Wednesday, May 9, 2001, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



VC issues notice to minister
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 8
Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia today served a show-cause notice on Higher Education Minister Master Mohan Lal, asking why he should not be disqualified from conducting doctoral research as he had failed to explain his position regarding the authenticity of the synopsis, progress reports and bibliography submitted by him while working on his PhD thesis in the university, despite having been given two opportunities.

The Vice-Chancellor and the minister have been embroiled in a bitter controversy after the minister ordered an inquiry against the former on the basis of a memorandum submitted by the Punjabi University Teachers Association (PUTA).

The Vice-Chancellor, on the basis of a memorandum by another group of teachers, asked the minister to reply to allegations that his synopsis and bibliography had been ghost-written. The minister was enrolled for PhD in the university under the guidance of the Vice-Chancellor himself after the Academic Council waived off eligibility conditions in his case.

Meanwhile, the PUTA today expressed satisfaction on the process of inquiry against the Vice-Chancellor, saying immediate action should be taken against him following the announcement of the inquiry findings by the minister yesterday. A few teachers’ organisations have, however, castigated the minister for making such ‘’utterances’’ and requested the Chief Minister to restrain him.

The Vice-Chancellor’s show-cause notice to Master Mohan Lal reads: “I further order that if Master Mohan Lal desires and requests for an independent probe into the allegations, particularly on the authenticity of the synopsis and other material submitted by him, a high-level inquiry committee would be constituted comprising an academician, a retired judge of the High Court and serving or retired Vice-Chancellor of a university to be nominated by the Association of Indian Universities, New Delhi.”

The Vice-Chancellor said in the event of no reply or an unsatisfactory one from the minister, further action towards his disqualification would be considered and taken without any further notice. The minister has been asked to reply to the notice by May 17.

Giving a background of the case, Dr Ahluwalia said the minister had “arm-twisted” the university management to register him for PhD. The minister had turned his doctoral research into a farce, insisting that his signatures on the periodical report be obtained from him at Chandigarh. Mr Ahluwalia said he had objected to the same.

He said the minister did not offer any explanation on allegations levelled against him by a teachers’ group. The VC said a legal notice was also slapped on him.

An executive meeting of the PUTA presided over by its President, Dr Bhupinder Singh Khaira and secretary Dr Balwinder Singh expressed satisfaction on the process of inquiry against the VC and demanded immediate action against him. The executive said though a preliminary inquiry had established irregularities and violation of rules, the moral aspect of “degradation of the university” under the stewardship of Dr Ahluwalia was still untouched.

The PUTA demanded that the inquiry into “moral misconduct” be entrusted with an agency and the VC be sent on long leave to ensure he did not tamper with “relevant facts and records”.

In two separate statements, the United Teachers Front and the Sikh Intelligentsia Forum, both teachers’ bodies of the university, have severely criticised the Higher Education Minister for making “irresponsible” statements. 


Bhindranwale’s bhog on June 6
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 8
Though Capt Harcharan Singh Rode, brother of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, had identified the latter’s body immediately after Operation Bluestar in June 1984, yet the Damdami Taksal continued to claim that he (Bhindranwale) was alive. Baba Thakur Singh, successor of Sant Bhindranwale, was party to this decision.

Now, radical organisations, including various human rights organisations and the Dal Khalsa International, for the first time since Operation Bluestar have decided to organise the bhog of Sant Bhindranwale on June 6 to mark the ‘ghalughara divas’ (genocide day) at Akal Takht.

The decision of the radical organisations, however, may irk Baba Thakur Singh, acting Jathedar, Damdami Taksal.

However, the radicals admitted it was weakness on their part for having failed to muster courage against the stand of the Damdami Taksal for 17 years. They said though it was too late they would make the bhog a regular feature.

The radicals have also decided to approach Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht. They would persuade Jathedar Vedanti to make an appeal to the entire Sikh community to come on a single platform to observe the death anniversary of Sant Bhindranwale. It may be mentioned here that Jathedar Vedanti is an eyewitness to the death of Sant Bhindranwale.

A 15-member committee has been formed to make arrangements for the bhog ceremony of Sant Bhindranwale. This includes Mr Darbara Singh Gill president of Sikh League International, Justice Ajit Singh Bains (retd) of the Human Rights Commission, Mr Surinderpaul Singh of the Sikh Students Federation (Bittu), Mr Jaspal Singh Dhillon of the Human Rights Democracy Forum, Mr Kanwerpal Singh Bittu of the Dal Khalsa, Mr Surinder Singh Ghariala of the Khalra Mission Committee, Mr Kulbir Singh Kaura of the World Sikh Council, Bibi Parmjit Kaur Khalra, Mr Amrik Singh Muktsar, Mr Dalbir Singh, a journalist, Mr Narain Singh of the Akal Federation, Mr Kirpal Singh Randhawa, deputy chief, human rights wing, Bhai Kalyan Singh, member of the Takht Patna Sahib Management Committee, Mr Mohinder Singh Grewal and Mr Gurtej Singh, a former IAS. Mr Narain Singh, chief of the Akal Federation, would be convener of the committee which would implement the programme as per Sikh rehat maryada.


Breach in distributary, bridge collapses
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 8
Vehicular traffic on the Bathinda-Malout national highway came to a halt today in the morning when the bridge over the Behman distributary collapsed following a breach.

Official sources said the bridge over the Behman distributary caved in when its central pier, which could not resist the pressure of stagnant water, fell. The pier was made of bricks. The sources said due to strong windstorm, some of the trees which were uprooted last night fell in the railway siphon located down stream and blocked the flow of water.

As the water kept on accumulating it caused a breach of about 50 feet on one side of the distributary. After the breach, the bridge caved in when a heavy vehicle passed over it in the morning.

The 40-year-old bridge, which was 6-metre-wide, was constructed by PWD and B and R authorities. When the bridge was constructed, the distributary was unbricked. After some years, the distributary was bricklined. Water was seeping into the sides of the distributary from vacant spaces created by the telephone cable pipes. Sources added that it was for this reason that the breach took place. Mr Jaspal Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Mr Jatinder Jain, SSP, Mr B.N. Pojara, SE, Irrigation and Mr J.R. Garg, Xen, who reached the spot, made arrangements for diverting traffic to link roads.

Mr Garg said the flow of water in the distributary was immediately reduced after the information regarding the breach was received by him. He added that the flow of water had reduced considerably. Mr Garg said there was no loss to crops.

He said with the timely action taken by the Irrigation Department official, breaches in Kotbhai and Teona distributary were avoided late last night.


8-point agenda to save Punjab agriculture
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
With the globalisation of agriculture, competitive forces will determine cropping patterns, prices, quality and extent of international trade. Only countries with surpluses will gain in export competitiveness. India in general and Punjab in particular will have to shed the existing inhibitions and gear up to face new challenges ahead, particularly when two-thirds of the total numbers of farmers are small and marginal, who will be the worst affected if correctives are not applied now. In the interest of agriculture and small and marginal farmers, will India lead developing countries to put pressure on the WTO at the next round of talks at Qatar to effect certain changes?

In this context, the Punjab School of Economics, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, has submitted a working paper on the ‘’Implications of WTO for Punjab agriculture: agenda for action” to the Chief Minister. The authors, Dr R.S. Bawa (who is also the university Registrar) and Dr P. S. Raikhy, have suggested an eight-point agenda for action to “save and resuscitate” agriculture in Punjab.

Talking to TNS today, Dr Bawa said though Punjab agriculture had made impressive strides since the 1970s, the state remained at the crossroads with several negative developments having taken place between the 1970s and 1998-99. The developments included declining production of pulses and oilseeds on the one hand and increasing percentage of holdings below two hectares on the other hand. There was also a decreasing percentage of holdings above four hectares. There was also dwindling contribution of agriculture to state income and lowering of the annual growth rate in agriculture. The declining growth rate of the overall economy from 6 per cent in the Seventh Plan to 5.1 per cent in the Eighth Plan and the expected growth rate of 4.96 per cent in the Ninth Plan should make the authorities sit up. Even the total indebtedness of farmers had increased. The wheat-paddy mono-culture had affected the ecology, economy and environment and the state lagged behind in industry. The “high-cost economy” was a serious matter.

Having mentioned the broad parameters of GATT and the WTO, the overall international scenario and some of the steps India had taken to safeguard the interests of its agriculture, Dr Bawa listed the following eight-point agenda for action: 1. Punjab should convert direct subsidies to agriculture into deficiency payments or decoupled income support.

This could be done by withdrawing the facility of free electricity and giving an equivalent amount as deficiency payment 2. In view of ‘’green-box’’ and ‘’blue-box’’ subsidies in developed countries, Punjab should invest more in research, extension and advisory services, marketing and promotion, infrastructure, environmental and conservation programmes and other payments that were not subject to the reduction commitment as per the agreement on agriculture. The procurement prices of wheat and paddy should be adjusted to bring these close to the international prices and the difference accounted for through ‘’green-box’’ and ‘’blue-box’’ measures 3. Quality consciousness must be inculcated to meet sanitary and phytosanitary measures with farmers encouraged to sow durum wheat and basmati and processable fruits and vegetables 4. Diversification should shift to cereals and pulses that were processable.

Moreover, to reduce the burden of procurement of foodgrains, the state should adopt a wheat and paddy acreage limiting programme 5. Punjab should negotiate with other developing countries and strike mutual trade deals and strengthen storage and handling at Kandla port 6. Agro-industries must be encouraged and expanded with the state playing a market-friendly role under the new economic scene by providing export infrastructure, technical knowhow, trading houses, storage, transport and related facilities for perishable items 7.The policy of the Railways of overcharging freight to subsidise passenger traffic goes against Punjab and the state should be given a special incentive by the Railways and 8. Exploring possibilities of opening land routes through neighbouring countries for the export of farm produce and products.

Punjab must frame its own policy while the national policy on agriculture must be modified in the light of the WTO provisions. With sustained efforts, the WTO challenges could be changed to opportunities because free and fair trade would be in the interest of all countries in the long run. All this would mean good governance.

Punjab agriculture, Dr Bawa said, could reap the benefits of liberalised trade if the domestic cost of production was reduced, productivity increased, optimum use of resources made and biotechnology applied in farm research.


No stamp duty on land mortgaged for agri loans
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
No stamp duty will be charged on the value of the land mortgaged to secure a bank loan for starting an agro-based project. A decision to this effect has been taken at a meeting of a subcommittee headed by the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

Among others who attended the meeting were Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg and the Revenue Minister, Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan. The Revenue Minister held a detailed discussion pertaining to stamp duty exemption with senior officers of his department today.

A detailed notification in this connection will be issued soon.

Mr Sekhwan told TNS here that though earlier also a notification was issued in this regard, its scope was limited. Moreover, there were several flaws in that notification. Taking advantage of the lacunae in that notification, sub-registrars in the tehsils had been either charging stamp duty or exploiting the parties concerned.

Mr Sekhwan said as per the earlier notification the exemption on stamp duty was limited to securing a loan of up to Rs 35,000. Under the new notification to be issued by the government, there would be no such limit. Even if one party wanted to secure a loan of Rs 10 lakh, no stamp duty would be charged on the land mortgaged for this purpose, he added.

There would be no stamp duty if the parties concerned wanted to secure loans for dairy farming, poultry, piggeries, bee-keeping, forestry, combine harvesters, tractor-trailers, sheep rearing, etc, Mr Sekhwan said. A provision to this effect would be made in the fresh notification.

The government wanted to encourage people to start small agro-based projects at the village level by securing loans from banks. And for this purpose, it wanted to simplify the relevant procedures also. The promotion of agro-based projects was a part of the government policy to protect farmers from the onslaught of the World Trade Organisation agreement.

Mr Sekhwan said the need of the hour was diversification in agriculture in the state as the existing cropping pattern, followed by over 90 per cent of the farmers, had become unviable for several reasons. By starting agro-based projects, farmers could increase their incomes.


CPI assails PSEB for death of child
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 8
The CPI today criticised the Punjab State Electricity Board for the death of a seven-year-old child on April 17 after he came in contact with a live wire.

The veteran CPI leader, Mr Satya Pal Dang, who visited the site of the incident, talked to a number of residents before submitting a report to senior PSEB officials, copies of which were released to the Press, alleged that the child died after coming in contact with a live wire on the roof of his house in Bhalla colony, Chheherta.

Mr Dang alleged that lt line 440, which was just three inches away from the edge of the roof, had not been shifted by the PSEB despite repeated requests.

This was not an isolated example when live wires passed near rooftops.

Some officers of the board urged that the board was not to be blamed but it was due to negligence of the Electricity Department.

Mr Dang said the child’s life could have been saved had the board not changed its decision to shift the electric pole to be installed at a corner of the street near an industry owned by an official of the board.

Mr Dang demanded a high-level probe into the incident. He also sought compensation of at least Rs 2 lakh for the family. He demanded that the responsibility for the mishap be fixed.


Canals dry up in 24 villages, says Cong leader
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, May 8
Dr Mohinder Kumar Rinwa, former secretary of the PPCC, while talking to mediapersons here today, said thousands of residents of about two dozen villages were demanding irrigation and drinking water.

He said according to rules flow of water in non-perennial canals was ensured from April 15 to October 15 every year, but the canals in the affected villages were dry for the past three weeks.

It was hampering the sowing of paddy which required abundant water, he said.

Moreover, the subsoil water in these villages was brackish and unfit for cultivation of cotton. So the farmers had no other option except to sow paddy, he said.

The tubewell water affected the yield of paddy as it enhanced their input cost.

Dr Rinwa alleged the farmers were hard hit due to shortage of power as the power was supplied only for three to six hours daily. He threatened to move the court if the government failed to supply canal water.


Ropeway to link Anandpur Sahib, Naina Devi shrine
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, said today that a ropeway would be installed between Anandpur Sahib and the Naina Devi temple soon. It would be used for the transportation of devotees from Anandpur Sahib to the Naina Devi shrine, which fell in Himachal Pradesh.

A meeting of the officials concerned of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh was held here last evening under the chairmanship of Mr Badal. A representative of the ropeway company also attended the meeting.

The proposal for the ropeway was mooted by the Punjab Government during the tercentenary celebrations in April, 1999. Mr Badal said the ropeway would help boost tourism in this region.


Power cuts boon for invertor manufacturers
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 8
Even as the duration of unannounced and unscheduled power cuts has been rising in this region, these have started proving a boon for the generator and invertor manufacturers of the city and surrounding areas.

The rising temperature in the Malwa region, particularly in Bathinda, Mansa, Faridkot, Muktsar, Moga and Ferozepore districts, has been forcing people to make their own arrangements for power to run fans, refrigerators, coolers and air-conditioners during power cuts by installing generator sets and invertors.

Over the years, all lanes and bylanes of various towns of these districts have been flooded with generator sets. Most of the residents have installed generator sets.

In towns like Bhucho, Rampura, Budhlada, Rama and Tapa, almost every dwelling has turned into a small power generating unit.

The power cuts coupled with the noise pollution generated by the generator sets have also become a permanent source of nuisance and a health hazard for the residents of various localities. In certain areas, the level of noise has become unbearable for human ears.

The power control wing sources of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) said daily about 275 lakh units were being purchased from the central pool to reduce the demand supply gap of power in the state. However, the demand of power has been rising every day on one hand and on the other hydel power generation in Punjab has come down drastically due to low water level in all reservoirs of hydel projects.

Official sources said apart from low hydel power generation, two units — one of the local Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant (GNDTP) and other of the Ropar thermal plant — had been shut down for annual maintenance.

Though the PSEB authorities have been claiming that power situation in the state would be eased, the duration of power cuts has reached up to 12 hours in 24 hours. In winter also, the region has also been witnessing power cuts twice or thrice a day. With the onset of summer, people have been facing unnumbered power cuts.

Though most of the trade and industrial activity has been affected by the frequent power cuts, the generator and invertor manufacturers have been witnessing unprecedented jump into their sales as they have been receiving customers belonging to even low income group.

About five years ago the total sale of generator sets in this city was around 4,000 per annum which has now crossed five figures. The town has emerged as a leader in the field of generator set producing units in the region over the years.

The PSEB authorities claimed as the ice on the hilltops had started melting due to rise in temperature the generation of power from hydel units would increase shortly due to the rise in the water level. It would ease the power crisis in the state.

The residents have demanded Bathinda district, which boasts of two thermal power stations, should be declared a power cut-free district. 


Money collection through stalls in temple objected
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 8
The collection of donations by private organisations on the premises of the historic Kali Devi temple, which is managed by the district administration, through establishment of stalls has come into focus, with a religious leader demanding that the stalls be removed immediately, and the district administration saying that though it does not approve of the stalls, it would prefer that a temple advisory committee, which is being constituted, take action in the matter.

Religious leader Harish Singla in a memorandum submitted to the Deputy Commissioner here yesterday said that it was a matter of shame that various private organisations had put up stalls in the temple premises. He said these included stalls of the Langar Committee, Gaushala Committee and the Sarovar Committee.

The leader said it was unfortunate that people sitting in these stalls exhorted people to contribute to their committees by standing in front of them when they came in to offer their obeisance in the temple. He said this disturbed the mental peace of the devotees and that the stalls should be removed from the temple premises immediately.

Mr Singla has also taken up other issues in the memorandum, including need to investigate the working of the gaushala in the temple premises. He has alleged that the gaushala has been virtually converted into a dairy farm and that very principle behind its foundation — that it would take care of old and sick cows — has been thrown to the winds. He said though the foundation of the gaushala had been done with high ideals by late Pawan Kumar Sharma, the same ideology was not being followed now. He said the entire working of the committee should be probed to ascertain whether it was broad-based or family-oriented.

Deputy Commissioner Jasbir Singh Bir, when contacted, said the administration did not approve of the establishment of stalls in the temple premises which were used to collect donations from the devotees by private organisations. He said remedial measures were needed but added that any action in the matter would only be taken after taking all devotees into confidence.

Mr Bir said though a committee had been proposed around two years ago, it could not be formed due to various reasons. He said now another committee was in the process of being established and this committee would be given the task of tackling the issue of placing of stalls to collect donations by private organisations in the temple premises. Giving other details, he said the Chief Minister had visited the temple recently and directed that funds should not come in the way of its beautification. He said the administration had already advertised asking renowned architects to devise plans to further beautify the temple, and that the task would be taken up shortly.

Meanwhile, Mr Ramesh Kumar, who is the vice-president of the Gaushala Committee, condemned Mr Harish Singla for submitting a memorandum which was aimed at destabilising the good work being done by the committee. He said anyone was free to inspect the gaushala to ascertain the work being done by the committee, adding that all records were being maintained meticulously and that the records had already been submitted for inspection to the district administration.

He said the committee was a registered one and had a number of regular donors on its list who were helping it in running the gaushala. He said the funds collected through the table installed in the temple premises are also regularly accounted for and was being used for provision of fodder to animals.

Other bodies, who also have tables on the temple premises, said all funds were accounted for and that the money being collected had been used for the construction of a huge langar hall besides running of regular langar for devotees twice in a day. They said the committees had also done development work in the temple premises and that a vilification campaign was being launched against them by vested interests.


Fire leaves 1 man, 20 head of cattle dead
Tribune News Service

Shahkot (Jalandhar), May 8
About 20 milch cattle and an aged man were killed, while scores of houses were reduced to ashes by a devastating “fireball” that struck five villages in this subdivision today.

More than 50 cattle were injured, some of them seriously, and heaps of wheat straw destroyed in a unique kind of fire which was described by residents as a massive “fireball” from south, stirred by the storm which lashed the region today.

The fire, which is suspected to have started from Fathehpur village soon engulfed four other villages — Ismailpur, Gatti Rai Baksh and Gatti Raipur and Jakkipur — and destroyed everything that came in its way. “It was like a massive fireball fuelled by winds and wheat straw in people’s houses,” said Ram Nijhawan, a labourer from Ismailpur village.

A visit to the place revealed that all 10-12 houses in Fathehpur village had been reduced to ashes by the fire. Jagga Singh (50), who was trapped in his house, was got burnt alive. Surjit Singh, sarpanch of Fathehpur village, lost eight milch cattle, while another 30 animals belonging to him were among 52 animals which were seriously injured.

Mr Sucha Singh Mast, SDM, Shahkot, said relief camps had been set up in these villages and veterinary staff had been deputed to treat the injured animals free of cost. He said he had assessed the loss and a report was being sent to the Deputy Commissioner.


Residents help extinguish fire
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 8
A major fire was averted today due to timely intervention of fire servicemen and residents of the Multania Road locality situated on the outskirts of the city today.

According to information, Kartar Singh, a farmer, had set on fire wheat husk after harvesting crop. The fire, however, engulfed a nearby field where some wheat husk was being stored. It later spread to some bushes outside the field and on a pile of cotton sticks in a nearby field.

In the meantime, the fire tenders, reached the spot. The residents of the nearby colonies and farmers working in fields also gathered. With the help of local residents, the fire service team brought the fire under control.

Mukhtiar Singh, owner of the house which caught fire, said about 20 quintal of wheat stored in room was destroyed. He said wheat husk worth Rs 7000 was destroyed in the incident.


Red Cross ‘spending money on luxuries’
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, May 8
Flaying the district administration for using inappropriate means to collect money for humanitarian causes of the Red Cross Society, the Punjab Governor, Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd), termed the means as “highly undesirable”. This response was elicited when it was brought to the notice of the Governor that Red Cross ‘melas’ offered gambling stalls and vulgar shows involving dancing girls. The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Narinderjit Singh, denied the allegations.

Governor Jacob was here as chief guest of the state-level function on the occasion of World Red Cross Day today. Meanwhile, Ms Laxmi Kanta Chawla, BJP MLA, made serious allegations of mismanagement against the District Red Cross Society.

“The Red Cross is spending more on luxuries like a fully air-conditioned hall and offices. Ambulance vans of the society are used by society members as personal conveyance,” she alleged. The society, she pointed out, had sublet a chemist’s shop near Guru Nanak Hospital in addition to a dharamshala. The medicines sold at this shop cost much more than the market rate.

SANGRUR: World Red Cross Day was celebrated by the Department of Youth Services here on Tuesday.

A blood donation camp was also organised. As many as 40 boys and girls donated blood. Mr Ranjit Singh Balian, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Punjab, urged the youth to work for the welfare of mankind in all spheres of life.

Mr G.K. Singh, officiating Deputy Commissioner, Mr Rajesh Dhiman, Assistant Commissioner (General), and Mr Gurcharan Singh, Assistant Director, Youth Services, also addressed the function.


3 die in mishap
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, May 8
In a collision between a Tata Sumo and a scooter near Parmanand School in this sub-division, three persons were reportedly killed on the spot.

According to police sources, Kuldip Singh (28) of Qadian Shahpur village along with his wife Paramjit Kaur (25) and daughter Harmeet Kaur (6) were going on a scooter to their village in the afternoon. The Tata Sumo hit the scooter killing the three on the spot.


2 die, 1 hurt in accidents
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, May 8
Two persons were killed and a woman injured in three different incidents near here.

Arun Kumar (35), a migrant labourer from Madhaya Pradesh, was killed when he was hit by a car near Uppoki village on the Malerkotla-Nabha road here today. The driver of the car has been arrested under Section 304-A of the IPC.

In another incident, Gurbaj Singh (50), resident of Manikusal village, was attacked by a bull. The bull thrust its horns into his stomach. He was taken to hospital but he succumbed to injuries yesterday.

Prem Kaur was hit by a bus near Uppoki village. She was rushed to the local Civil Hospital where her condition is stated to be out of danger. A case against the driver of the bus has been registered.


Fire playing havoc with wheat crop
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 8
Fire has been playing havoc with farmers by turning the standing wheat crop into a heap of ash in a few minutes. So far 22 incidents have taken place in and around the city and 114 acres of standing wheat been destroyed so far.

The major cause of the fire has reportedly been short circuit in electric wires passing above the fields. The record of the local fire station indicates that 25 fire calls had been received between April 21 and May 4 from the district and neighbouring districts.

An official of the Fire Department said during the harvest season, they remained on tenterhooks. He added that fire engines were kept ready throughout the day.

He said due to shortage of fire tenders, it was sometimes impossible to reach every spot where the fire had broken.

The Muktsar fire station had received 22 fire calls this season so far and about 15 acres of standing crop destroyed in the district. In the Malout area about 50 acres of crop, including a kinnow field was destroyed in fire.

In the Giddarbaha area, nearly 14 cases of fire, in which 40 acres of standing wheat crop was destroyed, had been reported. The most affected area in this region was Mansa. The district had lost 165 acres of standing wheat in 13 different incidents.

According to fire officers, besides short circuits, the other major reason for the incidents of fire was the burning of the husk after the harvest of wheat. Due to wind, the fire would spread to nearby fields where the wheat was not harvested yet. Although a ban had been imposed in the district on the burning of wheat straw but still it had become one of the major havocs causing fire.

The first fire incident that had occurred at the Lehra Khana village on April 21 deprived Mr Gurdev Singh of about 1.5 acres of wheat. Many such incidents had occurred in Poohla, Kotshamir, Nathana, Ganga, Giddar, Kotra Koreawala, Kutiwal and Gillpatti villages. The fire that broke out in Samao village had been the biggest which destroyed 42 acres of wheat. In Ghuman Kalan village of Mansa district, the fire destroyed about 60 acres of crop.

Not only the standing wheat crop but the domes made to store wheat husk were also burnt. About 100 such domes had been destroyed in the district so far.

One of the farmers who had lost 4 acres of wheat crop due to fire alleged that the Electricity Department was not doing much in order to make sure that no short circuit should take place. He added that compensation should be paid to farmers whose crop was destroyed due to department’s fault.


Arhtiyas’ licences suspended
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, May 8
As many as 11 arhtiyas have been fined and their licences suspended for non-cleaning and irregularities in weighing. Mr B. Vikram, Deputy Commissioner, today said that 354869 MT of wheat had been procured by the state agencies so far and added that payment to the farmers was being made in time through the arhtiyas.

Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, and Dr G. Vajralingham, Director, Food and Civil Supplies, visited various mandis to assess the process of procurement in the district and found it satisfactory.


19 top posts vacant in Health Dept
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 8
Out of a total of 43 posts of Director, Additional Director, Joint Director and Deputy Director in the Punjab Health Department, as many as 19 posts have been lying vacant since long. In the absence of regular appointments to these posts, the functioning of the department has been affected adversely.

The vacant posts are: Director (two), Additional Director (two), Joint Director (three) and Deputy Director (12).

Dr Surinder Singla, general secretary of the Punjab Civil Medical Services Association (PCMSA), today urged the Punjab Government to fill these posts without further delay by holding the meeting of the departmental promotion committee.

He said in the absence of regular heads in the departments, basic services to people had been affected. Besides, the grievances of the employees of the department had also increased.

Routine service matters, including time-bound placement cases, clearance of probation period and confirmation cases were being delayed, he added.

Dr Singla urged the state government to immediately upgrade 500 posts of Medical Officer (MO) to the rank of Senior Medical Officer (SMO) in the light of a decision taken by the state government on April 17, 1995 at a meeting presided over by the then Chief Minister, Mr Beant Singh.

Even after six years, the decision to upgrade the posts of MO was yet to be implemented though it did not have financial implications.

The association also urged the state government to review the PCMS cadre as per the recommendations made by the Justice Sandhawalia Committee to avoid further stagnation.

The association asked the Punjab Government to implement those recommedations of the Fourth Pay Commission which had not been implemented so far. 


Recruitment of constables stayed

Chandigarh, May 8
A Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court comprising Justice N.K. Sodhi and Justice R.C. Kathuria today stayed the recruitment of the constables in the Punjab Police in pursuance to the advertisement which had appeared in various newspapers on March 19,2001, and issued notice to Punjab for May 23,2001.

This order was passed by the Bench on a petition filed by Manjeet Singh and 63 others SPOs of Ferozepur district who had challenged the direct recruitment of the constables being illegal and violation of the law laid down by the apex court.

It was contended by counsel for the petitioner that as per the decision of the government and also in view of the latest law laid down by the apex court,their cases were required to be considered afresh after lowering the standard because all petitioners were recruited prior to 1995 instructions, which for the first time provided holding of suitability test for absorption of the SPOs as constables in the Punjab Police.

Since the advertisement was for directly recruiting the constables against unspecified number of vacancies without first absorbing the petitioners/ SPOs it tentamounted to circumvention of the order of the apex court. PTI 


P. M. Das made IG, GRP
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
On promotion, Mr P. M. Das, an IPS officer of the Punjab cadre, has been posted as Inspector-General, Government Railway Police, Patiala.

Mr D.R. Bhatti has been transferred to Phillaur as ADGP-cum-Director of the Punjab Police Academy.


Punseed Chairman
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
Mr Simarjit Singh Majitha will be the new Chairman of Punseed.

Mr Simarjit Singh was an aspirant for the Shiromani Akali Dal ticket for the Majitha byelection but the party had ignored him. 


Farm technocrats start protest week
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 8
Officers of the Agriculture, the Horticulture, the Soil Conservation and the Animal Husbandry departments have started a protest week demanding early implementation of the decision taken on November 28 to revoke a notification on their pay scales.

Dr Mohinder Singh Thind and Dr Kulwant Singh Sidhu of the Punjab Agricultural Officers Association, Dr Dilbagh Singh and Dr Kuldeep Singh of the Plant Doctors Services Association, and Dr Hazara Singh Cheema of the Punjab Animal Husbandry Association, in a joint statement, said that instead of restoring their pay parity which had been disturbed by the Fourth Pay Commission, the government had further lowered the existing pay scales.


Where all are equal before law
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 8
The principle that all are equal before law adopted by the district police authorities seems to have started yielding results as one more Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Gurcharan Singh, In charge, police post, Kot Shamir, was caught red-handed today while accepting a bribe Rs 400 from Sukhwinder Singh at the district court complex in a joint raid conducted by the DSP (R), Mr Jaspreet Singh Sidhu, and DSP (Vigilance).

Though the district police authorities have been taking all measures to check the crime rate more and more Punjab police personnel have been found indulging in different types of crime.

In 2000, 19 criminal cases were registered against 20 police officials, including seven ASIs. Two ASIs Surender Thakur and Shashi Atwal were booked under the NDPS Act allegedly for indulging in poppy husk smuggling.

Apart from cases relating to smuggling of narcotics, the policemen have been booked for offences, which included forgery, corruption, attempt to murder, fraud, causing injury, dowry death and stripping of a Dalit woman in front of her son.

In the recent past, the district police arrested Inspector Budh Singh allegedly for committing a theft at the STD/PCO booth located near the thermal plant. Earlier, he was booked in a case relating to the possession of illegal arms along with an employee of the PSEB.

Not only in Bathinda district, the policemen posted in other parts of state have also been found indulging in crimes. The Faridkot police while investigating a murder case, last year, came to know that two police constables acted as “contract killers”.

A case has been registered against, an inspector-level official of the Punjab police, Gurjit Singh, Mansa district, on the directions of Punjab and Haryana High Court in 1998. Inspector Budh Singh, who fell into the police net in the recent past, has been evading arrest for the past many years due to his considerable clout in political and other circles in the state despite the fact that he was facing more than six criminal cases.

Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, SSP, when contacted, said ASI Gurcharan Singh was arrested in a joint raid conducted by two DSPs.

Mr Sidhu, DSR (R), said ASI Gurcharan Singh took Rs 400 from Sukhwinder Singh, who was facing a trial in a case relating to a fraud under Section 420 of the IPC for presenting the challan in the court concerned. 


Five arrested in passport racket
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 8
Their inability to converse in English proved to be their undoing. Jaswant Singh and Davinder Singh carrying British passports were arrested by the Amritsar police when they were unable to even give their addresses in England although their passport showed them residing in that country for the past 20 years, said Mr Amit Prasad, SP, at a press conference here today.

Five persons were arrested in a fake passports racket by the immigration authorities at the Rajasansi airport here, including officer B.P. Verma.

The other arrested were Makhan Singh, Jaswant Singh and Davinder Singh, all residents of Jalandhar. Makhan Singh was taking the other two on British passports to England on an Uzbekistan flight through agent Amritpal. A sum of Rs 2 lakh was to be paid to immigration official before the group was issued boarding passes.

The arrested were booked at the Rajasansi police station under Sections 419/420/468 and 471, of the Indian Passport Act.

According to the police, Makhan Singh, a resident of England and an Indian passport holder himself, had procured expired or missing passports of British nationals to take the two to England. Even the visa stamp on the passports of Jaswant Singh and Ravinder Singh was genuine.

The SP, City, said several immigration officials at Rajasansi and Indira Gandhi Airport, Delhi, were suspected of facilitating the entry of such persons into UK for huge sums of money.


Man shot, robbed of Rs 5 lakh
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, May 8
A middle-aged commission agent of Fazilka was shot dead today on the Fazilka-Abohar road, 8 km from here, by three unidentified scooterists. He was robbed of Rs 5 lakh and his scooter was also taken away.

According to the FIR, Des Raj, a resident of the nearby Jandwala Miransangla village, and his cousin Gian Chand were going to their village on scooter (PB-22-0443) and were carrying Rs 5 lakh in the tool box of the scooter around 2 p.m. As they turned to the link road and had travelled about 1 km three unidentified scooterists stopped them and threw red chilli powder in their eyes.

As Gian Chand tried to resist, one of the three persons shot at Gian Chand who died at the spot. Des Raj managed to escape. Des Raj has stated in his report that they had withdrawn the amount from the Central Bank of India, Fazilka branch, today. The deceased’s father Munshi Ram had to pay the money to Des Raj for a land deal. The police has registered a case and police parties have been rushed to nab the culprits.


Man held for forgery
Tribune News Service

Gidderbaha, May 8
The lust for grabbing 57 acres belonging to three local residents, in Gautam Budh Nagar of Uttar Pradesh has landed Suresh Yadav of the same district into police net for allegedly attempting to make fake power of attorney from the local tehsil office.

Police sources said Suresh Yadav, Rakesh Yadav, Devi Ram Sharma and two other persons came to the local tehsil office on April 19 and asked a petition writer to make power of attorney in their name entitling them to dispose of the 57 acres belonging to three brothers — Mr Sita Ram Jain, Mr Phul Chand Jain and Mr Pawan Kumar Jain.

For doing so, the accused forged the signatures of these three brothers on stamp papers. They left the tehsil complex when they were asked by the petition writer, Mr Mohan Lal, that photographs of both the parties — one giving the power of attorney and other receiving it — were required for pasting on stamp papers.

Suresh Yadav came to tehsil complex on May 6 again and asked Mr Mohan Lal to prepare the power of attorney without photographs and for this, he would be paid suitably.

Thereafter, Mr Mohan Lal informed the matter to Mr Pawan Kumar Jain and subsequently the matter was reported to the police. Suresh Yadav was arrested immediately.

The police sources said during interrogation Suresh Yadav confessed that he, along with his associates, had planned to grab the land by making fake power of attorney.

Sources added that a case had been registered under Sections 119, 420, 465, 467, 511 and 20-B of the IPC in the local police station on a complaint by Mr Pawan Kumar Jain.

Sources added that to nab the other culprits, police parties would be sent to Uttar Pradesh shortly.


Robbers’ gang busted; 3 held 
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 8
The district police has, with the arrest of three persons, busted an 18-member gang of robbers and seized weapons from them.

Mr Gaurav Yadav, SSP, said here today that a police party laid a naka at Shaheed Bhagat Singh Colony on the intervening night of May 7 and May 8. A truck without registration number coming from Kartarpur was intercepted and personal search of three occupants of the vehicle led to the seizure of a country-made pistol and two knives.

They were arrested and had been identified as Chuchi and Pali of Beas village in Majitha and Fariyad, a resident of Kot Isse Khan village in Moga.

Mr Yadav said the three revealed that they were part of an 18-member gang of robbers led by Chuchi.

Efforts were on to nab the remaining culprits.


3 suicides in 24 hours
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 8
Three persons, including a married woman and one a girl committed suicide and three were killed in two separate road accidents in the past 24 hours in Bathinda and Muktsar districts.

Police sources said an 18-year-old girl of Muktsar town shot herself dead with the revolver of her father reportedly after not faring well in her plus two examinations. She could not pass the examination last year too.

In another case a married woman living in Gidderbaha town consumed celphos tablets yesterday and died. Kulwant Singh, a teenager of Bathinda district died after consuming poison when his father refused to give him Rs 100 to buy liquor.

Harbhajan Singh and Jagan Singh of Hamirgarh village who were seriously injured in a road accident near Goniana town last night, died in Civil Hospital today.

A case had been registered under Section 304-A of the CrPC. The two were going on a motor cycle when an unidentified vehicle hit them.

Raju, who was injured last night when a tree fell on him in the grain market, Gidderbaha, died in the local Civil Hospital today.

In another accident about 15 persons were injured when the bus in which they were travelling met with an accident.

Mr Dharam Singh, SP(H), Muktsar, said a case had been registered against the driver of the bus.

In another case, the Gidderbaha police arrested Tari Singh and seized more than 20 bottles of liquor.


FCI man caught taking bribe
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, May 8
Kulbhushan Kaura, Technical Assistant with the Food Corporation of India (FCI), was today caught red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 5000 from Mr Manoj Kumar, working as an accountant at the shop of a commission agent.

Mr Vinod Kumar, DSP (Vigilance), said Kulbhushan Kaura, had procured 4800 bags of wheat from the Sukhna Ablu purchase centre and had been demanding bribe from the firm, Bakhtawar Singh and Sons, for procuring more wheat.

He said a case had been registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act.


Man crushed to death by truck
Our Correspondent

Dhuri, May 8
A pedestrian was crushed to death by a truck near the Sangrur by-pass here this morning.

The deceased has been identified as Gurcharan Singh resident of Chur-chak village. The driver is reported to have fled after the incident.

The body of the deceased has been sent to the local Civil Hospital for a postmortem examination. A case under Section 279 and 304-A, IPC, has been registered.


Revolver, cash stolen from car
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 8
Some robbers targeted a city-based financier’s car and walked away with his licensed revolver and cash amounting to Rs 32,000 when he had gone to a chemist shop near Guru Nanak Mission Chowk here this evening.

The incident which occurred at 6.20 p.m. has shocked the residents of the area. The robbery took place when Mr G. K. Singhal, owner of a finance company, returned after purchasing some medicines from a shop to his Maruti Esteem car parked in the market.

When he came back he found the door of the car open and his bag containing cash, his revolver and some other costly items were missing.

Meanwhile, a large number of residents gathered there while the police cordoned off the area and a search operation was launched.


4-yr-graduation in selective colleges: VC
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, May 8
The Vice-Chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Dr Harbhajan Singh Soch, today declared that graduation would be made of four years in selective colleges from 2001. Talking to mediapersons at local M.L. Uppal DAV College, he said in other colleges the duration for the graduation would continue to be three years.

Computer education would be made compulsory for a graduate degree from 2002. All university results would be available on the Internet, if not from this year, then from the following year, declared Dr Soch.

Asked about the new courses, the Vice-Chancellor said the ongoing IT/professional and other courses would be strengthened further with minor variations.

Earlier, addressing a gathering in the college, Dr Soch called upon college management to reserve seats for poor students. Dr Soch inaugurated a college block. Mr Surjit Sehdev, Chairman, Victoria International Public School, donated Rs 5 lakh to the college. 


DEOs told to follow transfer policy norms
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
Addressing a meeting of District Education Officers here today, Punjab Education Minister, Tota Singh directed them to stick to the guidelines incorporated in the transfer policy while forwarding the cases of teachers for transfer to the government authorities concerned.

The process of transfers would start on June 1 and be completed by June 30.

He said that if the number of applicants was more than one for a vacant post, then priority should be given to widows, unmarried girls, physically challenged persons, wives of Army personnel, etc.

Only teachers of subjects like Mathematics, English and Science would qualify for transfer, whose result was minimum 50 per cent in the subject taught by them at matriculation and 10 plus two level.

For teachers of Punjabi, Hindi and other subjects, the minimum requirement of result in the subject taught by them is 65 per cent to be eligible for the transfer.

Eligibility for transfer for headmaster is at least 60 per cent result of his or her school in board examinations.

Only women teachers would be adjusted against vacant posts in girl’s schools.

Surplus teachers from urban areas may also be transferred to rural areas where posts are vacant.


Rare ‘distinction’ for school
Our Correspondent

Mansa, May 8
Government Primary School, Ramdittewala village, achieved a dubious distinction when 26 of the 28 students of Class V failed in the examination held by the Punjab School Education Board.


Clarification on school timings
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 8
The Punjab Government today issued a clarification regarding the change in the school hours in the state. A spokesman for the government said all aided schools and government primary, middle, high and secondary schools would open at 7.30 a.m. and close at 12.30 p.m.

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