P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Beant’s grandson is Youth Cong chief
Varinder Walia and Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 23
About 14 years after the assassination of Beant Singh, former Chief Minister, Punjab, in 1995, his legacy has been revived with the election of Ravneet Singh Bittu as state president of Punjab Youth Congress (PYC).

In a keenly contested election held here today, under the direct supervision of AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who visited Amritsar to ensure a free and fair election, Bittu, son of former minister late Swarn Singh Noni, who had died in a road accident, defeated his nearest rival Amrinder Singh Raja Warring by 487 votes.

Ravneet secured 929 votes, while Warring got 484 votes. Warring has been elected vice-president, while Sukhwinder Singh, Ashwani Kumar Sunny, Ratinderpal Kaur and Rajbir Kaur general secretaries. There were 17 candidates in the fray and about 2,500 delegates exercised their franchise.

Ashok Tanwar, president of the Indian Youth Congress, said Warring, who secured the second position, would also be absorbed in the Delhi Youth Congress.

Ravneet got the support of all factions in the Congress from the state, including that of former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.

Earlier the election of the president of the PYC was scheduled to be held in Ludhiana, but the venue was shifted to Amritsar at the last minute to avoid any direct interference from the state leadership of the party. Even Rahul had issued strict instructions for non-interference by the senior party leadership.

After the death of her husband, Jaswant Kaur, widow of Beant Singh, pushed her younger son Tej Parkash Singh in the political arena, who became minister during the Congress regimes in Punjab. She also ensured the entry of another grandson Gurkirat Singh into the Youth Congress, but he failed to make a mark as he got embroiled in a controversy. Since he was now over-aged, Bittu was promoted to lead the state Youth Congress as he was around 30-year-old, besides being a mature and sober leader.

Parminder Singh, general secretary, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), elated over the victory of Bittu, said one day he (Bittu) would become the president of the Indian Youth Congress and had all qualities to become a national leader.


Skeptics proved wrong: Rahul
Sanjay Bumbroo and PK Jaiswar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 23
My main aim is to empower 70 per cent youth as they are the future leaders of the country. This was stated by Rahul Gandhi, general secretary of the All-India Congress Committee (AICC), while addressing youth leaders of Punjab during the election of the president of the Punjab Youth Congress (PYC) here today. He said it had been gratifying to note that a large number of youth delegates from the Dalit, OBC, SC/ST communities were elected at the block and district levels.

He said skeptics had been proved wrong about holding of such elections in a free and fair manner. The Youth Congress elections have shown the maturity of the young electorate who had elected their representatives at the block and district levels in a transparent manner.

Meanwhile, the Jalandhar unit of the Youth Congress presented a memorandum to Rahul complaining that elected district president did not qualify for the post as she was alleged to be overage and had crossed the stipulated age of 35 years.


VIPs asked to prune security cover
CM, SAD chief exempted
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
The police has “requested” ministers, chief parliamentary secretaries, MLAs and also the Speaker of the Vidhan Sabha to forgo security personnel with them in excess of norms. It has reduced and completely withdrawn security cover of a number of junior politicians in the state.

The security cover of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president which has around 700 cops has not been touched.

Sources said the Punjab Police security wing has written to the ministers, parliamentary secretaries as well as legislators through their private secretaries informing them about the cops deployed with in excess of norms and requested them to surrender them.

According to norms laid down by the security wing, the ministers are entitled to security cover of 20 cops, parliamentary secretaries to 13 and legislators to four only. Till now these norms were not being implemented. Minister Bikramjit Singh Majithia and MLA Manjinder Singh Kang who, besides having 65 cops guarding them, also have five official vehicles at his disposal, including a bulletproof car.

The security cover of the Chief Minister and the SAD president has been left untouched. Besides around 700 cops, including commandos, there are around 50 vehicles in the Chief Minister’s security set-up. The police maintains that this cover is necessary keeping in view extensive movement of both VIPs in the state as well as in Delhi where Sukhbir also maintains a house. Both have also been said to have very high threat perception.

Meanwhile, even as attempts are being made to persuade VIPs to forgo excess security, the police has reduced and even completely taken back security from a number of junior-level politicians, including Akali leaders. These include mainly district-level Congress leaders and even some Akali functionaries. For instance, Ferozepur district Congress chief Gurnaib Singh Brar’s both security guards have been withdrawn. In Mohali, SAD leader Amrik Singh Mohali’s two guards have withdrawn.

The police has also initiated exercise to re-evaluate threat perception of various VIPs to provide security on present threat perception and position. 



CM calls for ouster of UPA govt
Kulwinder Sandhu and Anirudh Gupta
Tribune News Service

Zira/Makhu (Ferozepur), December 23
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has called upon people to oust the Congress-led UPA government and pave the way for the NDA to form a new government at the Centre.

Badal addressed two public rallies on the second day of his development tour in these two towns of this border district today.

Playing the religious card to lash out at the Congress, he said nobody could forget the attack on the Golden Temple and the anti-Sikh riots that had exposed the secular image of the Congress. He said the Congress was also responsible for interfering in the religious affairs of the Sikhs and was solely responsible for disturbing peace in Punjab as it had always indulged in divisive politics.

The Chief Minister said Punjab was ignored in the Centre’s debt-waiver scheme of Rs 71,000 crore for farmers. The state got just 1 per cent share in the waiver. Similarly, hardly 1 per cent share had been allotted to the state out of the Central grant of Rs 3,125 crore earmarked for development of agriculture in all states.

Badal was of the view that the Centre should evolve a permanent solution of the prices of agriculture produces either linking it with the consumer price index or MSP should be equal to the cost of production plus 50 per cent as recommended by Dr MS Swaminathan, a farm economist.

Badal announced grants worth Rs 104 crore for projects to be set up in the Zira and Makhu areas. The projects include a Rs 3.50-crore 30-bedded community health centre and sub-tehsil at Makhu at a cost of Rs 25 lakh. He gave a cheque for Rs 2 crore and Rs 1 crore each for the development of Zira and Makhu towns, respectively.

Later, he laid the foundation stone of a bridge on the Makhu-Lohian-Jalandhar road at Gidderwindi to be built at the cost of Rs 67 crore. It would link Malwa with Doaba, reducing the distance by about 40 km.

Irrigation Minister Janmejha Singh Sekhon, Lok Sabha member Rattan Singh Ajnala, vice-president of the SAD Hari Singh Zira, MLAs Harmeet Singh Sandhu, Amarpal Singh Bonni and Inderpal Singh Bolaria also spoke.


Cotton rules: Badal seeks PM’s intervention
Amarjit Thind/Tribune News Service

Sultanpur Lodhi, December 23
The Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) is harassing cotton farmers of the state by enforcing new rules that require the farmers to produce jamabandis (revenue records) for selling cotton.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was here today to distribute grants as a part of his development programme, said he had called the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and sought the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for rescinding the new CCI rules.

“The changes are not in tune with the ground realities. The officials, who have made the changes, do not realise that most of the farmers in the state cultivate cotton on a contract basis and the contract farmers don’t have any such proof”, he revealed.

The Chief Minister said a delegation, led by SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, today met the Union Textile Minister to lodge the state’s protest on the new rules. 


Blames Capt for financial mess

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today lambasted former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh by saying that the people of Punjab should not expect anything from a person who had not stood by his family.

A vintage Badal was at his sarcastic best when he said Amarinder was old wine in a new bottle. People had seen his autocratic rule wherein he kept the masses at bay and indulged in his escapades.

He said the former Chief Minister was solely responsible for the financial mess in the state and it was a matter of record that the state was ranked seventh on the national development scale, whereas it had been ranked first in overall development during our previous tenure.

Later, talking to mediapersons, he sidestepped queries on the unbundling of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), declaration of party candidates for the parliamentary polls and the scale of the recession in the state. 


Seechewal for including environment in manifesto
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, December 23
Water-man Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal and his followers have decided to approach various political parties and motivate them to include environment of Punjab as a part of their election manifesto in the forthcoming Lok Sabha (LS) elections.

Sant Seechewal, who was here to preside over an NCC function of a college, added that his followers had even decided to vote for only those candidates who included environmental issues such pollution in their election manifesto.

He came down heavily on the Punjab Pollution Control Board terming it as Punjab Pollution Board. "It is an irony that PPCB officials are facilitating the spread of environmental pollution in the state, rather than curbing it," he said. Seechewal condemned the board for issuing plenty of no-objection certificates to industrial units without verifying their levels of emissions actually.

"The pitiable situation of the Budha Nullah in Ludhiana is a result of the lackadaisical attitude of the local authorities. We have talked to the government to stop effluents being illegally dumped in the nullah. We cannot ensure its cleanliness unless and until people stop polluting it," he said.

Expressing concern over the increasing level of pollutants in the Sutlej, he added that the river bears the brunt of industrial as well as sewerage pollution of various cities.

"It is a punishable offence to throw untreated waste into the river and this exactly what commercial establishments, emptying their effluents in the river, do. It is the district administration that should keep a check on the practice instead of patronising these," he added.

Seechewal said all water bodies could not be cleaned like the Kali Bein and to ensure that people had clean water bodies, public participation and mass awakening was a must.

His next aim was to provide primary education in rural areas. Talking about schemes like Sarv Sahiksha Abhiyaan, he said the scheme had not percolated down to the grassroot level and that much still needed to be done to educate rural children.


PSEB takes up Lanco bid 
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) took up the lone offer bid by Lanco Infratech to offer power from the proposed 1320 megawatt thermal plant at Rajpura at Rs 3.38 per unit at a board meeting today.A special purpose vehicle of the PSEB, which had received and opened the bid, has referred it to the Board. The bid is rated to be on the higher side. Earlier, the PSEB had urged the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) to allow opening of the lone bid which had been allowed with the condition that the commission’s approval be taken before issuing the letter of intent (LoI).

Board Chairman Y S Ratra when asked whether there was any move to renegotiate the power price said the issue had been discussed in its entirety at the meeting but refused to disclose any details. Sources said the board, which has to place the bid before the Regulatory Commission, is considering a negotiation in the power price.

The tariff quoted by the company is 52 paise per unit higher than the tariff approved for Talwandi Sabo project, which was allotted to M/S Sterlite at 286 paise/unit just a couple of months back. A difference of 52 paise per unit means that consumers of PSEB shall be paying Rs. 460 crore per per year more for getting power from the 1320 MW Rajpura plant for the next 25 years as compared to the Talwandi Sabo plant. This will cause a total additional liability of Rs. 11,550 crore.

Board officials, however, explain that there is a difference between the recent Talwandi Sabo bid and that of the Rajpura thermal plant because there has been depreciation in the capital cost of the former bid. However, not many are biting this, with reduced bids being received for the same capacity thermal plants (1320 mw) in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The Jhajjar plant in Haryana was awarded to China Light and Power Company at Rs 2.99 per unit and in Karchana in Uttar Pradesh the Jay Pee group will sell power at Rs 2.97 per unit.

The PSEB had identified three thermal projects at Talwandi Sabo, Rajpura and Gidderbaha under the competitive bidding policy, which has been taken up by the Union Government for allotment of ultra mega thermal projects. For the Rajpura project it received a lone bid and chose to approach the Regulatory Commission to approve the opening.

The PSEB Engineers Association, however, maintains that following the ‘negotiation’ route with Lanco would be against the spirit of competitive bidding. 


Probe hinges on clothes found on body
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 23
The investigation into the resurfacing of a murdered man and the conviction of five persons for his “murder” now hinges on the clothes found on the body that was identified as that of Jagseer Singh 12 years ago.

The police is taking out the case record to find out whether Jagseer’s family had identified the clothes at that time. It will help the police to find out whether Jagseer’s family had deliberately put those clothes on the body to pass it off as their son’s body.

Talking to The Tribune yesterday, DSP, Rampura Phull, Rupinder Bhardwaj said he had directed the SHO to find out the file pertaining to the case.

The police will try to find out whether a case under Section 174, CrPC, had been registered after the body was found or directly a case of murder had been registered against Nachhattar Singh, his son Sheera Singh and three others.

“We will also investigate the role of the family in the case. The man, whose body had been found, may have been murdered to pass him off as Jagseer,” added the DSP.

Meanwhile, the Ludhiana (Rural) police said they had arranged for a DNA test of Jagseer. The police today moved an application in the court seeking permission for the DNA test. The court kept the decision reserved.


Relief for 3,600 rice shellers 
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
Punjab Food and Supplies Minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon today succeeded in securing a major relief for the 3,600 sheller industries of the state as the Union government today acceded to the request of the Punjab government to relax refraction of damaged, slightly damaged grains, including pin-point damaged grains from existing 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent.

The Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, today communicated to the state government that the Union government had decided to give relaxation in uniform specification of raw rice for the kharif marketing season (KMS) 2008-09 in Punjab and the relaxed limit would be damaged, slightly damaged grains 3 per cent plus 0.5 per cent pin-point damaged grains.

It has been communicated that this relaxation has been given in the interest of the food security and expeditious milling of paddy procured by the state agencies of Punjab and also to avoid milling losses. It was also pointed out that the above relaxation would be applicable for only custom milled rice (CMR) without any value cut.

As much as 131.42 lakh mt tonnes of paddy was procured out of which 120.74 lakh mt tonnes was procured by government agencies.


Farhat eager to meet family in Pak
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 23
A Pakistani national, who had been convicted of entering India illegally, has sought his release and deportation to his country.

Rana Farhat Ali, a resident of Faislabad in Pakistan, entered India through Nepal in 2005. He started living in Guru Arjan Dev Nagar in Ludhiana as a painter and was arrested in 2006.

He was convicted by a court and sent to the Nabha jail, where he served his sentence and was released on December 19.

Now, he has urged deputy commissioner, Ludhiana, Sumer Singh Gurjar to get him deported soon so that he can meet his family in Faislabad.

Farhat said he had been booked by the Pakistani police for murder. He had fled from Pakistan and reached Nepal.

“In Nepal, I was told that I would be killed amid Maoist agitation there. So I though I would better visit Punjab in India where I would be passed off as a Punjabi,” he said.

All praise for the officials of Nabha jail, he said they treated him very well.

Farhat has three daughters and two sons.

“I have spoken to them and told them I would be visiting them soon. That would be the day of celebrations,” He added.


Vet officers demand promotions
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
The Punjab State Veterinary Officers Association today urged the government to order placements and promotions.

At an emergency meeting, the association chaired here today by president Dr Ashok Kumar Sharma, members pointed out that 50 per cent of posts of deputy director at the district level and senior veterinary officer at the sub-division level continued to be vacant though placements/promotions to these posts did not entail additional burden.

General secretary of the association Dr Sukhdev Singh said to run the department efficiently the concept of veterinary service providers, who had failed should be given up and regular veterinary officers appointed. He said nearly 50 per cent vacancies of veterinary officer vacant should be filled through the Punjab Public Service Commission to achieve the desired objectives. 


Donating the gift of life
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
It's nothing short of a life-saving gift. The decision of Onkar Singh, resident of Anandpur Sahib to donate the kidneys of his 16-year-old son who had suffered brain death, following a road accident, have given a new lease of life to two patients from Himachal.

Dheeraj (34) from Solan and Saurav (19) from Sarkaghat, suffering from an incurable kidney disease, got a life-saving gift on December 9. Their happy stories, however, started on a sad note as life ended for 16-year old Gagandeep who had met with the accident on December 4.

Gagandeep was on a motorcycle when he met with an accident near Anandpur Sahib. He was unconscious and was brought to the Emergency at PGI, Chandigarh, where he was put on a ventilator. His CT-scan revealed severe injury to the brain-stem region. This region is critical to maintain respiration and other vital body functions.

“He never recovered and doctors at the PGI told us that he had suffered brain-stem injuries result in brain death,” says Gagandeep’s father, Onkar. After he was declared brain dead, the doctors who had been treating him told his father about the feasibility of organ donation. He decided to donate the kidneys of his son to needy persons.

Dr Ashish Sharma, PGI, said several formalities had to be done before carrying out the transplant since it was a medico-legal case. The PGI, in response to the kind gesture, waived the hospital charges and provided him with medicines from the hospital during his stay at the ICU.

Considering the poor track record of organ donations in city, the donation of two kidneys and that too in a span of 24 hours has heartened the department of transplantation. For patients who queue up for transplants, such donations are truly the gift of life, said doctor at PGI.

“The transplant has meant an end to two years of painful dialysis and as many near-fatal episodes,” says KK Gupta, Sourav

Kumar’s relative, who received the kidney. “There was no problem about money, there was no dearth of family members who wanted to donate, but they could never find a matching donor”, said another kidney recipient, Dheeraj.

Dr Mukut Minz of the renal department, PGI, said a living person can donate only a single organ; multiple organs can be procured after death. A single act of doantion can save the life of many individuals.

Unfortunately, organs cannot be used from all persons after death as the organs deteriorate as soon as the circulation of blood stops and these then become unusable. But if the death occurs in hospital and the organs can be removed within 30 minutes, they can be put to use.

More commonly, these are removed after brain death. Brain death is a rare phenomenon occurring in about one in 200 hospital deaths. This occurs in ICU after head injury, stroke, brain hemorrhage, due to brain tumors. After brain death also, only a fraction of persons agree to donate their beloved’s organs leading to an ever-increasing wait for patients with end stage organ disease.


No politics please, devotees to parties
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 23
“No politics please” is the message that masses congregating at Fatehgarh Sahib for the annual Jor Mela are sending to politicians of the state. The historic gurdwara here is witnessing a huge rush with hundreds of devotes arriving for the mela that marks the martyrdom of the two Sahibzadas.

Most of those who reached today, are those who are putting up langar stalls all over the town. Representing their villages, they would be cooking and serving langar to those who would come for darshan during the mela which begins tomorrow. “We can easily do without political speeches. However, parties cannot resist themselves from taking advantage of the huge gathering and indulge in verbal duels with their opponents,” rued Avtar Singh, who along with 50 other men, has come from village Jallanpur to organise a langar, which has become a ritual with the residents of the village.

Lamenting that the spirit of the event gets lost in the din of political barbs, Gajjan Singh of Chattbir village wants that politicians should come to the mela to participate in religious activities only. “They should talk about those who sacrificed their lives for the country, rather than harping on their achievements,” he added. The residents of this village have been organising a special ‘kheer’ langar here for the last several years.

“Politicians, who come here, should make use of the opportunity to listen to the woes of the people,” said Gobinder Singh of Bakhshi Wala village in Sangrur. 


Kalia gives Rs 3 cr for Sangrur
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 23
The Punjab government will spend Rs 230 crore on development works in all those towns and cities that have municipal councils. “A” class municipal councils are being given Rs 3 crore each while “B” class and “C” class councils will get Rs 2 crore and Rs 1 crore each, respectively.

This was stated by Local Government and Industries Minister Manoranjan Kalia here today. The minister gave a cheque for Rs 3 crore to Sangrur additional deputy commissioner Indu Malhotra for development works.

Kalia inaugurated the work to cover about 3,000-foot-long drain flowing close to Sunami Gate here. The government has already provided Rs 1 crore for the project. MP from Sangrur Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa was also present.

The function, marking the inauguration of the project, was also addressed by Dhindsa, vice-chairman of Small Traders Board, Punjab, D.P. Chandan, area in charge of the Shiromani Akali Dal for the Sangrur Assembly constituency Parkash Chand Garg and district president of the BJP Jatinder Kalra.


Hotels, restaurants remain closed
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, December 23
Despite Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s assurance to the hospitality industry in the state to look into tax structure hotels and restaurants today remained closed in protest against luxury tax and other levies.

The management and staff of the hospitality segment, including marriage palaces and banquet hall owners today matched in procession from Dharam Singh Market and held up traffic at Bhandari Bridge to protest against 8 per cent luxury tax on hotel room rents besides 12 per cent tax on e banqueting services in the state.

Hotel industry spokesperson APS Chatha said though the CM had directed Bikram Singh Majithia, public relations minister, to look into their problems of taxation and find a solution to the issues in the hospitality sector. He said the state had backed their demand and gone on strike today. 


Security Equipment Case
Stop pressure tactics, judge warns Punjab
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 23
If the Punjab government today made an attempt to compel a judge into recusing himself from security equipment purchase case, the move boomeranged.

Justice Ranjit Singh of the Punjab and Haryana High Court not only saw it as a crude attempt to prevent him from performing his constitutional duties, but also made it clear he would not allow anyone to browbeat him.

The case pertains to the purchase of equipment by the intelligence wing of the Punjab Police during former DGP SS Virk’s tenure.

The details of the equipment were placed before the court by the state on the previous date of hearing, but only after seeking at least two adjournments.

Justice Ranjit Singh has already made himself clear through his orders that he wants to the state to spell out the nature of equipment, which could include phone-tapping apparatus.

The functioning of the investigating officer (IO) of the case, SK Asthana, is also under the court’s scanner. He was the chairman of the technical committee involved in the purchases, and is continuing as the IO.

The case was to come up today for informing the court on the desirability of allowing Asthana to continue as the IO. As the hearing resumed, state counsel Reeta Kohli made it apparent that the state wanted Asthana to continue. Rather, it wanted the judge to recuse himself.

She produced a sealed envelope, which was opened by Justice Ranjit Singh in his chamber. Coming out, Justice Ranjit Singh without any hesitation made public the contents, while asserting: “It should be heard by everyone.”

Justice Ranjit Singh observed reference has been made to Virk’s handwritten note recovered from him when he was arrested. The note said, “Try to win over young MLAs like Pavy, Sukhpal, Jassi Khungra, Panjrath, who are very active and have money.”

Curiously enough, some of those mentioned in the note were not even MLAs when Virk was the DGP.

Justice Ranjit Singh observed it appeared to be a crude attempt to get the case out of his roaster. “How does it affect my position to decide the case, if a relative of mine is to be cultivated…? Justice Ranjit Singh questioned. “Otherwise also, what is its relevance to the case? If Virk says some MLAs should be cultivated, how is it related to the cases against him?”

Not mincing his words, Justice Ranjit Singh asserted: Such an attempt on part of the state will not refrain me from performing my duties assigned to me under the Constitution.

Justice Ranjit Singh said he was not “enamoured” by the case. “But, I will deal with a heavy hand, if any attempt is made to browbeat me”. The case will now come up tomorrow. If Justice Ranjit Singh comes to the conclusion that he will not recuse himself, he will decide the case on merit.


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