Sunday, January 14, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




Cong to launch countrywide stir
Jakhar labels Badal govt as anti-farmer
From Raj Sadosh

ABOHAR, Jan 13 — The Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, has given a green signal for launching countrywide agitation starting from the block level, to air the grievances of farmers. The agitation will be concluded by organising a mammoth rally at New Delhi.

This was revealed by Mr Bal Ram Jakhar, former Union Agriculture Minister, while addressing a news conference at the residence of senior party worker Surinder Singh Roopi on the Abohar-Muktsar road today. Mr Jakhar had met the President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, at New Delhi yesterday to request him to intervene as constitutional head of the country to save the farming community from total disaster. Captain Amarinder Singh, PPCC president, Mr Harcharan Singh Brar, former Punjab Chief Minister, and a few other senior party leaders were present at the news conference.

Mr Jakhar said it was unjust on the part of the NDA constituents to blame the Congress for GATT. It was still at the negotiation level and open for amendments pertaining to variation in agricultural environment of the signatories to the agreement. The NDA government had allowed heavy import of goods which was to be allowed under the terms and conditions after three years. There was a glut of some commodities in the country. Thus, the Union Government was criminally responsible for the fall in rates of Indian grains and other commodities. The rates of wheat and paddy had never come down than the minimum support price earlier.

Mr Jakhar and Captain Amarinder Singh alleged the NDA government was conspiring to collect heavy funds for the next elections in lieu of import-export agreements prejudicial to the interests of the farmers. The farming community was facing the worst ever crisis not only in Punjab but also in states like West Bengal, Bihar, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. The distress sale of tractors through bi-weekly tractor bazaars all over Punjab spoke volumes of the financial crunch faced by farmers’ families.

Mr Jakhar said he had seen farmers throwing tomatoes and potatoes on the roads in Bangalore and other areas as the farmers disliked selling the same for 25 paise per kg. He was told at the farmers’ convention of developing countries at Hanoi recently that only in India hundreds of farmers had to commit suicide. Regretfully, our government still claimed that the image of our country had been glorified after the installation of the NDA government. He asked why the government was evading ordering an inquiry into the import of wheat and sugar. Senior leaders of the ruling parties were involved in this scandal, he alleged.

Mr Jakhar, founder president of the Bharat Krishak Samaj, claimed the Congress government in 1995 had enhanced the budget for horticulture from Rs 40 crore to Rs 1000 crore for Eighth Five Year Plan so that the country could earn heavy foreign exchange by growing more fruits but the NDA government allegedly dropped the proposal. It was only because of the incentives given by the then Congress government that grapes and kinnows could still be exported to West Asia and other countries.

Launching a scathing attack on the SAD-BJP government in Punjab, Mr Jakhar said the much publicised 350 crore package for farmers of Punjab was a farce. In fact, it was a gratification by the BJP to win SAD support in the Union Government. Nearly 250 crore had allegedly gone to the FCI out of this package. The rest of Rs 100 crore had not so far been passed on to the farmers who had sold their produce in humiliating conditions in Punjab. Now the state government had reportedly evolved a formula to bring down wheat production by enforcing frequent cuts in supply of canal water for irrigation and depriving farmers having tubewells of sufficient electricity supply. Farmers all over the region, especially in the Abohar and Fazilka areas, were crying for water but it was not available for drinking also.

The former Lok Sabha Speaker said law of the jungle prevailed in Punjab. Policemen were working as SAD workers. Anti-government workers were being implicated in false cases. The corruption in all departments had crossed limits. Even the police stations were put on open auction or monthly contract. The finger of suspicion had been repeatedly pointed at ministers.

As a seasoned and experienced politician Mr Parkash Singh Badal should feel ashamed of this situation because he had promised to compete with Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule, Mr Jakhar alleged. This government had proved to be anti-farmer, anti-trader, anti-consumer and anti-employees as well. The Shagun Yojna and other sops were being used as election gimmicks. There were reports of denying development funds to the villages where SAD candidates had not been elected as Sarpanches. This was most unfortunate.

Mr Jakhar said the Congress had regained control of civic bodies in different parts of the country where elections were recently held. Muslims and other minorities had fresh introspection and looked convinced that they should support the most secular and progressive party. He said there would be no harm if the Congress thought of having fresh pre-poll alliances in West Bengal as Congress leader Priya Ranjan Dass Munshi had put it.

He regretted that the NDA government had not cared to consult the Congress which was the main opposition party before allowing the APHC delegation to go to Pakistan. “Our party is not opposed in principle, to any move for restoring peace in the subcontinent but the security and sovereignty of the nation have to be ensured at all costs. The NDA government has lost credibility by not caring for vigilance in Kargil. We have lost hundreds of jawans there due to incompetence of the government,” he said.


Telescopic gun found at cop’s house
Avtar Singh murder case
By Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Jan 13 — A telescopic gun, a Maruti 800 car without a registration number and five bottles of imported whisky were among several items recovered here today from the official residence of Gurmeet Singh, alias Pinky, main suspect in the Avtar Singh murder case, as pressure has been mounted on the “cat-turned-policeman” to surrender.

The search was conducted on the basis of search warrants obtained by the police from the court of Mr S.K. Mehta, Senior Sub Judge.

The “absconding cop”, has already been placed under suspension after being demoted to the rank of Head Constable from Inspector.

The police search party, led by Deputy Superintendent of Police (Headquarters) Mr Gurnam Singh and Inspector Santokh Singh conducted a thorough search of his official residence in the Police Lines here.

The search party recovered a white Maruti 800 car without a registration number, two airconditioners and several other valuables from the house. The police may register a case under the Excise Act against Gurmeet Singh, following recovery of four bottles of Johnny Walker Red Label and one bottle of Royal Salute from his house. Besides, a bottle each of Peter Scot, Royal Challenge and Director’s Special were recovered by the search party.

Other vehicles mentioned in the FIR, however, were missing. The police did not recover any other weapon allegedly used in the crime from the Police Lines house of the absconding cop.

An inventory of the items recovered is likely to be produced in court.

Meanwhile, the investigators have mounted pressure on Gurmeet to surrender. Two of his accomplices have already given up before the police. The third, a driver, is believed to be with the investigators.

A careful scrutiny of the FIR registered on the statement of Mr Amrik Singh, father of the deceased, reveals that initiallly the police had registered a case under Sections 307, 323, 336, 147 and 148 of the Indian Penal Code read with Sections 25, 54 and 59 of the Arms Act. The FIR was registered at about 2.45 a.m. after doctors attending on the complainant, who was also injured in the shootout, was declared fit to make a statement.

The complainant had in his first statement said that it was Bittu Gill’s shot that had hit his son, Avtar, in the left eye while a shot fired by Gurmeet Singh had hit him in the face.

Later on January 9, Amrik Singh made another statement to the police after the death of Avtar Singh, that the shot that hit his son was fired by Gurmeet Singh and not by Bittu Gill. The shot fired by the later had injured him.

Subsequently, the Sections were changed to 302, 307, 323 and 336 of the Indian Penal Code read with Sections 25, 27, 54 and 59 of the Arms Act. Though the police has conducted raids at various places in search of Gurmeet, success had so far eluded them.

The post-mortem report has mentioned two injuries — one inverted, 2cmX1cm on the outer side of the left eyebrow — and the second everted, 1.25cmx1cm on the left side of the back of the head — and held that the cause of the death was shock and haemorrhage due to injury to the brain.

The doctors, subsequently, said the possibility of the two injuries — “number two and three — being caused by a firearm cannot be ruled out.”

Interestingly, none of the documents mention anything about the main cause of the accident — drinking at a public place. Police sources maintain that there is no evidence or record of any past rivalry or dispute between Gurmeet Singh or any of his accomplices with the deceased or his family or any of their accomplices. The provocation for the shooting incident was instantaneous and presumably because the alleged suspects were drinking and blocking the entrance to the street at the rear of a nursing home.


Punjab awaits Centre’s nod
Special girls’ schools
By Sarbjit Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 13 — Punjab is awaiting the Union Government’s nod for clearance of a scheme pertaining to special girls’ schools in the state.

The Punjab Education Department has submitted a special scheme to the Union Government through the state government to improve the lot of girl education in the state. In spite of social awareness, Punjab has failed to be a front runner in girls’ education.

The Eleventh Finance Commission has allocated Rs 30 crore for improving infrastructure in girls’ schools and also to promote girls’ education in the state. In the light of the allocation made by the commission, the Education Department has submitted the scheme to the Union Government.

As per the scheme, in each constituency, one girls’ schools will be picked up for complete modernising of the infrastructure with updated courses relevant to the job market. Besides, either new schools will be built or existing ones modernised in districts where the percentage of educated girls is below 50 per cent.

As per the data available, Mansa district is ranked the lowest in the education of girls. Against the state’s average of 50.41 per cent of girls education, Mansa’s figure is only 28.50 per cent. Even Patiala district is below the state average. It has a figure of 48.94 per cent. Other districts, which are lagging behind in this area are Sangrur ( (37.67 per cent), Bathinda ( 38.04 per cent), Muktsar ( 37.05 per cent), Ferozepore ( 38.13 per cent), Faridkot ( 41.88 per cent) and Moga (45.84 Per cent).

The frontrunner in this field is Hoshiarpur district with an average of 63.34 per cent, which is well above the state average. It is followed by Jalandhar district ( 62.05 per cent) and Ludhiana ( 61.25 per cent). Ropar district is on number four with an average of 58.52 per cent.

Interestingly, compared to female education, the average of male education in Punjab is better. It is 65.66 per cent. Hoshiarpur again tops the state chart with an impressive figure of 80.22 per cent. It is followed by Jalandhar ( 75.11 per cent) and Nawanshahr 73.30 per cent. Mansa district has a very poor standing in male education also with a figure of 44.81 per cent. Other districts with a poor record are Bathinda, Muktsar, Moga and Sangrur.

Mr R.S. Sandhu, Secretary, School Education, told The Tribune, that certain areas required special attention. Therefore, an important component of the scheme sent to the Union Government was to promote girls education in such area by making school education attractive and meaningful. Much effort would be required to persuade people to send their daughters to the schools .

Each school picked up for this purpose would get about Rs 10 lakh for improving its infrastructure. Though various social and religious organisations have opened modern schools and colleges for girls, the concentration of such schools and colleges is mainly in progressive districts like Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Hoshiapur.

Areas like Mansa, Muktsar, Faridkot and Moga also require some initiative on the part of such organisations to improve the lot of girls. Without achieving a good percentage on female literacy, Punjab cannot expect to improve its social indicators like child-health.


SGPC meeting tomorrow
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Jan 13 — Even as the executive committee meeting of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, scheduled to be held on January 15 at Ludhiana may lift ban on the sending of jathas to Pakistan, yet its officials may not get the expected warmth which they used to get two years ago before the formation of the Pakistan Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee headed by Javed Nasir, a former ISI chief.

The PGPC officials would not agree on taking the offerings, collected at various gurdwaras by the SGPC to India as per the earlier practice. Neither the SGPC would allow the SGPC officials to make arrangements for “guru ka langar” (community kitchen) any more. During a recent visit to Pakistan, Javed Nasir told this correspondent that the SGPC chief or its officials could visit Pakistan as ordinary devotees. However, he had told The Tribune that the PGPC would definitely like that the SGPC should send devotees to Pakistan.

Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, general secretary of the SGPC, said that the Shiromani Committee had never imposed a “ban” on sending jathas to Pakstan. “It was our genuine protest against the appointment of former ISI chief as chief of the PGPC. She said after the protest of the SGPC, the PGPC had inserted the word “Sikh” in the PGPC.

Another important item on the agenda is to review the stoppage of grants to the colleges, educational institutes and certain sports clubs during the time of Bibi Jagir Kaur. Earlier, the SGPC executive committee headed by Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi had freezed all grants on the pretext that the SGPC funds could not be doled out the way Bibi Jagir Kaur had done. However, there is lot of pressure on Mr Talwandi to restore grants to these institutes.

The executive members belonging to the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal and the SAD (Amritsar) may ask Mr Talwandi to table the inquiry report of the sub-committee against the alleged “misuse” of SGPC funds in the past. The committee comprised Mr Balbir Singh Naushehra Pannu, senior vice-president, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, general secretary and Mr M.S. Romana, an executive member. The SHSAD and the SAD (Amritsar) members may also ask the executive members to table the report against Prof Manjit Singh and Giani Kewal Singh Jathedars of Takht Kesgarh and Damdama Sahib respectively.

Though the appointment of Giani Puran Singh, head granthi, Golden Temple is not on the agenda yet some members may raise this issue due to the “current Panthic crisis”. Though Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar Akal Takht, has said that the matter was likely to be resolved at the forthcoming meeting of the SGPC. This has raised hope that the matter would come up for detailed discussion at the meeting. It may be mentioned here that “Panthi crisis” of sorts has been created with the appointment of Giani Puran Singh as head granthi Golden Temple few months after his unceremonious removal as Jathedar Akal Takht. The Akhand Kirtani Jatha (Prabandhki Panchayan) has urged the SGPC executive to take some steps against Giani Puran Singh who had allegedly violated the “Sikh Maryada” in the past.


Giani Puran Singh ‘won’t resign’
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Jan 13 — The much talked about letter of the SGPC, written to Akal Takht that Giani Charan Singh or other granthi could attend the meetings of Sikh clergy in place of Giani Puran Singh has been despatched. The copy of the letter has also been received by Giani Puran Singh.

Talking to The Tribune, Baba Mangal Singh, acting president Gurbani Gurmat Sant Samaj and confidant of Giani Puran Singh said that he (Giani Puran Singh) won’t resign to resolve the current ‘Panthic crisis’. Baba Mangal Singh claimed that Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, SGPC chief and Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister and SAD chief had assured that Giani Puran Singh would continue to be head granthi Golden Temple. “If at all anybody is to be removed it may be Jathedar Vedanti or other Sikh high priests”, he said.


Private octroi collection may go
From A.S.Prashar
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 13 — Politics of votebank may soon force the ruling SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab to sacrifice the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg which has brought about a sea change in the financial health of the civic bodies in the state during the past three years.

Privatisation of octroi collection system which has proved to be a runaway success in the state eversince it was introduced three years ago, has been facing stiff opposition from the vested interests in both the SAD and the BJP, who have been demanding that it should be scrapped. The main argument being advanced in support of their demand is that it is causing ‘‘unnecessary harassment’’ to traders. Certain councillors are also alleged to have taken ‘‘benami’’ contracts for the collection of octroi, and thus have ‘‘unduly enriched’’ themselves.

Although the Assembly poll is still a year away, the Badal Government has already gone into an election mode. And going by its present expansive mood in which it has already regularised thousands of ad hoc/workcharged employees and ‘‘legalised’’ encroachments on public land, it is only a matter of time before it scraps the ‘‘unpopular’’ measure of the privatisation of the octroi collection which has been opposed tooth and nail by the trade and commerce in the state. The trade and commerce have been getting away with large-scale evasion of octroi all these years and do not like the new measure. Since it is also one of the main sources of political and election funds for parties, there is rethinking in the government on the privatisation of octroi.

However, the fact of the matter is that with the privatisation of octroi, the collection system which was leaking like a sieve has been more or less plugged. There is little doubt that when the system was introduced, there was a spate of complaints about the contractors hiring armed goons to check each and every vehicle entering or leaving every city or town in the state. This sometimes led to unsavoury incidents in which even women and their belongings were subjected to the indignity of being physically checked by the contractors' men.

But since then, the situation has improved vastly and the private octroi collection system in the state has settled down to more or less trouble-free functioning.

The revenue from the octroi has been rising year after year. When the Badal Government took over in Punjab, the total revenue collection of urban local bodies was Rs 389 crore. In the four years of the SAD-BJP Government, the total collection rose to Rs 890 crore in the year 1999-2000. It is likely to rise to a record Rs 1000 crore during the current financial year.

For the first time in history, almost all the 142 municipal bodies in Punjab have become self-sufficient. Gone are the days when they had to petition the government even for the payment of salaries to their staff. Now all municipal employees regularly get their salaries and pensions and can easily meet their routine office expenses, including cars, electricity and telephone bills, without in any way sacrificing development activities.

A small municipal committee like Zirakpur is collecting an annual revenue of Rs 3 crore. At Jalandhar, where the revenue was about Rs 27 crore three years ago, the figure was Rs 46 crore last year and is set to cross the Rs 52-crore mark during the current financial year. Sirhind municipality has doubled its income. In certain cases, municipalities have recorded a three-fold increase in their income.

Under the circumstances, it makes no economic sense to scrap the contract system for octroi collection. At a recent meeting of local bodies held here under the chairmanship of the Minister for Local Bodies, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, their Presidents were largely of the view that the present system of octroi collection through contract should continue.

The Minister expressed concern over the incidents of alleged harassment at the hands of contractors who may sometimes be enjoying the patronage of some of the Presidents and councillors. However, the Minister emphasised that there should be no harassment to the public by the contractors on any account. All cases which are put before the Executive Officer for composition should be decided within 24 hours. The staff employed by the contractors must wear uniform and bear lapels and carry identity cards duly issued by the competent authority. The local body authorities were also asked to carry out surprise checks to ensure that the code of conduct for the contractors was followed.


Punjab Cong divided on WTO
From Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Jan 13 — The Pradesh Congress Committee leaders seem to be fighting a war among themselves on the implementation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement within the party. The two warring factions led by the PCC president, Capt Amarinder Singh, and another led by MP, Jagmeet Singh Brar have already gone public making the WTO an issue.

While the PCC president has already initiated a debate on the implications of the WTO regime on the farmers in Punjab, his arch rival and bete noir within the PCC, Mr Jagmeet Brar, opposed his views saying that he did not toe his (Capt Amarinder’s Singh’s) line.

This provided, enough fodder for the supporters of the PCC president to show their loyalty towards Capt Amarinder Singh and criticise Mr Brar. Only yesterday the Ludhiana MP Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, came out with a statement criticising Mr Brar. Mr Ghalib was supported by two party legislators Harminder Singh and Amrik Singh, besides other senior leaders like Mr K.K. Bawa, Mr Nahar Singh Gill and Mr Pawan Dewan.

The Congress leaders accused Mr Brar of trying to sabotage the authority of Capt Amarinder Singh and speaking like the Akalis. They alleged that Mr Brar was playing into the hands of the Akalis and damaging the Congress. They disclosed they had written to the Congress president about the anti- party activities of Mr Brar and also demanded action against him.

The leaders claimed that Capt Amarinder was the first political leader in the state who had raised his voice against the WTO arrangement as it was going contrary to the interests of farmers. They maintained the ruling Akali-BJP government was perturbed over the bold stand taken by the PCC president in the interests of farmers. They regretted that unfortunately instead of being criticised by the Chief Minister Mr Parkash Singh Badal, as it would target his constituency mostly based in the rural areas it was Mr Brar who felt unnerved.

Capt Amarinder Singh appears to have snatched the initiative from the government by taking the lead in opposing the WTO regime, which comes into effect from April 1. By taking up the issue which is too appealing to the farmers, he has obviously tried to target the rural electorate at a time when the assembly elections are too close. While the Opposition from government circles was quite expected Mr Brar’s disagreement although not unexpected, might have come as a surprise for Capt Amarinder Singh.

The PCC leader had at last found an issue with which he could go to the people, particularly the farmers. But Mr Brar appears to be bent on upsetting the applecart by doing and saying exactly the reverse of PCC chief does or says. The PCC leaders and their respective factions seem to have got an issue with which they may be able to settle scores, leaving the government once again unperturbed.


SAD-BJP tie-up to last: Kanwaljit
From Our Correspondent

GURDASPUR, Jan 13 — Captain Kanwaljit Singh, Finance Minister Punjab talking to newsmen last evening at Dinanagar said that the SAD-BJP alliance was on the national level. Bickerings by state leaders are irrelevant. He added that statements by state leaders which might weaken the alliance must be avoided. Differences if any should be resolved through dialogue.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said that the Akali-BJP alliance was lasting. He added that alliance with the BSP and other keminded paryles at the time of coming Assembly elections would be only tactical understanding. Hindu Sikh unity is the key to success of Punjab and as history has shown it is nor possible without the SAD-BJP alliance.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said that Punjab had witnessed turmoil for past more than a decade. Still political economic and social stability has been eluding the state. The SAD-BJP alliance government in Punjab is working beyond political approach and has contributed towards the Hindu-Sikh unity to establish stability so vital for peace and prosperity in Punjab.

Talking about Rs 350 crore economic package announced by the central government for giving relief to paddy growers in Punjab, the Finance Minister said that the Punjab government would release its share of the Rs 50 crore very soon. The balance of the package amounting to Rs 300 crore to be contributed by the Centre has been adjusted by giving relaxationin specifications of paddy. It may be mentioned here that paddy growers in Punjabhave not benefitted so far out of the said economic package.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said that it must be clear to people of Punjab that mid term Assembly election is ruled out in present context. Election to Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samitis will be held in April or May as announced by the Chief Minister. These will be followed by rains for another three/four months maintaining Assembly elections to be held on schedule after full term of the Assembly. He added that elected as enumergated in Articles 73 and 74 of the representatives of the people Act.

Capt Kanwaljit Sngh said that the Punjab Government had given direct relief amounting to Rs 2000 crore to its employees, farmers, and poor power consumers. House tax in urban areas has been exempted without exception.

The Finance Minister said that the Punjab Government had recently ordered reduction of Sales Tax ranging from one per cent to 2.5 per cent on 28 essential commodities. It will entail relief of Rs 30 crore approximately to consumers.

The Finance Minister said that the Punjab Government had sanctioned Irrigation plans to improve irrigation facilities in the border districts of Gurdaspur, Amritsar and Ferozepore. Rupees 180 crore project which has been cleared by the Centre being launched to renovate UBDC canal systemto increase it efficiency. Similarly, Dashmesh canal project involving an expenditure of Rs 550 crore has also been cleared by the Centre to equip irrigationally backward districts of Ropar, Fatehgarh Sahib and Patiala.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said that Shahpur Kandi dam project would soon be expedited. Initial works on the project would be taken on departmental level, he said.


SAD-BJP govt failed on all fronts: CPI
Tribune News Service

MUKTSAR, Jan 13 — Punjab CPI leadership while accusing the BJP-led NDA government at the centre of surrendering economic independence to the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO, said that left parties in association would leave no stone unturned to stop them from doing so.

Addressing the party rally on the occasion of Maghi here today, CPI, Punjab, secretary, Dr Joginder Dyal said that apart from surrendering the economic independence to multinational companies and other institutions managed by the USA, the Central Government had been trying to foment trouble in the country by implementing its communal agenda.

He alleged that in Punjab, the SAD-BJP alliance government had failed on all fronts and now when the elections were approaching, the ruling set up was trying to befool the people again by making false promises.

He added that if Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal was really a friend of the farmers, he should press the Central Government to withdraw from the WTO agreement which could be done by giving a 15-month notice in this connection.

He warned that if the BJP-led NDA government failed to make arrangements to protect the domestic industry and agriculture from the effects of the WTO, it would prove a death knell for Indian economy.


BJYM state unit reconstituted
From Our Correspondent

PHILLAUR, Jan 13 — The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), Punjab unit, was reconstituted with the intervention of the state BJP President, Prof Brij Lal Rinwa, and some officials of the RSS yesterday.

The newly appointed president of the state BJYM, Mr Sukhminderpaul Singh Grewal, had announced the state executive of the morcha on December 23 at Phagwara. However, only after three days the state executive was dissolved on the instructions of Professor Rinwa, who was reportedly annoyed with the list released by Mr Grewal.

After 20 days of consultations with several BJP leaders, the new list was released yesterday night from which names of three vice-presidents and five district presidents were dropped. The appointments for Kapurthala, Jalandhar (Urban), Mukerian, Ferozepore and Sangrur districts will be announced later.

The new office-bearers are: president — Mr Sukhminderpaul Singh Grewal; vice- presidents — Mr Arun Khosla (Phagwara), Mr Rajiv Katna (Ludhiana) and Ms Naresh Thakur (Talwara); general secretary — Mr Arun Sood (Chandigarh); secretaries — Mr Rakesh Jain (Ferozepore), Mr Rakesh Garg (Malout) and Mr Ajay Gulati (Amritsar); treasurer — Mr Rajinder Mittal (Bathinda); executive members — Ms Sheetal Parkash, Mr Sandeep Rinwa, Mr Arvind Mittal, Mr Virinder Khanna, Mr Raman Sharma, Mr Yaspaul and Mr Ravinder Singh; special invitees — Mr Harjit Singh Bhullar, Mr Baljinder Singla, Ms Rama Chaudhry and Mr Maninder Singh; district presidents — Amritsar (Urban) — Mr Soem Dev; Jalandhar (Rural) — Mr Rajan Makkar; Ludhiana (Urban) — Kamal Chetli; Ludhiana (Rural), Mr Gagandeep Singh; Mansa, Mr Ashok Garg; Abohar — Mr Manoj Verma; Faridkot — Mr Mahesh Garg; Muktsar — Mr Sanjeev Bansal; Moga — Mr Narotam Puri; Patiala (Urban) — Mr Inder Kumar; Patiala (Rural) — Mr Ravinder Singh; Hoshiarpur — Mr Nipun Sharma; Batala — Mr Rakesh Bhatia; Gurdaspur — Mr Anil Mahajan; and Fatehgarh Sahib — Mr Lakhwinder Singh Lukki.


Rift in Congress come to fore 
Tribune News Service

MUKTSAR, Jan 13 — The rift within the main opposition Congress party came to the fore, when the party’s Lok Sabha member from Faridkot, Mr Jagmeet Brar, and his supporters boycotted today’s conference held here to mark the Maghi fair.

Supporters of Mr Brar told mediapersons this was in protest against Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh’s policy to appease the former Congress Chief Minister, Mr Harcharan Singh Brar, who had actually supported Mr Badal against Mr Jagmeet Brar during the Lok Sabha poll. As they thought this was a reflection of feudalism in the party, the supporters of Mr Jagmeet Brar decided to abstain from today’s conference.

The Congress activists who gathered at today’s conference alleged the police was deliberately trying to stop the party workers from assembling in Muktsar.

A youth Congress leader, Mr Jagpal Singh Abulkhurana, pointed out the trucks ferrying the supporters of the ruling Akali Dal were allowed to drive up to their “pandal”, while the others were made to park their vehicles outside the city.


CM using police cats to bully people: Tohra
Tribune News Service

MUKTSAR, Jan 13 — The Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) president, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, accusing Punjab Chief Minister and SAD president, Parkash Singh Badal of finishing the relevance of Akal Takht and panthic line from the Akali Dal, gave a call to the people to come on a single platform so that freedom could be protected from present anti-people, anti-panthic, anti-farmer and anti-trader rule.

While alleging that Mr Badal was harming the interests of Sikhism and its institutions by acting as an agent of the RSS had unleashed police terror on the law-abiding citizens to remain in power. He added that a fear psychosis was being created among the masses so that they could be forced to vote for the present SAD-BJP alliance in the coming elections.

Addressing the party conference, Mr Tohra said that Mr Badal, who had failed to fulfil those promises made to people on the eve of last Assembly elections, had started using the services of “police cats” to harass his adversaries.

Even those policemen, who had been facing trial for killing the innocent people during the decade-long turmoil in Punjab, on the directions of the Supreme Court and various high courts, were being defended with government money. Policemen in Punjab had been given a free hand to act on their own whims and fancies.

He pointed out that in Punjab there was “police raj” instead of rule of law promised by the SAD in its election manifesto. He added that even today, vehicles carrying workers of opposite political parties were denied entry into the venue of conferences.

He further pointed out that on February 21, orientation of a Third Front on all-India basis would be announced at party rally at Ludhiana. He added that Third Front was possible only if the sentiments of the regional parties were respected in it. He added that his party would also make efforts to keep the Congress party away from power also.

Mr Tohra, who spoke at length, said that “misrule” of the SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab would be uprooted as his party had been exposing its sins in every nook and corner of Punjab and this campaign would continue till the goal was achieved.

He alleged that Mr Badal also failed to secure release of those Sikhs who were languishing into various jails for the past one and half decade without any trial. On the other hand, Mr Badal was leaving no stone unturned to promote his family members into politics.

He blamed both the BJP and the Congress party for bringing WTO agreement in the country. He added that if Mr Badal was genuinely opposing the WTO, he should either press the central government to withdraw from it or quit the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

Mr Ravinder Singh and Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra also addressed the gathering.


Jassi murder: bail denied to SI
From Our Correspondent

CHANDIGARH, Jan 13 — Mr Justice Amar Dutt of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today denied anticipatory bail to SI Joginder Singh allegedly responsible for the gruesome murder of Canadian citizen Jaswinder Kaur after she got married to Sukhwinder Singh, a resident of Kaonke Khosa village, in Moga district of Punjab.

An FIR (No. 48) registered at the Amargarh police station in Sangrur says that the marriage of Jaswinder Kaur, alias Jassi was not accepted by her mother and other family members. Hence, Surjit Singh, maternal uncle of the deceased Jassi, had got her eliminated with the help of SI Joginder Singh and her “body was recovered from a canal near Balara village with the throat split” on June 9 last year.

The prosecution submitted before the court that SI Joginder Singh had got Jassi eliminated after receiving Rs 5 lakh from her maternal uncle Surjit Singh. The prosecution also said that petitioner Joginder Singh had been making threat calls to the complainants and should not be granted bail.

Joginder Singh pleaded that while he was the SHO in Jagraon, he had, during on investigation into the flesh trade, detected that it was being done in connivance with SP Hartej Singh Sekhon and DSP Paramjit Singh Khalra, Amritsar. This had annoyed his superiors who had booked him in the said FIR.

Mr Justice Amar Dutt observed. “If what has been stated by Joginder Singh pertaining to the immoral trafficking of women is correct, then it is hoped that the Director- General of Police will ensure that the investigation of this case is not prejudiced against the petitioner, merely on account of this fact.”

“Taking into consideration the seriousness of the crime, I do not think it is a case in which the concession of anticipatory bail can be extended to the petitioners”, Mr Justice Amar Dutt observed.


Puar case hearing put off to Feb 19
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Jan 13 — A local court today adjourned hearing into the charge sheet filed by the State Vigilance Department against former Vice-Chancellor Dr J S Puar and five others in a case of alleged corruption till February 19.

Special Judge Ms Sabina today adjourned the case for consideration of charge. Earlier on Janaury 10 the Vigilance Department had filed a challan against the former Vice-Chancellor and other accused in the same court.

The accused are Dr Puar, University teachers I J S Bansal, Baldev Kumar, J L Bhanot and S S Joshi besides Sarwan Kumar Gupta, owner of Gupta Tent House in Delhi. The accused were charged with corruption during the Indian Science Congress held in the Punjabi University in 1996 during the course of which it was alleged that the prices for establishment of tents had been hiked inordinately to Rs 30 lakh. Besides this it was also alleged that various irregularities were committed in making appointments and promotions during the period.


Last rites in one’s lifetime
From Raj Sadosh

ABOHAR: The last rites of an 83-year-old man were performed by the family respecting his last wish. The three-day function concluded earlier in the month at Kikkarkhera village, 7 km from here.

Mr Chet Ram Chauhan, who belonged to the Bawri community, had got a son from his wife and married another woman after the death of his first wife. From the second wife he got three sons and two daughters. The family settled at Kikkarkhera village where he worked as chowkidar. His eldest son is a farm hand. The other three sons, two of them unmarried, are labourers at Dabli village in Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan. The family had purchased 29 acre “barani” land in Bikaner district where cultivation depended on rainfall.

Mr Chauhan still has good eyesight but faced a problem in hearing and had lost teeth. He knew a little “hiqmat” and was popular for treating problems relating to the arms and legs, besides physiotherapy. He wanted that all the rites which were supposed to be performed after one’s death, should be performed right now. Relatives were consulted. They cleared the proposal.

Relatives started arriving at Kikkarkhera village. A “halwai” was arranged to cook meals and prepare sweets. Bhajans and satsang continued for three days. Liquor was also reportedly served. A “charpai” was converted into a “palki”. It was tastefully decorated with balloons and small flags. Mr Chauhan wore new clothes and fresh ‘‘desi jutti’’. He was placed in the palki. All relatives, irrespective of age and status, touched his feet and sought blessings. The palki was taken around. This followed ceremonies of “kharch” and “odhavani” as per their traditions. Clothes and blankets were exchanged with in-laws of his daughters and sons. Mr Chauhan presented gifts to both his daughters and prayed for the welfare of their families. Then sweets were distributed among visitors from the village also.

Mr Chauhan, when contacted by newspersons, said he was fully satisfied and had no pending wish. He had no immediate fears of death but reiterated the ceremony was performed for peace of his soul after death. His son, Nathu Ram (51), said the expenses on the ceremony ranging between Rs 20,000 to 25,000 would be shared by all four sons. They were happy that their father had no regret.

Mr Chauhan had nine brothers but only one, Kishan Chander, was alive who also attended the ceremony. The family said there was nothing surprising in performing the last rites before death, some of their forefathers had also done the same. Satisfaction of heart and mind was the aim besides get-together of all relatives once before death.


PSEB staff to continue stir 
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 13 — The Punjab State Electricity Board Employees Struggle Committee (PSEBESC) would continue its agitation against the policies of the government which, so far, has not fulfilled the demands of the employees.

Mr Sukhmander Singh, Convener, Technical Services Union (TSU) while talking to The Tribune here today, clarified that the activists of TSU who had gheraoed Mr N.S. Deol, Superintending Engineer (SE) on January 11, did not pelt the stones on policemen and any of the officers of the PSEB, first. He added that first of all policemen who were positioned on the roofs of the office, started pelting stones on the activists.

He alleged that the police had registered criminal cases against the activists of union and now they were making efforts to arrest the family members of the activists. He added that 50 activists of the union were missing, their family members were clueless regarding their whereabouts.

He demanded that all false cases registered be withdrawn and the transfer orders made on the political grounds should be cancelled.


Ghazal has found new horizons, says Panchhi
From Our Correspondent

PHAGWARA, Jan 13 — Reputed Urdu poet and lyricist of Hindi film songs Sardar Panchhi has asserted that Punjab is the cradle of Urdu.

In a lively interface with Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu writers here on Thursday evening, Panchhi claimed that modern Urdu ghazal had found new horizons by going beyond its age-old traditional themes of ‘‘zulafo-rukhsar’’ (curls and cheeks of sweetheart) and ‘‘sakio-maikhana’’ woman-server and (liquor house). The new ghazal (materical poetry) in Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi was now touching earthy themes relating to the masses and the struggle of the common people, continued Panchhi. He advocated the simple style and sublime thoughts in the genre of ghazal.

Having been closely associated with Bollywood for three years, Panchhi bemoaned the absence of melody in modern music compositions. He mesmerised the audience with his choicest ghazals for two and a half hours.

Lekhak Sabhas of Palahi and Phagwara had organised the ‘‘Ru-ba-ru’’ with Panchhi. Eminent educationist and patron of the Sabhas Jagat Singh Palahi honoured Panchhi with a shawl and a citation. A Punjabi book of poems, ‘‘Laal Suraj’’ (red sun) written by NRI writer Santokh Singh Gill, was also released on the occasion by Panchhi who presented its first copy to Mr Palahi, who had presided over the function.


Shopkeepers demand fixed transfer fee
From Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Jan 13 — Even as the Patiala Municipal Corporation has initiated the process of selling-off its shops in various bazaars of the city, the shop tenants have questioned the format for disposing of the properties and demanded that a fixed transfer fee be charged in respect of the shops that have been sublet.

Sublettees of various Municipal shops, who are the most affected by the policy adopted by the Punjab Government on transferring the property in their names, are at the forefront of the struggle to get the policy amended.

They claim that the present policy is loaded against them as under it they have to pay an amount equivalent to the 10 year rent of their shop to get it transferred in their name. While most sublettees are paying rent between Rs 100 and Rs 500, some are paying between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,000. The latter group would have to cough up lakhs of rupee to get the shops transferred in their names.

In a representation to the Chief Minister they claimed that the clause under which they would have to pay a sub lettee fee equivalent to ten year rent had been incorporated recently against all norms and without taking them into confidence. They said earlier in 1983 the Municipal authorities had decided a uniform sublettee fee of Rs 5,000. They said again in 1986, through another resolution, the government decided to hike this fee to Rs 15,000.

Demanding that the transfer fee should be uniform, as had been decided in Ludhiana, they also alleged that the calculation of transfer fee on the basis of rent increased by the corporation unilaterally was wrong. They said the corporation had no locus standi to increase rent of the shops as was done by it after every three years, when the tenants had taken the shops on rent following a public auction.

They said the shops had been taken on rent in 1976. Following that the Municipal authorities kept on increasing the rent by 20 per cent after every three years till 1993. They said after that the rent was further increased by 15 per cent by another Municipal resolution in 1993. Most of the shop owners have not paid the enhanced rent. The rent is more in case of shops which have been given on rent after the original tenant vacated them. It is in case of these shops, which have again been subletted, that the shopkeepers will have to cough up high transfer fees running into lakhs.

Meanwhile the government is firm on going ahead with the selling spree and some shops have already been bought by the tenants. The Municipal Shopkeepers Association, which represents the shopkeepers, is taking the larger interest of shop keepers in mind and is negotiating with the government to get further concessions for them. Association President Surinder Singh Arora and Punjab Beopar Mandal President Nirmal Dass Malhotra said the government had now agreed that only one-fourth of the sale price of the shops would be recovered in the first instalment and the remaining money would be taken in five years on half-yearly-instalment basis with an interest of 12 per cent.

The leaders said it had also been agreed that if a tenant failed to make payment of instalment of the purchase price regularly, the amount deposited by him earlier could be treated as recovery of payment against arrears of rent. They have also claimed that they were negotiating for a five per cent rebate to shopkeepers who deposited the entire purchase amount in one go.

Meanwhile the government has decided that the concessions in payment for the shops was a one-time package and if the shopkeepers did not give their consent within three months of the offer, eviction proceedings would be started against them.


Rs 200 crore for Punjab pensioners
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 13 — The Punjab Government has reserved Rs 200 crore for old age pensioners so that they could get pension every month.

Official sources said 3,000 families would be given Rs 1.55 crore under the Shagun Scheme by March 31, 2001. So far, the government had released Rs 62 lakh and Rs 93 lakh would be given to the authorities concerned of Rampura Phul and Talwandi Sabo and Bathinda subdivision in January, February and March, under the scheme.


6 held for robbery, several vehicles seized
From Our Correspondent

FATEHGARH SAHIB, Jan 13 — The police here claims to have smashed an interstate gang of robbers and killers and arrested six members of the nine member gang headed by Gurinder Singh Roda resident of Majri village. Vehicles and ammunition were recovered from them.

 Addressing reporters here today, Mr Sanjeev Gupta, DIG Patiala range said that the police has recovered 12 snatched vehicles including three trucks, two Tata Sumos, one Maruti car, one Maruti Zen, one Indica car, one Fiat car, two Motor Cycles and one scooter, besides five countrymade pistols and one DBBL .12 bore gun. 

He said they had admitted to five murders and 45 cases of robberies in Ropar, Khanna, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala, Sangrur, Kapurthala and Yamunanagar districts. With the busting of this gang robberies at liquor shops, octroi posts, petrol pumps in these areas have been worked out. 

Cases of murders of drivers of vehicles, which were taken away by the members of drivers of vehicles, which were taken away by the members of the gang on hire, have also been worked out. Body of the one of the victims belonging to Mandi Gobindgarh has now been recovered from Sirhind canal based on information provided by them.

He said all members of the gang were in the age group of 20-25 years and being to poor economic background.

Most of them have been arrested earlier on the charges of murder and robberies and have either been on bail or have undergone sentence. The gang was formed in their interaction in stay in jail. They have been spending money on the purchase of expensive clothes, consuming liquor and paying instalments of motor cycles/scooters.

He said recently they attempted to rob a petrol station at Sangnol in the district which were foiled as staff of the petrol station who attacked the members of the gang and injured one who had undergone treatment at Khanna. The DIG said the members of the petrol station staff have been suitably rewarded.

He said during the car snatching at Mandi Gobindgarh, they also looted Rs 90,000 while the complainant recorded in FIR that Rs 2.5 lakh were looted along with car. In Octroi looting case at Sangrur they looted only Rs 11,000, whereas the staff recorded in FIR that Rs 36000 had been looted. Similarly at Khanna petrol pump they snatched only Rs 500 from salesman, where it was reported that Rs 25,000 were snatched. The DIG said such incidents dilute credibility of the complainant. He said the police would also examine action against the false complainants.

Mr H.S. Saran SSP, K.S. Sandhu SP(D) and Mr I.S. Randhawa, SP (H) were also present.


FIR registered under SC order
From Our Correspondent

ABOHAR, Jan 13 — The Khuiyansarwer Police has registered an FIR against seven members of a family under directions from the Supreme Court. The FIR No. 17 dated January 10 was registered on the complaint of a dalit woman who resided near the police station.

Mohindro w/o Lahori Ram alleged on April 30, 2000 that some persons came to Dhaani Telupura, near Railway Colony opposite Khuyiansarwer police station in a Tata Sumo van at 7.30 p.m. They allegedly forced entry into her house and started beating her up when she was cooking. The alleged culprits were reportedly annoyed with the complainant for her witness in a case pending in the court of the SDM here. She claimed that two residents of the same colony Hazari Lal and Jeet Singh reportedly saved her. The intruders allegedly escaped threatening her with dire consequences. The alleged culprits were identified by her as Subhash, Vijay, Ramesh and four women Reshma, Neelam, Anu and Madhu.

According to the FIR Mrs Mohindro had filed an appeal before the Supreme Court as she had failed in an attempt in the Punjab and Haryana High Court to get a case registered. Mr Justice G.B. Patnaik and Mr Justice B.N. Aggarwal while disposing of the appeal said in their order that the appellant had approached the authorities for registering a case against the alleged accused persons but the police never registered a case and never put the law in motion. The counsel for the state of Punjab stated during hearing that there had been an inquiry. 

The Judges observed: We fail to understand how there can be an inquiry without registering a criminal case on the facts alleged, it transpires that the appellant approached the police for registering a case and get the allegations investigated and yet for the reasons whatsoever the police failed to register the case. We allow this appeal and direct that a case be registered within a week on the basis of the report to be lodged by the appellant and thereafter the matter will be duly investigated in to and appropriate action be taken.


Jeweller robbed
From Our Correspondent

FAZILKA, Jan 13 — Mr Kewal Krishan, brother of Mr Ramesh Verma, a local BJP leader, was robbed by car-borne dacoits last night of Rs 32,000 and gold ornaments worth about Rs 1,15,000.

According to an FIR lodged at the Sadar Police station here by Mr Kewal Krishan, who runs a jewellery shop at Ladhkuka village, 14 km from here, he was returning on his motor cycle along with his employee Ashwani Kumar at 9 p.m.

They were overtaken by a white Maruti car without registration number near Behal Bodla village, 8 km from here, on the Ferozepore road. Four unidentified persons wielding sharp-edged weapons and iron rods threatened them and robbed them of the cash and ornaments. Thereafter, the robbers sped away in the car in the thick fog. The police has registered a case under Section 382 and constituted teams to nab the culprits.


Students given expired tablets
From Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

MAURMANDI (Bathinda), Jan 13 — A major controversy has arisen in a local school as a section of students were administered expired medicines at a camp organised by the health authorities of Talwandi Sabo.

After the incident, the parents of the students approached the district health authorities and the local police for taking necessary action against the school management.

Mr Ajay Kumar, one of the parents of the students, in an application made to the SHO of the Maur Mandi police station, alleged expired medicines were given to the students deliberately and could prove fatal for those who had consumed them.

He said proper action should be taken in this connection. He added that an application had also been given to Senior Medical Officer (SMO), Talwandi Sabo, in this regard.

Local police officials when contacted said the application had been marked to Mr Babu Singh, ASI, for further investigation.

Mr Manmohan Bansal, SMO, Maur Mandi, when contacted said he had informed the Civil Surgeon when he received a complaint regarding administration of expired medicines to the students. He added he had no power to seize the samples of expired medicines as only a drug inspector could do this.

Dr Bawa Ram Gupta, Civil Surgeon, when contacted, said as per preliminary information received by him the expired iron tablets were given to students of a local school. He added that after he received a formal complaint in this connection an inquiry would be conducted.

He said the camp was organised by the Civil Hospital, Talwandi Sabo in the school and no student’s health had suffered due to consumption of expired medicines. When it came to the notice of those who had organised the camp that the medicines were expired, these were taken back immediately from the students.

Sources said a section of students were given Nesfol tablets supplied by the central government to the hospitals. The date of manufacture of the tablets was September 1998 and the expiry date was August 2000.

Dr G.S. Mauji, SMO, Talwandi Sabo Civil Hospital, and no person belonging to the management of the school could be contacted despite repeated efforts.

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