Wednesday, March 21, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




Punjab admits to suicides by farmers
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 20
Punjab is, perhaps, the first state in the country to admit the fact that farmers, unable to clear debts, have committed suicide. The state government has tried to address this issue by making provisions in the Budget presented in the state Assembly yesterday.

The issue pertaining to suicides came up three years ago not only in Punjab but also in states like Andhra Pradesh following a setback to farmers in the cotton belts of both states.

In Punjab, it was the Movement Against State Repression (MASR), an organisation having human rights activists in its ranks, which documented such suicides by visiting various villages, especially in Sangrur district, to highlight the issue. On the basis of inputs provided by this organisation, mediapersons representing various newspapers, including The Tribune, investigated the matter independently and found that there were a number of farmers who preferred to end their lives instead of facing humiliation because of the non-clearance of debts.

Most cases have been reported from villages along the Patran-Moonak road in Sangrur district. However, at that time the government authorities concerned inquired into this issue and came out with the report that no farmer had committed suicide because of the non-clearance of debt. For a long period, the government tried its best to sweep this issue under the carpet. But the suicides continued.

However, in the Budget presented yesterday the government referred to this issue in a transparent manner. Capt Kanwaljit Singh in his Budget speech said that “such incidents of suicide need to be identified and the families becoming destitute need support for their social and economic rehabilitation. In a family where an earning member commits suicide due to economic hardship (debt burden), the state would identify the case and pay a compensation of Rs 2.50 lakh for the rehabilitation of the family.”

In fact, he has included the scheme pertaining to the rehabilitation of the affected families in the Annual Plan (2001-2002) with a provision of Rs 2 crore. Though social scientists differ on the question whether the affected families should be given compensation or not, the government has realised that it was its duty to come to the help of such families.

The truth is that agriculture has become unviable for small farmers due to various reasons. Though the owning of tractors and machinery for farming is not viable for farmers having meagre land holdings, most of them have procured these by taking loans from banks. As they have no surplus income from their holdings, they are unable to return the loans, leading to frustration. Some of them, unable to bear the stress, commit suicide.

However, experts say that the government should set up a commission comprising social scientists, agriculture experts and economists to study all aspects of life in the rural areas to address the issue of rural indebtedness. The commission should study the entire issue thoroughly and bring out a White Paper.

Ostentatious spending by farmers on social functions, especially marriages, and even diverting loans taken for agricultural purposes to project their social image has also contributed to frustration, leading to suicide. This tendency, social scientists say, has to be reversed in the interest of small farmers and a reform movement, backed by legal action, launched in the state.

In the rural areas some progressive sarpanches had started a reform movement at their own level by banning certain out dated customs, traditions and rituals to avoid unnecessary expenditure, but such movements cannot achieve the desired results till all villages are covered by it. The government should provide legal sanctity to such movements, add the experts.


Will more farmers commit suicide now?
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 20
If the opinion of legal experts is considered, the decision of Punjab Government to allocate Rs 2 crore for making payments as compensation to the kin of farmers who committed suicide, is all set to raise a major controversy over law point.

In the annual Budget presented by the Punjab Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, in the state assembly yesterday, the government has proposed to compensate the families of farmers who committed suicide due to economic problems by making an ex gratia payment of Rs 2.5 lakh.

A cross-section of legal experts and practitioners here while talking to TNS feel that the proposal is against the provisions of established law and it would encourage corruption, foul play and social tension.

They said that the announcement of the Finance Minister attracted action under Section 306 of Indian Penal Code read with Section 107 of same code. Section 306 of IPC for abetment of suicide says that “if any person commits suicide, whoever abets the commission of such suicide shall be punished with the imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”

A senior advocate said the provision of making an ex gratia payment of Rs 2.5 lakh to the family could encourage suicides by farmers facing a serious economic crises following statewide stagnation in the agricultural economy.

“It would have been better if the state government had made necessary budgetary allocation to improve the lot of the peasantry by providing them finance on softer terms. Instead of giving money to the family, the government should have prevented the debt-ridden farmer from resorting to the extreme step of terminating his life,” said Mr Dinesh Vasihist, General-Secretary, Vigilant Citizens Forum (VCF).

A section of advocates is of the view that the government seems to have favoured a particular community which was considered to be its vote bank. It was violative of Article 14 of the Constitution which ensured equality before law and equal protection of law.

The announcement of the Finance Minister was discriminatory as the compensation would be paid only to farmers despite the fact that there were reports of suicides being committed by farm labourers, commission agents, rice mill owners and other involved in the trade of agricultural commodities, they pointed out.


Farmers’ woes: PIL to be filed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 20
The Progressive Farmers Association of Punjab has decided to seek judicial intervention for providing relief to farmers facing problems that have caused misery and even resulted in suicide by several of them.

This was stated by the association president, Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who is also the secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, here today. Supported by 500 affidavits, signed by farmers of Bholath block in Kapurthala, public interest litigation (PIL) is to be filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court here tomorrow.

Talking to the newspersons, Mr Khaira said unfortunately neither the government in New Delhi nor in Chandigarh had taken any steps to provide succour to the farmers facing economic hardship, resulting in an alarming situation. The farmers were in a state of shock due to the agricultural policies adopted by the government over the past few years.

The holding back of the announcement of the minimum support price for wheat, non-payment of relief of paddy growers, who were forced to resort to distress sale of their produce in kharif 2000, and the broad hints in the Union Budget that the states would, henceforth, have to fend for themselves in terms of procurement and distribution of foodgrains were matters of serious concern to farmers.

Apparently, the Centre wanted to wash its hands of the system of announcing the minimum support price for wheat and paddy. Even the Punjab Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, drew the attention of the House to such problems of the farmers, he added.

Mr Khaira said his party supported the cause of the farmers who were on an indefinite dharna in Chandigarh demanding the announcement of the wheat price. “We will mobilise men and material support from the adjoining districts for the dharna”. Even on the WTO the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had created confusion. Rather than enabling farmers to prepare to face the impact of the WTO regime, operative April 1 next, he was blaming the Congress. If that was so damaging, he should influence the Prime Minister and pull India out of the regime, demanded Mr Khaira.

The proposed PIL, therefore, would focus on, among other things, the following: directing the state to hold an inquiry into the distress sale of paddy in kharif 2000 and fully compensate those who were unable to get the minimum support price; directing the state to pass an Act on the pattern of the Punjab Debtors Protection Act, 1936, to help farmers, ordering of an inquiry into the government-sponsored “loot” by the procurement agencies, particularly the Food Corporation of India, where Rs 20 per quintal was deducted from the accounts of farmers by commission agents for giving illegal gratification to officials; ordering of a crop insurance scheme; and preventing the arrest of farmers who owed money to cooperative banks.

Farmers threaten to intensify stir
Our Correspondent

Moga, March 20
Members of five farmers’ unions of Punjab, including the BKU (Punjab unit, today condemned the lathi charge on farmers of the state demonstrating at Delhi yesterday in support of their demands. A deputation of members of these unions, headed by Mr Bhupinder Singh Mahesari, press secretary of the Punjab unit of the BKU, said if the Union Government failed to announce the price of wheat before its arrival in Punjab markets, the union would intensify its agitation.


WTO shadow on Punjab Budget
PPS Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 20
The introduction of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime and removal of quantitative restrictions on imports coming into effect from April 1 next has rung alarm bells in Punjab.

With the deadline fast approaching, the issue remaining unresolved and opinion sharply divided among political parties as well as kisan unions, it is apparent the WTO will be as much a talking point in the next elections to the state Assembly as would, perhaps, be two other contentious, sensitive issues: Operation Bluestar and later the ‘’massacre’’ of 1984, as referred to in the resolution passed on the subject by the Vidhan Sabha the other day. The echo of these two events was last heard in the Majitha assembly byelection, much to the consternation of the Congress.

Strident stands are expected to be taken by the two main political rivals, the Congress and the Akalis, on the WTO as reflected in the Budget speech of the Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, on March 19.

Much heat has been generated on the WTO and its consequences. Even experts differ on the likely impact and implications. In fact, Capt Kanwaljit Singh criticised the Union Budget for not squarely addressing the challenges posed to agriculture by the WTO and removal of quantitative restrictions effective April 1.

His fears that after sugar, fertilisers, drugs and pharmaceuticals and petroleum are freed from the Administered Price Mechanism, their prices may skyrocket hitting the farmers and the poorer sections. He urged the Centre to build safety nets in the interest of the farmers, particularly small farmers.

Punjab has already constituted an ‘’experts’ group’’ under Dr Y.K. Alagh to suggest ways and means to meet head-on the challenges posed by the WTO. Along with other agriculturally progressive states, Punjab has put itself into an overdrive mode to impress upon New Delhi to ‘’re-negotiate’’ on the WTO.

The Vidhan Sabha was on Monday given glimpses of some of the salient recommendations of the Alagh Committee’s interim report. The Akalis are worked up over the WTO, while the Congress has thrown a challenge to the Akalis that if they so concerned, let them influence the Prime Minister to ‘’withdraw’’ from the comity of nations subscribing to the WTO. Both Capt Amarinder Singh and the Akali MP, Mr Balwinder Singh Bhundar, have written a series of articles in leading newspapers kicking up a public debate. Is it with an eye on the ballot?.

Punjab Agricultural University has also held a series of ‘’brainstorming’’ sessions and made available its comments and expertise on the WTO. So has the Alagh Committee. The following, in a nutshell, are the ‘’official’’ recommendations on the WTO:

— Punjab agriculture has to become globally competitive, qualitatively. For that a concrete diversification programme is needed depending on soil type and water endowment requiring a financial and organisational mechanism. To help farmers switch over from production technology to high-value farming, the Centre should institute a Rs 550 crore Agricultural Adjustment Fund compatible with ‘’green box’’ strategies

— A sensible tariff policy must be implemented for agriculture. While customs duty on tea, coffee and coconut has been raised, why not on cotton?

— Myopic vision in framing tariff policies of the Centre necessitates that the states be consulted before introducing domestic reforms and signing of any international agreement related to agriculture, a State subject, or on other items on the Concurrent List

— To take agriculture trade seriously, an institutional system like commodity boards, insurance, etc, be formed to counter fluctuations in the global prices and at the same time arguing for limits to such interventions by the EEC, the USA, Japan and other exporting countries

— An autonomous Centre for Economic and Marketing Intelligence be established to monitor global market pricing, suggesting increase or decrease in tariffs depending on international prices

— States like Punjab need freight equalisation subsidies for purposes of import of raw material and export of fresh goods

— A farmers’ agency with Rs 50 crore reserve funds be set up to provide export subsidies to farmers and agro-processing units with a small quantity of export surpluses under the ‘’green box’’ measures.

— For research and development Rs 30 crore be given to Punjab Agricultural University. (The Budget provides Rs 15 crore instead.)

— India should seek clubbing of all kinds of support to agriculture in one category and parity among developed and developing countries at the next round of the WTO.

— For consistency in agricultural exports, a mechanism be devised to regulate export prices. This could be done by providing export subsidy when international prices are low and by imposing duties when export prices are high

“The time has come to restructure agriculture. Punjab has been on the forefront in the battle against inequality and injustice, however difficult it may be. The agricultural negotiations are unequal. It is time Punjab again lead the country’’, emphasised Capt Kanwaljit Singh.

The WTO is as much a reality as is the rising cost of production and farming becoming economically unviablefor small farmers whose survival is at stake. A large percentage of small farmers will face the music as much as small trader and industrialists, come the WTO.


Medical varsity to takeover college
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, March 20
The Punjab Government plans to hand over the local government Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital to Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot, to make its functioning more effective.

All modalities in this connection are already under discussion with the management board of the university.

This was stated by Dr J.S. Gujral, Vice-Chancellor of the university, while talking to media persons here yesterday.

Under another proposal, the school of nursing attached with the medical college would also be upgraded to a college of nursing and be attached with the university at the earliest, Dr Gujral said.

The Vice-Chancellor informed that this university had been enrolled as a member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

This step would prove helpful in exchanging different kinds of information, like intelligence and research work, at the global level.

He said a four-day meeting of all heads of the 480 universities of Commonwealth countries had been convened at Cyprus on April 22 to exchange views.

He announced that in future the work of the university would also be done in Punjabi besides English.

Three more centres — bioinformatics, human resources system and health development and continuing medical education — would start functioning from this year.

Similarly boards of studies in physiotherapy and homoeopathy were being constituted to promote education, said Dr Gujral. Sections like stores, purchase and legal cell would also come into existence shortly.

A six-member committee comprising senior medical and other intellectuals headed by Mr M.S. Rattan, Principal Secretary, Medical Education, has been constituted to regularise the work in the university.

Dr R.S. Tung, former DRME, and Dr G.S. Kalkat, Vice-Chancellor, Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, have been nominated to the finance committee.

Dr Gujral said that the Punjab Government allocated Rs 7.50 crore against the initial requirement of Rs 18.45 crore to meet the expenditure for the next financial year.

The Vice-Chancellor has been authorised to appoint a Dean soon to ensure smooth functioning in the university.

Dr P.S. Sandhu, Registrar, and Mr Tirath Singh, secretary to the Vice-Chancellor, were also present on the occasion.


Jathedars must quit: Josh
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 20
An SGPC member, belonging to the ruling party, Mr Puran Singh Josh, today alleged that Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Prof Manjit Singh and Giani Kewal Singh, Jathedars of Akal Takht, Kesgarh Sahib and Damdama Sahib, respectively, and Giani Bhagwan Singh, Head Granthi, Akal Takht, had violated the ‘Sikh maryada’ and, hence, they did not have the right to continue as high priests.

Mr Josh said Prof Manjit Singh, Giani Kewal Singh and Giani Bhagwan Singh were ‘excommunicated’ from the Sikh Panth by Giani Puran Singh in his capacity as Jathedar, Akal Takht. But, instead of stepping down as high priests, they had been ‘hatching conspiracies’ against him (Giani Puran Singh). He claimed that Giani Puran Singh had the right to get the ‘girdawri’ of the disputed land in his name as he had got it from Sant Makhan Singh on ‘contract’. He further claimed that Giani Puran Singh bears high moral character and is a great religious personality.

The statement has come in the light of the joint meeting of SGPC executive and high priests to be held on March 22 at Anandpur Sahib. Though the meeting was convened to take stock of the situation arising out of the absence of Giani Puran Singh from the meetings of Akal Takht, other issues, including those of the ‘Sikh maryada’ ‘Dasam Granth’ Sikh identity and “Nanakshahi calendar”, may also come up for discussion.

Jathedar Josh threatened to burn the copies of the book, “Gurbilas Patsahi Six,” edited by Jathedar Vedanti which has used ‘derogatory’ language against the Sikh Guru and his family. He said if the SGPC failed to dismiss Jathedar Vedanti as Jathedar of Akal Takht and priest of the Golden Temple immediately, he would get the excertps of the book published in newspapers.

He said it was shocking that Prof Manjit Singh and Giani Kewal Singh had written the foreword of the controversial book. He said though the book which was published by SGPC and later banned by it, yet no action had been taken against the high priests so far.

He said the book would be burnt in front of the Golden Temple if no action was taken against the high priests. Meanwhile, Akal Takht may invite Giani Puran Singh for the Anandpur Sahib meeting.


Cong men fired at
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, March 20
Mr Anil Joshi, president of the local unit of the BJP, today fired three shots from his revolver at the Congressmen burning the effigies of Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, and former BJP chief Bangaru Laxman.

According to information, hundreds of Congressmen were marching towards the Tehsil chowk to burn the effigies of Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, and Mr Bangaru Laxman. when the local BJP leader fired at them.

Congressmen beat up Mr Anil Joshi who has been admitted to the local Civil Hospital. His condition is stated to be serious. A case has been registered against Mr Joshi.


Cong holds rally over ‘Tehelka’ expose
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, March 20
Congress activists from the district held a rally here yesterday in protest against the alleged involvement of the NDA government members in shady defence deals.

The speakers said the system needed overhauling which, they said was possible only after the Vajpayee-led coalition government at the Centre resigned.

Mr Khushal Bahl, a senior Congress leader, charged the Defence Minister with betraying people’s faith.

Later, the demonstrators, led by Mr Bahl, held a protest rally to the district courts and presented a charter of demands to the Deputy Commissioner.


CPM takes out protest march
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 20
The district unit of the CPM today took out a protest march through the town and staged a dharna in front of the SDM’s office here demanding immediate resignation by the Vajpayee government after the exposure of alleged corruption in high places, especially in defence deals.

Addressing the dharna, comrade Chand Singh Chopra, district secretary of the CPM asked the Vajpayee government to immediately resign so that a fair enquiry could be conducted.


Few takers for Punjabi magazines
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 20
Even though the SAD-led Punjab Government claims to have done the utmost for the propagation of the Punjabi language, the two Punjabi magazines published by the State Language Department seems to paint a picture of apathy and indifference.

The two Punjabi magazines — the Punjabi Duniya and Jan Sahit — have not been published since November 2000. The other two magazines brought out by the department — the Punjab Saurabh, a Hindi monthly and Parvez i Adab, an Urdu magazine brought out once in two months — too have not been published since September 2000 and August 2000, respectively.

The Language Department got the November issue of the Punjabi Duniya, which is its most prestigious magazine containing scholarly literary articles, published last month to coincide with the function held here to award the Shiromani awards. The September and October issues of the magazine are still to see the light of day.

The Punjabi Duniya and the Jan Sahit have a print order of 1,000 copies every month while the Punjab Saurabh and the Parvez i Adab have a print order of 500 each.

Due to such irregular and late schedules of publication, the magazines have literally been written off. There are hardly any individual subscribers.

Even though the magazines are supposed to feature the best talent and the prices ranging between Rs 3 and Rs 6 only, the department finds it difficult to sell them. In a desperate move recently, the department made it mandatory for all those appearing in the basic Punjabi Prabodh examination to subscribe to the magazines. However, the move was withdrawn when there was opposition to it.

The State Language Department Director, Dr Madan Lal Hasija, said the fault lay with the Government Printing Press and not with the department. He said his department was working well ahead of schedule as far as composing and submission of the proofs was concerned. 


Mansa deprived of stadium
K.K. Goyal

MANSA: The indecisiveness of the Planning Board, Mansa, over the construction of a sports stadium in the district has led to a waste of public money.

The board dropped the project after spending over Rs 5 lakh on it. Such an indifferent attitude of the administration has also disheartened the youth and officials connected with sports.

In 1993, the then Deputy Commissioner had drawn up a scheme to build a stadium at an estimated cost of Rs 60.87 lakh, on Khokhar road adjoining to the FCI godowns here. Construction of a shopping complex and park was also planned in its vicinity.

The Public Works Department had started the construction following the release of Rs 5 lakh by district planning and development board, but the board withdrew the second instalment of Rs 2 lakh released by it earlier as the scheme was cancelled and the department was directed to stop work. Since then, the project awaits revival.

At present the Municipal Council is using to for dump garbage at the project site where the district administration celebrated Republic Day two months ago. Now no one would believe this reality after visiting the project site.

The Deputy Commissioner Mrs Raji P Srivastava, told this correspondent that the planning board had dropped the idea of building a stadium.

Interestingly, the CPI leader, Mr Hardev Singh Arshi, who represents Budhlada, had raised the question in the Punjab Assembly blaming the planning board for wasting money by altering its decisions from time to time. He urged the administration to take a firm decision.

The selection of the site was also not proper as a stench permeates the atmosphere as it is near a burial ground for animals.

Owing to the population explosion, the poor have constructed their houses there. But due to the foul atmosphere, the area is not fit for human beings.

The local Environment Society has demanded that the Municipal Council as well as the district administration take stern action to clean up the area and warned that the residents of the area may suffer from asthma and tuberculosis.


Protest march by medical practitioners
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 20
Members of the medical practitioners’ association, Punjab, today held a demonstration in front of the office of the Ayurvedic Board in Chandigarh and later marched to Matka chowk for a four-hour rally in support of their demands.

What surprised the security forces was the manner in which these demonstrating medical practitioners over 140 in number managed to reach right up to the gates of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha (not in session today) and shout slogans there. Though they were later rounded up, nevertheless, they had their say.

A spokesperson of the association in a statement said the SAD-BJP government had been making false promises for the past four years. The government, if it was serious, could have devised ways to introduce some capsule training courses rather than showing its helplessness on the high court decision on registered medical practitioners.

The spokesperson regretted that the government was playing a second fiddle to a handful of doctors of the IMA. The estimated strength of such practitioners, now finding themselves jobless was around one lakh, the press note said.

The association pleaded that rather than looking at their problems from legal angle the government should also keep in view the social and economic aspects and hardship faced by them.


DD takes on defiant cable operators
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 20
Doordarshan and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting authorities have finally decided to take on those cable operators of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan, who have been violating the Cable Act, by not showing DD’s two main and one regional satellite channel on the prime band.

According to Section 11 of the Cable Act and the Prasar Bharti TV Network Act, 1995, it is mandatory for every cable operator to run DDs two main channels—DD-1 and DD-2 plus one of the regional channels, which in case of Punjab is the DD-Punjabi, launched by the DD authorities from Jalandhar, last year.

Though the Cable Act was there, but what was creating problems for the DD authorities and the viewers to some extent was that despite stringent provisions in the Act, which clearly specified that any violation of the Act would invoke penal action, including confiscation of the operator’s equipment and imprisonment up to six months, a large number of operators in the state were still avoiding the transmission of DD channels preferred transmission of other more revenue-generating channels. This was partly happening on account of laxity in the attitude of the district administration authorities, which were the implementing agencies as far as the Central Acts and ordinances are concerned and partly due to the DD authorities failing to take any notice of the large-scale violation of the Act till they felt themselves in neck-deep trouble on the cable operators’ front.

Only after feeling the heat DD and the ministry, swung into action and took up the matter with the chief secretaries, who, it was learnt, directed the Deputy Commissioners concerned to enforce the Act by ensuring that the cable operators in their respective districts abide by the guidelines in the Act.

Mr Ashok Jelkhani, Director, Doordarshan Kendra, Jalandhar, said though the enforcement agency in this matter was the district administration, the DD authorities had started warning those who had been violating the norms and different provisions of the Act by daily telecast of the norms on DD Jalandhar, and the DD’s satellite channel, DD Punjabi.

“Viewers from across the state were complaining to us that some operators were not showing DD’s channels on their networks. So we had to take up the matter with Commissioners and the Deputy Commissioners. On our part, we have appointed a senior officer, Mr S. R. Aheer, as the nodal officer for keeping a watch on any further violation by the cable operators in the state,” said Mr Jelkhani.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr K. Shiva Prasad, said he had already held a meeting with the city-based cable operators and directed them to show DD channels on their networks, particularly, on the prime band on a regular basis. “We have also directed them to use good quality equipment for the purpose. Moreover, they have been warned not to exhibit old and new films on their networks without obtaining their copyrights,” Mr Prasad said.


Spinal injuries centre: 50 lakh received
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 20
The Punjab Government has received the first instalment of Rs 50 lakh from the Union Government for the setting up of Spinal Injuries Centre at SAS Nagar. The centre is being set up at a cost of Rs 5 crore.

This was stated by Mr Ranjit Singh Balian, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Punjab, while inaugurating a free eye operation camp at Kherri Chandwa village in the district on Sunday.

Mr Balian said the Punjab Government had provided five acres, free of cost, for the Spinal Injuries Centre. He said this centre had already started functioning temporarily in Government Medical Hospital in Sector 32 at Chandigarh.

The minister also disclosed that the Punjab Government had drawn up a plan, worth Rs 4 crore, for increasing the supply of irrigation water in the Sangrur district. He said the irrigation water would be augmented by remodelling the canals from Rohti bridge near Nabha. He further said with this increase, the Sangrur, Bathinda and Mansa districts would benefit.

Mr Balian also stated that another scheme, worth Rs 26 lakh, had also been prepared for Sangrur district. Under the scheme, the canals would be cleaned and dug. He said this would also help increase irrigation water in the district.


PSEB directed to refund fine
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, March 20
The District Consumer Redressal Forum, Gurdaspur, which was presided over by Mr Beant Singh Bedi, directed the Punjab State Electricity Board to refund the fine imposed on Mrs Kanta Sekhri, a resident of plot No. 31, Saili Road, and also pay her litigation expenses.

Mrs Sekhri had filed the complaint under Section 12 of the Consumer Protection Act against the PSEB alleging that an electric meter was installed in her house which had a sanctioned load of 2.87 kw and was approved by the PSEB.

Later on it was found to have a connected load of 6.953 mw by PSEB officials. This was calculated by the said officials after including 3 kw of load for a water geyser although it had already been included in the test report submitted by the complainant. A fine of Rs 5,782 was imposed on the complainant.


Hospital fined
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 20
In a case of alleged medical negligence relating to the treatment of Master Muskan, son of Anil, a resident of Phullanwala chowk, versus Madaan Hospital, Dr Rakesh Madaan and Dr R.P. Jindal, all from Amritsar, a Bench of District Consumer Redressal Forum, Gurdaspur, comprising Mr Beant Singh Bedi and Mr Amardeep Singh Shergill and Ms Manisha Verma, has concluded that deficiency of service was proved.

The 27-page order said Dr R.P. Jindal was not called immediately to attend on Muskan. He delayed attendance by three hours whereas the bladder of Muskan was distened and the child could not pass urine due to injury to the urethra (urinary passage) and the rutpture could occur even before the arrival of Dr Jindal.

The court held that Dr Jindal did not attend to the patient after 10 p.m. on April 7, 2000. Till 11 pm on April 9 after which Dr Ohri was summoned as stated by Dr Madaan. The court awarded a compensation of Rs 5,000 to Muskan by Dr Madaan, Madaan Hospital and Dr Jindal and Rs 1000 as cost of litigation.


2 killed, 11 hurt in road mishaps
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 20
Two persons were killed and 11, including nine police officials, injured in two road accidents in the district since last night.

Balkrishan (23) and his brother Titu (27) of Ramdaspur village near Alawalpur township were killed while Ashok Kumar of the same village was injured when their scooter collided with a tractor-trailer on the Adampur-Alawalpur road last night. The tractor driver managed to escape under the cover of darkness, leaving behind his vehicle. The police has registered a case on the complaint filed by Ashok Kumar, who has been hospitalised.

Nine Constables and a Head Constable received injuries as the authorickshaw in which they were travelling met with an accident with a truck on the G.T. Road opposite the interstate bus terminus here late last night. The truck driver, however, managed to escape.


SGPC budget session on Mar 30
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 20
The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee in a statement announced that the budget session of the committee would be held on March 30 for the year 2001-2002.

Jathedar Jagdev Singh Talwandi, President, SGPC, said the meeting would deliberate on various issues like the general board, Sikh history and research, trust, education etc. In addition to that, budget for the Dharam Prachar Committee, gurdwara printing, school, colleges and institution allotment would be undertaken.


Unions hold gate rallies
Our Correspondent

Ropar, March 20
Various employee unions, including all unions of the BBMB, Punjab Teachers Union and the NFL Employees Unions, held gate rallies yesterday at Nangal against the Budget and the privatisation policies of the Union Government.

The leaders, while addressing the employees, criticised the government for adopting privatisation policies and proposing a 10 per cent cut in government jobs each year.

This would lead to a decrease of 75,000 jobs annually that would aggravate the already imposing unemployment problem in the country. The Teachers Union’s representative alleged that more than 25,000 posts of the teacher were-lying vacant in the state.


3 hurt in clash over land
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 20
A clash took place at Panj Pir at the GT road today morning when a group of 30 persons led by Ravinderpal Mehra, Rajesh Lalli and Kuldeep Bubber tried to forcibly take the possession of a private land.

A police party, headed by 3 DSPs and 3 SHOs was pressed into service by the SP, city, Mr Amit Prasad, to control the mob which was carrying arms.

The persons were injured in the clash. More than 18 persons were rounded up by the police for questioning. The land has a ‘pir mazar’ on it and is reportedly a disputed property. A case has been registered.


Sardulgarh MLA hurt in mishap
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 20
The Sardulgarh MLA, Mr Inderjeet Singh Moffar, and three other persons were injured yesterday when his Tata Sumo collided with a bus near the local government Nehru Memorial College. The other persons injured were the MLA’s mother, his gunman and the Sumo driver. Later, the MLA was referred to the PGI, Chandigarh. Mr Moffar was on his way to Chandigarh when the mishap occurred


Training camp
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 20
The Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA) organised a training camp today at Fatta Maloka village in the district to educate farmers about the use of solar pumps. Mr Parkash Singh Lamhey, Additional Deputy Commissioner (Development), Mansa, inaugurated the camp. An exhibition of solar gadgets was also organised. 


Demolition drive
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, March 20
The Railway authorities, led by Assistant Engineer A.K. Sharma and Sectional Engineer Vinod Sachdeva, yesterday launched a campaign against illegal encroachments on Railway land and property in the town. More than 100 Railway labourers demolished nearly 200 shops, kiosks and. “jhuggis” built along the Railway tracks.


Rules on stamp duty ‘ambiguous’
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 20
To promote agriculture and allied activities in the state, the Punjab Government had issued directions to the officers of the Revenue Department stating that stamp duty on the documents relating to loan cases for some of the agriculture and allied sectors has been waived.

As per the letter issued by the state government in January the stamp duty on loan cases up to Rs 1 lakh for poultry farms has been waived, while the earlier limit was Rs 35,000. The professions like, animal husbandry, bee keeping, fish farming, and forestry have also been exempted from stamp duties.

The earlier practice of charging the stamp duty on piggery, dairy farming and poultry farming was changed by the state government and the word poultary” was omitted from the sub-clause II of the Punjab Government, Revenue Department, Order No. 5819-ST-II-83/2089 (February, 1973), by a new order issued on January 9, 2001.

But the statement has created confusion in the calculation of stamp duty. Official sources said stamp duty was being charged on the loan cases relating to dairy farming and piggery. But if the same loan was applied for under the title “animal husbandry” no stamp duty was applicable. Sources added that the words “dairy and piggery” should also be omitted from the same clause to remove the ambiguity.

Officials of the Revenue Department said they had met higher authorities in this regard and had sought legal opinion.


DFSC booked for breaking into godown
Tribune News Service

Gidderbaha, March 20
A criminal case has been registered against Mr Sukhdev Singh, District Food and Supply Controller (DFSC), and in Inspector, Mr Kishan Singh Brar, in the local police station for their alleged involvement in breaking open the locks of godowns owned by Punjab State Warehousing Corporation on March 16.

Police sources said that cases under Sections 454, 280, 427, 148 and 149 of the Indian penal Code (IPC), had been registered against the DFSC, Inspector and others on a complaint of the manager of the corporation. No body has been arrested so far.

In the complaint to the local police authorities, the manager alleged that Mr Sukhdev Singh and Mr Kishan Singh Brar broke the locks of godowns and forcibly took out paddy which was lying in the godowns.

He added that he informed the matter to the Muktsar District manager of corporation.

The District Manager, who reached the spot immediately and stopped them.

When the District Manager left the Inspector, Food and Supply, Mr Kishan Singh Brar along with some labourers again came to the godowns and allegedly broke open the locks again they also started shifting the paddy from inside.

The Manager also pointed out that he did not have enough staff to keep vigil on the stock of paddy which had been shifted from inside to outside by the DFSC, Inspector and labourers.

Official sources said that case against Mr Sukhdev Singh and others was registered when employees of the corporation threatened that they would go on indefinite strike if legal action against the guilty officials was not taken.

The employees had also submitted a memorandum of their demands to the local SDM.

Sources said that tension in the town had been building up ever since the incident took place.

Gang of car thieves busted
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 20
A fleet of cars was recovered by the Amritsar police from a gang headed by dismissed Constable and a murder accused.

Three of the four accused were arrested. Maruti cars and an Indica car was recovered.

Those arrested are dismissed Constable Satnam Singh of Lopoke, murder accused Satwinder Singh, released only a month ago and Kabul Singh of Rajasansi, while Parmjit Singh managed to give a slip to the police when they raided his hide-out in Phagwara from where eight of 11 cars were recovered.

Talking to the mediapersons Mr Amit Prasad, SP said most of the vehicles were stolen from unmanned parking areas such as marriage palaces, hospital, hotels and in and around the Golden Temple.

Vehicles stolen by the gang with changed number plates and documents were kept in Phagwara for some time before being taken to markets like Tilak Nagar in Delhi and Yamunanagar in Haryana.

The recovered car numbers are PB 14-1341, PB-02H-7077, PB-05E-9089, 837, DA-Q-9778, AHR-29-0057, CH03-C-8686, Indica number PB-10HAS-9 and two white and one red Maruti cars.


6 held for gambling
Our Correspondent

Moga, March 20
The Baghapurana police in the district has arrested six persons of the town under the Gambling Act and seized currency notes and articles used in the illegal practice from them. According to reports, a police party headed by the DSP, Mr Lashkar Singh, raided the premises of the suspects and took them into custody.


Panel examining BCA issue: VC
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 20
The issue of the upgradation of the three-year Bachelor in Computer Application (BCA) course of Punjab Technical University (PTU), Jalandhar, seems to be nearing a solution.

The Vice-Chancellor, PTU, Dr H.S. Gurm, has confirmed that a committee has been formed to look into the possibility of starting a new one-year post-BCA course to solve the problem faced by the students of this course. The committee is likely to take a decision by the end of April this year, he stated.

More than 1400 students are enrolled in the BCA course being offered by the PTU in 15 of its affiliated institutes all over Punjab.

These students, through the BCA Students Coordination Committee, have for more than a month been demanding the upgradation of this course by a year into a four-year degree course as done by other universities of the region.

However, the pattern of this upgradation has varied among various universities of the region. While Delhi University and Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, has upgraded the course to a four-year Bachelor in Information Technology (BIT) course, Punjabi University, Patiala, and GND University, Amritsar, have simply upgraded the three-year BCA course to a four-year BCA course. Panjab University has offered to start a one-year post-BCA honours course for BCA students.

This variation is mainly due to apprehensions regarding approval for these four-year degree courses by the All-India Council of Technical Education and the University Grants Commission.

“We are sorting the matter out in a manner that it serves the system of education and the students. I assure you that the decision of the committee will be in favour of the students.

Any change cannot be expected overnight. In any case, we have decided to leave the BCA course as it is and offer an additional one-year post-BCA course,” stated Mr Gurm.

A four-year post 10 plus 2 course takes care of the requirement of foreign universities of 16 years of basic formal education.

Also, a decision to upgrade the said course will bring the students of this university on a par with those of other universities of the region.

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