P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Turban: KAC meets French envoy
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, January 23
A delegation of the Khalsa Action Committee (KAC) today met Jerome Bonnafont, French Ambassador to India, in New Delhi today to apprise him of the Sikh concerns and viewpoint on the turban issue.

The three-member delegation comprising former IAS officer Gurtej Singh, Jagmohan Singh and Kanwarpal Singh, spokesperson of the KAC, presented a memorandum seeking a solution to the problem of Sikh schoolchildren in France, saying that while the Sikhs were conscious of the secularist ideals of France, the community earnestly believe that France had erred in this particular case.

The French Ambassador assured the delegation that though the French President would be here on a short visit, he would explore possibilities for a Sikh delegation to meet him.

The memorandum stated that every department of the French government was aware of the religious and social significance of the turban to the Sikhs. Over the past three years several representations had been made to French forums by different Sikh organisations. It said school-going Sikh students wearing turban were no threat to any person.

Dhindsa meets Bonnafont

SANGRUR: Secretary-general of the SAD Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa met French Ambassador Jerome Bonnafont in Delhi on Tuesday in connection with a meeting of the SAD MPs, SGPC chief and Sikh lawyers with President of France Nicolas Sarkozy on the turban ban.

Dhindsa on Wednesday said the French Ambassador had assured him that he would do something to arrange their meeting.

Dhindsa was here to meet and know about the health of advocate Daljit Singh Sekhon’s father Ganda Singh (93), a freedom fighter.

We’ll talk to Sarkozy: Menon

Amritsar: A delegation led by SGPC president Avtar Singh has been given an assurance by India’s foreign secretary Shiv Shanker Menon that the turban issue would be taken up with the French President Nicholas Sarkozy by fixing a meeting at the earliest.

He also handed over a copy of the book “The Turban and Sword of the Sikhs” to him.


Moga Mishap
Report holds rly staff guilty
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 23
The railway staff has been held responsible for the accident on December 14, last year, that resulted in 16 deaths near Moga. An inquiry by commissioner of railway safety has finally said the accident occurred due to failure of railway staff.

The commissioner, who works under the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, has also made some other recommendations that relates to operation of gates at railways crossings, said sources in the the Ferozepur railway division. The report has been sent for the consideration of the Central government.

The commissioner has made the following main recommendations. The working instructions at the gate for the C-class manned level crossing should be changed. The commissioner suggests that the assistant station master shall confirm with the gateman about the closure of the level-crossing before line clear signal is given to the train. The train shall not be dispatched till a confirmation is made. For the smooth flow of road traffic this confirmation shall not be exchanged too early to avoid detention to road traffic by more than 15 minutes at these crossings.

In case the road traffic is less, the Railways should review the working of the level crossing gates and keep them open as per the existing provisions.

The commissioner has made another suggestion which asks the railway administration to counsel the gatemen to plant red-banner flag across the track during the day and hand signal lamps displaying red light during the night for train drivers before opening the level crossing gate to road traffic. The Railways should also prepare a booklet and chart giving these details.


Threat to blow up Jalandhar rly station
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 23
A Jammu and Kashmir-based militant outfit has reportedly issued a threat to blow up the Jalandhar railway station and several other public places in Punjab on Republic Day.

In a letter sent to station master of the Nakodar railway station, self-styled area commander of Lashkar-e-Toiba Wasim Ansari issued threats of carrying out explosions at Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Nakodar and Nawanshahr railway stations, bus stands and several cinema halls located in these areas, highly placed sources said.

Written on an inland letter card, Ansari also threatened to blow up Devi Talab Mandir of Jalandhar and some other religious places of the region. Besides, he threatened to eliminate Punjab CM. It is also stated in the letter that the Babbar Khalsa was supporting Lashkar-e-Toiba. The letter, written in Hindi, was reportedly received by the Nakodar station master on Tuesday.

On the other hand, when contacted separately, Jalandhar SSP Arpit Shukla and SP (GRP) Shamsher Jang Bahadur Sharma feigned ignorance about the letter.

However, Shukla said that security had already been tightened and strict vigil was being maintained at all public places in view of Republic Day. Besides, special nakas were being laid in and around the city to avoid any untoward incident, he added.

While the district police has intensified its search operations of public places, including city and cantonment railway stations, bus stand and hotels to nab suspicious persons, the Army has also banned the movement of civilians on some roads in cantonment to ensure security of military installation.


Farmers’ widows belie govt’s claims on debt-suicides
Seek relief, jobs and loans written off
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 23
Government claims that farmers in the state were not ending their lives due to debt, were belied today when at least 13 widows of such farmers came to represent scores of such families that had lost breadwinners.

Loan of Rs 3 lakh from a commission agent after crop failure pushed Amar Singh of Bondli village, near Samrala, in such a vicious circle that only death could help him out of it.

When he could not repay the loan, he went missing from his house on April 1 last year. His body was removed from a canal after three days. He died but the loan stood. His widow Manjeet Kaur had to sell 3 acres to get rid of the loan.

Now a bleak future stares the family in the face, including an 18-year-old son and a 19-year-old daughter, who are finding it difficult to continue studies.

Samrala was yet to recover from the shocking death of this debt-ridden farmer when another followed suit at Dhanur village, a few kms from Bondli. Kashmir Singh consumed pesticides and died on May 9 leaving behind five teenaged kids, a widow and mother to fend for themselves and repay Rs 5-lakh loan.

‘‘Since then the financier is making rounds of our house almost everyday and we do not know what to do,’’ said Shalinder Kaur, his widow who had to pull two of her four daughters out from school.

This is not a tale just of two families of farmers in debt, but 13 widows of such farmers from different villages in the district, who came to meet deputy commissioner Sumer Singh Gurjar here today to tell him that many families had lost breadwinners to mounting debt in the past even as the district certified only one case to the state government.

Baljeet Kaur, wife of Rajinder Singh of Ghaloti village in Payal subdivision, had another tale to tell after her husband died after consuming celphos in 2004. Even the hardest of hearts would have been moved after listening to their plight that the farmers, who produced foodgrain, were forced to prefer death to life due to debt.

The worst was the case of two widows of Ghaloti village, who lost father and son in two years. Ranjeet Singh and his son Harbans Singh consumed pesticide in January ’94 and January ’96, respectively, as they found it too difficult to repay the loan.

All 13 widows met the DC and submitted a memorandum to him demanding compensation of Rs 5 lakh, government job to a dependent of the victim on compassionate grounds and waiving of debt. They were supported by activists of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, who have been taking up the matter of these farmer families with the government. Darshan Singh Kohli, an office-bearer, said there were many more families which were facing the same turmoil.


Sarv Shiksha Abhiyaan
Major deficiencies surface at meeting
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 23
Hundreds of textbooks meant for distribution to students under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA) are lying unutilised at the block headquarters in various districts of Punjab. This is leading to gross underutilisation of resources provided under the project. Besides, village education development committees (VEDCs) essential for implementation of SSA in villages are yet to be constituted in most districts.

These facts came to light at a recent meeting of deputy commissioners held to review the working of SSA in the state. Chaired by Punjab chief secretary R.I. Singh and attended by top officials of the education, social security and planning departments, the meeting revealed a slew of deficiencies that is marring the progress of SSA in Punjab.

Minutes of the high-level meeting (in possession of The Tribune) indicate that one of the primary concerns of the authorities is the non-distribution of textbooks supposed to be given to deserving students under the SSA. Field visits to districts have revealed that these books are lying unused at block headquarters. DCs across the state have now been directed to ensure that these are distributed as per the SSA policy and details on pending books sent back to the SSA authority in the state.

A significant gap in SSA implementation is lack of VEDCs. Minutes of the meeting mention that these committees, which are executive committees at village and school levels and are important for the project implementation at grassroots, have either not been constituted at many places in Punjab or their term has expired. DCs have been asked to fill these vacancies at the earliest. Also, they have been directed to expedite utilisation of SSA funds, lying unused with VEDCs.

Shortage of school teachers has emerged as another huge challenge. It may be mentioned that under the SSA, it was approved that block resource persons (BRPs) and district resource persons (DRP) be taken on deputation from the Education Department to ensure the proper functioning of schools. “We had also authorised VEDCs to keep two education volunteers in place of one block resource person. But vacancies continue to exist,” sources say.

Whereas 1,384 BRPs had been approved, only 1,146 have been appointed, leaving the balance of 238. Likewise, as against the 2,768 education volunteers approved for the state, only 2,137 have been appointed. The existing vacancy is of 631.

Besides, it has been found that meetings of district education development committees are not being held regularly. In many cases, money released for civil works under the SSA has been spent to create infrastructure where it was not required.


Remarks on Dasam Granth
Warning to Akal Takht former Jathedar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 23
Panthic organisations and gurdwaras in Canada warned former Jathedar of Akal Takht Darshan Singh for making slanderous remarks against the ‘Bani’ of Guru Gobind Singh and other Sikh scriptures.

In an e-mail to The Tribune here today by 16 Panthic organisations and gurdwaras from the greater Toronto area said a meeting was held in Toronto last Saturday and noted the former Jathedar had criticised the Bani of Guru Gobind Singh compiled in Dasam Granth along with the vaars of Bhai Gurdas ji II.

It said last week, the Akhand Kirtani Jatha, with support from various Panthic organisations challenged Darshan Singh for a debate with Sikh scholars on the authenticity of Dasam Granth. However, the he has not indicated whether he would accept the offer to debate with the scholars on this subject, it added.

It further said Darshan Singh was not allowed to utilise the stages of the majority of the gurdwaras in the region, due to his past anti-Panthic activities.


48 shops go for Rs 24 crore in Ludhiana

Chandigarh, January 23
The Punjab Mandi Board has raised 23.60 crore from the auction of 48 plots at Punjab's first model market for fruits and vegetables in Ludhiana.

"The response to the auction of commercial sites has been quite encouraging for us as it has led to collection of Rs 23.60 crore," Punjab Mandi Board, estate officer Rajinderpal Singh Sandhu said today.

During the auction, some shops even fetched over five times of their reserve prices.

"One of the shops, which had reserve price of Rs 18.94 lakh was finally sold at price of Rs 1 crore," he said. There were some other shops which fetched between Rs 80-81 lakh against reserve price of Rs 14.97 lakh.

The board, initially, decided to sell 71 plots against the reserve price of Rs 25 crore at the auction.

"Out of 71 plots, we were able to auction 48 plots because of the paucity of time,” he said.

Besides commission agents from Punjab, there were some “arthiyas” from Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi, who took part in the auction process, he said.

Sandhu attributed the keen interest of “arthiyas” to the centralised location of the proposed market which was to be set up by the board.

The Punjab government had decided to set up the state’s first model market for sale of fruits and vegetables at cost of Rs 65 crore in Ludhiana. After the completion, this market would boast of modern facilities such as washing, grading, pack house, ripening chambers, cold storage, information kiosks etc. — PTI


Punjab to file caveat in SC
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 23
Less than a week after Justice H.S. Bhalla of the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered fresh probe into case against Punjab’s former DGP S.S. Virk, the state has initiated the move to file a caveat in the Supreme Court.

The move follows state’s apprehensions of Virk moving the apex court against the high court orders on his petition seeking CBI probe.

Expressing disinclination to handover the case to the premier investigating agency, Justice Bhalla on January 17 had ruled: The FIR registered against the petitioner clearly spells out that it was registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act, and such like routine matters should not be entrusted to the CBI.


She won court battle, but lost to admn
Swati Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 23
Rano, a resident of Chapali village, Ferozepur, has not got her share in the family’s agricultural land after the death of her husband Mohinder Singh in 1990 despite court ruling in her favour.

Though the court has told her in-laws to give her a share of land, the orders have not been complied with. She brought the matter to the notice of SHO of Mamdoth police station Varinder Singh.

Talking to The Tribune, Rano, an illiterate, said: “When I talked to the SHO concerned he told me that he couldn’t help me in this case. Thereafter, I met the SSP, Ferozepur, two years ago. Even he has not done anything in the case.”

The court has passed the order in her favour in 2005 after a trial stretching to 14 years.

Considering the suggestion of a relative, she talked to the Punjab State Human Rights Commission. While standing on a counter at the Human Rights office, she had no idea of the procedure that has to be followed for filing a case before the commission. She was accompanied by her brother and a social worker who had written the complaint on her behalf. At present she is working as a daily wage worker.

“My son is 18-year-old and daughter is younger to him. We are living at my parents’ place. Unfortunately, I have nothing to offer to my children or parents. Hopefully, I will get my share from the land.”

Rano claimed that she had met the SSP, Ferozepur, regarding her case a number of times, but to no avail. “Last I met the SSP, Ferozepur, six months ago.”

Her husband was a farmer. “My brother-in-law has illegally taken possession of the entire land. I have been facing harassment for the past 18 years,” she lamented.


Domestic help murders couple
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 23
A middle-aged couple was here today brutally murdered by the domestic help the family had recently hired. He decamped with some valuables he found in the bedroom of the couple, leaving behind their bodies in a pool of blood at their house in New Garden Colony.

Since no police verification of the servant Anil Kumar was got done, little is known about him, and even his village in Uttar Pradesh has still not been identified. The police was expecting to get some leads from the contacts who had referred the servant to the couple.

The couple has been identified as Bhupinder Singh and Gurmeet Kaur. While the husband’s neck was slit with a kitchen knife, the wife was strangulated to death.

It is believed that the accused struck when the family had retired for a nap after lunch.

Though the daughter-in-law and grand-daughter of the victims were in the house, they, too, were asleep and got to know of the crime after the servant had fled from the scene. The family was into cloth trading and the couple’s son was at showroom.

SSP Kunwar Vijay Pratap Singh said an alert had been sounded in the area to make sure that the accused was not allowed to leave the city.

The SSP said even though the police had been creating awareness about the need for verification of domestic servants, the general public had still not realised how crucial it was to get the antecedents of domestic helps verified before hiring them.


Pak Cabinet clears Anand Marriage Act
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 23
The Pakistan’s cabinet has passed draft of the Anand Marriage Act to allow Sikhs to register marriages under a separate marriage Act.

The draft of the Act was prepared by Sikh scholars, including lawyers, headed by K.T.S Tulsi. The draft was prepared under the guidance of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) , which took it to Pakistan recently. Former IAS officer Gurtej Singh had vetted the draft.

Dr Pritpal Singh, coordinator, American Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (AGPC), said he had received a message from Sayyad Afzal, federal law minister of Pakistan, informing him that the Act had been cleared by the cabinet of Pakistan.

A demand for the Anand Marriage Act was put forward by Pritpal Singh, while addressing the Sikh sangat at gurdwara Janam Asthan, Nankana Sahib, on the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

Sikhs from different countries, including Manmohan Singh and Avtar Singh Sanghera, both UK-based Dal Khalsa and Babbar Khalsa leaders, were present when Pakistan's law minister had announced to allow registration of marriages by the Sikhs under the new Act .

The Law and Justice Committee, Government of India, has also taken up the Anand Marriage Act. The Anand Marriage Act dates back to 1909. 


SGPC opens centre to save girls
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 23
Perturbed by the declining sex ration attaining alarming proportions in the state, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) today opened the Bal Sambhal Kender on the premises of the Sri Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib.

The centre was inaugurated by SGPC chief Avtar Singh. The kender will take care of infant girl children abandoned by their families. The centre is initially being set up in seven rooms on the premises of the gurdwara.

Avtar Singh said the committee had called upon the masses in case they did not want to bring up girls, they could leave them at the nearest gurdwara.

Besides, the kendra would also take in baby girls found abandoned in public parks, railway compartments and garbage heaps and those belonging to poor families.


5th National Theatre Festival
Banned Pak play staged
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 23
Artistes from Pakistan’s Ajoka Theatre Group yesterday staged “Burqa Vaganza,” a satire on burqa (veil), banned in Pakistan, for ridiculing age-old tradition followed by Muslim women.

The play was specially arranged to mark the 5th National Theatre Festival, being organised by the Manch Rangmanch in collaboration with the Punjab Naatshala, Punarjyot, the National School of Drama, New Delhi, and the North Zone Cultural Centre, Patiala.

Earlier, the Pakistani authorities had banned the staging of the play for ridiculing burqa, the veil traditionally worn by Muslim women, in March last year ."The veil has long been part of the local culture and nobody is allowed to make fun of these values," the Pakistan’s minister for culture had announced.

The character of Burqa bin Badin was also a satire on the “use of burqa” by all those who want to carry out nefarious designs .

“Burqa Vaganza” has been written by Shahid Mehmood Nadim and directed by Madiha Gohar, famous writer and theatre director from Pakistan. Both of them, who were present at the time of performance, said they hoped that the Pakistan government would lift the ban on staging the show. Nadim said a case was pending in the Pakistan’s court and they were keeping their fingers crossed on this matter.The play satirises burqa and seeks to underline the hidden hypocrisy.

Artistes of the Ajoka Theatre, Lahore, are of the view that the question of burqa has been politicised in their country. The mullahs,who support it and believe in enforcement, have apparently emboldened some people of the public to take law into their hands.

The play also highlighted the assassination of various senior leaders like Benazir Bhutto. The play portrayed the role of the mullahs and conservatives, who have been seeking complete ban on such plays in Pakistan.

Owner of the Natshala Jatinder Brar and famous Punjabi director Kewal Dhaliwal appreciated the guts of the writer, director and artistes of the play for producing a play like “Burqa Vangaza” in an Islamic country like Pakistan.


Justice M.M. Kumar withdraws from Bench
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 23
Justice M.M. Kumar of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has withdrawn himself from the full Bench hearing of the Punjab Public Service Commission matter.

Following his withdrawal from the Bench, the High Court today fixed February 13 as the next date of hearing in the matter.

Till now a full Bench comprising Chief Justice Vijender Jain, Justice M.M. Kumar and Justice Rajesh Bindal, was hearing the matter.

As the mater came up for hearing, the Judges also dismissed as infructuous identical applications filed by Balwinder Kaur Dhaliwal, Pratima Arora and Anita Narwal for ensuring the constitution of the Bench in accordance with the observations made by the Supreme Court in an appeal against the state of Punjab and others.

The petitioner had contended that the apex court observations pertained to the recusal of members associated in any way with the recommendations on the administrative side, which were made the basis of passing the orders terminating the services of judicial officers in the state.

In the application through advocate Dinesh Kumar, filed on January 19, the petitioner had added that she was not aware of the names of the Judges associated with the recommendations on the administrative side. But the petitioner was seeing the court’s indulgence to ensure the constitution of a Bench in accordance with the observations to avoid not only embarrassment at a later stage, but also apprehensions in the mind of the petitioner and other similarly situated persons.

The court had in September last year allowed a bunch of petitions for filing objections to the reports of two High Court committees constituted to segregate tainted and non-tainted candidates selected by the commission.

The petitioners had been appointed when Ravinder Pal Singh Sidhu was at the helm of the commission’s affairs and the allegations of corruption had cast aspersions on the selections.


4 cops dismissed
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 23
The district police chief has dismissed three policemen following the escape smuggler Dr Balwinder, alias Jagjit Singh. The Special Narcotics Cell (SNC) here seized 5 kg of smack and arrested four persons, including a woman.

Head constables Rakesh Kumar and Labh Singh and constables William Masih and Gurdeep Singh had been dismissed. He said the incident occurred on January 17, but they reported the matter to him on January 19.

Balwinder escaped in Jalandhar on January 17 when the four policemen were escorting him to New Delhi for producing him in a court.

Meanwhile, a police team arrested the accused near Gurdwara Santokhsar near Kotwali area late last night. The accused were waiting for the next party to deliver the consignment of smack.

The Kotwali police has registered a case against Jagdish, Amrit Lal, Amrit Ram, all residents of Mandsaur, MP, and Uma of Rajasthan.


Safai karamchari attempts immolation
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, January 23
Daily-wage safai karamchari with the civic body Sikandar attempted self- immolation at Patel Chowk here after allegedly facing harassment by certain police personnel and employees of the Pathankot Municipal Council.

Sikandar, a resident of Ghandi mohalla, holding a can full of kerosene and match box reached the chowk and climbed on Patel's statue at 3 pm. He poured the kerosene on his body and made futile attempts for igniting the match stick.

Traffic policemen, Baljit Singh and Madan Lal, reportedly noticed Sikandar's suspicious activities and overpowered him before he could set himself afire.

Sikandar alleged that the Pathankot Municipal Council had been underpaying him for long. The safai karamcharis on daily wages had being demanding Rs 2,850 as stipend. Moreover, a sanitary officer of the civic body had misbehaved with him and his fellows by using 'casteist words' which irked him.

He alleged the police had registered a case against him following certain pressure. He also alleged the SHO of division no 1 had been warning him of dire consequences.

The Pathankot civic body chief Sravan Kumar, said the man had been deployed by a contractor and not by the municipality. It was the contractor who had been paying him salary. Harpreet Singh, SP, said the police had caught the suspect and a case registered against him. The police has also started investigations on other aspects of the case, he added.


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