industry, business establishments and hotels have suffered huge losses.

Even as it is the peak season for hosiery industry, there are no buyers due to imposition of curfew in the city.

Chairman of the Northern Region of Export Engineering Promotion Council (EEPC) SC Ralhan of Sri Tool Industries, Focal Point, said his unit had suffered losses of around Rs 20 lakh in the last four days. “The unit is not running in the absence of workforce. And due to curfew, even the owners have not been able to go to their factories. Our shipments have suffered. We will have to send the material by air to meet the deadlines. It will take months to make up for the losses,” he said.

Sunil Kumar of Vivek Garments said this was the peak season for hosiery manufacturers. On Saturdays and Sundays, maximum buyers from other states visit to buy hosiery goods. “But everyone is scared of coming to Ludhiana. There are no buyers for sweaters, shawls or jackets from the neighbouring states. Business has come to halt. The loss is approximately Rs 2 lakh per day,” he rued.

The hotel industry, too, is passing through bad times due to curfew. The bookings of parties, marriages and other ceremonies have been cancelled at many hotels due to disturbance in the city. Varun Dhanda of Imperial Hotel said all the booking for the next three-four days have also been cancelled. Besides, the occupants, a majority of them the executives, immediately vacated the rooms once they came to know that curfew was to be imposed.

Urging state government to take necessary action to save the industry from more losses, Avinash Gupta of RN Forgings said it would take months to make up for the losses. Due to production loss, they will not be bale to deliver goods on time, he said. "Our unit has suffered losses between Rs 50 and Rs 60 lakh in the last four days. The overseas buyers will not give further orders in Punjab, if situation does not improve. Industry, the highest tax payer to state exchequer, cannot afford to lose foreign buyers because of internal disturbances,” he said.



Relaxation in curfew leads to panic buying
Charu Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 7
Relaxation in curfew at some places in the city for a few hours this evening led to panic buying of essential commodities, including milk, vegetables, fruits and medicines, resulting in brisk business for shop owners, especially those engaged in small-time trade.

With uncertainty over the law and order situation in the city in the coming two days, city residents rushed to essential commodities.

People could be seen making a beeline at a few shops that opened in the evening in Sarabha Nagar, Model Town and Division No. 5, where curfew was relaxed for a few hours.

Parul Sharma, a housewife, said: "Who knows what happens tomorrow. We have stocked eatables and other items in case the curfew is again imposed in the city. I have bought three litres milk and enough veggies and fruits to last the family for the next three days.”

Meanwhile, cashing in on the opportunity, shop owners did brisk business during a few hours. In Model Town and Sarabha Nagar, as also in the interiors of various other areas of the city, many shops remained open throughout the day in spite of the tense situation and curfew. There were also reports of overcharging by shopkeepers.



Curfew turns streets into playgrounds
Jyotika Sood
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 7
With a curfew imposed in the entire city today, many streets became improvised cricket grounds with residents of all ages trying to have fun to beat the stress of the last three days. Be it the tense areas of Damoria Bridge, Jodhewal Basti, Samrala Chowk or localities like Model Town and Atam Nagar that were unaffected by the violence, streets resounded to cries like "catch", "out" or "bowled".

While teenagers predominated in this impromptu outdoor activity, many middle-aged men and senior citizens also tried to join them, either as players, spectators or commentators. In fact, at some places even some cops were found to be enjoying the game, taking a break from their stretched out duty hours.

Talking to The Tribune, Rohit who studies in BCM Arya Model School, said: "I was really pissed off when I was told to stay at home. Although my friends and I prefer to play in the Arya College or PAU grounds, since these were closed today I called up my pals here at Model Town. Since there was no traffic the street was an apt option to enjoy oneself."

He quipped “during the four hours we played we only smashed a windowpane of a car that had been parked at the end of the street”.

Even 18-year-old Dixit Pahwa, an engineering student, was out on the streets despite the curfew. "Empty streets in Ludhiana provide a rare opportunity for playing cricket. When I started playing, my uncle who stays nearby also came to join us."

Said his friend Raghav: "We came to know our exams would be postponed so we thought of taking a break for a few hours from studies," he said, adding the student community “enjoyed” the curfew a lot, making the most of the situation.



Ludhiana violence echoes in Lok Sabha
Prominent city residents appeal to maintain peace
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, December 7
The recent incidents of violence had its echo in Parliament on Monday with Congress MP from Ludhiana Manish Tewari raising the issue in the Lok Sabha during the Zero Hour and urging the Central government to keep a close watch on the situation.

According to the recorded minutes of the parliamentary proceedings, transcripts of which were released by his office here today, Tewari, amid repeated interruptions from the opposition benches, sought the attention of the Central government towards the violence as the “state government seemed to have failed to visualise the situation”.

He sought to clarify that it was not his intention to apportion responsibility. He said, “My only intention is to caution the House and to caution the Government that Punjab is a frontline border state with a history of 15 years of turbulence, which led to the loss of many innocent lives.”

Tewari feared that given the radicalisation in western borders of Punjab (read Pakistan), any disturbance of peace and social cohesion has serious repercussions on the stability of India. “Unfortunately, since 2007, one incident or the other takes place every three-four months that keeps the pot boiling (in Punjab),” he pointed out, while warning, "If the Central government does not caution the Punjab government or does not remain vigilant…we may go back to the dark days…."

Meanwhile, several prominent citizens of the city from different walks of life have made an appeal to the city residents to maintain peace, communal amity and religious harmony and not to be provoked by stray acts of vandalism or violence by miscreants.

In a statement here today, they said all right thinking people were anguished at the events in the last few days, which had affected peace and harmony in the city. "Punjab has already witnessed dark days in the past. India is a democratic nation with freedom of movement and job to anyone anywhere in the country. There is also guarantee of freedom of expression to any person or group within the framework of the constitution."

They said a majority of the Indian population lived under extreme poverty and many a times, people from one region had to move to other states in search of livelihood. "Ludhiana is a witness to the contribution of migrants to its economic development and prosperity. However, those coming here in search of livelihood, are denied basic rights of minimum wages, housing, health and education. It is sad that instead of treating them with compassion and humanistic manner, they are denied justice."

In a note of caution, the signatories to the appeal observed that any attempt to disturb harmony and brotherhood between people of different states and religious beliefs would harm the interest of all the people and communities of the country.

The signatories to the statement included Dr LS Chawla, founder vice-chancellor of Baba Farid University of Medial Sciences and president of Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD), Jagmohan Singh, general secretary, Association of Democratic Rights (AFDR), Punjab, Dr Arun Mitra, general secretary IDPD and vice-president, Indian Medical Association, Punjab, Gurcharan Kochhar, president, Punjab Istri Sabha, DP Maur, president, PAU Employees Forum, AK Maleri, president, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Vichar Manch, Ramesh Rattan, chairman, Small Scale Industries and Traders Association, Dr Narjit Kaur, convener, Working Women Forum, Ludhiana, Dr Harbans Singh Grewal, district secretary, AFDR and Sher Singh Aulukh, president, Bharat Jan Gyan Vigyan Jatha.



Doraha, Sahnewal wear deserted look
Lovleen Bains
Our Correspondent

A passenger walks home in the absence of public transport.
A passenger walks home in the absence of public transport. A Tribune photograph

Doraha, December 7
Doraha and Sahnewal towns today wore a deserted look complying with the bandh call given by various Sikh panthic organisations.

The bandh was near total in these towns as not even a single shop was allowed to open. The residents and most of the shopkeepers remained confined to their homes in order to avoid any untoward incident. But such was the panic and dread created by the tensed situations in the past few days that the employees, who otherwise had to attend to their jobs, were in a fix whether to dissuade themselves from the normal routine or follow the customary schedule. The employees too preferred to stay back.

“It is always better to take leave for a day rather than put oneself in trouble and invite trouble”, viewed one such employee working in a private bank.

At Sahnewal, as the shopkeepers tried to open their shops early this morning they were dissuaded from doing so by the police particularly due to the curfew that has been clamped for the past two days following the bloody incidents.

Whenever any shop keeper tried to open his shop, the police officials managed to get the better of them by forcing them to close the same there and then. The police personnel beefed up the security arrangements throughout the town and the situation was reported to be peaceful. Sahnewal DSP Balraj Singh Gill said the situation, throughout the day, was under control.

The traffic diversion, however, created problems for the commuters as the national highway had been blocked from Doraha since yesterday, the commuters who had to reach Sahnewal and the surrounding villages had to face really tough time to reach their particular destinations.

Normal life crippled

Jagraon: A complete bandh was observed in rural areas of Ludhiana today. Curfew in Ludhiana threw life out of gear.

Bus services were crippled and commuters for the second consecutive day were seen harassed, as the police did not allow any vehicle to commute.

At Sidhwan Bet, Humbran, Hathoor, Pakhowal, Sarabha, Jodhan, Sudhar, Chowkiman and Bassian, children were seen playing cricket on deserted roads.

Activists of SAD (Amritsar), Eknoor Khalsa Force, Gurmat Naam Sewa Society and Nirvair Khalsa Dal took out a protest march after holding a meeting at the local Singh Sabha Gurdwara. Protesters raised slogans against Ashutosh Maharaj, the Punjab government and Harish Bedi.

Tarlok Singh Dalla, district jathedar of SAD, Karamjit Singh Binjal, district president of Eknoor Khalsa force, and Bhai Gurvinderjit Singh of Nirvair Khalsa Dal said the Badals worked under the pressure of BJP. They said public should join hands to fight against the ill-treatment, which was being meted out to the Sikh community.

A number of local Sikh leaders gathered today and demanded a ban on programmes organised by self-styled Godmen in Punjab and a case to be registered against those who had opened fire on Sikhs.

No violent incidents

Mandi Ahmedgarh: The bandh called by the Panthic organisations evoked a mixed response in Mandi Ahmedgarh here today.

Commercial establishments, including liquor vends and shops, remained closed for about three to four hours in the morning, but by noon most of them started functioning normally.

Activists of the radical organisations toured the markets and asked shopkeepers to close their establishments. Most shopkeepers complied but only to reopen around noon. However, there were no reports of forced closures or violence anywhere in the area.

All schools and colleges barring a few, opened normally and so did all government offices, banks and other commercial establishments. But activity was very poor at these organisations. There were no traffic snarls anywhere in the region.

A few students reached their schools today. Even organisers of a few private schools and colleges did not send buses to fetch students from their houses.

Vehicular traffic on the Ludhiana-Malerkotla road was thin due to the withdrawal of private buses. Those, who plied buses today charged more than routine fare.

The bandh passed off peacefully in towns and villages falling under the Raikot and Payal sub-divisions. Various Sikh organisations led by radical leaders convened meetings at gurdwaras at Tahliaana and surrounding villages.

Poor bear the brunt

Phillaur: On a call given by various Sikh radicals, including Damdami Taksal of Punjab Bandh, a complete bandh was observed in, Goraya, Phillaur, Noormahal, Bilga, Apra, Zandiala Manjki etc today.

Even tea-stall owners and vegetables sellers could not work today. The police made adequate security arrangements. Road traffic remained affected as people did not travel, as most buses could not ply on roads. Passengers were seen searching for transport facility. However, trains were plying normally on main routes. Meanwhile, Delhi and Lahore-bound buses could ply via Amritsar-Jalandhar-Phagwara-Nawanshahar-Rahon-Macchhiwara-Samrala-Khanna-Ambala roads.

On the other hand, Phillaur SDM Pritam Singh and DSP Kamaljit Singh Dhillon said that there was complete normalcy during bandh. Educational institutions at all places remained closed, while banks remained opened.

The polio eradication compaign was also affected due to bandh at several places today.



Govt urged to ensure safety of migrants
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 7
As most major industrial enterprises in Punjab, including textiles, light engineering, bicycles, forging & casting and steel, in Punjab are highly labour intensive, they can survive only if they have a plentiful supply of migrant labour.

In a press statement yesterday, Apex Chamber of Commerce & Industry president PD Sharma said industry was presently facing its toughest challenge. “The unrest among migrants and the subsequent violence was due to several reasons. Migrant workers were feeling insecure in view of the rising incidents of looting and snatching during nights, when they found it was not safe to move around. And the main reason was that the police did not prove helpful to the workers”.

When the trouble took an ugly turn on December 3, local population in some pockets also sided with the police against the migrant labourers. “Migrant labourers were beaten up in their residential localities and some of their shanties and other dwellings were also set ablaze”, Sharma stated.

“Fear among the migrant labourers mounted to the extent that many of them began leaving the city. The job NREGA guarantee scheme is also responsible for the current labour shortage in Ludhiana and elsewhere. The influx of migrant workers is now decreasing due to this scheme," he added.

Sharma said, “Industry in Punjab had posted growth because it had easy excess to state government officials. Now, the government had devised a policy whereby industry was finding it difficult for its voice to be heard. The trouble erupted primarily due to such isolation of industry”.

He added to salvage the state’s economy a secure environment had to be provided to migrant workers. “Apart from industry agriculture is also highly dependant on migrant labour. The state government must ensure the security of not only 
these workers but also 
of all industrial plants’, he asserted.



Industry feels strain as migrants pack bags
KS Chawla

Ludhiana, December 7
The violent incidents in the city on Friday in which the police and migrants clashed has not only created unrest among industrialists but has also led to many migrant workers packing their bags and returning to their native homes in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Industrial activity in the city came to a virtual halt during the last four days. A curfew continues to be in force for the second straight day in Focal Point, industrial areas and other parts of the city.

The exodus of the migrant workers has heightened concern among the city’s industrialists, who were already facing a shortage of labour. They feel it would inflict further losses to industry.

Enquiries made by The Tribune have revealed the migrant workers employed in the city’s industrial units remit Rs 4 crore to Rs 5 crore every month to their families in Bihar and UP, from where most of them have come.

AN Mishra, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Purvanchal Vikas Parishad, told The Tribune leaders of industry should step in and assure the migrant labourers they were safe and no harm would be allowed to be caused to them.

“There are about 700,00 migrant workers employed in various industries in the city. If a majority of them returned home it would give rise to employment and law and order problems in their native states. The situation calls for immediate intervention by the city’s industrialists”, added Mishra, who has already met leaders of some of the industrial associations here.

Avtar Singh, general secretary of the Chamber of Industrial & Commercial Undertakings, Ludhiana, said industry was already facing a labour shortage of 25 percent as many of the workers who had gone back to their home states had not returned so far.

“The chamber will tomorrow get some city industrialists to visit the ‘vehras’ of migrant workers and assure them they would protect the migrants from anti-social elements. It’s also the duty of the state government to ensure the safety of life and property of the workers from Bihar and UP,” Avtar added.

Migrant workers form the backbone of both industry and agriculture in Punjab, as they perform all kinds of tasks in the factories and fields. On an average factory workers earn Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000 a month and live in dingy rooms in groups of eight to ten in order to save as much money as they can.

Avtar Singh said a skilled worker could earn Rs 200 per day, while the state government has fixed Rs 3,200 as the minimum monthly wages for unskilled workers. “The four-day shutdown of industrial units in the city since Friday has caused losses in production amounting to about Rs 2,000 crore”, he added.

According to a study by Punjab Agricultural University, over two million migrant workers are employed in the state’s farm sector. During the days of militancy they were the main target of extremists in rural areas and several attempts were made to force them to leave the state.



People throng DC office for curfew passes
Mohit Khanna
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 7
The mini-secretariat was chock-a-block as people from all walks of life thronged the deputy commissioner's office to get curfew passes.

Anxiety was writ large on the faces of parents whose sons and daughters were scheduled to marry today.

Except for spending money on lavish wedding, the bride's parents were having another task at hand to arrange for curfew passes.

Even the relatives of the ailing and the kin of those who died today were seen seeking curfew passes. Milk vendors too visited the DC office to get the passes.

An employee of Verka Milk Plant, who was also standing in the queue said: "People are calling us as there is no milk available in the market."

The residents who visited the mini-secretariat to get curfew passes for marriages complained against the administration of being strict, as they had allowed only a limited number of people to accompany the wedding party.

There is curfew in the city and people should realise that the administration cannot issue passes like freebees, said JK Jain, general assistant to deputy commissioner. “We are allowing 25 passes for a wedding party,” he said.

Meanwhile, setting an example, JK Jain, general assistant to the deputy commissioner, did not even allow his relative to take more than 25 curfew passes for a wedding ceremony.



Unclear directions: Employees left in lurch
Jyotika Sood
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 7
Failure of the Ludhiana District Administration to give clear directions on working of government offices left thousands of employees of various departments in a lurch over public dealing and attendance here today.

While most of the officials couldn't reach their offices due to imposition of curfew, some of them who managed it hard, had to return home after sometime.

Various offices, including Municipal Corporation’s office in A, B and C zones, public works department, District Transport Office, district administration and PSEB bore a deserted look.

An employee of MC's A-zone office, who had come to

office, said, “When I reached office around 9 am, it was completely deserted. I called up some of my colleagues and most of them suggested me to return.” He added that he had reached office after a great inconvenience as he didn’t want to be marked absent.

Similarly, a JE working with the PWD said, “I had asked my colleagues and seniors in the morning whether they were coming to office or not, as the curfew was intact. They said since our office did not fall under the purview of essential services, it would not be functional today.”

“Besides, the police in our area near Rani Jhansi Road was not even allowing us to travel,” he added.

In fact the public too had to suffer as clouds of confusions prevailed over public dealing. Ramesh Kumar, who had gone to submit his electricity bill at Fountain Chowk office, said, “It was last date to submit the bill today. But the office was closed. An employee, who had come to the office, suggested me to come tomorrow, as there was no staff at the office,” he said, adding that the directions of governments offices being closed today should have been conveyed to public earlier.

Clarifying doubts, Deputy Commissioner Vikas Garg said, “Barring essential services, government offices will remain closed today due to curfew.” 



Plan to barricade railway tracks
Mohit Khanna
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 7
Four days after an irate mob torched 23 vehicles and took siege of the railway tracks, the police is now planning to hold meeting with the railway authorities to discuss measures so that such incident does not take place in future.

The sources have revealed that the railway authorities have decided to put up barricades alongside the area starting from the Focal Point till Sahnewal, which is largely dominated my migrants.

It is learnt that cops have told the railway authorities to instal aluminium sheets or barbed wires on the railway track along the Focal Point area.

The development took place following the Friday’s incident, when the mob of over 10,000 persons lay siege of the railway track and pelted stone at the cop to launch their protest against the police for its inaction in nabbing the snatchers.

According to the police, the mob pelted stones at the police, following which the police shot over 500 rounds in the air to disperse the crowd.

“We have learnt this trait in Bihar. The railway track, especially for Ludhiana, is the lifeline and as long as we are sitting here we can make the government bow to our demands. Further, the ammunitions - stones- are readily available here, we will make the police run for their money,” said Shehjad, who was sitting on a railway track along with his supporters on Friday.

It took almost 10 hours for the police to clear the railway track, which was converted into a garrison by the migrants.

After the incident, the police has been deployed on the railway track in front Ishwar Nagar colony.

The gravity of the situation could be gauged from the fact that one SP rank officer, three DSPs, three SHOs and around 50 cops along with personnel from reserve forces have been deployed near the railway track.

“It was like a war and the protestors were using the stones lying on the railway track as weapons. Till the time we did not clear the track, the migrant gave us a tough time. They pelted stone at us and made us run for shelter. The administration should wake up from its slumber and take preventive measures so that the people do not use the railway track for rioting,” said a cop on duty near Ishwar colony.

The track, which was cleared by the police from the possession of the migrant near Ishwar Nagar colony has been renamed as Tiger Hill by the police.



Shops near rly station razed by owners themselves
Ashok Kaura
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, December 7
The local administration managed to persuade almost all the owners of the 227 shops located near the railway station to remove their shops on Sunday.

After the courts had declared these shops illegal encroachments, Phillaur SDM Pritam Singh and DSP Kamaljit Singh Dhillon convinced the shopkeepers to remove their valuables from the shops to pave the way for razing the shops. However, the shopkeepers agreed to remove the shops that have been there for over 45 years.

“The operation was completed on Sunday”, Pritam told The Tribune today. “A total of 329 shops had been constructed shops illegally on government land on both sides of the street facing the Phillaur railway station. The owners of 102 shops located on the station’s opposite side had succeeded in getting stay orders against demolition. However, 227 shopkeepers who had lost their cases at several stages in the courts today agreed to demolish their structures themselves”, he added.

Phillaur Shopkeepers Association president Des Raj Mal told reporters today that none of the shopkeepers were prepared for this development. “They had been getting false assurances their shops wouldn’t be demolished from politicians of different parties from time to time. The shopkeepers are now searching for alternative places to run their business”, he added.



Sehajdhari Sikhs condemn clashes
Our Correspondent

Jagraon, December 7
The national executive council of the Sehajdhari Sikh Federation in its resolution has condemned the Ludhiana communal Clashes between the Divyajoti followers of Ashutosh and few Sikh organisations and has appealed to the citizens to maintain peace and law in the interest of the nation.

National president of the federation Dr Paramjeet Singh Ranu said, “Some communal external forces were bent on dividing the peaceful state for their personal interests on communal basis by provoking the religious sentiments of the people. They are trying to create an atmosphere of panic and terror in the state just for their own political interest and vote politics. Some Sikh leaders settled in Delhi or other states are bent upon disturbing the peace of Punjab due to their personal grudges with the Badal family and a few are trying to divide the religion for vote politics”.

Ranu said the role of the local BJP legislator was very negative and such persons must be taught a lesson by booking them under TADA, as they exploited the situation.

The council condemned the state governments inaction while tackling the situation and blamed the government for hurting the Sikh sentiments.



Continuing medical education programme ends
Our Correspondent

Mandi Gobindgarh, December 7
The six-day Continuing Medical Education Programme (CME) sponsored by Rashtriya Ayurveda Vidyapeeth and department of Ayush, ministry of health and family welfare for ayurvedic medical practitioners, concluded at Desh Bhagat Ayurvedic Medical College and Hospital yesterday.

The department of medical education and research parliamentary secretary Sital Singh was the chief guest on the valedictory session.

National consultant World Health Organisation, Dr Dinesh Katoch, presided over the function. Ayush director, Dr Ashwani Kumar, and Baba Farid University controller of examination, Dr Ravinder Kaur, were the guests of honour.

Desh Bhagat Group vice-chairperson Tajinder Kaur and director-general Shalini Gupta also graced the occasion with their 

Chairman, Dr Zora Singh, appreciated the efforts of the institute to promote ayurvedic concepts and also emphasised on the significance of the programme in medical sciences.

In her address, college principal, Dr Loveleen Kaur, welcomed all dignitaries and highlighted the aim to organise the programme.

In his presentation, Dr Dinesh Katoch informed about the Central, state medical laws, rules and regulations applicable to the practitioners of ISM as well as the national programmes being run by the Government of India.

A large number of ayurvedic medical officials, clinical practitioners, faculty and students attended the programme.



Students felicitated
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, December 7
Students of Government High School, Jartoli village, who had secured top positions in the board examination, were felicitated by the Lambardar Sampuran Singh Memorial Trust at a function chaired by Gursewak Singh, a social activist.

Joginder Singh Aulakh, deputy director, Punjab, was the chief guest on the occasion.

While addressing the gathering, various speakers, including former president of the Government Teachers’ Union Baldev Singh Latala, president of the Punjab School Teachers’ Union Sikandar Singh Jartoli and Aulakh appreciated the role of organisers in promoting education in the village. Speakers called upon leaders of social and political organisations to join hands to help the government meet the crisis faced by state-run schools.

Students presented a cultural programme on the occasion. Cash prizes worth Rs 3,500, Rs 2,500, Rs 2,000 and Rs 1,500 were awarded to students, who secured the first four positions in their respective board classes.

Ramandeep Kaur, Ravinder Kaur and Harpreet Singh were honoured for securing the first position, Shavinder Singh, Manpreet Kaur and Gagandeep Kaur secured the second position, Simran Jot Kaur, Rajandeep Kaur and Gurjot Kaur secured the third position in their respective classes, while Paramjit Kaur, Prabhjot Kaur and Pooja Devi were given Vaid Sadhu Singh Memorial Award for securing the fourth position.

Sikander Singh Jartoli, general secretary of the trust, said the family of late Sampuran Singh had earmarked a huge amount for honouring meritorious students of the school nine years ago. 



Prices of veggies soar
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, December 7
With prices looking up again due to violence and curfew, vegetables are getting out of the common man's reach.

Prices of veggies that had increased during the past months and maintained a low for a few weeks have started to soar again. In retail markets, the impact is more significant as retailers are quick to increase rates whereas in case of decline, they take time to pass on the benefit to the customers.

Traders said the prices are expected to increase further in case normalcy does not return soon. Retail rates differed according to localities. While the vegetable prices in areas close to Malerkotla town, the vegetable hub of the area, remained the same, residents of localities situated near Ludhiana had to pay more for fresh vegetables.

In retail markets of posh areas, pea was available for Rs 60 per kg, cauliflower Rs 25-30 per kg, brinjal Rs 20 to Rs 25 per kg, radish Rs 20 per kg, carrot Rs 20 per kg, onion Rs 30-40 per kg, tomato Rs 35 per kg and potato Rs 25 per kg.

Contrary to common trend, the vendors who sell vegetables on bicycles and handcarts made more profit than shop owners as women hesitated to visit markets due to the bandh call by radical Sikh organisations today.

In wholesale markets, the price of potato, which were stable at around Rs 8 per kg, have now shot up to Rs 11, whereas onion that was available for Rs 13-15 was now priced at Rs 19.

Retailers said demand that had been dismal in the past few days had started to look up again.



Soil erosion on roadside blamed for accidents
Gurdeep Singh Mann
Tribune News Service

Khamano, December 7
Large stretches on the Ludhiana-Chandigarh highway as well as many of its link roads have become accident prone due to soil erosion on the roadsides. Several mishaps have been reported on various stretches and turns at Ucha Pind, Sanghol and Khamano areas during the past few days.

People commuting on these roads, especially those in two wheelers, complained the soil on the roadsides had become eroded since the past many days. They added recarpeting of roads have added to their problems as the level of the roads have risen compared to their sides.

“Speeding buses and heavy vehicles plying on these roads force two-wheelers to go off the roads while overtaking. Many scooterists and motorcyclists have fallen off the roads as they found themselves unable to maintain their balance due to the soil erosion on the roadsides”, said Harinder Singh, a resident of Khamano.

Problem aggravates adjoining the marriage palaces and colleges wherein people park their vehicles haphazardly. These days, due to paddy season, trucks parked in Khamano make long queues of many kilometers also increase in number of accidents.

Some residents of Ucha Pind and adjoining areas suffered injuries, both minor and major, during the past one month due to this problem. Soil erosion has also been reported on the link roads with some accidents resulting in fatalities.

Manjit Kaur, chairperson of the Human Rights Manch (Khamano block), said though the matter had been taken up by area residents with the authorities concerned a number of times, no action had yet been initiated in this regard. “Nearly a dozen accidents have been reported during the past 15 days in Khamano and adjoining areas. The problem will worsen in the coming days as the temperature will dip during early morning and fog will reduce visibility”.

She asserted the authorities should install reflectors on roads and police officials should fine rashly driven vehicles in both rural and urban areas. “Encroachments by shopkeepers and some farmers in villages should also be removed to reduce the number of accidents, she added.



Residents surprised, disheartened
Jyotika Sood
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 7
The sudden imposition of curfew following grim situation for the past three days has left residents of the city surprised as well as disheartened, who feel Ludhiana was never like that.

It was a vibrant city after tensions of Operation Bluestar and Mandal Commission faded from people’s memory. People from various age groups and strata have been celebrating Diwali, Holi and Gurparb together harmoniously.

"I have been living in Ludhiana since 1963 and such a tension never prevailed ever, at least during the past two decades that we fear walking out of our homes," said AC Goel, retired press manager from Punjab Agricultural University. Though ups and downs are witnessed in every city, Ludhiana was never a pyre of fire. "In a tenure of just eight months, this is the second violence that has walked into the city and people are really worried if you go and talk to them," he added. It's high time we need to rise above religion because world is beyond that and not restricted to it.

Eighty-year-old Telu Ram, who has been a witness to Partition and many other cruelties, fears history can repeat itself. "Why are we fighting? People should introspect it. We all have been living together," he said.



Speaking Out
City will emerge stronger
Widely known as a lively city with cosmopolitan population, Ludhiana has been rocked by violence and bloodshed twice within a span of six months. Sharing their views with Tribune staffer Charu Chhibber, a crosssection of residents react to the unfortunate turn of events

It’s very sad that both incidents of violence occurred this year. They could have been avoided. However, like every city, Ludhiana too has seen its ups and downs and I’m sure it will emerge as a better place to live once the upheaval settles down. The city’s residents are hard working, peace loving people and the best thing about them is that they know how to take things in their stride and move on. However, as a cautionary measure, people should ignore hearsay and have faith in the administration, which is committed to work for their welfare. — Rupinder Singh, SP (traffic)

The two incidents of violence this year have shaken us but cannot keep the city residents down and out for long. The present phase is temporary and shall pass away with a new day soon dawning on the city when everything will be back to normal. After all, this is the very place where people from all walks of life and creeds and coming from all over the country have lived in harmony for ages. Such incidents, which is the work of a handful of antisocial elements, cannot kill the spirit of the city and its people." — Gauri Khanna, housewife
The city has suffered an irreparable loss due to the unfortunate incidents of violence in the recent past. The residents have worked really hard for decades to build up the city as we see it today. Such incidents leave a scar on the history of any place, recovering from which is very difficult. I’ve seen the city grow phenomenally over the last six decades. It’s unlikely things will ever be the same again after the bloodshed that has taken place. People from other states will stop coming here, affecting not only the city’s economy but also its social and political life." — Vinod K Thapar, businessman



City Concerns
Queer are the ways of godmen

Cops ‘capture’ a youth, who tried to move out of his house despite curfew in Ludhiana.
Cops ‘capture’ a youth, who tried to move out of his house despite curfew in Ludhiana. Photo: Inderjeet Verma

Wah Maharaj! which started in the mega city as just an angry protest by the migrants against insensitivity of the police on Friday, was compounded by the two-day "satsang"of Ashutosh Maharaj, the religious guru from Noor Mahal. Far from being a spiritual and religious event, the programme turned out be a battleground for radical Sikh bodies and followers of the said baba, which included a sizeable number of BJP leaders, the junior partner in the ruling coalition. The outburst by the migrants and pitched battle between radical Sikh and Hindu groups, which followed, virtually put the city on fire. Life literally came to a standstill, creating more misery for the poor and daily wagers as they could’nt go out to work and essential food items were not available. One wonders if the so-called men of God really care for the human beings, who are also the creation of the same God. Perhaps the baba would have earned more respect and following as well if he had offered to postpone the satsang for a few days in view of the prevailing tension and curfew in different parts of the city. But then strange are the ways of God, and also the godmen.

Migrants go online

Online money transfer facility being provided by majority of commercial banks has come as a boon for migrant labourers too. Sending money back home is no more a problem now. Tired of the ordeal of getting money order forms filled, standing in long queues for hours and making their families wait for weeks and months before receiving the amount, a majority of migrant labourers have switched over to online money transfer policy being provided by a large number of nationalised banks. The State Bank of India, Aam Admi Ka Bank, having the largest number of branches across the world, is among those banks attracting maximum number of labour class as clients. Not only have the migrants availed the facility to deposit their savings in accounts being operated jointly with the other members of families, they also confirm the transfer and ask their families to withdraw money for their use also. This reporter was tempted to write a piece after he noticed a migrant labourer telephoning a member of his family to withdraw money from the account maintained at a branch situated at his native village. "Paisa dal diya hai nikal lo" was the message he gave.

Puppy love

A colleague of mine who buys 3 liters of milk everyday got panicky when her servant asked her to bring more milk while coming home. What worried her the most was that this practice became a daily routine. Loosing her temper, at last, the colleague scolded the domestic help for consuming so much milk. Perturbed over the employer's allegation, the servant asked the latter to talk to both her daughters, who were quietly listening to the whole conversation. When she asked her elder daughter she said , "We are sorry mother. Actually, we give two packets of milk to the bitch and her newborn babies every day, they are so weak. They have become our friends. We had told the help not to tell you anything". And the mother had to cut a sorry figure.

Friendly advice

When stopped by a police constable at a barricade on a busy intersection during the curfew, a colleague told him that he was a reporter and was carrying a curfew pass which allowed him to move around during the course of duty in the curfew-bound areas. The ‘police walla’ did let the scribe go but not without giving a "friendly advice". "Oh taa theek hai, par je tuhanu ya tuhadi gaddi nu koi nuksan ho gaya taa pass ki karega. Behtar eh hi hai ki ghar andar hi raho (That is ok, but if you or your vehicle suffers some damage then what will the (curfew) pass do. It is better to remain indoors), the police constable advised while lifting the barricade to allow the vehicle across the intersection.

Cricket mania

While on one hand due to imposition of curfew in the city in the wake of violent incidents, normal life has been thrown out of gear, on the other, cricket lovers, especially children, seem to be having great time, that too, quiet literally. Everywhere in the streets, children can be seen playing cricket be it the playgrounds, residential areas, city markets or unoccupied parking lots. Cricket lovers have not even spared the petrol stations which are closed due to the curfew. One cricket buff, caught playing cricket in one of the busiest streets of the city, quipped, "With so much of open and unoccupied space, which is a rarity and luxury in Ludhiana, one cannot resist taking to the bat. Playing cricket in a street which is otherwise so crowded is so thrilling." Pure fun for sure!

Happy curfew day

SMS freaks can take pleasure in even the adverse circumstances. An SMS doing rounds in Ludhiana for the past two days is a testimony to this fact. It reads-Bomb ki khushbu te goliyan di aawaz, police de dande te band hoya bazaar. Mubarak ho aapko curfew ka tyohar. Happy curfew day.

Marriage venues shifted

Ludhianavis and their love for "ostentation" is unsurpassable even when the city is reeling under crises. Not in the least perturbed by the ongoing communal turmoil, the weddings were carried out amidst pomp and show. With a will to spend "extra lakhs" but not to miss out on the "extravaganza", the people in the wake of extended curfew on the second day shifted the party venues from the city hotels to resorts outside the city.

The most interesting part of these weddings being the elaborative march on the roads without vehicles as people danced uninterruptedly for long distances. But it was the nonstop dance of one of the grooms on Ferozepore Road, which certainly was a spectacle for the people on the highway.

Contributed by Kuldip Bhatia, Mahesh Sharma, Shivani Bhakoo, Charu Chhibber, Kanchan Vasdev, Anshu Seth



Man stabbed to death

Ludhiana, December 7
A man was stabbed to death by a youth in Shimlapuri late last night. The deceased has been identified as Mohan Lal (45), a resident of Shimlapuri area. According to the police, personal enmity was stated to be the reason behind the murder.

Gorra, the accused, who was nabbed by the police today, said Mohan Lal was having illicit relations with his mother to which he raised objection.

Police said Gorra spotted Mohan Lal on the street and both of them entered into an argument. — TNS



Judges kept waiting for litigants, lawyers
Rajneesh Lakhanpal

Ludhiana, December 7
Curfew in the city had its effect on the courts too. Judges were seen waiting for the litigants today while earlier, the litigants were seen waiting for a call from the judges.

A majority of lawyers and litigants were not available to attend their cases due to imposition of curfew in different parts of district and following a call of bandh call given by Sikh radical organisations. Thousands of cases were adjourned without hearing.

Showing a liberal attitude, District and Sessions Judge SP Bangarh has directed all the judicial officers not to pass any adverse order, even if any litigant or his lawyer was not present. Even in the criminal case, the non-bailable warrants were not issued against those accused who could not reach the court today.

It was a day of harassment for thousands of litigants, lawyers and judicial staff following the Punjab bandh call given by Sikh panthic organisation and imposition of curfew in different parts of the city.

Litigants and lawyers faced a lot of hardship in reaching the court complex. They had a tough time in convincing the cops that their cases were fixed for today and their non-appearance might result into adverse orders against them, including issuance of arrest warrants.

Judicial staff had not other option but to reach the court complex, despite opposition by their family members. Women in the family were not in the favour of allowing their husbands and sons to go to the courts. They were of the view that in such a situation, the Punjab and Haryana High Court should have declared it a holiday.

Non-availability of lawyers in a majority of cases forced the judges to postpone the cases. Even some time-bound cases of the High Court were also adjourned.

A fast track court could not decide two rent appeals pending before it for hearing arguments today. The High Court had directed the court to decide these appeals before December 8, 2009. It was learnt that the fast track court judge apprised this to the Sessions Judge and then appeals were adjourned.



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