Saturday, May 5, 2001, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Centre expresses concern
Punjab’s failure to hold ZP poll
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 4
The Union Government has not liked the dithering of the Punjab Government over the holding of the elections to the zila parishads and block samitis for the past one and a half years. The elections were due to be held in October, 1999, but the state government has delayed these for one reason or the other.

Informed sources told TNS that the Union Rural Development Ministry, taking notice of the non-holding of the elections had written to the state government expressing serious concern in this connection. The letter had been written by the Union Minister for Rural Development.

The Union Government had also expressed concern over the non- delegation of powers to panchayats, zila Parishads and block samitis as per the Constitution of India. The Punjab Government had adopted the relevant amendments to the Constitution with regard to panchayati raj institutions including the delegation of powers to these bodies.

As per the Constitution, the holding of elections to zila parishads and other such bodies is mandatory for all state governments. The poll process has to be initiated six months before the date of the expiry of the term of the elected office-bearers of these bodies. Even in the case of the super session of any such body, the elections must be held within six months.

However, the state government continues to violate the legal provisions in this connection by not holding the poll. There is no stay against the holding of the poll from any court. In the absence of elected governing bodies, government officers have been appointed administrators of these institutions for the past one and a half years.

Last month, the Punjab Council of Ministers had approved the proposed amendments to the Panchayati Raj Act and had directed the authorities concerned to issue an ordinance in this connection. However, the ordinance has not been issued so far. After the issuance of the Ordinance, it will take at least one and a half months to hold the elections.

The sources said the Centre had withheld a grant of Rs 30 crore approved by the Union Finance Commission for panchayati raj institutions in Punjab. The grant was withheld because of the non-holding of the elections. Whether the grant has been released or not is not clear yet. Inquiries made by TNS indicated that a grant of Rs 30 crore had not been made available to the state Panchayati Raj Department yet.

“The grant is routed through the state Finance Department and we have no intimation whether the department has received it or not”. The Union Finance Commission had approved a grant of about Rs 150 crore for the panchayati raj institutions in the state for five years. Each year Rs 30 crore was released by the Centre to the state government from the grant.

The sources said the Union Government had powers to impose a cut on other grants up to 20 per cent to make the state government fall in line and enforce the provisions of the Constitution pertaining to panchayati raj institutions. There are several grants, including those relating to the Jawahar Gram Smridhi Yojna, the Employment Assurance Scheme and the Indira Awas Yojna, for which 75 per cent of the total money allocated to the state is given by the Union Government and the remaining 25 per cent is paid by the state government. 


Dhindsa backs pressure group of Sikh MPs
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh (Sunam), May 4
Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, today supported the move of National Minorities Commission Vice-Chairman Tarlochan Singh to form a pressure group of Sikh MPs in Parliament.

He was talking to mediapersons on the occasion of inauguration of Kribhco’s Agricultural and Rural Development Project here under which 18 villages of this area will be provided fertilisers and knowhow to farmers.

Mr Dhindsa said the formation of such a group was not wrong if it was formed for the protection of interests of Sikhs and Punjab state.

When his attention was drawn to the persons standing near the venue of the function waiting to express their resentment over the appointment of Mr Pritpal Singh as Chairman of the Sunam Market Committee, Mr Dhindsa said he had been appointed because he was among the few persons who had supported to him in bad days.

He further said if any Punjab militant wanted to join the mainstream, he should be welcomed as the country was ready to have talks even with the militants of Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, and Nagaland etc for the establishment of the peace there. He also said Pakistan wanted to create disturbances in Punjab so there was a need to handle the situation with wisdom.

Regarding Sikh youths lodged in jails under TADA, Mr Dhindsa said only 17 Sikhs were now behind the bars throughout the country under TADA. But no talks were in progress for their release as they were behind the bars due to criminal cases.

Mr Dhindsa also said a Rs 1600-crore ammonia urea fertiliser project would be set up near Sunam.

CPI against formation of group of MPs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 4
The Punjab unit of the CPI has opposed the proposal pertaining to the formation of a group of Sikh MPs in Parliament. The proposal was mooted by Mr Tarlochan Singh, Vice Chairman of the National Minorities Commission.

Expressing concern, Dr Joginder Dyal, secretary of the Punjab unit of the CPI, said there should be no group be formed on the communal or caste lines. He said Punjab had suffered a lot in the past because of the destructive role played by certain communal forces and no one should be allowed to create such a situation again.

The formation of the group was proposed with a view to protecting the rights of the minorities.

Talking about the review made by the party’s apex body of political, economic and social aspects of the state, Dr Dayal said the industrial crisis was turning from bad to worse. Unemployment in the state had shot up as new industries were not coming up and existing ones were facing crisis, he said. He said the state was facing problem of shutdown of several industries. If this trend was not reversed, the state would face the worst crisis on social and economic front in the near future, Dr Dayal said. He said the Badal government was neither sincere in resolving agrarian problems nor the industrial crisis. “The Badal government believes in making false propaganda”, he added.


Land for N-plant scaled down
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 4
In a bid to make the proposed nuclear power plant project likely to be established at Drauli village near Patran in the district more acceptable to the people of the area, the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has scaled down the land requirement for the project in terms of both core as well as peripheral areas.

The PSEB has taken the decision following the launching of an agitation by a sangharsh committee comprising 25 villages of the area. The committee had recently charted out an agitation plan, which included sustained hunger strike programmes, to ensure that the nuclear plant was not set up at the proposed site.

Board Chairman G. S. Sohal stated that earlier a core area of around 900 acres was proposed to be acquired for the project, but now the board had scaled down the requirement to only 675 acres. He said this was equivalent to around half the village land of Drauli. He said similarly the board, which had earmarked an area of 2,500 acres as a peripheral area around the nuclear plant, had now proposed to reduce this figure also by earmarking only 1,500 acres under the peripheral area of the project.

Mr Sohal said as land earmarked around the periphery of the project would be allowed to be cultivated, only the land acquired under the core area would not be cultivated. He said special plantations would be planted in the peripheral area.

Meanwhile, the board has said efforts are being made to reduce the rehabilitation problems to the minimum. It said the Punjab Government was fully committed to pay a handsome compensation and give a good rehabilitation package to the people whose land was acquired for the project. It said the people of Drauli village would be taken into confidence as and when a final decision was taken regarding the acceptability of the site before the actual construction started at the village.

The board claimed that establishment of the nuclear plant would be very beneficial to the state in meeting power shortages and that it would also lead to other benefits like gradation of technology and human resources in the state. It said it failed to understand the concern of people of 25 villages regarding the project when only one village was being affected by it and that too partially.

However, for members of the sangharsh committee the establishment of the plant would effect the whole area and they could not remain aloof from it. The committee members said already rates of agricultural land had fallen in the entire Patran belt after news of the establishment of the nuclear plant became public. They said no one wanted to invest money close to such a facility, which had let to a severe fall in land prices.

They said besides this farmers were facing peculiar problems, including the stoppage of loan from commission agents, who felt many of the farmers might migrate out of the area. Some of the members of the committee, who formed part of a team of farmers, which was taken to the Narora nuclear plant in Uttar Pradesh by the PSEB, claimed that they had learnt that the setting up a nuclear plant near their vicinity would lead to several problems and that they would have to get all their produce, including dairy products, tested in laboratories set up at peripheral villages before it could be eaten or taken to the market for selling. They alleged that radioactivity could be harmful for villagers and that a huge population lived near the plant now, which was not the case when the site was initially selected after Partition.


Guilty PSEB men to be penalised
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 4
The Punjab Government has decided to take action against those officials of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) who have been found guilty of the irregularities in the purchase of transformers from January, 1998, till date.

In the purchase of about 2,8015 power distribution transformers of different capacities by the PSEB authorities, an official of the rank of chief engineer and purchase officer have been found guilty of irregularities in the same.

Apart from it, one senior functionary of the PSEB have also been found guilty.

According to the reply given to the question of Mr Hardev Arshi, leader of the CPI in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha by the Power Minister, Mr Sikander Singh Malooka, these officials have been found guilty after an enquiry was conducted by the Special Secretary, Power.

The Power Minister admitted that some complaints regarding the purchase of power transformers were received by the government and the same had been got investigated.

He added that action was being taken against the officials.

Though Mr Arshi had asked for the names of these guilty officials, the Power Minister did not mention the name of any such official in the written reply.

As per the reply, the PSEB authorities purchased 2,8015 distribution transformers at the cost of Rs 110 crore.

The transformers were purchased from more than 60 firms in Punjab, Rajasthan, UP, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Chandigarh and Haryana. 


SE suspends 6 PSEB employees
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, May 4
Mr U.S. Saroa, Superintending Engineer, PSEB (Gurdaspur circle), has placed under suspension six employees, including Kirpal Singh, Lineman, Gyan Singh, Assistant Lineman, both of Kalanaur, Deedar Singh, sub-station attendant, Bhagowal, Nirmal Singh and Bikram Singh, both assistant lineman, Purana Shalla and Jatinder Kumar, linemen, Bhaini Paswal. They were someway or the other held responsible for the sudden fire that broke out due to the short circuit at atleast 16 places.

Mr Saroa said wheat-crop spread over 50 acres of land caught fire due to short circuit in his circle. Deedar Singh was held responsible for releasing power supply when the board had imposed power cut from 4 pm to 6 pm yesterday. The other suspended employees were accused of ignoring the public complaints regarding loose wires. These employees had not informed about these complaints to their Junior Engineers or Executive Engineers.

Mr Saroa said he was awaiting girdawari regarding the damage to standing wheat crop. Compensation will be paid as soon as girdawari in this regard is received by his office.

Meanwhile, the board employees in this circle have detected power theft during April 25 to the tune of Rs 30.21 lakh out of which Rs 28 lakh have been recovered.

The board has decided to lay 13 link lines to give regular and uninterrupted power supply to the consumers in this circle. The work of these lines will be completed before May 31.

Officials facilitating power theft: DCC
Our Correspondent

Mansa, May 4
Residents of the district have complained of unannounced and unscheduled power cuts for longer durations in the district.

Temperature has been rising and the number and duration of power cuts too increasing in the district. For the past two weeks, the position of electricity supply in the district has gone from bad to worse as there are power cuts more than 20 times a day. The people of middle class families have been forced to purchase generators to meet the situation.

Mr Ram Paul Dhaipi, president, District Congress Committee, alleged that the authorities concerned had been facilitating the theft of electricity by big industrialists on one hand and on the other power cuts were being imposed on in residential areas.


Night without power, morning without water
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 4
Just few days after the citizens of Patiala were assured by the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) that no electricity cut would be imposed in the city, people residing in various localities suffered a sleepless night, having to go without electricity and had to even do without water today morning.

Residents of various localities, including Rattan Nagar, Deshmesh Nagar, parts of Tripri township, Anand Nagar, Grewal Estate and localities on the Bhadson road, had to do without electricity yesterday night due to bursting of insulator pedestals at various places and short circuits . Residents disclosed that the power, which was disturbed at around eight p.m. yesterday, was restored at around 10 a.m. today.

While the residents did without electricity yesterday night, they had to do without water today morning as only two of the 46 tubewells in the city were connected with a hot-line. Sources said only the tubewell at the Nirankari Bhawan and at the Polo Ground was connected to the hot-line. Municipal Commissioner K S Kang said both the tubewells which were connected with a hot line had come up recently and that no need was felt earlier to connect tubewells with a hot line as power was seldom disrupted in the city.

Residents of Rattan Nagar were an angry lot today morning. Mr Amarjit Singh, a resident, said the PSEB should not make hollow promises of giving uninterrupted power supply to the city if it was incapable of rectifying a fault for more than twelve hours. He said, ‘’We were told in the morning at 9 a.m. today that the fault had been found and that power would be restored in one hour, which was done. He claimed that the colony also had to face short power cuts at intervals. He also vent his ire against the Municipal Corporation saying steps should be taken to ensure uninterrupted water supply in the mornings in case of any disruption in electric supply.

Municipal Commissioner K S Kang said he had moved the PSEB to get the estimate of the cost needed to be be undertaken to connect the tubewells of the city with hot lines. He said a decision in the matter would be taken after the cost involved was worked out. He said in case the cost was prohibitive, other measures would be considered.

Mr Kang said the Municipal Corporation only had two generators of 62 kva, which had been earmarked for used in case of any emergency under the disaster management strategy. He said recently the corporation had incurred a cost of Rs 1.25 lakh on getting them repaired as they had been in non-use for quite some time. He said to tackle the problem of unavailability of water due to power cuts, all overhead tanks had been made operationable.

He said the corporation was filling all overhead tanks at night so that maximum water was available for use in the morning. He said besides this the city had been divided into four zones and a plan had been worked out to ensure water could be diverted to a locality whose tubewell was facing problems so that the residents did not face any problem. He said the corporation was providing water for 18 hours in the city.



Akalis forget vow made to Akal Takht
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 4
On January 10, 1995, several senior Akali leaders pledged in writing to Akal Takht that they would not take any action which would disturb the Akali unity. They would not even issue statements against one another, lest it should hamper the unity moves, they promised.

But some of the influential leaders among the signatories have already fallen apart.

The signatories to the pledge included Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, the late Parkash Singh Majithia, Kuldeep Singh Wadala, Balwinder Singh Bhunder, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Sukhjinder Singh, Surjit Singh Barnala, Sucha Singh Chhotepur, Gurdev Singh Badal, Bhai Manjit Singh and others (see facsimile of the pledge).

They had vowed that all issues would be sorted out through negotiations and discussions among one another under the guidance of the Singh Sahiban.

The pledge consolidated the desperately needed unity among different Akali leaders, at a time when the then Chief Minister Beant Singh was riding high on the success of crushing militancy in Punjab. The Akalis had been sidelined.

Realising that they had to get united to return to the power that they had lost during militancy, the Akalis used the holy and powerful platform of Akal Takht to serve their purpose. This paid handsome dividends in the subsequent assembly elections of 1997, which saw the Akalis coming to power with a sweeping majority, albeit in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Unfortunately, it did not take much time for the leaders like Mr Badal and Mr Tohra to forget the pledge they had taken at Akal Takht. Differences between the two started cropping in immediately after the elections and reached a flashpoint, when they finally parted company in 1999 after much mudslinging.

Other leaders like Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, both of whom owe allegiance to Mr Badal, also did not take much time to forget their pledge. 


YC to launch mass contact programme
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, May 4
The Punjab Youth Congress would launch a statewide mass contact programme from May 4 to highlight the misrule and failure of the SAD-BJP government.

Disclosing this here today, Mr Devinder Singh Babbu, President of the Punjab Pradesh Youth Congress Committee, said after a district-level “Jan Sampark” programme, a block-level mass drive would be launched from June 1.

Mr Babbu called the government’s claim on wheat procurement hollow and misleading. He alleged that wheat growers and farmers were being harassed by procurement agencies.


Kamal Chaudhry’s remarks decried
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, May 4
Hoshiarpur unit of the BJP took strong notice of the comments of Mr Kamal Chaudhry, former MP who recently left the BJP, against Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr L.K. Advani in his statement appeared in a section of press on Wednesday.

Mr Bhagwant Kishore, General Secretary and spokesman of the District unit of the BJP said yesterday that Mr Kamal Chaudhry was always praising Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani when he was an aspirant for BJP ticket for Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha seat.

He alleged that Mr Kamal Chaudhry had no political thinking and always betrayed his political bosses.


Bhinder Tamil Nadu poll observer
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, May 4
Ms Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, former Member Parliament from Gurdaspur, has been appointed as observer for the forthcoming elections in Tamil Nadu by Ms Sonia Gandhi, President, All India Congress Committee. This was stated today by Mr Brij Mohan Puri, organising secretary, Punjab Congress Committee.


British era relic loses sheen
Jaswinder Paul Singh

Bathinda, May 4
The “Thandi Sadak”, a symbol of glory of Bathinda town during the British rule, has lost its sheen following the uprooting of decades old trees by the authorities. The trees, have been axed for the construction of a railway overbridge to connect the transrailway colonies with the main city.

Information collected showed that hundred-year old trees dotting the “Thandi Sadak” used by British officials for a stroll had been uprooted without permission from authorities.

The residents of the city who had witnessed British rule said that during that period no Indian was allowed to go on that road. The name “Thandi Sadak” was given because of cool climate on the road due to a number of trees alongside the road.

Many events of history were related with the road by the old people. It also showed discrimination of the British rulers against the Indian people.

The residents of the locality in which the road was situated were surprised when labourers started cutting the trees there. When they asked about the reason for felling old trees labourers could not give any satisfactory answer.

They were not even able to tell the name of the contractor who had hired them to do the job.

Despite efforts it was not known which department had ordered felling. No department claimed that it was responsible for the uprooting of the trees.

The sources said that the uprooting of the trees was probably eyewash for the residents and could be meant to show that work for the construction of the overbridge has been started.

But residents were angry with the authorities whoever had ordered the uprooting of the trees. They said that when nothing concrete was done for the construction of the bridge why were the trees felled.

Refusal by the different departments to own the responsibility has created doubt in the minds of the residents. Some of them even alleged that the only motive behind the act was that the contractor wanted to earn money by selling the timber.

When this correspondent went to the office of the District Forest Officer to know details about the incident as this department was responsible for the upkeep of the trees, his attendant told him that the officer was busy attending a telephone call so he could not meet. However an employee of the department said that the place from where the trees were uprooted did not come under the jurisdiction of their department.

When a higher officer of the Municipal Committee was contacted he said that his department was responsible for the maintenance of roads only and he declined to comment on the uprooting of the trees and said that the department concerned should be contacted for the purpose.

Despite repeated efforts officials of the Punjab Irrigation Department could not be contacted for their version.


Army depot fire: sabotage rumour denied
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, May 4
Army officials are maintaining silence over the court of inquiry regarding the fire incident on Sunday at Mamoon ammunition depot.

However, according to reliable sources, a team of high officials from Udhampur and Delhi visited the place of fire.

A senior officer denied rumours of sabotage or casualties.

The official, of ordnance visited the Mamoon and appreciated role of Army personnel in controlling the fire, the sources said.

According to sources, the availability of less space between the stacks and rising temperature could be the reason of the fire.

Mass marriages of 12 girls solemnised
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 4
As many as 12 girls of poor families were married off at a function organised at Bhawanigarh, 22 km from here today. Besides, tricycles were also distributed among the needy.

The function was organised by the Akhil Bhartiya Shri Sangmeshwar Sewa Dal, and Shri Durga Sewa Dal, both of Bhawanigarh, and other social organisations on the occasion of the 60th birthday of Mahant Shri Ganga Puri Ji (Arunai Wale).

The function was presided over by Mr Ranjit Singh Balian, Punjab Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development.

Double beds, tables, chairs, sewing machines, fans, trunks and various other important articles of household use were given to each newly-wed couple.

While appreciating the efforts of the organisers, Mr Balian announced Rs 50,000 each for the Sangmeshwar Sewa Dal and the Shri Durga Sewa Dal.

He also announced a grant of Rs 50,000 for the cremation ground of Balad village near Bhawanigarh. Mr Ranjit Singh Toor, president of the Truck Union, Bhawanigarh, also announced to donate Rs 11,000 for the organisers.

Among others who were present on the occasion included Mahant Shri Ganga Puri Ji, Mr Pradeep Kad, president of Bhawanigarh Municipal Council and Mr Tarsem Goyal, vice-president of the district unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party.


A luminary of Punjabi literature
Narinder Singh Kapoor

The sudden death of Piara Singh Padam is a great loss to Punjab, Punjabi language and literature and Sikh history. Padam had dedicated his life to the development and enrichment of the Punjabi language, literature and culture. He was a dedicated scholar and a devoted critic with a commitment to uphold the honour and dignity of Punjabi literature. In a number of fields such as Punjabi linguistics and scientific study of literature he was the pioneer as he had highlighted the long tradition going back to the Vedic period and discovered the classical sources of Punjabi literature and culture.

Padam supplied the base material to scholars and students and for this purpose he wrote two well-researched books “History of Punjabi Language” and “History of the Gurmukhi Script”, which are still the most quoted reference books in these subjects.

Padam’s dedication can be gauged from the fact that he visited dozens of libraries all over India to study handwritten manuscripts so as to provide authenticity to his research and findings. Besides authoring books, he edited dozens of books on a variety of subjects in Punjabi and Hindi. He was an authority on classical literature and classical traditions of music, fine arts, sculpture, singing and dancing.

Padam’s work particularly on Punjabi odes, ballads, legend, Sufi poetry in a particular and on ancient and medieval literature in general earned him name and fame far and wide. His sterling contribution remains towards Sikh religion and Sikh history where he was the first scholar to introduce scientific approach where blind faith ruled emotion earlier. His treatises on Sri Guru Granth Sahib and Dasam Granth were the first attempts to study the Sikh traditions from the perspective and in the context of Indian civilisation and classical traditions.

Padam edited “Punjabi Duniya” the research magazine of the Languages Department, and earned dignity and respect for this magazine. He also edited “Gurdwara Gazette” and the daily “Aj ki Baat”. He was an authority on Hindi literature written in the Gurmukhi script.

Prof. Piara Singh Padam was born at Ghungrana village in Ludhiana district on December 28, 1921. He worked as lecturer in Sikh Missionary College from 1943 for seven years and for the next 15 years he worked in the Punjab Languages Department. He joined Punjabi University in 1966 and remained there for 17 years. He has over 100 books to his credit.

Besides being honoured by various bodies and institutions for his work and contribution, Padam earned the love, affection and respect of a very large number of scholars. His demise is indeed a personal loss to everybody who knew him. 

Labourers’ bodies found
Our Correspondent

Barnala, May 4
A pall of gloom descended over Hamidi village, about 20 km from here, and its surrounding villages when hopes of the local administration and the village were belied today as their three-day-long efforts to extricate two labourers Manjit Singh (48) and Manpreet Khan (17), trapped 50-ft- deep under a heap of soil at Hamidi village while working on brick-lining of a well project, alive failed.

The bodies were found in the 70-ft- deep ditch.

The task of taking out the bodies became possible on the fourth day following efforts by Army experts with the help of two bulldozers.

According to reports, amid heart-rending scenes Manjit Singh and Manpreet Khan were consigned to flames in the afternoon.

Manjit Singh, sole breadwinner of family, is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters.

According to Civil Hospital sources, where autopsy of the bodies was conducted, revealed that the cause of their death was asphyxia.

One body, according to reports, was recovered from a ladder in a standing condition.

Mr Gurcharan Singh Dadhahoor, All-India Congress Committee member, Mr Malkit Singh Keetu, MLA, Mrs Surjit Kaur Barnala, former MLA and Mr Chand Singh Chopra, former MLA, visited the village.


Lawyers to strike work today
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, May 4
Lawyers practising at sub-divisional headquarters will observe strike tomorrow.

The Bar Association, Samrala, has given a call to this effect and convened a meeting at the local court complex tomorrow. The meeting is to be attended by representatives of the Bar Associations of Punjab.

The lawyers are demanding setting up of courts of Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADJ) and consumer forum courts at sub-divisional headquarters. According to a resolution passed on April 4 need to set up courts in sub-divisions of Punjab and Haryana was felt.

The association also demanded from the high court that courts be set up at sub-divisional level. It was decided that the Punjab Government should provide infrastructure for it.


Punjab chemists to go on strike today
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 4
The Punjab Chemists Association (PCA) would go on strike on May 5 in protest against the resentment over the atrocities of the Bihar government, against the chemists. This information was given by Mr R.D. Gupta, president of the PCA, in a press note issued here today.

He further said the Bihar Government had committed a ‘crime’ by lathicharging the members of the chemist associations of Bihar who were observing a peaceful dharna. The Bihar Government involved ESMA on chemists and arrested them enmass. The government also broke open their shops and distributed the entire stock of medicines among the public.

The All-India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) had given a call to observe a bandh on May 5 by the chemists all over the country, and demanded dismisal of the officials who were responsible for these acts. The organisation also demanded that the chemists who had been jailed under ESMA be released immediately, Mr Gupta added.


Revamp Pension Dept: Dang
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 4
Veteran CPI leader Satya Pal Dang in a letter to the Director, Department of Social Securities, Punjab, Mr R.L. Kalsia, criticised the hesitation of government to revamp the entire Pension Department and urged him to take speedy action for its smooth functioning. Mr Dang said the Department must dispel the growing impression that a large portion of the amount collected for pension would reach the election funds of the ruling party.

He also urged him to check the network of agents and touts who managed to get pensions sanctioned and arrears paid. He further said the details of accounts of the department be made public from the year 1997 till March 31, 2001. He said the decisions taken at the meeting held on February 28 regarding pensions have not yet been implemented. Such a delayed action will further compound the problems of the poor pensioners who have been crying to get regular pension for the last so many years.

Mr Dang pointed out that although, the department had agreed to immediately release the pension to those persons who had not received the same for the past four years, yet no action had been taken so far.

He said inspite of the fact that a list of the pensioners had been handed over to the department yet no pensions had been given so far.

Mr Dang further strongly resented the delay in holding a through probe into various allegations wherein some rich landlords of Baserke Gillian village were getting pensions and some unmarried girls and married women were receiving widow pensions.


Baby of HIV positive mother dies

Faridkot, May 4
A baby born to an HIV positive mother died immediately after its birth at Guru Gobind Singh Medical College here yesterday, hospital sources said.

The case came to light when the pregnant woman’s blood sample was found to be HIV positive. The mother is said to be battling for her life. UNI


Disease brings gloom in ‘melon belt’
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Hundreds of farmers of the Doaba region had seen a ray of hope in cultivating watermelon and muskmelon, taking these as an alternative to the increasingly unprofitable wheat-rice-potato cycle. But all of a sudden their hopes have been shattered. They have been forced to plough up vast areas of standing crops in Kapurthala, Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur districts after these were damaged by a mysterious and incurable viral disease.

After their failure to earn profits from wheat, paddy and even potato, farmers of the Doaba region, known as the “melon belt” of Punjab, went in for melon cultivation on a commercial basis in the mid-nineties. They had been making huge profits till last year as melons, besides being sold locally, have a vast market in the neighbouring state of Jammu and Kashmir. All types of melons, particularly muskmelon and watermelon, have been the traditional crops in the Mand area of Kapurthala and Jalandhar districts and areas along choes in Hoshiarpur district. Kapurthala district, which has about 10,000 acres under the crop, alone has been sending an average of about 40 truckloads of melons daily to Jammu and Kashmir during the season, which starts from May. In the Doaba region the crop is cultivated on an estimated 20,000 acres.

However, the crop, which had been bringing prosperity to the growers, has brought nothing but tears for them this season. More than 75 per cent of it has been damaged at either the flowering or fruit stage by the viral disease. “We have never faced such a problem earlier,” maintained Mr Kuldip Singh, a melon grower of Brindpur village in Kapurthala district, who lost his crop grown on nearly 150 acres. The disease has hit crops in the entire Mand area.

The growing of melon has been almost a craze among Brindpur farmers, who had even taken the land of non-resident Indians in adjoining villages on lease for this purpose. “Almost all 30 families of this village have been cultivating melon on about 4,000 acres, mostly taken on lease in Bahui, Kaasuchahal and Sheikhpur villages. Earlier it was the low potato price and now it is the viral disease which has ruined us,” said Mr Surinder Singh of Brindpur.

Mr Kuldip Singh said he and other farmers had spent a lot of money on spraying of the plants but these had not shown any sign of recovery. “I spent Rs 2,000 per acre and was finally told by Punjab Agricultural University experts that the disease was incurable and the plants should be uprooted.” He further said that recent investigations carried out by the experts showed that plants withered just before attaining maturity.

Mr Gurdas Singh of Mahilpur in Hoshiarpur district said he, like most other melon growers, had sown “quality” and “good variety” seeds provided by different “certified companies”. He alleged that the virus had spread from the seeds. “We have spent Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 per acre on inputs. But it is really shocking that the returns may not exceed Rs 1,000-2,000 per acre this season.”

Mr Raunak Singh of Sidhwan Dona village in Kapurthala district said that till last year, he had been earning a profit of Rs 25,000-30,000 per acre and was of the view that there was no other crop that had the potential of being an alternative to the wheat-paddy cycle. “This time I have been proved wrong,” he added demanding that a girdawari should be conducted and the affected farmers given adequate compensation.

Mr Kuldip Singh demanded that seeds should be subjected to proper investigation by the state agencies concerned before being pumped into the market so as to save farmers from unscrupulous elements.

Thousands of farm workers have also been hit by the crop failure for most of them had been working with farmers on a share basis. “They have now fled,” said Mr Gurjit Singh, a melon grower of Nasrala village, near Hoshiarpur. 


Fertiliser subsidy to continue
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 4
Union Fertiliser Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa today said there was no move to withdraw the fertiliser subsidy and the fertiliser producers of the country would be given further protection if needed from multinational companies by increasing the import duty on fertilisers.

Talking to newsmen here after attending a function held here to mark the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Jasdev Singh Sandhu institute of management and technology at Kauli village near here, the union minister said the government was already giving a fertiliser subsidy of Rs 13,000 crore.

He said imported fertiliser was already being levied a duty of 60 per cent and that this duty could be increased further to safeguard the interests of the domestic market.

The union minister, when questioned about the reported unity proposal mooted by him to merge the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal with the parent body, said he had not made any specific appeal to Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra. He said he had only said that his party was ready for an unconditional merger and the offer was extended not only to the Tohra faction only but also to other factions.

Regarding the proposal mooted by Minority Commission Vice-Chairman Tarlochan Singh to form a pressure group of Sikh MPs in Parliament, he said there was no harm in forming such a group as this group could look into the peculiar problems being faced by the Sikh community.


Would-be bride abducted
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 4
In an unusual incident a would-be bride was abducted by three jeep-borne persons just hours before her marriage near Salechan village last night.

Kulwinder Kaur of Manakpur village near Shahkot was coming from the market along with her brother and sister on their scooter after doing weeding shopping at Shahkot when three jeep-borne persons allegedly overtook them and abducted her on gun point near Salechan village. Manjit Singh, her brother, alleged that the trio threatened to kill them. A case has been registered.

Meanwhile, Ashwani Kumar, an undertrial at the local Central Jail, died while being taken to the jail after his appearance in a city court today.

The 26-year-old undertrial fainted on the court premises at around 3 p.m. and was admitted to the Civil Hospital at around 4 p.m., where he died.

The jail authorities were tight lipped about the incident, while the police authorities maintained that the victim had probably taken some drug. The body has been sent for a post-mortem examination.


Cop remanded in judicial custody
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 4
Budh Singh, a Punjab Police official arrested recently in a theft case was today remanded in judicial custody till May 16.

Budh Singh is facing several criminal charges relating to violation of human rights. The police had pleaded for his remand in police custody but the judicial magistrate did not accept its plea. Budh Singh has been in the police custody till today.


Probe against VC sought
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 4
Guru Nanak Dev University teachers today staged a dharna against the alleged repressive attitude of the Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Patiala. The president of the association, Dr H.S. Sidhu, in a press note issued here on Thursday, said they were also protesting against the delay in the implementation of their pending demands with the Punjab Government.

Dr Sidhu warned that the association would intensify its agitation in case an inquiry was not ordered against the Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University.

The association also urged the Punjab Government to release the arrears of university teachers.


School hours changed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 4
The Punjab Government has changed the school hours with immediate effect.

Government primary and middle schools will open at 7.30 a.m. and close at 12.30 p.m. Government high and senior secondary schools will open at 7.30 a.m. and continue till the periods are over. These hours will also be applicable in the case of government-aided schools.

A government spokesman said the order would remain in force till May 31.


Stamp shortage affects business
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 4
The monetary transactions in the city have come virtually to a standstill, thanks to the shortage of revenue stamps at post offices here.

No reason was given by the post office employees to the customers for the non-availability of the stamps.

Long queues could be seen at the counters selling the revenue stamps at all post offices in the hope that they would get them.

The shortage of revenue stamps was prevalent in the city for about a week. In the initial days of the crisis certain persons could get the stamps but now the situation has worsened as now even the post office employees could not oblige their friends and acquaintances.

Businessmen are reluctant to make payments without getting receipt from the other party with a revenue stamp fixed on it. Although some of them are doing so in good faith but they have fears in their minds.

Farmers, in particular, are the worst affected as the arhtiyas are not making payment for the wheat purchase in the absence of revenue stamps.

A cross-section of farmers who seemed unaware about the shortage of revenue stamps alleged that the commission agents were making excuses for not making payments to them.

The crisis has come as a boon for the blackmarketeers. The agents, who had apprehended the situation in advance and had purchased the stamps in large quantity, are now selling the same at exorbitant prices. They are charging Rs 10 for a Re 1 stamp.

A senior official at the main post office of the city when contacted said the Postal Department was not responsible for the shortage of the revenue stamps. He added that these stamps were supplied to them by the Revenue Department and their department could not do anything in this regard. He, however, said the crisis was prevalent throughout the state. The official said he was not aware about any person selling the revenue stamps on the black market.


WTO pact one-sided: Capt Kanwaljit Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 4
Punjab has a surplus of foodgrains, which is difficult to sell in the market. On the other hand nearly 40 per cent people living below the poverty line in the country fail to get even one square meal a day. What is needed is decentralisation of power to guard against the global market forces in the wake of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation.

This was pointed out by Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Finance Minister of Punjab, while questioning the ‘real relevance of globalisation to India’ at the inaugural session of a two-day national seminar on ‘Liberalisation, Dalits and the State’ here yesterday. The seminar has been organised by the Department of Sociology, Panjab University, and Department for the Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes, Punjab.

The minister’s plea took a new turn, when many Dalit intellectuals and activists came out openly in the support of these processes in the concluding session of the seminar.

The minister said, “The WTO agreement on trade is in fact a one-sided proposal only to help the already developed countries “Globalisation’ can benefit the industry and the producer, maybe, but the working class is in for tougher times. There are clouds threatening ‘total disruption of the production sector”, he said. The Finance Minister said that a sizeable workforce was likely be laid off. The state had not been able to generate sufficient resources. There was a little more than necessary concentration of decision-making power at the Centre. In fact, the local bodies, more than the state, should be empowered to make decisions for revamping the existing system. Punjab had nearly 12,500 villages but the state had only paltry amounts to sanction for welfare activity. There was a need for scrutiny of the expenditure of limited resources of the state’ he added.

Mr Sarwan Singh Phillaur, Minister for Welfare, Punjab, said that trade links were different when the USSR was matching force with the USA in the 1950s. Now the trade policies of a majority of the nations seemed to be moulded to the liking of the market rulers. Ms Satwant Reddy, Principal Secretary to the Government of Punjab, in her keynote address, said India was not just economically but also sociologically and culturally miles behind the changed scenario under globalisation. The Indian Government provided reservation in government jobs to Dalits. The total number was still marginal and Dalits would be worst sufferers after this change. For deprived sections, globalisation and liberalisation spelt doom, she added.

Prof Ashok Sahni, Dean University Instructions, said that the theme “Liberalisation, Dalits and the State” meant myriad living conditions of the country. There were radical changes which needed to be studied in a new perspective, he added. Dr Manjit Singh, Department of Sociology, introduced the subject. He said the WTO expected similar trade conditions everywhere, which were nearly impossible under the existing conditions. Prof Raj Mohini Sethi, chairperson, welcomed the guests. Mr Babu Lal, Director of the Department of Welfare, proposed the vote of thanks.

Today, dalit intellectuals averred that the dalits and other deprived sections of society stand to gain as consumers when the markets were opened and perfect competition was restored. They pleaded that the dalits do not have any share in the means of production, therefore, they have nothing to lose if the consumer market was liberalised. It is only these classes, who control the main production sources in the country, would lose their wealth and property under the invasion of the giant multinational corporations.

But an overwhelming majority of the scholars led by Prof Sucha Singh Gill from Punjabi University, Patiala, were of the view that liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation will bring pauperisation for a large segment of Indian populace. He stated that the motive of the MNC’s is not to generate employment, but to maximise their profits by introducing ultra modern technology, which is not manpower intensive though, it provide a huge amount of manufactured goods in the consumer market by utilising automation and modern technology.

The other speakers of the day included Dr Surjit Singh Bhatti, Dr Surjit Singh Muktsar, Prof Chandra Bhan, Prof Gali Omvedt, Prof P.P. Arya, Mr Bhagwan Das, Prof Paramjit Singh, Dr Jog Pal Singh, Dr Aditya Nigam and Prof Gopal Guru.

The last session of the seminar was presided over by Mr Suneet Chopra, Joint Secretary, All India Agricultural Workers Federation and concluded with a panel discussion on the various aspects of the Dalit issue in the Indian society.

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