Sunday, August 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Govt, PSEB differ on power tariff
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 10
The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) has received “comments” of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) on the “objections” raised by the government on its tariff petition for determination of annual revenue requirement and fixation of tariff for 2002-03.

In the objections, the government has contested the board claims and calculations on several issues. It has suggested slashing of the aggregate annual revenue requirement from Rs 7857.78 crore to Rs 5981.20 crore.

The government has told the Commission that due to its own “precarious” financial situation, it can commit to the board a budgetary support of only Rs 250 crore—Rs 100 crore as subsidy and Rs 150 crore as retention of electricity duty. It will also like the PSEB to emerge as a “self-sustaining and commercially viable entity” with minimal support from it and take corrective steps to improve its efficiency by reducing its establishment cost and transmission/distribution losses.

The government, as the “owner” of the PSEB, recognises the need for adequate recovery of the cost of supply. But it is against board’s “inefficiencies” being passed on to consumers. It has also described board’s operations as “monopolistic” leaving consumers with no choice for another source of power. It, therefore, has cautioned the Commission to be careful in evaluating the tariff increase requirement of the board.

The government and the PSEB differ on several issues including tariff on power supply to agriculture sector. The board has suggested Rs 2 per unit. Commenting on this the government has suggested that the Commission keep in view four points: 1. Methodology of assessing projected agriculture consumption and its accuracy 2. Erratic power supply 3. Quality of power supplied and 4. Time of supply.

Or take the cost of fuel. While the PSEB petition seeks Rs 1988.98 crore, the government has pegged it at Rs 1957.16 crore. Likewise, the cost of power purchased calculated by the Board is Rs 1556.16 crore and by the government Rs 910.13 crore. On establishment charges, government comments have irked engineers. Against the PSEB’s demand for Rs 1316.5 crore, the government has recommended Rs 1123.83 crore. There are several other “grey” areas of disagreement between the two.

Even as the claims and objections are analysed, a Commission Member, condition of anonymity, told TNS that the report would be available by the end of August. Since it will be the first report, endeavour is to protect the interests of the consumers, government and the PSEB.

The Commission’s recommendations are binding on the government and board and can be contested only in the High Court. “If the government desires to effect changes by way of concessions/ subsidies to any segment of consumers, it will have to compensate the board to that extent”, he added.

The PSEB Chairman, Mr Sudhir Mittal, told TNS that a clause-wise reply to the government “objections” on tariff petition has been filed by the Chief Engineer, Commercial. The Board was in no way responsible either for the “precarious” financial condition of the government or being “monopolistic”. It is rather the failure of the government, which has given subsidies/concessions to various consumers from time-to- time without ever caring to compensate the board. “The PSEB is doomed and may even shut down due to financial crunch. We are fully justified in calculating our annual revenue requirements on the “cost-plus principles”.

The failure of monsoon has further precipitated the situation. Mr Mittal said: “The low water level in three dams has affected power generation. Fast depleting water table has put greater strain on the power. The board is giving power to a non-paying sector at the cost of a paying constituency. Regulatory measures have been taken to save paddy. Almost 150 lakh units to 175 lakh units of power are daily diverted to agriculture sector. Around 1,000 million units, with an estimated revenue loss of Rs 350 crore, will continue to be diverted to agriculture sector in 2002-03. The shortfall in hydro-generation is being met from other sources, which has put an additional burden of Rs 470 crore. The total burden will be Rs 820 crore in 2002-03”.

Mr Mittal listed several in-house improvements effected in the recent past to jack up board’s efficiency, cut down on establishment costs as also transmission/distribution losses.

The government offices, 150-odd, all over the state owe Rs 35 crore. Now the supply is being cut to effect recoveries. The board does not have money even for routine repair/maintenance or purchase of spares. The government should pay all outstanding subsidies and also clear its outstanding dues to the board, he added.


PSEB opposes cut in power purchase
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 10
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has submitted a representation to the State Power Regulatory Commission objecting to any cut in the power purchase proposed to be done by the board during this financial year on the recommendations of the state government even as sources disclosed that the government had given a loan of Rs 100 crore to the board.

The Punjab Government has filed an objection before the board, claiming that the power purchase projected by the commission at Rs 1560 crore was on the higher side and that power purchase worth Rs 700 crore should not be allowed.

The board management has argued that due to reduction in power from hydro projects and the increased demand due to the failure of the monsoons, the board would have to purchase an additional 1,800 units of power worth Rs 500 crore if calculated at the rate of Rs 2.70 paise per unit.

Besides this, the board was expected to lose revenue worth Rs 173 crore because it was supplying power free of cost to the farming sector. The PSEB also had a standing liability of Rs 795 crore on account of unpaid bills of power purchase, coal and freight charges.

The PSEB has claimed that it had not anticipated the additional liability due to the failure of the monsoons which had been projected to be more than normal.

Board sources said the recent two instalments of Rs 40 crore and Rs 60 crore given by the government to the board were also discussed. The government had committed to the regulatory commission that it would give Rs 260 crore to the board but had not specified under what it would be given.

The sources said the government had indicated that it would adjust the remaining Rs 160 crore it proposed to give to the board during the current financial year against electricity duty due to it.


DC seeks restoration of power supply
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 10
To recover Rs 35 crore electricity dues from 150-odd government offices in all districts, the Punjab State Electricity Board has begun disconnecting power connections.

This has created a disquiet with field functionaries blaming the government for making inadequate budgetary allotment for payment of bills.

The PSEB is doubly unblessed. On the one hand, it is facing a financial crisis; on the other, various employees’ unions have given a call for a strike on August 13. To deal with the situation, PSEB officials have written to Deputy Commissioners seeking their help.

Interestingly, Deputy Commissioner (Kapurthala), Mr R. K. Verma, has reacted strongly to the disconnection of power to the offices of the Sub-Divisional Magistrates as also tehsils. He has reportedly written to the Engineer-in-Chief (Operations), Mr H. M. Jain, seeking immediate restoration of power to the offices of the SDMs and Tehsildars or not to expect any help on the day of the strike.

Inter alia, the letter says that in case immediate supply to the offices was not restored, ‘’I will not be in a position to render any assistance’’ on August 13 and the PSEB will be responsible for the consequences of their ‘’hasty, ill-advised and unwarranted’’ acts of discriminating supply of electricity to the offices of SDMs/Tehsildars.

Informed sources say that Mr Verma in his letter has described the assistance sought to deal with the strike, on the one hand, and cutting of power due to non-payment of bills, on the other as ‘’ironical’’.

He says it is ‘’unfortunate’’ that the PSEB has not recognised the gravity of the drought-like situation in the district. By cutting power supply work of monitoring and disbursing relief to farmers has been hampered.

Even the drought control rooms in the SDM and Tehsil offices are rendered non-operational.

As such, daily reports to the state-level committee can not be sent for which, the letter says, the PSEB will be responsible. Moreover, there is a setback to the preparations for August 15 celebrations with officials refusing to work without power in the offices.

Though these difficulties were brought to the notice of PSEB officials at the sub-division level yet the PSEB has gone ahead to disconnect power supply to the offices.


Official sabotages anti-drought drive
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 10
Even as the Punjab Government has been trying to bring relief to the drought-affected farmers, a senior government official has caused a major setback to its anti-drought measures by sabotaging its plan to desilt the canals and distributaries in the state.

Official sources said as the farmers were alleging that water in canals and distributaries had not been reaching at tail-ends and they had been finding it difficult to irrigate their fields, the Punjab Government decided to carry out desilting of all the irrigation channels by arranging money for the same by diverting the funds meant for implementing the Sampooran Gram Rojgar Yojna.

However, when the Punjab Government started to implement its decision, a senior bureaucrat made a reference to the Union Government regarding the use of money meant for the Sampooran ram Rojgar Yojna for desilting the canal. The Centre refused to agree with the decision of state government and hence stopped it from using the money of the yojna.

After a formal proposal in this connection was sent to the state-level committee on drought by a section of bureaucrats, it was approved immediately and letters were sent to the Deputy Commissioners yesterday for starting the work.

A meeting of officials of the Irrigation Department, the Rural Development department was held by Deputy Commissioners and others senior bureaucrats today to implement the decision taken by the committee of draught comprising the Punjab Agriculture Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, the Local Bodies Minister, Mr Jagjit Singh, the Revenue Minister, Mr Amarjit Singh Samra, and the Irrigation Minister, Mr Gurchet Bhuller.

At the meeting, the Irrigation Department officials and Block Development and Panchayat Officers were asked to arrange labour immediately so that work could be started from tomorrow morning. They were directed to carry out the desilting process.

When the officials who participated in the meeting rushed to their respective areas to arrange for labour, a message was flashed to them for not to proceed further as the decision for desilting the canals and distributaries had been dropped.

A senior official on the condition of anonymity said due to the confusion prevailing among the ruling politicians and a section of bureaucrats, the drought situation in the state would aggravate.


Drought: Punjab to seek more Central aid
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 10
The Punjab Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who has visited various drought-affected districts, said yesterday that she would ask the state Cooperation Department to stop the recovery of cooperative loans advanced to the farming community till the arrival of Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh from abroad.

Any decision regarding loans would be taken after discussing the issue with the Chief Minister. “The situation is very critical in the state”, she observed.

Mrs Bhattal, who talked to Union Agriculture Minster, Mr Ajit Singh, this morning, said that soon a high-level delegation from Punjab would visit Delhi to seek more financial help for the drought-affected areas.

As the Chief Minister was expected to return to Delhi by August 12, the delegation would meet the Union ministers concerned after his arrival. Punjab MPs would also be included in the delegation.

The main task of the delegation would be to ask the Union Government to amend the crop insurance scheme to make it relevant and practicable for implementation in the states like Punjab. Secondly, the delegation would urge the Union Government to amend the criteria laid down to declare any state drought-hit. Another important issue to be taken up was the problems faced by farmers in the border belt. Farmers owning land across the fence were not being allowed to work in their fields by the defence forces in border districts. Such farmers should be given compensation.

Meanwhile, the state drought assessment committee, which met here this afternoon, said compensation to the affected farmers from the Calamity Relief Fund would be distributed at the time of conducting a “special girdawari” in the drought-hit areas from August 10. The PSEB had been directed not to cut power connections of the water works meant for providing drinking supply to rural and urban areas.


Oppn parties close ranks on drought
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 10
As all major opposition parties in Punjab closed ranks on the drought issue today, the ruling Congress was likely to be isolated on this issue. At the moment, the drought has devastated almost the entire state.

It is a very significant development that Left parties, which have major ideological and political differences with SAD and the BJP, have joined hands at least on drought. In the days to come, even these parties can have a joint strategy on other certain issues that are common in nature and affect Punjab as a whole.

Except to ruling party, which was duly invited, all other major political parties attended today’s meetings that was held at the initiative taken by Dr Joginder Dayal, Secretary of the Punjab unit of the CPI. “ I had personally requested the President of the PPCC(I), Mr H.S. Hanspal, to attend or send his representative at today’s meeting”, said Dr Dayal.

The opposition parties at the meeting gave a week’s time to the ruling Congress to take proper initiative by calling an all party meeting to project the state’s drought scenario at the national level. In case of failure, the opposition parties will themselves take a delegation to meet the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Union Agriculture Minister to apprise them about the prevailing critical situation due to drought in the state.

“It would be better if the Chief Minister leads an all party delegation to Delhi after his return from abroad and if he does not take any step in this connection, then it would be left to the opposition parties to highlight the plight of drought-hit people of the state before the Union Government”, said Dr Dayal.

He said that the ruling party should immediately call the special session of the Punjab Assembly to discuss the drought scenario in the state. “ So far the government has miserably failed to prepare and present state’s drought case to the Union Government. While other states have got huge package of financial aid from the calamity fund, Punjab has got only Rs 101 crore”, Dr Dayal said.

By passing 10 resolutions, the opposition parties demanded that the Centre should release a grant of Rs 2000 crore for the state without any further delay, at least 15 per cent increase in the minimum support price of various kharif crops, waive all loans advanced to agriculture sector and interest on other loans, do away with the excise duty and Sales Tax on inputs meant for agriculture sector and maximum grant for research to PAU to develop crops requiring less water and reduce police budget.

For the distribution of relief to farmers from the calamity fund, an all-party supervisory committee at the state level and each district headquarter should be set up. It was felt that the Union Government had discriminated with Punjab on allocating funds from the calamity fund. Various leaders said that even Punjab’s political representatives in Delhi such as Members of Parliament and even ministers in the NDA government had failed to get anything substantial for Punjab from the Centre vis-a-vis drought.

Among the leaders who attended the meeting were Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder (SAD), Mr Harjit Singh Grewal( BJP), Mr N.S. Bitta (Forward Bloc), Prof Balwant Singh (CPM), Mr Hardev Arshi (CPI) Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia (Lok Bhalai Party), Mr Rattan Singh Baghi (Janta Dal-Secular), and Mr Rati Ram( RPI-A). Dr Dayal said that Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra, general secretary of the Sarab Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD), had conveyed to him that his party would be in full agreement with the decisions taken at the meeting. Mr Chandumajra was unable to attend the meeting.


Anti-drought measures inadequate: Tohra
Tribune News Service

Nabha, August 10
Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal President Gurcharan Singh Tohra today expressed his unhappiness over the lack of any concrete steps to tackle the drought conditions prevalent in the state.

Addressing a ‘’shaheedi ‘’ conference at Dhadogal near here, Mr Tohra said the government’s steps to tackle the drought situation were inadequate and far short of the expectations of the farmers of the state.


Badal to file petition in HC
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 10
Following the arrest of a number of former Akali ministers and workers, the SAD has decided to take legal recourse to seek the prosecution of “tainted” former ministers and senior Congress leaders, indicted by the then Lok Pal.

Talking to mediapersons here today, SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal today said the SAD would file a writ petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking the registration of cases against Mr Bal Mukand Sharma, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, Mr Lakhmir Singh Randhawa, all former ministers and Mr Lal Singh, Finance Minister, as had been recommended by the then Lok Pal. “Since they (the Congress government) has not taken any step in this direction and has even elevated one of them as a minister, we have no option but to seek legal remedy,” said Mr Badal, adding that his party MLA had already written to the Chief Minister and the Lok Pal in this regard. “We have received no reply as to what action has been taken against former tainted ministers so far,” said Mr Badal. He was accompanied by former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur, his former media advisor Harcharan Bains and Dr Daljit Singh Cheema.

He alleged that his party men were being “harassed” without any reason. “They are not even being told what was their fault. They are being subjected to third-degree torture. The Congress government has failed to fulfil its promise of setting up a judicial commission to probe allegations against any Akali leader,” said Mr Badal. Mr Badal asked why the Chief Minister had not ordered any probe against allegations made against his two Cabinet colleagues — Dr Harbans Lal and Dr Ramesh Dutt — for submitting testimonials with “wrong date of birth”.

UNI adds: Mr Badal, who was here to meet his senior party colleague and former minister Ajit Singh Kohar, condemned the manner in which Mr Kohar was arrested by the local branch of the Vigilance Bureau. “The Vigilance Bureau seems to be the complainant as well as investigating authority,” he said while pointing out that at the time of Mr Kohar’s arrest, no case was registered against him.

Certain procedures had to be followed by the Vigilance Bureau before arresting anyone, but the Congress government had thrown all such procedures to the winds, he alleged. “So-called confessional statements are being fed to the media by the Congress government with the motive to damage the Akali leaders politically,” he said while referring to the confessional statement of Mr Sucha Singh Langah who is currently under detention on corruption charges.

Mr Badal alleged that third degree methods were being used by the Vigilance Bureau officials on the arrested SAD leaders. Such vendetta against politicians was unheard of in a democracy, he said.

Pointing out the success of yesterday’s protest dharnas, the SAD leader said the next action programme of his party would be decided at the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) meeting of the party. This meeting would be held after the anniversary of death of the late Akali leader Harchand Singh Longowal to be observed on August 20 at Longowal village, he added.

On the drought situation, Mr Badal said it was rather strange that while the people of the state were suffering, the Chief Minister was busy holidaying abroad. The Punjab Government had not even put up its case(drought situation) before the Centre, he said, adding that financial aid should be given to the farmers and labourers from the state exchequer.


Registration of fake power of attorneys alleged
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, August 10
After the fake power of attorney racket detected in Dudhan Sadhan area of the Patiala district, a similar racket in the Ropar district has surfaced. Investigations by The Tribune reveal that in December 2001 as many as 226 power of attorneys of Haryana were registered in the Nangal subtehsil of the district.

The power of attorneys were registered in a large number by the naib-tehsildar posted here at that time.

As many as 35 such power of attorneys were registered on December 6, 2001, 26 on December 10, 2001, 52 on December 12 2001, 57 on December 13, 2001 and 56 on December 20, 2001. The power of attorneys mostly related to the sale of land in Haryana by residents of Karnal, Panipat and Ambala districts of the state. Most of these power of attorneys have been drafted by Manvinder Singh, an advocate from Haryana and endorsed by the same witness Harbhajan Singh, a nambardar from Malikpur. It is Manvinder Singh, an advocate from Dera Bassi, was also the main signatory to the alleged fake power of attorneys detected in Dudhan Sadhan recently.

Sources here said that most of the fake power of attorneys were registered at Nangal when Harbans Lal was Naib-Tehsildar, who was shifted here from Sangrur. The officer allegedly was involved in the racket of making fake power of attorneys at Sangrur and his contacts started approaching him here. He registered maximum number of power of attorneys involving land transactions in Haryana without caring for norms.

Most of the witnesses in the doubtful cases of power of attorneys except for the single nambardar and the said advocate were from Karnal, Panipat and Ambala districts of Haryana. Addresses of the lambardar and other witnesses have not been mentioned most of the doubtful power of attorneys. Despite all this the officer concerned went ahead to register all power of attorneys without verifying facts.

The Deputy Commissioner, Ropar, Ms Seema Jain, when asked about the registration of power of attorneys of Haryana in Nangal said that she would get the matter investigated. A similar racket had also come to the fore in Majri block of the district after which the District Revenue Officer has been asked to get all the suspicious power of attorneys verified.

All officers concerned in the district have been instructed against registering power of attorneys where the money transaction was involved. The power of attroney could be registered only in the cases of NRIs or after the submission of a proof that the owners of land were keeping in bad health. Due to the increasing trend of using the power of attorney for land sale the state was losing revenue, she said.

However, some of the tehsildars, on the condition of anonymity, alleged that legally they were bound to register the power of attorneys if the witness identified the people involved to their satisfaction.

Instructions against the registration of power of attorneys were conveyed to them orally only at a meeting and not in writing. Due to this if the aggrieved parties moved courts they generally are held responsible personally for not registering the power of attorneys.


Two-day police remand for Kohar
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, August 10
A former Punjab minister and president of the district unit of the Akali Dal, Mr Ajit Singh Kohar, was today remanded in two days’ police custody by the Duty Magistrate, Mr D.K. Mittal, here in a case pertaining to amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income and the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Remanding him into police custody till August 12, Mr Mittal ordered Vigilance sleuths to produce the accused before the court at 1.30 pm on Monday. The Magistrate also issued warrants, as requested by the Vigilance Bureau, for searching former minister’s residence at Kohar village in Nakodar.

Earlier, Mr Kohar was produced in the court at Judicial Complex here at about 1 pm under tight security arrangements. Hundreds of supporters of Mr Kohar were shouting slogans against the Congress government at the entry of the complex.

Vigilance Bureau officials along with Mr Kohar entered the court room from the back door. Talking to reporters outside the courtroom, Mr Kohar alleged that his political opponents, including the Congress leader, Mr Brij Bhupinder Singh Lalli, and a relative of former Rajasthan Governor, Mr Darbara Singh, had hatched a conspiracy to defame him.

Affecting his arrest two days before the hearing of a case in the Punjab and Haryana Court, challenging his election as an MLA from the Lohian constituency, was a clear indication that the government was trying to prevent him from presenting his case in the High Court.


‘Sarna kin, Sajjan Kumar’s son pals’
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 10
Bhai Ranjit Singh, a former Akal Takht Jathedar and Mr Paramjit Singh Sarna, president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) traded charges.

The former Akal Takht Jathedar handed over cellular phone bills of Mr Anil Kumar (son of Mr Sajjan Kumar, allegedly involved in anti-Sikh riots of November 1984) and Mr Harwinder Singh Sarna (brother of Mr Paramjit Singh Sarna, president, DSGMC) as proof of their alleged links. However, Mr Harwinder Singh Sarna, general secretary, the Delhi Akali Dal, alleged that Bhai Ranjit Singh held secret meetings with Mr Mohinder Singh Saathi, a Senior Congress leader and Finance Minister, Delhi state government in the recently held DSGMC elections. Mr Sarna also accused Bhai Ranjit Singh of campaigning in favour of Mr Manmohan Singh Sachdeva, a SAD candidate (Badal) and confidant of Mr Sajjan Kumar, a former Congress Minister. He alleged that Bhai Ranjit Singh had arrived at a ‘deal’ with Mr Sachdeva during the elections, this was why, Bhai Ranjit Singh directed six DSGMC members loyal to him to get their votes declared invalid to ensure the cooption of Mr Sachdeva, who was defeated by his elder brother (Mr Paramjit Singh Sarna). Mr Sarna claimed that he had arranged photographs of Bhai Ranjit Singh while campaigning in favour of Mr Sachdeva.

However, Bhai Ranjit Singh refuted all allegations of Mr Harwinder Singh Sarna. He said he was ready to face any punishment if Mr Sarna could prove that he had ever campaigned for him (Mr Sachdeva). He, however, admitted that he had attended a meeting at the house of one of his supporters where he had asked them to vote against Mr Sarna, who had turned a ‘traitor’. He said he was not sure whether Mr Sachdeva too attended that meeting.

Giving a list of the cellular phone bills of Mr Anil Kumar (son of Mr Sajjan Kumar) and Mr Sarna, Bhai Ranjit Singh said it was proof enough that the Sarna family had strong ties with the persons who had direct links with those involved in the Delhi riots.

Bhai Ranjit Singh said that he did not attach any importance to the statement of Mr Sarna recognising Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti as Akal Takht Jathedar on ‘technical grounds’. Mr Sarna had stated that his party had to give recognition to Jathedar Vedanti since the Sikh high priests attend the meetings of the DSGMC. Bhai Ranjit Singh said Mr Sarna had adopted double standards on this issue as when the then Jathedar of Akal Takht Giani Puran Singh had postponed the meeting of the DSGMC, he (Bhai Ranjit Singh) directed the continuation of the meeting in his capacity as ‘real Jathedar’ and ensured his (Mr Sarna’s victory) as DSGMC chief about three years ago. He said he would continue to claim to be real Jathedar of Akal Takht and did not bother about the statements of Mr Sarna and his supporters.

He alleged that Mr Sarna and Mr Hit were responsible for having failed to maintain the prime land of 22 acres near Apollo hospital. He said due to negligence, shown by successive presidents the land of ‘Guru ghar’ stood encroached on by the land mafia. He said while the late Jathedar Santokh Singh was instrumental in the creation of huge assets by his connections with high-ups, his successors were guilty of destroying the same.


U-turn by Mann on Jathedar issue
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, August 10
Virtually taking a U-turn, the president of the SAD (Amritsar) and MP, Mr Simranjeet Singh Mann, today said his party recognised Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti as Jathedar of Akal Takht on technical grounds.

Mr Mann had always opposed the selection of the Jathedar and had demanded that Bhai Ranjit Singh should be reinstated to the post removing Giani Vedanti.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr Mann admitted that Giani Vedanti was the Jathedar of Akal Takht on technical grounds, even as he refused to comment on the reinstating of Bhai Ranjit Singh.

Even as Mr Mann appreciated strict action by the government against former Akali ministers and leaders for their alleged involvement in corruption cases, he strongly condemned the way they were being tortured in the police custody.


BSP to contest Nagar Council poll alone
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, August 10
The Punjab unit of the BSP will alone contest the September 8 Nagar Council elections here and in Muktsar and Nagar Panchayat elections in Ajnala and Rayya. This was stated yesterday by Mr Satish Bharti, state secretary-cum-in charge of the party affairs in Punjab. The BJP would keep equi-distance from both the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine, he added.

The party high command was considering the issue of using the party symbol in the council elections for its candidates, Mr Bharati said and added that five lakh new members would be enrolled in Punjab to strengthen the party.


Noormahalias, a ‘social body’ 
Letter sent to Vedanti
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 10
The Noormahalia-based Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan, headed by Baba Ashutosh, also known as “Noormahalia Baba” has clarified that the “sansthan” was a socially-oriented organisation and not a separate sect or a separate religious body.

In a letter to Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti and Jathedars of other Takhts, Mr Surinder Kumar, the Secretary of the organisation, said the objective of the organisation was to “create awareness in society and exhort people to follow the path shown by the Gurus and religious books and follow the principle of ‘Ek Pita, Ekas Ke Hum Barik’.” “We honour all religions and we are not a separate sect or religious organisation,” said the letter, written in Punjabi. It is interesting the letter concludes with “Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa, Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh.”

The organisation has sent its books and cassettes also to the Akal Takht Jathedar through speed post, requesting him to study the material, in which the organisation was ready to make any change or delete anything the Jathedar found “Objectionable” in books either or the cassettes. “We have urged the Jathedar to make a committee, intellectuals, to study the material. We fully support of any ideology which binds humanity and which strengthens human relationships,” said Mr Surinder Kumar adding that the organisation was making allout efforts to remove vices like use of drugs from the society. “We cannot think of saying anything objectionable about Sri Guru Granth Sahib even in our wildest of dreams,” said the letter, copies of which have also been sent to SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar, SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal, SHSAD chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi and Mr Simranjit Singh Mann.

The organisation has also denied that it had been forcing conversions or was distorting “Gurbani” or not honouring the Sikh traditions.


Disciple denies charge
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, August 10
Even as the parents of Amarpreet, a preacher of Noormahal-based Divya Jyoti Sansthan, levelled serious allegations against Ashutosh, head of the Noormahlia sect, Amarpreet yesterday came out in his support and termed allegations against him a conspiracy hatched by certain unscrupulous elements to defame the sansthan.

Addressing a press conference here, Amarpreet, alleged that her father was a drunkard, who was playing in the hands of certain unscrupulous elements, presently instrumental in defaming the Noormahlia sect. “I dedicated myself to the sansthan five years ago for helping the humanity by way of preaching spiritualism. I am deeply impressed by the way Ashutosh Maharaj initiated a de-addiction campaign in the state. I have been residing at the sansthan of my own will and there is no pressure from the sansthan authorities,” said Amarpreet adding that the allegations had hurt religious sentiments.

Reacting to media reports with regard to the allegations levelled by her parents that Ashutosh Maharaj had allegedly influenced their daughter to join the sansthan as a preacher and had detained her at the Noormahal-based dera, Amarpreet said her parents were giving wrong information. She said she was happy to serve humanity through the sansthan. “This is a mischievous campaign against Ashutosh Maharaj. I will continue as a preacher till the last breath of my life,” she asserted.


Expel Ashutosh from Punjab: KMC
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, August 10
The Khalra Mission Committee, the Khalsa Panchayat and several other radical organisations have demanded the government ban the activities of Ashutash, head of the Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan, Noormehal or the Sikh organisations under Sri Akal Takhat’s guidance oust Ashutosh from Punjab.

A meeting here today under the aegis of the Khalra Mission Committee honoured the Sikhs who opposed the congregations of the sansthan and faced police lathi charge. Mr Balwinder Singh Chabal of the KMC, Mr Rajinder Singh (Khalsa Panchayat), Bibi Paramjit Kaur Khalra, Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, Mr Jaswinder Singh advocate (both SGPC members), Mr Prem Singh Lalpura former MLA and SHSAD, leader and Mr Harminder Singh Gill AISSF (Gill) president addressed the meeting.

The meeting demanded suspension of the SSP responsible for the firing incident at Malout and withdrawal of cases registered against the Sikhs at Malout. The organisations also demanded that Jathedar Sri Akal Takht get probed the links of Mr Parkash Singh Badal former Punjab Chief Minister, with Ashutosh and a ban on the Sikhs linked with Ashutosh sansthan.

The Sikhs, who opposed Ashutosh sect were honoured by Mr Jaswinder Singh advocate a pro Badal SGPC member. Mr Rajinder Singh chief of the Khalsa Panchayat set up a unit of the panchayat here. Master Hardial Singh, Mr Sardara Singh Gill, Mr Prithipal Singh activists of the Divya Jyoti Jagriti Sansthan denied using alleged derogatory remarks against any religion or the holy Sri Guru Granth Sahib. They clarified that the organisation preached for universal brotherhood and work for a drug-free society. They urged the Sikh high priests to hear the Sansthan’s version so that facts came before the society.


Cholera case reported in Patiala
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 10
A cholera case has been reported in the city which can spread further as two more patients admitted to Government Rajindra Hospital are suspected to be suffering from cholera.

The Civil Surgeon, Dr Inderjit Kaur Walia, said hospital authorities had informed her that Binni, an 11-year-old girl, was diagnosed to be suffering from cholera. Sources said two other patients — four-and-a-half-year-old Samaypreet and five-year-old Amrita — were also suspected to be suffering from cholera.

Meanwhile, the Civil Surgeons office has taken emergency measures by notifying the areas from where the patient hails and establishing a temporary dispensary there which is being manned by a doctor and a pharmacist in shifts. The Health authorities have also provided an ambulance.

Besides this, Dr Walia said a drive had been started to distribute chlorine tablets free of cost in Jauharian Bhattian, Tripri, few other colonies and slum areas where cases of cholera or even gastroenteritis have been reported. She said people were also being directed to boil drinking water before use.

She said as it was suspected that the patient had developed cholera because of contaminated drinking water, the corporation authorities had also been informed about this besides a report had been sent to senior authorities at Chandigarh.

Earlier, there had been a sharp increase in the number of gastro enteritis patients referred to Rajindra hospital. Sources said a patient had died of the disease and as many as 80 others had been referred to the hospital of which many were still admitted there.

Sources said the diseases had gripped the city due to mixing of drinking and sewerage water. They said in many areas of the old city, drinking water pipes were laid in the drains constructed outside the houses. They said due to rusting and other factors sewerage water could enter the pipes, contaminating it and exposing people to gastroenteritis and other diseases. City Mayor Vishnu Sharma has taken note of the situation and requested people to remove drinking water pipes from the drains within 24 hours.

The Mayor has also ordered that a cleanliness drive should be undertaken in all areas where cases of gastroenteritis have been reported and corporation staff has been instructed accordingly. Sale of cut fruits and vegetables has been banned and Health Department staff is enforcing the ban on daily basis.

Meanwhile, the Civil Surgeon’s office said water samples had been taken from Dhakka Colony, Bindra Colony, Gandhi Nagar, Lahori Gate and slum areas in the city and sent to Chandigarh for examination. It said earlier also 34 water samples collected from various areas had been sent for checking to Chandigarh.


NGOs urged to encourage self-employment
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 10
The Mayor, Mr Vishnu Sharma, today appealed to non-government organisations (NGOs) to encourage people to set up Self Help Groups instead of depending on middlemen.

Speaking at an Entrepreneur Development Programme organised by the Industrial Services International here, Mr Sharma said particular attention could be paid to helping women in marketing non-farm products. He assured all help to the society in this regard.

Giving details of the society, its Executive Director, Mr I. S. Waraich, said it had conducted five EDPs during the course of which 128 persons had been given training for setting up their own ventures. He said the society had also created job opportunities for more than hundred persons. He said the society was also running a free tailoring and embroidery centre at Sirhind Road in the city for the benefit of women from the economically weaker section of the society.

Mr Waraich stated that the society was proposing to undertake four more EDP programmes in food processing, fashion designing, handicrafts and allied fields. Prof Gurdev Singh, additional director, SOSVA, also spoke on the occasion. Certificates were awarded to 78 successful participants.


Trees axed on vanamahotsav day
Chander Parkash and Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 10
Even as the Punjab Forest Minister, Mr Harbans Lal, planted a sapling near the local Forest office to mark the 53rd vanamahotsav this evening, more than a dozen trees were axed by the Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant (GNDTP) authorities in the plant’s residential colony yesterday.

Interestingly, the trees axed stood right across the road from the point where the Minister planted the sapling before inaugurating the Van Chetna Kendra set up by the State Forest Department to motivate people to preserve wildlife and forests.

Though the GNDTP authorities claimed that trees were cut with the prior permission and recommendation of the Forest Department as they had dried up, information gathered by TNS revealed that some trees axed today had started growing again.

Mr V.K. Mittal, Additional Superintending Engineer, PSEB, who looks after the maintenance of the residential colony of the GNDTP, when contacted, said that about one and a half months ago, the local Forest Department was requested to make a survey of trees that had dried up and give permission for cutting them.

The department recommended the cutting of about 600 dried trees on the condition that GNDTP authorities planted 2.5 times more saplings on the same premises. Following this recommendation, all dried up trees were auctioned after the reserve price of same was determined by the Forest Department. He added that it was coincidence that the contractor to whom the trees were auctioned, cut some of them today.

He pointed out that about 1,000 saplings had been planted so far while 1,000 more saplings would be planted during this monsoon season. He added that some trees which were cut today had started growing again and the Forest Department was also informed about the same before they were axed. He said that some of the trees had become hollow while the others were on the verge of falling on power transmission lines.

Mr S.C. Mahajan, Chief Engineer, GNDTP, said that trees had been axed after following the proper procedure and fulfilling all formalities.


Rights denial can be probed in habeas plea
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 10
The Punjab and Haryana High Court, in a significant judgement, has ruled that court may look into a violation of the right to life and liberty in a habeas corpus petition.

In a ruling, Mr Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel of the High Court has held: “Normally in a habeas corpus petition, the court is concerned with the legality of detention and once the alleged detainee is no longer in custody, the court does not proceed further with the matter. However, in an appropriate case, where there is violation of the right to life and liberty, patently shown to have been committed from the record, the court may go into the legality of the violation”.

Delivering the verdict on a petition filed by Ludhiana businessman Jagjit Singh seeking directions for the production of sales manager Pankesh Verma, Mr Justice Goel also directed Ludhiana’s Senior Superintendent of Police to look into the matter and take an appropriate decision within a month.

In his detailed order, Mr Justice , Goel observed: “The court appointed a warrant officer who visited division No 7 police station in Ludhiana and found Pankesh Kumar sitting outside the MHC room. No case was registered against him and his version to the warrant officer was that he was picked up by unidentified police officers, while the version of the police station in charge was that Pankesh Kumar had come to the station just before the arrival of the warrant officer and was not brought by the police. Let the SSP look into the matter….”

In his petition, Mr Jagjit Singh, running a garment factory, had alleged that the manager was picked up at about 4 am from the factory premises on July 17. His counsel had added that there was a property dispute between the petitioner and his brothers. Taking up the petition, the court had appointed Mr Gulshan Khaurana as the warrant officer.

FIR quashed in ‘trespass’ case

Strange but true. An Amritsar district resident was booked for trespassing in her own property after police authorities “misused the process of criminal law”. Taking a serious view of the matter, Mr Justice Viney Mittal of the High Court has quashed the first information report registered against Paramjit Kaur of Dhapal village.

Claiming to have been implicated, the petitioner had contended that several attempts had been made to grab her property in connivance with the police authorities, but the courts below had decided the matter in her favour.

Giving details, she had submitted that mutation dated December 28, 1979, entered in her name was initially changed, but the “matter was decided in her favour up to the level of Punjab’s Financial Commissioner”. Subsequently, a civil suit for permanent injunction was filed against her. This was not all. Another suit was filed by “some more persons” in connivance with the local police. However, a Sub Judge, posted at Amritsar, dismissed the suit after holding that she was the “real owner of the property in question”. An appeal filed against the orders too was dismissed by an Additional Sessions Judge.

After going through documents and hearing the arguments in the case, Mr Justice Mittal observed: “I am satisfied that as per the detailed orders by the revenue authorities and the orders in the civil suit, petitioner Paramjit Kaur is proven owner and in possession of the property in dispute. When she was held to be the owner, there was no question of committing any trespass by her under any circumstances. It is apparent that the recording of the FIR in question is a clear misuse of the process of criminal law and, therefore, no offence whatsoever is made out. In view of the facts and circumstances, I allow this petition and quash the FIR registered on March 9, 1997, at Islamabad police station in Amritsar”.


SGPC to reopen siropa-scam case
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 10
An executive meeting of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee was held here today. It accepted the demand of the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) to reopen the ‘siropa’ (robe of honour) scam. A sub-committee would be directed to submit a report on the scam involving purchase of the sub-standard cloth for ‘siropas’ at the earliest.

The demand was raised by Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, senior leader of the SHSAD, who had stated that the matter was serious and hence a thorough probe be done into the scam. He said the inquiry into the scam was wound up in his absence.

In a significant decision, the SGPC executive resolved to revive the Sikh Religious Advisory Board which would scrutinise religious matters received by Jathedar of Akal Takht. Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, who presided over the meeting, said he had received names of many Sikh scholars for this purpose. The SGPC would also revive the Sikh Itihas (history) Board at the earliest.

Mr Badungar said the SGPC was making efforts to finalise the rules for the appointments and removal of Sikh high priests.

The executive has also decided to submit a report on the proposed memorial being raised in memory of Operation Blue Star at its forthcoming meeting.

All executives were unanimous in imposing a blanket ban on the activities of mahant Ashutosh and sought his immediate arrest. Mr Badungar agreed that such religious sects had mushroomed in Punjab as the SGPC had failed to spread the message of Sikhism in the past 25 years.

He said the SGPC would bear medical expenses of the Sikh youth who received injuries during the Malout firing. Mr Badungar sought withdrawal of the cases registered against the youth.

On the proofs submitted by the Khalsa panchayat against Sikh high priests, Mr Badungar said he had submitted the same to the Jathedar of Akal Takht. He could not comment on the issue since the ball was in the court of the Jathedar, he added.

The SGPC expressed serious concern over the killing of Sukhpal Singh Sodhi in the USA a few days ago.


Punjab senior AAG dead
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 10
Additional Advocate-General Shamsher Singh Shergill (52) died of a massive heart attack this morning. Mr Shergill was appointed to the present post by the Congress Government soon after taking over in March this year. Chairman of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee’s legal cell, he was also associated with a number of social organisations also. His funeral possession will start on Sunday at about 11 am from his residence — House No 92 in Sector 16 here.

According to his family, Mr Shergill had “never complained to heart trouble” and was “perfectly fine” till about 8.30 a.m. just before the attack. He is survived by a wife, a daughter and a son.

High Court Judges, political leaders and members of the legal fraternity visited his residence to pay their last respects to the departed soul and to express shock and grief at his demise.


Jawan dies during PT drill
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, August 10
An Army personnel died of a cardiac arrest yesterday at the cantonment here during the PT drill.

As per reports, the jawan, was doing routine drill exercise at around 6 a.m. along with other jawans, when he felt uneasy. After sometime he collapsed. He was admitted to the Military Hospital where he was declared brought dead. The post-mortem examination was conducted at the local Civil Hospital.

The deceased identified as Manohar Ram Johar, was a native of Jodhpur in Rajasthan. The preliminary post-mortem report revealed that the cause of death was cardiac arrest which could be due to excessive exercise although the real cause of death would be revealed only after a thorough examination of the heart which has been sent to the Medical College, Faridkot.


Medical representative ‘beaten up, detained’
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 10
Members of the Punjab Medical Representative Association in an application to the Deputy Commissioner today demanded the registration of a criminal case against a senior police official and an official of a pharmaceutical company for the alleged beating and detention of a medical representative Mr Ripudaman Virk on the premises of a hospital being run by Dr Mohinder Singh yesterday.

Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner, has asked the SSP, Mr Ishwar Singh to hold an inquiry and submit the report within a week. Before lodging the complaint the association members held a demonstration in the city against the alleged police excesses today.

In the complaint Mr Virk and others alleged that he and his executive Mr D.V. Saini were waiting for their turn at the clinic of Dr Mohinder Singh when a senior police functionary, along with four of his associates in plain clothes and another person came there. When that person pointed towards Mr Virk the police official came towards him and caught hold of the collar of his shirt.

When Mr Virk asked the police official why he was misbehaving with him he was slapped, dragged and bundled into a Gypsy. All this happened in full public view.

He was released when Dr Mohinder Singh and certain other persons on hearing commotion, came out of the clinic.

The association has demanded action against the erring police officials.

Mr Verma said action would be taken as per the findings of the report. No senior police official could be contacted despite repeated efforts.


Parents await relief from PSEB
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 10
The parents of a seven-year-old Sanjay who was electrocuted in April last year, are awaiting compensation from the PSEB.

Mr Satya Pal Dang, CPI leader in a letter to the chairman of the PSEB, Mr Sudhir Mittal, said despite a number of reminders to the PSEB authorities and Chief Ministers his efforts had come to a naught. He said the death was due to gross negligence of certain PSEB officials for which the board was responsible. He asserted that Sanjay’s parents had every right to claim compensation.

He stated a few months ago Rs 75,000 was awarded to the bereaved family and they were ready to accept the amount. They were yet to receive that award.


Manhandling alleged
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, August 10
Member of the Dera Bassi Industrial Association alleged that some truckers had manhandled their president, Mr Kewal Garg.

The incident occured in front of the Deputy Superintendent of the Dera Bassi Police office at Mubarikpur village this afternoon when some members of the association and truckerss were coming out after solving their pending disputes.


Punjab rapped for poor fund utilisation
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 10
The Central Minister of State for Rural Development Mr M.K. Patil, today criticised the state government for its “poor and tardy” utilisation of Central funds for various rural development schemes.

Expressing shock over the non-implementation of waste-land development and food-for-work schemes had remained non-starters and hence the state had not spent even a single penny offered by the Centre under these projects.

The state government could spend only 58 per cent of funds allocated for the Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojna. The Union Government had allocated Rs 118 crore and the state’s contribution was Rs 56 crore, of which the state government had spent Rs 108 crore to date.

He said the Prime Minister had launched a dynamic rural development programme to connect 1.6 lakh villages through metalled roads and allocated Rs 50,000 crore plus Rs 10,000 crore for their maintenance. The Union Government wanted to complete this project by 2007 in three phases, he said.

The minister expressed anguish over the fact that there was no drinking water for 150 villages in Amritsar district for which the Centre had earmarked Rs 30 lakh this year. He urged the district administration to take up the supply of drinking water on war footing. He offered help for providing self-employment to rural women.


Punjab DGP favours commissionerate system
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, August 10
The Director-General of Police, Punjab Mr M.S. Bhullar, has said the police commissionerate system should be introduced in the state. He said this at the Punjab Police Academy here after participating in the valedictory function of the specialised training programme for Afghan police officers today.

When asked about the activities of the Kashmiri militant organisation, Lashker-e-Toiba(LeT), Mr Bhullar said two members of the militant organisation were arrested and two others were still at large. He claimed that some information had been received regarding the LeT and added that the Punjab police was working in co-ordination with the police of Haryana, Himachal, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and UP. A meeting of the police chiefs of Punjab, Himachal and Jammu and Kashmir was held at Talwara yesterday.

Replying to another question, the DGP said 24 companies of the Punjab police would be sent to Jammu and Kashmir during the Jammu and Kashmir elections.

Earlier, the DGP said the decision of the Afghanistan government to get their police officers trained in our country, was a welcome step and would strengthen cooperation between the two countries. Academy Director G.S. Aujla, Deputy Directors S.S. Chauhan and D.J. Singh also addressed the gathering.

Afghanistan Police Chief Colonel Besmillah appreciated the efforts of the academy regarding the training programme.


Misappropriation in paddy stocks
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, August 10
Mr Devinder Singh, SDM, has alleged that the negligence on the part of two government agencies in the district has caused a loss of crores to the Punjab Government on account of misappropriation of paddy by various rice millers in Faridkot and Kotkapura during 2001-2002.

A report submitted by him in this connection to the Deputy Commissioner recently said during verification of paddy stocks of about 28 millers last month, a committee of officials of different departments headed by him had detected that over 60,000 quintal of the produce, costing more than Rs 3 crore, was missing. No proper record regarding the stock had been maintained either by the millers or by the agencies. The report further charged officials of the agencies of failing to fix stag cards on the bags of paddy stored in rice shellers.

The report further said the officials, without obtaining approval of the authorities, had helped the millers to transfer stocks to other districts. The officials had also violated the quota norms laid down by the state government for the release of paddy for milling. The agency officials had failed to produce agreement documents signed between them and the millers regarding the storage of produce.

Mr A. Venu Prasad, Deputy Commissioner, admitted that the officials and the millers were responsible for misappropriation of paddy. He admitted that heavy losses had been caused and a report had been sent to the state government. He added that verification of wheat stocks was under way.


Rice stocks worth 1.5 cr missing
Tribune News Service

Mansa, August 10
Bags of rice worth Rs 1.5 crore were found missing on physical verification of wheat and paddy stocks belonging to different agencies carried out in godowns and rice mills located in the district by three Sub-Divisional Magistrates.

Official sources said the SDMs also found that some stocks of rice and wheat had become unfit for sale. The verification was carried out on the directions of the Director, Food and Supplies, Punjab. The sources added that about 17,507 quintals of rice was found missing at six rice mills in the district when their records were examined. The six mills were to deliver the above quantity of rice to different procurement agencies in lieu of the paddy given to them for milling last year. Mr Alok Shekhar, Deputy Commissioner said a report had been sent to the Director, Food and Supplies, in this regard.


Diamonds seized, 3 held
Our Correspondent

Ropar, August 10
The Sales Tax Department has seized diamonds worth crores which were allegedly being smuggled into the state.

Highly placed sources in the department said the diamonds were seized from three Mumbai-based brokers on August 7 on a specific tip-off. The brokers were coming in a taxi from Delhi which was intercepted near Shambu barrier in Fatehgarh. They did not register the diamonds at the barrier. A team of the Taxation Department officials, led by ETO Arashdeep Sandhu, searched the three accused. During the search, diamonds with a carat value of about 2,400 were seized from them. The sources said the value of diamonds could vary between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 2.5 crore.

The diamonds seized from the brokers were allegedly being taken to be sold in Ludhiana. The department officials also recovered a diary from the brokers which contained some details of the similar deals effected in Ludhiana earlier.

A case under Section 14 B of the Sales Tax Act has been registered against the accused by the department officials. Under the said Section, the department could charge a penalty equal to 50 per cent of the price of diamonds, from the accused.


Dacoits injure couple, take away car
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, August 10
Dacoits raided the residence of a local industrialist, Mr Teja Singh, at the local Sant Nagar mohalla last night. A gang of more than six armed dacoits attacked and injured 63-year-old Teja Singh and his wife Manjit Kaur and took away a Matiz car and other valuables worth lakhs of rupees. Having two 12-bore rifles, a pistol, iron rods and lathis, the dacoits ransacked the house before decamping with cash and jewellery in the house owners’ car.

Mr Teja Singh and his wife Manjit Kaur have been hospitalised.

However, the car was today found near Virkan village.

DSP Harmanbir Singh Gill reached the site along with police force. Kapurthala SSP R.N. Dhoke also visited the spot. A few persons have also been detained.


Rickshaw puller held for raping minors
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar August 10
The district police has arrested a rickshaw puller for allegedly raping two minor schoolgoing girls of migrant labourer, a resident of Shastri Nagar, here today.

According to the police, Rajinder Kumar of Basti Guzan locality was arrested from his residence this afternoon. The mother of the victim had lodged a complaint about the incident when her daughters aged eight and six years did not reach home after school last week. She tried to search for them in school and nearby localities, but all in vain. The school authorities maintained that the girls had left school by 1.30 pm.


Woman shot dead

Patiala, August 10
Laxman Singh of Karhali village shot dead his wife Palwinder Kaur and then injured himself with his .12 bore gun following a scuffle at the village late last night. The woman’s body has been sent for a postmortem. The police has registered a case against Laxman Singh, a Congress worker. The accused had recently married Palwinder Kaur in a court after she left her first husband from whom she had a child as well, the DSP said. UNI


ST will make curry bitter, say dhaba owners
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 10
Over 20,000 dhaba owners in the state have condemned the imposition of 8.8 per cent Sales Tax. The Punjab Dhaba Welfare Association, at a state-level convention here today, urged the Punjab Government to withdraw the tax.

President of the association Gurdeep Singh, told newsmen that raw material at the dhabas, flour, rice, vegetables, ghee, spices and milk etc, were heavily taxed already and an additional tax was unfair.

He alleged that although the government had not yet issued a proper notification regarding the imposition of tax, but the Sales Tax authorities had already started issuing notices and harassing the owners.


CITU to launch mass movement
Tribune News Service

Ropar, August 10
The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) will launch a nationwide mass movement against WTO policies of globalisation, privatisation and liberalisation in September to force the Union Government to give up its “anti-worker” policies which have led to the closure of 7 lakh factories in the country and large-scale unemployment.

Addressing a press conference here today, Prof Balwant Singh, president of the Punjab unit of the CITU and secretary of the Punjab CPM. further stated that in Punjab the policies of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation had led to the closure of 7,000 factories, rendering nearly 15 lakh labourers unemployed. He said industrial units in Amritsar, Ludhiana, Gobindgarh, Rajpura and other places had been closed by their owners due to the wrong policies of the Central Government.

Prof Balwant Singh said the Punjab unit of the CITU would hold rallies in the state in August, while its supporters would fill jails as part of the nationwide movement of the CITU in September.

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