P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Talwandi back in SAD
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 17
It was a homecoming for Jathedar Jagdev Singh Talwandi, who was formally reinducted into the SAD by former Chief Minister and party supremo Parkash Singh Badal here today.

While parleys had been going on behind the scenes ever since the senior Akali leader and former SGPC chief suffered a stroke recently, it was only today that Mr Badal called on recuperating Talwandi at Hero DMC Heart Centre. The duo remained closeted for nearly 45 minutes and discussed various issues before the party in view of the parliamentary poll.

Mr Badal, who was accompanied by former minister J.S. Garcha and Mr Surjit Singh Rakhra, sat by the bedside of Mr Talwandi and held his hand while enquiring about his health and treatment. A jovial Talwandi remarked that he was much better, especially after the huge success of the ‘jan chetna’ rally organised by Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal yesterday.

On this, a smiling Badal asked him to get out of the bed and accompany him as many issues needed to be tackled if the party was to win the elections. All this while Mr Ranjit Singh Talwandi, MLA, and his younger brother Daljit Singh stood by their father. Mr Talwandi had joined the Akali faction headed by Mr Ravi Inder Singh almost two years ago after differences at the time of the SGPC elections.

Talking to mediapersons, Mr Badal said he and Mr Talwandi had worked for the “Panth” and the party for more than 40 years. “I learnt a lot from the latter during his tenures as the SAD chief and president of the SGPC. The workers have all regards for the senior Akali leader and his joining at this juncture would act as a shot in the arm of the party,” he added.

Mr Badal said more senior leaders were expected to join the party in the coming days. Reacting to a query, he said the name of the candidate for Ludhiana and other seats would be announced next week. He ruled out any rift in the party but added that like any family there were bound to be differences.

He claimed that the party was fully geared up for a landslide win in the elections since the winnability of the candidates had been gauged before announcing their candidature. Their main planks would be the non-performance of the Congress and the lack of developmental activity in the state, he added.

Mr Ranjit Singh Talwandi, who is a SAD MLA from Raikot, said their family was third-generation Akalis and it was a homecoming for his father. His father was very happy to be back and would actively work for the success of the official party candidates during the poll. He was expected to be discharged during this week and would discharge the duties assigned by the party, he disclosed.

Others who reached later on included former minister Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, former MP Amrik Singh Aliwal, Mr Hira Singh Gabria, Mr Bikramjit Singh Khalsa and Mr A S Bhatia.

Various organisations have also hailed the move.


Badal opens poll office
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 17
Mr Parkash Singh Badal, SAD chief, today asserted that the Punjab loan was actually waived during the tenure of the then Prime Minister, Mr Inder Kumar Gujral, and that the Congress claimed that the loan was still outstanding.

Addressing mediapersons here after inaugurating the SAD’s poll office, Mr Badal, who was accompanied by Mr Naresh Gujral, son of Mr Gujral, said there was no difference between the SAD and the BJP over seat sharing.


Dal Khalsa against Amritsar LS seat to BJP
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 17
The Dal Khalsa today announced that it would oppose the allotment of the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat to the BJP.

Reacting to the reports that the SAD may leave the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat to the BJP, Mr Harcharanjit Singh Dhami, working president of the Dal Khalsa accused the Akali leadership for mortgaging the interests of the Sikhs for their personal benefits.

In a statement, here today, Mr Dhami said the city of Amritsar had a special meaning for the Sikhs and, therefore, the SAD should field its own candidate with the view to keeping its vote bank intact. The Dal Khalsa leader said the Amritsar constituency had a sizeable number of Sikh voters. Mr Dhami warned the Akali leadership for taking the Sikh electorate for granted. He said the Sikh voter might not vote for the alliance in case the ticket was allotted to the BJP.


Sarabjit Khalsa is SAD(A) candidate
Tribune News Service

Sarbjit Singh KhalsaBathinda, February 17
The Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), headed by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, today nominated Mr Sarbjit Singh Khalsa, son of Beant Singh, one of the killers of Indira Gandhi, as its candidate for the Bathinda (Reserve) parliamentary seat.


Chandumajra writes to Badal on party ticket
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 17
Senior Akali leader Prem Singh Chandumajra today released a letter written to SAD President Parkash Singh Badal asking why he had been denied the party nomination and asked Mr Badal to meet his supporters at Patiala on February 23.

Mr Chandumajra appealed to the party president to reach Patiala on February 23 saying that his supporters felt that he had been betrayed and wanted to express their feelings to him. The letter also said Mr Chandumajra’s supporters would ask Mr Badal to “bless” the former.

The Akali leader claims in the letter that he was always a loyal worker of the party and could not understand why he had been denied the party nomination from Patiala. He said people were asking him the reason why he had been denied the party ticket and he had no answer to their questions.

Mr Chandumajra also highlighted his accomplishments as well as the work done by him for the party as well as the constituency. He said he had raised issues of the state as well as spoken for the solving of the problem of flooding in the Ghaggar belt in the Patiala parliamentary constituency in the Lok Sabha. He said besides this he had “suffered” during President’s rule in the state at the hands of the police because he had held up the flag of the party.

The Akali leader said he had also come to the aid of the party at difficult times by contesting election in 1996 when the Congress was in power in the State. 


Naresh Gujral woos voters
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, February 17
Mr Naresh Gujral, son of former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral and SAD (Badal) candidate from Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat, said yesterday that he would bring Jalandhar on IT map of the world.

Talking to reporters here, Mr Gujral said that he did not believe in conventional politics. He expected major investment in service and IT sector in Punjab in general and in Jalandhar in particular.

Mr Gujral said that in case he failed to win the election, he would prefer to quit politics which he had joined to realise his dream of welfare schemes for poor people.

He added that he would ensure early completion of Pushpa Gujral Science City project at Kapurthala, for which his father sanctioned funds during his tenure as Prime Minister.


Tohra writes to CJ on fast-track courts
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 17
In a letter to the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, along with other judges, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) President Gurcharan Singh Tohra has claimed that the Chief Minister’s move regarding the setting up of fast-track courts was “nothing more than a political gimmick”. Furthermore, the notification in the matter was issued “post-haste” and the high court was not consulted, he alleged.

Asking the Judges to scrutinise claims and requests made by the Punjab Government with “extra care”, Mr Tohra added that the move, followed by Cabinet’s decision to set up the courts at Patiala and Jalandhar, had “nothing to do with the purported aim of expeditious trial of corruption cases”.

He asserted that statistics had not been provided by the government to justify the necessity of setting up additional courts. “In fact, there has been no complaint so far about any delay in the disposal of corruption cases,” he said.

Moreover, the Punjab Government, vide notification dated January 5, 1990, had appointed an Additional Sessions Judge in each district. “Thus, as per this notification, there was one Special Judge in each district for the trial of cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act”.

He further asserted that even though government’s request regarding the courts was pending for high court’s consideration, the government “post haste issued a notification on November 17 last year appointing Ropar’s Sessions Judge and Additional Sessions Judge for trial of offences.....

The government, he maintained, has been projecting that the courts were needed for trying Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders allegedly involved in corruption cases. However, SAD was one of the oldest political parties in the country with a glorious record. Moreover, the justification was “not appealing” as the government’s image itself was mired in corruption.

“The Chief Minister has donned the mantle of prosecutor and the judge by holding others guilty or innocent as per his personal conveniences”, he said. This was not all. “Serious allegations of corruption in all solemnity had been levelled against the Chief Minister on Punjab Assembly’s floor.... Written communications have been sent to the vigilance and police authorities pointing out specific instances of corruption and wrongdoing on the Chief Minister’s part, besides other ministers, but no action was taken.” 


Amarinder to look into case again
Recruitment of sportspersons in police
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 17
Objections were raised on preferring newcomers to in-service outstanding sportsmen and women in the recruitment of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) against newly created ex-cadre posts. This issue came up for discussion at the Punjab Council of Ministers meeting here today.

It was mentioned that 431 ex-cadre posts were created by the Council of Ministers in December last to accommodate all those outstanding sportsmen and women who had been facing demotions following directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Instead, some outstanding sportsmen have already been demoted while seven of 11 posts of DSP were being filled at an unprecedented speed by considering outsiders also. One of the Ministers, according to sources, held that “it was unfair to deprive deserving sportsmen and women already serving the Police Department adjustment against these posts. Instead they are being demoted and their places are being given to newcomers”.

Though the Chief Minister reiterated that no player would be demoted, he promised to look into the case afresh, promising that justice would be done to those who were already serving the Police Department.

Meanwhile, the Departmental Selection Committee today interviewed 22 shortlisted candidates at Punjab Bhavan. Others, mostly Olympians, World Cuppers and medalists in both Commonwealth and Asian Games, were told that since they were not eligible, they would not be considered for the post. They were, however, not told the basis of their ineligibility.

Probably, educational qualifications and age as eligibility criteria were used to put outstanding sportsmen and women out of contention. Most of the Olympians and World Cuppers had to return home disappointed as they failed to make the shortlist on the basis of their outstanding achievements on playfields, both in and out of the country. Many Arjuna awardees, too, were shown the door as the selection criteria, they alleged, was tailor-made to recruit pre-determined candidates.

“In my case they even did not look at my World Cup participation certificate saying that any certificate issued by a national sports federation would not be entertained,” rued Devinder Kumar, who played for the country both in the World Cup and Sydney Olympic Games while on the other hand, the same selection committee accepted a certificate issue by the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI). “Why these double standards ?,” he asked.

“I was also not shortlisted because I am a little older than 28 years. Nowhere, they mentioned 28 as the upper age limit for applicants. Since I am in government service, I should have been given the relaxations permissible for in-service candidates,” Devinder Kumar added.

The same was the fate of Sukhbir Singh Gill, other national hockey star. “Take the case of Ramandeep Singh Grewal who was captain of the 1998 Asian Games champion hockey team. Ramandeep who led India in the Olympic Games, accompanied the Indian team abroad 32 times, a postgraduate and serving Punjab Police as senior most Inspector, was also not called for interview.

If they can treat their own players like this, how others can expect justice,” remarked Sukhbir Gill.

The Departmental Selection Committee also considered new applicants who turned up today. Since some of the shortlisted candidates were not aware about the change of date for interview from February 20 to February 17, they could not make it.


UGC report finds fee structure faulty
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 17
The UGC’s research project on ‘unit cost of higher education’, authored by Dr P.S. Raikhy, a senior professor of the Punjab School of Economics, has brought out distortions in the fee structure of the university.

‘The complicated and distorted fee structure has serious implications’, argued Dr Raikhy.

The report states that besides hefty increase in the tuition fee and funds, a large number of new funds have been added. In 1991-92, there were only three monthly fee in addition to the tuition fee, the number increased to 11 in 2001-02. Similarly heads of annual charges increased from 10 to 18 during the same period. Some of the annual charges have no justification. For example, besides charging the university development fee, the hostel development fee is being charged even from the day-scholars. While the new monthly and annual charges have been added, some existing funds have been raised up to 40 times during the past 10 years. With the result now, the tuition fee constitutes a much smaller component of the total payments made by the students at the time of admission and afterwards.

The report adds that there is a justification for charging separate computer fee, equipment fee, breakage fee, placement fee etc in case of different science and technology courses only if basic tuition fee is one for all under graduate and postgraduate courses of the university. However, in view of wide variation in tuition fees of different arts, sciences and technology courses, the additional fees and charges merely complicated the fee structure.

The report added that when a student is provided full/half fee concession, it relates to only tuition fee component and he has to pay large sum in the form of other monthly fee and annual funds which may be unbearable for him. A Scheduled Caste/Tribe student gets his tuition fee exempted as the state funds 98 per cent of his tuition fee, but the payment of other funds is not exempted which may be met by him out of the scholarship provided by the state. In case of poor backward class students, tuition fee is exempted but the huge burden of funds is unbearable as they do not get scholarship like the Scheduled Caste students. Other disadvantaged students are also hard hit by this ‘distorted fee sturcture’ because if they get fee concession or aid from poor students aid fund to meet the tuition fee they still are unable to pay huge funds. Citing the findings and recommendations of Ananda Krishanan and Mehmood-ur-Rehman Committees set up by the Government of India, the UGC’s report recommended correction the distortion of the fee and fund structure by merging those funds with the tuition fee for which maintenance of separate account is not needed.


Four-laning project launched
Tribune Reporters

Jalandhar, February 17
The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Maj-Gen B.C. Khanduri (retd) revealed today that Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin would be one of the main issue to be raised in the BJP’s campaigning during the coming general elections.

The minister was talking to mediapersons after participating in “bhoomi poojan” to start the construction work of Rs 124 crore project for four-laning of the Jalandhar-Amritsar national highway at Bidhipur village here today.

“The BJP will definitely raise Sonia Gandhi’s foreign-origin issue during campaigning while it is for the countrymen to decide in this regard,” he said, adding that his party had already geared up its rank and file to oppose the Congress-led secular front.

“We have formulated a poll strategy to win 300 parliamentary seats. Besides, the NDA alliance will surely form the next government at the Centre,” he added.

When asked whether Mr Varun Gandhi, who had recently joined the BJP, would be contesting election, he said Varun would not be fielded as party candidate, instead he would be one of the star campaigner for the party.

He denied that the BJP was in a haste to have pre-poll alliance with some national and regional parties. “In fact, most of the political parties are joining hands with the BJP for its better performance during the last more than four years of rule,” the minister quipped.

The minister hinted at setting up toll barriers on national highways across the country after the completion of the Pardhanmantri Bharat Jodo Pariyojana and Golden quadrilateral project. “We are in the process of formulating a comprehensive policy for institution of toll tax barriers across the country as some of the national highway construction projects are being carried out on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis,” he quipped.

“These projects are already generating daily employment for 2.5 lakh construction workers and 10,000 supervisors. Besides, we have planned to connect 16 state capitals with national highways through four-laning,” he added.

The Punjab PWD (B&R) Minister, Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, who was present during the function, said the four-laning of the Jalandhar-Amritsar national highway would improve tourist flow to the Golden Temple 
while helping the NRIs hailing from Punjab, who prefer to land at 
Amritsar international airport, to have smooth journey.

Others, who were present during the function, include former Punjab minister Manoranjan Kalia and general secretary of the Punjab BJP Vijay Sampla.

PATHANKOT: Maj-Gen Khanduri performed the “bhoomi poojan” for the four-laning of the Pathankot-Amritsar highway, here on Tuesday.

Addressing a function on the site of the “bhoomi poojan”, Gen Khanduri said the project, costing Rs 450 crore, would have five ROSs to cease traffic on the 101 km-long road.

Union Minister of state for External Affairs Vinod Khanna announced a bridge over the Ravi near Kathlore. 


Lok Jan Shakti Party holds dharna
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 17
Members of the district unit of the Lok Jan Shakti Party led by Mr Amar Singh Mehami, state president, today held a march and a rally in front of the office of the Deputy Commissioner in support of their demands. A deputation of the party workers also submitted a memorandum to the ADC, Mr N.S. Walia.

They were demanding the inclusion of right to work in the fundamental rights of the Constitution, employment for youths, free education and health facilities for the weaker sections of the society, the regularisation of the services of daily-wage earners, increase in the unemployment allowance to Rs 2500 per month, the withdrawal of hike in electricity tariff, and the payment of amount of the hiked fee, already rolled back by the government to the students etc.

Others who attended the rally included Mr Amar Singh Mehami; Mr Varinder Singh Sant, state president of Yuva wing of the party; Mr Kartar Singh Patna, secretary-general of the Punjab unit of the party; Mr Om Parkash Valmiki, secretary of the state unit of the party; Mistri Amar Singh Dhuri, district president of the party, and Mr Vasakha Singh Maur, district secretary-general of the party.


DNA test of aborted foetus to identify mother
Tribune News Service

Rampura, February 17
Dr S.K. Goyal, Civil Surgeon, Bathinda, said he suspected that Dr Laxmi Garg, who was allegedly involved in the illegal abortion and throwing of foetus in garbage dump, was concealing the identity of the mother, whose abortion had been done in her clinic on February 7.

On the other hand, the local police has decided to carry out the DNA test of the foetus and placenta which was recovered from the garbage dump in the town and those women who have undergone abortions and ultra sound tests in the clinic run by Dr Laxmi Garg in the past few days to establish the identity of the mother.

Mr Gurpreet Singh, SHO, Rampura, police station, said he had asked the SMO, local Civil Hospital, to furnish a list of those women who had undergone ultra sound test in the clinic run by Dr Garg.

Dr Goyal said though as per his report the sex of foetus, which was determined by Guru Gobind Singh Medical College, Faridkot, during forensic examination, was male, still Dr Garg came under suspicion as she might have aborted the foetus by mistaking the same as female during the ultra sound done on the unknown mother. He added that he had asked the police authorities to help in establishing the identity of mother. He said if Dr Garg did not disclose the name of the mother, she could be booked under the PNDT Act.

A foetus, which was about 14-week-old and allegedly thrown by Dr Garg after carrying out an illegal abortion, was recovered by the joint team of the local police and officials of Civil Hospital from a garbage dump located near railway level crossing on the Bathinda-Ambala rail section passing through the town on February 7.

Following the recovery of foetus, a case at the local police station against Dr Laxmi Garg along with one Class IV employee, identified as Champa, was registered under Sections 315, 318 and 34 of the IPC. Both the accused were arrested on the same day.

Many eyebrows were raised over the hospitalisation of Dr Laxmi Garg, who was arrested on February 7, at Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and hospital, Faridkot, on February 8, where the foetus was sent for forensic examination.

A section of doctors of the local Civil Hospital, including Senior Medical Officer (SMO) Dr Shamsher Singh, and a section of policemen of the local police station, including Investigation Officer, Malkeet Singh, have been found guilty of helping Dr Laxmi Garg in her shifting to Faridkot hospital, where the foetus was also sent for forensic examination, in an inquiry conducted by the SP (D), Mr Ajay Maluja. SSP, Mr Kapil Dev, has recommended action against the guilty doctors and policemen.


Records of two hospitals seized
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 17
The Health Department sealed the records of two hospitals and a diagnostic centre on charges of promoting the practice of female foeticide. These include American Diagnostic Clinic, Putlighar, Mundh Hospital in Ranjit Hospital and Bhandari Hospital, Majitha Road.

Records revealed that in the past four months the diagnostic centre at Putlighar was keeping ultra scan records of only women patient, revealed Civil Surgeon, Dr H.S. Gill, today.

As many as 70-80 ultra scans were conducted daily at this diagnostic centre. The two accused hospital authorities and the diagnostic centre were alleged to be using fake names, addresses, disease, diagnosis, and doctor’s reference to advance the practice of female foeticide.


Punjabis full of warmth: Iranian
Our Correspondent

Phagwara February 17
Keyumars Ali Mardani, a 33-year-old physically challenged Iranian, says Punjabis are the epitome of love and warmth. “I never got so much love and regard anywhere else in my journey as I got in Punjab,” said Mardani after he was welcomed by prominent persons of Phagwara, including Malkiat Singh Ragbotra and Harbans Lal, yesterday.

The Iranian is on a world peace mission and has covered 10,000 km since embarking on his mission two and half years ago from Iran. He has visited 10 countries, including Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

In India he has visited the Golden Temple, Jallianwala Bagh and Durgiana Temple in Amritsar and Devi Talab Mandir in Jalandhar.

“I plan to write a book titled ‘World on Wheelchair’ after returning to Iran in April to stake a claim for an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records,” he said. “Physically challenged people should be loved and not pitied. I am handicapped physically, not mentally,” he asserted. Mardani was afflicted with polio after birth.

“Hum hongey kamyab ek din”, he quipped before leaving the town today.


New excise policy to benefit big contractors
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 17
The Punjab Excise and Taxation Minister, Mr Sardool Singh, was conspicious by his absence, when the state excise policy, (2004-05), was presented and approved by the Council of Ministers here today. His absence was explained by the Administrative Secretary, saying that the minister was ‘’not well’’.

The absence of the minister and certain provisions in the excise policy has become a hot topic of discussion in the corridors of power. Insiders told TNS that the minister was ‘’upset’’ over the framing of the policy. It was believed he was not taken into confidence as most behind-the-scene action took place in New Delhi, reportedly involving certain politicians, bureaucrats and big contractors.

It is, perhaps, for the first time that the policy document proposed to the Council of Ministers announces that there will be ‘’no increase in the auction money’’, meaning thereby that it will remain at the current year’s level of Rs 1,220 crore. The department, however, expects to earn Rs 20 crore more the source of which is not fully explained in the policy.

The policy shows that while the major benefit goes to big contractors the smaller ones will get eliminated. This is evident from the fact that the minimum group size for ‘the clustering of ‘thekas’ has been enhanced from Rs 8 crore to Rs 15 crore.

Paradoxically, the common man’s medium liquor will cost more and while the rich consumers’ scotch will be cheaper. Why liquor will cost more in Punjab and what will be its side effects were summed up as follows: duty has been enhanced, additional quota has been abolished. This means the quantity of available liquor will be much less. This will lead to smuggling from neighbouring states as excise duty has been clubbed at Rs 39 per proof litre, against the existing two slabs of Rs 24 per proof litre in the case of medium “sharab” and Rs 48 per proof litre in the case of premium liquor. For example, excise duty in Chandigarh is Rs 10 per proof litre as against Rs 39 in Punjab. This will also result in hike in the cost price of liquor across the counter.

Sources said the policy was totally ‘’rate-driven’’, which was controlled and regulated by big licensees. The policy has also reduced export fees for various brands, apparently to provide benefits to local manufacturers, two of whom are hot favourites of the present government, namley, Chadha Liquor Traders and Rana Gurjit Singh, whose new distilleries would become functional during 2004-05.


Birmingham Mayor

Jalandhar, February 17
Hailing the achievements of the India in the IT sector in the past two decades, the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Mr John Alden CTA, today revealed that many educational institutions in Birmingham were interested in having collaboration with Punjabi institutions to impart quality education.

Talking to reporters here today, he said he was on an official visit to promote educational and business ties between the two countries. — OC


Birmi to get land for flying academy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 17
The Punjab Council of Ministers, today approved the allotment of 2,000 sq. yard of land to Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi, Minister for Jails, for setting up a Flying Training Academy at the Aviation Club, Patiala.

Besides land, Mr Birmi would also be provided other facilities such as hangers etc for the parking of aircraft meant for training purposes. Mr Birmi wanted to train about 60 students every year at the academy.

The Council of Members also approved the proposal to levy a 2 per cent purchase tax on milk procured by milk plants.

It also accepted the proposal mooted by Animal Husbandry Minister, Jagmohan Singh Kang to charge non-commercial power tariff from dairies and fish farms in the rural areas. Mr Kang has been asked to move the proposal in writing at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers.

The issue of summoning the Punjab Assembly was informally discussed at the meeting. The Assembly is likely to be convened around March 11.


Rs 5 lakh grant okayed for war memorials
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 17
The Punjab Governor, Justice O.P. Verma, today asked the Sainik Welfare Department to launch a special drive to renovate 32 small war memorials in the state.

Sanctioning a special grant of Rs 5 lakh for upkeep of war memorials, Justice Verma said it was the duty of the state to ensure that these memorials were maintained well.

Presiding over a meeting of the Rajya Sainik Board, Justice Verma said these war memorial were a symbol of “our gratitude to all those soldiers who gave the prime of their youth to ensure that we live in peace.” Justice Verma approved the department’s proposal to enhance the financial assistance to totally blind ex-servicemen and their widows from Rs 300 to Rs 500 per month.


Two cases registered against Poolha
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 17
Following efforts by the Poolha Eviction Committee two cases of kidnapping have been registered against the self proclaimed chief of Nihang Tarna Dal, Ajit Singh Poolha.

Claiming this here yesterday Col G.S. Sandhu (retd), Chairman of the committee, which comprises ex-servicemen, added that a third case pertaining to the murder of his aide, Sukhdev Singh in June, 2000, has been reopened and the DSP (Detective) Nawanshahar is investigating into the matter.

Colonel Sandhu, who also heads the Majha Ex-servicemen Brotherhood, said that a recent case had also come to light where Anoop Singh, a resident of Poolha village, was murdered in broad daylight while villagers remained mute spectators. Anoop’s family fled the village and Ajit Singh purchased their land at throwaway price where he built a palatial mansion.

He expressed surprise that inspite of cases being registered against Ajit Singh, he still remained at large along with his 15 private security guards, 30 aides and a fleet of 20 vehicles. He added that he had met the Punjab’s Director General of Police, Mr A.A. Siddique, in this regard.


No encroachment on our land, says trust
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 17
Ms Ratna, Chairperson of the Amritsar Improvement Trust, today clarified that there was no encroachment on the trust land in the Ranjit Avenue C-Block area.

At a press conference here, the Chairperson said Basti Faiz Pura, adjacent to C-Block, existed since the framing of the Ajnala Road, Amritsar, Improvement Scheme. She said the government vide memo No. II (15)-VIII-LG-83/22111, dated November 10, 1981, had agreed in principle to exclude Basti Faiz Pura from the scheme. The trust vide its resolution No. 522, dated January 11, 1984, decided to exclude Basti Faiz Pura from the scheme.

The Ranjit Avenue Welfare Association had served a legal notice on the Improvement Trust over the illegal bifurcation of plots and conversion of residential plots to commercial ones in its block. Mr Avtar Singh, president of the association, in a press conference held yesterday had alleged that inaction on the part of trust official forced them to serve legal notice.

Ms Ratna clarified that the trust had given the possession of the site to a primary school. Thus there was no encroachment on any part of the site reserved for the primary school.


Threat to Christians in MP: priests
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 17
The Diocese of Jhabua, has alleged that Christians were living under a reign of terror in Madhya Pradesh under the rule of Uma Bharti government.

Addressing a press conference here today, Father Mahipal Bhuriya, a spokesman of the Diocese of Jhabua, Father Franco and Father George Varaich of the local Trinity College and Tarsem Peter, the general secretary of the Pendu Mazdoor Union, alleged that the incident, wherein priests had to bear the brunt of the VHP for extending help to father of the missing girl, had instilled a fear psychosis among the minority Christian community. They alleged that the VHP had given a communal colour to the whole event, following which the priests were attacked and detained by the police illegally. They alleged that canards were spread that 10-year-old Sujata was raped and murdered in the mission school and the principal was absconding. Later missionaries were attacked, but, nothing was done to protect them.


Dharna by doctors hits services
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 17
Services in the Civil Hospital here remained paralysed for two hours in the morning as doctors, paramedical staff and other employees of the hospital staged a dharma in front of the office of the SMO for the second day against the non-payment of salaries for the month of January. Dr J.R. Bansal, Civil Surgeon, Sangrur visited the dharna site and assured the agitating doctors and other staff that the salaries would be paid by February 20.

Dr Surinder Singla, state general secretary of the PCMSA, said the state government should frame a permanent policy with regard to the payment of salaries to the employees, so that such incidents did not happen in future. He said the state government should fix responsibility for the non-payment of salaries for the month of January.


BSNL to clear waiting list in Abohar division
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 17
The BSNL plans to provide 7,000 WLL connections in Ferozepore telecom district this year, which may cost Rs 5 crore. By March 31, the entire waiting list in Abohar division will be cleared.

Stating this, Mr R.K. Dawra, Deputy District General Manager, at the first-ever open house session of consumers here today said that erring telecom services in the past had been one of the reasons for consumers dissatisfaction. Now the BSNL could claim providing the best service to its customers, he observed.

Mr Dawra said the BSNL had earmarked a sum of Rs 1 crore for reducing the number of telephone poles in the streets and roadsides. The nigam, he said, was developing a new technology under which DPs would henceforth be fitted on the walls of houses instead of poles. Each DP box would have capacity of 20 connections.

He said the nigam had decided to install towers at Maujgarh and Khuyiansarwer villages by the end of this financial year to provide mobile service on the National Highway No 15 that linked Abohar with Sriganganagar district headquarter in Rajasthan.

Some consumers apprehended Mr Dawra of common problems of consumers and made some suggestions. Mr Dawra assured that private dealers for BSNL mobile connections would be pulled up suitably and if need be more dealers might be appointed.


Discrimination against Balachaur alleged
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, February 17
Mr Ram Kishan Kataria, former MLA, Balachaur and PPCC member and Ms Santosh Kataria, Chairperson, Zila Parishad, in a joint press statement here on Saturday expressed resentment over discrimination against the Balachaur subdivision for release of development funds by the District Planning and Development Board. 

Two out of the five Development Blocks and three out of the eight Education Blocks fall in the Balachaur subdivision, hence 40 per cent share of the development funds sanctioned at the District Planning and Development Board should be given to this subdivision alleged Mr Kataria adding that the people of Balachaur had preferred with the Nawanshahr district to get more funds for development.


Pets recovered
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 17
The police has recovered a stolen German shepherd pair of dog and bitch, worth Rs 80,000, with the arrest of a resident of Nandpur Kalour, Jagtar Singh. Two other accused are still at large.

Mr Surmukh Singh, a resident of Nandpur Kalour, had complained that his German shepherd dog and bitch had been stolen from his residence. A case was registered under Sections 457 and 380 of the IPC.

After two days of investigations, the police solved the case and took Jagtar Singh in custody. During interrogation he revealed that after stealing the dogs, he handed them over to his brother-in-law, Surinder Singh, and sister, Kuldeep Kaur, residents of Manakpur Sharif in Ropar district. The pets have been handed over to the owner.


Shobha yatras on Shivratri eve
Tribune Reporters

Batala, February 17
A big procession was taken out here today on the eve of Shivratri. The procession was led by Mr Vijay Parbhakar, chief patron of Batala, along with other social and religious organisations.

SAMANA: Colourful shobha yatra was taken out here on the eve of Shivratri. Various religious and social organisations took out the procession.


Kapil to lead Indian Punjab CM's friendly team
Our Correspondent

Patiala, February 17
Besides a profusion of who's who in the world of the performing arts gracing the city with their performances, the Heritage Festival will provide a variety of entertainment in other fields. These include rural sports, a polo tournament and a friendly cricket match between teams from the two Punjabs on either side of the border.

A touch of nostalgia and a loadful of excitement will mark the friendly tie to be held at Dhruve Pandove Cricket Stadium here on February 19.

The teams for the match which were announced today include veteran cricketers from both Pakistan and India. Patterned on the famous Lord's Stadium in London, the Dhruve Pandove stadium has been host to a number of high profile cricket matches during the princely times. It has since suffered loss of maintenance that was once lavished upon it by the Maharajas of Patiala, especially Maharaja Bhupinder Singh who was a patron of the game.

To one end of the stadium which traces its foundation to nearly 125 years ago stands the historic Clock Tower of the city. The hands of the defunct clock stand frozen in time and have not moved ever since a royal prince sent the ball flying to shatter the outer glass frame covering the clock. The stadium is now used less for cricket or sporting activities and more for holding other multifarious events.

Kapil Dev will captain the Indian Punjab CM's team which includes Navjot Sidhu, Mohinder Amarnath, Ajay Jadeja, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Dinesh Mongia, Ajay Ratra, Sanjay Bangar, Akash Chopra, Pankaj Dharmani, Reetinder Sodhi, Ravneet Ricky, Gagandeep Singh, Rajesh Sharma, Sandeep Sanwal, Harvinder Singh and Binwant.

The team from Pakistan will include Saqlain Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmed, Ijaz Ahmed, Saleem Elahi, Zahoor Elahi, Yausaf Youhana, Saeed Anwar, Wasim Khan, Taufeeq Umar, Imran Nazir and Kamran Akmal.


Sitar-sarod jugalbandi moves all hearts
Gurvinder Kaur

Patiala, February 17
Everytime that Ustaad Imrat Khan pulls at the strings of his sitar, they seem to tug at his heart anew. How else can he manage to mirror the very soul of the music he plays through mere fingers? The Qila Mubarak reverberated with an explosion of melody last evening after the maestro commenced a jugalbandi with his equally gifted son Wajahat Khan whose virtuosity on the sarod has to be heard to be believed.

History seemed to repeat itself when the duo performed against the silhouette of the fort, the place where their forefathers enthralled the erstwhile royal family of Patiala.

Commencing with a composition in raag nand behaag, the duo effused the recital with an infectious sense of joie de vivre that left not a member amongst the audience unaffected.

Wajahat whose surfeit of talent has already granted him entry into the top most circle of musicians in the world, handled the sarod with ease. His brilliant flight of fingers over the instrument was almost breathtaking. The dialogue between the sitar and the sarod which proceeded to obliterate everything but the sound of music from the venue culminated in a dazzling flash of speed and melody.

The duo was accompanied on the tabla by Akram Khan, a fine players. The harmony among the three was amply reflected in their rendition of raag tilak which ended the performance. Their concert was preceded by a recital of light classical music by the celebrated torchbearers of the Patiala-Kasur gharana, Ustad Mazhar Ali Khan and Usad Jawaad Ali Khan.

Grandsons of the legendary Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and nephews of the much acclaimed Munnavar Ali Khan, the brothers opened with a bandish, "Jaane Naa Doongi Sakhi Apne Piya Ko'' in naiki kannara. Their rendition of a Punjabi thumri long extinct in the land of its origin "Vaari main vaari maaye" revived nostalgia for many among the audience.


Future of folk music uncertain, warns Girija Devi
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 17
Her music blends all elements that the Indian classical tradition can ever boast of. Transcending the limits of time and space, it pulsates with ever fresh life. And though it has roots in tradition, it continues to sound vital, as it did years ago when a 20-year-old Girija Devi made her debut on Radio Allahabad.

On that day in history, she was keen to share with the world the nuances of Benaras gharana. On this day, the world is keen to absorb what she has to offer — from the purabi ang thumri typical to Benaras tradition, khayal and dhrupad to the folk forms of Holi, Chaiti, Kajri and Jhoola. The only living performer of purabi ang thumri, made legendary by Siddheshwari Devi and Begum Akhtar, Girija Devi is also the only one initiating musicians into folk traditions, that are passing into oblivion.

In Patiala to perform during the Heritage Festival, Girija Devi minced no words while stating that traditional styles were in danger. “The future of classical music is safe but that of folk forms is not so much safe. There are hardly any gurus left. Also, these styles are more challenging than classical forms which require improvisation within the raga. They tempt you to walk out of the raga and find your way back into it. It’s like being led away from home and being asked to trace the road back. And homecomings are always tough.”

All praise for Patiala, Girija Devi said, “Patiala is musically very rich. Punjab ang thumri is also famous, but seldom sung. Thumri, as such, is hardly sung. It requires balancing of lyrics and swaras. There are few who can do that. We are passing on this tradition to disciples in Benaras.” In another moment, Girija recalled the “Abhinandan granth”, which her disciples released on her 71st birth day. “They spoke about their Guru Maa in the granth. Girija Devi introduced guru shishya parampara at ITC Research Academy, Kolkata.

Also running a trust to support poor students and the aged artistes, Girija Devi finds time to bury her stress in laughter. 


Flip Side of Heritage Festival
A year on, vacated Rajindra Kothi unused
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 17
A year ago, the main halls of Rajindra Kothi, which housed thousands of files and around 35,000 books comprising most of the records of the State Archives Department, was vacated in a blitzkrieg-like operation on the eve of the Heritage Festival. The reason was to facilitate the holding of a week-long painting exhibition in the building following which the building was to be sold as a heritage property.

Today, the Patiala Heritage Society has not even seen it fit to hold this year's painting exhibition in the same building. The exhibition is being held at Banasar Art Gallery of the North Zone Cultural Centre (NZCC) in the Sheesh Mahala complex. This gallery was available last year also but the organisers did not opt for it.

Last year the Heritage Society held the painting exhibition in the Rajindra Kothi despite a very short notice, but it was done at a huge cost. The department loaded files on tractor-trailers and dumped them in a hall in the building of the State Language Department in the Sheranwala Gate area. Many of the files literally fell apart and sheaves of paper got unhooked from many bundles. Later, the files were put back in bundles on racks in the Language Department building but without any clear cut demarcation or cataloguing.

This was not all. As many as 35,000 rare books which form the library of the Archives Department which stores the record of the former princely states of the region, was also dislocated. The library was taken to be housed in the Punjabi Reference Library on the Punjabi University premises. A part of the record was allowed to be retained in the Rajindra Kothi itself. These movements dislocated the record of the department to three different places.

Despite the hurry in which the library and another hall of the Rajindra Kothi was cleared last year, the building has not been put to any use since then. The building has not hosted any painting or other exhibition during the entire year. The property, despite being transferred to Punjab Urban and Planning Department (Puda), could not be sold to anyone. It was earlier projected to be sold or given on lease to a private party and converted into a heritage hotel.

The Patiala Development Authority (PDA), which had taken the decision to transfer the property to Puda, has also been able to ensure allocation of a new home for the State Archives Department. Earlier it was announced that a new building would be constructed on modern lines for the Archives Department on the Punjabi University premises with Puda funding the project.

A few months back, even this proposal was shot down and it was announced that the Archives would be hosted in the former Deputy Commissioner's office which was vacated following its shifting to the new Secretariat building. This has not happened till now even though only slight repairs were to be effected. While Archive Department employees are surprised at the speed in getting the old building vacated without a new one having been earmarked, city residents say hasty shifting of the records earlier has been a backward step for conservation in the state. 


Complete security restored to Beant kin
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 17
In less than a month after Punjab’s former Chief Minister Beant Singh’s alleged assassins escaped from Burail jail, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today directed the restoration of security cover by commandoes to the CM’s widow and daughter in case it had been withdrawn.

The directions were issued by the Bench, comprising Chief Justice Mr Justice B.K. Roy and Mr Justice Surya Kant Sharma, after senior advocate G.K. Chathrath, appointed amicus curies by the court in the matter, informed the court that the security cover had been reduced. He also referred to certain news reports.

The judges also dropped proceedings in another petition regarding the repair of Ludhiana Central Jail’s wall after the court was informed that the work would begin by Wednesday. The judges had, on the last date of hearing, directed the state of Punjab to release Rs 12 lakh for the purpose after taking suo motu notice of a letter written by Ludhiana’s District and Sessions Judge asserting that the amount, required for the repair, had not been released.

Earlier, during the proceedings, counsel for the Chandigarh Administration submitted a status report regarding the jailbreak in a sealed cover. The judges also fixed March 23 as the next date of hearing on a public interest litigation seeking probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the matter.

In his petition for the CBI probe into the escape of three alleged assassins, National President of Anti-Terrorist Front of India Viresh Shandilya had contended that digging could not have been done “without knowledge, connivance and help of people who were responsible for keeping them in jail”.


10-yr RI for 4 in dowry death case
Our Correspondent

Barnala, February 17
Three brothers, Dinesh Kumar, Rajesh Kumar, Naresh Kumar, and their mother Mrs Santosh Rani have been sentenced to 10-year rigorous imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of Rs 5000 each in the state versus Dinesh Kumar dowry death case.

Mr Jora Singh, Additional Sessions Judge, Barnala, gave the verdict yesterday.

Meenu, a school lecturer, was found dead on June 25, 2000, at her in-laws’ house in Barnala under mysterious circumstances. Meenu’s parents lodged a complaint with the Barnala police alleging that she had been killed by her in-laws. In another case, Mr Jora Singh sentenced Satnam Singh and Baldev Singh to 10-year rigorous imprisonment each and ordered them to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh each. Satnam Singh and Baldev Singh were booked by the Tapa police for possessing 240 kg poppy husk.


Revenue officials asked to recover bad debts
Our correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 17
Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner, while addressing the monthly meeting of district officials here today, directed revenue officials to launch a campaign for the recovery of loans belonging to various government departments from defaulters.

He urged the revenue officials to achieve their targets and speed up the recovery. He also directed officials of other departments to send their pending recovery cases to revenue officials concerned and make liaison with them for recovery. He said the government had released Rs 39.71 lakh for pensions in different categories. He directed officials to utilise the amount sanctioned under various state and Centre-sponsored schemes.

The DC directed executive officers of municipal councils to file applications in respective courts to get stay orders vacated against encroachments, so that these could be removed. He said there were complaints of employees and officials encouraging encroachments on government lands and helping encroachers to get stay orders from courts. If such cases were found correct, the matter would be handed over to the Vigilance Department for investigation, he warned.

He expressed his anguish over the slowing down of cleanliness as well as anti-encroachment drives initiated by the district administration.

The Deputy Commissioner assessed the monthly progress report regarding various schemes of the Health Department, construction and repair of roads, auction of shamlat lands, etc.

Mr Mohinder Pal Arora, ADC, Mr B.S. Shergill ADC (D), Mr Navjot Singh Randhawa, Assistant Commissioner, and SDMs also addressed.


Naib Tehsildar suspended
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, February 17
The Commissioner, Ferozepore Division, Mr B. Sarkar placed under suspension Mr Neeraj Kumar Sharma, Naib Tehsildar Zira and initiated disciplinary action against eight other government employees after they were found missing from duty during a check conducted by him today.

Mr Sarkar, who conducted the surprise check at various government offices under Zira, Bagha Purana, Nihalsingh Wala and other tehsils said the erring government employees indulging in acts of indiscipline and behaving in an irresponsible manner would not be spared. He exhorted the employees to be honest punctual and responsible towards the discharge of their duties.

Mr Sarkar said Mr Sharma was found missing from duty during the check at the Tehsil office at Zira, hence placed under suspension. Similarly, Mr Jagroop Singh MTC, Tehsil Office, Bagha Purana, Jaswinder Singh miscellaneous clerk, SDM Office, Bagha Purana, Nand Singh and Gurpreet Kaur Assistants and Darshan Lal peon in the Kanungo office were found absent from duty.


Four cops booked under NDPS Act

Moga, February 17
The Moga police has booked four constables, Charanjit Singh, Balwinder Singh, Karamjit Singh and Kuldeep Singh and six alleged poppy husk smugglers, all from Bathinda, with all 10 absconding and absent from their duty since February 13.

A case was registered against them under the NDPS Act and for the alleged sale of 13 bags of poppy husk.

Investigations revealed that policemen wanted by them were having links with smugglers since long. The police raided various places to nab them but to no avail.

Stating this here today, Mr Harjit Singh Pannu, SP, said the cops with the help of one police informer who had links with the smugglers raided a dhaba at Baghapurana on January 26 and nabbed three smugglers and the driver of a canter carrying 13 bags of poppy husk.

The police confiscated 13 bags of poppy husk and the canter and brought all smugglers to Moga bypass where policemen gave them a beating and also snatched Rs 25,000 from them and kept the Canter and poppy husk bags with them.

Then on the assurance of being paid Rs 25,000 more from the smugglers, they left the smugglers near Baghata Bhaika village in Bathinda district. They also left the canter unclaimed at Moga bypass and removed 13 bags of poppy husk which they had sold. — PTI


Cop suspended for beating up journalist
Tribune News Service

Tarn Taran, February 17
The district police today placed Constable Punjab Singh and Home Guard Jawan Jaswant Rai under suspension for beating up Baljinder Singh Jassal, alias Bobby, a journalist, in public here.

The journalist was beaten up near his residence (Noordi Mohalla) and then taken to the city police station. The Constable and the Home Guard jawan were members of the police control room (PCR). A case has been registered under Section 506, 323 and 341 of the Indian Penal Code against them according to the SSP, Mr Gurkirpal Singh.


Murder convict escapes 

Ropar, February 17
Amarjit Singh, alias Fauji a murder convict, escaped today from the police custody at Anandpur Sahib. According to sources, the convict along with eight co-accused was brought to the Anandpur Sahib court complex from Patiala jail for hearing.

The judge extended their judicial remand till March 2. After coming out of the court complex, the accused managed to escape on the pretext of meeting his relatives. — OC


5 kg of opium seized

Fazilka, February 17
The police here recovered 5 kg of opium from three occupants of a jeep in Arniwala village. Rachhpal Singh, in charge CIA staff, Fazilka, said here yesterday the police put up a naka between Katehra village and Kandhwala and noticed a jeep coming from Katehra. On search 5 kg of opium was found concealed in a plastic box.

Three occupants of the jeep were identified as Ganesha Ram and brother Kumba Ram and Inder Singh all of Elahi village of Jalour district in Rajasthan. — OC


Pro-VC still functioning
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 17
Even as the post of Pro-Vice-Chancellor stands abolished as per the decision of the Cabinet, yet after a lapse of three weeks Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) Pro-VC continues to function.

Mr Satya Pal Dang a veteran CPI leader, raised this issue, in communication to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, stating that the news of the decision to abolish the post of Pro-VCs (one from GNDU, another from Punjabi University) appeared the Pro-VC of GNDU did not attend his office for two days. Subsequently started attending the office. Similarly the Pro-VC of Punjabi University was also believed to be functioning on the post despite the decision, Mr Dang added.

Dr Satinder Singh, Pro-VC, GNDU, said he had not received any written communication about the abolition of the post of Pro-VC.

Meanwhile, the CPI leader contended that educationists and teachers had welcomed the Cabinet decision, as post of Pro-VC involved monthly expenditure of Rs 5 lakh that was serving no useful purpose and deserved to be abolished. Mr Dang alleged that some political lobbies were working to stall the move to abolish the post of Pro-VCs.


Students break panes of PTU building
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 17
Agitated over Punjab Technical University’s “indifference” towards their long-pending demand of the implementation of the 24 credit system, hundreds of students from different engineering colleges of the state shouted slogans against the PTU management, indulged in rowdyism and stoned the PTU’s main Administration Complex, leading to breaking of windowpanes.

A group of about 80 students form two colleges even squatted in front of the complex till late in the evening and threatened to stay put there during the night and to resort to hunger strike if the university authorities failed to replace the existing new exam system with the old 24 credit system. The call for the agitation was reportedly given by the Students Federation of India and the Sikh Students Federation led by G.S. Grewal.

Students who started converging at the complex at around 10 a.m. and later resorted to stone-throwing, alleged that despite promises to revoke the new “harsh” system, the university authorities had done nothing in this direction, which, had resulted in a sense of insecurity among them. They alleged that a number of students could even loose one precious year if the new system was allowed to exist. The situation came under control only when a police party reached the place and dissuaded students from indulging in rowdyism.

Talks were still on between the university authorities and agitating students.


Holiday today in GND varsity
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 17
Non-teaching departments and administrative offices of Guru Nanak Dev University will observe a holiday tomorrow on the eve of Shivratri.

A half day was observed in connection with “shobha yatra”, a university press note informed here today.


Students allege harassment

Barnala, February 17
Nearly 104 MCA and B. Tech. students belonging to various institutes undergoing training at the Trident Corporation complex here today alleged that there was a breach of trust pertaining to change in training programme. 

They alleged that they were told that the training programme would be conducted in Chandigarh. They demanded that it should be conducted in Chandigarh instead of Barnala. — OC

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