Wednesday, April 11, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




Congress to oppose ‘letting off’ of Zaffarwal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 10
Denying charges of meeting hardcore militant Wasan Singh Zaffarwal during the peak of militancy, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president, Capt Amarinder Singh, today charged the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, of trying to let him off. He warned that the Congress would not allow it as Zaffarwal had been involved in a number of murders of innocent persons.

Addressing a press conference here today in connection with tomorrow’s rally against the expose, Capt Amarinder Singh, while reacting to the statements of Mr Simranjeet Singh Mann of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) that he used to meet Zaffarwal, claimed that he was among the few people in the state who opposed militancy in Punjab. “I need not explain it to anyone, not at least to Mr Mann”, he asserted. He alleged that the SAD-BJP government was trying to bail out Zaffarwal, forgetting that he had been involved in the murder of over a hundred people. He pointed out that he was a member of the Panthic Committee, which used to order the killings of innocent people.

Giving details about the proposed rally being organised by the PPCC here tomorrow as part of its nationwide agitation against the tehelka expose, he said the Congress had always been raising its voice against corruption in the state. He said, “While at the Centre it has now been established that the BJP is corrupt, we have been raising the issue in Punjab for last three years”. He claimed that there was resentment across the country against the National Democratic Alliance Government at the Centre and its constituent groups after the tehelka expose. “We are just ventilating the anger and resentment of the people through these protest rallies”, he claimed.

Commenting upon the resolution passed in the Assembly, condemning Operation Bluestar, Capt Amarinder charged the Akalis of creating a situation where the operation had become inevitable. “Who were responsible for creating such a situation”, he asked. “Why they are not condemning Operation Black Thunder, conducted in the regime of a person who is now the Governor of Uttaranchal, and the then Home Minister, who is now the Finance Minister”, he pointed out. He accused Mr Badal of doublespeak as on the one hand he was condemning Operation Bluestar, and on the other, he had appointed Mr Ramesh Inder Singh, his Principal Secretary, who had signed the operation as the then Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar”, he added.

He sought to downplay the factionalism within the party in the state. “Different views of one or two people within the party should not be described as factionalism as difference of opinion is always there in every party”, he argued, asserting that he would continue to be the PCC president as long as the AICC president wanted him to. He revealed that tomorrow’s rally was part of the nationwide campaign chalked out by the Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi, and there was no scope of anyone opposing it or not cooperating.

Capt Amarinder reiterated his opposition to the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) during elections. He disclosed that the PPCC had formed a panel of lawyers which was preparing a case to be filed in the High Court to prove that the EVMs could be manipulated and programmed in advance to have desired results. He clarified, “We have full faith in the integrity of the Election Commission”.

Among others present on the occasion were the local MP, Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, the PPCC general secretary Mr Nahar Singh Gill, the secretary, Mr K.K. Bawa, the chairman of the Indian Youth Congress (Urban Development Cell), Mr Pawan Dewan, the DCC president, Mr Surinder Dawer, and the Raikote MLA, Mr Harmohinder Singh Pradhan.

Meanwhile, taking strong objection to the BJP and its front bodies decision to oppose the protests being made by the Congress against the NDA government and its constituent parties over Tehelka exposures, a former Punjab minister and member of the AICC, Mr Harnam Das Johar, and the President of the District Youth Congress, Mr Parminder Mehta, said the BJP was acting out of desperation and frustration.

In a joint statement issued here today, they said the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, was upset over his party’s real face being exposed before the public. The Congress and its front organisations would continue to oppose the open support being extended by the Prime Minister to those involved in defence deals and would exercise their democratic right to struggle for dismissal of the NDA government.

Meanwhile, the Congress and the YC carried out their campaign to mobilise party ranks and public support for the party rally to be held here tomorrow. Addressing a meeting in Vishal Nagar, Mr Lal Singh, a former Punjab minister and the Vice-President of the PPCC, focussed on “anti-people and anti-farmer” policies of the Centre and the state government. The DCC President, Mr Surinder Dawar, demanded the dismissal of the NDA government.

Mr Gurmel Singh Pardesi, President, Block Congress Committee, also addressed the function.


Tax burden ‘doubled under SAD-BJP rule’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) has started marshalling “facts” to counter the ruling SAD-BJP’s claims with regard to the development of the state. The chairman of the economic cell of party, Mr R.R. Bhardwaj, and its vice-president, Mr Sant Ram Singla, have been assigned this task.

Mr Bhardwaj and Mr Singla told TNS here today that the SAD-BJP government led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal was trying to create a myth by making false claims with regard to development work carried out during its rule in the past four years. “It is our duty to break the myth by presenting a true picture before the people of the state,” they asserted.

In fact, both are working on economic agenda of the party for inclusion in the manifesto to be prepared for the Assembly elections in the state. The per capita tax burden had almost doubled during SAD-BJP rule, said Mr Bhardwaj. He quoted figures from various official documents of the SAD-BJP government to prove his point.

Whereas the state government had put a heavy burden of taxes on the people it had done nothing to improve the services sector, including health, school education and civic amenities.

In 1995-96, the per capita tax burden was Rs 1426.02 and it had gone up to Rs 2,692 according to the latest figures.

Trying hard to refute the claims made by the state government pertaining to development works, Mr Bhardwaj said Rs 14,300 crore was allocated to the state as part of Ninth Five Year Plan.

However, only Rs 8,800 crore, which was a little less than half of the total plan, had been released so far for development works. And this amount included Rs 3,400 crore released for the current year.

He said these figures had been given to explain that there was a lot of difference between SAD-BJP claims and what the ruling alliance had actually done. For important sectors like education, it allocated only Rs 292 crore this year and on essential needs like drinking water it spent Rs 65 crore last year. For the welfare of the Schedule Castes and the backward classes an allocation of Rs 6.58 crore was made last year, but actually only Rs 3.3 crore was released.

He said during the past three years, no new hospital had been opened in the state.

Talking about the neglect of the urban areas by the government, Mr Bhardwaj said the 11th Finance Commission had allocated Rs 292.61 crore for urban development projects for five years, but so far Rs 60.26 crore had been released in the past three years for this purpose. While the SAD-BJP government had sought Rs 5,000 crore for improving the infrastructure in the urban areas from the Union Government, the state government itself had allocated only Rs 5 crore for this purpose, he added.

Mr Singla said the SAD-BJP government had stopped the development process in the urban areas. While 40 per cent of the population in the urban areas was not getting piped drinking water, 60 per cent was without the sewer facility.

He said about 22 per cent of the population of the state was below the poverty line. The state government had done nothing to improve the lot of such people.

As many as 4.5 lakh persons in Ludhiana city alone were living in unauthorised colonies as they had no land to build houses. Likewise, in Amritsar 2.63 lakh persons were living in such colonies. This reflected very poorly on the performance of the SAD-BJP alliance.

He said the Congress would offer a minimum education guarantee for children in the state. It would also offer help to poor sections in the field of higher education.

The government had made education so expensive that even persons belonging to the lower middle class could not afford to pay the fees of their wards who wanted to join professional courses in technical and medical colleges.


Cabinet to decide on liquor vend reauction
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 10
Even as 10 days have passed, the stalemate over reauction of liquor vends in the district continues. Only two circles were auctioned at the last auction of vends held at Patiala on March 30.

According to the government rules, new contracts of liquor vends were to be given from April 1. The first auction of liquor vends in the district was to be held on March 26 which had to be postponed due to tension between two groups and failure of talks between liquor contractors and the Minister for Excise and Taxation.

The second auction was fixed at Patiala for March 30, where too, all liquor vends could not be auctioned. Ludhiana district has 11 circles or cartels and only two of the city could be auctioned.

The auction failed to take place reportedly due to differences between the Excise and Taxation Minister, Mr Adeshpratap Singh Kairon and the Minister for Technical Education, Mr Jagdish Singh Garcha notwithstanding denials by both.

Mr Mann Singh Garcha, a brother of Mr Garcha, is a liquor contractor and close to the Badal family. As a matter of fact, Garchas have been associated with the Badal family for the past more than 20 years.

Mr Y. S. Ratra, Financial Commissioner (Taxation), when contacted by The Tribune, said he had sent a note to the state Cabinet for its decision regarding the pending cartels of liquor in the district.

Mr Ratra said the Excise Department had opened 30 shops for sale of liquor in the district and the daily sale of the same was to the order of Rs 30 lakh.

He said he would not allow sale of liquor by the two cartels below the price fixed by the state government. Reauction of liquor vends would be held after the Cabinet decision, he concluded.


British youngsters on novel mission
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
As many as 21 British youth aged between 15 and 25 years, are here on a novel mission to Punjab. Though nearly half of them are of Punjabi origin, yet for most it is their maiden trip to the land of their parents.

Accompanied by eight officers of the South Yorkshire Police, they are here to learn more about Punjabi culture and way of life.

“Visits like this help break down cultural barriers. They help our young people to learn more about other lifestyles and encourage better community relations,” says Inspector Michael Venables, leader of the delegation. “It also helps in bringing people back to their roots. The world is shrinking and once they know what is their motherland like, it may encourage them to visit here more often or even invest here.”

“We believe that the South Yorkshire Police is leading the way in the UK with this type of community involvement and we are very grateful to Punjab for welcoming us and making our visit so interesting. The links we now have with Punjab have also borne fruit on this visit. On our first trip last year, there was only one Indian boy in the party. This year almost half the young people are from Punjabi families living in our area,” Inspector Venables said.

“We have had excellent relations with the Punjab Police for more than two years now because of the links we have already created,” he said, maintaining that “it is for this reason that our government agreed that we should lead the way by making those links with Punjab even stronger. It can only help us all develop better policing methods,” leader of the visiting delegation said. He disclosed that even the Home Secretary of his country issued a letter of support for this trip.

Dr G.S. Aujla, Additional Director-General of Police, Operations, Punjab, who is conducting the visiting team around Punjab, said such visits and interactions not only bring police forces from two different parts working in altogether different environments together, but also provide an opportunity to learn from each other. He said the visiting police officers were working with a far more advanced technology. He said the Punjab Police was happy to accept an offer from the South Yorkshire Police for training its officers in the latest policing methods and technologies.

The delegation, which will be staying in Punjab for several days, will call on the state Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, here tomorrow morning before leaving for Punjab again. Members of the delegation interacted with the Punjab Director-General of Police, Mr Sarabjit Singh, in his office this morning.

Youngsters for the trip were chosen from volunteers. Most of them are university graduates or are studying at universities. When they return to the UK, they will be expected to give three separate representations to groups of people to spread a positive image about Punjab.

Accompanying the contingent are Police Officer Gurbhej Singh Dev and his wife Police Officer Sarinder Kaur Dev. Their son, Hardeep Dev (19), is also a part of the contingent.

Members of the visiting contingent are Inspector Venables, Police Officer Gurbhej Singh Dev, Police Officer Sarinder Kaur Dev, Police Officer Jim Greensmith, Police Officer Kenny Fox, Police Officer Colette Rimmer, Police Officer Wendy McClurg and Police Officer Denise Booth. Volunteers accompanying the group are Inderpal Chahal, Gemma Cockroft, Alison Crowther, Emily Darbyshire, Hardeep Dev, Nav Gopal Datta, Adam Galliford, Leigh Gummer, Cheryl Irwin, Paula Jones, Parminder Kaur, Laura Kay, Rachel Lomas, Zeenat Maqsood, Ben Moore, Alexandra Morris, Amandeep Randhawa, Hardeep Sahota, Santina Samra, Pavinderjit Sohal, Tony Tigwell, Anneka Thomas and Ben Whiteley.

One of the volunteers said they had been impressed by the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Punjab Police Academy at Phillaur and described it as a centre of excellence. They maintained that police, policing and police training in Punjab was quite advanced.

They were happy to return to their roots.

Inspector Venables, who first came to India in 1959 as a student, said there had been a lot of development and progress in Punjab since then.

He said as far as the intake of representatives from ethnic minorities was concerned, the South Yorkshire Police had set a target of inducting constables from ethnic minorities by the year 2010. “We already have 85 and within two to three years, we may achieve our target of having 104 out of a 3,200-strong force with 2,400 constables.


Rebel MLA’s area denied grant
Rashmi Talwar and Gurbax Puri

Khadoor Sahib (Amritsar), April 10
Even as the gram panchayats, block committees and other social work organisations enjoyed the “generous largesse” of the Chief Minister who sanctioned Rs 2.10 crore at the Sangat Darshan programme here today, Mr Badal denied that it was an exercise to woo voters for the oncoming Vidhan Sabha elections.

However, the ground reality seemed otherwise as the three gram panchayats loyal to local MLA, Mr Ranjit Singh Chhajalwadi, a Shiromani Akali Dal rebel, were not only meted a “stepmotherly treatment” and deprived of grants, but remained uninvited to the Chief Minister’s function. These are Chak Karekhan, Kang and Biharipur gram panchayats. Khadoor Sahib boasts of 66 gram panchayats, out of which 63 were invited and 47 given lumpsum grants.

Many panches who had arrived here said in the past four years of the Badal government, this was the first time that grants of the amount were being provided to the area.

Talking to mediapersons, Mr Badal evaded the issue of the tussle between Mr Sardul Singh Sham and Mr Pradip Singh Walia for the SAD district president’s post. He said the returning officer’s announcement was final, giving a clean chit to Mr Sardul Singh.

The Chief Minister listened to the problems of nearly 47 panchayats and issued instructions to the officials concerned.


Stall House session over Tehelka: MP
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 10
Mr Charanjit Singh Channi, Congress, MP from Hoshiarpur, said here today that the Congress should not allow the proceedings in Parliament during the forthcoming session till cases are registered against those involved in the deals exposed by and the NDA government resigns over the issue.

Addressing a press conference, he said out of the 1,315 villages in his constituency, he had visited 1,215 within one-and-a-half years of becoming MP. He had received 1,100 demand charters from the villages he had visited and a majority of them had been accepted, he said.

He had received Rs 4 crore for the MP Local Area Development Fund for 2000-2001. Besides, he had also received the unspent amount of Rs 87 lakh from his predecessor, Mr Kamal Chaudhry. 


IAF technicians await pay arrears for 30 yrs
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 10
It has been 30 years now since about 25 persons from the technical cadre of the Indian Air Force began making rounds of various offices of the Defence Ministry and the Air Force officials to get what they claim to be the arrears of the salary due to them under pay scales revised as long ago as 1959.

Bhagat Singh, a resident of Bhai Randhir Singh Nagar here, and the spokesperson for the affected persons, who walks with effort due to old age and carries a thick file of letters exchanged between him and the authorities, is a hapless man. He is disturbed not by the effort he or other affected persons had to make to claim their rightful dues, but by the ‘indifferent response they have been receiving from Air Force officials.

He claims that these affected persons were among the main contributors in the repair of several junk and almost condemned aircrafts and their parts, which were passed on to the Indian Air Force by the Britishers when they left the country. ‘‘We repaired several machines and parts ’’ he says in an emotional time. In return we have not been treated properly”, he laments.

Narrating their tale of woe, he says that immediately after Independence, an acute shortage of the combat personnel in the technical trade was felt. To cope with the situation, civilian technicians who possessed adequate appropriate expertise and experience of repair and maintenance of aircrafts, aero-engines and ancilliary equipment were employed .

However, they were placed in a pay scale of Rs 60-5/2-75-3-105, whereas the pay of their employment group falls in the scale of Rs 80-5-110. The employees continued with their service and their fight against the pay disparity.

Bhagat Singh showed a letter dated March, 1978, signed by the CGO officer, which held him eligible for the benefit of pay fixation. However, in April the same year, the accounts officer rejected the case. Then in 1979 , a senior accounts officer again reported in favour of the case to the Central Accounts Officer. But the case which is hanging fire till date.

Bhagat Singh claims that he along with the others had suffered huge financial loss since the day of their appointment and should be given the due arrears. 


PSEB employees violate rally ban
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 10
Even as Section 144 has been imposed by the District Magistrate, more than 2,000 employees of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) Employees Struggle Committee held a rally in the city and burnt effigies of Mr Sikandar Singh, Power Minister and Mr N.S. Deol, Superintending Engineer, Bathinda.

Activists from Bathinda, Faridkot, Mansa, Ferozepore, Moga and Muktsar districts took part in the rally. Activists of the Technical Services Union (TSU), Lok Morcha, Punjab and Bharti Kisan Union, also attended the rally.

Mr Amarjit Singh Sodhi, president of the state unit of the TSU, alleged the employees of the PSEB were being victimised by senior officers of the board and the Power Minister was also supporting them.

Fifty employees of the PSEB had been implicated in false cases under Sections 307, 144, 353 and 186 of the IPC.

The state government was determined on privatisation of the board and formation of the PSEB Regulatory Commission was the first step in this direction.

Several active workers of the committee had been transferred out of their zones, just to weaken the union, he alleged. Those who had joined the SAD under Power Minister’s pressure were being given promotions and incentives, he said.

Mr Pal Singh, zonal convenor of the committee, allege farmers, traders, workers and employees, all were cheated by the ruling alliance. The ‘favourite’ employees of the officers were being promoted and given postings of their choice, he said.

He ruled out meetings with the senior officials of the board saying that all efforts at conciliation having failed, the employees had resorted to agitation.

The police made arrangements to prevent any untoward incident, but nobody was arrested.


Forum orders PSEB to pay compensation
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, April 10
The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Muktsar, has ordered the Punjab State Electricity Board, Muktsar, to pay a compensation of Rs 10,000 to Mr Jasvir Singh of Rahurianwali village in Muktsar district following its failure to release his SP power supply connection.

The judgement, a copy of which was received by this correspondent here yesterday, was given by a three-member panel of the forum.

The forum comprised Mr Gurpal Singh, president of the forum, Mrs Naresh Jain and Mr Harmesh Lal Mittal.

The panel also directed the PSEB to release his connection within a month of the receipt of the orders.

According to the prosecution, Mr Jasvir Singh applied to the PSEB for a power connection for agricultural purpose on March 14 last year.

The board authorities issued a notice to him on June 8 last year asking him to deposit the security amount and the necessary documents.

The complainant deposited all relevant papers and the security to the board on June 13.

However, the PSEB authorities allegedly failed to provide him a connection within the stipulated period, thereby causing him heavy financial loss.


Recounting unseats 6 panches
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 10
Six panches namely Mr Sohan Singh, Mr Jodha Singh, Mr Ujjagar Singh, Mr Gurtej Singh, Mr Mukhtiar Singh and Mr Darshan Singh of Shadi Hari village in Sunam tehsil were unseated following a recounting of the votes by the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Anirudh Tiwari, here today. They were elected panches on June 21, 1998.

The recounting was done by the Deputy Commissioner on the direction of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which had ordered him to take fresh evidence and decide the case anew.

It may be mentioned here that during the elections, 2,163 votes were polled while less number of votes were found during counting. Mr Harkesh Singh, who had lost the election, was the petitioner in this case.

The Deputy Commissioner, said the Additional Deputy Commissioner (Development), Sangrur, had been directed to take steps to fill the posts of the panches.

He said the administration would now write to the State Election Commission to announce fresh date for holding elections. Mr Tiwari said the ADC (D) had also been asked to fix responsibility in this case.

The recounting of votes started here around 3 p.m. and ended around 5 p.m.


Project for blind launched
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
The Punjab Chief Secretary, Mr N. K. Arora, today presented a Braille book to Savita, a 10 year-old blind girl, formally initiating the Amway Opportunity Foundation’s National Project for the blind in the state in collaboration with the All-India Confederation of the Blind.

At hand to launch the project envisaging the supply of Braille textbooks to students in the 10 institutions for the blind in Punjab was the foundation chairman, Mr William S. Pinckney, and the confederation secretary-general, Mr J.L. Kaul. Amway, a corporate house with headquarters in the USA, established itself in India in 1995 engaging in ‘’social work’’ in 1998 by taking up the project of providing textbooks in Braille to the blind all over the country.

After Rajasthan, Delhi and Haryana, it was today the turn of Punjab to benefit from the project for the blind. Amway envisages investing Rs 5 lakh in the project.

Appreciating the initiative of Amway, Mr Arora said while marching with time and civilisation, man had lost the art of ‘’feeling’’ and ‘’concern’’ for those fellow human beings who were unfortunately suffering from visual impairment. It was time to feel concerned about fellow humans, he added.

Mr Arora agreed with the observations of Mr Kaul that substantial work had not been done for the blind in the country depriving them of an opportunity to study and acquire knowledge, thereby denying them job opportunities and a chance for rehabilitation.

Earlier, Mr Kaul gave a resume of the confederation saying the project would help the inmates of the schools for the blind in the state. He regretted that having made initial promises to do things for the blind the Rajasthan, Delhi and Haryana Governments conveniently forgot their promises once the formal functions were over. He hoped that at least Punjab would not ditch the blind.

He said even schools for the blind had remained indifferent on the providing of Braille books to students. Amway had begun to fill that gap. A lot had been done but much more was required to be done. Setting up of ‘’touch and feel’’ museums was a concept still alien to the country. Braille presses should be quick in printing books on different subjects incorporating the changes in the syllabi.

Mr Pinckney, who mirrored the social role of Amway, said the foundation had presented a 20-volume Braille set of the Webster’s Dictionary to the Delhi Blind School. Amway’s objective was to distribute Braille textbooks among school children in different states. Of the 12 million blind in India, school children numbered two million. Yet a mere 6 per cent to 8 per cent of them had access to Braille textbooks.

Amway was in the process of setting up a specialised computer centre with an organisation in Kolkata that would enable blind school children to learn this vital skill as well.

Mr Kaul said the confederation was set up in 1980 and had 18 branches in the country. Its Braille press was established in 1997 with the Norwegian association.

For a while, Mr Arora listened intently to Savita, who sat in his lap, fluently reading aloud from the book he had presented to her. Incidentally, Savita was specially brought here from Gurgaon.


Attack on workers: BSP threatens stir
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 10
The BSP has threatened to launch a statewide agitation if the Punjab Government fails to arrest the culprits responsible for the attack on workers participating in the Shiri march at Nijamibad near Makhu on Saturday. This was stated by Mr Hargopal Singh, secretary of the BSP unit, Punjab, while talking to mediapersons here today.

He condemned the attack and alleged that SAD and Congress leaders had organised the attack to harass BSP workers. He said sharp-edged weapons were used in the attack, as a result of which more than 12 workers were injured, four of them seriously.

He said the BSP had started marches from Balmik Tirath, Amritsar, and Kesgarh Sahib. Both marches would reach Damdama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo, on April 13 to take part in a rally. Mr Kanshi Ram and Ms Mayawati would address the rally, he said.

The BSP would also celebrate the birth anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar at Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala on April 14 and public rallies would be organised in the cities, he added.


Ophthalmologists’ meeting concludes
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 10
Several eminent ophthalmologists participated in a meeting organised by the Bathinda Ophthalmological Society which concluded here on Sunday.

The guest faculty included Dr Amod Gupta, Dr S.S. Pandav and Dr Jagat Ram, all from the PGI, Chandigarh. The specialists delivered lectures on endophthalmitis, phacoemulsification and glaucoma.

At least 45 delegates from various districts, including Mansa, Bathinda and Faridkot participated in the meeting. A question-answer session was also held, during which the experts clarified doubts and gave details of the latest scientific developments in the fields.

Dr Amrit Sethi, secretary of the society, said NGOs should be involved in eye camps and create awareness among the masses about the same. He said the Supreme Court had ordered that no operations should be performed at health camps but only in hospitals, either government or private. The society had also decided that poor patients would be operated upon free of cost and the input costs, if any, would be borne by the NGOs, he said.

Dr Sethi said a recent survey conducted by the PGI on the causes of blindness indicated that in more than 30 per cent of the cases, the blindness was due to complications arising out of the operations performed at medical camps.

Dr P. S. Sandhu, president, Punjab Ophthalmological Society, expressed concern over the recent decision of the state government to rename the posts of Ophthalmic Assistant as “Ophthalmological Officer”. “The state government is in the process of granting permission to the so-called ophthalmological officers to do cataract surgery. It will encourage quackery and lead to rise in cases of blindness,” he said.


‘PR men must keep govt informed’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 10
“The media, both electronic and print, must treat Public Relations personnel as a part of it,” says Mr Tarlochan Singh, Vice-Chairman, National Minorities Commission, maintaining that governments must take PR Departments into their confidence for a proper feedback from the general public on their policies and programmes.

Speaking at a function organised by the Punjab Public Relations Elders Society to felicitate him at Punjab Bhavan here today, Mr Tarlochan Singh said it was the ardent duty of PR men not only to keep the government informed of appreciation but also of any criticism in the media.

The Punjab Public Health and Civil Aviation Minister, Raja Narinder Singh, who presided over the function, said he had one thing in common with Mr Tarlochan Singh.

Both of them had been groomed under Mr Gian Singh Rarewala.

Mr Niranjan Singh Mitha, president, Punjab Public Relations Elders Society, read out the citation describing Mr Tarlochan Singh as a successful public relations man who had risen to great heights because of his hard work, dedication and sincerity .

A shawl and a memento were presented to Mr Tarlochan Singh. Books written by members of the society, including its secretary, Mr Kulwant Singh, president, Mr Mitha, and a member, Mr Siri Ram Arsh, were presented to both Mr Tarlochan Singh and Raja Narinder Singh.


Shopping complex stone laid
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, April 10
A function held here on Sunday to mark the foundation stone laying ceremony of a shopping complex by the local Improvement Trust was turned into an election meeting when Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, Member of the Rajya Sabha and general secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal sought people’s vote in his party’s favour in the forthcoming assembly poll in Punjab.

Decrying the previous Congress Governments for their failure to resolve the state problems, he counted a large number of development works made by the ruling group during the past four years in Punjab.

He said that despite his defeat from the Faridkot parliamentary constituency in the last Lok Sabha elections, he took a number of steps to resolve the problems of pipe water, power supply, and the construction and repair of roads.

Mr Gurdev Singh Badal, Minister for Agriculture, disclosed that Mr Sukhbir Badal would be inducted as Cabinet minister at the Centre and help in the further development of Punjab.

Mr Harjinder Singh Baggar, Chairman of the Improvement Trust, spoke about the development schemes to be launched by the trust in the town.


Ex-gratia grant for widows of martyrs
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 10
The widows and family members of six martyrs were given an ex-gratia grant of Rs 7 lakh during an ex-servicemen rally held at Polo Ground here today.

The widows of 34 other martyrs were also honoured on the occasion.

Giving further information, Brig K.S. Khalon, Director, Sainik Welfare Department, said that since January last year, Rs 4 crore had been disbursed to the families of 206 martyrs who had laid down their lives on the border.

The kin of each such martyr had been given government job while a widow had been granted Rs 5 lakh for the construction of house, Brig Kahlon said.

Five other family members of the martyrs had been given the post of PCS. A few others had been provided jobs in private agencies.

Mr Jasbir Singh Bir, Deputy Commissioner and President of the District Sainik Board, said that Rs 2.80 crore had been given by the government to the bereaved families of the martyrs.

He added 60 sainiks from the district had lost their lives since Independence.


Powermen’s dharna enters 15th day
Our Correspondent

Lalru, (Patiala) April 10
The dharna organised by the members of Punjab State Electricity Board Employees Federation (INTUC) in front of the Executive Officer’s office entered its 15th day here today.

The agitators were demanding that the employees provident fund accounts should be shown to them. The authorities have not implemented the EDLI scheme for the welfare of the employees. The authorities have not released the balance payments of the compensation amount which was to be given to the families of employees who died on duty.

While addressing the rally, Mr Rajinder Pal Singh, president of the Trade Union Council, criticised the authorities for “misappropriating funds and harassing employees”. He alleged that their work was being delayed as senior officers of Dappar subdivision often remain absent from duty.

Those who spoke including Jagdish Kumar, president of Lalru unit, Mr Jaswant Singh, secretary of Handesra unit.

The agitators threatened to intensify the agitation if the authorities failed to accept their demands soon. To press their demands they decided to start their fast till death from tomorrow.


Delegates favour WTO 
Our Correspondent

Chhat Bir (Patiala), April 10
A number of employees of the Punjab Public Health Department, the Public Works Department and the Irrigation Department gathered to mark the 25th delegate session here today.

Mr G.S. Sanjiva Reddy, President of the All-Indian National Trade Union Congress, while addressing the delegates favoured the WTO.

Ms Praneet Kaur, MP from Patiala, criticised the BJP government for ruining the country’s economy. She demanded that all those involved in the scam should be put behind bars.

Earlier, Mr G.S. Dogra, state president of the Public Health Department organisation, resigned from the post and Mr Sangram Singh, state Secretary, was elected to the post. Mr Jarnail Singh, Mr Rajinder Singh Pardesi and Mr Major Singh were elected Vice-President, General Secretary, and Joint Secretary, respectively.

Besides local trade unionists, Mr Deepinder Singh Dhillon, Treasurer of the Legal Cell of the District Congress Committee, also spoke on the occasion.


Campaign against drug abuse
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 10
A movement for the prevention of drug abuse will be launched in Punjab with the help of various religious, social and cultural NGOs. This was stated by Mr R.L. Kalsia, Director, Social Security, Child and Women Development, Punjab, here last evening. He was presiding over a 15-day de-addiction camp organised by the Aas Kiran De-addiction Centre, Guru Govind Singh Study Circle.


PNB workers hold meeting
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 10
A meeting of the members of the Punjab National Bank Workers Union (north zone) was held here on Sunday to discuss the discriminatory attitude of the higher officials of the bank.

Mr J.K. Sawhney, General Secretary, All-India Punjab National Bank Workers Federation, while addressing the gathering said there was a nexus between the executives of the bank, bureaucrats and the politicians.

Mr Sawhney further alleged that the new economic policy of the government was not good for the employees of the bank. 


Lawyers demand chamber block
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 10
Members of the District Bar Association, led by its president, Mr Balraj Singh Sohi, staged a dharna in the District Judicial Complex here today to protest against the non-construction of a chamber block for the lawyers in the newly-built complex.

The lawyers also observed ‘no work’ for the second consecutive day to air their voice against the silence of the state government over the issue.

Mr Sat Pal Sharma, secretary, said the association had submitted memorandums to the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and the Union Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa last month, demanding the release of funds for the construction of the chamber block, but to no avail.


Admn gears up for Baisakhi
Our Correspondent

Talwandi Sabo, April 10
Even as Damdama Sahib is all decked up for Baisakhi, where a large number of devotees are expected to take a dip in the sarovar, the district administration has made elaborate arrangements for the convenience of the public.

Though there is no apprehension of any clash between the two warring groups of Nihangs, the police has been deployed in large numbers at the mela site to prevent any untoward incident.

At least six persons were injured after the Baisakhi mela in 1997 here when certain Nihangs belonging to the Budha Dal group led by Santa Singh had attacked SGPC employees.

The holy town has been divided into seven sectors and one civil gazetted officer has been made in charge of each sector. The District Magistrate, Mr Jaspal Singh, has banned the carrying of firearms during the mela days.

Mr Jaspal Singh, who came here yesterday to oversee the arrangements said seven mobile ambulances would be deployed on the duty. He said for the smooth flow of the traffic temporary bus stands and parking places had been established.

For the convenience of the pilgrims special buses will ply between the city and the neighbouring towns. He added that special arrangements had been made for taking care for drinking water and sanitation. He said about 500 temporary toilets had been constructed.

The magistrates deployed at the mela site would be provided wireless sets so that the security arrangements could be made foolproof.

Special rescue camps has been established to tackle any eventuality near the sarovar. The Deputy Commissioner said divers and the boats would be made available for the purpose.


DC releases credit plan
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, April 10
Mr A. Venu Prasad, Deputy Commissioner, released an annual credit plan of Rs 274.25 crore for advancing loans under different welfare schemes during the current financial year in this district. In a press note released here today, the Deputy Commissioner while launching the scheme at a senior district and bank officers meeting, said a major part of the amount, 198.50 crore, would be utilised for agriculture and allied sector while Rs 25.79 crore would be allocated for small-scale industry.

A sum of Rs 17.61 crore would be spent under various self-employment schemes.

The Deputy Commissioner asked bank officers to advance loans timely to beneficiaries.

Mr M.P. Singh Gulati, zonal manager, Punjab and Sind Bank, Faridkot zone, said during the past financial year, Rs 170.48 crore, out of a plan Rs 228.8 crore, was given to the agriculture sector.


Embezzlement of MC funds alleged
Our Correspondent

Mansa, April 10
Four local municipal councillors, Mr Prem Sagar Bhola, general secretary of the local unit of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Balwinder Singh Kaka, former president of the district Youth Congress, Ms Amarjit Kaur, secretary of the district unit of All India Democratic Women Association and Mr Harpal Singh Palli, have demanded inquiry into embezzlement of municipal council funds.

In a memorandum sent today to the Principal Secretary, Local Government, Punjab, they stated that the municipal funds had been misappropriated by preparing bogus records regarding octroi contract involving embezzlement of Rs 30 lakh. The memorandum said no case had been registered despite the directions of the state government. 


PWD workers hold dharna
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 10
Activists of the Field and Workshop Workers Union of the Public Works Department yesterday organised a dharna against the Subdivisional Engineer (No 1), Bathinda, to express their resentment.

Mr Bharat Bhushan, General Secretary, said the dharna was organised against Subdivisional Engineer who had adopted the negative attitude towards the workers. He added that the activists would also organise the dharna on April 12 at the Punjab Water Supply and Sewerage mandal against him.


2 cops suspended
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 10
Two Punjab Police personnel were suspended by the district police chief in connection with alleged manhandling of a lawyer at the District Courts here today. A Sub-Inspector and a constable were suspended after a two-hour meeting between the police chief and members of the Bar Council.


Patwari suspended in fraud case
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, April 10
The Deputy Commissioner here has suspended one official of the Revenue Department and chargesheeted two others, who have been found guilty of a fraud with regard to a property deed pertaining to the Central Government’s vacant land at Hardosheikh village under Phillaur subdivision.

Members of the Balmik community at Hardosheikh village had submitted to the Deputy Commissioner, Mr K. Shiva Parsad, that they were residing on a 17-marla plot, Khasra No 568, for the past 35 years and had also constructed five houses on a portion of the land, while the rest of the land was being used to dump garbage. But Kashmir Singh of the same village allegedly in connivance with Revenue Department officials had usurped the Central Government’s vacant land in January, 1996.

The Balmik community came to know about the fraudulent land transfer when Kahsmir Singh started construction on the land, which was, however, forced to stop by them.

Subsequently, Mr Parsad had set up a committee headed by the Assistant Commissioner (Grievances), Mr G.S. Bal, to conduct an inquiry into the land transfer.

Mr Bal, in his report to the Deputy Commissioner, had stated that he had recorded the statements of the members of village panchayat, namberdar, chowkidar and the villagers, who had told that the Balmik community had been in possession of the land for the past 30-40 years.

The report further said the then patwari, Avtar Singh, the Kanungo and the Naib Tehsildar of Noormahal came under suspicion since Kashmir Singh, who had applied for the transfer of the land in his name with the Revenue Department on May 22, 1995, had secured the transfer orders within five days.

“In routine, the cases pertaining to the transfer of government land are settled within six months or a year. But Kashmir Singh was able to secure the transfer order within five days on May 26, 1996. After recording the statements of the villagers and members of the village panchayat, it was found that Kashmir Singh had submitted wrong information that he was in possession of the said land for the past 15 years. The land was actually in the possession of the Balmik community,” the report said.

“The 17-marla Central Government land was transferred to Kashmir Singh against the prescribed rules of the state and Central Government,” the report concluded.

Mr Parsad said he had ordered the suspension of patwari Avtar Singh and chargesheeted the Kanungo and the Naib Tehsildar of Noormahal. 


2 held for defrauding bank
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 10
The district police has arrested a retired constable along with another retired employee who had been defrauding a bank for the past many months by forging pension passbooks.

Police sources said the accused identified as Sarup Singh, a retired Constable of the Punjab Police and Teja Singh, another retired employee of the Punjab Government, had so far withdrawn Rs 1.36 lakh from the State Bank of Patiala here by preparing fake pension passbooks and forging signatures of treasury officers on withdrawal vouchers.

Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, SSP, said Sarup Singh and Teja Singh, who came into contact with each other at the local branch of the State Bank of Patiala, planned to defraud the bank.

The accused prepared pension passbooks in the names of Surjeet Singh and Amar Singh. They pasted their own photographs on passbooks.

The accused also got manufactured rubber stamps of district Treasury Officer, Bathinda, Treasury Officer, Barnala, Executive Magistrate, Talwandi Sabo, and Senior Superintendent of Police, Barnala.

The accused used to fill withdrawal vouchers first and stamp them followed by signing of vouchers.

The accused withdrew amounts worth Rs 19,999 and Rs 19,999 on February 7. On February 8, they withdrew Rs 18,000 and Rs 18,000. They managed to withdraw Rs 10,000 and Rs 12,000 on February 11 and on March 1, they withdrew Rs 18,900 and Rs 19,999 again.

The forgers were caught when they made an attempt to withdraw money from the bank on April 9. They were arrested immediately. A case in this connection has been registered under Sections 420, 467, 468 and 471 of the IPC.

In another case, three persons have been arrested for smuggling narcotics and 15 kg of poppy husk and 500 gm of opium recovered from their possession. The accused have been identified as Girdhar Gopal, Kario Singh and Lakha Singh.

Under the gambling Act, four persons were arrested and cases registered against them. The accused had been identified as Mohinder Singh, Titi Ram, Jagtar Singh and Pritpal Singh.


Bus drivers, conductors caught smuggling liquor
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, April 10
The police has arrested three drivers and two conductors of the Punjab Roadways Depot, Pathankot, on charges of smuggling whisky from Jalandhar and Chandigarh to Pathankot.

Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, said 97 bottles of whisky were seized from them during the checking of buses on Sunday near Chakki bridge. Mr Harih Darbir Singh, Inspector, Excise Department, was present on the occasion.

The accused have been identified as Baldev Singh, Dalbir Singh and Satnam Singh (bus drivers) and Naresh Kumar and Rattan Singh (conductors).

Three cases under Sections 61, 1 and 14, Excise Act, have been registered.


University hacks trees to establish new bhavan
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 10
Punjabi University has chosen to axe a few trees, besides levelling a mound and accompanying landscaped garden adjoining the Guru Gobind Singh bhavan on the varsity campus to start work on building of a Kala Bhavan in the name of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

The university authorities yesterday cut some trees at the spot where the new Bhavan is to come up.The university Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, however, denied that trees had been cut to make way for the bhavan. He said no tree, either ornamental or shrub, had been cut at the site.

The Vice-Chancellor said the spot was becoming a dumping ground for filth due to which he had decided to make use of it for the new building. He said shrubs which had been grown on the spot had been removed to level the ground.

However, a visit to the spot yesterday revealed a totally different picture. Labourers could be seen hacking down a huge tree on the spot. Sources said there were also a few other trees which had been cut before levelling of the ground began. The spot was till now a favourite place for boys and girls to sit in the shade of trees and shrubs, besides landscaped lawns and flower beds.

The Forum for Educational Action and Research (FEAR) today said that the action of the Vice-Chancellor would undermine the importance of the Guru Gobind Singh Bhavan which was situated close to where the new block was proposed to be built. He said earlier the university had abolished the Faculty of Humanities and Religious Studies which originated with the laying down of the foundation stone by former President Zakir Hussain in 1967.

FEAR president Dr Amarjit Singh Dhillon said any addition of a building so close to the Guru Gobind Singh Bhavan would be against the master plan of the university. He said, moreover, no building should come up in the vicinity of the Gobind Singh Bhavan so that its importance is not undermined. He said the new complex would also stick out at one end of the Gobind Singh Bhavan, spoiling the aesthetics of the entire area.

The Vice-Chancellor, however, claimed that the new building was being taken up after due consultation with architects and experts. He said the project was coming up in a planned manner and would not affect the aesthetics of the Guru Gobind Singh Bhavan in any manner. He said establishment of the Bhavan would be a big step in the development of the university and that there was need for a positive approach on the issue.


Varsity forces faculty to attend seminar
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 10
Punjabi University is not sure whether its teachers will attend the seminar being held on April 13 on the campus to commemorate the bicentenary of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. So, it is putting pressure on all heads of departments to ensure maximum participation.

The university Dean, Academics, Mr Kuldeep Singh Dhir, has issued a circular to the heads, asking them to make sure all teachers in their departments attend the seminar. It has also directed the heads to submit a report of absentee teachers immediately after the seminar.

Sources said this is the first time that such strong language has been used to ensure the presence of teachers at a seminar. The seminar is to be presided over by state Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

They said to ensure maximum participation in the seminar, the university authorities have made April 13 a working day. It was listed a holiday in the university calendar.

The department heads have been asked to take undertakings from teachers to ensure their presence at the seminar.

Sources said the authorities have taken this step as the convocation organised recently did not draw good participation of the teachers.

However, forcing teachers to participate in the seminar has come in for criticism from the teaching community. Sources said the rule was being so strictly enforced that a head of department who wanted to proceed on leave during this period, had been denied leave by the Dean, Academics.

Sources said by making participation mandatory, the authorities would only further embarrass the government. They said this development comes close on the heels of an open confrontation between the State Higher Education Minister and the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia. They said the seminar should be limited to being an academic exercise and the occasion should not be politicised to impress the ruling party. The Dean, Academics, was not available for comment.


Exam fever grips Bathinda
Gayatri Rai

Bathinda, April 10
With the examinations of graduate classes already on and those of postgraduate classes about to start, students are busy with their studies.

They are trying hard not only to concentrate on their studies but also to ignore everything that is going on in the outside world.

But still there are many distractions, which the students are finding hard to ignore. These include the cricket mania, TV, movies and chatting on the Internet.

“With the cricket season far from over, it is very hard to concentrate on books. I can’t keep myself from watching the TV for the latest score, even though it costs me valuable time,” said Jatinder Kumar, a student of BA (II).

Bindu, a student of BA (III) said: “Due to exams we can’t sit before the idiot box and have to miss our favourite programmes and movies.”

If students are missing many things due to the exams, many people, particularly theatre owners, are missing the students badly.

Theatres in the city are not showing any new release.

According to theatre owners, as the students are busy with their studies and don’t have time for movies, there has been 50 per cent reduction in the rush and income of the theatres.

Theatre owners are waiting for the examinations to be over and their business to become normal. The new releases will also bring relief to the examination-tired students.

The students are conspicuous by their absence not only from theatres but the markets, the rose garden, the lake point, restaurants, other meeting points of students and geri routes of the city as well.

Even owners of gift shops, card shops, boutiques and beauty parlours lament that due to the exams, not only students are absenting themselves but their parents are also busy taking care of their wards.

The students, cut off from all these things, are busy with their books and notes and doing their best to gain good marks.

There are some who have found an easy way out by buying guess papers or “kunjis” which promise success in exams.

Even faith in the almighty is on the rise during examination days.

Along with the distractions, many disturbances are also present, like long power cuts at odd hours, blaring loudspeakers advertising coaching centres, schools and new admissions, and the heat which is rising with each passing day.

But right now the students hardly have any time to worry about these things, as their world consists of books and notes only.


Roll numbers for ETT test issued
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 10
The District Institute of Education and Training (DIET), Bathinda, has issued role numbers to candidates for the entrance test for admission to the elementary teachers training (ETT) course. The test will be held on April 15.

This was stated by Mr Gurdev Singh Marar, Principal of the institute, in a press note issued here today. He said if the candidates did not receive the roll number by April 13, they could get a duplicate of the same from the office of the District Education Officer (DEO) by submitting an attested photograph and proof of their candidature. He said such duplicate roll numbers would be issued on April 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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