Wednesday, March 28, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




Bill on Commission for Women passed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
The Punjab Vidhan Sabha’s Budget session ended today by conducting serious legislative business, including the passing of a Bill to set up a Commission for Women and effecting certain amendments to seven Acts, in a matter of minutes.

Since the Speaker, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, had announced that the House would adjourn sine die at 12.30 pm, it was only expected that legislative business would be rushed through in the absence of the Opposition, which has been suspended for the entire session. Much to the consternation of some of the members, including Ms Laxmi Kanta Chawla (BJP) and the dissident Akali MLA, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, who pleaded that their suggested amendments be incorporated in the Bill on the Commission for Women, the Minister for Social Security and Development, Mr Gobind Singh Kanjla, made a one-lïne comment: “The apprehensions expressed are baseless”. He moved on to pray that the Bill be passed. It was.

The House also decided that the Punjab Women and Children Development and Welfare Corporation be closed down as it was running into losses. Besides, the House approved certain amendments to the following Acts:

The Indian Stamp Act, 1899, to bring about reasonable uniformity in the evaluation of property and checking the evasion of stamp duty.

The Punjab Backward Classes Land Development and Finance Corporation Act, 1976, and the Punjab Scheduled Castes Land Development and Finance Corporation Act, 1970, making the Director a member of the Board of Directors.

The East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949, to the extent that non-resident Indians would now find it much easier to get possession of their residential and non-residential premises on return home to settle.

The Punjab Motor Vehicle Taxation Act, 1924, to enhance resource mobilisation by increasing the special road tax for outside registered tourist/contract carriage permit vehicles coming to Punjab as also on motor cabs.

The Punjab Legislative Assembly Speaker’s and Deputy Speaker’s Salaries Act, 1937, extending to them the same privilege as was admissible to Ministers, Cabinet-rank and Ministers of State, in respect of travelling allowance if they used their private vehicles after surrendering their official cars.

The House also passed the official resolution moved by the Minister of Power, Mr Sikandar Singh Maluka, seeking enhancing the limit of the Punjab State Electricity Board to take loans from the present Rs 4,000 crore to Rs 5,000 crore. Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal spoke on this resolution making several suggestions and raising questions expecting that the Minister would at least included a detailed statement as to what had necessitated the board to seek a hike in the loan limit. He had also raised questions in respect of the Bill on the Commission for Women.

In fact, he and Ms Chawla gave hiccups to the Ministers who were piloting the Bills, but they simply rubbished what the two had said.

Meanwhile, the Legislature Congress Party made available copies of the privilege motion notice against the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, that it had sent to the Speaker pertaining to the resolution passed by the House on Monday against the All-India Congress Committee President, Ms Sonia Gandhi. Signed by eight Congress MLAs, the notice, inter alia, said that when a person, Ms Gandhi in this case, was not present in the House to defend herself how could such a resolution be passed. 


Punjab session a ruling alliance affair
PPS Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
The Punjab Vidhan Sabha adjourned sine die today after the last Budget session of the SAD-BJP government.

This particular session will be long remembered for many reasons — the suspension of 21 Opposition members of the House for the entire period, the shortest discussion, just one hour, on the Budget estimates for 2001-02, a spate of walkouts, slogan shouting and skirmishes between members (demanding to be heard and allowed to raise public interest issues) and the Speaker and, of course, the lacklustre proceedings and conduct of the Business. Imagine eight Bills, including one on the setting up of a Commission for Women and seven seeking amendments, listed on the last day, today, being passed in a jiffy.

The 11th Vidhan Sabha’s Budget session will also be remembered for the passing of two resolutions, one condemning Operation Bluestar at the Golden Temple in 1984 and the other the “massacre’’ of Sikhs following the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her own Sikh security guards.

Yet another resolution passed was the condemning of the All-India Congress Committee President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, for calling the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, a “traitor’’. The Congress MLAs have given a privilege notice against the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who moved the resolution as the Leader of the House, to the Speaker.

The session literally belonged to the ruling co-partners, the SAD and the BJP. It was the Treasury Benches all the way. The only “relief’’, if one may say, was the strident stand that some of the dissident Akalis took at times on a variety of issues. Their verbal duels with the Speaker, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, cut little ice.

Though this unhappy lot, 11 in all, is technically still in the ruling SAD inside the House, it owes allegiance to Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra. Incidentally, the case of their “disqualification’’, moved by some ministers, stands postponed by the Speaker to June. Well, that is another story.

Besides them another visibly aggrieved MLA was Mrs Laxmi Kanta Chawla (BJP), who was invariably agitated and kept up the chant of being “discriminated’’ against by the Speaker even on questions submitted by her months ago that were being postponed time and again. Her grouse: not being allowed to speak and even forced to accept “incomplete and incorrect’’ replies given by the Ministers to questions put by her. As a protest, she usually wore a black sari.

The Speaker occasionally did show his “displeasure’’, only just, to some of the recalcitrant Ministers, asking them to reply properly after a day or two, and also to members who did not heed his repeated calls to resume their seats.

The trouble started from day one, when the Governor Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd), delivered his Address on March 1. The Opposition had walked out in protest. The spark for the subsequent trouble was provided by the issue of “discrimination’’ against the Opposition by the government when it came to development works and the allocation of funds for the same. This sense of being alienated and ignored stalled the proceedings of the House for three days, delaying discussion on the Vote of Thanks to the Governor for his Address.

Ultimately, 21 Opposition MLAs, 13 of the Congress, including the Leader of the Opposition, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, two of the CPI, one each of the BSP and the SAD-Mann and four “dissident’’ Akalis, were suspended for the entire Budget session.

The present Vidhan Sabha also set a record for the Akalis completing their first full five-year term in office with the Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, presenting his fifth consecutive Budget.

On the two occasions when the resolutions condemning Operation Bluestar and the “massacre’’ of Sikhs were passed, the Treasury Benches had a field day blasting the Congress for the two happenings that plunged the state into bloodshed and turmoil for which Punjab continued to pay a heavy economic price. Interestingly, the resolution on Operation Bluestar does not mention the Congress by name despite a vitriolic attack on it by members.

Incidentally, by either accident or design, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, was conspicuous by his absence on both days when the resolutions were passed on the 1984 happenings.

The House also took cognisance of the two acts of sacrilege at Amritsar and Patiala and condemned these as well.

Feeling isolated, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh marked his presence by issuing a lengthy press note giving his party’s reaction to the Budget, the political situation in the state and listing the “failures’’ of the government on all fronts. Though suspended, every day the Opposition members, wearing black robes, assembled in the Lobby raising slogans against the government.

The charges reverberating in the House were how the Akalis — protectors of democracy, civil liberties and human rights — had themselves “murdered’’ democracy and “scuttled’’ the voice of the people by suspending the Opposition and not allowing the remaining members to raise any issue related to their constituents. At one stage, Mr Grewal remarked, “Now that democracy has been murdered, let us at least give it a decent burial.”

But one question that begs for an answer is: How far was the Opposition justified in magnifying the issue of “discrimination’’ against itself? Opinion may vary and so would an objective answer. Certainly it was politically a tactical mistake on the part of the Opposition which perhaps, preferred “rights’’ over “responisibilities’’.

The description applicable to the Treasury Benches was that by sheer brute majority they managed to bulldoze the Opposition, often acting in a brazen manner showing lack of perspective and sincerity of purpose when it came to dealing with serious, weighty matters of state. Five or six Ministers were seen repeatedly standing up during question hour while the rest were spectators. Members, too, lacked the stamina and knowledge to cogently frame their questions. It was a one-sided affair.


Conviction rate low in women-related crimes
Varinder Singh

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 27
If you are a woman from Doaba region and any heinous crime, ranging from rape, murder to tormenting by husband and in-laws over dowry, has been committed against you, chances are bright that the perpetrators might go scot-free, primarily, for the intervention by relatives anxious to reach a compromise with the culprits or for the lack of evidence against them in court.

Interestingly, what usually let the perpetrators go scot-free is the interference of persisting relatives and friends who do all-out efforts to pressurise the victim to reconcile with her fate and to accept what had in store for her in lieu of some money or persuade her to forgive the accused to save the honour of the clan, besides the faulty investigation methods which result in the dilution or destruction of evidence against the accused, with the result the culprit is not proven guilty.

Investigations by The Tribune revealed that the conviction rate of the cases of crime against women in the state was low, particularly in all four districts of Doaba region—Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr. The state of affairs was so sad that of 331 accused, against whom cases of harassing their wives were registered during 1995 and 1999, just nine got convicted and 107 accused were released by different courts since the victims had preferred an out-of-court compromise. Few accused were let off by the courts as the cases were found to had been registered on flimsy grounds, just to harass the husbands and their parents.

Conviction rate in murder cases of women was too on a lower side as of 192 cases registered in the Jalandhar range during these four years, conviction could be effected in just 43 cases, since most of the relatives of female victims preferred the easy way of compromise instead of treading the long path of justice. Three such cases were filed by the police at last since the accused were non-traceable.

When contacted, Mr Suresh Arora, DIG, Jalandhar range, said the basic reason for the acquittal of the accused in courts was compromise by the victims or their families. “It has been observed that if crime has been committed against a female, the family is even reluctant to get a case registered or if at all it does, it does not prefer to carry the legal battle for long for so many pressures from many social quarters,” he said. A number of police officials said the tendency to reach a compromise with the accused and his accomplices was more in rural areas where people were afraid of even going to police station to report any crime committed against any female member of their family.

This is authenticated by the extremely low conviction rate in rape cases. Of 230 rape cases reported and registered in the four districts during this period, just 46 accused got convicted in different courts, mainly due to the fact that the families of victims get cold feet while the legal process was on.


Corpn budget axes development
Rashmi Talwar

Amritsar, March 27
Even as the last year of the Badal government is being extensively observed as a “year of development”, ironically the axe has fallen on the development works to be undertaken in the budget of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation for 2001-2002.

The corporation budget which will be announced on March 29, 2001, will leave only 49.2 per cent of the total budget for development works, as against a whopping 50.79 per cent for corporation expenses, including salaries and maintenance in addition to exigency expenses. The total budget amount is Rs 125.81 crore.

The budget proposal to cut on development allotment comes despite a notification dated January 1, 2001, which directs all the four corporations namely Amritsar, Patiala, Jalandhar and Ludhiana to project 55 per cent of the income towards development, 35 per cent for the corporation’s own expenses and 10 per cent for exigency expenses.

Interestingly, 99 per cent of the foreword or preface to the budget puts the development expenses at a mere 25 per cent whereas the corporation’s expenses are put at 57 per cent and exigency expenses at 18 per cent, thereafter it dwells on the reasons for the cut in development expenses. However, only the last three lines of the preface make a “significant amendment” that increases the allotment for development to 49.2 per cent.

According to top official sources in the corporation, the additional income has reportedly been calculated at the last minute by making “preposterous” estimates in the income generated from the house-tax and octroi.

However, the actual income generated from these two sources belies the lofty claims of the corporation budget. The actual income from house tax in the past nine months was Rs 3.23 crore, while the budget estimate is targeted at Rs 8.50 crore. However, the latest income statement till March 25 puts the actual income at only Rs 4.24 crore showing a shortfall of more than half of the actual estimate.

Similarly octroi, a major source of income to the corporation, was targeted to reach Rs 60 crore in three months from Rs 37.43 crore collected till December last year in nine months’ period.

However, only a dismal recovery could be made until March 25 at only Rs 47.68 crore as the total “actual income” recovered against a target of Rs 60 crore.

Experts in the field conclude that the budget this year is a mere “eye wash” to portray a prosperous state of affairs. They say the corporation has tried to whitewash its image by making preposterous projections whereas the actual income tells a different story.

This is especially true year as the next year happens to be the election year for the ruling party. Consequently, according to the latest statement of actual recovery, fire-tax has reported a nil income while the budget is targeted to recover Rs 25 lakh from it.

The proposed target for advertisement tax is at Rs 10 lakh, although roughly one-third of the target could be met at Rs 3.96 lakh, a drop of nearly 16 time less than last year’s figure at Rs 49.54 lakh. Income estimates on licence fees under Section 343 were to recover an income of Rs 50 lakh, but an abysmally low recovery was reported at approximately six times less at a mere Rs 8.13 lakh.

Interestingly, Rs 10 crore is demarcated in the budget for income obtained from the sale of municipal property, although not even a crore came in actual income which stood at Rs 68.9 lakh.

Ironically an amount of Rs 5 crore is inclusive of the figure for income to be spent on development works whereas not a single rupee since the last budget has come to the corporation from the state government even after the state was directed in a court judgement to pay that amount to the corporation.

However, what really takes the cake is the recovery estimates targeted from the sewerage board and water supply at Rs 15 crore for the current budget. A mere Rs 8.01 crore is the actual recovery figure in this area.

According to the budget the corporation proposes to spend Rs 3 crore on street lighting, Rs 1.2 crore on beautifucation of gardens and landscaping while Rs 6 crore is earmarked for roads.


FCI, DFS authorities lock horns
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 27
A dispute has arisen between the District Food and Supply authorities and Food Corporation of India (FCI) authorities allegedly after an FCI official entered two consignments of rice into the FCI account which belonged to the state agencies in Bhucho centre on March 19 and 20.

Sources said in an application moved to Station House Officer (SHO), police station, Nathana, Assistant Food and Supply Officer (AFSO), Bhucho Mandi, alleged that the Assistant Manager (Depot) FCI, Mr Sadhu Ram had hijacked these consignments of rice belonging to the state agencies. After hijacking these consignments, Mr Sadhu Ram had entered them in the FCI records.

He pointed out that the rice consignment was only stored in the godown by the FCI authorities after they passed it in connection with its quality. The rice belonging to state agencies could be accepted by the FCI authorities and stored subsequently on the basis of a contact number issued by District Food and Supply authorities to the rice millers.

He alleged that Mr Sadhu Ram had tampered with the record and entered these consignments belonging to the state agencies into the records of the FCI and stored these in the godowns.

He demanded that a case should be registered against Mr Sadhu Ram and the official record should be taken into custody so that illegal activities of the FCI could be investigated.

Mr Sadhu Ram when contacted, said the milling of paddy was being done as per ratio of various agencies, including the FCI and this ratio would be maintained in all circumstances.

He said the FCI was having 975 consignments at the beginning of the season to be milled, DFSC-177, Markfed-107, Punsup-301 and PSWC-251. He added that the FCI had got milled about 25 per cent of its consignments so far while the DFSC had got milled 33 per cent of its consignment. The percentage of other agencies were 25 for Markfed, 29 for Punsup and 25 for PSWC. He added that the ratio of milling of the FCI was very low as compared to the percentage of other agencies at the Bhucho centre.

He said steps had been taken to increase the percentage of milling by the FCI and it was neither illegal nor wrong. He added that the FCI authorities had always tried to make it sure that milling of all agencies should come to an end almost at the same time.

He said millers who had delivered two consignments of rice, which the DFSC authorities were claiming to be theirs had signed the weight check memo on which they had mentioned that they had agreed to supply the consignment to the FCI.

He said the DFSC authorities had been levelling false allegations to put undue pressure on him to accept their consignments in violation of the ratio.

Police sources said the application moved by the AFSO had been sent to in charge, police chowki, Bhucho Mandi for investigation.


Jaundice grips Malout, claims one life
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Malout, March 27
Jaundice seems to have acquired epidemic dimensions in this town as it has reportedly claimed the life of a woman and has affected hundreds of others in the past more than three weeks.

Information gathered by the TNS revealed that the woman, who died of jaundice a few days ago, had been identified as Sukhwinder Kaur. Cases of jaundice are also being reported at various private and government hospitals located in the town.

Civil Hospital sources said since March 1 to March 26, 26 cases of jaundice had been diagnosed here. Apart from it, a number of cases had tested Hepatitis-A positive in various private laboratories dotting the town.

The localities from where cases of jaundice are being reported include Patel Nagar, Guru Nanak Nagar, Dr Pritpal Singh wali gali, Makkar area, Sacha Sauda road, Ajit Singh Nagar, Ekta Nagri and Purani Mandi.


Poppy husk found in bunkers
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, March 27
The police in a drive against drug traffickers last week, conducted raids and recovered 32 bags of poppy husk from Sansi locality near Garupur village and nabbed Jarnail, alias Jaila, in this connection.

The police found that most of the poppy husk smugglers, belonged to a particular tribe and had constructed bunkers in their drawing rooms, kitchens and stores. These bunkers would be covered by double beds, refrigerators, flour tins, etc. to store poppy husk in polythene packets. Some bunkers had the capacity to store four to five bags.

Poppy husk, packed in polythene bags, was also stored in bed boxes and almirahs.

Their houses are inter-connected so that they can flee easily if a police raid took place. They also have emergency windows to flee. Their houses are surrounded with iron doors and grills and though almost all of them use LPG cylinders, they have constructed chimneys as shelves have been made inside the chimneys to store poppy husk.

They also have modern means of communication and transportation. There were several long distance communication range/intercom telephone sets in houses. An alleged smuggler, who is constructing a house, has the provision for the entry of two to three trucks directly in his house, the police says. Some have even provided mobile phones to their drivers.

The SSP, Mr Ishwar Singh, said the police had filmed the raid and all legal formalities had been taken care of.

The police had also launched a campaign to educate the youth about the effects of drug abuse. Three drug de-addiction centres had been set up in this district, he added.


Where are shikaras, bus service?
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Even as the city has been witnessing a massive expansion for the past many years, residents have been deprived of various facilities, including a local bus service and an air link.

In the absence of the local bus service, residents are compelled to travel within the city in their own vehicles or on rickshaws or autorickshaws. They have to depend on the expensive auto-rickshaw service for reaching NFL Colony, Model Town, the cantonment and the Thermal Colony from various areas, including the railway station and the bus stand which are located in the heart of the city.

As regards tourism, two projects opened by the Punjab Tourism Development Corporation in 1979 have been closed.

In 1979, during the first term of Mr Parkash Singh Badal as Chief Minister, the Shikara Club was set up for boating on one of the lakes of the Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant . On the day of the inauguration, Mr Badal along with his wife went for a joyride in a shikara on the lake, named Nagin Lake.

The Punjab Government then had plans to develop Bathinda as a “mini Kashmir” and introduce the house boat facility along with shikaras on the lake.

Another project, the Blue Fox Tourist Complex, was also inaugurated by Mr Badal on the same day. There was also a plan to open a petrol station along with the tourist complex.

Both projects, managed by the PTDC, have been closed. The Municipal Council has been managing the affairs of the tourist complex by renting it out to private contractors while Nagin Lake is choked with silt.

A Vayudoot service introduced between Delhi and Bathinda, keeping in view the industrial growth of the area, was discontinued after some time for reasons best known to the authorities concerned. Bathinda, which came on the air map of the country, lost this status after a few months.

Besides, the authorities have failed to make the historical Gobind Fort here a major attraction for outsiders.

Residents have demanded, among other things, the development of recreational facilities in and around the city and the introduction of a local bus service.


Probe into ‘sale’ of BBMB records
Our Correspondent

Ropar, March 27
The Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) has ordered an inquiry into the stealing and sale of records of its design department at Nangal. The records contained designs of Bhakra and other projects. A truckload of the record were sold to junk dealers for a few hundred rupees reportedly by the head draftsman of the design department.

The inquiry will be conducted by senior officials of the department. The main accused in the case has already been sent back to his original cadre.

The incident took place last week when the head draftsman thought of making some money by selling old records. He put them in gunny bags and gave them to junk dealers who would collect them from the office in a rickshaw. The process went on for a few days without rousing suspicion of about 80 other employees. It was brought to light by the owner of a tea shop near the office.

The officials found that a lot of records were missing from the office. The records also contained some designs of the security-sensitive Bhakra Dam. The junk dealer, however, had not disposed of the records.

The authorities claim they have retrieved all records. The Director (Design), Mr Bhalla, said the records were very old and contained only faded designs of the Bhkara Dam.

The BBMB authorities, however, had not lodged any complaint with the police.


Pamphlets thrown into mosque
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 27
Unidentified miscreants tried to disturb communal harmony here late last night by throwing a bundle of inflammatory and objectionable pamphlets in the staircase of a mosque near Bhagat Singh Chowk.

The police and Muslim leaders of various organisations, however, joined hands, worked overtime and were able to maintain peace in the city which has a Muslim population of about 50,000.

The incident came to light around 10 p.m. when Rashid, a resident of a locality near Bhagat Singh Chowk noticed a bundle of papers wrapped in a piece of red cloth lying in the mosque and reported the matter to the police.

The police, cordoning off the mosque and summoned explosive experts fearing the bundle contained explosives.

It was found that the bundle contained some posters, in which three members of a pro-Hindu organisation (Hindu Suraksha Samiti) had allegedly given a call to the Hindus to unite and had threatened that the organisation was out to avenge the destruction of the statues of Buddha in Afghanistan by the Taliban.

It is the same organisation which is suspected to be behind similar incidents at Patiala and Amritsar last week. The Patiala police has already arrested the samiti chief Sanjiv Bharadwaj, and two of his accomplices for allegedly burning a religious book near the Patiala’s Arya Samaj Chowk .

The pamphlets were immediately taken into possession by Mr. Swaranjit Singh, SHO, Police Division No. 3. But is baffling the police authorities is that though the names of three city-based persons, who are considered close to a particular newspaper group, have allegedly been found printed on the pamphlets, why any person out to do some mischief will allow the printing of his name on such pamphlets.

“It could be an effort to malign the three, but we are investigating the case, including the antecedents of Rashid,” said a police official requesting anonymity. No arrest has been made so far. 


CM reviews wheat purchase arrangements
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today reviewed wheat procurement arrangements with agencies concerned and state’s Deputy Commissioners. Official procurement starts from April 1 next.

He asked the officers to ensure smooth market operations, including transportation and storage. He warned against any problems that farmers may face.

The state expects 120 lakh tonnes of wheat in mandis out of a total estimated production of 145 lakh tonnes. For the procurement, the Food Corporation of India will purchase 33 per cent of the total arrivals, whereas, the rest will be procured by the state agencies: Markfed, 20 per cent, Punsup,18 per cent, Warehousing Corporation and Food and Supplies Department, 10 per cent each and the Agro-Industries Corporation, nine per cent.


AIDS control scheme, a limited success
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, March 27
The National Programme for Control of AIDS has met with limited success in the district. During 1991-2001, as many as 54 AIDS patients were registered with the district Health Department.

A senior doctor on condition of anonymity said not a single day passes when one or two HIV positive cases are not detected in the Local Civil Hospital. He displayed a long list of such patients to this correspondent.

The cases registered with the Health Dapartment here have either been reported from a charitable hospital at Beas or blood banks from Amritsar and here.

Sources in the local hospital said the district Health Department had no provision for tests to establish HIV positive cases. The facilities were available only at Amritsar, Ludhiana and Chandigarh.

Meanwhile, of the 54 AIDS patients registered here, as many as 29 have died. Most of the AIDS patients have been found to be drivers or their dependents and hail from Sri Hargobindpur and Kahnuwan blocks. 


RSS for ban on cow slaughter
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, March 27
The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) wants a ban on cow slaughter in the country.

This was announced by Jalandhar general secretary of the RSS, Dr Yoginder Paul Sharma, talking to newspersons here today, said meat export to earn foreign currency was the main cause behind the slaughter.

He said 430 animals were there for a population of 1,000 in 1951. Now only 50 animals were recorded per thousand people.


Income Tax staff hold dharna
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 27
Officers and employees of the Income Tax Department today staged a dharna in the adjoining street from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The call for the dharna was given by the central committee of the “joint council of action” of the Income Tax Gazetted Services Federation and the Income Tax Employees Federation.

Mr Rajinder Singh, vice president, provincial body of the Income Tax Gazetted Services Association and Mr O.P. Ahuja, president Income Tax Employees Federation, said the joint council had decided to resort to the agitation demanding the judicious allocation and immediate implementation of the cadre restructuring, proposal had already been cleared by the Union Cabinet in letter and spirit.

The council also demanded the immediate release of promotion orders of ITOs to ACIT on regular basis, DPC for which had been held in December last year.


Prime suspect in sacrilege case held
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 27
The Patiala police today arrested Sanjiv Babla, a prime suspect in the ‘’religious’’ book burning case, from Handesra village under Lalru police station in the district.

The arrest of Babla follows the nabbing of Sanjeev Bhardwaj, President of the All-India Hindu Suraksha Samiti, yesterday. As many as nine other persons have been arrested in connection with the incident which took place at the Arya Samaj chowk on March 22. The suspects have been charged with inciting communal sentiments. The police has claimed that the suspects burnt a copy of an ordinary book and proclaimed that they had burnt a copy of a sacred book of a particular community.

Both Babla and Bhardwaj were produced before Chief Judicial Magistrate Sanjeev Berri today who remanded them to police custody till tomorrow. Three other accused in the case have been remanded to judicial custody till April 9.

Others who have been arrested in the case are: Sanjay Kumar, Rakesh Kumar, Jamal, Jaswant, Dewinder Kumar, Narinder Joshi, Sunil Kumar, Satish, alias manager, and Ravi Kumar. An official release here today said all suspects in the case had been arrested. It said Bhardwaj had been arrested during the checking of vehicles at the Sanauri adda yesterday.

On March 22, the city was caught in the grip of tension following reports that certain people burnt a copy of a religious book. The persons, all of whom belonged to the Hindu Suraksha Samiti, got together to burn the book. 


Pak intruder shot dead

Amritsar, March 27
The BSF shot dead an unidentified Pakistani intruder near the Khangarh border outpost in this sector last night.

According to a press note here today, the intruder was shot about 150 metres inside the Indian territory. Fundamentalist literature, a Quran, an Arabic calendar and a laminated card depicting the Pakistan national flag was recovered from the possession of the intruder.


Man dies as gun goes off
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 27
Mr Hardev Singh, a gunman of Mr Kaur Singh Khara, an SGPC member, was killed accidently today with his own gun.

His body was handed over to his family after a post-mortem examination.

According to the police, his gun fired suddenly when he was cleaning it.


Sarpanch, two panches suspended
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 27
Mr Jagat Singh, sarpanch, Fatehgarh Chhana village in the Sangrur block, Mr Joginder Singh and Mr Gurdial Singh, both panches of the same village, have been suspended by the authorities of the Directorate of Rural Development and Panchayats, Punjab, in connection with the issuance of grants under Indira Awas Yojna to ineligible persons.

 Their participation in any activity of the gram panchayat has also been banned. The Sangrur BDPO has been asked to hand over the charge of record/property, presently in the charge of the suspended sarpanch to an authorised panch.


Jhuggi set on fire, 9 goats burnt alive
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 27
Three miscreants set a jhuggi of Bajrangballa on fire. Nine goats were burnt alive in the fire the police said here today.

Ram Ratti, wife of Bajrangballa, came out from her jhuggi. She saw three persons identified as Samiru, Mohindri and Rajesh of the same jhuggi colony, setting her adjoining jhuggi on fire, the police said.

On the complaint of Ram Ratti the police had registered a case.

There was some dispute between the complainant and the accused and they threatened Ram Ratti’s family that they would burn their house the police said.


Labourers, farmers attend convention
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 27
The Pendu Mazdoor Union Punjab organised a state-level convention at the local Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall today.

Hundreds of landless labourers and small farmers from all over the state who participated in the convention were asked to fight a war against the anti-people policies of the government.

“Mr Tarsem Peter, secretary of the union, alleged that liberalisation under the WTO regime would result in large-scale unemployment and thousands of labourers would be rendered jobless.

The large-scale use of machinery and modern equipment in the fields had already affected labourers. They are being forced to make their minor children work with them”, he said.

Accusing the state and Central governments for the indifferent attitude towards the plight of the farmers, he said the political set-up in the country had “surrendered” to the policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.


ADC’s steno arrested
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 27
The vigilance authorities have arrested the stenographer of the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC), Bathinda for accepting Rs 500 as bribe from Mr Narotam Das.

According to police sources Daulat Ram, stenographer was caught red-handed taking a bribe of Rs 500 to issue notice of registry to Mr Narotam Das, a resident of Paras Ram Nagar.

A case in this regard had been registered, the sources added.


Mother, lover kidnap boy
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 26
A case of kidnapping of a nine-year-old boy by his mother and her lover came to light yesterday.

Sukhwinder Singh, son of Mr Ajaib Singh of the local Mohalla Sunder Nagar, had reportedly been missing from his house since Saturday. According to Mr Ajaib Singh, Ashok Kumar informed him that his son was with them and instructed him to reach Jalandhar bus stand with Rs 5 lakh in cash to get released his son, failing which they would kill him.

Mr Ajaib Singh, who was working in Dubai for the past 15 years had given Rs 1 lakh to Ashok Kumar, a travel agent, to send his elder son Manjinder Singh abroad. However, Ashok Kumar neither sent the boy abroad nor returned the money. Mr Ajaib Singh sued him in this regard.

Meanwhile, Ashok Kumar had developed illicit relations with Mrs Kirpal Kaur wife of Mr Ajaib Singh when he was in Dubai. She was living with Ashok Kumar for the past eight months. The duo kidnapped the child and were allegedly demanding Rs 5 lakh as ransom for his release and pressuring Mr Ajaib Singh to withdraw the case.

On a complaint by Mr Ajaib Singh the police registered a case against Ashok Kumar and Kirpal Kaur. No arrests had been made so far.


Staff oppose move to close college
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 27
The proposal to close down Lakshmi Narayan Ayurvedic College by the Durgiana Committee has met with opposition by the teaching and non-teaching staff of the college.

The staff in a press note said any efforts to close down the college would be opposed. As the Durgiana Committee did not provide any financial assistance to the college, hence raising the issue of the closure of the college in the general-house meeting had no validity, they added.


College teachers stage protest
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 27
An education bandh was today observed in government-aided 172-odd colleges of Punjab and Chandigarh against the non-implementation of the assurances given by the Punjab Minister of Higher Education, Master Mohan Lal, on the pension-cum-gratuity scheme for the staff.

Consequently, hundreds of teachers from all over the state and Chandigarh today marched to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha to protest against the non-implementation of the government’s own decisions which have constitutional backing, since the state Assembly had passed an Act to this effect on March 30, 1999.

The teachers could not go beyond Matka Chowk where they sat in dharna and held a rally addressed by the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers’ Union (PCCTU) President, Mr K.B.S. Sodhi, and the general-secretary, Mr Charanjit Chawla. The other speakers included the PCCTU vice-president, Mr J.S. Randhawa, the finance secretary, Mr N.P Manocha and Dr V.K. Tewari, who demanded an inquiry into alleged insubordination or dereliction of duty by the officials concerned for not implementing the decisions of the Assembly.

The teachers, led by the PCCTU have been waging a long-drawn battle by holding rallies, including in the constituencies of the ministers concerned. What has irked the PCCTU is that despite repeated assurances by Master Mohan Lal — the last was on December 27 — that ‘’within one month’’ the scheme would be implemented, nothing tangible has happened. In fact, the PCCTU postponed the proposed rally in Gidderbaha, the constituency of Mr Badal, scheduled for January 18, on the Minister’s assurance.

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