Friday, April 20, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



JPC probe into recruitments sought
Meritorious ignored, claims Akali MLA 
Tribune News Service

Mansa, April 19
Mr Baldev Singh Khiala, MLA and senior Akali leader today demanded the Punjab Government should set up a joint party committee (JPC) with representatives from all parties to probe bunglings made in the recruitment carried out by various departments in the recent past.

Mr Khiala, while talking to mediapersons here, said bunglings had been made in the recruitments and various kith and kin of ruling politicians had been absorbed into government jobs by ignoring the meritorious students.

He said that if Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal claimed that recruitment was done in proper manner, he (Mr Badal) should publish a list of names and addresses of those who had been given government jobs along with their standing on merit lists. He added that all recruitments done by the SAD-BJP combine government had been challenged in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Mr Khiala, while claiming that all Akali Dal factions were joined hands to provide a people-oriented government in Punjab, alleged that in the present set-up, the principle of “might is right” was prevalent. He added that on one hand, the Punjab Government had been pushing the poor section of society in jails by falsely implicating them into a criminal cases relating to the smuggling of poppy husk and opium but on the other, ruling politicians had been given permission to carry out the sale of these narcotics in their respective areas through their own men without any hindrance, he further alleged.

He said that a probe by the CBI or a sitting judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court should be conducted to verify the authenticity of all cases registered against poor on the political and other considerations under the NDPS Act.

He said that if the Punjab Government did not stop harassing the poor and kept on pushing them into jails, they would start dying in the jail while their family members would suffer due to economic constraints.

Mr Khiala, said that the Punjab Government had been selling off the prime properties belonging to its various departments to generate money for non-productive works.

He added that most of the properties had been sold off at the rates much below than their market price and large scale bunglings had been made in whole process. He added that only an independent probe by judiciary could unearth the scam in the sale of prime properties.

He added that by selling off prime properties, the Punjab Government had also played havoc with the interests of states as it had lost the sources of permanent income to the state government forever.

He claimed that the coming Assembly election would be a beginning of an end of rule of Mr Badal and his family members. He added that people, who had been fed up with the repeated torture and harassment to them by the ruling politicians, would teach a lesson to Mr Badal in the Assembly elections.


BKU men to burn their crops today
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Mansa, April 19
The issue relating to the alleged harassing of farmers by private traders on account of purchasing their barley, sarson and gram crop on less rates less than the minimum support price (MSP) in the markets took a new turn today when activists of Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta) decided to burn their crop in front of the office of Deputy Commissioner tomorrow to lodge their protest.

The BKU activists alleged that they were being looted by the private traders who were purchasing their barley, gram and sarson crops at the rates fixed by them on their own will as no government agency had started procuring these crops on the MSP so far in various purchase centres set up in this district for the procurement of rabi crops.

Official sources said that the authorities concerned had fixed Rs 500, Rs 1200 and Rs 1750 as minimum support price (MSP) for barley, sarson and gram crops for the rabi season.

Mr Ram Singh Bhainibaga, vice secretary, BKU (Ekta) alleged that at present the farmers had been selling their barley crop at rates ranging from Rs 300 to Rs 375, sarson at rates ranging from Rs 800 to Rs 950 and gram at rates ranging from Rs 1400 to Rs 1500.

He added that on account of sale of their crops at rates much below the MSP, the farmers of this region had been suffering losses to the tune of crore of rupees. He added that on one hand, the Punjab Government had been motivating the farmers to grow these crops to break the wheat-paddy cycle, but on the other, the state government had failed to ensure MSP for the same.

He pointed out that the Punjab Government was deliberately avoiding purchasing these crops on MSPs to implement its new economic policies which were anti-farmers.

The farmers alleged that earlier, they had to make distress sale of their paddy crop on very low price than the minimum support price and the Punjab Government had failed to compensate them for the same despite the fact that Rs 100 crore had reached to it for distributing the amount among the affected farmers. They added that now they were being forced to make distress sale of barley, sarson and gram crops as well.

Mr Baldev Singh Khiala, MLA, Joga, alleged that the Punjab Government had failed to take any step for the economic upliftment of farmers. Mrs Raji. P. Srivastava, Deputy Commissioner, could not be contacted for comments.


Admn uproots poppy, denies charge
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 19
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.


Garcha group retains 3 ‘liquor territories’
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 19
The Maan Singh Garcha-led syndicate managed to ward off a stiff challenge by the group headed by Monty Chaddha to retain three liquor vend territories of Ludhiana for which the auction was held here today.

In a bitter competition, the Garcha group got the better of the Chaddha camp by bagging the Rajpura Road, Ward Sufian and Sahnewal units. The group bid Rs 15.60 crore for the Rajpura road unit against a reserved price of Rs 15 crore, Rs 15.10 crore for the Sufian ward unit against a reserve price of Rs 14.40 crore and Rs 10.25 crore for the Sahnewal unit against a reserve price of Rs 10.25 crore.

Earlier, at the start of the auction when no one bid for the Rahon road unit, the Chaddha group bagged the Lajpat Nagar unit for Rs 14.32 crore without much opposition. It also bagged the Daba road unit by bidding Rs 16 crore against a reserve price of Rs 15 crore and the Jagraon city and Sadar unit for Rs 20 crore against a reserve price of Rs 19 crore.

The Khanna unit was auctioned for Rs 15.52 crore against a reserve price of Rs 15.50 crore and the Dehlon unit for Rs 6.46 crore against a reserve price of Rs 6.45 crore. The auction for the pending units, including those of Rahon road, Raikot, Koomkalan, Doraha and Payal and Samrala units was put off till 5 p.m. but could not be held till late in the evening. The earlier auction, which was held amongst unprecedented security at Maharaja Palace here, was supervised by Deputy Commissioner Jasbir Singh Bir and passed off peacefully.

Earlier in the day, officials of the Excise and Taxation Department held hectic parleys with liquor contractors to ensure that the auction was a success. Cabinet Minister for Excise and Taxation Adesh Partap Singh and state Minister Tikshan Sood besides Financial Commissioner, Excise and Taxation, Y.S. Ratra, camped at Circuit House the entire day.

Mr Adesh Partap Singh told Tribune News Service that nobody would be allowed to hold the state to ransom.

The minister also disclosed that excise revenue from the sale of liquor had shot up from Rs 1230 in 1999-2000 to Rs 1324 crore last year. He said such an increase had occurred in the last financial year despite the fact that the liquor vends in Ludhiana could not be sold off. He said once the Ludhiana vends were sold the revenue increase would jump by another Rs 20 to Rs 25 crore. He said the department had registered a profit of Rs 3 crore during the period it manned the liquor vends in Ludhiana.

He said there had also been an unprecedented increase in the sales tax revenue. The sales tax revenue had shot up from Rs 1970 crore in 1999-2000 to Rs 2757 crore last year. He said this was the highest increase registered by any state in the country and was possible due to the firm and fair stand taken by the department on all issues.

The Excise and Taxation Department had failed to auction the majority of the liquor vends on March 31 with only Ferozepore and Samrala road vends going for Rs 14.51 crore and Rs 11.70 crore, respectively.

The contractors virtually boycotted the auction by not bidding for any of the other liquor units. The delay in the auction and resultant deadlock is attributed to the ongoing tussle between Excise Minister Adesh Partap Singh and Minister for Technical Education Jagdish Singh Garcha whose brother Maan Singh is a liquor contractor and held sway over the liquor vends in Ludhiana for the past couple of years.


No sugar distribution through PDS
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 19
The government has stopped the distribution of sugar through the public distribution system (PDS) from April 1.

This decision of the government has come as a shock to the poor families and they will have to purchase the sugar at higher prices from the open market. Many people who have been caught unawares are blaming the depot holders for not giving them their due. They are not listening to the pleas of the depot holders and terming it as the excuses for not giving the sugar to the beneficiaries of the PDS.

Although the government had decided to stop the distribution from April 1 but the sugar had not been available at the depots for about three months. Some of the depots had got less quantity of sugar than their quota. The reason for the same had been given that the government has not released the levy sugar for the depots.

The stopping of the distribution of the sugar through the PDS would not only affect the poor families but would also create problems for the depot holders. Some of them would have to shut down their business as they would not have any work. Some of such depot holders alleged that the government would ultimately close the depots.

Although the government has made another scheme called the antyodhya in which the poor families would be given sugar, wheat and rice at subsidies rates. But this facility will be given to those who are holders of yellow cards and not to all those who were getting sugar under the PDS scheme.

Under the new scheme every yellow card holder would be given 25 kg wheat per month. The prices for the foodgrains under the scheme had been fixed at Rs 2 per kg for wheat at Rs 3 per kg for rice.

The block development officers had been given instructions to prepare a list of such persons living below the poverty line and are possessing yellow cards so that they could be given the sugar and foodgrains under the antyodhya scheme.

To distribute the items, special ration depots would be established in the villages. One depot would cater to the needs of about three villages.

Mr J.S. Kahlon, District Food and Supply Controller, said that as there would not be much work for the ration depots therefore some of them could be closed. He added that for distributing the food items under the new schemes only a few depots would be needed because the number of beneficiaries would not be much. He added that there would be only a few families per village who would hold the yellow cards so there was no need to establish depots in all villages.

Mr Kahlon further said that at present there was no plan about stopping the supply of kerosene through the PDS. Although there were also some restrictions in this regard also. Those who had cooking gas connections and had two LPG cylinders were not eligible for getting kerosene.

Mr Kahlon was optimistic about providing LPG connections to all consumers. He said, “We want that nobody should need the kerosene and they should use the LPG in their house”.


Cong Sewa Dal reorganised
Our Correspondent

Abohar, April 19
The AICC President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, has approved the list of office-bearers for reorganising the Congress Sewa Dal. Nine organisers, 13 organising secretaries and three programme coordinators have been appointed.

According to a fax message received from Mr Janardan Dwivedi, Secretary, AICC, and in charge of the Sewa Dal, the new organisers are Mr V.P.S. Solanki (Uttar Pradesh); Mr C. Arjunan (Kerala); Mr P. Andrew Gurung (West Bengal); Mr Ashok Ahuja (Delhi); Mr Vijay Saraswat (Rajasthan); Mr C.M. Rajput (Gujarat); Ms Suman Deshmukh (Delhi); Mr Ramji Lal (Delhi); and Ms Pyari Jan (Karnataka).

Mr Rajinder Rasrania, state vice-president, has been elevated as national organising secretary from Punjab. Other organising secretaries are Mr Abdul Kuddush (Orissa); Mr Chandan Barua (Assam); Dr Amarjit Singh (Delhi); Mr Ganna Naik (Andhra Pradesh); Mr Lalji Prasad Mishra (Madhya Pradesh); Ms Neli Nathan (Jharkhand); Mr C.P. Joshi (Rajasthan); Mr Suresh Gupta (Haryana); Mr R.K. Maknai (Kerala); Mr Dharamvir Maan (Delhi); Mr Raj Narain Yadav (Uttar Pradesh); and B. Bhasyam (Tamil Nadu).

Mr Jitendra Singh Shunty (Delhi); Mr A.T. Bhagat (Jharkhand); and Mr Jawahar Lal Sharma (HP) have been appointed programme co-ordinators. Nine departments have been constituted to further streamline the working of the Sewa Dal. These include Training Theory and Syllabus, Constructive Programmes, Women and Children, Department for Arrangements during Congress Programmes, Art and Culture, Office Administration and Records, Publications, Information and Co-ordination, Disaster Management and Relief and Social Service Department.


Favouritism alleged in contracts
Our Correspondent

Maur Mandi (Bathinda), April 19
The rift between municipal councillors belonging to different parties has started affecting the development work in the city.

The municipal council gave contracts for some development work through tenders on April 11. It has generated a controversy as some of the municipal councillors allege that irregularities were made while giving the contracts.

The MCs say that if the contracts were given to the genuine contractors, the municipal council could have earned a large amount of money. They have alleged that the civic body suffered a huge financial loss because of the favouritism shown to certain contractors by the President and Executive Officer of the municipal council.

Mr Nirmal Singh, senior Youth Akali leader and municipal councillors alleged that rules and regulations were not followed while giving the contracts and favouritism was shown towards some contractors.

He further alleged that even the pre-conditions laid by the municipal council in the advertisement published in the newspapers inviting tenders were not followed.

He said the most important condition for the contractors to be eligible for getting the contracts was that they should pay the required licence fee before March 31. But the contract was given to those, who did not fulfill this condition.

Mr Nirmal Singh further alleged that those contractors who fell in the class V category as per the specifications of the civic body, could not get a contract that required more than Rs 1 lakh. But, in the present case, such contractors were issued tender forms worth Rs 2.5 lakh, violating the rules.

The municipal councillor said the contracts were given to the acquaintances of the President and the Executive Officer, therefore they were not asked to file an affidavit or other guarantee which was mandatory for getting such contracts.

Mr Nirmal Singh said the government should order an inquiry into the matter so that the nexus between officials of the municipal council and the contractors could be exposed.

He said a representation would be given to the government to cancel the present tenders and invite fresh tenders for the development work in the city.

A senior officer of the municipal council said on condition of anonymity the conflict between the MCs was creating hindrances in the working of the municipal council. He added that the members should not settle their political scores at the cost of the development of the city.

Mr Satpal Singh Bansal, Executive Officer of the municipal council, denied the charges of municipal councillors. He said he did not know the persons who were given the contracts.

He said the contracts could be given to anybody who had paid the required licence fee before the opening of the tenders, even if it was not before March 31.


Zaffarwal’s namesake feels relieved

Batala, April 19
After the arrest of dreaded terrorist Wassan Singh Zaffarwal by the Punjab Police recently, a person with the same name heaved a sigh of relief.

Wassan Singh Zaffarwal, who is an employee of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) at Dinanagar in the same district, has been now residing in Darsopur village near Dinanagar, had faced a number of problems during the time of militancy.

His family had purchased the agriculture land and started earning their livelihood at Darsopur village after leaving Zaffarwal village and he was transferred to Dinanagar but frequently rounded up by the police whenever terrorist Zaffarwal committed a crime.

He said he had been once taken into custody for 10 days by the Pathankot Police and interrogated without any fault but left when the investigations were completed. PTI


Two die of hepatitis-B
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 19
Mr Jaspal Singh, Deputy Commissioner, said two persons died of hepatitis-B in the Chauke village of the district. He has visited the village along with Dr Bawa Ram Gupta, District Civil Surgeon, yesterday.

Mr Jaspal Singh, while addressing a gathering of residents of Chauke said there was no need to panic as the situation was not very serious. He asked the villagers to take the help of government doctors. He advised them to go to government hospitals for a medical check up.

The Deputy Commissioner asked the villagers to follow the instructions of doctors. He advised them not to fall in the trap of the quacks.

The doctors, accompanying the Deputy Commissioner, said 19 persons were tested positive for the disease. They advised the villagers to use boiled water and where ever necessary chlorine tablets should be used. The doctors said the village population should avoid unnecessary use of injections as hepatitis-B was a blood-borne disease and transfusion was most likely cause of attracting the virus.


Probe ordered into wall demolition
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 19
Mr Jaspal Singh, Deputy Commissioner, has ordered a magisterial probe into the demolition of the wall of a graveyard belonging to the Christian community located at Jogi Nagar in the trans-Railway area of this town. The wall was allegedly demolished by the railway authorities.

Official sources said today Mr Jaspal Singh, District Magistrate, ordered the magisterial probe when Mr Joseph Decosta, a member of the community, lodged a written complaint in this connection after meeting him with a delegation.

The sources added the wall of the graveyard, which is reported to be about 150 years old, was allegedly demolished by the railway authorities. Sources said the railway authorities had claimed ownership of the land and alleged the land was encroached upon by the community.

The railway authorities had demolished the wall reportedly without giving a written notice and without assigning any reason to the caretakers of the structure. The matter was reported to the police in writing but no case in this regard had been registered as yet, the sources added.

The sources added a probe would be conducted by Mr Gurtej Singh, SDM. He had been directed to complete the inquiry within one month by the Deputy Commissioner. Meanwhile, the members of the community expressed resentment over the action of the authorities. The district authorities have asked the members of the community to maintain peace and harmony in the district.

Dr Jatinder Jain, SSP, said a case in this regard would be registered after the magisterial probe was over and the culprits would be dealth with strictly.


Garg opens Webcom centre
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 19
Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, Minister for Science and Technology, Punjab, inaugurated a computer centre of Webcom Technologies here today.

Mr Garg said computers had become a necessity in day to day life. Private institutes and companies provided a chance to the people who were eager to learn computers at their own pace and did not require a ‘government certification’. With the growth of computer industry and rising software exports from the country, the reputation of Indian IT education had increased, he added.

Mr Vinod Puri, director, Webcom zonal office, Chandigarh, said Webcom offered latest technologies, live practical experience and plenty of placement opportunities.


‘Mandi board not providing facilities’
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 19
The Field Employees Coordination Committee of the Punjab State Foodgrains Association yesterday while expressing resentment over the advancement of the current procurement season to April 1, alleged that the Punjab Mandi Board was not providing the desired infrastructure at the mandis and this would hamper procurement.

Coordination Committee chief spokesperson Ashwani Kumar said the board should ensure provision of tarpaulins and wooden crates for safe handling of procured foodgrains at the mandis. He said recent rains had caused havoc to stocks lying in the yards, whether in heaps or gunny bags.

He said poor drainage system and uneven mandi yards were inundated with rain water. At this point, the biggest problem for procurement agencies is identifying wheat stocks with moisture contents up to 12 per cent as per the specifications.


Punjab House prorogued
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
The Punjab Vidhan Sabha, which was adjourned sine die at the conclusion of its sitting on March 27, has been prorogued by an order of the Governor of Punjab, according to an official press note released here today.


Private bus operators face rough weather
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 19
Mr Prithipal Singh Jalal, president, Private Transporters Operators Union, Bathinda district, today said bus operators in the state were facing rough weather and their business was on the brink of closure.

Mr Jalal, talking to The Tribune, here today pointed out that the special road tax (SRT) of Rs 3 per km, which was being charged in lumpsum, from the bus operators had been playing a havoc with their business.

On the one hand the operators had been paying the SRT through their nose and on the other the number of passengers had declined considerably as more and more people had started using their own vehicles. A majority of those using the buses were from rural areas.

Mr Jalal pointed out that the transporters had traditionally been supporters of Akalis, but it was a hard fact that during the Congress regime, the SRT was Rs 2 per km. The number of buses plying on roads had increased. As a result, the number of passengers had declined.

Mr Jalal said the SRT should be per passenger. This would ensure fair treatment to bus operators. The present value of the SRT being charged by the state government was the highest in the country.

With increased input costs like diesel, spareparts, pay and allowances to employees, service tax, repair and maintenance, the profit margin had reduced sharply. The difference between rail and bus fares was also vast and the passengers preferred travelling by rail. All this could be taken care if the SRT was reduced to Rs 1.50 per km, Mr Jalal suggested.

Mr Jalal alleged that taxis plying illegally in the state had caused much damage not only to the bus operators but the state exchequer also.

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