P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



No objection to Bhattal as Deputy CM, says Captain
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 26
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said today that he had no objection to Agriculture Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal being appointed Deputy Chief Minister even as he said he was in touch with dissident legislators and that a breakthrough in the present crisis in the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) was expected very soon.

Talking to mediapersons after visiting the family of former Improvement Trust Chairman Manmohan Singh Bazaz who died last night following a prolonged illness, the Chief Minister said it was up to party President Sonia Gandhi to take a decision in the matter and that if the party president wanted to make Ms Bhattal Deputy Chief Minister, he could not have any objection to the move.

The Chief Minister said he did not know whether Ms Bhattal had been called to Delhi today with regard to resolving the crisis in the state CLP. He said he was not going to Delhi in the coming few days, adding that he was visiting Dasuya tomorrow and would be in Nawanshahr the next day. He said he had not even been called to Delhi by the high command.

When asked whether there was any hope to an early end of the crisis in the state CLP unit, he said he was in touch with dissident legislators and that even they were realising that there was a need to present a united front in case the party wanted to fight the forthcoming Lok Sabha poll effectively. 

Bhattal singing Badal’s tune, says Cong leader
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, December 26
Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira, a senior leader of the Punjab Congress and chairman of the Traffic Regulatory Authority, Punjab, said that Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Punjab Panchayat Minister was blackmailing the Congress high command to change Captain Amarinder Singh as Chief Minister of Punjab.

Mr Khaira termed the demand of Ms Bhattal unethical. He alleged that Mrs Bhattal was playing into the hands of Mr Parkash Singh Badal to destabilise the Congress government in Punjab. He urged the dissident Congress MLAs not to fall prey to the trap of Bhattal-Badal nexsus.


Pressure on Beant Singh’s family, say dissidents
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

CM orders probe

Upset over the turn of events, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has asked the Chief Secretary, Mr Gill, to conduct an enquiry into the whole incident and submit his report within three days.

“Anyone found guilty in the case will be sacked,” the Chief Minister said holding that he was upset over two things. Firstly, how an allegation can be made against a Cabinet Minister like this without even holding a preliminary enquiry and secondly how the complaint was referred to the Chandigarh Administration without the information or approval of either the Secretary or the Minister of the Department. “It was neither brought to my notice nor to the notice of the Secretary, who happens to be the Chief Secretary,” he added.

“Heads will roll. No one can be allowed to do such a stupid thing,” quipped the Chief Minister.

Anyone found guilty would be sacked as no one can take the liberty of accusing members of the Council of Ministers without any basis or substance, he added admitting that the complaint had been received by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau and it was referred to the Chandigarh police without any authorisation.

Chandigarh, December 26
Blaming the Chief Ministers’ coterie for using illegitimate means to win back dissidents, a nine-member delegation of the Punjab Congress Legislature Party (CLP) led by Transport Minister Tej Parkash Singh met the Governor of Punjab-cum-Administrator of Chandigarh, Justice Om Parkash Verma, to register their protest here this evening.

Alleging that a close family friend of the Transport Minister was being implicated in a false case by the Chandigarh police at the instance of the Punjab Vigilance Bureau, the delegation sought intervention of the Administrator in the matter maintaining that it was a clear case of “persecution with the ulterior motive of pressurizing the Beant Singh family to leave the dissidents’ group”.

The delegation besides Mr Tej Parkash Singh comprised Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Mr Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Mr Gurchet Singh Bhullar,Mr Jasjeet Singh Randhawa — all Cabinet Ministers; Mr Kathunangal, Mrs Gurkanwal Kaur, Mr Mohinder Kumar Rinwa and Mr Malkiat Singh Dakha — all MLAs.

The party high command in New Delhi, reports suggest, has not taken lightly to the developments and sought a report from the Chief Minister in the matter.

The Punjab officials have expressed their ignorance as to how the complaint made to the Punjab Vigilance Bureau reached the Chandigarh police which in its anxiety had sent its team to nab Mr Ashwani Kumar Mehta, son of Mr Hari Kumar Mehta, a confidant of Transport Minister Tej Parkash Singh, for accepting a bribe of Rs 5 lakh from the complainant, one Vinod Kumar of Basant Avenue, Amritsar, on the pretext of getting him a route permit.

The complainant had maintained that though he had made the payment upfront, he was neither given the route permit nor was his money returned.

Shocked by the allegations, the dissidents not only lodged a strong protest with the party high command over the manner in which the “coterie of the Chief Minister was out to use strong-arm tactics” against them but also decided to call on the Governor-cum-Administrator.

The police sources reveal that police parties had gone more than once to the Sector 36 residence of the Mehtas who were away to a social function with to grandson of late Chief Minister Beant Singh.

“This incident is a much bigger bombshell than the human bomb that took the life of Mr Beant Singh as Chief Minister of Punjab. The Beant Singh family is known for its patriotism, integrity and supreme sacrifices. If such a family can be humiliated and harassed at the instance of some officials in the Chief Ministers’ office, then the fate of a common man is not difficult to imagine,” said Mr Parminder Singh, General Secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, holding that such actions could destroy the state Congress.

Mr Parminder Singh demanded that all those responsible for this “episode” must be given exemplary punishment. “The Chief Minister is a good and well intentioned man. But his coterie is not only creating problems for him but also for the Punjab Congress and the Punjab Government. Changes in the Chief Ministers’ Secretariat notwithstanding, certain mischievous people are still active and creating more problems. The entire Congress fraternity is behind Beant Singh’s family in this case,” he added.

The dissidents maintain that the Chief Ministers’ camp had tried to win over Beant Singh’s family by offering Cabinet Minister status to Mrs Jaswant Kaur (widow of Mr Beant Singh), besides making other offers to Mr Tej Parkash Singh, Mrs Gurkanwal Kaur and Mr Gurkirat Singh. When these attempts failed, now the same advisers have resorted to strong-arm tactics.

Sources reveal that senior Congress leaders, including Dr Manmohan Singh, Mrs Mohsina Kidwai and Mr Ahmed Patel, have reportedly expressed their strong “displeasure” over the turn of events.


SAD ready for mid-term poll, says Sukhbir
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 26
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today announced it was ready for mid-term poll in Punjab in the event of a split in the ruling Congress. It made it clear that it would not support any breakaway group of the Congress.

“The SAD prefers elections as the Congress as well as the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, have lost the right to rule,” Mr Sukbir Singh Badal, Rajya Sabha member and General Secretary of the SAD, told at a Press conference here today. He said Capt Amarinder Singh was the “most incompetent” Chief Minister and held that Punjab would suffer as long as he remained at the helm of affairs.

“Capt Amarinder Singh himself does not attend office but directs his colleagues to do so. He has not even convened a Cabinet meeting on the pretext that there is no important work pending with the government,” Mr Sukhbir Badal alleged.

He said in the days to come, the SAD would expose the “blatant misuse” of power by Capt Amarinder Singh.

Mr Sukhbir Badal said the youth wing of the SAD would hold a state-level “anti-repression” rally at Ludhiana on February 16 to protest against Amarinder government’s campaign of “repression” against the people of Punjab and Akalis in particular.

The rally would be addressed, among others, by Mr Omar Abdullah, Mr Rudy Pratap Singh, Mr Abhay Chautala and Mr Udhav Thackery, he said. This would be preceded by a series of district-level rallies from January 15.

He said the Youth Akali Dal would set up its state office at the official residence of Mr Parkash Singh Badal allotted to him by the Punjab Government in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition. Asked if it was legally and politically proper to set up a party office in a government house, Mr Sukhbir Badal quipped.” We will shift it if we find it is illegal to do so.”


Daler’s office in Delhi searched by Patiala police
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 26
The Patiala police today took one of Daler’s troupe members, Bobby, who had come to deliver clothes to the pop singer into custody before it left with the pop singer to Delhi where it searched his office in Cannaught Place.

The police team also took Daler to the residence of his business associate Bul Bul Mehta who is also wanted in the human trafficking case registered against him and his brother besides others. Police sources said the team was also likely to search the offices of Big M Entertainers besides other places at Daler’s instance.

The police sources said the Patiala police team which was accompanying Daler to Delhi, may also take the pop star to Mumbai today evening if needed. The police had while seeking extension in remand of the pop star had claimed in a local court that Daler had in a statement said he would get his own passport besides other documents regarding visits of his team members recovered from his offices in Delhi and Mumbai. As the police remand has been given till December 28, the prosecution will have to seek extension in case Daler is not taken to Mumbai today.

Meanwhile Daler’s lawyer Brijinder Singh Sodhi while talking to TNS said today that he was not allowed to meet the pop star. He said according to the court’s order, he was allowed to meet Daler twice in a day during the course of his police remand. He said today that when he sought to exercise this right, the Patiala police told him that they were in Karnal and that he could not meet the pop star immediately. Mr Sodhi said he would submit a report in this regard to the court concerned.


Shaheedi Jor Mela ends
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 26
The three-day annual Shaheedi Jor Mela held in the memory of Guru Gobind Singh’s younger sons, Baba Zorawar Singh and Baba Fateh Singh who were bricked alive by Mughals for not embracing Islam, concluded here today with religious ceremonies.

To mark the concluding ceremony a nagar kirtan was taken out from Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sabib to Gurdwara Jyoti Swarup Sahib, where the sahibjadas were cremated. The nagar kirtan started after Giani Tirlochan Singh, Jathedar of Takht Keshgarh Sabib, performed “ardas”. The nagar kirtan was led by “Panj Piaras”

More than five lakh devotees accompanied the nagar kirtan and it covered 2 km in more than four hours.

The main attraction of the nagar kirtan was the skills of martial arts shown by different factions of Nihang Singhs and gatka parties, school bands, kirtani jathas and Sukhmani Sahib Seva Societies. Various social, religious and political leaders also accompanied the nagar kirtan.

The palanquin carrying Guru Granth Sahib was placed on a well-decorated four-wheeler. Giani Puran Singh, Head Granthi Darbar Sahib, Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar of Akal Takht Sahib, Giani Tirlochan Singh of Takht Shri Kesgarh Sahib, and Giani Sukhdev Singh, Head Granthi of Gurdwara Shri Dukh Niwaran Sahib performed the “seva” of “Chaur Sahb”. As the Head Granthi, Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib, started “concluding ardas” at Gurdwara Jyoti Swarup Sahib, a siren was sounded by the district administration so that everyone, who listened to the siren may join the “ardas”.

For the first time, no stalls of amusement, circuses, dancing, gambling, swings and other item of merry-making were seen in the mela. Even in langers” no sweets, laddoos, jalebis were distributed. Loud speakers were not allowd to attract devotees and only simple food was served in more than 200 langers.

Addressing a joint press conference after the conclusion of the Saheedi Jor Mela, Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner, and Mr Shiv Kumar, SSP, said the efforts of the district administration to organise the mela in purely religious manner bore fruits and everyone cooperated. They said four persons running a gambling stall during the mela were arrested and Rs 26,675 were recovered from them. Two “khajla” (a sweets of Uttar Pradesh) sellers were arrested by as CIA Inspector for selling illicit liquor during the mela.

They said no other untoward incident was reported and they thanked all devotees for maintaining religious sanctity in the mela. They said the concept of opening information centre proved a successful and various lost children were handed over to their parents.

During the mela, light and sound programme “Sirhind ki Dastan”, organised by the Public Relations Department, remained the centre of attraction. According to Mr B.S. Sudan, Director, Public Relations more than 10 lakh devotees watched the snow.


SGPC to discuss French legislation on turban
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 26
The SGPC general secretary, Jathedar Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, said today that the Executive Committee of the SGPC would discuss in its meeting on December 30 at Amritsar the serious issue of the proposed French legislation to ban the tying of turbans by Sikhs in public schools and work places in France.

He was talking to mediapersons at the local Guru Nanak College after inaugurating a three-day zonal Gurmat training camp organised by Guru Gobind Singh study circle, Jalandhar-Kapurthala a zone, headed by Mr M.P. Singh.

Mr Jagat Singh Palahi, president of the host college, was the chief guest at the camp.

Jathedar Bhaur said the issue would also be discussed in the Dharam Parchar Committee of the SGPC and the Advisory Board of Akal Takht. After this, the issue would be taken up with the French Government through proper channel, he said.

It may be mentioned here that French President Jacques Chirac had justified the proposed legislation banning the wearing of “visible” religious symbols such as turbans by Sikhs claiming that these were “anathema to many French people..”.

Jathedar Bhaur disclosed that a high-powered delegation of the SGPC would soon visit Pakistan to take up with that government the Sikh issues of giving group visas to devotees, handing over the management of gurdwaras in Pakistan to Sikhs, running of Sikh religious places as per “maryada”, proper maintenance of historical and religious buildings and gurdwaras, increasing the revenue amount of the property in the name of gurdwaras, removing encroachments on Sikh religious places and property and setting up either a university or a hospital in the name of Guru Nanak Dev.

Giving details of upcoming SGPC projects, Jathedar Bhaur said plans were afoot to have a tie-up with some other private TV channels for telecasting “gurbani kirtan” from other important gurdwaras like Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib.

The SGPC, at present, had kept in abeyance its plan to start its own channel as the project required atleast Rs 50 crore besides some other hassles, he informed.

A multi-purpose hall would be constructed in the Golden Temple Complex for giving information of Sikh heritage and Sikhism through internet and video clips, he disclosed.

A modern technology park would come up, preferably at Fatehgarh Sahib, in commemoration of the third centenary celebrations of the martyrdom of “sahibzadas” (sons) of Guru Gobind Singh, he said.


US doctors’ body adopts rural hospital
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, December 26
The efforts of a local social worker, Mr Budh Singh Dhahan, popularly known
as Babaji, have started showing results. He has been mobilising the Punjabis
living abroad to come forward to serve their motherland and community with a view to providing better health and education facilities to the rural people here.

The North American Sikh Medical and Dental Association (NASMDA), an Association of Sikh physicians and surgeons serving in the USA and Canada, has adopted
Guru Nanak Mission Hospital, Dhahan Kaleran, for the exchange of medical knowledge and technology and to improve the medical services. The NASMDA has started sending equipment and medical experts to Guru Nanak Mission Hospital, Dhahan Kaleran, for applying newer and advanced procedures in the diagnosis and treatment
of patients suffering from various ailments here.

Mr Kulwant Singh Gill and Ms Raminder Kaur Gill of nearby Gunachaur village have donated Rs 20 lakh for setting up Dr Mohinder Singh Gill Memorial Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Dhahan Kaleran. Dr Harmeet Singh Gill, a USA-based NRI belonging to the Gill family of Gunachaur, will lay the foundation stone of the ICU tomorrow. Earlier, a UK-based NRI, Mr Surjit Singh Minhas, had donated Rs 10 lakh for setting up a trauma centre in the hospital. Ms Sushil Kaur, the public relations officer of the trust, said the project would be completed within a year.

Besides, experts from the USA have been applying the advanced procedures for treating the patients and training the doctors at Guru Nanak Mission Hospital to perform these procedures.

Dr Harbans Singh, ENT specialist, Dr Amarjit Singh, colorectal surgeon and Dr Baljit Singh Sidhu, orthopaedic surgeon from NASMDA, USA have visited the hospital. Presently, Dr Tejpal Singh Dhillon, an orthopaedic surgeon from the USA, is here.

Dr Dhillon, a practitioner of arthroscopy, said under this procedure, surgery usually involves a few small incisions and introduction of a small camera into the joint to help the surgeon identify various disease processes affecting
the joint. 


Flashback ’03
Road accidents claimed 100 lives
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 26
One hundred lives were lost in major and minor accidents on main and other roads in this district in 2003.

The number in current year is double the number of persons, murdered in the district. So far 50 persons have been murdered in the district.

Most of the human lives in road accidents, are lost because civil hospitals and other government health centres in the district are not equipped to treat victims. They are usually referred to big hospitals and some of them succumb to their injuries while on the way to big hospitals.

Bad condition and inadequate width of roads, which take maximum vehicular traffic, movement of stray cattle non-observance of traffic rules by the drivers, high speed and drunken driving are some of the major reasons for road accidents in this district. A number of accidents are due to dense fog, in this region for days in December and January every year.

Official sources said that the number of fatal road accidents in the district rose from 80 to 82 upto December 23, 2003, non-fatal accidents, up to 92 from 76, in last year. This year so far 49 persons were injured in the fatal accidents while 119 persons got injuries in non-fatal accidents.

Usually non-fatal accidents are rarely reported to the police as parties involved in accidents reach a compromise.

Majority of the fatal accidents took place on highways and main roads due to high speed. The head-on-collisions were reported from the roads where curves were not marked properly. Unprecedented increase in the number of all types of vehicles in Bathinda city has also become a major cause of accidents.

Mr Lalit Mohan Sharma, lecturer, Giani Zail Singh College of Engineering and Technology here who has studied road accidents and night driving conditions, said that human eyes have tendency of getting attracted to bright objects and it makes people blind for a moment. He said that headlight’s glare was a major factor behind drivers reporting loss of control of vehicles and causing accidents. Use of low beam would help check the problem, he claimed.

Volunteers of a NGO here helping road accident victims said that if timely medical aid was provided a large number of lives could be saved. They added that the youth clubs in villages should be encouraged to help accident victims.

Mr Kapil Dev, SSP, said that the traffic police had been advising people for safe driving. He admitted that stray animals were also a major cause of road accidents.


Male-female ratio falls alarmingly in Bathinda dist
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 26
Four to five decades ago, the women of this region were bound to observe “purdah” (to cover the face with duppatta) from their kin and outsiders and their movements were restricted to the four walls of their dwellings.

During those days of severe gender bias, the quest to get male child among the parents was prominent and education for girls was rarity as the parents were “never willing” to send their daughters to school.

Though over the years, the parents have started giving liberty to the girls to get education in schools and colleges located in the district and other parts of the country, but the quest to get male child seems to have started become more and more severe and the male-female ratio has started falling alarmingly in the past about two years in the district.

As per the information gathered by TNS from various agencies of the state government, the male and female sex ratio in Bathinda district, which was 779 females per 1,000 males in 2001, came down to 741 females per 1,000 males in 2002. In the current year, the male-female ratio failed to improve as it has been hovering around 742 females per 1,000 males. The fall in male-female ratio in these two years is around 4.7 per cent.

The information revealed that the male-female ratio had been falling despite the fact that the state government had launched a campaign against female foeticide through its various agencies and had imposed a ban on the pre-natal sex determination tests.

As per the figures made available to The Tribune, there were 63,738 females against the 81,773 males in Bathinda district in the age group of 0 to 6 years in 2001 and the female-male ratio was 779/1000. In the year 2000, as per the figures of birth which took place in the rural and urban areas, the female-male sex ratio was 741/1000. The ratio remained same so far in the current year.

The information gathered by TNS revealed that earlier, the trend of female foeticide was prominent in the rural areas where the people were indulging in foeticide and bigamy to get male child but now it had also been becoming prominent in the urban areas.

Expressing concern over gender bias and over the fact that undying quest to get male child among the parents have been fuelling female foeticide, the Punjab State Human Rights Committee has urged the Supreme Court to intervene into the matter to check the menace of female foeticide in the state. Mr Ved Gupta, general secretary of the Punjab State Human Rights Committee, has written to the Registrar, Supreme Court of India, regarding the issue.

Though Dr S.K. Goyal, Civil Surgeon, Bathinda, while expressing concern over the falling female-male ratio in the district, said the campaign would be intensified to check the menace of female foeticide in the region.

Mr Sadhu Ram Kusla, Project Officer, PNDT Cell, Bathinda, said the authorities concerned should carry out a special census of the girl children in the state so that a true picture could come to light. He said as the General Census would be conducted after eight years, it would be too late to know the status of female-male ratio. Mr Goyal said that a constant watch was being kept on the pregnant women by the field staff of the health department.


Project to reduce infant mortality
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, December 26
The district Red Cross Society here, Ujjala — a social organisation of Kotkapura and the district Health Department have jointly formulated a three-phase project “Save Motherhood — Better Childhood” to reduce death rate among new-born babies in the district.

In the first phase parents will be educated on the care of the mother during pregnancy and the care of the new-born babies. In the second phase training will be given to doctors and paramedical staff regarding safe delivery of a child and its care afterwards. In the last phase a future parent education programme will be launched in colleges to make aware girls and boys in this connection at Kotkapura on Wednesday. Mr Hussan Lal, Deputy Commissioner sought people’s help to achieve better results.

Booklets giving information on the project will also be distributed among the people. Moreover the Ambubags will also be given to midwives and Dais free of cost.


Need to conserve wetlands stressed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 26
With a view to generating public concern for better protection of wetlands, the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology organised its second training programme on wetlands conservation here today.

Inaugurating the workshop, Executive Director of the council Dr N.S Tiwana said even though Punjab had three wetlands of international importance, these were getting degraded due to ignorance of the public and commercial establishments about the importance of these ecosystems.

He said anthropogenic activities had been the major cause of the adverse impact on the wetlands.

Dr Tiwana stressed on the need to involve the public at the grassroots level for saving these precious resources.

Among those who attended the programme were representatives from the Department of Forests and Wildlife, Soil Conservation, Fisheries, Irrigation, Punjab Pollution Control board officials involved in wetland conservation and management.

Senior teachers from colleges and schools, districts science supervisors and representatives of NGOs from Amritsar, Ferozepore, Kapurthala and Ropar participated in the programme.

Mr P.S Sodhi, National Coordinator of the UNDP-DEF Small Grants Programme, talked about forming community-based committees involving stakeholders to ensure better protection of the wetlands.

Under the project, more such training programmes will be organised for different target groups near wetland areas and suitable resource material will be developed for enhancing public participation.


Jurists’ delegation returns from Pak
Our Correspondent

Wagah, December 26
Pakistanis were highly impressed by the strong and vibrant democracy and independent judiciary of India remarked Mr V.K. Jhanji, Chief Justice, Jammu and Kashmir High Court, after crossing over to India here today.

Mr Jhanji said democracy was slowly finding roots in Pakistan and it would take some time for the democratic institution to firmly establish their place in the polity of that country. Mr Jhanji, who was the part of 61-member group of jurists, had returned after four-day stay in Pakistan said they were overwhelmed by the warm reception accorded by their counterparts.

The Advocate-General of Punjab, Mr Harbhagwan Singh, said the Pakistani Constitution which was amended two years ago had helped the common man to feel more confident. He said the Pakistani Government had diluted the role of Deputy Commissioners and the Superintendent of Police and instead elected nazims and deputy nazims to take care of the day to day problems which had given a new lease to democracy. He said the Pakistani Government had established district advisory committees to work in coordination with nazims for better governance.

The Advocate-General also delivered a personal letter of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to his counterpart Mr Parvez Elahi and invited him to visit Punjab. Mr Harbhagwan said they had interacted with senior members of the judiciary in Lahore and Islamabad.

The Leader of Opposition in Haryana, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, while answering questions about the public perception on the terrorist attack on the Pakistani President said Pakistan must give up his policy of supporting the ‘jehadi’ groups which were responsible for creating terror in the region. He said the attack on the President was unfortunate but he had to come clear on his support to terrorism.

The group was invited by the Governor and the Chief Minister of Western Punjab (Pakistan's Punjab) for tea and lunch. The group also visited Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

362 Pak Ahmadiyyas attend convention
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 26
Ahmadiyya Muslims from all over the world have come to attend the three-day 112th convention at Qadian in Gurdaspur district: The convention was inaugurated today.

The Pakistani delegation of 362 Ahmadiyyas were joined by their brethern from Bangladesh and Indonesia.

The function was inaugurated with the unfurling of the Ahmadiyya flag and an inaugural prayer by Sahibzada Mirza Wasim Ahmad, national head of the community. The session began with recitation of holy Koran followed by a nazam written by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. The Ahmadiyyas from nearly 175 countries gathered to strengthen ties of their community that was founded by Hazrat Mirza Gulam Ahmad in 1889, said Saadat Ahmad Press Secretary of convention. The convention was attended by delegates from Ghana, UK, Nigeria, Germany, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland.

Meanwhile, newly married Tahira Ahmad (20) of Pakistan came to meet her natives for the first time at the convention today.

State offers farm expertise to Pakistan
Our Correspondent

Wagah, December 26
The Chairman of the Punjab Agriculture Marketing Board, Mr Sant Ram Singla, today said Punjab would provide all possible help and expertise to West Punjab province in Pakistan to establish a similar board there to bolster farm economy.

Mr Singla, who has returned after a four-day visit to Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, said in Pakistan, agriculture was in a primitive stage and required to improve its infrastructure at the rural level. He advocated setting up of marketing committees in that country to help farmers get remunerative prices for their produce. He had offered to provide the basic format and know-how to establish modern agriculture and marketing set-up to help poor farmers take their produce to mandis for getting better rates.

The chairman said the Chief Minister of West Punjab, Mr Parvez Elahi, had recently established a Ministry of Agriculture Marketing and was planning to send a high-powered delegation to Punjab to get the first-hand knowledge for setting up boards at various levels to help the farmers in selling their produce.


Patiala Diary
Patiala to have nine new water tanks
Our Correspondent

Patiala: Under the sewerage and water supply project of the municipal corporation, nine new water tanks of 1 lakh litre capacity each are to be built in various parts of the city.

These areas include Green Park Colony, Century Enclave, Malwa Colony, Indra Colony, Ghuman Colony (bypass), Adarsh Colony, Ranjit Nagar, Tej Bagh Colony and Vikas Nagar.

The Mayor, Mr Vishnu Sharma, said pipelines were being laid at a cost of around Rs 6 crore to provide water in the entire city. This would ease the problem of residents who have installed motors for water supply. The Mayor said the project would be completed within a year.

Mr Sharma said streetlights worth Rs 50 lakh were being installed in various slum areas of the city.

Red Cross conference

Amit Kumar Goel, a student of the local Modi College, participated in the Geneva Internationa Red Cross Conference, Japan. One hundred and three volunteers from 52 countries participated in the conference. During the conference, participants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and India presented a joint cultural programme, he said.

State IMA chief

Dr O.P.S. Kande, a local resident, has been elected president of the Punjab unit of the Indian Medical Association for 2004-05. Earlier, he served in the post for a period of two years (2001-02).



Man saves girl pushed into canal by father
Our Correspondent

Harike(Tarn Taran), December 26
Ruth (9) was rescued by a “Beldaar”, Dalip Singh, after her father Nimma allegedly pushed her into the Bhakra canal here last Friday.

A visit to the girl yesterday in custody of Shanti Devi, a tea stall owner revealed that last Friday her father, under pressure from his second wife (her step-mother) tried to get rid of her by pushing her into the canal. She said that after two hours remaining in water as water level was low and flow slow, she managed to come out with mud on her face and body.

Ruth said that she saw Dalip Singh on the canal bank and requested him to save her from severe cold as she remained in water for more that two hours. Dalip Singh brought the girl to Shanti Devi and told her to give her tea and biscuits or she would die of cold.

A traumatised Ruth gave details of her being harassed by her step-mother Usha who had forced her father to throw her out of the house. She said that her mother, who had two sons had been abandoned by her father and married second time.

Ruth, a student of class III studies in Saint Merry School in Gumtala (Amritsar) was taken away by the Makhu police for investigation.


CMs express grief over scribe's death
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 26
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today expressed grief and sorrow over the demise of senior journalist and special correspondent of Univarta, Prithvi Raj Azad, who died in New Delhi this morning. 

Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala also expressed grief over the sudden demise of the senior journalist.


PWD employees hold rally
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 26
On a call given by the Technical and Mechanical Employees Union, Punjab, PWD employees from all parts of the state organised a rally in protest against the “anti-employees” policies of the state government here today.

Addressing a gathering, the president of the union, Mr Avinash Chopra, condemned the state government decision of handing over six departments including Public Health, to panchayats.

The union resented the withdrawal of various financial benefits to employees and the government’s “failure” to fulfil its poll promises, including regularisation of services of daily wage workers and those working on a contract basis.

Senior vice-president of the union, Harjeet Singh Balian, criticised the decision of the state government to abolish 50,000, vacant posts and its ban on recruitment and appointment on compassionate grounds.



Morcha condemns govt’s ‘anti-Dalit’ policies
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 26
Scheduled Caste Morcha’s state vice-president Balwant Rai today condemned the “anti-Dalit” policies of the state government. The morcha also condemned the Punjabi University’s decision to terminate the Assistant Public Relation Officer (APRO) from job.

Mr Rai said they were being subjected to unfair treatment by the state government. He claimed that APRO Harminder Singh Khokhar was being discriminated against by the authorities concerned.

Mr Rai further alleged that Capt Amarinder Singh was responsible for the poor condition of the community in the state. He said even the grant given by the former Akali government for the uplift of the weaker section of the society was being withdrawn by the government.

Mr Rai said the matter would be brought to the notice of the Central Government. He added that they would intensify their struggle if the Central Government failed to resolve the issue. 



Bank holds contests in Hindi
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 26
Sukhdev Narain, Mohan Singh, S.M. Bhatnagar, Preeti Garg, Monica, Reetinder Singla and Kamal Sharma won the first prizes in the various competitions held as part of Hindi Chetna Pakhwara organised by the Official Languages Department of the State the Bank of Patiala here on Wednesday.

The Chief Manager, Official Languages, Mr M.S. Jaggi, said that essay writing, letter writing, translation and Hindi spelling competitions were arranged at the head office level under the programme.

Jatinder Singh, Rajan Malhotra, Anita Gautam, Saurav, Aditi Garg, Chanchal Singla and Mohar Singh won the second prizes, while R.C. Khulbe, Avinash Chander, Rajiv Gaur, Sidhant Dhama, Harleen Kaur, Mukesh Dhama and Hushiar Chand stood third. 


Camel kills owner, shot
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, December 26
A tired and hungry camel killed its master, Tara Chand, of Sangar village, near here. According to witnesses, Tarachand had joined a procession on the eve of Christmas on Wednesday along with his pet camel.

After the procession Tara Chand took the animal to the Ranipur Chowk for grazing.

As he tried to remove the covermesh from the mouth of the animal, the camel picked him up in his mouth and banged him against the ground a number of times till he was dead. The villagers tried to control the camel but it started chasing other persons, following which the animal was shot dead.


MC clears 3.5 cr for development works
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 26
The Patiala Municipal Corporation has passed estimates worth Rs 3.5 crore for installation of streetlights at various places, besides widening of roads, to be started next year.

Disclosing this here today, Mayor Vishnu Sharma said Rs 1 crore would be spent on installation of streetlights along Badi and Chhoti Nadis in the city. He said streetlights would also be installed on the Sirhind-Rajpura bypass, Rajbaha Road as well as the Lower Mall.

Mr Sharma said the remaining money would be spent on widening of roads as well as construction of medians. The single lane behind Sham Bagh Palace would be broadened to ease traffic once work on the railway crossing No. 22 overbridge started. He said the patch of road from railway crossing No. 22 to railway crossing No. 21 would also be widened. Medians would also be constructed in front of the Income Tax Office besides providing streetlights in the area, he added.

Speaking about other projects envisaged in the new year, the Mayor said sewerage work was already going on in 15 colonies, which would be augmented further. The corporation had already received Rs 60 crore out of the Rs 127 crore earmarked for providing sewerage facilities in all outer colonies of the city. He said the corporation had also passed water supply tenders worth Rs 11 crore. Under this project, piped water supply would be provided to all newly constructed colonies and nine new tanks would be built.

Mr Sharma said the corporation had also planned a project worth Rs 9 crore to cover the “ganda nala” in the city. It was proposed to use hume pipes, but the final logistics were still to be worked out. The tender for the project would be floated in the new year.

The Mayor said the corporation had been short on revenue during the past six months due to which some development projects could not take off. The revenue position was now stronger and the recent Finance Committee meeting cleared work orders of nearly Rs 1 crore for water supply, road carpeting and concrete flooring of streets. All these works would start in the first week of the new year, he added.


Three robbers arrested
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 26
The district police claims to have busted a three-member gang of robbers with its arrest and recovered stolen goods from their possession.

A police spokesman said here today that acting on a tip-off, a hideout of robbers at Sufi Pind, near here, was raided this afternoon and three robbers were arrested.

They were identified as Kishan Lal, Rita and Alekha Jain.

The police has also recovered stolen goods, including gold ornaments and five television sets from their possession. The arrested persons were being produced in the court.

Meanwhile, the police succeeded in recovering two stolen Maruti Zen cars while their occupants, who were identified as Rajiv Aggarwal of Ludhiana and his accomplice, managed to flee at Phillaur.


Fraud by FCI officials alleged
Our Correspondent

Barnala, December 26
Alleging embezzlement worth Rs 35 crore and big fraud with the government by officials of the Food Corporation of India (FCI), Sangrur district during the current year, Mr Satwant Singh, president of the local unit of the BJP, has demanded an impartial and thorough probe into the scandal by some independent agency, either the CBI or any sitting judge of the high court.

The demand has been made by him in letters written to the President, Prime Minister, Union Home Minister. Copies of these letters were made available to mediapersons here yesterday.

Mr Satwant Singh, who is a member of the FCI Committee, drew attention of the President, Prime Minister and Union Home Minister towards the large-scale embezzlement by FCI Department officials of Sangrur district.


18 hurt in group clash
Our Correspondent

Lalru, December 26
Eighteen persons were injured, two of them seriously, when members of two groups of villagers clashed in Tasimbli village, around 10 km from here, last evening. The two seriously injured — Haquam Singh and Jaswinder Singh — have been admitted to the Civil Hospital, Ambala City.

According to the police, the two groups, lead by Haquam Singh and Jaswinder Singh, clashed and hurled stones and bricks at each other. The police has booked the two in a case of rioting and causing hurt with deadly weapons.

In his complaint to the police, Haquam Singh alleged that Jaswinder Singh along with Karnail Singh, Kulwant Singh, Pradeep Singh, Shera and Jagmel Singh attacked his men. While Jaswinder Singh claimed that Haquam Singh and his men had hurled stones and bricks on them.

The police has registered counter cases in this regard under Sections 323, 324, 148 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code, but has made no arrest so far.



Finger pointed at awarding of PTU tender
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 26
While former state Technical Education Minister Jagdish Singh Garcha today accused that money had exchanged hands while awarding a tender to interconnect more than 400 learning centres of Punjab Technical University (PTU) through V-SAT, the PTU authorities refuted the allegations and termed these as “handiwork of some frustrated elements having vested interests”.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr Garcha said the tender worth Rs 6 crore was awarded in violation of the prescribed norms. “The work was awarded under suspicious circumstances and even tenders were not opened in the presence of all bidders to favour a particular company allegedly owned by an aide of the Chairman of Distance Education Task Force, Prof A. Kalanidhi,” he alleged.

Besides, about Rs 90 lakh had already been given to the private contractor in violation of the terms of the agreement, he said, adding that the “corruption” had touched new heights in the PTU during the Congress regime.

He questioned the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of the PTU, Mr Y.S. Rajan as the Chairman of the Board of Governors (BoG) of the university. “In fact, according to the PTU Act, the minister concerned should be ex-officio Chairman of the BoG and the appointment of Mr Rajan to the post was carried out by keeping the Chancellor and the Governor of Punjab in dark by the Congress Government,” he said.

Interestingly, Mr Garcha was arrested by the Vigilance Bureau about a year back for causing loss to the university to the tune of Rs 11 crore and for appointing 95 employees on an ad hoc basis in violation of the prescribed norms during his tenure as the minister. His son, Parminder Singh, a co-accused in the case, had been declared a proclaimed offender by the court while Mr Garcha was released on bail.

When contacted, Mr Rajan refuted the allegations and said some anti-university forces were instrumental in tarnishing the image of the government and the university. “We had followed all prescribed norms and nothing “illegal” was done to favour a private contractor while awarding the tender,” he said, adding that work on the installation of more than 200 V-SATs was on and it would be first experiment of its kind in the country to impart quality education at the grass-roots level using emerging technologies.

The proposed project would help the eminent experts to interact with students all over the counry through V-SAT and vice versa. 


Students, teachers to hold protest
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, December 26
More than 2,000 students, accompanied by their parents and teachers of Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Senior Secondary School here will gherao the Punjab School Education Board office at Mohali on January 1. The decision was taken at a meeting held on Wednesday in protest against the decision of the board authorities to abolish the examination centres for middle, matric and senior secondary examinations.

Meanwhile, in a representation sent to the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, Mr Sewa Singh Chawla and Mr Gurcharanjit Suri, the Principal and president of the management committee of the school, respectively, said various examinations of state universities, besides school board examinations, had been conducted at the school without any complaint. 

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