Saturday, April 28, 2001, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Trouble brewing for PPCC chief
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 27
There are indications of Capt Amarinder Singh facing opposition to his continuance as the President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC).

Dissidence to Capt Amarinder Singh’s leadership is slowly beginning to rear its head. There is hushed talk among a sizeable number of Congress MPs from Punjab that the party has failed to galvanise itself for meeting the challenge of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).

The fissures developing in the PPCC came to the fore within 24 hours after Capt Amarinder Singh had a meeting with party MPs on Monday evening to discuss the emerging political scenario in Punjab in the context of the Assembly elections barely ten months away in the first quarter of 2002.

The contention that the distribution of tickets for the Assembly poll in Punjab was discussed with all MPs, who in turn extended their unqualified support to Capt Amarinder Singh, was hotly contested by a section of these parliamentarians. Clearly, the PPCC President’s erstwhile linkage with the SAD was also a sore point with some of the MPs.

These MPs are agitated that Mr Badal’s SAD has activated itself with full vigour for campaigning for the Assembly elections but the Congress is yet to get its act together. They feel that Mr Badal, by his aggressive style, has set a hectic pace of touring the districts and constituencies so that the SAD gains a headstart. For all outward appearances, these MPs talk about putting up a united face of the Congress in Punjab to blunt the SAD’s onslaught. At the same time, they are feeling each other’s pulse about seeking a change in the leadership of the PPCC. It is apparent that at least two of these MPs view themselves as strong contenders for the post of the PPCC chief and are biding their time.

Factional politics has been the bane of the Congress. The PPCC is no exception even though Capt Amarinder Singh has tried to strike a balance by accommodating all factions. At the same time, the majority of the delegates in the PPCC are Capt Amarinder Singh’s supporters. However, things are hotting up for Capt Amarinder Singh, thanks to the not-too-distant Assembly elections in Punjab. It is contended that the PPCC President has not been able to bring a turnaround for the Congress as evidenced in most of the Assembly byelections, including Sunam and Nawanshahr. It is contended that the drift in the PPCC must be stopped.

As of now, Capt Amarinder Singh has the backing of the Congress high command. Party President Sonia Gandhi had acquiesced for retaining Capt Amarinder Singh as the PPCC chief last year. As long as Capt Amarinder Singh has the patronage of Mrs Gandhi, the gambit of his detractors and critics in the PPCC might be a non-starter.


CM’s surprise visit to school, hospital
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Kotla Bajwara (Fatehgarh Sahib), April 27
Overawed by the surprise visit of the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today to their school, members of the staff and students of the Government High School here had every reason to feel happy at the end of the day.

The Chief Minister decided this morning to take media team on his “surprise mission to schools, hospitals and grain markets today.” The first stop for the Chief Minister’s entourage comprising 20 vehicles, including seven vehicles for newsmen, was the local high school.

The staff and students of the school had most of their demands which included upgradation of the school to senior secondary level, funds for construction of two more rooms and a boundary wall of the school and posting of additional teachers for languages and mathematics, conceded by the Chief Minister on the spot.

Besides, the Chief Minister also announced a special award of Rs 10,000 to the most brilliant boy of the school — Harpreet Singh of X — besides promising to foot the bill of his education up to the postgraduate-level. Mr Badal was also disappointed as the brilliant girl student of the school was absent today as he (CM) wanted to announce something for her also.

Mr Badal said he was also not happy over the manner in which staff shortage had been created in the school by attaching a teacher with the District Education Officer at Fatehgarh Sahib and sending another teacher to the Punjab School Education Board at SAS Nagar for the evaluation of answer sheets.

“Why teaching at the school should suffer on these accounts ’’? he asked as there were no written orders explaining the absence of these teachers from the school. The school headmaster, Mr Joga Singh, too, was confused to find the Chief Minister’s entourage driving into the school unannounced.

Mr Badal, who first took the chair of the Principal, had a roll call of the teaching staff before interacting with students of Class VIII.

After recovering from their initial pleasant shock, students and staff members came out in support of their demands. “We are not getting our salaries on time,” complained a teacher and Mr Joga Singh, corroborated her saying that DD powers were not with him and salary was drawn by some official at Fatehgarh Sahib. They also demanded more language teachers for the school.

Girl students after initial hesitation, demanded immediate posting of a mathematics teacher. Though the Chief Minister wanted to talk to the DEO and the Deputy Commissioner on the telephone, the contact could not be established.

After spending nearly 20 minutes in the school and sanctioning Rs 4 lakh for the construction of two classrooms and the boundary wall, the Chief Minister promised to post a mathematics and a language teacher in the school immediately.

For the Chief Minister, drive to Kotla Bajwara school from Chandigarh was perhaps not a comfortable one. The claims of the government from time to time improving the road network notwithstanding, the entourage had to rough it out on the pot-holed roads, especially from Sohana to Chunni Kalan.

The road from Khanna grain market to Samrala, too, was no better.

The next halt was Mandi Gobindgarh Civil Hospital where the staff, including doctors and para-medics , were present. The Chief Minister went through the attendance register and met every doctor on duty and asked them if they had any problems.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr P.K. Gupta, informed him about a new X-ray mobile unit, an ECG machine and other facilities provided to the hospital by the Mandi Gobindgarh Municipal Committee.

The Chief Minister had a round of the emergency ward also.

Though normally the Chief Minister travels by helicopter, he preferred road today. After the Mandi Gobindgarh Civil Hospital, his entourage headed for Khanna grain market, the Asia’s biggest one.

He enquired about wheat crop, its procurement and disbursement of money among farmers. He was informed that there were two auctions every day — first at 11 a.m. and the second at 3 p.m. — and quality of wheat was fairly good.

The farmers were, however, not fully satisfied with the lifting of procured wheat. The Chief Minister made it clear that payment to farmers must be released within 24 hours of the procurement of produce.

Later talking to newspersons, Mr Badal said of 32 lakh tonnes of wheat procured so far, payment for 28 lakh tonnes has already been made to the farmers.

“For me, there is nothing new. I visit villages and towns. But I must make it clear that the ‘sangat darshan’ programmes were apolitical. People from different areas, political parties come and attend these programmes. Ninety per cent of the complaints that come to ‘sangat darshan ‘ programmes do not involve any financial matter and these are sorted out there and then.

“I try to spend Sundays in bigger towns. On May 6, I shall be in Jalandhar and on May 13 in Amritsar. A few days ago I was in Ludhiana and covered all wards,” Mr Badal said.

He said that there were three important components of the society, the people, the bureaucrats and the government. Any communication gap between any of these two components leads to problems. “My effort is to minimise these communication gaps,” he said.

Talking about his interaction, he said new emerging feature on Punjab scenario was willingness of women to supplement family income by undertaking different jobs.

“We have decided to involve registered youth clubs in development works. Say in a village, if there are three development projects to be undertaken. Let the panchayat take up two and the third should go to the youth club of the village. There was a difference between jobs and employment. We want to create more employment opportunities”, he said.

The Chief Minister also announced the launching of a new scheme of providing land to the landless for the construction of homes. Each one must get at least five marla of land for the construction of his or her house. The state government would give them this land, either by taking it from panchayats or after buying it, he added.


BJP to project Badal as CM
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 27
Mr Parkash Singh Badal continues to be the best bet for the BJP. The party will project him as the Chief Minister for the next term also.

However, before doing so, the BJP will urge Mr Badal to announce some concessions for the urban voters, who are understood to be the votebank of the party. Mr Badal will be asked to lower the power tariff for urban consumers, who number more than 20 lakh, and also for small-scale industry. A bigger share in the Assembly seats will be the third major demand of the party.

This was revealed here today by Mr O.P. Kohli, general secretary of the national body of the BJP. Mr Kohli, who presided over an important meeting of the Punjab legislative wing of the party, which was called to plan the election strategy and discuss other important issues, is also in charge of party affairs in the state.

Conceding the role of a “junior partner” in the SAD-BJP government and also in state politics, Mr Kohli said his party’s decision to project Mr Badal as the Chief Minister for another term was a part of the BJP’s realistic approach to the prevailing ground realities. He did not agree with the statement made a few months ago by the head of the state unit of the BJP, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, that the BJP would project the party’s candidate as the next Chief Minister and demand at least 50 seats from its alliance partner, the SAD, to contest the Assembly elections.

Mr Rinwa might have made such a statement to encourage the party’s rank and file to strengthen the BJP in the state. However, the appropriate circumstances and ground realities did not exist at present to project party’s candidate as the next Chief Minister , Mr Kohli said. The party would like to enhance its share from 23 seats which had been allotted to it by the SAD last time, he asserted.

Though Mr Badal had announced that the current year would be the “Year of Development”, the BJP had declared it as the year of elections, directing its workers to fan out in the countryside to mobilise the electorate. Peace and development would be its main election planks. SAD-BJP rule during the past years had not only strengthened the Punjabi unity but it also ensured peace, without which no development was possible, Mr Kohli said.

When asked about the neglect of urban areas by the SAD-BJP combine, the Urban Bodies Minister, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, who was sitting closeby, said it was a wrong presumption. The SAD-BJP government had raised the income of municipal committees from Rs 300 crore to Rs 900 crore. He said the chapter relating to the abolishing of octroi in the state had been closed long ago.

Opposing general amnesty for terrorists and other such elements, Mr Kohli said his party was not against providing an opportunity to such persons to return to the mainstream. Of course, the law should take its own course in their case, but they should not be glorified under any circumstances.

Quizzed about the stage-managed arrest of Wassan Singh Zaffarwal, Mr Kohli said that it showed the militants had been demoralised to the extent that they were prepared to bow to the law.

He said the wrong strategy of the Congress vis-a-vis the Tehlka expose had proved a blessing for the BJP. The attention of the people had been diverted from the expose to the stalling of the proceedings of Parliament by the Congress, Mr Kohli said.

He agreed with the observation that an impression had gone around about the “soft handling” of the killing of BSF personnel by the Bangladesh Rifles.

Later, addressing party MLAs, Mr Kohli said they should establish contact with the people at the grassroots level and spend the maximum time in the Assembly segments, especially in the rural areas. He listened to the points raised by party leaders and gave an assurance that he would take these up with the authorities concerned, including Mr Badal. He asked the MLAs to collect funds for constructing the party office here.


Zaffarwal ‘saved’ Badal during militancy
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 27
Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa, general secretary, Indian Youth Congress has alleged that Wassan Singh Zaffarwal, a self-styled chief of the Khalistan Commando Force, was treated as state guest during the police remand.

Talking to the press here today, Mr Dimpa claimed that he had confirmed information that Zaffarwal used to give security cover to Mr Parkash Singh Badal during the peak of militancy.

This was why Zaffarwal was provided “safe passage” by the state government and he was shown arrested by the Majitha police in a stage managed show.


Fire renders nine families homeless
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 27
As many as nine families were rendered homeless when a major fire which broke out, allegedly due to the firework display at a marriage party destroyed their dwellings completely on Thursday night at Gurukul Basti of the city.

Though no casualties were reported the fire razed nine jhuggis which belonged to migrant labourers, mostly rickshaw-pullers and farm labourers who are in the state for the wheat harvesting season. More than 40 persons of nine families were affected by the fire.

Inquiries revealed the fire broke out due to the alleged negligence of the guests of a marriage party, who were playing with firecrackers. No loss of life was reported as the occupants of the jhuggis were attending a party hosted nearby.

Phoolwati Devi, who works with her husband Khokhar Singh as a labourer engaged in wheat harvesting at Fakkar Sar village, near Giddarbaha, said she had dreamt of her house being on fire. “I returned this morning and found that my nightmare had come true. My husband is not aware of the incident as he is still at the village. All my belongings, including one bag of wheat, two bags of rice, two bags of paddy, all clothes, bedding etc have been destroyed by the fire,” she lamented.

Rattan Singh, one of the friends of the jhuggi-dwellers, had thrown a party to celebrate the birth of his daughter. “The residents of these jhuggis were at my house last night, as I had hosted a party to celebrate the sixth day of the birth of my daughter. Only Pinki Devi was at her home as she is new to the area and is not fluent with the language,” he said.

Household utensils were completely gutted in the fire. The utensils made of aluminium were melted by the strong heat generated by the fire. Seven rickshaws were reduced to ashes by the fire. The dwellers claimed they had been residing at this piece of land for more than 10 years.

Fire engine reached the spot when the fire had nearly destroyed their dwellings and belongings.

Mohammad Mumtaj and Ramu said their savings — Rs 1500 and Rs 1300, respectively — were destroyed in addition to other items. The dwellers have been rendered homeless. The only assets they have with them after the fire are the clothes worn by them. Visheshwar Singh, one of the jhuggi- dwellers, said the labour put in by them for the past many years had been brought to nought.

Malkit Singh, who tried to save his belongings from the fire suffered minor burns on his hands, ears and shoulders. The residents of the area pointed out the guests of the marriage party burst firecrackers. Major Singh, who lives in the house adjacent to the jhuggis, showed the remains of rockets allegedly fired by the marriage party. There was no damage to the nearby buildings by the fire but one side of the tent put up by the marriage party was damaged by the fire.

Sher Singh, who’s daughter was married off on Thursday night, claimed no firecrackers were used by his relatives. Even the guests of the marriage party helped to put out the fire. “If we had not helped the jhuggi dwellers in putting out the fire, our tent too may have had got destroyed by the fire. I am not aware if any firecrackers were fired by the relatives of the bridegroom”, he claimed.

Police sources added no case had been registered in this connection as yet.


Congress leaders feel urgent need for unity
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 27
The development blitzkrieg launched by the Akali Dal-BJP government with an obvious eye on the assembly elections seems to have made the Pradesh Congress Committee feel the urgency of a unity within the party. According to the PCC President, Capt Amarinder Singh, all leaders, including Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar and Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, have been working together and mobilising the workers.

The Congress Parliamentary Party of the state, representing the party MPs from Punjab has already initiated the move with Mr Jagmeet Brar taking the lead. The MPs have been meeting regularly, almost twice a week to chalk out a comprehensive programme for countering the government offensive. The latest meeting was held at the residence of Mr R.L. Bhatia in Delhi on Thursday. Previous meeting was held at the residence of the PCC chief, whose wife Mrs Parneet Kaur is also an MP. The PCC chief also attended the meeting.

Capt Amarinder Singh has already launched a statewide programme to reactivate the party cadre, which has been lying low for quite sometime. Both Mr Brar and Capt Amarinder have been giving reconciliatory feelers to each other. Recently Mr Brar told TNS here that the issue of PCC leadership had been already settled down. He said, “I have left all egos and am only concerned about the performance of the party”. He pointed out this was the high time for the party to evolve a strong platform, as the SAD-BJP leaders had intensified their activities during the past two months.

Former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who was said to be the only irritant left in forging unity has also reportedly given positive response to the developments in the PCC. Although she was away to Bihar, as the party observer, her concurrence to the unity moves was said to be important. She has since returned to Delhi and is said to have offered her services for the party’s success, which is described as a significant development.

The sense of urgency within the PCC is also due to the apprehension that the Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal may recommend snap poll sometime in September. The PCC President has time and again been saying that the elections could be announced any time in the state. Obviously the party does not want to be caught napping and has already started doing the spadework.

Capt Amarinder on, the other hand appears to be confident about the party’s performance. He claimed, while difference of opinion can always be there, but there is no leader in the PCC who will work contrary to the party interests. “And the paramount interest of the party lies in the unity”, he remarked. While Mr Brar is already associating himself with the PCC president, Mrs Bhattal has not met him of late. The two are expected to meet very soon, with the party high command also exerting some pressure to this effect.


Pining for a glimpse of friends
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 27
Even after 54 years of Partition, many octogenarians assemble outside Gurdwara Nankana Sahib (Pakistan) hoping to catch a glimpse of their near and dear ones who were left behind in India.

Though the old people, who can hardly walk, are not allowed to enter the Sikh Shrines on pretext of security, yet they ask the Sikh pilgrims who go to Pakistan to pay obeisance every year in a big jatha from where do they hail. “It there anybody who has come from Gurdaspur?” asks Mohammad Qamal from the pilgrims. He had come from Johlan village in Pakistan by covering a distance of about 100 km to know about the well-being of the family of Jaswant Singh of Gurdaspur. He was disappointed with the behaviour of the Pakistan police which did not allow to get him inside the gurdwara. The sleuths of Inter Services Intelligence keep a hawk’s eye on every such meeting.

The old wounds of Partition opened up and tears rolled down their cheeks when they talked about the “horrible time” they witnessed at the time of the creation of Pakistan. The redcliff Line, however, failed to divide the hearts of the people. “We never demanded division of the joint Punjab”. Most of the Punjabi Muslims would share their views.

The crowed of old people also gathers outside the Sacha Sahib and Panja Sahib Gurdwaras, however, there are some lucky persons who get to meet their old quintances. It is another matter that their happy reunions, they also sometimes get bad news. As such meetings take place after more than had a century, they come to know that many of their friends are no more.

An octogenarian, Kudrat Alla, son of Chiragdin, a Rajput Bhatti met the TNS team outside Gurdwara Nankana Sahib. He said he had been coming to Nankana Sahib from Kasur every year, but had failed to know about the well-being of his old friend, Sucha Singh, alias Akali, a resident of Kotkapura in Faridkot district. When he failed to know the whereabouts of Sucha Singh, he turned his face towards the sky and said, “Perhaps, he is no more”. He asked this correspondent to bring some soil from Kotkapura during the next visit. After saying these words, he left for his destination.

While the TNS team was faxing news items from Panja Sahib, a youth met it with warmth and greeted it with slogans like, “Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh”. He enquired whether there was anybody from Amritsar. One coming to know TNS team was from the holi city, he shared his experiences of his visit to Amritsar. He said the Indian Embassy had refused to grant a visa to him initially. He said the culture and eating habits of Amritsar and Lahore were similar. He said the Punjabis should endeavour to pressurise their respective governments to withdraw the visa restrictions.


More hepatitis-B cases detected
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 27
As more cases of hepatitis-B have been surfacing in Chauke village, the district health authorities have started a massive campaign to prevent the disease from becoming an epidemic.

The number of hepatitis-B positive persons have risen to 34 as 20 more cases of the affected persons have come to light.

The Health Department had tested 179 persons and 20 per cent of them were found to be affected by the disease.

The Rapid Response Team has held five camps to educate the people in the village, in April. It has plans to hold more such camps so that the villagers should not panic, and are made aware of the preventive steps.

The civil hospital authorities said water samples were taken from the village for five times. Report of four of them has been received by the authorities which claimed that the water was fit for human consumption. They added that the report of the fifth sample is awaited and only after receiving that report it would become clear that whether the water was fit for human consumption, or not. The Deputy Commissioner had visited the village along with the Chief Medical Officer and a team of doctors had confirmed that two persons had died of hepatitis-B in the village.

The Health Department has held three special immunisation camps in the village and has vaccinated about 950 persons against hepatitis-B. the hospital sources said that more such camps would be held in the village soon and every individual would be vaccinated in the village.

According to the authorities at the local hospital preliminary enquiry has revealed that the main cause of the spread of the disease was the reuse of the disposable needles. They added that the unregistered medical practitioners on which the villagers were dependent for the treatment were “playing a role” in spreading the disease.

The hospital authorities said about 9000 chlorine tablets were distributed among villagers. 


Divorcees ‘more prone’ to suicide
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, April 27
A panel discussion on the causes, myths, misconceptions, epidemiological factors, risk factors, management and prevention of suicide, at Guru Nanak College of Nursing, Dhahan Kaleran was organised under the presidentship of Mrs Jasbir Kaur, Principal of the college, 20 km from here today. The participants were Ms Teresa, Ms Sonia, Ms Ramandeep Kaur, Ms Reena Christopher and Ms Anju Malik.

It was felt that suicide was the second leading cause of death among adolescents between 15 to 19 years of age, in road accidents. It is reported that in India 80 percent of suicides occur between 16 to 30 years of age and a child who loses parents before the age of 13 years has higher risk of committing suicide. According to WHO, everyday 1000 persons commit suicide in the world of which 110 are Indians. In India, one suicide is committed after every 20 minutes and presently India is on 45th global position and suicide is now becoming a public health problem as there is an increase in number of children committing suicides, which is 13.3/100000 population. Sri Lanka has the highest female suicide rate and is second in global position after Hungary, which is first on global position for both sexes.

The panel reported that as per the findings men commit suicides three times more as compared to women but women attempt suicide four times more than men. Men use gun and women prefer poisoning and burning.

Ms Sonia reported that the married couples with children are protected group than single or divorced persons and the suicidal risk is more in the first year of divorce, which counts to be 40/100000. Though, suicidal tendency is more common in unemployed youth, but professionals are also at high risk. In professionals, physicians and in physicians, psychiatrists are considered to be at great risk followed by ophthalmologists and anaesthesiologists. Suicides are also more common among prisoners who have no visitors.

Mr Budh Singh Dhahan, president, Guru Nanak Mission Medical and Educational Trust, Dhahan Kaleran, expressed concern over the increase in number of farmers committing suicides. 452 farmers committed suicides last year, he said.

Mrs Jasbir Kaur, in her presidential address emphasised on the prevention of suicides. As psychiatric nurses can identify the ‘cry for help’ and more ‘youth clinics’ should be opened to identify the high risk adolescents and counselling should be given at school level. It is the duty of parents, schoolteachers and public health personnel to make efforts to check rising trend of suicides, she said.


Notification on AIDS for docs
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 27
HIV infection can strike not only the monogamous partner of a polygamous HIV-infected person or the neighbourhood friends sharing a common needle to get blissful highs after a dose of cocaine, morphine etc; doctors and paramedical staff treating HIV positive patients are at an equally high risk to contract the dreaded disease.

To counter the growing fear among the medical fraternity of treating an HIV positive case, the National AIDS Control Organisation, Delhi, under the Union Ministry of Health, issued a notification through the Punjab State AIDS Control Society Project Director on March 23, 2001. The notification was circulated through medical superintendents of government hospitals throughout the state.

The notification advises health care workers, including doctors, paramedics, nurses, sewadars etc working in government hospitals, who are likely to get occupational exposures to undertake post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) of HIV. PEP refers to the treatment of occupational exposures using antiretroviral therapy preferably within two hours of exposure, and it is not recommended after 72 hours.

The notification states: “All expenses incurred thereof on the medication and tests according to Government of India guidelines may be purchased by the in charge of hospital and ‘then and there bills maybe submitted’ to the Punjab State AIDS Control Society for reimbursement by the government.”


Jt Director Chatha suspended
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 27
The Punjab Government has suspended Mr Balwant Singh Chatha, Joint Director, Animal Husbandry (Feed and Fodder), with immediate effect. During the suspension period, his headquarters will be at the office of the Deputy Director, Animal Husbandry, Patiala.

The order with regard to the suspension of Mr Chatha was issued by Mr D.S. Jaspal, Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry. He was suspended earlier also in February last year following a surprise check by the minister concerned on a farm owned by the department.

Though no reason has been given in the latest suspension order, informed official sources said the action against him had been taken in connection with an alleged fodder scandal. The action follows a report by TNS from Amritsar on the scandal.

It was reported that certain department officials had purchased “unrecommended “ and “substandard” fodder seed in bulk from a Ludhiana-based firm in 1998. However, the seed was rejected by farmers. In certain districts, the seed is still lying unsold.


Namaz offered after 54 years at mosque
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 27
Members of the Muslim community today offered namaz after 54 years at a deserted mosque at Kakra village near Bhawanigarh, about 25 km from here.

Before the partition this village was dominated by the members of the Muslim community, but after the partition most of them preferred to migrate to Pakistan.

On this occasion, Punjab Sports Minister, Nusrat Ali Khan, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Ranjit Singh Balian and chairman of the Punjab Land Reclamation Corporation, Parkash Chand Garg visited the village. Several Muslims, who had left the village during the partition, were also present on the occasion.

The namaz of the “zohar” was led by Hafiz Mohammad Bashir. While the people offered the namaz. Muslims from the nearby villages also participated.

Addressing the gathering, Mr Khan, Mr Balian and Mr Garg urged the people to maintain communal harmony and respect others’ religion.

Mr Khan and Mr Balian also announced grants of Rs 25,000 and Rs 1 lakh, respectively, for the mosque.


10 lakh released for informers
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, April 27
The state government has released a sum of Rs 10 lakh to vigilance bureau, Jalandhar range, for disbursement to people giving information about the corrupt government officials.

Mrs Gurpreet Deo, SP, Vigilance Bureau, said a woman resident of Khangura village in Phagwara was presented with a draft of Rs 50,000 for helping in the arrest of Dr Kulas Kapoor posted at the Phagwara Civil Hospital.

Those who had helped in nabbing corrupt government officials were presented drafts amounting to Rs 25,000, she said.

Mrs Deo asked people to come forward and help vigilance bureau in eradicating corruption.


Proposal to benefit employees’ kin
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 27
A ray of hope is in sight for persons seeking jobs in the state Postal Department on compassionate grounds. The department has sent a proposal to the headquarters in New Delhi for filling several vacant posts from among the pending applications. The proposal, if accepted, will help the department tackle the problem of shortage of staff.

Disclosing this to The Tribune here last evening, Mr A.S.I.S. Paul, Chief Post Master-General, Punjab, said the department had sent a proposal to the head office as several deserving candidates, who had applied on compassionate grounds, were not selected.

As per the current procedure, the department offers 50 per cent of the posts to the outsiders and the remaining are required to be filled from the department quota. Of the 50 per cent posts allotted to the outsiders, only three are reserved for next of kin of the deceased employees of the department, who had applied for a post on compassionate grounds.

Due to a small number of vacancies most of the kin of the deceased employees are left high and dry even if they are eligible for the posts. Ironically, this happens despite the fact that nearly 20 to 30 per cent of the posts reserved for the department employees remain vacant every year. Mr Paul said the posts were not filled as there were fewer candidates.

The new proposal aims at removing this discrepancy. According to Mr Paul, the state department has proposed that instead of reserving three posts from the outsiders quota the department should fill the vacant posts from among the candidates who had applied on compassionate grounds.

Citing a recent example, Mr Paul said a large number of candidates seeking job on compassionate grounds had approached the disputes tribunal against the department’s failure to provide jobs to them. However, the tribunal accepted the department’s selection procedure. He said the department prepared a list of the candidates according to their family income and the last three on the list were selected.


Pharmacists to hold rallies
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 27
Activists of the Punjab State Pharmacists Association, who have been feeling cheated by the Punjab Government due to non-implementation of their demands, have threatened to launch an agitation.

The activists have decided to hold protest rallies in the assembly constituency of Punjab Chief Minister and Punjab Health Minister on June 6 and May 13, respectively.

Mr Bhoj Raj, vice-president of the association, in a press note issued here today said a meeting was held with the Health Minister on January 3 in which the minister agreed to concede some of their demands. But so far, no demand had been implemented which had caused resentment among the activists.

He pointed out that their demands included removal of anomalies in their pay scale, creation of posts of district pharmacy officer, deputy director, right to write prescription in the absence of doctors in rural dispensaries on the pattern of the Himachal Pradesh Government, framing of transfer rules and regularisation of services of pharmacists working on 89 days, besides the demands of non-payment of non-dispensing allowances, patient care allowance and academic allowance.


Life span of thermal power units to go up
Chander Parkash and Jaswinder Paul Singh

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 27
Decks have been cleared for carrying out major renovation and modernisation (R and M) exercise at the cost of Rs 230 crore to increase the life span of unit number one and two of the local Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plan (GNDTP) by 15 to 20 years.

For this task, the plant management has prepared a project report, which has been approved by the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). The management will supervise the renovation and modernisation operations plant management has developed the required expertise in the past many years to carry out the renovation and modernisation plan in an effective and flawless manner.

Mr U.S. Lucky, General Manager of the plant, said at present, all units of plant had been running at 100 mw capacity against the capacity of 110 mw each. The ash being emitted from the chimneys had also been creating a problem.

With the R and M plan, the boilers would be redesigned while the major changes would be done in the turbines so that the high ash content coal could be used. With this, a micro-processor would also be installed in the electrostatic precipitators (ESPs) to make them more efficient and to reduce the emission of ash from the chimneys.

Mr Lucky disclosed that Power Finance Corporation (PFC) had agreed to give loan of Rs 230 crore to the plan for this task and tenders for the same would be floated shortly. The work was expected to start from July or August this year. The first unit would become operational one-and-a-half years after placement of firm work order. The second unit would become operational one year later.

The Ministry of Power, Government of India, Punjab Government and the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) had been formally intimated.

For carrying out the modernisation of two units of, a residual life assessment study (RLAS) was done through the Central Power Research Institute. The expenses on the study was funded by the Power Finance Corporation.

Mr Lucky disclosed that a BLAS was also being done for unit number three and four and its report would be received after two months. After that a project report would be prepared and then after necessary approval, the renovation and modernisation of these units would be done in a phased manner.

He said no additional manpower was required to carry out the renovation and modernisation of unit one and two of the GNDTP. He added that the plant management had laid down its own specification for executing the plan.


PSEB staff hold dharna
Our Correspondent

Barnala, April 27
In response to a call given by the Joint Action Committee (comprising Punjab State Electricity Board Employees Federation, Technical Services Union, JE Council PSEB, and Ministerial Staff Clerical Union), employees of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) staged a protest dharna and rally today at the local PSEB office complex to express their resentment against victimisation of 12 PSEB employees of Shehna PSEB suburban subdivision.

Mr Harjinder Singh (Junior Engineer), Mr Amarjit Singh and Mr Darshan Singh (linemen) were placed under suspension whereas nine other employees (six Assistant-Linemen and three work-charged staff) were transferred out of zone on administrative grounds by the PSEB authorities in the controversial inauguration of 24-hour power supply to Tallewal village by Malkit Singh Keetu, MLA, on April 7.

Addressing the rally, PSEB union leaders, Mr Shinder Singh Dhaula, Convener, Joint Action Committee, Mr Mela Singh, president, PSEB Employees Federation, Barnala division, Mr Gurbux Singh, secretary, PSEB Employees Federation, Sangrur circle and Mr Ajmer Singh, secretary, Technical Services Union, city division, flayed the PSEB authorities for the action. The leaders demanded that victimisation of the 12 employees be immediately revoked.


Drug de-addiction camp opens
Our Correspondent

Abohar, April 27
A meeting of senior police officials of Punjab and Rajasthan will be held soon to discuss measures to check inflow of opium from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and poppy husk from Rajasthan to Punjab through the Hanumangarh, Sriganganagar and Abohar roads by truck operators.

SSP Harchand Singh Sidhu told newspersons after inaugurating a de-addiction camp at Nehru Memorial Civil Hospital here today that interrogation revealed that trucks carrying opium from other states had crossed inter-state border unchecked in Rajasthan. Poppy husk had been transported to Punjab from Rajasthan where it was said to be easily available from authorised sale outlets. If trucks were properly searched while entering Rajasthan from Madhya Pradesh opium smuggling could be checked effectively.

As many as 35 drug addicts had been admitted at the camp organised with the cooperation of the Health Department and the local Chemist’s Association at the civil hospital. The SSP exhorted sarpanches to prepare lists of drug addicts in their respective villages without any fear. The district police will seek the cooperation of the Health Department, chemists and voluntary organisations besides village panchayats for holding at least one drug de-addiction camp almost every month. The police, Mr Sidhu said, was prepared to wage a war against drugs addiction.

He asked all three SHOs in this subdivision to deal with the menace with heavy hands. Prosperity in Abohar and Sriganganagar unfortunately became the prime reason for increasing addiction among children of well-to-do families. The campaign could succeed only if parents keep strict vigil on their children.

The Chief Medical Officer, Dr J.C. Garg, Dr Rakesh Arora, Secretary District PCMS Doctors Association, Mr Sudershan Miglani, President, Abohar Chemists Association, promised all kind of cooperation to the district police chief in this campaign.

Earlier, the SSP inaugurated a traffic awareness camp on the sadar thana road which was organised with the cooperation of a two-wheeler merchant. Mr Sidhu said reports indicated that more number of people were injured or killed due to road accidents than disputes over land or property disputes. Many people took traffic rules lightly. Safe driving, use of helmets, belts and genuine documents could help in bringing down the number of road causalities. Violation of rules and regulations should not be taken as status symbol.

SDM Darshan Singh Grewal, DSP Gurmeet Singh Randhawa, District BJP president Faquir Chand Goyal, district Congress Secretary, Sudhir Nagpal, Mr Vinod Sharma, secretary, Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal were also present.


Rain-affected wheat a storage problem
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 27
Mr Balwant Singh of Dakala is all smiles on wheat procurement. He has reason to be. He has been able to sell off his entire produce at government prices despite the fact that his crop had been discoloured due to an untimely spell of rain.

It is not only Balwant, who is happy. It seems the untimely rains have not washed away hopes of a bumper crop. The crop yield may be a little less but the government has ensured farmers do not face any procurement problems due to discoloration of wheat due to the rains.

Sources said clear-cut directions had been given to officials of procurement agencies to buy all wheat stock in the market irrespective of its quality. They said while this direction was godsend for the farmers and would also hold the government in good stead in view of speculation of early elections to the state Assembly, it could lead to serious problems later.

Foodgrain Agencies Coordination Committee member Vidhu Shekhar Bhardwaj said a crisis was waiting to occur in the State due to the present policy of the government. He said though the State Agencies had procured wheat which had been exposed to rain on the directions of the State government, the move was not wise as this produce could not be stored. He said even though the government had ordered that the wheat, which had been exposed to rain should be procured after it had been dried thoroughly, there was apprehension that it would still not meet specifications.

The problems will start once we put it into store. It has been known that insects and other pests attack food grains more if they are damp. He said besides this it was also felt that flour produced from this wheat would ferment more quickly than otherwise. “Who will be responsible for losses which occur due to this erratic procurement”, he said adding employees could be made scapegoats later by the government. He said the Coordination Committee had approached the government to take a clear-cut decision on the specifications at which wheat was to be procured by the State agencies.

Procurement of wheat soaked in rain will not only cause problems of storage but also spell doom for small farmers who will not be able to use it as seed in the forthcoming season, says Punjab State Arhtiya Association president Harjit Singh Sheru. He said the entire wheat crop has been affected due to the untimely rains due to which water entered the stalk of the plant. Due to this the colour of the wheat this time is whitish and gives the impression of having been washed.

Food Supplies Director Dr G. Vajralingam when questioned on the procurement policy being followed by the State agencies on a visit to various mandis in the region today, said there were no extraordinary directions in this regard. However, Mr Vajralingam said farmers were being “helped” to improve their produce with the damaged part being mixed in a bigger pile so that it could pass muster. FCI Senior Regional Manager H.L. Parshad said farmers were also encouraged to dry their produce fully so that it could be procured. However, when asked why the government was going to such length to procure soaked wheat, he said only that produce was being procured which had lost its lustre and that totally damaged produce would not be procured.


New SSPs for 2 Punjab dists

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 27
Two Punjab districts — Kapurthala and Gurdaspur — will have new Senior Superintendents of Police as the state government ordered the transfer of six police officers here today. Mr Rajan Gupta, on promotion, has been appointed Inspector-General of Police, Border Range, in place of Mr A. P. Pandey, who has been appointed Inspector-General, Commando, Bahadurgarh, in Patiala district.

Mr Varinder Kumar becomes Commandant, 75th Battalion, PAP, Jalandhar. His place as Senior Superintendent of Police, Gurdaspur, will be taken by Mr Sukhdev Singh, Superintendent of Police, CID, Amritsar.


2 held, scooter, pistol seized
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, April 27
The district police has arrested two robbers and recovered a stolen vehicle and seized a country-made pistol from them.

Mr Gaurav Yadav, SSP, said here today that Varinder Kumar of Bhogpur, who was on his way to home on a scooter, was stopped by two unidentified persons near the old post office in Bhogpur last night. He was forced to give the vehicle at gunpoint.

On receiving a complaint about the incident, a police party started a search campaign in the area and the robbers were arrested near Larol village. The arrested persons were identified as Jaswinder Singh, a resident of Landhra village in Bhogpur, and Jagjit Singh, a resident of Jande Saral village in Kartarpur.

A case has been registered under Sections 382 and 43, IPC, and Section 25 under the Arms Act. 


Man, son convicted for adulteration
Our Correspondent

Mansa, April 27
The Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mr Sukhdev Singh, convicted Ranjeev Singh Agarwal and his father Hakam Singh Agarwal, owners of M/s Singh Karyana Store, Bhikhi, in the district under Section 16(i) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act and sentenced them to rigorous imprisonment for one year and one-and-half years, respectively.

The court also imposed a fine of Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000, respectively, and in case of default in payment of fine, to undergo further imprisonment for three months and four months, respectively.

In the same case the court convicted Subhash Chand of M/s Arun Kumar Ashok Kumar, Bhikhi, and sentenced him to imprisonment for two years and imposed a fine of Rs 5,000.

He was sentenced to undergo further imprisonment for five months in case of default in payment.

In the same case M. Chandra, Managing Director, Sangrur Vanaspati Mills Limited, has been declared proclaimed offender by the court.

The accused were standing trial on a complaint filed by Dr K.K. Singla, Food Inspector, Mansa. Dr Singla had taken samples of ghee being sold by M/s Singh Karyana Store, which were found to be adulterated by the Public Analyst, Punjab.


A school in collapsing building
Anita Tayal

Patiala, April 27
A small verandah. That is what may soon be left of the Government Middle School at Diru Ki Majri, if the present state of neglect continues. The two rooms given to it in a dharamshala, are hardly usable and the teachers do not take the risk of taking classes in these unsafe rooms. The room meant to be its office is used as a store room. It leaks heavily during the rains and will soon become totally unusable.

The teaches are left with no alternative except to hold the classes in the open. In the extreme heat of summer or when it rains, all the three classes — sixth, seventh and eighth — with a combined strength of 70 students are huddled in the small verandah. Commotion is what follows and hardly any teaching is done.

The school furniture, damaged over the years, has been piled in one corner and the students have to sit on bare ground. The wiring has broken loose and hangs dangerously. The teachers have a hard time keeping the children away from these death traps. There is no place where the teachers can sit and check the work of the students or evaluate their answer books.

The ground is often used by the residents of the locality to hold marriages and other functions. After each function, the place is left littered with garbage, and no one cares to clean it up. Holes dug to stick poles for shamianas are never filled.

In such a situation one cannot blame the students or the teachers if schooling is not up to the mark. But the children who all come from poor families have no option. Their parents cannot afford to send them to costly private schools.

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