Monday, February 12, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




Efforts on to end ‘liquor war’
By Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, Feb 11 — With barely a month left for the auction of liquor vends in the district, efforts are on to reach a compromise between the two ‘well-known’ warring groups of liquor contractors, each actively supported by two Akali ministers.

The efforts to bring about a compromise assume significance in the wake of the events attached to the liquor business last year. The Excise Department faced a torrid time not only because it was being sandwiched in the fight for supremacy between the two groups but was also under tremendous pressure to curb the smuggling of liquor. It also faced a hard time in providing liquor vends to the new licensees.

The two warring groups too had a difficult time. According to insiders, both groups faced huge financial losses. While the new licensees suffered an estimated loss of over Rs 30,000 daily, the other group, which could not manage to grab the desired hold in the liquor business is also said to have suffered a loss of more than Rs 15,000 daily.

It is in this background that certain liquor contractors have now started organising meetings between the liquor groups for reaching at a compromise. They have assumed the role of mediators as they have suffered huge losses in the struggle this financial year.

A stormy meeting was held last evening in the city. According to the insiders, a proposal for having a share in the 60:40 ratio in the liquor vends was mooted but without success. With the excise policy not allowing the formation of any syndicate, the existing licensees have been offered 60 per cent of the share in the next financial year.

It has also been learnt that the Excise Department has stressed on following last year’s policy and not accepted any kind of compromise offer so far. Sources said the Excise Department was contemplating giving licences to large number of small groups to prevent the incidents of the past.

According to the sources, the Chief Minister Mr Parkash Singh Badal was also trying for a rapprochement between the two parties. The reasons attributed for his interests were that the Badal family had drawn a flak from various quarters for the struggle within the family on the liquor issue.

Secondly, with the assembly elections coming up next year, the government does not want to make more enemies and also have financial interests in mind.

The district is quite significant as far as the revenue from Liquor vends’ auction is concerned. However, last year the Ministry of Excise and Taxation managed to break the syndicate of liquor contractors as they were selling liquor at exorbitant rates. The breaking of the syndicate brought other problems in its wake when one group, actively supported by an Akali minister and a former Cabinet minister, did not allow the new licensees to work smoothly. Most of them could not even get a permanent vend till the middle of the current financial year.

Then, the problem of smuggling also surfaced. The new licensees suffered huge losses as the other group openly started selling liquor at cheaper rates. Even mobile liquor vends were seen in operation. Due to the smuggling, the liquor business remained tense throughout the year. A number of cases were registered and several persons were injured in violence between the warring groups.


Majitha: many army men may miss ballot
By Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

MAJITHA, Feb 11 — Even as the Election Commission has created a history of sorts by giving the ‘shortest’ time for electioneering, more than 5,000 serving army men who are posted in far-flung areas like Leh won’t be able to cast their votes.

Amritsar district tops the country with the maximum number of ex-servicemen. Similarly, the rural Majitha constituency has about 25,000 exservicemen. This is the reason that the newly formed Rashtriya Raksha Dal (RRD), headed by Col Harsharan Singh Sandhu (retd), chose the Majitha constituency for contesting the Assembly elections.

Col J.S. Bal (retd) is the RRD candidate from Majitha. The first Deputy Defence Minister, Mr Gurbax Singh, belonged to Majitha.

In a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner, the RRD expressed shock over the ‘shortest’ time given for electioneering. The ruling SAD-BJP combine and the Congress had already castigated the Election Commission for not giving sufficient time for electioneering. “ This is the first election in the country which has given the shortest time for canvassing,” said RRD leaders. Moreover, over 5000 serving army men, who could be the potential voters for the RRD, won’t be able to send their ballots in time. As per the procedure, the Election Commission sends the ballot papers to army centres which send these to the respective units. However, the entire exercise won’t be completed this time because of the shortest time for electioneering.

The campaigning by former Generals for Colonel Bal has added colour to the electioneering even as Majitha has the distinction of being the motherland of 22 Generals of the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Though it is clear that Colonel Bal won’t be able to get a ‘respectable number’ of votes yet the election campaign has thrown up an opportunity to highlight a number of issues concerning exservicemen.

It is perhaps for the first time in the history of Indian politics that two former Generals K.S. Gill and B.S. Randhawa and Air Vice Marshal G.S. Punia (retd) along with a large number of exservicemen have taken active part in the election campaign. Though the former Generals and the Air Vice Marshal and other office-bearers of the RRD are aware of the fact that they won’t be able to save the security deposit of Colonel Bal yet the issues of exservicemen stood highlighted in a big way.

The point to ponder as to why the highly disciplined and decorated soldiers have entered the political arena which was earlier considered a taboo in the defence services. Lt Col Avtar Singh Gill said the “ corrupt and the inefficient” had reduced innocent people to the status of beggars. The RRD accused both major political parties of the state — the Congress and the SAD-BJP — for adopting ‘corrupt’ practices to woo the voters.

RRD candidate Colonel Bal said earlier the defence forces had protected the country from the external aggression and now there was need to protect the voters from the politician-criminal nexus. The RRD leadership said that the party would contest all 117 Assembly seats in the forthcoming general election.

Knowing that the Majitha constituency has a good number of ex-servicemen, Capt Kanwaljit Singh (retd), Finance Minister, announced sops for them. In a signed press note, the Finance Minister promised to restore the respect and honour of exservicemen. Interestingly, Capt Kanwaljit Singh admitted that though 1,700 families of the war heroes had been honoured with gallantry awards, many of them were leading miserable life. He said the state had taken steps to ensure the upliftment of such families. Capt Kanwaljit Singh said 11 families of war heroes would get Rs 2 lakh each every year. The war heroes would get the market rate of lands allotted to them for their acts of bravery. The state government had created a special cell for the redressal of the grievances of ex-servicemen and their families.


Shift SPs from home district: Amarinder
Tribune News Service

MAJITHA, FEB 11 — PPCC President Amarinder Singh has in a complaint to the Chief Election Commissioner sought immediate transfer of two SPs who are still posted in their home district here despite the code of conduct.

Quoting a letter of Mr K.R. Prasad, the then Secretary, Election Commission, the PPCC chief said no senior police officer could be posted in his home district during the general election or a byelection. The letter dated January 10, 1998, addressed to the Chief Secretaries of states, and the Administrators of union territories directed that police officers should be shifted from their home districts at the time of elections.

The complaint alleged that the SP (CID) and the SP (unit-smuggling), who belong to this district, were directly or indirectly helping the ruling party in the Majitha byelection.


Code violated
From Our Correspondent

TARN TARAN, Feb 11 — Allegedly violating the Code of Conduct, Mr Ajay Pal Singh Meerankot, MLA from the Vidhan Sabha constituency of Jandiala Guru, yesterday announced a grant of Rs 10,000 to Government Middle School, Shahabpur, while presiding over its annual prize distribution function. Sarpanches and other prominent persons of the area, participated the function. 


Punjab all set for ‘green schools’
By Sarbjit Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Feb 11 — Punjab is all set to have “green panchayats, green school, colleges and other institutions.”

The objective behind declaring “green panchayats,” etc, is to promote tree and forest cover in the state and also to improve the environment. redominantly an agricultural state, Punjab figures among the states having the lowest tree and forest cover.

In fact, it is a grow trees and earn money scheme for panchayats, schools and other institutions. The panchayat having the best tree cover in its village in the land owned by it will be declared a green panchayat” and also get a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh. Those securing the second and third places will get a cash award of Rs 75,000 and Rs 50,000, respectively.

Likewise academic or other institutions having the best tree cover will also get a prize of Rs 1 lakh. Those declared second and third will get a prize of Rs 75,000 and Rs 50,000 respectively. The state government has already sanctioned the award money. Punjab is perhaps first state in the country to come out with such a novel scheme.

A committee of experts will be set up soon to evaluate the tree cover of panchayats, schools and other institutions interested in winning the prizes, said Mr Gurmeet Singh, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Punjab. He said the state government would invite applications from the panchayats and schools, etc, for participating in the “green competition.” The panchayat and the institution declared best by the expert committee would automatically qualify for the first prize, he said.

The main criterion for getting the first, second and third prizes would be to see the number of saplings planted by the participant, school or college concerned during the past one year and how many of these survived.

Mr Gurmeet Singh said that though the overall cover in a particular village and institution would also be taken into account for deciding the winners, the expert committee would focus on the fresh lot of trees grown by the aspirant to win the prize.

The Union Government wanted that each state in the country should have at least 33 per cent tree and forest cover. At a recent meeting held in Coimbatore, the Union Government reviewed the forest cover of all states and discussed the problems faced by the officials concerned in improving the environment. The Forest Ministers, the heads of Pollution Control Boards and other officials concerned from all states were present at the meeting.

But in a state like Punjab and also Haryana, it was not possible because of agriculture. Punjab, which had only 8 per cent forest cover, was focusing on enhancing the tree cover. Mr Gurmeet Singh said Punjab’s forest and tree cover together touched a figure of 11 per cent. Punjab had no area where forests could be developed. People could only be motivated to grow trees in all available vacant land belonging to panchayats in the villages and also on the premises of government institutions like schools, colleges, zila parishad offices, hospitals, etc.


Living a life of luxury
By Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

JALANDHAR, FEB 11 — The flashy and opuient lifestyle of the Babbar Khalsa chief, Wadhawa Singh Babbar, and other militant leaders has led to discord among the rank and life.

Wadhawa Singh, it is learnt, has been leading a luxurious life in a high-security palatial house in Lahore’s posh Model Town area with his family. His family, including his son Kaka, has a fleet of expensive cars and an array of mobile phones to flaunt as is the case with Dawood Ibrahim, who is based in a posh residential area of Karachi. All these facilities have been provided to the Babbar Khalsa chief, who keeps touring foreign countries, by the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, which has also been providing security cover to the family.

The International Sikh Youth Federation chief, Lakhbir Singh Rode, has also been put up in the Model Town area in an equally good house.

Most of the militant leaders, including Wadhawa Singh and Rode, have thrown their monetary stakes in the export-import business and have been earning a lot of money in dollars from it, sources said, adding that though the leaders of different militant groups feel the pinch of being “on the mercy” of others yet their flashy lifestyle, also observed by Sikh jathas from India, have led to discord among the rank and file. This has led to alienation.

A second ranking leader of the Babbar Khalsa, who had pushed at least 10 ISI-trained militants into India through the Jammu and Kashmir border and who were all killed in encounters, got annoyed with Wadhawa Singh and alleged that the latter was not committed to the movement as he had not made his 18-year-old son Kaka join the militant “mainstream”. This revelation was made by a senior official of an intelligence agency on condition of anonymity.

Wadhawa Singh, it is learnt, has a penchant for expensive cars. He reportedly paid a hefty sum to get back one of his cars, which was stolen and eventually found by his men in the Pathan-dominated Peshawar area, following the refusal of Pathans to return the vehicle which had been “purchased” by them from somebody.

Several members of the jatha which went to Pakistan under the leadership of Baba Mangal Singh Satlani recently sensed “something was going wrong” in the ranks of different militant groups. They also felt something amiss in the equation between militants and the ISI.

“Though we had come to know that Wadhawa Singh and Rode were there in Nankana Sahib and Lahore but unlike in the past they were not allowed to meet the jatha members,” said one such member. He added that Gajinder Singh, who has been accused of hijacking an Indian Airlines plane and has been putting up in Lahore, broke into tears as “he was missing his motherland”.

On the other hand, the brewing discontentment among a section of militants has no meaning for a few people who are “committed” to the cause and have no intention of making money.


Villagers suffer as doc on VIP duty
By Gurpreet Singh
Tribune News Service

FEROZEPORE, Feb 11 — Tempers are running high at Sherkhan village, near here, over the continued absence of an MBBS doctor from the local dispensary on account of VIP duty.

While Dr Amit Arora is reportedly on VIP duty with the Chief Minister’s family, both villagers and the Congress are accusing him of “neglecting” the Sherkhan dispensary, his actual place of posting.

As the dispensary caters to at least 12 villages, patients are forced to consult either quacks or private clinics.

Former sarpanch of the village Jagdeep Singh and former Congress legislator Ravinder Singh Babbal alleged that Dr Amit Arora had not been reporting for duty for the past several months.

They demanded that either a new doctor should be posted at the dispensary or Dr Amit Arora be relieved from VIP duty. Mr Babbal even demanded an inquiry against Dr Arora, who allegedly comes to the village once in a blue moon just to mark attendance so as to draw his salary.

Although the villagers lamented that repeated pleas to the authorities had fallen on deaf ears, Civil Surgeon Prem Lata Sood claimed that she was not aware of any complaint having been made to her office in this connection. She, however, disclosed that Dr Arora was on VIP duty but claimed that he occasionally visited Sherkhan village. She, however, was unable to explain that how a doctor can be allowed to neglect his own area of posting on the pretext of discharging VIP duty. When contacted Dr Arora admitted he was on VIP duty with the Chief Minister’s family. He pleaded helplessness as being an employee he cannot refuse to attend to VIPs. He assured that he would report for duty at Sherkhan village at the earliest.


Sobha Singh society honours artists
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Feb 11 — Mr Mehar Singh, president, Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi, Chandigarh and Dr Saroj Chaman, Head, Department of Fine Arts, Punjabi University, Patiala were among the recipients of awards given here today by the Sardar Sobha Singh Memorial Chittarkar Society to honour prominent artists belonging to the region.

The awards were given away by the Deputy Commissioner Mr Jaspal Singh, at a function organised at the Teachers Home on the concluding day of the five-day 10th art festival organised by the society.

The other artists who received the award were Mr Amar Singh vice-president, Kalpna Fine Art Society, Ludhiana, Mr Hardarshan Singh Sohal, president, Norah Richard Memorial Art and Theatre, Mr Gursewak Singh from New Delhi, Mr Anil Kumar from Sirsa and Mr Baldev Singh from Bathinda.

The festival drew huge crowd not only from the city but also from the surrounding areas. In all 175 paintings were on display which were the work of 125 artists.

The artists had come from Bathinda and its adjoining districts. Some of the artists had come from Sirsa in Haryana also.

During the festival various competitions were also organised like on the spot inter-school painting competition and a debate on art and life of Padam Shri S. Sobha Singh.

On the concluding day all participants were given prizes. The function was presided over by the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Jaspal Singh.

Earlier, the Deputy Commissioner took a round of the exhibition along with Mr Mehar Singh and Dr Saroj Chaman. Mr Jaspal Singh appreciated the work of the artists.

Mr Amarjeet Singh, president of the society, said that the aim of the society was to promote art in this region. He said that their society conducted workshops and organised slide shows for the betterment of the art.

He said that they would give a memorandum to the Punjab Government for the establishment of an arts college in the region and an art gallery in the city.

He said that the only art college situated at Chandigarh could not cater to the needs of the aspiring students.

He added that every year the students who wanted to get admission in that college could not do so, because of the limited number of seats.


Higher pay sought for accounts cadre
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Feb 11 — The Officers (Accounts) Association of the Punjab State Electricity Board has urged the state government to appoint the Member (Finance and Accounts) of the board from one of the serving heads of the Department of Accounts and Finance wing of the PSEB.

The association said that only a competent and bold officer from within the PSEB could help bring the board out of the financial crisis. The post has become vacant following the appointment of Mrs Ajanta Dayalan, as Member of the state Power Tariff Regulatory Commission. Additional charge of the post has been given to an IAS officer of the Punjab Government.

Meanwhile, Mr V.K. Goel, general secretary of the association, said the board authorities were resorting to “discrimination” against the accounts cadre employees in the matter of the revision of pay scales. He said the pay scales sanctioned by the board to various categories of officers of the accounts cadre were not commensurate with their professional qualifications and well as their duties and responsibilities.

Urging the Board authorities to end this “injustice”, the association sought a grade of Rs 10,700-15,350 for accounts officer. It also sought the designation of 50 per cent of the posts of this cadre as Senior Accounts Officer after four years of service by giving a promotional increment.

For Deputy Chief Accounts Officer, the association sought a pay scale of Rs 14,500-19,100, for Chief Accounts Officer Rs 15,800 -21,110, for head of department, Rs 18,600-23,100 and senior head of department Rs 22,400-24,500.


Sardar Anjum: prepare kids to be assertive
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Feb 11 — Dr Sardar Anjum today gave a call to prepare the future generations to be positive, assertive and not to have a give up attitude. Dr Sardar Anjum, who was addressing the concluding session of the two-day annual conference of the Rotary Club at Dashmesh Auditorium, said he was immensely pained during the decade-long turmoil in Punjab but his great faith in Punjabiat and their boundless love for life and positive attitude had helped turn the tide for good which had helped in the restoration of peace in the state.

He dwelt at length about starting a foundation called “Surkhab” for empowering children who could make the country strong and face challenges posed by the weak political leadership. India had tremendous potential but leaders and bureaucrats were unable to give the lead and channelise their energies. He left if a youngster could achieve excellent results in foreign countries why not in his own country.

Quoting extensively from his famous book of poetry, Dr Anjum lashed out at the corrupt politicians who were only selling dreams and misleading the innocent masses and playing the politics of votes. Paying rich tributes to the people of this great country he said what had disturbed him the most was the silent suffering. He made a fervent appeal to the masses of the country to fight for their rights and be assertive to get a better deal.

His Urdu and Punjabi couplets drew a big applause and at the end of his speech was given a standing ovation.

Earlier, Mr Hari Jai Singh, Editor, The Tribune, said people of the country yearned for a “better governance”. He felt that even after 52 years of Independence the country lacked basic amenities, infrastructure, good education system, healthcare, drinking water. All governments till date had failed to provide these facilities.

Citing the example of the various calamities like the super cyclon, earthquake and other national disasters, he said the government had failed to evolve a proper disaster management or crisis management system. The government’s response had not only been late but also inadequate. He complimented the people of the country who always rose to the occasion and offered all possible help.

It was indeed a miracle and the blessings of the Almighty that the country continued to survive all crises. Mr Hari Jai Singh urged the people not be remain silent spectators but fight for their legitimate rights.

The Rotary Forum, Dr Anjum and 600 delegates paid homage to those killed in the Gujarat earthquake. Mr Jain said the forum would give Rs 25 lakh for the victims of the those killed. He appealed to the Rotarians to donate liberally for the rehabilitation of the families.


They bear the burden of illiteracy
By Pushpesh Kumar

BATHINDA: The men in bright red uniform seen at railway platforms throughout the length and breadth of the country need no introduction. These are the porters or coolies, who are called only when needed. People do not even spare a thought for them after leaving the railway station.

With more and more passengers travelling by railways, the prospects for the coolies should improve but facts are the other way round. The licensed coolies are often paid below the minimum wage prescribed for loads as per rules. They also face stiff and illegal competition from rickshaw pullers who don’t mind charging half transport facilities and often private cargo employed by the people results in dilution of their earnings.

There are 60 licensed coolies at the Bathinda railway station who manage to earn just sufficient to make both ends meet. “Sometimes we do not earn a single paisa the entire day”, laments Mr Balwant Singh Balli, president of the All-India Railway Licensed Porters Association, Bathinda.

Speaking about the problems of his companions, he points out that even though the number of passengers at Bathinda junction is adequate, the strange practices at platforms eats into our business. Whenever there is a large rush of passengers, the platform looks like a cage and passengers are unable to call porters even if they want to do so.

“The charge fixed for licensed porters at the Bathinda junction are Rs 10 per round up to a weight of 35 kg, but we do enter into arguments if a passenger gives us less than the stated amount’’, said one porter. “We do take into consideration religious festivals and other occasions and help people by reducing charges, at times carrying the luggage of devotees free”, says Om Parkash.

There is no special school for our children and they often bunk classes as they are not our observation, said Mr Balli. “If we start listing our problems our work would suffer, even political parties do not care about out lot, we are not considered a part and parcel of the Railways,” Mr Balli says with sigh of resignation.

The winter season has reduced our earnings significantly and there is no rest-room for us. As we have no assured earnings, we have to come to work every day, even if there are no passengers. The number of porters at a junction are determined by the railway authorities, keeping in mind the rail traffic, but our earnings do not correspond with it, another porter complains.

“We have demanded a rest-room from the authorities and our demand has been accepted. A letter from the office of the Senior Divisional Commercial Manager has been issued to the office of the Station Superintendent asking him to provide us with a rest-room but no action has been taken so far,” says Mr Balli.

Mr Harbans Lal, Station Superintendent, when contacted, replies that the letter in connection with the rest-room of the porters has been received a rest-room would be provided within a week. The Bathinda railway junction would get a facelift soon, a rest-room for coolies, new ramps, and tokens, he declares.


Bamial block has no potable water!
From our correspondent

GURDASPUR, Feb 11 — Even after more than 53 years of independence, pure drinking water eludes all 23 panchayats of Bamial block. The block is ironically surrounded by a number of rivers, including Tama, Jalaia, UJH and Ravi.

The Sarpanches of the area met Mr JFR Jacob, Governor of Punjab, when he visited Bamial village yesterday and apprised him of the situation. The Governor expressed his concern, but did not commit anything.

The Sarpanches said that the upper layers of water in the area contain chemicals rendering it unpotable. Several cases of gastroenteritis have been reported in the area in the past. Though the Health Department takes adequate care to chlorinate the water hydrants periodically, it is not a permanent solution.

The Sarpanches said the provision of deep tubewells is the solution to the problem.

Mr B. Vikram, Deputy Commissioner, talking to this correspondent today said Bamial, Anial, Muthi and Manwal villages were selected in 1993-95 for installation of deep tubewells under centrally sponsored schemes. The village cooperative society was to contribute only 25 per cent of the total cost (each tubewell costs around Rs 8 lakh). He alleged that the officials concerned misappropriated the funds and the construction of the deep tubewell continues to linger till date.

The Deputy Commissioner said a new scheme to provide deep tubewells in the area has been sent to NABARD for providing loan to the Punjab Government. Under the scheme, 15 tubewells will be installed in the area.


Don’t migrate, Dal Khalsa tells valley Sikhs
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Feb 11 — The Dal Khalsa yesterday urged the Sikhs of the valley not to get caught in the trap laid down by the ‘unseen forces’, which were creating animosity between the Sikhs and Muslims.

Condemning the Mahjoor Nagar killings, party spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh appealed to the Sikhs not to migrate from Kashmir, Baramulla and other parts of the valley. “If you migrate, the forces that intend to create a wedge between the two communities would be the victors,” he said.

The Dal Khalsa leader urged the separatist groups, including the Hurriyat Conference and Hizbul Mujahideen, to come out with a clear message against the killings of Sikhs. Welcoming the Hurriyat Conference demand for an independent inquiry into the killing of the six Sikhs, he also asked for a judicial probe into the matter.

He criticised the state government for “failing to provide security to the Sikhs”, and added that the induction of a Sikh minister in the Farooq ministry might psychologically help to assuage the Sikh sentiments, but it would not cut much ice as far as safety of the Sikhs was concerned.


7 killed, 12 hurt as bus, truck collide
From Our Correspondent

GARHSHANKAR, Feb11 — Seven persons were killed and 12 injured near Bazigar Colony, Samundara, on the Garhshankar-Chandigarh road around 6.40 a.m. today.

The bus left Chandigarh at 4.40 am but developed some technical snag near Samundara and collided with a truck coming from the Garhshankar side. The bus overturned resulting in on the spot death of four persons. Three persons died at the hospital. There were 19 passengers in the bus.

Four out of the seven dead have been identified as Rattan Singh, bus conductor, Ranbir Kaur, Kuldeep Singh and M.N. Virdi of Ghashu Jattan.


IFFCO floats fund for quake victims
From Our Correspondent

ABOHAR, Feb 11 — Indian Farmers Fertilisers Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO) has floated a separate trust named Kisan Seva Fund as a long term measure to help the victims of devastating earthquake in Gujarat and persons affected by other natural calamities in future.

The Board of Directors (BoD) of IFFCO had, at a recent meeting presided by the Chairman, Mr Surender Kumar Jakhar, resolved to establish a separate trust with an objective of providing immediate relief to the Gujarat earthquake victims and also to handle the relief operations in the event of any natural calamity in future.

IFFCO had donated Rs 1 crore each to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund for cyclone victims and of Operation Vijay in Kargil.

The employees of the organisation had donated one day’s salary in addition to the contribution made by IFFCO.

Mr U.S. Awasthi, Managing Director, IFFCO, said in an appeal issued today that IFFCO family had always come forward with a helping hand on such tragic occasions. Immediate relief and rescue was provided by the organisation to earthquake victims in the Kutch region.

The employees had also dispatched relief material from different centers to help the victims and had further contributed from their salaries as well.

IFFCO had agreed to contribute Rs 10 crore to the Kisan Seva Fund”. KRIBHCO had also agreed to contribute Rs 5 crore. Other cooperative organisations like NAFED and NCUI had also assured of the support.

Meanwhile, Mr D.K. Bhatt, Executive Director (Marketing), has said that because of some damage to Kandla plant after the earthquake, the fertiliser production had been stopped. It was likely to be restored after three months. IFFCO had sufficient stocks in the field warehouses to meet the demand during the period of suspension of production. Mr Bhatt said that alternative arrangements were being made to get the supplies of material from collaborators in Senegal, Tunisia etc.

He assured that there would be no shortage of material at any time. IFFCO shall continue maintaining full supplies of quality materials to the federations and societies.

Mr K.L. Chawla, Area Manager, also assured farmers of uninterrupted supply of NPK and DAP fertilisers in this region also.

Big donations for quake-hit
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Feb 11 — Because of widespread coverage by both the electronic and print media about the ravages of the severe earthquake in Gujarat, there is an upsurge of sympathy and desire to help the victims amongst the people of Chheharta, Putlighar, Haripura and Sultanwind road areas.

Mr Amarjit Singh Asal, secretary of the district council, CPI, activists and leaders of the CPI, Istri Sabha and Aituc trade unions started collecting funds, blankets, shawls, utensils etc by going to mohallas and bazaars. A 12-hour camp was organised in front of Ekta Bhavan, Putlighar, where people from all walks of life brought donations. Similar efforts were made by other organisations also.

A blind man came to Ekta Bhavan and donated 50 kg of wheat flour. A child donated Rs 100. Women brought clothes and utensils.

More than Rs 60,000 was thus collected and sent to Gujarat. The Railways provided a wagon free of cost in which more than 200 bags containing 1,207 shawls, 301 blankets, more than 50,000 clothes, 1180 kg wheat flour, 480 kg of rice, utensils, vanaspati, sugar, soap etc. were dispatched on February 9.



Paucity of funds hits Akademi work
From Our Correspondent

BATHINDA, Feb 11 — Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi has been facing shortage of funds which is coming in the way of promoting the fine arts in Punjab.

Mr Mehar Singh, president of the akademi, while talking to The Tribune here today said various plans drawn by the akademi could not be implemented due the paucity of funds. He said the promotion of budding artists had come to a standstill as the akademi failed to arrange for finances.

Mr Mehar Singh said the akademi had about Rs 94 lakh a few years ago. He said that to generate some more money about Rs 65 lakh were invested in a telecommunications company but unfortunately that company went bankrupt, thus dealing a great blow to the akademi. He said if that had not happened the interest earned from that investment would have been enough for running the activities of the akademi.

Mr Mehar Singh said the akademi got Rs 2 lakh from the Arts Council each year. This amount was inadequate for running the akademi. He further said the Punjab Government had recently given Rs 10 lakh for the working of the akadmi.

The akademi president said the main task of the organisation was to hold exhibitions and painting competition in different parts of the state. He said in recent times the akademi had held exhibitions at Amritsar, Jalandhar. Ludhiana and Hoshiarpur cities and two villages — Mohinderwala and Chhajli. He said the response of the public at these exhibitions was overwhelming. He added plans to hold more such exhibitions were in the pipeline. He said that to promote new artists cash prizes were given during these exhibitions.

Mr Mehar Singh further said that in collaboration with kala akademies of other states they had held a painting competition on the Kargil war. He said money earned from the sale of these paintings was given to next of kin of Kargil martyrs. He said they were planning a workshop and competition on the same lines in aid of victims of Gujarat earthquake.

Mr Mehar Singh said art could be used for the promotion of brotherhood between people belonging to different castes, creeds and religions. He said art had no language and so everybody could understand it. He said the akademi would launch a campaign in the near future for those areas of Punjab which were considered backward in the field of art. Seminars workshops, debates etc would be held to teach people about the worthiness of art.

The akademi president said he had seen artists of the Bathinda region had potential and if proper guidance could be arranged for them they could work wonders. He said whenever the plans of the akademi for holding workshops materialised Bathinda would get top priority.

Mr Mehar Singh said schoolchildren with an inclination towards fine arts should be encouraged by their teachers. He felt concerned over the attitude of certain parents and teachers who thought that artists could not earn their livelihood. He added that everything should not be linked to money. He said curbing the desires of a child and crushing his natural abilities could prove detrimental to the psyche of the child. He said teachers and parents should allow children to express their feelings freely.


Increasing protests hit traffic
From Our Correspondent

ROPAR, Feb 11 — With dharnas, bandhs and traffic blockades becoming popular modes of protest, the district police is finding it increasingly difficult to maintain the law and order.

In the past two weeks, there have been many traffic blockades in the district. At Nangal, agitating Punjab National Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (PNFC) workers blocked traffic twice on the Nangal dam bridge. Since the bridge is the only connecting link across the Sutlej here, the entire traffic on the Una-Chandigarh road was disrupted. Thousands of passengers and other commuters remained stranded for hours on both sides of the bridge, with the local police remaining a mute spectator.

At Morinda also, villagers agitating over the death of a local youth in police custody disrupted the traffic for about two days. The entire traffic had to be diverted through villages or other routes, causing harassment to thousands of passengers.

Local police officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, admit that these protests were illegal. They blame the local politicians for their failure to act tough on the protesters.

PA’s kin ‘axe’ five trees
Tribune News Service

FEROZEPORE, Feb 11 — The alleged felling of kikkar trees in Fazilka by a kin of the personal assistant of the Punjab Forest Minister, Mr Surjit Jyani, has kicked up a row.

It is learnt that five kikkar trees were axed along the Ghaloo minor canal on the Bodiwala— Kathera road by a kin of the minister’s PA, Mr Madan Lal Bhamboo. The trees belonged to the Forest Department.

While the Forest Department is tightlipped over the matter, independent inquiries revealed that the incident took place a few days ago, allegedly at the behest of Mr Bhamboo.

When contacted, Mr Bhamboo, however, denied the charge. Claiming that he was not aware of any such incident, he assured to verify the facts from his relatives.

Although no senior forest officer was available for comments, sources in the department confirmed having received specific information of the trees having been axed by Mr Bhamboo’s kin. However, the department has failed to trace the wood.

It is learnt that the authorities are contemplating some legal action, the sources attributed the delay in action due to the obvious political pressure from the top.


MP escapes unhurt

PHAGWARA, Feb 11 — AICC secretary and MP Santosh Chaudhary and her husband, Mr Ram Lubhaya, had providential escape last night in a road accident involving her Tata Sumo and a tractor trailer at the JCT mill railway overbridge on the GT Road here.

The accident occurred reportedly due to a sudden mechanical sang in her vehicle, it was learnt today.

Mrs Chaudhary sustained minor bruises and reportedly got first aid privately.

Consequently, she called off her programme of campaigning today in the Majitha byelection for Congress candidate Shawinder Singh Kathunangal. — PTI 


‘In minutes we were all equal’
by Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

SAS NAGAR, Feb 11 — “In minutes we were all equal, the rich, the poor, all of us without food, without a roof over our heads and without a single thing that we owned. The first thought was one of fear and sheer panic. Then came the realisation that I was alive. But from all around me emerged sounds of terror, cries for help and as I moved about in a daze, I saw before me the clear blue sky with fallen scapes and mounds of rubble. The fact that I was alive sunk in gradually and then I felt something stirring in my heart, a desire to help, to be useful and to thank God that I was not dead.”

As Capt Harvir Kalra (retd) a resident of Gandhidham, relives the first thoughts after the quake struck, his eyes well-up with tears. United with his family, he recalls having just put on the television when he felt a tremor and within seconds, the wall cracked in a spider’s web pattern. As he rushed down the stairs of his building, steps crumbled behind him.

“I along with many others went to a petrol station to get my car filled. That is when we realised that every building of the city which prided itself of having a basement was a mass of rubble and every floor above the fourth had come down like a pack of cards. Residents were standing before the rubble, stunned. I reached my mill and found that labour quarters had collapsed and several of them were injured.

Gandhidham does not have any government hospital and the 40-odd private practitioners there have been working non-stop. By the evening, when the injured started pouring in from nearby villages, their houses were converted into makeshift emergency hospitals. “I took several of the injured to these doctors. The gurdwara, within an hour of the quake, hand started serving langar. We went about the city announcing this,” he said.

“Like the gurdwara, the Army, too, was soon in action. Since Gandhidham is an industrial town with Kandla port just 30 km away, cranes and machinery were available soon. Many lives were saved but by the evening, as bodies were extracted from the rubble, roads were lined with relatives crying over their dear ones. The night was spent out in the open, the gurdwara having given out every piece of warm clothing it could spare.

That night, Harvir drove down to the Gujarat-Rajasthan border via Bachau “looking for an STD booth which worked so that I could inform my family about my safety. The sight I saw at Bachau, I think I will never be able to forget for the rest of my life. The whole town was a big heap of dust and all one could see was a big fire that the survivors had lighted to cremate the dead. People were sitting on the highway waiting for relief which reached them late next day.

Relief was more organised at Gandhidham. Help started pouring in and “we heard of a sant having arrived from Punjab with 5,000 men to help. Out of every 10 trucks that reached the city, six-seven were from Punjab. Food and clothes were being distributed from the gurdwara which functioned as the local collection centre.”

The government started a free train service from Ahmedabad for all those who wanted to leave for their hometown. “By the morning of January 29, we had power supply and the next day, three series of telephones working. Temple and gurdwara societies opened free telephone service for the survivors. Within 10 days of the quake, every survivor in Gandhidham had enough food and clothes to survive for months, what was needed were tents and they were expected to reach soon. The Gandhidham gurdwara had arranged mobile langars on the highways. The temple in the city was distributing vegetables to the residents and giving shelter to the injured.

A thousand lives were lost but every one who survived the quake took on his/her shoulder to help those who had not been so lucky. It is a story of the victory of the human indomitable spirit. “I work with a company which is the biggest importer of timber in North India and our Managing Director Mukesh Goyal said timber should be provided to all those who need it from the mills. Everyone rose to the need of the hour,” he said.


Historic serai cries for repairs
From Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Feb 11 — Strange is the working of the Punjab Cultural Affairs, Archaeology and Archives Department. A proposal to take charge of Mai di Serai, a 200-year-old building with an imposing gate in the Sikh architectural style, was moved 10 years ago. Not taking any action on the proposal, which has apparently been forgotten by the department, has resulted in the gradual decadence of the serai and could very well threaten its very existence.

Local departmental sources disclosed that the proposal to take charge of maintaining the serai was moved around 10 years ago. They said the proposal had been ‘misplaced’ by the department after a few years, and that no further action had been taken to safeguard the serai.

Only if the Cultural Affairs department takes over charge of the serai can work on conserving and maintaining it in its present status start. This is because the Public Works Department, which has the charge of the building, has stopped maintaining it. This is a normal practice of the PWD department in case of buildings which are more than 100 years old.

With nobody maintaining the building, which presently houses the CIA interrogation cell, of the district police, its fate may be similar to that of Kaur Sahib ki Haveli, a magnificent princely structure which was pulled down recently by the Punjab Urban Housing and Development Authority (PUDA) to establish a commercial centre in its place after the PWD Department declared it to be an unsafe building which could not be repaired further.

It is this threat of the serai being pulled down following lack of maintenance which is disturbing many people of the city. Ishu Singla, a resident of Samania gate in the city, said a committee of people of the city would request the Cultural Affairs department to take the serai in its charge immediately to ensure that a cultural landmark was not lost by the city. Additional Administrator of PUDA R.S. Randhawa while commenting on the issue said the serai was built by Mai Aas Kaur, the wife of Maharaja Sahib Singh, who following differences with her husband, devoted her life to religious activities.

Mr Randhawa said the serai, earlier served as an entrance point to the city as it was built close to the Sirhindi Bazar near the Quila Mubarak which was the main entry point during the princely days. He said the serai was meant for travellers coming to Patiala and had served this task well for many years. He said as Mai Aas Kaur was involved in a number of philanthropic activities during her lifetime, there was a special regard for her among the people of the city. Mr Randhawa said the gate to the serai should be preserved to keep the memory of the pious woman alive.

A visit to the serai revealed that though it is still an imposing building and appears to have been unmoved by the passage of time, it is not so on a closer look. The facade appears to have stood the test of time but the various delicately engraved “jharokas”, which break the monotony of the brick face constructed in Lahori brick , are in a pitiable condition for want of repairs. The condition of rooms on both sides of the gate, which is a three-storeyed structure, is worse.

The compound inside with a row of barrack-like structures on all three sides with empty space in between has been completely changed. This is because during the time of terrorism in the state, the district police made changes in the structures inside to suit its needs. However, even now in a bitter irony ‘parkash’ of Guru Granth Sahib is held in the CIA compound by the Dharmarth Board. This is done following the shifting of the ‘Parkash’ from various gates in the city after they became unsafe for the religious activity.


German Shepherd shines
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Feb 11 — German Shepherd Quando Vom Nordland Zwinger ruled the two All Breed Dog Shows, organised by the Patiala Kennel Club at the Polo grounds here today, securing first position in one show and second position in the other.

The majestic German Shepherd, owned by Abdullah Moorie, performed consistently in both 16th and the 17th All Breeds Dog Shows here. In the 17th dog show, it was pipped to the first place by a Boxer named Omega’s Good as Gold, owned by Sham Mehta.

Among other entries which won laurels in the shows were Michael and P.S. Chatterjee’s Doberman Apt to be a Kings Ransom, Dr A.P.S. Mangat’s Welsh Corgi Sadon’s Ultimate Answer, Mukul Vaid’s Doberman Silver Clouds Kally and Nitin Madhok’s Pomeranian Xartar Mystery Nurse.

The dog shows attracted 362 entries from all over the country from as far away as Jaipur, Delhi, Kolkata, Dehra Dun and Bangalore. The competing dogs included a large number of imported dogs with around 50 dogs being registered with the Kennel Club of India today. As many as 195 dogs were administered vaccine free of cost on the occasion.

Organisers said it was for the first time that such a large number of imported dogs competed in the shows, including Saint Bernards. The judges for the show were Mr David Grimbly from Zimbabwe and Mr C.V. Sudarshan from Chennai.


Stress on rural sports urged
Tribune News Service 

BATHINDA, FEB 11 — A senior Youth Akali Dal (YAD) leader and member, Zila Parishad, Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar, has said the Punjab Government should lay special emphasis on the promotion of rural sports so that energy of rural youths could be channelised for constructive purposes.

Mr Kangar, who has been making efforts to organise a mini olympics at Mehraj village of this district by urging various youth clubs to do it, said that only after being active in sports activities the youths would desist from the evil of drug addiction.

He said that a special budgetary provision should be made to provide adequate funds for the promotion of rural sports and stadiums equipped with all modern facilities should be developed in big villages which would also cater to the needs of other neighbouring villages.

He added that he would meet members of various sports clubs to urge them to come on a single platform so that a bigger rural sports event on the lines of Kila Raipur games could be organised in Mehraj village as well.

Mr Kangar presided over the function.


Mill workers meet MP
From Our Correspondent

KHARAR, Feb 11 — A delegation of workers and staff of Panipat Woollen Mills, a Government of India enterprise here, met Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, M.P. from the Ropar Lok Sabha Constituenecy, and gave him a memorandum saying he should take steps to save the mill, which the Union Government plans to shut down and order a high-level inquiry into why the mill was suffering continuous losses.

The delegation was led by Mr Mehar Singh, general secretary, INTUC. It told Mr Dullo that if the mill was closed down about 800 workers and other employees would be rendered jobless.

It was also mentioned that steps should be taken to revive the mill. Mr Dullo promised to take up the matter with the Union Government soon.

Mishap death toll five

JALANDHAR, Feb 11 — The death toll in the February 8 road accident near Khudda on the Jalandhar-Pathankot national highway went up to five when Tarlochan Singh (25) succumbed to injuries in the civil hospital here last evening, police sources said. Four persons, including three women, had died and seven were wounded when a tractor-trailer collided with a truck. — UN


Sant Singh award for Usha Sharma
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Feb 11 — The Punjab Languages Department has announced the Giani Sant Singh literary award for Usha R. Sharma, Additional Chief Electoral Officer, Punjab, for her latest book “Bhoj Patran ke Beech”. Ms Sharma has three books to her credit. The latest one, a book of Hindi poems, was recently released in Delhi at a function by Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Minister. Her other books are “Pighalti Sanklen” and “Ek Varga Akaash”.


6 hurt in mishap
Tribune News Service

BATHINDA, Feb 11 — Six persons were injured while returning to Chottian village from Rama Mandi after attending a marriage ceremony when two Maruti cars in which they were travelling collided near Bhagi Bandar village in the district today evening. The injured have been identified as Ikttar Singh, Darshan Singh, Sukhminder Singh, Jagdeep Singh and Balwant Singh. The vehicles collided when one vehicle tried to overtake.



Implement pension plan, CM urged
Tribune News service

JALANDHAR, Feb 11 — The Punjab Government Aided Colleges’ Retired Employees Association has urged the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, to intervene and ensure implementation of pension and gratuity schemes meant for employees of the aided colleges.

In a resolution passed at a convention held here today, the association observed though the schemes were approved by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha on April 1, 1992 yet the employees had been waiting for the benefits.

Mr Pritam Singh and Mr G.C. Mago, president and general secretary of the association, respectively, said the association had decided to hold a silent protest march from Nehru Garden to the local office of the Deputy Commissioner on February 26. Mr Kanwaljit Singh Bhatia, a local Akali leader, also addressed the convention.


Taxi driver’s killer arrested
Tribune News service

JALANDHAR, Feb 11 — The Jalandhar police has arrested a two-wheeler thief who along with one of his accomplice, had killed a taxi driver.

The accused had hired a Tata Sumo on October 27, allegedly made its driver drink liquor and stabbed him to death after throwing chilly powder in his eyes and fled with the vehicle.

Mr Gaurav Yadav, SSP, said the interrogation of the accused Kuldip Singh, alias Gogi, of Khingra Colony here, who was arrested in connection with the theft of three scooters, has revealed that he and Satish Kumar hired a taxi for Noormahal on October 27 with an intention to escape with it. For this, they took him on Noormahal road, made him drink liquor, threw chill powder in his eyes and stabbed him to death with a knife. After the murder, they allegedly threw his body in the fields and took the vehicle to Ludhiana, but abandoned their plan for fear of detection of crime.

Later, the body was identified by the police with the help of an identity card and the vehicle which had been abandoned was recovered by Ludhiana police from the city’s Sarabha Nagar locality.

Mr Yadav said Satish Kumar too was later arrested from a dhaba on the Jalandhar-Ludhiana highway. The blood stained shirt worn by the victim and the vehicle upholestry have also been seized by the police, he added.


Factory making spurious drugs unearthed
Tribune News Service

BATHINDA, Feb 11 — In a drive launched by the district police, a major success was achieved when a factory manufacturing fake medicines since 1995 was unearthed.

Police sources said three persons Gurbaran Singh, Arun Bansal and Gurwinder Singh, alias Lalli, had been running the factory. They manufactured proxyfan and spasmoproxyfan capsules on the same pattern as made by a big pharmaceutical company. The accused were using the same packing material, bores of the same colour and similar empty capsules.

The accused named the factory as Silva Medicine Private Limited and used to market their products throughout the country, through a Delhi based company.

The police has recovered 800 empty boxes of spasmoproxyfan, 300 boxes of proxyfan, 20 kg and 41 kg of the wrapping foil of both capsules, 5 lakh empty capsules and 1.30 lakh filled capsules ready for marketing.

Apart from this, 300 boxes filled with fake spasmoproxyfan capsules and one bag of waste material were recovered from the premises of factory.

Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, SSP, when contacted, said a case under Sections 420, 467, 468 and 471 of the IPC, Section 63 of Copy Right Act and Sections 78 and 79 of the Trade Mercantile Act had been registered against the accused. Gurbaran Singh and Arun Bansal had been arrested whereas Gurwinder Singh was absconding, he said. The two arrested, had been remanded to police custody, he added.


Teenager commits suicide
Tribune News Service

BATHINDA, Feb 11 — A teenaged girl of this district today committed suicide by jumping before a train on the Bathinda-Hanumangarh rail section.

Sources said the body of the girl was brought to the local civil hospital by volunteers of Sahara jan seva and a post-mortem examination was conducted. The GRP has registered a case in this connection.

UNI adds: Three persons were killed on the spot and another one was injured when the car in which they were travelling collided with a bus on the Bathinda-Barnala road on Saturday.

The deceased were identified as Sita Rani, her husband Hans Raj, both residents of this town, and the driver of the hired car (HR22B 1421), Mukand Singh of Dyalpura Bhaike village, while the injured passenger was identified as Ved Parkash of Kangar village.

Sources said the police reached the spot and impounded the bus (PB 13F 5117). A case under Section 304-A of the IPC has been registered. The bodies were later sent for a post-mortem examination, the sources added.


Workshop on problems of teaching held
From Our Correspondent

AMRITSAR, Feb 11 — Guru Nanak Dev University has recently introduced a number of job-oriented courses for the educated youth of this region. It will also start need-based courses, remarked Dr H.S. Soch, Vice-Chancellor, while inaugurating a two-day workshop on the “Problems of teaching B.Com (professional) and BBA courses” for college teachers affiliated to this university.

The workshop has been organised by the Department of Commerce and Business Management in collaboration with the College Development Council of the university.

Dr Soch said such courses should be introduced so that the students get jobs on the completion of their education.

He hoped that the teachers attending this workshop would have an opportunity to deliberate on their problems and find solutions through discussion. He said a teacher is always a learner and should constantly update his knowledge.

In the technical session, a discussion on the syllabi of B.Com (professional) and BBA courses was held. Dr C.S. Cheema from the Business and Commerce Department threw light on preparing and designing the project report for the B.Com course and laid emphasis on practical work.

Dr S.P. Singh, Dean, College Development Council, said that the B.Com course had been introduced by the university in the current academic session and it was the only course of northern India which enabled students to get jobs on completion of study.


Youth festival begins today
Tribune News Service

PATIALA, Feb 11 — The inter zonal festival of Punjabi University will be organised at the Guru Teg Bahadur Hall on the university campus from February 12 to 14.

Giving this information Mr.Daljit Singh, Director, Youth Welfare said that on the inaugural day in the morning session folk dances like giddha and bhangra will be held in the main hall. Competitions in painting, cartooning and collage making will also be held in the morning session in front of the Students home. In the evening session contests in classical instrumental music, classical vocal and orchestra will also be organised.

Mr Daljit Singh added that in the morning and evening sessions on February 13 students will witness competitions in group song, bhajan, folk song, ode singing, classical dance, debate, declamation contest and poetical recitation.

On the last day of the youth festival competitions in clay modelling, poster making and rangoli will be held in front of the Students home.

About 600 students from 4 zones of Patiala, Ropar, Bathinda and Sangrur will compete in 26 different items spread over seven sessions. The prize distribution function will be held on February 14.


Punjab traders form panel
From Our Correspondent

FARIDKOT, Feb 11 — The Punjab Beopar Mandal has constituted a 25-member committee headed by its president Mr Madan Kapoor, to sort out the problems of the traders in the state.

The other members of the body include Mr Bimal Gupta and Mr Darshan Lal Saraf (Faridkot), Mr Prem Chand Aggarwal (Barnala), Mr Satya Pal Satyam (Sangrur), Mr Surinder Mukhi (Rajpura), Mr Vijay Kumar (Patiala), Mr Mehnga Ram (Maur), Mr Satish Dhingra (Fazilka), Mr Vinod Lali (Abohar), Mr Narsingh Das (Malout), Mr Banarsi Das Goel and Mr Raj Bansal (Bathinda), Mr Mohan Lal Palta (Kotkapura) and Mr Kharaiti Lal (Rampuraphul).

Disclosing here today, Mr Kapoor said that the members would shortly organise business community meetings at the subdivision level to find ways to solve their problems.

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