P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Amarinder re-inducts expelled ex-MLA
It is violation of party’s constitution: Bhattal
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 10
The announcement of Capt Amarinder Singh, chairman of the Congress election Campaign Committee, to re-induct Harjinder Singh Thekedar, a former MLA, into the Congress here today in the absence of PPCC chief has sparked a fresh row in the party with CLP leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal describing the move as “violation of party constitution”.

“This prerogative of the PPCC president to expel or re-induct a party activist or leader as per constitution of the party. I shall report the matter to AICC president Sonia Gandhi since Thekedar had defeated the official candidate announced by her (Sonia) for the Amritsar byelection. When asked that Thekedar was expelled from the party due to his anti-party activities, Amarinder quipped, “Had they got the authority, they would have expelled me from the party too”.

However, Amarinder claimed that he had re-inducted Thekedar after taking the PPCC president into confidence who should have been here today.

To a question about the absence of the PPCC president at the time of re-induction of Thekedar into the party, he said he himself was surprised as to why he “withdrew” when the entire programme was finalised with him. He, however, praised Mohinder Singh Kaypee and described him as “shareef admi” (humble and nice person). However, he said Kaypee had come under pressure from certain quarters.

He accused Bhattal and certain party leaders for derailing the mass contact programme of the party.

The former Chief Minister told Bhattal that she was no more PPCC president and, hence, should concentrate on the CLP only. However, Bhattal said being the CLP leader, she was senior to Amarinder who was simply an MLA of the party. She asked him to maintain discipline in the party. She claimed that the party honoured only two leaders, PPCC president and CLP leader, while the chairman of the Campaign Committee was too junior in the hierarchy to allow induction of any rebel.

However, Amarinder said he had sought the permission of the high command to launch the mass contact programme. He said he was confident the Congress would sweep the Lok Sabha elections due in May next year. Without naming Bhattal, Amarinder said certain party leaders had been changing tactics to derail the programme. He said it was a fact that the party made him in charge of J and K, but there was sufficient time to launch the campaign there. He suggested that Bhattal should shed “negative attitude” in the interest of the party.

Bhattal described the claim of Amarinder that he had taken Kaypee into confidence before the re-induction of Thekedar as a “white lie”. She alleged that it was a fact Thekedar turned rebel during the Amritsar byelection to ensure the victory of an Akali candidate in understanding with Amarinder. She said Kaypee was in charge of the Amritsar byelection and had knowledge of the anti-party activities of Thekedar, hence, Amarinder tried to usurp his (PPCC chief’s) authority. 


Tour of Malwa, Majha
Cong fence-sitters surprised, SAD, BJP rattled
Sarbjit Dhaliwal and Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 10
The whistle-stop tour of Malwa and Majha regions of the state by former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has brought the warring factions of the party together.

The rousing welcome he received from workers and leaders has rattled not only the ruling SAD-BJP alliance, but also generated political heat in Punjab ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. The former CM has surprised even the Congress leaders, who had chosen to be fence sitters on the outcome of the mass contact programme.

Amarinder had been lying low and had been target of attacks on account of his style of functioning and certain alleged escapades. The success of his mass programme to meet aggrieved workers has shown he has bounced back with a bang.

One aspect that stands out is his ability in bringing about rapprochement between opponents. Barring a couple of senior leaders such as Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Mohinder Singh Kaypee, he has been successful in taking almost all MLAs, former MLAs, MPs and former MPs along. Even Jagmeet Brar, who had no love lost with the former CM, has joined hands with him. Amarinder made it point to have lunch at the residence of Ripjit Brar, Jagmeet’s younger brother, at Kotkapura yesterday.

Staunch Bhattal supporters like Avtar Brar and Darshan Brar too have chosen to back Amarinder and gave him warm welcome. Senior leaders like former minister Partap Singh Bajwa, who fell out with the former CM, have thought it fit to let bygones be bygones. He drove all the way from Gurdaspur to be with the former CM at Sangrur.

The faction-ridden leaders from Gurdaspur today chose to bury the hatchet and present a united face of the party. “We have all decided to work for the success of any candidate chosen by the party high command in our district to contest parliamentary election,” says former minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, who hosted dinner for Amarinder at his residence at Qadian this evening.

Political pundits point out that besides the Akalis, all these developments also rattled detractors of the former CM and questions are being asked on their role in the present political scenario in the party. Who will (detractors) lead when a majority of the former MLAs and senior leaders have already chosen Amarinder as their leader ? they questioned.

It also seems the aggressive style of the former CM has also bowled over the masses in the countryside and the crowds in Malwa and Majha belts are proof enough. Another reason for the groundswell of support for the former CM has been the bitterness and disharmony created by the Akalis during the panchayat elections in the countryside. People victimised by the ruling alliance see in Amarinder a leader who has the ability to fight for them.

Shrewd politician that Amarinder is, he is trying to capitilise on the popular mood of the people. One thing is clear that the tour has set the tone and tenor for the parliamentary polls and also the issue of “misgovernance” will cost the ruling alliance dear at the hustings.


CM seeks Rs 116 cr to revamp security
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 10
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has, in a communication to the Union home minister, asked for a grant of over Rs 116 crore for revamping the security system of the state in the wake of terrorist activities in the country.

Six cities, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala, Bathinda and SAS Nagar, have been identified by the state for the improvement of security infrastructure.

“The plan includes installation of CCTVs at vantage points and crowded places, modern integrated control rooms, traffic management measures, well-equipped quick reaction teams and specialised strategic weapons and tactics to combat terrorist threats,” wrote Badal.

The largest amounts will be required for Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar. Modern integrated control rooms will cost Rs 8-9 crore each, while quick reaction teams will cost about Rs 8 crore. The installation of CCTV cameras will cost over Rs 20 crore. The state requires Rs 14 crore for the setting up of an anti-terrorist strategic weapons and tactics (SWAT) team.

The CM has stated that these measures for the six mega cities of Punjab are estimated to cost Rs 116 crore. “Besides instilling a sense of security among the public, these measures will help the police to operate more professionally and effectively,” he added.

“The border state of Punjab has also suffered ravages of war and terrorist activities in the recent past. Intelligence inputs and recent recoveries of drugs and arms and ammunition reveal that Punjab is still alive on the radar of terrorist outfits,” wrote Badal.

The Chief Minister has asked for the grant from the Ministry of Home Affairs under its scheme for modernisation of state police forces. The modernisation scheme has a sub plan called mega city policing, which includes Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. These cities are given special assistance for the procurement of modern and innovative equipment like night vision devices, GPS/GIS for dial 100 system and patrol cars, surveillance camera systems, CCTV systems etc.

The Chief Minister has impressed upon the Union home minister that going by the population, no city in Punjab can be categorised as a mega city, “but on the basis of the level of threat vulnerability, there is an urgent need to develop infrastructure for effective policing in bigger cities of Punjab on a par with the national mega cities.”



Be within limits: Capt to Bhattal
Challenges Sukhbir to fight from Bathinda

Tarn Taran, December 10
“Rajinder Kaur Bhattal should remain within limits as Opposition leader instead of interfering in my working as chairman of the Congress election Campaign Committee of Punjab. Whatever I am doing, I am doing with the consent and approval of the party high command,” said former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

He was here to address a rally during his mass contact programme, which started from Sangrur a couple of days back. Talking to the media here today, he said his son Raninder Singh and wife Peneet Kaur, sitting MP from Patiala, were willing to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Addressing a rally in this border town, he challenged Sukhbir Singh Badal, Shiromani Akali Dal chief and son of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, to fight election from the Bathinda Lok Sabha seat from where his son Raninder had shown interest to contest.

Capt Amarinder minced no words while saying that Badal Junior, who had announced to contest elections from this constituency, turned his back as soon as he declared that his son Raninder would be the probable candidate from Bathinda.

Criticising the ruling party for using state machinery to fulfill its political interests, he alleged that Congress workers were being implicated in false cases to demoralise them. He dared those police officials and even the senior police authorities for registering cases against Congress workers, and said they would be taught a befitting lesson when the Congress came to power. He said officials who were responsible for committing irregularities in the recently concluded Panchayat elections would be brought to book.

Amarinder said the Badal government had failed not only to fulfill any of its promises but its expenditure was much high than its income due to its wrong policies. It is for this that the government was unable to pay monthly salaries to employees in time.

He said during his tenure, the farmers were given eight-hour power supply daily by buying it from neighbouring states while on the other hand the present government was selling power to the other states to fulfill the necessities of state treasures.

Among others who spoke on the occasion included MP Rana Gurjit Singh, Naresh Kataria, MLA Zira, Gurchet Singh Bhullar, Sardool Singh Bundala, Dr Dharamveer Agnihotri, etc.


Sukhbir shying away from LS polls: Cong
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 10
Punjab Congress general secretary Parminder Singh yesterday claimed that the poor performance of the SAD and its candidates in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha elections was the real reason why its president Sukhbir Singh Badal was now shying away from contesting the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

In a statement here, Parminder Singh, along with secretary Gurkirat Singh Kotlip and former legislator Dr Raj Kumar Verkap claimed that the graph of the SAD-BJP government had fallen below the zero mark in a period of less than two years. He said all sections of the society were fed up with the non-performing government, which had stalled all developmental works started by the previous government and it hah not even been able to pay dearness allowance to its employees.

The Congress leaders said the credibility of the government and the SAD under leadership of Sukhbir had been lost and the facts spoke for themselves. “The Mohali bus stand which was auctioned for Rs 200 crore is facing difficulty in finding a bidder for even Rs 55 crore after the original bidder refused to undertake the project due to unfavourable conditions in the state. Roads are in a pitiable condition and the services of water and electricity are deficient on account of quality and supply.”

Parminder said on the other hand there was no dearth of funds for areas like Muktsar and Bathinda; showing clear diversion of funds towards a chosen area. “Resultantly, the rest of Punjab is in a sheer state of neglect and the Badals are concerned only about their prospects, which are not only causing resentment among civilians, but also within the Akali and BJP ranks”.


Ex-Cong man accuses Bhattal of land grab
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 10
Sangrur-based former Congressman Deep Inder Singh yesterday demanded a CBI probe against Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, accusing her of grabbing and selling 188 bighas of Wakf Board property in Sangrur in league with her sister Balwinder Kaur Bhattal. He also claimed that the SAD-BJP government was going soft on the complaint submitted by him in this regard and despite an inquiry having been ordered into the entire issue, nothing had come out of it.

Deep Inder released papers of a communication addressed to the Sangrur deputy commissioner by the state Home Department on June 23 this year directing the former to conduct an inquiry into the allegations in 15 days. He alleged that the DC’s office had told him that it had never received the inquiry letter.

Deputy commissioner V.K. Ohri said he was not aware of the letter and could verify Deep Inder’s claim after a thorough checkup. “I cannot say it has been received by my office,” he added.

The former Congressman alleged that the CLP leader and her sister Balwinder had succeeded in getting the land on lease from the Wakf Board following which they had ploughed it for some years and then sold the land to different people. He alleged now a colony, Jhujhar Singh Nagar, stood on the spot.

Deep Inder alleged that Bhattal was using her political clout to thwart investigation into the case and now the SAD-BJP government was also not taking any action in the case.

Meanwhile, Bhattal said the whole case had been deliberately highlighted by her political enemies to cause embarrassment to her. She accused Deep Inder of being a mischief monger who was raking up false allegations against her repeatedly. She said neither she nor her sister had 1-inch land in the state and never indulged in any sale or purchase of Wakf property. 


BSP, Left can bring change: Dayal
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 10
Keeping in view the results of the Assembly elections held in five states, the Left parties and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) should come together in the ensuing Lok Sabha (LS) elections in Punjab to make a dent in the state politics, which is dominated by the SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress.

Stating this to The Tribune today, member of the national executive of the Communist Party of India (CPI) Joginder Dayal said the BSP in Punjab was a force of the weaker sections, which had also equal sympathy for the Left parties. He said if the Left and the BSP failed to understand the aspirations of the downtrodden masses of the state, their performance in the forthcoming LS elections might not be up to the aspirations.

Dr Dayal said the BSP and the Left together would certainly lead to the defeat of the Congress as well as of the SAD-BJP alliance. He also said it had also been proved beyond doubt that neither the slogan of the Left parties, regarding defeat of the BJP and the Congress, nor the slogan of the BSP, regarding social engineering, had worked in the recently held the Assembly elections in five states, so the togetherness of the BSP and the Left was need of the hour.

Dr Dayal said to form a joint front and win the elections, all Left parties would have to forget all ifs and buts. 


India, Pak should avoid armed conflict: Dal Khalsa
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 10
With bilateral relations between India and Pakistan becoming tense, the Dal Khalsa has appealed to the respective heads of both countries to avoid an armed conflict.

In a statement, on the occasion of 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, issued here today, party president H.S. Dhami and a senior leader Kanwarpal Singh took exception over the manner in which war hysteria was being built in the aftermath of Mumbai strikes.

Reaffirming commitment to hold aloft the banner of fundamental rights, leaders of the Sikh group decried that the successive Indian governments had denied people of Punjab, Kashmir and northeast their legitimate rights, including right to self-determination and subjugated them to illegal and unlawful acts of omission and commission, one after the other, during the last many decades.

Speaking over the explosive situation in the subcontinent, they urged the United Nations and the US to intervene and diffuse the crisis between both the two South Asian powers.

Joining issue with those who were advocating the idea to bomb Pakistan to avenge the Mumbai attacks, they remarked, “Neither India is powerful like the US nor Pakistan is weak like Afghanistan”. They said any surgical strike within the Pakistani territory would endanger the possibility of a full-fledged war between two nuclear neighbours.

“The best thing for both countries is to negotiate and sort out the differences and find out a permanent solution to the Kashmir problem. The denial of justice, inequality, different sets of law for minorities and majority and state’s biased approach towards minorities are amongst reasons of unrest in the country,” they observed.

Asserting that the war was not in anybody’s interest, they said nobody gained from the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars. Rather it had further worsened the relations between both arch rivals. “We don’t see military aggression as a solution to any conflict. The government should find out a solution to internal problems and political conflicts to end the vicious cycle of violence,” they argued. 


Delhi results proof of SAD’s declining graph: Khaira
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 10
Punjab Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira today said the fact that five Sikhs nominated by the Congress had emerged victorious in the Delhi Assembly elections in comparison to the defeat of all SAD-sponsored candidates was a clear indication of the declining graph of the SAD amongst Sikhs as well as Punjabi’s.

In a statement here, Khaira said Delhi was a replica of the Punjabi society in India and the result was a reflection of the gross misrule of the SAD-BJP government in Punjab.

The Congress leader said the tall claims of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal stood belied with the complete washout of the Akalis from Delhi.

He claimed the writing on the wall was now clear for the Badals in Punjab and they would be completely routed and wiped out in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections.


Re-polling at Nurpur Bedi
Tribune News Service

Nurpur Bedi, December 10
Re-polling for the block-level elections of the Youth Congress was held here amid sloganeering. Of total 14 candidates in the fray, 12 of them boycotted the elections and raised slogans against district returning officer Sachin Naik.

All protestors alleged that Naik had created rift among party members. Candidates had decided to elect office-bearers within themselves. Earlier, just 26 votes, out of total 2,640, were cast. The number increased to 117 votes today.

Haryana Youth Congress president Sanjay Kochar too reached the polling booth and tried to pacify the irate candidates, but to no avail.

The protesting candidates included Daksh Dutt Sharma, Rajni Sharma, Harpreet Kaur, Samrat Chandan, Randeep Singh, Narinder Bagga, Ranjit Kaurvir Kaur and Bhag Kumar Soni.

They alleged that holding the re-poll forcibly meant sounding death knell to the dream of AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who had launched this plan as a pilot project in Punjab.


He supplies ‘makki di roti, sarson da saag’ to PM
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Tarn Taran, December 10
While Raja Ali, a classmate of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who brought a pair of “Chakwali Khussa tilley walli juttis” from Pakistan for his dear classmate, besides “mitti” of his school, hogged the headlines of newspapers in May, Zail Singh, an ex-serviceman from Tarn Taran, quietly visits 7 Race Course Road almost every month to supply prasad from Darbar Sahib or “makki di roti and sarson da saag” in winters.

Like Raja Ali, Zail Singh was a classmate of the Prime Minister at Gah village in Chakwal district of Pakistan. The nondescript village came into prominence when Dr Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister of India. Now, the village is better known as “Dr Manmohan Singh village”.

It was a chance meeting with Zail Singh at Dera Baba Jagtar Singh Kar Sewawale here. Baba Mohinder Singh told The Tribune that Zail Singh had an easy access to the PMO and 7 Race Course Road. The NSG commandos and senior security officials did not stop him whenever he visited the Prime Minister.

Since Zail Singh does not possess mobile or landline phone, he gets calls from Dr Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur at a PCO in the labyrinthine Dalit Colony, Jassewala, Sachkhand Road, here.

He said he recognised Dr Manmohan Singh when he saw his picture in a newspaper after the latter became the RBI Governor. “It was magnanimity on the part of Dr Manmohan Singh that he immediately recognised my voice over the phone and invited me to New Delhi. Since then we have been maintaining relations,” Zail Singh said.

Speaking to The Tribune, Zail Singh recalled the days when they were in primary school together. He said Dr Manmohan Singh’s father was a businessman who ran dry fruits business in Gallah Mandi (in Pakistan).


4-lane Ambala-Zirakpur section inaugurated
Tribune News Service

Dappar (Dera Bassi), December 10
As part of infrastructure development and boosting economy of northern India, especially Punjab and Haryana, the UPA government is pumping crores of rupees to construct four-lane and six-lane national highways passing through the two states.

Since the development of road network in the two states was crucial for the Centre, the ministry of road transport and highways has sanctioned 212 projects worth Rs 730 crores for Punjab and 139 projects for Haryana at a cost of Rs 723 crores.

While inaugurating the four-lane Ambala-Zirakpur section of National Highways no. 21 and 22 here, Thiru T.R. Baalu, union minister of road transport and highways, said so far 345 km of national highways had been four-laned and another 180 km was being six-laned in Haryana. With a view to provide smooth road connectivity, the ministry has recently awarded work to six-lane the national highway from Panipat to Jalandhar. A total of Rs 2,470 crore was being spent to convert the 291-km long four-lane road section into a six-lane road section. While 116 km road length lies in Haryana, the remaining 175 km lies in Punjab.

Other major projects being taken are four laning of the Zirakpur-Pawanoo, Jalandhar-Amritsar, Kurali-Kiratpur, Amritsar-Wagha road sections at a cost of Rs 3,000 crore. Besides, work to four-lane the Ludhiana-Talwandi, Panipat-Rohtak, Panchkula-Barwala-Yamunagar and Bawal-Rohtak Jind sections was being initiated.

Punjab Chief MinisterParkash Singh Badal, while taking up the pending issues of the state with the union minister, sought release of Rs 113.63 crore under the Centre Roads Funds (CRF) works as the ministry had only agreed to release Rs 104.92 crore up to year 2006-07. The ministry had only released Rs 275 crore against a total annual approval of Rs 388.90 crore up to year 2007-08.

Punjab has also sought approval of road projects of Zirakpur-Patiala, Dabwali-Malout, besides four laning of a number of state highways.

Parminder Singh Dhindsa, Punjab PWD minister, while pleading his case, said maintenance of roads transferred to the national highway authority of India (NHAI) for four laning was suffering. Paucity of funds with the state was affecting the condition of the roads. Others present on the occasion were Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, union minister of state for housing and urban poverty alleviation Kumari Selja, Punjab Cooperation minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh and Ambala MLA Vinod Sharma.


Punjab officer apologises to HC
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 10
An affidavit filed in a “cavalier fashion” nearly landed a senior Punjab government officer in trouble.

The senior secretary-level officer had to offer unqualified and unconditional apology to the Punjab and Haryana High Court for “mistake committed by him in providing wrong information to the court” on the status of a bill to check human-trafficking in the state.

Accepting the apology, the Bench Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Jasbir Singh did not take stern view of the “misdemeanor” and let off the officer after issuing a warning to him to be careful in future.

The state, on December 8, had sought additional time to seek instructions whether the draft legislation on the issue of human trafficking had been approved by the legal remembrancer (LR).

In response, the state counsel filed another affidavit sworn by Dharam Pal Gupta, additional-secretary to Punjab government, department of home affairs and justice, stating that the matter had, in fact, not gone to the legal remembrancer as stated in the earlier affidavit.

The same was rather still pending with the secretary, home affairs. He could not, for personal reasons, look into the matter and push the file forward.

The additional-secretary also offered apology for the mistake committed by him in providing wrong information to the court.

Taking on record the apology, the Bench observed it was unfortunate that a senior officer had filed the earlier affidavit. It was obvious that the affidavit had been filed in a cavalier fashion.

But keeping in view his unconditional apology, the Bench did not feel the need to proceed further in the matter.

The high court had earlier taken suo motu cognizance of a news-report, “Kin of 40 youths trapped in Kuwait threaten suicide” carried in these columns on January 12, 2006.

At that time, Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice S.S. Saron had issued notice to Punjab, Haryana and UT Chandigarh. 


Border farmers’ rally in Delhi on December 16
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 10
Farmers of the border districts of Punjab will hold a rally in New Delhi on December 16 against the failure of the Centre to meet promises made to farmers living near the Indo-Pakistan border.

In a press note here today, Rattan Singh Randhawa of the Border Sangharsh Committee, Punjab, said then Union home minister Lal Krishan Advani in 1997 had promised a compensation of Rs 4,000 per acre a year to the farmers having land across the fence on the Indo-Pakistan border, widening of 83 bridges along the border, Rs 33 crore for the construction of roads up to the BOP, opening of gates by the BSF for 10 hours, besides allowing women to work in fields across the fence.

Randhawa rued that the Central government had only given Rs 2,500 per acre to the farmers for a few years, but later it was withdrawn by the government. He said even the government headed by Parkash Singh Badal had failed to meet aspirations of the border people who had suffered considerably in two Indo-Pakistan wars, besides losing lives to landmine blasts.

He urged the government to shift the fencing from the present 100 metres near the zero line to 50 metres to enable most farmers to cultivate fields round the year, besides adequate compensation to the kin of those who died in a landmine blast after the Kargil war and attack on Parliament. 


Hoteliers against luxury tax 
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 10
Hoteliers and restaurant owners in Punjab are up in arms against the Punjab government decision to impose 8 per cent luxury tax on hotels, banquet halls and marriage palaces. At a time when tourist inflow is dwindling in wake of the Mumbai strikes, decision of another tax has served double blow to the hotel industry.

The state government has decided to charge 8 per cent luxury tax from hotels having room rate of Rs 200 and above and 10 per cent from banquet halls. The state government has directed the hoteliers, banquet halls and marriage palace owners to get themselves registered by December 25, to deposit first instalment of tax by January 2009. The government is expecting to earn Rs 20 crore a year through this tax.

The state government has notified that it will now charge 10 per cent luxury tax, 12.36 service tax and 12.50 value added tax (VAT) from banquet hall owners. Hoteliers feel this will be a burden on hotels as well, as most of these have banquet halls in hotels. They feel luxury tax should be applicable to three-star to five-star hotels and not to small or budget hotels.

Gautam Kapoor, managing director, Radisson Hotel, Jalandhar, said today that this move would harm the hotel industry in the state, especially when the Centre was thinking of a special package to the hotel industry. “Though this is a peak time for hotel industry in the state, we have seen our occupancy rate go down from 90 per cent to 40 per cent in wake of the Mumbai strikes. At this time, when we are trying to woo tourists/business travellers by offering special discount, the luxury tax will burden us,” he said.

Seconding his views, Sanjay Galhotra, working director, MK International, Amritsar, said hotel occupancy rates had declined by 50 per cent in a fortnight. “We are relying only on the wedding season, which is helping us keep afloat. Moreover, the government cannot impose this tax with immediate effect. After all, hotel bookings are made at least six months to one year in advance. The travel agents have not included this tax, while making reservations. Hotels cannot be expected to pay this tax without charging it from customers,” he said.

Paramjit Singh Budhraja, executive committee member, Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India (FHRAI), said as it was only business tourists or religious tourists visiting Punjab.

“States like Haryana have imposed luxury tax, but they have also created tourist destinations to attract more tourists. In Punjab, there are no tourist destinations and tourists on religious sojourn are not ready to spend more,” he said. 


Dr Gargi given additional charge of Director
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 10
Dr J.S. Gargi, principal, Government Medical College and Hospital, Amritsar, has been told look after the work of the director, Medical Education and Research (DMER), Punjab, too. The post fell vacant following the retirement of Dr J.S. Dalal on November 31.

“Dr Gargi will work in Amritsar for three days in a week and he would be here for the rest of the week to handle the work of the director, MER,” said minister of medical education and research Tikshan Sood.

He added this was temporary arrangement and the hunt was on for a full- time director. The post is filled from among the seniormost medical teaching professionals in the state. “The next in line according to our records is Dr Jaikishan of government medical college, Patiala. We would be considering him for the post,” added Sood.

Sources add a proposal to extend the services of Dr Dalal was sent to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal last month but was rejected. Another proposal to allow him to join one of the government medical colleges in the state as professor in forensic science was also rejected by the Chief Minister.

Dr Dalal has remained the principal of the various government medical colleges in the state. He was said to be very close to Sood. The key position of financial commissioner (development) that fell vacant following the retirement of Ravinder Sandhu is also awaiting full-time attention. N.S. Kang who is secretary, employment generation, and looking after science and technology and the NRI affairs will now also look after the work of the financial commissioner (development).

Ravinder Sandhu, who retired on November 30, is a civil engineer who worked as an executive engineer for some years before being appointed to the IAS. As secretary, he served in the Public Works Department (PWD), Chandigarh.

Later, he was secretary transport. He became principal secretary, transport, defence services, labour and employment before taking over as financial commissioner development in September last year.

Vijay Kain, principal secretary, health and family welfare, who also retired last month had been replaced by A.R. Talwar. Kain is a 1974 batch officer of the Punjab cadre. As secretary, Kain remained posted in the water supply and sanitation, water resources and Public Works Departments. As principal secretary, Kain also headed the irrigation department of the state.


Opening of lone bid for Rajpura thermal project allowed
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 10
The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) today approved the proposal of the PSEB to open the lone bid received for the 1,320-MW Rajpura thermal power project from Lanco Infrastructure Limited.

Informed sources disclosed that the board would now open the bid tomorrow. The sources said the PSERC allowed this under Clause 5.7, which specifically states that the process of procurement could be carried forward even if the number of qualified bidders was less than two.

Accordingly, the commission ruled that Lanco be allowed to continue with the bidding process with the direction that the letter of intent would be issued only after seeking its approval.

It also ruled that Lanco had adopted a transparent process of bidding in accordance with guidelines and as such did not violate Section 63 of the Electricity Act, which states that the commission will adopt the tariff if such tariff is determined through a transparent process of bidding.

Earlier, the PSEB had approached the commission through Nabha Power Limited, which had been formed to oversee the entire bidding process. Meanwhile, former PSEB chief engineer Padamjit Singh claimed the decision of the commission had destroyed the spirit of competitive bidding.


DGP orders formation of quick reaction teams
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 10
Punjab Director-General of Police (DGP) N.P.S. Aulakh today directed district police chiefs to constitute quick reaction teams, comprising the fittest security personnel in all districts of the state to meet the challenge of renewed threat of terror attacks.

Presiding over a meeting to review the security arrangements in the state, DGP Aulakh asked field officers present to submit their requirements in the form of modern weaponry and protective equipment needed to form these teams and assured them that all equipment would be provided to them at the earliest.

The DGP also assured to provide more securitymen for this purpose, saying 10 per cent of the security personnel deployed on other security duties were being roped in under the new initiative.

He called for making institutionalised arrangements for following up of inputs from the state, inter-state as well as from national agencies. He also underlined the need for proactive policing, keeping in view the recent terror attack in Mumbai, by strengthening the security of vital installations and taking preventive measures to thwart terror attacks.

Emphasising on the need to put the required preventive measures in order and to follow the standard operating procedure (SOP), the DGP informed that a high-level committee would be constituted soon under the leadership of ADGP (Crime) and other experienced police officers to institutionalise their experience of fighting terrorism in Punjab.

The DGP also asked to keep a constant close watch on the activities of ex-terrorists. He also directed to strengthen the security of vital installations throughout the state and increase vigilance on inter-state borders. 


SGPC: Sahajdhari is one who slowly adopts doctrines of Sikhism
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 10
The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) today made official its stand on the definition of Sahajdhari by dissecting the word to say “sahaj” meant slowly and “dhari” connoted adoption.

In an affidavit submitted to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the SGPC asserted Sahajdharis, as such, were novices born in non-Sikh families, “who have expressed their desire to adopt Sikhism slowly and gradually, its doctrines, ethics and tenants with belief in Shri Guru Granth Sahib and the 10 Gurus”.

Elaborating, the SGPC has asserted: “A Sahajdhari is a novice who has entered the path of Sikhism and will continue to be so till he fully accepts the moral and spiritual vows of Sikhism, to be called a practicing Sikh professing Sikhism.”

“Once a Sahajdhari becomes a Keshdhari Sikh, he, under no circumstances by cutting/trimming hair, beard, eyebrows in any manner, can claim to be a Sahajdhari Sikh. Similarly, a Sikh born in a Sikh family cannot claim to be a Sahajdhari Sikh by trimming / cutting hair, beard or eyebrows in any manner”.

Quoting the provisions of Section 2 (10)-A of the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, the SGPC added: “A Sahajdhari Sikh is a person who performs ceremonies according to the Sikh rites; who does not use tobacco, kutha, halal meat in any form, who is not a patit and who can recite mulmantra”.

The affidavit by SGPC secretary Harbeant Singh was placed before the high court’s three-judge Bench of Justice J.S. Khehar, Justice Jasbir Singh and Justice A.K. Mittal on a petition filed by a student, Gurleen. She and other had been denied admission in the MBBS in Sri Guru Ram Dass Institute of Medical Education and Research, Amritsar, against seats reserved for Sikh students on the ground that those trimming beard or plucking eyebrows were not Sikhs in strict religious sense of the term. The case will now come up for further hearing on January 16 next year. 


Rule of law must prevail, says doctors’ body
Attar Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 10
The Punjab Civil Medical Services Association (PCMSA), a body representing doctors from all over Punjab, has extended support to agitating Punjab Civil Services (PCS) officers struggling on the issue of alleged encroachment and incidence of lawlessness at Amritsar District Administrative complex recently.

Dr M.S. Randhawa and Dr D.S. Gill, patron and president of the association, respectively, in a statement maintained that public opinion strongly demanded that “rule of law” must prevail in the matter, which now was a public issue of serious concern and where the administrative officers’ cause had unflinching support of all law abiding citizens.

The association urged Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to personally intervene and save the situation from worsening, because any delay would completely erode the credibility of law enforcing agency and the state government in the eyes of general public with far reaching adverse consequences. 


Ex-servicemen for weeding out corrupt politicians
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 10
All right thinking people in the country should come forward to weed out corrupt politicians and bureaucrats as the nation is fast sliding towards becoming a “banana republic”.

Stating this to the media here today, Col G.S. Sandhu (retd), chairman of the Majha Ex-Servicemen Human Rights Front, said India was becoming a failed state as there was a complete failure of law and order machinery in the country. He said the recent Mumbai attacks had exposed the chinks in the Intelligence network as Intelligence sleuths in the country had either failed to analyse or not acted upon the information gathered.

He said the statements of politicians in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks had exposed their callous attitude towards the nation and people in particular. Colonel Sandhu said the Congress-led UPA government had failed on every front as more than 25,000 people died in Bihar due to floods in the Kosi river, disturbed conditions in the Kashmir valley and communal riots in Orissa.

Lashing out at the Central government for its failure to remove the anomalies in the Sixth Pay Commission, Sandhu said the defence forces, whose role had always been lauded by the general public besides being the only loyal and democratic bastion of strength, was being systematically destroyed by politicians and bureaucrats. 


Farmer commits suicide
Our Correspondent

Nabha, December 10
Harassed at the hands of a local commission agent, a farmer of nearby village allegedly committed suicide at his shop in the new grain market here today.

Shamsher Singh (50) of Gadaiya village, 10 km from here, was under tremendous mental stress as the commission agent to whom he had sold his paddy refused to clear his payments.

Darshan Singh and Labh Singh, brothers of the deceased, told mediapersons that earlier Kulwant kept on making false promises to his brother regarding payment and later started threatening and abusing them.

Darshan said his brother had left for the town yesterday and did not return in the night. The family kept on enquiring about his whereabouts from relatives and acquaintances until they received a message in the morning that he was lying dead in the shop of the commission agent.


Legal appointments in Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 10
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued posting orders of the advocates appointed as additional district and sessions judges in Punjab. The postings are:

Munish Singal (Ludhiana), Rupinderjit Chahal (Patiala), Kamaljit Singh Lamba (Sangrur), Nirbhow Singh Gill (Nawanshahr), Parveen Bali (Muktsar), Jatinderpal Singh Khurmi (Jalandhar), Hemant Gopal (Amritsar), Kanwaljit Singh (Hoshiarpur), Sumeet Malhotra (Patiala), Arun Gupta (Gurdaspur), Jatinder Kaur (Ferozepore) and Mohammad Gulzar (Ludhiana).


SSP to probe pension denial 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 10
A bank manager is in the dock on a petition filed by a 90-year-old freedom fighter’s widow. Justice Uma Nath Singh and Justice Daya Chaudhary have asked Hoshiarpur senior superintendent of police (SSP) to hold an inquiry after Devki alleged pension paid to her since 1974 suddenly stopped, and a manager of Punjab National Bank (PNB) snatched away her passbook.

The Bench also asked the officer to register a case against the bank manager concerned, if a criminal case was made out. Hoshiarpur deputy commissioner too has been asked to remain present in the court. The case will now come up on January 22.

Devki had claimed she was getting the pension under the freedom fighters’ pension scheme as her husband was 2nd lieutenant in the Indian National Army. The pension was, however, stopped since November 1. The manager of the bank’s branch in Paldhi, Garhshankar, Darshan Singh, has been made a party.

DGP to probe

Acting on a petition filed by a jail warden, Justice Uma Nath Singh and Justice Daya Chaudhary has asked Punjab director-general of police to hold an inquiry into the selection of clerks.

Asking him to submit a report, the Bench has asked the officer to register cases against officers responsible for withholding the records sought to be produced before the court, in case the same were found to be in their possession.

Petitioner Swaranjit Singh of Patiala had earlier sought quashing of the appointment. Directions for re-conducting the test were also sought.

Report sought

Taking up a petition alleging evasion of stamping fees worth crores of rupees by two Ludhiana-based companies, Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice Jasbir Singh today asked Punjab advocate-general H.S. Mattewal to inform the court by December 19 as to what action the government proposed to take in the matter.

The Judges also asked the advocate-general to see if a committee could be set up to look into the matter. The controller, legal metrology, was present in the courtroom when the issue involving alleged huge losses to state exchequer by two tape-manufacturing companies come up for resumed hearing. Advocate N.K. Jain had sought action against the alleged large-scale evasion in the stamping fees in connivance with the officers of the controller of legal metrology department.


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