Wednesday, January 24, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




Amarinder warns party rebels
Cong kicks off campaign
From Varinder Walia

SRIHARGOBINDPUR (Gurdaspur), Jan 23 — Before launching the formal election campaign from the Majha region, considered as ‘citadel of Akali Dal’, Capt Amarinder Singh, president, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, sounded a clear warning to the party rebels, saying ‘nobody is above the party.’

Without naming Ms Santosh Chaudhary, local MP and other Congress leaders, who were conspicuous by their absence, Mr Amarinder Singh said the MPs and MLAs had to observe party discipline.

It may be mentioned here that certain local leaders had approached Mr Amarinder Singh with a request that he should not attend today’s conference as Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, general secretary PPCC and a former Congress minister, had not taken them into confidence before organising it.

Answering a question, Mr Amarinder Singh said he had already sent a detailed report against Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar for his alleged “anti-party” activities to Mrs Sonia Gandhi, President, Indian National Congress, last year.

“Yes, we are going to launch our election campaign from the Majha region today which was totally neglected by the ruling SAD and BJP government,” Mr Amarinder Singh said.

He said the doling out of funds and regularisation of encroachments by Mr Badal had given ample hints that he might get the assembly elections held within three months. Ridiculing the announcement of the Chief Minister in which he had announced that the current year would be a “development year”, Mr Amarinder Singh said it was clear that the ‘‘Badal government could do nothing on this front during its four years of governance’’.

The PPCC chief who was projected as ‘‘future Chief Minister’’ during the conference made a number of promises with the voters. Addressing a big rally, he said if voted to power, his government would launch its development activities from the Majha region.“Though the Akalis have been getting political and religious power from this region yet this remains the most neglected part of the state.”

Mr Amarinder Singh said after coming to power, his government would get the pending inter-state issues resolved. He said the state had not even a drop of water to spare which could be given to any other state. He said other issues, including the transfer of Chandigarh and other Punjabi-speaking areas to Punjab would also be taken up with the Centre if the Congress came to power.

Mr Amarinder Singh promised that the Congress would not withdraw the facility of ‘free power’ to the farmers after coming to power. Going a step further, he said the PPCC would constitute a committee of experts which would examine all those facilities which could be given to farmers.

The PPCC chief said since the ‘mid-term’ elections could be held any time, his party decided to hold rallies in all 117 Assembly constituencies to mobilise support.

On the boycott of today’s conference by Mr M.M. Cheema, Dr Ranjit Singh Atwal and other Congress leaders Mr Amarinder Singh said, he (Mr Cheema) had met him few days ago. He had directed Mr Cheema to attend today’s rally along with his supporters. He, however, did not entertain more questions on the infighting in the Congress.

Mr Partap Singh Bajwal received a shot in the arm when he succeeded in bringing Mr Amarinder Singh, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, and Mr Santokh Singh Randhawa, a former PPCC chief, here to attend the conference despite opposition by local leadership. Mr Cheema, a senior Congress leader of the area, had alleged that Mr Bajwa had violated the party rule for holding a conference in the constituency which he did not represent.


High Court
Punjab police ORP promotions stayed
From Our Correspondent

CHANDIGARH, Jan 23 — Mr Justice J.S. Narang of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today stayed promotions of Punjab police personnel holding own rank pay (ORP). This order will take immediate effect, the Judge said in his order.

A former SP of SAS Nagar, Bachan Singh Randhawa, filed the petition making the state of Punjab and the DGP as respondents in the case, pleading that the respondents should be directed not to give further ORP promotions to the rank of DSP and SP during the pendency of the petition.

The petitioner alleged that senior police officials have been giving ORP to Sub-Inspectors and Inspectors making them DSPs and SPs. At least 100 police officials who were not eligible for promotions to the rank of DSP and SP had been extended ORP which was illegal, without jurisdiction and created problems in police discipline.

“The latest occurrence,” the petitioner said, “was of Gurmit Singh alias Pinky of Ludhiana district who was working as a “cat” during the period of terrorism and later given the rank of SPO, then A.S.I., SI and then Inspector, all ORP, but without training, was a conspicuous example of misuse of official power and indiscipline in police rather than anarchy in police department.”

Due to these illegal promotions, the petitioner said, many custodial deaths had taken place during the Akali-BJP regime in Punjab and one such respondent had been working as SP (Headquarters) and occupying a sanctioned post, even though he has not been promoted to the post of Inspector.

Senior police officials, the petitioner alleged, had been giving ORP rank to untrained persons as DSPs and SPs and this had created a lot of resentment in the police force because officers promoted as Inspectors and DSPs had been waiting for their turn for promotions while bureaucrats, in collusion with politicians, had made money by giving ORP rank to various police officers.

Mr Justice Narang issued notice of motion to the respondents and adjourned the case for March 23. 


SI’s remand extended in Jassi case
From Our Correspondent

MALERKOTLA, Jan 23 — The police remand of the controversial Sub-Inspector of the Punjab Police, Joginder Singh, who has been reverted to the rank of Head Constable following his alleged involvement in a murder case, was extended for a day in the court of the Senior Civil Judge, Mr S.K. Sachdeva, here today.

Joginder Singh is a co-accused in the sensational murder case of Canadian girl Jaswinder Kaur Jassi in Narike village of Malerkotla subdivision in June last. Tight security arrangements were made by the district police in the court complex. The police demanded a remand of 10 days to recover mobile phones which were allegedly used by the accused in the murder case and the money taken by him. But the court extended the police remand to one day only.

According to Joginder Singh’s counsel, Mr Abdul Majid Thind, they prayed for his surrender on January 19 in the court of the Additional Sessions Judge, Mr R.P. Nagrath, in the district court at Sangrur but the court asked him to surrender before the Ilaqa Magistrate.

When they came out of the court he was immediately overpowered by the police party deployed there and bundled into a Gypsy.

Jaswinder Kaur Jassi, a Canadian citizen, was murdered when she was going with her husband Sukhwinder Singh “Mitthu” from Malerkotla to Narike village on June 8, 2000 by hired killers. The body of the deceased was found from Ludhiana a day later.

According to police sources, the family of the deceased struck a deal with the Ludhiana mafia to eliminate the couple. Sukhwinder Singh was seriously injured in this incident and was admitted at Ludhiana. Joginder Singh had earlier claimed he had enough documentary proof to expose his senior officers but today he refused to disclose the names of the officers.


BJP leader alleges manhandling by ASP
From Gurpreet Singh
Tribune News Service

FEROZEPORE, Jan 23 — A piquant situation has arisen after a senior police officer allegedly manhandled a local BJP leader at his office here today.

While the irate BJP leaders categorically accused the ASP, Mr Karam Vijay Partap Singh, of slapping Mr Charan Dass Handa, a member of the party’s district executive committee, the officer vehemently denied the charge.

Agitated BJP activists had decided to hold an emergency meeting later to review the situation and decide the future course of action.

Mr Handa told TNS that he went to the office of ASP in connection with an inquiry into the charge of bribery against an Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI).

He accused the ASI of taking bribe in a property dispute, involving his supporter from Zira. He charged that his supporter was being harassed by the police in connivance with his landlord. Subsequently, the BJP leaders from Zira approached the DIG for probe, who is said to have marked an inquiry to the ASP.

As the BJP activists today approached the ASP to know the fate of the inquiry, the officer allegedly asked Mr Handa to leave his office and enter it only after his permission.

This led to an argument between the two and the ASP allegedly roughed Mr Handa up. However, when contacted the ASP, Mr Karan Vijay Partap Singh, denied having slapped anyone. He even denied that any BJP leader had approached him in connection with any inquiry.


Punjab to host Presiding Officers’ Conference
By P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 23 — Punjab has “hijacked” the 64th Presiding Officers’ Conference scheduled to be held here from January 29 to February 2.

The other strong contender was Srinagar that had offered to host it since it wanted to send a message, with political overtones, to the outside world that elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir in 1996 despite a vacuum created by men in politics who had left the state because of militant threats.

The credit for the conference goes to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, who persuaded the powers that be in Hyderabad (May-June, 2000, when the last conference was held) to meet in Chandigarh. Nearly 450 delegates are expected to attend, including a dozen-odd from abroad. Among them will be the Chairman of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Mr P. Msekwa, Speaker of Parliament of Tanzania.

Punjab is hosting the conference for the second time. Earlier it did it in 1963. The first conference of Presiding Officers, incidentally, was held in Shimla in 1921. It is an annual feature now with a demand that there should be biannual conferences.

Besides a symposium on “Indian Legislatures—Vision for 21st Century”, there are only two items on the agenda of the Speakers (Presiding Officers) of Parliament and the state legislatures. One, the need to evolve a code of conduct for the legislators and steps to contain frequent adjournment in the legislatures on account of interruptions and disturbances; and two, harnessing information and communication technology in the legislatures and the need for stringing of the libraries, inter alia, with computer connectivity.

Interestingly, these conferences are held without the “proposals” of the earlier ones getting implemented. Pointed recommendations are usually avoided. Take for instance the last conference held in Hyderabad; it was the 63rd. The West Bengal Speaker, Mr Halim, while speaking on “future proposals”, referred to the recommendations made at the Calcutta conference in 1984 that had remained unimplemented till May-June, 2000.

Some of the recommendations that had remained in time-freeze Mr Halim referred to included the one on initiating an annual contribution by all legislatures, depending on their strength, to evolve a pattern for subsequent conferences and involving smaller states that lacked infrastructure, logistics and finance.

The other was in respect of reducing the size of “delegations” by excluding spouses and fringe staff. But spouses will be in toe in Chandigarh. It was said that group transportation should be preferred to separate cars.

Mr Halim also suggested that an all-India legislators’ hostel be constructed in New Delhi with all states contributing to enable state legislators to stay at a cost-effective price.That place could double up as a “training centre”. But there has been no progress.

In fact, the agenda in Hyderabad was more comprehensive. It comprised the following items: continuation of membership of both the Lok Sabha and the state legislature concurrently; reduction of the period of six months for acquiring membership by a non-member Minister; automatic termination of membership of the Lok Sabha once a member became a Minister in a state; and restriction on a candidate to contest elections from more than one constituency at the same time.

The Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr G.M.C. Balayogi, who was in the chair, gave comments as per the provisions of the Constitution.

The Presiding Officers are also aware of the roles to be performed by the three wings of government: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The three perform the roles of rule-making, rule-application and rule-adjudication. An attempt by any of the three to usurp the powers of the others upsets the scheme of distribution of powers as laid down under the Constitution.

Normally, it is very difficult for the Presiding Officers to speak for themselves even as they undergo work strain in the present-day multi-party system. Though a Speaker is considered to be a non-party man, he has to contest elections on the symbol of one or the other political party and depend on the executive to care for his constituents later. Therefore in Hyderabad it was decided to form a committee of Presiding Officers to look into all aspects of the office of Speaker. It is not certain if that report will be tabled at the conference here next week.

When it comes to participation or hosting of conferences by smaller states, the question of means arises. So far, two committees have been constituted to consider the issue of creation of a “fund” for which subsidy could be given to the host state. A final word is yet to be said on the issue.

Mr Atwal, however, said that the Lok Sabha was contributing Rs 30 lakh for the conference, slated to cost Rs 1 crore. The entire Vidhan Sabha complex and legislators’ hostels of Punjab and Haryana are being redone. There are reports of the involvement in this redoing of some “extra-constitutional authority” —a close relation of a Punjab MLA. This is having a disquieting effect on the staff of the Vidhan Sabha.

The Presiding Officers are keen that due respect be shown to a Governor when he addresses the House. Mr Atwal said several serious issues were to be discussed, but in camera. He agreed to a suggestion that the “audit” of House sittings should be done in the next session to see what it cost the tax-payer.

He gave a detailed programme of the conference and said a conference of the Secretaries of legislatures would also be held simultaneously.

Mr Atwal said the opportunity would enable the Presiding Officers to communicate their resolve to the government for being translated into action. Weighty constitutional matters would be discussed, including parliamentary procedure and practice.


CM’s pet project runs into rough weather
By A.S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 23 — A move by the Punjab government to import Israeli dairy technology to improve Punjab livestock has run into stiff opposition from veterinary experts, dairy farmers, milk plant owners, experts from PAU as also the bureaucracy in the state.

The first meeting of the newly constituted Punjab Dairy Development Board has been convened here on January 25 when the government proposes to push through the proposal, according to well-informed sources here today.

Incidentally, the Government of India has questioned even the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Punjab and Israel during the Punjab Chief Minister’s visit to that country in 1997 under which the state government proposes to import the Israeli knowhow. The Centre has made it clear that no state or autonomous body can deal direct with a foreign country. Prior approval by the Government of India is mandatory in such cases.

Although the bureaucracy and the dairy experts are not very enthusiastic about the project, the Chief Minister, himself a farmer, is said to be personally very keen on it and has been pushing the administration to do the needful quickly.

The original proposal was to import genetic material and modern dairy techniques from Israel. But the Government of India has already imposed a ban on the import of Israeli genetics material. Now the proposal has been altered to hire the services of Israeli dairy experts who will provide the technical services at multi-farm projects at Kaljharani, Bathinda district, and Padheri Kalan, Amritsar district.

The two projects based on Israeli technology were launched about two years ago . They have so far proved to be quite expensive, but the benefits to the state, if any, have been uncertain so far. Each unit is meant to house 10-20 cross-bred cows and “followers” and cost about Rs 10 lakh. The total expenditure on them so far has been Rs 10 crore.

Dairy machinery from Israel was imported by Punjab at a cost of about Rs 1 crore for demonstration at the CII-sponsored Agro-Tech’98 held in Chandigarh. The government was hard put to it finding use for the machinery once the show was over. Finally, it has been transferred to PAU, Ludhiana, for “educating” students. But it has been lying idle there ever since.

The collaboration with Israel has been opposed on record by at least two former Secretaries to the Dairy Development Department. The Government of India has already advised the state government not to enter into an agreement with Israel without the approval of the government and has declined to approve the implementation of the project even through the Punjab Dairy Development Board.

The Union Minister for Agriculture, Mr Nitish Kumar, in response to a DO letter from Mr Parkash Singh Badal, said that “it appears that the Israeli technology is neither economically viable nor technically suitable for the ground conditions prevailing in Punjab. I, therefore, regret to inform you that it would not be desirable to enter into the proposed MoU with the Israeli Dairy Board...”

The Israeli Dairy Board is also reported to have tried to sell its technology and machinery to the National Dairy Development Board, but the latter did not agree. The Government of India tried the genetic material and technology of Israel at Bangalore and Kalyanai but it was not found suitable to the Indian conditions.

The money collected through a cess on milk levied by the state government has become another sore point with dairy farmers and milk plants. They feel that the money should be utilised on the development of milkshed areas of milk plants rather than spending it on projects which are not cost-effective.

Many milk plants have already challenged the cess in the Punjab and Haryana Court, which has admitted the petitions. 


Probe indicts revenue officials
Evacuee property being grabbed
From Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

JALANDHAR, Jan 23 — The state Revenue Department has asked all Deputy Commissioners to prepare the inventory of government lands, including the compensation pool property, and a list of pending cases and claims against properties left in Pakistan under the misused Displaced Persons (C&R) Act 1954.

Though Rule 67-A of the DP (C&R) Act Rule, 1955, places a bar on the registration of fresh claims for compensation in lieu of property left in Pakistan after December 31, 1963, groups of brokers operating in different districts and Revenue Department officials have reportedly joined hands to circumvent the law and have succeeded in getting compensation property worth crores of rupees by way of fake allotment letters and conveyance deeds. So much so, they have even gone to the extent of claiming the lands already allotted to others, as the department has no records of previous claims or allotments.

This practice has been continuing in spite of the fact that a majority of the claims of migrants had been settled by 1960 and thereafter the Central and the state governments had settled the pending claims through successive package deals, commenced in 1961 and eventually transferred the balance evacuee pool lands in both rural and urban areas, highly-placed sources said.

The Revenue Department Special Secretary, Mr Satish Chandra, who has directed the state Deputy Commissioners to prepare lists of pending claims and to update the data by pulling up the subordinate department officials, admitted that since the registration of fresh claims had been stopped, the broker-official nexus had now adopted new practices to get the evacuee property. They would get the land allotted on the basis of forged “goshwaras or parchis” and some of these claims were forwarded by the authorities.

In some cases, fake and undated entries were detected in the land records and in several cases allotments were made by managing officers like SDMs on the basis of such bogus entries. Repeat allotments of land were made and the fake allottees took possession of the land quickly, avoiding an entry in the records. They had also sought repeated allotments by “removing parchis” and notings from files with the help of babus.

Using another method, fake power attorney was prepared, mostly in the name of dead persons or persons killed during the Partition.

A departmental probe found that the brokers had several power of attorney for more than one claimant, sometimes even without the cancellation of previous attorney. In some cases, a person having a General power of attorney appointed another attorney who in turn appointed a person holding general power of attorney or a special power of attorney. These attorneys had no legal right to represent the allottees, Mr Chandra said.

The nexus between the officials and the brokers had first come to light in 1993 when the department had to register criminal cases against its staff.

Departmental sources said the properties acquired this way were disposed of immediately and at times they were sold to relatives of fake allottees, with a view to confusing the matter by involving more people.

The departmental probe observed that some of the officials of the local Director Land Records (DLR) had obliged any “claimant” with a copy of “Jamabandi”. The office had also failed to maintain and update the register ID, prepared by the Directory Organisation after 1961-62.


Govt partial in giving grants, says Cong MLA
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 23 — Mr Harminder Singh Jassi, Congress MLA from Talwandi Sabo, has alleged that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has been partial in giving grants to different villages for their development. He said he would soon file a writ petition to get the funds for his constituency.

Mr Jassi in a press note issued here today alleged that the Chief Minister was giving the funds to some villages while ignoring the others. He said the government was giving stepmotherly treatment to those Assembly segments where Akali candidates were defeated in the last Assembly elections.

Mr Jassi said recently the government had issued Rs 239 lakh to be distributed among villages of Bathinda for various development works. He said instead of distributing the amount equally in all Assembly segments of the district, officials were ‘instructed’ to give the money only to Phul, Nathana, Bathinda and Pucca Kalan constituencies.

The Talwandi Sabo and Joga regions had been ignored because in these constituencies the MLAs were from the opposition parties, he said.


Pay compensation, BSNL told
From Our Correspondent

ROPAR, Jan 23 — The district consumer forum has directed the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), to constitute a high-powered committee to work out a proper procedure to settle cases involving the dugout or outstanding bills. The directions were given in the judgement delivered on a complaint of Mr K.R. Budhiraja, ex-president of the Municipal Council, Ropar.

Mr Budhiraja, in his petition before the consumer forum had alleged that he had been regularly paying the telephone bills. However, without any notice the local telecom authorities initially reduced his telephone facility to just incoming calls and later disconnected the telephone. He was told that he had not paid some outstanding bills for September 1998 and January 1999.

The complainant contested before the forum that he had paid the bills for the said month and his telephone was disconnected arbitrarily. To prove his point Mr Budhiraja alleged that he had not paid the bills for the said months his telephone would have been disconnected within 21 days as per the rules of the then DoT. He also gave an affidavit in the court in support of his contention and demanded a compensation of Rs 25,000 for the alleged harassment.

BSNL council maintained before the forum that the telephone facility of Mr Budhiraja was disconnected due to the non-payment of the outstanding bills. He alleged that the authority initially warned him to pay the bills by reducing his telephone facility to incoming calls but when he did not respond his telephone was disconnected. The BSNL authorities maintained that the telephone connection of the complainant was restored as soon as he cleared the outstanding bills.

The two-member consumer forum comprising the president. Mr J.P. Gupta and member Mr S.K. Bhatia noted in its judgement that the consumer had to face problems due to arbitrary charging of the outstanding bills by the monopolistic service provider. The forum directed BSNL chairman to work out how such problems could be avoided in future. It also directed the authorities concerned that the telephone service to the consumer should not be disconnected without issuing a distinct notice for due hearing to the defaulter.

The forum also directed BSNL to refund Rs 1,109 to the complainant with interest as the rate of 18 per cent from the date of deposit of the disputed bill because the department had failed to prove that the customer had not paid the bill. It also awarded a compensation of Rs 5,000 to the complainant that would be realised from the functionary of BSNL who was at fault in the case.


‘Smart villages’ around Science City
From Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

JALANDHAR: As the prestigious Pushpa Gujral Science City project progresses towards the first phase of construction, Dr Abdul Kalam, noted scientist and Scientific Adviser to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, has mooted an ambitious plan to develop a cluster of 35 “smart villages” equipped with all modern facilities around the city site so that it can serve as a model for attracting investors to rural areas.

Dr Kalam, who is also the Chief Patron of the project, had inspected the city site at Wadala Kalan village on the Jalandhar-Kapurthala road during a visit in the first week of January. He had discussed with Science City officials, including the Director-General, Mr P.K. Bhaumik, the proposal to develop a “loop” of nearly 35 villages around the site so as make the dream of the Prime Minister to make rural areas more attractive to investors a reality.

Dr Kalam was of the view that there could be no better area to develop the cluster of villages than Science City, since it would be attracting people in large numbers from far and wide when completed and would in itself provide the much-required scientific ambience to the residents of these villages. The cluster could be converted into a “virtual town later with a potential to grow.”

Dr Kalam, who himself had drawn a rough sketch of the proposed cluster and handed it over to Mr Bhaumik, envisaged all those modern facilities for residents which are available to those living in the metros. Linked by a ring road, the cluster will be empowered to support a variety of services for Science City, and will have facilities such as hospital, bus service, railway station, telecom station, school, hotel administrative office, club, worehouse, industry and power grid. Mr Bhaumik said the objective of the proposed cluster was to attract investment to the rural sector on a large scale.

Meanwhile, construction under the first phase of the 71 acre Science City project is expected to start in February. This phase will include a Disneyland look-alike gate complex and a huge astro dome, where large format films on various scientific principles and depicting sea life and space effects will be exhibited. “We are in the process of finalising the construction plan. We are importing a modern large format film projection system from Japan which will be installed by November , “said Mr Bhaumik.

He said the plan was to get the construction of a major part of Science City completed by September, 2002, and to play host to a conference to be organised by the International Committee of Science and Technology Museums, Paris, at the place. Persons from 45 countries were likely to participate in the conference.


Rally for farmer’s release held
From Our Correspondent

MANSA, Jan 23 — In dense fog more than 5,000 activists of the Kisan Union (Ekta) blocked traffic yesterday on the Old Court road and gheraoed the head office of Mansa Central Cooperative Bank Ltd in protest against the arrest of a farmer, Gurjant Singh, Tahilian village in the district, as he could not repay the bank loan.

They demanded the release of Gurjant Singh and threatened to continue the dharna till his release.

A rally was organised later in which Mr Ruldu Singh, senior vice-president of the state unit of the Kisan Union (Ekta), alleged that farmers were being arrested and harassed by these banks.

He alleged that while on one hand the state government had sent many farmers to the jails, on other hand it was holding meetings with union leaders and promising them that no farmer would be arrested. He demanded that the bank debts of farmers should be waived as the government had done in the case of sick industries in the state recently.

Mr Malook Singh, district president of the union, alleged that the Punjab Government was responsible for the present condition of the farmers as it had been regularly increasing the prices of the agriculture related inputs but not giving them a suitable prices for their produce.

Mr Darbara Singh, district general secretary of union, said that due to fear of bank officials, farmers were spending the nights in farms or at homes of relatives.

Mr Ram Singh Bhaini, district finance secretary alleged that Mansa Coop Spinning Mill and Budhlada Coop Sugar Mill owed Rs 9 crore to Mansa Coop Central Bank and Spinfed had not cleared the bank debt even after the sale of a spinning mill.

He also alleged that industrialists and big businessmen take advances to the tune of crores of rupees, but no action is taken by the bank officials in case of their default of because they have political approach.

The agitation was withdrawn in the evening after Gurjant Singh’s release.


TB eradication panel set up
From Our Correspondent

PHILLAUR, Jan 23 — The Punjab Government has constituted TB eradication committees at all district headquarters headed by the Deputy Commissioner besides a state-level 17-member TB Eradication Committee headed by the Health Secretary, Punjab.

This was disclosed by the Punjab Health Minister Dr Baldev Chawla, while talking to this correspondent here today. He appealed to all social organisations to adopt at least one TB patient for treatment. He said that 40,000 TB cases are coming to light every year in the state.

He said state-of-the-art equipment would be provided in all government hospitals. The Health Department was being computerised and the government was trying to ensure availability of emergency drugs and specialists in the government hospitals.

He said nearly 2,450 HIV positive cases and 216 confirmed AIDS cases were also diagnosed in Punjab. He said the state government would upgrade 154 hospitals with assistance of Rs 418 crore from the World Bank.

Dr Chawla said the Punjab Government would soon provide mobile ambulance service on main roads to ensure prompt medical help to the people injured in road accidents.

Dr Chawla said the Health Department would launch a campaign to prevent the sale and manufacture of spurious drugs.


Vigil at Rajasansi stepped up
From Our Correspondent

RAJASANSI (Amritsar), Jan 23 — The Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Mr Chaman Lal Gupta, yesterday reviewed the security setup at the airport here. He asked various security agencies operating at the airport to step up vigil as certain desperate elements might try to storm the installation in the wake of terrorist attack at Srinagar airport 10 days ago.

Mr Gupta, who was accompanied by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, Mr Anna Velli, reviewed security arrangements outside the terminal building and in the technical area where the aircraft are parked.

The IGP, Mr A.P. Pandey, along with the SSP, Mr Parampal Singh Sidhu, briefed the minister about the security measures undertaken by the Punjab police which had been entrusted the task of the overall security of the airport.

The Civil Aviation Minister and the security chief were given all details of stepped up vigil by the IG and other airport official during their closed-door meeting.

Mr Pandey talking to TNS here today revealed that an operation room (Ops centre) had been planned which would work as the “nerve centre” during emergency. The room would have hotline with Delhi, the crisis management committee, and with the local administration.

He pointed out that all passengers would be frisked before they entered the airport terminal building and their relations or friends would not be allowed near the terminal building.

Some police personnel in plain clothes had been deployed around the airport to keep a check on suspicious elements. Besides, barricades had been erected in the outer periphery, he added.

The police requested the minister to get a colour X-ray machine besides setting up more metal detectors at the entry and exit points.

The SSP in a pressnote denied reports appearing in a section of the Press that the minister had criticised the Punjab police security arrangement at the airport.


Billa threatens to gherao PM
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Jan 23 — The All-India Hindu Shiv Sena has threatened to gherao the Prime Minister if Hurriyat leaders are allowed to proceed to Pakistan for talks.

Terming the Kashmir ceasefire as a great blunder, the All-India Hindu Shiv Sena president, Mr Surinder Kumar Billa, said the ceasefire had further deteriorated the condition in Jammu and Kashmir. “The ceasefire has undone whatever gains the security forces had made,” he said.


Youth clubs without grants for 3 years
From Our Correspondent

FARIDKOT, Jan 23 — Activities at youth clubs in Faridkot and Muktsar districts have come to a standstill due to lack of funds. Since the past three years no grant had been allocated by the Punjab Government for different schemes in this connection.

According to reports, there are about 300 clubs having 11,000 members in both districts. Youth training camps, which were earlier organised at different stations like Kulu, Manali and Shimla has not been organised since 1998. Same is the case with hiking and trekking camps. Youth festival camps, held at block, district and state levels, have been getting no response for the past three years. The participants who get first positions at the state-level youth festivals are entitled to take part at the national-level festivals, but the non-availability of funds has deprived them of this opportunity.

The village development schemes headed by the youth clubs had also suffered a lot in the absence of grants. The youth services department at the district headquarter has not been provided any vehicle.

It is further learnt that the state government had only released Rs 3 lakh against the sanctioned amount of Rs 7.60 lakh last year to implement the NSS scheme.


Pay power bills up to Rs 5,000 in cash
From Our Correspondent

PHAGWARA, Jan 23 — The Punjab State Electricity Board has allowed the consumers to deposit bills up to Rs 5,000 in cash, according to a board’s circular sent to its officers.

Mr Ajit Singh, Senior XEN, Phagwara division last night said the earlier limit of paying cash was Rs 2,000.

However, the consumer could also pay by cheque a bill which was less than Rs 5,000.


No car loan for lawyers’ kin
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Jan 23 — The Consumer Rights Protection Society’s general secretary, Mr B.R. Preenja, has raised a ‘peculiar’ issue wherein it is noticed that car loans to persons whose relatives are either a cop or a lawyer are not entertained by private banks.

He gave the example of a retired officer of the Punjab Government from Batala road who has been denied a car loan by a company on grounds that one of his relatives is a policeman.

In a similar case, a loan was rejected on the plea that the loan seeker’s brother was a lawyer.

Mr Preenja demanded that the misconception be rectified by the banks. 


Punjab transfers
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 23 — The Punjab Government today ordered the following posting and transfers in the Police Department.

Mr S.K. Sharma, Deputy Inspector-General, Training and Operations, India Reserve Battalion, Patiala, becomes Deputy Inspector-General, Chief Minister’s Security, in place of Mr S.K. Goel. Mr Naunihal Singh, ASP, Patiala, becomes SP, Headquarters, Ludhiana.

Mr Uptal Joshi, SP, Headquarters, Ludhiana, goes to 82nd Battalion, PAP, Chandigarh, as Assistant Commandant; Mr Surinder Singh Atwal, SP, Operations, Hoshiarpur, becomes SP, Internal Vigilance, Chandigarh; Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhatti, SP, Traffic, Ludhiana, goes to Hoshiarpur as SP, Operations.

Mr Arunpal Singh, ASP, Jalandhar, becomes SP, Traffic, Ludhiana. Mr Rajiv Ahir, SP, Patiala, goes to Jalandhar as SP, City. Mr Amar Singh Chahal, SP, Jalandhar, becomes Assistant Commandant, 80th Bn, PAP, at Jalandhar.


5 robbers arrested
Tribune News Service

FEROZEPORE, Jan 23 — After two month-long hide and seek drama with the robbers allegedly involved in a dacoity in the city in October last, the district police claims to have solved the case by arresting five members of a gang.

The gang headed by Kuldeep Singh was busted and a part of the booty, worth Rs 30 lakhs looted from the Chatti Gali locality here, was also recovered. Besides, one Tata Sumo and some weapons were also seized from the accused, who were allegedly arrested in the Ghal Khurd area near here yesterday.

Disclosing this at a press conference here today, the district police chief, Mr Gurcharan Singh Pherurai, identified other gang members as Ranjit Singh, Paramjeet Singh and Ramesh Kumar.

He said more recoveries were likely after the arrest of more gang members, including Shingari, who was still at large. He added that the police raid continued in various parts of Rajasthan and Punjab to arrest the remaining culprits.

He said among the seized ornaments were 36 gold bangles that were looted from the house of Mr Ajay Bajaj, a money lender and the weapons seized from them were three pistols and a 12-bore gun modified into pistol.


2 cops booked in firing incident
Tribune News Service

FEROZEPORE, Jan 23 — Two Punjab police head constables and one Home Guard were booked for firing in the air to disperse a mob of students near Udham Singh Chowk here this morning.

Among those booked one are Head Constable Ramesh Masih, a clerk at the city police station and his assistant, Head Constable Vijay Kumar, besides Gurdeep Singh, a Home Guard. The three have been booked under Section 336, IPC, on the statement of several ITI students who charged them of firing with a 303 rifle.

The incident occurred when the students, who are agitating against the fee hike, prevented Vijay Kumar from passing through a route they had earlier blocked in protest. Following this, a heated exchange took place between the irate students and the cop, who later went to the city police station and brought two of his colleagues. This led to a scuffle between the two sides. Gurdeep Singh opened fire to disperse the mob. The SHO, Mr Raj Kumar, who rushed to the spot to control the situation accused the students of pelting stones at the police.

However, after an inquiry on the instructions of the SSP, Mr Gurcharan Singh Dherurai, a case was registered against the cops. The SP (Detective), Mr H.P.S. Kang, told TNS that the inquiry proved the negligence on part of the policemen.


Man, sister commit suicide
From Our Correspondent

FAZILKA, Jan 23 — Harjit Kumar, alias Jeeta, 29, and his sister Santosh, alias Tosha, 21, of Deriwala village, 8 km from here allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison here yesterday.

According to a statement by Mr Kalu Ram, father of the deceased, his son was married to Ms Santosh of nearby Chak Banwala village. As the relations between the husband and the wife were strained his daughter-in-law had started living with her parents for the past 8 months.

Following this his son Harjeet and daughter Santosh, who were under depression consumed poison on Monday evening. They were admitted to the local Civil Hospital in a critical condition, where they later died. The police has registered a case under Section 174 of the IPC.


Mann accident: truck driver held
From Our Correspondent

ROPAR Jan 23 — Mehar Singh, the driver of the truck that hit Gurdass Mann’s vehicle leading to injuries to him and death of his driver has been arrested by the Ropar police.

As per police sources the driver who had absconded after the accident, was arrested from his hometown. The driver belonged to Chune Bhadha village situated on the Raipur road in Dehra Dun. The truck (USY-6971) that was involved in the accident belonged to the Dolwala Truck Union of Dehra Dun.

The driver would be produced before the court tomorrow.


Students poison teachers’ tea
From Our Correspondent

PHILLAUR, Jan 23 — Fearing corporal punishment, some class VII students of Government High School, Gunachaur, near Banga, allegedly mixed some poisonous substance in the tea served during a party in the school. The party was arranged to honour those who had contributed to the Parents Teachers Association fund last evening.

Twenty-two persons, including Headmaster Harbans Lal, sarpanch Paramjit Singh and teachers, started vomiting after they took the tea. They have been taken to a private clinic.

The Banga police has rounded up four students in this connection.

The SHO claimed that two of them have admitted that they bought pesticide and mixed it in the tea. The police has seized the samples and is investigating the matter.


VC does it again
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Jan 23 — While the controversy over the selection of the son-in-law of Vice-Chancellor, Guru Nanak Dev University, as Reader in computer science and engineering is yet to die down, the selection of his unmarried daughter, Ms Harmit, in the department of Management, has raised eyebrows again.

Ms Harmit was selected by the committee, headed by Mr G.S. Sahi, Principal Secretary, Higher Education, and then it was approved by university Syndicate the same day.

It may be mentioned here that the regional centre was opened at Gurdaspur in 1986 where Ms Harmit was a student of the first batch. While sources claimed that the regional campus was a specially opened for admission of Ms Harmit yet Dr Soch claimed that centre was established on the written orders of the Chief Minister.

Later Ms Harmit Kaur was got adjusted as ad hoc lecturer at Regional Centre Jalandhar.

3 syndics nominated 
From Our Correspondent

PATIALA, Jan 23 — Lieut-General (Retd) J.F.R. Jacob, Governor of Punjab and Chancellor of Punjabi university nominated three members to the Syndicate of the University here today. They would remain on seat for a period of one year. The nominated members are Mr Manpreet Singh Badal, MLA of Gidharbaha, Mr Mohinder Singh Romana, Advocate from Faridkot and Mr Harcharan Singh, General Manager, Indian Express Group of Newspapers, Delhi. 

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