Thursday, February 1, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

P U N J A B    S T O R I E S





Badal harps on Bluestar
From Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

MAJITHA, Jan 31 — Setting the tone and tenor of electioneering, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Punjab Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal president, today revived the 17-year-old infamous Operation Bluestar, the Delhi riots and militancy in this rural constituency, which was once a hotbed of militancy.

Since Mr Badal knows that Majitha could not be nurtured during his four years of governance, he said, “The charter of demands, submitted to me is not less than a hukmnama of the sangat. I will transform Majitha into a nodal constituency immediately after the elections.”

Mr Badal said if the brave people of Majha voted for the Congress it would mean they had forgotten Operation Bluestar in which hundreds of innocent persons were killed. “I know the people of the country faced numerous internal and external onslaughts and were victims of the indifferent governance of the Congress for 45 years,” he said. However, Mr Badal attributed ignoring the Majitha constituency during his four years of governance to the prolonged illness of Parkash Singh Majitha, a minister without portfolio, whose death necessitated the byelection. “I always wanted to undertake a tour of Majitha, but could not keep the date due to illness of Sardar Majitha,” he said.

Amid tight security, Mr Badal covered eight villages of the Majitha constituency today. Addressing an election rally at Maddipur village, Mr Badal said even schoolchildren dubbed him an extremist during his visit to Uttar Pradesh before the formation of the SAD-BJP government. He said after the SAD-BJP government came to power the image of Sikhs had improved a lot all over the world.

Mr Badal claims after SAD came to power the attitude of the Centre changed altogether. “Earlier, tanks and columns of the Army were dispatched by the Centre to attack the Golden Temple. Now the Centre had sent Rs 100 crore for celebrating the tercentenary of the birth of the Khalsa Panth.”

On the other hand, the Punjab Congress had been accusing the Shiromani Akali Dal of promoting terrorism as a consequence of which the people of Majitha constituency suffered a lot.

Capt Amarinder Singh said he would start development activities from the Majha region if voted to power in the next assembly elections. He charged Mr Badal with ignoring the Majha region from all aspects. He said Mr Badal and the Akalis had been getting political and religious power from Majha region but after coming to power the border belt was the area which was not taken care of from the point of view of development. He alleged that the Akalis always played the communal card at the time of elections.


Kathunangal, six others file papers
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Jan 31 — The Congress nominee, Mr Sawinder Singh Kathunangal, today filed his papers for the Majitha Assembly byelection.

Mr Kathunangal, along with the PPCC chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, a Congress MP, Mr R.L. Bhatia, a former MP, Mrs Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly, besides a number of Congress MLAs, leaders and thousands of party workers marched in procession to file the papers.

Besides Mr Kathunangal, six more candidates filed their papers today which include five independents — Mr Kulbir Singh, Mr Gulzar Singh, Mr Chanana Singh, Ms Daljinder Kaur and Mr Raghbir Singh. Col J.S. Bal of the Rashtriya Suraksha Dal also filed his papers.

The Deputy Commissioner, in a press note issued here today, said the papers would be scrutinised tomorrow.


Mittal predicts SAD-BJP win
From Our Correspondent

LUDHIANA, Jan 31 — The Punjab Food and Supplies Minister, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, today claimed that the SAD-BJP coalition would win the byelection to Majitha Assembly constituency. Addressing a news conference in Circuit House here, he said the SAD-B candidate, Mr Rajmohinder Singh Majitha, was a popular figure and the ruling combine would repeat its successes of Nawanshahar and Sunam here also.

Mr Mittal informed that workers of both the parties would conduct the election campaign in a coordinated manner and would approach the electorate on the basis of the performance of the coalition government during past four years. The BJP had already set up a committee headed by Dr. Baldev Raj Chawla, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, for the Majitha byelection.

According to Mr. Mittal it was out of frustration that the Congress had started complaining over the arrangements for the byelection, which were a prerogative of the Election Commission and the state government had nothing to do with them. The baseless complaints being made by Congress to the Chief Election Commissioner, even before the election campaign had taken off were ample proof that the party had accepted defeat without putting up any fight, he claimed.

Claiming that both the Union Government and the state government were friendly to the farming community, the minister asserted that it was only the SAD-BJP government, which could protect the interests of the farmers. “It was the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who had personally taken up the matter with the Prime Minister Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee and the government had come to the timely rescue of paddy growers with a package of Rs.350 crore.”

Mr. Mittal termed the propaganda of Congress that the paddy growers had not received any relief out of the Central package so far, as a bundle of lies. To substantiate his claim, he said Rs.250 crore had been paid to the farmers by way of full procurement price even for damaged paddy and the balance amount had been utilised to compensate the farmers for distress sale of paddy.

He also refuted the Congress claim that the farmers were in for yet another shock during forthcoming wheat procurement season.

Later, Mr Mittal presided over a meeting of the representatives of the officers and staff unions of the Department of Food and Supplies where ways and means to pool the resources for providing maximum assistance to the earthquake victims in Gujarat were discussed. The officers and employees of the department will contribute a day’s salary to the relief fund. 


Transfer wife of minister: teachers
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Jan 31 — In a complaint to the Election Commission, the Government Teachers Union, Punjab, today demanded the immediate transfer of Mrs Sawinder Kaur Kahlon, District Education Officer (Secondary) and wife of Mr Nirmal Singh Kahlon, Rural Development Minister, Punjab.

The Union said being the wife of a Cabinet Minister, Mrs Kahlon could influence voters in the Majitha constituency in Amritsar district.

Teachers sat on a chain hunger strike in front of District Education Office in protest against the alleged irregularities committed by Mrs Kahlon after taking charge as DEO. Mr Daljit Singh, district president of the union, said if no action was taken against Mrs Kahlon, the teachers would be forced to intensify their struggle.



No major change likely in excise policy
By Sarbjit Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 31 — There will be no major change in Punjab’s excise policy for the next financial year. Final touches are being given to the draft of the policy after a discussion at the appropriate level. It will be placed before the Council of Ministers for approval soon, it is learnt.

According to official sources, there will be minor changes pertaining to the scaling down of groups in the policy. Earlier, a group had vends worth Rs 15 crore. But next year the amount is expected to be Rs 5 crore to Rs 7 crore. There will be a provision of exemption in the case of certain cities where the scaling down of groups will not be possible due to technical or other reasons.

Sources said that after a prolonged discussion among all concerned pertaining to the excise policy, the inference drawn was that the “Excise Department should not resort to any new experiments at this stage. The revenue from excise in the state has already touched saturation point and there will be little possibility of enhancing it”.

Earlier, there was a proposal to start a licensing system to allow contractors to open liquor vends. But this proposal has been dropped as senior officers of the department opined that big contractors, having vast resources at their disposal would financially crush small contractors. As big contractors would resort to price undercutting, small contractors would not be able to compete with them.

Sources said that there was no proposal to give licences for setting up pubs in cities and towns. There was a lot of pressure on the department to allow pubs in the state to promote the sale of beer. Production of beer in the state has gone up because of an increase in number of breweries.

The process of auctioning of liquor vends will be completed by the end of third week of March.

Meanwhile, the Excise and Taxation Department authorities have approached the state Local Bodies authorities for making adequate space available to open vends in cities like Ludhiana, Patiala, Jalandhar and Bathinda. Sources said that last time certain contractors faced problems in opening vends on the due date as accommodation was not available to them for this purpose.

The tradition in the liquor business is that the outgoing contractor makes the premises occupied by him available to the new one to set up his vend by charging some amount. However, last time at certain places especially in Ludhiana, some outgoing contractors broke this tradition and the new contractors were unable to set up vends even by the third week of April.

Sources said that the Local Bodies Department had been requested to provide municipal shops, if these were available, in big cities to set up vends. Contractors would give the rent as per the market rate to the civic bodies. If proper roofed accommodation was not available, contractors should be allotted open space where they would set up vends in sheds.


British liaison office in Jalandhar soon
By Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 31 — A British liaison office will become functional in Jalandhar soon, says Mr Tom Macan, Deputy High Commissioner of Britain to India.

Mr Macan said that since under the rules, diplomatic missions cannot be opened outside four metropolitan cities of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, the Jalandhar office would function as a liaison office where all facilities, including making available visa forms, acceptance of completed application forms and passports and other documents.

After a while, the High Commission in Delhi may depute one or two officers to be in Jalandhar for one or two days a week to interview old, infirm and sick applicants. Even after saying “yes” to their visa applications, their passports would be taken to New Delhi for stamping of visas on them.

This facility would provide a great relief to old, infirm and even handicapped persons for whom travelling to the union Capital was not easy. The Jalandhar office would also provide help and assistance to business travellers to the Great Britain as they could submit their applications and passports in time to get their visas without even visiting the New Delhi office.

Mr Macan said that a study was conducted at the British High Commission in New Delhi where applicants from Punjab were asked to give their choice for location of the liaison office between Jalandhar and Chandigarh. Interestingly, not many opted for Chandigarh, he said.

A similar liaison office is being set up at Ahmedabad to facilitate Gujaratis.

Talking about the earthquake in Gujarat, Mr Macan said that two consular offices were temporarily functioning at Ahmedabad and Bhuj to provide assistance to British citizens of Indian origin. Some of the staff from the Ahmedabad business office, Mumbai office and even New Delhi office have been relocated to run these special temporary consular offices in Gujarat.

Mr Macan said that his three-day visit to Chandigarh was primarily for three objectives. Tourism sector, joint ventures with Indian companies and to seek Indian investment in Great Britain.

Before coming to Chandigarh, the CII had supplied a list of 250 top companies from the northern region to whom letters were sent inviting them for the interaction programme held here during the past three days. Nearly 30 per cent of the companies responded. A similar exercise undertaken in Udaipur some months ago attracted 46 companies. In the middle of March, the British High Commission plans a similar interaction programme in Kanpur.

After liberalisation and opening of economy, Mr Macan said, the impression was that things were getting decentralised. Mumbai was no more the business or financial capital of India. Hyderabad has proved it. Similarly, some of the states were on their own seeking joint ventures and opening up their doors to foreign investors.

Mr Macan called on Mr Hari Jaisingh, Editor, The Tribune, before leaving for New Delhi in the evening.

Earlier, he made a courtesy call on the Haryana Governor, Babu Parmanand .

They talked on a number of issues like business avenues, globalisation, social security, new economic trends, investment opportunities, poverty alleviation programmes, democratic trends, militancy, education and new emerging information trends in the United Kingdom and India.

Mr Macan, also called on the Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, at his residence and appreciated the massive industrial development taking place in the state, especially in the areas of Gurgaon and Faridabad.

Mr Macan said that some British companies like the ICI, Smithkline Beecham and British Airways had also set up their offices in Gurgaon, which provided an ideal location for industrial development. He said that every three months, a British team had been visiting big cities in India to explore the possibilities of setting up more joint ventures between Indian and British companies.

Mr Chautala said that Haryana’s proximity to the national capital offering international market and the facility of an international air port, besides pollution free atmosphere, improved law and order situation and no labour unrest were the added advantages to the investors and progressive entrepreneurs to set up their units in the state.

Mr Macan also expressed his concern over the heavy loss of life and property in Gujarat due to the devastating earthquake and said that sofar deaths of three British nationals had been reported. He said that this calamity would have its impact in Britain too as a lot many Gujaratis had been working in Britain.


Arora: need to redefine old rules
By P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 31 — Mr N. K. Arora has become the Chief Secretary when Punjab is caught in a queer situation. There is lack of accountability and effectiveness and the dictates of time demand that the state role is minimal, old rules are drastically re-defined and administrative mismatch resulting in a financial crisis or anomalies is corrected.

Therefore, the endeavour at all levels, despite the known in-built system constraints, must be to sensitise the administration to the people and their surroundings and make inservice people feel they are getting what is due and fair to them. Given the set rules, procedures and regulations of governance, no revolutionary changes are desirable but adjustments can always be made.

This can happen only if there is a sense of belonging and participation with everybody working in a spirit of togetherness, cohesiveness, creating a work culture where the rules of the game are observed and basic values and ethics followed.

These are the observations of Mr Arora, who answered (and skirted) a wide range of questions in an exclusive 70-minute interview with Tribune News Service at his residence today.

Sensitively placed as head of the bureaucratic “well-knit family”, as he describes his fraternity, he says: “Though a part of the system, I am not into it. I watch the happenings as a distant watcher with a sense of detachment without getting identified with any group or sub-group”.

Born in Lahore, brought up and educated in Calcutta, he made it to the Indian Administrative Service on an impulse, not by design or guidance, giving up his PhD studies. “I wanted the Punjab cadre and I was lucky to have got it”. He is philosophical about life, its innate purpose and sublime nature.

As Chief Secretary he will endeavour giving direction, inculcating motivation, oneness and open-mindedness expecting introspection by everyone at the end of the day to evaluate the outcome of the labour put in in the interest of the state. “One does come across flashes of brilliance in individuals. These are important. So are personal qualities of head and heart. There is nothing as compared to these. But the ego does not fit into the set-up one has to work in”.

He firmly believes in the civil hierarchy with equal participation of all. His effort will be to be fair to one and all in dealings. “I have no favourites. I believe in consensus in decision-making and keeping equidistance”. For him effective administration must have an in-built mechanism to reconcile and adjust to the ground realities. The Punjab bureaucratic system has that wherewithal. “Only tuning is needed. It has to be mind over matter”.

His priorities include information technology and computerisation. These have to be adopted and applied if administrative arbitrariness and malpractices are to be kept in check. He is conscious of Punjab’s economic problems and future needs. He knows quick ways have to be found to dovetail the state to the changing world economic order, where globalisation is the in thing. The World Trade Organisation is at the doorstep. Crop diversification, food storage, food security, food distribution and balancing the interests of producers and consumers are some other urgent imperatives. He prefers to answer these later.

He also refuses to be drawn into controversial issues — the relationship between bureaucrats and politicians, bridling of the Police, corruption, improving the delivery system at the cutting edge of the administration or providing equitable social justice. On the state of the health delivery system, education, top-heavy and fragmented bureaucracy, angling for plum posts by a select band of IAS officers, their going on deputation to the Centre, lax administration, its poor image and other contentious issues he says: “No comments, yet”. He promises to focus on corruption, plugging loopholes.

Mr Arora is forthcoming on the high rate of litigation involving the government in more than one lakh cases pending in courts, promising to set up a mechanism to meticulously monitor those cases with “pointed and personal attention”. Basically, he feels if there is proper application of the mind before an order is passed and proper perusal done in the courts, litigation can be reduced. “Careful handling of a file will leave little room for agitations”.

Accelerated development, financial management and cutting down on delays and red tape, cohesive functioning of the political executive and the bureaucracy in an election year and confidence building between the administration and the people will also engage his attention. “This will be achieved down the line without tampering with the sanctity and character of the set-up and in consonance with the morals”.

Mr Arora has no “role model” to follow but knows his role will be “advisory” with responsibility and accountability resting with Chief Minister. Yet the onus of implementing the policies and programmes of the government will be on him and his colleagues.

Known for fair play, by nature he is an introvert keeping a low profile. Spending time with his family and playing with his four grandchildren is his favourite pastime. Listening to classical (Hindustani) music and reading biographies and other books relax him. He is married to Kamlesh and has two sons, Vikas and Manish.

Mr R.S. Mann, on retirement today, handed over charge to Mr N.K. Arora, who becomes the 29th Chief Secretary of Punjab.

Both the outgoing and the incoming Chief Secertary were closeted together on the sixth-floor office (room no. 26) of the Chief Secretary in the Civil Secretariat. Also present for some time was Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, Officer on Special Duty to the Chief Minister and secretary of the SAD.

Mr Mann was given a guard of honour by a contingent of the Central Industrial Security Force before he left, accompanied by his daughter.

In a chat with newsmen, Mr Mann thanked the media for the cooperation given to him. He, however, regretted he could not meet mediapersons more often or reveal much to them given the limitations of the office he held. To a question, he said: “There is plenty to do after retirement.”


Court’s nod to sale of hijacked plane
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Jan 31 — The Sessions Court today expressed satisfaction at the fulfillment of conditions laid down by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Indian Airlines and gave the final nod allowing sale of the ill-fated aircraft which had been made case property after being hijacked from Kathmandu by Pak terrorists in December 1999.

District and Sessions Judge S N Aggarwal today gave permission to Indian Airlines to sell off the aircraft after the Airlines fulfilled all the conditions laid down by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to facilitate selling off of the the plane.

The High Court earlier had overruled a decision of the Sessions Court disallowing sale of the aircraft and stipulated that the Airlines should facilitate photography and video filming of the aircraft besides making a 10-foot-long to scale model which was to be placed at a convenient place in the court here. It had also directed that the organisation would allow inspection of a plane of a similar model whenever desired by the court.

Following this decision, the Sessions Judge had appointed Additional District Sessions Judge J S Chawla as Inspecting officer to visit Mumbai and submit a report following photographing and video filming of the plane. The Inspecting Officer, who was accompanied by the CBI counsel and the counsel for the accused Brijinder Singh Sodhi, submitted his report on January 10. The Airlines took further time for the construction of the model of the plane which was also done later.

Today the counsel of the accused Brijinder Singh Sodhi while objecting to the sale of the aircraft, said he should be allowed to appeal against the decision of the High Court allowing sale of the aircraft in the Supreme Court and that the mandatory three months in which an appeal could be made should be allowed to elapse before the Sessions Court decided the case.

Mr Sodhi also said the Indian Airlines had failed to provide a model which was to scale with the original plane and that unless a to scale model with the correct design specifications was not provided. He said the sale of the aircraft should be stopped as an important condition had not been fulfilled.

All accused — Abdul Latif, Yusuf Nepali, and Dalip Bhujal, were present in the court. The Indian Airlines earlier had while requesting that permission be given to sell off the plane, said the Board of Directors of the Airlines had taken this decision before the plane was hijacked. It said the Airlines had already finalised a deal in this regard with an multinational firm and that it would suffer a great loss if sale of the plane was not allowed by the court.

CBI files challan in Harpreet case

PATIALA, Jan 31 (PTI) — The CBI here today filed charge sheet against seven persons, including former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur in the alleged murder of Bibi’s daughter Harpreet in April last in the court of a special CBI Judge.

The CBI Judge Jaspinder Singh Heyer directed all seven accused including Jagir Kaur and her jailed former personal security officer (PSO) Nishan, not to leave the country without the permission of the court.

The charge sheet, delayed by 28 days beyond 90-day period, was here today submitted by investigating officer and CBI Superintendent of Police Anurag Garg before the CBI and defence counsel.

The CBI judge sent Nishan Singh to judicial custody and fixed the next hearing for February 13 asking the former president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee Jagir Kaur to be present in the court in the next tearing.

The CBI in the challan has put Ranjit Kaur, Nina, Bhagram and Balwinder Singh in the second column.

One of the accused Sanjiv Kumar today deposited his passport with the court.

Five of the accused Paramjit Singh, Harminder Kumar, Sanjiv Kumar, Satya Devi and Dalwinder Kaur were granted bail on January 3 on the completion of their 90 days in custody.

While Bibi had secured pre-arrest bail from the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Nishan Singh has been sent to judicial custody.

Harpreet, allegedly pregnant from her self-claimed husband Kanwaljit Singh against the wishes of her mother, was allegedly murdered.


Lok Bhalai Party to contest 90 seats
From Our Correspondent

FARIDKOT, Jan 31 — All-India Lok Bhalai Party will contest from 90 Assembly constituencies in the forth coming elections in Punjab. All the segments had already been identified and the list of the candidates will be finalised at a meeting to be held at Sahnewal (Ludhiana) on February 5. This was stated by Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, MP, and President of the body, at a press conference here yesterday. He said the party would lay more stress for sorting out problems of the commoners, removal of social evils and focus attention on secular politics in party’s election manifesto.

However, the party will oppose all moves of the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, to hold Assembly elections before December this year. He alleged that the SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress had failed to resolve the grievances of the Punjabis. In reply to a question, Mr Ramoowalia said no decision had been taken to forge an alliance with any other party. The issue would be decided after the announcement of the elections in the state.

He said the party would not contest in the ensuing Assembly elections in Majitha (Amritsar). He alleged that the Congress and ruling party would spent crores of rupees to win the seat. He further alleged that Mr Badal would use all its power besides the official machinery to maintain his impact on the people for the next Assembly elections. Mr Ramoowalia, however, made it clear that the verdict of Majitha election won’t affect his party.


Shaheedi samagam’ gets political
Tribune News Service

JETHUKE (Bathinda), Jan 31 — The ‘shaheedi samagam’ organised here today in connection with the killing of two youths of this village in police firing on the night of January 31 last year, turned political when various leaders of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta) announced that they would continue their campaign to expose the ‘anti-people’ policies of a Punjab Minister, who was ‘politically’ responsible for the youth’s killing.

Mr Jhanda Singh, President, BKU (Ekta), Bathinda, said that the organisation had decided to support the members of various employees unions of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), who had been thrown behind bars and transferred to other districts on flimsy grounds. He alleged that a Punjab minister was responsible for it and all this was done to privatise the PSEB.

He said that the BKU(Ekta) had also decided to thwart all attempts being made by the minister to ‘crush’ the farmers’ wave in the region. He added that the BKU (Ekta) activists had decided to support the students’ agitation against the bus fare if the matter was not resolved.

He said that it was time for the farmers to come forward along with farm labourers to give a united fight against any harassment during wheat procurement in the coming season and got remunerative prices of their produce.

He added that BKU (Ekta) activists would participate in the series of dharnas which would start at Chandigarh from March15 by the five farmers’ organisations.

Those who addressed the gathering included Mr Lachman Singh Sewawala, leader, Farm Labour Union, Mr Ruldu Singh, Mr Surjeet Singh Phool, Mr Joginder Singh, Mr Harnek Singh, Mr Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, Mr Tirlok Singh Himatpura, Mr Buta Singh Burjgill, Mr Sadhu Singh Gholoti (all BKU leaders), Mr Amolak Singh of the Lok Morcha, Punjab, Mr Balwinder Singh of the Lok Sangram Morcha and Mr Sukhminder Singh of the T.S.U.

Later, the activists went to Shaheed Yadgari park and laid the foundation stone for ‘shaheedi laat’.


Satpal Gosain
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 31 —The President of the Punjab unit of the BJP, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, has appointed Mr Satpal Gosain, a senior leader of the party, as administrative secretary of the party for Moga and Faridkot districts, according to a press note issued here today.


Cong dharna against police excesses
From Our Correspondent

GURDASPUR, Jan 31 — A large number of Congress workers led by the Dera Baba Nanak Block Congress Committee participated in a dharna held today at Kotli Surat Malli 35 km from here against police excesses in the area. Traffic was blocked from all sides from 12 noon till late evening. At 6 p.m. the police station at Kotli Surat Malli had only three/four employees.

Senior Congress leaders Mr Santokh Singh Randhawa, former Minister Khushal Behal, former spokesman AICC Ashwant Kumar, Mr Sukhjinder Singh, Mr Raman Behl former president Municipal Committee, Gurdaspur and Mr Rajbir Singh former secretary PPCC addressed the dharna.

Mr Santokh Singh Randhawa said that Akali leaders like Mr Amrit Singh, and Mr Prem Singh were controlling police stations at Dera Baba Nanak and Fatehgarh Churian respectively. He cited several cases of Congress workers in which the police had accepted bribe from them but did not deliver justice. In cases registered against Akali workers involved in physical assaults on Congress workers under Section 326 of the IPC. The police failed to take any action against such persons at the behest of Rural and Development Minister Nirmal Singh, Kahlon said Mr Randhawa.

Mr Randhawa said that Balbir Singh son of Surjit Singh of village Kotli Surat Malli was not present when there was altercation between Tajinder Singh alias Bittu, Sarpanch Kotli Surat Malli and Shawinder Singh Bhanwra but was implicated under Section 326 of the IPC along with him. Sons of Shawinder Singh namely Sukhdev Singh and Hardev Singh had to be in jail for 14 days before the release on bail. The sarpanch of Kotli Surat Malli was involved in a case of firing at Bhagwanpur village in the area a month ago but no action has been taken against them. Similarly, Mr Randhawa accused ASI Narang Singh SHO Kotli Surat Malli, for his failure to arrest Joginder Singh, Jagir Singh and their three sons involved in 326 of the IPC at the behest of the Minister for Rural Development and Panchayat, Punjab.

Mr Randhawa said that law and order machinery has broken down in the state and police excesses were on the rise in the state. He appealed to the Governor to recommend to the Centre to sack the SAD-BJP government in Punjab and control the state itself to give fair law and order in the state.

Mr Randhawa gave number of cases where the police had extorted large sums from innocent people. He said the present Chief Minister has failed to prevent such corrupt officials because he could not check them due to his own and family’s reputation in this regard. 


Peppermint ‘can help’ farmers
From Harjeet Singh

BATHINDA, Jan 31 — One of the reasons for the economic backwardness of the Punjab farmers is the lack of scientific knowledge about growers different crops on rotation basis. Although the horticulturists have been stressing that the farmers should adopt the diversification of various agricultural produce to improve their livelihood, yet the lack of knowledge has compelled them not to shift from paddy-wheat rotation to cash crops.

Peppermint is beneficial from economic point of view, for the farmers but due to lack of knowledge, they are not ready to cultivate this crop. The farmers could get about 40 kg oil from an acre of the crop.

Peppermint oil is used for preparing tooth paste, cough-syrup, toffees, cream and various other edible products. There is also a big foreign market for this oil. At present Ghagt Fine Chemicals, a Mumbai-based company, is supplying the oil to foreign markets, in-collaboration with AM TOD, a foreign company.

These companies used to make advance commitment with the farmers to purchase their produce at Rs 570 per kg, at the time of sowing of the crops. In this way the farmers are assured to get their prices in time and could earn a profit of Rs 15,000 to Rs 18,000 per acre.

According to a senior official of the Bhagat Fine Chemicals, 6,000 acres of land is under peppermint cultivation in Punjab. But in Bathinda district peppermint cultivation started in 1997. Nearly 50 acres of the land was under cultivation which increased to 550 acres, recently.

There are six places in Punjab where the peppermint oil is being produced. These are Mehraj and Dyalpura Mirza villages of Bathinda district, Nathuwala, Badhni Khurd villages of Moga district, Zera town of Ferozepore district and Chamkour Sahib town of Ropar district.

The unit which produce peppermint oil at Meharaj and Dyalpur Mirza villages of this district has the capacity of 250 acres and 150 acres, respectively. The bhathis are being used at these places to produce oil and boilers are also being used at the remaining four places.

The experts who are working at the Mehraj unit, said that the Bhagat Fine Chemical Company was responsible for all the expenses incurred from sowing to harvesting. They added that money spent was returned to the companies after the oil was sold.

Mr Gurpreet Singh, a farmer of Dod village of this district, said he cultivated peppermint on half-an-acre of land on experimental basis, on finding it beneficial he started its cultivation on 6 acres of his total land.

Mr Gurtej Singh, another farmer, said the labourers were easily available and there was also no problem of marketing. He added that the authorities concerned should motivate the farmers to adopt peppermint farming.


Quake survivors in depression
From Jaswinder Paul Singh

BATHINDA, Jan 31 — Miss Rina Rajput and Miss Jyoti Rajput were still in beds at the Air Force camp on the outskirts of the quake-hit Bhuj district of Gujarat, on January 26. It was a national holiday and they had not to go to their respective school and college. Their younger brother Jaspreet was in the street playing with friends.

The Rajput family had planned a holiday with friends but their plans were shattered in a minute when the mother earth played a cruel role with the people and most of the buildings were reduced to rubble. The earthquake which shook the nation at 8.45 a.m. on January 26, has left them alive but memories of the quake are still afresh in their minds.

Ms Rina Rajput, who is a student of MA, was in depression and the memories of the shock were written in her eyes. “A mere thought of the scene is enough to send the shiver down our spines and she broke down. Fortunately none of her family members was injured in the incident but plight of the people and the screams of women, children, old and other neighbours has left an indelible mark on her psyche.

Ms Jyoti Rajput, her sister, a student of 10th standard said that the debris of the city presented the worse scene the ‘mother-earh’ could present. She was doubtful that if the city would be reconstructed ever. “We have left our mother at Bhuj with another relative, but she would be coming here as soon as the arrangements for uploading of the household goods are made. I can not think of going home...everything has been destroyed.. I feel that the quake is following me and everything would be destroyed here also...,” and her eyes were full of tears.

Ms Rina Rajput said that about 400 school children were feared dead in the school premises as they were there to celebrate Republic Day. This is the most terrifying experience I have ever had or even read in the horror stories. Almost all of the inmates of the Adipur Boys Hostel were dead as they were trapped under the debris of the buildings. The Air Force hospital was packed to the capacity with bodies and the patients were being treated in the tents set up for the purpose. On one hand the victims were being helped by various NGOs and the defence personnel the petrol station dealers were making money and selling petrol at Rs 150 per litre. This represents the indifferent attitude and the greed for money one can have even at the cost of others’ lives,” she lamented.

The help from the states has started pouring in and the situation was improving day by day, alothough the residents were ‘experiencing’ the quake even after five days after the incident. She was appreciative of the help from various people.

Mr Balwant Singh, who brought them here told ‘The Tribune’ that the scene of the city was like that of historical ruins and that Ratlam city neighbouring Bhuj was reduced to dust by the quake. The special train running from Delhi to Ahmedabad was full of the relatives of the quake victims and was being operated by the Indian Railways free of cost. The people were buried under the debris of buildings in the narrow streets while trying to escape from the spot. A gurdwara was razed to ground but the Guru Granth Sahib’s sanctity was being taken care of. It was offering ‘Langar’ to the people and delivering selfless service.

Ms Rina Rajput said that although we have not been hurt but the impression of the quake would live in our minds.

If this is the story and psychology of a family who has not faced any casualty one can easily calculate and ascertain the condition of those who are still at the quake-hit areas and have suffered loss of lives of the family members.


5,000 volunteers to run community kitchen at Bhuj
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 31 — Five thousand volunteers from Punjab will leave for Bhuj in Gujarat tomorrow to run a community kitchen for one lakh persons a day.

Besides, the entire requirement of rations, fuel and utensils for running the langar for the earthquake victims will be met by the Punjab Government, a spokesman of the state government said here today.

These modalities were worked out after Mr Sarvesh Kaushal, Secretary, Information and Public Relations, and Additional Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, met Gujarat’s Additional Chief Secretary, the Principal Secretary of the PWD, the Chief Engineer of the PWD and the Collector of Bhuj.

The Gujarat Government has earmarked the Moti Lal Vyam area on Rawalwadi Road at Bhuj for the community kitchen. Mr Adyar, an IAS officer of Gujarat, has been appointed nodal officer for the “langar”, which will be run on practically the same lines as was done in the case of the Orissa cyclone victims last year.

To run the kitchen regularly, teams of volunteers will go from Punjab at intervals to relieve the earlier teams. Arrangements for the stay of the volunteers have also been made at Moti Lal Vyam.


Fields out of bounds for women
From Gurpreet Singh
Tribune News Service

ZERO LINE (Ferozepore), Jan 31 — For most women living in the frontier villages the agricultural fields close to the Indo-Pak border remain out of bounds.

The inordinate delay in the deployment of women Home Guards for frisking has prevented women from lending a helping hand to their husbands for tilling near the border. Barring the Gazniwala area in the Ferozepore sector, the Border Security Force (BSF) has not engaged women for frisking of women in any of the frontier villages.

Farmers having lands across the security fencing raised along the border to prevent infiltration are frequently frisked by the BSF guards before allowed entry to their fields . This has sparked a demand for the deployment of women Home Guards to facilitate women willing to work in the fields.

Although the government has cleared a proposal to deploy women Home Guards near the border, three is no official word to suggest when the arrangements shall be made.

While the BSF and the Punjab Police held discussions some time back to chalk out the modalities of the proposal, the frontier farmers lament they are forced to hire labour at exorbitant rates for help in the fields.

Borh Singh of Gatti Hayat village pointed out that if women were allowed to accompany them in the fields this would save them from shelling out money for hiring labourers. “Limited cultivation hours and difficulties in getting their identity cards made further complicates the matter”, he explained.

The BSF officials told TNS that at present Gazniwala is the only pocket of the Ferozepore sector to have women volunteers for frisking. Under the procedure, the wives of responsible persons such as village headmen are engaged as volunteers to frisk the women in the presence of the BSF guards.

However, the Border Area Sangharsh Committee has demanded that the women be frisked in privacy and not in the presence of the male guards. “For this, tents should be pitched near the fencing for frisking women”, the committee president, Mr Hansa Singh, said.

Dharna threat by PRTC men
From Our Correspondent

PATIALA, Jan 31 — Workers of the Pepsu Roadways Transport Corporation (PRTC) will observe a one-day complete strike besides holding gate rallies till February 9 against the indifferent attitude of the management towards the workers. They have also decided to stage a massive dharna in front of the office of the Managing Director of the corporation here on February 14.

In a press release Mr Nirmal Singh Dhaliwal, a member of the Joint Action Committee, said that the workers have demanded payment of regular over time for the operational staff and the worshop staff, to abolish the post of the Chairman and other idle officers and to eradicate corruption in PRTC.

The workers have asked the management to deposit crores of rupees due to the workers as arrears, to stop contract system of the recruitment of drivers and conductors, to reimburse free travelling of about Rs 200 crore to the PRTC, to stop the termination of workers under one pretext or the other and to purchase 200 new buses, the proposal of which has been pending for a long time.

Addressing a rally today, the leaders warned the PRTC management and the government of Punjab to accept the demands and implement them, otherwise the struggle would continue.


Inmates’ shifting cause of jail violence
Tribune News Service

FEROZEPORE, Jan 31 — The shifting of about 300 undertrials from Faridkot to the local Central Jail here is said to be the root cause of frequent prisoners’ disputes.

While 26 prisoners have suffered blunt injuries in the latest incident of jail dispute on January 29, the groupism among the jailbirds repeatedly sparked violence during November and December last.

The transfer of undertrials from outside Ferozepore district was necessitated due to repair works at the Faridkot jail. As a result of this the number of prisoners in Ferozepore has mounted to 1,100.

Even as the judicial probe into the latest incident of violence continues, the Superintendent of the Ferozepore Central Jail, Mr Bhajan Singh, attributed it to the groupism among the prisoners. Confirming blunt injuries to 26 prisoners, he told TNS that the dispute was a fallout of the fight between the local prisoners and undertrials from Faridkot.

He, however, admitted that several prisoners might have received injuries when the jail staff hit the jailbirds and segregated them to prevent major violence.

There were also reports indicating that the jail staff settled scores by beating up the prisoners who were habitual of making complaints to judicial officials about “poor” arrangements.

However, Mr Bhajan Singh denied the charge and claimed that the jail staff had only intervened to stop prisoners from injuring one another.

While the authorities did not allow journalists to meet the undertrials on one pretext or the other, enquiries from independent sources revealed that prisoners fought over the claim on a kite that found its way into the jail premises on the occasion of “Basant Panchmi” — a kite-flying festival.

Subsequently, the two sides of the prisoners were locked into a dispute. The jail staff allegedly beat them up after segregating the two groups.

Earlier, during November and December last there were reports of violence inside the jail. The Chief Judicial Magistrate from Faridkot is learnt to have recorded the statement of the jail inmates yesterday evening.


Cyber cafes create job avenues
From Pushpesh Kumar
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 31 — The expertise of Indian software engineers has been recognised all over the world and the boom in the Internet market has not left this city.

Though this city is considered ‘educationally backward’ in the state, its enterprising youth have taken to Internet and harnessed its potential to generate employment opportunities not only for themselves, but others too.

As per a random survey, there are about 20 cyber cafes in the city, employing about 150 persons. The two Internet service providers in the city have about 2500 subscribers, ranging from government servants, professionals, and businessman to students.

Mr Gurmeet Singh, a cyber cafe owner, said that he opened his centre in 1998 with only two computers and has six now. “At that time I used to man the cafe alone but now I have the services of my brother besides two employees. I was uncertain about the future when I opened the cafe, but now I feel that it is one of the best self-employment opportunity,” Mr Gurmeet Singh said.

Mr Amit Arora, another Net entrepreneur, who started his cafe in 1998 with three systems, now has eight computers. “We have customers from different walks of life, a majority of them being students. Internet has become a part and parcel of today’s life and the student community finds it the most reliable and efficient source of information,” he said.

Mr Amit Garg, a computer expert from the Royal Group of Computers (RGC), said that Internet had become a necessity rather than a ‘facility’ with a number of cyber cafes coming up, surfing rates had come down but the volume of customers had also increased. “Students who don’t have computers as home go to cyber cafes as they find these economical. They are the most frequent visitors to the cafes,” added Mr Amit.

Mr Rajesh Saini, also of RGC, said that the local E10-B telephone exchange offered good results even with internal modems, which were generally not preferred over the external ones. “The problem of disconnection is the only major problem with internal modems as compared to external ones. Otherwise they are on a par with each other,” Mr Saini said.

Mr Davinder Singh, who owns one of the ‘oldest’ cyber cafes of the city, said “The cafes offer an economical platform to the people. A user need not worry about a virus attack as it is the headache and liability of the cyber cafe owner, whereas with regard to computers at home they (users) have to be careful,” he said.

With more and more people going ‘online’ the use of E-mail is preferred over the usual ‘snail mail’ and almost all computer literate residents of the city have got at least two E-mail accounts. Keeping in view the growing computer literacy, cost effectiveness, reliability of Internet, more and more people want personal computers at home and office. The Internet and cyber cafe boom would continue to offer good opportunity for ‘white-collared’ self-employment.

Internet service providers even offer schemes like offering free surfing at night, and free additional hours to the customers. The trend is catching up so fast that some of the cyber cafe owners have started ‘training’ people about how to surf, chat, search, download, etc, and have devised their own ‘syllabus’ for net users.


Death of schoolgirl: students end fast
From Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

LONGOWAL (Sangrur), Jan 31 — A large number of agitating students of the local Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya (JNV) ended their two-day-old fast and dharna here this afternoon following an assurance by the top authorities of JNV, Chandigarh region.

The students were observing a dharna and a fast since yesterday over the death of a ninth class student, Sandip Kaur (14), on January 29, due to the alleged negligence of the local JNV authorities.

Sandip Kaur reportedly informed the authorities on January 28 in the afternoon that she was suffering from a headache and vomitting. On this a male staff nurse posted at the local JNV, administered an injection and gave medicine to Sandip Kaur. But next day in the morning she became serious after a vertigo and was taken to the local primary health centre (PHC) where she was reportedly declared brought dead. Later in the evening, a post-mortem was conducted at the Sangrur Civil Hospital. She was cremated at Bhurthla Mander, her native village, on Malerkotla-Khanna road, yesterday.

Student leaders Gagandip Singh, Iqbal Singh and Mohan Kumar, all plus two students, alleged that Sandip Kaur had died due to negligence of the JNV authorities as she could not get proper treatment in time. In view of this they were observing a dharna and a fast since the previous day in protest, demanding suspension or transfer of the principal, they added.

Mr Gurdial Singh, Principal of the local JNV, refuted the charge, levelled by the students. He said proper treatment had been provided to Sandip Kaur. But when on January 29 she became serious, she was taken to the local PHC where she declared brought dead.


Vanaspati yojana to be launched
From Our Correspondent

ROPAR, Jan 31 — The Vanaspati Van Yojana will be launched in Punjab to popularise ayurveda in the state.

To start with a 45-bigha farm would be bought under cultivation for the medicinal plant at Dyal Sandhu in Patiala.

Mr Baldev Raj Chawla, Minister, Health Family Welfare; Punjab, stated here yesterday that the farmers would be encouraged to grow medicinal plants in place of traditional crops which would give them a better source of income. He was here to attend the free Ayurvedic medical camp organised at Gurudwara Tibbi Sahib. Dr Chawla further told the Punjab government was also trying to involve Forest Department officials, pharmacy experts and NRIs to popularise the scheme in the state. Besides this a grant of Rs 50,000 would be given to each ayurvedic dispensary in the state under the Prime Minister’s Gram Udyog Yojna.

A drug-testing laboratory was being set up at Chandiarh at a cost of Rs 1 crore. He added that the ayurvedic dispensaries would also be opened in all the seven ESI hospitals in the state.


Tributes paid to Dr Ambedkar
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Jan 31 — The Bathinda branch of the All-India SC-ST Railway Employees Welfare Association organised a programme to pay tributes to Dr B.R. Ambedkar in which hundreds of railway employees and officers took part.

Mr Balbir Singh, Divisional Secretary, Ambala division, said the association would continue its struggle until the government reserves seats in the judiciary, the Army and other private sector for SCs and STs. He added that for this purpose the government should include reservation in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.


2 killed in mishap
From Our Correspondent

MALERKOTLA, Jan 31 — Vakeel Shah (23) and Nirmal Singh (25) were killed today when their scooters collided near Mubarakpur Chunga village, 5 km from here. While Vakeel died on the spot, Nirmal was admitted to DMC, Ludhiana, where he succumbed to his injuries.


Phone Nos. changed
From Our Correspondent

MALERKOTLA, Jan 31 — The Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited have changed the telephone numbers of Malerkotla, Dhuri and Ahmedgarh by adding the digit 6 in the beginning with the existing numbers, with effect from February 1. According to an information received here today from the Telecom office, Sangrur, now the five-number digit have been changed into six-number digit.


PSEB gesture
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 31 — Officers and employees of the PSEB will donate one-day salary towards Punjab Chief Minister’s Relief Fund in aid of Gujarat earthquake victims. A sum of Rs 2 crore is likely to be collected, says a press release.



Trial begins in kids’ murder case
Tribune News Service

JALANDHAR, Jan 31 — The trial in the cold-blooded Hina-Abhishek murder case in Jalandhar began with the recording of statements of seven persons, including the most crucial witness — seven-year-old Sahil — a neighbour and classmate of Abhishek and cousin of the accused Gagan Kanaujia in the court of Mr M.M. Aggrawal, Sessions Judge, Jalandhar.

Hina (9) and Abhishek (6), children of a dhobi, Kamal Kishore, were allegedly abducted by one of their neighbours, Gagan Kanaujia, on June 9 last year and done to death in a brutal manner. Their bodies were stuffed in a gunny bag and thrown in the backyard of the Doordarshan transmission tower on the Nakodar road the next morning.

Mr Aggrawal has fixed February 26 and March 2 as the next dates for the hearing. Sahil had seen Hina and Abhishek on the scooter of a person resembling Gagan Kanaujia. At around 6.15 pm on June 9 while he was purchasing sweets from a nearby shop.

He said the scooterist also had a student of St Thomas School where Abhishek and Hina were studying. He told the court that Abhishek was not ready to sit on the scooter, but Hina persuaded him to do so by assuring that the scooterist was their “chachu”. Sahil was also cross-examined by the defence counsel, Mr Mamdip Sachdeva.

In her statement, Ms Pooja, tutor and neighbour Sahil and Abhishek, said both children came to her house for tuition at around 4.30 p.m. and left as usual on 6.15 p.m. and was later told by Sarita that they had been taken away on a scooter by a person wearing black trousers and white T-shirt.

Dr Balbir Singh, who had conducted the post-mortem on the bodies of the victims, said they had died due to suffocation and their collar bones were broken.

Kamal Koshore revealed that he had received an inland letter the same evening through which some Ranga-Billa had demanded Rs 10 lakh as extortion money for securing the release of the kids.


Murder convict heads dera
From Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

NANAKSAR (Ludhiana), Jan 31 — Deceptive calm prevails in this holy shrine which is frequented by devotees from across the world. While the shrine has remained a focus of attention due to a power struggle among the followers in the past also, currently all power is alleged to have been “usurped” by a single person Baba Ghala Singh. Baba Ghala Singh had been convicted of murder about three years back. The conviction was also upheld by the Supreme Court of India and he, along with some other co accused, was “sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for a period of 10 years”.

There are three sect heads, who claim to inherit the legacy of Baba Nand Singh and Baba Isher Singh, the founders of the Nanaksar shrine. The three groups are headed by Baba Kundan Singh, Baba Sadhu Singh and Baba Ghala Singh, respectively, Baba Ghala Singh has been asserting himself and trying to wield full authority in the shrine. In fact he is reportedly being patronised by the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. It is learnt that Baba Ghala Singh’s punishment awarded to him by the Supreme Court, was commuted by the Badal government.

His clout and influence has made it possible for him to wield absolute power in the shrine without any resistance. Both Baba Sadhu Singh and Baba Kundan Singh, and their followers, being aware of his political clout, have adopted a non-confrontationist attitude towards him. Baba Ghala Singh always moves with the official security provided by the state government.

Baba Ghala Singh has his own clout in the dera as well. He performs all religious rites like any other sect head and is frequented by various people whom he “blesses” with his darshan. These include various political leaders cutting across party lines, particularly those in power. He claims to have inherited the spiritual legacy of Baba Narayan Singh, who in turn claimed the spiritual legacy of Baba Nand Singh and Baba Isher Singh.

Baba Narayan Singh had reportedly been excommunicated by Akal Takht for his alleged role of siding with the government after the Operation Bluestar. Most of the sect leaders consider themselves to be demigod and Baba Ghala Singh is no exception. Their belief gets strengthened and consolidated with a blind following by the people plus the patronage from the powers that be.

The rival camps here in the shrine have been attributing the rise of Baba Ghala Singh to the compulsions of the Chief Minister, Mr Badal. When Mr Badal was pitted in a battle of one-upmanship against Mr Tohra, the Sant Samaj headed by Baba Sarabhjot Singh Bedi sided with Bhai Ranjit Singh and Mr Tohra. In his desperate bid to checkmate his rivals, the Chief Minister understandably decided to create an alternative Sant Samaj and utilised the services of Baba Ghala Singh after getting his punishment commuted by a Cabinet order. Baba Ghala Singh also sided with the Sant Samaj headed by Baba Kashmira Singh owing allegiance to Mr Badal.


Loan scandal worth lakhs unearthed
From Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

BATHINDA, Jan 31 — A loan scandal worth lakhs of rupees being run by a private person in connivance with the Assistant District Manager, Punjab Scheduled Caste Land Development and Finance Corporation, has come to light.

The suspects have been running the scandal for the past seven years and have been earning thousands of rupees per loan case by using fake rubber stamps to complete all formalities required for the sanctioning of loans. In this way, they have been causing loss to the state exchequer.

Police sources said the suspects were using fake rubber stamps, including those of a former MLA, business houses and government officials, on official loan documents. They were also putting fake signatures of the officials concerned on these documents.

The sources added that in the past seven years, the suspects had managed to get more than 100 loan cases sanctioned. The suspects were Suresh Kumar and Sudesh Kumar, Assistant District Manager, Punjab Scheduled Caste Land Development and Finance Corporation.

Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, SSP, said apart from fake rubber stamps, 15 sets of loan forms were also recovered from Suresh Kumar who had been arrested. Raids were being conducted to arrest the Assistant District Manager. Sudesh Kumar was earlier caught by the Vigilance Department for committing some bunglings. A case in this connection had been registered under Sections 420, 466, 467, 468 and 471 of the IPC in the city police station.

In another case, the police had recovered intoxicating medicines from a medical store which was being run by the owners by taking the required licence on rent from a pharmacist. The suspects, Deepak Joyti and Anudeep, were selling these intoxicants. The expiry date of some of the medicines which were found in the shop was over.

The SSP said, three persons, Jagsir Singh, Kulwant Singh and Babu Singh, had been arrested for possession of illicit distilled liquor while four persons had been arrested for their alleged involvement in gambling.


Principals seek promotion
From Our Correspondent

HOSHIARPUR, Jan 31 — Resentment prevails amongst the officiating Principals of various Government Colleges in Punjab for not promoting them on regular basis and granting them the Principal’s grade. A spokesman of the principals of Government Colleges told this correspondent here today that the Higher Education Department of the state government had given a step motherly treatment to more than 70 retired as well as officiating Principals since December 1997.

They were placed as current duty charge principals of various Government Colleges without any promotion, and grade. Most of the officiating Principals had retired without getting any benefits. He alleged that authorities of the Education Department had recently promoted 12 persons as regular Principals through a pick and choose policy.

Some of the retired Principals have filed a writ petition before the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Chandigarh.

PUTA to hold dharna today
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Jan 31 — The Punjabi University Teachers Association ( PUTA ) has decided to hold dharna in front of the Vice-Chancellor’s office tomorrow over the removal of Dr K.C. Singhal as the Head of the Business Management School, besides other demands. PUTA after a meeting today decided that its executive would hold a dharna to protest against the victimisation of Dr Singhal , stopping of the process of promotions in the university and other demands of the teachers . The dharna will be held for two hours in the afternoon .

Delivering an ultimatum to the university management , it said in case remedial action was not taken on these issues in one-week time , it would launch an” aggressive agitation.”

Mr Balwinder Singh, secretary, PUTA, said PUTA members were also agitated over the stopping of all interviews for promotions till the approval of amended statutes .

He said it was also felt that, while in all other Universities of the region interviews were continuing and almost 90 per cent of the teachers had been promoted , the Vice-Chancellor of this university had taken this ‘’ negative ‘’ decision to deny rightful promotions to teachers.

But the university management today claimed that the dominant group in the PUTA Executive had made a scapegoat of Dr K.C. Singhal for agitation purposes. It said the Syndicate in its meeting on January 25 had decided to get an FIR registered in the case of apparent illegalities, irregularities and lapses unearthed by a high-level five-member inquiry committee. It said the FIR had been sent to the police for investigation to ascertain as to what levels such illegalities took place.


Contractors boycott auction
Tribune News Service

BATHINDA, Jan 31 — Two hundred contractors today boycotted auction of forest sites, held for cutting of trees by the state Forest Department authorities here today.

The contractors decided to boycott the auction when the state Forest Department authorities reduced the number of sites to be auctioned from 73 to 22 only. The contractors walked out from the office of the Forest Department here when they were told by the district Forest Department authorities that only 22 sites would be auctioned instead of 73 sites as mentioned in the notices issued to every contractor.

Official sources said that state Forest Department authorities decided to reduce the number of auction sites from 73 to 22 as most of the forest sites had been reserved for cutting by the Punjab State Forest Corporation.

The contractors alleged that they had to spend thousands of rupees on surveying all auction sites before making bids in today’s auction and they were in for a rude shock when they were told by the auctioning authorities that total number of sites as mentioned into the notices would not be auctioned.

Mr Charan Singh Grewal, Vice-President, Punjab Forest Contractors Union, alleged that behaviour of the Forest Department officials was very rude. He added that when the contractors protested against the reduction of number of auction sites, they were asked to go outside from the office by the Forest Department officials.

He demanded that Forest Department authorities should either auction all sites mentioned in the notices issued to contractors or should give them suitable compensation as they had suffered losses on account of surveying the sites of forests to be auctioned which were located in the nook and corner of state.

He pointed that today contractors came from various districts of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan states to make bids at the auction with the hope that they would be able to get some work as 73 sites were to be auctioned. He added that however, the Forest Department authorities were insisting to auction those sites only for the contractors which did not have profit potential.

He also pointed out that Punjab Forest Department authorities could earn more money by auctioning the all tree-cutting sites to the contractors instead to the Punjab State Forest Corporation.

Mr Gyan Parkash, District Forest Officer (DFO), who was member of the auction committee, when contacted, said that Forest Department authorities had acted according to the guidelines issued to them by the higher authorities. He admitted that there was some restlessness among the contractors when they came to know about the fact that number of auction sites had been reduced.


Improvement trust auction postponed
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Jan 31 — The Improvement Trust ‘auction’ was postponed by a few hours following transporters’ ‘load’ demand to defer the auction for another 15 days as many of the applicants for today’s auction were stationed in the quake-devasted Gujarat.

Loud words were exchanged at the trust office for an hour but the chairman of the Improvement Trust, Mr Bakshi Ram Arora, refused to relent and announced that the auction be delayed by a few hours.

The auction that started at about 3.30 p.m. became mandatory in compliance with high court orders. The auction for the truck stand scheme had already been adjourned several times in the past, since 1998.

Talking to this correspondent, Mr Bakshi said the holding of the auction for the truck stand area comprising 125 shops ranging from 500 sq yards to 250 sq yards has been hanging fire due to delay tactics adopted by the powerful transporters’ lobby interested in the area to connive among themselves and manipulate the auction in the minimum price. The trust has achieved a major victory in holding the often-deferred auction, he added.

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