Saturday, March 17, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




Kanwaljit claims fiscal turnaround
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
The Punjab Vidhan Sabha today passed without discussion and by voice vote the supplementary demands for grants involving gross additional expenditure of Rs 818.28 crore, presented to the House by the Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, on Thursday.

The statement of Capt Kanwaljit Singh seeking approval for the supplementary grants focussed on the financial situation in the state in 2000-01 and reflected the financial upswing achieved during the past four years.

After listing what the SAD-BJP inherited in February, 1997, at the end of the five-year “maladministration” of the Congress government, he gave a resume of how a turnaround had been achieved to fill the “empty coffers” that had resulted in stagnant revenues, rising expenditure, a slowed rate of economic growth and an ever-increasing debt burden, Rs 8,500 crore taken as special term loan.

Though he tread the familiar path on the financial front, the presentation showed a silver lining giving a glimpse how through ‘’financial reforms and restructuring and overhauling governance’’, equitable social justice to one and all had been achieved.

The government, Capt Kanwaljit Singh told the House, had provided relief and succour to every section of society worth Rs 2,000 crore. Punjab played a keyrole in the ‘’empowered committee’’ of eight Finance Ministers constituted at the conference of Chief Ministers on reforms in sales tax to accelerate economic development.

As a consequence of the implementation of those recommendations, the sales tax revenue of Punjab, which was only Rs 1,490 crore in 1998-99, is expected to reach Rs 2,700 crore in the current financial year, showing an increase of 81 per cent. This increase is sans collections on account of social security cess that is estimated at Rs 110 crore. Such achievements have been made without imposing new taxes or an unwanted burden on trade and industry which was instead given relief.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh took special pride in referring to the achievements on the small savings and lottery fronts. Against collections of Rs 948 crore by way of small savings in 1996-97, these had increased to Rs 3,000 crore. In the same way lotteries generated an income of Rs 35 crore against a mere Rs 8.61 crore in the same period.

The Finance Minister was hopeful of further decreasing the revenue deficit and expressed his satisfaction over the improvement in the financial health though a lot more was required to be done. The results, as a consequence of financial reforms, would be discernible in another two years.

The non-plan expenditure of the then government rose from Rs 2,963.38 crore to Rs 6,371.07 crore between 1992 and 1997. This led to the taking of a special term loan rather than concrete steps to reduce the gap between revenue income and expenditure.

As the Finance Minister stood up to make the statement, the “unattached” Akali MLAs, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, Mr Ranjit Singh Chhajjalwadi, Mr Prem Singh Lalpura and Mrs Daljit Kaur, protested against the occupation of Opposition seats by Treasury Bench members. After continuing their chant and slogan shouting, they staged a walkout.

Earlier during the day while question hour ended, with minor verbal skirmishes, 10 minutes before time, during zero hour Mrs Laxmi Kant a Chawla and Mr Grewal raised some issues. At one stage, the Speaker, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, and Mr Grewal were engaged in a wordy duel in which Mr Madan Mohan Mittal also joined in as the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs. The Speaker disallowed what was being said by Mr Grewal. Then the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, spoke assuring the House that the interests of farmers would always be safeguarded and recounted how he and Mr Om Prakash Chautala, Chief Minister of Haryana, had met the Prime Minister for a remunerative minimum support price for wheat and how the Centre was responding. He said the promised “relief” to paddy growers and the Rs 350 crore package would be given to farmers. Referring to the indefinite dharna by farmers in Chandigarh, he said he would meet a deputation of the Bharti Kisan Union, under whose banner the dharna was organised.

Mr Badal said he would go to Delhi on March 22 and take up the issue of announcement of the wheat price.

Mr Mittal, on a point of order, referred to statements by the Opposition appearing a section of the Press today that gave an impression that the government was not serious about letting the Opposition’s suspension be revoked. He drew the attention of the House to the mis-statement of facts by Mr Hardev Arshi and others relating to the meeting held with the Speaker to break the impasse on Thursday.

As per the revised schedule of the conduct of business of the House, the session has been curtailed and will now end on March 27 when it will be adjourned sine die. The Speaker ruled that the Budget would be presented on Monday (March 19) at 11 am and the following day would be a day off. The general discussion will be on March 21, when the House meets at 2.30 pm, and will conclude the same day. The non-official business day is March 22 with holidays from March 23 to 25. The House will take up discussion and voting on the demands for grants for 2001-02 and the appropriation bill in respect of the Budget estimates on March 26 at 2.30 pm and adjourn sine die the following day.


Bank robbery in Ludhiana village
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
A bank robbery in Jagraon police district this afternoon, the first in the current year, is an indication of the laxity in security in the area infested with militants owing allegiance to the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF).

Four armed youths robbed a branch of the Oriental Bank of Commerce in Mohi village in Ludhiana district around 1 p.m. after ordering all seven staff members, including the security guard, to put their hands up. The guard was unarmed and performing the duty of a peon when the crime took place.

The robbery, the second since August 28 last year , took place when the bank was about to close for the lunch break.

According to Mr Vipin Goel, branch manager of the bank, three persons, carrying a cut double -barreled gun, a revolver and a country-made pistol, entered the bank premises around 1 p.m.

“Though eyewitnesses say there were four robbers who came on two scooters, we did not see the fourth. He probably stood on guard outside. Soon after they entered, they threatened to shot each one of us and ordered us to put our hands up. We did as ordered. Besides seven staff members, including the security guard performing the duty of a peon, there were four customers inside the branch at that time. A few customers also walked in while the robbery was being committed,” Mr Goel said, maintaining that the “intruders” took away whatever money there was in the cashier’s chamber. The entire operation lasted about 10 minutes.

“Before leaving, they locked us up, including the customers, inside the branch and escaped on their scooters,” Mr Goel said, revealing that though “ the branch has a sanctioned post of an armed guard, we also occasionally ask him to do the work a peon. Unfortunately, he was not armed when the incident took place.”

According to Mr Goel, the robbers took away Rs 1.16 lakh.

The Jagraon police district chief, Mr Jaskaran Singh, confirmed that four men in their early 30s bearing firearms walked into the bank branch and decamped with more than Rs 1 lakh.

Jagraon has been home to most of the KLF militants. Some of them, including Sampuran Singh and Harnek Singh “Bhup”, are still wanted by the police.

Today’s robbery is being viewed as a serious incident following reports of the involvement of wanted “militants’ in a few “contract killing” cases.

More than 300 bank robberies and dacoities took place in Punjab when militancy was at its peak. The biggest was at the Miller Gunj branch (in Ludhiana) of the Punjab National Bank in which more than Rs 5.70 crore was looted.

In the last bank robbery reported from Amritsar in August last year, the branch manager and the guard of the Punjab and Sind Bank were killed and Rs 1.97 lakh looted. That case is yet to be solved.

Though police officials were not sure of any link between the Amritsar and Mohi robberies, they said the security environment, especially in the case of financial institutions, needed to be reviewed. 


Budha Dal chief may be readmitted to Panth
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, March 16
Baba Santa Singh, head, 96 Crori Budha Dal, who was excommunicated from Sikh Panth about16 years ago for building the Akal Takht with the help of then central government after the ‘Operation Bluestar”, is likely to be readmitted into the Sikh ‘Panth’ shortly.

Efforts for his readmission, which could have far-reaching implications in the socio-political alignments in the Sikh community, are on and Baba Santa Singh, whose whereabouts are not known even to his gunmen and confidants since yesterday, may be readmitted in the Sikh ‘Panth’ in a day or so.

Highly placed sources said that decks had been cleared by the Akal Takht for his rejoining into Sikh fold and Baba Santa Singh was likely to appear before Akal Takht to seek pardon and undergo the ‘tankah’ (religious punishment).

Baba Santa Singh was excommunicated along with former Union Minister, Mr Buta Singh for their role in rebuilding of Akal Takht, which was extensively damaged during shelling by the Army in 1984. Mr Buta Singh has since been readmitted into Sikh Panth after he sought pardon some years back and underwent the ‘tankah’.

Mr G.S. Tohra, the then president of the SGPC, had carried out the demolition of the rebuilt Akal Takht after his release from jail, alleging that highest temporal seat of Sikhs had not been built as per ‘maryada’ of the Sikh religion. The Akal Takht was rebuilt subsequently through “kar sewa”.

Though the efforts to readmit Baba Santa Singh into Sikh ‘Panth’ was talk of town since yesterday morning, a fact proved after Tribune team visited his “chawni” (cantonment) here today, Mr Isher Singh, a close associate, when contacted, expressed ignorance about his (Baba Santa Singh) whereabouts and said that Babaji left Patiala for unknown destination in the morning of March 15.

He, however, said that possibility of Babaji in Amritsar was very high and requested this correspondent not to publish the news before he (Baba Santa Singh) was formally readmitted into the ‘Panth’ since ‘vested’ interests could scuttle the move as it would have far-reaching consequences.

Mr Balwinder Singh, a security guard of Baba Santa Singh, said that Babaji left Talwandi Sabo on March 3 for Hola Mohalla at Sri Anandpur Sahib and came back to Patiala few days ago. Since yesterday morning, the whereabouts of Babaji were not known.

He said that Babaji had told him that he (Babaji) along with about 60 associates were going on a secret mission and his (Balwinder Singh) services were not required.

Mr Sukhdev Singh, incharge, agriculture wing of Budha Dal cantonment at Patiala, when contacted, said that Baba Udhe Singh, a close kin of Baba Santa Singh, was accompanying him to Amritsar. He said that he was not aware of the fact that why Babaji had suddenly left for Amritsar. He added that after visiting Amritsar, Babaji would reach Talwandi Sabo.

However, it is not known that who has been brokering the admission of Babaji into ‘Panth’. Since his excommunication, Baba Santa Singh had been given fool-proof security cover by the state government.


Excommunicated Sikhs wish to rejoin Panth
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 16
After the atonement of a Canada-based Sikh, Mr Ratan Singh Girn, some more Sikhs have expressed a desire to rejoin the Sikh fold.

It may be mentioned here that about 10 Sikhs were excommunicated for violating the ‘hukamnama’ (edict) by Bhai Ranjit Singh, the then Jathedar of Akal Takht, while Baba Santa Singh, a Nihang chief of Baba Budha Dal, was excommunicated on the charges of re-constructing Akal Takht which was badly damaged during the infamous Operation Bluestar.

Earlier, Baba Santa Singh had tried to re-join the Sikh panth, but his bid proved futile.


Police clueless about Dimpy
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 16
The Haryana Police continues to draw a blank about the whereabouts of Prabhjinder Singh Dimpy who escaped from custody of Dabwali police a few days ago.

Hailing from a prosperous landlord family of Chand Bhan village in Faridkot, Dimpy is allegedly kingpin in the Rs 5 crore ransom case of Mr Nirmal Kumar Jaipuria, a prominent silk merchant of Bangalore. Dimpy was arrested by the police from Hyderabad on July 18, 1997, while his three accomplices Jasvinder Singh ‘Rakhi’ of Ferozepore district, Mukhtiar ‘Mukhta’ of Patna and Brijesh Kumar Singh of Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh were nabbed from Nagarbhavi near Bangalore along with the victim.

He was brought to Punjab to stand trial in a case of kidnapping in 1985 in which he had been declared proclaimed offender.

He was taken by the Haryana Police to be produced in the court of SDJM, Dabwali, in a robbery case in 1995. It was here that he complained of back pain and was admitted to the Civil Hospital where he gave slip to three constables accompanying him.

He is also said to be involved in the murder of one Jagga of Mankheri village and his reported involvement in the murder of Panjab University student leader Makhan Singh has always been suspected, a former student leader said.

Besides this, he is said to have usurped prime properties while he was a close confident of a prominent leader. He was also candidate in the aborted Vidhan Sabha elections in 1990 from Kot Kapura.

In the present episode, he escaped from a hospital in Dabwali on March 12 and had been eluding the police despite raids at his native place and suspected hideouts in the region and in other parts of the country.

Sirsa police authorities were tight-lipped about the whole affair but sources in the Punjab Police confirmed that raids had been carried in the state but the accused had not been traced so far.


Bail plea of police officers rejected
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 16
The Special CBI Magistrate today rejected the bail application of three Punjab police officers, including a Superintendent of Police (SP) and two Deputy Superintendents of Police (DSPs), in the case involving the “illegal” detention and subsequent disappearance of a Babbar Khalsa International activist in 1993.

Special CBI Magistrate Jaspinder Singh Heyer today rejected the bail application of Patiala Superintendent of Police (Detective) M.S. Chahal and two DSPs — Ramesh Chander and Jagtar Singh. The three police officers, along with Patiala Range Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG) Sanjeev Gupta are accused of hatching a conspiracy to eliminate Babbar activist Sukdev Singh Sukha in 1993. The three police officers as well as the DIG were present in the court today. The Magistrate fixed the next date of hearing in the case to April 9.

Yesterday Additional Sessions Judge Birender Singh had asked the three police officers to surrender before the Special Magistrate today. He had stayed their arrest till March 21.

According to the CBI, which has filed a charge sheet against the police officers following the handing over of the case to it by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, all of them hatched a conspiracy to eliminate the Babbar activist. According to the investigating agency Sukha was called to the Sohana police station in March 1993 by its then Inspector Ramesh Chander who said the Senior Superintendent of Police wanted to speak to him. The CBI claims Sukha was kept at the CIA interrogation centre at Ropar for one month and tortured there. It claims Sukha was transferred from one police station to another till July of the same year after which he was never seen again after being taken away by a police officer.


HC: treat CJM’s report as petition
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
In a report submitted to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Faridkot’s Chief Judicial Magistrate has stated that the undertrials in the Ferozepur Central Jail were treated as animals.

Taking up the report, Mr Justice M.L. Singhal of the High Court today observed that the allegations “appeared to be quite serious” and directed that the matter should be taken up by treating it as a criminal writ petition.

Referring to a recent incident of alleged excesses committed by the jail authorities, the CJM, in his nine-page report, added that “human beings under no circumstances can be given such beating as per any law or the rule of the land”.

Giving details of the incident, CJM Sukhdarshan Singh Khaira stated: “In view of the statements of the undertrials, it was crystal clear that on January 29 at about 4 p.m., the undertrials were taken out from the cells and beaten up.”


Vajpayee should resign: Tohra
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 16
Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President of the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD), has sought resignation of the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, on moral grounds.

Mr Tohra, while talking to mediapersons here today, said resignations by some ministers and party presidents would not serve any purpose. He said the scam had shook the country and shattered morale of the defence personnel. He added that there was no need of debate in the Parliament. He said if there was not any truth in findings of the company, why were the resignations of ministers accepted.

Mr Tohra said the Prime Minister was responsible for the wrong doings of his Cabinet colleagues and members of his party. He said earlier there were only speculations that kickbacks were made while purchasing weapons and other defence equipments. But now has brought the truth in open.

He said during the government of Congress, only foreigners were involved in such scams but the present government had crossed all limits. In the present time, the politicians bureaucrats and defence officials were involved in the scam.

Criticising ineffectiveness of the Central Government, he said the Prime Minister should have stepped down immediately after the scandal had come out if he was sincere in taking any step in the matter. He said the government was not taking the matter seriously.

Mr Tohra said the footage that was shown by TV channels was only a tip of the iceberg and there were many more who would come to light if whole of it was shown. But the government might use pressure tactics to force officials of the company not to release the rest of the recordings, he said.

Attacking the Punjab Government, he said Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, should make his stand clear regarding the matter. He alleged that there was no possibility of Mr Badal reacting to the scam because he was more interested in his family than the state. He added that Mr Badal had been ignoring the state for his vested interests.

Mr Tohra said the ruling NDA Government had crossed all limits of corruption. He said the Congress had often been criticised by the BJP for its involvement in various scandals but it had itself started going in the same direction. He said while the Congress had become corrupt after ruling the country for more than three decades but the present government had achieved that feat in only two years.

Mr Tohra welcomed resurrection of the third front at the Centre. It was an appreciable step and would be beneficial for people of the country. “Our party is thankful to veteran Marxist leader Mr Jyoti Basu for accepting presidentship of the front,” he said.

Mr Tohra, however, said their party had not yet decided to join the front. He said they would see whether the new front would care for interests of the state. He said they would support the front if the latter would work according to policies of his party. He said they were willing to help any party that would care for the interests of the minority communities.

He said the state government was giving step-motherly treatment to assembly constituencies of the Opposition MLAs. He added that those areas were not given funds and grants for their development.


Parties plan conferences at Khatkar Kalan
Parmod Bharti

Various political parties and the district administration have drawn up plans for the ‘‘shradhanjli samaroh’’ to be organised at Khatkar Kalan, native village of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, on March 23 .

Tributes will be paid to the martyrs — Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev — and the parties will organise their conferences in the village. Left parties will also stage revolutionary plays. The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, the PPCC president, Mr Amarinder Singh, Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia (Lok Bhalai Party), Prof Balwant Singh (CPM) and Mr Darshan Singh Khatkar (CPI-ML) are among those scheduled to address the political conferences.

The museum, situated on the main Nawanshahr-Jalandhar road, was spruced up last year at a cost of Rs 10 lakh. A boundary wall had been built, marble flooring provided in the museum complex and a 250 sq ft pucca stage constructed. Mr Badal will address the gathering from this stage.

Residents of Khatkar Kalan and the adjoining villages have criticised the ‘‘politicisation’’ of the function and resent the tight security measures taken on the occasion. They say the function has been reduced to a ‘‘sarkari tamasha’’ over the years.

They say political leaders merely come as a formality to the village, pay tributes to the martyrs and make promises which remain unfulfilled.

They say the building of Adarsh School was constructed after 20 years. They have been pressing the authorities for the provision of the drinking water facility for a long time but to no avail. The Chief Minister had, during the Nawanshahr byelection, promised to set up a park at the site of a pond near the ancestral house of Shaheed Bhagat Singh but nothing concrete has been done so far, laments the Sarpanch, Mr Jaswinder Singh. Earlier, Congress and SAD-BJP Ministers had announced the building of a tourist complex on the premises of the museum but nothing had happened. A mini zoo set up there has been closed, say some residents.

The residents have been organising a function every year on September 27, the birth anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.


Procession by BYJM
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 16
Hundreds of activists of the Bharatiya Yuva Janata Morcha took out a procession , amidst tight security, against the action of Congress party activists who had burnt an effigy of the Prime Minister in New Delhi.

The Morcha activists burnt tyres and effigies in front of the District Congress Committee (Rural) office near the Samana Road octroi post and later tried to proceed towards the DCC (Urban) office in the Chotti Baradari area but were thwarted in their designs by the police. A traffic jam was created near the Samana road octroi post which, however, was cleared with the help of the police.

Meanwhile, the District Congress Committee (DCC) has taken strong exception to the procession. Mr Darshan Singh Ghuman, Senior Vice- President of the DCC (Urban) in a statement said the Congress had nothing to do with such activities and added that those Congress men who had burnt effigies of the Prime Minister in New Delhi were trying to tarnish the image of the party.


President elected
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
The secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, said here today that Mr Sardul Singh Sham had been elected president of the Amritsar district unit (urban) of the party. Dr Upinderjit Kaur, Urban Development Minister, would conduct the organisational elections.


KMC to take up Sikh issues with Annan
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 16
After a “smooth going” of the 1984 riots issue in the Vidhan Sabha recently Sikh radical organisations have taken the opportunity to take a step forward to highlight the Sikh issue on an international level.

In continuation of seeking justice highlighting “exercise” the Khalra Mission Committee (KMC) and the Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) in a letter to Mr Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations Organisation (UNO) has raised the issue of historic and present atrocities against Sikhs and sought redressal of nine counts, which include unconditional release of Sikh detainees in jails.

The KMC and PHRO president Mr Surinder Singh Ghariala, Mr Kirpal Singh Randhawa presidents of the KMC and the PHRO respectively, along with four other signatories have demanded UNO Commission of Inquiry into Sikh killings, lifting of the sanctions against black listed Sikhs and permission and right to visit Punjab.

Their demands also include interstate disputes on transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab as well as river water distribution. Other demands include the Rs 500 currency note to carry photo of a Sikh revolutionary Baba Banda Singh.

The declaration of Amritsar equivalent to Vatican city and a confederation similar to European Economic Committee (EEC) be formed between Pakistan Punjab, India and Kashmir. 


SPCA enrols 400 members
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 16
The membership drive by the Society for Prevention of Cruelty against Animals (SPCA), Sangrur, is nowadays in full swing. More than 400 members have been enrolled so far since March 1 by the SPCA with the active participation of the district Animal Husbandry authorities.

Talking to TNS here this afternoon, Dr Harjit Singh Jawanda, Deputy Director, Animal Husbandry, said the SPCA had fixed a target to enrol at least 1000 members by the March-end. He said a meeting had also been held in his office on March 7 last in which officers and others had been motivated to make the membership drive a success.

Dr Jawanda, who is the secretary of the SPCA, said the representatives of the gaushalas of the district had also assured the SPCA that they would enrol at least 125 patrons and extend their full cooperation in this pious cause. He said a person could become a patron of the society by depositing Rs 1,000 while for becoming an ordinary member of the society, the fee was only Rs 100.

A meeting of the SPCA was held under the presidentship of Mr Anirudh Tiwari, Deputy Commissioner-cum-Chief Patron, of the SPCA, in the last week of February to activate the functioning of the society.

The district police chief said the police would extend full cooperation in implementing the law, meant for preventing cruelty against animals.

The SPCA has also chalked-out a plan to arrange a recovery van for carrying the injured animals, involved in any accident or mishap, to the veterinary hospitals for treatment.

The SPCA has also emphasised on the need of educating the people about the cruelties against the animals.

The Deputy Commissioner has released an amount of Rs 5,000 from the District Red Cross Society as loan for running the functioning of the SPCA smoothly at the initial stage, otherwise funds will be raised by the society from the individuals and social organisation. The society will also receive funds from the Animal Welfare Board of India.

The society has also decided to set up shelters for stray and abandoned animals.


Quake experts for micro-hydel projects
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 16
Experts on earthquakes, floods, landslides, floods and cyclones of international and national repute, who participated in the four-day international conference on natural hazards, mitigation and management, have recommended that wrong signals about earthquake prediction should not be encouraged. Building code should be made mandatory, landslides should be monitored by the Institute of Geological Sciences (GIS) and remote sensing techniques in Himalayas. They also stressed micro-hydel projects and community participation in disaster mitigation.

Dr H.S. Virk, Director of the Amritsar Earthquake Centre, presided over the valedictory function. In his presidential remarks, Dr Virk announced that a nuclear power plant would be sanctioned for Punjab to increase the generation of electricity and he said the proposal was in the final phase before the Atomic Energy Department. Prof W. Mitchell of the UK said landslides should be monitored by the GIS and remote sensing techniques in the Himalayas.

Col S.S. Bal of Amritsar suggested that as Punjab had three major hydro electric dams in seismic zone, hence we should go for micro-hydel projects.


Pingalwara branch inauguration
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 16
Another branch of the All-India Pingalwara Charitable Society, Amritsar, will be inaugurated on March 25 by Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, on the Sangrur-Dhuri road, near here.

Giving this information here on Monday evening, Dr Inderjit Kaur, president of the society, said it had so far spent about Rs 1.50 crore on the construction of the new building of the Pingalwara.

Dr Inderjit Kaur further said Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, Governor of Uttaranchal, would visit the Pingalwara on March 24 on this occasion. 


Unhygienic conditions irk residents
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 16
Residents of the town have complained about poor condition of cleanliness in the local Civil Hospital.

They said heaps of garbage could be seen lying in the hospital backyard. An official of the Civil Hospital said there were five posts of nursing sisters and one of matron, out of these only three nursing sisters were filled.

Lately, one more nursing sister had been transferred from the local Civil Hospital to the P. H. C. Sardhulgarh. So now out of the total six posts, only two were working.

Due to this, it was quite difficult to supervise cleanliness of the hospital. The residents have demanded intervention of the Health Minister, Punjab, Mr Baldev Raj Chawla.


Ranjit Singh celebrations planned
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
As a tribute to Maharaja Ranjit Singh and to carry forward his legacy, the Punjab Government has decided to organise year-long bicentenary celebrations of his coronation in the state which falls on April 12. A decision in this connection was taken at a meeting presided over by the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badad, according to a press note.

As part of the celebrations, functions will be organised at various places. Three statues of Maharaja Ranjit Singh will be installed in the state.

The meeting decided to constitute a high-level concept committee under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister to give final shape to various other programmes to be organised throughout the year. An implementation committee was formed under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary, Mr N.K. Arora, with the Secretaries of the departments concerned as members. The Chief Minister ordered the release of Rs 2 crore for implementing various projects and organising programmes.


Sewage floods houses
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, March 16
Hundreds of residents of Khatikan Mohalla, Sirhandi Gate and Talab Bazar today protested outside the Municipal Committee office against the failure of the committee to clear drain water and sewage which entered their houses eight days ago.

They were protesting against the alleged indifference of the authorities to the fact that four to five feet of sewage water had flooded their houses. The residents alleged that they were not getting potable water.

Mr Arshad Dali, Municipal Councillor of a ward, alleged that due to negligence on the part of committee this stage had come. He said due to earth filling of the Sajida Park, now there was no vacant space for the disposal of the sewage with the result that drain water and sewage entered the houses of residents.

Due to this, around 40 to 50 residents of the area fell ill and the dirty water could set off epidemics like cholera, gastroenteritis etc, the councillor said. 


Demonstration on vermiculture
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
The Umeed Khanna Foundation (UKF), which has earned a name for itself in Sangrur by its free health care scheme and other social projects, today took the initiative to promote and create awareness about vermiculture.

The foundation, in collaboration with the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology, organised a demonstration on vermiculture in Chathe Sekhwan village. It was attended by more than 70 farmers who were given technical details by Dr Rajesh Grover, scientific officer of the council.


20 lakh donated for quake victims
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 16
The PWD Employees Coordination Committee today handed over Rs 20 lakh to the Punjab Chief Minister as relief for the earthquake victims in Gujarat.

The committee members were accompanied by Mr Sucha Singh Langah, Public Works Minister, and Mr B.D. Gupta, Chief Engineer. 


Wheat procurement from April 1
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 16
Punjab will start procurement of wheat from April 1 with arrangements being made to procure 1.20 crore tonnes of wheat during the current procurement season.

Talking to newsmen here today, Punjab Food and Civil Supplies Minister Madan Mohan Mittal said the government would also shortly start distributing the Rs 100 crore relief received from the Centre among those who resorted to distress selling of paddy during the last season. He said the money would be released to the farmers after the Budget session of the State Assembly.

Mr Mittal said the affected farmers had been identified and the entire record in this regard had been sealed. He said farmers who had resorted to distress selling during the period from September 1 to October 14 would be given due compensation. He said district level procurement committees had been made and that the entire procurement process would be reviewed every week.

As regards wheat procurement he said extensive preparations had been done prior to the procurement season and that mandis had been distributed among all the purchasing agencies.

He said the Food Corporation of India (FCI) had been allotted 33 per cent of expected arrivals with the other agencies including Markfed, Food and Civil Supplies, Punsup, State Warehousing and Punjab Agro fixed targets of 20 per cent, 10 per cent, 18 per cent, 10 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.

Later the Minister while speaking at a State-level function organised to mark the Consumer Welfare Day, said District Consumer Information Centres would be opened in all the districts of the State in a phased manner under a central scheme. He said the government would try to meet 25 per cent of the target in one year.

He also disclosed that District Consumer Forums were being formed in all the districts. He said as many as 73 voluntary organisations had also been identified. He said under a Consumer Welfare Fund, selected organisations would be given assistance upto Rs five lakh. Giving other figures of the State, he said 7,082 complaints had been received by the Commission and that 5219 complaints had been disposed of. He said similarly District Consumer Forums had received 42,219 complaints out of which 42, 139 complaints had been disposed of.

The function was presided over by State Consumer Commission Chairman Justice (retd) H S Brar and attended by Minister of State for Food and Civil Supplies Sohan Singh Thandal, Secretary Food and Civil Supplies V Vajralingam and Women Commission Chairperson Surinder Kaur Grewal. 


Farmers to continue stir
Kiran Deep

Chandigarh, March 16
Despite Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal having given assurances to leaders of the Kisan Unions, at a meeting here today, the unions have decided to continue the agitation till their demands are fulfilled.

A meeting was held between Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal and eight representatives of various Punjab Kisan Unions at Punjab Bhavan here. The meeting lasted 45 minutes and ended with assurances on five major issues from the Chief Minister. The Kisan leaders said the CM had assured them that his doors were open to a dialogue and discussion. Mr Badal had given time to leaders for deliberating over various other issues on March 19.

The leaders of the various unions, talking to the Tribune, said Mr Badal had assured them that the government would be granted Rs 100 crore to paddy growers and purchase all wheat from the farmers. The families of farmers who had committed suicide due to financial constraints would be awarded compensation. Besides, no one would be arrested for the recovery of loans and all cases pending against the leaders of the unions and farmers in various courts during two years of farmers’ agitation would be taken back.

The Chief Minister, interacting with leaders of farmers led by Mr Hardev Arshi, MLA, Mr Pashora Singh Sidhupur, Mr Rachpal Singh, Mr Hardev Singh Sandhu, Mr Bhupinder Sambar, Mr Gurmeet Singh, Mr Lambhar Singh Tagar, Mr Kulwinder Singh here this afternoon, said the SAD-BJP government, in the past four years had taken revolutionary steps for giving a fillip to agricultural economy by adopting a multipronged strategy.

He said besides directly benefiting agriculturist to the extent of Rs 423.45 crore in the shape of free canal water and electricity and land revenue and biana, the marketing infrastructure at the cost of Rs 204.06 crore had been improved. Remunerative prices on paddy, sugarcane and other crops had been ensured.

He said with the change in the procedure for finalising rates for land acquisition for setting up various projects, a big relief had been provided to the farming community. Mr Badal said the problem of potatoes would be solved soon as Markfed would purchase potatoes at the rate of Rs 200 per bag to satabilise the price of the crop in the market.

Talking to the Tribune, Mr Rachpal Singh, president of the Punjab Kisan Sabha, said they had decided to continue their agitation as these were mere assurances .

The vice-president of the Punjab sabha said hundreds of farmers from various districts of Punjab had started an indefinite dharna at Matka Chowk yesterday. They were demanding profitable rates for wheat and other kharif crops and an assurance on the purchase of crops by the FCI and other government agencies.



Women’s police station set up
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 16
A women’s police station has been set up at the district headquarters and to deal with only women’s cases of the district.

Mr Sanjeev Kalra, SSP, Hoshiarpur said this here yesterday that as many as 333 cases, mainly disputes between husbands and wives, were reported at the police station during 2000. He said compromise in 246 cases had got been done.

In a majority of cases the cause of disputes was due to less dowry or interference by members of the in-laws’ families.

He said seven cases were registered in this connection and in 80 cases where compromise was not possible, parties had been directed to approach the court of law.

The SSP said 20 spouses were killed by their husbands or the in-laws for which seven cases were registered under Section 304B of the IPC and 13 under Section 306 of the IPC. Besides, 35 cases of torture had been registered under Section 498A of the IPC.

To tackle the family disputes, a Family Counselling Centre is being run by the Association for Social Health in India (ASHI) Hoshiarpur.

Ms Harinder Sidhu, Chairperson of ASHI, said 123 cases had been reported to the centre from January 1, 2000 to February 2001. Out of these 51 cases disposed of through compromise and 12 cases had been moved to the court.

One spouse who was rejected by her husband and her parents was staying with ASHI.

She said three cases had been dropped out. 51 cases were still pending with the centre.

While briefing about the nature of disputes she said that in 50 cases there was an ego clash between husbands and wives and in 50 cases there was unnecessary interference by the in-laws. She said in three cases there were illicit relations and in two there was for more dowry demand.

Dispute in three cases was due to economic crisis, she added.


Mahila police station sans facilities
Gayatri Rai

Bathinda, March 16
The lone mahila police station (MPS) of the city, which was inaugurated in 1997 by Mr P.C. Dogra, the then DGP, Punjab, has failed to deliver the goods. The main motive behind the launching the MPS was to cater to the needs of women.

Although the motive was noble, but official neglect, lack of facilities and red tapism have resulted in reducing the MPS to a paper entity.

The MPS operates from just two rooms and lacks telephones, vehicles, lockup for women, toilets, waiting lodge and wireless systems. Out of the two rooms of the MPS, one has been converted into the office of the Station House Officer (SHO) and the other is used by the clerical staff. The space constraint in the MPS adversely affects its functioning.

An official the MPS said its functioning was badly affected due to the lack of resources. The official said they had to go to Civil Lines police station to attend a phone call. Lack of resources affects the efficiency, the official lamented.

The women culprits, who have been arrested by the police, have to be shifted to other police stations during night, as there is no lockup in the MPS. Some women police officials have to be sent along with the undertrials, who have to stay with them during the night.

Several women, while talking to this correspondent, said they had to go to other police stations to lodge an FIR, the very purpose for which the MPS was established. A senior official of the MPS lamented that the higher authorities did not pay attention to improving its condition and repeated written applications and requests didn’t bring any result.


Red tape holds development
Pushpesh Kumar

Bathinda, March 16
Insufficient funds, departmental bottlenecks, corruption, red tapism and political considerations have deprived major section of the city of the basic amenities. Though there has been expansion of city and new colonies developed recently but the Municipal authorities have not been able to provide basic amenities to the residents.

Although water supply and sewerage problems in the city have been old as the city itself, plans and claims to solve them, both by authorities and politicians, have not yielded results.

Not only modern colonies, but even the old city and surrounding areas developed nearly 10 years ago have been regularly facing problems due to inadequate supply of potable water, underground sewerage systems and street lighting.

Mr Deepak Singla (name changed), resident of Nai Basti, said he had lodged a complaint with the Sewerage Department on January 31, (number 5573 and 5574) and then again on March 6 (numbers 6070 and 6071) but the problem had not been solved so far.

In some newly developed colonies here too the residents complained about the improper underground sewerage system. An official of the municipal corporation said the water supply and sewerage problems of the old city were really hard to solve. There were significant differences in the levels of water supply in the area.

Areas like the Old City, Mohalla Pujan Wala, Mohalla Molvian were at higher level of the city, certain other areas like the Ganesha basti, Power House road were in the low lying areas.

Mr Shekhar Garg, resident of the city, said both residents and authorities should be equally held responsible for these problems. He said although the city had been given a step-motherly treatment by the authorities, yet the residents too had not shown any civic sense. In most of the areas, the sewerage blockades were due to polythene carry bags. The sludge was taken out by machines and left on the road, which was later littered around by traffic, he said.

Mr Shiv Kumar Mittal, Executive Officer of the municipal council, when contacted said to improve these conditions, the council was trying to arrange loans of Rs 20 cr and Rs 38 cr, respectively, to improve the sewerage systems and potable water supply in the city. Things would improve in the coming financial year, he asserted. 


Police checks khair smuggling
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, March 16
The Chief Conservator Forests, Himachal Pradesh, has issued an appreciation letter to the Ropar police for its role in curbing the smuggling of the khair wood. The SSP Ropar, Mr G.P.S. Bhullar said a drive had been launched to check illegal cutting and smuggling of the khair wood in Ropar and its adjoining areas of Himachal. In contrast to the paltry catch of khair wood worth Rs 61 lakh last year, this year just in two months wood worth Rs 12.5 lakh has been seized. Due to the strictness of the police the smugglers have either stopped carrying wood through Ropar or have abandoned their operations. Since most of the illegally cut khair wood comes from the jungles of Himachal, the strictness in Ropar had also halted felling of trees there. The Chief Conservator, forests, has acknowledged this fact, the SSP claimed.

The forests of khair in the Shivalik ranges of Punjab and Himachal are being plundered by a nexus of corrupt officials and smugglers since long. A forest official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that on an average about 10 to 20 trees were being felled illegally almost daily. These were then sold to the “katha” producing firms in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh or to the pharmaceutical industry.

Khair trees are being cut for obtaining “katha”. The “katha” of two types — pale and dark. The dark katha is the basic ingredient of “paan” while the pale one is used in making variety of dyes and medicines. It is obtained from the wood of about 20 to 30-year-old trees.

The economic backwardness of the Kandi areas and easy money lures people to get involved in this trade. The khair wood smuggled from the forests of Himachal, is sold at the rates ranging from Rs 2000 to Rs 3000 per quintal.

The ill-equipped and understaffed forest department is not in a position to check this menace in the area. There is just one forest guard to guard the forest areas of about 4000 acres. He doesn’t have any weapon in contrast to the smugglers who have vehicles and weapons at their disposal. The police officials blame the lacunae in the law for their inability to effectively deal with the smugglers. Last year the Ropar police couldn’t achieve even a single conviction in all the cases registered against the khair smugglers. The reason was that the Forest Department used to disown the wood seized.

If the felling of the khair trees continues at the same pace, the ecological balance of the Shivaliks will be disturbed. The foot hills that are already prone to floods and land slides may witness disaster. The drive against the khair smugglers should continue to save the green belts of the areas, said Mr Catha, a senior lecturer of botany in Government Shivalik College.


Kerosene racket unearthed
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 16
The district police has unearthed a massive racket of the sale of white kerosene converted from blue kerosene by seizing 20,000 litres of adulterated kerosene and 100 kg of chemical used for treatment of the commodity.

Mr Gaurav Yadav, SSP, said the police on a tip-off that some people were indulging in treating the controlled blue kerosene after converting it into white decontrolled kerosene conducted a joint raid with the food and civil supplies authorities. He said Balwinder Singh of Dhaman village in Batala, Sukhdev Singh of Rangar Nangal village in Batala and Harjinder Singh of Gharka Chamba village in Amritsar district had been arrested in the case, while specimens of the kerosene were being sent for a chemical examination. He said the kerosene was recovered from a tanker confiscated from the Lamma Pind chowk.

On interrogation, the arrested persons revealed that they were part of a racket run by one Jagdish Sehgal, a resident of Mandirwali street near Lamma Pind Chowk, who has a permit to sell white kerosene but was selling it in black at Rs 15 per litre by treating it with chemicals.


Fake money seized from Pak national
Our Correspondent

Attari, March 16
Fake currency amounting to Rs 48,600 was seized from a Pakistan national, Mohammed Suleiman.

The counterfeit notes were detected by custom official during a routine search operation after the late arrival of the Samjhauta Express at Attari last night. Suleiman (30) is a resident of Rahimyar district of Pakistan. The money was found in the big Rajasthani-style turban that most residents of Kutch wear.

Officials suspect the hand of the ISI. The notes in Rs 100 denomination were concealed in five bundles found on him during a search.

Preliminary interrogation revealed that the money was converted at Wagah station in Pakistan, by suspected ISI agents.

To give a ‘cover-up’ to the covert operation, the youth was travelling with his parents.

Officials reveal he was travelling to Jaisalmer. The Indian notes, it was revealed, were of high accuracy and could not be easily detected by the officials. Only the mode of concealment and the large quantity aroused their suspicion.

Meanwhile, a Pakistan national, Akbar, son of Mohammed of Liaqatabad, Karachi, died on platform number 2 last night at Attari railway station. Suspected heart failure was learnt to be the cause of the death.


Mother, 2 kids run over by train, killed
Tribune News Service

Jaitu, March 16
As many as three persons — a mother and two children — were killed when they were run over by a 3442 Ferozepore-Delhi passenger train near Chandbhan village today.

Police sources said so far it could not be known whether it was an accident or suicide by the mother along with her six and four years old children.

Railway station sources said that accident took place around 12.10 p.m. The train was heading towards Bathinda from this station.

After the accident, the train halted for about 40 minutes and proceeded again for its journey.

The dead bodies could not be identified so far.

The mother and one of the children died on the spot while the second children succumbed to his injuries in the nearby hospital.

To identify the dead bodies, the police also used the public address systems of religious places of the area to inform the public about the accident.

The volunteers of the Sahara Jan Sewa, who also reached at the spot, brought the dead bodies to civil hospital, Bathinda, where the post-mortem of the bodies would be conducted tomorrow.

A case in this connection had been registered.


Kidnapped child traced
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 16
A one-and-half-year-old kidnapped boy was traced by the Civil Lines police, disclosed Ms V. Neerja, SP, Traffic, at a press conference yesterday.

The boy, Sahil, was kidnapped on Wednesday by Lajjo and her husband Kedara with the help of two other women, Veeru of Kiran Colony and Rani of Gumtala.

The four kidnapped the child when the parents of Sahil left him at home to get some medicine from market. Lajjo, who was childless, paid Rs 2,500 to the two other women for helping her in abducting the child.

The child was sent to Panipat in the Barauni Express to Kedara’s sister’s house.

Neighbours of the abducted child had revealed that the child was last seen with Lajjo. A team of police personnel recovered the child from Panipat yesterday.

A case has been registered.


3 held for possessing poppy husk
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 16
The district police has arrested three persons allegedly for smuggling narcotics and 1 kg opium and 10 kg poppy husk was seized from them.

Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, SSP, in a press note issued here today, said the police had registered a case at the Kotwali police station against Kartar Singh, a resident of street number 5 of the Guru Gobind Singh Nagar of the city, for possessing 1 kg of opium. Dr Jain further said the accused had been in business of selling opium in retail in the district.


2 hurt in row over institutes
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 16
Two persons were injured when supporters of Mr Harpal Singh Mithoo and Mr Baldev Singh, former and present president of the Khalsa Dewan, clashed today at the local Khalsa school. Today’s incident was result of the ongoing tussle between two groups for possession of educational institutes being run by the organisation.

The conflict started between the two groups yesterday when supporters of Mr Mithoo forced their way into office of Principal of the Khalsa school and asked him to vacate the premises since the present management had been dissolved. When he resisted, he was reportedly manhandled. A case was registered against Mr Mithoo and his supporters yesterday in this connection.

Mr Jaspal Singh, who received injuries on his chin belonged to the Mithoo group, when contacted he said supporters of the other group manhandled him when he went to office of the Principal for some work. He alleged that there were nearly 20 supporters of Mr Baldev Singh and one of them was holding a pistol. He alleged that he was hit by butt of a pistol. He added that he had no intention to fight with the other group.

While the other injured, Mr Harjinder Singh, brother of Baldev Singh, who was also admitted to the Civil Hospital said he had gone to office of the Principal to meet his brother he was beaten by three persons already present in the office. He said members of their group did not have any intention to clash with the opposite group.

He alleged that supporters of Mr Mithoo, including Jaspal Singh were illegally trying to take control of the Khalsa Dewan institutes. He said Mr Mithoo was removed from his post some years ago for large-scale financial bungling. The police has registered case in this regard today. 


Bleak business for cold storage owners
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 16
Two years ago, cold storage owners were in great demand with farmers wanting some space to store of their potato crop. However, now the cold storage owners are persuading potato growers to keep their crop in cold storages and are even offering heavy discounts in the charges and throwing other baits to allure them.

Though the flow of the potato crop to the cold storages has been decreasing for the past about three years, yet it is for the first time that the situation has come to such a pass that the owners of about 600 medium and large capacity cold storages in the state have been able to utilise just 5 to 10 per cent of their storage space even after two weeks of the onset of the arrival of the crop in the market.

A major factor responsible for this situation is the glut of the crop which led Punjab potato growers to organise a novel protest by destroying their produce by crushing it under their tractor-trailers on Jalandhar roads about two months ago. It discouraged the farmers who reduced the area under the crop. Another factor which has been dissuading them from storing their crop in stores is that they are expecting better returns from their crop, particularly since some of them apprehend a shortage of the crop and an enhanced demand this year.

According to information gathered by The Tribune, the cold storage owners are persuading the farmers to store their crop with them and some of them are even offering free transportation for this purpose. “We have to allure the farmers since we cannot afford to keep our stores empty. We are contacting them even through relatives and friends so that they agree to store their produce with us,” said Balwant Singh Sherowalia, patron of the Punjab Cold Storage Association. Interestingly, the glut of the crop forced a majority of the potato growers to leave their crop in stores and it had to be cleared by the store owners.

The owners, who fear that they would be able to fill just 40 to 50 per cent of the space in their stores this season, have pressed the panic button. They say they may not be able to run half-filled stores in the wake of the new tariff structure clamped on cold storages by the Punjab State Electricity Board authorities.

According to the new tariff plan to be applicable from April 1, the cold storage owners will have to pay a monthly charge at the rate of Rs 500 per kw of the sanctioned load, even if they do not run their cold storages.

The new tarrif plan will result in the payment of a minimum charge of Rs 50,000 per month (even if they do not run in the off season) by even medium capacity units, the number of which is around 500 in the state.

“Though about two years ago the storage charges were about Rs 70 per 80 to 90 kg of the crop, yet since farmers are not coming to us these days, we had to reduce these to just Rs 40 to 45 per bag. I think this is the only industry where the rates have come down instead of shooting up,” said Paramjit Singh Sidhu, a Rampura Phul-based cold storage owner.

According to Mr Hardev Singh Sangha, president of the association, where as on the one hand running half-filled stores is not viable financially, on the other lower temperature in the stores due to lack of stocks, results in dehydration and further damage to the crop. “We are in a dilemma regarding what to do and what not to in such a discouraging situation,” he said adding that the PSEB tariff should be in accordance with the existing tarrif structure for the rice mills, which have been declared seasonal industries by the government. “Do they have the right to charge us when we are not using electricity?” he questioned, adding that it was the Centre and the state government which had encouraged people to set up stores, but now had been discriminating with them and were forcing them to close their shops.

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