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Stage set for kisan mela
Four farmers to get Punjab CM prize
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 1
The stage is set for the kisan mela to be held on March 2 and 3 where four farmers will be presented with the Punjab Chief Minister’s coveted prize for showing enterprise in agriculture and allied fields.

The Director of Extension Education, Dr S.S. Gill, said today that the four farmers who would get the prize are Inderjit Singh Kang of Kotla Shamaspur (Ludhiana), Karnail Singh of Marauli Kalan village (Ropar), Nishan Singh Pannu of Kalyan village (Sangrur) and Amarjit Singh Dhillon of Bargari village (Faridkot).

Inderjit Singh and Karnail Singh would share the prize money of Rs25,000 for their achievements in poultry, dairying, piggery and fisheries. For agriculture crop production and related activities, Amarjit Singh had been selected for Rs25,000 prize, whereas, Nishan Singh would Rs25,000 prize for horticulture.

Dr Gill said there was neck-and-neck race for the prize and the high-profile PAU selection committee, which travelled across the state, shortlisted these four farmers from among a long list of aspirants.

These prize-winning farmers would be honoured by the Chief guest at the mela, Dr T. Haque, Chairman, Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices (CACP).

One of the attractions at the mela would be a live relay of the popular evening Dehati programme for the Punjab farmers. This would include an interaction with the Vice-Chancellor, Dr K.S. Aulakh, Director of Research, Dr B.S. Dhillon, Director of Extension Education, Dr S.S. Gill, and the prize-winning farmers.

It was after a long time that a direct relay of Dehati Programme by AIR Jalandhar was being done under a special team headed by Mr Amarjit Singh Waraich.

The mela would focus on water to save Punjab agriculture. The farmers from across the state would be impressed upon not to go in for paddy transplant before June 15 to save precious water because 100 blocks out of a total of 114 were already identified as dark blocks, where water table had dropped alarmingly.

Over 200 stalls for the agro-industrial exhibitions and to highlight the contributions of various departments to agriculture and related fields were being put up at the mela. The visiting farmers would be given first hand insight and inside information into the scientific and technological methodologies to raise crop production.

Besides, Dr Gill said, agro processing would also be highlighted. University publications were an added attraction for the farmers, who also thronged the plant clinic and were keen to get their plant samples diagnosed for diseases and their soil tested for deficiencies.



City bus stand set for makeover
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Asbestos sheets put up outside the bus stand in Ludhiana as part of construction work
Asbestos sheets put up outside the bus stand in Ludhiana as part of construction work on Wednesday. — Photo by I.V.

Ludhiana, March 1
Considered a pockmark on the city, the Ludhiana bus stand is all set to get a new look with the construction company, which has been allotted the project, starting work on it.

The contractor of the project has already got the entry for local buses banned on the front side so that the work can take off smoothly. The canteen contractor has also been asked to vacate the canteen and demolition work will start within a day or two.

A Baroda-based construction company, MSK Projects India Limited, has been given the project of developing the bus terminus at a cost of Rs 17 crore. The company has accepted the proposal on a build, operate and transfer basis for 10 years.

The Punjab Infrastructure Development Board had accepted the proposal of the state government to develop the bus stand following which city residents will finally have a state-of-the-art structure after waiting for the past many years.

A victim of official apathy, the Ludhiana bus stand has seen many assurances and plans announced by successive governments, but it always lacked basic amenities.

There had been several protests by residents as the bus stand of the richest city of Punjab was lacking in basic facilities. Dotted with potholes and bus bays full of dirt and filth, the bus stand presents a picture of utter neglect.

Residents have seen various proposals for developing the bus stand but none could see the light of day. Earlier, it was announced that the foundation stone of the new bus terminus was to be laid by the then Chief Minister on August 15, 2002. The proposed Rs 7-crore bus stand project with provision for all kinds of basic amenities, including waiting rooms for passengers, was entrusted to the local municipal corporation. However, the project never took off.

Later, the project was transferred to PUDA and the Punjab Roadways. The roadways authorities had conveyed to PUDA that the existing bus stand, spread over 9.92 acres, required renovation and needed proper maintenance. PUDA had also washed its hands off the project stating that the authority had not received a single penny from the state government and was not able to start work on it.

The local depot of the Punjab Roadways had been claiming that it gave about Rs 1 crore annually to the state government for the maintenance. However, not even 10 per cent of it was utilised for the purpose.

Besides basic amenities, the roadways had demanded operational counters. At present, there are 20 counters. The authorities concerned had sought more than 10 such counters.

Another major problem at the bus stand was the condition of toilets. Not only was the number of toilets much less than the requirement, these were not maintained properly. Officials had demanded that eight more toilets be constructed and the existing toilets be cleaned and maintained properly.



Dalit woman found dead; family suspects foul play
Our Correspondent

Raikot, March 1
Mystery shrouds the death of a married Dalit woman of Jalaldiwal village whose body was found on the outskirts of the village yesterday.

While the police has registered a report under Section 174 of the Cr PC and insisted that further action would be taken after receiving the viscera report, a number of kisan political organisations apprehended rape and murder of the victim and threatened to launch an agitation if the culprits were not booked.

The body of Manjit Kaur (30), mother of five children was found lying in the fields of Jagtar Singh of Jalaldiwal village.

The owner of the fields and his associates took the body to the victim’s house and the matter was referred to the police which registered a report on the statement of Makhan Singh, husband of the deceased.

Initially it was suspected that Manjit Kaur had died after accidentally consuming insecticide-laced water from the fields, but her family later apprehended rape and murder. Makhan Singh changed his earlier statement and urged the police to register a rape and murder case.

Meanwhile, leaders of various political parties have threatened to launch a stir if the culprits were not booked. Referring to information received from members of the family of the deceased, Mr Mohinder Singh Accharwal, president of the Zamhuri Kisan Sabha, Mr Harbans Singh, general secretary of the Dehati Mazdoor Sabha, and Mr Ram Sarup, district secretary of the CPM (Pasla), accused the police of shielding the culprits.

Makhan Singh said Manjit Kaur had gone to the fields of Jagtar Singh at around 10 am. The “shifting” of her body and the subsequent offering of Rs 20,000 to Makhan Singh had raised suspicion.

Mr G. S. Aulakh, DSP Raikot, denying the charges levelled against the police claimed that the police was investigating the case and further action would be initiated after receiving a chemical report of the viscera.

Referring to information received from Mr Sikander Singh, SHO, he said a board of doctors had performed the postmortem and no visible injury marks had been noticed. Rape was not indicated in the report.

A criminal case, if needed, would be registered after receiving the chemical report.



Milk plant challaned
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 1
The local milk plant has been challaned by the Weights and Measures Department for providing lesser quantity of milk in half litre pouches marketed by the former.

This follows an inquiry ordered into the matter by Deputy Commissioner Anurag Verma a few days ago. The matter, as brought to light by a section of the media,had alleged that some 500 ml. pouches contained only 300 ml. of milk.

Taking serious view of the reports, the DC directed Mr J.K. Jain, Executive Magistrate, to inquire into the matter.During the inquiry, Mr Jain visited the milk plant and checked 53 half litre pouches.Out of these,12 packets were found to be with milk less than half a litre.The milk plant was challaned.

Mr Verma has written to the General Manager, Milk Plant, warning him that in future in case any pouches were found carrying less milk than the printed quantity, an FIR would be lodged.



Cop booked

Ludhiana, March 1
The Sarabha Nagar police has booked a constable for extorting money from a couple. He was caught by some persons while harassing a couple in a park in Maharaj Nagar. He reportedly took Rs 1600 as bribe to release them on February 27. Constable Jarnail Singh allegedly spotted a young boy and a girl in the park He threatened to book them. He asked them to sit on his motorcycle to take them to the police station.

Near the Sidhwan canal, the girl allegedly fell from the bike and suffered injuries. A number of passers-by confronted the cop.The accused then allegedly threw the bribe amount into the canal.

The couple and the passersby took up the matter with senior officials who ordered registration of a case. TNS



Budget to uplift farmers: experts
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 1
The fact that Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has underlined the importance of the agriculture sector in giving a push to the economic growth rate is evident from the focus he has put on the expansion of irrigation potential, institutional agricultural credit and food processing.

Where he has proposed a special grant of Rs 100 crore to the Punjab Agricultural University for its contribution to bring about another Green Revolution, he has also kept in view the hardship faced by the agriculture sector.

Commenting on the Budget here today, PAU economists — Dr A.S. Joshi, Dr Amarjit Singh Bhullar and Dr R.S. Sidhu — said agriculture in the state was capital intensive and used substantial institutional credit. The reduction of interest rate by 2 percentage points on crop loans would mean lowering of indebtedness of Punjab farmers by at least Rs 150 crore.

Needless to say that farming families in Punjab carry a debt burden on Rs 20,000 crore. However, this benefit of reduction in interest rate has not been given in the case of medium and long term loans which still carry a high interest rate, they add.

The coverage for small and marginal farmers under the institutional credit, as announced by Mr Chidambaram would nevertheless save the farmers from high interest rate that they pay to obtain non-institutional loan or say the money they borrow from aarhtiyas.

They said the rate of interest on long-term credit was still between 11.5 per cent and 12.5 per cent. Since the investments had come down in the agriculture sector, it was urgently required that funds were made available to the farmers at low rate of interest, the PAU economists said.

Punjab agriculture was in the “transitional phase’s” requiring lot of investments to create new infrastructure for agriculture diversification. Thus, it would have been much better had the Finance Minister also reduced the rate of interest on the minimum and long-term loans.

Dr Joshi and his co-economists said it could be sensed from the speech of the Finance Minister that the agriculture subsidies were to be reduced in a phased manner. Their apprehension was that such a step would adversely affect the already stressed farmers, especially small and marginal.

The Budget did not give any clear cut long-term policy indication despite the fact public investment in agriculture was down to 1.7 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP).

They have expressed concern with regard to minimum support price policy as revealed in the economic survey and fear this will have adverse implications on the state agriculture and food security of the nation.

With the diversification of agriculture, the new crops that were likely to be promoted would be prone to more risk, if these were not included in the ambit of minimum support price and assured procurement they said.

Agro processing had been given priority. A support window for credit had also been announced. Also a national institute on food processing infrastructural and entrepreneurial development was to be set up to promote the industry. However, no fiscal concession for the agro-industry had been announced by the Finance Minister, despite the fact that this nascent industry was crying for tax holiday.

Referring to diversification, the economists said, horticulture was part of the high-value crops and its processing was equally important. The allocation of agriculture income insurances had been reduced from Rs 749 crore to around Rs 450 to Rs 500 crore, which called for serious thinking.

They were also worried about the subtle hints given by Mr Chidambaram in his Budget speech with regard to minimum support price, phasing out of subsidies when nation’s food security was at stake. Now institutions like the PAU were expected to play a crucial role through a paradigm shift from traditional institutional skills to new generation, science and technological methodologies to raise crop yields.



CAs, catering in service tax net
Our Correspondent

V.K. Garg
V.K. Garg

Ludhiana, March 1
All services provided by chartered accountants, company secretaries and cost accountants, catering services provided in academic institutions and hospitals, call centres and medical transcription centres have been brought under the service tax net in the Budget 2006. The tax liability of these service providers will come into effect from March 1.

Stating this in a news conference here today, Mr V.K. Garg, Commissioner of Central Excise, Ludhiana Commissionerate, stated that other proposals relating to service tax, including increase in rate of tax from 10 to 12 per cent and bringing 15 more services under the purview of the tax, would take effect after the Finance Bill was passed in Parliament.

Clarifying the confusion over the service tax imposed on ATMs, he said the ATM usage would not attract any tax but the liability would be limited to operations, maintenance and management of ATMs.

According to Mr Garg, the proposed substitution of “commercial concern” with “person” in relation to 17 services, presently under the service tax purview, had also set at rest the confusion prevailing over individuals operating as commission agents to various buying and selling entities.

“Once the amendment comes into force with the adoption of Finance Bill, all individuals and charitable organisations providing such services will be covered under the Service Tax Act. As a result a large number of commission agents, especially in the textile trade, will be taxed.”

Focusing on other provisions which would have a significant bearing on the collection of service tax and checking evasion, Mr Garg said cancellation of registration certificates would be allowed wherever desirable but the assessees would have to preserve records for a minimum period of five years. The officers of the Central Excise Department would now have the power for provisional attachment of property in case of default in payment of tax or pendency of proceedings.

The provisions pertaining to penalty on default in payment of tax are also being amended and the defaulting assessees will have to pay 2 per cent of the tax evaded per month or Rs 200 per day, whichever is higher. The prevailing rate of penalty was Rs 200 per day, irrespective of the amount of the tax involved.

He claimed that the service tax collection in the Ludhiana Commissionerate had recorded a 275 per cent increase with the collection till January exceeding Rs 85 crore as against Rs 55 crore during the corresponding period last year.



Budget disappoints industry
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 1
Terming the Union Budget as disappointing for the small-scale industrial sector, the Federation of Punjab Small Industries Association said the Finance Minister did not take any initiatives to boost the growth of this sector that has a significant contribution to the economy.

Mr V.P.Chopra, president of the association, said the Central excise exemption limit should have been increased from Rs 1 crore to Rs 2 crore due to an increase in input costs. However, much to the disappointment of the industry, nothing was done on this front.

De-reservation of 180 items being manufactured by SSIs was another blow to this sector, he said.

“The 5 per cent customs duty on melting scraps will affect input costs of steel, resulting in a rise in the prices. The same should be brought back to zero,” said Mr Varinder Kapoor, general secretary, United Cycle and Parts Manufacturers Association.

The association termed the increase in the service tax rate from 10 per cent to 12 per cent a measure that would fuel inflation and harm the industry. The overall impact of changes proposed would hike input costs of the bicycle parts manufacturing industry, said the association.

The Auto Parts Manufacturers Association expressed disappointment on the Budget provisions. Mr G.S. Kahlon, president of the association, rued that there was no package for Punjab’s industry in the Budget. “The Budget has bluntly ignored the interests of trade and industry of the state, the association said.

It also demanded an increase in the personal income tax limit from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 lakh.

Mr Jatinder Khurana, president, Taxation Young Lawyers Association, said the industry was quite disappointed with the Budget, particularly due to non-increase in Central excise exemption.

Frustrated over de-reserving 180 items , the Federation of Tiny and Small Industries of India termed the Budget as anti-small scale industry. “The SSI sector contributes 40 per cent to the national production. It is the second highest employment generating sector after agriculture and has a 36 per cent share in exports. The Finance Minister should not have ignored this sector,” said Mr Joginder Kumar, president of the federation.



Anti-worker, says Left party
Our Correspondent

Doraha, March 1
The Marxist Communist Party of India (United) has termed the Budget as anti-people, anti-worker and anti-peasant.

Mr Lakhwinder Singh Buani, district secretary of the party, and Mr Pawan Kumar Kaushal, committee member, in a press note today expressed concern over the “meagre facilities” in the Budget.

They blamed the Finance Minister for being oblivious to the interests of the working class. Their needs had been overlooked by the government, they said.

The common man had not been given any relaxation in taxes and the increase in the rate of interest would only add to the burden.

Also, there was no emphasis on the creation of infrastructural facilities and no funds had been allocated for any new industrial set-up.

Education and health to those below the poverty line had also failed to receive any focus, they said, adding that the government had increased foreign investment which would lead to an increase in rates and decline in employment opportunities.



Villagers to form NRI sabha
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 1
A meeting of residents and other dignitaries, including NRIs, which was held at Gurdwara Sri Guru Har Gobind Sahib at Rakba village in this district yesterday, decided to form an NRI sabha to strengthen cultural bonds and mutual relationship with the expatriates.

The village has more than 200 families whose members have settled abroad. The meeting was presided over by mukh sewadar of the gurdwara Baba Joginder Singh.

After performing “ardaas” for success of the initiative, Baba Joginder Singh announced the proposed non-political body would be named Sri Guru Har Gobind NRI Society. Efforts would be made to enrol all NRIs having their roots in this village.

Mr Krishan Kumar Bawa, Chairman, Punjab Housefed, a native of this village, said the society would soon chalk out an 11-point charter to achieve its goals. It was further decided to launch a web site of the Rakba village so that the younger generation of NRIs could keep in constant touch with the history and development of their native place.

Those present at the meeting expressed their serious concern over social evils of female foeticide and drug addiction while making a strong plea for waging a decisive battle against the menace. The government decision to set up an international airport at Halwara in this district was hailed and the village residents, especially the NRIs, extended their gratitude to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in this connection.

Prominent among others present at the meeting were Mr Yuvraj Singh, Mr Nirmal Singh Grewal, Mr Joginder Singh Bal, Sarpanch of the village panchayat, Mr Devinder Singh, Mr Hraminder Singh, Mr Maghar Singh, Mr Kulwant Rai, Mr Ujagar Singh, Mr Gurnam Singh, Ms Narinder Kaur, Ms Harjinder Kaur, Ms Bhajan Kaur, Mr Harjit Singh, Mr Pritpal Singh, Mr Baljinder Singh, Mr Mohinder Singh, Mr Chamkaur Singh, Mr Charan Singh, Mr Gurmeet Singh, Mr Pritam Singh, Mr Gurdev Singh, Mr Major Singh, Mr Teja Singh, Mr Kaur Singh and Mr Ghamanda Singh.



Don’t indulge in petty politics, DC tells club members
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 1
The Deputy Commissioner and the President of the Sutlej Club, Mr Anurag Verma, has warned the club members not to indulge in dirty politics during the coming elections.

Announcing the club elections for March 26, Mr Verma said he would not allow the members of this elite club to indulge in mudslinging or character assassination of rivals during the election process.

Mr Verma was chairing the general body meeting of the club here last evening.

On the issue of throwing lavish parties to woo club members, Mr Verma stressed that none would be allowed to host liquor parties at the club. He also announced that any member of the club could compete for eight years or five terms from now onwards. Earlier, the term was of two years for three times. Besides, a member could not contest for the same post for more than two terms.

Appreciating the present executive , Mr Verma said during the past two years,it had not only improved the services for members, but had given special attention to extending the sphere of the club for social activities such as providing financial assistance to the needy and highlighting major problems of society.

He said to create awareness about the serious problem of female foeticide, a special function was organised to celebrate lohri of daughters of members of the club.

The Deputy Commissioner said during various cultural functions, the club had given 50 per cent concession on food, drinks and other eatables.

He said during this tenure,the club had stood by those affected by natural disasters and given donations of Rs 11 lakh each towards the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and the Prime Minister 's Relief Fund for victims of tsunami and Rs 2.16 lakh to various charitable trusts.



Pensioners to hold protest on March 10
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 1
The Punjab Government Pensioners Joint Front in association with the Punjab Pensioners Confederation, the Punjab Government Pensioners Maha Sangh and the Punjab Government Pensioners Association, will hold a state-level massive protest on March 10 at Chandigarh, against the non-fulfillment of recommendations made by the Punjab Fourth Pay Commission for the benefit of pensioners.

Mr B.R. Kaushal, member, Punjab Government Pensioners Joint Front, in a press note today said the pensioners of Central Government, Railway Retirees, Ex-servicemen, Semi-government Retired Employees Association, Government aided private schools/colleges pensioners would also join the rally.

He said pensioners from Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Union Territory were also extending support and solidarity with the pensioners in their struggle.

Meanwhile, Mr Yash Paul Ghai, general secretary, Government Pensioners Association, has also urged the Union Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, to release the DA installment at the rate of 3 per cent with effect from January 1, 2006.



Panel discussion on female foeticide
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 1
On the occasion of International Women Day, Directorate of Social Empowerment and Economic Development, Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle, in collaboration with the Punjab Women Commission will organise a panel discussion on "female foeticide" at Master Tara Singh Memorial College for Women, Ludhiana, on March 2 from 10.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m.

Ms Parminder Kaur, Chairperson of the Punjab Women Commission, will be the chief guest. Mr Parag Jain, DIG, Punjab Police, will preside over the panel discussion. This was stated by Mr Iqbal Singh Director, Social Empowerment and Economic Development. He said Avtar Singh Narula, Session Judge (retd.) and president, District Consumer Forum, would coordinate the panel discussion.



Probe ordered against cop
Our Correspondent

Jagraon, March 1
Kulwinder Singh Dang, a reporter of Talwandi Khurd, was allegedly manhandled by a policeman posted at Chowkiman.

The reporter has lodged a complaint against the erring cop to the SSP who has deputed the SP(Headquarters) to inquire into the matter within three days.

According to information, Ms Balwinder Kaur, a teacher, had filed a complaint under Section 500, IPC, against the reporter who was summoned and later warrants were issued against him by the SDJM for March 3.

Kulwinder Singh got bail but while on the way from Chowkiman to Talwandi Khurd, he was intercepted by Head Constable Jarnail Singh who took him to the police post and manhandled him. He was accused of snatching Rs 2,000 from the cop. Kulwinder was kept in custody the whole night.



Patwaris protest against SDM’s remarks

Jagraon, March 1
Patwaris of Jagraon circle today held a dharna in front of the office of the SDM in protest against the remarks by the Raikot SDM in connection with the circle allocation to Gurpreet Singh, Rajinder Singh and Satwant Singh and registration of a case by the Vigilance against Bhinderpal, Ludhiana patwari. Leaders of the Revenue Patwar Union sought the immediate withdrawal of the case and allocation of the circles to the patwaris concerned. OC



Man booked for obscene SMS
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 1
The division No. 5 police has registered a case against a person who was allegedly harassing a city-based doctor by sending him obscene messages.

The police was in the process of identifying the man by taking the record from a mobile phone company.

The complainant, Dr Narinder Sharma, of Civil Lines had complained that he was receiving obscene SMS from mobile No. 9872265006. The accused has been booked under the Immoral Trafficking Act and for violation of the IT Act.



Prices of cycles set to rise

Ludhiana, March 1
The Indian bicycle industry today hinted at a marginal increase of 1.5-2 per cent in the prices of bicycles following reimposition of 5 per cent customs duty on melting steel scrap.

In the Budget presented yesterday by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, the government had reimposed 5 per cent customs duty on melting steel scrap, which was withdrawn in 2004-05.

“The price of bicycles will certainly increase by Rs 20 to 25 per unit on account of the levy of 5 per cent customs duty on scrap announced in this Budget as it will directly impact our input cost,” Indian Bicycle Manufacturers Association president Satish Dhanda said here, hoping that the industry would go for revision of prices within a month. After the announcement, prices of scrap, ingot, sponge iron and rolled products in Punjab steel industry had jumped by Rs 500 to Rs 700 per tonne, he said.

The prices of scrap increased to Rs 17,200 per tonne, up by Rs 700 per tonne, while the price of ingot and other rolled products, key input for the bicycle industry, had swelled to Rs 21,500 and Rs 24,000 per tonne, respectively.

“This move of government will hit the steel industry of the state quite hard as it will increase input cost,” North India Induction Furnaces Association President K.K. Garg said, adding it would hamper the industry as it was largely dependent on imported scrap for consumption in order to meet industry requirements. — PTI


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