P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



300 villages plunged into darkness
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 19
The PSEB strike has taken a heavy toll on rural power supply and about 300 villages in southern Punjab have plunged into darkness. About 40 per cent of the urban population has also been affected.

Sources said about six grids and 36 feeders have been totally shut. The PSEB strike has also hit the industrial sector in Malwa region. Preparations for the next crop were in full swing in rural areas, but thousands of tubewells had gone dry due to no power supply.

To keep 135 sub-stations in six districts of the west zone operational, the PSEB had deputed some engineers. But there was hardly anyone to correct the faults owing to staff crunch.

As per the information available with The Tribune, 94 per cent of the PSEB staff has gone on strike, while those on duty are either trainee employees or staff approaching retirement.

The entire industrial sector at Rama Mandi is shut since 10 am today, while one fourth of its population has gone without power. In Bathinda, there was no power supply to Diggi area till 2 pm, while power went off at Parasram Nagar after 1 pm. Phus Mandi feeder, Jassi feeder, Chotia feeder, Shekhpura feeder, Jodhpur feeder, and Burj Mansa feeder are shut since last night hitting power supply to dozens of villages. Power supply is off in Talwandi Sabo since today afternoon.

Sources said 132-kv grid at Gidderbaha and a grid at Fazilka were also shut for hours and some officials restarted them with the aid of local people. Thedi feeder in Malout is shut since morning. About a dozen feeders in Moga district have also been shut, while shut down of bus stand feeder in Muktsar district has hit power supply to one third of the city since 11 am. Similarly, 66 kv grid at Lakhewali was totally shut today affecting power supply to about 18 villages.

Apart from these, two feeders out of the three at Wadakishanpura were shut, while the grid on the Dabwali road in Bathinda was restarted after the district administration’s intervention.


Vegetable prices shoot up as strike continues
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar April 19
As scores of vegetable markets of Punjab have shunned work and joined hands with vegetable commission agents of Jalandhar , who have been on strike for the past five days to protest against privatisation of collection of market fee by the Punjab Mandi Board, consumers have to pay through their noses. Vegetable prices have gone up by about 25 per cent in a number of strike-affected cities of Punjab.

The complete strike in Jalandhar Vegetable Market, with a daily transanction of about Rs. 50 lakh, entered its fifth day today. The markets at Bhogpur, Lohian, Nakodar, Amritsar, Pathankot, Talwara and Mukerian have also joined the strike during the past five days.

The 30-member Aarti Sangharsh Samiti, formed by the commission agents of Jalandhar to spearhead their struggle, has resolved that they would not resume operations till the “dictatorial” decision of the Punjab Mandi Board authorities to hand over collection of market fee to private contractors was not taken back.

Mr Puniyatam, Mr. H.S. Kuku, Mr. Gurdip Nagra, Mr Subhash Dhall and Mr. Sohan Lal, vegetable commission agents and members of the samiti, alleged that the decision of the Mandi Board had led to harassment of commission agents, their employees and consumers at hands of “goondas” of private contractors.

“Moreover, this new system has forced commission agents and purchasers to shell out taxes at multiple points. Since private contractors have formed their raiding teams and stationed these around octroi posts, they keep harassing innocent people in the name of checking. Suppose some person has given market fee at Jalandhar and is moving to Tanda, he might be stopped by contractor’s men at Bhogpur and asked to shell out the fee and such incidents have been happening,” said commission agents. They alleged that their meeting with top Mandi Board officials failed to yield any result. “The Mandi Board Chairman had assured us that he would visit the Jalandhar market on Saturday or Sunday, but, his visit could not materialise,” said Mr. Puniyatam.

Though the prices of vegetables keep changing every hour, men of contractors have a tendency to impose tax on the maximum rate of the day, allege commission agents.

Meanwhile, prices of vegetables have shot up in Jalandhar and other markets affected by the strike by about 25 per cent. Though the cost of bringing vegetables from other markets is not so enourmous, vendors have added their “own charges” and this has led to a the inflation of vegetable prices.


J&K sends notice to Ranjit Sagar Dam
Seeks recovery of Rs 850 crore
Ravi Bhushan Puri

Pathankot, April 19
The Jammu and Kashmir Government has sought the appointment of an arbitrator for assessing the losses accrued due to failure of the Punjab state to constructing the Shahpur Kandi dam project, within the stipulated period. The Jammu and Kashmir Government has sent the Ranjit Sagar dam authorities a notice for recovery of Rs 850 crore as losses.

According to information gathered by The Tribune, on January 20, 1979, an agreement was executed between Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir states, vide which it was agreed upon by Punjab Government that the Shahpur Kandi barrage [now dam] would be completed by Punjab as early as possible that water could be supplied to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Government of Punjab has not taken any action for construction of the dam all these years.

A meeting was held in this connection on February 28,1999 by the Northern Zonal Council at Surajkund in which the then Minister of Finance, Punjab, promised to make adequate budgetary provisions for completion of the project.

However, no action was allegedly taken by Punjab to honour the said commitment.

Sources said that the Jammu and Kashmir Government had invested Rs 100 crore on the Ravi Canal complex through which water had to flow to J&K from the proposed dam, said to be the second phase of the Ranjit Sagar dam near.

The inordinate delay in completion of the project has allegedly cost the J&K continuous losses on account of non-utilisation of irrigation waters from the Ravi. The loss is estimated at Rs 850 crore, said a senior functionary of J&K.

According to experts, the Punjab State may be penalised for violating the terms of the agreement executed with the J&K State. Officials of the project confirmed the legal notice slapped by the J&K Government but refused to comment.


Counterfeit notes in circulation
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
Look before you accept money. Chances are that the crisp currency notes in your hands are fake. For, gangs involved in printing and circulating counterfeit currency — both Indian and foreign — are active in Punjab. The busting of two gangs in as many number of days is a testimony to this effect — at least that is what the police is claiming.

Preliminary investigations so far carried out by the police have revealed that most of the fake currency notes in circulation are of the denominations of Rs 100 and Rs 500.

“It all depends on the criminal,” says Senior Superintendent of Jagraon Police (SSP) Rajiv Aheer, who was behind the busting of a racket in Jagraon on Sunday. “Some find it convenient to introduce notes of Rs 100 denomination. Others make a quick buck by circulating Rs 500 notes.... Last year, we were able to nab gangs involved in the printing of dollars with the help of foreign agencies. Their intention was to undermine the country’s economy”.

Regarding the modus operandi, Mr Aheer says fake currency is printed on fine paper with the help of sophisticated machinery after the “real money” is scanned. It is, subsequently, introduced in small numbers. The masterminds hand over anywhere between 50 and 100 currency notes to their agents at half the price of the real money. They, in turn, give the counterfeit currency to the sub-agents.

Sources in the Punjab police headquarters claim that fake currency is also introduced in the market through petrol stations, with or without the connivance of the staff there.

They allege that the method was recently adopted by Hoshiarpur-based Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Parminder Singh. He was arrested on Monday on a charge of involvement in the racket.

Preliminary investigations by the police have revealed that the ASI had allegedly handed over the money to employees of a petrol station for further transmission.

Hoshiarpur’s SSP Lok Nath Angra adds that the counterfeit currency was allegedly accepted as bribe from a “car passenger” after he was stopped at a barricade by the ASI. Taking it to be hawala money, the ASI had allegedly pocketed it.


Hindu jatha from Sindh to visit India
Rashmi Talwar

Amritsar April 19
For the first time in eight years Hindus from Sindh province of Pakistan have been permitted to visit India on a pilgrimage.

The first such Pakistani jatha of Hindus will have 300 devotees on a month’s visit to various cities and towns of historical, religious importance in India.

The jatha will travel by rail from Wagah in Pakistan to the Attari international railway station here on April 21, according to information from across the border.

Mr Surinder Kumar Billa, president of the All India Hindu Shiv Sena, while demanding a longer pilgrimage visa for Hindus, told The Tribune that even though jathas from India to the Shadhani Darbar have frequently gone to Sindh in Pakistan in recent years, the Hindu Jatha from Sindh had been allowed to visit India for the first time after 1997.

“In 2001 due to the Indo-Pak stand-off following the attack on the Indian Parliament, things had soured to a large extent and the issue of allowing jathas from Sindh had been put on the back-burner. However, eased tensions between the countries have facilitated a new beginning”, he added.

The jatha will pay tributes to observe the 45th death anniversary of Sant Raja Ram Sahib of the Shadhani Darbar as it had been invited by the Shadhani Darbar, Raipur, in India.

After reaching here on April 21 the jatha will leave for Raipur. It will proceed to Amarvati Shadhani Darbar temple on April 30 from Raipur. After staying for three days the jatha will visit the Shadhani Darbar in Jalgaon. Thereafter, it will travel to Mumbai to visit Mata Momba Devi Mandir there on May 4.

The jatha members will further visit Swami Narayan Temple in Ahmedabad. Apart from this, they will visit historical temples in Udaipur, Rajasthan and famous Sri Krishan Temple in Nathwara on May 9, before proceeding to pay obeisance at temples of Jaipur and the Birla Mandir there. In addition to the Krishna Bhoomi temple in Uttar Pradesh the jatha will pay obeisance at Viridian, Gould, and Matura on May 12-13.

Besides a holy dip in the Gaga at Hardwar, the jatha will also visit Lakshmi Jhula at Rishikesh. The jatha members will visit the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir and well-known Birla Mandir in Delhi before returning to Pakistan on May 19 via Attari.


10-yr-old vows to be friend for life
156 fishermen repatriated to Pakistan
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Wagah, April 19
The two-and-a-half-month jail sentence for 10-year-old Amir Ahmad, a resident of Sindh, who was repatriated along with 155 fishermen to Pakistan from the Wagah Joint Checkpost here, earned him his best friend.

The day news about his release was broken in the Rajkot Juvenile Jail, his Indian jailmate Bantu got depressed. But, shortly they decided to remain friends throughout life. Bantu gifted him goggles, a pair of shoes and clothes on his release and pledged that they would remain in touch through mail.

Narrating his story, Aamir said it was his first attempt to learn fishing in the ‘troubled waters’ along with his maternal uncle, Arshad Ali, when their boat strayed into Indian side inadvertently. He belongs to economically weaker section and all his four brothers and sisters were younger to him.

Ali Murad (14), another boy from Sindh, said he along with other fishermen were fired upon by the Indian Navy in which three Pakistani nationals were killed while he had sustained bullet injuries, when their boat crossed into Indian side.

Apart from the officials of the Border Security Force, Mr Gurwaryam Singh, SDM, Amritsar, was present during the repatriation of Pakistani nationals. They were received by senior officials of the Pakistani Rangers.

Out of the 156 fishermen, who were released today by the Indian Government, 137 were detained in Jam Nagar Jail of Gujarat while the remaining 19 were detained in Kutch jail. Mr Gurwaryam Singh said most of the fishermen were in Indian jails for a maximum period of eight months and a minimum of two months.

Before their repatriation, the fishermen said both the governments should take measures to ensure that the fishermen who stray into each other’s territory inadvertently should be released on-the-spot after preliminary interrogations.

Mr Ismail Khan, an official of Pakistani High Commission who had reached the Wagah Joint Checkpost along with required documents of the fishermen, said the employment of fishermen was directly linked with ocean. He said there was no clear demarcation in the ocean, which could guide the fishermen. Most of the time fishermen enter the territory of other country, which ultimately land them in jails. Hence there is a need to sign treaty between both the countries so that poor fishermen did not suffer in future.


Profiteering in name of VAT
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, April 19
Rajesh Kumar, a resident of Pathankot runs a fast food joint here. The implementation of the value added tax (VAT) from April 1 has started showing effect on his business. The prices of all raw material for his business, including pulses and oil, have gone up suddenly.

Talking to The Tribune, Rajesh Kumar said the prices of all pulses in the market had gone up from 10 to 15 per cent since the implementation of VAT. Whenever the traders were asked about the reason for the sudden increase in prices, they simply said “VAT has been implemented”.

A survey of the prices of foodgrains in the market revealed that the traders were resorting to profiteering in the name of VAT. Due to the confusion regarding the new taxation system among the masses, traders have enhanced the prices of all foodgrains on the plea of VAT.

Foodgrains are not the only commodities whose prices have gone up. The traders of other goods are charging excess price from the customers in the name of VAT. In some cases, excess prices were also being charged for medicines.

However, the fact is that even after the implementation of VAT, the sales tax on the foodgrains had not been enhanced. Sales tax officials when contacted, said that tax on foodgrains had been kept at the earlier level of 4 per cent under the VAT system of taxation. So, there was no logic for the increase in prices.

However, since the VAT was a self-checking system, the abuse of the sales tax would be checked. The misuse of the sales tax could now be checked at any level, ranging from the producer to the wholesaler and retailer. Explaining the new system, the officials said that in the earlier system, the sales tax was collected either from the manufacturer or the retailer. However, a lot of pilferage occurred at the in-between levels of various types of wholesalers.

Under the new system, to save themselves from bearing the penalty of paying the entire tax, each level of traders would demand the bill from his predecessor. This would help curbing the misuse of the sales tax, they said.

The prices of some commodities however, are bound to go up due to the lesser slab of taxes under VAT. In the earlier system, large numbers of sales tax slabs were present ranging from 1 per cent to 20 per cent. However, in VAT there are just three slabs of 4 per cent, 12.5 per cent and 20 per cent. So, some of the items in which the tax has been increased from 8 to 12.5 per cent are likely to become costlier.

However, the increase in tax would not be applicable on the existing stocks for which the tax has already been paid. So, the traders who were increasing the prices of the commodities lying in existing stocks were resorting to illegal profiteering, they told.

To avoid the exploitation, the best advice for the customers would be to ask for bill for anything they purchase from the market.


Posts not filled due to ban: Dogra
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
Today was a tough day for the Health Minister, Mr R.C. Dogra, in the Punjab Assembly. He was grilled by the treasury as well as the opposition benches on issues related to health services.

Mr Dogra’s grilling started following a question asked by Mr Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu, MLA from Talwandi Sabo, regarding vacant posts of doctor, nurse, pharmacist, compounder, etc in Talwandi Sabo subdivision.

Mr Dogra said he had tabled the information in the House. However, Mr Sidhu persisted in asking when would the vacant posts be filled in that area. Mr Dogra said there was a laid-down procedure and the matter now rested with a committee headed by the Finance Minister. Posts had not been filled because of a ban on recruitment. However, this did not satisfy the members as this answer had been given by the minister earlier also in the House on a number of occasions. Mr Dogra said an internal arrangement had been made to send doctors at places where posts were lying vacant.

Replying to a question on behalf of the Chief Minister, the Local Bodies Minister, Choudhary Jagjit Singh, said today that there was a proposal to set up an international airport near Ladowal village at a short distance from Ludhiana.


7 Bills passed in two hours
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
Bills relating to the setting up of Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, levying of 5 per cent duty on power supply and increase in the stamp duty from 6 to 9 per cent were among seven Bills passed in the concluding after-lunch two-hour session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha here today.

Though the Punjab Electricity (Duty) Bill and the Indian Stamp (Punjab Amendment) Bill replaced the existing ordinances, these could not get the assent of the House without the dissent of the Opposition.


Fissures in SAD unit come to fore
Tribune News Service

Moga, April 19
The announcement of the Shiromani Akali Dal’s new district president has sparked of dissension in the party.

The situation worsened last evening when the Nihalsinghwala MLA, Mr Jora Singh Bhagike, held a press conference and said if the party president, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, did not withdraw the name of the new district SAD president, Sant Gurdev Singh Matwani, and appoint a ‘taksali’ Akali leader on the post, he would resign from the party along with his supporters. Mr Bhagike along with Zila Parishad member Harbhupinder Singh Laddi, and the party chief of Badhani Kalan circle, Mr Jagraj Singh Daudhar, alleged that Mr Tota Singh was misleading some partymen and had ignored ‘taksali’ party workers.

They alleged that the newly appointed district party chief had a controversial background. They said the Tota Singh faction had about 80 delegates, while other factions had 72 delegates. They said the party chief had made it clear that the post would go to the group having most delegates.

They said Mr Daudhar and SGPC member Labh Singh Langeana were the main contenders for the post from the Tota Singh group. They alleged that the names of both these candidates were removed at the last moment under a conspiracy and Mr Matwani was appointed district party chief. They alleged that Matwani had recently got basic membership of the party. They said they would take up the issue with Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

On the other hand, Moga MLA Tota Singh said certain persons were misleading Mr Bhagike despite the fact that the same people had authorised Mr Badal to elect the party district chiefs.


Engineers oppose PSEB unbundling
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, April 19
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) Engineers Association had once again opposed the unbundling of the board. Talking to mediapersons, the general secretary of the association, Mr H. S. Bedi, said they were supporting the 48-hour strike by the junior staff and warned the government that engineers would not hesitate to go on strike with other employees if the government decided to go ahead for privatisation. Mr Bedi said in spite of this strike all engineers have deemed it as their moral duty to man all major thermal power plants and grid stations on their own for uninterrupted power supply.

Mr Bedi presented a 12-page document to educate the masses about the disastrous effect of the unbundling of the board by the government in its bid for restructuring. Mr Bedi gave the examples of Delhi and Orissa’s flop show where the government was heavily subsidising the corporatisation as both the government was paying several thousand crores to sustain their privatisation bid.

He said in Delhi alone the government had paid Rs 4,000 crore to transmission companies to compensate them for supply to the underprivileged segments. He said the losses in Delhi were around 40 to 50 per cent while losses in Punjab being run by the government board were only 25 per cent.

Quoting from the document, Mr. Bedi said all six states, including Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh which had unbundled their state electricity boards, had incurred huge losses and were running their operations through subsidies.

Mr Bedi said an emergency meeting of the association would be held during this weekend to chalk out the future course of action.

PATIALA: Members of the PSEB Engineers Association on Tuesday wore black badges in protest against the Punjab Government’s decision to unbundle the board.

The patron of the association, Mr Padamjit Singh, said since the Electricity Act 2003 was still under review, the Punjab Government should seek continuance of the board as an integrated unit under Section 172 of the Act.

Mr Padamjit Singh added that as per the provisions of the Section 133 of the Act, the employees could not work under inferior conditions and to ensure this the board should first of all restore the GP fund of employees.

Jalandhar: The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) employees, upto the rank of additional assistant engineers, have proceeded on 48-hour token strike in protest against the state government’s move of unbundling of the board.

The agitating employees staged dharnas and demonstrations throughout the state to press upon their demand and boycotted the work. — UNI


SGPC, govt fail to make Muktsar holy city
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, April 19
While the state government and the SGPC are making preparations for the tercentenary of the 40 muktas’ martyrdom in the coming month, they have done little to make it live up to the status of “holy city” conferred on it.

According to sources, the Punjab Government had awarded this status to Amritsar, Anandpur Sahib, Talwandi Sabo, Chamkaur Sahib, Bhaini Sahib Rania, Kiratpur Sahib, and Muktsar. But, it appears that the state government restricted itself to merely giving the status of “holy city” and didn’t make any effort to ensure the same at least in Muktsar.

People can be spotted buying and selling meat, liquor, and tobacco, in the city limits. A shop given on rent by the SGPC near Gurdwara Tuti Gandi Sahib was selling fried fish. It was closed only about a month back following protests from some quarters. Whenever this issue is raised before the SGPC, instead of taking the officials wash off their hands by simply expressing displeasure over it.

Sources said when the state government declared Muktsar a holy city, liquor contractors and cigarette traders shrewdly confined the city limits as per its status in 1937, which was quite a small area as compared to what it was at the time of declaration. The state government only pushed the liquor shops out of this small area to maintain the city’s status, but left the shops selling meat and tobacco products untouched. The state government had allotted five new liquor contracts on the Kotkapura road bypass, Kacha Thandewala road, Maud road, Abohar road bypass, and Malout road, in the city. Out of these the contract at Kacha Thandewala road comes under the city limits as per the 1937 scenario.

There are six historic gurdwaras in Muktsar, of which Sri Tuti Gandi Sahib Sri Tambu Sahib, and Sri Shahid Ganj Sahib, fall under the city limits of 1937, while Sri Tibbi Sahib, Sri Datar Sar Sahib and Sri Rakab Sar Sahib are under the 1975 limits.

Though preparations for observing the tercentenary of the 40 muktas is on at war footing, nobody is giving a thought to Muktsar’s status of “holy city”.

The SGPC chief, Bibi Jagir Kaur, said she had raised the issue in the state Assembly today and appealed the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to get liquor and meat shops in the city closed. She said the SGPC could only request the state government to act in the matter.


Land prices up along Wagah road
Sarbjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
As the peace winds between India and Pakistan have started blowing fast and the opening of the Wagah border for trade is becoming a real possibility, there has been an upswing in the real estate prices of the landed properties in the border belt.

There is a big boom in the land prices along the Jandiala-Amritsar G.T. Road and on the Amritsar-Attari-Wagah border road. Official sources say the road prices along the Jandiala-Amritsar GT Road have gone up to Rs 1 crore per acre while the land prices along the Amritsar-Wagah road have gone up to Rs 30 lakh per acre at certain important locations. The prices on either side of the Amritsar-Wagah road have gone up to Rs 15 lakh per acre at places which are not considered the prime from the commercial angle.

It is the first time after the Independence that the border belt is witnessing a boom in its economy. It had remained subdued as far as its economic development was concerned because of the three wars, besides repeated tensions and threats of the breaking out of war after every three or four years between India and Pakistan.

However, the scenario started changing immediately after the former Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, rode a bus through the Wagah border to open the chapter of peace between the two countries and make a new beginning. And despite certain major setbacks, the peace process continued to march ahead.

Now that the Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have declared that the peace process is irreversible, people feel that the day is not far when the border belt becomes a prosperous area because of a flood of new opportunities of business, trade and other commercial activity.

There were times when people used to think twice before building pucca houses in the border for fear of war. “We have suffered for several decades for being near the border. If now history is taking a new turn, it is time for us to celebrate,” says Kashmir Singh, a resident of Gharinda, located not very far from the border.

Mr Warayam Singh, Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), under whose jurisdiction the Attari belt falls, today informed, “it is true that there is an upswing in the prices of land compared to last year. There has been a significant rise in the land prices on both sides of the road from Amritsar to Attari and Amritsar to Jandiala as well”. He said the change in the circumstances has altered the scenario for good and has set the land prices racing upwards.

What are people expecting ? Officials posted at Attari and in the adjoining areas of the border belt say that parties from Delhi and other states have been moving about to buy land along the roads which leads to the Wagah border. They are investing in the future that indicates that once the Wagah border is opened for trade and tourist traffic, there would be need to build godowns, hotels, dhabas etc along these roads. And then there will be good scope for the transport sector.

And this phenomenon is not confined to the Indian side of the border. Reports from across the border indicate a similar development. During the recent visit of the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to Lahore, the Pakistan Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Pervaiz Elahi, had told him that the land prices on the Wagah-Lahore road and then along the road near Nankana Sahib had been going up since the announcement had been made to make Nankana Sahib a model city.


Hoax calls to Civil Surgeon
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 19
A case relating to ‘false’ phone calls being made to the Sangrur Civil Surgeon in the name of higher officers of the Health Department, the Secretary and the Director, Health and Family Welfare, Punjab, asking to relieve the transferred pharmacists without any further delay and transfer the lower level employees of the Health Department in the district has come to light.

As per information, some pharmacists brought this matter to the notice of the Sangrur Civil Surgeon, Dr Inderjit Kaur Walia, in the second fortnight of March this year. The pharmacists reportedly told the Civil Surgeon that some one was making “false” phone calls to her in the name of top health officers to get the transfer orders of the pharmacists expedited and get some other works done from the office of the Civil Surgeon here.

The Civil Surgeon got alerted and she became more vigilant with regard to any recommendation asking to expedite the transfer orders or transfer an employee made by the higher authorities over the telephone. After this, on March 24 a person claiming to be the PA to the Director, Health and Family Welfare, Punjab, made a telephone call to the Civil Surgeon in the morning session and asked her to do an official work. But the alert Civil Surgeon politely told him that the work would be done though she was confident that the man making the call was not the PA to the Director, Health and Family Welfare, Punjab.

Dr Walia wrote to the BSNL authorities to identify the telephone number from where the call was made to her between 11.30 am to 12-00 noon on March 24. The information provided to her by the BSNL authorities about the phone number not only surprised her but also confirmed her suspicion as the phone call was from the Barnala area.

When The Tribune contacted the Civil Surgeon here today, she said she had written a letter to the Sangrur SSP on March 29 to investigate the matter. In the letter she had told the SSP that on March 24 she got a phone call on her office phone (number 234186) from a person claiming to be Inderjit Singh, PA to the Director, Health and Family Welfare, Punjab. But when she later contacted Mr Inderjit Singh over the phone in the Health Department he told her that he did not make her a call.

Dr Walia said she had also written to the SSP that even earlier she had received such calls. She said in reply to her letter the BSNL authorities informed her that the phone call on March 24 was made from telephone number 01679-265015 at 11.46 pm.

Dr Walia further said her office had not received any response from the SSP office in this connection so far.


22 No. flyover to be inaugurated today
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 19
After a lot of dilly-dallying, the 22 No. level crossing flyover, a prestigious project undertaken by the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB), will be inaugurated by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh tomorrow.

The flyover, which has been constructed at a cost of Rs 10 crore, will ease the flow of traffic in and around the level crossing, believed to be one of the busiest areas of the town.

Interestingly, two Chief Ministers have been associated with the project, which has been completed despite vehement protests by shopkeepers who have their establishments near the level crossing.

The foundation stone was laid by former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in October, 2000 but not much headway could be made as shopkeepers of the area formed unions to put pressure on the district administration to shelve the project.

However, work started on a war footing once the current Chief Minister symbolically dug up a piece of earth in February, 2003 to kick-start the project.

Finally after nearly two years, a long-standing demand of the residents has been met with the completion of the flyover.

Prominent among those who are scheduled to attend the inauguration ceremony are MP Preneet Kaur, Finance Minister Surinder Singla, PWD Minister Partap Singh Bajwa, Mayor Vishnu Sharma, Improvement Trust chairman K.K. Sharma and officials of the district administration.

To ensure that there is some beauty amid concrete, a part of the area under the bridge has been landscaped while the other part has been earmarked for parking vehicles.

Deputy Commissioner Tejveer Singh said work on 21 No. level crossing will begin soon and once that project was completed, traffic chaos, which has become a nagging problem, would be contained.


Book on childcare released
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 19
Member of Parliament from Patiala, Mrs Preneet Kaur , released a book on childcare at a simple ceremony at the new Moti Bagh Palace here this morning.

The book `Sade Bachche, Sade Chirag' has been written by Dr Harshinder Kaur, Consultant Paediatrician, Rajindera Medical College and Hospital, whose husband, Dr Gurpal Singh, is a senior doctor in the same hospital.

Prominent among those who were present at the book release ceremony were Mr Hardyal Singh Kamboj, President of the District Congress Committee (Rural), Dr Kiranjit Kaur, Principal, Government Medical College and renowned cardiologist Dr Manmohan Singh.

This is Dr Harshinder Kaur's second book. Her first book was `Dil Diyan Bimarian' for which she was awarded the prestigious Rashtriya Rattan Award in 2003.

She has also been honoured by various social organisations, including the Mata Gujri Trust for doing social work relating to childcare in rural areas in Patiala district.


Balmiki Sabha rues insanitary conditions
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, April 19
A delegation of the Punjab Pardesh Balmiki Sabha (Regd) under the leadership of Mr Hari Chand, chairman, joint action committee, and Mr Brij Lal district president, called on the Deputy Commissioner and apprised him about the sewerage problem being faced by residents of Balmik colonies in rural areas, particularly in Mulanpur Sadak village.

The delegation said the residents were living under unhygienic conditions as their houses were surrounded by 3-4 ft deep water and they had to pass through sewage to enter in their houses. It said passage leading to Balmik colonies in Bassi Pathana was kacha and in very bad shape.

It also brought to the notice of the DC that certain people had illegally encroached on the land belonging to Sheetla Mata Mandir at Khanpur Road in Sirhind. It raised the issue of a grant of Rs 10,000 sanctioned by the government for Balmik Sabha to some other association, where as earlier they had been getting the grant.

The DC called on respective officers and assured the delegation that their grievances would be sorted out on priority basis.


PSEB staff strike work
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 19
Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) employees here responded to the statewide strike call causing inconvenience to hundreds of consumers who queued up outside the board offices to pay their power bills.

Various PSEB staff organisations, including the Technical Services Union, Employees Federation, and the PSEB Engineers Association, protested against the privatisation of the board. Members of the PSEB Engineers Association, wore black badges in support of the agitation and decided not to strike work to avoid inconvenience to the people.

Meanwhile, there was a long queue of consumers outside the PSEB office on the Bhagu road. They had come to pay their power bills fearing disconnection.


Strike by PSEB staff
Tribune News Service

Ropar, April 19
All unions of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) today observed strike and held rallies in all the major town of the district include Anandpur Sahib, Nurpur Bedi, Nangal, Kurali, Ropar city protesting against the dismantling of the PSEB into six companies. The PSEB employee’s federation, the Technical Service Union council of Junior Engineers (PSEB) held protest rallies against the government move.

The leaders of the unions alleged that the move of the government would harm the functioning of the profit-earning PSEB. They said that while the similar attempt to divide the electricity board in other states has been failed.

They said the dismantling of the PSEB into six companies is first move to privatise the PSEB.


De-addiction helpline
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 19
To help drug addicts and their families a helpline has been set up by a local drug de-addiction centre, which, has also initiated a four-day alcohol and drug de-toxification camp, during which, free consultation will also be extended to drug addicts.

The local Saini Neuropsychiatry and De-Addiction Hospital has set up a helpline for drug addicts and their parents.


Follow up
Get brain-damaged child treated: Commission
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
Taking immediate notice of the prayers made by the family of Buta Singh, the seven-year-old brain damaged boy from Bathinda, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission has expressed serious concern over deteriorating health of the child.

The child suffered severe brain injuries leading to a skull fracture and brain oedema in October last year when he was hit by the reaper of a tractor being driven by a landowner. The accident occurred in Bhaika Bhakta village of Bathinda on October 24 last year. Ironically, the accused has not even been booked by the police for negligent driving.

Posted on the sensitivity of the case which was highlighted in these columns on April 18, the Commission, while hearing the plea made by the victim’s counsel Ms Veena Sharma today, directed Deputy Commissioner, Bathinda, to take steps to help the family. The Commission has ordered the Deputy Commissioner to ensure that the victimised child does not remain without proper treatment.

Chairperson of the Commission Mr N.C. Jain, while taking up the poignant case today, said, “In view of the urgency of the matter and by way of abundant precaution, the Commission has thought it appropriate to direct Deputy Commissioner to hear the complainant and after taking keen interest in the allegations and in particular about the inability of the parents to get the child treated, the Deputy Commissioner should see to it that either from the Red Cross funds or from any other source, the child does not remain without proper treatment.”

Not just that, sensitive to the position of the poor farming family the Commission has ordered protection for them.


3 get life term for double murder
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 19
Three drug addicts and former students of local Apeejay College, who had brutally killed an aged woman relative of one of them and her maidservant during their bid to burgle the Green Park colony house of the woman in 2001, were sentenced to life imprisonment by District and Sessions Judge Jagroop Singh Mahl today.

Sumit Chopra, Nitin Kumar and Vikramjit had entered the house of Bimla Rani, who was a close relative of Sumit Chopra, on the afternoon of September 10, 2001 and killed her. They had also killed her maidservant before fleeing the scene along with jewellery and some other articles belonging to the woman.

The Jalandhar police, which had booked the accused under Sections 302, 392, 394, 201 of the IPC, had arrested them on September 13, 2001 and the looted articles were recovered from them. The accused, according to prosecution, had committed the crime to lay their hands on jewellery and cash for fulfilling their urge for drugs.

Handing out his judgement, Mr Mahl sentenced the three accused to life imprisonment, sans any amnesty or parole, and released the fourth accused Anil Chopra.


Markfed purchases 8,486 bales of cotton
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
Markfed today said it had so far purchased 8,486 bales of raw cotton in the major mandis of the districts of Bathinda, Mansa, Muktsar and Ferozepore.

Before this, due to the bumper cotton crop in the State this year the prices of cotton had declined significantly and was even sold below the minimum support price of Rs 1815.

The Punjab Government took up the issue with the Government of India to help Punjab farmers not to make distress sale of cotton and the Government of India allowed Nafed to appoint Markfed its agency for the purchase of cotton according to Mr S.S. Channy, Managing Director, Markfed. 


Baba held for woman’s murder
Tribune News Service

Mansa, April 19
The unidentified body found near NM College here in a plastic bag on April 2 has been identified to be that of 70-year-old Gurdev Kaur. An astrologer has been arrested for murdering her.

Addressing a press, conference here today, the SSP, Mr Gautam Cheema, said Jangir Singh, a resident of Makha, had identified the body of his wife from her clothes. His wife who had gone to Mansa on March 29 for some work had been missing since then. A case was registered under Sections 302, 201, 148, and 149, of the IPC following the recovery of the body.

The investigation was handed over to SI Gurmail Singh under the supervision of SP (D) Lakhwinder Singh.

Preliminary probe revealed that the family of the deceased believed in self-styled Baba Jagga Singh and the deceased would visit him for her family problems regularly. On March 29 when she reached his place, he planned to murder her for her gold ornaments.

He convinced the deceased to consume some sleeping pills. He strangulated her to death after she fell unconscious and took away the jewellery.

He threw away her body near NM College. Jagga Singh has been arrested.


Narcotics smuggling intensifies
Our Correspondent

Abohar, April 19
Attempts to smuggle narcotics from Rajasthan to neighbouring areas of Punjab and Haryana have intensified with the harvesting of wheat and mustard picking up in the region, official sources confirmed today.

The Sadulshehar police arrested Balwant Singh, alias Pappu Bazigar, under the NDPS Act when he was trying to sneak into this side of the border with 487 gm of smack. He had been released on bail in similar cases registered in Punjab and Haryana last year. The police had earlier nabbed two persons with 55 gm of smack.

The Bhadra police chased a Tata-207 mini-truck yesterday on a tip-off when it was heading towards the Punjab border. The occupants of the vehicle not only tried to involve the chasing party in an accident but also finally succeeded in escaping by firing indiscriminately. The police recovered 35 bags of poppy husk, weighing 14 quintal a countrymade 315 bore pistol and 13 cartridges during the search of the mini-truck. The mobile phone found near the driver’s seat might help in nabbing the suspects, the police said. The vehicle had no number plate on it.

Another police party intercepted pillion riding motor cyclists on the bridge of a canal near Jandwala village, bordering this sub-division. Darshan Singh Ramgarhia was arrested and the police recovered 1700 gm of opium from his possession. His accomplice, who escaped, was identified as Himmat Soni. He had earlier also been booked in similar offences but bailed out by trial courts in the Rajasthan area.

The Khuikhera police here intercepted a motorcyclist and recovered three country made 12 bore pistols last evening. He was identified as Noor Jamal of Sriganganagar district. He had used a link road to enter this sub-division but was nabbed near the road that connected Karnikhera village, the police said.

Jarnail Singh, a resident of Rattakhera (Jalalabad) village, was booked under the NDPS Act on the recovery of 15 kg poppy husk. He was remanded in judicial custody. The Ladhuka police arrested Ram Singh after recovering 40 kg of poppy husk hidden by him under a wheat husk heap in his fields. Balkar Singh, a resident of Bazidpur village, was arrested by the local police under the NDPS Act on the recovery of 5 gm of smack from him.

Though large numbers of migratory labour had arrived from drought-affected regions of Rajasthan for harvesting crop here, landlords said they were not addicts. poppy husk, opium and smack were smuggled to serve these to local labour to get more work on a contractual basis, sources said. 


2 held in murder case
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, April 19
The district police claimed to have solved the murder case of Sukhwinder Singh, alias Chinda, a resident of Patto village, with the arrest of Arvinder Singh of Khojemajra, a relative of the deceased, and Devinder Singh, alias Lalli, a resident of Khalsa Colony, Jyoti Swarup More, Sirhind. The police has registered a case under Sections 302, 201 and 34, IPC.

Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, said a special team was constituted under the command of Mr Jaswinder Singh Sodhi, DSP, consisting SHOs and a lady inspector Raka Ghira. A thorough enquiry of family members of the victim revealed that he had close friendship with Arvinder and both used to indulge in flesh trade.

During interrogation, Arvinder admitted that he along with Lalli had murdered Sukhwinder and threw his body in the fields at Katani Sahib village.

The SSP said he told the police that Sukhwinder gave him some money to arrange a college girl for him, failing which the victim started abusing him and threatened to kill.

Arvinder later put a wire round his neck and killed him, the SSP added.


Woman booked

Jalandhar, April 19
The local police has booked a woman, resident of local Model House area, for inciting her husband to commit suicide.

Iqbal Singh, a 26 year resident of Basti Pir Dad, had stated before the Duty Magistrate before his death that he was forced to commit suicide by his wife, Narinder, who, had been harassing him on one pretext or the other since their marriage about 14 months ago. The woman has been booked under Section 306 of the IPC. — TNS


Gang of robbers busted
Tribune News Service

Mansa, April 19
The police has busted a gang of robbers who had looted various petrol pumps and brick kilns in the district.

The gang had looted a petrol pump near Behniwal village last year and another at Sangha village in February, besides snatching a motor cycle in Moffar village. The police has arrested five gang members and recovered two pistols of 12 bore and seven cartridges, apart from the snatched motor cycle. 


Suicide by migrant labourer
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, April 19
A body of an unidentified youth, aged about 20, was found hanging with a tree in a farmhouse adjacent to railway over bridge in Bhankharpur village near here, this morning.

The farmhouse watchman, Karnail Singh, was the first to notice the body. Col Ajit Singh (retd), caretaker of the farmhouse, informed the police.

The police said the man, a migrant labourer, committed suicide with the help of a cloth. It also not rule out the possibility of a murder. The body has been sent to the Civil Hospital, Rajpura, for post-mortem examinations.


Suicide by family: 2 more bodies recovered
Tribune News Service

Ropar, April 19
After 10 days, bodies of two children — a boy and a girl who had allegedly jumped into Bhakra canal along with their parents — were today recovered from the canal near Jalkeri village in Patiala district. So far out of the five family members, bodies of the four had been recovered. While the body of another girl child was yet to be recovered.

The bodies were first spotted by Ramjan Mohammad this morning. The bodies were identified by their grandfather Kesar Singh and a relative, Harinder Singh.

Gurmeet Singh along with his wife Surinder Kaur, daughters, Simran and Isha and son Bipinpreet, were on their way from Fathegarh Sahib to Morinda on April 9 when they allegedly jumped into the canal. 


Woman receives burns

Kharar, April 19
Married woman Balwinder Kaur (30) of Sante Majra village here was received severe burns while she was working in the kitchen. According to the police the victim was admitted to the PGI with 100 per cent burns and has deposed before a duty magistrate. Mr Gurcharan Singh, SHO Kharar Sadar, stated that Balwinder had told the magistrate that she caught fire accidentally. TNS


PTU may introduce new courses
Academic council meeting today
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 19
Punjab Technical University is likely to introduce new courses in bioinformatics, biotechnology and applied engineering from the coming session.

A decision in this regard is likely to be taken at a meeting of the academic council to be held at Mandi Gobindgarh tomorrow. The members of the council will deliberate on the various issues pertaining to inclusion of new courses and phasing out of some obsolete ones.

The decision will be taken up on the basis of a report prepared by a university committee that was recently presented to the Minister for Technical Education, Punjab, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. The members of the committee, led by Dr S.K. Salwan, Vice-Chancellor, had suggested that biotechnology and bioinformatics had a bright scope as degree courses for the science students.

While putting forth various plans for revitalising technical education in the state, the members had also specified certain areas of thrust to be taken up in engineering colleges like laser photonics, accelerators superconductivity, cryogenics, marine biotechnology, highway and road engineering, oil and petrochemicals.

A decision on introducing certain diploma courses in urban areas such as those in fashion designing, jewellery designing, animation technology, safety security and disaster management, and energy management is also on the agenda of tomorrow’s academic council meeting. For rural areas, the courses in dairy management, fire engineering, entrepreneurship, non-conventional energy sources are likely to be introduced in the coming session.

The council is also likely to decide about the phasing out of certain courses in modern office practice, commercial arts, computer engineering, information technology, printing technology and library sciences on the basis of their decreasing demand and placement problems.

The outcome of tomorrow’s meeting will be assessed in a Board of Governors meeting likely to take place in early May. In case, the council gives a nod to the introduction of new courses, it will also ask the “revitalising committee” to decide the fee structure for new courses.

CET postponed

Punjab Technical University has postponed the Common Entrance Test for admission to engineering, architecture and pharmacy colleges that was scheduled for June 1 to June 3. It will be the first national-level joint test that will be open to candidates from other states as well. The test is likely to be split in two sections. The first one will test the general aptitude of the students in addition to proficiency in English. The merit will, however, be decided on the basis of a second test comprising mathematics, physics and chemistry. 


Computer labs opened in 71 govt schools
Tribune News Service

Ropar, April 19
Seventyone senior secondary schools in the district were provided with computers today under the Information Communication Technology (ICT) project started by the Punjab Government here. The project was inaugurated by the Deputy Commissioner, Ms Seema Jain, at the Government Girls Senior Secondary School here.

Addressing a gathering she said that in the era of information and technology it was need of the hour that students of the government schools should have all the modern information technology facilities to compete with the students of other schools. The computers would also help the students of rural areas as earlier they could not afford costly computer education.

With a view to facilitating girls students belonging to poor sections of the district, 1,250 cycles would be provided to the girl students of different schools as a part of Sarb Sikhsha Abhiyan, she said.

The District Education Officer, Mr Piara Singh, said that said two teachers had been appointed by the government in computer labs on a contract basis. 


Teachers to teach traffic rules
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, April 19
The Gurdaspur police has started a campaign to spread traffic awareness among students of schools in the district. Under the program two teachers from each school have been chosen. About 400 chosen teachers were imparted training in traffic rules at the police lines today.

The SSP Gurdaspur Mr Ishwar Singh said the trained teachers would further impart traffic training to students in their respective schools.


Students burn effigy of govt
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 19
Protesting against a major fee hike, various students organisations today burnt the effigy of the state government here.

The student leaders flayed the Punjab Government for increasing the annual fee at ITI from Rs 3,500 to Rs 12,000. They also protested against the proposed privatisation of 17 other ITIs and shortage of instructors at the institutes. Student leader Sukhwinder Singh said students from ITI Bathinda, Jaito, Badal, and Gidderbaha participated. The student leaders alleged the state government was deliberately taking these steps so as to pave the way for privatisation. 


Strike by ITI students
Tribune News Service

Ropar, April 19
Over 100 students of the Industrial Technical Education (ITI) today burnt an effigy of the Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh in front of the Civil Secretariat. They were protesting against the move of the government to privatise the ITI’s in the state.

The students observed strike on the call given by the three different student unions were the students federation of India, (SFI), the Punjab Student Federation and the Punjab Students Union. The students demanded reduction in the fees of the private ITI’s, regular appointment of the teachers and instructors and to provide proper infrastructure to the students. 


Mathematics park opened
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 19
The Assistant Commissioner of the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, Chandigarh Region, Mr D.K.Saini, inaugurated a mathematics park and dedicated it to students, particularly those of primary classes of the school.

The park is so designed that children can study different geometrical shapes, multiplication tables and do calculations while playing. Dr Saini termed it as a positive step towards making learning enjoyable.

Dr Saini also unveiled an idol of Goddess Saraswati gifted to the school by outgoing Class XII students. He inspired the students to be obedient and hardworking in order to be successful in this age of competition. Mr S.K.Sharma, Principal, thanked Dr Saini for his guidance and support.


ITI students burn CM’s effigy
Our Correspondent

Rajpura, April 19
Students of the Industrial Training Institute (ITI), Rajpura, today burnt an effigy of the Punjab Chief Minister in protest against the proposed fee hike in various ITIs in the state, here today.

The students also protested against the abolition of three trades — photography, moulding and painting — from the institute. They also flayed the Punjab government’s move to privatise the technical institutes from the next academic session.

The students also raised anti-government slogans.

Addressing the protesters, Mr Ravinder Singh Dhaliwal, state joint secretary of Students Federation of India, alleged that the government instead of employing instructors for the said trades had decided to discontinue the trades after the retirements.

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