P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


I-Day Celebrations
All flood victims will be compensated: CM
Tribune Reporters

Ludhiana, August 15
India is burning. The UPA government should either control or quit the seat of power. These remarks were made by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal while addressing a press conference after the state Independence Day function at Guru Nanak Stadium here today.

He said, “Innocents are losing their lives in the wake of explicit communal tension in different parts of the country. The Centre is unconcerned and sits smugly even after bombs rock country streets”.

“Inflation is touching 13 per cent, which has no parallel in the past 30 years, and the finance minister says it can go up further. Widespread poverty, illiteracy and unemployment are a perfect breeding ground for Naxalites in the country. Act now or we might reach a situation of no return,” he said.

He said all deputy commissioners had been instructed to compensate everyone who lost any property or crop in floods, and, of course, all deaths would be compensated. "We are faced with certain old laws governing compensation. In case of certain shops which are flooded in Hoshiarpur, I am told the compensation does not work out to more than Rs 2,000, which is too paltry."

Reacting to the 21 per cent hike in pay for government officials by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Badal said, "Let us look into the details of the announcement and the possible steps here before any formal announcement."

“People from Punjab have not been given a fair deal by the Centre, which did not even appropriately react to a state lad bagging an Olympic gold. We did not even get a ‘nice job done’ message for unparalleled wheat harvest this year.” Punjab deserves a special economic zone status for farming activities in the state.

“Power is the biggest priority sector for my government and I assure all that the government will have a surplus before we quit office this time. The state has already launched a programme for 6,000 MW power in the coming couple of years. The major thermal projects include 1,980 MW at Talwandi Sabo, 1,320 MW at Rajpura, 2,000 MW at Gidderbaha, 1,200 MW at Mukerian.”

The Chief Minister honoured 33 personalities from different fields, including Gurpinder Singh and Amrit Pal Kaur, father and mother of Ishmeet Singh, the singer who lost his life recently, Pritam Singh Kumedan, vice-chancellor of Panjab University R.C. Sobti and noted poet Sardar Anjum.

The list also included Manmohan Singh, K.B.S. Sidhu, Randeep Singh Mann, Bhupinder Singh Randhawa, Sanjeev Goel, Vaid Jagjit Singh, Nachhatar Singh Barnala, Hari Singh Nabha, Parampal Singh, Gurdarshan Singh, Bhag Singh, P.R. Luthra, Dulcha Singh Brar, Harchand Singh, Sarwan Singh, Jaswinder Singh, Vinod Sharma, Rubina and Manjit Singh Jaggi.

The personalities honoured for their distinction in social services included Amarjit Agarwal, Harjit Singh Nerwal, Vajinder Singh, Sham Sunder Juneja, Surinder Kumar Goyal, Amarjit Kaur and Dr Milkha Singh.

Jagwinder Singh was honoured for his contribution towards art (painting), Darshan Singh (literature) and Kulwant Kaur ( literature).

Rain plays spoilsport

Amritsar: Heavy rain played a spoilsport at the function organised to mark the 61st anniversary of the country’s Independence here on Friday. The cultural programme planned for the day was suspended and the celebrations concluded with the singing of the National Anthem.

The rain started soon after local government, industry and commerce minister Manoranjan Kalia Punjab unfurled the National Flag at Gandhi Grounds.

Kalia urged the countrymen to pay homage to the patriots and pledge to maintain the hard-won freedom as well as our age-old traditions of harmonious co-existence, brotherhood and love for all human beings.

Freedom fighters honoured

Sangrur: State Cabinet minister for jails, tourism and cultural affairs Hira Singh Gabria unfurled the national flag at the local War Heroes Stadium. He took salute from two police contingents.

Twenty freedom fighters were honoured and a blood donation camp was inaugurated on the occasion. He also announced a holiday for August 16 in all educational institutions of Sangrur district.

Sewing machines distributed

Gurdaspur: Punjab Vidhan Sabha speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon took salute from contingents of the Punjab police and NCC after unfurling the national flag at a function organised to mark the Independence Day here on Friday.

The gathering at the function remained thin, as people preferred to remain indoors due to heavy rain, which lashed the area in the morning.

BSF, Pak Rangers exchange sweets

Fazilka: As DIG BSF V.K.Sharma handed over sweets of Pak Rangers company commandant Waris Khan at joint check-post Sadiqi to mark the Independence Day today in Fazilka sector, slogans of “Hindustan Zindabad” and “Pakistan Zindabad” rent the air on both sides of the zero line it once again appeared as if both countries had united.

Thousands of Indian and Pakistan nationals, who had gathered on both sides, appeared keen to demolish the Redcliff Line and unite with one another. The touching scene on the check-post presented a look of absolute communal harmony showing the way for restoration of peace in strife-torn Jammu and Kashmir.

The Pak Rangers also presented sweets to DIG Sharma and 199 Bn BSF commandant Chaman Ram. The atmosphere on both sides was like that of a colourful fair. Nationals of both countries danced to the tunes of Punjabi Bhangra. Acquaintances and relatives separated during Partition who had gathered in the hope of a cross-border meeting waved to one another from a distance.

“We also want that these people should see one another from near, meet and talk, but out limitations on the border prevent us from such actions,” maintained DIG Sharma.

Meanwhile, in a gesture to create awareness on global warming in Pakistan, members of the Graduate Welfare Association, Fazilka (GWAF), presented a placard motto to the Pak Rangers men on the Independence Day. The members, led by patron Dr Bhupinder Singh, president Umesh Chander Kukkar, general secretary, Navdeep Asija and Dr K.K. Pujara, carried a colourful placard in Urdu containing scriptures from the Bani.

They presented the placard to the Pak Rangers for sending it to the headmaster of Fazilka Government Senior Secondary School, Railway Road, Pakpattan, Sahiwal district, Pakistan. Dr Bhupinder Singh said the residents of Pakpattan had kept the memory of Fazilka alive by naming the school there in the name of the historical town Fazilka which had been an important commercial centre in pre-Partition days.

National flag unfurled

Pathankot: Independence Day was celebrated with great enthusiasm here on Friday. Parliamentary secretary, water and sanitation department Nand Lal unfurled the national flag and took salute from contingents of the Punjab police, Home Guards and NCC cadets.

He distributed sewing machines to widows and honoured freedom fighters on the occasion.

State pay panel steps soon

Bathinda: The Punjab government will announce the state Pay Commission’s recommendations within two-three months and these would be effective from January 1, 2006.

State finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal announced this after unfurling the national flag on the occasion of the Independence Day celebrations here on Friday.

Regarding withholding pension of its employees, Manpreet said the state government would soon clear the pension to its employees, saying it could not release the pension, as the code of conduct was in force due to the civic body elections in the state.

Farmers to get quality seeds

Muktsar: To have better-quality wheat in the state, 8 lakh quintals of quality seeds would be provided to farmers at low price, said Sucha Singh Langah, state agriculture minister.

Langah was here to attend the Independence Day celebrations at the Grain Market. In his speech, he focused on the improvement of agriculture in the state.

100 new buses to be added

Barnala: A 100 new buses will be added to the public transport system to make up for the scarcity of vehicles in the existing system. Transport minister Master Mohan Lal said 50 ultra-modern buses would be added to the PRTC fleet and 50 buses would be given to the Punjab Roadways.

Earlier, he unfurled the national flag to mark the Independence Day function here.

Ravi Bansal, district president of the Patanjali Yog Peeth, was also honoured for his contribution to society through yoga.

Infrastructure to be upgraded

Moga: Chief parliamentary secretary of the education department Mahinder Kaur Josh unfurled the national flag and took the salute from the contingents of the police, Home Guards and NCC cadets at a function on the Independence Day here on Friday.

She said more than Rs 10,000 crore would be spent on upgrading infrastructure in the coming years. Besides, stress would be laid on providing clean potable water to the people.

Later, she honoured many officials, government employees, freedom fighters, war widows, students and sportspersons.


Gone under: Faulty drainage, choked sewers
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 15
Moderate to heavy rain in Punjab over the past few days has inundated roads and made sewers to overflow. With flood-like situation everywhere it has almost paralysed normal life. Despite claims of “preparedness,” water logging has resulted in almost every posh locality of every town and city in the state. Epidemics like cholera and typhoid are threatening human life with “preventable” misery staring people in the face.

Municipal Corporations and other civic bodies have left people to the mercy of nature’s fury. There is hardly drainage worth its name in any town or city, while rural areas boast of none. Little has been done to clear choked drains, wherever they exist, while lack of proper waste disposal system has taken its toll on the frail drainage system.

Posh areas like Civil Lines in Ludhiana have up to a foot of water accumulating on the main roads, submerging many homes and businesses. The past two days has seen many girl and boys of Khalsa College wading they way back home with drenched clothes and wet books. Sunil Kumar of Salim Tabri said, “If a posh area with sewers have been flooded, you can imagine the plight of people living in low-lying areas like Salim Tabri.”

In a typical knee-jerk reaction, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has directed the chief secretary and the deputy commissioner to monitor the situation resulting from 72 hours of rain. But little has been done either by the SAD-BJP government now or by the previous Congress government to ensure proper drainage in the state. Realising the grip situation, Punjab is requesting the Army to aid the civil administration.

Roads in most towns and cities have damaged. In Ludhiana upper crust has been completely washed away from many roads. Roads have caved in at several places. Most importantly, at Leisure valley and Dugri and under the elevated road. The road under the elevated road has caved in twice near Ghanta Ghar Chowk raising serious questions on the safety of the area as well as the elevated road. Lack of proper drainage has led to inundating the deputy commissioner’s residence too.

In Jalandhar residents of several villages falling in Nakodar tehsil have been marooned due to overflowing water from Chitti Bein since yesterday. Villagers are holding Theekri Pheras along canals and water bodies in the night to keep an eye on the rising water levels. DC Ajeet Singh Pannu said a close watch was being kept on rising water levels.

Villages in Jalandhar district like Khunkhan, Uddopur, Talwandi Bharon and Mudh villages have been submerged in 40-ft deep water, at least 8-ft deep water has flown into Kang Sabo, Hamiri Khera and Fatehpura villages a little ahead.

Reports from Bathinda described the situation there to be grim with localities like Goniana Road, Power House Road, Mall Road, Sirki Bazaar, Navi Basti, etc, in knee-deep water due to a choked sewer. Ongoing construction in many areas has resulted in further accumulation of water in western part of the city, paralysing movement.

In Moga too, the claims of the Municipal Council have been exposed with a virtual flood-like situation in the absence of any proper drainage, which often led to the choking of the sewerage system. Even the residences of the district magistrate, executive officer of the MC and many government offices and residences of senior officials get flooded in water during the rains.

The water level in the Sutlej rose by 5 to 6 ft above normal this afternoon swallowing more than 50,000 acres of standing paddy crop along the 30-km stretch of land within its embankment areas in the district. No casualties were reported, however, hundreds of people from low-lying areas in a couple of villages had migrated to nearby safer places.

The standing paddy crop of thousands of residents of Sherewala, Sherpur Taiban, Sanghera, Rerhwan, Adraman, Shah Jalalpur, Bagge, Manjli and many other villages had been inundated in the flood water.Jagdish Singh, sarpanch of Manjli village, who was busy helping in strengthening the embankment of the river from vulnerable places, alleged that the district administration had not extended any help to local people to meet the challenges of heavy rainfall and flood.

People of Ferozepur have been equally harried due to the absence of any provision for disposal of rainwater. Many roads that were re-carpeted recently have been damaged. Roads from Udham Singh Chowk to Baghdadi Gate, Main Circular Road, Iechewala Road, roads near Piranwala Mohalla, Lohanran Bazaar, Amritsari Darwaza, Kasuri Gate, Zira Gate and even on the Mall Road have become ponds.

Patiala’s sewer system does not have the capacity to take the excess rain waters following which water enters houses of the residents. To make matters worse, the previous government, led by a Congress mayor, covered the ganda nullah, which passes through the middle of the town with concrete slabs as a result it cannot be cleaned and is now choked with polythene.

Areas like Khalsa Mohalla, bus stand, Sheranwala Gate, Gurbax Colony, Guru Nanak Nagar, Tripuri, Anardana Chowk, Lehal Colony and practically all areas falling within the precincts of the walled city turn into small lake after the slightest downpour, while this year has been particularly bad says Amarjit Kaur of Tripuri.

In Asia’s largest grain market at Khanna, the situation is pathetic. Water logging has resulted from most places, forcing the merchants to use water pumps to push out standing water. Large amount of stored grain has been destroyed here. In the city many other areas like Lalheri Road, GT Road, Book Market, Main Market, Railway Road, besides streets of a large number of colonies, including the Nandi Colony have been flooded.

(With inputs from Jupinderjit Singh, Deepkamal Kaur, Anil Jerath, Kulwinder Sandhu, Attar Singh and Gurdeep Mann)


Badal asks J&K govt to protect Sikhs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 15
The Chief Minister has asked Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra to take immediate administrative measures to protect life and property of members of the minority Sikh community in J&K.

Badal also spoke to former J&K Chief Minister Farookh Abdullah in this regard and urged him to make efforts to instill a sense of security in the minds of the Sikhs.

He is also in touch with community leaders to help create a better understanding amongst people belonging to various religious affiliations.

Meanwhile, MP and SAD president Sukhbir Badal also appealed for peace and communal harmony in the valley and Jammu.


State honour for Sardar Anjum
S.D. Sharma

Chandigarh, August 15
“Jis ke tufail mujhko meri zindagi mili, voh geet maine shayad ab tak likha nahin.,” feels the legendary lyricist and thinker, Padmabhushan Dr Sardar Anjum despite being at the epitome his literary prominence.

Anjum has over the years emerged as the poet of the masses. His creative poetry brings alive the ethos of the distressed, downtrodden and suppressed stratum of society.

On being conferred with the state honour by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at the Independence day celebrations held at Ludhiana, Anjum, though bestowed with 18 state-level awards, Padma shri (1991), Padmabhushan in 2005 and International Millennium Peace award by Hilary Clinton in 2000 regarded the instant honour as being close to his heart as a Punjabi.

Anjum, however retaining the citation, medal and shawl took the lead by donating the prize money for the ‘Ishmeet Singh Cultural Akademy’ being established in the memory of the prodigious singer.

Anjum later shared his views with the Tribune on diverse issues, which had labelled him as a rebel poet.

Anjum maintained that a writer blessed with a vision and urge for creative attitude, in fact, defines the country’s national psyche and symbolises its deepest desires and dreams.

When in the region the terrorism assumed threatening dimensions Anjum displayed an exemplary courage by making a TV serial ‘Goongi Twareekh’ on the sensitive theme. Anjum’s personal contribution in bringing harmony with neighbouring countries has been hailed at the state and Central government level. His ghazals are being sung by great maestros like Jagjit Singh, Pankaj Udhas, Anup Jalota and Sony Company is soon releasing an album of his ghazals by singer Madhushree.



Bhattal, Amarinder visit Lal Singh separately
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 15
In what could be seen an attempt to rebuild bridges in the Pradesh Congress, newly appointed Punjab Campaign Committee chairman and former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today called on former minister Lal Singh, who is admitted in a Mohali hospital.

The ailing leader, who was operated upon yesterday for a growth in his urinary tract, was put in a piquant position, as Congress Legislature Party leader (CLP) Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, party acting president Mohinder Singh Kaypee, Campaign Committee convener Ashwani Sekhri and former minister Tej Prakash were sitting with him in his room when Amarinder came to visit him.

Amarinder came to visit Lal Singh with his supporters, including Talwandi Sabo legislator Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Sukhy Randhawa.

While the visit by Bhattal was on expected lines, the fact that all senior Congress leaders chose to accompany her to visit Lal Singh is an indication of where their loyalties lay.

Lal Singh, who was aligned with Amarinder during the latter’s stint as Chief Minister, had also shifted base to the Bhattal camp in the past some months.

However, Amarinder’s visit has come as a surprise, as the relationship between the two leaders has hit rock bottom in the recent past. Lal Singh reacted angrily to a statement by Amarinder that he felt hurt that those for whom he did so much had turned away from him.

Lal Singh claimed Amarinder was junior to him and that he was loyal to the post of the Pradesh Congress chief and not to a particular personality while explaining why he was supporting Bhattal.

Lal Singh, when contacted, said Amarinder had come to ask about his welfare when Bhattal and others had also come to know his well-being. He said there was no political talk except that Amarinder had told him that he would visit him again once he became well.

Amarinder loyalist Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu said one should not read too much into the visit, as it was not political in nature.

Meanwhile, political observers said Amarinder commanded the support of a number of party legislators, mainly from the Malwa belt. They, however, said if Amarinder was to lead the party campaign effectively in the entire state, he needed the support of senior leaders who had been supporting Bhattal earlier and might now like to work under acting president Mohinder Kaypee rather than him if not convinced otherwise.


Akali supporters joining BJP
SAD ‘high-handedness’ in panchayat elections
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 15
The BJP has been making inroads into Akali pockets, especially in the border belt of Amritsar district, as its supporters are joining the BJP creating a piquant situation for the alliance partner.

The BJP said the Akalis have tried to trample on democratic norms and were forcing handpicked sarpanches by abusing official machinery, including the police. This action of the ruling party had caused great resentment among independent Akali cadres.

More than 500 workers of the SAD, the Congress, the BSP and Communists with their family members have joined the BJP in view of the parliamentary elections next year. In Ajnala sector many panches of the SAD and the Congress have joined the party along with their supporters.

Addressing separate meetings in Gharinda and Ajnala areas of the district on Sunday evening, health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla said the country from Attari to Kanyakumari was coming under the banner of the BJP. She said she was proud of people of this border area who had joined the party. She said this was for the first time when people of the border areas had joined the party in large numbers. She said a majority of the people who had joined had done so due to highhandedness of the SAD during elections to Panchayati Raj institutions.

Announcing Rs 2 lakh from her personal funds for various development projects at Riar Chawla village she asked the sarpanches to initiate development projects in the villages without bias. People were yet to enjoy the fruits of Independence, she rued.


Candlelight vigil for peace on Indo-Pak border
Sanjay Bumbroo & Ashok Sethi

Attari, August 15
In a rare gesture of reciprocation, hundreds of Pakistani peaceniks lined up at the zero line for the first time in the past 14 years to exchange candles to celebrate the independence of India and Pakistan jointly here late last night.

A group of 50 persons led by Kuldeep Nayar, Rajinder Sachar, Parvez Malik, Manzoor Alam and others carried the ritual of lighting candles and walking in a procession from the customs gate to the zero line shouting slogans “Hind-Pak dosti zindabad” which was reciprocated by shouts from across the zero line and electrified the atmosphere in a gesture of bonhomie and comradeship.

Prominent leaders from Pakistan Chaudhary Manzoor Ahmad and human rights activist Asma Jehangir were among the group which greeted the Indian nationals accompanied by a 28-member Pakistan delegation led by Manu Bhai and Parvez Malik and their families from across the border.

The father figure of this Hind-Pak Dosti Manch, Kuldeep Nayar, described this move as an opening of a new chapter in the history of Indo-Pak relations which had seen many good and bad phases, but hastened to add that he was optimistic that this historic occasion would herald a new chapter in the subcontinent as people wanted peace and harmony.

The only discordant note in this candlelight vigil bonhomie was that the Pakistan Rangers did not open the gates on their side while India showed its magnanimity by allowing Nayar, BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu, mayor Shwet Malik and a few more people to move towards the zero line to exchange candles and greetings. Mediapersons from this side of the border were not allowed by the BSF authorities to move with peaceniks up to the zero line.

Sidhu said Nayar had provided an excellent platform for forging unity among people of both nations. He said leaders from both counties must take an initiative to resolve differences .

Celebrating his birthday on Pakistan’s Independence Day, charismatic journalist Nayar expressed satisfaction over the move started 14 years ago and said the love and affection from people had given him enough enthusiasm to continue his march for generating goodwill among the two neighbours.

There was also an overwhelming crowd at the cultural festival organised by the peaceniks of Pakistan across the border. As per the telephonic conversation with folk singer Hans Raj Hans there were traffic jams on the Lahore-Wagah road. He said huge posters were displayed on the 23-km route depicting unity between people of the two countries.


Pak-Indian artistes enthral audience on both sides of zero line
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 15
History was created when the Hind-Pak Dosti Manch organised a Punjabi cultural programme on both sides of the Radcliffe Line to mark the Independence Day of both India and Pakistan on Thursday evening.

The culturally rich items gave a taste of real composite Punjabi culture. It gave an impression that both Punjabs (East and West) had become one entity once again after 61 years of Partition. There was an overwhelming crowd on the Pakistani side with reported traffic jams on the Lahore-Wagah road.

Hans Raj Hans sang his best notes from across the border. Pakistani singer Aamir Bakshi Khan gave his performance in the grain market of Attari.

The poem of noted Punjabi poet from India, Surjit Pattar, “Jaga de mombattian, eh tan ethe wagdian hi rehnia pouna kuppattian” (Let us light the candles; without caring the hostile air) rendered by Pakistani artiste Aamir Bashir Khan, heralded the annual candlelight vigil festival on the Indo-Pak joint check-post.

Bashir said the candlelight vigil was called “Mombattian Da Mela” (festival of candles) in Pakistan.

Indian singer Salim Akhtar’s moving voice with classical variations left the audience spellbound when he sang “Sade nalon change ne janour ve hamidia; jehde binan visa jande ne Lahore ve hamidia” (the birds are luckier than human beings who can visit Lahore without visa).

The Wadali brothers and Harbhajan Mann also captivated the audience.

Aamir, a famous Pakistani vocalist, specially came here on the invitation by the Hind-Pak Dosti Manch (HPDM). He said the artistes from Pakistan had been looking forward to this show with great enthusiasm.

Veteran journalist Kuldeep Nayar, the moving spirit behind the HPDM, said it was perhaps for the first time that Pakistan top intellectuals, eminent media personalities, artistes and politicians participated in a similar candlelight function.

Parvez Malik, a close confidant of former PM of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif is regular participant in the candlelight festivities.


PPSC objection on recruitment of docs
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala August 15
The much-publicised recruitment of 147 doctors by the Punjab Health Department virtually got a set back with the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) throwing a spanner in the wheel by raising certain major objections to the health department’s recruitment proposal.

Interestingly, the health department, it was learnt, had not clarified its position in respect to the PPSC raised objections so far, which indicated the alleged “lackadaisical” approach of the department towards recruitment of doctors. These doctors, it was learnt, were primarily being recruited to fill the void in the health sector in rural areas of Punjab.

The Punjab Health Department had asked the PPSC to recruit as many as 147 doctors around three months back. After examining the request thoroughly, the PPSC raised at least six objections. The major objection of the PPSC, it was learnt, was pertaining to lack of clarity about qualification of the doctors to be recruited.

The health department, according to sources, was keen to recruit those specialists as doctors who were armed with MD degrees, but, in contrast the existing PPSC norms stipulated that the basic qualification for recruitment of the doctors was an MBBS degree.

The commission felt that either it had to change the rules or the recruitments could be challenged in the court, in case these were made as per the qualification stipulated by the health department. On the other hand, the health department, it was learnt, had neither resorted to division of posts in the light of existing reservation rules nor it had specified the number of posts. Sources pointed out that though the PPSC had raised its objections, yet the health department exhibited no interest as certain quarters in the department was said to be keen to get the vacant positions recruited by the department itself.


Delay in filling promotion quota posts
Resentment among PSEB diploma engineers
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 15
There is resentment among Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) diploma engineers against delay in filling of vacancies available in 5 per cent promotion quota for removal of under-employment among them.

Gursharan Singh and S.S. Gill, president and general secretary, respectively, of the PSEB Diploma Engineers Association, said qualification-based promotion quota were available for under-employed diploma engineers from 1970 to 1986 to the extent of 33 per cent which was diverted from direct recruitment share. This qualification-based quota was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1986 following which the board had withdrawn this promotion quota.

However, the Supreme Court overruled its earlier judgement and held that such classification on the basis of qualification was not bad. But during the 10 years, from 1986 to 1996, fate of underemployed diploma holders remained sealed. Later, the board management agreed to restore the promotion quota in 1996 to the extent of only 20 per cent, while promotion quota meant for other category of linemen was also enchanced from 33 to 40 per cent

The board later made it mandatory for JE (electrical) that such posts were to be filled by conducting departmental test. However, linemen other than diploma holders were also made eligible to appear in this test and this quota was enhanced to 30 per cent with further relaxation in experience just to accommodate them.

It is quite understandable that those on the verge of retirement can hardly compete with younger elements. So the association sought a separate promotion quota for diploma holders.

The board constituted a committee under the chairmanship of the secretary of the board in 2004 which recommended 5 per cent promotion quota for underemployed diploma holders and it was granted by the board in May 2005. But still this was not acceptable to some already over-privileged employees of the PSEB and upon their resistance the board modified earlier orders to the extent that 5 per cent promotion quota granted for underemployed diploma holders would be drawn from direct recruitment quota lying in the open instead of the quota already diverted from direct recruitment for promotion through test.

The association further informed that more than 900 posts of JE (electrical) were vacant for some years. Existing JEs are being overburdened and consumer service is deteriorating day by day.

The association demanded the filling of about 100 posts in the promotion share of underemployed diploma holder linemen at the earliest. Further, 30 per cent promotion quota which was still kept for department test to adjust underemployed diploma holders should be diverted to direct recruitment share as it has become redundant for these underemployed diploma engineers, Moreover, young diploma holders must be inducted through direct recruitment to give new look to all supervising staff in the PSEB keeping in view technological advancement and consumer service. 


Licences of 226 drug stores cancelled
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 15
The Health Department has cancelled the licences of several drug stores, besides suspending the licences several such shops in the state.

Official sources said licences of 226 drug stores had been cancelled and 339 suspended for selling sub-standard, spurious and habit-forming drugs and violating other provisions of the law.

“Besides other actions like cancellation and suspension of licences, drugs worth Rs 3 crore had been seized and cases filed in the courts against violators of the Act in one and half years when the SAD-BJP came to power,” said health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla. “I am committed to save Punjab’s youth from drug menace, hence the drive,” she added.

Of the 226 licences cancelled, 52 for stocking and selling habit-forming drugs and 15 for contravention of rules of sale of drugs. And 159 had been cancelled on the request of drug stores concerned.

Of the 339 licences suspended, 112 for violating rules of sale of habit-forming drugs and 227 for violation of rules of sale of other drugs. As many as 536 cases have been filed in courts against those found selling habit -forming, substandard and spurious drugs.

“We are not targeting any one, but acting against those drug store owners who are in the habit of selling drugs to youth to make a quick buck,” said Chawla.

Official sources said 2,066 samples of drugs were taken in one and half year. Of these, nine samples found to be spurious and banned drugs, and 59 sample of drugs found to be substandard and 56 of misbranded drugs.

Of the cases filed in court, 14 have been decided and nine persons convicted by the courts. Ten persons related to the cases have been declared proclaimed offenders, it is learnt.

Chawla said earlier there was shortage of staff, but now 18 drug inspectors, many of whom were fresh recruits, were available for checking drug stores. She said the drive would continue till the menace was wiped out.


Power meters selling on black market
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 15
With waiting period for three-phased power meters stretching to as long as six months, consumers have allegedly been forced to purchase these on black market, for almost double the price fixed by the PSEB for it.

While the “ artificially created scarcity” of meters is being seen as a big scam, what has raised many an eyebrow is the PSEB’s approval of rates of meters of a particular company. Though the PSEB, after much hue and cry raised by certain PSEB officials and consumers, has initiated a “half-hearted” awareness campaign specifying that consumers should not pay more than the printed price of Rs 3,652 per three-phased meter, a large section of consumers have to shell out anywhere between Rs 6,000 and Rs 7,500 for the same.

Meanwhile, the PSEB has decided to purchase 1.22 lakh meters. If senior officials were to be believed, the fresh order would meet the demand for such meters for the next one year. The new meters, it was learnt, would be available for a price between Rs 2,000 and Rs 2,500 per unit, inclusive installation charges. The first dispatch of the order is likely to reach the PSEB subdivisions the next month.

“We are facing the shortage of three-phased meters but have sufficient number of single-phased meters,” a senior PSEB official said.

What smacks of a scam, PSEB insiders revealed that though there were a number of suppliers in the market, the board preferred to clear rates of just one company. Though the company had agreed to provide meters in the open market for Rs 3,650 per unit, the alleged “artificial” scarcity forced consumers to buy those on “black market” at exorbitant prices. Consumers were cited reason for the meter shortage as unavailability of meters with the retailers.

“A company had even offered to sell three-phased meters at as low price as Rs 1,800 a unit but its rates were not approved,” said an official source.

On the other hand, a senior PSEB official said the company, which was currently selling three-phased meters, had only been allowed to sell just 5,000 meters at the PSEB approved rates. “Now we will be selling the meters at even lower prices. There is no scam in it,” explained the official admitting shortage of meters.


35 Indians freed by Pakistan
Tribune News Service

Attari, August 15
Thirtyfive Indians, including 34 fishermen, crossed over to this side of the border at the Attari Wagah joint check-post after their release by Pakistan here today.

They were handed over to the Commandant H.S. Dhillon of 65 BSF Battalion by deputy commander Pak Rangers Raja Ali.

Officials of the fisheries department from Gujarat had arrived here take the fishermen whose boats had inadvertently entered the Pakistani sea waters about three to four years ago.

Another prisoner who was released by Pakistan was Bhola of Jammu and Kashmir. Bhola, who seemed to be mentally challenged, had inadvertently crossed the line of control from the Jammu region about eight years ago.


Continuous rains worry farmers
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, August 15
Farmers of the district have started bearing the brunt of heavy rains, which have been lashing the area for the past three days, as standing crops in thousands of acres have suffered colossal damage so far.

DC Gurkirat Kirpal Singh said preliminary reports revealed that crops in about 1,500 acres had suffered damages. He added that special girdawri had already been ordered to assess the losses suffered by crops.

Official sources said in the previous years, rainwater would drain out in a day or so. In some pockets, the rainwater would drain out in a few hours. But due to no repair and no desilting of rainy drains, the water, which accumulated in vast tract in this district, could not be drained out in time and, hence, caused damage to paddy and other crops. Taking a prompt action over the situation, the DC today released Rs 10.5 lakh to the Drainage Department of the state government and a senior official had been put on job to carry out the repair and silting of the drains wherever necessary without any delay.

The dragline machines to carry out the desilting of drains had been arranged and the work of desilting would start tomorrow. The authorities concerned had swung into action only after a hue and cry was raised by affected farmers before members of the ruling alliance of Punjab.


Farmer washed away

Kapurthala, August 15
A farmer was washed away while he was crossing his flooded fields at Sheikhmanga village in the Sultanpur Lodhi sub-division of the district today.

The body of the farmer, identified as Gurdev Singh, has not been recovered so far. The death toll in weather-related incidents has risen to 13 in the past four to five days. Two houses collapsed at Toti Pind village.

Meanwhile, the Kali Bein rivulet has created a flood-like situation in about a dozen villages falling in Sultanpur Lodhi and Kapurthala sub-divisions. — UNI


City Centre Scam
VB to lay stress on framing charges against Amarinder 
Rajneesh Lakhanpal

Ludhiana, August 15
The Vigilance Bureau (VB) has decided to plead strongly before the Sessions Court, Ludhiana, for framing charges against former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, one of the accused in the alleged multi-crore City Centre scam, at the earliest.

The case is fixed for tomorrow.

The case has got importance after the bouncing back of Capt Amarinder Singh in the Congress party as in charge of the campaign committee constituted in view of the coming parliamentary elections.

Sources in the Vigilance Bureau said they would make strong pleas in the court of Sessions Judge G.K.Rai for framing charges against Captain Amarinder Singh and all other accused chargesheeted in the scam for starting trial.

The VB had filed challan against 36 accused on December 12, 2007. After the scrutiny of challan containing more than 20,000 pages, the court had summoned all accused on January 10, 2008. But the charges have not be framed till today.

Sources in the prosecution department said the accused were making efforts to delay the start of the trial due to one reason or other.

According to the sources, now the accused, especially managing directors, directors and officials of Today Homes Company, were delaying the case on the pretext of giving suitable time for inspecting the complete challan filed by the VB. But they can not be allowed to delay the proceedings of the case for years on the pretext of inspecting the file.

A large number of Congress leaders who have never reached court complex to meet Capt Amarinder Singh in this case were likely to come to court for showing their faces to Amarinder, as he has become the centre-point in the state Congress. 


High Court
Punjab gains time to file reply
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 15
Acting on a public interest litigation (PIL) against the continuation of tainted police officers on key positions, a Division Bench headed by Justice J.S. Khehar has expressed opinion that Punjab was not taking up the matter seriously.

As the petition came up for hearing, Punjab sought four months time for filing the reply. The Bench has fixed December 10 as the next date of hearing.

Another Bench, headed by Justice Mehtab Singh Gill, had previously ruled the petition pertained to the implementation of Section 13 and 15 of the Punjab Police Act, which mandated the removal of charge-sheeted officers.

The Bench had added that the petition should be treated as a public interest litigation after taking appropriate orders from the Chief Justice.


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