P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Sikhs defy Takht directive, honour Sarna
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 5
Flouting Akal Takht Jathedar’s directive hundreds of Sikhs today honoured former Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Paramjit Singh Sarna “for his outstanding contribution to the Sikh panth”. The Jathedar, had decreed social boycott of Mr Sarna and his brother, DSGMC president, HS Sarna.

The organisers of the honouring ceremony however, sought to made it clear that there was difference between the institution of Akal Takht Sahib and Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, its jathedar. They accused him of playing into the hands of Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), chief Parkash Singh Badal.

Mr Sarna, who is on statewide tour to mobilise support for himself against Mr Vedanti’s directive of social boycott against him and his brother, was accorded rousing reception at Dholewal Chowk here. A number of Sikhs led by Jathedar Kuldeep Singh, head of the Budha Dal Damdama Sahib and others, amidst shouting of Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal, received him there. They alleged that Mr Sarna and his brother were being victimised at the behest of Mr Badal and Mr Vedanti was made a tool for it. Mr Sarna was accompanied by senior vice president of the DSGMC, Joginder Singh Walia and members Manmohan Singh and Avtar Singh Kalka.

Later Mr Sarna claimed, “it was an instant ceremony organised to honour him”. He said, he was not mobilising any support in his favour. “There is widespread outrage against Vedanti’s arbitrary directive against me and my brother, issued at the behest of Mr Parkash Singh Badal”, he alleged.

He hinted that over 20,000 supporters would “present themselves” before Akal Takht Sahib on February 10, when he and his brother appears before it. He claimed enormous support from the Sikh community from across the country and abroad. “Particularly the leading Sikh intellectuals and religious leaders have supported me and I feel vindicated”, he said.

He accused Mr Badal of “fighting from behind the veil and misusing the great institution of Akal Takht Sahib”. He asked, “when the Singh Sahiban had provided me the time till February 10, what was the logic of getting a directive issued for boycott against me and my brother”. “This entire drama is the brainchild of Mr Badal and I will not let him succeed in it”.

Mr Sarna, encouraged by huge public response at his felicitation function, asserted that he would not let Mr Badal to take control of the DSGMC. “His (Mr Badal’s) dreams will crash on February 14 (when elections are scheduled to be held again for the post of the DSGMC president on the court directions) and in October also (when general elections for the DSGMC are scheduled)”. He said, “this would be the beginning of the end for Mr Badal as he would lose the 2007 assembly elections as well”.


Tribune Exclusive
PSIDC favours the high and mighty
Okays waiver of Rs 40 crore
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
It seems the industry in Punjab is not just about attracting investment but also about doling out favours to the high and mighty in the state. On January 16, the Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation held its board meeting where a financial waiver totalling nearly Rs 40 crore was approved for separate companies.

The families of a former Chief Minister who is now dead, a serving Parliamentary Secretary, a former senior Akali leader, who is now close to the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, own these beneficiary companies. The other major gainer is a Ludhiana-based industrial house.

Sources in the government said it was possible that pressure had been exerted on the PSIDC to approve this waiver that would require a final clearance from the Projects Approval Board, headed by the Chief Minister. The final clearance was a mere formality.

The Chairman of the PSIDC, Mr O.P. Soni, said: “I did not attend the meeting on January 16 and thus cannot comment on the subject”.

Interestingly, the waiver has been granted under a one-time settlement (OTS) scheme that had lapsed on June 30, 2004. The OTS was launched to recover some portion of the Punjab Government’s money which was invested in defaulting industrial units. PSIDC officials claimed there was a mandate from the government to continue with the OTS despite its closure. The PSIDC has made it clear that all cases will be sent for approval to the PAB.

The waiver in the recovery of pending arrears or failure to encash equity held by the PSIDC at the market price, works out around Rs 50 crore. In one case, Brahma Steyrs, a company held by the family of Mr Ravi Inder Singh, a former Akali leader and former Speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, has been given time till June 2007 to clear their debts. The permission granted “in principle” by the PAB for financial closure of the agreement expired on June 30, 2005. The PSIDC has to recover nearly Rs 22 crore and about Rs 16 crore of this would be waived under the scheme.

Among the other beneficiaries is Harpratap Steel, owned by Mr Gurinder Singh Kairon, son of a former Chief Minister. The PSIDC holds equity stake in the company. The company owed Rs 13.77 crore. The PSIDC has agreed to take only Rs 3.77 crore while waiving the remaining Rs 10 crore.

In December last year, the empowered committee of the government allowed the company to sell its land in Mohali to a private real estate developer for a whooping Rs 146 crore without bothering to get the share of the PSIDC out of that deal.

Another beneficiary is a company Abninav Cotspin, owned by the family of a Parliamentary Secretary, Mr Ashwini Sekhri. The board of the PSIDC accepted the one-time settlement of the company and accepted that Abhinav Cotspin repay the Rs 2.97 as the settlement sum while a sum of Rs 7.80 crore was “sacrificed”.

The last major beneficiary is Malwa Cotton and Spinning Mills, run by the Ludhiana-based Oswal Group. The company offered to buy back the stake held by the PSIDC in Malwa Cotton and Spinning Mills.

The board agreed while offering a waiver of Rs 7.25 crore to the Oswals.

Sources contend that the PSIDC should have staked its entire claim in all cases.


Pak, Bangla nationals languish in mental hospital
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 5
Fazal (35), son of ‘unknown’, arrested under the NDPS Act by the border Ghul Khurd Police Station (Ferozepur) in 1999 was later diagnosed to be a chronic case of schizophrenia at psychiatric department of GGS Medical College, Faridkot and hence referred to Mental Hospital here.

‘As per report of the Board of psychiatrists, he is still unfit to stand trial. He cannot give his address, is the plight of the prisoner who did not respond to the treatment’.

Another prisoner Aurangzeb (30), a Pakistani national, who was caught by the BSF from the international border with Pakistan, was ‘very violent and unmanageable’ when admitted to the Mental hospital last year.

A list of the cases was handed over to the visiting Chief Justice of India (CJI) by Ms Laxmi Kanta Chawla, a member of Visitors’ Committee of the Mental Hospital (duly notified by the state Government), here today. She urged the CJI to help in the rehabilitation of mentally ill criminal patients and repatriation of Pakistani and Bangladeshi criminal patients on humanitarian grounds.

In her representation to the CJI, Ms Chawla said that she had been attending monthly meetings to review the working of the hospital with other Visitors Committee members and hence watched the plight of such patients.

However, condition of one Jarnail Singh, a resident of Khadoor Sahib village (Amritsar) who was arrested in 1992 during militancy days under TADA is pitiable. He was also diagnosed to be a case of schizophrenzia and was put on treatment. He was virtually a ‘begger-type’person when booked under the draconian sections of the Indian Penal Code. Later he got relapse of his illness with the result he became unfit to stand trial once again.

There are 11 male and one female undertrial mentally ill patients in the hospital while one is convicted patient. The four foreign nationals were charged under the Passport Act and Foreigners’ Act. These charges are punishable by imprisonment for six months but two of them are staying in the mental hospital for more than five years. The third patient is also facing same charges and is in the hospital for almost two years .

Intelligence agencies are not investigating these cases and they are mentally ill and can’t plead their cases. Some of them even can’t tell their addresses. She urged the CJI to help drop the charges against them and arrange consular access. Another patient was not facing specific charge and was fit for repatriation . She said that such a gesture would make good economic sense to send them back to their respective countries as their condition was not likely to improve in near future and they were burden on the state.


Sidhu for inspection of Wagah post on Feb 7
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
“Wagah is a key post for acceleration of economic growth and development in Punjab,” says the BJP MP from Amritsar, Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, reiterating his demand for expansion of facilities and opening up of a visa centre at the post.

Mr Sidhu, who has asked for inspection of the facilities at Wagah barrier on February 7, continues to blame the UPA government at the centre to be a major stumbling block in improving further people-to-people contact and trade between two Punjabs. “Seeking an inspection is well within my right,” claims Mr Sidhu.

“People have been shunning 20-km route to Pakistan through Wagah and getting their goods either imported or exported by a reliable and faster 2000-km long and expensive route. The reason is obvious - apathy of the Centre,” says Mr Sidhu.

If one looks back at the history of undivided Punjab, Lahore and Amritsar used to be the major trade hubs of central Asia. Unfortunately, partition of India in 1947 blocked this land route for trade within Central Asia. But now after several confidence building measures when this land route is back in use again, the indifferent attitude of the Central Government in facilitating business and trade among people on either side of the border has turned into a major irritant, says Mr Sidhu.

“Why this important post should have only one gate to facilitate not only movement of people and buses but also the bilateral trade. As of now trade is permitted only between 11 am and 3 pm. And in case of any VIP movement, trade gets the cut,” reveals Mr Sidhu.

“I have written to the authorities concerned to open a minimum of seven gates at Wagah, out of which two gates should exclusively be for trade - one for imports and other one for exports. Similarly, one gate should be reserved only for VIPs so that other facilities continue to function normally even when some dignitary is crossing the border,” suggests Mr Sidhu.

The Amritsar MP maintains that India must persuade upon the Pakistan Government to open a visa office at Wagah. A quarantine centre must be opened at Wagah and the Customs should be asked to make provision for opening of seven gates at the post.

Wagah alone can make Punjab richer by Rs 1000 crore annually, claims Mr Sidhu, holding that there are numerous possibilities for encouraging trade from farm, poultry and dairy produce to industrial goods.

He ridiculed the idea that if someone from Amritsar or Gurdaspur wants to travel to Pakistan, first he should come to Delhi to get his visa. For a 20-km or a 50—km journey to Pakistan, you travel 1000-km just to complete travel formalities. “It looks ridiculous. Why not have visa centres on either side of the border to facilitate people of two Punjabs,” asks Mr Sidhu holding that ever-since Partition, “they have suffered silently in the name of security.


CJI for uniform system for judges’ recruitment
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, February 5
Hitting out at unprofessional approach plaguing the judicial system, Mr Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Chief Justice of India (CJI), today stressed on the need for evolving a uniform system for recruitment of judges on the pattern of Indian Administrative Services.

Addressing a seminar on Lok Adalats held at Sarup Rani Government College for Girls here, Mr Sabharwal said that the country could no longer afford unprofessional and unsystematic approach in the judiciary. “Unprofessional approach must go and we have to think about it,” he said.

He said in December 31, 2003 there were 301 sanctioned posts out of which 102 posts were vacant. However, in 2004 the number of vacant posts was 66 out of the total (301). He said although number of sanctioned posts increased to 328 in 2005, 75 posts remained vacant, causing inordinate delay in justice. Mr Sabharwal rued the fact that the ratio of judges to litigants in India was the lowest in the world.

The CJI regretted that advocates should avoid prolonging the cases for their vested interests. Ms Ruma Pal, Supreme Court Judge and Executive Chairman National Legal Services Authority said that Lok Adalats had the advantage of resolving disputes amicably. Later, she inaugurated a permanent Lok Adalat at District courts complex here.

Mr Justice Ashok Bhan of Supreme Court, Mr D.K. Jain, Chief Justice, Punjab and Haryana High Court, Mr Justice H.S. Bedi, a Judge from Punjab and Haryana High Court and Executive Chairman, Punjab Legal Services Authority, also spoke on the occasion. In today’s special Lok Adalat as many as 23,461 cases were taken up for settlement by 97 benches of the special Lok Adalat.


Fed up with govt promises, villagers construct bridge
Tribune News Service

Kanya Hussaini (Jagraon), February 5
It is an effort King Bruce would have been proud of. Implementing the moral ‘Try try again, at last you will succeed’ of his story, residents of about 25 villages here have finally succeeded in laying a much-needed bridge over the Jassowal drain, after failing in two earlier attempts.

Fed up with the hollow promises of the politicians and dilly-dallying by the bureaucracy since 1954, the residents of these villages, situated close to Sutlej river, have built the bridge so that they do not remain cut off for over two months during monsoons every year.

Without receiving any help from the state government, the residents today completed the bridge that would connect Sherewal and Kanya Hussaini village to provide a connecting link to 25 villages situated on both sides of the drain.

The bridge of ‘hope’ would also prevent drowning deaths as more than 15 persons had died in the past five years while crossing over the flooded drain. The drain was constructed to clear water-logging in the area in 1954.

The drain also later carried excess water from the Sidhwan Canal into the Sutlej river. However, during monsoons the drain flows backwards when water rises in the river. There are many farmers who have to travel 25-30 km to reach their fields divided by the drain.

The first attempt to construct the bridge made in June last year, had failed miserably when gushing waters from the Sutlej river tore it apart. Another feeble attempt was made in September last year.

The state government like the other successive governments for the last five decades, however, remained indifferent and had been turning a deaf ear to the demand of the villagers. A Block Development Officer had rushed to the site last year after a newsreport was carried in these columns. He, however, came back giving assurances that were never fulfilled.

The villagers preferred to channelise their energy in constructing the bridge than staging demonstrations. Constructed in 1954 to clear water-logging, the drain had started taking flood waters of Sutlej and inundate all routes to these villages.

“Villagers have pooled money and resources among themselves to make the bridge over the water body, which is the ‘drain of sorrow’ for the villagers. We were fed up with waiting for the government to start construction of the bridge which the politicians and the bureaucrats have been promising ever since the drain was dug up,” said Sher Singh, former Sarpanch of Sherewal village.

He said SAD MLA Bhag Singh Mallah had donated six large drainage pipes to them for the construction of the bridge. Earlier, his brother Prem Singh had donated Rs 1 lakh last year for the construction. The villagers collected Rs 35,000 this time, said Sher Singh.

He claimed that the district administration had made an estimate of Rs 70 lakh for the project .The bridge would become the lifeline of the 25 villages mainly, including Kanya Hussaini, Sherewal, Baghian, Bahadar Ke, Mand Tihara, Subhajpur, Patti Multani, Kaker, Parjian Biharipur, Khurshedpura, Hujra, Bhaini Gujran, among others.

An old foundation stone of the government promise stands just near the bridge site on the Kanya Hussaini-Sherewal road. It claims that former Akali member of Parliament, Amrik Singh Aliwal had donated Rs 1 lakh for starting the construction of the bridge. But the work never started.


Power game starts from Malwa
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
All major political outfits in contention for power in Punjab have chosen the Malwa region for launching their election campaigns.

If the Shiromani Akali Dal had organised two shows of strength, including a rally of traders and businessmen in Bathinda today, both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have not been far behind by holding a major rally each in the region.

Only yesterday, the BJP chief, Mr Rajnath Singh, was in Fazilka where he while addressing an impressive rally of farmers and realties, announced slashing of interest rates on purchase of various agricultural inputs.

It was the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) which sounded the assembly election bugle in the region by inviting the Vice-President, Mr Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, to inaugurate an old age home at Gidderbaha, in November last year. Though it was not a political rally, the idea behind holding the function in the citadel of the SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, was obvious.

A month later, the ruling Congress retaliated with an impressive rally at Lambi. Though no central leader of the party came to address the rally in this SAD stronghold, yet the message given was clear.

The SAD went a step further as it organised a rally for urban traders, businessmen and industrialists in Bathinda today promising them that if the Dal was voted to power, they will have the right to frame their own laws to suit and facilitate their trade and business. The rally, sources maintain, failed to evoke the expected response.

Now the Congress has a rally scheduled for February 11 in Patiala, the home town of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh. Though the Punjab unit of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) — a frontal organisation of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) - has threatened to boycott the rally, it would attempt to showcase the popular support the ruling party enjoys. Incidentally, this rally too will be held in the Malwa belt.

The only other major political rally held in Punjab recently and outside the Malwa belt was organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Doaba region to prove a point that it has a following among the Dalits of the State. It was addressed by Mr Lal Krishan Advani, former Union Home Minister and predecessor of Mr Rajnath Singh.

Though all the political parties have been holding their conventions at historic and religious melas all over the State, yet events organised at Gidderbaha, Lambi, Fazilka and now in Bathinda to showcase their strength have not been repeated in the two other regions of the State - Majha and Doaba.

The SAD also organised an impressive rally at Amloh a few days ago.

Needless to say that at present, political power wrests in the Malwa as both the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition come from this region. Even one of the new General Secretaries of the BJP, Mr H.S. Grewal, also comes from the Malwa belt. It was he who was behind yesterday’s farmers rally at Fazilka.


Cracks exposed at SAD conference
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 5
A glimpse of dynastic politics, differences between the SAD and the BJP, pressing SGPC employees into service for a political function and “internal bickering” in the SAD came to light at the party’s conference for representatives of trade and industry here today.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) exploited its hold on the SGPC to the hilt at the conference here today. SGPC employees posted at Takht Sri Damdama Sahib were spotted serving “langar” to its participants at the venue.

Talking to The Tribune, two SGPC employees said they arrived in the town at 9 am for providing services at the party’s conference. Sources said the “langar” was prepared at the local Haji Rattan Gurdwara, while the cooking material came from the takht.

One of the individuals looking after the “langar” arrangements said political leaders were violating Sikh tenets for their personal gains. SGPC member Harcharan Singh Burjhari flayed the SAD on the issue and urged the Akal Takht Jathedar to take a strong notice of it.

He said he would raise the matter in the SGPC’s next meeting. SAD (Amritsar) youth wing president Barinder Singh Mann accused Mr Badal of violating rituals of gurdwara and misusing its money for his political interests. He alleged the ex-CM was treating the SGPC as his “personal property”.

Fissures among the SAD and its ally BJP also came to the fore, as neither any BJP leader was seen at the venue nor the BJP found any mention in Mr Badal’s address.

Sources said the BJP was also unhappy over the fact that the SAD was trying to attract traders, who formed a major part of its vote bank.

Internal wrangling in the SAD surfaced when senior party leader Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa left the conference midway. Though the party leaders said he had to receive some Canadian ministers, speculations were rife that he left due to some other reason.

Sources said in a “damage control exercise”, the party also skipped the addresses by Mr Sukhbir Badal and Capt Kanwaljit Singh. The party’s press release mentioned all three of them as the ones who addressed the conference, but none of them spoke.

The SAD also appeared to be going the Congress way, as the Badals completely overshadowed the party. Banners saying “Parkash Singh Badal Zindabad”, “Sukhbir Badal Zindabad” and even “Bibi Surinder Kaur Badal Zindabad” were put up in the city and vehicles thronging the conference venue.

On the other hand, the Haji Rattan gurdwara authorities said the SAD had paid for the entire cooking material and only the preparation of the “langar” was undertaken at the gurdwara.


NCP open to pact with any party but BJP

Rajpura, February 5
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is open to alliance with any party on the common minimum programme, except the BJP, the state NCP president, Mr Swaran Singh, said here today.

Mr Swaran Singh said the party had launched a mass contact programme in view of the ensuing Punjab Assembly elections.

A state-level rally, which would be addressed by the national president and the Union Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, was slated for April. The president of the youth wing, Mr Harsimarjit Singh Sidhu, said the party had launched a crusade against unemployment and drug abuse. TNS


Politics dominates Kashyap’s bhog
Rubinder Gill
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 5
Bhog of Gopal Krishan Kashyap, who committed self immolation here on January 24, was virtually hijacked by the local Congress leadership at Kali Mata temple here today.

The sombre event turned chaotic when Mr Ashok Kumar Kashyap, district president of the Kashyap community, snatched the mike from Mr Ashutosh Gautam, a Hindu Suraksha samiti leader here, who was conducting the proceedings. It happened when Mr Gautam called Mrs Preneet Kaur, Member of Parliament, Patiala, to pay tributes to Gopal Krishan Kashyap. Mr Ashok Kumar was objecting to the fact that apart from the local MP not a single leader from the Kashyap community was allowed to pay tributes.

Mr Gautam and his colleagues allegedly dragged Mr Ashok Kumar out of the pandal, following which proceedings at the event came to a standstill for nearly 10 minutes. However, the situation was saved by Mr Vishal Kashyap, the teenaged son of Gopal Krishan Kashyap, who appealed to all to maintain calm.

On the occasion, the MP presented a cheque of Rs 10 lakh to Kashyap’s wife Veena and son Vishal. She also assured that Vishal would be given a government job soon.

The Mayor, Mr Vishnu Sharma, whom Kashyap had held responsible for his suicide along with the Chief Minister’s Media Adviser, Mr Bhara Tinder Singh Chahal, was conspicuous by his absence.


No official, politician responsible for suicides: CM
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 5
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today virtually gave a clean chit to bureaucrats and politicians who were allegedly being held responsible for self-immolation or suicide by a Congress activist in Patiala and a former university employee here.

Talking to reporters at Dhariwal village on the outskirts of the city, he said none of the officials or political figures were involved in these tragic happenings.

He said anybody attempting to commit suicide in the state would be dealt with sternly and no action would be taken against senior district administration officials in front of whose offices they took the extreme step.

Action would be taken against government officials only if it surfaced in the investigation that he or she had actually provoked the person concerned to take the extreme step, he added.

He refused to accept that the rising suicide incidences in Punjab were a sign of increasing frustration among the people of the state.

Meanwhile, he asserted that there was no need for the country to import wheat as Punjab could produce sufficient quantity for the people of the country.

He was accompanied by Jalandhar Deputy Commissioner Ashok Gupta, Jalandhar Zone IG Hardip Dhillon, PAP ADGP Rajan Gupta and Jalandhar SSP Ishwar Singh.


SGPC honour to Mattewal hailed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
The recent action of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) in honouring senior Punjab and Haryana High Court lawyer Hardev Singh Mattewal for his exemplary services to society in general and the panth in particular has been hailed by Governors, legal luminaries and leaders of various political parties.

Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, Governor, Tamil Nadu, and Mr R.L. Bhatia, Governor, Kerala, have expressed happiness over the SGPC move, saying that Mr Mattewal rightly deserved the honour.

Mr Barnala has said that Mr Mattewal’s decision not to charge anything for cases that he fights on behalf of the SGPC and various Sikh bodies is commendable. He has been handling all important court cases in which the SGPC is a party for the past almost 20 years without ever accepting any fee. SGPC sources say the body owes over Rs 2 crore as fees to him, but he has refused to take a single penny.

A former Advocate-General of Punjab, Mr Mattewal was honoured by the general house of the SGPC at a function held in Amritsar recently. Leaders of various political parties and leading lawyers participated in the function.

Among those who have hailed the SGPC gesture are a former Punjab and Haryana High Court Judge, Justice S.P. Kurdukar, Supreme Court Bar Association president P.H. Parekh, Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association president Atul Lakhanpal, senior Supreme Court advocates K.K. Venugopal, Mr R.N. Trivedi, Mr Hardev Singh, senior advocates H.L. Sibal, Mr O.P. Goyal, Mr Surjeet Singh and the chairman of the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana, Mr Harish Rai Dhanda.


Canadian minister visits Dhahan Kaleran
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, February 5
Mr Michael De Jong, Minister of Labour, British Columbia, yesterday visited Guru Nanak Mission Medical and Educational Trust office, Dhahan Kaleran, an NRI-sponsored NGO dedicated to provide better healthcare and education services in rural areas of the state.

The trust has also been running a nursing college in partnership with the University of British Columbia for exchange of faculty and curriculum.

Mr Jong was given a rousing welcome by Dr Budh Singh Dhahan, founder president of the trust, trustees, staff and prominent personalities.

He visited the hospital and educational institutions run by the trust and was impressed with the community service projects.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Jong lauded the efforts of Dr Budh Singh Dhahan and his team. He promised to motivate NRIs residing Canada for generous donations for the completion of the trauma centre.

He was accompanied by Mr Moe Gill, Councillor, Abbotsford, Mr Jatinder Sidhu, member, Asia Pacific Council, among others.


Protest by truck operators
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 5
The members of Punjab Truck Operators Union today burnt the effigy of the Chief Minister, district administration and Ambuja cement management, besides blocking traffic for about two hours on the national highway near Nangal Chowk here.

They were protesting against the Ambuja cement management for not accepting their demands to increase freight charges and stop overloading trucks.

Addressing the gathering, the president of the local truck union, Bhag Singh, said the truck operators took an extreme step yesterday because despite the fact they had been on strike for the past 35 days, neither the Ambuja management took their demand seriously nor did the administration come for their help.

The president of the Punjab Truck Operators Union, Mr Tarlochan Singh, said if the demands of the operators were not accepted, then they would stop plying vehicles in the whole district on February 13.


SAD (A) concerned over Dhaliwal’s ouster
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 5
Taking serious view of the unceremonious removal of Dr U.S. Dhaliwal as Director - Principal of SGPC-run Medical College , Bhai Ram Singh , general secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) yesterday said that the matter would be discussed in the forthcoming Sikh conclave , scheduled to be held on February 6 at Fatehgarh Sahib.

Talking to The Tribune here, the SAD general secretary said it was a matter of concern that Dr Dhaliwal was made the scapegoat for compelling certain senior Akali leaders to clear huge dues, outstanding against their wards who had got admission in MBBS under the NRI quota.

“‘While Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti was ruining the age-old Sikh institutes by pronouncing arbitrary interim directives at the behest of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, president SAD, Mr Avtar Singh, president, SGPC, tried to damage the medical college with unceremonious removal of Dr Dhaliwal”.


‘Need to create awareness about RTI Act’
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 5
Complaints against officers for not providing information are on the rise. On an average the State Chief Information Commission has been getting eight to 10 complaints under the Right to Information Act every day.

The complainants should not ask for information from the commission, but seek its help if they have been facing problems to get the information, said Mr Rajan Kashyap, State Chief Information Commissioner, while talking to the mediapersons.


Power board staff to hold protest
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 5
The National Coordination Committee of the Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE) has decided to hold a massive rally in front of the Lok Sabha on March 1 to protest against the failure of the Central Government to review the Electricity Bill Act-2003.

The employees were against the dismantling of electricity boards into companies, said Mr V.K Gupta, the Finance Secretary of the NCCOEEE, here today.

Giving details, he said the coordination committee would highlight the failure of dismantling of electricity boards into companies. Orissa was a recent example where private companies entrusted by the government with power distribution had proved to be a failure.


BJP MLA’s bail plea rejected
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 5
The Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Sriganganagar, has rejected the bail plea of BJP MLA Surinder Singh Rathore, who had surrendered in the trial court after four months of an attack made on Mr Mahesh Periwal, a former president of the Municipal Council and senior party worker.

The trial court had already rejected his plea.

The CJM heard arguments from senior lawyers representing the accused and the affected party for 30 minutes yesterday morning but pronounced the orders late in the evening.

The court reportedly remarked that attempt on life of Mr Periwal was a well-hatched conspiracy. The incident was an indication of criminalisation of politics. The persons elected by the people should not emerge as assailants because this would shatter the faith posed in them by the electorate.

The bail plea made by the accused in such serious cases could not be allowed, the court held.


Blacksheep in VB to face action: Pandey
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
The chief of the Punjab Vigilance Bureau (VB), Mr A. P. Pandey, today clarified that the bureau was not against any particular department. "Anybody, who has a complaint against an official of the bureau was free to lodge a complaint with me," he added while reacting to the allegations leveled by the employees' unions of the Panchayati Raj Department.

Mr Pandey assured that he would take action if any official of the bureau was involved in any wrongdoing. However, he refuted "sweeping" allegations made by the employees against the working of the entire Vigilance Bureau. "It was promise of the Punjab Government to provide transparent governance and the bureau was not targeting any department of a section of employees," he added.

Meanwhile, a perusal of the records of the Vigilance Bureau shows that 48 officials of the Panchayat Department have been booked and their cases were pending in various courts. Fortyfour of them are facing vigilance enquiries.


4 die in accident
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 5
Four persons were killed and one was injured in an accident when a truck and a car collided head on at Dirba village, 26 km from here last night. The truck was going towards Sangrur from Patran while the car was on its way to Delhi from Dhuri, 13 km from here.

The Dirba police told The Tribune this afternoon that all four deceased and one injured person were occupants of the car and had been returning to their destinations after attending Jain samagam at Dhuri when their car met with an accident on the national highway at Dirba.

The truck driver fled after the accident. The injured person had been admitted to a Ludhiana hospital, the police added.

The police said Rajesh Varmecha, Rajinder Khaterr, both from Hyderabad, Mohinder Singh Bucha from Delhi and Arun Jain from Bhiwani lost their lives in the accident while Raj Kumar Chopra, a resident of Raul (Rajasthan), received serious injuries.


Two held for cow slaughter

Batala, February 5
Kaka Masih and Bhupa Masih son of Mr Ambu Masih of Sunaiya village were arrested from their village and blood-stained hide of a slaughtered calf was recovered from them. The police raided the village four persons Kaka Masih, Bhupa Masih, Gulu Masih and Bikkar were found with the slaughtered calf and putting hide in a bag. They allegedly used to slaughter stray cattle found on roads and supply meat of these to meat sellers for marriage parties.

Kaka Masih and Bhupa Masih were arrested while other two escaped. A case has been registered. — OC


Soviet nationality policies still relevant, feels expert
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 5
The Soviet regime had established a federated state in Kazakhstan along the pattern of the Russian Socialist Federation of Soviet Republic (RSFSR). Thus, a serious study of the Soviet nationality policies was of a great relevance in the context of the current developments in post-Soviet Central Asia, felt Prof Devender Kaushik, UGC Emeritus Fellow and chairman, Executive Council Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute, Kolkata, here today.

He was delivering keynote address at a two-day international seminar on Ethno-Nationalism in Post-Soviet Central-Asia, which commenced today.

The seminar is being organised by the Centre for South-Central Asian Studies of Guru Nanak Dev University here.

Mr K. Santhanam, former director, Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), New Delhi, and president of the India Central Asia Foundation, presided over the inaugural session, while Dr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor, welcomed the delegates.

Professor Kaushik said Soviet nationality policies had many lessons to teach and a creative application of the Soviet experience of building a multinational state held the promise of evolving a constructive strategy for nation and state building in Central Asia and other regions of the developing world.

He said even though the policy was seriously criticised in the past and still continued to be criticised by a host of western analysts, several serious western scholars had recognised its numerous positive aspects.

He added that Kazakhstan was both demographically and geographically a bridge between Europe and Asia.

The country not only straddled the two continents, its history was also rooted in two civilisations and its population was equally divided between European and Russian people.

He said Kazakhstan was the ethnic centre of Kazakhs and there was no other state in the world that had demonstrated concern about their culture, way of life, language and traditions.

Dr S.P. Singh in his address said the importance of ethnic factor, which determined the foreign policies of a good number of countries, asked for scholarly analysis.


Jobless ETT teachers burn Bhattal’s effigy
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 5
Members and activists of the Unemployed Elementary Teachers Union (UETU), Navniyukat Elementary Teachers Union (NETU), and DIET Students Welfare Association (DSWA) today burnt the effigy of Deputy Punjab Chief Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, near her house at Lehragaga, about 40 km from here in protest against the government’s reported move to recruit the unemployed ETT teachers in the pay scale of Class IV employees. About 100 protesters, including girls, belonging to the three organisations of the ETT, from Sangrur and Mansa districts participated in the protest.

The protesters also held a ‘siapa’ and raised slogans against the Punjab Government. They also took out a protest march through the Lehragaga town to compel the state government to abandon its proposal, regarding recruitment of the unemployed ETT teachers in the pay scale of Class IV employees.

Addressing the protesters, Mr Jaswinder Singh Bullarherri, state president of the NETU, said the state government was playing with the future of the unemployed ETT teachers by making proposals to offer them the pay-scale of Class IV employees. He said the ETT teachers would not tolerate such acts of the government.

Mr Sukhvir Singh, press secretary of the district unit of the UETU, warned the state government that if it did not recruit the unemployed ETT teachers in full pay-scale on a regular basis then the unions would launch a public campaign against the government to force it to accept their demands.

Mr Kulwinder Singh Jahangir, state finance secretary of the DSWA, warned the government that if the Punjab Cabinet approved the proposal, regarding grant of Class IV employees’ pay scale to the unemployed ETT teachers, at its meeting on February 10, then the unemployed ETT teachers would set themselves on fire and clasp Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to their chests at an employees rally to be held at Patiala on February 11 by the Congress supporters.

The protesters were addressed among others by Mr Mohinder Pal Singh Kaleke, president of the district Sangrur unit of the UETU; Mr Jagtar Singh Ilwal, president of the district unit of the DSWA.


English teaching workshop held
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 5
A six-hour intensive English Language Teaching (ELT) workshop was conducted for schoolteachers by Ms Jayshri Kannan at the Central State Library here yesterday. It was organised by Blossoms School in collaboration with the Oxford University Press India.

At least 70 English language teachers form 20 schools participated in the workshop. Besides Patiala, teachers from Rajpura, Nabha and Bhawanigarh attended the workshop.

The purpose of the workshop was to make the teaching fraternity aware of new techniques in English language teaching. Ms Kannan demonstrated new methodologies of teaching English grammar, vocabulary reading and writing to participating teachers.

The workshop laid importance on improving language proficiency, using student-centric techniques like pair work, group activities and classroom discussion.

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