Monday, February 26, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




SAD-BJP leaders resort to Cong-bashing
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, February 25
The Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP today virtually launched an election campaign in this district. Though the occasion was ostensibly to lay the foundation stone of a railway overbridge in the city, a political conference was held on the occasion with senior leader Balramji Das Tandon, who organised the entire show, deriving the maximum mileage.

The construction of the railway overbridge, whose foundation stone was laid by the Chief Minister this evening after the completion of four years of the SAD-BJP rule in the state, was one of the major poll issues in the last Assembly elections in the constituency. Mr Tandon had promised that he would get work on the bridge started within a year of assuming power if elected.

The rally also had other surprises. Mr Tandon sat alongside Finance Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh with whom he does not quite get along.

Cabinet minister Raja Narinder Singh, who is also not on the best of terms with the Finance Minister, also shared the dais. Besides this, even BJP President Brij Lal Rinwa praised the working of the Chief Minister as well as various development works undertaken by the government in all constituencies of the state.

The SAD-BJP alliance semed to be preparing itself to take on the Congress with all speakers going in for Congress-bashing. Though the SAD is denying any unity moves with the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal led by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra. Not a single speaker mentioned the party or its leader’s name despite the fact that earlier conferences were devoted to Tohra-bashing as Patiala district is perceived to be his stronghold.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal ridiculed the Congress, saying it should now announce that it would not fight the next elections in the state. He said he was saying this as the Congress had again made excuses that it had lost the byelection as the EVMs had been rigged. He said the Pradesh Congress President Capt Amarinder Singh should explain to the people how his wife Preneet Kaur had emerged victorious in the last Lok Sabha election from Patiala where also electronic machines had been used.

He said his party was not in the habit of making excuses when it lost an election and preferred to identify the reasons why it lost. He said the Congress, however, had decided to make lame excuses after losing successive byelections instead of going in for introspection.

Other speakers delved on the same theme going in for Congress-bashing. Finance Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh said the Congress should first decide on the leadership issue. Minister Suchha Singh Langah urged the electorate to give a befitting reply to Congress leaders who criticised the Akali-BJP Alliance for giving free electricity supply for agricultural operations.

Various speakers, including Mr Balramji Das Tandon tried to project that the Akali-BJP government had served all sections of society, including small businessmen and the Dalits and only the alliance could be trusted with working for overall development of the state. Mr Tandon also tried to ward off criticism for not taking up the overbridge project even four years after he came to power. 


Female work figures ‘puzzling’ 
PPS Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
Why did women in Punjab not record their participation as “workers” in economically productive activities on either farms or in family enterprises during Census-1991? The official definition of “work” was any physical or mental activity, including supervision or direction, paid or unpaid. One could be either the “main” or “marginal” worker.

The reason why Punjab recorded the lowest female work participation rate remains an enigma for the Census staff as much as for economists and demographers. Two studies conducted by the UNFPA and the UNIFEM in 1996 failed to pinpoint particular reasons for the low female work participation rate.

Census-1991 figures show that in Punjab the female work participation rate (defined as the percentage of total workers, main and marginal, to the total population) was as low as 4.4 against the country’s 22.37. The percentage even in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh was higher — 10.8 and 34.81, respectively — than in the case of Punjab, which was at the bottom among all states and Union Territories.

This issue is causing concern to Census-2001 officials. Among them is Mr S.P. Sharma, Consultant to the Registrar-General and Census Commissioner of India. He is a former Deputy Registrar-General (Census and Tabulation).

As per Census-1991 figures, says Mr Sharma, for rural areas, Bathinda recorded the highest female work participation at 8 per cent followed by Ferozepore, 7.6 per cent, Faridkot 6.8 per cent and Kapurthala 6 per cent. The lowest rate was in Ludhiana, 1.7 per cent. For urban areas, Ropar topped with a percentage of 7.4, followed by Hoshiarpur 5.6, Kapurthala 5.1 and Faridkot 4.8. Ludhiana was at the lowest rung with a participation rate of 3.4 per cent.

In a state like Punjab, where agriculture is the mainstay of the economy and the lifeline of the people, the low participation of women is puzzling. In fact, besides playing a major role as “workers” supervising home and farm work, females in Punjab villages, as per Punjab Agricultural University studies, have been playing an increasingly important role even in “decision making” at home. Therefore, their contribution can neither be ignored nor denied. It was, however, for the enumerators to extract information from village women who are “workers”, though unpaid but acting as key operators.

Mr Sharma, going by Census-1991 villagewise figures, observes that these showed that in at least 1,300-odd villages (out of a total of 12,428) not a single woman was reported to be a worker. Out of these in 900 villages, where the total female population was up to 100, not a single female worker, main or marginal, was reported. A similar trend was witnessed in scores of other villages despite a high percentage of female population.

Comparing the proportion of female main workers to the total female population, Punjab’s share came to 2.2 per cent for rural and 4.3 per cent for urban areas against the corresponding figures of 18.6 per cent and 18.1 per cent, respectively, says Mr Sharma.

Despite these findings in the Census-1991 operation, it was noted that the female literacy rate in Punjab was higher than the figure for the country in respect of the rural and urban areas. The literacy rate in the rural areas was 43.9 per cent as against 30.6 per cent for the country. Likewise, in the urban areas female literacy as 66.1 per cent against 64.1 per cent for the country. Punjab had the highest per capita income in 1991-92.

Punjabi men and women are known for their entrepreneurial spirit, hard work and resilience. Yet the low female work participation rate remains a puzzle. Will Census-2001 solve the riddle? The answer lies with the respondents as much as it does with the enumerators who should not leave uncovered or unreported even those female workers who do unpaid jobs in the family, on farms or at any other workplace. 


UK for liaison office at Jalandhar
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, February 25
Mr Tom Macan, British Deputy High Commissioner, New Delhi, today said the United Kingdom wanted to open a visa liaison office in Jalandhar and was waiting for a nod from the Government of India.

Talking to the media at the nearby Palahi village, Mr Macan said a survey had revealed that the largest concentration of population in the UK was from Doaba. “So we have recommended a liaison office at Jalandhar. It should be opened in the autumn season,” he said.

The office would answer queries and help people fill applications. But the go-ahead from the Government of India was needed. Later, visas, too, could be issued from the proposed office. Mr Macan said a full-fledged office could be opened only in the metros as per the Government of India policy.

Mr Macan, who was accompanied by Justice V.K. Khanna, Chairperson, Punjab State Human Rights Commission, said human rights constituted one of the nine strategies in the British foreign policy. “In Punjab we were looking for an organisation which shared our strategy and perception of human rights. We found the PSHRC was one such organisation. The British Council, associated with it for the ‘safeguarding childhood’ project”, he explained.

Mr Macan strongly defended the recent bombing of Iraq. “We targeted military installations of Saddam Hussain who was violating human rights of Arabs and Kurds,” claimed Mr Macan.

Justice Khanna said the commission was sensitising society on child rights and against female foeticide and infanticide.

Earlier, Mr Macan and Justice Khanna and his team visited various village sites. They were presented ‘siropas’ in the village gurdwara. Addressing villagers, Mr Macan appreciated the involvement of the community in the development of the village.


Ensure security for MC poll: HC
Tribune News Service

Maur Mandi, February 25
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the district administration to ensure that elections for the posts of President and Vice-President of the local municipal council are held peacefully and proper security arrangements made for the same.

The election’s were postponed by the Subdivisional Magistrate-cum-Returning Officer, Mr Sukhwinder Singh, on February 16 when a councillor, Mr Nirmal Singh, tore apart the ballot paper and manhandled him.

After the incident, seven councillors — Mr Karnail Singh, Mr Suresh Kumar, Mr Hans Raj, Mr Bhura Ram, Mr Amarjit Kaur, Ms Seema Rani and Mr Kulwant — moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court expressing apprehension that the incident could be repeated again on the new date for the election.

The SDM-cum-Returning Officer had also mentioned about the February 16 incident and had lodged a report with the Deputy Commissioner and the police authorities in this connection.

The petitioners had also apprehended threat to their lives and feared that the elections would not be free and fair unless certain directions were issued by the high court, besides adequate security arrangements.

Taking it as a fit case, the Punjab and Haryana High Court said the SSP, Bathinda, would ensure personal security of the petitioners.

Sources said February 28, had been fixed as the new date for the elections which comprised 14 councillors.

Some councillors who had gone underground due to fear, while talking to TNS at a secret place, alleged that earlier the elections, were postponed as the district administration and the police authorities had sided with a group backed by a senior functionary of the ruling Akali Dal.

They pointed out that though the second group was also backed by senior party members of the Akali Dal, the police acted according to the whims and fancies of the first group.

They added that the vote of the MLA from Talwandi Sabo, Mr Harminder Sigh Jassi, would play a significant role as of the 14 councillors seven were in each group. The vote of Mr Jassi would be the deciding factor. 


Badal misusing power: DCC
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, February 25
The District Congress Committee, Faridkot, has accused the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, for misusing the official machinery and money power to win the three byelections from Majitha, Sunam and Nawanshahr in the recent past in the state. In a press note issued here yesterday, Mr S.K. Gupta and Mr Satish Bagi, president and press secretary, DCC, respectively, said the act of the Chief Minister could be verified from the last general Assembly elections in 1996 in the state when late Bhagwan Dass Arora and Mr Dilbagh Singh, both Congress candidates, had an easy win over their nearest rivals, Shiromani Akali Dal candidates from Sunam and Nawanshahr Assembly segments, inspite of a full swing in favour of SAD.

However, the SAD candidate, late Parkash Singh Majitha, won the poll from Majitha Assembly constituency defeating the Congress candidate by a meagre margin of about 2,800 votes.

The Congress leaders alleged that Mr Badal had also given a set back to the democratic set up by sending to Rajya Sabha three SAD candidates — Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder and Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal — who were rejected by the electorate in the last Assembly and Parliament elections in the state.


Bus concession a headache for women
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 25
Facility of travelling on concessionary rates in the buses plied by the Punjab Roadways and the Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC), extended to woman who have attained the age of 60 seems to have become a headache both for beneficiaries as well as conductors.

The old-age women who had been availing this facility have alleged that the conductors misbehaved with them. They further said that most of the conductors used to pass sarcastic remarks while checking the identity cards which had been issued to them by the authorities concerned.

A cross-section of women said sometimes they were not allowed to board the buses by the conductors and they had to travel by private buses to reach their destination after paying the fare.

They pointed out that it was always embarrassing for them whenever conductors misbehaved with them on the pretext that they had been concealing their real age, in front of other passengers of the bus. There were instances when they were asked to alight from buses in midway. The women added that they were not being allowed to use the passes properly and it had become meaningless for them.

On the other hand, a number of conductors pointed out that as the procedure of getting a certificate of age was not strict, women who were not more than 40 years had managed to get identity cards for travelling on concessional rates. They said most of the less educated women from rural background had manipuleted their ages.

Mr Dhoop Singh, general manager, PRTC depot said numerous complaints had been received about the misuse of bus passes and misbehaviour by the conductors but they were helpless to take action against them as the employees union was strong. Mr Surinder Singh, general manager (Depot), II on being contacted said that he had not received any complaints regarding misbehaviour by the conductors.


Dusty, bumpy ride on Bathinda roads
Jaswinder Paul Singh

The city once considered to be a backward area has been developing fast as an industrial centre of this region. With the increase in the number of industrial units the number of vehicles, particularly heavy motor vehicles, is also on the rise.

Vehicular traffic in and around the city has increased manifold in the past few years. The interior as well as main roads of this area fail to cope with the situation. The prevailing road pattern has proved to be inadequate for the smooth flow of all types of vehicles.

The narrow, congested and potholed roads and streets of the city have led to traffic bottlenecks at various spots. These have become a common occurrence. The condition of some roads is so poor that it becomes difficult to ascertain whether there is a premix carpeting or not.

Sand covers almost half of the roads. This creates problems for the smooth flow of vehicles. There have been a number of incidents where two-wheelers have skidded on the roads because of the sand. Not only this, the sand, when scattered in the air, lessens the visibility, increasing the problems of commuters. The dust enters the eyes of the road users and causes irritation in the eyes. It also leads to skin, respiratory and other diseases, besides air pollution.

The shock absorber dealers are doing a brisk business in the city, thanks to the potholes on the roads. One of the dealers on condition of anonymity said because of the bad condition of roads the shockers of vehicles, especially those of light motor vehicles, get damaged often. Therefore, the owners of these vehicles have to come to them for repairs, he added.

The GT Road, which connects the city to Muktsar, Malout, Faridkot, Mansa and Dabwali, is no exception as far as its condition is concerned. About 10 km of the stretch of the road passes through the middle of the city. The part of the road which is called the Goniana road has manholes which are higher than the level of the road. They thus work as speed-breakers. The drivers of vehicles who are familiar with the area drive with care but those who are new to the city often end up damaging their vehicles and endangering their lives.

The other part of the GT Road which is known as the Mansa road is even worse. It becomes difficult to believe that there is a road under the layers of sand on which the vehicles run. While driving on that road one feels as if one is driving in a hilly area.

The roads which lead to the courts give the feel of kutcha roads. One wonders why they are called roads.

The condition of roads in the interiors of the city is no better than those on the outskirts. The lanes and bylanes in Telianwala Mohalla, Hira Chowk and Shiv Colony, Bhatti Road, Bibiwala Road, Partap Nagar and Jogi Nagar seem as if they are of a backward village.

The authorities concerned have their own views regarding the problem. One of the higher officials of the civic body said they were doing their best with the limited sources at their command. He said they had started a special drive for the construction and repair of the roads. He added that paucity of the funds came in their way. He said they wanted to beautify the city but could not do so because of financial restraints.


Census sees change of heart among Bagris
Gurpreet Singh
Tribune News Service

Lambi, February 25
The ongoing census has witnessed a change of heart among the Hindi speaking population of Punjab villages along the Haryana border where anti-Punjab sentiments had prevailed on account of Sikh militancy.

Earlier, the Hindi population of this village wanted the villages to be merged with Haryana as it is just a kilometre away. Political parties of Haryana had tried to exploit their sentiments.

Kandu Khera, which was supposed to serve as a corridor between Haryana and Abohar-Fazilka towns of Punjab, has 500 houses, including 150 belonging to “Bagri” families. The Bagri population now prefers staying in Punjab on account of free power facility and adequate irrigation waters.

Another reason is that their numbers have shrunk due to migration of Jat, Bishnoi, Baniya and Dalit communities from Kandu Khera.

The younger generation of Bagri families now communicate in Punjabi in their homes. The Bishnoi leader, Mr Hanuman Parshad, headman of Kandu Khera village during the mini census in 1986 who favoured merger with Haryana, is also a changed man.

He remembers how the then Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Bhajan Lal, a Bishnoi, had used his influence to activate Bagris during the mini census. Likewise, the ruling Akali Dal leaders had also extended favours to influence the Bagri population.

Mr Hanuman Parshad said that Sikh militancy was the reason why most Bagris wanted to go to Haryana. “Our outlook has changed now. We prefer staying in Punjab that offers free power for farming”.

“Moreover, being a part of the Punjab Chief Minister’s Assembly constituency, Kandu Khera is being well looked after,” he added.


Sikh Sangat backs SGPC stand
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, February 25
The Rashtriya Sikh Sangat has supported the stand taken by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) for not sending any jatha to Pakistan in view of the formation of the Pakistan Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee which “is a puppet in the hands of the Pakistani military ruler”.

This was stated by the sangat’s All-India general secretary, Mr Gurcharan Singh Gill, and the organising secretary, Mr Madanjit Singh, while talking to this correspondent here today.

They said Pakistan had conspired to divide Sikhs. The leaders demanded that the control of all historical gurdwaras in India and abroad should be handed over to the SGPC.

They said the sangat accepted the supremacy of Akal Takht, the sanctity of Sri Harmandir Sahib and the identity of Khalsa and had already clarified its stand in a letter to Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti.

Asked to comment on sangat’s state organisational secretary Sudarshan Chauhan’s controversial statements, the leaders said the sangat had already dissociated itself from the statements.

They clarified that temples and gurdwaras had their own separate traditions which should be strictly maintained.

The leaders announced that a Bhai Kanya village would be set up in the quake-hit Gujarat and 1,000 temporary houses would be built at a cost of Rs 51 lakh. The sangat would also build a school and a community hall in the village. Mr Gill said the sangat would also adopt 100 children from that village.


‘Brij ki Holi’ at Jalandhar
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 25
Holi may be a fortnight away but wavy glimpses of the festival of colours were created by energetic youngsters who came out with, “Brij ki Holi”, a form of folk dance depicting Lord Krishna and his “gopis” indulging in the colour affair, in the sprawling grounds of the local Apeejay College of Fine Arts, which wore the look of a countryside fair during “Utsav-2001 — a two day arts and crafts fair — which concluded today.

For a while, the gathering of youngsters, students and their parents, virtually forgot the weeklong festivities and got transcended to “Brij Bhumi”, the mythological playfield of Lord Krishna, when the “Brij ki Holi”, the dance started taking off with “gopis” — students of the local S.D. College — dancing in unison and reliving that colourful ambience of the bygone era by smearing “gulal” onto the innocent and yet naughty face of “Lord Krishna”. And He was not the one to sit silent, got up and reitrated the attack with equal vigour before becoming a part of their rhythmic movements amid cheers of “Holi Hai”, by the students.

Gradually, the focus got shifted from the “Brij Bhumi” to the land of love and sacrifice — Punjab — as the fair venue started echoing with the Punjabi favourite folk song-”Heer”, presented separately by Reena and Mamta. Following a beautiful “alaap”, Reena went on to depict the pangs of broken heart of Heer and her separation with Ranjhaby rendering, "Heer Aakhe Jogia Jhooth Bole, Kaun Ruthde Yaar Manavda Hey", in her sonorous voice. The effort yielded results and this was obvious from the applause she drew from the audience.

How the cool breeze and whistling sound of gushing waters of the Ravi attract lovers, was the focus of “Vanjhli Vajaa Ve Dhola, Ve Tu Vanjhali Vaja, Dhola Lamme Diya”, a “ Pahari Raaga” based beautiful song presented by Harpreet Kaur of the KMV College. Though the “Sathai” of the song was attractive but she did equal justice to the “Antara” of the song,” Wagdi Ravi Utte Boota, Ek Waari Mel Rabba, Wagdi Raavi Utte Aashiquan Daa Dera”, and the piece was able to convey the scenic beauty and aroma of love associated with the river.

For the youngsters who had a taste for the medley of folk and pop, Dr Sukhnain, a well-known Punjabi singer, was there with his foot tapping number, “Meri gall utte khul khid hassiya na kar...” Though the performance of Sukhnain was not pre-planned and he had just dropped in to see the fair. He obliged with a broad smile when the Apeejay College Principal requested him to present some of his songs. Dr Sucharita gave away prizes to winners of different competitions in the field of music, dance and painting.

The thrust of this cultural and musical bonanza, inaugurated by the internationally acclaimed danseur Birju Maharaj on February 18, was to promote different forms of art and craft, “Instead of charging anything, we are paying money to artisans who have come from places like Rajasthan and Lucknow, for installing their stalls in the college premises,” said Dr Sucharita. 


Tributes paid to Balbir Pannu
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, February 25
Rich tributes were paid to Balbir Singh Pannu, senior vice-president of the SGPC and three others who were killed in an accident on February 16 near Bareilly (UP).

A function in this regard was organised today at the Government Senior Secondary School Naushehra Pannuan village, the native village of Balbir Pannu. Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Union Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, President of the SGPC, Bibi Jagir Kaur, former President of the SGPC, Mr Ranjit Singh Brahampura, Minister for Cooperation, Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Akal Takht Jathedar, along with other ministers, MLAs, SGPC members and others paid tributes to the departed souls.

Paying tributes to Balbir Pannu, Mr Badal announced a grant of Rs 25 lakh for the village sports stadium to be constructed in the memory of Balbir Pannu and also announced to name the village Government Senior Secondary School after his name.

Turbans (robe of responsibility) were presented to Mr Navamber Vir Singh, the younger son of Balbir Singh Pannu by the SGPC, Akal Takht, different religious sects. 

Vedanti refuses ‘siropa’ to Pannu’s son
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February, 25
Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, today refused to present “siropa” (robe of honour) to the son of Balbir Singh Naushehra Pannu, Senior Vice-President of the SGPC, who was killed in a road accident near Bareilly, at the bhog ceremony at Naushehra Pannuan, 35 km from here, today.

Jathedar Vedanti reportedly refused to present “siropa” as Pannu’s son, who had come from the USA, was a “patit Sikh” (apostate Sikh). Though the state secretary, Mr Sukhvinder Singh Jhabal, an SGPC member, had announced the name of Jathedar Vedanti, he did not stand up for the ceremony for obvious reasons.

Sangrur to have SPCA centre
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 25
The Society for Prevention of Cruelty against Animals (SPCA) will start functioning from the first week of March in the district. The society has been formed to prevent cruelty against the animals.

The society was registered by the authorities concerned in December 2000. The first meeting of the SPCA was held in March 1998 for the purpose. In view of making the SPCA an active organisation the district authorities took steps in November 2000 at a meeting of the society. Mr Balwant Singh Shergill, ADC(D), who presided over the meeting, ordered the convenor to get it registered to make it eligible for getting grants from the government.

The society has been formed under the patronage of Deputy Commissioner. The SSPs of Sangrur and Barnala are its patrons. The ADC(D) and the Deputy Director, Animal Husbandry, are its president and secretary, respectively. Besides, there are 11 members on the governing body of the SPCA.

No member from the public has been enrolled so far by the society. It is learnt the society will soon start enrolling members to have an elected governing body of the SPCA. Officials say that due to lack of enthusiasm their drive to enrol members from the public could not achieve desired results.

Mr Anirudh Tiwari, Deputy Commissioner, said here today that he had sanctioned a loan for Rs 5,000 from the district Red Cross Society to the SPCA for its initial expenses. He also said the society would start functioning from March 1 after the meeting of the SPCA which had been convened on February 27 here.

Mr Balwant Singh Shergill, ADC(D)-cum-President of the SPCA, said the SDMs of the district had been asked to form the SPCAs at the subdivisional level. They had also been exhorted to secure a land for the setting up of animal shelters in their respective subdivisions, he added.

Mr Harjit Singh Jawanda, Deputy Director, Animal Husbandry-cum-Secretary of the SPCA, said the administration would provide land for setting up an animal shelter at the district headquarters here for abandoned sick and suffering animals.

Besides the SPCA will also regularly inspect slaughter houses with the cooperation of the Animal Husbandry Department. It will also provide free treatment to the sick and injured stray animals.

The administration has also appealed to the office-bearers of the “Gaushalas” of this district to cooperate with the SPCA for the welfare of the stray animals.


Rail inquiry phone rings & rings
Harjeet Singh

“Hello, speak loudly. I can’t hear you properly, dial again”. Sometimes a computer answers: “Please wait, you are on the line”. Often even after several attempts one fails to contact on the telephone the inquiry official of the biggest railway junction of North India here.

Many a time the inquiry telephone number gives an engaged tone for an inordinately long time.

Residents have often complained regarding the poor inquiry service but to no avail.

Mr Sanjay Garg, a resident of Shiv Colony on the Barnala road, alleged that on January 11 this year he could not contact the person on duty at the inquiry window on phone numbers 131 and 211151. He said that when after repeated dialling he could not get in touch with the inquiry window, he rang up 198 at the Telephone Exchange to know whether there was a fault in the telephones. He was told that the receivers had been taken off the cradle.

Mr Garg did not give up. He said he then went to the enquiry window and found that the Telephone Exchange had given the right information.

Mr Garg said that when he contacted the reservation supervisor, he was asked to meet the Station Superintendent. As he could not be found, he lodged a complaint in a register kept in the office of the Deputy Station Superintendent.

Mr Harbans Lal, Station Superintendent, when contacted, said action would be taken in the matter if a complaint had been made.

He said efforts were being made to provide good services to all passengers. If there was a fault in any telephone line, it was the duty of the Telephone Department to set it right, he added.

Ms Pushpa Ranga, who is in charge of the inquiry window, denied all allegations. 


Very few saplings survive
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, February 25
Nearly 18,000 out of the 6 lakh saplings which were planted in various villages of this subdivision on the sand dunes after levelling them, could survive after four years.

This fact came to light when a team of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the state Assembly visited various villages to check the alleged bunglings in the implementation of sand dunes levelling scheme sponsored by the Central Government about five years ago.

The committee, comprising Mr Harminder Singh Jassi (Chairman), Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, Mr Hardev Arshi, Mr Hira Singh Gabria and Mr Kartar Singh Phara, (all MLAs) talked to residents of those villages where the work of levelling of sand dunes had been completed.

Sources said the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) Bathinda, which was to implement the project, paid lakhs of rupees to the Forest Department for planting the saplings.

After four years of plantation, only 18,000 saplings could survive despite the fact that the Forest Department authorities were bound to take care of them.

However, the Forest Department authorities claimed that saplings could not survive as there was no arrangement of water to irrigate them and the persons on whose land the saplings were planted free of cost did not take proper care of them.

Some residents of various villages where the scheme of levelling of sand dunes was carried out alleged before the committee members that money meant for the scheme had been diverted to other areas.

The villagers also alleged that those assigned the task of levelling of sand dunes made bunglings in the record.

However, a section of villagers, while refuting their allegations, said the complaints being made before the committee members were politically motivated and the complainants were trying to malign the image of the government.

Mr Bir Devinder Singh, former chairman of the Market Committee, Rama Mandi, and resident of Kanakwal village, however, said the allegations were true and the work of levelling of sand dunes was left midway by the authorities concerned to divert the money in areas represented by the ruling party MLAs.

The committee members also visited the village of the in-laws of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Chak Fateh Singh Wala, where the money of this project had allegedly been diverted by the official concerned.

The committee members were informed by the residents of various villages that the officials concerned had also shown in their record that all the sand dunes in the villages covered under the scheme had been levelled, which was not true.


Court orders status quo
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 25
The Civil Judge (Senior Division), Sangrur, has directed Ms Pushpinder Kaur and others to maintain status quo till February 28 regarding construction on a piece of property earlier in the possession of the PSEB. The PSEB had its offices on the property, popularly known as Old Power House, near the bus stand here.

On February 23, on the orders of the court, the possession of the property was taken over by the decree-holders.


Seminar on environment
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 25
“All-out efforts will be made for the overall development of the holy city of Amritsar”, said Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, Punjab Minister for Science and Technology, while presiding over a seminar on “Keep Environment Clean and Green” organised by the Amritsar Vikas Manch at the local Thakur Singh arts gallery auditorium today.

A memorandum was given to the minister, demanding the establishment of a doll house, an aquarium, a traffic training part and a planetorium to attract tourists. The minister assured that a committee of scientists would be formed to study the feasibility of these projects.

Later, Mr Garg distributed prizes to the winner students in National Environment Awareness Campaign 2000-2001 competition. Mr Rajinder Mohan, general secretary of the Indian Academy of Fine Arts inaugurated the seminar while Mr Gurpartap Singh Guri, District Science Officer delivered the keynote address.


Book released
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 25
The Mansarovar Punjabi Sahit Akademi organised a book release function and poetical symposium at Guru Teg Bahadur College, Amritsar, The chief guest, Mr O.P. Soni, MLA, released a book ‘Udarian’ written by Gurpal Singh Nirvair. 


Conference on farmers’ plight
Our Correspondent

Barnala, February 25
Mr H.D. Deve Gowda, former Prime Minister, Mr Kuldip Nayyar, celebrated journalist and MP Shabana Azmi, film actress and Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, national President of the Lok Bhalai Party and MP, will be the star speakers at the convention and public conference to be held here on March 2.

This was stated by Mr Bhola Singh Virk, President, Lok Bhalai Kisan Sabha, his party in league with the Lok Bhalai Party would organise this public conference which would be presided over by Mr Ramoowalia.

Mr Virk said the conference would hold discussions on how to save farmers from suicides following the WTO and the GATT agreements, generate employment for the unemployed, remove poverty, improve condition of Dalits and the other weaker sections and check the growing fanaticism. 


Depot allotment hangs fire
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 25
Even as the District Food and Supply Control (DFSC) authorities have interviewed all applicants for fair price depots in various pockets of the district about two years ago, no depot has been allotted so far.

Official sources said hundreds of applicants were interviewed for allotting 68 depots in rural and urban areas of the district in 1998 by the allotment committee and no applicant had been allotted a depot so far.

The sources added that at present there were 80 depots in rural and urban areas of the district to supply items of daily use at subsidised rates to those living below the poverty line.

To cater to the needs of more such people, the DFSC authorities invited applications for 68 depots to be opened in various pockets of the district after the SAD-BJP alliance came to power.

Even after two years of the interviews, the applicants have been waiting for the result. On the other hand, four depots have been allotted allegedly under political pressure by the authorities.

According to information gathered by TNS from the Food and Civil Supplies Department, the depots could not be allotted as there was some difference of opinion between two Punjab ministers.

The sources said the allotment could not be done by three different committees headed by the Deputy Director, Food and Supply, District Food and Supply Controller and District Food and Supply Officer allegedly due to the confusion created by the two ministers.

They said the matter was taken up at a recent meeting held in connection with the grievances of people regarding petroleum products. The meeting was chaired by Mr Ajaib Singh Bhatti, Additional Deputy Commissioner, and apart from officials, traders and consumers also participated in it.

Mr Bhatti said he had brought the matter into the notice of the Punjab Government. He added that he had nothing to do with the allotment of depots.

The sources said the authorities had been claiming that the depots had not been allotted as the applicants had started showing little interest in the same after the quota of kerosene was decreased from 25,000 litres to 5,000 litres to each depot. People were interested in running the depots as they were able to earn enough by selling the kerosene in the open market at a premium. Now with easy LPG to rural areas, the consumption of kerosene had come down and the profit margin decreased.

However, one of the applicants alleged that some politicians of the ruling party wanted to allot the depots to their own men which had resulted in the delay. 


Highway robbery: six of gang held

Jalandhar, February 25
The police today claimed to have solved the February 15 highway robbery case with the busting of a six-member gang of robbers and the recovery of Rs 1.65 lakh in cash from them.

District police chief Gaurav Yadav today said the Tata Sumo, used by the criminals to block the Tata-407 vehicle and snatch Rs 1.85 lakh from employees of a liquor contractor after inflicting multiple stab wounds on him and firing a shot in the air, had been recovered.

He said a country-made loaded pistol of .12 bore and another of .303 bore and five cartridges in addition to swords and lathis which the accused had used in wounding three men of the contractor during the hold-up over a narrow canal bridge near Nallan village on the Jalandhar-Kalasinghia road, had also been recovered.

The SSP identified the gangsters, picked up from near the cremation ground area of Basti Danishmandan today when they were planning to commit a robbery, as Tajinder Pal Singh, alias Pind, Kamaljit Singh, alias Kamal, Vinod Kumar, alias Billa, Joginder Pal, Bhupinder Singh alias Kaka and Roshan Lal, all residents of nearby villages in the jurisdiction of the Lambra police station.

He said the conspiracy to loot the cash had been hatched with the connivance of Tata Sumo driver Bhupinder Singh though the vehicle belonged to Tajinder Pal Singh. The police officer said Joginder Pal and Kamaljit Singh were also wanted in a criminal case registered in March last.

He said all accused were today remanded to police custody for further investigation. UNI


Gang of cheats busted

Gurdaspur, February 25
The police today claimed to have busted a gang of cheats who had duped people of their hard-earned money with false promises of getting them government jobs by arresting two of its three members.

The SSP, Mr Varinder Kumar, said Kulbir Masih and his relative Nazar Masih were arrested on Friday but gang leader Gulzar Singh of Lamma village near Jalandhar was absconding.

Both residents of Ghumman Kalan village, Kulbir and Nazar were arrested on a complaint of Balkar Masih of Bhattian village.

The complainant alleged that the arrested accused had taken Rs 50,000 from him about eight months ago with the promise of getting his son Jaswinder Masih recruited in the Punjab police as a constable.

He further alleged that the accused had similarly duped Mangal Singh of Wadala Granthian village of Rs 25,000 in the pretext of getting his son Tarsem Singh the job of a peon in the Punjab School Education Board and Salima, a widow and a resident of Jhanda Labana village, of Rs 60,000 with the promise of getting her son Samman Masih recruited as police constable.

The accused, while confessing their involvement in the racket, said Gulzar Singh masterminded the entire operation by posing as personal assistant to Service Selection Board (SSB) member Munawar Masih with whom he had campaigned during the last assembly election held in the state in February, 1997. UNI


4 intruders loot dera inmates

Hoshiarpur, February 25
Four intruders looted cash after assaulting two inmates of an Udasi dera near Tajpur village under the Haryana police station past midnight today, police sources said.

Sant Bhagwan Das and Mahinder Kumar, who were wounded in the assault by criminals armed with lathis, were admitted to the local Civil Hospital this morning.

They told the police that it was around 0130 hours when they came across four intruders, three of whom had their faces masked. Though Punjabi-speaking, they appeared to be migrants. Left to nurse their broken jaws in the dera of Schidanand, alias Mage Ram, in the village, the crime was noticed when village ex-sarpanch Balbir Singh went to pay obeisance at around 0400 hours. He immediately informed the police who got the wounded admitted in Hariana hospital from where they were shifted to the local Civil Hospital in view of multiple injuries.

Mr Ram Saroop (ASI), who was the first to reach the crime site, said the criminals came on cycles and walked barefoot as indicated by tyre and foot marks in adjoining fields. A sniffer dog traced the movement of criminals till Lehal village, 3 km from the site of the crime. Fingerprint expert Gurdip Singh collected vital evidence about the crime, while SP (detective) G.S. Garewal visited the site today. UNI


Gambling on rise in Abohar
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 25
The Anti Corruption Board of India today alleged that cricket bookies had spread their area of operation in a big way and this was going to ruin many families. In fact the centre of betting had shifted from the surrounding cities to Abohar.

Addressing a seminar against drugs, dowry, lottery and corruption” at the Scouts Hall of Government Senior Secondary School today Mr Yudhishter Gakhar, District President of the organisation, said gambling was allegedly flourishing in to tarb of daily lottery draws. Those involved in betting and illegal satta trade enjoyed full patronage of politicians and officers, he added. The seminar was presided over by Mr Pawan Saraf, national secretary of the organisation.

Mr Gakhar exhorted the people to defeat the candidates who had criminal records or tried to influence the voters with money or liquor in the next elections. The nexus between the drug mafia and the politicians would affect nearly 75 per cent population in the next five years.

A number of school and colleges participated in the seminar. Mr Bhumibal Sharma won the first prize, Ms Shinam Grover stood second and Ms Bhawna Dhuria received third prize in the declamation contest. 


JBTs to supervise plus-2 exams
Ashok Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
The Punjab School Education Board will deploy only JBT teachers as supervisors in the matriculation and plus-two examinations commencing on March 12 this year while centre superintendents will be appointed from amongst the headmasters and lecturers.

Disclosing this here today Mrs Harcharanjit Kaur Brar, Controller, Examinations said this was one of the several steps taken to eradicate the menace of copying at a high level meeting presided over by Mr Tota Singh, Minister for School Education, Punjab, and attended by all DEOs, DPIs (primary and secondary) besides the Chairman and Secretary of the board.

She said the board had set up 3546 examination centres and deployed more than 20,000 teachers to supervise about seven lakh candidates appearing for these two examinations this year.

The decision of having a set of five question papers had by and large been a successful experiment to discourage copying from outside the examination centres. Now JBT teachers who are not in touch with the syllabus and teaching pattern of high and higher classes, will not be able to help the examinees from within the examination centres.

The second major step Mrs Brar said, would be to create nearly 450 clusters of examination centres. Each cluster will consist of eight schools headed by a principal or a headmaster as its coordinator. The cluster incharge, school, will be kept out and placed in some other cluster. On the sixth day of the commencement of the examination within each cluster the supervisory staff would be changed in such a manner that the superintendent to deputy superintendent and the supervisory staff do not remain together at the new centre of examination.

“The idea is not to let any nexus develop for copying. For the time being, this interchange will be exercised only once,” she added.

She said the practice of appointing head of the school, where the examination centre is created as Controller, would be reintroduced this year. During the conduct of important papers like English, Maths, science etc lecturers, headmasters and retired officers would be deployed as full-time observers. Members of the board and the Academic Council would also raid the examination centres. Flying squads as usual would be constituted to conduct surprise raids. The notorious centres would be put under extra strict vigilance.

“Even after these measures if copying is detected at any of the centres, re-examination of that particular paper will be ordered, the examination centre can be disapproved or the centre can be temporarily shifted to some other building keeping in mind the convenience of candidates and the security of the supervisory staff”, she said.

If found guilty, the supervisory staff would not only be debarred from any duty of integrity assigned by the board, but their cases would be reported to the Education Department for disciplinary action. but at the same time, those performing commendably, would be awarded letters of appreciation.

Claiming that the present arrangement would set a trend of conducting examinations, Mrs Brar has sought the cooperation of all teachers, students and parents to make it a success.


School enables mute kids to speak
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 25
The Mahant Gurbanta Dass School for Deaf and Dumb and Blind Children, being managed by the District Red Cross society, has set an example for other similar institutes as the students being trained and educated by it have shown a marked improvement in their ability to speak and communicate with others.

Out of a total of 92 students, about 10 have shown marked improvement and are now able to partially communicate with others. At the inauguration of the hostel of the school, when a student, Harshadeep, was asked to name the deputy commissioner-cum-chairman of the school she hesitantly called out, ‘Jashpal’ (Jaspal). Her teacher, Mr Ghanshyam Singh Yadav, said that when the students show improvement, the motivation of teachers also increases.

Mr Yadav pointed out that if speech therapy was started early in their life, these children could lead normal lives and even be admitted to normal schools. As age advanced, the speech organs of a child showed less progress, so it was better to start speech therapy early in childhood and continue it up till 15 years.

Mrs Maninder Kaur, Principal of the school, said there were greater chances of improvement among children who had slightly more hearing ability, although she claimed that every child of the school had shown improvement with speech therapy. “We ensure that less of symbolic language is used in the school and the stress is on developing the speech ability of the students. The kids are given full training in the symbolic language also, but the aim is to develop their primary abilities,” she added.

Mr Deepak Kumar, a teacher of the school, said that the students were also taught drawing, primary languages, and the syllabus of Punjab School Education Board was followed in the school. The cooperation of parents, friends and society was needed to develop the full potential of kids.

A woman teacher of the school lamented that some times the parents of the kids did not show interest in the development of the kids. Pernaps, they took it for granted that their ward was not going to improve. “The parents felt that all these therapies are not useful or they come to us too late and the development of their child is thus reduced significantly.”

A senior teacher added that some parents even felt guilty to admit that their ward was deaf and dumb and needed attention. “These parents should keep in mind that the deaf and dumb children are absolutely normal, except for hearing and speaking disability, and could surpass normal students on the academic front”, he asserted.

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