P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Ministers attack functioning of Vigilance Bureau
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 30
The functioning of the Punjab Vigilance Bureau came under sharp attack at a meeting of the Council of Ministers here today. Sources said that almost all Ministers criticised the way bureau officers had been organising anti-corruption operations.

The Annual Administrative Report of the bureau was presented to the council for approval. Ministers took potshots at the functioning of the bureau while participating in a discussion the report.

Ministers complained to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, that instead of checking corruption, the functioning of bureau officials at certain places had become suspect in the eyes of all concerned. There were complaints of corruption against certain bureau officials. Earlier, during the tenure of the SAD-BJP government there was an administrative check on the bureau. But that was no more in place at present.

The Ministers told the Chief Minister that the “absolute freedom” given to the bureau was a reason for the misuse of power by its officials at certain levels in various parts of the state. During SAD-BJP rule, no police officer wanted to be posted in the bureau. If anyone was posted, such posting was considered a punishment. However, now for posting in the bureau, intense lobbying was done by police officials.” Lobbying for posting is only done in those departments where the scope of making a fast buck is very high”, said a senior Minister.

Certain Ministers asked about the conviction rate in the cases filed by the bureau in courts. They also wanted to know how many cases had been actually investigated by the bureau and how many of those had been filed in courts.

Capt Amarinder Singh assured his cabinet colleagues that he would take measures soon to streamline the functioning of the bureau. He instructed the Chief Secretary, who is also the Administrative Secretary of the bureau, to prepare a detailed note to improve the functioning of the bureau.

A few months ago, a Minister had raised serious questions with regard to the arrest of a jail superintendent by the bureau. Recently, an Administrative Secretary had taken up with the Chief Secretary the issue of the arrest of an executive officer by the bureau.

The council approved the increase in the limit for giving discretionary grants for development works. In the case of the Chief Minister, the limit was increased from Rs 1 crore to Rs 2 crore and in the case of a Cabinet Minister from Rs 40 lakh to Rs 75 lakh in a year. A State Minister will be entitled to give a grant of Rs 60 lakh and a Chief Parliamentary Secretary and a Parliamentary Secretary Rs 50 lakh.

The council also approved the holding of a session of the Punjab Assembly from February 20. Capt Amarinder Singh said that the Session would continue till March 15 and be extended, if need be.

He said he would not go to Pakistan in the inaugural trip of the bus that would start plying between Nankana Sahib and Amritsar. “I will visit Pakistan in April during the Indo-Pak Punjab games”, he added.

The council also cleared the setting up of a four-member Revenue Commission to review the revenue laws. It also approved the revival of 376 posts of patwari and three posts of kanungo in the Revenue Department. The recruitment of the patwaris and kanungos would be made by a departmental selection committee to be named by the Financial Commissioner (Revenue).

Capt Amarinder Singh said the rules were being framed to fill posts of teacher before April 1.

For the smooth functioning of the Excise and Taxation Department, the council approved 124 different posts of different officials. Besides, the council okayed a proposal to amend Section 19 of the Punjab Value Added Tax Act, 2005, by the promulgation of an ordinance.

A reduction in the tax by 33 per cent lumpsum from the existing level and an option to pay tax in lump sum or to pay entertainment duty on actual basis were also approved. An ordinance will be promulgated to effect an amendment to the Punjab Entertainment Tax (Cinematography Shows) Act, 1954.

The council gave its nod to the revival of the posts of 49 Class IV employees of the Animal Husbandry Department from the date of the termination of their services till the date of their reinstatement. The transfer of land of the tourist complex at Kartarpur to the Punjab Tourism Development Corporation was also approved. It also approved the annual administrative reports of various departments, including that of the Vigilance Bureau.


SAD never opposed VAT, says Singla
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 30
The Punjab Finance Minister, Mr Surinder Singla, while reacting to a statement on value added tax (VAT) by a former Punjab Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, said: “He did not protest against VAT or any of its implications during the Bharatiya Janata Party-led rule at the Centre when VAT was being discussed”.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh had said yesterday that the SAD, if elected, would review the imposition of VAT in Punjab. Mr Singla said the SAD was an alliance partner of the BJP when the Empowered Committee of all finance ministers was formed and Capt Kanwaljit Singh was also a member.

Mr Singla wondered why Punjab kept sending officials to attend the meetings of the Empowered Committee. “Why did Capt Kanwaljit Singh allow Punjab participation in these meetings while no protest was registered over VAT and its imposition during these meetings?”

Moreover, by linking central sales tax (CST) and excise duty to imposition of VAT, Capt Kanwaljit Singh was trying to mislead people as these taxes were levied all over India and Punjab was no exception. On the other hand, states governed by the BJP were also going to impose VAT from April 4.

On the issue of getting grants from the Finance Commissions, Mr Singla said let the SAD show what it had got from any of the commissions and then talk about what the Congress had got.

He said the package of Rs 3,200 crore given to Punjab by the 12th Finance Commission was a special revenue deficit grant given specially to Punjab at the behest of his government. The deficit, he alleged, was caused due to the mishandling of resources by the SAD.


Atwal against overspending in elections
Our Correspondent

Phillaur January 30
Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal is opposed to expensive elections to the Lok Sabha, state assemblies, and even of Municipal Committees, and suggested to all political parties to campaign in support of their respective candidates at one joint election rally, where candidates of every political party could participate in a “debate” on various issues and avoid separate elections rallies to save ‘undue’ expenditure spent by different political parties.

Talking to reporters here this afternoon, Mr Atwal suggested that election expenditure should be borne by the government. He also suggested “Debates by candidates of different political parties through electronic media also. Mr Atwal also opposed prepoll surveys and poll opinions by different electronic channels and some newspapers. Opinion poll or survey should not be telecast or published before the completion of the poll process.

Mr Atwal stressed the need for long sessions of state Assemblies and Parliament and said elected representatives of people should conduct themselves in the house with dignity.

On the controversy between the Supreme Court and Parliament on the removal of some tainted MPs of political parties, Mr Atwal said, three pillars of democracy including legislature, Executive and Judiciary, should not cross their respective Lakshman Rekhas and avoid interference in each other constitution. People with criminal backgrounds should not be fielded by party, Mr Atwal added.


Mazda project threatens 37 hectares of forest land
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Asron (Ropar), January 30
The expansion project of Swaraj-Mazda, an automobile company, here has become a major threat to the ecological balance here as trees on around 37 hectares of land, spread in the Shivalik Hills forest area, have been facing the axe for the past one week.

The project worth Rs 160 cr, sponsored by Japanese company Mazda in Asron village, near here, will be utilised for the expansion of the company to manufacture buses. It will also set up its research and development facilities here.

Sources said the Punjab Government took more than a year to clear the project.

The government recently gave the green signal to the project, ignoring the threat to the wildlife and forest area, after the Japanese partner threatened to move the project out of the state.

The Punjab Forest Department is feeling helpless despite being vested with the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980. The company claimed that it had been given the permission to start the project in June, 1980, while the Act came into being a little later i.e. in October, 1980.

Some senior officials of the Forest Department said the company had to pay Rs 3.68 cr for conversion of forestland to commercial property and for alternative plantation, the sources added.

Many environmentalists and bird lovers have expressed regret over the expansion project in the hills located near the wetland area.

“The project will pose a major threat to the environment. The wetland area here is a natural habitat for the more than 150 bird species. Most bird species take shelter in the adjoining Shivalik Hills. The felling of trees will not only cause soil erosion but also pose threat to the very existence of birds,” said a bird watcher and environmentalist, Mr Jaspreet Singh, who has been associated with bird research in the area for the past 20 years.

The project in-charge, Mr Ashok Verma, said the work began after its due clearance from the Punjab Government.

He claimed that project would be a big boom for the state, as it would generate employment.

Attempts to contact the forest officer of the area, Mr Bhajan Singh, turned futile.


Panjab varsity exam reforms on the anvil
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 30
Much-needed reforms in the Panjab University examination and evaluation system are on the anvil. University senators are holding a special meeting on February 5 to discuss a host of suggestions regarding the university’s systems of examination, evaluation, re-evaluation and affiliation.

In what is likely to cause a furore, the university authorities have suggested that invigilation and evaluation work be made compulsory for teachers. The examination branch, it was pointed out, was finding it extremely difficult to conduct examinations and declare results in time since enough teachers were not doing the work voluntarily.

Responding to the various suggestions listed in the agenda, the examination branch office has pointed out while many teachers did not report on invigilation duty despite their names being on the lists sent by the college heads, there are others who fail to turn up for evaluation duties. One such response states: “The evaluation system could be improved if the teachers/evaluators consider it an integral part of their duties and treat it as important as their other duties. They should accept evaluation duty voluntarily and do justice with the job which is a determinant factor of student’s life/future career with sincerity and seriousness.”

A senator has suggested that in order to decrease the load of conducting examinations, the university should take up examinations only of the final years of various courses. For example, for BA, the university should conduct the examination only for students of the third year. The rest of the examinations should be conducted by the college itself. Another senator suggested that PU’s private candidates be enrolled for examinations through the nearest university affiliated college. The college should act as a nodal point through which the private candidate can deal with the university.

Regarding revaluation, the university authorities pointed out that many of the problems that candidates face during re-evaluation would not arise if the first evaluator was careful in his work.

“It has been noted that in some cases due to various factors, best known to the evaluators, the difference of marks awarded by the first evaluator and the re-evaluator has been abnormally high/low. Naturally such cases invite evaluation by a third examiner and the entire process begins from scratch. However, the bare fact remains that if proper evaluation is done at the level of the first examiner this problem of abnormal change in the marks would not arise,” noted the re-evaluation branch.

The relationship between the university and its affiliating colleges would also come under the scanner during the meeting. Many senators have demanded more autonomy in recruiting teachers. University authorities have been quick to point out that colleges should strictly follow the rules laid down for the functioning of the colleges.

Suggesting changes in the process of granting affiliations to new course in colleges the university has suggested that inspection team members should visit these colleges on a single day rather than spread out their visits. Also the university should make it clear in its letter to the college if affiliation has been given or not rather than play with words which are later misinterpreted by the college to their own benefit and to the detriment of the students.


Fabricated record presented in PIL, says govt counsel
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, January 30
The Punjab Government today tried to put a question mark over the authenticity of the claims made in a PIL filed by the Lawyers for Human Rights International (LHRI), Chandigarh chapter, through its president Tejinder Singh Sudan.

The PIL, which alleges that politicians, senior police and civil officers in nexus with certain property sharks, have "grabbed" land in Kansal and other villages in the periphery of Chandigarh, seeks investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged nexus.

Today, during resumed hearing of the two PILs, the second one having been filed by the Joint Action Committee, Nayagaon, an Additional Advocate General, Punjab, told the High Court Bench that the information provided in one of the annexure did not match the record of the Revenue Department.

This annexure, part of the writ filed by the LHRI, is reportedly a translated copy of the "jamabandi" of a portion of land in Kansal village in Ropar district.

This copy, which is for 2003-4, contains names of some influential persons who own land in the area.

However, the same "jamabandi" says that the original owner of the land is one Din Dayal and influential persons and their kin are cultivators of the land.

The Additional AG also told the Bench comprising Chief Justice Mr Justice D.K. Jain and Mr Justice Surya Kant that it could be a fabricated document.

He also told the Bench while IPS officer Sumedh Singh Saini does have land in the area, it is less than what the petition alleges.

He also stated that Punjab Police IG C.S.R. Reddy, who, the PIL alleges, owns 28 kanals and three marlas of land either in his own or his kin's name, does not own any land in the area.

Following the claim of the Additional AG that the copy of the "jamabandi" submitted along with the writ could be a piece of fabrication, the Bench directed the government to file an affidavit in this regard.

It may be recalled that two separate petitions, both claiming to be public interest litigations, were filed early this month, seeking investigation by the CBI into the alleged nexus between top police officers and bureaucrats with the land mafia operating in the villages in the periphery.

However, both petitions named different persons as being involved in acts of land grabbing, benami land transactions and illegal construction.

The petition filed by the Joint Action Committee, Nayagaon, talks of an unholy nexus between land mafia and police officers, bureaucrats and ministers.

It alleges that vast tracts of land have been acquired benami by senior police officers, bureaucrats and ministers.

It names Gurdhian Singh, Gurbachan Singh and Ramkesh - all accused in the case relating to rape of a minor girl of Nayagaon - and two human rights lawyers Amar Singh Chahal and Arvind Thakur as the main persons involved in the benami sale of land in the periphery.

It also claims that advocate Chahal and others have also been booked by the police in cases relating to illegal land transactions.

The second petition alleges that politicians, senior police and civil officers in nexus with certain property sharks have "grabbed" land in Kansal and other villages in the periphery.

Some of these people, the PIL alleges, have even constructed palatial houses and other buildings on the land.

The LHRI petition also alleges that locals who oppose the illegal activities of this powerful land mafia are implicated in false cases.

Hearing will now resume on February 22.


PIL seeks CBI probe into self-immolation case
Our High Court Correspondent

Chandigarh, January 30
A PIL seeking investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the case of self-immolation in broad daylight by Gopal Kishan Kashyap, president of the Rajiv Gandhi Prontha Rehri Market Association, Patiala, on January 24, came up for hearing in the Punjab and Haryana High Court today.

Agitated over the failure of the authorities to set up a market for displaced hawkers, Kashyap poured diesel over himself and set himself ablaze in the presence of scores of police personnel, his supporters and mediapersons. Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Patiala, Ms Punam Deep Kaur, is probing the self-immolation.

The PIL, filed by advocate Surinder Pal Singh Tinna, also seeks directions to the Punjab Government and others to register criminal cases against the cops and civil officers who did not take any steps to prevent him from immolating himself. It also prays for direction to the government to immediately pay compensation to the family of the deceased.

Maintaining that the government cannot shirk its responsibility in the matter, the petitioner has also stated that even the supporters of the deceased, who garlanded him and egged him on to commit suicide, should have been booked for abetment of suicide.

He has also added that the suicide could have been prevented had the police and civil administration taken timely steps. Terming the inquiry ordered by the Congress government in the case as eyewash, the petitioner has said the incident sent shock waves across the country.

Today, the Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Mr Justice D.K. Jain and Mr Justice Surya Kant adjourned the matter to March 2 after directing counsel for the Punjab Government to seek instructions in the matter.


Punjab’s new Chief Secy: it is Verma vs Dubey
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 30
With just one day to go for Mr Jai Singh Gill, a 1968-batch officer, to superannuate as the Chief Secretary, the Punjab Government, is yet to name his successor.

The Punjab IAS Officers Association organised a farewell party for Mr Jai Singh Gill and Mr H.R. Rangar this afternoon.

The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, sources say, is keeping all options open though the rumblings in the corridors of the Punjab Civil Secretariat suggest a close race between Mr Piyush Kanta Verma and Mr A.K. Dubey. All attempts by newsmen to elicit a response from the Chief Minister on the issue proved futile.

Mr Verma is the Financial Commissioner (Development) and Mr Dubey looks after the Home Department. Both Mr Verma and Mr Dubey belong to the 1970 batch.

While Mr Verma will superannuate on November 30 this year, Mr Dubey age on his side as his retirement is due on October 30, 2007. Only officer of the 1969 batch, Mr Bikramjit Singh, had remained Principal Secretary to Mr Parkash Singh Badal during the previous Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janta Party government. Mr Singh is due to retire at the end of August this year.

Though there had been a convention to name the seniormost IAS officer as the Financial Commissioner (Revenue), FCR, an exception was made this time. Neither Mr Bikramjit Singh nor Mr Verma were named for the position after Ms Rupan Deol Bajaj retired on December 31 last year. Instead, Mr K.K. Bhatnagar, also of the 1970 batch but placed below both Mr Verma and Mr V.N. Ojha, was named the new FCR.

Mr V.N. Ojha will retire a month after Mr Bikramjit Singh.

While the Chief Minister is known to make decisions about appointments well in advance, this time he has left the decision to the last minute.

The outgoing Chief Secretary, Mr Jai Singh Gill, who served in various capacities in the state and at the Centre, may be given a coveted position in the Punjab Government on retirement. Mr Gill remained the Deputy Commissioner of Ropar, Amritsar and Bathinda for about six years besides serving as the Senior Regional Manager and subsequently the Managing Director of the Food Corporation of India; the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister; the Managing Director of Markfed; and the Union Secretary, (Steel) before he was made Chief Secretary of Punjab on August 1, 2003.


CPM to launch ‘jail bharo morcha’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 30
The Punjab unit of the CPM will launch a “jail bharo morcha” from February 1 in the state. The morcha will start from Nawanshahr.

This was announced today by Mr Balwant Singh, secretary of the state unit, at a press conference here. He said the morcha would continue till February 15. After that a new programme would be announced.

He said the morcha would be in support of a 13-point demands charter of the party with regard to various issues. He said the education and health delivery systems had failed in the state. The crime rate had gone up. Poor sections were being targeted by repressive forces. No one was bothered about redressing the grievances of people. The latest example was the incident of immolation at Patiala.

He said poppy husk was being freely peddled in the state. The youth had lost direction because the government was not bothered about providing them with employment. “More and more youth were going astray because they were facing a bleak future”, said Mr Balwant Singh.

About 3 lakh tubewell connections were pending released. There were lakhs of poor families which had no power connection, he said. While universities and other educational institutions were being set up at breakneck speed, the standard of education was falling. Even important subjects such as English and mathematics had been made optional at the matriculation level. There was also no effort to revive sick industrial units.

Talking about the demands charter, Mr Balwant Singh said his party wanted that all closed sick mills should be reopened.

The minimum wages should be increased to Rs 5,000 per month. Anti-labour laws should be repealed; during natural calamities, agricultural labour families should be given Rs 5,000 per family; every farm labourer should be ensured the payment of Rs 125 per day as wages; the loans of farm labourers should be written off; and 73,000 acres of surplus land should be distributed among the landless in the state.

He said the government should also give adequate compensation to farmers affected by natural calamities; the debt of small and marginal farmers should be waived; education should be provided at affordable rates to the common people; vacant posts of teacher should be filled; more opportunities of employment should be created; and arrangement should be made to provide the best services in government hospitals and dispensaries. Further, police atrocities on people should be checked; steps should be taken for a balanced development of various parts of the state.


Allocate funds for Dalits on population basis: SC MLAs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 30
Various Scheduled Caste (SC) MLAs here today urged the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, that funds for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes should be allocated on the basis of their population in the state.

A meeting of the State Vigilance and Monitoring Committee for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was held today under the chairmanship of Capt Amarinder Singh. The committee has been set under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. The Chief Minister made it point to attend today’s meeting because his skipping the earlier meeting a few days ago had created a controversy among SC MLAs.

“There was about 31 per cent SC population in the state and the funds should be allocated accordingly for their welfare,” Mr Malkiat Singh Dakha, a Congress MLA, who spoke in the meeting, told The Tribune. He said that the Maharastra pattern should be followed for the welfare of SCs in Punjab. Mr Dakha said that the Chief Minister was receptive to the points raised by SC MLAs at the meeting.

Among others MLAs who spoke at the meeting were Mr Tarlochan Singh, Mr Joginder Mann, Chowdhary Santokh Singh, Mr Ram Lubaya. Almost all SC MLAs of the ruling party were present at the meeting. One SC MLA of the SAD also attended the meeting.

The Chief Secretary, Mr Jai Singh Gill, and the Punjab Police Chief, Mr S.S.Virk, were also at the meeting.

Upset over the way 85th Amendment of the Constitution has been implemented in the state, most of the SC MLAs said that the Scheduled Caste employees had not benefited in any manner with the delayed implementation of the Amendment. “Instead of November 17, 2005,it should be implemented from 2001, when the Amendment was effected in the Constitution,” Mr Dakha said.

SC MLAs had also urged the government to frame the Reservation Protection Act to ensure the implementation of reservation policy in letter and spirit. They have urged to raise the ceiling of annual income to Rs 40,000 to enlist families below poverty line (BPL) in the state.

The Chief Minister’s attention was also drawn towards the delay on the part of the PSEB to implement the free power benefit extended to poor families in the state. MLAs complained that the PSEB was deliberately delaying the identification of such families. They said that at the time of releasing connection to scheduled caste families, the Board had charged only Rs 100 as security while those belonging to general category had paid Rs 500 as security. From the security deposits list, scheduled caste families to whom free power was to be given up to 300 units could be easily identified.

MLAs also raised the issue of slow release of funds for the schemes meant for the SCs. “Only 20 per cent of the total allocation of funds for the welfare of scheduled castes had been released so far by the treasury,” said an MLA on the condition of anonymity. They sought plots for landless labourers in the state and also allocation of land for the disposal of the excrement of animals.

The issue of atrocities on SCs was also discussed. The officials concerned told the Chief Minister that there were 500 cases of atrocities. Mr Virk assured the Chief Minister that the functioning of the special cell set up to monitor the cases of atrocities would be streamlined. Report would be sought from the cell regarding such cases of weekly basis. Senior officers would be deputed to monitor investigation in all pending cases of atrocities.


SGPC chief meets Foreign Secretary
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 30
A five-member committee of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), led by Mr Avtar Singh, today met the Foreign Secretary, Mr Ram Saran, at New Delhi for getting the long-term visa to its employees.

A press note issued here said Mr Avtar Singh apprised the Foreign Secretary of the five historical Sikh shrines in Dhaka and Chittagong related to Guru Nanak Dev who visited the places in Bangladesh.


Creation of posts of CPS, PS approved
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 30
The Punjab Council of Ministers today gave its approval to the creation of the posts of Chief Parliamentary Secretary (CPS) and Parliamentary Secretary (PS) and also the rules governing their functioning. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, confirmed the development while talking to mediapersons here.

The council also approved the rules that will lay down the procedure of their appointment and the fixation of salary besides amendment to the Rules of Business of the government to create space for their functioning. There are three CPSs and 10 PSs in Punjab.

Punjab has followed the pattern adopted by Haryana, where the Council of Ministers gave its approval to a similar scheme three days ago. Punjab will be presenting these rules in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, where a petition is being heard seeking the removal of these CPSs and PSs.

Sources said that according to the new rules the CPs and the PSs would assist ministers and the Chief Minister in the functioning of the government. A sitting MLA would be considered for appointment as CPS or PS. The Chief Minister would be empowered to make appointments to these posts and determine the salary and allowances payable to the incumbents. They would hold office at the pleasure of the government and be administered the oath of office by the Chief Minister.

A curb on their powers had been put in the form of a rule which said that under no circumstances could they take any decision on their own. However, they would have access to files depending on the cases referred to them by the Ministers to whom they had been attached.

The Minister to whom a CPS or a PS was attached would issue an order assigning work to be routed through the CPS or the PS, as the case might be.

The order added that Administrative Secretaries would address notes to a CPS or a PS on all such matters which had been delegated to the CPS or the PS by the Minister in charge.

The sources also said the matter relating to the recruitment of teachers had been held up even as it came up for discussion. The rules to appoint these teachers through the panchayats had to be framed. This would be done and a plan announced.


Celebrations to mark 150th Raising Day of Sikh Regiment’s battalion begin
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 30
Celebrations to mark 150th Raising Day of the third battalion of the Sikh Regiment today started at the cantonment with a motorcycle rally, Punjabi folk dance and martial arts display.

The rally saw the participants traversing the entire Punjab in 12 days from January 19 to January 30. The rally comprises one officer, one JCO and 12 other ranks. A cycle team having one JCO and 24 other ranks also accompanied them. An adventure expedition was also undertaken to mark the occasion on January 19 at Yol Camp in Himachal. The trekking team covered 240 km from Palampur to Kulu over the snow-covered Dhauladhar ranges through Waru Pass and Gairujot Pass in six days.

An open half marathon and children’s cross country race were organised in Bathinda on January 22, while Shwetaswa - a dispatch rider team from Corps of Military Police presented a breathtaking motorcycle stunt display.

Meanwhile, Punjabi folk dance and martial arts mesmerised a large number of spectators at today’s ceremony, while military band display was its high point. Punjabi folk singer Balkar Sidhu also regale the audience comprising soldiers and their families with his performance in the evening.

Other programmes slated for the next two days include unveiling of a 13-foot brass war memorial, a ceremonial parade, release of commemorative stamp, coffee table book and disbursing of financial aid to needy ex-servicemen and their families.


Plan to name airport after war hero
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 30
The Punjab Government has mooted the idea of naming the newly constructed Pathankot civil airport after regional war hero of the Rajputs Ram Singh Pathania.

Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa, PWD, Culture and Archives Minister, Punjab, gave this information while talking to The Tribune. He said the proposal in this regard had already been submitted before the Union Civil Aviation Minister.

Ram Singh was the son of Wazir Sham Singh of Nurpur state. Maharaja Ranjit Singh annexed the state of Nurpur in 1815 AD. However, after the first anglo Sikh war in 1846 the entire area between the Sutlej and the Beas, including the state of Nurpur, became a part of the British empire.

Ram Singh, who was at a tender age, decided to launch a struggle against the British. He started gathering a force of adventurers in the hills of Jammu. In 1848, he suddenly attacked the fort of Shahpur Kandi on the banks of the Ravi and captured it. Jaswant Singh was named as the new king of Nurpur with RAm Singh as Wazir. Hundreds of Minhas Rajputs from Jasrota and Harchands of Parmanand rushed to join the ranks of Ram Singh Pathania.

The British, under the command of Major Fisher, sent columns of the 15th irregular cavalry and 29th native infantry. A fierce battle raged between both armies. After the British used light artillery, the troops of Ram Singh moved towards the hills and waged a guerrilla war.

The famous battles of Ram Singh against the British were the battles of Jachch and Dalle-di-Dhar. The Dalle-de-Dhar battle was the last pitched battle of Ram Singh During the guerrilla warfare, the war hero was captured by the British somewhere between the hills of Basholi and Lakhanpur. He was put on trial and exiled to Singapore by the British.

Ram Singh died in prison at Rangoon at the age of 24. The locals sing folk songs in his praise.

The main aim of the Congressmen behind naming the airport after Ram Singh is apparently to appease the powerful Rajput community.


Spiritual growth must to defuse tension: Dalai Lama
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, January 30
The Dalai Lama said unrest and tension was increasing in the world today in the age of information technology and spirituality was the only path to solve modern problems.

Speaking on the occasion of martyrdom day of Mahatma Gandhi here today, the Dalai Lama said while China and India were emerging as two most powerful economic powers in the world, India can learn from China in producing cheap goods, which were becoming popular globally. Similarly, China could learn to promote spirituality from India. He said, India should not deviate from its ancient spiritual tradition and continue to practice it with the materialistic progress and development in the 21st century.”

He said teachings of Mahatma Gandhi were more relevant today and more and more people globally were finding his gospels of truth and non-violence more conducive for harmony and peaceful co-existence in the world.

Tibetan Prime Minister in exile Rinpoche said while communism and capitalism models of governments had not been able to live up to the expectations of the people, Gandhism was still relevant for solving today’s problems.

Former minister and BJP MP Vinod Khanna said without inner peace there could not be any real progress in the world and the Dalai Lama was one of the most respected religious leader who had been not only instrumental in defusing global tension among the countries.

Students and political leaders thronged Prasthan Ashrama, venue of the congregation.


Ex-manager of Darbar Sahib, 3 others suspended
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 30
For the first time, a former manager of Darbar Sahib, who is a confidant of an Akali minister from Gurdaspur district, and three other senior SGPC functionaries have been placed under suspension on the basis of a preliminary inquiry that reportedly indicted them for showing favour to book “akhand path” at Har Ki Paudi though the booking was suspended for the past few months due to long waiting list.

Interestingly, the SGPC employees, in collusion with the “chandoa” or “rumala” sellers had already booked “akhand path” till June this year despite the fact that booking was suspended for a few months.

Those who have been placed under suspension include Mr Ajaib Singh, a former manager of Darbar Sahib, Mr Gurdarshan Singh, assistant secretary, Mr Kashmir Singh, in charge of “akhand path” bookings and Bhai Gurdial Singh Frash.

It is learnt that some senior officials of the SGPC too managed to book the “akhand path” by making “dummy entries”.

While the then manager would maintain the diary regarding the booking of the “akhand path”, the private “chandoa” and “rumala” sellers would advance the dates of the bookings if the devotees would ensure that they would purchase “chandoa/rumala” worth lakhs from them.


Rs 400 crore to be spent on villages
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 30
The state government will focus on the all-round development of villages in 2006 and will spend Rs 400 crore on it , said Rural Development and Power Minister Mr Lal Singh.

Interacting with mediapersons here today, the minister said the government had given 78,482 tube-well connections to the farmers in the past four years, while the PSEB had prepared a comprehensive plan to give 80,000 more connections in the current year.

He said the government had waived power bills of the tube wells of farmers from September 2005, which had resulted in a burden of Rs 1,400 crore on the state exchequer. The government would also pay Rs 50 crore annually to the power board for providing free power to Dalit families. He claimed that all villages had been connected with uninterrupted.

Targeting SAD president Parkash Singh Badal, Mr Lal Singh alleged that during his stint as the CM he did nothing in the name of development.

He said the former CM didn’t take any step to resolve the contentious SYL issue despite the NDA government being in power at the Centre, whereas Capt Amarinder Singh took a bold step by terminating water sharing agreement with neighbouring states.

He claimed the Congress government, had spent Rs 20 crore on the development of Muktsar city in the past over one year.


Now special police cell for runaway girls
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 30
Now there is some reason for lovers in the district to cheer who are caught after they run away along with their girlfriends. Tired of ascertaining who fled with whom, the district police has formed a special cell to investigate cases of alleged abductions of women. The police say that the parents of the girls who used to flee with their boyfriends, used to get case of abduction registered against the lovers. Thus there was a rise in the number of such cases even as the real picture in many cases was different.

The special team will thoroughly investigate the abductions and cases of girls fleeing along with their lovers.

The Senior Superintendent of Police, Mr Ishwar Singh, said the police was facing problems as its records showed that there were as many cases of crime against women even after the girls who ran away with their lovers on their own were returned to their parents. The formation of the cell would also remove the threat of severe punishment under anti-abduction laws for the lovers who were booked by the families of the girls on abduction charge.

The SSP stated that a special committee headed by Inspector Jasbir Singh Randhawa comprising 11 policemen, including two inspectors, four sub-inspectors, two hawaldars, and three constables, had been constituted.


Class IV employees hold rally
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 30
Members of the district unit of the Class IV Government Employees Union Punjab under the leadership of Mr Amarjit Singh, district president of the union, today held a rally in the Civil Hospital here and took out a march to the office of the Civil Surgeon in protest against the non-fulfilment of their demands. They also held a demonstration in front of the office of the Civil Surgeon to raise their voice against the health authorities.

A deputation of the union also submitted a memorandum, listing their demands, to the Assistant Civil Surgeon, Dr Suresh Goyal, in his office here to forward the same to the Director, Health and Family Welfare, Punjab.

Addressing the rally the union leaders asked the government to make funds available for the uniforms of the Class IV employees and payment of the medical bills and TA bills.

The rally was addressed, among others, by Mr Amarjit Singh and Mr Bhajan Singh, president and general secretary, respectively, of the district unit of the union; Mr Jeet Singh Banga, Mr Hans Raj, Mr Bawa Singh, Mr Bhim Sain and Mr Bikar Singh Sibia.


PEDA to cut power deficit by half

Barnala, January 30
The Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA) will start producing power in the state through non-conventional means and cut the power deficit by 1,000 MW from 2,000 MW soon.

Stating this to The Tribune at Tapa, about 20 km from here, on Saturday, Mr Vijay Inder Singla, Chairman, PEDA, said the agency would reduce the power deficit in the state by relying on non-conventional means of energy like bio-mass, cow dung, municipal solid waste and solar photovoltic sources. Mr Singla was in the town to take part in the annual function of Shivalik Public School.

Mr Singla said the PEDA had 20 MW projects of its own whereas 10 MW projects had been offered to private developers. — OC


Blood donation camp held
Our Sports Reporter

Patiala, January 30
A blood donation camp was organised by the Patiala Cricket Association to commemorate the 14th death anniversary of cricketer Dhruv Pandove, who died in a road accident on January 30, 1992.

The one day camp was attended by hundreds of people from all walks of life and blood was collected by a team of doctors from the local Rajindera Hospital.

Dhruv Pandove, son of Mr M.P Pandove, Secretary of the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA), was the youngest cricketer to have scored 1000 runs in a calendar year in domestic cricket, a record which has stood the test of time for 14 long years.


Rally held to press for rights of handcart pullers
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 30
Hundreds of members of NASVI-an association for the welfare of handcart pullers and footpath squatters-today held a rally to press the local Municipal Corporation authorities to implement the national policy of the Central government to allow them to earn their livelihood.

Mr Sudan Singh, President, NASVI, while addressing the rally said that the incident of self immolation of Gopal Krishan Kashyap, a handcart puller, which took place in the city recently was unfortunate. He added that if the state government had implemented the policy, Gopal Krishan Kashyap would not have taken that extreme step.

He alleged that from the incident it could be concluded that the authorities concerned were more interested in uprooting handcart pullers instead of facilitating them to carry out their business peacefully. He added even the Supreme Court had said that earning their livelihood was a fundamental right of handcart pullers and footpath squatters, subject to certain restrictions.

They handed over a memorandum to Mr Vishnu Sharma, Mayor, Municipal Corporation, for the implementation of the national policy and for setting up a town boarding committee for the same. Mr Sharma assured them he would do the needful.


Tributes paid to Gandhi
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 30
The district administration commemorated the martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi by observing “Balidan Diwas” at district administrative complex here today. All officers and employees led by Ms Jaspreet Talwar, Deputy Commissioner, observed two minute silence as a mark of respect and paid tributes.

Addressing the gathering, the Deputy Commissioner called upon to follow the path shown by Mahatma. She said real tributes to Gandhi would be to follow his teachings of communal harmony, non-violence, truth and love for everyone.


Giving list of tenants to cops made mandatory
Surinder Bhardwaj

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 30
To prevent any untoward incident by anti-social elements in the district, Ms Jaspreet Talwar, District Magistrate, through an order issued under Section 144 here today, made it mandatory for all landlords to give lists along with addresses of their tenants at the nearest police station.

In another order, the District Magistrate banned the open sale of 106 types of medicines without prescription to check the menace of drug abuse.

To avoid accidents on roads at night, she banned the plying of rickshaws, trolleys, tractors, cycles and every type of vehicle without reflectors at night.

All these orders would remain in force upto March 24.

Taking precautionary measures in view of incidents of looting, theft and burglary in surrounding areas, she issued orders under Section 3(1) to start night patrolling by village defence committees to guard towers, transmission lines, substations, transformers, railway lines, government buildings, foodgrain storage complexes, petrol stations, canals, bridges, banks and post offices in their areas.

She ordered village panchayats under Section 4(1) to form patrol parties on their own and put those on duty.

These orders would remain effective till March 24.

She conferred powers to Subdivisional Magistrates to impose and implement these orders.

The District Magistrate banned the movement of vehicles along the banks of the Bhakra main canal passing through the district, the use of service lanes of the canal for picnic purposes and swimming in the canal.

Orders in this regard were issued keeping in view the increase in the number of accidents and deaths due to drowning in the canal.

These orders would remain in force till March 24.


Gang of bank robbers busted, 3 arrested
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 30
The special investigation team (SIT) of the district police led by SP (City), Mr Mandeep Singh Sidhu, busted a gang of robbers involved in four bank robberies, including the one which took place in this area on January 18, by arresting its three members today.

The team recovered goods from the three accused, Gurbax Singh, Harbans and Sheela. This included currency notes (including the burnt ones), coins, 44 mobile phones, gold and silver ornaments, two double-barrel guns along with 14 cartridges and a countrymade pistol.

Apart from it, one pressure meter and valve, one regulator, one pressure meter, two cooking gas cylinders, one four-wheeler, mobile phones of Sheela and Harbans Lal.

Mr A.S. Rai, SSP, while talking to mediapersons, said three other members identified as Pritpal, Jaspal Singh and Guddu are yet to be arrested.

While announcing that he would recommend the cases of the members of SIT to the DGP, Punjab Police, for a suitable reward, he said the accused were arrested during special raids.

Meanwhile, Guddu, whose wife Sheela had been arrested by SIT, managed to escape from police custody after he was arrested near Zirakpur today. Guddu who hails from Orrisa and was putting up at Mani Majra, managed to escape although he was handcuffed. A case in this connection had been registered at the Zirakpur police station.


Gang of looters busted
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 30
With the arrest of four persons, the district police today claimed to have busted a gang of looters which was involved in about 12 theft and snatching cases in Amritsar and Majitha police districts.

The accused have been identified as Deepak Kumar of Krishna Nagar, Ramesh Kumar of Bharat Nagar, Pawan Kumar of Chheharta and Kuldip Kumar of Krishna Nagar. Besides jewellery, the police seized 17 electric motors, television sets, gas cylinder, tape recorders and CD players from them.

Mr R. P. S. Brar, SSP, said the Vijay Nagar police had laid a naka near Joura Phatak where the accused were arrested.

He said the accused had confessed their hand in 12 cases.


Man duped of Rs 1.50 lakh
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 30
A case of duping Sukhwinder Ram of Jasowal of Rs 1.50 lakh by a so-called travel agent was reported to Garhshankar police station last evening.

According to police sources, Sukhwinder Ram alleged in his complaint that travel agent Sukhwinder Singh, alias Shinda, of Todarpur took Rs 1.50 lakh from him for sending him to Lebanon. Sources said that he neither sent him abroad nor returned his money. The police has registered a case under Section 420 of the IPC against the travel agent.


Workshop on food processing
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 30
A national workshop on entrepreneurial development in food processing was organised at Science and Technology Entrepreneurs Park (STEP) of the Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology (TIET) here today to focus on the need of setting up food processing units in Punjab.

Dr M Mahadeviah, a retired scientist from the Central Food Technology Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, and Director, STEP, Bagalkot, gave a detailed account of technologies and food processes developed so far which are ready for commercialisation through licence from the CFTRI. He said the technology could certainly increase farmers’ profits and minimise post harvest losses.

Dr Sarkar, Professor in Food Technology, SLIET, Longowal, gave a talk in enhancing oil production through improvement in oil processing techniques.

He highlighted the current gap of 0.4 metric tons of oil demand, which were being met by importing oil costing about Rs 1200 crore.

He also discussed the methods of oil recovery from seed by using the traditional ghanis to mechanical pressing and solvent extraction methods.


Sarao honoured
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 30
The Punjab government conferred the Shaheed-E-Azam Bhagat Singh youth award on Ms Simrita Sarao at the Republic day function.

Ms Sarao was bestowed upon with the honour for her contribution in the field of adult education, national integration and youth activities. The award carried a cash prize of Rs 5,000, a gold medal and a certificate.

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