L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


PSEB English paper leaked
Charanjit Singh Teja
Tribune News Service

A photocopy of the class X (first semester) English question paper; and (right) a handwritten copy of the same.
A photocopy of the class X (first semester) English question paper; and (right) a handwritten copy of the same.
A photocopy of the class X (first semester) English question paper; and (right) a handwritten copy of the same. Tribune photographs

Ludhiana, October 24
The English paper of the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) Class X (First semester) has been leaked, a day before the examination. The question paper was available with a number of students in Ludhiana on Sunday.

A few persons claimed yesterday that were in possession of the PSEB Class X English question paper. They sold these like hot cake near various schools of the city for Rs 400 and above.

Teachers and officials of the education department overlooked it yesterday, but were astonished on seeing the same questions in today’s paper as mentioned in the leaked one.

Leaked paper was handwritten one. First question (which was a comprehensive passage) and optional questions were not mentioned in it. “A few students came to my home to get the handwritten question paper solved. I got suspicious, and asked them from where they got it? They said we bought it from Ludhiana.

Students had already bought Hindi and Math papers. It is a clear case of paper leak,” said an English teacher.

The student, who had purchased the question paper, said, “It was available yesterday, one of my known purchased it at a high price,” he added.

Chairman of the Punjab School Education Board DS Dhillon said: “We immediately called a meeting in this regard. A team has been sent to the city for collecting question papers and other relevant information. We will conduct an official inquiry.”


Headless body of woman found
Was stripped naked and wrapped in a quilt
Mohit Khanna
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
Panic spread on the Tajpur road after the headless body of a woman was found lying near a park here today.

Not only head, even the left arm of the woman was severed to eliminate evidence. The killer, before throwing the body, had stripped the victim naked.

The incident came to light at around 7 am when Prem Kumar, a resident of the area, saw the body lying in Company Bag, Street No 2 and raised an alarm.

According to an eyewitness, the body was draped in a quilt and thrown in the park. Prem Kumar said the body was stinking badly and dogs were rummaging around it.

He immediately informed the police about the incident. A police team led by Basti Jodhewal Station House Officer (SHO) Jatinder Singh reached the spot and cordoned off the area. SHO Jatinder Singh said the woman was murdered elsewhere and her body dumped in the park.

However, the resident expressed ignorance about the movement of any suspicious person in the area.

The body was taken to the local Civil Hospital for autopsy. The police suspects it to be the case of an illicit relation. “It is a cold blooded murder. The way the woman has been killed shows the murder was pre-planned. The killer knew how to kill and where to dump the body,” said the SHO.

“We are investigating the case from all angles. We have also launched a manhunt to know about the mysterious disappearance of a middle- aged woman,” said the SHO.



Black Diwali for 750 PAU employees
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
While affluent society is all set to celebrate Diwali on lavish scale, it is going to a lackluster affair for a large number of employees and teachers of Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), who are working on several Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR) funded projects, as they have not received this month’s salary till today.

Reason: Various departments and the PAU authorities have not sent the budget requirement list (for getting funds/grants) to the funding agency on time (between April and May). Thus, the ICAR has stopped sending its grants. The authorities have been releasing the salaries of these employees on their own till date. But, now, they are facing difficulty in continuing the process in the absence of funds.

A teacher said, “Diwali is celebrated throughout the country. Our expenditure increases during this month due to innumerable purchase. But, it is difficult to celebrate the festival with a penny in hand. Children want crackers and new clothes, but we are unable to meet their demands.”

A delegation of employees had met the Comptroller in the evening, but to no avail. Lakhwinder Singh Sandhu, member, PAU Employees’ Union, said the audit department had raised an objection on releasing their salaries now. “Though the Comptroller is taking entire responsibility, but the audit department has refused to release the salaries in the absence of grants from the funding agency,” said Lakhwinder. At least 500 employees and 250 teachers are working on ICAR projects, he added.

He further added if salaries were not disbursed on time (before Diwali), employees would be forced to observe “Black Diwali” this time. 



1,000 new cars hit city roads
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
At least 1,000 new cars of various models were delivered to customers on Dhanteras here today.

As cars continued to be delivered till late in the evening, the exact figures could not ascertained. However, a majority of dealers maintained that maximum number of cars was handed over to the buyers today.

As Dhanteras is considered to be an auspicious day for making purchases, most customers had asked their dealers to hand them over the new vehicle today.

Rishi Dada of a local car dealership said there were around 20 car dealers in Ludhiana. “We handed over around 50 cars of various models (both petrol and diesel) to the customers today. It was a hectic day as those believing in traditions and rituals had asked for delivery today,” he said.

Ashok Kumar, accompanying his friend who got a new car today, said: “My friend had finalised the car at the showroom a couple of days ago but he wanted to wait for two more days to take it home. Dhanteras is an ideal day to purchase metal, be it steel, silver or gold, even a new vehicle. The day is considered auspicious in the Hindu mythology. We must follow the traditions as long as no superstitions are attached.”

He said certain people even waited for the “shubh muhurat” to take the keys to their new vehicle.

Harish, working with a car dealership, said around 40 cars were handed over to the buyers today.



It’s raining gifts, babus play safe
Senior officials stay away from offices
Mohit Khanna
Tribune News Service

A resident who brought quilts for an employees of the DTO office hides them in a SUV outside the Mini-Secretariat on Monday.
A resident who brought quilts for an employees of the DTO office hides them in a SUV outside the Mini-Secretariat on Monday. Photo: Himanshu Mahajan

Ludhiana, October 24
Receiving gifts remained a closed-door affair as higher rung officers stayed away from their offices to avoid public scrutiny. However, residents frequented the houses of various babus throughout the day. While a few succeeded in extending gifts, others had to return disappointed.

Both Commissioner of Police Dr SS Chauhan and Deputy Commissioner Rahul Tiwari left their office well before lunch.

The sycophants, who arrived with glittering gifts to woo the employees of district administration, were asked to return. Topping the list of those coming with gifts were the representatives of a few private banks and bicycles companies.

The employees, who always accept gifts with open arms, were reluctant to entertain those coming with huge boxes apparently due to the fear of huge media gathering outside the district administration office.

A resident, who brought a MUV, stacked with quilts for the employees of the district transport office (DTO) was asked to take them away after the employees refused to accept the greetings.

“Why to get embarrassed for a quilt worth a few hundred rupees. We collectively decided not to accept the gifts,” said the staff of the DTO office.

While a few babus and police officers dodged those coming with gifts. They were informed them to drop the gifts at their private residence. A few had even booked hotel rooms on rent for receiving the gifts.





No price tag attached
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
Diwali is the most awaited festival for industrialists and traders, who want to please senior bank officials, as these are the persons on whom their entire business depends. Not only the seniors, but also those believing in this “tradition” make the most of the occasion.

Sanjiv Goel (name changed), who started his venture recently, said, “I could not have started this venture had the loan not been sanctioned by the bank. The bank manager has been very helpful. So, presenting him something on Divali is certainly not a big issue.”

“I have decided to present a pair of watches (limited edition) to the manager and his wife. When asked about the price tag of the gift, the industrialist said, “It will be less than Rs 5 lakh.”

Apart from the bank officials, industrialists, too, are making a beeline to please income tax and excise and taxation departments’ officials. A clerk of the excise and taxation department said a few of the “babus” got gifts worth several lakhs on Diwali.

“Though all officials don’t accept the gifts, but those who do, make the best of the festival. They get expensive mobile phones, LEDs, double-door refrigerators and gold and diamond jewellery for their better-halves,” the clerk added.

Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, PD Sharma, said: “I personally feel that personal equation between the borrower and lender while sanctioning an amount to a businessman plays major role. If someone wants to convey gratitude to the officials, no one should object to it.” 



Ropar-Doraha four-laning: Leprosy patients get eviction notices
PWD declares 50 occupants living in ashram for 10 yrs illegal; demands yearly rent of Rs 1.11 lakh; to be hiked by 15% after 3 yrs
Lovleen Bains

Mahavir Kushat Ashram in Doraha; and (right) one of the elderly leprosy patients who has been asked to quit the ashram.
Mahavir Kushat Ashram in Doraha; and (right) one of the elderly leprosy patients who has been asked to quit the ashram. Photos by writer 

Doraha, October 24
Though Badals are yet to lay the foundation stone of the four-laning of the Ropar-Doraha road, leprosy-afflicted patients are dreading the day when they shall be thrown out of their dwellings, situated along the canal road, as per the notice served on them in this regard.

More than 50 leprosy-afflicted patients, including women and children, have been given notice to quit Mahavir Kushat Ashram. These people have been residing in this ashram for the past 10 years. A local subdivisional officer had on June 9, 2010, given notice to vacate the place. Another notice was handed over to them on September 20, 2010. These people were declared illegal occupants and directed to pay an yearly rent of Rs 1,11,592 by the PWD. After every three years, the rent was to be increased by 15 per cent.

“The foundation stone of the Mahavir Kushat Ashram was laid by the then Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana on January 3, 1997.We are forbidden children of God. Maimed for life, we are just pulling through and cannot afford to think of a better to live. The women and children, too, are afflicted with this disease and have no other shelter,” they pleaded.

“Moreover the contagiousness of the disease and the social stigma it carries make it extremely difficult for a person afflicted with it to get a shelter at any other place,” they added.

Bhagwan Mahavir Kushat Ashram is affiliated to the National Leprosy Organisation of India Act 1860, Chandigarh, Punjab, (registration No. 471). Mahesh, Somnath, Varsha and Heera Bai, all residents of the ashram, said they tried to meet the Chief minister during his sangat darshan in Doraha, but were not allowed to enter the hall.

“I don’t understand why are we being given such notices. The Deputy Commissioner laid the foundation stone of our ashram. We have been getting all sorts of aid from locals,” said Mahesh, a leprosy patient.

“The rent is, too, much for us to bear. Since nobody is willing to give us job, we have to be either at locals mercy or make both ends meet by begging,” said Yarsha, another patient.

Tejparkash Singh Kotli, local MLA, said, “The state government has no right to displace those who are already living at the mercy of others. If it is not legally feasible, they should at least not overlook the humanistic angle. The ruling party should at least make alternate arrangements for them rather than giving them notices time and again.”

SDM Khanna, Inderjit Kaur Kang, who also an additional charge of the SDM Payal, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.



City draped in Diwali festivity

Bijli Market teeming with shoppers as they make purchases; Colourful lights hang outside a shop in the market; Decorative items put on display at a shop; A traffic jam at Ghumar Mandi as shoppers throng the marketplace; Firecrackers stacked at a stall in Dana Mandi; Women check out utensils on Dhanteras; and A potter colours “diyaas” ahead of Diwali in Ludhiana.
Clockwise from top: Bijli Market teeming with shoppers as they make purchases; Colourful lights hang outside a shop in the market; Decorative items put on display at a shop; A traffic jam at Ghumar Mandi as shoppers throng the marketplace; Firecrackers stacked at a stall in Dana Mandi; Women check out utensils on Dhanteras; and A potter colours “diyaas” ahead of Diwali in Ludhiana. Photos: Himanshu Mahajan, Inderjeet Verma



Sub-Registrar office moves out
No more snarl-ups, parking blues for municipal corporation employees
Puneet Pal Singh Gill
Tribune News Service

A relatively empty parking lot after the office was shifted in Ludhiana.
A relatively empty parking lot after the office was shifted in Ludhiana. Photos: Inderjeet Verma

Ludhiana, October 24
After going through a harrowing time for three years, officials posted in the Zone-D building of the Ludhiana municipal corporation have finally heaved a sigh of relief, for the Sub-Registrar (West) office, which was shifted to the Zone-D building three years ago, has now moved to a new building located on the Hambran Road here.

Before the shifting of the office from the complex, the area used to witness prolonged snarl-ups on the road outside the complex. Also, thousands of people visited the office complex every day, causing inconvenience to the municipal corporation officials.

The MC officials used to have a tough time parking their vehicles, as a majority of people visiting the building used to come for work at the Sub-Registrar (West) office.

“The number of vehicles coming to the complex as well as in the area had increased manifold. Traffic jams were commonplace on the road opposite the Zone-D building. However, the shifting of the Sub-Registrar (West) office to the Hambran Road has improved things in a big way. The number of vehicles entering the complex has fallen drastically and now we can easily park our vehicles in its parking,” said an official.

The Sub-Registrar (West) office was shifted to the Zone-D building around three years ago.

It was earlier located on the PWD department land opposite Westend Mall on the Ferozepur Road.

Before that, the office was located in a rented accommodation in the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar market.

The office area where the Sub-Registrar office was located in the Zone-D building was earlier a Sukhmani Centre, where residents could avail of various facilities under one roof.

MC Commissioner AK Sinha said the area had now been cleared. “The MC is planning to start its own Suvidha Centre there,” he added.

Visitors’ Rush

n MC officials used to have a tough time parking their vehicles in the Zone-D building complex as a majority of people visiting the building used to come for work at the Sub-Registrar (West) Office



PUDA to sell 11 shops in prime commercial area on Nov 9
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, October 24
The Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) will make yet another bid to sell 11 single storey built-up shops in up market Green Park Enclave in Canal Colony on Pakhowal Road here on November 9, 2011.

The shops with their floor area ranging between 27.86 square metres and 40.15 square metres, will go under the hammer at a reserve price of Rs 2,53,494 per square metre. It was on May 16, that PUDA had conducted an open auction to sell 14 shops of varying sizes in the same market. However, with very few buyers turning up, only four shops were sold at a marginal premium of around Rs 5,000 per square metre. The PUDA authorities had raised Rs 3.48 crore from the sale proceeds of four shops while rest of the properties was put on the hold.

Going by the luke-warm response to quite a few public auctions conducted by PUDA and GLADA in the last six months, the officials are keeping their fingers crossed for the time being, and hoping for the best. Even though the PUDA and GLADA have had an enviable track record of selling both commercial and residential properties at a handsome premium, the overall recessionary trends in the real estate sector, coupled with unrealistic reserve price of the properties put on offer, had of late, kept the buyers and the investors away from the public auctions.

That the buyers were shying away even from prime commercial properties with a huge business potential, offered for sale through public auction by PUDA and GLADA in the past couple of months is evident from the unproductive auction proceedings for sale of a hotel site in Sector 32-A on the Chandigarh Road, two commercial pockets on main Ferozepur Road (a national highway), a prime commercial site in Dugri Phase I and built up shops on the Jail Road. It was not only the commercial sites and properties which failed to attract the buyers, but in at least two instances, there were no or just a few takers even for the residential plots in Dugri Phase II and Sector 32-A on the Chandigarh Road.

A property advisor on Pakhowal Road was of the opinion that the reserve price of the shops proposed to be sold through open auction on November 9 by PUDA was comparable to prevailing prices of commercial properties in this particular area. However, what deters the buyers, especially investors and speculators, to go for such high-value commercial properties is the condition that entire cost of the shops has to be paid from out of declared income, he added.

With under-valuation of properties for the purpose of registration of sale deeds and major part of the cost being accepted from out of black money being the norm rather than an exception in the real estate market, the point made by the property advisor appears more than valid.



Slipshod work jeopardises motorists’ lives
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, October 24
The administration seems to be adopting the hit-and-trial method to rectify defects on the Ludhiana-Malerkotla road, a death trap for commuters.

Though accident-prone areas were identified a long ago, the authorities concerned are yet to take steps to prevent mishaps at the vulnerable points.

Instead of working on requisite changes in the infrastructure, in light of reasons behind accidents in the past, the higher authorities have allowed junior officials to try the hit-and-trial method.

While a number of broken dividers and narrow bridges still invite accidents, the demolition of a large roundabout near Pohir village has increased the probability of mishaps further.

Let alone long-haul speeding vehicles, local motorists, too, get confused at this crossing where the road trifurcates.

Though no fatal accidents have taken place after the demolition of the roundabout was carried out three days ago, some vehicles have reportedly overturned after their drivers lost control of the wheel on seeing dividers on three sides.

Records revealed that a number of persons had lost their lives in accidents taking place due to faulty construction of the road between Ludhiana and Malerkotla.

A number of makeshift passages on the road by breaking the central verge were identified as the contributing factor towards the accidents. A team of engineers had conducted a survey of the road, after a story was published in these columns recently. The officials subsequently labelled the areas as vulnerable.

However, instead of making the necessary changes, they preferred to evade responsibility by putting up caution boards.

Rumble strips, constructed without any warning near the roundabout in gross violation of the rules, are still there but the authorities have removed the confusing speed limit caution boards now.

While the original board displayed the maximum speed of 50 km per hour on the stretch, the new ones advise drivers to slow down to 30 km per hour.



MC to hold hearings on Tuesdays at Zone-D office
Puneet Pal Singh Gill
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
The hearing of Ludhiana Municipal Corporation (MC) cases related to the Right to Information (RTI) Act will now be held on every Tuesday in MC’s Zone-D office located in Sarabha Nagar, here.

The decision was taken after a group of RTI activists met MC Commissioner AK Sinha and had requested him to change the place from MC’s Zone-A office in Mata Rani Chowk to Zone-D office.

RTI activists had told Sinha that they were having “threat” perception from some Ludhiana Municipal Corporation officials in Zone-A office and that is why, they wanted the place to be shifted.

Confirming this, Sinha informed that now all hearings would be held in Zone- D office. “I sit in Zone-A office every Monday and earlier the hearings were held on Mondays. But now we have decided to shift the place as it will be convenient for me as well as for people coming for hearing of the RTI cases,” said Sinha.

“In Zone-A, there are some employee unions, which are having their offices. At the time of some previous hearings, some of the RTI activists had threat perception from some MC employees and that is why they wanted the place to be shifted to another office,” said an RTI activist.

An RTI activist, Kuldeep Singh Khaira, said, “Zone-A office is located in a very congested area, and usually there is traffic congestion, besides other problems. On the other hand, the Sarabha Nagar area is comparatively spacious and less polluted. Traffic jams are comparatively less. Sinha’s visit to Zone-A office just once a week, is seen as an opportunity for people to address their general problems. The RTI appeals on that day hamper public work and many people are precluded from approaching him.”

The MC Commissioner is the first appellant authority in cases related to the RTI Act and he used to hold hearing of these cases in Zone-A office every Monday. Rest of the week, he sits in Zone-D office.



300 NSS volunteers take out awareness march
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
More than 300 NSS volunteers participated in the eco-friendly Diwali awareness rally organised by the NSS Unit of Khalsa College for Women, Civil Lines, here today. The march was flagged off by principal Dr. Varinder Kaur Thind from the college main hall. The march took a round of the Civil Lines and spread awareness among people of the surrounding areas. Reverential pledge-taking ceremony was also administered in the college hall. Students pledged and signed that this Diwali would be eco-friendly and pollution free.

The principal said, "The purpose of organising this march is to create awareness among students to save not only our mother earth but also the lives of all living beings."

In her message, one of the NSS programme officers said, " Since many people believe that it is good time to buy new items, even when they don't need it, we should buy earthen lamps, or diyas, organic gifts like exotic herbal soaps, creams, special teas, eco-friendly crackers with sound confined within the decibel limit as defined by the pollution control board because these crackers produce paper fluffers and coloured lights instead of the sound of bursting." Students sent a loud and clear message along with best wishes for Diwali to boycott crackers and celebrate clean and green Diwali. The colourful charts and posters bore the message: Diwali is a festival of lights, don't pollute it to darkness, green Diwali, clean Diwali, chakris amid charity, go green this Diwali, crackers are of no use, they are just environment abuse, adorned the college campus on this day of awareness march.



Diwali celebrated with fervour
Kiddies Paradise

Ludhiana: Students of Kiddies Paradise School, Kochar Market, celebrated Diwali with religious fervour. Children dressed up as Rama Laxman, Shatrughan, Sita and Hanuman presented the story of Ramayana through Jhankis. Drawing, rangoli and painting competitions were held. Students lit diyas, lamps and candles. They also paid obeisance to the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind Sahibwho got 52 kings freed from the castle of Gwallior and reached Amritsar on this day.

Everest Public School
At Everest Public School students also presented a colourful programme of dance and skits to celebrated Diwali. Lakshmi pooja was performed by the students. They were advised that it was important to keep one’s house clean on Diwali. Goddess Lakshmi liked cleanliness, and she would visit the cleanest house first. Lord Ganesha is worshiped at the beginning of every auspicious act as Vighnaharta. Cakes and sweets were distributed among children. Diya and candle-decoration competition was held at Guru Gobind Singh School, Pakhowal Road, to celebrate Diwali. The festival was also celebrated at Ryan International School. Students participated in pot, candle and diya decoration, apart from rangoli making, table-mats, flowers, and greeting cards in the school.

Guru Nanak school
The festival was also celebrated in Guru Nanak International School. The children gave the message of smoke-free Diwali by taking out a rally on the campus.

Annual athletic meet
The 25th Annual Athletic Meet was organised at Gujranwala Guru Nanak Public School. Harpreet Singh, Navtej Singh and Dilpreet Kaur were declared the best athletes. Hockey Olympian Balbir Singh Grewal was the chief guest on the occasion. — TNS



Fashion designing at school level a hit with students
Gurvinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
In a recent fashion show at Guru Nanak Public School, dresses were designed by students of the school. The fashion show was inspired by the theme of nature and depicted the colours of nature.

Fashion design course at the higher secondary level is gaining popularity amongst students in city schools. Rajinder Kaur, who teaches fashion design at the school, said that students from all streams, including science and commerce streams, were opting for the subject. "They want to keep an option of career change open, in case the more technical streams don't work out for them," she said.

Nidhi Abrol, teaching the subject at BCM Arya Model, also feels that it provides students an alternative in their careers. She said the course provided them good exposure to the profession. They learn to stitch simple clothes.

But not all students have taken up the subject as an alternative. Simran studying in class XI wants to take up fashion designing as a career. "It is good that the subject is available right from the school level, as I want to become an ace fashion designer as early as possible," she says.

For some students, it is a good out let for creativity. Upneet Kaur at Guru Nanak Public School has no plans to pursue fashion studies after school, but she finds the subject interesting, she says.

A class XI student said "For me, it is a creative outlet, like the fine arts classes only. Here the art lies in designing of clothes, which is equally interesting," she said. "Even if we learn to design and make our own dresses, that would be enough for me," says Esha, another student.



Students exhibit theatrical skills

Ludhiana, October 24
The Inter-College Youth Festival 2011-12, underway at PAU, witnessed competitions in skit, mono acting, mime, one-act play and mimicry. The students of the four constituent colleges of the university, including the College of Agriculture (COA), College of Agricultural Engineering and Technology (COAE and T), College of Basic Sciences and Humanities (COBS and H) and College of Home Science (COHS) displayed their skills in one-act plays which included "Spartax," "Sarhadaan Hor Vi Ne," "Savi" and "Gathan Rukhan athe Kukhan Di."

Results: Skit : first - COA, second - COHS and third - COAE&T; Mono acting - first - Karamjot Kaur (COHS), second - Vikas Tiwari (COAE&T) and third - Jagpreet Singh (COBS&H) ;Mime: first - COA, second - COAE&T and third - COHS; One-act play:first - COAE&T, second - COHS and third - COA; Mimicry: first - Jasraman Singh Bedi (COA), second - Navdeep Grewal (COBS&H) and third - Pavittar Singh (COA)



MC officials told to stay away from costly gifts
Puneet Pal Singh Gill
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
With the festival of lights right round the corner, MC Commissioner AK Sinha has warned municipal corporation officials against taking expensive gifts from contractors or people whom they know professionally. Gifts should be accepted only from family and friends, he has asserted. “One should refrain from taking expensive gifts. Every Diwali, I take leave for a few days to spend the festival with my family and stay away from this gift culture. But as I have just returned from a two-month-long training programme, I did not take leave this time,” said Sinha.

An MC official, while requesting anonymity, said a box of chocolates given as a gift to a senior MC official cannot be called a bribe. “But if the same box is given to a lower-rung employee, it is dubbed an ‘expensive’ gift.”

Another senior MC official said the civic body was one government department where officials received “gifts” everyday.

“Unlike other government departments, people don’t make a beeline for our offices or houses to give gifts on Diwali. For us, every day is Diwali,” the official quipped.

Some officials said people, especially contractors, had been making calls since morning, requesting to “meet” them at home.

“They are well-known people in their fields of work. How can I avoid meeting them as it will look rude,” an official said.

A government contractor, who has purchased a microwave for a superintending engineer of an MC department, said he would go to the official’s house tomorrow.

“Every Diwali, I gift quality things to all officials who have helped me during the year. It’s my personal choice to gift someone or not. No one should have a problem with that.” Sinha said he had always discouraged government officials from taking gifts. “Even if any official wants to take a gift, he should avoid taking an expensive one as it may influence his work.”



Designer products replace traditional ones
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
Celebrating Diwali in a traditional way, with diyas and candles illuminating homes and family members performing puja and distributing sweets, is now a passé. Tasteful decoration of houses and exchange of expensive gifts are integral to the celebrations these days.

Designer products have replaced traditional ones in the recent times.

“Diwali is no longer a simple festival as it used to be a some years ago. With the purchasing power of people on the rise, people don’t mind splurging on such occasions,” says Satish Kumar, a salesman at a shop selling designer products in Ghumar Mandi.

A roadside vendor selling decorative hangings at Dandi Swami Chowk says: “Customers come looking for designer ‘torans’ (hangings) to decorate their entrance doors. Till a few years ago, I used to sell these for Rs 50 to Rs 300. But with designer items now available for decoration, customers are willing to pay Rs 800 or more for their intricate work.”

Also, the sale of flowers — roses, carnation, gladiola, marigold, etc. — reaches all-time high on Diwali.

A simple stick, which otherwise may cost Rs 15, sells at Rs 25-30 during days preceding Diwali. People prefer to add fragrance to their homes to welcome the Goddess of wealth.

And, the trend of exchanging expensive gifts has caught on in a big way. From simple kitchen products and electronic equipment to mobile phones, expensive home-furnishing items and gold coins, residents are keener than ever before to exchange expensive gifts as their goodwill gesture.

A majority of families believing in this “custom” spend lavishly on making their near and dear ones feel “special” by showering them with innovative and expensive gifts.



Authorities gear up to tackle emergency
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh,October 24
While residents gear up to celebrate Diwali under the fear of accidental fire due to the failure of successive governments in setting up a fire brigade here, the civil administration has directed the civic and health authorities to make sufficient arrangements to meet any exigency arising out of the festivities on the day.

The tendency of shopkeepers to store and sell firecrackers at shops in thickly populated areas, instead of setting up stalls at places earmarked for the purpose, has only aggravated the problem.

The authorities have failed to initiate action against them, as a majority of them have set up godowns outside the town. Though the civil administration has earmarked specific areas for the sale of crackers, none of the shopkeepers has applied for permission to set up shops there.

While the municipal council authorities are busy arranging tankers to stock up water in case of an accidental fire, the health authorities are updating their equipment for the same. Duty magistrate Bhupinder Singh said he had directed the officials of the municipal council and the market committee to update the available equipment for emergency use. “As there is no fire brigade at our disposal, we have directed the staff in the municipal council and the market committee to top up water tanks and keep them on standby. We have also requested the management of a paper mill to lend their fire brigade in case of an emergency,” Bhupinder Singh added.

Dr Rajesh Garg, head of the eye department at the local Civil Hospital, said arrangements had been made to handle cases of eye injuries. Stocks of lotions, medicated fluids and medicines had been purchased, he claimed.

Malerkotla SDM Sonali Giri has banned the storage and sale of firecrackers and explosive materials in thickly populated, commercial and residential areas of Malerkotla and Amargarh, besides here.



Is community celebration the answer?
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
Crores of rupees are spent on fireworks each Diwali, as celebrating the festival without crackers is deemed uninteresting by most of residents.

The government, which otherwise advises against the use of fireworks every year, made full use of fireworks at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games.

Many city residents feel the best way to reduce pollution and add fun to the festival is to engage in community celebrations, rather than celebrating individually.

“The scenes of celebrations at the turn of the New Year or big events have become synonymous with the images of amazing fireworks and gatherings of people celebrating together at Sydney Harbour Bridge, Eiffel Tower or Times Square,” says Sarabjit Singh, a businessman who celebrated the New Year at Sydney last year. “However, we celebrate our festival of lights at a massive scale and burn fireworks worth crores individually,” he adds.

“The Supreme Court, the government and the administration have been requesting and directing people not to burn crackers, but it makes little difference,” says Rahul Aggarwal, a resident of Dugri.

“The truth is that Diwali without crackers is tepid and uninteresting,” he adds. “If we can celebrate Dasehra and Holi collectively, why not Diwali?” he adds.

“Wouldn’t it be much better if we celebrate Diwali together, contribute money for amazing fireworks and see them light up the sky together. We will end up spending less on fireworks and help cut down on pollution,” he quips.



Gang of vehicle thieves busted, three held
Mohit Khanna
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 24
The city police claims to have busted the notorious Rajan gang, which was behind series of vehicle thefts that took place recently.

The three accused, including the gang leader Rajan, Sukhwinder Singh and Gurmeet Singh, were nabbed from the Jodhewal Basti Chowk.

However, two of their accomplices, Prince Verma and Shammi Kumar, managed to give the police a slip.

The police has recovered two multi-utility vehicles (MUVs), five cars, three motorcycles and a scooter from their possession. According to Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Ashish Chaudhry, all accused were working as drivers of private taxi operators and knew how to break the locks of vehicles.

All are middle-aged and belong to the lower middle-class families.

The gang members have no criminal past and they were active for the past three months.

Easy money drove them to the world of crime.

They used to sell stolen vehicles in Patiala and other parts of the state.

“The gang had stolen a few vehicles from Gobindgarh Mandi,” said SHO Jatinder Singh. 



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