Highs & Lows
Proposed tallest building of Pb ‘lands’ in controversy
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 11
The 45-m multiplex and shopping plaza, proposed to be constructed at Ranjit Avenue, is in the web of controversies these days. The multiplex will perhaps be the tallest one in the state.

Though the auction of the prime site would provide Rs 100 crore, out of the total money to be earned from the auction, for the development of the holy city, yet opposition leaders, including that of the Congress, Lok Bhalai Party and CPI, have described the move of the state government as a “trick” played with the residents of the city.

Raman Baxi, a municipal councillor, has announced that he would sit on “fast-unto-death” at the site of the proposed multi-storeyed plaza if the Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA) failed to cancel the auction.

The opposition leaders alleged that the proposed tallest building on the International Rajasansi Airport would also pose danger to the security of the country since the site is a few kilometres (crow fly) from the Pakistan border.

Though the state government has already given a go ahead for constructing the highest concrete structure, yet the formal permission from the air force authorities is yet to be taken, it is learnt. Former chairman of the improvement trust Jugal Kishore Sharma claimed that the air force authorities had earlier stopped the trust from raising the height of the buildings from a particular level. The building is likely to be 14-storeyed, while the historical Baba Atal - the tallest building of Amritsar so far - is nine-storeyed.

Moreover, the opposition leaders are sore over the transfer of the prime land from the improvement trust to PUDA. They said as per the Act, the land could not be transferred from one developing agency to another. Had the improvement trust conducted the auction itself, the entire money (Rs 500 crore approx) would have been spent on the overall development of Amritsar. By transferring the land from the improvement trust to PUDA, Amritsar would get only Rs 100 crore.

It may be mentioned here that the cash-strapped state government had adopted a unique way to fulfil Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s commitment to the people of Amritsar to revamp the holy city by giving a grant of Rs 250 crore.



Now, rickshaws to take you into thick of action
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 11
The Beating the Retreat ceremony at the Indo-Pak joint checkpost of late has been turning into a show of the elite and the high-profile with scores of luxury cars zooming past the main gates while ordinary vehicles had to be parked at quite a distance from the spectators’ gallery. All this is in for a change with the decision of the BSF authorities recently to allow rickshaw-pullers to ferry passengers past the main gates.

This has come as a relief for the general public. Besides, the aged have also been saved of the ordeal of jostling their way through the large crowds descending on the scene every evening. Rickshaw-pullers can now carry people up to the main spectators’ gallery, earlier a privilege reserved only for vehicles which required to take prior permission of the BSF officials to enter the gates of the checkpost.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a BSF official said it was a long-pending demand of people coming to watch the retreat ceremony from far and wide that there should be some conveyance to reach the venue. “The aged and disabled persons particularly had a tough time walking all the way from the main gate. The cycle-rickshaws serve the purpose without creating unnecessary commotion and noise like in the case of three-wheelers,” he said. Vikramjit Singh Bhullar, a Ludhiana businessman, said though he preferred to walk his way to the venue, his mother and wife were happy to see the facility of rickshaws initiated at the border. “Even as cycle-rickshaws are being replaced by autorickshaws in all big cities of the state, it was a pleasant surprise to see the tradition form of travel enjoying an exclusive right at the border,” he said.

The local population had strongly resisted the move to allow movement of trucks across the border on the plea that it would take away the source of livelihood of the economically weak from the area. However, with the rickshaw business beginning to boom since the new orders this month, they have a reason to rejoice.

The pageantry of the Beating Retreat and the change of guard within handshaking distance of the Indian and Pakistani forces make for a charming spectacle and people turn out in large numbers to watch the event every evening. Soldiers from both countries march in drill, going through the steps of lowering their respective national flags. As the sun goes down, nationalistic fervour rises and lights are switched on marking the end of the day amid thunderous applause.



Wrong Record
‘Encroachment’ on temple land: AIHSS
threatens agitation
P. K. Jaiswar

Amritsar, January 11
All India Hindu Shiv Sena (AIHSS) today threatened to hold a massive demonstration if the administration failed to remove the ‘encroachment’ at ancient Hindu temple, Khuh Devi Dvara Lala Nathu Mal, situated at historic village of Jalalabad near Khadoor Sahib in Tarn Taran district.

In a press conference here, Surinder Billa, president of AIHSS along with Ajit Singh, president of the temple trust, Fateh Chand and priest Dalip Kumar claimed that additional deputy commissioner of Amritsar while corroborating their allegations had indicted revenue officer Shiv Singh for tempering with the records to show “encroachers” as owners of the portion of land belonging to ancient temple.

Ajit Singh and others in their complaint to DC had stated that around 28 acres of land had been in possession of temple trust since 1924. They alleged that one Jaswant Singh in connivance with Manjit Singh, Naib Tehsildar transferred the land in his name. But commissioner, Jalandhar Zone stayed the orders of naib tehsildar and SDM, Khadoor Sahib, they claimed.

“ However, giving a scant regard to the orders, RO Shiv Singh erased the name of Ajit Singh as president and named Jaswant Singh, Sulakhan Singh and Sukhdev Singh, who crated a parallel trust, showing them as president and owners of the land, respectively. The probe was entrusted to ADC, who, in his report, indicted Shiv Kumar,” claimed trust representatives.

Billa said they reported the matter to the police; however, no action was taken against the accused. He threatened that they would be forced to launch a major protest if authorities concerned failed to take any action and remove the encroachment.



This place urgently needs a spruce-up
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 11
The 2.5 acres of land in the historic Ram Bagh, which was once a mini-zoo and use to house 22 species of birds and animals, including stag, deer, bears, monkeys, crocodiles and otters, still awaits a proposal to develop it.

Though in 2004 a proposal to set up a nursery was on the cards and the horticulture department had started working on it, the idea fizzled out due to lack of initiative. Interestingly, even in the absence of funds the department carried out the task of collecting plants from different parts of the city and then developing them into saplings.

After coming to power mayor Shawet Malik changed the plans for the site. He said, “There is no point in setting up a nursery at a prime location like Ram Bagh. The area would be now developed into a tourist spot under public-private partnership. The initiative would help visitors to have a better time at the summer palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.”

However, nothing seems to have changed on the ground and the place still has empty cages and enclosures.

The mini-zoo at Ram Bagh was the only zoo in the entire district and used to draw a number of visitors, especially children. But after an order of Parliament, in keeping with the Indian Wildlife Act, 66 mini-zoos, including the local one and seven small zoos across the country, were closed in 1997 and the animals and birds from here were shifted to the Chattbir zoo.

Social worker Brij Bedi feels the corporation should invite Nek Chand, who built the world-famous Rock Garden in Chandigarh, for beautifying the place. “Such a large area is lying unused even though the authorities have been making tall claims of taking steps to attract more tourists to the city,” he said.

Municipal commissioner D.P.S. Kharbanda said, “Any decision on developing the area would be taken only after consulting the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as it is already working on protection and conservation of the historic buildings located inside Ram Bagh.”

Ram Bagh was set up by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1819 in an area of 84 acres, say historians. His summer palace is located in the centre of the garden, which has now been converted into Maharaja Ranjit Singh Museum. In one corner of Ram Bagh, a statue of the Maharaja is put up, which is also visible from the main road, and the garden has Maharaja Ranjit Singh panorama at its other end.



‘Bionic eye’ to light up world of darkness
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 11
The latest German technology of surgical implantation of “bionic eye” device has ushered in a ray of hope in the dark world of blind people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa.

A three-member team, headed by Dr Eberhart Zrenner, from the Institute for Ophthalmic Research, University of Tubingen, Germany, were in the city to exhibit for the first time in India the implant of bionic eye device at Dr Om Parkash Eye Institute. Dr Zrenner said the retinal disorder gradually destroys rods and cones that detect light in the retina of the eye, but notably leaves the optic nerve unharmed, which could still transmit electrical impulses from retina to the brain. He said by feeding appropriate signals to this nerve via the electronic chip visibility could be restored. The chip uses electronic camera technology, which could be implanted under the retina.

Dr Zrenner said the power to make the chip functional comes from a cable connected to a small battery and claimed that so far no other chip had been presented with a similar high-resolution for implantation and this was the first active sub-retinal chip ever implanted in patients.



Sidhu assures all help to lawyers
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 11
A strong judicial system is the base of strong democracy of a country. Therefore, every issue concerning the judiciary and advocates should be solved on priority basis.

This was stated by MP Navjot Singh Sidhu during a seminar organised by the Amritsar Bar Association (ABA) here. Sidhu, while giving a cheque for Rs 6 lakh for the library and other facilities of the association, assured all kind of possible help to advocates on behalf of the state government.

While his attention was drawn by V.K. Dhand, president of the association, towards the unorganised construction and dilapidated condition of chambers of advocates in the Amritsar judicial court complex, Sidhu assured to take up the matter with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for the proper construction of chambers.

The MP assured the ABA to provide all possible funds for its proper functioning, besides assuring Rs 10 lakh more for its better working if the earlier grant of Rs 6 lakhs was utilised properly.

Meanwhile, a medical check-up camp was organised by the newly elected association. About 800 advocates availed themselves of the facility. Free medicines were distributed during the camp, which was inaugurated by deputy commissioner K.S. Pannu. S.P. Banger, district and sessions judge, lauded the role of the ABA for organising the medical camp.

Meanwhile, Sidhu announced to honour Dr N.S. Neki, professor, Government Medical College, with a cash amount of Rs 2 lakh for his selfless services to the society.



Daughter compiles Puran Singh’s essays
Vibhor Mohan
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 11
Essays written by founder of Pingalwara Ashram here late Bhagat Puran Singh have been compiled in the shape of a book “Pawan Guru Pani Pita” by his daughter Dr Inderjit Kaur. The book was released here today by the GNDU vice-chancellor, Dr Jai Rup Singh, at the Malanwala unit of the Pingalwara.

The book seeks to press the panic button on how environmental pollution was posing a threat to future generations. The only solution lies in planting more trees and putting a check on mindless commercialisation, according to the book.

In his book review, Dr Adarsh Pal Vig, reader with GNDU’s Department of Botanical and Environmental Sciences, says, Bhagat Puran Singh added an autographical touch to his essays. The lifestyle he followed can only be termed “Simple living, high thinking”, even though it sounds like cliché.

Though people know Bhagat Puran Singh more for his love for humanity, particularly disabled and the mentally and physically challenged, his strong views on the need for organic farming and controlled use of chemicals reflect that he equally cherished nature in all its forms.

“The compilation is as relevant today. In his lifetime, Bhagat Puran Singh launched a crusade to save natural environment and his words ring true as more and more surveys are being conducted on harm to nature,” he said.

“The essays emphasise on the fact that no one can escape the fallout of damage to the natural environment. Issues like population explosion, mechanisation and menace of automobiles have been tacked,” he said.

“The solution has been suggested by underlining the need for leading a simple lifestyle by including walking a part of daily routine. The need to shun silver utensils, the effects of noise pollution and need to control growing population are the key messages in the book,” he said.

The essay titled “Khabardaar” also talks of global warming and the need for a consensus to find ways to control it.

Dr Jai Rup Singh said, “Bhagat Puran Singh had written these essays about 50 to 60 years back and one can safely say that his thought process was about a century ahead of his times.”

“The threat of depleting uranium emanating from the Afghanistan war was looming large on the people of Punjab and there was need for the government to take effective steps to take timely precautions,” said the VC.

“If not checked, the dangerous effects would lead to a rise in incidence of cancer, skin diseases and malformations. The radiations affect the entire Punjab, besides Haryana, J&K and Pakistan. But since this is not being seen as a national problem, no preventive measures have been taken so far,” he said.

He said in view of the serious nature of the threat, the GNDU has decided to organise a seminar on the issue next month so that experts could discuss different aspects of the problem and make recommendations on how to avoid the harmful effects of these deadly radiations.



‘Peddling on rise in rural areas’
P.K. Jaiswar

Amritsar, January 11
Although the crime rate (if the police records are to believe) has shown a decline in Amritsar rural area, the drug peddling has shot up in these areas.

In 2007, the police seized 34 kg of heroin, 1,180 kg of poppy husk, one kg of opium and 2.80 kg of narcotic powder. It even registered 154 cases, which was much more than in corresponding years.

However, SSP Iqbal Singh feels the data depicts the efficiency of the police as it made 50 per cent more recoveries under local and special laws. He said the police seized one kg of smack and huge quantity of intoxicants last year and 173 persons were against these cases.

Owing decline in the crime rate to separation of investigating staff from normal law and order maintaining staff, SSP claimed that the police registered 724 under the IPC in 2007, while it was 790 in 2006. The data depicts a decline of 8.35 per cent. Similarly, the police registered 964 cases under NDPS Act, Arms Act and Excise act etc., which were 631 in last year. The ‘zail’ system like beat system in the urban areas was another reason of the decrease, he added.

The SSP said, “In 2007, 30 cases of murder were registered and 29 of them have been traced. Even accused in 16 of these cases have been convicted.” Likewise, the police registered 24 cases of attempt to murder in 2007, while these were 36 in 2006. According to the data, 71 persons lost their lives in road terrorism which was 29 less as compared to 2006.

While 117 persons were injured in road mishaps in 2006, the number came down to 77 in 2007.

Coming to burglary, the police registered 26 cases last year and out of these 17 have been traced. Interestingly, there was no case of dacoity last year. However, there was an increase in theft cases as they rose to 56 last year, while it was 46 in 2006. Besides, five cases of robbery were registered last year. The district police chief said 10 cases of rape were reported last year and the police has succeeded to trace all of them.

In addition to above cases, the police seized fake currency amounting to Rs 12 lakh, 13 pistols, one mouser, one gun, one riffle, 66 cartridges, one knife, six magazines, one spear, seven bomb shape, seven fuse, 800 gm plastic explosive and four role mine wires used for explosion from fourteen persons.



Tech Savvy
Now, portal to promote Gumtala history
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 11
To highlight the historic village of Gumtala and its achievements a website “www.gumtala.com” has been launched by deputy commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu here.

Giving details, website managing editor Dr Charanjit Singh Gumtala said there were plans to put up history of the village, the achievements of the Gumtala diaspora and its link with the Gumtala Muslims who migrated to Pakistan after partition.

He said the history of Gumtala went beyond the history of Amritsar which was founded in 1575 by Sri Guru Ramdas.

Appreciating the effort, Pannu said, “The western countries are preserving their heritage and it is good to see the trend in Punjab now, especially NRIs who are taking more interest in introducing the younger generations to their roots.”

Among others present were Joginder Singh Kalsi, a film producer from Canada, Sameep Singh Gumtala from the USA, Sarbjit Singh Aujla and Sukhjinder Singh Aujla.



New SBI branch at Goindwal

Amritsar, January 11
The State Bank of India opened its 38th branch in the region and the 128th in Punjab at Goindwal in Tarn Taran district on Friday. Speaking on the occasion, SBI deputy general manager Shyamal Kanti Dal said the branch would cater to the banking requirements of the area, besides providing ATM as well as Internet banking facilities. — OC



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