Saturday, April 14, 2001, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Zaffarwal arrest ‘state-managed’
Mrs Chawla raises security breach issue, seeks setting aside of cops’ conviction
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, April 13
The controversy surrounding the ‘so-called’ arrest by the Majitha police the day before yesterday of top commander of the Khalistan Commando Force Wassan Singh Zaffarwal have caused a major embarrassment for the state police force. Coming out openly against the state government’s soft-pedalling on the arrest of the most wanted terrorist, the BJP MLA, Mrs Lakshmi Kanta Chawla, today blasted the central and the state governments for throwing national security to the winds by allowing the “enemy of the state” amnesty who once waged war against the country during the heyday of the Khalistan movement in Punjab.

Describing the episode of arrest and surrender as a “state-managed drama”, she lashed out at the police for acting in an ham-handed fashion to please their political masters while giving scant regard to security.

Raising questions about many loopholes in the police version, Mrs Chawla told Tribune News Service that since Zaffarwal landed at Amritsar airport over a month ago he was wanted by the government and even Interpol had issued a red corner warrant. She wondered how his entry into the state went unnoticed and why security procedures were ignored in spite of the fact the Intelligence Bureau and other state agencies had been on high alert for the most wanted man ever since he left Switzerland. She was not willing to accept the police handout which was full of howlers. By such an action the valiant fight put up by the Punjab police during the peak of militancy seemed to have been in vain, she felt.

As the news appeared about the presence of the KCF chief in the state in last over a fortnight, Mrs Chawla pointed that she had been enquiring about his whereabouts from the Director-General of Police but her persistent queries were not answered.

She added that Zaffarwal was not even handcuffed when produced before the media yesterday.

Speaking with a heavy heart, the MLA said that the state government was bowing to the pressure of the erstwhile hardcore militants for joining the mainstream and questioned the wisdom of the government, which had expressed its helplessness to defend thousands of policemen who fought the militants for the sake of the nation had been left to fend for themselves.

It was a shame that the government was adopting double standards and had different yardsticks to measure the sacrifice of its own force and that of once criminals whom it was now trying to protect.

Mrs Chawla alleged that the current police remand of the Zaffarwal was actually to strike a bargain with him at the behest of his political friends. 


SAD (A), SHSAD promise clean government
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, April 13
In a resolution passed at a massive joint rally held by SAD(A), the SHSAD, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Panthic) and the Sant Samaj on the occasion of Baisakhi, the leaders promised the people to provide them a clean, honest and efficient government in Punjab, which would open a new chapter of development and progress in the state.

The leadership of these Akali parties also pledged to uproot the rule of the SAD-BJP and to stop the Congress from coming into power in the next Assembly elections.

The leadership through the resolution alleged that the Punjab Chief Minister, who had pledged to work for the interests of the Sikh community and Punjab was now promoting family rule.

Mr Badal had cheated the state politically, socially and economically, and grabbed the Akali party and the SGPC to harm the interests of the Sikh community and to bring disrepute to Punjabiyat.

The resolution demanded that Sikh jathas should not be stopped from visiting Pakistan and the state government should contact the Pakistan government to set up a corridor between Dera Baba Nanak and Kartarpur Sahib.

A safety zone near Gurdaspur should be set up for the Sikhs living in Jammu and Kashmir for providing them relief. Apart from it, the state government should press the Central Government to change its recruitment policy regarding the armed forces. The leaders alleged that under a well-planned conspiracy the number of Sikh officers and jawans was being reduced in the armed forces. They demanded that Sikhs who were languishing in jails without any trial should be released immediately.

Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, SAD(A) alleged that the Punjab Government had hushed up the case related to finding of bodies in the Sutlej, Gang canal and other canals of Punjab. He said a CBI probe should be conducted as it might be a case of genocide of Sikhs carried out by former DGP’s of the Punjab police.

He alleged that Mr Badal had tried to sabotage today’s rally, which was a big success. Baba Sarvjot Singh, president, Sant Samaj, said all Akali factions had decided to unite to give people a clean and efficient rule by defeating Mr Badal and his associates. He pointed out that united partys’ agenda would be unfolded after April 20.

Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, General Secretary, SHSAD, said Mr Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal were “liars” and had been playing with the sentiments of people.

Bhai Ranjit Singh, former Jathedar, Akal Takht, said Sikhs were being massacred in Jammu and Kashmir due to the wrong policies of Mr Badal, who had been acting as an agent of the RSS.

He said he would support the unity of Akali factions unconditionally.


‘Politics of marriage’ at work: Ramoowalia
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, April 13
The Lok Bhalai Party today appealed people to show the door to the corrupt SAD-BJP combine government of the state and the Congress which was a party of “looters”.

Addressing a rally organised on the occasion of Baisakhi, Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, President of the party, considered as one of the sympathisers of the Congress, today lashed out at the SAD-BJP combine and the Congress.

He said the SAD and the BJP had been exploiting the religious sentiments of people. The Congress was also dishonest as it had brought the culture of corruption in the country.

Mr Ramoowalia announced that Mr Hardev Singh Mahinangal, a party functionary, would be candidate for the coming Assembly elections from this segment.


BKU plans stir for MSP payment
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, April 13
Leaders of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta) today announced that it would launch an agitation to press for the payment of minimum support price of the foodgrains.

The BKU (Ekta) president while addressing a rally of the organisation held here on the occasion of Baisakhi, said the union would not allow the farmers to become landless in process of clearing their debts.

He added that the union had rejected Rs 610 which had been fixed as MSP by the Central Government. The union would fight to get the prices of the foodgrains fixed according to the WPI, he added. He said the union would also launch an agitation if the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, failed to distribute Rs 100 crore among those farmers who had made distress sale of their paddy last year at the rate much below the than minimum support price.

He said the union had asked the Punjab government to make the payment of Rs 2.5 lakh to the families of the farmers whose members committed suicide due to the economic crisis in the past few years. He said due to discriminatory policies of the Central Governments, the Green Revolution had breeded poverty among those who produced enough to fill the stomach of the countrymen.

The main reason for economic crisis prevailing among the farmers was that cost of cultivation went high while the prices of food grains did not increase accordingly. Mr Ruldu Singh, Senior vice-president, Mr Surjeet Singh Phool, press secretary, Mr Harnek Singh, vice-president and Mr Jhanda Singh, president, Bathinda district unit also addressed the gathering.


Martyrs remembered on Baisakhi
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 13
Baisakhi was today celebrated in this holy city with enthusiasm as rich tributes were paid to thousands of martyrs who were massacred by British troops at Jallianwala Bagh on this day in 1919.

Hundreds of people who had assembled in the historic Jallianwala Bagh observed a two-minute silence at 4 p.m. — the time when British troops had opened fire on the gathering, killing innocent people.

A contigent of the Punjab Police presented guard of honour with reverse arms to the martyrs.

Wreaths were placed at the “Flame of Liberty” on behalf of the President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, the Prime Minister Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Punjab Governor Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd), the Punjab Chief Minister Mr Parkash Singh Badal and other national and state leaders.

Floral tributes were paid by leaders of the Congress, BJP, SAD, CPI, CPM and other political and social organisations, freedom fighters and senior citizens. Among those present an the occasion were Congress MP, Mr R.L. Bhatia, a former MP, Mr Kirpal Singh for Youth Congress President, Mr Maninderjeet Singh Bitta and local MLA, Mrs Lakshmi Kanta Chawla. The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Narinderjit Singh, released a souvenir on martyrs, prepared by the Punjab Folklore Research Academy.

Meanwhile, thousands of devotees thronged the Golden Temple and took a holy dip in the sacred “sarovar.” Special “langars” were arranged at the Golden Temple and other places in the city to mark the occasion. 


PSEB to buy power to meet shortage
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 13
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has made arrangements to buy power from Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan to cope with the increase in the demand in the coming months.

Addressing a press conference here last evening, the chairman of the PSEB, Mr G.S. Sohal, said there would be no power cuts in May, June and July when the demand for power would be at peak level because of the transplantation of paddy, etc. While Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal would spare 300 MW of power for Punjab, Himachal Pradesh would give 80 MW, according to Mr Sohal.

He urged all those running airconditioners at their houses to keep these switched off between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. from May to July-end.

Talking about the future power needs of the state, Mr Sohal said the PSEB was moving ahead with a proposal to enter into tie-ups with states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal to tap 39,000 MW of hydel potential there. He said the Prime Minister had also shown interest in such tie-ups and a meeting of the Chief Ministers concerned was expected to be held soon in Delhi in this connection.

Mr Sohal said the PSEB was trying hard to add power generation units in the existing thermal plants. Two additional units, each of 250 MW, would be set up at the Lehra Mohabbat Thermal Plant in Bathinda district. Besides, a thermal plant would be set up by a Hyderabad-based private company in the state. The board was also trying to minimise power theft by taking various measures.

He said the board management was preparing itself for reforms in the power sector as the state government had signed a memorandum with the Union Government in this connection. The reforms included the restructuring of the board to make it a profit-earning organisation and a time-bound programme for the introduction of energy auditing at all levels.


Harike wetland authority to be set up
Chander Parkash & Anirudh Gupta

Harike (Ferozepore), April 13
The Punjab Government has decided to set up a Harike wetland authority in which senior Army personnel of the level of Corps Commander, officials of the departments of tourism, forest, science and technology and prominent people of the area would be included to develop it as a tourist centre.

Stating this at a function organised in connection with the completion of the first phase of Operation Sahyog carried out by Vajra Corps and Golden Arrow Division of the Army for weeding out hyacinth from this wetland, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said the Harike wetland authority would be given liberal funds for the purpose.

Operation Sahyog was formally launched by Punjab Governor J.F.R. Jacob on August 6, 2000.

The Harike wetland formed by the merger of the Sutlej and the Beas was dying a slow death due to weed infestation, pollution and silt. It has been reduced from its earlier 41 sq km to 28 sq km.

Mr Badal said Harike Lake would have an important place in Asia. He lauded the role of Army personnel.

He said to solve the problem of hyacinth, a permanent solution would be evolved.

He appealed to the Army authorities to assist the Punjab Government in this mission for another year. He said today’s function was organised to commemorate the bicentenary of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Lieut-Gen Surjeet Singh, GOC-in-C, Western Command, speaking on the occasion, said one platoon of the Army would assist the district administration in carrying out the weed-clearing operation. He said the government to set up a unit of the Territorial Army to undertake the project for a longer time.

Lieut-Gen Kamal Dawar, GOC, 11 Corps, said last year about 35,000 migratory birds came to the lake and this year the number would be three times more.

Mr Rajan Kashyap, Principal Secretary, Science and Technology, Punjab, said the government had earmarked Rs 48 lakh for the completion of this project. Out of this, Rs 20 lakh had been spent on machinery and motor boats. A large number of insects had been released in the water which would help in eradicating hyacinth.

Mr Badal honoured Lieut-Gen Dawar, Major-Gen M.L. Tiwari, Mr Kashyap, Ms Gurwinder Kaur Chahal, Principal Secretary, Forest, Mr Kulbir Singh Sidhu, Deputy Commissioner, and Mr Bakhtawar Singh, SDM, Zeera, for their contribution to Operation Sahyog.

Our Jalandhar Correspondent adds: Mr Parkash Singh Badal inaugurated Mata Gujri Public School at Chak Suhele Wala on Thursday.

A brain child of Mr Zora Singh Mann, MP, the school will be managed by the Mata Gujri Educational Society.


Poppy being grown in Circuit House
Chander Parkash & Pushpesh Kumar

Bathinda, April 13
Cultivation of poppy has started even in government buildings. Earlier, more and more people were using their court yards and other vacant spaces near their dwellings to grow poppy.

The police is facing a challenge as opium smugglers have started growing poppy on their own premises and later sell it off to their clientele.

The police had registered three cases under the NDPS Act relating to the cultivation of poppy plants. The cases were registered against five persons.

The authorities concerned have, however, failed to detect the growth of poppy in the local Circuit House, adjacent to the official residence of the Deputy Commissioner.

The poppies have been growing in large numbers in the Circuit House along side the wall facing the Deputy Commissioner’s office across the road.

According to the NDPS Act, the possession, transportation, cultivation, stocking and smuggling of narcotics, including opium and poppy husk, is crime and invites 10 years of rigorous imprisonment and Rs 1 lakh as fine.

The district administration could not detect the cultivation of poppy in the Circuit House despite the fact that the plants had matured and had started bearing buds, the main source of opium in viscose form.

The smugglers have now started supplying opium and poppy husk to their customers at their door step.

Police sources said the smugglers would get the opium and poppy husk from Madhya Pradesh had Rajasthan and then sell it in retail.

The sources said the police had succeeded in recovering huge quantity of narcotics. In 2000, the police had registered a case after every 36 hours against the smugglers under the NDPS Act on an average. There was a rise of more than 250 per cent in the number of cases registered against the smugglers.

The police was facing problems as more and more women were indulging in this practice and in the past over three years, about 25 women had been arrested in connection with the smuggling of narcotics in this district.

At the local Red Cross De-addiction Centre people belonging to every section of society, including teachers, preachers, registered medical practitioners, police personnel and religious figures, were treated.

None of the residents contacted by The Tribune were aware that the practice of growing poppy was illegal. Most schools also grow poppy which is allegedly being misused.

Mr Vasudev Aggrawal, President of the Peoples Law Forum, alleged some of the influential persons were given special treatment.

The district authorities (police and civil) could not be contacted as they were busy with arrangements for the Baisakhi mela.


Enrol graduate, HC tells Dental Council
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 13
Directing Punjab Dental Council to register a graduate in dental surgery, the Punjab and Haryana High Court, in a significant judgement, has held that the provisions of the Dental Act “do not require that a candidate should have studied in a recognised institution”.

Holding that the petitioner, Arti Aneja, was entitled to Rs 10,000 as costs, Mr Justice Jawahar Lal Gupta and Mr Justice N.K. Sud of the High Court observed: “The university has awarded the degree to the petitioner, not the college in which she studied. Still further, the provision does not require that the candidate should have studied in a recognised institution”.

In their detailed order, the Judges observed: “A graduate in dental surgery is entitled to have his or her name entered in the register on payment of the prescribed fee. The petitioner has, admittedly, requested the respondents to supply the necessary form for submitting the application. This was denied on the ground that she does not possess a recognised dental qualification. Is it so?”

“Section 10 (of the Act), inter alia, provides that dental qualifications granted by any authority or institution in India, included in Part I of the Schedule, shall be a recognised qualification for the purpose of this Act. It is not disputed that Punjabi University from where the petitioner qualified, appears at serial number 12 of the Dental Act Schedule. That being the position, it is clear that the petitioner has recognised dental qualifications”, they pointed out.

The Judges concluded: “In any event, it is admitted position that even the institution (in which the petitioner studied) had been granted provisional recognition by the Dental Council. Taking the facts cumulatively, we find that the action of the respondent was not legal and valid.”

In her petition, Arti Aneja had stated that despite repeated representations, the Punjab Dental Council had not registered her.

Her counsel had added that the petitioner was admitted to Dashmesh Institute of Research and Dental Sciences in Faridkot and had passed the final examination conducted by Punjabi University in 1997 in the first division.

In their reply, counsel for Punjab Dental Council had, on the other hand, stated that the petitioner was not entitled to be registered as the institution where she studied was not recognised.

He had added that the institution had been granted provisional affiliation.


Sonia inaccessible to Cong men: Bitta
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, April 13
The president of the All-India Anti- Terrorist Front and former Congress minister, Mr Maninderjit Singh Bitta, today accused the Congress chief, Ms Sonia Gandhi, of being inaccessible to Congress workers and asked the party high command not to politicise the Tehelka exposures by holding rallies at district and block levels throughout the country.

Mr Bitta, while addressing a press conference here today, alleged that all political parties, including Congress, were instrumental in politicking the Tehelka issue by holding rallies in the country. “Senior leaders of all political parties should sit together with the government and discuss the involvement of politicians, military officers and bureaucrats in accepting bribes for settling defence deals, instead of giving it a political shape by holding rallies for the sake of votes,” Mr Bitta said.

When asked whether he would meet Ms Sonia Gandhi, and ask her to abandon the party programme to hold rallies in all parts of the country, Mr Bitta said, “In fact, she is inaccessible to Congress workers and I will try to persuade her personal secretary to arrange a meeting with her. I have been trying hard to meet Ms Gandhi, who is also the Chairperson of the Jallianwala Bagh Committee, for the past several months to discuss the development plan of Jallianwala Bagh.”


SAD, KSC hold meetings
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, April 13
The SAD and the Kisan Sangharsh Committee (KSC) organised political conferences today at Chohla Sahib Gurdwara on the occasion of Baisakhi festival. The SAD conference was addressed by Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Minister for Cooperation and Mr Tarlochan Singh Tur, MP while the KSC conference was addressed by Mr Mangat Ram Pasla, central committee member of the CPM.

Mr Brahmpura accused the Congress of spreading communalism and adopting anti-people policies during its rule. He also advocated more powers for the states.

Addressing the farmers, Mr Mangat Ram Pasla called upon them to be united to face the alleged anti-farmer policies of the Union and Punjab governments. Mr Pasla also criticised the economic policies of the Union Government.


Rally boosts PPCC chief’s morale
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 13
The massive turnout at the Wednesday’s Congress rally here must have come as a morale booster for the Pradesh Congress Committee and more so for its President Capt Amarinder Singh. Besides a good turn-out he was also able to rope in his arch rival Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar to his side.

Mr Brar was so far not prepared to accept the authority of Capt Amarinder as the PCC President. And to the surprise of all and delight of the PCC President Mr Brar declared his undisputed support for Capt Amarinder and acknowledged him as his leader. He said, Capt Amarinder was his leader since he had been appointed by the AICC President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi.

For Capt Amarinder, Mr Brar’s reconciliatory postures could not have come at a better time. The PCC president has time and again been predicting early elections to the state assembly. So far the impression prevailing about the Congress is that it continues to be faction ridden and is being pulled up in multiple directions by Capt Amarinder, Mr Brar and the former Chief Minister Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.

The successful rally at Ludhiana will definitely help Capt Amarinder in consolidating his position vis-a-vis his rivals within the PCC and also in the high command. The clear signal from the AICC high command about his undisputed leadership may have made the dissidents like Mr Brar to fall in line. Moreover, Mr Brar might have realised the urgency of putting up a united front against the formidable SAD-BJP combine in the state.

The Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has already launched his campaign for the next elections with inauguration of service developmental projects.. This may have forced the Congress leaders for introspection that as long as they remain divided it will not be possible for them to score over the ruling combine.

The Tehelka issue has come handy for the Congress. Besides the corruption charges are also being levelled against the state government. The feud between Mr Adesh Pratap Singh and Mr Sukhbir Badal within the Chief Minister’s family should provide enough fodder for the Congress to capitalise on. But it cannot be possible as long as it remains a house divided against itself.

Capt Amarinder and Mr Brar have identified a common meeting ground in ensuring the removal of the SAD-BJP government. Both of them targeted the Chief Minister claiming, while the Congress was united, it was Mr Badal’s own family which was divided between his son and son-in-law.

However, it is not the end of factionalism in the PCC. There is still definite cause for concern for PCC President which was evident yesterday. Although Mrs Bhattal, who was away to Bihar as chief observer of the party, had sent her message which was read at the rally, her supporters led by Mr Harnam Dass Johar were accused of creating ruckus at the rally.

Fortunately for the PCC president it all happened in the presence of the AICC treasurer and in charge Punjab, Mr Moti Lal Vora who said he had taken serious note of the incidents and warned that indiscipline would not be tolerated in the party. So the PCC president must be feeling relaxed over the success of the rally . But would he be able to sustain and consolidate it, only the time will tell.


Cong leader joins SAD
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, April 13
Senior Congress leader and block Congress president, Mr Sat Narayan after a 30-year stint with the party, today joined the ruling SAD in presence of the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, at the residence of Mr Janmeja Singh Sekhon, state Irrigation Minister.

Mr Badal said all those leaders, who agreed to the ideologies of the SAD, were welcome to join the party. He further said all necessary arrangements for the procurement and storage of foodgrains had been completed.

When asked about the forthcoming Assembly election in Punjab, Mr Badal said it would be held as per schedule and ruled out the possibility of mid-term poll.


CPI hosts conference
Our Correspondent

Barnala, April 13
The CPI hosted a political conference to mark Baisakhi day celebrations today near Gurdwara Bhadaur town, about 25 km from here.

Mr Bhupinder Singh Saambar, assistant secretary, Punjab CPI, Mr Ajaib Singh Ronta, MLA, Nihal Singh Wala, Mr Bant Singh Brar, General Secretary, Punjab, AITUC, as well as CPI national council member flayed the Union Government led by Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and the Punjab Government led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal for selling nation’s and Punjab’s interests for petty political and monetary gains by encouraging corruption in all walks of life.

Mr Bhupinder Singh Saambar, addressing a huge gathering, warned farmers and small-scale industrialists of the World Trade Organisation pact which he said would play havoc with peasantry and small industrialists of Punjab.


Plan to develop villages
Our Correspondent

Moga, April 13
The Punjab Government has decided to develop villages all over the state and pending work will be completed by the end of this year. This was stated by Punjab Education Minister Tota Singh while speaking to mediapersons here today.

As many as 12 schools in all constituencies would be upgraded. The government had earlier decided to computerise education in all schools and work for this purpose had already been started.

He urged staff of the schools to check the menace of drug abuse.

Meanwhile, the government has approved Rs 550 crore for the construction and repair of all main and link roads in the state. He said Rs 93 lakh had been spent for completing roads in Moga district. A sum of Rs 66 lakh had been spent in Nihal Singhwala subdivision. 


Provide free water, sewerage: BJP
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 13
The proposal for free water supply and sewerage facility, mooted by the Municipal Corporation in its general House meeting and sent to the state government for approval has in fact been adopted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has started intensive lobbying for its implementation in the urban areas of Punjab.

With the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) being persistently charged with rural bias and the elections to Punjab Assembly being just an year away, the BJP was desperately looking for some kind of sops for the urbanites in order to consolidate its vote bank, which had apparently eroded in the wake of the government being blamed for granting concessions to the rural population at the cost of the urbanites.

It was in this context that the state President of the BJP, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, has been pleading the case of the industry and other sections of the society with the Punjab Chief Minister. He demanded rationalisation of sales tax and reduction in power tariff for the domestic consumers, which had hit the common people in towns and cities, the hardest.

During his visit to the city yesterday, Mr Rinwa said that while the municipal corporation’s proposal for free water supply and sewerage in Ludhiana was under consideration of the government and the Punjab Cabinet might take a “favourable” decision at its next meeting, the BJP would take up the matter for extending the facility to all towns and cities in Punjab, lest the people in others urban areas should feel discriminated against.

That the government and particularly the BJP, which has its political base in the urban areas, would shift focus to woo the urban population, was clear from a programme finalised by the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, to hold special “sangat darshan” programmes at “ward-level” in all major towns and cities of the state, starting from April 14 in Pathankot. This would be followed by similar programmes at Abohar on April 15, at Fazilka on April 18 and at Ludhiana on April 22.

According to Mr Rinwa, in the first phase of the programme, development grants worth Rs 100 crore would be distributed in towns and cities while an equal amount would be disbursed in the second phase of the campaign, to be completed by May 15.


Badal to appease urban areas
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 13
With an eye on the forthcoming assembly elections and to dispel the impression about bias against urban areas, the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, is said to organise special sangat darshan programmes in urban constituencies. It will be launched from Ludhiana (East), represented by the Deputy Speaker, Mr Satpal Gosain, on April 22.

According to sources in the ruling circles, the Chief Minister will attend special sangat darshan programmes in all the urban constituencies of the state represented by the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and BJP candidates only. He will address the problems of the people and the orders for their resolution would be issued on the spot and the follow-up action initiated instantly.

On April 22, Mr Badal will visit each of the wards in the constituency. He would be accompanied by the local MLA and no problem raised during the sangat darshan in these areas would be left pending.

The sources said the programme has been prompted by the widespread impression prevailing among people living in urban areas that the Chief Minister favoured rural areas. Rajya Sabha member and senior BJP leader Lala Lajpat Rai is said to be the motivating force behind this programme.

With the assembly election less than a year away there is a sense of urgency in the BJP quarters about some constructive and development works to be taken up in the urban areas.

Besides, the BJP is also said to be worried over the eroding support base in these areas as it has not been able to prevail upon its alliance partner to fulfil most of the promises it had made in the previous election manifesto. The campaign will mostly focus on Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala.

In the second phase, the government plans to involve other constituencies represented by the rebel Akali legislators or the Congress. 


I was mistaken for terrorist: CM
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, April 13
Punjabis, especially Sikhs, were dubbed as terrorists in other states of India due to the wrong policies of the Congress, alleged Mr Parkash Singh Badal, while addressing a large gathering at the last village on the international Indo-Pakistan border, Mahatam Nagar, 14 km from here, yesterday. Narrating an instance, Mr Badal revealed that during one of his visits to Uttar Pradesh, some years back during the days of militancy in Punjab, he was passing through a town where some school children spotted him and started calling him a terrorist.

Mr Badal was on a visit to the border village after inaugurating a link bridge raised at a cost of Rs 2.5 crore, which connects 13 border villages across the Sutlej with the road leading to Fazilka town.

Highlighting achievements of his government, the Chief Minister said during the first two years of his regime the government had a tough time in relinquishing the heavy debt of the previous Congress regime. Now there were sufficient funds for all-round development of state, claimed Mr Badal.

He announced that the period for filing applications for getting ownership rights for tenants of government land in border villages by paying Rs 6000 per acre had been extended. He also announced a compensation of Rs 2,500 per acre every year to farmers whose land were situated across to the border fencing. He added that the proposal of upgrading the schools was in final stage and all deserving schools in Punjab would be upgraded within a week. He directed officers of the civil administration to organise special camps at villages to clear cases of old-age pension.

Mr Badal was late by three-and-half hour as a result of which the sangat darshan programme was abandoned and hundreds of villagers carrying applications for redress of grievances felt dejected.

The Chief Minister was accompanied by Mr Zora Singh Mann, MP, Ferozepore, Mr Sher Singh, MLA Jalalabad and Mr Gurdas Singh Badal, former MP but surprisingly Mr Surjit Kumar Jayani, MLA, Fazilka, and Forest Minister, Punjab, was conspicuous by his absence. 


Liquor shop coming up near gurdwara
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, April 13
Contrary to the state government excise policy that no liquor shop can be opened within a distance of 200 m from a religious place, a liquor contractor, despite the strong protest by more than 100 residents, including women, of the Mundh village in Nakodar on Tuesday, started the construction of a liquor shop near the village gurdwara yesterday.

More than 100 residents, including 40 women, sat on a dharna in front of the liquor shop site at the village on Tuesday to register their protest against the opening of the shop since it was located at a distance of 20 m from the village gurdwara and Government Primary School.

The residents had also written to the Jathedar of Akali Takht, Mr Joginder Singh Vedanti, and president of the SGPC, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, and sought their intervention in the matter.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr K.Shiva Parsad, said he ordered the Assistant Excise and Taxation Officer concerned to conduct an inquiry.


Ambedkar’s statue unveiled
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 13
Controversy surrounding the installation of a statue of Dr B.R.Ambedkar was set at rest with the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, unveiling the statue of the late leader in front of the bus stand here today.

The two Dalit groups had been at logerheads with each other on the installation of the statue with one group led by the Baba Sahib Paritima Lagao Committee President, Prof Harnek Singh, installing the statue of the late leader in the open space in front of the bus stand here.

Earlier, another group had advocated that the statue should be installed in the Rose Garden, near the bus stand, as the present site was a very busy road which would cause a traffic bottleneck. The district administration had also held meetings on the issue, but no decision could be taken. The statue was, however, installed by the group led by Prof Harnek Singh at the bus stand nearby.

Mr Atwal said that education was a must to create awareness among Dalits in an attempt to completely evacuate illiteracy from this community.

Mr Atwal exhorted people belonging to backward classes to be aware of their fundamental rights. He added that the Dalits should endeavour to follow the teachings of Dr Ambedkar.

Mr Atwal said it was primarily because of the present ruling government that various opportunities were being given to the Dalit community.

Mr Manmohan Singh Bazaz, Chairman, Improvement Trust, and Mr Charanjit Singh Walia, former member of Parliament, also spoke on the occasion.


Accidents claim 3 lives
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 13
As many as three persons, including a child were killed in different accidents in the past 24 hours here. In the first incident, a youth was killed yesterday when he fell on the rail track near the Delhi phatak and was crushed by a moving train.

In the second incident, a 9-year-old child was crushed by a truck today on the Bibiwala road. A case has been registered in this connection under Section 304 in the Civil Lines police station and the driver of the truck arrested.

The third incident occurred near Goniana village, about 13 km from here, in which Jagsir Singh of Khialiwala village of the district was crushed by a truck today.


Three-wheeler rams into train, 20 hurt
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, April 13
Hundreds of train passengers and 20 passengers of a three-wheeler had a narrow escape and a rail mishap was averted when a Jalandhar-bound three-wheeler coming from Talhan village rammed into a Hoshiarpur bound Diesel Multiple unit train at Khuradpur unmanned level-crossing on Jalandhar-Hoshiarpur rail section this afternoon.

Railway sources while confirming the report said here today that three-wheeler overturned and all 20 passengers sustained minor injuries. The three-wheeler driver managed to escape. The railway police has registered a case.

Ardas offered on border
Our Correspondent

Dera Baba Nanak, April 13
Sikh activists today marched from Dera Baba Nanak to the Indo-Pak border and offered ardas seeking the opening of corridor for Sikh pilgrims to visit the historic gurdwara Karatarpur Sahib on the Pakistan side of the border.

SGPC member Jaswinder Singh Advocate told mediapersons here that on the occasion of Baisakhi, hundreds of Sikh youths walked in procession from the town to the border post from where the gurdwara was barely 2 km.

Mr Jaswinder Singh, while commenting on the statement made by the Chairman of the Pakistan Waqf Board Lt-Gen Javed Nasser, regarding the offer to allow Sikh devotees to visit gurdwaras in Pakistan, said without any formal dialogue it was not possible to do so.


Probe widow pension case: ADC
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 13
Mr G.K. Singh, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Sangrur, yesterday ordered the District Social Welfare Officer to probe a complaint that Mrs Angrej Kaur, widow of Piara Singh of Khai village in Sunam tehsil had been receiving widow pension even after having married Mr Gurcharan Singh, an employee in the Punjab State Electricity Board.

The complaint was made by one Mrs Raj Kaur wife of Mr Joginder Singh at a weekly ‘sangat darshan’ programme presided over by the ADC here on Thursday. As many as 20 grievances were submitted at the “sangat darshan” by individuals and in groups.

The ADC directed the officers concerned to consider the grievances sympathetically and settle the same in a stipulated period to avoid delay in providing justice to the applicants. He also asked the complainants not to bring court cases at the “sangat darshan”.

sans salaries
Our Correspondent

Ropar, April 13
All 54 employees of the Punjab State Federation of Consumers Cooperative Wholesale Stores Ltd (Constofed) have not got their salaries since the last six months. Employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity said since the amalgation of Constofed with Markfed in April 2000, the employees of the former had been suffering on account of irregular or non-payment of salaries.

Constofed has about 17 stores in the state. It was decided that Markfed would take over all assets and liabilities of Constofed. The employees of Constofed joined Markfed after the notification but were never treated as employees of the organisation.


House gutted
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, April 13
Various household articles were reduced to ashes in a fire which broke in the house of Mr Satish Kumar, a photographer at Mohalla Rattanpura, Phagwara, today. The cause of the fire and the loss could not be ascertained.


Relief to prisoners on coronation
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 13
To commemorate the bicentenary celebrations of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh commencing tomorrow, the Governor of Punjab has announced remission in sentence of certain categories of prisoners subject to certain conditions and exceptions as on April 13.

A detailed notification to this effect was issued here today. The remission is also applicable to those prisoners who have been convicted under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987, as a ‘’one-time’’ measure.

The order states that all cases involving the exercise of powers under Article 161 of the Constitution were required to be sent to the Governor for approval prior to the issue of orders sanctioning remission, as per a press note.

Such benefits were not admissible to certain categories of prisoners. However, special remission has been granted to prisoners who have been convicted by the courts of criminal jurisdiction in Punjab and confined to jails on or before April 13, 2001.

The remission instructions are one-time applicable on the occasion of the bicentenary celebrations and will apply to those prisoners who fulfil the conditions as on April 13.



6 cops booked for threatening people
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, April 13
A case has been registered at police station Goindwal Sahib against six policemen working in different police districts for cheating people and collecting huge amounts from them by threatening to register cases against them under the Excise Act. The gang was active in the border belt for the past several years.

The matter was brought to light on a complaint by Mr Baldev Singh of Dhunda village. In his complaint to the officials of the local district police, he said six persons wearing police uniform came to his house on February 27 and threatened him to register a case under the Excise Act as he had stored liquor at his house for his son’s marriage. They demanded Rs 6,000 to let him off.

The complainant said he gave them Rs 5,000 and later, he got the matter to the notice of higher police authorities here. The matter was investigated on the order of Mr Jagdish Kumar Mittal, SSP, and the facts were found to be correct.

Police sources told this correspondent here today that the gang members had been identified as Vijay Pal, Swaran Singh, Kuldip Singh, Baljit Singh, Madan Lal and Gurdev Singh. They are said to be absconding.


Father, son face rape charge
Our Correspondent

Mansa, April 13
At last, the Bhikhi police meeting the demand of the Dalit Sena and the Pragatisheel Istri Sabha, registered a case against Surjit Singh a farmer and his son Jagpal Singh, an SDO in the Punjab State Electricity Board(PSEB) at Bathinda, under Sections 376/506/511 of the IPC for allegedly raping Kuldeep Kaur (name changed), a dalit minor girl. Both accused belong to Dhaipai village of the district.

Baldev Kaur, mother of victim, was working as a domestic help at the house of Surjit Singh and she had raised a loan from him.

Jagpal Singh, son of the farmer Surjit Singh, was employed in the PSEB at Bathinda as SDO, took the girl to Bathinda to work as domestic help. He allegedly raped the girl, when his wife, a teacher, was away to school.

Thereafter he left the girl at the house of his father at Dhaipai village under the area of Bhikhi police station, where Surjit Singh himself raped the girl.

When the girl narrated the incident to her mother the farmer, fearing action, promised to waive her loan and also arrange for the marriage of the girl. To silence the girl he also gave two gold bangles of his wife to Kuldeep Kaur.

When the wife of farmer Surjit Singh noticed her gold bangles with the girl, she accused her of theft and beat her up.

To save Surjit Singh some persons pressurised the poor dalit family for compromise and obtained thumb impression of the father of Kuldeep Kaur on the so-called “compromise”.

The issue was raised by the Dalit Sena and the Pragatisheel Istri Sabha, resulting to the registration of the case.

The dalit girl (victim) was examined by a team of four doctors and swabs have been sent for test in the chemical laboratory at Patiala. No arrest has been made so far. 


Midnight robbery at PNB branch
Our Correspondent

Abohar, April 13
A rural branch of Punjab National Bank at Balluana village on the national highway No. 10 was looted after midnight, using gas cutters.

Newspersons visiting the village, which is 12 km from here on the Abohar-Malout road, today were told that part-time sweeper Sewa Ram informed branch manager Radhey Shyam Meena at 6.30 a.m. today that the main gate of the building was lying broken. Mr Meena and cashier in charge R.K. Gumber immediately rushed to the village and found a heavy police contingent posted there.

Mr Meena said when he and Mr Gumber entered the branch office, they found that the lights had been completely switched off, the main gate of the strong room was cut with the help of a gas cutter and the grill-gate and cash-safe volt was lying broken. When they checked the records and cash safe, it was found that Rs 2,72,340 had been stolen, while Rs 50,000 were found burnt. The gas cylinders used for welding had been left near the strong room entrance. Roughly a 2 sq ft piece of the gate had been cut open by the thieves.

Senior branch manager K.L. Grover along with other officers of the bank also reached the village. They said there was no practice of deploying any night watchman on the bank premises in accordance with the national bank policy.

The Balluana rural branch of the bank is located opposite the main market. A police post is located at a distance of 50m from the bank building.

The two cylinders had been stolen from the Gobind Auto Store opposite the bank building.

Initial investigation reportedly indicated that at least four persons were involved in the crime. It was also suspected that they might have spent at least three hours in the bank for cutting the main gate, grill, strong-room entrance and finally the cash safe.

Residents of the village and employees of the bank appeared panicky over the dare-devil dacoity.


Will B.Ed admissions be banned?
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 13
Even as ministers of the state government, including Mr Tota Singh, Education Minister, and Mr Mohan Lal, Minister for Higher Education, have been giving “hints” that there may be a ban on admission to B.Ed course in the state, Panjab University, Chandigarh, has issued a notice for B.Ed entrance test in leading newspapers of the region today, which has added to confusion for students who are seeking admission in the course.

Both ministers have been giving hints that to reduce the number of unemployed, who have done B.Ed there should be a ban on the course for at least five years. Mr Mohan Lal, who was here recently, had said the government was seriously thinking of discontinuing the course. As per estimates the total number of B.Ed unemployed in the state was more than 50,000.

The public opinion, however, is varied and not everybody is in favour of the continuation of the course. Many of the students appearing in the final year exams, particularly girls, were worried over the “hints” given by the ministers. Ms Reena Gupta (name changed) said B.Ed was a very important feature when it comes to the marriage of the girls, if she was not otherwise equipped with any other professional qualification.

Mr Jagmohan Kaushal, president, Teachers Home Management Welfare and Education Trust, lamented that rather than giving employment to those who have done B.Ed the government was thinking of banning the course itself.

If all vacancies in the state-run school were filled and the teacher student ratio was maintained at 1:20 more trained teachers would be required.

Commenting on the B.Ed entrance tests, he said all competitive exams had lost relevance and the purpose with which they were started had not been filled. “The syllabus of the entrance tests have no connection with that of the qualifying exams. Entrance tests are being used for minting money and they should be done away with,” Mr Kaushal added.

The “hints” regarding the ban on B.Ed have sent panic waves among those running the “business” of coaching centres in the area.

The advertisement issued by Panjab University has stated the date of the entrance test as June 24 for admission to the B.Ed colleges in Chandigarh.

The date of entrance test to be conducted for the B.Ed colleges in the state is yet to be advertised, and the students are in dilemma that whether a test would be conducted or not. If yes, the duration of the course would be of one year or one-and-half years.


Teachers express resentment
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 13
Teachers of the Theatre and Television Department of Punjabi University today expressed resentment at not being allowed to participate in the inaugural function held to lay the foundation stone of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Kala Bhavan in the university campus here by the Punjab Chief Minister.

The teachers alleged that the Dean, Academics, who was present on the spot failed to identify them before the security personnel posted at the spot, following which they were forced to walk out along with students who had come to perform on the occasion. The Dean, Faculty of Art and Culture, Dr Navnindra Behl, said she along with other members of the department and students of the same department were stopped from gaining entry into the function. She said on the suggestion of the security personnel, they approached Dean, Academics, Dr Kuldeep Singh Dhir, to identify them before the security staff so that they could give a performance on the occasion as desired by the Vice-Chancellor. Mrs Behl said the Dean, Academics, however, refused to come to their help, saying they had not been invited by him to the function, following which they were forced to leave without giving any performance on the occasion.

The Dean, Academics, Dr K.S. Dhir when contacted, said a twist was being given to the entire incident, adding that he could not interfere in the security arrangements laid out for the Chief Minister. He said the teachers of the Theatre and Television Department should have reported earlier for the function, adding he could only express helplessness to accommodate them if they arrived at the function at the last minute. He said the teachers had also not reported the matter to him or the authorities.


Sodhi stays as college teachers’ body president
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 13
In the first phase of the elections to the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union, all seven state-level office-bearers were today elected unopposed.

While Mr K.B.S. Sodhi continues as the president, the new general- secretary is Mr J.S. Randhawa, who has come in place of Mr Charanjit Chawla, who opted not to contest. The other office-bearers are: vice-president, Mr Gurnam Singh Kahlon, finance secretary, Mr Balbir Singh and secretaries, Mr Parkash Singh, Mr Sukhpal Singh and Mr Amarinderpal Singh. The three secretaries will look after the interest of the colleges affiliated to Guru Nanak Dev University, Panjab University, and Punjabi University, respectively.

The union comprises electoral college of 5,000-odd teachers, who have already elected 400 delegates and office-bearers in respect of all 172-colleges. These delegates, in turn, will elect 17 district presidents and secretaries on April 22.

The last phase of the annual general elections will be on May 6 when the delegates will elect an 11-member state Executive Committee for which 19 nominations were received till the last day, April 12, according to the general secretary, Mr Chawla, who will continue till May 6.

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