P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Farmers seek 50 pc subsidy on diesel
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 13
Braving rainy weather, scores of activists of Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta, Kisan Sangharsh Committee, and Punjab Kisan Sabha today protested in favour of their demands before the mini-secretariat here.

Addressing the protesters, the senior state vice-president of BKU Ekta, Mr Jhanda Singh Jethuke, said by not fulfilling its electoral promises the Congress government was going back on its word. He said though the state government had announced free power for the farmers from September 1, they were still feeling deceived as they were promised continuation of free power and water.

He said the announcement didn’t state anything about water and waiver of their power dues. He urged the government to waive the farmers’ power dues and provide them free canal water. He also sought 50 per cent subsidy on diesel for the state’s farmers.

He termed the Chief Minister’s statement of sorting out issues through talks with farmer bodies as “fraud”, as the Chief Minister was yet to fulfil the promises he made in the last meeting. He said still farmer bodies didn’t run away from talks and were always ready for it. He also demanded immediate payment of the remaining Rs 20 bonus on paddy.

The district president of Punjab Kisan Sabha, Mr Guljar Singh, said the recent oil price hike had added to the farmers’ burden and the government should immediately withdraw the hike in the interest of farming community. The farmer leaders also demanded waiver of farm loans and provision of loans at 4 per cent interest in future. They also spoke against the privatisation of public sector units, besides seeking withdrawal of “false cases” lodged against agitating farmers in the past.


Farmers seek waiver of loans, stage dharna
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, September 13
Hundreds of farmers, including women, under the banner of “Sanjha Kisan Manch”, today staged a dharna at the complex of the office of the Deputy Commissioner here in support of their demands. Earlier, they also held a rally and a dharna for about three hours in the New Grain Market here. They later took out a march from the New Grain Market to the Deputy Commissioner’s office, raising slogans in support of their demands. Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan, state president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan), and Mr Lehmbarr Singh Taggarr, state general secretary of the Punjab Kisan Sabha led the protesters.

The main demands of the protesters include waiver of loans of farmers and agriculture labourers, stopping the auction of land of farmers and arrest of farmers who are unable to repay their loans, waiver of the power bill arrears of those farmers who have not deposited their dues up to August this year, ensuring the payment of arrears of sugarcane to the farmers, withdrawal of alleged false cases registered against farmers during different farmer agitations, withdrawal of new economic policies, and linking the prices of crops with agriculture input costs.

Addressing the farmers, all speakers urged the government to waive the loans of farmers and agriculture workers and stop the arrest of those farmers who could not repay loans due to their poor financial condition. They also asked the government not to compel the farmers to deposit their pending power bills up to August this year in the wake of free power supply to the farmers for their tube wells from September onwards.


Free power to farmers a poll stunt: Mann
Tribune News Service

Ropar, September 13
The SAD (Amritsar) President, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, today termed the Punjab Government’s decision of supplying free power to farmers in the state as election stunt. While addressing a press conference here, Mr Mann said as just a year was left for next Assembly elections, the government would now try every possible method to woo the voters.

He added that if the Punjab Government really wanted to do something for farmers, then it should waive off all loans to farmers. Mr Mann also criticised the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the PPCC President, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, for their recent statement of including the biography of late chief minister Beant Singh in school books.


Farm panel invites suggestions
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 13
The Punjab State Farmers Commission today invited proposals, opinion and suggestions from agriculture experts, administrators, economists, farmers and other stake-holders in Punjab’s agriculture and allied activities on the matters related to the terms of reference of the commission.

Mr K.S. Pannu, member-Secretary of the commission, said the term of reference of the commission were to examine and review the status of agriculture, allied sectors and rural infrastructure in the state.

To plan, evaluate and suggest medium and long-term strategies for diversification in agriculture and for economically viable and ecologically sustainable agriculture development.

To study the potential of agriculture and allied activities in productively employing rural work force and to suggest measurers for “off-farm” employment.

Members of the public can send their views through post or through e-mail (farmercomm@punjabmail.gov.in) or by fax (0172-2268953) or by personally visiting the office of the commission set up at plot No 53, first floor, Phase-II, Mohali, on any working day.


Rain ruins cotton crop in Malwa
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 13
Sporadic rains over the last two days have partially ruined cotton crop in the Malwa region. Vast stretches of cotton fields across the cotton belt have been waterlogged due to the showers.

Cotton crop that was in full bloom was the worst hit. Sources said the rain had also spelt doom for the quality of cotton that was on the verge of maturing. Strong winds had flattened the crop in some areas, besides resulting in the falling of new cotton buds.

About 25,000 quintals of cotton was in full bloom and its plucking work was in progress. According to sources the rainfall would bring about a drop of Rs 500 per quintal in the price of cotton.

The Director of Agricultural Department, Dr Balwinder Singh Sidhu, said incessant rain in the cotton belt was a bad omen and it was also boosting the chances of a pest attack.

He said the reports of bud falling had been received from waterlogged cotton fields. He said bad weather would adversely hit the production of cotton.

The Chief Agricultural Officer, Mr P.S Aulakh, said rain would also result in increasing the moisture content in blooming cotton crop and this would not fetch the right price for the cotton farmers. He said the arrival of cotton crop in mandis was supposed to pick up after September 15, but it had virtually come to a halt due to rains.

He said the department was gathering details of losses due to the recent spell of rain.

Farmers have also come out with an estimate of their losses. Kaka Singh, a cotton farmer from Mandi Kalan, said waterlogging had damaged his cotton crop.

He said there was no chance of saving bolls that had been drenched. Yadvinder Singh and Kulwant Singh from Kotbhara village lamented that the recent spell of rains had ruined their crop at a time when they were about to start plucking. Baljinder Singh from Kotfatta village said his cotton crop, spread over an area of five acres, was a facing worm attack.

A number of farmers in the Rama Mandi area today got down to disposing water from their cotton fields.

According to the meteorological department, it has rained 35.7 mm in Bathinda, 8.1 mm in Mansa, 35.2 mm in Faridkot, 34.6 mm in Muktsar, and 43.6 mm in Sangrur.

Clouds are still hovering on the sky and the temperature has dipped considerably.

Cotton crop had started arriving in markets across the cotton belt. About 400 quintals of cotton was being brought to the mandis daily and 15,000 quintals of cotton had already been sold. As per an estimate, cotton growers had spent Rs 5,000 per acre on their cotton crop till now and had high hopes from BT cotton.


Open Wagah, says ginners’ body
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, September 13
The Punjab Cotton Factories and Ginners Association has sought opening of the Wagah border for trade, saying that it will benefit cotton farmers as well as the industry in Punjab.

In a press note issued here on Saturday, association president Bhagwan Bansal said trade through the Wagah border would boost economies of both countries, besides benefiting Indian farmers.

Their main demands include induction of at least their two members as directors in the Punjab Mandi Board, Chandigarh, and nomination of at least their two members in the Punjab Sales Tax Advisory Board.

The association also demanded waiver of minimum charges of the PSEB, charging of power tariff on actual consumption, and exemption from peak load on the cotton industry.

Meanwhile, The Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) would start purchasing cotton from Muktsar, Gidderbaha and Malout on September 14 at Rs 1,835. Markfed would also begin purchase simultaneously, stated Deputy Commissioner Dalip Kumar here today.

The DC said a production of 5.22 lakh bales was expected in the district. He said the CCI and Markfed officials had already been told to ensure that the cotton farmers didn’t face any problem during the procurement process.


After years, despair gives way to joy
Tribune Reporters

Kulwinder Singh with his family members at Timberpur village in Fatehgarh Sahib
Kulwinder Singh with his family members at Timberpur village in Fatehgarh Sahib on Tuesday. — Photo by Surinder Bhardwaj

Rajpura, September 13
It’s celebration time in a number of homes across the region as their near and dear ones are back home after years of incarceration in Pakistan jails. Tribune reporters met some of the persons who were released yesterday to elicit their views and gage the mood in their families.

The observation: be it Ambala, Fatehgarh Sahib or Rajpura, the feelings were the same and happiness knew no bounds.

For seven years she waited for her fiancé to return. And now that he is back from a jail in Pakistan, she is all set to tie the knot.

“There was no reason for me to despair. For, I knew he would come back,” says the Kaithal-based girl with a smile on her face and eyes glittering in anticipation.

Lakhwinder Singh was handed over to the Indian authorities by their Pakistani counterparts at the Wagah border on Monday. He reached home in the wee hours today. He was deported to Pakistan from Iran in September, 2003, after being caught immigrating to the West illegally. Since then, he had been staying in different jails in Pakistan.

For Lakhwinder Singh, the ordeal began in 1998 when he left his Ajrawar village. After spending five years in Lebanon, he moved on, but found himself languishing in a jail in Pakistan.

Recalling his ordeal, he says it all began when he went to Lebanon on a work permit in November, 1998. “I used to drive a truck here. It occurred to me to go abroad and ensure a better life. I came in contact with Malkiat Singh Jodowan, a Kapurthala-based travel agent, who took Rs 1.5 lakh from me for a Lebanese work permit.”

He stayed in Lebanon for about five years before he landed in Greece illegally. That was the time when the things turned wrong and he was caught by the police. The police kept him in custody for one day and then sent him to Turkey. There also he was arrested by the police and sent to jail for 10 days. After that, the local authorities pushed him into Iran. The life was no different in Iran for him and soon he was netted by the Iran police. After questioning for three days, he was sent to Pakistan.

Lakhwinder reached Pakistan in September, 2003. He was produced in a local court and charged with illegally entering that country. The court sentenced him to three-month imprisonment. He was sent to a Baluchistan jail. After around two months, he was shifted to the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore. Even after the completion of his sentence, he was not released by the Pakistani authorities. Lakhwinder told Chandigarh Tribune at his village that he did not lose heart and kept on writing to the Indian authorities. He had written letters to the President, the Prime Minister, the Chief Minister of Punjab, Bibi Jagir Kaur and various other organisations to help in his release.

Lakhwinder today made an appeal to the Indian and Pakistan authorities to release other prisoners also. He said he was grateful to the media for its entire role in highlighting their issue which ultimately helped in their release.

Suraj Bhan hugs his mother after reaching his home at Rajouli village in Ambala
Suraj Bhan hugs his mother after reaching his home at Rajouli village in Ambala on Tuesday. — PTI photo

Barara (Ambala): Suraj Bhan and Davinder Pal Singh’s joy knew no bounds when they arrived at their home early this morning. Their nightmare was over when they were released from a Pakistan prison yesterday.

Suraj Bhan of Rajouli village in Barara seems to have acquired a celebrity status in his village. A number of well-wishers are pouring in to congratulate him and the family.

His case had hit a roadblock over spelling of his name. The Pakistan authorities had entered his name as Suraj Pal and that had led to confusion causing delay in his release from the jail.

“The Pakistani policemen who prepared my documents did not understand English and they wrote in Urdu. By mistake, they wrote my name as Suraj Pal. Later, when I understood the problem, I showed them that my name was tattooed on my arm,” he said.

He believes the highlighting of Sarabjit’s case has helped their release from Pakistan.

He said he had gone to work as a carpenter in Lebanon in 1997. “I worked there for seven years. Then I decided to go to Greece. I took the help of an agent. We managed to enter Greece, but were caught and sent to Turkey. From Turkey, we were sent to Iran and from Iran to Pakistan,” he said.

“I spent about two years in Pakistan prisons,” he said.

Davinder Pal Singh, 22, has returned home in Barara after a harrowing time in Pakistan prisons.

He said their release had been considerably expedited due to the international attention following Sarabjit’s case being highlighted by the Indian media.

He said he was caught while trying to enter Greece from Jordan.

Davinder Singh said the Indian Government must request the countries, where “immigration” takes place, to hand over the “immigrants” to the Indian Embassy instead of handing them over to other nations that led to their ending up in Pakistan prisons.

Fatehgarh Sahib: The youth should shun the craze of going abroad, especially through fake travel agents, and be content with whatever they get in their native land as the life in foreign countries is not as rosy as it is thought to be. Fake travel agents not only dupe and mislead the youth but also leave them in the lurch once they land in a foreign country.

These are the words of caution by Kulwinder Singh, a resident of Timberpur village here, who happens to be one of the prisoners released from Pakistani jails last night.

Talking to The Tribune at his village, he narrated the harrowing tale of his woes and maltreatment at the hands of unscrupulous elements abroad.

He said lured by greener pasture abroad, he, along with 29 others (21 out of them from Punjab and eight from Haryana) left the country. The things came to such a pass that they had given up the hope that they would ever be back to their native land.

“Thanks to the relatives of Sarbjit Singh and the media that they were released from Pakistan jails, he said.


Free but haunted by memories of jail
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Rajvir shows to his mother and father the things that he had made in jail at Dhoomcheeri village in Morinda district
Rajvir shows to his mother and father the things that he had made in jail at Dhoomcheeri village in Morinda district. — Tribune photo by Parvesh Chauhan

Morinda, September 13
‘‘The campaign launched in India for the release of Sarbjit Singh, who is lodged in a Pakistani jail and is awaiting death sentence, finally helped us to get released. I had lost all hope and feared that I would spend the rest of my life in captivity in jail’’, said 26-year-old Balbir Singh, who reached his native village, Samana, early this morning.

Balbir Singh was among the Indian prisoners who were released at the Wagah border by Pakistani authorities yesterday. ‘‘It is with God’s grace that I am here again. Sixty Indian youths like me who had been arrested on charges of illegal entry into Pakistan are still languishing in the Lahore jail,’’ he added.

‘‘The pitiable condition of the Indian prisoners in Pakistan came to light when the media began highlighting Sarbjit Singh’s case. We had access to television in Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore and we had seen many activities in India on the Sarbjit Singh issue on Jalandhar Doordarshan, the only Indian channel available there’’, he added.

‘‘Sarbjit Singh was also lodged in Kot Lakhpat jail, but no one there was allowed to meet him. He was isolated from the rest of the prisoners. Even jail employees who went into his room to serve him meals had to go through tight security checking’’, he said.

‘‘It was the lure of money that motivated me to go abroad. I contacted an agent in Karnal and a deal was struck for Rs 4 lakh. I paid Rs 3 lakh to him to arrange a suitable job for me in Italy’’, said Balbir Singh while narrating his experiences in Pakistani jail.

‘‘I left Delhi for Jordan on October 12, 2004. Life became a hell for me after that. The agents kept me along with 29 other youths at different places. We were caught on Turkey border. Thereafter, we were left at Iran border’’, he recalled ‘‘We were again caught in Iran by the police, who demanded $4000 to release us. Though we gave them some amount, we were handed over to the Pakistan police. Thereafter, I was sentenced to three-month imprisonment. But even after completing the sentence, I was forced to languish in prison’’, he added.

Balbir Singh’s mother was very happy to be with her son once again. ‘‘We paid obeisance at a gurdwara and we are happy that God has heard our prayers and my son is back. I wish Sarbjit Singh and others are also released soon’’, she said.

The entire Samana village is in a celebratory mood. A large number of people from nearby areas also thronged Balbir Singh’s house to greet him.

A similar scene was witnessed in Doomchheri village in Morinda district when 22-year-old Rajvir Singh, who was also released yesterday, reached his home.

‘‘I had never imagined that life was so tough in jail. A glass of tea was served in the morning and we got two meals, one in the afternoon and other in the evening. I was with other prisoners in a big hall’’, he said while narrating his tale of woes.

Tears trickled down his cheeks while he recalled the trauma he had gone through. ‘‘Each letter we sent from the jail to our families cost us Rs 35. So, it was not possible for us to send letters separately. Five or six prisoners would enclose their letters in a single envelope and then post it on one address.’’

‘‘We had to work hard to fulfill other daily requirements. We used to string beads as a part of our work. We acquired the skill from the Pakistani prisoners. It helped us to earn Rs 30 per day’’, he said.

Rajvir’s father Jaswant Singh had difficulty in recognising his son. ‘‘I could not recognise him at Wagah border as he had lost a lot of weight. But I am happy that he reached home safely. I appeal to youths not to go abroad through agents. We have suffered a lot’’, he advised.

‘‘My relative had cheated me. He had demanded Rs 4.5 lakh to arrange a good job for Rajvir in Greece and we had paid him Rs 2.5 lakh’’, he recalled.


Family’s endless wait for BSF jawan in Pak jail 
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

A file photo of BSF Constable Surjit Singh and Angrej Kaur
A file photo of BSF Constable Surjit Singh and Angrej Kaur.

Faridkot, September 13
Amrik Singh (30), has not seen his father and he had his eyes fixed on the Wagah Border yesterday as prisoners from both sides walked to freedom into their respective countries. But, like hundreds of family members of other Prisoners of War (PoWs) he, too, returned disappointed.

Amrik told The Tribune today though they knew that the name of his father, BSF constable Surjit Singh, didn’t figure in the list of Indian prisoners to be released, but still reports of some other prisoners being set free took him to Wagah.

He said his mother Angrej Kaur was also eager to accompany him to Wagah border, but they persuaded her to stay back promising her to call her up the moment they got any news. He along with his cousin stood at Wagah for the whole day hoping to see his father and their expectations dashed with the last Indian prisoner walking in from Pakistan. He said he had been to Wagah earlier too when repatriation took place. Though his father was yet to be released, Radhe Shyam from Jammu & Kashmir and another Indian prisoner hailing from Hoshiarpur told him that his father was in good shape. “It has been the only succour that our family got yesterday,” he averred. The disappointment was writ large on the faces of Surjit Singh’s family members. They didn’t have dinner last night. A constable of 57 battalion of the BSF, Surjit Singh was living in Tehna village of the district when he left for participating in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. On July 27, 1972, Angrej Kaur got a missing certificate from Commandant H.S. Sidhu informing her that Surjit went missing on the night of December 3 and 4 from Jaisalmer. Later, she received a certificate from Commandant Ram Singh declaring Surjit Singh as martyr on September 24, 1974. The family got first information about Surjit Singh last year when one Khushi Mohammad of Malerkotla after getting released from Kot Lakhpat jail in Pakistan named him one among the Indian prisoners in the jail.

The Tribune had carried a news report on Surjit Singh on October 5 last year, following which two Supreme Court lawyers had offered legal aid to his family. The Apex Court had also sought report from the BSF and the Central Government on Surjit Singh’s case.


Dept approves luxury cars for Punjab ministers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 13
The state Finance Department today gave approval to the proposal to buy luxury cars for Punjab ministers. The issue to buy luxury cars was hanging fire for the past three months.

Informed sources said the Finance Department, after clearing the proposal, had sent the file to the State Transport Department to procure 18 Camry cars at the earliest. Whether the Transport Department has started further action is not known. Each car will cost about Rs 15 lakh, it is learnt.

The Finance department had earlier raised several queries regarding the fuel efficiency and other aspects of the luxury cars and the State Transport department was asked to send it a report by comparing these cars with other cars being used by ministers at present.

Sources said that Mr Amarjit Singh Samra, Revenue and Rehabilitation, has refused to take Camry car. He has preferred to use his private car. Mr Samra, who runs business worth crores at Jalandhar, has reportedly given in writing to the state government not to avail the official luxury car.

Though, the Punjab Government has decided to buy these cars, Haryana’s experience with regard to the use of luxury cars by their ministers is said to be not good. In Haryana, ministers have complained that they face problems when they visit rural areas, where roads are not conducive to ply luxury cars. It appears that Punjab ministers will same problem while travelling on rural roads. Haryana ministers were first to start the use of luxury cars during the Chautala government.

Meanwhile, sources said nothing had been finalised yet as far as buying middle-level luxury cars costing up to Rs 11 lakh for Punjab Parliamentary Secretaries and vehicles in the range of Rs 7 to 8 lakh for MLAs was concerned. MLAs were asked to give options with regard to the vehicles they wanted to travel in. They were reportedly given a list of vehicles to choose from.

If the government decides to provide new cars to the Parliamentary Secretaries and the MLAs, it will cost anything between Rs 8 crore and Rs 10 crore depending upon what type of vehicles are finalised. Presently the MLAs have been allocated Toyota Qualis vehicles.


Dullo tells ministers to hold ‘public darbars’
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 13
All Punjab Ministers have been told to hold “ public darbars” in Assembly constituencies to hear the grievances of the people. This was disclosed here today by the President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Dullo said here today that he had written to all Punjab Ministers in this connection. Ministers have been asked to visit at least four Assembly constituencies in a month, he said. Mr Dullo said that by visiting four constituencies in a month, Ministers would be able to cover almost all constituencies in two months.

“During my visit to three districts, I found that people have a large number of grievances which required to be dealt with at the level of Ministers”, he added. Moreover, it would establish direct rapport of the Ministers with the people in the countryside. He said that there were a large number of grievances which could be removed on the spot.

“I have told the Ministers to submit reports regarding their visits to various constituencies”, he added. Visits of Ministers to various constituencies would help in strengthening the party, he added.

Mr Dullo said he would resume his visit to various districts after the elections of the nagar panchayats, the polling for which would be held on September 18. Changes in the party office bearers, wherever necessary, would be made after a month, he added.

“I am assessing the functioning of all office bearers and those found wanting would be changed and would be given responsibility elsewhere”, he added.

Asked about the recruitment of teachers, doctors and others, Mr Dullo said that he had discussed the issue with the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, in detail. “I have urged the Chief Minister to ensure security of service of those to be recruited in government services”. Mr Dullo is not in favour of recruiting people on contract basis.

Mr Dullo said he was working in close collaboration with the Chief Minister. He said the Chief Minister would be requested to address party meetings to be held in various districts to counter the false propaganda being made by the SAD leader, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, against the government.

“My main objective is to restore the old glory of Punjab which once used to be the number one state of the country. But unfortunately, Punjab lost that premier status because of the lack of vision of the previous SAD-BJP Government led by Mr Badal”. He said Mr Badal was playing negative politics and had no vision to take Punjab forward.

When asked about the widespread resentment among employees against the Punjab Government, Mr Dullo said that he was trying to meet all agitating employees to remove their resentment. “I held a meeting with agitating Aganwari employees today”, he said.

Meanwhile, at a meeting called by him, the PPCC today unanimously authorised the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, to nominate the members of the Working Committee of the All-India Congress Committee. Among those present at the meeting were former Presidents of the PPCC, Mr Santokh Singh Randhawa and Mr Varinder Kataria besides various ministers including Mr Surinder Singla, Mr Avtar Henry, Mr Harnam Dass Johar and Mr Amarjit Singh Samra. Others present were Mr Tej Parkash Singh, Mr Parminder Singh Pinki, Mr Tarlochan Singh, Mr Avtar Singh Brar, Mr Brij Lal Goel and Mr Rajpal Singh.


Now, Ram Das institute refuses to accept fee
Sanjay Bumbroo and Neeraj Bagga
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 13
As if the harassment of students, who had to take entrance tests twice for admission to medical colleges in the state and face delay in the start of session by over a month, was not enough, the SGPC-run Sri Guru Ram Das Institute of Medical Sciences and Research here refused to accept fees from students today, the date fixed by Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot, for depositing fees.

As per the public notice issued by the varsity, the students were supposed to attend their classes from September 14.

Navneet Janagal, who came all the way from Moga to deposit her fee, said there were around 16 students who came from different parts of the state but had to return disappointed. She said all of them had admission slips issued by Baba Farid University after counselling on September 9 and 10. The slips clearly mentioned ranks achieved in the PMET and the name of college allotted, as per the directions of the apex court.

The students complained that they were being treated shabbily and were made to take rounds of different departments. They said officials of the institute did not give them a satisfactory reply. Eventually, they were told that the institute had not received any information from the university for accepting fee.

Dr Devinder Singh Sandhu, a Trustee of the institute, said he was not aware of the matter.

However, the students feared the management of the college had a ‘mala fide intention’ as neither their fees were accepted nor the attendance on their slips were marked. They pointed out that Sri Guru Ram Das Charitable Hospital Trust, which manages the medical college, in a public notice displayed in this newspaper on September 3, stated that the institute would charge an annual fee of Rs 2.5 lakh for the MBBS course. But a notification issued by the state government recently put the fee at Rs 75,000.

Dr U.S. Dhaliwal, Principal of institute, said the university neither intimated them about accepting the fees nor it sent any list of students to be admitted to the college. Asked about the amount of fee to be charged from the students, Mr Dhaliwal expressed ignorance about it.


Forest Dept under a cloud
Ravi Bhushan Puri

Pathankot, September 13
The Forest Department has come under a cloud for planting 5,000 saplings on the 25-acre acquired land of the Ranjit Sagar Dam here.

The saplings were planted under a Japanese project in the year 2002-03 at Phangota village. The village was part of the reservoir.

According to sources, with the plantation the reservoir area was reduced and so its storage capacity.

Interestingly, the Forest Department had not taken any sanction from the dam authorities for the plantation.

The controversy came to the fore last month when due to heavy rains the water level of the reservoir had crossed to 520 metres as against the storing capacity of 527.9 metres. Due to increase in the water level a large number of trees were damaged.

Mr P.L. Saini, Chief Engineer of the dam, conformed that the Forest Department had not taken permission for the plantation.

The Divisional Forest Officer, Mr Jasmer Singh, refuted the allegations. He clarified that the plantation was done strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and other rules.


Daily wagers hold protest at DFO office
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, September 13
The daily wagers of the forest department today organised a protest in front of the office of DFO, Pathankot to press for their demands. Over 100 daily wagers initially organised a rally and raised slogans against state government and the forest department officials.

They alleged that many of the daily wagers had been working with the Department of Forests for the past two decades. The government had promised many times to regularise their jobs, but nothing had been done in this regard. “Even after such a long period of service the daily wagers are facing exploitation at the hands of officials,” they added.

The union leader Mr Subhash Sharma, while speaking on the occasion, demanded a scrutiny of the muster rolls of the employees. He alleged large scale bungling in the muster rolls. The daily wagers hired by the Department of Forests every year are not paid the minimum wages. They are paid just Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 per month against the minimum wages of Rs 2,200 fixed by the government.

The workers also demanded holidays and other perks at par with the regular employees. They also threatened to intensify their agitation in case their demands were not met.

Daily wagers also started a chain hunger strike today to press for their demands.

The forest department officials, while speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the demands of daily wagers were unjustified. “The daily wagers are hired every year for temporary jobs such as the removal of shrubs from the forest areas or plantation drives only during monsoon. Their job was totally temporary in nature due to which their services cannot be regularised,” they said.


Scooter rally by junior engineers
Tribune Reporters

Patiala, September 13
On a call given by the Council of Junior Engineers of the Punjab State Electricity Board, junior engineers from all over the state organised “empty tank scooter rallies” in all circles today.

Mr Davinder Singh, general secretary of the council, said there was resentment among the junior engineers against the indifferent attitude of the board management towards their demands.

The council accused the board management of not being serious about implementing the demands of the junior engineers which had been agreed to by the management. The demands include grant of class-II (B category) status after completion of 16 years of service, compensation for the increase in the petrol prices as agreed on March 14, 1998, providing mobile phones facility and filling vacant posts in the promotion shares. The rally at the Patiala circle culminated in front of the PSEB headquarters. The rally was led by Mr Ashok Kumar Sharma and Mr Kuldeep Singh, president and general secretary, respectively of the Patiala unit.

Nawanshahr: Activists of the local unit of the council held an “empty tank scooter rally” from the PSEB circle office to Chandigarh Chowk here on Tuesday to protest against the indifferent attitude of the PSEB management towards their genuine demands.

Mr Balwinder Jit Sharma and Mr Jaswant Rai, president and secretary, respectively, were among those who addressed the rally. They submitted a memorandum of demands to the Deputy Chief Engineer for onward submission to the Chairman, PSEB.

SANGRUR: Nearly 100 junior engineers (JEs) and additional assistant engineers(AAEs) of the Sangrur Operation Circle of the PSEB held an “empty tank scooter/motorcycle march” here on Tuesday in support of their demands. The march was led by Mr R.M. Bansal, secretary of the Sangrur circle of the Council of Junior Engineers of the PSEB.

Addressing the JEs and AAEs in front of the office of the Sangrur Operation Circle here, Mr Bansal said the engineers had been compelled by the PSEB management to hold a protest march as it had failed in fulfilling their demands.


Grievances panel holds seminar
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 13
A seminar to sensitise non-government members of the district and sub-divisional grievances committees was held here today. Chief Parliamentary Secretary (Grievances Redressal, Pension and Programme Implementation) Harbans Lal presided over the seminar.

Faridkot Division Commissioner Roshan Sankaria, Bathinda DC Rahul Bhandari, Faridkot DC Alok Shekhar and Mansa DC Raj Kamal Chaudhuri also attended the seminar.

Addressing the seminar, Mr Harbans Lal said the formation of grievances committees was aimed at solving people’s problems. He urged the committee members to highlight issues concerning the common man. He asked the Deputy Commissioners to ensure that the department heads themselves attended committee meetings to answer queries relating to their departments.


Electric pole removed

Pathankot, September 13
Taking cognizance of the news-item published in The Tribune on September 11, “High tension wires pose threat to the residents”, the PSEB authorities have removed the electric pole concerned.

The electric pole in the Model Town area here had wires hanging at a distance about 8 feet from the ground level. A 14-year-old boy died on the spot after coming into contact with the hanging wires. — TNS


high court
SIT submits report in Naya Gaon case
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 13
The Special Investigating Team (SIT) looking into the Naya Gaon rape case today submitted its report in a sealed cover to the Punjab and Haryana High Court. It was forwarded by Punjab Advocate-General R.S. Cheema.

In a related development, an advocate practising in the High Court, sought the prosecution of Punjab Police officers involved in the arrest of journalist Gautam Dheer in a connected matter.

In his petition filed in public interest, advocate H.C. Arora said the Constitution of India prohibited the arrest of a person from another state without the consent of the state government concerned.

Referring to Mr Dheer’s case, the advocate said the Punjab Police did not take the consent of Haryana Government before picking the journalist up from his residence in Panchkula.

Claiming that Mr Dheer’s arrest was carried out by the Punjab Police in an improper manner and without jurisdiction, Mr Arora added that the High Court should declared the same null and void.

Taking up the petition and the report, along with a bunch of other applications filed in the matter, a Division Bench of the High Court, comprising Mr Justice Amar Dutt and Ms Justice Kiran Anand Lall, initially asked counsel of different parties to appear before the court after lunch.

In the post lunch session, the Bench opened the report in the presence of counsel and observed that they would take up the matter again after going through the same.

PIL filed

The appointment of three Chief Parliamentary Secretaries and nine Parliamentary Secretaries in Punjab was on Tuesday challenged in the High Court by an advocate-cum-member of BJP’s legal cell Avtar Singh Gill.

Describing the appointments as unconstitutional and grossly illegal, the petitioner contended that such posts were not existing legally in any state. He added that only 18 MLAs in Punjab could become ministers after the 91st constitutional amendment. But the state Chief Minister adjusted 12 more MLA as Parliamentary Secretaries due to political reasons.

They were illegally given the powers of Deputy Ministers, he alleged. The petitioner added that the Chief Minister was expected to remove the Parliamentary Secretaries himself after the Himachal Pradesh High Court judgement. The Court, vide its order, had quashed the appointment of 12 Parliamentary Secretaries in Himachal Pradesh, the petitioner added.

Taking up the petition filed in public interest, a Division Bench of the High Court, comprising Chief Justice Mr Justice D.K. Jain and Mr Justice Hemant Gupta, fixed September 15 as the next date of hearing in the case.

The Judges also directed senior counsel for the petitioner, Mr Satya Pal Jain, to place on record a copy of the order passed by a Division Bench of the HP High Court.


Malta boat tragedy: witness summoned
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, September 13
Mr Paolo Trichilo, Counsellor in the Embassy of Italy, has informed Mr Balwant Singh Khera, chairman, Malta Boat Tragedy Probe Mission, that the court of Sircusa has summoned him as witness in the case on October 12, 2005.

It may be recalled that the Malta boat tragedy took place on December 25, 1996, in the Malta Sicily channel in which 300 young men, including 170 Indians lost their lives. The Malta Boat Tragedy Probe Mission had filed suits against the culprits in various courts.

Mr Khera further stated that earlier Mr Ezechia Paolo Reale, counsel for the mission in Sircusa, had also informed that hearing of the case was scheduled for October 12.


Ban orders till Nov 13
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, September 13
To prevent any untoward incident by anti-social elements in the district, Mrs Jaspreet Talwar, District Magistrate, under Section 144, today made it mandatory for all landlords to give names and addresses of their tenants to the nearest police station.

In another order District Magistrate also banned the open sale of 106 type of medicines without prescription.

To avoid night accidents the magistrate also banned the plying of rickshaws, trolleys, tractors, cycles and other vehicles without reflectors during night. All these orders would remain in force up to November 13.

She also issued orders under Section 3(1) of Act 1918 to start night patrolling by village defense committees to guard towers, transmission lines, sub-stations, transformers, Railway lines, government buildings, food grain storage complexes, petrol pumps, canal, bridges, banks, post offices in their respective village areas. These orders would also remain effective till November 13.


One more held in Nayagaon rape case
Tribune News Service

Mohali/Kharar, September 13
The special investigation team (SIT) of the Punjab Police probing into the rape of a minor girl at Nayagaon three years ago today arrested Satnam Singh, an alleged accomplice of the accused in the case.

According to SIT sources, Satnam, a resident of Sector 20, Chandigarh, had allegedly “helped” the accused by making the victim’s family get statements recorded in their favour.

The sources added that these statements were recorded after the SIT started probing the rape case following directions from the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The statements recorded before the Dera Bassi Tehsildar on July 19 were then handed over to the SIT by the victim’s family.

With today’s arrest, a total of 17 persons have been arrested in the case. Four others had also been arrested for harbouring the accused. Among those who are still wanted in the case are Gurdhian Singh and Labh Singh, both brothers of Kesar Singh, one of the main accused in the case.

Meanwhile, 10 accused in the case were presented before a Kharar court today following the end of their judicial remand. They had been brought from Patiala jail and were kept in the lock-up within the court premises before being presented before the judge.

The Chief Subdivisional Judicial Magistrate, Mr Ranjan Khullar, extended their judicial remand till September 27.


1 killed, 4 hurt as vehicles collide
Our Correspondent

A truck that turned turtle on the Ambala-Rajpura highway
A truck that turned turtle on the Ambala-Rajpura highway on Tuesday. Two more accidents happened since the accident site was not cleared. — Photo by J.S. Virk

Rajpura, September 13
One person lost his life while four were seriously injured in an accident on the busy Ambala-Rajpura highway, near here, early this morning. In all five vehicles collided at the same spot, in a span of more than one hour, as the local police failed to clear the accident spot of the damaged vehicles.

Police sources said a mini truck (PB-10-C-9708) turned turtle after one of its tyres burst on the Ambala-Rajpura highway at around 3 am. As the truck was not removed from the spot for about three hours, a three-wheeler, which was passing beside the truck, was hit by another speeding truck from rear. The three-wheeler was pushed off the road into roadside trench. All four passengers travelling in the three-wheeler sustained serious injuries and were rushed to a local hospital.

Thereafter, commuters gathered at the spot leading to a small traffic jam at the spot. At that time a speeding bus (RJ-27-P-5129) which tried to drive past the crowd was hit by another truck from the rear. The truck hit the bus with such a force that the bus driver lost control over the vehicle and it went straight into the roadside trench.

On seeing the bus heading toward the trench a, bus passenger, 26-year-old Jagir Singh, jumped from the bus and fell on the road. He subsequently hit his head against a hard object resulting in his death on the spot. The police is investigating the matter.


2 killed, five hurt in mishap
Our Correspondent

Batala, September 13
A Mahindra Scorpio carrying a marriage party met with an accident this morning near Hardojhande village on the GT Road. The vehicle overturned and struck against a tree, resulting in the death of Pramod Kumar of Agra and Praveen Mahajan of Dinanagar.

Five persons were injured. While Sumeet, Saurab Marwaha and Sonu were admitted to the Batala Civil Hospital, Vikas Sharma and Sahil Sharma were referred to a hospital in Amritsar with serious injuries.


1 killed, 1 hurt in scrap metal explosion
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 13
One person was killed and another injured during an explosion when they were sifting through waste metal scrap at Mahmudpur village on the Ghanaur road, near Bahadurgarh here today.

A labourer Hansraj was killed while Surinderpal was seriously injured. He has been admitted to Government Rajindra Hospital.

The Patiala Sadar Police has registered an FIR against scrap dealers Bashir and Soma of the same village. The two had a joint partnership in getting waste metal scrap from Mandi Gobindgarh. The latest consignment had also come from there. They had put the waste metal scrap at their village.

Hansraj and Surinderpal had also come here from Mandi Gobindgarh. The two belonged to Bhadla village, near Mandi Gobindgarh. The district administration has announced payment of Rs 50,000 for the family of the deceased and Rs 15,000 for the injured.


Arrest university officials, demands SC association
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 13
The ongoing protest at Punjabi University, Patiala, took another turn as the Punjab Scheduled Castes Welfare Society demanded the arrest of four university officials for making caste-based comments against students’ leader Chamkaur Singh.

The society held an emergency meeting and asked for the arrest of the Vice-Chancellor, Mr Swaran Singh Boparai, the Director, Public Relations, Dr Baldev Singh Sandhu, Dr Harinder Singh Bhatti and the warden of hostel No 4, Dr Dharamvir Sharma, according to Mr Paramjit Singh Sodh, president of the society.

Dr Sandhu, Dr Bhatti and Dr Sharma allegedly made the comments against Punjab Students Union leader Chamkaur Singh during an inquiry proceeding where three other students were also present. Mr Sodh said making caste-based comments was a non-bailable offence.

The society has asked the Punjab Governor and the Chancellor, Gen S.F. Rodrigues, and the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee President, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, to look into the matter. Otherwise the society would be compelled to launch an agitation against Mr Boparai and other officials, he added.

Mr Sodh said this was not the first time that a Dalit was targeted by the university authorities. Mr Boparai had earlier reverted seven Dalit senior assistants to the rank of junior assistants by abolishing the reservation policy. He also accused the Vice-Chancellor of abolishing the post of the Assistant Public Relations Officer to remove Mr H.S. Khokhar, who has filed a writ petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.


Punjabi varsity closed today
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 13
The authorities of Punjabi University, Patiala, have decided to close the teaching, research and non-teaching departments on September 14 following the strike call given by the Punjabi University Students Confederation. However, the interviews for the pharmacy department will be held as per schedule.

According to a press note, the authorities claimed that the present agitation by students of the law department had turned into a political exercise.


Homoeopathy college among top 10 institutions
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 13
The Guru Nanak Dev College of Homoeopathy here has been ranked among the top 10 colleges in the field in the country.

Stating this after presiding over a seminar here today, Dr D.P. Rastogi, Chairman, Postgraduate Committee, Central Council of Homoeopathy, who is also a former honorary physician of the President of India, said that the college was the only postgraduate institution in North India and after gauging the education standard he rated it in top 10 of such colleges in the country.

Dr Rastogi said there was need to open more such colleges in the region for the propagation of the homoeopathy.


Grandparents day celebrated

Patiala, September 13
A grandparents day was celebrated by Bhupinder International Public School here today.

After the Principal of the school, Ms Indu Sharma, welcomed the guests, the programme started with a shabad recital by students of class VI. This was followed by an interaction between parents and students on the topic of joint family system. Students also had discussions with their grandparents.

The grandparents also took part in various games like musical chairs and pass the parcel. OC

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