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TOP STORIES

Rift in state BJP widens
Punj defers swearing-in of Amritsar Improvement Trust chief
Jalandhar, July 5
The BJP high command has directed all concerned to postpone any function to be held tomorrow with regard to the oath-taking ceremony of the chairperson of the Improvement Trust, Amritsar. The direction has been given by Balbir Punj, general secretary and in charge of the party affairs of Punjab.

Tribune Exclusive
Govt puts trees on sale
Chandigarh, July 5
Tikshan Sud The Punjab State Forest Development Corporation will no more get the felling of trees done by engaging labour. Instead, the trees transferred to the corporation for felling will be sold by inviting tenders so as to generate more revenue and create employment opportunities for the youth.



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EARLIER STORIES


Labour shortage: Malwa women show the way
Mandi Ahmedgarh, July 5
Punjabi women transplant paddy at Chhanna village, near Ahmedgarh, on Sunday. Falsifying the notion that only Bihari labourers can undertake the strenuous work of paddy transplantation, women from families of small and marginal farmers and local labourers have taken up the job to overcome the problem of manpower shortage in Malwa. Paddy growers of this part of Malwa, which is facing an acute shortage of Bihari labourers, have started engaging Punjabi labourers in paddy transplantation.

Punjabi women transplant paddy at Chhanna village, near Ahmedgarh, on Sunday. Photo by writer

Centre clears Rs 3,000 cr for grain storage
Chandigarh, June 5
In what has come as a major relief to Punjab foodgrain storage crisis, the Planning Commission has approved state’s proposal to create additional repositories for storage of an additional 70 lakh tonnes of foodgrain. After repeated pleas with the Centre, Punjab has managed to secure a sanction of Rs 3,000 crore for building and hiring of godowns in collaboration with private operators.

Quota for Bright Poor Students
Candidates, institutes confused
Jalandhar, July 5
Even after a year the Punjab government’s fee waiver scheme for bright poor students aspiring to get admission in technical colleges and polytechnic institutes does not seem to have taken off.



POLITICS

BJP eyes Dy CM’s post
Sangrur, July 5
With the acceptance of the resignation of Sukhbir Singh Badal from post of Deputy Chief Minister, the issue of the appointment of a BJP leader for the post has been raised once again in party circles in the district.


COMMUNITY

Arhtiyas to continue stir
Chandigarh, July 5
There is more trouble at hand for the Punjab government. Arhtiyas (commission agents) of the state have decided to continue the boycott on procurement till they receive an assurance from the government. The decision was taken by a 21-member committee of the Punjab Arhtiya Association that met in Jagraon today.

Health insurance scheme for BPL workers
Bathinda, July 5
The state government has launched the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY) aimed at facilitating health insurance cover for workers covered under the Below Poverty Line (BPL) as a pilot project in 12 districts.

Younger docs against raising retirement age
Chandigarh, July 5
The demand by senior faculty of Punjab medical colleges to increase the retirement age from the present 60 to 65 years is being challenged by younger doctors, who claim that their senior colleagues are misleading the government on the issue.

‘Drunken’ cop opens fire
Residents of Nehru Colony protest outside a police station in Amritsar on Sunday. Amritsar, July 5
An inebriated Punjab police inspector, who was posted at the Police Lines, today allegedly opened fire in Krishna Gali, Nehru Colony, on the Majitha road, over horn honking. The incident took place in the afternoon when Des Raj, an assistant town planner in the Municipal Corporation and resident of Krishna Gali, was returning home from the bhog of a relative in the car driven by his son.

Residents of Nehru Colony protest outside a police station in Amritsar on Sunday. A Tribune photograph

Illegal buildings to go under pvt scanner
Ludhiana, July 5
Punjab is likely to be the first state in the country to outsource inspection of buildings and report on illegal construction. An advertisement to this effect has already come out and sources in the state government say preference will be given to the agencies which have experience of working with municipal bodies and also agencies that have experience of conducting surveys.

Punjabi varsity revises admission schedule
Patiala, July 5
Punjabi University has revised its schedule for interviews, aptitude tests and last dates for the submission of applications forms for various courses on the university campus, its regional centres and neighbourhood campuses.

Curb pollution in Nangal wetland, demands ex-MP
Nangal, July 5
Avinash Rai Khanna, a member of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) and former MP from Hoshiarpur, has taken a serious notice of the sewage water of the Nangal Municipal Council falling into the Nangal national wetland.

Oppn ignored in dist planning panel: MLA
Chandigarh, July 5
Congress MLA from Budhlada Sukhpal Khaira has alleged that no member of the opposition has been made a part of the newly constituted District Planning Committee.

Panchayats demand flexible rate of bricks
Sangrur, July 5
Protesting against the big difference between the rate fixed by the office of the Deputy Commissioner (Rs 2,100 per 1,000) and market rate of bricks (Rs 2,900 per 1,000), development works were stalled from Thursday by panchayats in villages of the district.

Sikhs air their grievances
Chandigarh, July 5
Sikhs settled in various parts of the country other than Punjab shared their grievances with members of the National Commission for Minorities in the union Capital on Friday.

Rs 43 cr for NREGA unspent
Ludhiana, July 5
Of Punjab’s total allocation of Rs 114.85 crore for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) project, the state has spent only Rs 71.77 crore on various rural employment schemes. This was stated by Financial Commissioner (Development) Jagpal Singh Sandhu while talking to The Tribune on the sidelines of a meeting with district officials here today.

Record of land under PLPA
Ministry fire ruins state’s 2-yr efforts
Chandigarh, July 5
The Punjab government’s exercise of two years of gathering and compiling land records of the areas under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) has come to naught.


COURTS

Abduction Case
HC not satisfied with police action
Chandigarh, July 5
The Punjab and Haryana High Court is dissatisfied with the attempts so far made by the police to trace Jaswant Singh, alias Nosha, who was allegedly abducted from a polling booth in Jandiala Guru in Amritsar during the Municipal Council elections last year.


CRIME

Fake stamp papers to be sent to Nasik
Ludhiana, July 5
The Ludhiana police has decided to send stamp papers seized from kingpin Ravinder Pal and his associates to Nasik for examination.

3 held for impersonation in IELTS exam
Racket’s ‘kingpin’ manages to escape

Ludhiana, July 5
In a major breakthrough the police arrested three young persons, including two girls, on charges of impersonation and forging documents. They were nabbed while appearing for the IELTS examination at Hotel Gulmohar, located on Ferozepur Road, on behalf of genuine candidates here last evening.







 
TOP STORIES

Rift in state BJP widens
Punj defers swearing-in of Amritsar Improvement Trust chief
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, July 5
The BJP high command has directed all concerned to postpone any function to be held tomorrow with regard to the oath-taking ceremony of the chairperson of the Improvement Trust, Amritsar. The direction has been given by Balbir Punj, general secretary and in charge of the party affairs of Punjab.

Confirming it, Col Amrik Singh (retd), president of the Amritsar district of the party, said: “Punj told me on the phone that no function or ceremony with regard to the oath-taking of the chairperson should be held till the issue is resolved by the party high command”. He said if any function was held it would be considered an act of indiscipline.

BJP MP from Amritsar Navjot Singh Sidhu is opposed to the appointment of Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, who was recently appointed chairman of the Trust by Local Bodies Minister Manoranjan Kalia.

Sidhu had taken up the matter with the party’s top brass, including LK Advani. Sources said he had told the high command that Chhina worked against him in the recent Lok Sabha elections. Sidhu had informed Advani and Punj that he trailed by 34,000 votes in the constituency from where Chhina had contested last time. Sidhu is all for revoking the appointment of Chhina.

The sources said Sidhu had told the party high command to reward two party MLAs, Surjit Kumar Jiyani (Fazilka) and Arunesh Shakar (Mukerian), because the party secured lead in the assembly segments represented by them during the LS elections.

Sidhu wanted ministerial berth for these MLAs and withdrawal of ministries from those from whose segments the party had lost with a big margin. There is a strong group of BJP leaders who support Sidhu’s proposal.

In fact, the internal fighting in the BJP is heading for a showdown in the days to come. The cold war among various leaders of the BJP in Punjab has been going on for the past several months. There are two strong groups in the party. The Bhandari-Kalia group is calling the shots, while the other group, including Avinash Khanna, Vijay Sampla and Harjit Grewal, is feeling marginalised.

In a few months from now, a new president of the state unit of the party will be elected. Sidhu is a frontrunner for the post. He had won a lot of goodwill of party workers at the grass-roots level by taking a bold stand in their support at the recently held party conclave here. 

Top

 

Tribune Exclusive
Govt puts trees on sale
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 5
The Punjab State Forest Development Corporation will no more get the felling of trees done by engaging labour. Instead, the trees transferred to the corporation for felling will be sold by inviting tenders so as to generate more revenue and create employment opportunities for the youth.

Increasing market price of timber and revision of royalty rates, besides a check on both illicit felling and pilferage of timber, have been the factors necessitating a change in the policy on felling of trees, both green and dry, including dead trees.

Punjab Forest Minister Tikshan Sud presided over a meeting of senior officials of the department as well as of the corporation a few days ago to allow a change in the old tree felling policy that was not yielding satisfactory results.

Before the corporation was floated in 1983, the Forest Department earned Rs 6.05 crore from felling of trees. It was revealed that keeping pace with rising prices of timber, the revenue receipts against the trees transferred to the corporation should have touched Rs 60 or 70 crore.

But, the corporation had been running in losses. The Punjab State Disinvestments Commission, National Forest Commission and even the government working committee had recommended that the corporation be closed and the felling work reverted back to the department.

The Punjab government had set up a committee headed by Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests MP Rai to recommend royalty rates for various species of trees in state. Instead of following the Haryana pattern, the committee recommended that the state should follow its own formula for fixing royalty as it was based on scientific data.

The new rates recommended by the committee after conducting a detailed study of working of lots, logging and auction of cut material, are much higher than the present rates. The new rates have been implemented from July 1.

The royalty of a shisham tree with a girth of 210 cm and above has been fixed at Rs 51,045 for a green and Rs 45,088 for a dry tree. The same way, the royalty rates of kikar, eucalyptus, mulberry, simbal, teak, drek, khair, mango and mesquite trees have been revised.

Talking to The Tribune, Sud said trees, which earlier used to be handed over to the corporation, would now be sold by a high-powered committee comprising the Managing Director of the corporation, the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and a nominee of the state government by inviting sealed tenders.

To ensure a complete transparency in the sale of trees, anyone can file a complaint against award of work through sealed tenders by depositing 125 per cent of accepted bid amount within seven days from the opening of the tender.

As a safeguard against any possible illicit felling by the contractor, videography will be done at the site of the felling.

Sud said to ensure that there was no delay in the execution of development projects by any central or state agency, trees would be offered to be cut at reserved prices without insisting on sealed tender condition.

“We expect to earn five times more than what we are earning now,” he added.

Top

 

Labour shortage: Malwa women show the way
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, July 5
Falsifying the notion that only Bihari labourers can undertake the strenuous work of paddy transplantation, women from families of small and marginal farmers and local labourers have taken up the job to overcome the problem of manpower shortage in Malwa.

Paddy growers of this part of Malwa, which is facing an acute shortage of Bihari labourers, have started engaging Punjabi labourers in paddy transplantation. As traditional farm labourers are busy with other agricultural chores and a majority of men folk are not ready to take the risk of losing jobs by staying away from their normal duty for many days, women folk from these families have taken to the paddy fields.

Investigations by the The Tribune revealed that a number of Punjabi labourers, predominantly women, had undertaken paddy transplantation in fields of small farmers, who could not afford to engage traditional Bihari labourers specializing in the job.

Though groups of Punjabi labourers did not receive labour charges equal to those being quoted by Bihari and UP labourers, they could earn about Rs 400 per head per day by working longer in the day. While Bihari groups of paddy transplanters demand from Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500 per acre of land on pretext of higher viability of saplings, their Punjabis counterparts get Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,800 for transplanting paddy on one acre.

Suraj of Jandali Kalan village said he, along with his brother and five women of their clan, earned about Rs 2,700 by transplanting paddy on 1.5 acre in one day. Claiming that their work was in no way inferior to that of migrant labourers, Suraj questioned: “Have they done some diploma in paddy transplantation which we do not have. Rather we have more knowledge about agricultural chores.” Besides women labourers, women of small and marginal farmers of Chhanna, Jandali Khurad, Kanganwal, Rohira, Baurhai, Dehliz and Maherna were seen transplanting saplings in their fields.

Top

 

Centre clears Rs 3,000 cr for grain storage
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 5
In what has come as a major relief to Punjab foodgrain storage crisis, the Planning Commission has approved state’s proposal to create additional repositories for storage of an additional 70 lakh tonnes of foodgrain. After repeated pleas with the Centre, Punjab has managed to secure a sanction of Rs 3,000 crore for building and hiring of godowns in collaboration with private operators.

The state has been facing a problem of foodgrain storage following a slow down in moving grain to other states as Punjab is no longer the only foodgrain producing state. With other states producing wheat and paddy to take care of their domestic needs, Punjab has had to face the problem of storing grain produced during successive harvesting seasons.

Sources in the the government said Rs 3,000 crore was sanctioned by the Planning Commission recently after a Punjab’s Food and Supply Minister-led team met Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and apprised him about the “threat to national food security” as huge amounts of grain was being damaged on account of lack of storage.

Punjab has a total capacity of storing about 106 lakh tonne of foodgrain in warehouses and an additional 64 lakh tonnes out in the open on plinths, under tarpaulin sheets. But, since one season produces more grain than the total storage capacity available with the state, foodgrain from several previous seasons has been accumulated.

The minister reportedly told Ahluwalia that paddy would be ready over the next few months, but rice shellers in Punjab are still stocked with paddy as well as wheat from previous seasons. Punjab has also asked for intervention of the Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee to provide additional railway rakes to move stored grain out of Punjab.

According to sources, the proposal cleared for Punjab will be based on government-private partnership, where farmers and other property owners will be asked to build storage warehouses that will be rented for at least a five-year period. Punjab’s Food and Supply Department will act as a nodal agency between the government and the farmers in this matter. 

Top

 

Quota for Bright Poor Students
Candidates, institutes confused
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, July 5
Even after a year the Punjab government’s fee waiver scheme for bright poor students aspiring to get admission in technical colleges and polytechnic institutes does not seem to have taken off.

While a few colleges have been advertising 10 per cent free seats and have started admitting needy girls and physically challenged aspirants prior to counselling following directions of the Technical Education Department, there are others which insist on following the procedure after being through with PTU counselling and filling management quota seats.

Even representatives of the Punjab Unaided Technical Institutes’ Association (PUTIA), who were party to the MoU signed in this regard by the department and the Punjab State Technical Board, are yet to comply with the undertakings. “We need to fill 10 per cent seats under the scheme, but we have not yet received approval to start new colleges and seat enhancement. We cannot follow a procedure at this stage as it is not known how many seats are to be filled under the scheme,” said PUTIA chairman BS Dhaliwal.

Applicants need to know whether they can get a seat under the scheme or look for other options. Dhaliwal said, “The genuine poor students will not be able to pay up for a seat in any case. They will simply have to wait and watch”. The chairman heads several PTU-affiliated colleges, including those under BIS, SAS, SUS and GGS groups.

Many say the scheme is not fool-proof. Director, DAV Institute of Engineering and Technology, Jalandhar, CL Kocher said barring service-class parents everyone, including businessmen and farmers, would be able to get affidavit showing lower than Rs 2.5 lakh annual income.

A few colleges which have completed necessary formalities say they could fill very few seats under the scheme owing to certain problems. Principal, Bhai Maha Singh College of Engineering, Muktsar, Dr DS Grewal said there were only 15 to 20 applicants for 42 seats. “We had advertised, but the response was poor as our college is in rural area where students hardly get above 60 per cent marks. The selection committee comprised the SDM who found that most of the applicants were without testimonials signed by tehsildar concerned regarding lower family income,” he claimed.

The authorities of the Aman Bhalla Institute of Engineering and Technology, Pathankot, too have advertised for 24 seats under the scheme. Principal Dr JK Chawla said the candidates had been given a week’s time after which they would be selected by a committee headed by the Deputy Commissioner.

Principal Secretary, Technical Education, Tejinder Kaur on laxity by the colleges, said, “I will look for needy students and start sending them to the colleges which have not filled seats under the scheme”. 

Top

 

BJP eyes Dy CM’s post
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 5
With the acceptance of the resignation of Sukhbir Singh Badal from post of Deputy Chief Minister, the issue of the appointment of a BJP leader for the post has been raised once again in party circles in the district.

This shows that the sentiments of the BJP’s rank and file have not died down over the issue. Though Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had earlier denied the post of the Deputy CM to the BJP by saying there was no need of the post, later he included Sukhbir in his council of ministers on the post.

In a press statement here on Friday, district president of the BJP Jatinder Kalra asked the BJP’s national and state leadership to put pressure on Badal to appoint a BJP leader as the Deputy CM.

Kalra said as Badal had already made Sukhbir Deputy CM in the past, he now had no excuse to say that there was no need to appoint anybody for the post. He said the appointment of a BJP leader was also the need of the coalition dharma. 

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Arhtiyas to continue stir
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 5
There is more trouble at hand for the Punjab government. Arhtiyas (commission agents) of the state have decided to continue the boycott on procurement till they receive an assurance from the government. The decision was taken by a 21-member committee of the Punjab Arhtiya Association that met in Jagraon today.

Disclosing this to The Tribune, convener, Punjab State Associations of Commission Agents, Dharam Singh Kang said the top leadership of the association would now meet on July 13 to review the situation.

Commission agents have been on strike since July 1 to protest direct payment to farmers by procurement agencies. The government has notified that procurement agencies will make direct payment to farmers through online bank transfer into their accounts.

A brainchild of Food and Supply Minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, the government has been flaunting the scheme, saying farmers will not have to wait to get their money after their produce is sold.

The commission agents, on the other hand, have objected to this saying the farmers borrow money for seed and other inputs and this amount is adjusted from the sale proceeds. But, if the payment is made to the farmer bypassing the commission agent, their money would no longer be secure.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had assured a deputation of commission agents that a suitable way out would be found to secure their money. But president of the associations Vijay Kalra said no solution had been found, forcing all agents to strike work.

No purchase of maize, sunflower or even wheat brought by farmers has been made since July 1. Maize and sunflower is the crop of the season and sells around at Rs 830 per quintal (maize) and Rs 1,800 or 1,900 per quintal (sunflower). Some farmers who store wheat for sale later have been arriving in various mandis of Punjab to sell wheat at Rs 1,080 per quintal (minimum support price).

Commission agents have offered to pay farmers by account payee cheques or in cash as desired by the farmer. But they want that procurement agencies must first pay them and after adjusting the advances, they will disburse the remaining amount to the farmers.

According to Suraj Prakash of M/s Kidarnath Krishan Kumar at Khanna mandi, about 90 per cent of commission agents in Punjab are supporting the strike. Most shops in Khanna, Samrala, Kurali, Machiwara and Jagraon have been closed since the month start.

Unable to make any headway, commission agents are planning an aggressive agitation that may include gherao of MPs, ministers and MLAs of Punjab. Nirmal Singh of M/s Nirmal Singh Balbir Singh, also at Khanna, said the government notification had affected over 45,000 commission agents.

Top

 

Health insurance scheme for BPL workers
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 5
The state government has launched the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY) aimed at facilitating health insurance cover for workers covered under the Below Poverty Line (BPL) as a pilot project in 12 districts.

According to press statement issued by the District Health Department on Thursday, unorganised sector workers belonging to the BPL category and their family members (a family unit of five) will be beneficiaries under the scheme, with an insurance cover of Rs 30,000 per family per annum on a family floater basis with a cashless attendance to all covered ailments.

Under the first phase of the scheme, 12 districts, Bathinda, Barmala, Faridkot, Fatehgarh Sahib, Kapurthala, Ludhiana, Moga, Mansa, Mohali, Nawanshahr, Ropar and Tarn Taran, have come under its ambit. The beneficiary family will have to pay a nominal fee of Rs 30 for registration after which each registered family member would get a premium of Rs 30,000.

The Punjab Health Systems Corporation (PHSC) will implement the scheme.

As per the BPL census 2002, there are approximately 4.5 lakh BPL families and the total expenditure involved will be around Rs 33.75 crore.

The beneficiaries can get indoor treatment in any government hospital or empanelled private hospital of not only the district or the state, but also anywhere in the country.

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Younger docs against raising retirement age
Say posts surplus
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 5
The demand by senior faculty of Punjab medical colleges to increase the retirement age from the present 60 to 65 years is being challenged by younger doctors, who claim that their senior colleagues are misleading the government on the issue.

According to these young doctors, who have petitioned the Director, Medical Education and Research, there are 32 posts of professor and associate professor surplus at the Amritsar medical college and 28 posts of professor and associate professor surplus at the Patiala medical college.

The doctors claim these surplus posts are according to the latest vacancy position of the office concerned and have been calculated taking norms given by the Medical Council of India (MCI) into account.

Dr BS Dhillon and Dr RS Sidhu of the Forum for Welfare of Medical Institutions in Punjab claim the government should, in fact, go back on its earlier decision to increase the retirement age of medical teachers from 58 to 60 years. They said this decision, which was taken to meet the shortage of medical teachers as pointed by the MCI earlier, was counter-productive as it was leading to stagnation of assistant and associate professors in the absence of time-bound promotions.

Dr Dhillon said a proposal to increase the retirement age further to 65 years would benefit only those medical teachers who were holding administrative posts. He said this would prove to be a huge burden on the state exchequer.

Dr Dhillon said even the re-employment scheme, under which retiring teachers were taken on after completing 60 years of age, should be applied only in case of a genuine shortage.

The doctors have demanded that no medical teachers should hold administrative posts after 58 years of age and that rotational headship should be put in place.

The implementation of the Dynamic Assured Career Progression scheme proposed by the Fifth Central Pay Commission under which assistant professors will be promoted as associate professors after two years of regular service. Similarly, associate professors be promoted as professors after four years of regular service they added.

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‘Drunken’ cop opens fire
PK Jaiswar
Tribune News service

Amritsar, July 5
An inebriated Punjab police inspector, who was posted at the Police Lines, today allegedly opened fire in Krishna Gali, Nehru Colony, on the Majitha road, over horn honking.

The incident took place in the afternoon when Des Raj, an assistant town planner in the Municipal Corporation and resident of Krishna Gali, was returning home from the bhog of a relative in the car driven by his son.

He alleged that Inspector Ramesh Kumar, whose car was parked in the street, came out of his residence and instead of getting his car aside, started abusing them. Ramesh first fired two shots with his service revolver in the air and asked his son Suraj to come out of the car. He hit his son with the revolver butt on the head. As Suraj started bleeding profusely, Ramesh fired four shots aiming at the road. Naresh Kumar, a resident, suffered injuries and was admitted to the Civil Hospital, he alleged.

Agitated residents protested outside the Vijay Nagar police station, demanding the registration of an FIR. Nirmala and Pushpa, both residents of the area, alleged the inspector used abusive language and it had become a routine for him to quarrel with residents.

Meanwhile, Neeraj Kumar, SHO, said the police had taken Ramesh for a medical examination and an FIR would be lodged after taking statements of the residents.

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Illegal buildings to go under pvt scanner
Jyotika Sood
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, July 5
Punjab is likely to be the first state in the country to outsource inspection of buildings and report on illegal construction. An advertisement to this effect has already come out and sources in the state government say preference will be given to the agencies which have experience of working with municipal bodies and also agencies that have experience of conducting surveys.

The work will involve detection and reporting of unauthorised constructions carried out in violation of Sections 259 and 260, Punjab Municipal Act, 1976.

A brainchild of Local Bodies Minister Manoranjan Kalia, the move was dictated by the chronic shortage of staff in most municipalities. By outsourcing the activity, the government will no longer have to recruit employees and bear all consequent liabilities.

What’s more, the move, it is believed, will effectively reduce political interference and pressure on municipal bodies to regularise illegal constructions. Municipal bodies in the state have often been pulled up by the High Court for failure to curb illegal constructions, mostly belonging to influential leaders.

Talking to The Tribune, Kalia said: “It will reduce public inconvenience and help the government to comply with the laws more strictly”.

SK Sharma, Director, Local Self-government Department, said: “Since the concept is new for India, the department has invited expression of interest so that the shortlisted agencies can give us detailed project reports about how the project can be implemented”. The chances are it will be a one-year contract to begin with, he added.

“During the first phase, agencies will provide support to officers deputed at the municipal corporations in Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala and Bathinda. Now, the decision of whether the agency would like to take work of the whole state or want it to be fragmented will be decided later”.

He added that the minister wanted the project should be undertaken in minimum time-frame so that outcomes could be exhibited and the agencies paid by the Punjab government accordingly.

He said it would be tough to find an agency with prior experience so a relaxation would be given to those agencies that had prior experience of conducting surveys for the Local Government Department.

The move would help generate revenue for the civic bodies reeling under the financial crunch after the abolition of octroi as non-compoundable offences could be fined.

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Punjabi varsity revises admission schedule
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 5
Punjabi University has revised its schedule for interviews, aptitude tests and last dates for the submission of applications forms for various courses on the university campus, its regional centres and neighbourhood campuses.

Giving information, Dr MS Saini, Dean, Academic Affairs, said interview dates for admission to various university departments that were earlier scheduled for July 8, 9 and 10, have been changed. Now, they will be held on July 14 and 15, and for admission to different courses in regional centres and neighbourhood campuses at Bathinda, Talwandi Sabo, Malerkotla, Jhunir, Sardulgarh, Karandi, Dehla Seehan, Ralla Mansa, Rampura Phul, Maur and Jaiton will be held on July 16 instead of July 10.

He further said interviews under the sports quota and for the quota under cultural activities would be held on July 20 and 21, respectively. Aptitude tests for BTech in television, film production and media technology and postgraduate diploma in audio-visual production courses, which were slated for July 9 and 10, will now be held on July 15 and 16, respectively. Aptitude test for MA-I, semester-I (journalism and mass communication), MA (theatre and television), and MA (dance) will be held on July 14. However, timings and venues of all these tests would remain the same.

Physical efficiency test for M PEd-I, semester-I, will be held on July 14 from 9 am to 4 pm.

The last date for submission of application forms for admission to various courses has also been extended from July 7 to July 13 with a late fee of Rs 1,000 and with Rs 2,000 on the day of interview, Saini added.

Information regarding changes in the schedule is also available on the university website- www.punjabiuniversity.ac.in.

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Curb pollution in Nangal wetland, demands ex-MP
Tribune News Service

Nangal, July 5
Avinash Rai Khanna, a member of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) and former MP from Hoshiarpur, has taken a serious notice of the sewage water of the Nangal Municipal Council falling into the Nangal national wetland.

He expressed distress over the fact that the same water was being used for drinking purpose in nearby villages.

“The effluents are harming aquatic life and vegetation of the wetland,” he said.

Similarly, at Sutlej Park, he found sewage finding way into the lake and at around 50 m ahead, the people collected the same water for drinking.

More than 90 per cent of the lights were also found dysfunctional at the park. Even boats, used for the tourism purposes, lie unused.

“I was surprised to find that the lake in the park has never been cleaned,” he told mediapersons.

Khanna conducted a surprise check at the BBMB hospital too. Patients told him that the Punjab government withdrew its ambulance services from the hospital two years ago.

Now, the BBMB employees get this service at Rs 2 per km, while the common man has to shell out Rs 28 per km for using the hospital ambulance.

Most of the doctors at the BBMB are from Punjab cadre and have been on deputation in the hospital.

“Punjab bears 60 per cent expenses of running hospital, Haryana has a share of 30 per cent and Rajasthan’s share is of 10 per cent. When the Punjab government is shelling out so much, why are the people of Punjab left bereft of medical services at the hospital?” 
Khanna asked.

He added that the BBMB hospital was plushed with infrastructure and if utilised properly, it could be used for medical tourism purposes.

Khanna will submit a detailed report of his visit to the chairman, PSHRC, soon.

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Oppn ignored in dist planning panel: MLA
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 5
Congress MLA from Budhlada Sukhpal Khaira has alleged that no member of the opposition has been made a part of the newly constituted District Planning Committee.

In a letter to Chief Secretary SC Aggarwal, Khaira pointed out that according to the Punjab District Planning Committee’s Act, 2005, one fifth of the total members of the committee, who may include MLAs and other persons, should be nominated by the state government.

“It has been noticed that no MLA belonging to the opposition Congress party has been nominated as members of these committees. Only a few MLAs belonging to the ruling SAD-BJP alliance have been nominated as members of these committees,” he wrote.“Would it not be a mockery of the Act and the system, if elected members of the Vidhan Sabha are excluded from the whole development process?” he questioned.

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Panchayats demand flexible rate of bricks
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, July 5
Protesting against the big difference between the rate fixed by the office of the Deputy Commissioner (Rs 2,100 per 1,000) and market rate of bricks (Rs 2,900 per 1,000), development works were stalled from Thursday by panchayats in villages of the district.

These works will not be started till the district administration allows the panchayats to purchase bricks either at the market rate or by way of inviting quotations from brick-kiln owners to purchase the bricks for executing development works in the villages.

Talking to The Tribune here on Thursday, president, District Panchayat Union, Ravinder Singh Rinkoo said, “We have been compelled by the district administration to take such a harsh step, as they could not pay Rs 800 per 1,000 bricks from their pockets”. He said they had given a memorandum on June 18 to the district administration to make the rate of bricks flexible, but to no avail. He said they again handed over a memorandum in this regard to the DC on Thursday.

Rinkoo said it was a matter of astonishment that the DC rate for the purchase of bricks was being imposed on the panchayats, while some other departments, including health, education, PWD and Panchayati Raj, were purchasing bricks by inviting quotations. He said due to a big difference between the rates of bricks (DC rate and market rate), the panchayats were stalling development works, including works being done under the NREGA scheme, as under this scheme 40 per cent share of the grant was spent on the purchase of material, including bricks.

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Sikhs air their grievances
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 5
Sikhs settled in various parts of the country other than Punjab shared their grievances with members of the National Commission for Minorities in the union Capital on Friday.

They not only highlighted problems faced by them in the field of education and employment, but also other socio-economic issues that affect their normal day-to-day life.

The meeting was called at the initiative of former MP HS Hanspal, a member of the commission, and saw representatives of South Indian, Bengali and Bihari Sikhs, besides those of sikligars, lubhanas, vanjaras and other communities.

Chairman, Minorities Commission, Mohammad Shafi Quereshi and members Michael Pinto and Spalz Angmo also attended the meeting. The chairman wanted representatives of Sikhs to send in writing their problems so that the commission could seek necessary remedial measures to the Centre.

One of the speakers referred to the work done by scholar Himadri Banerjee about weaker sections of the Sikh community that had made different parts of India their home. They wanted that these pockets, including those in Patna, Sachkhand Hazur Sahib and South India, needed special attention.

They also highlighted the problems of language and representation to minorities in local and state administrations, besides some assurance on employment opportunities in public and private sectors. The members explained to the participants as to what provisions of the Constitution could be used by them for the redressal of their common problems.

Among those who represented the Sikhs, a minute minority community in the country, included Mohinder Singh, Sutinder Singh Noor, Manjit Singh, Bhupinderpal Singh, Manohar Singh Batra, Harmit Singh, Surinderpal Singh, Surjit Kaur Jolly, Gurbhej Singh Goraya, Pushpinder Singh, Parkash Singh Gill, Jaswinder Kaur, Amandeep Singh, MS Honey, HS Taneja, Parminder Singh Manchanda and Kamaljit Singh.

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Rs 43 cr for NREGA unspent
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, July 5
Of Punjab’s total allocation of Rs 114.85 crore for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) project, the state has spent only Rs 71.77 crore on various rural employment schemes. This was stated by Financial Commissioner (Development) Jagpal Singh Sandhu while talking to The Tribune on the sidelines of a meeting with district officials here today.

He said a total of 39.89 lakh unemployed young people had benefited under the scheme in the state, of which only 9.82 lakh were women. Only 1,389 of the 5,250 projects under the scheme had been completed, he added.

Amritsar and Hoshiarpur top in NREGA spending among the state’s districts. Amritsar utilised Rs 11. 33 crore out of the sanctioned amount of Rs 11.65 crore, while Hoshiarpur spent Rs 20.6 crore out of the Rs 25.7 crore approved. Bathinda spent Rs 4.65 crore out of the Rs 5.39 crore sanctioned.

Sandhu said: “We will notify village panchayats about NREGA’s potential for creating jobs for the youth. As a first step we will issue cards to those eligible. Even those who with higher paying jobs can now get a minimum wage of Rs 123 under this scheme”.

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Record of land under PLPA
Ministry fire ruins state’s 2-yr efforts
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 5
The Punjab government’s exercise of two years of gathering and compiling land records of the areas under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) has come to naught.

Almost 45,000 pages of the record sent by the state’s Forest Department to the Union Ministry of Forests and Environment were destroyed in a fire that broke out in the ministry’s office in New Delhi.

The record was sent to the ministry for the de-listing of over 55,000 hectares of the Shivalik belt land. The ministry has now asked the Punjab government to re-submit the record.

The area falling in SAS Nagar, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshahr and Ropar was, according to the Forest Department, “wrongly marked as forest land”. “Following the reiteration of the definition of forest areas by the Supreme Court in December 1996, the Forest Department submitted affidavits to the Supreme Court in 1996 and 1998 regarding categories of forest areas in Punjab. This wrongly included the land locked under PLPA,” said a forest official.

In 2005, it was decided that the state government would request the Union Ministry to de-list this tract of land from the PLPA. The state government was asked to furnish details of the land to be de-listed, in terms of its land use and status before and after December 12, 1996, the day of the decision by the SC.

The department has sent this record several times. When the first time the record was sent, some mistakes were noticed and the list was sent again with the area decreased from over 65,000 to 55,000 hectares.

The Union Ministry then asked the department to send details of the areas verified by the revenue authorities. “Every of the 45,000 pages was signed by the revenue authorities of the districts concerned and the final documents were bound and submitted almost four months ago,” said a forest official.

A decision on the matter was put off by the Union Ministry following the imposition of the model code of conduct and in May a fire took place at the ministry’s office and most of the record was reported to have been destroyed.

The Forest Department here has a master copy of the 45,000 pages, which will now be re-submitted in two months.

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Abduction Case
HC not satisfied with police action
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 5
The Punjab and Haryana High Court is dissatisfied with the attempts so far made by the police to trace Jaswant Singh, alias Nosha, who was allegedly abducted from a polling booth in Jandiala Guru in Amritsar during the Municipal Council elections last year.

The court now wants to examine the details of suspicious persons placed under surveillance.

Nosha’s wife Manjit Kaur was contesting as a Congress candidate. In her petition against the state of Punjab and other respondents placed before Justice Mahesh Grover, she had levelled allegations against Akali Dal candidate Rakesh Kumar Rimpi, accusing him of being behind Nosha’s abduction as he was apprehending defeat.

Taking up the status report filed by the Amritsar police, Justice Grover asserted: “It does not reveal any serious attempt that could result in a tangible outcome of the inquiry.

The court is not satisfied with the attempts, which have been detailed in the status report, as it merely points out to eyewash of the entire responsibility cast upon the respondents to trace out an individual who has abruptly gone missing."

“Counsel for the state, on the instructions from DSP, HS Boparia, contends apart from the efforts highlighted in the status report, the telephones of some people, who are under suspicion, were put under surveillance.

The court would like to examine as to how many persons were put under surveillance and since when, and what are the details of the transcripts so recorded after such surveillance.

“All this information be supplied to the court in a sealed cover in order to protect the investigation as also the privacy of the persons who have been put under surveillance”.

Granting three weeks time, Justice Grover fixed July 23 as the next date of hearing.

The FIR in the matter was registered on July 8, 2008. Nosha had allegedly entered the polling booth on June 30, 2008, but was pushed out.

He disappeared without casting vote and his wife Manjit Kaur lost the election by two votes.

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Fake stamp papers to be sent to Nasik
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, July 5
The Ludhiana police has decided to send stamp papers seized from kingpin Ravinder Pal and his associates to Nasik for examination.

According to sources, the police will be able to present the fake stamp papers in the courts only when they possess a proof from the Government of India Press at Nasik about the credibility of the documents. A review by experts there would play an essential role in the case.

SP (City-I) Harsh Bansal confirmed that the police was sending the papers to Nasik.

He revealed that the police had also nominated one more person in the case. His arrest, along with advocate DP Singh Bhikhi, vice-president, District Youth Akali Dal, who has been already booked, would almost solve the case.

Bansal said, “We are also planning to send sketches of Bhikhi to all airports of India so that he does not leave the country”.

“Besides, the police is planning to request the district administration to publish a public notice urging people who had bought stamp papers from Ravinder Pal and his associates to get them checked from sub-registrar office for their authenticity,” said the officer.

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3 held for impersonation in IELTS exam
Racket’s ‘kingpin’ manages to escape
Mohit Khanna
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, July 5
In a major breakthrough the police arrested three young persons, including two girls, on charges of impersonation and forging documents. They were nabbed while appearing for the IELTS examination at Hotel Gulmohar, located on Ferozepur Road, on behalf of genuine candidates here last evening.

Fake passports prepared by accused in Ludhiana on Sunday.
Fake passports prepared by accused in Ludhiana on Sunday. Photo: Inderjeet Verma

The suspects have been named as Harpreet Kaur, 24, a resident of Alamgir village (Ludhiana) and a PAU home science graduate, Sukhbir Kaur, a resident of Hanumangarh who is studying for bachelor’s degree in Jaipur, and Lovedeep Trikha, 27, a government employee posted in Mohali. The three forged the passports of the genuine candidates, Rajveer Kaur of Faridkot, Gurvarinder Kaur and Gurpavitar Singh of Amritsar, before they were found taking the exams on behalf of the respective candidates.

However, the group’s ‘leader’, Rajbir Singh, also a PAU graduate, managed to escape from the scene.

Meanwhile, in a similar case the Jalandhar police arrested three youths who reportedly were working for Rajbir.

According to complainant Sunil Kumar, a senior manager with Planet Education, they received secret information last evening that some youngsters were taking the IELTS examination of behalf of original candidates by forging admit cards and replacing the photos on the respective passports. The trio was caught redhanded when he conducted a surprise check and found the passports submitted to the exam observers to be forged, he added.

The suspects were produced in the court of duty magistrate Karan Garg here this afternoon from where they were sent to a day’s police remand. The court also ordered the girls undergo a medical examination to determine their age.

Talking to The Tribune, Harpreet said she took the exam “in good faith as Rajveer Kaur is my friend”. However, later she backtracked from her statement and blamed Rajbir, the prime suspect who has gone into hiding, for “influencing” her.

Meanwhile, the police claimed it appeared to be an “organised racket of crooks” at work, alleging Rajbir had persuaded the youngsters to appear for the exam and offered a large amount of money in return. The group even met in Chandigarh before taking the step.

Sources close to the police said more skeletons are expected to tumble out of the closet as the investigation proceeds. The cops have so far not ruled out the involvement of certain IELTS training centes behind such incidents.

The police has also booked genuine candidates Rajveer, Gurvarinder and Gurpavitar for fraud and asking the three suspects to appear for the exam on their behalf. DSP Bhupinder Singh said police teams had been dispatched to arrest the three.

Meanwhile, the Jalandhar police has nabbed two chemical engineers and a girl who is a post-graduate in English on the charges of impersonation and forging documents.

Accused Divya, a resident of Lambra near Mohali, recently did MA (English), while Karan Singh Rathor and Ashish Batra are Delhi-based chemical engineers. The trio used to work for Rajbir.

The youth were nabbed on the charges of taking IELTS examination by appearing on behalf of original candidates here last evening, said Jalandhar SSP RK Jaiswal.

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