P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Disrespect to Turban at Airport
Spanish police apologises
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 13
A London-based Punjabi NRI Jaswant Singh Judge has fought a long battle against the Spanish police, the Guardia Civil for removing his turban in full public view for a security check. The Spanish police has finally apologised to him and issued instructions that religious sentiments of Sikhs should be respected during security check at airports. 

Judge, who was in Patiala on Saturday, said, “I am satisfied that the prestige and honour of the turban has been restored for which I fought a long battle”. He said Lee Scott, member Parliament from Ilford (North), London, took up his case with the Spanish Embassy and the interior ministry of Spain.

Giving details, Judge said the incident had occurred on March 12 this year when he and his wife were returning to England after a week-long vacation in Tenerife (Spain) on an Ilberia flight. He said, “We were placing our hand luggage on scanner belt when we were approached by a security guard who asked me to remove my turban. I explained to him that I am a Sikh and my turban is an integral part of my faith and I am not supposed to take it off. But he called his senior who also insisted on me removing my turban”, he stated.

Judge said when all attempts failed and the flight was about to leave, he was left with no alternative other than to remove his turban in full public view. He said security officials had turned down his request to remove it inside the security room. “It was very humiliating and it was then that I decided to fight against the violation of my human rights,” he said. Judge said, “Had I known that I would have to go through such humiliation, I would never have travelled to Tenerife for my holidays”.

The Chief of Guardia Civil, after an inquiry into the incident, wrote to Judge, “With reference to your complaint of March 23, 2008, we inform you that a letter of explanation and apology has been attached. Under the Spanish constitution, freedom of ideology, religion and cult of individuals and communities is guaranteed without any limitation in their demonstrations other than that which is necessary for the maintenance of public order protected by law.”

The letter further said, “However, in this attached document it is also pointed out that for security reasons, tight measures are sometimes imposed on passengers at the frontiers, namely removal of shoes, belts and the like. Regarding your particular case, you are informed, that precise instructions have been given at airports in this province so that in future similar situations with Sikhs, particular religious features be taken into consideration. Formal apologies are also stated”.

Judge thanked the British MP Lee Scott for taking up his complaint with the Spain government. 


Canals to be cleaned at cost of Rs 3,243 crore
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 13
To provide farmers of Punjab a smooth and unrestricted flow of water, the Punjab Irrigation Department has decided to clean canals and minors of the state at a cost of Rs 3,243 crore within a period of three years.

The canals and minors will be repaired and cleaned by the end of the current financial year.

It is our priority to ensure reach of canal water to farmers in every nook and corner of the state. The state government is going to spend a whopping Rs 3,243 crore on repair, digging and cleaning of canals and minors within next three years. An amount of Rs 371 crore will be spent on the cleaning of canals and minors within next one year.

This was stated by irrigation minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon, who was here to preside over a function, where more than 5,750 panches took oath at the New Grain Market yesterday.

Referring to the increasing power demand-supply gap in Punjab, the minister said to cope with the spiralling electricity demand, the Punjab government was in the process of setting up three thermal plants at Rajpura, Gidderbaha and Talwandi Sabo.

“These plants will generate 6000 MW of additional power, while the capacity of Bathinda, Goindwal and Lehra Mohabbat power plants was being increased,” said Sekhon.

The minister said the Banur canal would be converted into a perennial canal at a cost of Rs 15 crore. “More than 25 per cent of work on the project has got completed. The Patiala feeder and Kotla branch canals of the Sirhind canal system would be converted into pucca canals at a cost of Rs 123.30 crore, while the Patiala feeder would be strengthened at a cost of Rs 24 crore. The Patiala Nadi and the Jacob drains would be widened and cleaned at a cost of Rs 32 lakh and Rs 30 lakh, respectively, he said.

The Chief Minister has cancelled licences of 22 polluting industrial units which were found to be releasing intoxicating waste water into the Budha Nullah of Ludhiana. “The pollution in the nullah was preventing migratory birds’ stay in the Harike wetlands,” said Sekhon.


Sikh bodies support nuclear deal
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 13
Several Sikh organisations and the Congress have lent full support to the Union government to go ahead with the nuclear deal, which they describe as beneficial to the growing economy of the country. President of the Sikh Scholars Forum Suba Singh and head of the Sikh Watch Pritpal Singh Tuli have made a fervent appeal to all Sikh MPs to whole-heartedly support Manmohan Singh at this crucial juncture.

In a press note issued here today, they said the Prime Minister had ushered in economic reforms and helped to strengthen the financial position of the country and put it on a faster growth.

They said he had initiated and negotiated the Indo-US deal with great dexterity, which needs the support of everyone, as this would usher in a new hope for economic generation and make the country an economic superpower.

Lashing out at the Left, they said the Communists were responsible for the slow growth of economy in several parts of the country, and now their opposition to the nuclear deal would only benefit China.

Senior Congress leader and deputy speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Prof Darbari Lal today made an impassioned appeal to all political parties to form a broader political consensus to give a thumping go-ahead to the Indo-US nuclear accord. He said the country was facing a severe energy crisis and the need of the hour was to get the nuclear power to overcome the needs of the industrial sector and push the accelerator for faster economic growth.

Meanwhile, the Khalra Mission Organisation struck a discordant note when it pointed out that the government, during the current budget, had reduced the allocation on nuclear energy by Rs 188 crore. The mission felt that if the country went ahead with the deal, Americans might sabotage the Indo-Iranian gas pipeline agreement to the detriment of India’s interests.


His ‘junoon’ for Punjabi folk music
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 13
There is a need to promote Punjabi language through folk music, said Lakhwinder Wadali, talking to mediapersons here today.

Lakhwinder, son of Padma Shree recipient Puran Chand Wadali, is participating in the “Junoon Kuch Kar Ke Dikhane Ka” programme on the NDTV channel. He is the only singer from the state to participate in the folk category.

Lakhwinder said though he was a Sufi singer, he had chosen the folk singing due to its similarity to Sufi music. He said he would sing traditional folk songs in the competition to make aware the people of the country and abroad about the rich folk heritage and culture of Punjab. Punjabi folk and Sufi songs were fast catching up with Bollywood producers, he added.

Wadali said he took pride in carrying his family’s rich musical legacy and had taken the responsibility from the legendary Wadali duo, Puran Chand and Pyare Lal, to popularise Sufi music among youngsters by fusing it with the present style of singing.

He feels indebted to the land of Guru Ki Wadali where he was born and had been witnessing the renditions of Sufi and classical music started by Sixth master of the Sikhs Guru Arjan Dev.

Puran Chand Wadali said he was proud of his son for taking the initiative of popularising Punjabi music the world over through the competition. He urged the people of the country, especially the Punjabi diaspora, to support him by voting in his favour. He said his son’s success would prove in the world the power of mystic music from the land of five rivers.


Better policing through CCTV cameras
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, July 13
Close circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed at six locations in this district are turning out to be a boon for complainants visiting police stations at these locations in the district.

The police department has linked five of the 10 police stations in the district as well as the office of the DSP with the office of the SSP to ensure more transparency in police functioning.

“The aim was to bring police functioning under scrutiny and improvements in it”, says Kapurthala SSP Rakesh Aggarwal, the man behind the project. He says he got the idea after attending a police conference in Malaysia. “I was astonished at the amount of dependence on cameras and other technology to monitor the conduct of undertrials and prisoners”, he said, adding “in Punjab we even put a pedestal fan outside the lockup to ensure it is not misused”.

The move has apparently paid off as far as the public is concerned. Jaskaran Singh, a social worker, says placing cameras in the rooms of “munshis” at police stations has helped to ensure better treatment to complainants. “The ‘munshi’ is the nodal officer in the police stations and if he treats you well and records your complaint patiently, then half the work is done”, he adds.

Aggarwal said he initiated the exercise by installing eight cameras in his office. The cameras, while helping in detection of wrongful acts of police personnel, also guard the force against false allegations, he said.

The CCTV cameras have been installed at the Sadar Phagwara, Satnampura, Sultanpur and Sadar Kapurthala police stations besides the office of the DSP, Kapurthala, and the CPRC, Kapurthala. The cameras have been installed in the rooms of the ‘munshi’, lockups, public-waiting areas as well as compound of the respective police stations.

Besides, a camera each has been installed at the NRI police station as well as the Woman Cell of the department.

Aggarwal said now it was possible to ensure quick solutions using video-chatting facility. Only Rs 40, 000 has been spent on each police station under the project.



BSP to go it alone in LS elections
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, July 13
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will play a major role in the formation of the government at the Centre after the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. These views were expressed by Hargopal Singh, party’s state general secretary and former MLA, while addressing a meeting of office-bearers of the party’s local district unit here today.

He further said the party would go it alone in the coming Lok Sabha elections.

He appealed to workers to go to the masses to work towards the formation of Sarav Samaj on the lines of UP and initiated by the party president and Chief Minister Mayawati.


No ash siphoned into wetland, claims thermal plant
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 13
Reacting to a news item, “Thermal plant siphons ash into wetland” (July 10), deputy chief engineer (civil), Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant (GGSSTP), Ropar, S.C. Chabba has claimed that “cent per cent” fly-ash was being utilised to manufacture cement and allied products.

In a communication to The Tribune, Chabba added that wet flyash was being dumped into ash dykes. The entire operation was “so well-managed that ash dykes were adding to the inherent features of wetland” in Ropar.

Refuting the allegations of GGSSTP draining flyash and toxic waste in the international wetland, he asserted that the water was absolutely clear and carried no ash.

Chabba added that the effluents released into Ghanauli drain, and consequently into the Sutlej, were subject to regular in-house monitoring at the plant. Random checks were also carried out by the Punjab Pollution Control Board and the Central Pollution Control Board.

Chabba said weeds were manually removed from the drain as use of machines disturbs the base of the drain. It could lead to the flow of settled ash into the Sutlej.

The Tribune correspondent adds: Ash dykes are covered with vegetation. But that does not prevent flyash from spreading into nearby villages during hot, windy days. The very existence of a local-level Sangharsh Samiti is a proof of this. Villagers have repeatedly approached district officials on the ground that winds laden with flyash were affecting them.


Part-time lecturers not to support regular staff
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 13
Nearly 300 part-time lecturers working in government colleges in Punjab declared to have severed functional relationship with the Government College Lecturers’ Association (GCLA). President of the part-time lecturers association Sukhdeep Singh said his organisation would boycott programmes given by the GCLA.

The part-time lecturers are angry with the GCLA for a statement allegedly given for the removal of ad hoc lecturers by certain office-bearers of the GCLA. Recently the state government had an exercise to rationalise teaching staff in government colleges.

Sukhdeep said part-time lecturers were working in government colleges for eight years. They can only be relieved of their charge in case the Punjab Public Service Commission makes regular appointment of lecturers.

Sukhdeep said his organisation would oppose the dharna to be organised by the GCLA on July 16.


Jobless teachers threaten rally
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 13
The BEd Unemployed Teachers Front (Punjab) here today burnt an effigy of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and blocked the GT Road in protest against government’s dilly-dallying over the recruitment of teachers.

Addressing protesters district president of the front Sukhjinder Singh Sathiala warned the government of a state-level rally in Kapurthala on July 20 if the government failed to submit its reply to the court by July 20.


Fee-review panel fails to meet CM’s deadline
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 13
The committee, formed by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to review the fee structure of private medical colleges of the state, has not had even its preliminary meeting yet.

The three-member committee was formed on June 26 and was asked to submit its report within a week. 

Medical education secretary Jagjit Puri did not attend a meeting of the committee convened by chief secretary Ramesh Inder Singh to discuss the scrapping of the notification issued on August 3 last year enhancing the fees in private medical colleges by three or four times. 

Sources in the Chief Minister’s office said here today that Puri was called by the chief secretary to discuss the issue, but he had been avoiding the meeting allegedly on the pretext that he was busy with the Medical Council of India regarding notices to three medical colleges. 

The review committee comprises the chief secretary, the medical education secretary and deputy chairman of the Punjab Planning Board J.S. Bajaj. Badal had told the chief secretary in the presence of the parents of private medical college students that the committee should submit its report within a week. 

BJP MP from Amritsar Navjot Singh Sidhu has already demanded a complete rollback of the hike in the fee.


Member of Satkar panel shot at
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 13
A member of the Guru Granth Sahib Satkar Committee was shot at and seriously injured by a Nihang at gurdwara Chevin Patshahi (6th)Guru Hargobind Sahib near Chowk Mehta under Baba Bakala subdivision.

The Mehta police has registered a case against members of the Satkar Committee under Sections 452, 307, 392, 148, 49 of the IPC besides arresting Nihang Sukha Singh and one of his disciple.

According to information, there has been a dispute between the Guru Granth Sahib Satkar Committee and Nihangs of Gurdwara Singh Bele over parkash of Guru Granth Sahib. The committee members for a couple of weeks had been asking the Nihangs to hold parkash of the holy book and not to lock the gurdwara.

Today the members of the Satkar Committee visited the site again in the evening and started beating up Sukhvinder Singh and his wife Sarabjit Kaur. Sukhvinder fired into the air from his .33-bore revolver in self defence and later shot at the attackers as a result Balbir Singh, resident of Muchal Lakha Singh village, a member of the committee, was injured. He was shifted to a hospital in Amritsar. The committee members also allegedly snatched the revolver of Sukhvinder.


Jail inmate complains of poor medical facilities
Swati Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 13
Medical facilities provided to inmates Punjab jails came to light after a complaint was filed by an inmate, Mohammad Rashid, a foreigner who was detained under the NDPS Act in Central Jail, Amritsar.

In his complaint, he alleged that he was suffering from a serious skin disease but the doctors in jail are neither conducting any test nor giving him any medicine. As a result, the disease is worsening. He mentioned that despite the fact that fluid was oozing from the skin and his condition was critical, he was still not referred to a specialist outside the jail.

Since allegations levelled against jail authorities were serious in nature, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) took cognisance and deputed Bibek Sarkar, an IAS officer and secretary of the PSHRC, to visit the jail.

Sarkar visited the jail and found that there was no skin specialist there. It was mentioned in the inquiry report submitted by Sarkar that two doctors were presently working in the hospital- Dr Mukhtiar Singh and Dr Sanjeev Kohli, MD, pathology. It was further stated that Rashid was suffering from psoriasis of the skin which is a contagious disease. Sarkar added that usually the patients who suffered from a contagious disease were kept in an isolated place, but Rashid had been staying in the general barrack.

In his statement, Rashid asserted that earlier Dr Karanbir Singh, who left the jail hospital in May 2007, did not give him proper treatment.

However, the jail superintendent confirmed that there was no shortage of medicines in the hospital. The superintendent affirmed that there was a shortage of police personnel in the jail.


1.43 lakh not paid pension since March
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 13
Despite claims by the SAD-BJP government that the financial health of the state is sound, the state Social Security Department has not paid pension/financial assistance since March this year to more than 1.43 lakh old-age beneficiaries, widows and destitute women, dependent children, disabled persons of Sangrur and Barnala districts.

People are of the view that the government, which cannot even disburse pensions and financial assistance (Rs 250 only) every month to old persons, widows and destitute women, physically challenged persons etc, should not make wrong claims.

These persons got pension in January and February this year and after that they had been making rounds of banks and district social security office at Sangrur to enquire about pension, but had every time returned empty-handed.

According to information gathered by The Tribune, there are more than 1.08 lakh old-age pensioners, around 15,000 widows and destitute women, more than 13,500 disabled persons, and more than 5,500 dependent children in Sangrur and Barnala districts who had been getting pension and financial assistance from the Sangrur office of the Social Security Department every month.

Till now, the total monthly arrears of these 1.43 lakh pensioners are about Rs 3.50 crore. Thus, Rs 14 crore for four months (March to June) is yet to be paid by the state government to the pensioners of Sangrur and Barnala districts. 


SAD (A) seeks security for Bhai Gurmail
Our Correspondent

Nabha, July 13
Mohinder Pal Singh, general secretary, SAD (A), threw his weight behind Bhai Gurmail Singh involved in the Hira Mahal controversy.

Talking to mediapersons at Gurdwara Sangatsar Sahib here, he demanded security cover for Bhai Gurmail. He said Om Prakash Jindal would be held responsible in case anything happened to Bhai Gurmail.

Demanding the opening of the gurdwara and the Mahal for the general public, he blamed Jindal for crushing the rights of people of the locality by blocking the roads passing through the Mahal.


Of 3 ‘floating stones’ and faith
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 13
Three stones of different weights (5, 6 and 7 kg) were found “floating” in a canal passing near Kila Hakima village in Dhuri subdivision. After the recovery of the “floating” stones from the canal, people of the area spread the news that the stones belonged to the era of Lord Rama and villagers started worshipping the stones.

Chief administrator of the village gurdwara Baba Amarjit Singh Kila Hakima said last evening that the stones were noticed by children when they were playing near the canal. He said the stones were now lying in houses of villagers.

Baba Hakima added that he would ask the persons concerned to bring the “pious” stones to the gurdwara, where these would be kept as per religious sentiments of the people. He said of these three stones when two were joined, the word “Ram” could be read on these. However, there was no word found on the third stone, he added.


‘It’s not meteorite’
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 13
After analysing a suspected meteorite that fell in the fields of Harjinder Singh, near Sunam, in April, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has observed that the micro texture as well as composition of the specimen do not match with any known meteorite type. The sample resembles a scoria or slag of silicate material, it has said in its report.

The GSI has observed that absence of fusion crust or any ablation textures, low-specific gravity, absence of any metal and highly porous nature do not support the specimen to be a meteorite of any known type.


Murder case changed to death by negligence
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 13
After having a legal opinion and initiating probe into the death Neeru Bala (24), wife of Gauri Shankar from Sherpur village, in a private hospital here on Friday night, the police has converted Section 302 (punishment for murder), IPC, into Section 304-A (causing death by negligence), IPC, of the case registered under Sections 302 and 120-B , IPC, against owner of the hospital and his doctor wife.

DSP Pritpal Singh Thind said today that the police had converted Section 302, IPC, into Section 304-A, IPC, in the case.


Private cos for greenfield airports
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 13
Private companies have shown interest in setting up greenfield airports in the private sector near Ludhiana. Official sources said three companies, including DLF, one of the biggest companies in construction and housing business, and Bengal Aerotropolis, have approached the state government for setting up airports in the private sector.

“We are examining the proposals and will take appropriate decision in this connection soon,” said a senior official. He said as Ludhiana was one of the important industrial cities of the country, it would be in the interest of the state to have greenfield airports near it to ensure better connectivity.

The state government has already approached the Union government for improving the infrastructure, including landing facilities at the airfield near Sahnewal. The Union government has already approved the Sahnewal airport project.

Meanwhile, there is also a proposal to set up a thermal plant near Abohar.


SBI-India Post Alliance
Loan facilities for rural customers
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Ropar, July 13
With the State Bank of India (SBI)-India Post alliance, postal employees will now act as business facilitators of the SBI. The major emphasis will be on extending banking services to remote areas with no banks. 

Scores of post offices situated in the rural pockets will now also offer the facilities of loans in regions of Punjab, Chandigarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and J&K.

The alliance will first be launched in Ropar district on Monday in the entire Chandigarh circle region. This facility will be available in four areas, including Nangal, Takhtgarh, Noorpur Bedi and Kharar. The response to the scheme will be reviewed after around two months before implementing it in other postal branches. Thereafter, the SBI will extend the facilities to other branches as well. 

Banking upon the strong distribution network of the postal department, the SBI will reach out its deposit and loan products to the rural masses. This joint venture mainly focuses on rural customers who need loan services but are unable to reach banks due to one reason or the other. Branch postmasters at the rural postal branches have been specially trained for this purpose. 

Sources said it was not economically feasible for banks to open branches in rural areas. Existing infrastructure of the postal network can be utilised by the SBI. The alliance will enable financial inclusion and post offices will be used as business correspondent models. The SBI can also invest in infrastructural progression and computerisation of the post offices in the second phase. 


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