P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Case Against Badals
Main complainant does U-turn
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 18
Balwant Singh, main complainant in the corruption case filed by the previous Congress government against the Badals, today reverted from his statement given earlier.

While being cross-examined by the defence in the special court, Ropar, Balwant Singh said he did not have any knowledge about properties of Parkash Singh Badal or his family members. He had not moved any application or affidavit regarding the property of Badal or his family members, he added.

Balwant Singh admitted his signatures on the application on the basis of which a case was registered against Badals.

He, however, added that Bharat Inder Singh Chahal, media adviser to Capt Amarinder Singh, had called and obtained his signatures on the papers. “ I had the power of attorney of Chahal, therefore, he had been taking my signatures for various purposes like the management of land and sale of vehicles. I had been signing the documents without reading,” he said. He said he did not know Vijay Kumar Gulati, advocate at Chandigarh, or Rajesh Kumar, stamp vendor. However, his signatures were taken in the register of the stamp vendor.

Jagdish Singh Kahlon, SP (D), Ferozepur, while deposing before the court said he did not remember making any statement regarding Hardeep Singh, OSD of the former Chief Minister, before the investigating officer in the case . He also declined making any report in the case. He admitted to his signatures on the report, but did not verify contents of the case.

Amarjit Singh, SP (Vigilance Bureau), PSEB, however, stuck to his statement. Constable Paramjit Singh admitted that he did not see any person coming to the CM’s house.

The next date of hearing has been fixed on February 5.


Attari: Minister hints at Customs office
Tribune News Service

Attari, January 18
Minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh here today said the Centre had embarked upon a proposal to set up a Customs office to facilitate trade at the Attari railway station on the lines of the proposed integrated checkpost to come up at the Attari joint checkpost.

He said this after supervising the facilities at the Attari border and was of the view that lack of parking for trucks and scanning equipment for security checks were the two facilities urgently required.

He said while the first instalment of Rs 12 crore for the Rs 90-crore integrated land Customs office project had been released by the Centre, the proposal for the Rs 200-crore Customs office at the railway station is yet to be approved by the Union Cabinet. Both projects would be carried out by RITES.

“The Amritsar district administration would submit a proposal for setting up scanners at the checkpost at the earliest. Presently, live animals have to be taken to Delhi for quarantining before being exported to Pakistan. All this would be taken care of once the two customs station projects materialise,” he said.

Later, addressing a press conference, Jairam said the export through the Attari-Wagah land route was only 2 per cent of the total export to Pakistan. “The Attari land and rail routes are crucial even in the context of India’s trade with Afghanistan. Presently, Afghanistan is exporting dry fruits, fruits, vegetables and semi precious stones to India via Attari. If India wants better trade ties with Afghanistan, better infrastructure at Attari is a pre-requisite,” he said.

The integrated check post at Attari is expected to come up in the next 18 months and for this the district administration would acquire 120 acres.

Jairam said he was pained to see poor infrastructure in Amritsar and spoke to Montek Singh, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, asking him to relax the 50:50 ratio under the Centrally-sponsored Nehru Urban Renewal Mission scheme, wherein a matching share has to be given by the state government and municipal corporation.

He said he would also ask the Prime Minister to remove the tag of “disturbed area” from Punjab 

  • ‘Sidhu wanted to join Cong’

Minister of state for commerce Jairam Ramesh here today said that Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu had first approached the Congress to give him party ticket to fight the Lok Sabha elections. But the condition was that he wanted to contest from his hometown Patiala. 

Talking on the sidelines of a press conference here, he said, “I told him that it would not be possible to give him the party ticket from Patiala, where there was already a sitting MP. Three months later I heard the news that he had joined the BJP.”

Sidhu could not be contacted for comments as he was busy shooting a show for a news channel.


Top firms may bid for multi-purpose Mohali site
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 18
Haryana’s debacle could prove to be Punjab’s fortune. The zero response to the auction of a five star hotel site in Panchkula could mean a gold rush for the prime commercial site offered by the Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) on the Mohali-Chandigarh border.

The Punjab Government has given complete freedom to the buyer to construct anything he wished on the 11.24 acres of land in Sector 49 put up for sale. This master move was bound to attract buyers to Mohali.

The Haryana Urban Development Authority’s site was only for the setting up of a five star hotel. Its auction proved a disaster with not a single bidder present.

“The national and multinational bidders for such sites are the same. And since these sites entail huge investments, it was obvious that only one of the two sites would find favour with the promoters,” said Taranjit Singh, a Mohali based property consultant.

The GMADA site, which is spread over 11.24 acres of land abutting Chandigarh and barely a kilometre from the PCA cricket stadium, has been reserved at Rs 544 crore.

The site offers the possibility of construction of a hotel, multiplex and mall and multi-storey elite housing all in a single complex.

The HUDA site was spread over eight acres of land and reserved at Rs 260 acres in Panchkula’s City Centre in Sector 5.

“The Mohali international airport is also one of the factors that led to the HUDA debacle. The Haryana government might be a partner in the project but its location is in Mohali.

The distance between Sector 5, Panchkula, to the proposed airport is going to be about 20 km travelling through a maze of traffic lights and a series of bottlenecks. While from Sector 49, this would be about half the distance,” said Anil Bahri, a Zirakpur-based property dealer.

Sources added that GMADA was expecting some of the top national companies in India to bid for this site. Reliance, both the Anil Ambani and Mukesh Ambani led groups, Tata, Emaar MGF, L&T are some of the companies expected to be present at the auction slated for February 8.

Other than these, some of the other companies like Parsvnath and Ansals are also expected to participate in the auction. GMADA had also deployed officers to personally contact some of these companies to invite them to the auction.

Interestingly, this “most prime location” of Mohali was occupied by the inhabitants of the Guru Nanak Colony till June 2005, when a massive rehabilitation drive had cleared the site for use. The site had been occupied for a decade with residents constituting a major vote bank in the area.

The Herculean effort of convincing and shifting the inhabitants to a vacant site in Jagatpura village was undertaken by the then additional chief administrator (ACA) Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA) Yashvir Mahajan.

Then PUDA had planned to auction the site in three components specifying the use of each component. The specified uses included a five-star hotel, a mall and a multiplex.

The proposed plan had also been approved by the regional town planning committee and forwarded to the planning and design committee for approval.

However, it was recently decided that the buyer be given the entire site to develop commercially according to his own plans.


High-security jails likely to have jammers 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
The Punjab police will install jammers and close circuit cameras in highly-sensitive and high-security jails of the state to check the use of mobile phones by hardcore criminals lodged there.

This was stated by DGP N.P.S. Aulakh, after presiding over a monthly crime review meeting held here today. He said the matter was being taken up with the state government and expressed the confidence that these high-tech gadgets would soon be the part of the security measures in the state jails. He urged the field officers to be more vigilant about the activities of hardcore criminals released from jails, dismissed police officials and released ex-terrorists.

The DGP said 10 district police training schools would be upgraded during the current year. He pointed out that 3,363 persons were killed and 4,430 were injured in road accidents in the state.

He has asked SSPs to install boards displaying information of public information officers under right to information act within four weeks.

Taking a serious note of growing number of proclaimed offenders and absconders in the state, the DGP directed field officers to launch a special campaign besides reviewing cases of 1,300 NRI absconders and send detailed reports to the ADGP (Crime) with in month.

Suitable sites for the setting up six NRI police stations at Ludhiana, Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Moga, Nawanshahr and Hoshiarpur were being identified. These police stations were to start functioning from April 13, 2008, and the police department had asked the state to provide for Rs 3.76 crore.


Haryana welcome to invest in Punjab: Sukhbir
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 18
Taking a jab at Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, SAD working president Sukhbir Singh Badal has said he was welcome to invest in infrastructure projects in Bathinda.

Referring to the Haryana government’s zeal to invest in the international airport at Mohali, Sukhbir said Haryana was welcome to investment in the state. “We are looking up to the NRIs to invest in infrastructure projects of the state, but if Haryana is interested, we will welcome it,” he said.

He was here to lay the foundation stone of the Ropar Press Club.

He said the government was planning to develop Ropar as a education hub. Private investors were being encouraged to invest in developing premier institutes in the area. The government would provide all possible help in developing such institutions.

President of the club Bahadurjit Singh thanked Sukhbir for providing land for raising the club. Sukhbir announced a grant of Rs 5 lakh for the club.

Later, he inaugurated a cultural festival organised by the district administration.@


Power Subsidy Issue
Government in trouble
Sarbjit Dhaliwal and Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
Punjab is caught between the proverbial devil and the deep sea on the issue of free power. On the one hand, the union power ministry, in a latest development, has asked the government to either pay up for power subsidy or charge for power supplied to the farm and other sectors, and on the other hand, the state after doing furious calculations in the past few days, has realised that it does not have enough money to pay for the pending Rs 1,800-crore subsidy to the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).

Sources said the ruling SAD-BJP combine had been informed by officials that only Rs 400 crore was available in the state kitty which could be paid to the PSEB as power subsidy. This means the PSEB will be straddled with an arrear of Rs 1,400 crore even as the board is running itself by huge borrowing from the financial institutions and is forced to buy power at high rates during peak consumption hours.

The situation arose after the government was forced to calculate its financial resources after the Punjab state electricity regulatory commission took up a petition filed by the PSEB engineers’ association asking the regulator to either get the government pay the money to the PSEB or bills should be charged from consumers getting subsidies that are the farmers and some sections of the poor.

Since the largest beneficiaries are the farmers who have been traditionally voters for the SAD and with the panchayat poll round the corner, it is a difficult take for Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal as the elected representatives are caught in a political dichotomy -- to decide on the continuation of free power.

The other issue bothering the government is that the union power ministry has told the PSEB to either recover subsidy in advance from the state government or it should charge bills from the beneficiaries. Punjab is one of the three or four states which had been huge defaulters in the payment of subsidy to their respective boards.

The ministry arrived at this opinion after reviewing the performance of all boards and studying the pattern of power subsidy being followed by the various state governments in the country.

Though the ministry has no legal authority to give instructions to a state government, it can give suggestions to improve the functioning of the board concerned or rather stop and delay various grants and schemes to make the state government fall in line.

Sources said additional secretary in the ministry had held a meeting in Delhi recently and told PSEB officials that it should not commit illegality by not charging the subsidy in advance as per the provision made under Section 65 of the Electricity Act 2003.

The PSEB was to get Rs 2,136 crore as subsidy. This was to be paid by January 1. The government has so far paid only Rs 705 crore. A thought process among officials was that the state had paid Rs 3,000 crore as loan to the PSEB and they should be adjusted against subsidy. However, this plan was dropped as it would impact the financial health of the PSEB.

Meanwhile, the regulatory commission is also facing criticism from various quarters with regard to its failure to make the state government to clear the subsidy dues to the PSEB, has now written twice to the state government to inform it about the schedule it would follow to clear the dues. He next date of hearing at the commission is on February 5 where the state has to file its reply.

The chief secretary, Ramesh Inder Singh, said the state government would soon pay a substantial amount of subsidy to the PSEB. A schedule regarding the payment of subsidy would also be intimated to the commission, he said.


Security from Consumers
PSEB not to implement decision this year
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 18
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) officials are finding it difficult to face the heat on the issue of taking security from power consumers across the state.

According to norms laid down under the Punjab State Electricity Supply Code and Related Matter 2007, all consumers, including agricultural and industrial consumers, should now pay security to the board. According to the norms laid under the code, consumers who pay their bills after every two months will now have to pay security equivalent to their consumption charges of three months.

Sources say though the decision on security is yet to be implemented, the industrialists’ lobby have gone on record saying that they will vehemently oppose the board’s decision whenever it is implemented.

Sources in the industrial lobby stated that on one hand the power board was failing in its efforts to provide smooth power supply to industrial consumers while on the other it had decided to take security from them.

Dinesh Gupta, chairman of the Patiala Chamber of Industry, has already gone on record saying that the industrialists will protest the decision. Chairman of the PSEB Y.S. Ratra, however, said in the coming financial year the board would not implement the decision regarding security. 


Badal to unfurl flag in Ludhiana 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
The state Republic Day function will be held at Patiala where the Punjab Governor, Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd), will unfurl the national flag and take the salute. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will unfurl the flag at Ludhaina, speaker, Vidhan Sabha, Nirmal Singh Kahlon at Gurdaspur and deputy speaker Satpal Gosain at Muktsar.

Cabinet minister Manoranjan Kalia will unfurl the flag at Kapurthala, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura at Tarn Taran, Capt Kanwaljit Singh at Mohali, Manpreet Badal at Hoshiarpur, Tikshan Sud at Moga, Adesh Partap Singh at Ropar, Sucha Singh Langah at Sangrur, Janmeja Singh Sekhon at Faridkot and Bikram Singh Majithia at Fatehgarh Sahib.


Revision of electoral rolls
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
The revision of electoral rolls for the urban and rural local bodies which includes municipalities, panchayats, panchayat samitis and zila parishad started on January 14. 

As per the schedule, claims and objections indicating discrepancies in the electoral rolls and supplements are to be filed till January 28. The final publication of printed electoral rolls will be on February 15.

Health camp on Jan 21

The Sital Dass Charitable Trust will organise a free medical camp at homoeopathy and allopathic dispensaries of the Punjab Civil Secretariat on January 21. This was stated by trustee Samita Das.

Term extended

The Punjab government has extended the term of the state planning board from April 12, 2007 to April 11, 2012. 


Officers’ body for pension in rural banks
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 18
The All-India Gramin Bank Officers Association has urged the union finance minister to introduce the pension scheme without further delay for the employees and officers of regional rural banks, popularly known as gramin banks.

Talking to The Tribune here today, national secretary of the association Pali Ram Bansal said the employees and officers of gramin banks wanted parity in allowances, like conveyance, computer, and daily allowances, with the staff of commercial banks. He sought these allowances for the staff of the regional rural banks on a par with the employees and officers of commercial banks.


Ghuman is chairman of MSP panel
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 18
Noted economist, Prof Ranjit Singh Ghuman, Department of Economics, Punjabi University, has been appointed chairman of a three-member committee on minimum support price (MSP) and the price index by the Punjab government. 

Prof P.S. Rangi, advisor, Punjab State Farmers Commission, and Prof M.S. Sidhu, senior economist (marketing), Department of Economics, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, are the other members of the committee.

The committee shall examine and prepare a report on the issues of losses suffered by the state farmers since 1967-68 due to the non-linking of the procurement prices of major crops like wheat and paddy with the price index by the Centre. 


Free telecast of Gurbani
HC asks SGPC to clarify stand
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
The Punjab and Haryana High Court yesterday asked the SGPC to clarify its stand on allowing television channels to telecast Gurbani free of charge from the Sri Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar, allegedly against the present arrangement of exclusive rights given to ETC channel of Zee TV group.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia delivered this order during the resumed hearing on the main petition of Tata Sky Ltd. Seeking directions among others to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Zee TV and the SGPC for allowing the petitioner to telecast Gurbani for its direct-to-home (DTH) subscribers. Tata Sky had offered Rs 9 as against Rs 37 sought by ZEE TV, which insisted that the petitioner buy the entire bouquet of channels distributed by it.

However, an application was subsequently filed by the Chandigarh-based Guru Nanak Universal Brotherhood Society through its chairman Dr Malkiat Singh Rahi wherein objections were raised against what called “selling Gurbani” as was done by the SGPC.

He also pointed out that Gurbani was Gurus’ word and selling the same was unthinkable. The SGPC should ensure the telecast of Gurbani free of charge as it was meant for all human beings the world over and not just for those who could pay for it, he argued.

During the hearing on Thursday, the Chief Justice said he himself listened to Gurbani and the devotees indeed should have the facility to listen to it free of charge.

At this, Dr Rahi pointed out this was his precise prayer and the SGPC should be asked not to charge for the telecast of Gurbani as was being done at present.

Following this, the Bench, while adjourning the case to January 29, asked the counsel for the SGPC, who was present in the court, to clarify by the next date of hearing the stand on making the Gurbani telecast available free of charge.


Inspector Transfer Case
Order to make Bibi Jagir Kaur party
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
If allegations in a petition filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court are to be believed, an Inspector with the Bholath Cooperative Society in Kapurthala district was transferred thrice in five months at the instance of former MLA Bibi Jagir Kaur as his family had been supporting her rivals.

Taking up the petition filed by Mann Singh, a Division Bench of the High Court comprising Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain have directed the arraying of Bibi Jagir Kaur as a party in the matter.

Fixing February 26 as the next date of hearing in the matter, the Bench also stayed the operation of orders dated January 3 vide which the petitioner was transferred from Bholath to Dasuya.

In his petition against the state of Punjab and other respondents, Mann Singh had claimed that his brother was Bibi’s strong supporter in the elections previous to the one held last year.

In the recent elections, his brother came out in support of Congress candidate Sukhpal Singh Khera, who defeated Bibi to win the Bholath Assembly seat. The petitioner claimed that following a death in the family Khera attended the bhog ceremony and also delivered a condolence speech. As a result of all this, Bibi turned against the petitioner’s family.


Agri board secy summoned
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
Issuing a notice of motion for January 21 on a petition for restraining the Punjab State Agricultural Marketing Board from going ahead with the proposed auction of about 60 commercial sites in the new fruit and vegetable market at Ludhiana, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today asked board’s secretary to be present in the court on that day.

In a petition taken up by the Bench comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Kanwaljit Singh Ahluwalia, petitioners Amarjit Singh and 59 others contended that the auction was slated for January 22, 2008. They added their appeal regarding the sites was pending before the board. As such, the authorities should be restrained from proceeding with the auction or allotment till the disposal of their appeals.

Also, a writ petition filed by the petitioners in 2005 was pending in the high court. The board authorities were proceeding with the auction without waiting for the outcome of the petition. 


Notice to PSEB
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
A Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain and Justice K.S. Ahluwalia, on Friday issued notice to the Punjab State Electricity Board, Patiala, for March 31 on a public interest litigation filed by advocate H.C. Arora for removing from service employees convicted on corruption charges.

The petitioner submitted the board was not inclined to take initiate steps for collecting copies of judgments from Vigilance Bureau’s offices. As such, the convicted employees were continuing to drain the state exchequer due to the board inaction, although they were not entitled to do so. 


High Court
Punjab DGP told to restore security to PPCC ex-chief
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 18
Acting on a petition filed by former president of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee Santokh Singh Randhawa and his son former parliamentary secretary Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa alleging the withdrawal of Z-plus security, which had been provided to them since 1982, following the change of government in the state, the Punjab and Haryana High Court today directed the state DGP to restore it forthwith.

Issuing the directions in an open court, Justice R.S. Madan also directed the restoration of security both at their residence and village.

The Judge also issued a notice of motion to Punjab’s Advocate-General, which was accepted by the deputy advocate-general D.K. Mittal on his behalf. The case would now come up for further hearing on May 6.

In their petition against the DGP and two other respondents, Randhawas had contended that the security was provided to them since the days of militancy in the state as Santokh Singh had assisted the state government in combating terrorism and overcoming the problem. As such, there was a continuous threat to their lives.

Notice to CBI

An accused in Punjab’s former Chief Minister Beant Singh’s assassination case, Lakhwinder Singh, has sought directions to the CBI to release his account and fixed deposit receipts seized after his arrest in 1995.

The petitioner was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in July last year by the Special Judge, Chandigarh, and is at present lodged in the Model Jail at Burail village in Chandigarh.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar and Justice Sham Sunder issued a notice of motion for February 4 to the CBI.



Salary of 30 school heads withheld
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, January 18
Taking a serious note of the alleged non-compliance of guidelines regarding the submission of the monthly expenditure detailed report of the state-run schools, the district education officer (Secondary), Sangrur, has withheld the salary of over 60 officials at these institutes.

Meanwhile, members of the ministerial staff, whose salary has been withheld, have urged the union leaders to impress upon the authorities to intervene in the matter and expedite the reversal of orders.

Sources at a few state-run senior secondary and high schools revealed that the salary of at least 30 DDOs ( principals and head masters ) and an equal number of clerks had been withheld vide orders passed by Ashok Bhalla, DEO (S), Sangrur.

A perusal of records of the school concerned of the Ahmedgarh educational block revealed that the action was taken consequent upon the failure of these officials to submit monthly reports about details of expenses for December 2007. The Government Senior Secondary School, Sandaur, Government Senior Secondary School, Jitwal Kalan, Government High School, Maholi, Government High School, Mandian, Government High School, Akbarpur Chhanna, and Government High School, Jandali Khurad, were amongother institutes, the heads and clerks of which had been barred from withdrawing their salary.

Meanwhile, a delegate of the affected clerks met Rakesh Kumar Jain, district president, ministerial staff union (MSU), to intervene in the matter and expedite the reversal of orders.


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