Friday, February 2, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




Congress predicts anti-establishment vote in Majitha
From Our Correspondent

GURDASPUR, Feb 1 — Mr Ashwani Kumar, member of the AICC and senior Congress leader, talking to mediapersons here today, said the SAD-BJP government had lost ground in the state and there were anti-establishment feelings among voters of Majitha. He predicted victory of the Congress in Majitha byelection which, he claimed, would be a message for change of the SAD-BJP Government in the coming Assembly elections.

He said the Congress, in the byelection, would highlight, in its agenda, economic backwardness and political corruption in the state. The Congress, after the elections, would constitute a high-level economic advisory panel which would prepare comprehensive paper on economy and point towards economic development in the state. The interests of the Scheduled Castes, Backward Classes, small and marginal farmers, traders and employees would be safeguarded, he said.

Mr Ashwani Kumar said the economic package of Rs 350 crore announced by the Central and Punjab Government for paddy growers of the state was a farce. No farmer had been benefited by this package so far, he alleged.

Mr Ashwani Kumar said Ms Sonia Gandhi, AICC President, had decided not to allot party tickets to people with criminal antecedents and doubtful credentials.

He said at a time when the country was facing major issues and challenges. Vajpayee government at the Centre had once again embarked upon a divisive agenda by resurrecting the Ram Temple issue at Ayodhya for exploiting religious sentiments of the people to gain petty political ends. Similarly, the Akali leadership was raking up dead issues like Operation Bluestar to create communal divide between peace-loving Punjabis.

SHSAD puts off conference
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Feb 1 — The Sarab Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) has postponed its political conference which was scheduled to be held on February 21 in Ludhiana. It will now be held in the third week of March, Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, general secretary of the party, said here today.

He said that at a meeting of presidents of the district units of the party, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, president of the party, had been authorised to name the candidate to be supported by the party in the Majitha byelection.

He said Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, President of the SGPC, should tell the people of Punjab in what connection he was going to meet the RSS chief in Delhi later this week. He said if Mr Talwandi effected a compromise on any religious issue pertaining to the Sikhs during his talks with the RSS chief, the SHSAD would oppose Mr Talwandi in this connection.

Mr Chandumajra said Mr Talwandi should make the RSS chief aware of the growing resentment among Sikhs with regard to the activities of the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat. Mr Talwandi should ask the RSS chief to wind up the sangat soon as this would be in the interest of the country.


Badal using unfair means: Dayal
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Feb 1 — Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab, has been exploiting religious sentiments to win the byelection in Majitha, which can disturb peace and harmony in the state.

This allegation was levelled against Mr Badal by Mr Joginder Dayal, General Secretary, Communist Party of India (CPI), Punjab, while taking to The Tribune here today. He warned Mr Badal that the issues raised by him during convassing could disturb the peace in Punjab.

Mr Dayal said Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti, Akal Takht chief, had confirmed reports that members of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) were indulging in the smuggling of narcotics.

Dr Dayal said the CPI would launch a programme on February 5 to highlight the ill-effects of the WTO. During the programme, Central and state offices would be gheraoed. Various kisan and labour unions would participate.

He said the government was declaring public sector units as sick under a planned scheme. He alleged the aim was to sell such units to business men at throwaway rates.


Papers of four rejected
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Feb 1 — Papers of four of the 10 candidates for the Majitha Vidhan Sabha byelection have been rejected. Those whose papers have been rejected are Mrs Daljinder Kaur, Mr Kulvir Singh, Mr Gulzar Singh and Mr Chanan Singh, all Independents.

This leaves six candidates in the fray, Mrs Gurpreet Kaur Sapra, Returning Officer cum-SDM, Amritsar-I said.

The contestants are Mr Rajmohinder Singh (SAD), Mr Savinder Singh Kathunangal (Cong) Col (Retd) J.S. Bal (RRD) and Mrs Kartar Kaur and Mr Simarjit Singh Majitha, son of late Parkash Singh Majitha, both Independents.

The last date for withdrawals is February 3.

Majitha cops to be shifted today 
by Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Feb 1 — All policemen belonging to Amritsar and Majitha police districts and posted in the Amritsar revenue district will be shifted to other places tomorrow, sources in the police department confirmed tonight.

The transfer of these police officials, including a superintendent, two deputy superintendents and a few inspectors, out of the Amritsar revenue district in the wake of the ensuing Majitha assembly byelection has been necessitated by the directions of the Election Commission.

The Director-General of Police, Mr Sarabjit Singh, confirmed that some officers will be transferred.

The Inspector-General and the Deputy Inspector-General of Police of the Border Range have also been asked to identify all other policemen (non-gazetted), from a constable to a sub-inspector, who belong to the Amritsar revenue district and are posted in Majitha police district who are to be shifted out to other areas within the Border Range.

In the past, there have been instances when police officers and men were shifted out of their home districts at the instance of the Election Commission during both General and assembly elections. This time, the police has decided to undertake this exercise on its own.

Since the Senior Superintendent of Police of Ferozepore, Mr Gurcharan Singh, retired yesterday on attaining superannuation, Mr Harchand Singh, who was posted as Commandant of an India Reserve Battalion at Jalandhar, has been posted in his place.

School grounds made poll arena
From Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

MAJITHA: Election rallies are being held in government schools, mostly by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, in gross violation of the code of conduct during an election rally at Maddipur village, school children had a ‘forced’ holiday. They were made to attend the rally which was addressed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal and other senior leaders of the SAD.

Interestingly, the school which was upgraded from primary level to the middle level in 1996 is still without a building. The middle classes are held under a tree. Mr Badal was able to get first-hand information about the neglect of schools in the border belt.

Since the SAD rally was held within the school premises the teachers, too, had to listen to the poll speeches.

There are many schools in the Majitha constituency without a head or building.

The teachers at Maddipur used the occasion to plead with Mr Badal a school building at the earliest. The school has at least 52 students and six staff members. The staff members complained that the school belongings, which had been stored in a room hired from the primary school, had been stolen. The teachers had to purchase some chairs and a table from their own pocket.

Mr Daljit Singh Pannu, Headmaster, said the school building had failed to come up despite a number of reminders to all concerned.

Another school in Phattubhila village in this constituency is being run from a ‘langar’ building. Though Mr Rajmohinder Singh Majitha, Akali candidate for the Majitha constituency, had allocated Rs 50,000 from the MP’s quota for the school, yet it could not be shifted to a new building that has only one room, that too inaccessible. Hence, the money spent from the MPs quota have gone waste.

The school was upgraded to the middle level in 1996. At least three posts of teacher are lying vacant.

Government Primary School, Shahzada, in this rural constituency is without a boundary wall. Stray cattle can be seen grazing in the school ground. Mr Kuldip Singh Mawa, senior vice-president, Government Teachers Union, Punjab, says there are many schools in the Majitha constituency which are either without a building or are unsafe.

He says it seems that education in the border belt has not been on the ‘priority agenda’ of successive governments in the state.

Schools in Majitha, Bhangali, Chwinda Devi, Mehal Jandiala, Ajaibwali, Tarsikka and Tahli Sahib are without a head. More than 70 per cent schools in the border belt are headless. This speaks volumes about the neglect of the Majha region, he adds.


Home Guards officer booked in land case
By Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA Feb 1— Mr Daljit Singh, District Commandant, Home Guards, posted at Patiala has been booked along with eight more by the district police under charges of cheating, forgery and conspiracy in a 12-year-old land dispute case over the ownership of the famous Sohi Badam Bagh in Threeke village near here.

While complainant Ram Singh has termed the registration of the case as a “victory of justice”, the accused Commandant claims that he has been implicated in the case.

Mr Daljit Singh has submitted an application to SSP Kuldip Singh seeking cancellation of the case against him. The entire case has been referred to the economic offences wing of the police for further inquiry.

Curiously, the designation of the accused has not been mentioned in the FIR registered at the Sadar police station in the third week of January. According to the complainant, the accused wields a lot of clout hence, his designation has not been mentioned.

According to a copy of the FIR which was registered on the recommendation of SSP Kuldip Singh, the main accused Daljit Singh and eight more had hatched a conspiracy to usurp the property of Sohi Badam Bagh owned by Ram Singh. The accused had entered into a ‘benami’ deal under the name of his brother Dalbir Singh and brother-in-law Gurdev Singh.

The FIR states that a police officer of the rank of DSP conducted an inquiry into the complaint. The inquiry report concluded that Abjinder Singh and Daljit Singh had obtained the signatures of Mukhtiar Singh and Nirmal Singh ( brothers of the complainant, who have a share in the disputed property) on blank stamp papers, while they were under the influence of liquor and the paper was used as a power of attorney to grab the property of the complainant.

The inquiry report mentioned in the FIR states that this was done with the connivance of Daljit Singh, Abjinder Singh, Pritam Singh, Bhupinder Singh, Kaur Singh, Teja Singh, Surinder Singh, Dalbir Singh and Gurdev Singh.

The accused police officer, showing a thick file of documents, told TNS that the complainant had a personal grudge against him . He said he had been exonerated in about 10 other inquiries in to the case conducted by several officers.


Prisoners’ kin allege torture by jail staff
From Gurpreet Singh
Tribune News Service

FEROZEPORE, Feb 1 — Controversy over the recent jail violence took a new turn when several relatives of injured prisoners charged the Ferozepore Central Jail staff of torturing their kin in a fit of rage.

The agitated relatives are threatening to move the Punjab State Human Rights Commission for enquiry into the entire episode that left at least 28 persons seriously injured. Categorically accusing the jail staff of assaulting the prisoners with canes, the president of the local Beopar Mandal, Mr Ashwini Mehta, said a delegation would shortly meet the Chief Minister to apprise him of the incident.

Ridiculing the jail authorities’ claim that the incident was a fallout of fight among prisoners, he accused the jail staff of trying to harass the undertrials who had been complaining of poor arrangements.

Mr Mehta, whose brother Rajesh is in jail for murder and is among the injured, claimed that the incident was being given a wrong colour of jail dispute. He also alleged that the figure of the injured could be more whereas the jail authorities had put it at 20.

However, the Jail Superintendent, Mr Bhajan Singh, vehemently denied the charge saying that the incident was sparked by a dispute between two groups of prisoners over a small matter. He added that the jail staff had to cane charge the violent prisoners to prevent any major altercation.

He further said one of the two groups of the prisoners was headed by Rajesh who was allegedly involved in the sensational murder of Kapil Saluja inside a local police station. He said either group wanted to have supremacy in the jail and fought violently.


CBI charge sheet not accepted
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Feb 1 — The Central Bureau of Investigation ( CBI ) has failed to get the charge sheet against four Punjab Police officers, including a former Superintendent of Police, who have been charged with the illegal detention and disappearance of a Babbar Khalsa International— (BKI) activist , accepted by the designated court here .

Following publication of a news report (not in The Tribune) about chargesheeting of these officers in the designated court, sources said the charge sheet had not been accepted by the court .

The court told the CBI officials to present the charge sheet along with the necessary documents. This process had not been undertaken by the CBI till this evening.

The CBI has apparently indicted four police officers, including then SSP Sanjeev Gupta, Inspectors Ramesh Chander and Jagtar Singh and DSP Mohinder Singh, in the case, holding them responsible for the illegal detention and subsequent disappearance of BKI activist Sukhdev Singh, alias Sukha, in 1993 . According to the CBI story, Sukha was summoned to the Sohana police station by then Inspector Ramesh Chander and a meeting was arranged with then SSP Sanjeev Gupta .

According to the CBI , Sukha was accompanied by one Jaspal Singh, who was allowed to leave the police station by the SHO. The CBI claimed that Sukha was tortured subsequently in the CIA cell at Ropar for around one month in March , 1993 . It claimed that Sukha was transferred from one place to another till July when DSP Mohinder Singh Chahal took the activist away and he was not traceable after that .

Meanwhile, sources disclosed that the prime CBI witness in the case, Jaspal Singh, who had allegedly accompanied Sukha to the police station , had retracted the statement given to the CBI. According to the sources , Jaspal Singh appeared in the designated court on January 17 and recorded a statement, alleging that the investigating agency had procured his signatures in the case on blank papers .

Jaspal Singh, in his statement to the designated court, said the CBI was forcing him to implicate some police officers in the case . He alleged that he had never been called to the said police station nor did he meet the then SSP with regard to the case. He alleged that his blank signatures were taken by two persons in the presence of the Jagir Singh, Sarpanch, and that he was not aware of what was later typed on the papers. He also appealed that any statement which he had not made should not be taken into consideration and that he should not be compelled to toe the line of the investigating agency .

The case had been referred to the CBI after Kamaljit Kaur, wife of Sukha , approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which handed over the case to the CBI in 1998.


Punjab for changes in WTO treaty
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Feb 1 — The Punjab Government will submit its proposals for amendments to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) treaty to the Central Government in the first week of March .

Announcing this to newsmen here today, the State Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, said the government was convinced that the treaty would be harmful to both the agricultural and industrial sectors and that it was determined to ensure requisite amendments to the treaty were made.

The Finance Minister said he had already taken up the issue at the meeting of Finance Ministers of the northern region and there was general consensus that amendments should be made to the treaty. He said subsequently the matter had also been taken up with the Central Government.

He said it was strange that while one faction of the Punjab Pradesh Congress was supporting the WTO, the other faction was opposing it. He said those favouring the WTO agreement were playing with the interests of farmers as well as industrialists of the state.

The Finance Minister said the government had raised the revenue of the state, particularly under the sales tax head. He said in 1997, income from sales tax was Rs 14.40 crore while this year the state government expected to earn Rs 3,000 crore from this head. Similarly, while the government had collected Rs 900 crore in small savings in 1997, it would collect Rs 3,000 crore under this head in the current financial year. The government had a target of Rs 3500 crore from small savings in the next financial year.

The Finance Minister said the government had collected Rs 35 crore this year from the sale of lotteries and planned to generate Rs 60 crore from this source in the next financial year .

The government had also raised funds for development projects. He said Rs 900 crore had been earmarked for the completion of the Thein Dam this year and Rs 550 crore for infrastructure development. Besides this, Rs 200 crore would be spent on repairing main and link roads. This project would be completed by June 30.

In the next financial year, the government would also implement a Rs 180 crore project for providing comprehensive irrigation facilities in the state. He said stress would be laid on building further irrigation channels and increasing the capacity of the present ones.


Rejected rice despatched
From Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

RAMPURAPHUL, Feb 1 — Even as the rice being sent to other states by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) authorities in Punjab is no longer seen as a quality product. The Bathinda FCI authorities today despatched about 6000 bags of rice to some unknown destination. Quality-wise, this rice is allegedly from the beyond rejection limit (BRL) category.

Sources said the FCI authorities had despatched that stock of rice which was rejected by the quality control wing about six months ago. The quality control authorities had asked the local FCI authorities to ask the millers to replace that rice with quality rice then.

Sources added that instead of getting the BRL rice replaced with the quality rice from those millers who had supplied it the FCI authorities today despatched the same for an unknown destination from Rampura station where a special rake was procured for the same.

Mr Rama Rao, DM (quality control), who was here today, when contacted, said he had no information about the despatch of BRL rice from Rampura and added that now that it had come to his knowledge he would make arrangements to check the quality of rice which had been despatched.

When asked how he would manage to check the quality of rice which had already been despatched to other states, he said he would scan the records and see whether the rice which had been despatched today was of good quality or not. He added that if any wrong doing on the part of the FCI officials was detected action would be taken against them.

Sources added that the millers who had supplied the poor quality rice managed to get priority order for despatching the same from the local quality control authorities.

Sources added that in June 2000, the higher quality control authorities which carried out a surprise check of various godowns of the FCI in this area found that about 40 consignments comprising 300 bags each were of BRL quality and then immediately the local FCI authorities were asked to replace the same stock with better quality rice.

In the past six months about 20 consignments were replaced with better quality rice and the remaining 20 consignments were yet to be replaced. However, before the BRL stock was replaced with the better quality rice it was allegedly despatched to an unknown destination.

Official sources said the state FCI authorities had been facing various problems on account of the fact that the number of rice consuming states were not accepting the rice supplied to them from Punjab due to its poor quality. In the past one year the state FCI authorities had taken a number of measures to increase the acceptability of rice in the rice consuming states.

Mr Rama Rao pointed out that the exercise of replacement of BRL rice with batter rice at Rampura was still going on. He claimed the FCI authorities would not spare any miller who had supplied bad quality rice.

Mr K.L. Chaudhary, District Manager, FCI, when contacted said he had come to know about this happening when this correspondent talked to him for his version. He added that he would take necessary steps to check any sort of bungling.

Only 73 of 104 rice mills working
From Our Correspondent

MANSA, Feb 1 — According to official sources, in the district out of 104 rice mills, only 73 are running. From Mansa town alone, only 13 mills are working out of the 40. The other 31 rice mills of the district and 27 mills of the Mansa town had been declared defaulters as these millers were liable to pay Rs 19 crore to the state in the district. Sources reveal that these millers are unable to clear their positions.

Surprising, even after these non-operational defaulter mills were milling the paddy of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) on behalf of others who are authorised to deal with the department.

No paddy was given by the state agencies to these mills in the current season as these defaulted in the delivery of 19,300 mt rice to the FCI in the last season.

In the current season, a total of 2,28,478 mt rice was due to the millers. By the end of January, 2001, the millers had delivered only 22,170 mt rice to the FCI, which was much below the expected quantity and if the trend continued like this, the millers would not be able to deliver the rice in lieu of paddy of various agencies by the end of February, 2001, as per their agreement with the state and the FCI.

The Punjab Government had declared nearly 450 rice mills of the state as well as more than 80 per cent of the local mills as defaulters as these mills had failed to deliver the milled rice to the FCI in lieu of the 4 lakh mt paddy provided to them by the paddy procurement agencies for the milling purpose.

The millers alleged that this lapse was due to inability of the FCI in accepting the rice due to lack of storage facilities. As a result, the industry was facing a serious threat and thousands of labourers, particularly from other states, had become jobless.

The government was also losing crores of rupees on this account. Officials of the FCI, on the other hand, blamed on the millers asserting that the rice offered to the FCI by the millers did not meet the specifications laid down by the government.

But the surplus production of paddy and its poor quality and high costs of its production, handling and transportation had created problems for India in the international market, where India offered its rice at $ 230 a tonne while the USA, Thailand and other countries quoted a much lower price of $ 195, hence the FCI insistence on adherence to quality specifications.


Trucks with relief material flagged off
Tribune News Service

SANGRUR, Feb 1 — As many as nine trucks containing 20,000 blankets, 40,000 woollen and cotton clothes and some other items, were today flagged off by the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Anirudh Tiwari, from office of the District Red Cross Society here for victims of the earthquake in Gujarat. This material was collected by the district administration and various social organisations.

Talking to TNS this afternoon here, Mr Tiwari said different organisations, institutions and associations had contributed lakhs of rupees for the quake victims. He said Rs 2 lakh each by the Sangrur Arhtiya Association and Shreyans Industries, Rs 1 lakh each by the District Brick Kiln Owners Association and the Guru Nanak Trust, Rs 50,000 by local General Gurnam Singh Public School and Rs 10,000 and 200 blankets by members of the Sangrur District Bar Association had been contributed for the earthquake victims.

FEROZEPORE: The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Kulbir Singh Sidhu, today flagged off six trucks carrying relief goods for the quake-ravaged Gujarat state. The goods comprise 10,000 blankets, 500 bedsheets and shawls, medicines, dry milk, flour and soaps.

The material was collected through donations pouring in from various villages of the district. Apart from the Red Cross Society officials, patwaris were sent to villages with appeals for donation.

It is learnt that a special truck will carry volunteers from Sappanwali village to Gujarat. Volunteers would lend a helping hand to rescuers and organise kitchens in the affected areas. Besides, the local rice millers have also offered to send two truck loads of rice to Gujarat. 

Srivastva to coordinate relief collection
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Feb 1 — The Punjab Government has appointed Mr C.S. Srivastva, Commissioner for Enquiries, Relief and Rehabilitation, as a nodal officer for coordinating the efforts of various agencies engaged in the task of collecting relief for earthquake victims in Gujarat.

Meanwhile, Mr R.C. Nayyar, Secretary, Civil Aviation, Punjab, said six sorties of Air Force cargo aircraft had been arranged from Adampur airbase for airlifting the relief material collected by people of Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Nawanshahr districts for quake victims. Already five flights had left from Adampur to Gujarat for the purpose, he said. Two sorties from the local airbase had been arranged.

In the next two days, three more sorties would be arranged to airlift 90 tonnes of blankets from the Rajasansi airbase station from where Air Force planes are regularly taking relief material collected from various parts of Punjab to Gujarat.

A spokesman of the government said food material, including 1200 tins of ghee, 20 quintals of tea leaves, a truck-load of besan (gram flour), two trucks of dry milk powder, three trucks of sugar, one truck each of rajmah, dal channa, four trucks of wheat flour and three trucks of dal arhar would leave from Patiala on February 3 for running a community kitchen at Bhuj. Besides, two tankers of kerosene, two tankers of diesel, two tankers of water, 50 trapulins, eight sets of water-proof shamiana etc were also being taken to Bhuj to run community kitchens. The spokesman said the kitchen would function at two places. The Lal Bagh area has been allotted to the SGPC and the Delhi Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Moti Lal Vyayamshala has been allotted to other social and religious organisations from Punjab. The special Principal Secretary to the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Sarvesh Kaushal, has coordinated with the officers concerned of the Gujarat Government to make arrangements in advance to run community kitchens.

Meanwhile, the Punjab IAS Officers Association, at its meeting held here today under the chairmanship of its president, Mr B.R. Bajaj, decided to contribute Rs 1.5 lakh as relief for quake-affected people.

BJP to collect 1 cr for relief
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Feb 1 — The Punjab unit of the BJP has decided to collect Rs 1 crore for Gujarat relief.

This was stated by the party’s general secretary (organisation), Mr Avinash Jaiswal, in a press release. The decision is in response to a call given by the all-India BJP President, Mr Bangaru Laxman.

Meanwhile, Punjab police personnel have voluntarily decided to contribute one day’s salary for the Gujarat quake victims. The money will be given to the state government shortly, according to an official press note. 

Schoolchildren collect funds for quake-hit
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Feb 1 — Along with the whole nation being involved in the relief operation for victims of the Gujarat killer earthquake schoolchildren too are contributing their share by collecting funds on the streets of the city.

The students of class VI of Goodwill Public School located in Paras Ram Nagar today instead of attending classes decided to collect funds for the victims so that they could give whatever little they had to offer.

Mr Suresh Gupta, Principal of the school, led the group of schoolchildren who collected the funds from Paras Ram Nagar, Partap Nagar, Jogi Nagar, Railway Colony and other parts of the city. The children who were carrying banners collected about Rs 11,000.

The National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers if SSD Girls College also collected funds for the victims by visiting residents of different colonies and mohallas. Prof Raj Gupta, NSS in-charge at SSD Girls College led the students who collected Rs 15,000 today.

Professor Gupta said so far they had collected more than Rs 20,000. She added that they would continue collecting funds for the next few days.

She pointed out that they also had asked other NGOs to collect the funds for the victims.


From sandy area to ‘city of lakes’
From Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

BATHINDA: Once a vast stretch of sand-dunes, this town has now developed into the ‘city of lakes’ as it has about four lakes — three constructed by the management of the local Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant (GNDTP) and one by the National Fertilisers Limited (NFL).

Developed around the 1800-year-old Gobind Fort, the origin of Bathinda town is shrouded in mystery. There are different versions about its origin.

According to one legend, King Binay Pal founded it and named it by adding the first letter of his name (‘B’) to the name of his prime minister, Thandu Ram. With the passage of time, it came to be known as Bathinda.

As per Khalifa Mohamad Hassan’s “History of Patiala” book, the name of Bathinda in ancient times was Bikramgarh. In the Phulkian state gazetteer, Bathinda was known as Gobindgarh, after the Gobind Fort.

Bathinda, which is one of the oldest districts of Punjab, had few metalled roads and rail services when came into existence. The town was also not developed in the education field.

When this town was not developed, government employees used to consider a posting to Bathinda and its surrounding areas as a punishment. The residents of other areas used to tease the people of this town as ‘backwards’.

In 1881, there was only one railway line from Rajpura to Bathinda. More railway lines were added later and it became the biggest broad-gauge junction having connections with Rajpura, Delhi, Ferozepore, Rewari, Hanumangarh and Sriganganagar.

Only a 176-km stretch of roads was metalled in the district in 1951, while now it has a 3000-km-long stretch of metalled roads.

The turning point in the development of Bathinda town came in November, 1969, when the foundation stone of the Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant (GNDTP) was laid on the occasion of the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

With the commission of the 110 MW first unit of the GNDTP on September 22, 1974, the phase of development of this town started and it began witnessing industrialisation. With the setting up of a fertiliser factory in the public sector, National Fertilisers Limited (NFL), Bathinda came on the industrial map of the country. Within two-and-a-half decades, a number of industries, including spinning mills, oil mills, vegetable oil units and small fertiliser units, were set up here.

With the rapid industrialisation of the town, a number of hotels and restaurants also came up leading to massive urbanisation in the wake of the population rise in this city. Even the air service by Vayudoot was started between Bathinda and Delhi.

The setting of Asia’s ‘biggest’ cantonment here after the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war gave further impetus to the overall development of town and it got a prominent place on the map of country. The men in uniform brought about an ecological revolution on the sand-dunes and turned the surroundings green.

The town, which had developed as major cotton trading centre, houses a rose garden, mini zoo, historical fort, Asia’s biggest cantonment, radio station, relay centre of Doordarshan and big oil dump.

The town can further grow into a major industrial centre of the county if the Centre sets up an oil refinery at Phulokhari, near Rama town, of the district.


Bigamy, foeticide on the rise
Sequel to quest for male child
From Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

BATHINDA, Feb 1 — The desire to get a male child among the rural and urban middle class families in this region has given rise to instances of bigamy and foeticide.

The instances of bigamy have been rising among the rural families while the trend of female foeticide has been prominent significantly among the urban families.

According to information gathered by TNS, there are about eight instances of bigamy in Naruana village of this district which have been solemnised by the husbands with the consent of their wives.

Wives who have been unable to bear a male child have been giving consent to their husbands to go in for a second marriage so that their family can have a son.

The shift from monogamy to bigamy in this area has been attributed to the fact that most of the rural families have the notion that there should be a male child in the family who can inherit the agricultural piece of land.

In Naruana village where some experts working on issues related to gender equality have carried out a survey, some of those who have married the second time explained they had done this for a male child as daughters and wives could not be sent to the fields.

The survey revealed that some of the wives had undergone pre-natal sex determination tests and subsequent abortion after they came to know that they had been carrying a female foetus time and again before allowing their husbands to solemnise the second marriage. In certain cases, the first wives were actively involved in finding a suitable match for their husbands and taking care of the male child born out of the second wedlock.

The survey further revealed that in Bathinda district where the male and female sex ratio was very disturbing the trend of second marriage was catching on without the deterrent of police action under the IPC as a complaint by the affected party was necessary to initiate criminal proceedings against the husband or the second wife.


NGO turns messiah, gives sight to boy
From Harjeet Singh

BATHINDA, Feb 1 — Sahiba, unable to see the world earlier can now tell you that his face is round, complexion dark, hair black and he is wearing his shirt inside out, while looking into a mirror.

Sahiba, who was born blind about 14 years ago, has gained the vision in his left eye and can see which, a month ago, was a dream for him.

Sahiba’s parents died after two years of his birth and he had been living with his sister, elder brother and brother-in-law ever since, who came here from Kolkata in search of some work about seven years back.

It was the lack of awareness in his brother and sister which forced him to spend his childhood in complete darkness. But the Divine Eye Research Foundation (DERF), an NGO, turned out to be a saviour for him.

Sahiba was selected for eye operation at a camp ogranised by the DERF at a slum area near Teen Koni. Dr Amar Sethi of Sethi Eye Hospital transplanted the cornea of Sahiba. All expenses for the operations were arranged collectively by the DERF, Dr Sethi and Sahiba’s relatives.

Mr Kamal Kumar, elder brother of Sahiba, when contacted said that it was their weak economic position coupled with their lack of awareness that Sahiba had to go without vision for so long.

He added that Sahiba could not have gained vision, had the DERF been not organised the Eye check-up camp.

Mrs Jully Devi, Sahiba’s sister, now have various plans for Sahiba’s future. She said that they would make efforts to educate Sahiba so that he could leed a good life and be not like them.

Dr Amar Sethi, when contacted, said that it was possible to give vision to the persons born blind through proper treatment.

He added that another operation (Intra-occicular-lens) on Sahiba’s right eye would be conducted shortly and after the operation he would be able to see with his both eyes. He pointed out that now the sight in Sahiba’s left eye was normal and he would take time to identify various things and to develop his brain faculties.

Mr Rakesh Kumar Narula, president, DERF, said that the organisation was working for the poorer sections of society which were facing various problems and were not able to bear expenses.


HC stays order on building club
By Our Legal Correspondent

CHANDIGARH, Feb 1 — On a writ petition filed by the Country Club (India) Ltd., Hyderabad, challenging the order of the Managing Director of the Punjab State Electronics Development and Production Corporation Ltd., Chandigarh, directing the petitioner to stop any activity for setting up a club at Plot No. A-38 at SAS Nagar, a Division Bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court today stayed the operation of the impugned order and issued notice of motion to the respondents for February 2.

In the writ petition, which came up before Mr Justice N.K. Sodhi and Mr Justice R.C. Kathuria, the petitioner submitted that the respondent-corporation had transferred land in Phase VIII, Mohali for development of electronics.

The corporation had mentioned that there would be a club building. In 1988 to 1990, the corporation constructed the club building on a 3.5 acre plot marked as ‘Club House area’. But since the corporation was not able to set up the club it advertised in various newspapers on August 15, last year inviting offers for setting up the club at the said plot for which the petitioner-company applied and it was leased out the building and land for 99 years.

The petitioner-company started developing the infrastructure for the club and so far it had incurred an expenditure of Rs 65,48,668.00. It had also recruited staff and 275 members were on its rolls.

It was contended on behalf of the petitioner that there was some animosity between the Managing Director of the corporation, Mr S.S. Pirzada, and the Cooperation Minister, and due to this the minister did not approve the setting up of the club and had directed the club’s Managing Director to convey his order.

The petitioner submitted that the order was mala fide and that the reasons given were baseless because the club building was constructed by the corporation and no objection was raised against it at that time and that the high tension wires are not material, because they were 13 metres away from the building.


Dal Khalsa for probe against DSP
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Feb 1 — The Dal Khalsa yesterday asked the Punjab State Human Rights Commission to direct the state government to conduct an inquiry against the DSP of Fatehgarh police district for beating up and detaining the president of the All-India Shiromani Youth Akali Dal, Mr Karnail Singh Panjoli.

Condemning the police for harassing and humiliating the leader, Dal Khalsa leaders Satnam Singh Paonta Sahib and Kanwar Pal Singh said the officer concerned should be removed from the post.


Arrangements for census reviewed
From Our Correspondent

FARIDKOT, Feb 1 — A meeting of senior officers of six districts — Bathinda, Faridkot, Ferozepore, Mansa, Moga and Muktsar — was held here today to review the census arrangements in the district.

The Deputy Commissioners of these districts were present on the occasion. Mr Jagpal Singh Sandhu, Commissioner, Ferozepore and Faridkot divisions, who presided over the meeting, later said 12,427 enumerators and supervisors had been deployed to complete the census work in 9,710 enumeration blocks formed in these districts.

Directions had been issued to all Deputy Commissioners to seek the cooperation of voluntary organisations and propagate the programme through cable TV and other means.

Mr Inderjeet Singh, Director, Census, Punjab, who was also present at the meeting, said the census work would start from February 9 and would be completed by the end of the month.

He said the staff would visit houses during the stipulated period and collect detailed information in a 39 column household schedule containing 23 main questions and 16 sub-questions.

He appealed to the people to cooperate with the staff.


NFL’s contract staff stage dharna
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Feb 1 — The contract workers of the National Fertilisers Limited (NFL) today staged a dharna at the factory gate against the alleged bullying by the company’s new contractor. They shouted slogans against the contractor and the NFL management.

About 160 workers, who have been working as contract labourers in the NFL for about 16-19 years, alleged that the new contractor terminated their services whereas their contract should have been extended. Today was the first day of the new annual contract under which the new contractor as discontinued the services of the old contract labourers and appointed new ones.

Nga Ram, one of the ‘terminated’ contract employees, said that he had been working on contract in the NFL for the past 18 years and getting benefits like the GPF, family pension, the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) bonus, allowances for shoes, cycle and other benefits. However, the new contractor had told them that they would be paid as per the Minimum Wages Act of the state government, he said.

Mr Upinder Singh, district vice-president, Lal Jhanda NFL Majdoor Union, said that the contractor came in the morning shift with two trucks carrying ‘labourers’ and cars loaded with armed goondas. “The contractor threatened us with dire consequences and they were flaunting arms openly, which were recovered by the Punjab Police personnel. Although we are working on the contract system, but under law our services cannot be discontinued. How can a labourer be made jobless under the laws”, he asked.

A senior official of the NFL denied the allegations of the labourers. As per labour laws, the contract workers were assured of some basic benefits, which include the GPF, ESIC, minimum wages and bonus. They had been getting these benefits and would continue to get them as it was the duty of the NFL to ensure that these mandatory provisions were fulfilled, he claimed. However, if the labourers had ‘enjoying’ certain additional benefits given by the old contractors, we can not ensure that the extra benefits would continue. We are only responsible for mandatory laws,” he added.

An officer of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) on duty at the NFL said that no one was allowed into the factory with arms or sharp-edged weapons. What ever occurred outside the NFL premises was under the purview of the Punjab Police, he said.

Mr Satpal Bharti, State President, Center of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), alleged that the new contractor had bribed NFL officials. The NFL official were biased against the labourers as they had demanded that their services should be regularised and had filed a petition before the labour commission in this regard, he further alleged.

Dr Jatinder Jain, SSP, said that two rifles had been recovered from the contractor’s men but a case would be registered against them only after the medical reports of the labourers were received. 

PSEB employees hold rally
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Feb 1 — Hundreds of employees of the Punjab State Electricity Board held a rally here today to press the PSEB authorities to accept their demands.

The rally was a part of the ongoing struggle of the employees against the alleged discriminatory policies of the higher officials of the board. The rally, organised near the office of the Superintending Engineer, was attended by the employees from the Western Zone, Bathinda.

Dr Joginder Dayal, secretary, CPI, Punjab, while addressing the rally, said the Akali Dal-BJP combine government had been imposing bans on peaceful agitations of the employees by implementing Section 144 since it assumed power in Punjab.

Mr Karam Chand Bhardwaj, general secretary of the PSEB Employees Federation, said the police had registered false cases against members of the union to sabotage their agitation.


Akhir Kadon Tak leaves a deep impact
From Our Correspondent

PATIALA, Feb 1 — An unbending freedom fighter who will not compromise on his principles, a family which wants him to take benefits from the government for his role in the freedom movement to improve their lot, a cruel society which only pays lip service to freedom fighters — this is the theme of the play “Akhir Kadon Tak”, a unique example undertaken by the Department of Theatre and Television of Punjabi University.

The example is unique as the play is inspired by the life and times of Nirbhai Singh, a local resident and junk dealer, who participated in the freedom movement and is presently gripped by frustration as he cannot come to terms with the present-day reality and feels this is not the freedom he struggled bitterly to achieve.

The role of the protagonist, Nirbhai Singh, in the play is excellently played by Ambardeep in an aged role, while the youthful exuberance of the young Nirbhai Singh is well characterised by Zahoor Zaidi. Raman Mittal played the role of Pande, a politician. The playwriter is Ashish Kaushal, who exudes confidence in the role. The sober music which had a touch of pathos and the situational couplets are provided by Shamin Iqbal and other artistes which added extra interest to the play. The impact of the play was also powerful due to a good script by Rana Ranbir who said he had written it in cooperation with the former freedom fighter.

Talking to this correspondent, the play director, Dr Gurcharan Singh, who is also Head of the Theatre and Television Department, said the idea of the play germinated after he read a book on Nirbhai Singh, a local junk dealer who had participated in the freedom movement. He said following this Nirbhai Singh, who is presently 84, was associated with the project and helped in the writing of the script as well as interacting with the department students to explain the pre-independence and post-independence era.

Nirbhai, who had moist eyes on many an occasion during the staging of the play in the theatre studio of the department, said the department students had given full justice to his character during an interaction later on. He said some of the scenes depicted in the play, including the assertion of his family members that they had not been able to gain by his freedom fighter status, continued to haunt him and that his grandson had commented on the issue a few days back following the first staging of the play.

Nirbhai Singh is a bitter man today. “This is not the freedom I fought for”, he says, adding he may not have participated in the freedom movement if he had known that these would be its fruits. He said the common man had nowhere to turn to for relief in today’s society, adding the one thing he rued most was the nexus between the anti-social elements and politicians which had eaten into the very fabric of present-day Indian society.

Dr Gurcharan Singh said the play had served both as a new theatre experiment as well as served the cause of making the students of the department aware of the realities around them. Nirbhai Singh was honoured following the staging of the play. 


Repair houses, orders DC
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Feb 1 — Mr Jaspal Singh, Deputy Commissioner, today directed the local Municipal Council authorities to carry out the necessary repairs of those houses located in Mohalla Norhian and Gali Gangaramwali of Ward 24 where cracks had appeared due to seepage of water through an underground damaged water pipe.

In a press note issued here today, Mr Jaspal Singh said that the Municipal Council authorities had been asked to submit to him a report after carrying out the repairs.

As many as 35 families of these localities have been living under constant danger after the cracks appeared in their dwellings a few days ago. The residents said thick cracks had appeared in their dwellings when the underground water pipe damaged their foundations.

The district administration issued the directions after taking notice of the news item in this connection published in The Tribune.

Panchayats told to ensure security
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Feb 1 — Mr Jaspal Singh, Deputy Commissioner, has ordered village panchayats of the district to ensure security arrangements for adequate protection of water bodies railway lines, and canals in the district. He has ordered that village panchayats of the district would ensure that male adult residents of villages falling under respective panchayats perform security duty. The members would ensure that no damage is done to the water bodies or other public property in the district.


 Pak national arrested
From Our Correspondent

GURDASPUR, Feb 1 — The police yesterday arrested Razak, a Pakistan national, after he sneaked into the Indian territory by crossing the Ravi.

A case under Sections 3, 34 and 20 of the IPC and 14 of the Foreign Act has been registered.

The SSP, Gurdaspur, Mr Varinder Kumar, said a police party led by SHO Narot Jaimal Singh apprehended Razak who tried to flee from the spot on seeing the police party near Kajle village.

He said Razak was a resident of Sagial under the Jaffarwal police station in Narowal district of Pakistan.


3 killed in road accident
From Our Correspondent

JALANDHAR, Feb 1 — Three persons were killed and two injured when their jeep collided with a truck at Chuggittee here last night.

According to the police, the deceased have been identified as Paramjit Singh Sandhu, a resident of Chakk Mukand village in Majitha, and Santokh Singh. The third was yet to be identified.

The injured Randhir Singh and Lakhwinder Singh were admitted to the local Civil Hospital. A case has been registered.

SP, DSP booked for kidnapping
Tribune News Service

SANGRUR, Feb 1— The Malerkotla police has registered a case against Surjit Singh, SP, and Gurmail Singh, DSP, of the Punjab police, for allegedly kidnapping a school teacher in March, 1994.

The Malerkotla police said tonight that both police officers had been booked under Sections 365 and 34 of the IPC on the orders of the court.

Mrs Bhagwant Kaur, wife of Ajmer Singh, who was a teacher in Lasoi village school, had alleged that her husband had been kidnapped by the police officers in March, 1994.

It is said that in March, 1994, the SP, Surjit Singh, and the DSP, Gurmail Singh, were posted at Malerkotla as DSP and inspector, respectively.


PUTA dharna against ‘victimisation’ 
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Feb 1 — The Punjabi University Teachers Association (PUTA) executive today organised a dharna in front of the office of the Vice-Chancellor to protest against the victimisation meted out to Dr K.C. Singhal who had been removed from headship of the School of Business Management, besides stopping of the career advancement scheme (CAS) and other issues.

The dharna was organised for a two hours and was attended by some other teachers, besides the PUTA executive. However, three executive members aligned with the United Teachers Front, which lost the race for control of the student body, did not participate in the dharna.

The dharna was addressed by PUTA President Balwinder Singh Khaira, Secretary Balwinder Singh, Democratic Teachers Front convener Ranjit Singh Ghuman, Centre for University Teachers convener Joga Singh, Progressive Teachers Council convener Raghubir Chand Gupta and Free Thinkers Forum convener K.S. Sidhu.

The speakers pointed out that Dr Singhal had been falsely charged with mala fide intentions for his vocal views on issues concerning the teaching community. They said the Vice-Chancellor had taken action against Dr Singhal without giving him any chance to prove his innocence in the case.

The speakers said the interviews under the CAS had been stopped under the pretext of amendment to the university rules. They said this pretext was false as all other universities of the state had already completed the process of promotions under the scheme while only a few interviews had been held under the scheme in the university.

They alleged the Vice-Chancellor was exploiting the scheme to humiliate the teachers. They said earlier when some interviews were held a majority of the teachers were first not promoted and were later promoted only after they submitted humiliating undertakings. They said the VC's attitude with respect to the CAS was so negative that even at the meeting of the State Council for Higher Education he declared that no interviews for promotion from Reader to Professor would be held until the University Grants Commission took a decision on the issue of sending an observer for such interviews.

They also claimed that a significant feature of the administrative style of the VC was to create terror amongst the university community. They said during the past week itself about 15 FIRs had been registered against members of the university community without any provocation.

They also alleged that the VC by appointing all officials ''till further orders'' had caused instability in the administration and no decision could be taken in such a situation. They also condemned the centralisation of powers in the hands of the Vice-Chancellor, saying even the registration of Phd degree for any subject ranging from defence to drama was decided by the Vice-Chancellor.

The teachers appealed to the Punjab Government, particularly the Governor, to look into the demands of the teachers and the functioning of the Vice-Chancellor so that the university could be saved from further erosion of moral values and academic standards.

Vinod Khanna GND University Syndicate
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Feb 1 — The Governor of Punjab in the capacity of Chancellor, Guru Nanak Dev University, has nominated Mr Tarlochan Singh, Vice-Chairman, Minority Commission, New Delhi., Mr Vinod Khanna, Member of Parliament, Gurdaspur, and Prof Jagir Singh Bhullar, Chief Parliamentary Secretary, Punjab, on the Syndicate of the university for a period of one year from July 1 this year.

The Chancellor has also nominated 23 members on the Senate of the university up to June 30, 2002.


New scheme hits PCO owners
From Our Correspondent

ROPAR, Feb 1 — The new scheme launched by the government, including local call facility up to 200 km and LPG for all, have been welcomed by the consumers, but have spelled doom for thousands employed through public call offices (PCOs) and in the public distribution scheme (PDS) depots.

There are above 725 PCOs in Ropar alone, that provided employment to about 2000 persons. However, after the localisation of calls upto 200 km, the business at most of the PCOs has been reduced by about 80 per cent. Raman Kumar who had recently opened a PCO at Ropar said that his daily income before the scheme ranged between Rs 500 and Rs 1000. However, now it has been reduced to just Rs 100-Rs 200 daily. He said that his monthly earning through the PCO used to range between Rs 5000 and Rs 7000. He had also employed a part-time assistant who now had to be shunted.

The local PCO Owners Association has urged the BSNL authorities to increase their commission to make the venture financially viable for them. Many of them are also considering closing down the PCOs as they cannot even manage the shop rents.

The Telecom District Manager (TDM), Ropar, Mr J.S. Sahota, when asked admitted that the new scheme had rendered the PCO business unprofitable. He, however, added that the scheme had been launched to benefit the consumers. In addition to it a new scheme called the cyber dhabhas, have also been launched to create new employment opportunities, he added.

The PCO owners, however, say that it is very difficult for them to start cyber dhabhas due to relatively higher investment needed to start them and uncertainty of return in the smaller towns.

In an another scheme the Punjab Government has decided to surrender its kerosene quota for 100 per cent supply by the Union Petroleum Ministry. The scheme is proposed to be launched initially in Ropar, Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur districts. If it proves to be successful then it will be implemented in the entire state. The increased supply of the LPG will be given through the existing gas agencies and a few new agencies proposed to be opened at the local points.

However, the stoppage of the kerosene quota will render those running PDS depots jobless. There are 570 PDS depots in Ropar alone, that give employment to about 1000 persons. However, the depot owners, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that nobody would run the PDS depots after the kerosene quota was stopped.

Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Food and Civil Supplies Minister, Punjab, also declined to comment about the future of the depot owners after the stoppage of the kerosene quota. 

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