Saturday, January 13, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




ST worth crores being evaded
Traders smuggling wheat from Punjab

From Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

BATHINDA, Jan 12 — The evasion of sales tax worth crores by certain traders by smuggling wheat to other states from Punjab has come to light.

Official sources said that the district sales tax authorities had detected transactions worth more than Rs 23 crore on which sales tax had been evaded. The transactions of all firms which had allegedly been indulging in wheat smuggling are estimated to be over 200 crore.

In the past three years, the total evasion of sales tax on wheat in this region ran into crores. Traders of this region had been selling wheat to Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and other states of the country without paying sales tax, which they were bound to pay as first purchaser of wheat as per rules.

Wheat smugglers, who were well-connected, were also posing a threat to sales tax employees. Feeling insecure in absence of adequate security arrangements, the sales tax officials had become reluctant to check evasion by such elements.

As per the information gathered by this correspondent, railway stations all over the state had become the main centres from where these traders had been sending out wheat on goods trains. These traders had also been using road transportation for this purpose.

The sales tax authorities had also been facing difficulties in checking sales tax evasion on wheat transactions as the railway authorities were allegedly not cooperating with them, the sources said.

The local sales tax authorities had seized 24 vehicles loaded with bags of wheat from August to December, 2000, in this district and imposed penalty worth lakhs on the offenders.

Traders had been adopting various methods to evade sales tax. They had been sending wheat outside Punjab in the names of fake farmers who were exempted from sales tax. Apart from it, a number of business firms had shown in their sales tax returns submitted to the Tax Department that they had paid sales tax on all transactions relating to wheat. The smuggling of wheat and subsequent evasion of sales tax by flour mill owners had also come to light.

Besides, a number of business firms had sent out thousands of bags of wheat to other states by rail and road in the name of those firms whose sales tax licences had either been cancelled or had expired many years ago.

Apart from the evasion of sales tax, these traders had also evaded rural development fund (RDF) and market fee worth crores as these traders had smuggled wheat out of Punjab from the farms directly.

An official of the Sates Tax Department, on the condition of anonymity, said that if a proper probe was to be conducted in to the wheat transactions in this region, the staff should be given full security and an assurance that they would not be victimised by the smugglers.


There was no policy on ‘cats’, says DGP
From Our Correspondent

ROPAR, Jan 12 — The Cats were recruited in the Punjab police, by individual officers and there was no definite policy for recruiting them. Individual officers recruited Cats and gave promotions to certain persons, claiming that they proved useful in curbing terrorism.

However, the Punjab police would not support any official involved in illegal activity. This was stated by the DGP, Punjab, Mr Sarabjit Singh, when asked to comment on the incident in Ludhiana in which a suspected Cat killed an innocent resident.

The DGP was here as the chief guest at an exhibition match between the Canada XI and Punjab DGP XI. The match was organised by the local Hawks Club to mark its silver jubilee.

When asked about the promotions given to inspectors in view of the Punjab and Haryana High Court orders, the DGP said that a departmental committee had been formed for the purpose and a decision in this regard would be taken before January 15. The court, on a writ petition by certain officers, challenging the ORP promotions, had directed the Punjab Government to promote the eligible inspectors to the rank of DSP before January 15.

The DGP claimed that the locals’ support to militants in Punjab had been reduced to negligible levels. Due to this, attempts of foreign-based militants to get a foothold in the state had failed repeatedly. At present, about 100 active ultras were left in the state, he further claimed.

About the community development programme of the police, the DGP said that they had received an encouraging response from the public. The police was trying to involve the NGOs to expand the base of community policing. The number of the women in police stations would also be increased, he added.

The SSP, Ropar, Mr GPS Bhullar, who is also the president of the Hawks Club, was also present.


Using ex-cops as musclemen to get dues
By Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 12 — It was more than a month after Mr A. Singh (not his real name), a technocrat, and his son had been allegedly kidnapped by “muscle men of a finance company” that the Ludhiana police has registered a case.

The incident reportedly took place on December 5 when Mr A. Singh and his son were kidnapped and their car was taken away by a group of six men. On January 9 the police registered a case of kidnapping.

This is not an isolated case of its type. Such incidents take place almost every day in every Punjab and Haryana town and even in Chandigarh as most of the finance companies have employed not only retired policemen but also wards and relatives of political workers enjoying the patronage of the state.

Besides finance companies, even transporters have been employing former policemen and wards and relatives of politicians for the specific task of recovery of their dues.

These specially recruited former cops and others primarily perform the duties of “bouncers”. They allegedly take away the financed vehicle from its owner as and when he or she defaults on making payment of the monthly or quarterly instalment.

In certain cases, the loanees — as happened in the case of the technocrat, a resident of Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar in Ludhiana — are kidnapped and kept hostage till the dues are cleared by other members of the family.

One of the reasons advanced for resorting to “strongarm tactics” by financiers and transporters has been the failure of the police to take immediate action against those who default on making payments. The police follows a long-drawn procedure to deal with economic offences. As such, its intervention invariably is of little significance to the companies advancing loans for the purchase of not only vehicles but also a whole range of utility and luxury items.

The use of strongarm tactics for the recovery of dues and even for the “eviction” of tenants from property both residential and commercial, has become big business in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh.

Finance and transport companies, realising the connections former policemen have and their continued enjoyment of certain privileges, have been employing them regularly. But there is no supervisory or regulatory authority to prevent these “musclemen” from resorting to “extra-constitutional methods” of coercion and even “extortion” by holding their victims to “ransom”.

Certain police officials feel concerned at the increased use of former cops for such purposes because of their likely proximity to bad elements.

Similar anguish has been expressed over the growth of private security agencies and the use of their men in such activities. Views have been expressed over the need for a regulatory or controlling authority over the growth of these agencies.

It is reported that not only private finance companies but also certain public sector companies are known to be using “strongarm tactics” against their defaulter clients.

The concept of financing automobiles and other utilities, which is not even a decade old in this region, has started showing adverse effects now. As the number of defaulters has been continuously on the rise, the mechanism of recovery, too, has been riddled with loopholes and flaws.

Financiers and transporters feel that the use of “strongarm” tactics to a certain limit is the only answer to the problems they have been facing.



PSUs bane of Punjab
By P. P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 12 — The Public Sector Disinvestment Commission has been set up in Punjab at a time when government attempts to reform and restructure the 75 public entities, corporations and apex cooperative institutions have repeatedly failed.

For the seven-member commission no timeframe has been prescribed in the terms of reference.

While a former Punjab Chief Secretary, Mr P.H. Vaishnav, is the Chairman, Mr C. Roul is the member-secretary. He is also Special Secretary, Finance-cum-Director, Institutional Finance, Banking and Public Enterprises.

The other members are the Punjab National Bank Chairman-cum-Managing Director, Mr S.S. Kohli, a former Vice-Chairman and Managing Director, Punjab Tractors, Mr Chander Mohan, the Industrial Development Bank of India General Manager, Mr R.M.Malla, the Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Limited Regional Director, Mr Pardeep Singh, and Punjab School of Economics Professor P.S. Rekhi. Dr S.S. Johl is not a member as reported by IPA in these columns on Thursday.

Out of 75 public sector undertakings (PSUs) and apex cooperative institutions, the state has stakes in 37 in either equity (Rs 3,299.37 crore) or loans (Rs 4,465.07 crore). Besides, the state has given guarantee (Rs 7,806.16 crore) for loans taken by these from various financial institutions.

The Minister of Finance, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, is upset over the way these PSUs and apex cooperative institutions are functioning. In the latest survey report (1998-99) of these public institutions prepared by Mr Roul, the Finance Minister said, “The public sector is at the crossroads. It could not occupy the commanding heights in our economy as the state wished or shape the entire pattern of investment in the economy....Today, it is neither lauded by the citizens (tax-payers whose money went into its expansion) nor policy-makers. The sector is characterised by over-investment with poor returns, over-employment with low productivity, excessive capital equipment with under-utilised capacity, excessive controls with low efficiency, abundance of assets with lack of resources and lots of talent that is under-utilised”.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh advocates that PSUs must roll back from services, making way for the private sector. PSUs that are non-existent or exist only in name only must close shop with a suitable safety-net provided to employees; PSUs performing over-lapping functions must be merged leading to greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness; government equity in non-strategic PSUs should be reduced to 26 per cent or below; and an attractive voluntary retirement scheme should be introduced.

In fact, the task of the Disinvestment Commission may become easy in view of the decisions already taken by the Core Group. Those decisions include no further investment either in the form of equity or loan in the existing PSUs and apex cooperative institutions except in exceptional cases; fresh guarantee sought by boards and corporations to be restricted to the bare minimum and to assist such institutions in restructuring and financial engineering; and no new PSU to be created except in the core sector of infrastructure.

This is one sector that is getting attention. The Punjab Infrastructure Development Board is now getting activated. Mr Karan A. Singh is the new Managing Director, who is expected to take over on Monday next.

In the terms of reference of the commission, the notification says that for each institution the commission will recommend the extent of disinvestment besides phasing and timeframe for the same. The Disinvestment Commission will also determine prioritise and recommend modalities and measures for restructuring, etc.

That PSUs are in bad shape has been known for decades. The survey report identified the top eight profit-making and eight loss-making PSUs in 1998-99. The former are the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation, the Punjab State Cooperative Agricultural Development Bank, the Punjab State Cooperative Bank, the Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation, Housefed, Milkfed and the Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation.

The loss-making ones are Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC), the Punjab State Seeds Corporation, the Punjab Financial Corporation, the Punjab Water Supply and Sewerage Board, Punbus, the Punjab Agro-Industries Corporation, the Punjab State Tubewell Corporation and Backfinco.

The total profit of all eight was Rs 143.33 crore and the total loss incurred by all eight was Rs 71.40 crore.

The report said the overall performance left much to be desired. The no- so-satisfactory net worth (Rs 4,240.37 crore) was mainly due to recurring losses by the PSEB and the PRTC with even promotional undertakings contributing to the negative worth of 37 PSUs and apex cooperative institutions.

The commission is part of the promise made in the Budget speech of March 22, 2000, of Capt Kanwaljit Singh. The question is: Will the political executive have the guts to do what it feels and says?


BBMB: Punjab opposes J&K as member
By Sarbjit Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 12 — Punjab is opposed to according the status of member to Jammu and Kashmir on the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB).

According to well-placed official sources, Jammu and Kashmir has sought the status of member on the BBMB and also enhancement in the power share of the state from the BBMB.

A high-level meeting in this connection was to be held between the Chief Secretary of Punjab, Mr R.S. Mann, and his counterpart from Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Ashok Jetely, and other senior officers concerned here today. But because of heavy fog, Mr Jetely’s helicopter could not take off from Jammu. Hence, the meeting was cancelled. “It will be held soon”, said a senior official of the Punjab Government. Several other issues remain to be settled between the two states.

The items pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir’s representation on the BBMB and increase in the power share were on the agenda of today’s meeting.

Sources said the Punjab Government had taken the stand that it would not be desirable to reopen the chapter to grant the status of member to Jammu and Kashmir after a period of over 30 years when the assets and liabilities of the Bhakra Nangal and Beas Projects were divided among the successor states — Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh — and the Union Territory of Chandigarh as per Sections 78, 79 and 80 of the Punjab Reorganisation Act,1966.

At a meeting convened by the Union Ministry of Power and Irrigation on April 17, 1967, of the successor states and representatives of the Bhakra and Beas Projects, the shares of these states were decided and agreed to. And the agreement reached at that meeting has been in operation since then.

Sources said that the Punjab Government did not want to reopen this chapter because tomorrow any other state might also come forward with its claim in this connection. As the total cost of the Bhakra and Beas Projects was borne by Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan and no cost whatsoever was borne by Jammu and Kashmir, its belated claim to the enhancement of the share of power from the BBMB and its representation on the board was not sustainable.

Jammu and Kashmir has also taken up the issue of the denial of the ad hoc share of 20 MW of power to it since April, 1998. The Punjab Government, according to sources, has stated that a decision in this connection had been taken by the BBMB, which has representatives from other states as well as from the Union Government. Punjab alone is not responsible for this decision.

The Punjab Government has asked Jammu and Kashmir to pay Rs 106.71 crore as per the agreement signed between the two states in connection with the construction of the Ranjit Sagar Dam Project (Thein Dam). Under the agreement, Jammu and Kashmir was to contribute 10 per cent towards the construction of the RSD project with regard to its share of the cost of the irrigation component. No payment has been received from Jammu and Kashmir so far in this connection though the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has taken up the matter with his counterpart in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, on the other side, Jammu and Kashmir has asked for Rs 100 crore from the Punjab Government as cost incurred on the construction and operation of the lift irrigation scheme at Basantpur (downstream of the dam site). Its plea is that the Shahpurkandi dam project has not been completed, and hence the cost should be reimbursed to Jammu and Kashmir.

On this issue, the Punjab Government has stated that by constructing the lift scheme, Jammu and Kashmir is providing irrigation benefits and increasing its food production. So, this issue could not be linked to the completion of the Shahpurkandi project. The government, through the RSD project authorities, has already paid Rs 71 crore in lieu of the land acquired in Jammu and Kashmir for the project. Only the balance amount of Rs 12.70 crore is pending against Punjab.

There were some other minor issues which were to be discussed at the meeting, official sources said. 


Honour killings on the rise
From Ruchika Mohindra Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, Jan 12 — Live with honour; die for honour, and if need be, kill to safeguard your honour. This tribal concept seems to have a lot many takers in one of the most advanced states in India, Punjab, if the number of honour killings committed in the state during the recent past are any indication.

According to the figures available from the Punjab Police, of the over 600 murders that take place in the state each year, as many as 10 per cent of these are cases of honour killings. It is also estimated that of the total murders that take place in Punjab, many of the untraced cases could possibly relate to honour killings.

The most widely reported and read example of suspected honour killing in the recent past has been the death of the daughter of the former Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief, Bibi Jagir Kaur. The former SGPC President and senior Akali leader has been accused of the murder of her daughter, Harpreet alias Rosy. The motive behind this death was reportedly her affair with another boy of the same caste, but a lower economic strata.

Honour killing is mainly an Islamic practice and one heard of honour killings in Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and other Arab nations. According to Mr. Samar Vijay Singh, Additional Director General of Police( Crime), Punjab, honour killings are not alien to India and various Indian societies have been indulging in this since time immemorial. He says though it is present mainly in the rustic societies of Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the more urbane and modern societies are also not immune from these killings.

“Even in a modern society like Punjab, the caste consciousness is deeply embedded in the psyche of the people. Any liaison out of the caste is looked down upon and people are known to take extreme steps in case of some deviation by a member, howsoever loved she may be in the family, “he said.

It may be recalled that the murder of a Canadian citizen and the attempt on the life of her Indian husband by contract killers reportedly hired by her mother and maternal uncle, sore over her marriage to a boy of a lower socio- economic status near Ludhiana in June, 2000, had raised a lot of hue and cry. While the girl had died on the spot, her husband was seriously injured.

The errant couple, Jaswinder Kaur and her husband, Sukhwinder Singh had met and fallen in love when the former had come to visit her relatives in Kaonke Khus village near Jagraon in 1998. The couple had fallen in love then and they had a torrid affair across the seven seas for two years till the girl finally managed to reach India on her own and without the consent of her family to tie the nupital knot with Sukhwinder Singh.

In another such case in Ludhiana in February, 2000, a man had reportedly murdered his daughter’s beau after calling him over to his house on the pretext of fixing up the couple’s marriage. He had reportedly made the plans well in advance by digging a brick tunnel in his house and after hacking the boy, an auto rickshaw driver, he buried his body there. The man had gone to the extent of cementing the entrance of the tunnel so as to avoid being caught in the police net.

A similar case in Chandigarh in November, 1998, saw a young man from Jandiala village near Nawanshahr, Kulbir Singh, killing his brother- in-law, Gurcharan Singh for dishonouring him and the entire family by eloping and later marrying his sister, Jasbir. He was caught by the police after he shot dead Gurcharan and was rushing to his sister’s house to avenge the ostracization and the humiliation that he and his family were put to because of their marriage as the latter belonged to a lower social strata.

It may be noted that it is not just the daughters and the sisters who are thus punished. Citing an example, the AIG Crime, Punjab, Mr. Paramjit Singh Gill said in the year 1999, a Bathinda resident, Subhash Goel killed his wife, Sneh alias Pinky in collusion with his driver, after the former discovered her illicit relation with another man.

Mr Gill informed that the accused convinced his wife that he was taking her for a rendezvous in the hills. He, however, stage managed an accident of his Maruti van with a truck and showed that Pinky had died in the accident while he himself and the car driver managed to escape unhurt. It was later revealed that the victim had been killed as a result of being repeatedly hit on the head with a sharp instrument.

In yet another case, a couple of years ago, a youth in Pakka Kalan village in Bathinda hacked his mother to death and then after tying her body to his tractor rode around the village before immolating her body. It was alleged that the woman was having an affair with a police constable and the duo were planning to sell off the land belonging to the accused. 


Harpreet case: doc deposes in camera
Tribune News Service

Patiala, Jan 12 — In-camera proceedings were held today in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate following a reported application filed by Dr Balwinder Singh Sohal urging that he be allowed to turn approver in the case involving the death of Harpreet Kaur, daughter of former SGPC chief Jagir Kaur.

Dr Sohal, an accused in the Harpreet death case, had earlier filed an application in the court urging he be allowed to turn approver in the case and be granted pardon.

In-camera proceedings were today conducted in the case by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mr Sanjeev Berry. No details could be ascertained although it is reportedly learnt that a decision was taken on the application by the court.

Dr Sohal in his earlier application had reportedly given details of how Harpreet Kaur was kidnapped from the residence of Bibi Jagir Kaur . He has also claimed that Harpreet was administered some pills following which she became unconscious and an abortion was done to remove the foetus she was carrying.

Dr Sohal had also appeared in the court of the Metropolitan Magistrate in Delhi on December 20. Earlier, he was arrested on December 17 in the case and released on bail.


Kairon slams Brar for anti-party activities
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Jan 12 — Mr Gurinder Singh Kairon, a senior Congress leader of Majha, who has recently burried hatchet with Mr Amrinder Singh, the PPCC chief, has criticised Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar for indulging in ‘anti-party’ activities.

Mr Kairon alleged that Mr Brar had reached some ‘secret understanding’ with Mr Parkash Singh Badal, at the time when the general elections to the Punjab Assembly were round the corner. He said the ‘anti-party’ activities of Mr Brar would directly benefit Mr Badal and opposition parties.

Mr Kairon said, as per the public mood, the Congress had an edge over other parties and Mr Brar wanted to challenge the authority of Mr Amrinder Singh at this crucial juncture for obvious reasons.

He said Mr Brar wanted to settle personal scores with Mr Amrinder Singh as he had failed to become the PPCC chief for which he was an aspirant. He urged Mr Brar to refrain from indulging in ‘anti-party activities’.

Meanwhile, sources say that before the ‘Maghi conference’ at Muktsar tomorrow, Mr Amrinder Singh may drop at the residence of Mr Harcharan Singh Brar at Serainaga, the gesture which Mr Jagmeet Brar might not like.


RSS vitiating peace: Mann
Tribune News Service

FEROZEPORE, Jan 12 — Cautioning the RSS against bloodshed in Punjab, the Lok Sabha member from Sangrur Mr Simranjeet Singh Mann today said that his party — the Akali Dal (Amritsar) would not allow RSS volunteers to enter gurdwaras to preach the Ramayana. Addressing a press conference here this morning, Mr Mann said that the RSS was trying to vitiate peace in the state by trying to assimilate Sikh minority into the Hindu fold. Making it clear that the Hindus and the Sikhs were two separate identities, he warned that any attempt by the RSS to bracket his community with the Hindu mainstream would invite bloodshed.

He categorically announced that his party would hold conferences across the state against the RSS campaign. Accusing the RSS of engineering fascism and “one nation, one religion” theory, he said that the organisation was perpetuating terror on all minority communities in the country.

He charged the Prime Minister with hurting the sentiments of the Sikh community by extending a hand of friendship to Vietnam that congratulated the Indian government on for Operation Bluestar in 1984. Reminding the PM of his statement on Ayodhya, he added that Sikhs too have their sentiments associated with the Golden Temple, much like the emotional bond of Hindus with Ram temple. Criticising the VHP and the Shiv Sena for opposing the function being organised by his party to mark the birth anniversary of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, he asked, “ if the nation can celebrate the birth day of Indira Gandhi, why can’t the Sikhs observe the birth anniversary of their national hero.”

Replying to a question about his controversial meeting with the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, he clarified that it had no political undertone and he met the CM to press for legal action against the cops involved in the “killing” of Jathedar Kaonke. Reiterating that ADGP, Mr B.P. Tewari is an uncompromising officer, he said that he was being implicated on motivated charge of molestation for indicting several police officers in an inquiry into the killing of Jathedar Kaonke. Mr Mann was his batchmate and he did not remember his having ever indulged in an immoral act.

He also demanded a probe into the complaints of forcible possession of lands near the Ferozepore border by the relatives of the Chief Minister. He later announced that his party would contest the Zila Parishad elections and favoured a direct contest.


Urban development fund ‘inadequate’
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 12 — Mr R.R. Bhardwaj, Chairman of the Economic and Planning Cell of the Punjab unit of the Congress today described as a “mere gimmick” the move by the Punjab Government to allocate a sum of Rs 300 crore for urban development.

Mr Bhardwaj said the policy paper presented by the government to the Finance Commission had put the requirement of funds for urban development in the state at Rs 5000 crore. There were as many as 976 slums in the state. About 42 per cent population of the towns and cities lived in slums. Therefore, to allocate a sum of Rs 300 crore for the purpose was grossly inadequate.




Filling of earth near sanctuary sparks row
Tribune News Service

HARIKE (Ferozepore), Jan 12 — The filling up of a patch of the natural bird habitat close to the wildlife sanctuary here by the inmates of Gurdwara Ishardham Nanaksar to turn it into a parking lot has sparked a controversy.

While the gurdwara head, Baba Madho Singh, justifies the move saying that the patch is a part of their land, the wildlife officials warn that this will destroy the marshy patch that earlier provided a natural habitat to migratory birds.

Both the Wildlife Warden, Mr Roopinder Singh, and the Divisional Forest Officer, Mr Jagdeep Singh, told Tribune News Service that the move would devastate the habitat of certain migratory birds. Expressing their inability to prevent the gurdwara inmates, the two officers said since the government had excluded this patch from the sanctuary, they could not do anything about it. Mr Jagdeep Singh claimed that this was despite their recommendation against the exclusion of the habitat from the sanctuary.

The patch was a part of 104 kanal and 16 marlas of the land in possession of the gurdwara. The state government had excluded it through its last notification of the sanctuary area. Earlier, the area was not demarcated and the forest authorities had prevented Baba Madho Singh and his followers from performing a similar exercise at the habitat site.

It is pertinent to mention that the former Divisional Forest Officer from Ferozepore, Mr Dharinder Sharma, had an argument with Baba Madho Singh, when he had cautioned the gurdwara authorities against the filling up of the patch. Subsequently, the work remained suspended.

However, this has been restarted after the district Revenue Department demarcated the land in the favour of gurdwara inmates. A visit to the site revealed that the volunteers were filling up the patch with sand, being brought here on tractor-trailers.

Baba Madho Singh disclosed that the site would be turned into a parking lot. He said the Wildlife Department had no claim on this land, as it had been excluded from the sanctuary and the Revenue Department had also demarcated it.

Sources in the Wildlife Department say that this was allowed to happen under political pressure, as the Chief Minister himself had visited the gurdwara and assured to regularise the gurdwara construction.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Kulbir Singh Sidhu, said when the land had been demarcated, nothing could be done to prevent the gurdwara authorities from doing this.


Encroachers in for another bonanza
By A.S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, Jan 12 — In yet another pre-poll bonanza, the Punjab Government proposes to legalise thousands of encroachments on government land throughout the state.

According to well-informed sources here today, the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has already asked the officials concerned to work out modalities in this regard as quickly as possible so that the issue could be taken up for consideration by the state Cabinet at the earliest.

The government has already decided to regularise unauthorised construction and illegal occupation of land in urban areas belonging to the municipalities. The new decision will cover encroachments on land belonging to the state government. One of the biggest beneficiaries of the move will be the settlers at the Bhargava camp in Jalandhar where a whole colony has come up composed of refugees who came to India in 1947 after Partition.

The move has been initiated at the behest of the Minister for Local Bodies, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, who is said to be credited with the view that such encroachments should be regularised after the payment of a nominal fee by the settlers because it is not possible to have them evicted. A recent move by the government to evict the settlers at the Bhargava camp led to an explosive situation, forcing the officials to beat a hasty retreat.

It is argued that eviction is difficult and the legal process lengthy. Instead of allowing itself to be tied down in such an exercise, the government should regularise the encroachments by charging a reasonable fee and granting them the ownership right.

Meanwhile, the government has also initiated steps to the expedite release of funds to the local bodies so that development work can be accelerated. The government has taken note of the fact that because of red tape, the release of funds has remained tardy with the result that a large number of public interest litigation (PILs) have been filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court by members of the public seeking directions from the judiciary. Cases with regard to several local bodies including those of Rahon, Balachaur, Goraya, Mubarakpur, Nawanshahr, Bangal, Phillaur, Shahkot, Bhogpur and Phagwara, are due to come up in the high court on January 24. In another set of cases covering Adampur, Alawalpur, Bassi Pathana, Fatehgarh Churian, Kapurthala, Mansa, Nakodar, Nurmahal, Rajpura, Sangrur and a few others, the next date of hearing in the court is February 7.


People robbed of lakhs
All for getting guard’s job with FCI

Tribune News Service

BATHINDA, Jan 12 — The case of three persons who were running a fake job agency in this region has turned out to be a big racket as the three collected lakhs of rupees in connivance with the leaders of a so-called employees’ union of the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

Police sources said three persons, namely Major Singh, Sohan Singh and Jaswant Singh, who had been arrested for cheating people on the pretext of arranging the job of a security guard with the FCI in lieu of money, had collected Rs 16 lakh from Bathinda district alone.

Sources added that in the Punjab region the total money collected by leaders of the so-called union with the help of their touts from innocent people for arranging jobs came to about Rs 66 lakh.

The racket started when the FCI management terminated the services of all security guards in April 1999 and replaced them with Punjab Home Guard jawans and special police officers (SPOs).

The fake job agency owners and others who were operating like a gang came on the scene after that incident. They started collecting money from people on the pretext that it would be given to ruling politicians so that they could be given permanent jobs.

Sources added that some of these victims arranged money after disposing of jewellery and other household goods. Certain others borrowed money at heavy rates of interest from known persons.

According to information gathered by this correspondent, out of the total Rs 66 lakh collected by the leaders of so-called employees union, Rs 50 lakh was kept by them, Rs 6 lakh was given to touts and Rs 10 lakh to other associates.

Fake application forms were printed for the job of security guard and aspirants were asked to fill those forms. These leaders also arranged a rally to show that they were trying their utmost for arranging jobs.

Sources added certain leaders of so-called union had constructed bungalows in various cities of Punjab and Haryana out of the huge sums of money which they earned after indulging in these illegal activities.

Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, SSP, when contacted said during investigation of the three accused who had been arrested, it came to light that they were part of a big racket and had collected Rs 16 lakh from people on the pretext of arranging jobs for them.

Meanwhile, Mr Kewal Krishan Aggarwal, general secretary of the District Congress Committee (DCC), has urged the authorities concerned to conduct a CBI probe.


PSEB men held for stoning cops
From Our Correspondents

BATHINDA, Jan 12 — The local police has rounded up 30 activists of the PSEB employees struggle committee who allegedly pelted stones at policemen, leaving seven of them injured.

Seven policemen, including ASP P.K. Raj, Inspector Bhupinder Singh and five others sustained injuries when they were attacked by the activists who had gheraoed the Superintendent Engineer (SE), Mr N.S. Deol, PSEB, in front of his office last evening.

Mr Deol and his staff members were not allowed to move from their office since morning. He sought police help for his safe exit. When Mr Deol was coming out of his office along with others, he was allegedly attached by the activists.

Mr Deol suffered injuries. The other policemen who were injured included ASI Manjit Singh, SI Rajinder Kumar, Mr Darshan Singh, Mr Sukhminder Singh and Mr Kashmir Singh.

Official sources said the Executive Magistrate present permitted the use of light force to the police to disperse the mob. When the police swung into action, the activists ran helter and skelter.

After the incident, a heavy police force descended at the local bus stand. The police resorted to a lathi charge to stop the activists from jamming the traffic.

The policemen allegedly pulled out many persons from trucks and buses and severely beat them up. Some passersby were also thrashed.

All the seven injured were rushed to the Civil Hospital for treatment. The condition of two, including Mr Bhupinder Singh and Mr Manjit Singh, is being monitored.

Mr Jaspal Singh, Deputy Commissioner, and Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, SSP, visited the hospital to inquire about the condition of the injured.

Police sources said some 30 activists who had been rounded up had been formally arrested after registration of criminal cases against them.

No senior official was available for comments.


SBOP staff protest against VRS
From Our Correspondent

PATIALA, Jan 12 — The All-India State Bank of Patiala (SBOP) Employees Federation held a demonstration in front of the SBOP Head Office here today. The employees were protesting against the introduction of the Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS). Similar demonstrations were also held in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Chandigarh and Bathinda.

Addressing the rally, N.K. Gaur, General Secretary of the employees’ federation, said the Voluntary Retirement Scheme was nothing but retrenchment of the staff by giving some incentives, just with a view to deunionise the trade unions in the banking industry.

Mr Gaur stated that on the call of the United Forum of Bank Unions, a dharna will be staged at Chandigarh on January 15 to protest against the introduction of the Bill in the Parliament for reducing government’s stake from minimum 51 per cent to 33 per cent.


Barking deer in rescue centre
From Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

JALANDHAR, Jan 12 — Pashupalika, the Jalandhar Police-run 24-hour animal rescue and rehabilitation centre, has become a home to an injured barking deer.

In the wee hours yesterday, the deer that had strayed into Adampur was chased away by dogs and later a group of reckless youngsters before it fell into the Daroli canal. The hapless creature was rescued by officials of the Adampur police station.

The officials, led by ASI Balwinder Singh and SPO Makhan Singh took the animal to Veterinary Officer Satbir Singh Bajwa, who provided him with first-aid before suggesting to the officials to take it to Pashupalika.

The animal, which has been declared a protected animal under schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act and is known for its peculiar sound resembling that of a dog bark, may have come down from the woods of the lower Shivaliks in adjoining Hoshiarpur district.

The company of other animals has, however, failed to cheer the deer which occasionally takes food, in spite of the best efforts being made by Pashupalika volunteers, including Dr G.S. Bedi and Mr Chander Bhushan.

According to Dr Bedi, the gloomy animal with injuries and bruises all over the body, has even refused to nibble at blades of grass. “If it starts eating, it will be fine within a week”, said Dr Bedi.

Apart from the barking deer or the munjtac, as it is called, Pashupalika, boasts of playing host to more than six injured animals, including three stray dogs, two donkeys and two calves. Interestingly, once taken in, none of the “patients” want to leave the place.


PSGPC invites jatha to Pak
From Our Correspondent

FEROZEPORE, Jan 12 — The chairman of Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Mr Sham Singh, in a message to Mr Harpal Singh Bhullar, president, International Bhai Mardana Society, has requested him to bring a jatha of 1500 Sikh pilgrims to Pakistan on the eve of Baisakhi to be celebrated in Gurdwara Punja Sahib, Hasan Abdal.

In a letter to the society, Mr Sham Singh has requested them to appeal to the Sant Samaj to join the celebrations in Pakistan. The PSGPC has also urged Mr Bhullar to bring ragi jathas from India.

Meanwhile, Mr Bhullar said those who wanted to accompany the jatha to Pakistan on the eve of Baisakhi should send their passports to the office of the society before February 5, so that the necessary arrangements could be made.


Punjab concedes truckers’ demands
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, Jan 12 — The truckers in Punjab have decided to celebrate January 15 as victory day as the state government has conceded to some of their demands, said the President of the Lok Bhalai Party, Mr B.S. Ramoowalia, here today.

In a statement, he said the state government has accepted some demands of the truckers, including centralised octroi collection, golden label for vehicles valid for one year to prevent harassment, reduction in late renewal fee for vehicle documents and extension of vehicle clearance period from three years to five years.

Mr Ramoowalia said the UP Government had also accepted similar demands.


Sangat darshan organised
From Our Correspondent

PATIALA, Jan 12 — Mr Vikas Pratap, Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) heard the grievances of residents of various localities at a Sangat Darshan organised at the Deputy Commissioner’s office here today.

Various problems were brought to the notice of the authorities by residents of the areas. Residents complained about a ‘chicken corner’ situated in front of Street Number 6 of the Guru Nanak Colony and Street number 8 of the Gurbaksh Colony. They alleged that drunkards and anti-social elements frequented the place disturbing peace in the area. The ADC asked the Joint Commissioner to take corrective measures to bring the situation under control.

Ms Balbir Kaur, Sarpanch of Gram Panchayat, Kachwa, blamed Laksham Singh, caretaker of the tomb of Pir Baba, for creating noise pollution by playing tape-recorders at a loud pitch. Ms Balbir Kaur added that this irritant was brought to the notice of the district police chief who had referred the complaint to the Julkan Police Station but to no avail. Despite repeated warnings from the police, the caretaker had not stopped playing the records, she alleged.


24-hr power supply scheme modified
From Our Correspondent

PATIALA, Jan 12 — Mr G.S. Sohal, Chairman of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), has modified the scheme for 24-hour power supply to the villages in Punjab. Mr Sohal opined that the scheme was not only less expensive but would also help the board in the reduction of system losses in the rural network.

It has been decided to provide fourth wire on all main 11 KV lines feeding villages from various sub stations. Under the scheme about 3,000 more villages are likely to be connected to 24-hour supply and the remaining will be connected in another few years.


Probe ordered into octroi bungling
From Our Correspondent

ABOHAR, Jan 12 — An inquiry has been ordered into the alleged misappropriation of octroi collected by the municipal council here.

Four receipts were found missing from an octroi collection book. Responding to a show-cause notice, Bharat Kumar, a clerk, reportedly pleaded not guilty and accused four other clerks of having withdrawn the receipts from the collection book.

Last year, the municipal committee president had reportedly detected irregularities in cash counters of some clerks working at octroi check posts. The matter was hushed up, allegedly following political pressure.

Some councillors had expressed concern over the fall in octroi collection, allegedly due a nexus between transporters and the municipal staff.


Trains running late due to fog
From Our Correspondent

PHILLAUR, Jan 12 — Most of the Northern Railway mail, express and passenger trains were running one to seven hours behind schedule.

Owing to poor visibility caused by thick fog today, the Jhelum Express, Howrah Mail, Frontier Mail, Superfast Express, Flying Mail and the Shane-Punjab were among those trains which were running late.

Meanwhile, over 20 passengers, including women and children, sustained minor injuries when five vehicles, including three cars, one four-wheeler, and an oil tanker rammed into each other on the National Highway near here due to thick fog today. All vehicles were badly damaged in the collision.


Suchi Pind mishap to be probed
From Our Correspondent

JALANDHAR, Jan 12 — Even as the rail traffic on the Jalandhar-Jammu section after disruption for over 13 hours was restored at 5.30 a.m. today, the Divisional Railway Manager of the Northern Railway had ordered an inquiry into the derailment of an engine and two coaches of 4806 DN Jodhpur-Jammu Tawi mail at Suchi Pind Railway Station, near here, yesterday.


Punjab to approve new pension cases
From Our Correspondent

BARNALA, Jan 12 — Nearly 2 lakh new cases of old-age pension will be shortly be approved in Punjab. Approximately Rs 167 crore will be spent annually on old-age pension beneficiaries numbering around 7 lakh in Punjab.

This was stated by Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla, Punjab Social Security, Women and Child Development Minister, at Rureke Kalan village, about 15 km from here, yesterday.

Nearly 2,000 persons were sanctioned old-age pension at a camp presided by the minister.

The camp was organised under the leadership of Mr Gobind Singh Longowal, state Minister for Irrigation. He announced grants worth Rs 1 lakh each for the development of Rureke village school and the welfare of Muslim community from his discretionary fund. 


Army aspirant held for faking age
Tribune News Service

FEROZEPORE, Jan 12 — An aspirant for the Army was arrested for furnishing a false matriculation certificate during a recruitment drive here and later handed over to the police for investigation.

The accused, Gurjit Singh of Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda, furnished a fake Punjab School Education Board matriculation certificate to the recruitment officer. While the accused is 23 years’ old, the document puts his age at 21, the permissible age limit for being recruited in the Army.

The Branch Recruitment Officer, Col K.K. Marwaha, told TNS that the physical appearance of Gurjit did not match with the age given in the certificate, prompting the officials to verify the claim. Gurjit was reluctant to furnish the original certificate when he was pointedly asked to corroborate his claim.

Later, the authorities procured the gazette of the matriculation result of March, 1998, that not only showed Gurjit as having failed in the exam, but also stated his age as 23.

During interrogation, Gurjit claimed that he paid Rs 5,000 to a middleman to procure the fake certificate.

The accused was later handed over to the Ferozepore police. A case has been registered against Gurjit under Sections 420, 465 and 471 of the IPC.


33 held under Excise Act
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 12 — The district police has nabbed two members of an interstate gang involved in the smuggling of narcotics, poppy husk in the past few days. Dr Jatinder Jain, SSP, said Jagbir Singh and Balwinder Singh were arrested and 60 kg of poppy husk was seized from their possession. They were carrying the poppy husk in a Tata Sumo, which had no registration number, he added. They used to smuggle poppy husk from Haryana and supply it in various parts of the district.

Thirtythree persons were arrested under the Excise Act and four illegal distilleries, 130 kg of lahan and 26 litres of illict liquor was seized. Three persons were arrested under the Arms Act and ten others under the Gambling Act and a pistol, one cartridge and Rs 3008, respectively, seized from their possession. Cases have been registered against them.


Rs 1 cr sanctioned for Urdu academy
From Our Correspondent

MALERKOTLA, Jan 12 — Punjab Minister for Higher Education Mohan Lal said here today the issue of creating work culture in higher education would be the major thrust this year.

He was talking to mediapersons at the function held at Government College here which was organised by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. He admitted that the standard of education in government institutions was not up to the mark and added that steps would be taken for restoring the same.

He said the dearth of staff in government colleges had been taken care of with the recruitment of 600 part-time lecturers. As many as 7,200 school teachers would also be appointed soon. He said the Punjab Government was working towards taking all universities of Punjab under one common system of education. This would be done soon. He said there was a dire need to change the education system in society, which called for co-operation from all sections of society.

Though the education system in the state was better than that in other states, much still needed to be done so that our students could compete at the global level in this age of science and technology.

He announced the state government had sanctioned Rs 1 crore for the establishment of an Urdu academy here and construction would be started soon for this purpose. The Punjab Sports Minister, Mr Nusrat Khan, the SDM, Mr Gurloveleen Singh, the president of the Malerkotla Welfare Association, Mr Munish Jindal, and the BJP block president, Mr K.K. Chopra, were also present.


Hike in fee to go, says minister
From Our Correspondent

MALERKOTLA, Jan 12 — Master Mohan Lal, Higher Education Minister, Punjab, has assured leaders of the Punjab Students Union and the Students Federation of India that the enhancement in fee by Punjabi University, Patiala, will be withdrawn shortly.

Talking to mediapersons here today at Government College here , the minister said he had no knowledge about the hike in fee by the university.

The minister also promised the students that he would hold talks with the Transport Minister on the issue of plying buses for students.

Addressing the gathering at a function organised by the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad at the college, Master Mohan Lal said the Punjab Government had decided to bring uniformity in the working of the universities in Punjab.


German scientists donate equipment to Pbi varsity
From Our Correspondent

PATIALA, Jan 12 — Two German scientists donated a sophisticated equipment during their visit to the Department of Forensic Science, Punjabi University here. The scholars — Dr Jurgen Henke and Dr Fraulotte Henke of the Institute of Blutgruppenforschung, Koln (Cologne), Germany — have been lecturing at the university since January 9.

The equipment comprising an electrophoretic set along with the powerpack units are used for protein separation from blood and other body fluids for identification particularly in the cases of paternity disputes. Dr P.K. Chattopadyay, Professor of Forensic Science, apprised the scientists about the work being carried out by the department in collaboration with the German institute.

Dr Jurgen Henke who is visiting the University for the second time and Dr Lotte Henke, both are experts on blood group serology and DNA fingerprinting. In their series of three lectures, they discussed various aspects of DNA research to students of the Forensic Science Department.

Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor, thanked the scientists for the equipment.



Milkfed coops earn profit for first time
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 12 — For the first time in its history, 95 per cent of the total of 6,078 functional village-level cooperative milk societies of Punjab Milkfed have shown a profit at the end of December, 2000.

This was stated here today by Mr Jagdeep Singh Nakai, Chairman, Punjab Milkfed, in a talk with TNS. He said that after his taking over as Chairman almost six months ago, he put his main thrust on the enhancement of milk procurement and running all 11 milk plants to their full rated capacity. “We have created history on this front also by procuring 13.26 lakh litres of milk per day as against 12.68 lakh litres per day during the same period last year, running the plants to their full rated capacity”, he said.

Right from its inception, Milkfed had been assisting dairy farmers to improve their lot and would continue doing so in the times to come, said Mr Nakai. “We lift the entire milk produced by farmers in all seasons. Our people go to the smallest farmer who produces even as low as 10 kg of milk a day whereas the private sector does opportunistic collection of milk solely with a profit motive, i.e. when the rates of milk products in the market are high, they will collect as much milk as possible and when the product market slumps, they refuse to collect the farmers’ milk”.

He said for the welfare and complete satisfaction of farmers, bulk chillers, electronic weighing and computerised automatic fat-testing systems were being installed at societies so that the farmers were not cheated. This had been appreciated by the Chief Minister also. Milkfed was otherwise paying a higher price to farmers on milk purchase and making weekly payments whereas the private sector adopted the manual testing method through their commission agents and paid a lower price and “cheated farmers by way of manipulation of FAT/SNF testing”. He asked Punjab farmers to adopt dairy farming in preference to all other agricultural practices since this was the need of the hour.

Mr Nakai said that his next step would be to reorganise liquid milk supply in cities/towns on a large scale and revamp the marketing system to compete with MNCs at the national and international levels.

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