P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Human Trafficking
Battered and bruised in the ‘promised land’
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 21
Severe cold, torrential rain and snow notwithstanding, Vasudev of Khotr village in Banga tehsil, heaved a sigh of relief on reaching Teheran Gurdwara December 14.

Broken and exhausted, with bleeding blisters on his feet, he had been cursing the day of November, 2003, when he embarked upon a journey into what was promised an “affluent and prosperous world with a decent job waiting for him there.” But it was not to be. Instead his name has been added to an unending list of victims of travel and human smuggling agents who leave a majority of their victims, battered and tortured, in penury and in jails of Middle East and Pakistan. Like others, Vasudev was sold several times by various agents in the chain whose contacts back home were squeezing his family of funds.

Vasudev was being tossed around in Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey till he landed on the Iranian border in the hands of some Kurds who helped him to board a bus to Teheran. The Kurds did it but not without charging their “hefty fee” which they extorted from him through his relatives and other contacts supporting his “going abroad mission” using hawala channels.

Dr Kanwaljit Singh (Nazi), a doctor who runs the dispensary at the Teheran gurdwara, was shocked on seeing his condition. He wants that Vasudev should be immediately sent to India for special treatment or else he may risk losing his feet forever. Now Vasudev is awaiting his repatriation to India.

The story of Vasudev is not an isolated story of suffering of an Indian youth whose attempts to sneak into a Western nation proved abortive.

The Tribune was able to contact some of the victims on the net to know their tales of woes.

Gurpreet Singh and Manish Kumar, both 18, from Talwara, left India together on May 3 this year for Jordan by air. Since the parents of Manish Kumar, who are in Lebanon, could not secure a visa for him, a travel agent “Kashmira” was approached to arrange a “donkey” — an illegal channel to enter Lebanon, Syria or Greece — which was to get him in Lebanon. The “donkey” was intercepted and all illegal immigrants were deported from Turkey to Iranian borders.

Gurpreet and Manish were beaten so badly that latter has been diagnosed to be suffering from spinal injuries and can’t stand on his own now. Gurnam, beaten black and blue by Turk soldiers, also had the misfortune of getting three dog bites after Turkish border guards unleashed their bull terriers on them.

Fortunately they were captured by Kurds on the Iranian border who got them medical treatment and gave them shelter after seeking the ransom money from their families through hawala network to the agents in Greece.

Gurpreet claims to be a close relative of Bibi Jagir Kaur, the president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). Recommendation calls are flowing for them from India requesting special care of these two boys from Talwara.

They — Vasudev, Gurpreet and Manish — are among a total of 76 Indian youth, mostly Punjabis, now stranded at Teheran gurdwara. In the absence of any financial or moral support from any source, including Indian missions overseas, or any organisation or society worldwide, 100 odd Sikh families of Teheran, are taking care of them. They are now staying at the gurdwara where besides their treatment they have been provided new sets of winter clothes.

— To be concluded


Shaheedi Samagam ends
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Chamkaur Sahib, December 21
Over 3 lakhs devotees paid obeisance at various historical gurdwaras during the three-day Saheedi Samagam which concluded here this evening. The day was full of religious activities as besides the religious programmes organised by the SGPC, two huge processions including one by the SGPC from the Katalgarh Sahib gurdwara and another by Nihang Singhs began from the Ranjitgarh Sahib gurdwara.

Followers of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale found it an appropriate time to spread his ideology through calendars and other material as thousands of devotees continued to visit here. Calendars depicting Bhindranwale, who was killed during Operation Bluestar, as a martyr of the 20th century were displayed in front of the Katalshaib gurdwara.

One medium-sized calendar showing Bhindarnwale carrying a revolver and two others carrying his pictures with messages were in demand. The calendars were priced at Rs 15 and Rs 10.

Leaving the politicians far behind, thousands of devotees visited Gurdwara Katalgarh Sahib for the “darshan” of “Ganga Sagar” which was gifted by Guru Gobind Singh to the ruler of Raikot and the weapons used by the Guru against the Mughals. A group of 200 Pakistani also visited here to pay obeisance at the Katalgarh Sahib gurdwara.

The Congress managed to win the political battle during the samagam by declaring Chamkaur Sahib as a subdivision the centre for research in Sikh studies and other projects. While the SAD (Badal) failed to get the expected strength during their programmes, their special guests included four former Prime ministers, the Vice-President of India and the Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala.


Central political leadership avoiding Punjab
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Shivraj Patil to attend tercentenary function

Union Home Minister, Shiv Raj Patil would be perhaps the only Central leader to visit Punjab this week to pay homage to the Sahibzadas — Baba Fateh Singh and Baba Zorawar Singh — and Mata Gujri at Fatehgarh Sahib at the tercentenary of their martyrdom.

On December 23, the Chief Minister would flag off a marathon at 11 a.m. from Chamkaur Sahib. A special prayer (ardas) would be held at Fatehgarh Sahib before the Chief Minister dedicates four entry gates in memory of Diwan Todar Mal, Baba Moti Mehra, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and Nawab Sher Mohammad Khan of Malerkotla to the people of Punjab.

A light and sound programme “Sirhind di Dastan” would be staged from December 24 to 26 at Aam Khas Bhag. Gatka display, bhagati sangeet sammelan, kavi darbar dhadi darba and kirtan darbar would also be organised. 

Chandigarh, December 21
The ensuing Assembly elections in Haryana have cast a spell on the tercentenary of the martyrdom of the four Sahibzadas and Mata Gujri as the national political leadership has apparently started avoiding Punjab.

Needless to say, no leader of either the ruling UPA or the Opposition NDA, would like to be identified either with the Shiromani Akali Dal or the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee after the two major political opponents in the state joined hands to pass the controversial annulment of water agreements Acts in July this year.

Since Haryana, like Punjab, is an agrarian state, sharing of rivers water remains an emotive issue .

While the Congress High Command would go all out in support of its public posture that it was not happy with its party government in Punjab for the legislation it passed, members of the NDA, too, do not want its support to its long-time partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal, to be construed as approval for the legislation.

It is perhaps the only reason that all the senior Congress leaders, including the party president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, and the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, have avoided visiting Punjab after the July legislation.

Even the Union Defence Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, has not visited the state after he was made its overall in charge. During the last byelections, the only Central Congress leader to visit Punjab was Mrs Ambika Soni.

The Congress leadership kept itself away from major events like the World Punjabi Conference and inaugural Indo-Pak Punjab Games where only Mr Arjun Singh and Mr K. Natwar Singh made their token presence.

The Shiromani Akali Dal and the SGPC were optimistic that Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and a couple of former Prime Ministers, including Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, Mr Chandra Shekhar and Mr Inder Kumar Gujral, may join a galaxy of national political stalwarts to participate in the tercentenary of the martyrdom of the Sahibzadas.

But none turned up. The chances of any leader showing up for the second phase of the tercentenary functions also look remote.

The silence of both the Central Government and the national political leadership on the tercentenary of martyrdom may not have sent the right message or signal to the Sikh populace in states which are going to the polls in February next year. Haryana has the second largest Sikh population after Punjab.

Though the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal may not be among the major issues for the coming battle of the ballots, yet most of the national parties and their state units would try to woo voters, especially Jats and farmers, by promising them better facilities, including improved irrigation network.

If avoiding Punjab and SYL may help in Haryana alone, then cold-shouldering tercentenary of unprecedented martyrdom in the world history may get an adverse response from Sikh voters in all the states going to the polls in less than two months from now.


Mann requests CJ not to attend
lecture on martyrdom

Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, December 21
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President of the Akali Dal (Amritsar), today expressed dismay over the alleged attempt of SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur to influence the judiciary by inviting the Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice, Mr Justice B.K. Roy, to a lecture on the martyrdom of the sons of Guru Gobind Singh.

Pointing out that a number of cases were pending against SGPC members, including Bibi Jagir Kaur, Mr Mann requested Mr Justice Roy not to attend the lecture. Mr Mann has written a letter in this regard to the Chief Justice.

“Any attendance of the programmes that involve people, who stand to benefit from any acquaintance with your office, will compromise the unbiased objectivity that is essential to the basis of the judiciary,” Mr Mann has written.

He has, however, invited Mr Justice Roy to participate in the events at Fatehgarh Sahib as an ordinary pilgrim.


Admn drive to make Jor Mela a complete religious affair
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 21
From raunchy songs and ‘chitrahaar’ shows to primacy of kirtan, from competitive shouting for offloading freebies to silent reverent distribution, from shops selling trinkets to a kiosk-free pad-yatra route to pay obeisance at the historic gurdwara established on the spot where the two sons of Guru Gobind Singh were bricked alive, the transformation of this town has been complete.

All this has come about in a year. While ‘chitrahaar’ shows by scantily clad girls had been banned last year, this year the drive to make the Jor Mela to be held here from December 24 to 26 a completely religious affair has gone further.

This year entry of vehicles had been further restricted and private parking abolished with the district administration itself taking a 55-acre plot on rent to provide parking free of cost. A shuttle service has been introduced for the aged, women and children who will now be able to take free bus rides to the gurdwara.

Use of loud speakers to advertise tea, food or other attractions like ladoos and jalebis have also been banned. Deputy Commissioner S.K. Ahluwalia said the loud speakers were only creating a din and resulted in needless competition between various social and voluntary organisations. Makeshift shops and merry-go-rounds set up between Gurdwara Jyoti Swarup and Fatehgarh Sahib, the traditional route taken by devotees during the mela, have also been done away with this time by the administration.

“This will mean an undisturbed pilgrimage to the holy site”, Mr Ahluwalia said, adding that earlier there used to be around 300 shops on this stretch of road.

This is not all. The message has even been carried to the political parties who traditionally hold conferences on the second day of the mela which degenerate into “Badal” or “Amarinder” bashing. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has invited everyone to share the stage being put up by it.

Though this offer has not been taken up by the SAD (Amritsar) and SAD (Longowal) factions who claim that the SAD will hijack the SGPC stage, the offer is likely to witness a drop in the criticism being generated at these stages.

The people of the town and neighbouring areas could not be more pleased at the change in atmosphere. “For generations Sirhind was regarded as “guru mari” (a town that killed the sons of the Guru). When Baba Banda Singh Bahadur razed the town, he directed all Sikhs to take 20 bricks each and throw those into the Sutlej or Yamuna depending on the directions they were treading”, says Gurdev Singh of Dakonda village.

Others like Swarn Singh of Ludheri village, near Morinda, say they used to sleep on the ground during the anniversary of the death of the Sahibzadas and food was not cooked at home. “The sacrifices of the younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh tugs at the heart strings of all Sikhs and the manner in which the three-day event had taken on a festive colour was disturbing for many”, he said.

People have already started flocking to the town with many devotees who had gone to Chamkaur Sahib coming here to pay obeisance at the historic gurdwara. The district administration has earmarked 25 government schools in the vicinity of the mela sight for the stay of devotees. Devotees will also be able to stay in public tents during the night.


50 shops, houses to be razed under galliara project
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 21
At least 50 shops, houses and a police station, will be demolished to carry out the proposed beautification of the ancient Durgiana Temple. The oustees would be accommodated on alternative sites, apart from giving them adequate compensation.

This decision was taken in a meeting held between the Management of Durgiana Committee, led by Mr Surinder Arjun, working president, and the Improvement Trust headed by its Chairman, Mr Jugal Kishore Sharma, here today.

Mr Sharma, who is also a trustee of the Durgiana Committee, claimed that the meeting had decided in principle to implement the beautification plan within a year. The temple must be visible from the main Gole Bagh Road. The devotees face a lot of inconvenience when VVIPs visit the Temple. The passage in front of the temple was also very congested.

The chairman of the Improvement Trust has directed the Superintending Engineer of the trust, Mr J.S. Pandher, to get the survey report completed at the earliest.

Mr Arjun said a multi-storey parking –cum-shopping complex would be constructed after demolishing the police station. The oustees would be given alternative shops at the site of police station. The police station would be shifted to Gole Bagh.

Earlier, the beautification plan prepared by the SAD-BJP government was shelved. However, after the congress took over the Durgiana Committee’s Management the plan was renewed. According to rough estimate, the project would cost more than Rs 25 crore.

The Durgiana Committee had already completed first phase of gold platting of the temple while the second phase would commence shortly. The flooring has also been changed while a big entrance gate is being constructed.


Is PWD ignoring rules while constructing roads?
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 21
The Public Works Department (PWD) is apparently not following the procedure while laying roads running throughout the length and breadth of Punjab. As a result major chunks require repair much before the due date. Approximately 50,000 km are under the PWD along with Punjab Mandi Board.

The sources in the PWD’s Bridges and Roads (B & R) wing claim that rules, even the norms, make it mandatory for the Chief Engineers and other authorities to consult mechanical engineers before recarpeting the roads, including the highways. But they are apparently being ignored.

The fact that only 3 per cent mechanical engineers and technicians have been recruited in the B & R wing since 1974 is a testimony to this effect. As of now, there are approximately 300 personnel, including 10 engineers, in the mechanical circle.

Giving details, the sources assert that the mechanical engineers are often not invited to the meetings organised every now and then in the district headquarters and even in the head office.

The sources also claim that instead of buying new machinery, including vehicles, for engineers deputed in the mechanical circle, the existing ones are being sold off by the authorities concerned.

They add that the result of ignoring the mechanical engineers while laying roads and constructing new buildings, besides culverts and bridges, is there for all to see. The department is often using “low weight road rollers” while recarpeting the roads, instead of the “heavy ones”, in accordance with the requirements.

“Due to the indifferent attitude, coupled with heavy load, a road expected to last for five years is wearing off in just 18 months”, the sources say. Quoting an example, they add that the stretch between Bajakhana near Bathinda and Barnala is in bad shape.

A retired Chief Engineer, on the condition of anonymity, says that for the department’s smooth functioning and longer lasting roads, co-ordinated approach between the mechanical and the civil engineers is necessary. For the purpose of patching up the two wings, the Commissioners and the Deputy Commissioners in the districts should intervene.

Denying the allegations of a rift between the civil and the mechanical engineers, senior PWD officers, on the other hand, claim that the roads are being laid in accordance to the international specifications after following the due procedure.


Mid-day meal scheme to be given to panchayats
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Bhaini Mehraj (Sangrur), December 21
The Punjab Government has been contemplating handing over Central-sponsored mid-day meal scheme to village panchayats.

This was disclosed by Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab, here today when her attention was drawn towards numerous complaints that teachers were not showing interest in serving the mid-day meal to students as it adversely hit their studies.

Ms Bhattal said the process of handing over the scheme to the panchayats was in final stage. She said the government had handed over the work of six departments to the panchayats to improve their functioning. She also said the government might also think about handing over the work relating to the issuance of birth certificates to the panchayats as villagers faced many problems in getting those certificates.

Ms Bhattal, who is also Minister for Higher Education and Technical Education, Punjab, stated that a meeting of the Cabinet Sub-committee for Reforms in Education had been held while another meeting would be held next week.

She said the main aim of the committee was to chalk-out modalities for streamlining the education system. She said it would prepare a report on how the education standards could be improved.

She would take up the matter relating to deemed university status for the Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology, Longowal, with the Centre. She also asked the management committees of private colleges to generate their own resources for paying the salaries of the teachers and should not bank upon 95 per cent grant-in-aid only.

With regard to her patch up with Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, Punjab, she said the Congress in Punjab was united. However, she admitted that differences cropped up among the leaders in all big parties. But, she emphasised despite this the Congress was one and there was no factionalism in it. 


Bhangra and Republic Day are his greatest passions
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Master Harbhajan
Master Harbhajan

Chandigarh, December 21
The first thing that strikes you about Harbhajan Singh of Khokhar Fauji village in Gurdaspur is his name, as he likes it. “Call me Master Harbhajan, Republic Daywale,” declares the 75-something man even as you wonder why a veteran should insist on a prefix like “Master”. A few more minutes into the conversation and the element of surprise gives way to awe.

Here is a man who has the unique distinction of having trained and led the Punjab bhangra contingent in the Republic Day Parade for 27 years in a row. As the lead dancer for a year and as the captain of the bhangra team for 26 years, Harbhajan Singh often brought laurels to the state. Even till today, Punjab has not been able to find an equivalent of Master Harbhajan when it comes to instruction in the genuine folk dance forms of bhangra, jhoomer and luddi.

The Republic Day preparations are on, and it is the best time to zero in on the man who is a master literally. Originally from Shakkargarh in Pakistan’s part of Gurdaspur, Master Harbhajan is famous in Punjab’s cultural history for his unadulterated folk dance repertoire. Every bhangra team that has ever participated in the Republic Day celebrations in Delhi and then the Republic Day Parade has been either led or trained by him.

In fact, he has been the official bhangra instructor for almost all major educational and professional institutions in the region. Recalls Master Harbhajan, “I also taught Punjab cadre trainees at the IAS Training Academy at Mussorie. They were supposed to present a bhangra sequence at one of the Punjab nights they celebrate.” Mr D.S. Jaspal, currently heading the Punjab Cultural Affairs Department was one of the Punjab cadre officers rained in bhangra by Master Harbhajan.

Besides that, he was the lead dancer in the bhangra team that performed at the inauguration of Kurukshetra University by the first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad.

Also a teacher by profession, Master Harbhajan is happy to have raised a nursery of genuine folk dancers in Punjab. He says, “I am valued for the purity of my dance. My kind of bhangra is more rhythmic than vigorous. What you see today is a distorted version of bhangra. What I offer is the real, original form.”

Crowned with the Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi award this year, he says he has a long way to go. Most proud of his participations in the Republic Day parades, he says, “I have been part of the Republic Day team whenever bhangra has been one of the presentations in the list. The last team I trained for the Parade was in 2001. Earlier, I led the team from 1960 to 1987.”


Govt job for martyr Jasbir’s brother: Bhattal
Tribune News Service

Bhaini Mehraj (Sangrur), December 21
The Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, today announced to give a government job to the brother of martyr Jasbir Singh (21), an Army jawan, who laid down his life while fighting militants on Burma border in Manipur on December 8.

This announcement was made by Ms Bhattal while paying tributes to the martyr at the “bhog” ceremony today. Besides hundreds of villagers, Mr Harbans Singh Sidhu and Mr Gurcharan Singh Dirba, both former Punjab ministers; Mr Husan Lal, Deputy Commissioner, Sangrur; Mr Amit Prashad, SSP, Barnala; and Mr Avtar Singh Karimpuri, president of the Punjab unit of the BSP, were present on the occasion.

Mr Subhash Grover, president of the Sangrur District Congress Committee; Mr Jagjit Singh Dhaula, a senior Congress leader from Dhanaula, also paid tributes to the martyr.

Earlier, Ms Bhattal laid the foundation stone of a stadium to be built at a cost of Rs 30 lakh in memory of martyr Jasbir Singh. She announced a grant of Rs 15 lakh as the first installment for the construction of the stadium. He also assured the villagers that sufficient funds would be provided through the District Planning and Development Board for constructing streets, drains and other development works in the village.


Run for Environment by pollution board
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, December 21
Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) Member-Secretary Malvinder Singh appealed to the younger generation to work for protecting the environment at a Run for Environment event organised at the Siel Chemical Complex here yesterday.

Mr Malvinder Singh, besides flagging off the race, also launched a tree plantation drive on the occasion. He said it was very important for children to understand that the ozone layer was depleting at a fast pace and efforts should be taken to curb pollution at all levels.

Dr Babu Ram, Senior Environment Engineer of the Board, gave a presentation on “environment laws” and emphasised the need for understanding the role of the PPCB in enforcing laws concerning the environment.

Board Environment Engineer Krunesh Garg highlighted the significance of the National Environment Awareness Campaign month which is celebrated every year from November 19 to December 18. He said this years theme was “Solid Waste Management”. He appreciated the commitment of the Siel management towards environment protection on the occasion.

Mr Rajeev Marwah, General Manager, Works, Siel, welcomed Mr Malvinder Singh on the occasion. A skit titled, “Mukadma Manav Par”, was also held on the occasion by the Siel cultural troupe.


Dalits burn teacher’s effigy for using
objectionable language

Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 21
Activists of Ambedkar Sena and members of the Dalit community, today took out a protest march from Palahigate Phagwara to the courts complex, burnt effigy of Mr Nirmal Singh, a school teacher, and demanded the arrest of the teacher under the SC/ST Act.

Led by Ambedkar Sena’s state president Harbhajan Suman, the protesters submitted a memorandum to SDM Pritam Singh for forwarding it to the Punjab Chief Minister.

Vehicular traffic got disrupted on the GT road, when the protesters burnt the effigy of Nirmal Singh at Gol Chowk.

They alleged that Nirmal Singh had used a caste-specific language against Miss Satnam Kaur, a plus II student of Govt Senior Secondary School for Girls, on October 7. They also accused Principal Gursharan Singh of being in league with Nirmal Singh and demanded action against him.

The protesters said the strike would be intensified in case action was not taken against the culprits.

However, both Principal Gursharan Singh and Nirmal Singh, today denied the allegations.

President of the sena, Harbhajan Suman, general secretary Surinder Dhada, Cashier Dharminder Singh, senior leaders like Balwinder Kumar, Jaswinder Kumar, BSP leader Master Harbhajan Singh Balalon, and Dalit leader Surinder Singh Shinda addressed the rally.


Ahmadiyya’s annual gathering from Dec 26
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 21
The three-day 113th annual gathering of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jammat will be held in Qadian in Gurdaspur on December 26.

Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih V, will address the gathering through a satellite link from jamaat headquarters at London. Mr Sayed Tanvir Ahmad, press secretary for India, said that all arrangements had been made for the gathering.

He said the Indian Railways had increased the frequency of trains between Amritsar and Qadian to thrice daily. He said special trains carrying participants from West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh were expected to reach Qadian on December 24.

Mr V.P. Singh, former Prime Minister, Kuldip Nayar, SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur, and many religious scholars were expected to participate.


31 buffaloes, horse killed in fire
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 21
As many as 31 buffaloes and a horse were burnt alive and four buffaloes got burn injuries when a fire broke out in a shed of Supahia Gujjar, son of Kasam Gujjar, at Budi Pind, near Tanda Urmur, last night. Besides, Rs 42,000, dry fodder, one “rehra” and gold ornaments weighing 4 tolas were also reduced to ashes in the incident. The cost of the buffaloes and the horse was estimated at about Rs 5 lakh. A spark from the coal fire pit was stated to be the cause of fire.

Mr Gopal Krishan Sabharwal, Additional Deputy Commissioner (General) visited the site today to make assessment of the loss.


KKU to gherao DC on Dec 31
Tribune News Service

Moga, December 21
The Kirti Kisan Union today held a meeting at Khosa Pando village and announced that if the village farmers arrested a few days back were not released unconditionally they would gherao the Deputy Commissioner on December 31.

Addressing the meeting, state union chief Hardev Singh Sandhu said that if their demands were not met they would launch an agitation in other districts of the state, too.

He alleged that the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had promised to withdraw cases against the farmers, but now he was harassing them to suppress their agitation.

The police had arrested six farmers a few days back for holding hostage a junior engineer of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).


Insurance employees observe strike
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 21
Employees of United Indian Insurance Company here today observed a strike and held a demonstration on a call from central leaders of the General Insurance Employees Union to protest against the anti-worker policies of the Central Government and to implement a wage revision which is due from August, 2002.

Mr Dinesh Kumar, president of union, explained the harsh policies relating to abolition of additional casual leave, reduction in casual leave, implementation of transfer mobility policy, etc.


Cold wave claims two lives
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 21
The cold wave, which has been sweeping the region for the past few days, claimed two human lives during this town in the past 24 hours.

In a press note, Mr Vijay Goyal, president, Sahara Jan Sewa, said that while the body of an unidentified sadhu was recovered from the local Dhobiana Basti, the second body was found in the Partap Nagar area.

The police handed over both the bodies to the volunteers for cremation after post mortem.


Firm owner sentenced by forum
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 21
The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum today, convicted Sanjeev Kumar proprietor of Aman Associates and authorised dealer of Dishnet India Emmtel Internet Services, Sirhind and imposed a fine of Rs 3,000 on him. The court ruled that in case of default of payment of fine, he shall under go rigorous imprisonment of six months.

According to the judgment delivered today, Mr Sunit Kumar filed a complaint on December 19, 2002, regarding purchase of a computer, Pentium-3 from Aman Associates. He made a payment of Rs 30,000.

The computer had warranty for two years. The complainant alleged that due to some fault in the computer and the printer, the proprietor was requested to repair the fault.

After repeated requests he took away the printer for exchange but even after six months he did not rectify the fault nor replaced the printer.

The forum directed the proprietor to refund Rs 32,520 with 12 per cent interest per annum with effect from may 5, 2002.

When the proprietor did not made the payment in spite of order. He was ordered to appear in the court on February 10, 2004. But he failed to turn up though bailable and non-bailable warrants were issued against him. Finally, he was made to appear in the court with the help of the police.


Four get life terms for abducting minor
Our Correspondent

Barnala, December 21
The local court of Additional Session Judge Fatehdeep Singh today gave life imprisonment to four persons for abducting a minor and demanding ransom.

Rajinder Singh Sanghera, Sukhwinder Singh, Gurpreet Singh of Thekrewal and Jagtar Singh of Bhadarwarh village, all accused in the case, had been awarded life imprisonment and fine of Rs 5000 each.

Lakhbeer Singh, alias, Babloo, was abducted from Sanghera village on November 27 in 1998. The parents later received an anonymous call from the kidnappers for a sum of Rs 2 lakh as the ransom. Mr Gurpiar Singh suspected Rajinder Singh Sanghera, resident of the village, and lodged a complaint with the police.

The police arrested Rajinder Singh and rescued Babloo from the residence of Jagtar Singh in Ludhiana. The other two, Sukhwinder and Gurpreet Singh, were also found involved in the crime.


No chamber for non-practising lawyers: Gill
Tribune News Service

Moga, December 21
The president of a faction of the District Bar Association, Mr Rajvinder Singh Gill, today claimed that the district administration had agreed to their demand of not allotting any chamber to the non-practising lawyers on the new premises of the District Courts.

Mr Gill alleged that some non-practising lawyers used to sell off their chambers for Rs 50,000. He said that during a meeting with the district administration officials today discussion was held over the shifting process that included the size and type of chambers and space to be allotted to typists.

It may be mentioned here that the two faction of the District Bar Association are presently at loggerheads over the voting rights to non-practising members of the association.


After cotton growers, potato farmers hit by price crash
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 21
Even as the cotton growers of this region are yet to come out of the shock of the losses they have suffered on account of a sharp fall in its prices, the potato farmers have started meeting the same fate as its prices have come down drastically over the past few days.

The situation has taken such an ugly turn that the potato growers, who had stored their produce in the cold stores with the hope that they would sell the same in November and December at high prices, have been compelled to throw the same along road sides.

A number of growers have been preferring to dispose off their produce along road sides instead of keeping them in the cold stores for long as they have been apprehending that they would not be able to earn enough to pay the rent of cold stores.

Information gathered by The Tribune revealed that the prices of per bag of potato weighing 80 kg which was fetching Rs 150 to Rs 155 about two weeks ago, have come down to Rs 100 to Rs 120. The traders have still been apprehending that prices might go down further.

Information revealed that prices of potato came down due to the reason that most of the growers had stored the same to sell the same as seed to the growers in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and other states. But due to various reasons, the demand of Punjab potato as seed remained low.

Apart from it, the growers of Himachal Pardesh and the Doaba belt of Punjab, who started digging the unripened potato, had been pushing the same into the Malwa region and hence it further affected the prices.

Mr Jagdish Singh Sekhon, a potato grower, pointed out that he had stored his produce in the cold store last year with the hope that he would get a better price of the same by selling it during off season. He added that he had to sell his crop at Rs 110 per bag of potato and out of this amount, he had to pay Rs 55 as rent for per bag of potato to the cold store.

Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhillon, former minister and pioneer in potato cultivation in this region, said that as the authorities concerned had failed to work out a mechanism to protect the interest of potato growers, their future had become uncertain as profitability from the crop depended on various factors that were out of control of the growers.

Mr Gur Kewal Singh, Deputy Director, Horticulture, when contacted, said that the prices of potato crashed due to the fact that growers got panicky after its demand went down in West Bengal and other states where the Punjab potato was being sold as seed.

He added that a bumper crop of potato was expected in February in Punjab and it was also hoped that at that time, the growers would get better prices.


Cops suspended for bid to loot clerk
Tribune News Service

Moga, December 21
Two policemen were suspended after they were reportedly caught looting a clerk of a private college in broad daylight on the GT Road here today.

According to sources, Head Constable Pahara Singh and constable Gurmej Singh, both of them posted at the City II police station, parked their motor cycle near the Truck Union office on the GT Road at around 10 am today. After a few minutes they stopped Sanjeev Kumar Gupta who is a clerk at the Lala Lajpat Rai Institute of Engineering and Technology, Moga, and asked him about the contents of the bag.

He questioned their identity as they were in civil clothes. They showed him their identity cards and then asked him to show his identity card or some other document for corroborating his identity, failing which they snatched his bag containing Rs 50,000. Gupta, who was there to order a truckload of sand for construction work at the college, called for help and soon people associated with the Truck Union gathered.

They reportedly manhandled both the policemen and locked them in a room. The police was informed and City I SHO Mukhtiar Singh reached the spot and rounded up both the cops.

Gupta alleged that they were trying to snatch his cash, an allegation denied by both the policemen, who said they suspected that he was smuggling poppy husk in his bag.

These policemen were posted at the City II police station and they were carrying out a check in the limits of the City I police station. They said that their suspicion was raised as Gupta could not prove his identity. They admitted to have slapped him once, but denied that they were trying to rob him of his money.

The SSP, Ms V. Neerja, said both the policemen had been suspended and the SP (H) would conduct a probe into the matter.


Smuggler Lakhwinder Singh arrested
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 21
One Lakhwinder Singh, accused in a smuggling case registered at the Sarai Amanat Khan police station, was arrested here last evening. This was informed by Mr R. P. S. Brar, SSP, Amritsar, in a statement issued today.

Mr Brar said on a tip-off, a case under Sections 414, 411 IPC, 489 (A) (B) (C), 18/21/61/85 NDPS Act, 25/54/59 Arms Act, 3/34/20 I P Act, 14 Foreigners Act and 3 O S Act, was registered against 12 persons, including Lakhwinder Singh. However, seven persons, including Major Singh, Sarabjit Singh, Baldev Singh, Saroop Singh, Dharam Singh, Shamsher Singh and Suba Singh, were already arrested while Gurmit Singh, Dilraj Singh, Amlok Singh, Nirvair Singh and his sons, and Naresh Kumar, who were also declared proclaimed offender in the case, were still absconding.

He said the accused used to smuggle huge quantity of forged currency, heroin, smack, opium and other intoxicated material, arms and ammunition from Pakistan and leak-out the secrecy of the Indian Army to Pakistan.

Meanwhile, four vehicle lifters, including Manish Kumar and Mohit Bawa of Islamabad, Naresh Kumar Sammi of Godam Mohalla and Sanni Kumar of Hathigate, were arrested by the police in separate raids and recovered four motor cycles from him.

In another incident, the police nabbed one Pappu, resident of Haripura locality along with Raj Kumar and Kishan Lal of Gilwali Gate and Guru Nanak Pura, allegedly for defrauding one Ram Anaria of Galli Shaikhan of Rs 2.65 lakh on the pretext of giving him a job. 


Janer dera supporters ‘attacked’, 2 injured
Tribune News Service

Moga, December 21
Four days after a piece of land of Gurdwara Baba Mal Singh on the Ghal Kalan road was handed over to Janer village gurdwara chief Mahinder Singh, his supporters alleged that they were attacked today by a group of men and women belonging to the camp of Baba Paramjeet Singh and injured a couple of them.

Gurbachan Singh, who was among those who had also been there to irrigate land, alleged that as soon as they reached the field a group of armed men and women gheraoed them and asked as why they were irrigating the land. Following an altercation they manhandled them and thrashed a few of them.

Those injured have been identified as Jagtar Singh, Kulwant Singh and Balbir Singh. The injured, who were admitted to the Civil Hospital, alleged that while leaving the assailants also damaged their tractor.

A police party reached the spot, but they managed to give them a slip.


Gang of cheats busted; 2 held
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, December 21
In a joint operation, sleuths of the Military Intelligence and the local police have busted a gang of agents, who used to allegedly allure innocent youths aspiring to get inducted into the Army with a promise of guaranteed recruitment and in the bargain fleeced a huge amount of many from them.

According to the information, two such agents, Pipal Singh and Karnail Singh, were arrested from a place where the Army recruitment rally was going on today. Out of these two agents, Karnail Singh retired as honorary Captain of the Army long time ago and the other Pipal Singh is a Punjab Home Guards volunteer currently under suspension.

According to Military Intelligence sources, scores of such unscrupulous agents roam around the venue where the recruitment drive is underway and spread the word that they can ensure recruitment in the Army by mobilising their resources in the organisation.

The poor youth get easily lured and end up coughing up a huge amount of money. Sources said these agents charge from Rs 50,000 to Rs 70,000 from the aspirants.

These self-styled agents take 50 per cent of the money in advance and even prepare forged documents after charging some extra money.

The police along with the Military Intelligence, today arrested the two agents and recovered Rs 4,500 from Pipal Singh and Rs 5,000 from Karnail Singh. An FIR has been registered against the two.


4 cops booked as accused escapes from custody
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, December 21
Four policemen and an accused have been booked under Sections 223 and 224 of the IPC as an accused ran away from police station on Sunday.

The policemen have also been suspended with immediate effect.

Mr Paramjit Singh Grewal, SSP, said here yesterday that the two accused, Jagtar Singh of Rattoke village and Gurmail Singh were booked under the NDPS Act and were taken in police custody on Sunday night.

Baljinder Singh, constable, took Gurmail Singh for medical examination at Civil Hospital but he forgot to lock up the door of the cell. Taking advantage of the carelessness of the cop Jagtar Singh ran away from the cell.

The SSP said Karnail Singh, an ASI, who was the duty officer, Amarjit Singh MHC, Baljinder Singh and the sentry Sukhwinder Singh along with the accused had been booked in the case.


Non-availability of wagons hits exports to Pak
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 21
The local exporters were facing a piquant situation as the railway authorities were not providing regular cargo rakes for exporting goods to Pakistan, causing an immense hardship and financial crisis.

The general secretary of the Amritsar Chamber of Exporters, Mr Rajesh Setia, in a letter to the Executive Director, Traffic, Ministry of Railways, Mr Pradeep Bhatnagar, had urged him to release 70 to 80 wagons as large consignments of goods worth over Rs 60 crore had piled up with the exporters here. He said that in case the Railways did not accede to their request the exporters were bound to lose not only their credibility but would also suffer on account of losing orders from Pakistan.

Mr Setia pointed out that after the resumption of rail route, which had remained suspended for two years, the exporters never faced paucity of cargo and parcel wagons and now with the non-availability of wagons, the exporters were feeling jittery as the letters of credit received by them were expected to expire soon.

However, the Ministry of Railways had assured the exporters that they would provide more wagons soon so that they could meet their commitments.

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