Tuesday, March 20, 2001,
Chandigarh, India
P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Farmers firm on MSP demand
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
Making the picturesque settings of the Sector 16 Zakir Rose Garden as their temporary abode for the last five days , thousands of farmers from Punjab are determined to stay put here till their demand for a remunerative Minimum Support Price for wheat is conceded by the Government.

A delegation of leaders of all five organisations of the farmers spearheading the agitation here had a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal to press their demands and make it clear that their dharna would continue until the MSP demand was conceded. It was the second time in four days that the farmers’ representatives had met the Chief Minister but without any success.

Incidentally, it is the second time that farmers from Punjab have chosen Chandigarh as the venue for a prolonged and sit-through agitation. The main demand — linking agricultural prices with price index — of the first agitation, when they laid a siege to Punjab Raj Bhavan in March, 1984, for several days, is still to be conceded. This time not only the venue of the agitation has changed but the quantum of protest, though equally serious, is on a smaller scale. At that time, farmers from Punjab were joined by their counterparts from nine other states, including Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

One of several leaders behind the 1984 farmers’ agitation, Mr Pishora Singh, still owing loyalty to the Bharti Kisan Union, is one of the members of the presidium leading the current agitation.

“We shall not call off this agitation until our one and main demand of a remunerative Minimum Support Price for wheat, is conceded,” he says maintaining that other demands are minor.

It may be coincidental that the first major agitation of farmers in Chandigarh also started in the first half of March in 1984. This time, too, they have chosen March to press the Union Government through the State Government.

The only difference has been the affiliation of protestants. The present agitation is sponsored by the left-organisations of farmers, who paid rich tributes to the martyrs of the Pepsu farm workers agitation. On March 19, 1949, five farm workers had died in Pepsu after an attempt was made by the then Princely State of Patiala and Bhadaur to dispossess them from the land tilled by them.

The agitators observed two minutes silence as a mark of respect to the five martyrs of the Pepsu agitation.

Members of the Presidium controlling the agitation — Mr Pishora Singh, Mr Hardev Singh Sandhu, Mr Kulwant Singh, Mr Rashpal Singh and Mr Pirtha Singh of Kishengarh of the Pepsu agitation — were all critical of the anti-farmer policies of the NDA government.

Others who addressed the rally today were Mr Lehambar Singh, Mr Rachpal Singh, Mr Daljit Singh, Mr Hardev Arshi, Mr Satbir Singh, Mr Nirbhai Singh and others. The inflow of farmers continued throughout the day.

The main problem of the agitators, the speakers said, was lack of medical facilities and facilities for bathing at the venue of their agitation.

The farmers, unmindful of the travails of living in an open area in chilly and cold nights, are determined to continue their agitation for an indefinite period. “We have nothing to go back home for. If our produce is to rot in the grain markets, it is better not to harvest it,” said Mr Dalbara Singh, an octogenerarian farmer from Malwa belt.

Mr Pishora Singh said the agricultural prices should be linked to the Price Index of 1967. “If the price of wheat in 1967 was Rs 76. With he 12- time increase in the price of inputs, the procurement price should be accordingly fixed at Rs 912. We are not demanding that. We say give us what the Punjab Government has demanded. The Punjab Chief Minister himself stated that the cost of production of a quintal of wheat in Punjab was more than Rs 650. Give us that,” he said maintaining that other demands pertain to the State Government.

These include relaxation in conditions for farmers of border areas to visit their farm across the fence as and when they want; scrapping of GATT and immediate disbursement of relief of Rs 350 crore among farmers who undertook distress sale of paddy.


Economic Survey
Output of foodgrains to decline
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
There will be a fall of nearly 30 lakh tonnes in the production of foodgrains in Punjab in the year 2000-2001. This has been revealed in the Economic Survey of the state which was tabled in the Assembly today by the Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh.

The government has attributed the decline in the production to a change in the thrust of the government’s policy under which some area of wheat and paddy had to be shifted to oilseeds, pulses and other crops. However, the production of pulses is likely to increase from 41,000 tonnes in the previous year to 97,000 tonnes during the current financial year.

Highlighting problems, the survey says that the state faces a problem of plenty on the foodgrains front with large-scale wastage and damage in godowns. The state is likely to be further affected by the World Trade Organisation agreement. If the state is unable to increase the productivity, reduce production costs and improve the quality of foodgrains, it will not be able to survive in the global market, predicts the survey.

Admitting the fact that farmers in state are deep in the debt, the government has attributed it to the rise in the cost of agricultural inputs. While the cost of production of wheat has increased six times, in the case of cotton it is seven times and rice 10 times.

Despite the odds faced by the agricultural sector, it dominates as far as its contribution to the state’s economy is concerned. Compared to other sectors, the relative share of agriculture, including livestock, in the gross state domestic product at constant prices is 40.16 per cent.

The credit-deposit ratio of commercial banks in the state is skewed compared to the national average. During the calendar year 1999, it was only 37.77 per cent as against the national average of 55.82 per cent. States like Tamil Nadu ( 89.95%), Maharashtra (77.67 %), A.P ( 65.24%) and Karnataka (63.34% ) are far ahead of Punjab as far as this ratio is concerned.

Unemployment has become a serious problem in the state. The number of educated job-seekers, who are on the rolls of the employment exchanges, increased from 3.26 lakh in 1996 to 3.96 lakh on March 31,2000. Educated job-seekers constitute 73.63 per cent of the total number of job-seekers registered with the government. The survey says this problem requires the immediate attention of the government and industrialisation of the state should be planned in such a way that it should create adequate employment opportunities.

It is good news if the projection in the survey is to be believed, that the economy of Punjab showed perceptible growth during 1999-2000. The gross state domestic product ( GSDP) at constant prices has gone up to Rs 39,704 crore from Rs 37,154 crore in 1998-99, showing a growth rate of 6.86 per cent. The growth in 1998-99 was only 4.24 per cent . Its rise was because of a sizeable gain in the production of the main crops. In fact, the growth of GSDP in the primary sector, which comprises agriculture and the allied sectors, increased from Rs 14,914 crore in 1998-99 to Rs 16,151 crore in 1999-2000, registering a growth rate of 8.30 per cent, which may be a record in recent years.

The per capita income at constant prices has also registered an increase, going up to Rs 14,678 crore during 1999-2000 against the previous year’s Rs 14,007 crore.

The structural composition of the economy has also witnessed changes, though marginal ones, since 1993-94. While the share of agriculture ( proper) declined from 33.10 per cent in 1993-94 to 27.39 per cent in 1999-2000, the contribution from livestock increased from 12. 75 per cent to 12.77 per cent during this period. The combined share of the agricultural and livestock sectors in the total economy came down to 40.16 per cent in 1999-2000 from 45.85 per cent in 1993-94.

The share of the secondary sector, including the manufacturing, construction and power sectors, went up to 24.28 per cent during the last financial year against 21.90 per cent in 1993.94. During this period, the share of the tertiary sector increased to 35.04 per cent from 31.91 per cent.


Budget leakage sparks off row
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 19
While only yesterday, state BJP President Brij Lal Rinwa was trying to boost the morale of the party workers at a meeting at Sayyedwala village in this subdivision as a part of a damage-control exercise following the Tehelka expose, the party was gripped by another controversy today with the leakage of the annual budget of the municipal council, where the BJP is in majority.

A Hindi daily today carried details of the budgetary proposals even though these are yet to be examined by the Directorate of Local Bodies, Punjab. The Executive Officer of the council was supposed to visit the directorate at Chandigarh with the budgetary proposals before March 23. The council had not so far prepared the agenda for the special budget meeting.

The Executive Officer alleged that the leakage could have taken place from the municipal officer, where he had sent the file containing budget ary proposals. He said he was seeking an explanation from the accountant of the council, who was on leave today.

When newspersons contacted the President of the council, he claimed that the Executive Officer (EO) had sent the file to him through a clerk and had not discussed the proposals with him before giving a final touch.

The council President expressed surprise at the budgetary proposals, terming them as ‘imbalanced’. He also alleged that the EO had not placed the proposals before the finance committee though it was mandatory.

Mr Suresh Phutela, a rebel BJP councilor, was the first one to react to the alleged leakage of the annual budget to the Press. he alleged that the President or the Executive Officer were responsible for violation of privileges of the members of the council. Besides, opposition members too lambasted the municipal President for the leakage and urged the Secretary, Local Bodies, Punjab, to order an inquiry into the whole episode.

Sources said the President was seeking a report on the alleged leakage from the Executive Officer, but the issue may rock the proceedings of the budget meeting of the council, which was expected to be held this week.


Pak Hindu refugees yet to get citizenship
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 19
Hundreds of Hindus who had migrated to India from West Pakistan after Independence, have been leading a pitiable life, especially in the Jammu region due to the alleged apathy of the Jammu and Kashmir Government.

The migrant Hindu have not got citizenship even after 54 years of Independence. A fact finding team of the All-India Hindu Shiv Sena, head by its Chief, Mr Surinder Kumar Billa which visited J&K recently alleged that many of the ‘refugees’ were forced to take to begging as they did not have resources for proper livelihood.

Mr Billa said that it was shocking to see that despite the letter of the Central government addressed to state government for the redress of the grievances of West Pakistan refugees, no step had been taken in this regard.

The letter of Mr Rakesh Malhotra, Under Secretary in the Union Ministry of Personnel, deated September 6, 2000, asked the state government for proper rehabilitation of the Pakistani refugees, yet no action had been taken.

Another letter of the Ministry of Home Affairs, also mentioned that West Pakistani refugees who had settled in J&K were not given status of citizens by the state government. It directed the state government that such Pakistani Hindus could be recruited in the state police and other forces without the condition of having a domicile certificate from the designated authority of the state government.

Mr Billa said that the Pakistani Hindus who were settled in the state for more than half-a-century should immediately be issued domicile certificate. He said if the state government failed to redress the grievances of the Pakistani refugees, the All-India Hindu Shiv Sena would stage a protest dharna in front of the J and K Chief Minister’s office. He also threatened to gherao Mr Farooq Abdullah for the alleged indifferent attitude of the state government towards the Pakistani Hindus.


Warehousing staff threaten stir
Tribune News Service

Gidderbaha, March 19
The employees of the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation have threatened to go on an indefinite strike if action against the DFSC, Muktsar, Sukhdev Singh, was not taken for his alleged involvement in breaking open the locks of PSWC godowns located here on March 16.

In a memorandum submitted to the district administration, the employees pointed out that after the incident, their morale had gone down and only the registration of a criminal case against Sukhdev Singh could instil confidence among them. They threatened that if a case was not registered against Sukhdev Singh, the employees would not procure and store wheat in the coming season.

In an application moved before the local police authorities, the warehouse manager alleged that Sukhdev Singh, along with Kishan Singh Brar, an inspector, broke open the locks of godowns and transported the paddy lying there into the open space with the help of labourers and vehicles belonging to rice mill owners.

He said that he was not able to ensure safety of paddy stock lying in the open sky as he had been facing shortage of staff. He had demanded that action should be taken against those who had forcibly opened the locks.

Sukhdev Singh, however, denied that he had broken the lock of any godown of the PSWC. He added that as the PSWC authorities had been ‘violating’ the directions of the Punjab Government by storing paddy in the covered space instead of in the open, he just went to the godowns after informing the DM, PSWC, Muktsar, and holding talks with the Deputy Commissioner, Muktsar, and Director, Food and Supplies, and asked the employees working in the godowns to open the locks.

After the employees opened the locks, he asked the labourers engaged by rice mill owners to shift the paddy outside. The paddy, which was shifted from the godowns out in the open, was stacked in a proper manner within the four walls of the complex and about five feet from the wall of godowns, he claimed.

He alleged that local employees of the PSWC were causing financial loss to the Punjab Government by storing paddy in the covered space and he had asked the Director, Food and Supplies, to permit him to register a criminal case against them for the same.

He pointed out that employees of the PSWC were not shifting the paddy to the open space despite the fact they were asked to do so by higher authorities at the divisional level meeting held on February 17.

Mr Gurcharan Singh, Sub-Inspector, said that an application had been received from the warehouse manager and action would be taken according to the directions of higher officials.


Gupta-minister ‘links’: Rinwa avoids comment
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 19
Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, president of the Punjab state BJP, today declined to take notice of reports in a section of the Press about the alleged links of a senior Punjab BJP Minister in the Badal Cabinet with Mr R.K. Gupta, whose name figured in the kingpins mentioned in the tehlka website expose.

In a talk with TNS over the mobile phone, Mr Rinwa said he had seen the reports but could not comment on these unless something definite was brought to his notice. “I don’t know who Mr Gupta is and how he is connected with the Punjab minister”, he said.

He, however, emphasised that his party was convinced that the whole Tehlka expose was “just a drama” enacted by interested parties for their own political ends. In any case, the BJP leadership had not been found wanting in taking action against those who had been found to be involved in undesirable activity.

Mr Rinwa also said that the party was contemplating taking action against Mr Kamal Chaudhary, a former MP, for allegedly hobnobbing with the BSP supremo, Mr Kanshi Ram. “He has pre-empted us by resigning from the party,” he said.


PM’s effigy burnt
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 19
In protest against the alleged bribery scandal involving former BJP chief Bangaru Laxman, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) organised a dharna and burnt an effigy of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office here today.

Agitated Congress workers, who proceeded towards the DC’s office from the Rajinder Nagar Congress headquarters, shouted slogans like “Nakk te makhi behan nahin deni, Vajpayee sarkar rahin nahin deni”.

Addressing the workers, Mr Avtaar Henry, the Vice-President of the PPCC, said it was the height of corruption that the BJP president was openly ‘accepting money’ and the deals were being struck at the official residence of the Defence Minister. “Do such people have the right to hold such high offices and deal with the sensitive issue of national security?” questioned Mr Henry.

Mr Mohinder Singh Kaypee, the former Education Minister, said that the incident had shaken the faith of people in bureaucracy and the current political set-up of the country.


SAD not to leave NDA: Sukhbir
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, March 19
Talking to mediapersons here today Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, General Secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), MP and son of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, has ruled out withdrawing his party’s support to the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre following the expose of BJP President Bangaru Laxman and Army officers by Tehelka.com. Mr Sukhbir Singh said Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had already ordered a probe by a sitting Judge Supreme Court, who will submit his report within four months on the matter. He made it clear that all allies in the Union government had assured full support to the Prime Minister. He ruled out midterm poll in the country.

The SAD MP assailed the previous Congress government for their involvement in a number of scams during their regime in the country.

He said it was the prerogative of the Prime Minister to induct him (Badal) in the Union Cabinet. Moreover, the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of the SAD will also have to make up its mind on the issue.

Mr Sukhbir Singh denied any unity move between the SAD and the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal led by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra in the near future. He parried the question regarding extending the boundaries of the district which suffered a lot after its trifurcation into Moga, Muktsar and Faridkot districts in 1995. He disclosed that work on the focal point on the Faridkot-Kotkapura road would start in the next two months. He promised that all development works, including the Baba Farid University of Health sciences complex, would continue in spite of his defeat in the last Lok Sabha elections from this parliamentary constituency.


Liquid from neem tree puzzles villagers
Tribune News Service

Bhisiana (Bathinda), March 19
Pungent milky white fluid, which has been oozing out of a neem tree continuously for the past many days in the house of Mr Joginder Singh, has puzzled villagers. According to Mr Joginder Singh, the white milky fluid started oozing out from the trunk of tree located in the courtyard of his house on January 26.

He said he was not able to find out the reasons why the courtyard always remained wet. First he searched for any leakage from the plumbing but not finding any thing, he came across a spot on the tree from which fluid oozed intermittently. He gave a big cut on that spot following which a steady trickle started.

He pointed out that now the tree used to ooze about 25 litres of white milky fluid daily which was being collected by him in various containers. He added that white milky fluid was coming out from two spots of neem tree.

He said people of this and other nearby villages used to come to see the mystery which could not be solved so far by any one. He added that after the matter was published into newspapers, the scientists would come to his village to solve the mystery. However, the residents have not started worshipping the tree.


2.35 lakh get telephone connections
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 19
About 2.35 lakh telephone connections have been given in Punjab during the current financial year against the target of 2.50 lakh. The remaining connections will be provided by March, 31. This was stated by Mr S.C. Chaudhry, Chief General Manager of Telecom, Punjab, while talking to mediapersons here today.

Mr Chaudhry said after completing the aforesaid target about 2 lakh applications for telephone connections would be pending with the department. He said there were more than 15 lakh telephone subscribers in the state.

Fifty new telephone exchanges had been opened and 1,400 optical fibre system had been completed in the state.

He said solar mobile telephones in the state during the next financial year would be introduced. For this tenders had already been invited.

About 1.10 lakh connections for solar mobile telephones would be provided and the facility be made available by December. Fiftyone stations would be covered under the facility.

The Chief General Manager said the wireless loop order (WLL) system would be introduced in Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar. About 3000 lines each would be given in Chandigarh and Ludhiana, 5000 lines in Jalandhar and 1000 in Amritsar. The range of these mobile telephones would be 5 to 7 km.


Farmers panic over FMD rumours
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 19
Fear has gripped farmers of the subdivision because of rumours that over one lakh animals were suffering with “munhkhur” (mouth and foot) disease.

Two newspapers, being published from Jalandhar, had yesterday carried a report which said cattle numbering more than one lakh in Abohar subdivision had been suffering with “mouth and foot” disease for the past so many weeks.

The report further claimed that more than 12 cattle head had died as proper treatment could not be given due to the alleged paucity of vaccine in the government-run dispensaries and hospitals.

The Punjab State Veterinary Officers Association today reacted sharply to the contents of the above report and described it as totally false, baseless and concocted.

Dr Surender Aulakh and Dr Davinder Singh Sidhu, president and general secretary of the local branch of the association, said in a statement that the disease spread due to the cattle fair held in February.

Cattle brought from neighbouring states transmitted the disease which affected the cattle following a change in weather. Only a few cases were found and proper treatment was given to the affected cattle. As many as 17 teams of doctors were working to keep the disease under control.

The Veterinary Pharmacists Association in a separate statement took strong notice of the vested interests for spreading baseless rumours. The association contested the claim that one lakh cattle had been affected by the disease.

Mr Rakesh Manocha, press secretary of the association, said hardly 70 to 80 cases were reported to different functionaries of the department, which were treated immediately.

The Department of Animal Husbandry said a control room had been set at the subdivisional headquarters here to coordinate efforts of the 17 teams engaged in fighting the disease.


Construction on dera land halted
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 19
In a dramatic move, which may have repercussions on the colonising activity on various ‘dera’ lands in the city, the district administration today stopped construction going on at Bir Kheri Gujran dera on the outskirts of the city.

The dera at Bir Kheri Gujran is in the thick of controversy with its mahant having leased around 150 bighas of the 234 bighas for a nominal sum for a period of 99 years. The market price of the land situated adjacent to New Officers Colony is reportedly in crores. Though a few houses had come up on the dera land, but the district administration decided in December, last year, not to allow further construction claiming that the land belonged to the Dharmarth Board and could not be used for commercial purposes.

Sources stated that the administration had stopped construction activity being carried out by an army officer on the dera land. They said the army officer had been told that he could not carry out construction on the land unless he obtained permission from the authorities concerned.

Assistant Commissioner (Grievances) T.P.S. Phoolka said an assistant of the Dharmarth Board had told him about the construction and he had visited the spot himself to ascertain the facts. He said the foundation of a house had been built. He added that he had directed the owner of the plot to stop the construction and the police had also been directed to enforce the order.

Mr Phoolka said the Army man had claimed that he was building a farm house on the land and that there was no bar on him for doing so. He said, however, the owner had been informed that the Punjab and Haryana High Court had in its order in December, last year, directed that all persons wishing to make any construction on the dera land would have to take permission from the authorities concerned. He said the administration felt that palatial houses on small tracts of land could not be passed off as farmhouses, specially when there was no visible farming activity in the area.

He said earlier it had come to the notice of the administration that a number of persons, including retired Army officials, had taken plots on lease, which belonged to the dera. He claimed that according to the laws governing Dharmarth properties the dera land could be used only for agricultural purposes and to cater to pilgrims visiting it. He said the present mahant had also given an undertaking in 1985 that the dera land would not be alienated, besides would not be exploited commercially.

Meanwhile, the mahant has claimed that no attempt was being made to create an illegal colony on the dera land and that some land had been leased out by him for agricultural purposes so that income could be generated. He said, besides this, he had built seven houses on the dera land for the use of those associated with it and visiting religious personalities. He said, moreover, leasing out of the dera land had been allowed to him through a court order of the Financial Commissioner, Revenue, in 1998.

The dera land does not appear to be meant for farming purposes. In fact a visit to the site gave the impression that it was a colony in the making. It has well laid-out roads and boundary walls have been made around various plots. Plantation has also been done on the sides of the roads.


Drinking water shortage irks residents
Our Correspondent

Moga, March 19
Residents of Bambiha Bhai village under the Baghapurana Police Station in this district on Saturday complained that they have not been getting safe drinking water for the past one year as the water works installed there several years ago was not in order and they were, therefore, forced to bring water from remote areas.

They further complained that the Punjab Agriculture Minister, Mr Gurdev Singh Badal, who belongs to this constituency, had visited the village several times and assured them immediate measures to carry repairs of the water works but nothing had been done so far in this connection. They alleged that the water they were using was contaminated. They urged the department concerned to look into the matter and to redress their grievances.


Five lakh given to thresher mishap victims
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 19
Mr Ranjit Singh Balian, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Punjab, today gave away cheques worth Rs 5 lakh, to 18 victims of thresher mishaps at the local Market Committee office.

Mr Balian said the Punjab Government had increased financial assistance from Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000 in case of death in a thresher mishap. In case a person’s hand was chopped off by a thresher, the victim would be given Rs 20,000.

Mr Gurjant Singh Gaggarpur, Chairman of the Sangrur Market Committee, said the committee had given financial aid to the victims of thresher mishaps to the tune of Rs 5.12 lakh in 1997-98, Rs 6 lakh in 1998-99, Rs 3.40 lakh in 1999-2000 and Rs 8.95 lakh in 2000-2001.

Mr Atma Singh, Chairman, Land Mortgage Bank, Sangrur, Mr Kaushal Kishore Goel, Vice-Chairman of Sangrur Market Committee, and Mr Sarup Singh Vohra, Secretary of the Market Committee, were also present.


Messenger’s pay scale better than clerk’s
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 19
A minor anomaly in a government order circulated to all four Municipal Corporation of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala and Ludhiana would have led to a loss of lakhs of rupees to the local self government.

A government order issued on February 5 stated that the bill distributor/cash messenger’s pay scale was Rs 4020-6200. The mistake elevated the status of bill distributor/cash messenger even above that of the clerk. Consequently, the monthly payment according to the new government order was to be paid to more than 500 such messengers working in all four corporations at the above mentioned pay scale, whereas the clerk, who was senior in rank had a pay scale of Rs 3100-5500.

However, the hue and cry over the said circular led to allegations of favouritism.

The Punjab Finance Department deputed a probe committee headed by Mr J.B. Goel, Director, Local Bodies, on March 7 to go into alleged circumstances leading to the anomaly.

The orders, dated February 5, were hastily withdrawn on March 15. The probe committee would submit its report to the Finance Department, following which there might be some suspensions in the local self government headquarters.


Pensioners want panel report implemented
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 19
Criticising the state government for an indifferent attitude towards their long-pending demands, the Government Pensioners Association has demanded that the state government should implement the recommendations of the Fourth Pay Commission Pertaining to the pensioners.

Mr Yash Pal Ghai, Additional General Secretary of the association, in a press note released here yesterday demanded that recommendations of the pay commission, including old-age allowance which is 5 per cent and 10 per cent on attaining an age of 65 and 75 years, benefit in pension for the service rendered beyond 33 years, restoration of the commuted pension after 11-and-a-half year, reservations of plots and flats in PUDA colonies and 97 per cent dearness allowance admissible on July ‘93 to be counted for gratuity, should be immediately implemented.

Even as the state government was claiming that there was no financial crisis, then why they had adopted an indifferent attitude towards implementation of the pay commission report for the past three years.


Disinvestment: NFL staff stage dharna
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 19
The members of the National Fertilizers Employees Union today sat on a dharna in front of the Administrative building of the local unit of the National Fertilizers Limited (NFL) as part of their ongoing agitation against the decision of the government to disinvest in the plant.

The union criticised the statement of Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers, in which he had said the process of disinvestment of the NFL had been started. The employees criticised him for not doing anything to protect the interests of the NFL employees. The employees said that the Union Minister should have opposed the decision of the Central Government to sell the NFL.

Mr Naib Singh Brar, president of the union, said that the decision of the government was not in the favour of both the employees and farmers. He added that the NFL was the second largest urea producing company and had played a major role in making the country self-reliant, both in the production of urea and foodgrains.

He claimed that the track record of the NFL during the past 15 years had been impressive and the company earned profits of Rs 2282.35 crore. Mr Labh Singh, general secretary of the union, said that the company was poised to achieve new target in the future.


1 succumbs to injuries, dharna held
Our Correspondent

Garhshankar, March 19
Ajit Singh, who was allegedly attacked in broad daylight by certain persons on March 15, succumbed to his injuries at the DMC hospital, yesterday.

The body was brought here around 3 p.m. and was kept at the Banga chowk, where shopkeepers and local residents, including political leaders, sat on a dharna and caused traffic jam. The jam continued till late night.

It was only after the intervention of Mr Sanjeev Kalra, SSP, Hoshiarpur, who accepted the agitators’ demands, that the last rites of Ajit Singh were performed today. SP Sukhdev Singh apologised, while DSP Amarjit Singh was sent on leave.


NRI UK Mayor honoured
Our correspondent

Amritsar, March 19
Ms Davinder Kaur, the Mayor of Honslow, UK, was honoured by the Chief Khalsa Diwan (CKD) here yesterday.

Ms Davinder Kaur, who was just 12 years old when she left India with her parents, was elected Mayor in May last year. She was honoured with an honour scroll, an embossed silver plate and a shawl by the CKD chief, Mr Kirpal Singh.

Speaking of her life as Mayor in the UK, Ms Davinder Kaur (47) said a Mayor’s duties were tough there and tougher for her as she was an Indian. She said she first joined the Labour Party, later became a councillor and had served as a Deputy Mayor before being elected Mayor.

Academy’s plea to Annan
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 19
In a letter to Mr Kofi Annan, Secretary-General, UNO, the Folklore Research Academy has appealed him to intervene and bring about an openness in Indo-Pak relations.

In a three-point charter, the academy urged Mr Annan to get the UNO to pass a resolution condemning the 1947 genocide on the subcontinent during Indo-Pak partition. It appealed to permit people on both sides of the border to visit their land of birth and friends without any official hassles. It also requested a piece of land to build a common heritage on the Wagah Border.

PCMS lends support to HP doctors
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 19
The PCMS Association, Punjab, has extended its support to the agitating Himachal State Service Doctors who are up in arms against Himachal Government’s decision to withdraw non-practising allowance (NPA) as a corrective economy measure.


DC orders inquiry into land auction
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 19
Mr B.S. Sudan, Deputy Commissioner, has directed all officers concerned of the district to prepare a list of shamlat land in villages and check at what rate these land had been given on contract.

Mr Sudan said all shady deals of giving the panchayat land on contract would be unearthed and the guilty would be punished. He was speaking at a sangat darshan programme at Suhagaheri village today.

Mr Sudan expressed concern over the auction of 117 acres of shamlat land of the village at a throwaway price of Rs 1,330 per acre. He directed the officials concerned to look into the matter and report within a week.

Mr Sudan said in future all shamlat land in the villages would be auctioned openly. No land would be auctioned below the rate fixed by the district administration.

Following the complaint of villagers regarding cases in which several persons had claimed cheques under the Shagun Scheme by presenting false SC certificates, Mr Sudan directed the SDM to conduct an inquiry into the matter and report within a week.

Taking serious note of the complaint that no doctor resided at Civil Hospital at Chanarthal village, Mr Sudan directed the Civil Surgeon to ensure the presence of doctors at the hospital. He stressed the need to improve the standards of primary education. He said panchayats should also keep a check on the attendance of the teachers in primary and middle schools. Mr Sudan disclosed that 17,222 beneficiaries were getting pension under various schemes in the district.


PUDA auction fetches 3.14 crore
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 19
The auction of 24 residential and 10 commercial sites belonging to the Old D.R Cooperative Societies in Gurdaspur came under the hammer today. The auction fetched Rs 3.14 crore.

The site was handed over to PUDA under the OUVGL Scheme (Optimum Utilisation of Vacant Government Lands). The maximum rate obtained for a residential site was Rs 8,000 per sq yd against the reserve price of Rs 2,500 per sq yd and Rs 20,100 sq yd for a commercial site.

The auction was conducted by a committee headed by Mr H.S. Nanda, Additional Chief Administrator of PUDA, Jalandhar. Other members of the committee included Mr Krishan Kumar, ADC, Gurdaspur, Mr Anurag Verma, Additional Chief Administrator (Policy), Mr Tarlochan Singh Bhatti, Estate Officer, PUDA.


5 held for growing poppy
Jaswinder Paul Singh

Bathinda, March 19
While the smuggling of narcotics has been a common practice in Punjab, in a new development, some smugglers have started the cultivation of poppy in the state.

Smugglers and unemployed youths are cultivating the crop from which poppy husk and opium is prepared.

The police finds it difficult to tackle the problem as it has to formulate new methods to nab such culprits.

In Rajasthan, there is no ban on the cultivation of poppy. The consumers in Punjab usually depend on the smugglers who bring opium and poppy husk from that state. The high alertness of the police of Bathinda district which has its boundaries with Rajasthan has forced the narcotic users to adopt other ways of procuring the commodity.

The ‘farmers’ who cultivate the ‘crop’ usually trap youngsters of poor families who serve as their customers as well as salesmen.

In some instances where the drug addict is not able to purchase the drugs, he started cultivating them himself. Later, such persons adopted it as their profession.

The khaskhas seeds from which the plants of poppy are germinated are easily available and are used for preparing a special tea. The easy availability of the seeds and suitable climate of the state could be among the reasons for the trend.

The ‘marketing’ of the product is not any problem as the prospective customers themselves find the producer. The price of such products is also fixed by the producer.

The district police has brought two such incidents to light and has arrested five persons in that connection.

In the first case, the police arrested Satwinder Singh, Harjinder Singh and Kulwant Singh, all residents of this local Hans Nagar. They were cultivating the poppy plants in the backyard of their house. About 80 kg of plants which had buds from which poppy husk could be prepared were seized from their house.

A similar case has been detected from Bhuchu Mandi village where a junk dealer has used the open space in his shop for cultivating the poppy plants. The owner of the shop, Raj Kumar, was nabbed along with Gian Singh while they were carrying the plants of poppy husk weighing about 5 kg. Cases have been registered against them.


3 hurt in blast
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 19
Three PWD employees received serious burn injuries in an explosion at a PWD run hot mix plant near Bhogpur today. The explosion, the cause of which was yet to be ascertained, was so loud that it created panic in nearby villages.

Mr Harmeet Singh, Mr Lakhwinder Singh and Mrs Rajni were injured as they got smeared with the hot coaltar which emanated from the plant with a bang. They were rushed to Civil Hospital where their condition was stated to be stable.

In another incident Jagdish Kaur, a resident of the new Prithvi Nagar locality, died on the spot when the scooter on which she was riding pillion collided with another scooter near Kala Bakra last night. Her son also received injuries.

In yet another incident Mr Mohan Singh, a Junior Engineer (JE) posted at the Punjab State Electricity Board office at the Nehru road subdivision near Pathankot Chowk here, was caught redhanded by a Vigilance Bureau team while accepting bribe from Mr Harish Rai of Santokhpura locality this afternoon. Mr Harish Rai lodged a complaint that the JE was forcing him to pay a bribe of Rs 200 for the installation of a power meter at his residence.


SMO killed in road mishap
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 19
Dr D.D. Sharma, SMO, Primary Health Centre, Panchhta village, died in a road accident near Bhabiana village, 15 km from here, on the Phagwara-Hoshiarpur road last night.

Dr Sharma, who was an anaesthetist, was in his mid-50s. He was coming in his car from Hoshiarpur to Phagwara when the accident took place.

Dr Sharma was rushed to a private hospital here in a critical condition where he later succumbed to injuries. His body was brought to the Civil Hospital for a post-mortem examination.


Vacant posts hit research
Ravinder Sud

Research work on Sanskrit and Indological studies, including the compilation of a dictionary relating to Vedic interpretation, is suffering at the Vishveshvaranand Vishva Bandhu Institute of Sanskrit and Indological Studies, Sadhu Ashram, here due to the non-filling of vacant posts.

Out of 41 posts of research scholar, 25 have been lying vacant for a long time. This has not only hit research work but also affected the studies of nearly 60 students of Shastri, Acharya and other postgraduate classes in Sanskrit. Posts which fell vacant after the retirement of researchers or professors have not been filled.

Dr Damodar Jha, Chairman of the institute, says it is the only main centre of Sanskrit and Indological Studies being run by Panjab University in the country.

The genesis of the institute goes back to 1903 when Swami Vishveshvaranand and Nityanand started an office at Shimla for preparing word indices to the four principal Vedic Samhitas and a dictionary on these texts. The former were issued in four volumes in 1908-10 and a considerable amount of basic material was collected for the latter during the years that followed. Later, the office was shifted to Lahore where it was put under the charge of Acharya Vishva Bandhu. Under him, the scope of the institute was widened so as to include the study of various branches of Indology. The institute also set up a teaching wing with classes in MA, Vidyavachaspati and Shastri (Sanskrit) and Prabhakar in Hindi.

Panjab University, Lahore, gave a grant of Rs 1,000 in 1936-37 and the same amount in 1937-38 to the institute and due recognition was given to its work, including the publication of ‘‘A Vedic Word Concordance’’.

After Partition, the institute was uprooted from Lahore and restarted on its present premises at Sadhu Ashram.

In 1957, at the instance of the institute, Panjab University opened its Department of Devanagri Transcription of South Indian Manuscripts. Earlier, in 1950, the university had extended affiliation to the institute for starting various courses in Hindi and Sanskrit and the University Grants Commission began to give liberal financial aid to the institute for this purpose. In that year the institute also extended its academic activity to Chandigarh by setting up a research centre there. In the beginning of 1965, the university made a proposal that the institute, while continuing to function from Hoshiarpur and maintaining its identity, should integrate itself with the university. Accordingly, a part of the institute was taken over by the university under a new name, the Vishveshvaranand Institute of Sanskrit and Indological Studies.

At present work is in progress on 12 research projects, including the main one, ‘‘A Dictionary of Vedic Interpretation’’, at the institute. There is a long list of 49 research works in various fields of Indology published by this institute.

The Manuscript and Text Editing section had a collection of more than 10,000 ancient manuscripts, out of which 8,360 were catalogued descriptively and published in 1959. A supplementary catalogue dealing with the remaining manuscripts came out in 1975. However, with the transfer of the Lal Chand collection of rare books and manuscripts to DAV College, Chandigarh, the institute now has only about 2,300 ancient manuscripts. The institute has its own library, the richest in the fields of Sanskrit and Indology in north India, containing more than one lakh books. It is recognised by UNESCO.


Courses shifted to non-working ITIs
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 19
In a decision which could upset the arrangements of imparting technical education in the state, the Punjab Government has shifted some trades of functioning industrial training institutes (ITIs) to those ITIs which are yet to start functioning.

Official sources said the Punjab Technical Education and Industrial Training authorities had shifted and merged various trades of more than 25 functioning ITIs to nine non-functioning and eight functioning ITIs.

The sources added that the authorities concerned had taken this step to make all non-functioning ITIs functional by making their own arrangements after the Punjab Government failed to give permission to recruit staff for the task.

Information gathered by this correspondent revealed that the authorities has also been trying to retionalise the distribution of staff and trades in various ITIs from the next admission session.

According to a letter issued to heads of various wings of the government and ITIs by Mr N.S. Kalsi, Director, Technical Education and Industrial Training, Punjab, the trade/institute running along with the sanctioned posts and machinery equipment stands shifted to the respective institution with which it is merged/shifted. It shall start functioning from that institute with effect from the 2001-2002 session.

The sources said that cutting and tailoring and embroidery trade from the ITI, Rampuraphul, computer and radio and TV trade from the ITI, Faridkot, and wireman and tractor mechanic trade from the local ITI had been shifted to the ITI, Nathana, which is yet to start functioning. Its building too is yet to be handed over to the technical education wing.

The authorities have decided to shift some important trades to the non-existing ITIs, ignoring the interests and needs of the people of that area.

The authorities have also been trying to make all ITIs functional without spending any money as they had failed to get the required funds from the Punjab Government for the past many years.

A senior official of the Technical Education and Industrial Training Department in Chandigarh on telephone said they planned to make all ITIs functional from their own resources as they had failed to get the approval from the Punjab Government to recruit teaching and non-teaching staff for the same. He added that scheme would be implemented before August, 2001.

He also said ITIs which were running in private rented buildings would be shifted to the government buildings under this plan. The department would use its infrastructure which was lying unused for the past many years due to scarcity of funds.


Howler’ in paper, grace marks sought
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 19
There was a howler in Accountancy question paper of twelfth class of Commerce group of the Punjab Board of School Education. The examinees appearing on Saturday in the said exam were baffled when in question number 10 of section B, they found Rs 5,000 against building (less depreciation) as on 01.01.1992 with its depreciated value of Rs 45,000 as on 31-12-992.

In fact, “5,000” was mentioned instead of “50,000”. The said mistake was there in all question papers in Punjabi and Hindi versions as well. The students and teachers have expressed concern over the inefficiency of the education board and demanded grace marks on account of the above mistake in the question paper.


‘Release’ subsidies to industrialists
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 19
The State Consumer Welfare Council has demanded the immediate release of subsidies which were promised to industrialists when they had set up units in the state. Mr Mulkh Raj Madan, press secretary of the council, said entrepreneurs were setting up units in Punjab because of the provisions of capital subsidy. They had been raising loans on heavy interest in hope to get subsidy. Sources said the state government was finding it difficult to sanction subsidies to the units and only those units had been disbursed subsidies whose cases were completed before June, 1996.

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