Thursday, March 29, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




Assembly poll on schedule: Badal
Rashmi Talwar

Majitha, March 28
Putting all speculations to rest, the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today announced that the Assembly elections would be held as per schedule. Mr Badal was addressing mediapersons after a “sangat darshan” here.

Opposition members had consistently raised the bogey of mid-term elections at political fora, he said. The Assembly elections were scheduled for next year.

The Chief Minister informed that the SGPC elections, due next year, would also be held on schedule.

The announcements come at a time when both religious and political scenario favoured a mid-term election.

On the Tehelka expose, Mr Badal said it was the BJP who had to decide about it, claiming that there were no corrupt elements in his government.

The Chief Minister, who met members of 31 panchayats, discounted the threat posed by the third front which also had the support of Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), besides a tactic support of the breakaway dal of the SAD in the forthcoming Assembly elections.

On the pathetic state of power supply, despite the Thein Dam he said: “One cannot fight nature. If the monsoon is not adequate, the fault is not with the project or the government in power”.

Regarding the controversy over, the amendment to the definition of a Sikh, he said these things do go around and eventually a way was always found.

He said the government had chalked out a new “high growth strategy”, conforming to the “year of development” being observed this year.

A grant of Rs 99.83 lakh was given to 31 gram panchayats.

He said Rs 200 crore and Rs 100 crore had been earmarked for diversification of crops and compensation to farmers, respectively, in addition to the increase of Rs 30 in the MSP for wheat.

He announced the setting up of an urban infrastructure board and an urban infrastructure improvement fund with an initial provision of Rs 30 crore for the beautification of towns and cities and drive against pollution.

In the educational field, the Chief Minister claimed that 1,404 schools had been upgraded and the allocation of Rs 154.55 crore for 2000-2001 had been increased to Rs 259.14 crore for the forthcoming year. A sum of Rs 41.6 crore and Rs 56.05 crore had been earmarked for technical education and industrial training and disbursing pending pensions, respectively.

For the welfare of Scheduled Castes, annual financial releases had been increased to Rs 71 crore, in addition to an increment from Rs 312 crore to Rs 472 crore for the construction of 8,112 houses for the Scheduled Castes.


Badal directive to DCs, MDs
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 28
Setting his eyes on the forthcoming Assembly elections, the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, is not in a mood to take any chances and has started sending signals regarding his relatively new approach to every-body.

Expecting that his signals will travel down the line, Mr Badal, has virtually pulled the strings of senior officials by handing down instructions that they would not proceed on leave from April 1, the day when the procurement of wheat starts in the state. And obviously, Mr Badal is more serious since he does not want to see agitated farmers on streets, as was in case of potato growers. “This time he does not want any fuss about the procurement,” said a senior officer.

Mr Badal has even clamped a ban on the officers’ movement to Delhi, even if they are going on official duties. “He wants that the potato and the paddy situation last year should not be repeated in any case and the procurement process should be smooth and for that he has directed the DCs and MDs not to proceed to Delhi even for attending any meeting there and warned them of action in case this verbal order is violated by any of them. He has also conveyed his message to the Chief Secretary with whom he held a separate meeting yesterday evening”, said a source in Chandigarh.

It is learnt that it is for the first time during his four-year tenure as Chief Minister, that Mr Badal has adopted such a stern posture towards senior bureaucrats. “We had been attending procurement related meetings earlier too, but this time, he was in a different mood”, said a senior official.

The Chief Minister it is learnt, is worried about the storage of the new crop, for which he has announced some relaxations as far as least cost arrangement (LCM) and the mandatory storage of wheat bags on wooden racks is concerned. “This year, the procurement agencies have been asked to go in for storage of bags in simple brick-lining on plinths where racks are not available”.


PPCC to screen Tehelka tapes in districts
From. R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 28
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee plans to take the Tehelka expose to the people by screening the four-hour-long arms deal footage at every block and district of the state in the coming days.

“The Tehelka tapes have exposed the government. Had somebody explored the functioning of the Punjab Government, many such “tehelkas” would have tumbled out of the cupboard,” the President of the PPCC, Captain Amarinder Singh, told The Tribune.

Stating that block and district-level programmes would be held in the first week of April, he said: “Two state level rallies would be held in Ludhiana (April 11) and Damdama Sahib on (April 13) Baisakhi.”

Several national level leaders are expected to participate in the rally.

Condemning the unprovoked attack by the Punjab police personnel on the Indian Youth Congress workers in Chandigarh, who were protesting on the Tehelka issue, he said a high-level inquiry should be instituted to probe the incident.

Demanding the suspension of police officials, who ordered the lathi charge, Mr Amarinder Singh said: “The inquiry should probe how the Punjab police personnel were present at the spot.”

Indicating that the state unit of the Congress was gearing up for the forthcoming assembly poll, he said: “The elections are most likely to be held in June and we are fully prepared for it.”

The terms of the state assembly expires in February 2002.

Giving the logic why the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, would call for an early election, he said “the paddy procurement would end by May. He might calculate on capitalising the goodwill earned in procurement as any delay would have adverse political effect.”

“The primary problem is marketing of paddy,” he said.

Stating that the party would come back to power on anti-incumbency factor, he said “corruption would be main issue in the assembly polls.”

On the infighting within the Congress, he said the state level leaders and the cadre was behind him. “Can we say that the party has infighting if only two leaders speak in different voices,” he asked.

The two former Congress Chief Ministers, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar and Ms Rajender Kaur Bhattal have been speaking in different voices.

Welcoming the Punjab and Haryana High Court on quashing the land acquisition for Anandgarh (near Ropar), he said, had the government had its way the small and marginal farmers who own land would have been ruined as the compensation would have been meagre sum and would have affected large number of families.


Why was police exam cancelled?
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 28
Was it administrative failure or the leakage of the question paper that led to the cancellation of the B-1 examination meant for the promotion of constables to the rank of Head Constable in the Punjab police today?

The examination was being conducted after a gap of several years. Thousands of constables were to take the examination which was to be conducted simultaneously here and on the PAP campus in Jalandhar. There are about 250 posts of Head Constable to be filled on the basis of this examination.

In another significant decision , the Punjab Government ordered that all those Deputy Superintendents of Police ( DSPs ) and Superintendents of Police (SPs), who had not been promoted on a regular basis would continue to be non-gazetted officers and were no more authorised to wear the PPS (Punjab Police Service) badges on their uniforms.

“It has been decided that all SPs (ORP) and DSPs (ORP), who are not in the PPS or are substantive NGOs, will wear only PP badges as they are not entitled to use PPS badges,” the order said.

This decision will affect a large number of SPs and DSPs holding important positions in the state police. In certain cases even Assistant Sub -Inspectors are holding the rank of DSP under the ORP (own rank and pay) scheme.

Only those officers who are promoted on a regular basis as DSPs or recruited direct as DSPs are legally allowed to wear the PPS badges.

This morning when hundreds of constables reported for taking the B-1 examination here, the question paper was read out to them and they started answering it when they were informed that the examination had been cancelled.

One of the explanations given for the cancellation of the examination was that it could not start simultaneously at Jalandhar because of a heavy rain there. The decision was taken on administrative grounds to rule out the possibility of any leakage of information to the candidates there.

There was, however, a strong rumour that the question paper was leaked out here and the authorities acted promptly to order its cancellation.

The Additional Director-General of Police, Training, Mr D.R. Bhatti, was not available for comment on the cancellation of the examination.

According to conventions, only two sets of question papers are prepared for use at the two examination centres. The question papers are not printed but are read out on the public address system for the examinees to note down. The question paper is of 50 marks.

No B-1 examination has been conducted in Punjab for the past several years because of lopsided promotions ordered in the state police during the turbulent years. A large number of constables and other NGOs were given ad-hoc promotions and higher ranks under the ORP scheme. As such, the regular promotional examinations could not be conducted.

For the past few years, there has been growing resentment in the state constabulary over stagnation. A demand for holding the regular promotional examinations has been gaining strength in the recent past.

The Punjab Chief Minister had announced a promotional package for the constabulary, which would lead to ad-hoc promotions as the Punjab Police Rules do not provide for any promotion without a qualifying examination.


SGPC colleges are ‘minority institutions’
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 28
The Punjab Government has decided to treat all SGPC-run professional colleges as “minority institutions” in the context of Article 30 of the Constitution.

This important decision was taken at a high-level meeting, presided over by the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, here on Monday, it is reliably learnt.

The SGPC has been constituted under the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, enacted to provide for better administration of certain Sikh gurdwaras etc. An institution established by the SGPC thus is also considered to be one established by the Sikhs for the purpose of Article 30.

Hence the government’s decision that the SGPC-run professional institutions in Punjab are to be treated as Sikh Educational Institutions liable to be “minority institutions” even though the Sikhs may be a numerical majority in the state.

What does Article 30 of the Constitution say? It reads as under: “All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice”.

In fact, the word “minority” for the purpose of Article 30 has not been defined in the Constitution. A Supreme Court judgment admits so in a case pertaining to the Kerala Education Bill, 1957 (AIR 1958 SC). Does minority mean less than 50 per cent? If so, 50 per cent of what? Is it 50 per cent of the entire population of India or 50 per cent of the population of a state forming a part of the Union? observes the judgement.

The SGPC, informed sources told TNS today, had represented to the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, that it be allowed to reserve 50 per cent of the total seats in a professional college run by it for the Sikhs since it owed an obligation to the community and wanted to serve it better. The SGPC also wanted the university’s permission for reservation of a percentage of seats for rural areas. The university, in turn, approached the government for opinion.

Consequently, Mr Badal met with the Chief Secretary and the administrative secretaries concerned (medical education and research and technical education) to discuss the issue. The Advocate-General of Punjab was a special invitee who furnished legal opinion on the issue.

The consensus at the meeting, sources say, was that the Sikh educational (professional) institutions run by the SGPC “deserved” to be treated as “minority institutions”. This would automatically entitle its professional colleges to reserve 50 per cent of the total seats for the Sikhs. The other consensus was that the SGPC may further reserve a certain percentage of seats, out of the 50 per cent meant for the Sikhs alone, based on a “reasonable criteria”. Now final approval of the Chief Minister is awaited. He has been sent the minutes.

The political implications of this decision are obvious.

The Advocate-General, sources said, submitted a detailed note replete with legal opinion and a historical background explaining the import of rights of minorities under Articles 25 to 30 as enunciated by Justice Khanna in the case of St Xavier’s College vs. State of Gujarat AIR, 1974, SC 1389. These Articles preserve the rights of religion and linguistic minorities. Excerpts from the speech of Sardar Patel, who was Chairperson of the Advisory Committee dealing with the question of minorities, have also been quoted.

The meeting was of the considered opinion that not giving such recognition to these professional institutions of the SGPC tantamounts to denial of important rights to a large majority of the Sikhs simply because they happened to reside in Punjab, where the were “marginally” a majority.

Another argument in favour of the SGPC was that it was extremely doubtful as to whether the Sikhs, as defined in the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, and who form the electoral college for elections to the SGPC (professional colleges set up by which were in question) do at all constitute a majority in Punjab?

Education, sources say, was in the state list prior to the 42nd Constitutional amendment. Thereafter, the subject of education was placed in the concurrent list at item 25 that reads: “Ëducation, including technical education, medical education and universities, subject to the provisions of entries of 63,64,65 and 66 of the list I; vocational and technical training of labour”.

This important decision may form part of the agenda of the Akalis in the next Assembly elections.


Sacked BDPOs continue to work
Surinder Bhardwaj

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 28
The Block Development and Panchayat Officers (BDPOs), whose appointments have been quashed by the Supreme Court and whose names are not enlisted in the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC), are still working at Bassi Pathana and Khamano blocks of the district but they are not attending the meeting called by the district administration affecting the development activities in the rural areas.

According to the information certain BDPOs were selected by the government in 1995 after they were subjected to a written test followed by an interview. Surprisingly, the marks obtained in the written test were not counted and the candidates were selected only on the basis of interview.

A few candidates moved the court. The Supreme Court directed the government to take into account the marks obtained in the written test and asked PPSC to prepare a fresh list of selected candidates according to merit. The PPSC published a new list and the 11 BDPOs who were earlier selected failed to figure in that list and their services were quashed. Two of these 11 BDPOs are still working in the district.

When contacted, Mr R. Venkat Ratnam, Director, Rural Development and Panchayat, said government had initiated the process to remove those BDPOs. The PPSC has been directed to recruit 11 new BDPOs. When the new BDPOs were recruited, the two would stand automatically sacked.


PSEB seeks share in unallocated power kitty
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 28
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has decided to raise its claim to part of the 15 per cent unallocated power from various central generating agencies whose distribution is at the discretion of the Ministry of Power to tide over the looming power crisis set to hit the state this summer.

The board is also in the process of starting negotiations with the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) urging it to allocate power to the state from projects from which it is not getting regular payment from other state electricity boards. It is promising ‘’prompt’’ payment for power purchased in this manner in the summer.

Meanwhile the power crisis facing the state is not showing any signs of improvement despite induction furnaces having been closed down in the state and cuts having been imposed on both urban and industrial sectors. The board today overdrew from the national grid consuming 580 lakh units even though only 550 lakh units of power were available for consumption. While a three-hour cut was imposed in the urban areas today, the industrial sector had to undergo cuts ranging from five to six hours.

Sources disclosed that the agriculture sector was getting only single phase power and that cuts were being imposed on both the four day and night groups in the state. They said while day groups would have to go without power for 14 hours, night groups would have to go without power for 15 hours. There is no immediate sign of the situation improving as the first and second units of the Ropar Thermal plant and the second unit of the Bathinda Thermal plant are closed for repairs. Electricity is also not being produced by the Anandpur Sahib and the UBDC projects.

The sources disclosed that the distribution of 15 per cent of all power generated by the central agencies was at the discretion of the Ministry of Power. They said the state was now aiming to get part of this power to tide over the crisis. The board has moved a case with the Central Government urging that it be given part of this power from May onwards. The PSEB has claimed that it has been supplying surplus power to other states whenever it generated more power than needed and that a quid pro should be followed in view of the present situation.

The sources however, said the PSEB could not hope for much support from neighbouring Himachal Pradesh which usually had surplus power during summer as it had not been able to ‘’bank’’ enough power with the state during winter when it consumes maximum power. Under an arrangement with Himachal Pradesh the PSEB can take back the amount of energy supplied to Himachal during winter when its needs it during summer.

However, this winter the PSEB could not bank enough units with Himachal. Only 107 million units supplied by the PSEB are in its account with Himachal which it is honour bound to return in summer. This amount, however, is not likely to provide much relief to the PSEB as its daily electricity consumption in the summer is in the 100 million units range.

The PSEB is apparently also not in a position to buy power from Himachal. This is because Himachal Pradesh itself is overdrawing from the central pool presently. The Himachal Electricity Board overdrew 12 lakh units from the central pool yesterday. The power situation in Himachal Pradesh is not likely to improve soon as it is totally dependent on hydel generation which is at a low ebb. All the hydel projects in Himachal are running much below their capacity due to poor rain and snow in the upper reaches of the state this season. 


Badal forcing panches to join SAD: Sidhu
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 28
Mr Harbans Singh Sidhu, a member of the All-India Congress Committee (AICC), and a former Punjab Minister, today accused the Badal government of pressurising the sarpanches and panches, belonging to Opposition parties and other important persons, through the government employees and officers especially of the police to join the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

Talking to mediapersons here today, Mr Sidhu alleged that those who did not oblige the officers in this regard, false cases were being registered against them.

Mr Sidhu said the Congress would oppose the move of the SAD through out the state by holding rallies and demonstrations.

Mr Sidhu also described Mr Badal as an “undemocratic” person. He said he had proved this by suspending about 20 MLAs from the Punjab Assembly Budget session. He also described Mr Badal’s “sangat darshan” programmes as farce. He said only members of the SAD attended the “sangat darshan” in the name of the public.

Mr Sidhu also condemned the Akalis for forgetting the issues like river water disputes, transfer of Chandigarh and Punjabi speaking areas to Punjab. He said even the Akalis had introduced English from first standard in the government schools. Thus the Akalis had exposed themselves with regards to their love for Punjabi language, he added.

He also criticised the Badal government on the issues like the shortage of teachers in the schools, non-release of grants despite issuance of cheques at the “sangat darshan” programmes and sale of government property at throw- away prices.


Cong men hold dharna
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 28
In protest against the indifferent attitude of the Punjab Government towards the development of rural areas and corruption in high offices, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee held a dharna at Bakhtawar Singh Chowk on the Nakodar road here yesterday.

Addressing workers, Mr Balbir Singh, MP, said the state government had wasted four years and had now started concentrating on the development of the state in the election year so as to get maximum votes. “Still no attention was being paid to rural areas and people there were devoid of even basic facilities,” he said.

Mr Balbir Singh also lashed out at the Centre Government and alleged that it was the graft and commission which moved things at high offices amid slogans. “Fauj khoon bhahati hai sarkar dalali khati hai” by hundreds of Congress workers.

Mr Amarjit Singh Samra, president of the district unit of the Congress (Rural), said corruption was the order of the day in the government offices and people were fed up with SAD-BJP government. “Winds of change are all pervasive,” he said.


Withdraw’ case against Cong men
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, March 28
Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa, general secretary of the All-India Youth Congress Committee, has appealed to the administration to immediately withdraw the case registered under Section 307, IPC, against four Congress men namely Hari Krishan Arora, Jaspal Pala, Rajinder Bhandari and Vijay Chaamri. Otherwise, he said the Congress would be forced to launch an agitation from here.

Mr Dimpa was here yesterday to address a rally organised by the Youth Congress to protest against the case registered against Congress men. Speaking to mediapersons, Mr Dimpa sharply criticised the alleged corruption being practised by the BJP leadership at the cost of the country’s security. He also criticised the communal policies being adopted by the Union Government. Mr Dimpa also questioned the performance of state government. Mr Manjinder Singh Behla, former MLA, Mr Bhupinder Singh Bhinda of the Congress Sewa Dal, Master Nirvair Singh, Mr Barinder Pal Singh Deepa and others too spoke on the occasion and demanded withdrawal of the case registered against Congress men.


Sack NDA govt, says UCPI
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, March 28
The United Communist Party of India (UCPI) has urged the President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, to dismiss the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre for its alleged failure in protecting national interests. This could be verified from the exposure made by the Tehelka web portal, said Comrade Sukhinder Singh Dhaliwal, state president of the party, while talking to this reporter here today.

He said though Mr Bangaru Laxman and Mr George Fernandes had from their posts and an inquiry against various Army officials had been started, but the Union Government was still adamant on staying in the office.

The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee had sought the services of a former Supreme Court Judge to probe into the issue, but it won’t serve the purpose, said Mr Dhaliwal.

He also criticised the NDA parties for holding a rally at New Delhi to build pressure for hiding the truth regarding the matter.

The UCPI president called upon all Opposition parties to join hands to defeat the designs of the Central Government.


SDMs to grant pensions in Punjab
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, March 28
The Punjab Government has decided to organise pension camps at village level to stop the harassment of eligible old persons and widows and to expedite the process of granting pensions.

Apart from it, the Punjab Government has also decided to entrust powers with the Sub-Divisional Magistrates to grant pensions to the old persons and widows so that all eligible candidates could get the benefit of the scheme.

Punjab Social Security and Development Minister, Gobind Singh Kanjla, while addressing at a pension camp at Sarawan village of this district here today, said the pension camps would protect the beneficiaries from the touts.

He added that the Punjab Government had set up a Social Security Fund and Rs 166 crore had been provided in this fund for the next financial year for giving pensions and monetary aid.

He pointed out that a women commission would also be set up for checking the rise in crime against women. Apart from it, Rs 49 crore would be spent for providing nutritious food to pregnant women and children below the age of six. Three per cent reservation had been made in government jobs for the handicapped persons, he added.

Mr Kanjla said the government would set up a modern hospital as SAS Nagar and Rs 10 crore would be spent on it in the first phase.

Mr Kanwaljit Singh, Deputy Commissioner, was also present on the occasion. The minister distributed copies of old-age pensions to 100 beneficiaries on this occasion.


General house meeting cancelled
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 28
The general house meeting of the corporation house was abruptly cancelled today following a decision to meet the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, by the Akali and BJP councilors to urge him to provide additional funds for development in the corporation jurisdiction.

The Tribune had carried a story yesterday about the corporation’s budget to axe development works due to lack of funds generated by the corporation.

According to reports, 17 councillors of the ruling coalition were hurriedly readied to meet the Chief Minister at the Raja Sansi Airport today. However, the councillors were left in the lurch as the Mayor, Mr Brij Mohan Kapoor, Mr Surinder Sharma, councillor and senior BJP leader, Mr Om Parkash Kalia, left the councillors high and dry as they alone left for Majitha to meet the Chief Minister.

It is learnt that the pleas of these leaders fell on deaf ears as the CM reportedly gave no assurances regarding their demands which included early release of devolution of taxes and other financial proposals to tide over the crunch faced by development due to dismal income of the corporation.

The three later explained their behaviour to the angry councillors who had been kept waiting. Later, many of the annoyed councillors were heard saying that the Mayor actually needed an excuse to cancel the house meeting and extract himself from an uncomfortable situation fearing uproarious scenes by the Opposition .


Adopt intermediate gynae technology: Dr Howie
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 28
Dr Beryl O Howie, a renowned obstetrician and gynaecologist of international repute, today pleaded for adoption of intermediate technology in obstetrics and gynaecology so that the common man could make use of the same. She said the high-cost advance technology was not relevant to the rural areas in India.

Dr Howie, who served as Professor and Head, Department of Ob and Gynae, Christian Medical College and Hospital for 22 years, was visiting the Iqbal Hospital here today.

Dr Howie has been in Ludhiana for the past one week and has been staying in the CMC Hospital. She is plus-80 now.

Addressing a small gathering at Iqbal Hospital, Dr Howie congratulated Dr Iqbal Singh and his wife Dr (Mrs) Pushpinder Kaur who have been her students, for doing pioneering work in the field of ob and gynae and for introducing IVF technology in this part of the country. “Dr Iqbal and Dr Pushpinder are to be commended for the good work they are doing”, she observed.

Dr Howie said she was grateful to God who directed her to serve in Ludhiana and she was particularly happy that she had a good team to work with. But for the good teamwork, she would not have been able to do much for the people of this region.

She said: “This team spirit is still prevailing in the CMC Hospital. Dr Howie was taken round Iqbal Hospital.

Later talking to newsmen Dr Howie denied she left the CMC 20 years ago following some differences with the management. She left the CMC as directed by God.

She said there would always be advances in ob and gynae but during her stay here she did not find advance technology to be of any relevance to the rural areas in India and ‘we chose intermediate technology’. I would have not remained here if there was no first class care.

Dr Howie who belongs to New zealand served at the CMC Hospital for 22 years and was instrumental in collecting funds for the five-storeyed gynae building. The funds were collected from New Zealand.


FCI employees to intensify stir
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 28
Even as the matter of revision of wages of employees of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) has been hanging fire since 1997, the Food Corporation of India Executive Staff Union has decided to intensify its agitation to pressurise the authorities concerned for implementing their demands.

Sources said rallies and demonstrations would be held on March 30 at 20 regional offices of the FCI. More rallies would be held on April 10 in five zones of the country.

Mr Megh Raj and Mr Gian Chand Bansal, president and press secretary, respectively, of the union, said 55,000 Class III and Class IV employees had not been getting revised wages as the wage structure was not finalised by the FCI authorities.

They pointed out that employees of the FCI falling in other categories, including the labour class, had been getting revised wages.

They said the union activists had held discussions with the FCI authorities for implementing the wage structure for Class III and Class IV employees twice but the authorities had been delaying the decision on the pertext that some clarification regarding it was yet to come from the Government of India.

Other long-standing demands of the union included withdrawl of charge-sheets issued to the employees for storage and transit losses.

The union has also been urging the authorities to finalise the first phase of promotions so that remaining promotions of those employees who had completed 12 years of service could be done.


Hailstorm affects thermal plant
Tribune Reporters

Patiala, March 28
A hailstorm, accompanied by strong winds, disrupted power supply in Ropar and Jalandhar districts with two units of Ropar Thermal Plant and a substation in Jalandhar closing down for a few hours.

A spokesman of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) today said power was restored after a few hours in both districts with snags in the third and fourth unit of the thermal plant and the 220 kv Jamsher substation in Jalandhar being corrected today afternoon. The spokesman said a severe hailstorm, accompanied by strong winds, was the reason for the disruption.

The spokesman claimed that the power situation in the state had somewhat improved with the duration of cuts in the industrial, urban and rural sectors being reduced.

BATHINDA: The heavy rain and hailstrom lashed a few pockets of this district for a short period in the morning, flattening the standing crops of wheat, barley and gram.

Though no official of the state Agriculture Department could be contacted, the loss was being estimated at 5 per cent in some of the pockets.

According to information gathered by TNS, considerable loss of crop had taken place in Goniana and Balluana areas. There were also reports that in some of the pockets, the standing wheat crop had flattened and it could not be cut with the combine harvester.

Mr Kattar Singh Jeeda, president of the North India Cotton Growers Association, urged the Punjab Government to make arrangements for compensating those farmers whose crop had been damaged due to hailstrom.

He added that the farmers would have to pay more for carrying out the manual harvesting of their crops.

CHAMBA: The high peaks of the district and the adjacent massif of Doda district in Jammu and Kashmir had fresh snow today and the low-lying areas of this alpine region had widespread rain accompanied by thunderstorm and lightning, according to reports pouring into the district headquarters.

The widespread rain is being understood to be a reprieve for the farmers of the area from the drought-like condition which had been prevailing for the past some months, the experts said.

HAMIRPUR: Heavy rain, accompanied by hailstorm, lashed various parts of the district this evening. Sky remained overcast during the day and the area had light to medium rain during the afternoon.

Hailstorm and rain hit the region in the evening. The hailstorm caused damage to the fruit crops.


Hospital incinerator issue left smoking?
Pollution Control Board throws a spanner in the works
Jangveer Singh

Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 28
The Government Rajindra Hospital, which could not operate an incinerator established in its premises for the past ten years due to lack of funds earlier, is now caught in a piquant position as it is unable to run the incinerator even now when it has received Rs nine lakh for the purpose from the government.

Pressure was mounted on the hospital to make its incinerator functional in August last year, when the Punjab Pollution Control Board issued notices to it in this regard. The hospital had first expressed its helplessness to run the incinerator due to the high intake of diesel needed for its running, but had later expressed willingness make the incinerator functional when it received money from the government for this task.

However, now the hospital authorities are finding themselves in a piquant position as the Pollution Control Board has asked them to conduct certain modifications in the present incinerator. Sources say that meeting of officials of the Board and the hospital, the latter was asked to modify the incinerator, which would entail a cost of Rs 16 lakh. The Hospital, which has got Rs nine lakh as operational expenses to run the incinerator with great difficulty, is now left with no option, but to drop the proposal to make the incinerator functional again.

Sources said it is not only the re-starting of the incinerator which has been jeopardised by the new development, but that the Rs nine lakh received by the hospital as operational expenses are in danger of being used for other purposes if a quick decision is not taken on the issue. The hospital authorities on their part have also contested the Pollution Board claim for a Rs 3.5 lakh fee to obtain permission to run the incinerator.

The sources said the incinerator was established in the hospital premises when there were no guidelines on design or other specifications by the Pollution Board. They said if the new guidelines were to be followed, money invested earlier would go to waste. The authorities have referred the case to the government.

The sources said while a final decision on the issue was still to be taken, the government was in the process of finalising a proposal to give a state-level contract for disposal of medical waste at a special facility which was likely to come up at Ludhiana. If this was done, the incinerator established at the Rajindra Hospital may again be rendered idle.

The need to make the incinerator functional again arose following a Supreme Court ruling last year stating that all hospitals should create their own medical waste disposal facilities.

Following the ruling and similar directions of the Pollution Board, the local hospital authorities got into the act of trying to make the incinerator functional again. The diesel-run incinerator needs 200 litres of diesel everyday, which means a daily expenditure of Rs 3,000.

The incinerator was purchased in 1991, but was never used except for a brief testing period. While the incinerator could not be used in the beginning due to a dispute between the private firm which had supplied it and the Public Works Department (PWD) later the high cost of running went against it.


Stress on population control for development
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 28
Mr Joginder Singh, Director, Health and Family Welfare (HFW), Punjab, today said population control was the first condition for overall development of the country.

Mr Joginder Singh, who was here as chief guest of ‘Health Education-Vichar Goshthi’s programme organised at the Civil Hospital, said the country as a whole had failed to control the increasing population which was main cause of other problems. He added that we had not been able to fulfil dreams of our forefathers who fought for independence of the country.

He pointed out that the reproductive child health (RCH) programme had been launched which aimed at controlling the increasing population. He said the cooperation of public was required to control population.

He said the country according to the latest figures, had population more than 1 billion which was only 34 crore at the time of independence.

He said it was the need of hour that each family should have only two children so that each one of us could lead an easy life. He pointed out that Indonesia which was a small country had controlled its population through effective use of copper-T and added that China too had controlled the population.

He pointed out that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and media were playing a very important role in creating awareness among the masses and added that the government, too had realised that NGOs were really the ‘thinking power’ and it alone could not achieve the target. He said mediapersons need to give up their ‘critical’ attitude and should write positively.

He said doctors should work with will and earn public goodwill during the service period and after retirement they could start their own practice.

Dr Bawa Ram Gupta, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), said with introduction of the RCH, the process of functioning to implement and plan various programmes had been reversed. He added that the participation of people, villagers and voluntary organisations was necessary for effectiveness of any such public interest programme.


CBI charge sheet against FCI official
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 28
The CBI has filed a charge sheet against an Assistant Manager of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for demanding a bribe to pass a labour contract bill.

The CBI today filed the charge sheet in the court of the Special CBI Magistrate Jaspinder Singh Heyer. It requested that action be initiated against the Assistant Manager - Raj Kumar Gupta, who it alleged was guilty of taking bribe to clear a bill. The FCI official was then working at Rampura Phul in Bathinda district.

According to the charge sheet, Bhola Singh, a labour contractor of Kharianwala village of Rampura Phul of Bathinda, had approached Mr Gupta to get his bill of Rs 60,974 cleared. It alleged that Mr Gupta asked bribe equivalent to 10 per cent of the bill amount and that it was finally agreed after negotiation that Rs 3,000 be paid to the FCI official to clear the bill.

The CBI said the FCI official was caught red-handed while accepting the bribe. It said the raid was conducted on November 29, 1999.


Residents go on rampage, set 2 vehicles afire
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 28
Agitated residents of Basti Guzan, Basti Sheikh and other nearby colonies, who had been demanding the removal of garbage dump, set on fire two municipal corporation (MC) vehicles carrying garbage and pelted the residence of the Commissioner with stones, injuring his telephone operator yesterday night.

The residents had been demanding the removal of the garbage dump from the area for the past seven months since it had become a health hazard. The MC had turned a blind eye towards their demand and had kept throwing garbage collected from all parts of the city at the site.

According to MC officials, the residents led by Akali councillor Kamaljit Singh Bhatia had set on fire two vehicles and damaged four others when the civic staff tried to throw the garbage on the road.

They went on the rampage and attacked the residence of the Commissioner and blocked the traffic on GT Road.

According to the police, the Commissioner’s telephone operator sustained severe injuries during the pelting of the stones.


Indefinite fast by mill workers ends
Tribune News Service

Mansa, March 28
The indefinite fast by two workers of the local cooperative spinning mill, sold off allegedly at throwaway prices by the authorities concerned, ended today after they assured that they would be paid their dues shortly.

Mrs Raji P. Srivastava, Deputy Commissioner, talking to TNS, said she along with MLA, Mr Sukhwinder Singh Aulakh and SSP, Mr Yurinder Singh held a series of meetings with the activists of a Mill Bachao Sangrash Committee and succeeded in bringing the agitators on the negotiation table.

The workers of mill had been holding agitation since March 10 in protest against the indifferent attitude of the authorities concerned towards their problem.


Banks ordered to submit list of cases
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 28
Mr Gurbir Singh, Civil Judge (senior division)-cum-Secretary, District Legal Services Authority, has ordered all bank officers to submit lists of cases which are at pre-litigation stage. The orders were given at a special Lok Adalat at the Civil Court Complex in which bank loan defaulters’ cases and the cases which were at pre-litigation stages were solved through mutual compromises.

Mr B.C. Rajput, District and Sessions Judge-cum-Chairman, District Legal Services Authority, who presided over the Lok Adalat, said Mr Justice H.S. Bedi, Judge, Punjab and Haryana High Court, had ordered that maximum Lok Adalats should be organised so that bank cases could be solved and people could save their money and time.

Out of 1,106 cases presented in the Lok Adalat today, as many as 306 were solved on the spot.


Hospital activists intensify struggle
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 28
The activists of the Save Old Hospital and the Government Properties Sangharsh Committee (SOHGPSC) have decided to intensify the struggle in protest against the local administration and the Punjab Government which have started the process of shifting of old children and the general hospital from its present location to the Civil Hospital.

Mr Jagdish Singh Ghai, spokesperson for the committee, said the committee would launch a protest march on March 28 to express its rage against the government which had ignored the public opinion and interests.


No pension for six months
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 28
Mr Charan Singh of Kalyan village of this district has not been getting his old age pension for the past six months.

In a letter to Mr Jaspal Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Mr Charan Singh (75) said his pension had been stopped without any reason and the authorities concerned did not have any concrete answer when he contacted them.

He said the department had conducted an inquiry regarding his pension but found nothing wrong. He said his pension should be started as he did not have another source of income.

Mr B.S. Chahal, Manager of Punjab National Bank, Nathana, said the department had to give the bank a list of pensioners to whom the pension had to be given. He added he did not know why Mr Charan Singh’s pension had been stopped.


Mewa Singh to get Amrik Singh Cheema Award
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 28
The Punjab Young Farmers’ Associaiton has chosen, Dr Mewa Singh Sonar, Director of Agriculture, Punjab, for the 2000-2001 Amrik Singh Cheema award. The award will be conferred on him by the Punjab Agriculture Minister, Mr Gurdev Singh Badal, at the Rakhra Kisan Mela being organised by the Punjab Young Farmers Association on March 31.

Mr Jasbir Singh ir, Deputy Commissioner Patiala, will deliver the keynote address and Mr Ajaib Singh Makhmailpura, State Minister for PWD (B&R) will preside over the function.


Brick-kiln workers on indefinite dharna
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 28
More than 200 members of the district unit of the Lal Jhanda Punjab Bhatha Mazdoor Union led by Mr Dev Raj Verma, Joint Secretary, CITU, Punjab, yesterday sat on an indefinite dharna in front of the residence of Mr Kewal Krishan Longowalia, district president of the Brick-Kiln Owners Association, in support of their demands.

They want talks on the demand notice submitted to the Assistant Labour Commissioner, on January 15, between leaders of workers and brick-kiln owners.

Their demands include wages according to the rate fixed by the government plus bonus, eight-hour duty, implementation of the Factory Act on brick-kilns and provident fund facility for the workers.


4 BSF jawans drugged
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 28
Four BSF jawans were reportedly drugged by some unidentified persons while on their way from Jammu to Delhi last night.

Three of them are admitted to a Jalandhar hospital in an unconscious state. According to Madan Singh, one of the jawan, they boarded a Delhi-bound train at Jammu last night. On the way they were offered tea by three persons. Within no time all of them became drowsy.


N.S. Vasant removed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 28
The Punjab Government has dispensed with the services of the Adviser, Energy, Mr N.S. Vasant, with effect from today, says a press release.


Two farmers commit suicide
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 28
Quite on heels of the Punjab Governor’s decision to pay ex-gratia grant of Rs 2.5 lakh to farmers committing suicide, two farmers of the district committed suicide last Sunday.

According to information here today, Amrik Singh (35) and Nachatar Singh (46), residents of Borawal and Ahemdpur villages of the district, respectively, committed suicide as they were unable to pay their debt.

Nachatar Singh, who had failed to pay his debt, consumed an insecticide and ended his life. He was rushed to a private nursing home in Budhlada town where he died.

Enquiries revealed that he owned five acres of land and raised a loan from a bank for purchase of a tractor. He was also under debt of an arhtiya.

Having failed to pay the bank instalment and repay loan of the arhitya, he was very depressed and took the extreme step to end his life.

According to another information, Amrik Singh of Borawal village, was also under debt of Rs 5 lakh. Recently he had taken loan for performance of marriages of his two sisters.

He ended his life by hanging himself.


Rice shellers stage dharna
Our Correspondent

Bhuchu Mandi (Bathinda), March 28
Activists of the Shellers Association held a dharna here today in support of their demand for proportional milling of paddy.

About 18 operators staged a dharna in front of the office of the area depot manager of the FCI and demanded that the milling of paddy should be done as per the allotted ratio.

Mr Inderjit Gupta, president of the association, said as the sheller operators had stock of all agencies, the milling of the paddy should also be done in a proportionate manner

The dharna was lifted after a few hours when the millers reached a compromise with the FCI authorities to maintain the ratio.


Flesh trade racket unearthed
Our Correspondent

Nabha, March 28
The Nabha police yesterday unearthed a flesh trade racket after raid at the Bhattan street residence of a singer, Kanta Sharma, alias Manpreet Kaur.

Kanta Sharma, her daughter Rajni Bala, Bhajan Kaur, Darbara Singh and Rajvinder Singh of Ageti village have been arrested.

The accused told the police that Kanta had been luring village girls with good jobs and pushing them into the flesh trade.

The police has registered a case.


Bank guard found dead
Our Correspondent

Maur Mandi (Bathinda), March 28
A policeman on bank security duty was found dead under mysterious circumstances at premises of State Bank of India (SBI) late last night.

Sources said Raj Kumar, a hawaldar with the Punjab Police, who was employed at the SBI, local branch, was found dead by his colleagues who were on duty, along with him, last night. The deceased was employed at the bank for the past about one month and last night three policemen were on duty. The security guards had been provided with a restroom in the bank premises itself and the security guards used to stay there for 24 hours, the sources added.

Sources added that the deceased was under mental tension for the past some time. The deceased was found dead late last night and the case reported to the police authorities.

The police sources at the police station here said, it appeared that the deceased was cleaning a gun when it was triggered on accidentally. The deceased died on the spot and his body handed over to relatives after a post mortem examination. A case under Section 174 of the IPC had been registered, the sources added.


Re-employed teachers a dejected lot
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 28
Teachers and lecturers who relied on a circular issued by the Director, Public Instructions (S), Punjab, on September 9, 1999, and continued serving their institutions even after the day of retirement were now feeling being duped by the government.

The DPI vide memo no. 1/66/98-1S4/3134 dated September 28, 1999, addressed to the District Education Officers and Principals/Headmasters of all government schools in the state had said that keeping in view the disturbance caused to students in carrying on their studies due to retirement of teachers/lecturers in the middle of the year, the government had decided that teachers or lecturers, who retire in the period from July 31 to February 28, would be re-employed till March 31. Such teachers were to be paid basic salary being drawn by them at the time of retirement. However, heads of the schools were debarred from taking the benefit of the scheme.

Accordingly, hundreds of teachers/lecturers continued to render services to schools after retirement. Mr Ved Rustogi worked for eight months at Government Senior Secondary School here after his retirement. Others included Mrs Chand Nagpal, Mr Satish Sethi and Mr Prithvi Raj in the subdivision. The Principal of the local Senior Secondary School had written a letter on October 21, 1999, seeking clarification about the teachers who had retired and were enlisted as pensioners but allowed to serve under the DPI’s instructions in the interest of students and institutions. No reply was received.

The Principal vide his letter dated May 25, 2000, had sent the case for a reappointment of such teachers but till date the department was evasive on this issue.

The teachers had not been paid any salary for the services rendered after the retirement. They had finally sent a representation to the Principal Secretary, Education Department, seeking justice.


Shifting of training Centre opposed
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, March 28
Resentment prevails among residents of this district against the decision of the Punjab Government to shift industrial training centre from here to Jalalabad in Ferozepore district from the next academic session.

There are trades like electronic, Punjabi stenography, cutting and tailoring and knitting and each trade consists of 16 seats in the institution. According to reports available the centre was set up here in the year 1970 to impart training particularly to the rural youth to earn their livelihood.

Criticising the decision of the government. Mr Avtar Singh Brar, local MLA and vice president PPCC said last year too the government also tried to shift the institution, however he impressed upon the Technical Education Minister, Dr Upinderjeet Kaur, to change the decision. Mr Brar also criticised the state government for transferring 20 seats of computer and 32 seats of radio T.V. education training from the local industrial training institute to Nathana in Bhatinda district.

He criticised the government for not filling eight vacant posts against 14 of lecturers in government College of Education here for the past many months.

He said if no immediate steps were taken to fill the posts the college might stop functioning under the rules framed by National Council of Training Education.


IMA for transparency in PG admissions
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 28
Following reports and complaints about seat-fixing by certain PGET candidates, the Medical Action Committee-cum-Legal Cell of the Indian Medical Association, Punjab, has sent representation to the Vice-Chancellor of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot, demanding total transparency in the admission process to the postgraduate degree/diploma courses in the state-run medical colleges and DMC by making public ranks secured in the merit list of the postgraduate entrance test conducted on March 4. It also demanded the postponement of the two-day counselling starting tomorrow in view of writ petitions in the High Court.

Dr Raman K. Aggarwal, Chairman of the cell, today demanded that the merit list should be published in the Press and displayed on the notice board of the university.

Those candidates who had been selected/admitted in PG courses and those already doing their pg courses elsewhere should be debarred from attending the counselling in the interest of deserving candidates, continued Dr Aggarwal. The representation refers to the startling seat-fixing report published in The Tribune on March 22. 


Rise in scholarship amount sought
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 28
The All-India Rangreta Dal has demanded that the amount of scholarship given to Dalit students should be increased.

Mr Fateh Singh Mann, general secretary of the dal, said the scholarships of student had not been issued for the past some time and they should be released immediately.

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