Thursday, April 19, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Militants ‘welcome’ to surrender
Nasir garlanded, says exasperated CM
Rashmi Talwar

Mattewal (Amritsar), April 18
After the blow hot and cold attitude for the past month about former militant Wassan Singh Zaffarwal’s appearance in Punjab, the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has finally said all former militants desirous of joining the mainstream, are “welcome”.

However, he denied any “feelers” from such militants about surrender prior to or in recent days following Zaffarwal’s arrest.

Significantly, his comment comes after consistent denials earlier at various forums during queries about Zaffarwal’s whereabouts.

Mr Badal was at Mattewal village, 40 km from here, in connection with a sangat darshan programme.

However, Mr Badal evaded any query regarding the “slip” that Zaffarwal gave to security sleuths at Rajasansi airport on March 9 and for holding a forged passport or how intelligence agencies and the police failed to nab him in Punjab and Chandigarh.

On the issue of bestowing a siropa on Lieut-Gen Javed Nasir, head of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) and a former ISI chief, by the SGPC represented by Mr Shingara Singh Lohian in Pakistan, Mr Badal said: “General Nasir was “garlanded” out of moral compulsions by the SGPC”. On being pointed out that General Nasir was honoured with a siropa in Pakistan, an exasperated Chief Minister retorted: “Ask the SGPC, ask Mr Talwandi. This is not my concern. Ask the persons concerned”.

On the plight of farmers who are being harassed by the police following complaints against arhtiyas. Mr Badal said all Deputy Commissioners had been ordered to keep a strict vigil in such cases.

About the pathetic conditions in Punjab jails, he said the minister concerned would look into the matter.

Seemingly ignorant about the Attari railway station being “touted” as the most lucrative collection post for custom evasion with connivance of custom and excise staff which came to light recently after the arrest of Mr B.P. Verma, Chairman of the Board of Central Excise and Customs, on March 31, Mr Badal said the matter would be seriously looked into.

During the “sangat darshan”, woman sarpanch of Udoke Khurd village was accused by Mr Badal’s men of supporting the Congress during the Majitha elections to which she said Mr Manjinder Singh Kang of the SAD had himself asked them not to support the Badal group. Satisfied with her answer, she was given Rs 3.5 lakh for the development of her village.

The Chief Minister said the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board had drawn up a plan for the development of infrastructure with an outlay of Rs 2215 crore.

The Chief Minister disbursed cheques worth Rs 1.66 crore to more than 50 panchayats for development work.


PSGPC accepts most SGPC demands
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 18
The Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) today reportedly accepted most of the genuine demands of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC).

An hour-long meeting held between the SGPC and the PSGPC in Lahore was attended by Lieut-Gen Javed Nasir and Mr Sham Singh, Chairman and Co-Chairman, respectively, of the PSGPC, Mr Shingara Singh Lohian, executive member of the SGPC and leader of the jatha, and Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, Secretary of the Shiromani committee.

However, the PSGPC categorically told the SGPC leaders that Pakistan would not allow the SGPC to carry “golak” (offerings) to India as it would be spent on the face-lifting and renovation of the Sikh shrines in Pakistan. General Nasir extended an invitation to Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, President, SGPC, to lead the next jatha to Pakistan. The PSGPC also reportedly agreed to allow the visit of advance parties of the SGPC for making lodging arrangements and langar. The PSGPC, however, refused to accept the demand of the Shiromani Committee for the removal of General Nasir as PSGPC chief at least for the time being. The sources said the PSGPC had also accepted the demand of the SGPC for providing sufficient accommodation to devotees.

The PSGPC accepted the supremacy of the SGPC and asked its officials to help in maintaining “maryada” in Pakistan gurdwaras.

However, the SGPC officials lodged a strong protest with the PSGPC for the shabby treatment meted out to them during their visit to the gurdwaras.

The SGPC officials who will reach Attari tomorrow will submit a detailed report to Mr Talwandi. On the basis of the information, the SGPC may review its decision to withdraw the boycott of jatha to Pakistan.


Abductions for ransom on rise
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 18
Abduction of a four-year-old boy by two teenaged school dropouts of Raikot near Ludhiana and recovery of the victim and arrest of the culprits by the Jagraon police within a few hours of the incident is an indication of the growing incidence of abductions for ransom in Punjab.

Until yesterday, 117 cases of abductions and kidnappings have already been reported from various parts of Punjab during the current year against 493 such cases reported last year.

In a majority of these cases, the victims have been tiny tots, especially school-going children of middle or upper middle class business families.

In the latest case reported from Raikot today, four-year-old Mohammed Nazeem, son of Mr Mohammad Shafiq, a shopkeeper dealing in seeds and other farm inputs, was abducted from his school by teenaged school dropouts — Varun Kumar Jain and Ravi Inder Katyal.

The Jagraon police chief, Mr Jaskaran Singh, told The Tribune that the alleged abductors went to Dayanand Model School in Raikot and took away the child. When Mr Shafiq went to the school to pick his son as usual, he was told that Nazeem had already been taken away.

When he returned home, he received a call from the abductors of Nazeem demanding Rs 50,000 in cash for his release. Mr Shafiq rang up Mr Jaskaran Singh about the abduction of his son and the demand for ransom. The police chief advised him to engage the “abductors” in a long conversation and ask them the location where they want money to be delivered.

In the meanwhile, the police put a vigil on the residential telephone line of Mr Shafiq monitoring all incoming and outgoing calls. The police managed to track down the “abductors” by tracing their mobile phone.

Realising that the police was after them, the “abductors” allegedly panicked and released the boy in the fields. Since the police had tracked the, abductors they narrowed down on them and caught them soon after the boy was reunited with his family.

Varun Kumar Jain, the main suspect, is the son of a cloth merchant of Jammu and lives with his grand father at Raikot while Ravi Inder Katyal, also a school dropout, lost his father, an Executive Engineer, some years ago.

They had eye on Nazeem for some days.

According to Mr Jaskaran Singh, these two boys had earlier tried to abduct seven-year-old Yash Jain, son of another businessman Mr Rajeev Jain, of Raikot. They went to Sacred Heart Convent School where the class teacher refused to hand him over to them saying that she wanted parents’ consent in writing.

They later rang up Mr Jain’s residence asking Mrs Jain to send Yash to the shop. She, however, refused.

Today’s incident is not an isolated attempt to abduct a child for ransom. In the Jagraon police district alone, it was the sixth case of its kind during this year.

Jalandhar heads the list with 15 cases while Ludhiana and Patiala are next with 14 cases each. Barnala, otherwise a small and a new police district, is the third on the list with 11 cases.

Amritsar, Nawan Shahr, Sangrur and Ferozepore have had five cases each this year, while Hoshiarpur and Jagraon had six cases each.

Batala, Muktsar and Faridkot are at the bottom of the list with one case each.

Police officials maintain that middle and upper middle class families or the families which have acquired affluence in recent years are being targeted by mostly ‘first timers’ in crime for easy, quick and big money.

The use of mobile phones was perhaps the most common method. While in some cases, the suspects have been dodging the police by frequently changing their sim cards to avoid immediate detection, first timers, like those nabbed today, however, fell in their own trap and were tracked down from their mobile phone.


‘Govt committed to purchase wheat’
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, April 18
The Punjab Government is committed to purchase wheat at the MSP, whether the rain has caused damage to the crop or not the farmers need not worry as the procurement agencies have been directed in this regard and the harassment of the farmers would not be tolerated at any cost, said Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Minister for Food and Supplies, while talking to the mediapersons at grain market, Sirhind today.

Mr Mittal had come to take stock of the situation and to access the loss caused to the wheat by the recent rains and to review the arrangements. He was accompanied by Mr Vajralingam, Director, Food, Civil Supply and other officials of the department.

Mr Mittal said that though the wheat had got some moisture, but with mechanical cleaning system things could be put in order.

He said all state agencies and the FCI were purchasing wheat and procurement was in full swing in the state, though it had been affected due to unseasonal rain.

He said the government had made arrangements for the storage of 1.20 crore MT wheat in advance, because last year 97 lakh MT wheat was purchased, so the additional capacity of 60 lakh MT had already been made. He said till today 4.38 lakh MT of wheat had been purchased in the state, where as last year on this day it was 4.83 lakh MT.

He said it was just close to the target and as soon as the weather improved the procurement would pick up and secondly the migrant labourers from Bihar had gone back for panchayat elections being held there and as soon as they were back harvesting would speed up.

He said Punjab was a producing state and it had surplus food grain, and the consuming states should make storage arrangements. He said government purchased the food grain on the behalf of the FCI and amount was recovered from the FCI.

Mr Vikas Partap, Deputy Commissioner, said that the purchase on all 35 purchase centres in the district was going smoothly. The leaves of the employees involved in procurement process had been cancelled.

Till today 15016 MT of wheat had been purchased by various agencies in the district. He assured the minister and farmers that the procurement process would continue till the last grain came to the mandi.

During the visit to the mandi, the farmers as well as the commission agents, complained to the minister that FCI officials were harassing them unnecessarily and were not purchasing the wheat. The minister immediately directed the officials of the FCI to procure the wheat.

Later talking to mediapersons, Mr Pishora Singh, state president, BKU (Ekta), who also aired his grievances during the visit of the minister, alleged that the farmers had been sitting in the mandi from the last four days. He alleged the FCI was creating problems and was not purchasing wheat.


Committees on wheat procurement set up
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 18
Supervisory committees of SDMs and PCS officers have been set up for the wheat procurement being carried out in different subdivisions.

This was stated by Mr Jasbir Singh Bir, Deputy Commissioner, during his meeting with authorities of the agencies involved in wheat procurement.

He said the supervisory committees would comprise secretaries of market committees, who would work 24 hours.

Mr Bir said wheat procurement was being properly carried out in the state and all possible measures were being taken by the authorities to ensure that no problem was faced by the farmers.

He asked the arthias to make proper arrangements for the tarpaulins to save wheat in mandis from heavy showers.

He gave strict instructions to the authorities on duty not to delay or remain absent from their duty.

Mr Bir said 1.65 lakh tonnes of wheat had been procured from the various agencies in the district mandis. Out of this, 12,809 tonnes was procured by the Food and Supply Department, around 37,000 tonnes by Markfed, about 36,000 tonnes by Punsup, 22,329 tonnes by Ware House, 28,673 tonnes by Punjab Agro and 28,393 tonnes by the FCI.


Hepatitis-B grips village
Chander Parkash and Pushpesh Kumar

Chauke (Bathinda), April 18
Even as the district health authorities have been denying that any death in this village took place due to hepatitis-B in the past year or so hepatitis-B seems to have acquired epidemic dimensions in this village having a population of about 7,000.

The rapid response team (RRT) of the Civil Hospital, Bathinda, which visited the village yesterday found five patients suffering from hepatitis-B out of the 12 persons who were tested. Earlier, out of the 93 persons who were tested 14 were found suffering from hepatitis-B.

Dr A.S. Sidhu, District Health Officer, while talking to TNS said the persons whose names were mentioned in a section of the press that they had died as a result of hepatitis-B had not died of the same. He admitted cases of hepatitis-B were surfacing and the village would be surveyed again.

He disclosed that of the total six deaths reported from the village Surjeet Kaur died of liver cirrhosis she was not suffering from hepatitis-B while Jarnail Singh was never tested for the disease. Veerpal Kaur, who died in March this year, was suffering from diabetes melitus. Although Dr Sidhu admitted she was suffering from hepatitis-B also the cause of death of the deceased was yet to be confirmed, he added.

Balwant Singh, who suffered from hepatitis-B, had recovered from the disease and later died of pneumonia. The records of Mohinder Singh who reportedly died of renal failure, would be verified. The team of health authorities, took 12 samples which are yet to be tested. A thorough survey would be conducted again in the village, he added.

Although cases of hepatitis-B have been surfacing in the village, the district health authorities have failed to take any action against unregistered medical practitioners. A random survey carried out by TNS revealed that in a village with a population of 1295 there are more than 10 quacks practicing freely under the nose of the district administration.

The survey revealed the quacks and even some doctors who have no qualifications with regard to the allopathic system of medicine have been using allopathic medicines and injections. The quacks have been reusing the disposable syringes and even resorted to the use of injections for minor ailments. Some of them changed the needle only while the syringe was used again.

The health dispensary of the village has no doctor to deal with emergencies and the shortage of medicines has hit the village hard. A camp for vaccination of hepatitis-B was organised in February this year by a voluntary club. At least 450 persons were immunised for the disease but their efforts are negated by the presence of quacks and the unhealthy practices adopted by them.

Although the district health authorities have been claiming all necessary precautions were being taken to prevent the spread of the disease new cases have been coming up in the village.

Sources said the health authorities have not confirmed reports that more than 40 patients of the village are infected with hepatitis-B but they were declining to disclose this to save their reputation.

The authorities have been claiming the water supply of the village was under check and only chlorinated water was being supplied. The villagers have been provided tablets of chlorine.

In certain cases the patients had received injections but not on the deltiod muscles and thereby the absorption of the vaccine was reduced. 


Admn uproots poppy, denies charge
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 18
The district authorities, reacting to a story published in The Tribune on April 14, got poppy uprooted from the Circuit House and claimed that it was meant only for ornamental purpose and not for the production of opium.

Poppy in the Circuit House was about two to three months old and was ripe enough to produce poppy husk or opium. Not only in the Circuit House, but also in several government buildings poppy could be seen growing in large numbers. These have reportedly been uprooted following the story.

The district authorities claimed in reports that appeared in some newspapers today that the plants were not of poppy (Papaver somniferum) but of Californian poppy. Botanists, however, say that the morphology of papaver somniferum and eschscholtzia California (Californian poppy) was different.

The flowers of both the plants were beautiful, and could produce narcotic alkaloids. Their cultivation had been banned except for medicinal and scientific purposes, a botanist said.

“The papaver plant is generally used for the production of opium. The current season is fruit-bearing season and when flower buds are cut open, they give out white latex, which after drying, changes into opium,” he added.

“Californian poppy also contains narcotic alkaloids and is specially used for the treatment of mood swings and mental disorders. The flowers of Californian poppy are bright yellow while that of papaver are generally bright red or pink in colour,” he said.

Mr Kewal Krishan Aggarwal, General Secretary, District Congress Committee, alleged that on the one hand the government had been claiming that it had launched a war against drug abuse, on the other hand, poppy was being grown in the Circuit House.

He said the police should hold an inquiry into the incident.

Mr Jaspal Singh, Deputy Commissioner, said he did not want to comment on the issue.

The police has said it could not find poppy in the Circuit House.

It may be mentioned here that the story in connection with the cultivation of poppy was accompanied with photographs showing the plants.


Badal calls meeting of PAC
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 18
The President of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has convened an emergency meeting of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of the party at Punjab Bhavan on April 20.

Though the secretary of the party, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, said the meeting would discuss the latest political situation in the country and various issues concerning the people, informed sources said the discussions would mainly pertain to the filling of the Rajya Sabha seat.

Following the election of Mr Raj Mohinder Singh as MLA, the Rajya Sabha seat occupied by him was declared vacant.

Sources said a notification on the election schedule was expected soon.

At the meeting Mr Badal would, as usual, be authorised by the PAC to decide the candidate for the seat, party sources said. As the SAD-BJP combine had a comfortable majority in the Vidhan Sabha, the election of its candidate to the Rajya Sabha would be just a formality, the sources added.


Mann for debate on Tehelka
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 18
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), yesterday said that a debate should be held over the Tehelka expose in Parliament.

Mr Mann, while talking to The Tribune said yesterday that a decision in this connection was taken at Delhi last evening at a meeting of various leaders who were trying to form a third front. Mr Chander Shekhar, President, the Samajwadi Janata Party, and senior CPM leader, Mr Som Nath Chatterjee, were present at the meeting.

Mr Mann said the Congress should remember that the Bofors gun deal scam took place when the late Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister. The Congress governments at the Centre and in various states did nothing except abetting corruption.


Police Dept owes 15 lakh to BSNL
Our Correspondent

Ropar, April 18
The Bharatiya Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) may disconnect the telephones of various police stations in the district as the police department has not paid long-pending dues. The Ropar police owes Rs 15 lakh to the BSNL. The police authorities have not been able to clear the long-standing dues towards the BSNL despite repeated reminders.

The Telecom District Manager (TDM) here, Mr J.S. Sahota, said that they had decided to take action against the major defaulters including the police department and certain industrial units.

The Ropar telecom circle had Rs 56 lakh as outstanding dues till the end of this financial year. The BSNL was adopting a tough stance in case of the long-standing dues due the recent judgement of the district consumer forum in this regard. The forum, in a case, had fined the BSNL for bringing up the long-standing bills of a former president of the district Congress, Mr K.R. Budhiraja.

Mr Sahota said that earlier the department used to adopt laxity in cases of the nonpayment of bills especially by the government departments as the police, due to their public utility. However, after the decision of the forum they had been now forced to take action, which includes the telephone disconnection and legal action against those defaulting in payment of bills.

The TDM also said the department would be starting the mobile services in the Ropar and Nangal circles in the district by the end of this financial year.

Five new C-DOT exchanges had been commissioned in the district during the last financial year and another 17 had been planned for the next year. Due to installation of these exchanges the total telephone connection capacity would be increased by 15,000 against the waiting list of just 5,000 in the district. Besides this Internet cafes and the intelligent network PCO’s had also been opened at the block head quarters, he said.

Mr Sahota further added that all villages in the district had been provided the telephone facility. By the end of next financial year all the exchanges would be connected by the optical fibre cable thus improving the service, he added.


Rural areas lack health facilities
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 18
Although the Punjab Government has always claimed to provide maximum medical and health facilities in rural areas but the scene is totally different in these areas.

The government dispensaries and primary health centres in rural areas present a picture quite contrary to the claims made by the Punjab government about providing full medical facilities and sufficient staff in rural health centres.

The number of government dispensaries and health centres was quite less in rural areas. And whenever this facility was available, it was not working properly.

After the conversion of the Health Department into the Health Corporation the situation had worsened.

Majority of primary health centres in rural areas were in pitiable condition as they did not have necessary facilities to keep the centres in working condition.

Most of the centres were lacking adequate staff and doctors. Although the Health Minister always said that shortage of staff’ would be met with new appointments being made soon.

But nothing had been done so far, in the rural areas of the district.

Primary Health Centres were minus woman gynaecologists and child specialists.

According to sources, these primary health centres and government dispensaries in rural areas were mere show offs.

Medicines worth Rs 400 were being given to each in one month which barely lasted for two days.

Mr Kashmir Singh, a resident of a near by village said that the dispensaries were not serving any purpose as most villagers had to go to the nearby city for treatment and for buying medicines.

Though not all such centres were in poor conditions, few were of great help to rural people. In such centres the staff was working sincerely although it faced the shortage of funds.

The sincerity of the staff had also encouraged the panchayats, youth welfare clubs and other non-government organisations to give a helping hand by donating them medicines.

“The Health Corporation is opening new centres in the villages where these do not exist and also spending on the maintenance of the older ones.

It is spending about Rs 2 crore on the primary health centres at Nathana and Bhuchu Mandi villages.

But such expenditure will be beneficial only when adequate staff and medicines will be provided, said Mr Ram Lal Sharma, a resident of the Nathana village.

A senior official of the Health Department of the district, when contacted, said that there was shortage of medicines in the dispensaries and hospitals in the district.

He said the main hospital of the district was not getting the medicines therefore it was not able to supply the same to the other centres.

He further said that the fresh recruitments were being made to fill the vacancies in various health centres in the district.


Faridkot Web site set up
Romesh Gupta

The district cultural society and the administration have jointly set up a website on Faridkot under the name at Mini Secretariat here. The first portal on the district reflects the social, cultural, economic, educational and administrative activities and set up of the district. The historical background gives an insight starting with the reign of the local rulers with special reference to the visit of Sufi saint Baba Sheikh Farid to this town in the 12th century. It also includes selected shalokas from Farid bani besides historical gurdwara located in the district.

All important educational institutions like the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital and other renowned buildings had also been mentioned. The information regarding the historical places like Quilla Mubarak, Raj Mahal, Feiry Cottage, Gurdwara Godri Sahib, Devi Dwara Mandir, St Marry Church, Gurdwara Guru Ki Dhab (Jaitu) has also been provided.

Similarly, welfare activities launched by different voluntary organisations, including the district Red Cross Society, have also been given a prominent place on the website. The portal also contains a complete statistical data about the latest census held in the months of February and March in the district. All important telephone numbers have also been made available for the Internet users.

Some projects like railway over bridge, Kotkapura, extension of civil hospitals here, Kotkapura and Jaitu, besides sports stadium at Jaitu have also been made available for netizens. Information regarding the projects under progress, including sub-divisional complex (Jaitu), Red Cross senior citizen home, amusement park, modern bus stand are also available on the website. Moreover, information about the railway and bus timings, and geographical location of important places in the district also depicts the utility of the website.

According to Mr A. Venu Prasad, Deputy Commissioner, and the chairman of the project, updated news of the district were regularly displayed in the portal. e-greetings had also been included for the convenience of the Internet users. Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, Rajya Sabha member, recently inaugurated the project. This portal also provides brief information about other important towns of Punjab like Amritsar, Bhatinda, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Patiala besides the Union Territory of Chandigarh.


A victim of long-standing neglect
Ravinder Sud

Passengers at Hoshiarpur railway station have to bear with the same facilities as they were getting before Independence. The Northern Railway is giving step-motherly treatment to this backward district of Punjab due to lack of a strong political leader in the area who could persuade them to provide facilities being given at other stations.

The goods shed in the complex had been removed since long as a result of which goods traffic, carrying fertilisers and cement, has to be diverted to Jalandhar. Traders have to lift both these items through trucks from Jalandhar making them pay more freight.

The waiting room for the passengers situated just opposite the railway station had been demolished and the railway canteen closed.

Lakhs of pilgrims heading for the shrines of Chintpurni, Jawalamukhi Brijeshwari Devi, Chamunda Devi and Dera Gur Bud Bhag Singh have to pass through this station. They have to face inconvenience in the absence of a waiting room and canteen there. There are only three tea stalls on the platform.

The approach road to the railway station built by the railways from Bharwain Old Adda to the Phagwara road has damaged badly and had developed potholes causing frequent accidents.

Growth of bushes in and around the railway station, particularly the goods booking office, reflects the negligence of the Northern Railway. There is no boundary wall or fencing around the railway station due to which animals enter the premises. Passengers have to sit in the sun and sometimes in rain in the absence of a shed.

Only six trains ply daily between Hoshiarpur and Jalandhar. The Jammu Tawi Express from Jalandhar leaves for Delhi is 10.10 p.m. On account of the poor condition of the rail track between Hoshiarpur and Jalandhar, these bogies move at a speed of 20 km per hour and reach Jalandhar in two and a half hours. Passangers have to waste at least two hours at Jalandhar railway station due to which majority of them prefer to catch the train from Jalandhar. Passengers want the train departure time changed from 6 p.m to 7.45 p.m. This is a long pending demand.

Passengers who come from major cities for Hoshiarpur via Jalandhar after 8 p.m. remain stranded there till the next morning. This is because no night train is available from Jalandhar to Hoshiarpur.

Mr Kuldip Nanda, Member of the Northern Railway Consultative Committee, Hoshiarpur, has recently suggested to the General Manager of Ferozepore Division that a diesel train should be started from Hoshiarpur at 4.15 a.m. which should connected to the Shatabadi Express at Jalandhar. He suggested that train timings should adjusted according to the arrival and departure of the mail trains at Jalandhar.

Mr Subhash Sharma, Station Superintendent at Hoshiarpur, told this reporter that more than 2000 passengers passed through or used Hoshiarpur station and it provided Rs 30 to Rs 40 lakh revenue to the Railways per month.


Court upholds conviction of 3
Our Correspondent

Mansa, April 18
Mr S.S. Gupta, Additional Sessions Judge, Mansa, has upheld the conviction of Ram Sanjivan Balldar, Satan Dass and Rajwinder Singh Rana, all residents of Mansa, under Section 323 of the IPC.

According to information, on June 29, 1994, Mr J.C. Goyal, SDO, Mansa was going to Maur along with Mr Surinder Kumar and Mr Balwinder Kumar — when he was stopped by the accused on a bridge near Waterworks, Mansa.

The accused roughed up the SDO and threatened him to cancel the transfer orders of Ram Sanjivan or face dire consequences.

After recording the evidence, Mr Raj Kumar Garg, Judicial Magistrate, sentenced the three to 3 months’ rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 50 on each of them. The sessions court upheld the conviction and sent the three to jail.


Directions to officers on public grievances
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 18
The Officers on important posts in different departments must be present in their respective offices in the afternoon hours to hear the grievances of the people.

Mr Jasbir Singh Bir, Deputy Commissioner, while addressing a meeting of the Development Committee at the Red Cross Hall here today said.

Mr Bir instructed the Civil Surgeon, the District Education Officer (secondary and primary) and Deputy Director of the Animal Health Department to pay surprise visits to various departments and enquire whether the respective officers were attending their duties or not.

He urged the authorities to ensure the proper functioning of the schools and good condition of the animals in the villages. He told the various SDMs to view the various development works initiated in the subdivisions and must endeavour to complete them as soon as possible.

Mr Bir said the government had granted a sum of Rs 37 crore for broadening the road lying between Zirakpur and Patiala. He said the work would begin in the first week of May and added that almost half of the construction work of over-bridge in the National Highway near Dera Bassi, costing around Rs 31.50 crore had already been completed and assured that it would be completed by the end of October, this year.

“The Rs 9 crore railway over-bridge project, at Rajpura is also expected to be completed within nine months, he said. Mr Bir said around Rs 4.14 crore would be spent on raising the road running from Banur to Tepla. He added that 19.47 km long southern bypass in Patiala is expected to be completed by the end of July. He said this project had been stood at a cost of Rs 6.11 crore.

Mr Bir said the project of bridge over the Tangri Chonk is would be completed by August. This project has been constructed at a cost of Rs 5.18 crore.

Mr Bir also said the work at Polo Ground, where the National Games would be held, was likely to be finished by end of May. A pavilion worth Rs 1.40 crore would be constructed apart from the gymnasium hall. Mr Bir said a hostel would also be constructed within the said period at a cost of Rs 70.38 crore. 


Forum directs MUL to pay compensation
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 18
The District Consumer Forum, Muktsar, has directed Maruti Udyog Limited (MUL), Gurgaon and Hira Automobiles Limited, Patiala, to pay Rs 10,000 as compensation to Gurtej Singh of Muktsar for not delivering the invoice and other necessary documents to him after the delivery of a car he purchased more than two year ago.

The forum has also directed MUL and Hira Automobiles to pay interest at the rate of 12 per cent on Rs 2 lakh since January 1, 1999 and Rs 1,100 as court expenses to Gurtej Singh.

According to information Gurtej Singh had purchased a Maruti car from Hira Automobiles, Patiala, in 1998. He had made a payment of Rs 2 lakh to the automobile dealer through a bank demand draft on December 30, 1998.

Although the vehicle was delivered to the customer on the same day, he was not given the receipt mentioning the purchase of the vehicle. He also did not receive the documents necessary for getting the vehicle registered from the dealer.

Gurtej Singh made requests to the dealer through letters and also met the persons concerned many times to get the documents, but in vain. He waited for about 18 months for the documents.

Finally, he loged a complaint with the consumer forum of his district on May 12, 2000. The forum issued notices to the sales manager, Hira Automobiles, and general manager, MUL, Gurgaon, to appear before it in connection with the complaint.

After hearing both parties, the forum directed the offenders to pay compensation and other expenses to Gurtej Singh in a month’s time.

The forum has also directed them to deliver the invoice and other necessary documents to the customer so that he should not face any inconvenience due to the non-availability of the documents.

The decision was taken by a three-member team of the forum comprising Mr Gurpal Singh Rampura, president of the forum, Mrs Naresh Jain and Dr Harmesh Mittal. 


Mill workers end dharna
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 18
Workers of the GNA and Dohra Parts Industry, Mehtiana, last night ended their two-day dharna in front of the district courts here following the intervention of the district administration.

They were demanding the implementation of the January 3 agreement between the mill management and the workers over taking back 615 retrenched employees.

Mr Ravinder Singh and Mr Jaswant Singh, president and secretary, respectively, of the workers’ union, stated in a press note here today that a meeting was organised last night at which the Additional Deputy Commissioner, the SDM, the Assistant Commissioner (Grievances), the DSP, along with representatives of the mill management participated.

It was decided at the meeting that to settle the dispute, a joint meeting would be held on April 19. The workers warned that if their demand regarding the implementation of agreement was not accepted, they would intensify their agitation.


Councillor saves child’s life
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, April 18
Municipal councillor Arshad Dali today saved the life of Mohammad Subeb (5) of Khatikan Mohalla after the child slipped and fell in the water which has accumulated in the mohalla after yesterday’s rain. The water was 4-5 feet deep. Following the incident, residents of the locality protested against the failure of the municipal committee to clear the drain water and sewage water which flooded their houses after rain, causing great inconvenience and health problems to them.

Mr Dali alleged that due to negligence on the part of the local authorities, there was no proper sewage disposal facility in the area. 


Bhagat Singh’s friend dies at 98

Fatehgarh Sahib, April 18
Martyr Bhagat Singh’s colleague and childhood friend Sahib Singh, who was an eyewitness to his hanging, breathed his last at Salana village, 20 km from here, yesterday. He was 98. Sahib Singh’s family sources told UNI that the freedom fighter was bedridden for the past few years. The revolutionary had refused the freedom fighter’s pension which was offered by the then Chief Minister of Punjab, the late Beant Singh.

Ironically, no senior civil officer or any political figure attended the last rites of Sahib Singh. However, Punjab police cops saluted the freedom fighter and paid homage to him. UNI


Speaker’s driver injured
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 18
Karan Singh, driver of Mr Satpal Gosain, Speaker of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, was admitted to the civil hospital here last evening after a gunshot fired allegedly by a gunman of the BJP leader hit him in the thigh.

According to information available, the incident took place at the house of Mr Gosain. The driver and the gunman Amarjit Singh, were sitting in the park when the gun held by the gunman accidentally went off. The police had not registered any case till the evening.


Army cancels recruitment
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, April 18
The Army headquarters has ordered cancellation of recruitment held at the Tibri cantonment on April 16 for 120 Assam Rifles. It is alleged that the recruiting staff only entertained candidates who had greased the palms of officials concerned.

An FIR was lodged with the police by the owner of an STD booth at the cantonment. The complainant said the recruitment was not fair and money exchanged hands in the process.

Candidates were allegedly not permitted to enter the premises where recruitment was going on. The candidates went berserk and started pelting stones at Army officials. So much so that they burned a PCO booth and damaged some shops.

The police had registered a case under Section 307, IPC, against 13 candidates and arrested them. The arrested candidates are pleading innocent.


Minister’s assurance to lab technicians
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, April 18
Punjab Health Minister, Baldev Raj Chawla yesterday assured a deputation of the Medical Laboratory Technicians Association, Punjab, on their demands.

Led by the association chief, Mr Sikander Singh Mansa, the deputation met minister at Chandigarh, a press note by Mr Jhirmal Singh Bhindar, president of the district unit today said. The association demanded risk allowance, free accommodation, plus two-level qualification for diploma, uniformity in the seniority lists of different cadres, two years’ duration for the diploma.

The minister assured that their demands would be accepted without any delay. The Director, Health Services, Dr G.S. Preet, was also present.


Jaundice spreads in Jalandhar
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, April 18
More than 20 cases of jaundice were reported in six localities situated near the industrial area here today.

Private clinics in Gujjapir, Sodal chowk, Subhash Nagar, Globe Colony, Preet Nagar, industrial area have been flooded with jaundice patients.

When contacted, the District Health Officer, Mr O.P. Chabra, said six teams of doctors and health experts visited these localities today and took samples of drinking water from the area. 


Lightning claims life
Our Correspondent

Abohar, April 18
Lightning claimed life of Chanderkanta, a migrant from drought hit Pali district (Rajasthan) at Balluana village near here today.

Sources said the victim, took shelter under a tree from rain along with her four children and husband. While the lightning struck her, the others survived.

The family had migrated from Aghar village in Pali district a few days ago.


Chemist shops opened illegally
Our Correspondent

Mansa, April 18
A large number of new chemist shops have been opened in the district without licences.

Sources say that in the absence of a drug inspector, a clerk in the Civil Surgeon’s office is giving ‘permission’ to open chemist shops in the district with no legal authority to do so.

Mr Gurwinder Singh, drug inspector, was transferred last month.

Some old chemists, too, have changed their premises without permission from the competent authority.

The Civil Surgeon, Dr S.S. Sharma, said he was not the checking authority. It was only the drug inspector’s job.


Rain adds to farmers’ misery
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 18
Farmers have been hit very hard due to economic hardships they are already facing and the untimely rains which have caused heavy loss to the standing crops and wheat grains lying in mandis of the region.

The rains which lashed the region in the past few days damaged wheat crop. The crops has got flattened and harvesting charges have increased from Rs 400 per acre to Rs 600 per acre. The farmers are forced to pay exorbitant charges.

Manual labour is hard to find these days due to the elections in the respective states. A random survey by The Tribune revealed that the extent of damage to the crop varies between 40 to 50 per cent. Hailstorms have also increased the damage to crops.

The paddy package announced by the SAD-BJP combine is yet to be delivered. Even as the debt-ridden farmers are in crisis, the state government has not taken any concrete steps. Although the district administration claims to have made elaborate arrangements for the procurement of wheat, the untimely rains and the rather absence of storage facilities in the grain markets have undone the efforts of the authorities.

Jagtar Singh, a farmer of Mandi Kalan village, said the hope of good yield and favourable conditions were shattered by the rains.

Migrated labour has also raised their daily wages from Rs 100 to about Rs 150. Contract labour, for which charges are fixed has also become expensive.

Preliminary estimates put the decrease in yield per acre at 2-3 quintals. Blackening of grains due to increased moisture will affect the price of crop and make it susceptible to pests.

Although the farmers are getting a support price of Rs 610 per quintal but the expenses they are putting in have increased manifold. 


Arhtiyas’ plea to CM
Our Correspondent

Mansa, April 18
Mr Narinder Paul Danewalla, president of the Punjab State Arhtiya Association, has urged the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, to enhance the commission of arhtiyas for cotton, narma, mustard and other agricultural products of the state. Mr Danewalla said Mr Badal had promised the arhtiyas of the state that the Punjab Government would increase the commission of arhtiyas.

He requested the Chief Minister to provide compensation to farmers who sold their paddy to various procurement agencies before October 14 last year. He urged the state government to abolish foodgrain licences because of the changed situation . Mr Pawan Kumar Goyal, general secretary of the association, said the Chief Minister should intervene on the issue of weight shortage of foodgrains.


Sow Basmati, farmers told
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 18
District Agriculture officers plan to raise the cultivation of Superfine and Basmati varieties. They have recommended lesser cover under IR-114,115 and 166 varieties.

The Chief Agriculture Officer, Mr A.S. Gill, said that area under superfine and basmati this year would be more than 6500 hectares, 2000 more than last year.


R.S. Mann sworn in as power panel head
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 18
The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, administered the oath of office and secrecy to Mr R.S. Mann, a former Chief Secretary of the state, as Chairman of the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission at a simple ceremony here today.

The Chief Minister also administered the oath to two other members of the commission, Mr L.S. Deol, Chief Engineer, Punjab State Electricity Board, and Mr S.K. Sharma, a retired Chief Engineer of the Board.

The commission will be responsible for recommending power tariff revision to the state government from time to time after listening to the views of both consumers and the board.


45 kg of poppy husk seized
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 18
The district police has arrested three persons allegedly involved in the smuggling of narcotics and seized 45 kg of poppy husk from them. A gang of pickpockets has also been arrested from the city.

Dr Jatindera Jain, SSP, in a press note issued here today, said Gurmail Singh and Gurjant Singh were arrested while carrying 35 kg of poppy husk. The accused are residents of the local Aawa Basti.

The SSP said Rupa Singh of Rori had been arrested for carrying 10 kg of poppy husk and a case registered against him.

Under the Excise Act, the police has arrested four persons and registered four cases. Twentytwo litres of country liquor and 20 litres of illicit liquor have been recovered from them.

They have been identified as Prabhaker and Sushil Kumar, residents of the city, Valku Ram of Maur Mandi and Pawan Kumar of Hanumangarh (Rajasthan).

The police has also arrested Gulshan Kumar of Raman Mandi and Major Singh of Bagha for illegal satta transaction and recovered Rs 920 from them.

A gang of pickpockets comprising six members has been arrested. They used to operate in groups of two.

Dr Jain said the culprits hailed from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. The culprits have been identified as Salma, Rukhsana, Sheela, Seema, Renu and Rockey, all dwellers of slum near the railway station.


Nine hurt in firing over land dispute
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, April 18
Nine persons, including five women, were injured seriously when more than 30 persons headed by Sarbjit Singh, Sarpanch, gram panchayat, Lalu Ghuman, opened fire on them at Lalu Ghuman village yesterday. A case under Section 307, 324 of the IPC and 25, 27, 54 and 59 of the Arms Act has been registered against them.

According to information, Dalbir Kaur, resident of the village, along with her daughter Lakhwinder Kaur and other family members, were working at her haveli when a group of 30 armed persons, including the village sarpanch came to the spot and threatened them to vacate the village shamlat land. The armed persons opened fire on them and were also injured with their traditional weapons.

The injured have been identified as Dalbir Kaur, Lakhwinder Kaur, Simranjit Kaur, Gurmeet Kaur, Kartar Kaur, Pargat Singh, Dalbir Singh, Wassan Singh and Bikramjit Singh. The injured have been admitted to the local Civil Hospital. The accused have been reportedly absconding.


TUF: VC failed to safeguard rules
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 18
The Teachers United Front (TUF) consisting of various university teachers’ bodies, today claimed the Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia had failed to safeguard university rules and regulations by getting the case of the state Higher Education Minister, Mr Mohan Lal, for registration for a Ph.D degree passed by the Academic Council as a special case.

In a statement here, the TUF, which comprises the Democratic Teachers Front (DTF), the Progressive Teachers Council (PTF), the Centre for University Teachers (CUT) and the Free Thinkers Forum (FTF) said it was apparent from the university handouts that the Higher Education Minister did not hide or misrepresent his academic record while seeking registration for a Ph.D degree.

The TUF convener Prof U.C. Singh, said it was the Vice-Chancellor who got the case of the minister cleared by the Academic Council on the grounds that rules for Ph.D registration could be bypassed in case of VIPs. He said this amounted to a violation of Article 14 of the constitution which granted equality before law and equal protection of law. The front also wondered how the Vice-Chancellor, who was not a teacher of the university, could act as a guide for Ph.D, adding that the university ordinance provided that only a regular teacher of the university could act as a guide for doctorate thesis.

The front also alleged Dr Satish Verma, a Reader in the Punjabi department, was proposed as co-supervisor but his name was dropped at a later stage. It said following this Dr Verma was allotted a B type house for which he was not eligible. It also alleged the entire issue of alleged irregularities committed by the minister cropped up after the minister ordered an inquiry against the Vice-Chancellor.

The TUF also said it did not behove well for a person occupying the Vice-Chancellor’s chair to tell a blatant lie that he did not allow rallies of political parties on the campus. It said the fact of the matter was that not only was the rally of Akali Dal Lok Sabha candidate Surjit Singh Rakhra allowed to be held on the campus but the authorities also took part in it. It said in direct contrast Congress candidate Preneet Kaur was not allowed to hold a rally on the campus.

The front cautioned the Vice-Chancellor not to vitiate the atmosphere of the university further by floating sponsored groups, chairing their functions and acting like a convener of a particular faction.

Meanwhile, in a separate release the Progressive Teachers Front (PTF) at an emergency meeting held today under the chairmanship of Dr S.S. Grewal warned the PUTA leadership to desist from spoiling the academic and harmonious environment restored by Dr Ahluwalia after six years of turmoil on the campus.

The statement claimed the PUTA leadership followed a confrontationist path against the Vice-Chancellor right from the beginning instead of working for the welfare of the teachers. It said no teacher had been promoted under the promotions schemes since 1984 and that when Dr Ahluwalia initiated the process of promotion of teachers the PUTA leadership started raising a hue and cry over non-issues. It appealed to the university Chancellor, Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob, and the Chief Minister to ignore the memorandum submitted by the PUTA leadership as it was full of lies and motivated by external forces.


Report on stipend a lie: Headmistress
Tribune News Service

Batala (Gurdaspur), April 18
Mrs Chanderkanta, Headmistress of the local Government Primary School, Prem Nagar, has refuted the allegations appearing in a section of the media that she had been pocketing the stipend meant for students of her school.

Talking to TNS, she clarified the allegations that she had been pocketing the stipend amount ranging between Rs 200 and Rs 500 per year of each of her 160 students and that there were only 58 students in the school were baseless. She said the allegations were spread by some politicians who were out to malign her image.

Actually, it all started when despite opposition by some close friends of Mr Varinder Kumar, the area Municipal Councillor, I went ahead with the construction of the school building which had rendered the open school space inaccessible to the MC’s friends. Since then there has been a sort of campaign against me,” said a visibly disturbed Mrs Chanderkanta. “Some more people of the area don’t want me to go ahead with the construction of the school building,” she rued.

Showing the accounts to TNS, Mr Chanderkanta questioned how she could pocket the stipend of the students when the school had been receiving scholarship for just 37 Dalit girl students under a central government scheme.

“Moreover, we have not received any money against the stipend from the state government for the year 1996-1997 and 1998-1999 at all. The stipend for the rest of the period since I had joined the school in 1996, had been disbursed among Dalit students from time to time through their parents. In fact, the parents had been receiving the stipend amount in the presence of the area municipal councillor and other local leaders in accordance with the established norms. Anyone can see the records,” she said.


Microsoft centre opened
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 18
Microsoft has opened its Certified Technical Education Centre (CTEC) in collaboration with Sylvan Prometric, an online examination centre, under the umbrella of Microuniv in Patiala.

Captain Amarinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala, opened the centre today.

Mr Rana Gurjit Singh, Chairman of the Rana Group of Companies, and Mr Naresh Bala, CEO, Microland, were present on the occasion.

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