Monday, January 29, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Majitha byelection: Cong to expose govt
Tribune News Service

SANGRUR, Jan 28 — The Punjab Congress will expose the failures of the SAD-BJP government on all fronts during its election campaign in the Majitha Assembly byelection to be held on February 19.

The Congress will expose the government with regard to increase in the crime, violations of human rights, deterioration in law and order situation, plight of the farmers and failure of the state government in getting accepted the state’s demands, including transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab and settlement of river waters dispute, from the Union Government.

This was stated by Mrs Rajider Kaur Bhattal, a senior Congress leader and a former Punjab Chief Minister, while talking to mediapersons here on Friday after addressing a Congress rally organised by the District Congress Committee (DCC), Sangrur, to celebrate the Republic Day.

Mrs Bhattal said the SAD-BJP government had created a ‘wedge’ between urban and rural people by making power and irrigation water supply available free to the farmers, and not abolishing the octroi posts as promised in the SAD-BJP manifesto in the previous Assembly elections.

Mrs Bhattal also sought a clarification from Mr Parkash Singh Badal on the issue of right to vote for the Sehajdhari Sikhs in the SGPC elections as Sikh leadership was opposing right to vote for the Sehajdharis. She said Mr Badal should immediately clarify his position as he claimed himself to be a champion of Hindu-Sikh unity.

The former Chief Minister also criticised the SAD-BJP government that it had failed to get an entry for the ‘jhanki’ of Punjab in the Republic Day parade at Delhi for the first time this year. This was a matter of shame for the SAD-BJP government, she added.

Mrs Bhattal refused to accept that there was disunity in Punjab Congress but she admitted that differences of views were prevailing among some party leaders. She also claimed that the Punjab Congress was united under the leadership of Mrs Sonia Gandhi.

Regarding abolition of octroi if the Congress came to power during the next Assembly elections, Mrs Bhattal declined to give a direct reply. Instead she said the sentiments of the people would be honoured at that time.

Earlier, addressing the party rally, Mrs Bhattal paid tributes to the freedom fighters and congratulated the countrymen on the occasion of Republic Day.

Mrs Bhattal also criticised Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee for declaring ceasefire in the Jammu and Kashmir. She also accused Mr Vajpayee of getting killed the Army personnel in J and K on their own soil during ceasefire. She said due to the wrong and soft policies of the BJP-led government, hundreds of soldiers had died in Kargil and Jammu and Kashmir.

The rally was also addressed by Mr Dhanwant Singh, MLA from Dhuri Mr Gurcharan Singh Dirba, MLA from Dirba Mr Abdul Gufar, former MLA from Malerkotla Mr Sher Singh Gaggowal, a former Punjab minister and Mr Pawan Kumar, advocate, a PPCC member.


12 promoted to rank of college principal
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 28 — In a belated action, 12 lecturers have been promoted as “regular” Principals of government colleges in Punjab. Orders to this effect were issued by the Principal Secretary, Higher Education, Mr G.P.S. Sahi, on January 25.

With this, there are now regular Principals in 26 colleges out of a total of 48. There are still six vacancies. In the remaining 16 colleges, senior lecturers are holding “current duty charge” as Principals.

All 12 persons promoted on January 25, it is learnt, are from among 20-odd lecturers who were selected as Principals by the departmental promotion committee on December 8, 1999. Had the government acted then, at least nine more could have benefited. They have since retired.

The orders of January 25 have also set a new benchmark in respect of scheduled posts and “A” grade posts as defined by the Department of Personnel. Their promotion is on a merit-cum-seniority basis. All 12 have been placed in the pay scale of Rs 12000-420-18300.

Of the 12 promoted, at least six had not accepted the “current duty charge” assignment in March, 2000. Most of them are women lecturers who were reluctant to be posted out of the colleges where they were then working. The orders now give new postings to all 12.


Narco-terrorism on the rise
By Ruchika Mohindra Khanna
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 28 — The ideological terrorism in Punjab has now transformed itself into narco- terrorism, arms and fake currency smuggling from across the border.

Highly placed sources in the intelligence department have revealed that all the major terrorists of Punjab, who have been provided safe houses in Pakistan by the Inter Services Intelligence, are now sponsoring narcotics, arms and ammunition and fake currency smuggling in Punjab and thus raising hundreds of thousands of rupees for their other clandestine operations.

According to the information gathered by TNS, it is learnt that at present at least five of the top militants — Wadhwa Singh, chief of Babbar Khalsa International, Mehal Singh, another ‘top gun’ of BKI, Paramjit Singh Panjwar of KCF (Panjwar), Lakhbir Singh Rode, convener of the International Sikh Youth Federation, and Ranjit alias Nita of Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) — have been put up in the New Model Town area on the outskirts of Lahore in Pakistan.

It is learnt that over the past five years ( that marks the third decade of terrorism in the state) the main operations of these top terrorists have been restricted to aiding and abetting smuggling by the ISI. This after various unsuccessful attempts to revive militancy in the state turned futile, informed a senior Intelligence official here. It is also learnt that while four quintals of narcotics (heroin, opium, charas and poppy husk) worth lakhs of rupees have been seized, sophisticated arms and ammunition worth crores of rupees and fake currency of Rs 2 crore have also been seized.

Among the drugs that are smuggled from across the border, it is opium and heroin that come in the maximum quantity. In the year 2000 alone, while 1,27,513.590 kg of opium was seized from the smugglers. “It is estimated that the price of one kilogram of opium in Pakistan is Rs 10,000. Add to this Rs 10,000 as cost of carriers to India, another Rs 10,000 as cost of carriers to Delhi, Rs 10,000 as cost till it reaches Mumbai. From there, till the drug finally manages to reach London or Amsterdam, its cost is around Rs 1 lakh per kg,” informed a senior police officer.

Similarly in the case of arms and ammunition, it is mainly the assault rifles — AK 47, AK 56 and AK 74 and detonators and hand grenades — that are being smuggled into the country, besides the deadly explosive materials like RDX and PETN. Last year, the police in the state succeeded in seizing 10 assault rifles, 22 hand grenades, 68 detonators, 56.12 kg of RDX and 8 kg of PETN. As in the case of drugs, the price of these arms and ammunition also increases manifold from its origin in Pakistan and till it reaches its ultimate destination in Mumbai and other parts of the country.

The smuggling of fake currency from across the border has also reportedly picked up. It is learnt that though it is mainly the Indian currency notes of Rs 50, Rs 100 and Rs 500 denomination that are being thus smuggled, the fake currency of Rs 1000 denomination note has also begun. Intelligence people concede that the fake currency is generally so well made that it is difficult for a commoner to distinguish it.

However, the intelligence officials concede that the total recovery is less than 5 per cent of the smuggling taking place from across the border. Sources say in spite of the fencing all along the Indo-Pak border in the state, the vast stretches of riverine tracts, irrigation pipes, ownership of land in the Indian territory along the border in Punjab and Gujarat by the smugglers untapped by the security forces and are being used by the smugglers, who are in cahoots with the terrorists to carry on their operations.

Interestingly, the figures collected from the Punjab Police Intelligence show that a sizeable number of the smugglers arrested with their consignments turned out to be Pakistani spies. Other than this, the daily visitors to the Pak territory — mainly agriculturists who have land on the other side — too, allegedly act as carriers of these goods.

“Other than this”, says a senior intelligence officer in the state, “ the main challenge to the Punjab police are the residual Sikh militants and the PAN Islamic groups like Hizbul Mujahideen, Islamic Front and Lashkar-e-Toiba, who have direct links with the Punjab militants.”

It is learnt that at present there are around 100 militants — both top ones and the small time ones — who are still in the country and the ISI is reportedly instigating both the terrorist leaders in Pakistan and the PAN Islamic militants to forge an alliance and then carry on joint operations in India. In spite of repeated such alliances between the two sides over the past six years, this has not yet succeeded. However, the intelligence people in Punjab confess that they are not well equipped to deal with the PAN Islamic militants and the problem of the increasing activities of the mercenaries.


Pathankot safe haven for drug traffickers
From Our Correspondent

PATHANKOT, Jan 28 — Pathankot has become a safe haven for drug traffickers. The local police claims to have recovered a huge quantity of narcotics and arrested a number of persons in the past few months. Recently, the police intercepted a truck near Chotti Nehar and seized 60.5 kg of poppy husk which had been concealed under a tarpaulin in two bags in the tool box. The police has arrested Mohinder Singh in this connection. The Sadar police has arrested Ashwani Kumar for smuggling of 1 kg of charas.

Sikandar of Budharehwala village in Amritsar district has been arrested by the local police and 4 kg of opium seized from him. Similarly, Ram Lal and Raj Kumari of Awankha, Dinanagar, have been arrested and 1 kg charas seized from them. Balwinder Singh of Raipur has also been arrested along with a huge quantity of narcotics.

Pathankot is thickly populated and has two subdivisions — Pathankot and Dhar Kalan, two sub-tehsils — Bamial and Narot Jaimal Singh, and two municipal committees — Pathankot and Sujanpur. At present, more than 20,000 migrated labourers are working here and some of them are addicted to drugs.

Cannibis is cultivated in the Chamba and Manali areas of Himachal Pradesh and in some parts of Jammu and Kashmir and its transaction, according to the sources, is mainly done near the river bank so that in case of a raid it can be thrown into the river.

With an increase in the number of hotels and rest houses in the town, it has become difficult for the police to check the drug menace.


YAD starts drive against addiction
Tribune News Service

RAMPURAPHUL, Jan 28 — The Youth Akali Dal (YAD) workers have launched a campaign in the rural areas to motivate the people to desist from taking drugs and in the process make society drug-free.

For this task, the YAD workers have been holding small meetings and organising functions in the villages to make the rural people aware about the ill-effects of drug addiction on their health and economy.

Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar, senior Youth Akali Dal leader, who presided over one such function at Bhagta Bhai Ka late last evening and distributed 12 sewing machines to the widows and women belonging to poorer sections of society and Rs 11,000 to the local youth club, said the campaign had been launched on the directive of the party president and Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal.

He said rural youth clubs were being equipped with all facilities so that their services could be used for launching a war against drug addiction which had been spreading its tentacles in every nook and corner of the state.

He added that at the function organised in connection with the campaign against drug addiction the poor women of that particular village were also being given sewing machines to enable them to earn their livelihood in a dignified manner. The village youth clubs were also being given monetary grant.

He said sarpanches and panchayat members of villages falling under the Rampuraphul constituency were participating in a large number in the campaign against drug addiction and so far the campaign in this assembly segment was a great success.

He said senior YAD leaders, including Mr Harcharan Singh Sivian, Mr Nirmal Singh Maur, Mr Balwinder Singh, Mr Nirmal Sandhu and Mr Gurmail Singh Kotshamir also took part in yesterday’s function.


30,000 vacancies in govt schools: union
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Jan 28 — Mr Paramjit Singh Gandhri and Mr Sucha Singh, president and general secretary, respectively, of the state unit of the Government Teachers Union have alleged that there is a nexus of politicians and owners of private schools which has resulted in 30,000 vacancies of teachers in government schools in Punjab.

Leaders of ruling party, in connivance with the owners of private schools had deliberately left 90 per cent senior secondary schools without principals where children of poor take admission.

In a joint statement, Mr Gandhri and Mr Sucha Singh, alleged that about 40,000 teachers out of the total staff of one lakh had been deputed for census duty for a month. In many schools the entire teaching staff had been deputed for census duty and there were ‘compulsory holidays’ in such schools. They said since the annual examinations were round the corner, the assigning of the census duty to teachers was aimed at benefiting the private schools which had been ‘minting money’.

Mr Gandhri and Mr Sucha Singh said that the plight of the students in the border belt was worse. Many schools in this belt were functioning without building. Despite tall claims by the state government, the students of the area were being denied ‘proper education’ for obvious reasons.

Mr Tota Singh, Education Minister, had already admitted on the floor of Assembly that 496 government schools in Punjab were without teachers. The teachers union leaders alleged that the ‘indifferent attitude’ by the authorities concerned has shown that the ‘education in government schools’ was not on the priority agenda of the state. Many senior secondary schools all over the state were also without lecturers, hence masters and mistresses had been officiating as principals.

Interestingly, about 50 per cent teachers were women, who availed maternity leave for six months and there was no alternative arrangement provided to fill the ‘gap’. At least 5 per cent teachers were on foreign tour for the past 10 years.

Though the Punjab Government was committed to implement Punjabi language at all levels but many posts of Punjabi teacher were also lying vacant. As many as 630 posts of Punjabi and Hindi languages were converted into masters scales in 1978 and posts were not sanctioned in their place even after 23 years.

The teachers union leaders said that the non-academic works’ were given to teachers which adversely affected the study in government schools. They were given assignments of revision of voters list, economic surveys, census, identity cards and ration cards. However, the teachers of private schools were not given such duties. The union leaders alleged that the students of the government primary schools had to sweep school premises as almost 75 per cent schools did not have the posts of sweeper.

Instead of providing blackboards and other utility items for the schools, the government supplied two-in-ones and televisions which were being used by the staff members.


Civil aviation may be privatised in Punjab
Tribune News Service

SANGRUR, Jan 28 — The Punjab Government is actively considering privatising civil aviation in the state which has four units at Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala.

Addressing a press conference at the local PWD rest house on Thursday evening, Mr Narinder Singh, Minister for Civil Aviation and Public Health, Punjab, said these four units could not be privatised immediately as these were not viable units. This was the main reason that no individual was ready to take over these units.

Mr Narinder Singh said the state government had set aside Rs 1 crore in the budget for the current financial year for civil aviation but his department had not received even a single paisa. As a result, the condition of the civil aviation units at the four places was not good. Besides, the Ludhiana and Amritsar units had only one aircraft each while the Jalandhar unit had been taken over by the Army, he added.

The minister further said there was a proposal to buy an aircraft for the Punjab Government but it could not be purchased as Rs 21 crore were not provided in one go by the Punjab Finance Department.

The minister also disclosed that the Civil Aviation Department would start a cargo service from Amritsar for sending vegetables abroad. He said this service would be started as and when the Union Government provided basic facilities for the purpose. A cold store would be constructed near the site of the civil aviation unit there.

Mr Narinder Singh further said the Patiala civil aviation workshop was functioning in good condition as it had been providing ground engineers to air services. He said trained ground engineers from Patiala were getting Rs 5 lakh per month in air services.

The minister also disclosed that the Public Health Department of the state had received only Rs 32 crore so far though an amount of Rs 116 crore (Plan and non-Plan expenditures) had been kept in the state budget of the current financial year.

He also said an independent water supply scheme had been provided in each village of the Kandi area while two or three villages jointly were now getting drinking water from a water supply scheme in place of 14 villages earlier.

The minister also disclosed that a Rs 1,000 crore drinking water supply project, out of which Rs 680 crore had to come from the World Bank, had been prepared by the state government but it was in the doldrums as the World Bank did not agree delinking drinking water and irrigation water schemes. He said the World Bank was not ready to clear the project on the plea that Punjab was supplying free power and irrigation water to farmers.


Party heads can use red lights atop vehicles
By Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 28 — After the Jathedars of the five Takhts, the Punjab Government has now decided to allow the presidents of all political parties, recognised for Punjab, to use red lights atop their motor vehicles.

A notification to this effect has been issued using powers conferred on the state government under Rule 108 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989, and Rule 170 of the Punjab Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989.

A spokesman of the Punjab Government clarified that the use of red lights atop motor vehicles had been permitted in the case of the presidents of both the national and state units of the political parties recognised for the state of Punjab. They could now use such lights while travelling in Punjab.

In 1999 the Punjab and Haryana High Court had issued directions to the state government to regulate and control the number of persons permitted to use red lights atop their motor vehicles.

Late last year the Punjab Government allowed not only the five Jathedars but also the Head Granthis of the Takhts to use red lights atop their vehicles by amending the earlier notification under which only MPs, the Judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the chairmen of various commissions, the Chief Secretary, the Home Secretary, the Director-General of Police, the Deputy Commissioners, the Chief Minister and the members of his Council of Ministers, some selected police officers and a few others could use such red lights.

The high court wanted the state government to curb the practice of allowing reds light atop vehicles as a “status or VIP symbol”. The court also wanted the state police to challan all those who had been using such red lights without proper authorisation by the state Transport Department.

When the Jathedars and the Head Granthis of the five Takhts got permission, certain senior officers of the Police Department, including the Additional Directors-General of Police, resented the denial of permission to them to use red lights atop their vehicles.

Some of the police officers quoted Government of India guidelines in support of their case, maintaining that under the rules, they were permitted to use red lights atop their vehicles. But till date, there has been no amendment to the Motor Vehicle Rules to permit police officers of the rank of Additional Director-General to use these “status symbol” lights.

Besides the police officers, others who made a demand for permission to use red lights atop their vehicles included the Officers on Special Duty attached with the Chief Minister, police officers of the rank of Inspector-General and Additional Director-General of Police not holding any field posting, senior officers of the Narcotics Bureau of India and the Foreign Exchange Bureau , the Registrar of Punjab Agricultural University, the Chairman of the Ex-Servicemen Corporation, the Regional Manager of the Food Corporation of India and Swami Giana Chand Maha Mandleshwar of Bhawanigarh in Sangrur district. Some SGPC members, too, wanted this permission.


Remodelling lifeline of Majha farmers
By P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan. 28 — Soon things will begin hotting up in that typically rural Assembly constituency, Majitha, where a byelection has been announced following the death of Mr Parkash Singh Majitha, Minister without portfolio, on January 19. The bhog was held there today.

Once the political parties pitch in, the usual rousing speeches and round of allegations and counter-allegations will begin. Defending the citadel will be the ruling SAD-BJP combine with a motley Opposition on the assault. The outcome of the Majitha poll is already being perceived, primarily by the media, as a precursor to the likely trend in the Assembly elections in the state later.

It will be a familiar poll scene: the Opposition trying to pin down the SAD-BJP combine on its performance, or otherwise, by raking up the past and the ruling partners justifying why and how promises they made were marred. The combine will list its achievements and promise to do more in the remaining term. The electioneering will also put the political executive and administration into top gear to woo voters and the Opposition will cry “foul”.

Since Majitha will be in focus, at least till February 19, when polling takes place, it is pertinent to refer to an important issue that concerns the peasantry in that area. The Akalis will love to showcase it. This issue relates to the remodelling of the Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC) system, the lifeline of Majha farmers.

This system off-takes from the Madhopur headworks on the Ravi. Its remodelling will mean reinventing 2,500-odd km of the existing network in two districts with a culturable command area of 5.43 lakh hectares. The proposed area to be irrigated is 4.72 lakh hectares against the existing 3.54 lakh hectares. This means raising the irrigation intensity to 87 per cent from 65 per cent at present.

The Union Minister of Water Resources, Mr A. C. Sethi, has accepted the proposal of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who met him in New Delhi on January 16. Following their meeting, Rs 154 crore has been sanctioned for remodelling the UBDC, in phases, till March, 2002. The remodelled system will not operate on “run of the river”. It will draw water from the reservoir built at Thein. Thus, assured water will be available for the system. Punjab has already enhanced the water allowance for the system from 3.50 cusecs to 5.50 cusecs per 1,000 acres at the distributary head in “Khara” Majha and from 3.50 cusecs to 4.50 cusecs per 1,000 acres at the distributary level in the remaining tract.

But an expert on water resources, Dr G. S. Dhillon, who has analysed the proposal, has some reservations. The surface water (canal) available in Punjab is around 14.8 MAF ( million acre feet). Out of this, 2.53 MAF is being delivered to the UBDC or Majha, whereas the water available to Doaba, through the Bist Doab Canal, is negligible because the system is incomplete. This means about 12 MAF of water for Malwa.

Dr Dhillon says Malwa, comprising 32 per cent of the total irrigated area, receives 52 per cent of the water available at the outlet head of Punjab. There is an imbalance. About two-thirds of Punjab is “starved” of water, where water-table is declining, and one-third, due to an excessive water balance, is getting “waterlogged”.

Going by the proposed increase in the water allowance after the remodelling of the UBDC, Dr Dhillon observes that the water delivered will be just sufficient to irrigate 87 per cent of the irrigated area for just one crop. How about the water for the second or third crop? Which means farmers will resort to the “mining” of the sub-soil water without it being recharged. Once Thein is completed, it will save 1.5 MAF of water flowing to Pakistan. Out of this hardly 0.53 MAF will be given to Majha and the rest taken through the Madhopur-Beas Link to the Harike Barrage for Malwa, where two new canals are proposed to be built — the Hithar canal to irrigate Ferozepore. This canal, 31.30 km, is to off-take from Mallanwala. It will have a discharge of 1,303 cusecs and cost Rs 53.02 crore.

Majha can get water only from the Ravi and out of the total flow of 6.4 MAF (annual average) of the Ravi and with the completion of the new scheme, it will be 3.06 MAF. So 3.34 MAF of the Ravi water will be diverted for use in Malwa, which is unfair distribution.

Even on the completion of the project, 1.75 lakh acres, located within the commandable area, will not receive any canal water, which is 13 per cent out of the total culturable command area of 5.43 lakh acres. It is doubtful if the objective of increased water allowance, increase of 28.6 per cent in general and 57 per cent in “Khara” Majha, can be achieved. The project is justified if 1.5 MAF of water is given to Majha to arrest the decline in the water-table.


Cong may have poll tie-up with Left
From Our Correspondent

PHAGWARA, Jan 28 — The Congress stalwart and opposition leader in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Chaudhry, Jagjit Singh, today did not rule out truck with the CPI and the CPM in the February 19 Majitha bypoll. Talking to newspersons here, he ruled out any sympathy wave for Akalis due to the death of Parkash Singh Majitha, minister without a portfolio. He declared the Congress would oppose use of electronic voting machines in Majitha and meet election commission about it.


Soni to float third front
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Jan 28 — The announcement regarding the floating of a third front by Mr O.P. Soni, an Independent MLA, on the eve of the Republic Day celebrations may affect the forthcoming Majitha byelection scheduled for February 19. Mr Soni has announced to field candidates for the Assembly and the corporation elections.

The decision of Mr Soni to float the third front will affect the Congress and the Akalis both.

Mr Soni enjoys enough influence in the urban and rural areas, as he had initiated a number of projects during his tenure as Mayor in the past.

Mr Soni was expelled from the Congress when he allegedly roughed up Mr R.L. Bhatia in 196. The announcement of the third front when Majitha byelection was round the corner seemed to be a strategic move by Mr Soni. The villages in the Majitha constituency are contiguous to the Assembly constituency of Mr Soni.

Meanwhile, Mr Dharmvir Sareen, Municipal Councillor, who had left the Congress, along with 14 other councillors, has announced that he would contest the forthcoming municipal elections under the banner of the third front.


RMPs to field candidate
From Our Correspondent

TARN TARAN, Jan 28 — The Amritsar district unit of the Medical Practitioners Association, Punjab will field candidate for the Majitha Vidhan Sabha byelection.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the association presided over by Dr Inderjit Singh Dheer, district president of the association.

Dr Satnam Singh Dao, general secretary, in a press note issue here said yesterday the association had decided to “teach the Punjab Government a lesson regarding its indifferent attitude” towards the demands of RMPs and had decided to field its candidate for the byelection.


Plea to transfer officials
From Our Correspondent

TARN TARAN, Jan 28 — Master Nirvair Singh and Mr Satinderjit Singh Pannu, presidents of the Block Congress Committee and the Block Youth Congress, respectively, of Naushehra Pannuan in a joint statement here today demanded from the Election Commission that the District Education Officers, Secondary and Primary, Amritsar, be transferred for a fair and free election to the Majitha Vidhan Sabha byelection.

The Congress leaders said since Ms Sawinder Kaur Kahlon, DEO (S), was the wife of Mr Nirmal Singh Kahlon, Minister for Panchayat and Rural Development, Punjab, and the DEO (Pry), Mr Davinder Pal Singh Dhillon had been appointed at his home district, they could “influence” the byelection.


Relief from Rajasansi airlifted

AMRITSAR, Jan 28 (UNI) — An Indian Air Force aircraft today airlifted 1.50 lakh blankets from the Rajasansi airport here for the earthquake-hit town of Bhuj in Gujarat. The blankets have been donated by the Punjab Government.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who was in the city, said he had had a telephonic conversation with his Gujarat counterpart Keshubhai Patel this morning. The Gujarat Chief Minister had asked him to send blankets, readymade garments and tents for the quake-affected.

The Chief Minister said the demands made by the Gujarat Chief Minister would be met immediately and instructions had already been issued to the officials concerned to make necessary arrangements for sending more relief to the affected state.

Appealing to the public to donate generously, Mr Badal said a Gujarat relief fund was being set up at the district level and at Chandigarh. People could make donations in their respective districts to this fund.

Speaking at the ‘bhog’ ceremony of former Cabinet Minister and senior Akali leader Parkash Singh Majitha, Mr Badal said his party was not in favour of the Majitha byelection at this juncture. Since the EC had announced the poll, “we will contest the poll. We know who are behind the declaration of this byelection.” He did not elaborate.

The Chief Minister announced that a befitting memorial would be raised in the late leader’s memory. However, due to the imposition of the model election code of conduct, he refrained from making any further announcement.

In his speech he did not say whether a member of the Majitha family would be the party candidate for the bypoll to be held on February 19.

Mr Badal described the late Majitha as an upright and honest politician.

Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa also paid tributes to the late leader. A number of state ministers, including Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmapura, Dr Rattan Singh, Mr Nirmal Singh Kahlon and Dr Baldev Raj Chawla paid tributes to their former Cabinet colleague.

The SGPC President, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, and his predecessor Bibi Jagir Kaur also paid tributes. Former minister and Congress leader Gurmej Singh and Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal leader Manjit Singh Calcutta also spoke on the occasion.


Red Cross opens relief centres
From Our Correspondent

FARIDKOT, Jan 28 — The District Red Cross Society has opened three centres, one at its office here and the other two at tehsil offices at Jaitu and Kotkapura, to collect relief material, particularly blankets, shawls, woolen clothes and readymade garments in aid of earthquake-hit people in Gujarat, said Mr A. Venu Prasad, Deputy Commissioner and chairman of the society, here today. He appealed to the residents of the district to contribute generously to help the quake-hit families. Cash donations would also be accepted through cheques drawn at earthquake relief fund, Ahmedabad, said the Deputy Commissioner. The Red Cross Society would also donate material worth more than Rs 1 lakh, he added.

FATEHGARH SAHIB: The district administration has constituted a special rehabilitation cell in SDM’s offices at Fatehgarh Sahib, Amloh, Khumanon and Bassi Pathana, where the relief material for the earthquake victims would be collected and sent to Gujarat by special trucks. According to Mr B.S. Sudan, Deputy Commissioner, a campaign would be launched in the district to collect maximum relief material. He urged the people to donate generously and send material in the SDM offices, where special cells would work round the clock. He said the donations would be accepted in form of drafts.

Meanwhile, the State Anti-terrorists Front today sent two more trucks from Mandi Gobindgarh town in the district carrying relief material for the earthquake victims in Gujarat. Mr Jagmeet Sahota state president of the front said two trucks were sent yesterday and all the district units had been asked to collect relief material.

JALANDHAR: The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has despatched medical teams, medicines, food, blankets and other items for the earthquake victims in Gujarat.

In a statement issued by the ITBP headquarters here, in accordance with the directions issued by Mr Gautam Kaul, the ITBP Director-General, all units stationed in Punjab have started contributing towards the welfare and relief of those affected by the earthquake. A consignment of 2000 blankets had already been despatched from the ITBP units stationed at Jalandhar, Amritsar, Patiala, Ludhiana and Bathinda. Mr Kaul has also put the force formations stationed in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand on alert so as to meet any natural calamity in the near future. 


3 relief centres for quake-hit
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 28 — The district administration has opened three centres to receive donations for the earthquake victims of Gujarat. The centres have been established at the Tehsil Office and the AC market in the city and at the tehsil offices at Rampura Phul and Talwandi Sabo towns.

Mr Jaspal Singh, Deputy Commissioner, has made a request to the public to donate liberally for the victims. He said the people could give blankets, quilts, clothes and cash which would be sent to the earthquake victims by special trucks.

A meeting of the officials of the district administration, NGOs and District Improvement Trust was held here today in which it was decided that the Class-I and Class-II officials would donate the two days’ salary while the Class-III and Class-IV employees would donate one day’s salary for the victims.

Meanwhile, the local Truck Operators Union has decided to provide the trucks free of cost for carrying the goods to Gujarat.

Mr Bhan Singh Bhora, MP from Bathinda said he would give Rs 10 lakh for the earthquake victims. Employees of the State Bank of Patiala, Bathinda zone, gave a draft of Rs 80,000 to the Deputy Commissioner towards Prime Minister’s relief fund for the victims yesterday.

Mr Sadhu Ram Kushla, chairperson of the DRDA Employees Union has said that the employees of the department would donate a day’s salary for the victims.

Mr U.S. Lucky, Chief Engineer, Guru Nanak Thermal Plant has said the employees of the thermal plant would give blankets and clothes for the victims.


Badal appeals for aid
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 28 — The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, in an appeal to help the victims of devastating earthquake in Gujarat, has exhorted the people to donate blankets, woollens shawls and clothes of daily use for sending relief material to the affected people.

The Deputy Commissioners have been directed to set up collection center at district headquarters in their offices and in SDMs offices at tehsil level. A collection centre has also been set up in Kisan Bhavan Sector 35 here, says a press note.

An official spokesman said the first consignment of one lakh blankets was dispatched today to affected areas. The government will also arrange tents worth Rs 1 crore for relief camps.


Punjab IMA offers to help quake victims
From Our Correspondent

PHAGWARA, Jan 28 — The Punjab unit of Indian Medical Association yesterday placed its professional services at disposal of the IMA headquarter, Delhi for providing relief to the victims of the earthquake that had hit Gujarat yesterday. Dr O.P.S. Kande, state IMA president, had conveyed this to Dr Ketan Desai, national president. IMA, who was in Ahmedabad. This was disclosed here today by Dr Raman Aggarwal, chairman, College of General Practitioners, IMA, Punjab.

Feeling aggrieved over the large-scale destruction of life and property in Gujarat, the IMA had called an emergency meeting of its state working committee at IMA Bhavan, Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar, Ludhiana, tomorrow to discuss various relief measures for the quake victims, Dr Aggarwal added.


BJP MLAs to contribute salary
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 28 — The leader of the Punjab BJP Legislature Party and local Government, Labour and Employment Minister, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, said today all BJP ministers and MLAs shall contribute one month’s salary to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund in view of the devastating earthquake that rocked Gujarat on January 26.Mr Tandon appealed to the people of Punjab and social organisations to come forward and contribute to the relief measures, in a message to the Chief Minister of Gujarat Mr Keshu Bhai Patel, he has assured of all possible help from Punjab, a press note issued by party office said.


District forum chief was ‘coerced’ to quit
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Jan 28 — The circumstances under which Mr M.S. Chawla, president of the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Amritsar, resigned has taken a queer turn with the other two members of the forum consisting of Dr A.K. Girgla and Mr Rampal Chatrath accusing the state Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission of keeping the government in the dark about the resignation letter of Mr Chawla which begins with the words — “As directed by the honourable Mr Justice H.S. Brar”.

Both members came out strongly against the “forced” resignation of Mr Chawla which they said “smacks of injustice” as the latter’s term was to expire on March 15, less than three months before he was asked to resign.

They alleged “no show-cause notice or an explanation in conformity with the provision of the civil services rules or consumer protection rules were followed by the state commission.”

They said the resignation was under “coercion” and appealed to the state government to take necessary and appropriate action to redress the grievances and injustice meted out to Mr Chawla.

The president of the forum was reportedly asked to tender his resignation by the state body chief for showing “undue respect” to an eminent doctor during the course of a trial. Mr Chatrath had claimed the said doctor was neither a complainant nor a respondent but appeared as an “expert witness” in a case and hence could be accorded due respect.

In the meantime, the Bar Associations of Batala and Gurdaspur have expressed solidarity with Mr Chawla. They have demanded a thorough probe into the circumstances leading to the resignation. Both the associations had observed two days’ strike to protest against the decision. They had termed the order as “dictatorial” and on “flimsy grounds”.

Mr Vijay Mehra, general secretary of the District Consumer Welfare Forum, a parallel body, has alleged there were many complaints against Mr Chawla prior to his resignation and the resignation was not under any pressure.


Kuka movement ‘fired patriotic fervour’
From Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Jan 28 — The 186th birth anniversary of Baba Ram Singh is being celebrated tomorrow at his native village Rayan, near Bhaini Sahib, 25 km from here. The Punjab government, acknowledging the contribution of Baba Ram Singh in religio-political movement which played a prominent role in country’s freedom struggle, has declared Baba Ram Singh’s birthday as state holiday.

Baba Ram Singh was the founder of the saint-soldier movement. Born in village Rayan, he joined the Khalsa army of Mahraja Ranjit Singh. However, deeply upset over the court intrigues after the demise of Mahraja Ranjit Singh he left the army. He then settled in his native village and started the spiritual movement. However, he did not confine the movement to the religious purpose only, but ensured that it made adequate contribution to the freedom struggle that was about to begin.

According to Dr Jasbir Singh, a leading scholar, it was on the Baisakhi day in 1857 that Baba Ram Singh started a movement for spiritual awakening by baptising five Sikhs as Sant Khalsa, “symbolising the ideal of saint-soldier”. The Baba re-emphasised the Sikh traditions like piety, Nam Simran and reahat maryada. It came as a breather to the people of Punjab who were deeply demoralised by the vanishing of the Sikh empire, the last fort of Indian resistance to the rapidly expanding British Empire.

Dr Singh observes, “although the primary aim of the Kuka movement, as it was popularly called, was religious reform, but gradually it assumed a strong socio-cultural and political character as well. Baba Ram Singh successfully managed to reawaken the spiritual glory of the Sikh Gurus. He succeeded to a considerable degree in transforming the demoralised mass of people into a self-confident and awakened patriotic force.

The Kuka movement took direct confrontation with the British government on the issue of cow protection in the year 1872. In order to resist the cow slaughter Kuka rebels drawn by a strong belief in Khalsa traditions stormed the slaughter house at Malerkotla. The British who were already unnerved by the activities of the Kuka rebels tried to crush the movement in a ruthless manner. However, under the spiritual leadership of Baba Ram Singh instead of demoralising the Kukas, it got strengthened and consolidated.

While earlier it was believed that Baba Ram Singh spent last days in Burma, but the latest research by some scholars has been disputing this claim. The government by announcing a holiday in his honour has at last acknowledged the sacrifice of a great visionary, who combined faith and politics to strengthen the freedom struggle.

A state-level function is being organised tomorrow at village Rayan which would be attended by senior ministers and the current head of the Namdhari sect Satguru Baba Jagjit Singh. 


A city with skewed growth
From Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

BATHINDA: Owing to an increase in population, the city has seen the development of planned and unplanned colonies. However most of the residential colonies that have come up during the past two decades have not been planned properly. The government agencies concerned have not been able to check the haphazard growth of the city.

Interference in the working of the Municipal Council, Improvement Trust and other town developing agencies by politicians and other ‘influential’ persons has led to the haphazard and unplanned growth of the city.

The agencies concerned could not check the construction activities in areas that were declared as unbuilt by the Punjab Government. Instead, those who encroached on government and private land were patronised by the ruling masters through ‘‘land mafias’’.

The haphazard growth led to the development of slums at various spots in the city. In certain areas even land earmarked for parks has been encroached upon.

Officials sources said the city witnessed haphazard growth as a number of schemes made for its planned development could not be implemented due to lack of will on the part of the implementing agencies.

The sources added not a single town planning (TP) scheme in this city was sanctioned by the government within the mandatory nine months as per the provisions made in the Punjab Municipal Act. A few such schemes took more than five years even though some delay was caused by the local Municipal Council and other agencies also.

Ms Sukhnandan Kaur, Assistant Town Planner (ATP), Bathinda, who along with two others had published a paper on the role of regulatory schemes in the planned development of any town by taking Bathinda city as a case for study said that out of the total planned area of 2118 acres, sanctioned schemes were implemented only in 1255 acres. Of the 30 TP schemes 13 were dropped by the government while the rest had been implemented or were being implemented.

Slums have appeared at various spots in the city due to the encouragement by certain vested interests. Nobody knows about the master plan which was prepared in 1991 for the development of the city for 15 years.

In certain areas residents have not hesitated to raise rooms even on a street. People seldom get the building plans sanctioned by the authorities concerned.

Mr S.K. Goyal, Executive Officer, Municipal Council, said unauthorised constructions in the city were being regularised after sanctioning their site plans. High development fees were being charged from those seeking the regularisation of their buildings.

Mr Bhupinder Singh Bhullar, President of the Municipal Council, said encroachments and unauthorised constructions were being demolished. The municipal authorities were trying their best to make sure that the city grew in a planned manner.


Action against four market encroachers
Tribune News Service

BATHINDA, Jan 28 — The local municipal council authorities have initiated action against four shopkeepers in Gandhi Ground Market for encroaching on market ‘corridor’ used as thoroughfare.

Official sources said the authorities initiated the action when these shopkeepers encroached upon the ‘corridor’ and merged the space in front of their shops into the same. The authorities have moved a formal application to the police for registration of criminal cases against the shopkeepers.

The ‘corridor’ area was encroached upon on the night of January 27 even while the municipal council authorities and the Deputy Commissioner were informed about the same on January 12 by other shopkeepers in a formal application.

The application had warned that the four shopkeepers would encroach upon the “corridor” when all government offices were closed on account of Republic Day.

These shopkeepers, talking to TNS, said the municipal authorities had also failed to check the “illegal” construction that had come up in that market in the past few months.

Mr S.K. Mittal, Executive Officer, Municipal Council, when contacted, said all encroachments would be removed.

He said contempt proceedings would also be launched against these encroachers as the local court had forbidden them to raise any construction.

Asked whether the market corridor had been encroached upon by shopkeepers with the active support of ruling politicians, he said there was nothing to indicate so. The municipal authorities would not allow the errant shopkeepers to go scot-free. 


Mittal opens hospital
From Our Correspondent

ROPAR, Jan 28 — Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Food and Civil Supplies Minister, Punjab, lent support to the cause of the oustees of the Bhakra and the National Fertilisers Ltd (NFL), Nangal, projects at a function held at Nangal today.

Oustees of several villages surrounding Nangal had given land at meagre compensation to bring up these projects here. However, the managements of both units and previous governments had “failed” to work for the welfare of these people, he said.

Mr Mittal was here to inaugurate a 30-bed hospital that has been set up at Barari village near Nangal. The hospital building was constructed by the Nangal Municipal Council at a cost of Rs 25 lakh.

He criticised the Congress for spreading apprehensions among farmers regarding the procurement of wheat. The Rs 100-crore compensation, comprising Rs 50 crore given by the Centre, would be distributed among the farmers who resorted to distress sale of paddy by the Revenue Department.

Expressing shock over the Gujarat catastrophe, he appealed to the local organisations to donate liberally for the relief work.

Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, Minister, Local Bodies, who was to lay the foundation stone of the building of the Shivalik College of Pharmacy did not turn up for the function. The Nangal Municipal Council had spent Rs 50,000 for the reception of the minister.


State-of-the-art heart hospital
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Jan 28 — Sigma Heart Institute and Speciality Hospital, a tertiary level heart care hospital, was inaugurated today by Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Minister for Agriculture and Fertilisers. The Minister complimented the doctors for starting the first state-of-the-art hospital with facilities for heart surgery, ballooning and all types of cardiac interventions for the first time in Amritsar and the Majha region of Punjab.

He said these facilities which were not available here would now be provided at the doorstep of people suffering from problems related to heart. People had to earlier go to far-off places like Delhi and pay through their nose for getting treatment. Many a precious life was lost due to the delay. 

He also appealed to doctors to provide reasonable concession and free services to poor and needy people of society. Mr Dhindsa suggested the hospital administration should take the initiative to educate the common man with regard to ways to prevent heart diseases as well as steps to be taken in an emergency. Mr Dhindsa made a fervent appeal to doctors to organise free medical camps, more so in rural areas where government facilities are lacking, in a bid to prevent heart disease.


Tributes paid to Lala Lajpat Rai

MOGA, Jan 28 (PTI) — Floral tributes were paid to Punjab Kesari Lala Lajpat Rai today to mark the occasion of 136th birth anniversary of the Punjab Kesari.

Punjab Education Minister Tota Singh along with hundreds of people placed flower petals on the Lalaji’s memorial at Dhudike near here and visit the martyrs gallery at the memorial.

Addressing a gathering on the occasion, the Punjab Education Minister said that Dhudike was proud of giving birth not only to Punjab Kesari Lala Lajpat Rai but it also gave birth to two Akali martyrs, Ghadri Baba martyrs and Ghadri freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives in the freedom struggle.

Paying tributes to great freedom fighter and Punjab Kesari Lala Lajpat Rai, he said that Lalaji, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chander Pal were acclaimed the “triumvirate” (Lal Bal Pal) in the nationalist struggle during the first decade of the last century.

He said Lalaji was a front ranking statesman, a self-less social worker, fearless journalist, dedicated educationist and a creative builder of institutions of national importance which continue to have relevance for the nation building even in independent India..


3 of family killed in mishap
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Jan 28 — Tragedy struck the Chadha family with three of its male members losing their lives in a road accident near Nauni village, about 45 km from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh. The deceased included Amandeep Singh (19), his cousin Gurjinder Singh (23) and the latter’s brother-in-law Ravinderpal Singh (34).

While Amandeep and Gurjinder were bachelors, Ravinderpal was married to Gurjinder’s sister Dimpy. All three were only sons of their parents.

Ravinderpal was married to Dimpy about five years ago. He leaves behind two small children of three years and one-and-a-half year. Ravinderpal, who belonged to SAS Nagar, was running a television shop.

Gurjinder has three sisters. Gurjinder’s mother was not prepared to believe that the tragedy had visited her the second time and her son, like her husband, had also passed away. 


Border farmers to hold protest
Tribune News Service

FEROZEPORE, Jan 28 — In order to highlight the plight of frontier farmers, the left parties and the fledgeling Border Area Sangharsh Committee have decided to stage a demonstration on February 7 in Mamdot, near here.

Stating this to TNS here today, committee president, Mr Hansa Singh, who is also member of the Punjab CPI (M) Council, said the farmers of frontier villages would assemble in Mamdot to protest against the delay in the payment of compensation as well as the “high-handedness” of the BSF.

He pointed out that the farmers with land along the Indo-Pak border were yet to receive the enhanced compensation of Rs 3,000 per acre. Besides, the government had failed to formulate any compensation package for the landless tillers who had been cultivating Central Government land along the border for years.

He threatened to expose the “atrocities” of Border Security Force soldiers on farmers. The farmers during the demonstration would highlight the difficulties faced by them due to the restrictions imposed by the BSF in the area.

The delay in the announcement of the minimum support price for wheat by the Central Government would also be touched upon by various speakers. 


President’s medal for Jalandhar cop
Tribune News Service

JALANDHAR Jan 28 — “A policeman should be polite, committed to the public,” said Mr Ishwar Chander, a 1991 batch IPS officer selected for the 2001 President’s Police Medal for Meritorious Service.

Mr Ishwar Chander, a teacher-turned cop was decorated with the 1995 President’s Medal for gallantry. He has served for about six years as SSP at Ferozepore, Faridkot and Barnala when the terrorism was at its peak in the early 90s, before taking over as the SP CID (Zonal) here in August, 1998.

He said he was fortunate to have been bestowed the highest award. “The announcement has come as a pleasant surprise. It is not just a medal for me, but a symbol of love of people and recognition of my services, said Mr Chander.

He is regarded as one of a few officers who sternly dealt with terrorism, but without harassing the common man.

As ideal policeman, a gold-medallist postgraduate degree holder in history, the SP said a police officer should be polite and humble and not look down upon any body as a criminal at the first instance. At the same time, he should be alert and strict while dealing with criminals and keep his working transparent and accountable.


PSEB body rejects revised pay scales
From Our Correspondent

MANSA, Jan 28 — The western zone of Accounts Audit and Administrative Services Association of the PSEB at a meeting held here yesterday rejected the revised pay scales announced by the board.

In a press note issued here today, Mrs Parminder Paul Kaur, state President of the association, said anomalies of the pay scales of the January 1, 1986 had not been improved by the management. She also warned of agitation against the management and the board, if their demands were not accepted. Mr Ashok Kumar, State General-Secretary condemned the action in which the board has delegated the powers of transfer and punishment of divisional accountants and revenue accountants to respective Chief Engineers, involvement of revenue accountants in defaulting amount in which cases SDO/JE’s are fully responsible and the board’s policy towards direct recruitment of accounts officials.

Mr Ramji Dass Garg, Zonal President said the policy of direct recruitment of accounts officers was discriminating against SAS accountants which are already working in the PSEB and also passed the SAS examination.

He said the PSEB management was ready to abolish the posts of lower categories like divisional accountants and revenue accountants due to financial crisis.


Withdrawal of octroi sought
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Jan 28 — The Punjab Beopar Mandal, Punjab Sarafa Union and a number of representatives of trade unions assured that they would support the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the BJP in the forthcoming elections if the government withdraws its decision of giving octroi collection rights to the private contractors.

Mr Amrit Lal Jain, President, Punjab Beopar Mandal, Mr Ram Lobhaya, President, Punjab Sarafa Association, who held a meeting in presence of Mr Chairanji Lal Garg, Minister, alleged that the private octroi contractors had been humiliating the businessmen at “nakas” unnecessarily.

However, the beopar mandal leaders thanked Mr Garg for decreasing the taxes on various items. They said that the tax structure should be brought at par with the adjoining states. They also urged Mr Garg to use his influence for issuance of notification regarding the decreasing of taxes on various items already announced by the Finance Minister.


Cops’ widows resent govt ‘indifference’
From Our Correspondent

TARN TARAN, Jan 28 — Mr Gulzar Singh Ranike, Minister of State for Agriculture, Punjab, yesterday had to face the resentment of the widows and other family members of the policemen who were gunned down by the militants. He was here to attend the Republic Day celebrations.

The widows and others led by Ms Surjit Kaur, Ms Bhupinder Kaur, Ms Sukhraj Kaur, Ms Dalir Kaur and Ms Sarabjit Kaur at the end of the Republic Day celebrations met Mr Ranike and protested against the alleged indifferent attitude of the government towards them and said that no TA/DA was given to them to attend these national functions.


Ex-servicemen bhavans for all districts
From Our Correspondent

HOSHIARPUR, Jan 28 — Ex-servicemen bhavans will be constructed at all district headquarters in Punjab where ex-servicemen can sit together and chalk-out welfare schemes.

This was stated by Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Finance Minister, while addressing a state-level rally of ex-servicemen at Tanda, 32 km from here, yesterday. He said the construction work of the bhavans, including one at Tanda, would be completed within a year. The District Sainik Welfare Officers would look after the bhavans.

He said the state government was well aware of the problems of the ex-servicemen and had tried to solve it during the past four years. It had raised the annual amount of the War Jagir money from Rs 100 to Rs 1,200, financial assistance for the marriage of the daughters of ex-servicemen from Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 and the monthly pension of the widows of religious soldiers from Rs 500 to Rs 2,500.

The minister said there were about 6.50 lakh ex-servicemen in Punjab. The government had implemented various welfare schemes for their rehabilitation. He said the government had prepared a special scheme for the ex-servicemen who had defaulted in the repayment of loans taken by them for starting business from financial corporations and ex-servicemen corporations. The government would pay the interest on the loans of those ex-servicemen who would repay the loan to the aforesaid corporations under the scheme. This would provide a relief of Rs 14 crore to them.

The Finance Minister suggested that ex-servicemen should constitute societies in their respective villages and provide co-operation to panchayats in development activities. He said the state government had strongly recommended the demand of one-rank one-pension of the ex-servicemen to the Central Government.

Mr Iqbal Singh Sidhu, Deputy Commissioner, said about 22,000 youth from the district were serving in the Army.


Coop societies fleece farmers
From Sarbjit Singh
Tribune News Service

BATHINDA, Jan 28 — A large section of farmers, already neck-deep in debt, is being made to cough up more. Various fertilisers available with the Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies, functioning under the state government’s Cooperative Department, are being sold to the farmers at far higher the price than in the open market. These farmers are forced to buy fertilisers from the societies at a higher rate as they buy these against loans raised from cooperative banks.

Information gathered by the TNS reveals that a bag of urea is available between Rs 202 to Rs 207 in the open market while the societies charge Rs 219 per bag. Informed official sources say Markfed, which has a monopoly over the supply of fertilisers to cooperative societies, supplied urea to these societies at Rs 210 per bag. The societies sell bag for Rs 219 and are authorised to sell the bag up to Rs 230.

Likewise, during the sowing of wheat, a bag of DAP, used when the wheat is sown, was provided by the cooperative societies for Rs 445 per bag while in the open market it was available for a price varying between Rs 410 and Rs 430.

Mr Jaswant Rai Ballo, vice-president of the Bathinda District Commission Agents Association, said it was condemnable that Markfed was “looting” the farming community which was already in a debt trap.

Farmers were expecting that the government would provide them fertilisers at a cheaper price than that in the open market, but their hopes had been dashed to the ground.

Mr Amrit Pal Singh Brar, president of the Punjab Young Federation, urged the government to refund the “excess” price charged from farmers through the societies. He said, in fact, the farmers should be paid the dividend by Markfed from the profit earned from the sale of fertilisers.


Army canteens being ‘misused’
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 28 — The Hindu Shiv Sena (HSS) has alleged that canteens set up for Army personnel and ex-servicemen, are being misused by civilians.

In a press note issued here, Mr Om Karan, secretary, HSS, Punjab, alleged that most of the people were purchasing various things of domestic use from Army canteens, to sell them in the city bazaars.

He pointed out that various items in these canteens were tax free and a concession of 30 to 40 per cent was being given to Army personnel but certain unscrupulous elements were selling these goods in the city bazaars.

He demanded that the state government and the Centre should hold a high-level inquiry into the misuse of canteens.


Mentally challenged celebrate R-Day

AMRITSAR, Jan 28 (UNI) — The word “republic” may not mean anything to them, but their emotions came to the fore when some of their colleagues sang the National Anthem and they responded at once by waving the Tricolour in their hands.

Perhaps for the first time ever since its inception, inmates of Vidya Sagar Government Mental Hospital, the only one of its kind in this part of the country, joined hands with staff to celebrate Republic Day here on Friday.

When a mentally retarded patient, Harvinder Kaur, along with three others sang “Mere vatan ke logo,” so moved were those present that after the song everyone applauded their efforts. These patients may not be in the best of mental health but some of them when asked remembered the names of those who fought for the country’s Independence.

The man behind the show was former Government Medical College Principal B. L. Goyal, who a few days ago took over as Director of the hospital.

Padam, another patient, knew about India’s tensions with Pakistan and in a small couplet he expressed his feelings that there should be no compromise and the only solution to the on-going tensions was a war with Pakistan. “Pakistan nu chak ke marana hai,” (Pakistan should be crushed) he said.

Women inmates also presented a patriotic qawwali at the function which was jointly organised by the hospital authorities and Chianmaya Mission, an NGO.

The chief guest, Punjab Health and Family Welfare Minister Baldev Chawala announced a grant of Rs 5 lakh for the hospital.


Phones dead as fire destroys exchange
From Our Correspondent

SUNAM, Jan 28 — All the local telephones and those in adjoining villages are lying dead since last night as the newly commissioned local telephone exchange, with a current capacity of 9000 lines, was burnt due to fire.

Although the exact cause of the fire was yet not known but a short circuit reportedly caused the fire. The fire has resulted in a multi-crore loss to the department.

A fire engine from Sangrur was summoned to control the fire.


Hasham Trust to honour CEC
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Jan 28 — The Hasham Shah Memorial Trust will honour five personalities, including Dr Manohar Singh Gill, Chief Election Commissioner, during its two-day festival beginning February 14 at Jagdev Kalan village.

This was stated by Mr Surinder Singh and Mr Harjit Singh Gill, president and secretary of the trust, in a press note here yesterday. The note said on the first day of the festival, a seminar would be held on the poetry of Hasham Shah.

Other dignitories to be honoured on the occasion would be Dara Singh, filmactor, folk singer Sardul Sikandar and columnist Ashok Bhora. 


Swami Vivekanand’s b’day celebrated
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 28 — The district unit of the Swami Vivekanand Study Circle (SVSC) organised a function to celebrate the birthday of Swami Vivekanand, which was on January 12, at a school here today. The function was attended by a number of delegates and representatives of various NGOs.

Mr Dinesh Vashisht, district president of the SVSC, detailed about the activities of the circle and the Vigilant Citizens Forum, which is also a part of the circle. The circle organises quiz competitions, debates and declamation contests in educational institutes of the district to propagate the thoughts of Swami Vivekanand, he said.

Dr Ram Narain Singh, eminent educationist from Patna University, spoke about the values and teachings of Swami Vivekanand and said the values were essential to prevent degradation of our society.


Wheat procurement arrangements on
From Our Correspondent

HOSHIARPUR, Jan 28 — To procure the wheat in time and to avoid any harassment to farmers during procurement season, arrangements in this connection are being made in advance in Punjab.

This was stated by Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Food and Supplies Minister, Punjab, while talking to mediapersons at PWD Rest House here on Friday. He said all Deputy Commissioners in state had been instructed to identify procurement centers and finalise labour, transport and carriage contractors in their respective districts before February 15. Procurement quota for all procurement agencies had been earmarked.

Keeping in view the favourable weather conditions he hoped that about 100 lakh tonnes of wheat would be procured in state during the coming season as compared with 97 lakh tonnes procured during last year. He made it clear that there was no proposal by the Centre Government to decrease the procurement price of wheat.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab, had recently met the Prime Minister and the Union Agriculture Minister and stressed upon them the need to enhance the procurement price of wheat keeping in view the prevailing rates of agriculture inputs.

Replying to a question Mr Mittal said that Punjab had a stock of 90 lakh tonnes of wheat and 35 lakh tonnes of rice with it. The storage capacity of godowns and plinths was being increased in the state. Presently the storage capacity of the godowns was 30 lakh tonnes and plinth was 40 lakh tonnes.

Referring to the compensation to those farmers who had sold their paddy on lower rates from September 21 to October 14, he said that 60 per cent compensation would be provided to them for which Rs 100 crore was required. As much as Rs 50 crore would be given by the Central government and Rs 50 crore by the state government, he added. He said the distribution of compensation would be started in February through the Deputy Commissioners’ offices. District-level committees had been constituted to ascertain the fair distribution of compensation money to genuine farmers. He said that 110 lakh tonnes of paddy had been procured in state during this season.

Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, criticised Congress leaders, especially Mr Balram Jakhar, former Speaker of Parliament, for misleading people about the distribution of the 250-crore compensation package from the Central Government to the Punjab farmers for their paddy which was being procured on lesser rates by the agencies due to its quality. He said that to divert the attention of public from the infighting within the party, Congress leaders were unnecessarily raising this issue. 


Records tampered with, Kanungo suspended
From Our Correspondent

ROPAR, Jan 28 — The Deputy Commissioner, Mr G.S. Grewal, has suspended a Kanungo, Bahadur Singh, on the charge of tampering with the revenue records. An inquiry against the Kanungo was started on a complaint by residents of Kakot village.

The Assistant Commissioner (Grievances), Mr Sabarwal, who conducted the inquiry, said the Kanungo was accused in 1983-84 of transferring seven kanals and 15 marlas of the Central Government’s land illegally in the name of certain residents of the village.

When the inquiry was started against the accused, he once again changed the records last year and transferred the land back in the name of the Central Government.

During the course of inquiry it was also found that Bahadur Singh had two kanal and eight marlas in his name, 18 kanals and 17 marlas in his wife’s name and eight kanals in the name of his sister-in-law.

He, however, could not explain the source from which the land got transferred in his name, Mr Sabarwal said.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioner had also ordered an inquiry to verify if any other official is also involved. 


Board to ban films showing violence
From Our Correspondent

PHILLAUR, Jan 28 — The Central Board of Film Certification will soon draft a comprehensive policy to ban the films showing violence and vulgarity in the country. This was stated by board member Irvin Chugh, while talking to mediapersons here yesterday. He claimed social and ‘clean films’ had always done good business. Pending films would soon be cleared by the Censor Board, he said.

When asked about the underworld’s relations with the film industry, Mr Chugh said government was considering screening of Bollywood personalities. He appealed to the producers to make more patriotic films.


Telecom GM warns police stations
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Jan 28 — Police stations which do not clear their telephone bills will lose the facility of ‘outgoing’ calls. This was stated here by Mr K.C. Jindal, General Manager, Telecom, after reports of substantial bills pending against police stations was brought to his notice by mediapersons.

He said the facility of intelligence network vis-a-vis the virtual calling card (VCC) facility would be started in the city in March this year. The VCC would be in the denomination of Rs 100, Rs 200, Rs 500 and Rs 1000.

The card with a secret code would help a person make long-distance calls through the Kolkata exchange. The facility had already been provided in Chandigarh, Patiala and Jalandhar.


Canal water theft: 100 cases registered
From Gurpreet Singh

Tribune News Service

FEROZEPORE, Jan 28 — More than 100 criminal cases have been registered against those involved in canal water theft in Abohar during the past six months even as the menace continues unabated.

Most thefts have been reported from the Lambi minor canal that caters to the tail-end villages of Abohar subdivision. As a result of this menace, farmers of at least two tail-end villages — Shergarh and Ghalloo Kamalawala — are not getting enough canal water to irrigate their fields.

Confirming this to TNS, the Executive Engineer (Irrigation), Mr S.C. Garg, said most cases had been registered in the Abohar and Sito areas. He, however, admitted this had been no deterrent to stop certain landlords from drawing excessive water from the Lambi minor canal through illegal means. He disclosed night patrolling had also been intensified along the canal to prevent water theft, which was severely affecting irrigation in the tail-end villages.

Independent inquiries attributed the problem to numerous factors, such as shortage of canal water in the area, political backing enjoyed by landlords, who are habitual of stealing water, and the lack of police assistance in arresting the culprits. The Abohar SDM, Mr Darshan Singh Grewal, explained the availability of canal water was far lesser than the actual demand of cultivators, forcing unscrupulous elements to indulge in theft. He revealed that the problem had been persisting in the area for long.

However, the opposition Congress alleged since the theft was being committed in areas having the support base of the ruling Akali Dal the officials were reluctant in taking stern action against the culprits.

The former Congress Sarpanch of Shergarh village, Mr Ved Prakash Bhadu, accused the administration and the Irrigation Department of turning a blind eye towards their plight because of pressure from the ruling Akali Dal.

While the Executive Engineer has denied any political pressure sources in the Police Department say they could arrest the culprits only if they were caught red-handed. Most complaints lodged by the Irrigation Department are against unidentified farmers, leaving little scope for further action. 


Held for immoral trafficking
From Our Correspondent

GURDASPUR, Jan 28 — The police has busted a gang involved in the sale of girls. SSP Varinder Kumar today said that the police had arrested Dyal Singh who had purchased one girl, Tajmira of West Bengal for Rs 10,000. The said girl has also been freed by the police.

Other members of the gang included Bablu, also of West Bengal, who lured Tajmira to marry him after bringing her here where he pretended to be employed. Satnam Singh and Bhajan Singh both residents of Dorangla, Bakhshish Singh resident of Dera Baba Nanak, Manjit Singh resident of Kothe Brahmna and Harjit Singh, resident of Talibpur Pandori in this district were the other members.

The SSP said that the SHO police station Narot Jaimal Singh, during patrolling, apprehended Dyal Singh, resident of Kajla, under police station Narot Jaimal Singh and Tajmira, who on questioning by the police told that she was from West Bengal and was brought by Bablu to solemnise their marriage here but he sold her to Dyal Singh with the help of the other members of the gang. A case under Sections 366, 368, 370, 344, 354 and 376, IPC, has been registered against the accused.

The SSP said that the girl, during interrogation, said that she was kept in the houses of the accused for eight days before she was sold to Dyal Singh. During her stay Bablu was with her who had been raping her. Satnam Singh, one of the accused, also molested her.

The police has sent police parties to the hideouts of the rest of the accused who have not been arrested. The SSP said he expected recovery of more girls after the investigations.


56 kg of poppy husk seized
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 28 — The district police has arrested three persons allegedly involved in the smuggling of narcotics. It has also arrested a person for possessing an unlicensed pistol.

Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, SSP, said in a press note here today that Rajinder Singh, a resident of Rampura, had been arrested in Rampura and 36 kg of poppy husk recovered from his possession. A case had been registered at the Rampura police station under Sections 15, 61, 85 IPC of the NDPS etc.

Dr Jain said a case had been registered against Ashok Kumar at the Rampura police station under the same Act as he was found possessing 10 kg of poppy husk.

Gurmail Singh, a resident of Mansa Kalan village, had been booked for carrying 10 kg of poppy husk and a case registered against him at the Maur police station.

Deepak, a resident of Partapgarh district of Uttar Pardesh, had been arrested under the Arms Act and a. 12 bore pistol and two cartridges recovered from his possession. A case had been registered against him under Sections 25, 54 and 59 at the kotwali police station.

The police had also unearthed a flesh trade centre at Natha Singhwali street of the city. The police had arrested three women, aged 28, 24 and 22 involved in the flesh trade. The owner of the centre had absconded. The “ring leader” had been identified and would be arrested soon.

The police had also arrested nine persons on the charge of manufacturing illicit liquor and registered cases under the Excise Act.

Dr Jain said in all 61 litres of illicit liquor and about six of country liquor had been recovered from the culprits. Cases had been registered against Khanda Singh of Rama Mandi, Paramjeet Singh of Raipur village, Darshan Singh of Miserkhana village, Harphul Singh and Raju Singh of Bathinda, Harinderjit Singh of Goniana Mandi, Chota Singh of Charanthal village and Avtar Singh and Sukhmander Singh of Kotha Guru village.


Two of 7-member gang arrested

JALANDHAR, Jan 28 (UNI) — The police today claimed to have busted a seven-member gang headed by a Bawaria, a denotified criminal tribe, with the arrest of two of its members from whom a countrymade pistol and four cartridges had been recovered.

SSP Gaurav Yadav said while Birbal, alias Telu, and Som Nath, alias Somu, both residents of nearby Sofi village, were arrested from near Bambianwal village on Friday. Anokha, alias Jagar, who headed the gang, and his four accomplices, including two Bawarias, were still missing. Two of the accomplices, who were at large, had been identified as Ravi, alias Shakeela, and Sat Pal, also residents of Sofi, on the basis of preliminary interrogation of the arrested suspects, he said.

Both suspects were today remanded in police custody and police parties had been detailed to conduct raids to catch the remaining members of the gang, he said.


In-laws booked for poisoning woman
From Our Correspondent

FATEHGARH SAHIB, Jan 28 — The district police has registered a case against the in-laws of Gurmeet Kaur, who was married to Bakshish Singh, resident of Dhubali village, for allegedly trying to poison her for not bringing sufficient dowry. Gurmeet Kaur was admitted to local Civil Hospital. Her condition is stated to be critical.

Mohinder Singh, Pargat Singh, father and brother of Gurmeet Kaur, along with Tarlochan Singh, sarpanch of Chunni Kalan, told this reporter in the Civil Hospital that Gurmeet was married to Bakshish Singh five months ago. They alleged that she was occasionally beaten and tortured for bringing inadequate dowry. They said last month they had given gold jewellery and cash worth Rs 50,000. They alleged that last Sunday her husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law beat her mercilessly and when she became unconscious, they forcibly thrust poisonous tablets into her mouth. On hearing her cries, the wife of her husband’s elder brother gave her salt water to minimise the effect of tablets and later took her to a private doctor from where she informed them.

They further said they took Gurmeet to the local Civil Hospital for treatment. The hospital staff, however, refused to admit her and asked them to bring the police. They said they went to Police Chowki Khera, along with the girl, and reported the matter there. They further alleged that the police in charge had been pressurising them to compromise.

They said they had given a representation today to Mr I.S. Randhawa, SP (H), who is officiating as SSP. A case has been registered in this connection.


Looter nabbed
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Jan 28 — A looter, identified as Sinder Singh, who along with another unidentified person, tried to loot a liquor vend at Fardulapur village, near Amloh, was nabbed by the Amloh police with the help of people of Rajewal village where both the miscreants tried to hide.

The looters came on two scooters to loot the vend, but the person manning the vend, Bittu, got suspicious and rang up the police after bolting the door from inside. Sohan Lal, another employee of the vend, engaged one of the miscreants and seeing the commotion Paramjit Singh, alias Fauji, a retired Army personnel, ran to the spot of the incident. Getting a bit nervous, one of the looters fired at Paramjit Singh and injured him seriously.

Meanwhile, three other employees of the vend reached the spot along with a police party led by Mr Bhula Singh, SHO of Amloh police station, and chased the looters. One of them hid himself in the gurdwara, while the other ran towards the nearby fields.

The police surrounded the village and captured Sinder Singh. He was handed over to the Khanna police.

Paramjit Singh Fauji, who sustained injuries, has been admitted to Rajindra Hospital here. Meanwhile, The Patiala Range DIG, Mr Sanjiv Gupta, said that the employees of the vend would be honoured.


Robber arrested
From Our Correspondent

FATEHGARH SAHIB, Jan 28 — The district police yesterday arrested a robber while his accomplice managed to escape as they attempted to loot a liquor shop.

According to Mr K.S. Sandhu, SP (D), at about 8.30 p.m. two scooter-borne robbers attempted to loot the liquor shop at Ferzulapur village under the Amloh police station. The worker at the shop bolted the door from inside and cried for help. Mr Paramjit Singh Fauji came to help and challenged the robbers. He was shot at by one of them. In the meantime, Bittu, the worker, made a call from a mobile phone to the SHO, Amloh and some wine contractors. The SHO, who was taking a round of the area, and the contractors reached the spot and chased both of them. At Rajewal village the robbers left their scooter in a field and took shelter in a gurdwara. The police with the help of villagers arrested one of them while the second managed to escape.


Teachers put off action plan
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 28 — The Panjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union at a meeting of its State Executive Committee (EC) has decided to endorse the decision of its office-bearers to postpone all action for a month in view of the offer of Master Mohan Lal, Minister of Education, Punjab, on January10, to implement all pending issues besides the pension- cum-gratuity scheme.

It was also decided that the office bearers had the power to take immediate remedial measures in case the pending demands were not implemented by February 10. The EC also sought an immediate intervention of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to direct the officials to honour the commitments of Master Mohan Lal and not create uncalled for hurdles.

The EC has also welcomed the appointment of Principal Gulzar Singh and Prof. S.P. Dhawan as DPI and DDPI (Colleges), Punjab.


‘Remove admission clause for PG test’
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Jan 28 — Reacting sharply to the admission clause added to the prospectus for PG Entrance Test 2001, released by Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot, the Punjab PCMS Association has said such a high handedness by the Punjab Government will not be tolerated and opposed till it is withdrawn.

As per the clause the PCMS doctors getting admission in the PG course under 60 per cent quota will not only be paid the stipend at par with the 40 per cent quota candidate but they will be considered on extra ordinary leave for three years thereby earning a break in the service for the said period.

Dr R.S. Buttar, senior vice-president, PCMS Association, Punjab, Dr J.S. Khalsa, president, Amritsar unit, and Dr Rohit Mehta, press secretary, Amritsar unit, in a joint statement said the association would not accept such a draconian clause to be imposed on them. This would not only ruin the prospect of acquiring higher education by the rural doctors but will also effect the rural healthcare of Punjab.


School building inaugurated
Tribune News Service

BATHINDA, Jan 28 — Mr Bhan Singh Bhauora, MP, today inaugurated the building of Shree Narain Bal Vidya Mandir Primary School in the town.

Mr Sadhu Ram Kusla, General Secretary of the school, in a press note issued here, said that the school had been imparting education free of cost to poor students.

He added that adult education classes were also being held in the school for poor women residing in the trans-railway colonies of the town. Mr Bhauora announced a grant of Rs 1 lakh to the school.


PCCTU to honour Waryam Sandhu
From Our Correspondent

PHAGWARA, Jan 28 — Prof Waryam Singh Sandhu will be honoured in the academic session of Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU) to be held at Ludhiana on February 4 for having won the Sahit Academy Award for outstanding contribution to Punjabi literature.

Dr Sucha Singh Gill will read a paper on crisis in higher education in the session. The Punjab Higher Education Minister, Master Mohan Lal, will preside over while Dr H.S. Soch Vice-Chancellor, Guru Nanak Dev University will be guest of honour at the session, said union sources.


Move to introduce Punjabi hailed
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 28 — The Gazetted Education School Services Association, Punjab, has welcomed the recent announcement of Punjab Education Minister Tota Singh to introduce Punjabi in the schools affiliated with the CBSE.


PCO owners suffering losses
From Harjeet Singh

BATHINDA, Jan 28 — Rupinder Pal Kaur was born handicapped about 28 years ago. She started the STD PCO in the town to earn her livelihood about nine years ago.

Mr Balwinder Singh Cheema, a physically handicapped and graduate PCO owner, has been running this business for the past four years to keep the kitchen fires burning.

But the decision of the government to localise calls in a radius of 200 km has dealt a fatal blow to these physically handicapped and other PCO owners. The government has made these PCO owners economically handicapped as 50 per cent of their daily earnings have gone within two days.

Mr Cheema said, “Now the government has made us economically handicapped as the PCO is only the means with me to earn my livelihood”. Rupinder Pal Kaur, who is running a PCO at Quila Road, also has the same thing to say. She said, “Now the PCO has become a ‘barren’ business for all of us. We will not be able to pay the shop rents also”.

The PCO owners who used to earn between Rs 200 and Rs 400 from STD customers are worried about their future. Home service was most profitable for them but now people are able to make contact anywhere in Punjab at the rate of a local call.

Mr Yudhister Aneja, who invested Rs 50,000 for PCO equipment about two months ago to earn his livelihood, has made up his mind to adopt another business as half of his earnings from the PCO had come down within two days.

He said people who had to talk anywhere in Punjab were the main source of income and added that the number of customers who had to talk anywhere in India and out of India were very few. He pointed out that the commission being given to PCO owners was also very less. It was just 16 per cent. He added that if in the present situation the government decided to increase the commission from 16 to 50 per cent only then the PCO owners could earn their livelihood.

He said they could not get service charges from customers. The customer too was not willing to pay service charges, he added.

Mr Chander Mohan, who is running a PCO near the railway station, wanted to give up this business but was waiting for a decision by Mr Ramvilas Paswan, Union Minister for Telecommunications, regarding PCO owners. If the government decided in favour of PCO owners and made a new policy, only then he would find it viable to run his PCO, he added.

A senior official of the Department of Telecommunications when contacted in this connection said they were responsible for implementing the policies of the government. He said, “We are not the policy makers. We implement the policy of the government and we also are not responsible for the effects of the policy.”

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