Sunday, May 13, 2001,  Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



SHSAD to file PIL against Badal govt
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 12
The Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) will soon file a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the alleged misuse of the public money by the Badal government.

Talking to mediapersons at the residence of Mr Jatinder Singh Gill, an Akali leader, here yesterday, Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra, general secretary of the SHSAD, alleged that money was not being accounted for in many cases, besides the misutilisation of the same. He also alleged that Mr Badal had been distributing grants at the “sangat darshan” programmes to the fake clubs and organisations.

Professor Chandumajra also said the government officers had already exposed the “sangat darshan” programmes of Mr Badal.

He said the statement of the Patiala Deputy Commissioner that the cheques distributed by Mr Badal at Nabha and Samana at “sangat darshan” programmes, would only be cleared after examining the authenticity of the institutions had made it clear that Mr Badal was spreading political corruption and blackmailing the people to win the next Assembly elections. He further added that issuance of wrong cheques was a criminal offence.

Professor Chandumajra said the alleged bungling of Rs 20 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund by Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal proved that there was no difference between the SAD and the Congress.


CM giving grants to own men only: Cong
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, May 12
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee has flayed the sangat darshan programme launched by the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

Mr Raman Bhalla, former minister of Punjab, and Mr Ram Murti Mahajan, president, INTUC, in a statement issued here yesterday criticised the Chief Minister for plundering the state exchequer to appease his party councillors, sarpanches, and other office-bearers by distributing grants to the tune of crores of rupees at the programmes for developmental works in their respective areas.

Mr Bhalla said the Congress was not averse to the all-round development of the state, but the manner in which the constituencies represented by the Akali Dal and BJP legislators were being provided with such grants was against the functioning of a democratic set-up.

The Congress leaders alleged that the programmes were being organised to woo the public for getting support in the forthcoming elections.


Oppn MLAs to file case against govt
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, May 12
All 25 MLAs of opposition parties, including the Congress, will file a writ petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court next week against the discriminatory attitude of the Punjab Government in not allocating the MLA quota funds of Rs 1 crore each for development purposes in their respective assembly constituencies. The documents in this regard are under process and will get final shape by the end of this week.

This was stated by Mr Avtar Singh Brar, local MLA and vice-president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, while talking to mediapersons here yesterday.

He accused the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, of using the funds solely for constituencies of its own party MLAs setting aside all democratic norms in the state.

Mr Brar also accused the Chief Minister of misusing a grant of Rs 350 crore given by the Centre as compensation to the farmers during the procurement of paddy last year.

He also criticised the Chief Minister of misusing official machinery and distributing state funds lavishly during sangat darshan programme in spite of the poor economic condition of the state. The senior Congress leader alleged the Chief Minister had failed to check corruption and nepotism in the state that had reached its peak.

He criticised the Chief Minister for his inability to allocate funds for the construction of the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences here in spite of the fact that its foundation stone was laid with great fanfare in 1996.

Besides, no measures had been taken to strengthen the district by adding nearly 100 villages as per his assurance to the district lawyers last year, he said. He further criticised the decision of the Chief Minister to shift local nursing school to Lambi in his home town district of Muktsar.


Cong MPs reject idea of Sikh MPs front
Tribune News Service

New Delhi May 12
The Punjab Congress Parliamentary Party has unanimously rejected the proposal to float a Sikh MPs’ front in Parliament.

Terming the proposal mooted by Mr Tarlochan Singh, Deputy Chairman of the Minorities Commission, as politically motivated and empty, the MPs said such on idea would hurt Sikhs the most.

Conveying the decision, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, convener of the Punjab Congress Parliamentary Party, said proposal smacked of political opportunism and was divisive and dangerous.

Questioning the timing of the proposal, the eight Punjab Congress MPs asked Mr Tarlochan Singh to clarify if the idea had the approval of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Claiming that Mr Tarlochan Singh had attended Akali Dal-BJP public meetings before coming to the Minorities Commission, Mr Brar asked why he had not made the proposal earlier.

Asserting that Mr Tarlochan Singh’s idea ought to be rejected, Mr Brar said it was not in the interests of the Punjabis.

Mr Brar, however, said the Congress MPs would take initiative to form a platform for solving issues affecting the Punjabis. He said the Punjab Congress MPs had been consistently raising issues affecting the Punjabis.

Pointing to some of the issues raised by the Congress in and outside Parliament, Mr Brar said the party had spoken about the 1984 riots and issues relating to river waters, financial powers to states and black-listed NRIs.

All such issues would continue to be pressed through the proposed Punjabi MPs Front, Mr Brar said, adding that the first meeting in this regard may take place during the monsoon session of Parliament.


Sikh MPs group move ‘Badal’s plot’
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 12
The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, is behind the move to form the “Sikh pressure group” and this move smacks of communalising the parliamentarians, alleged the President of the Lok Bhalai Party and MP, Mr B.S. Ramoowalia.

“It is a conspiracy to mix religion with politics, to divide and isolate the Sikh community and to harm the national unity,” Mr Ramoowalia said in a statement here today.

The proposal for the formation of such a pressure group came from the Vice-President of the National Commission for Minorities, Mr Tarlochan Singh, three weeks ago, to lobby with the Centre for protecting the interest of the minority community.

Mr Ramoowalia said all MPs were elected by joint electorate and not on the basis of any religion and this move was clearly violative of the oath taken by each MP solemnly affirming his allegiance to the Constitution.

Stating the Union Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, and the Vice-President of the National Minorities Commission, Mr Tarlochan Singh as frontmen for the group, he said the move “is against the Sikh philosophy of humanity’s welfare (sarbat-da-bhala).”

Mr Ramoowalia said the move was actually intended to cover the failure of the Akali Dal and its government to get Punjab’s main demands accepted such as handing over of Chandigarh and Punjabi-speaking areas to Punjab, resolve the river water dispute and introduction of Punjabi as second language in neighbouring states.

Echoing similar views, the Vice-President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress, Mr Sant Ram Singla, said: “Such a proposal is unconstitutional, illogical and unworkable. Parliament represents the collective will of the nation and such a move is bound to create ripples in its cohesive character.”

Mr Singla said the Constitution had stood the test of time and now such a move on the basis of religion would sow the seeds of discord, discontent and religious unrest, which could create danger to the unity and integrity of the nation.

The head of the Sarb Hind Akali Dal and former SGPC chief, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, has opposed the proposal to form a “pressure group” of Sikh MPs to take up the minority community issues with the Centre.

“What is the use of creating a assemblage of the Sikh MPs under a banner when a majority of them, being members of the Congress and other political parties, had a pronounced track record of opposing the Sikh Panth and Sikh religious tradition,” Mr Tohra said in a statement.

Cutting across party lines, Mr Tarlochan Singh in a letter to the parliamentarians said the apolitical group would take up with the central leadership a plethora of issues hanging fire for an interminably long time.

These include removing the black list of Sikhs, pursuing vigorously the setting up of a Canadian consulate in Chandigarh, providing succour and citizenship to an estimated 25,000 Sikh refugees from Afghanistan, ensuring representation to the Sikh community in the Supreme Court, Union Public Services Commission and various state-owned corporations and according proper status and recognition to Punjabi language.


Kuldip Singh may get recognition
Chairmanship of World Sikh Council
Varinder walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 12
In a significant development, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, President, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Justice Kuldip Singh (Retd), Chairman, World Sikh Council (Bhai Ranjit Singh group), Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar, Kesgarh Sahib, Giani Kewal Singh, Jathedar, Damdama Sahib, Brig Gurdip Singh (Retd), Dr Kharak Singh and Mr Jawahar Singh, a close relative of Mr Talwandi, held a closed-door meeting here today to resolve the three-year-old controversy pertaining to the World Sikh Council.

What transpired at the meeting could not be known. Yet indications are that the high priests and the SGPC may accord recognition to Justice Kuldip Singh as Chairman of the WSC.

Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, being patron of the WSC, has called office-bearers of both warring factions at Akal Takht on May 14 to resolve the matter.

Bhai Ranjit Singh, a former Jathedar of Akal Takht and patron of one of the warring factions, suggested to Justice Kuldip Singh (Retd) not to present himself before the five Sikh High Priests during their proposed meeting on May 14 at Akal Takht.

It may be mentioned here that in order to resolve the controversy, Jathedar Vedanti had directed office-bearers of both warring factions to present themselves before the Sikh clergy. Such an attempt was also made by the then Jathedar, Akal Takht, Giani Puran Singh.

Giani Puran Singh had constituted a 12-member committee to run the affairs of the WSC but Justice Kuldip Singh expressed his inability to serve on the new committee. Later, both factions continued to work separately.

When contacted at Chandigarh, Mr Jaswant Singh Mann, general secretary of the parallel faction of the WSC, expressed surprise over the meeting. He said on the one hand Sikh clergy had summoned office-bearers of both factions to find an amicable solution and on the other, held “behind-the-curtain” activities. This had created confusion on the subject. The office-bearers of the other group should also have been called, he said.

Due to the importance accorded to one faction of the World Sikh Council, the opposite group may stay away from the proposed meeting of the Sikh clergy. Mr Mann said no formal invitation had been received by him from the clergy for the May 14 meeting.

The fresh developments may complicate the issue further as Justice Kuldip Singh is a confidant of Bhai Ranjit Singh. If he is given recognition by the high priests and the SGPC, the other group may exploit the situation. It may accuse Mr Talwandi of trying to bring the Chief Minister’s opponents on a single platform to embarrass him.


Doaba may turn into desert
Rice cultivation taking toll on water-table
Varinder Singh

Tribune News Service

Doaba may be reduced to a desert within the next about 200 years if corrective measures are not taken to arrest the fast falling water-table in the area.

The situation, according to the state Agriculture Department, is so alarming that on an average the water-table has been going down at the rate of about one foot per year. Within the past 10 years, the decline in the water-table has been 1.41 metres.

If the area under rice cultivation is not cut down drastically and people not made aware about the rational use of water, a water crisis may grip the state in the coming years.

A perusal of a report prepared by the water cell of the Department of Agriculture revealed that the fall in the water-table was all-pervasive in the Doaba region. It was particularly sharp in Nakodar, Shahkot and Lohian areas of Jalandhar district. The availability of ground water was at 22.5 metres in Nakodar, about 20 metres in Shahkot and 21 metres in Lohian.

In Nakodar the water level fell by two metres between June 90 and June 2000, whereas, it was 1.65 metres in Shahkot and 1.20 metres in Jalandhar sub-division. The main reasons cited for the phenomenon was decline of water in the Sutlej, misuse of water by people and scanty rain during the past 10 years.

The situation was the same in adjoining Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur districts. In Dona area of Kapurthala district adjoining Nakodar and Shahkot, the water-table had gone down between one-two metres, while the fall was more in the Kandi area falling in Hoshiarpur district where the fall was said to be between three-five metres during the past one decade. There was almost no change in the level of water in the mand area of Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur districts.

Farmers in areas where the water-table is declining have been badly hit. They were forced to replace their ordinary tubewells with submersible pumps, each of which costs between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 2 lakh, depending upon the availability of ground water. “Who can afford submersible pumps when most of the crops have failed to yield any profit for us for the past about three-four years,” says Dhanna Singh of Brindpur village in Kapurthala district.

The decline in the water-table has brought misfortune to farmers in ways more than one. On the one hand, they have to spend more on inputs like installation of tubewells and on the other the price of their land has started falling, particularly in remote areas falling in Nakodar and Shahkot sub-divisions of Jalandhar district and the entire kandi area in Hoshiarpur.

“If the price of an acre of land was between Rs 1 and Rs 2 lakh in the kandi area about five years back, it is the same now. But the prices of commercial properties have skyrocketed during this period,” says Mr Anurag Sood, owner of a farm in Patehri village of Hoshiarpur district. “There is hardly anyone interested in buying agricultural land,” he observes.

Farm experts say to maintain the water-table at a judicious level, the foremost necessity is to cut down the area under rice cultivation as recommended by the Johal Committee in its 1986 report. The report has not been implemented by the government so far.

The other alternative is to recharge the ground water by building bundhs during the monsoons. The Agriculture Department has taken steps to direct the surface water like ponds towards the ground water with the help of deep bores at Kala Sanghian village of Kapurthala district and Chania near Nakodar.


Border fencing annoys Pak
Varinder Singh & J.S. Malhotra

Jalandhar, May 12
The Pakistan Rangers has expressed its reservations over the ongoing fencing of the 198 km Indo-Pakistan border strip in the Jammu sector by the Border Security Force (BSF) authorities.

Meanwhile, the conclusion of the four-day India-Pakistan bi-annual meeting between the BSF and the Pakistan Rangers at the BSF here was marred due to a boycott by mediapersons, who got agitated over the “unsavoury” behaviour of BSF officials with the Press. Earlier, the BSF authorities had invited sharp criticism when they did not solicit the queries of mediapersons when the Pakistani Rangers delegation arrived here on May 9.

Mincing no words, the Pakistani Rangers delegation led by Major-Gen Zarrar Azim, Director-General, Pakistan Rangers (Punjab), told his Indian counterpart that it would not tolerate the continuation of the ongoing border fencing by India. We will spare no effort to prevent it,” General Azim said which led the BSF Inspector-General, Punjab Frontier, Mr A.S. Aulakh to reach saying,” I have told them that we will do the fencing in any case. Try to stop it if you can”.

The tense situation was resolved with both sides resolving to extend full cooperation to each other to amicably solve common issues at the field commanders level so as to avoid harassment to the civilian population and to maintain peace and tranquility on the international border.

The BSF and its Paksitani counterpart decided to hold flag meetings to solve the issue of inadvertent crossing of the border by innocent people from both sides. Mr Aulakh said it had been decided that whenever there was an incident of inadvertent border crossing by humans or animals on either side of the border, a flag meeting would be held immediately at the nearest border post so that innocent people were not harassed unnecessarily. “This will also help in a proper liaison between the forces on both sides,” said Mr Aulakh, adding that both sides had agreed not to resort to unprovoked firing on the border. A meeting of the BSF and the Pakistani Rangers will be held on May 28 at the Wagah Border for exchange of citizens of both countries who had innocently crossed the border. “Only those people will be repatriated to their respective countries who will be duly identified and screened by the BSF in case of Indians and the Pakistani Rangers in case of Pakistani nationals,” said Mr Aulakh. There are 27 Indians in Pakistan and 15 Pakistani nationals in India who had allegedly crossed over the border innocently. This will be followed by another meeting between the BSF and the Pakistani Rangers scheduled to be held in Lahore in October.

In addition to this, issues like illegal entry of Bangladeshis and smuggling was also discussed during the meeting, while the representatives of the Narcotics control bureaus of both countries exchanged information regarding prevailing trends of drug-trafficking on the border. The surveyors and PWD officials of Pakistan and India reviewed the progress of repairs and reconstruction of damaged missing boundary pillars on the international border.

Both sides resolved to put in sincere efforts for smooth management of the international border. Major-Gen Zarrar Azim thanked Mr Aulakh for the warm hospitality extended to their delegation during its visit to India.


Should Punjab store wheat, paddy?
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 12
Punjab government agencies have procured 97.47 lakh tonne of wheat till May 11. With this a major proportion of the expected 115 lakh tonne of wheat stands purchased and bagged in the state. The corresponding procurement figure for rabi 2000 is 88.70 lakh tonne.

With the Food Corporation of India (FCI) dragging its feet on procuring, the targeted 33 per cent share and repayment of incidental charges already blocked by New Delhi for the past three to four years, a heavy financial mantle falls on Punjab. The state has secured a credit cash limit of Rs 6,466 crore from the Reserve Bank of India for rabi 2001. Had the FCI behaved well, the credit limit would have been Rs 6,070 crore.

The Director, Food and Supplies, Dr G. Vajralingam, today told TNS that preparations for wheat procurement, including creation of additional storage space, started soon after the paddy marketing ended in October. Expecting yet another bumper harvest, the acute storage problem caused anxiety since the state already had a stock of 85 lakh tonne (as on May 1). The anxiety was further heightened because the movement of wheat outside the state was negligible. The demand for Punjab wheat (as also rice) has considerably slowed down with other states improving their own agriculture.

The unique feature of rabi 2001 wheat procurement is that within 15 days 1616-odd mandis and purchase centres were flooded by the golden grains choking every available space. The fear of inclement weather in the second and third week of April made farmers rush their wheat to the mandis. Dr Vajralingam said daily arrivals, on an average, have hovered around 1.50 lakh tonne since April 20, peaking on April 26 with seven lakh tonne on a single day. In fact, five lakh tonne wheat was handled on several days.

The major task is ‘’lifting’’ of wheat. At least 80 per cent has been taken care of despite in-built system constraints like transportation, arranged by the deputy commissioners, who are left to deal with strong unions, more often than not, backed by political lobbies, some of which own transport companies. In view of the huge stocks, the department this year allowed even tractor-trailers for transportation of wheat to storage sites. In fact a state-wide survey was conducted in November-December to identify panchayat and government land for construction of platforms to store wheat. Remunerative rents were agreed upon to enable panchayats plough the money into village development works.

With the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 610 per quintal, the state ensures that 75 per cent of the payment is made to the farmer once his produce is purchased, irrespective of the fact whether it has been lifted or not. The department has even done away with submitting of bills by the commission agents, arhtiyas, for payment to farmers as was mandatory in the past.

A look at the MSP pattern since 1993-94 shows a consistent rise along with the production. The MSP from Rs 330 per quintal on 1993-94 has gone to Rs 610 per quintal now. Whenever the MSP was low, as in 1997-98 (Rs 415 per quintal), the state announced a bonus of Rs 60 per quintal. Same way, when the MSP was Rs 455 per quintal in 1998-99, the state announced a bonus of Rs 55 per quintal.

In fact, when the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices dis-favoured any hike, rather it recommended a reduction in the MSP for rabi 2001, the Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana lobbied hard with New Delhi getting a small raise of Rs 30 over that of last year’s MSP — Rs 580 per quintal.

While the MSP and production rose, the acreage under wheat did not show any change. It has remained between 30 lakh hectare (1997-98) and 33.50 lakh hectare (2000-01). The procurement, however, continued to shoot up from 68.19 lakh tonne in 1993-94 touching 96.78 lakh tonne in rabi 2000. The phenomenon of ‘’problem of plenty’’ is three years or so old. Punjab is paying a heavy price for this, hence, the out cry for diversification from wheat (as also paddy) to commercial crops.

The state lacks scientific marketing (procurement), transportation and storage. The state has also deflected from sustainable growth path, says Dr S. S. Johl, noted economist. Consequently, existing production pattern and marketing system are not sustainable and have gone out of tune with the immediate and long-term supply and demand situation in the national and global market.

Unless production pattern is modified and marketing system reoriented to meet challenges of fast changing national and international market scenarios, the agriculture sector of the state was in for serious imbalance in respect of economic viability and environmental sustainability. “The policy mind set must, therefore, be dynamic, proactive and responsive to the changing demand-supply scenario”.

Unbearable holding and storage costs, wastage, pilferage and inconvenience to producers, consumers and agents involved, make the disposal of the produce difficult.

This calls for creation of a “market subsidisation fund” for investments in market infrastructure to handle abnormal gluts. Even the regulation of Agricultural Produce Markets Act needs to be relooked into for removing, relaxing, realigning restrictions and controls on financing, commodity movement, stock limits, sale, purchase venus (concept of market yards), levies etc, added Dr Johl.

For quite some time, the Centre (read FCI) is squeezing the states by refusing to repay incidental charges on transportation, establishment etc for the past three or four years. The repayment was 100 per cent. Warning bells have already been sounded by New Delhi by saying that the FCI is to wind up its procurement and distribution operations leaving the task to the states. Hence the need for a relook at marketing and procurement systems.

The “high” total taxation on procurement — 11 per cent or so over and above the MSP — in Punjab, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh is also frowned upon by New Delhi which wants it to be reduced.

The existence of food politics is as much visible as food mafia operating in marketing, procurement, transportation, storage and distribution systems. The task, therefore, is not just of production, procurement and distribution. It also involves balancing the interests of the producer as well as the consumer ensuring while the former got a remunerative price the later got food at affordable price. But the paradox is while huge stocks of food grains of over 42 million tonne pose one set of problems, millions who cannot afford to buy food go to bed hungry each night.

Punjab has pioneered in foodgrain production. It must now reorient itself to meet new challenges of marketing and distribution of its wheat and rice rather than creating storage space allowing the produce to rot.


BJP sets agenda for Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 12
The Punjab unit of the BJP, a partner in the Punjab Government, has set an agenda for the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

The executive of the BJP has urged the Punjab Government to reduce the octroi rates in the state. It has also demanded the withdrawal of the power tariff hike ordered from time to time in the past by the state electricity board.

The BJP has also sought the slashing of the water supply and sewer charges in the urban areas and waiving of the house tax on the commercial property held by the religious and educational institutions. Besides, it has also demanded a cut in the house tax rates on the commercial property. The executive has passed a resolution to this effect.

The BJP recently dropped its demand with regard to the complete abolishing of the octroi in the state. Before the last Assembly election, the BJP had promised to the people of the state that it would get the octroi abolished if voted to power in the state.

Obviously, it is facing a lot embarassment as urbanites constitutes its big vote bank.

The BJP fully supported the “sangat darshan” programme of Mr Badal. These kinds of programmes were never held in the state during the past 50 years.


Banur SAD leaders hold meeting
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, May 12
The Punjab Finance and Planning Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, today virtually launched the election campaign of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) for the ensuing Punjab Assembly poll by organising a meeting of senior party workers of the Banur constituency at Zirakpur, about 7 km from here.

According to sources, different strategies were chalked out to strengthen the party at the grassroot level and complete development works.

More than 500 party workers from 117 villages of the constituency participated in the meeting and analysed the progress of development works done undertaken by the government.

It was finalised that the election campaign would be launched from May 24 by holding conventions in every village. The public opinions would be welcomed during the campaign.

While addressing the meeting, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said he would hold meetings with the villagers and constitute committees of SAD workers to build the village level platform. In the committees, 30 per cent reservation will be provided to persons belonging to the weaker sections of society.

Under the rehabilitation scheme, the government had decided purchased land (in case where the village does not have any shamlat land) and distributed it in the shape of plots to the homeless. People of Bazigar community would be given the ownership of the land which they had occupied. The revenue officer had been asked to submit a comprehensive report on the issue, he claimed.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh claimed that the SAD-BJP combine would form the government. He alleged that the Congress had been misleading the public on the basis of caste and religion for a long time.


Struggle for a pail of water
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 12
Bucket in hand people here are seen in long queues for water for hours at a stretch, President of Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala, blame the “indifferent” attitude of the civic authorities for it. They say no alternative arrangements aimed at ensuring maintenance of drinking water supply have been made.

Erratic power supply has disrupted the functioning of civic body tubewells in these townships, leading to supply of water for only an hour or two per day.

The situation in under-developed localities and those coming up at the periphery of these cities is even worse. The residents are forced to wait for their turn for hours to fetch a bucket of water from public water posts installed in their localities. The civic authorities has decided to turn a blind eye to the problem. The authorities have failed to provide even water tankers in these localities, despite complaints.

Mrs Bhagwant Kaur (55), a housewife in Bhargav Nagar here, said she had waited for three hours today for a bucket of water but the tap went dry even before her turn. “I do not know when I will be able to return home with a bucket of water. The state government has failed to provide even basic facilities to its citizens”.

The situation in plush localities of Jalandhar like Model Town, Defence colony, Master Tara Singh Nagar, Mota Singh Nagar, Golden Avenue Phase I and II, New Jawahar Nagar and Ranjit Nagar is not any different.

“Why has the civic body not installed generator sets for regular electricity supply to its tubewells in view of the PSEB’s unscheduled power cuts. Moreover, tubewell operators remain absent for hours, particularly in the morning. It is the duty of the civic body to provide water tankers in those localities where residents are facing an acute water shortage”, said Dr Sukhnain Singh, a resident of Cheema Nagar here.

The civic body has decreased the timings of water supply from 14 hours daily to 11 hours a day during the past one year. It has imposed a cut of one hour during the morning and two in the evening.

Mr Anurag Sood of Bahadurpur in Hoshiarpur said: “It is not for more than two hours that we get the water supply. What is more pitiable is the attitude of the civic authorities. A ruptured water supply pipe in our area has not been mended for the past four days, despite several complaints”.

Mrs Amarjeet Kaur of Preet Nagar in Kapurthala questioned what use were “sangat darshan” programmes if the residents remained bereft of basic facilities like drinking water.

Water and power scarcity has also affected the residents of Nakodar, Phillaur, Goraya, Kartarpur, Noormahal, Shahkot, Adampur and Bhogpur. Officials of nagar panchayats in these areas maintain that they are unable to install generator sets for their tubewells due to shortage of funds. Hence, the situation is unlikely to change in the next few weeks.

According to Jalandhar civic body officials, more than 100 tubewells are providing water to city residents. The Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Dr Roshan Sunkaria, was not available for comment. Mr P.D. Dua, Superintending Engineer, PSEB, said unannounced power cuts were being imposed on the “verbal” orders of the Power Regulation and Control Office at the board’s Patiala headquarters.

“We are daily told to impose power cuts in various parts of the city by our head office and there is no option but to obey”, he added.


Construction near ammunition depot
  to be demolished
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 12
The authorities of the 17 Field Ammunition Depot, Badhowal, have issued public notice, warning the owners and prospective buyers that the land lying within a distance of 914.4 meters (1000 yards) from the outer fence around the 1 ASD, 17 FAD at Baddowal near here is required to be kept clear of all construction or buildings under the Indian Works of Defence Act, 1903, as per Gazette notification non-SRO 119 (dated 31 Jan, 1983).

It said, “The owners and the prospective buyers of land in this area are therefore warned that eleven constructions, whatsoever in this area are illegal as per law of the land and action is being taken to demolish these constructions of offenders of the provisions of the act.”

It clarified that no intimation on any stay to the High Court order, regarding the demolition of these structures, by the Supreme Court has so far been received. Authority responsible for the implementation of provisions of works of Defence Act, in particular the Army, will not be responsible for loss to any party in their transaction of any kind with anyone, whosoever.


State loathe to act on PHRC orders
Kiran Deep

Chandigarh, May 12
Is the Punjab State Human Rights Commission a toothless body? It seems so. There is an alarming increase in the number of cases where the Punjab Government has failed to follow the directions of the PHRC for awarding compensation in the given timeframe.

Legal luminaries feel that the commission should be given more power to implement its recommendations. The commission which was set up in 1997 receives 70 to 80 complaints on human rights violation daily. It now faces the problem of implementation of its orders.

Those who have been facing problems regarding grant of compensation have started approaching the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Even in the murder case of Jaswant Singh Khalra, the state had declined to follow the commission’s recommendation to grant compensation to witnesses in the case, who were allegedly tortured by the police. Now the PHRC has decided to approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court to get its orders executed.

As per the data available from the commission, the PHRC received 9037 complaints of human rights violation from various parts of Punjab till February 28, 2001. Out of these the commission disposed of 5303. In the past four years, a total of 108 custodial deaths were reported to the commission.

General secretary of the Lawyers for Social Reform. Arunjeev Singh Walia says the PHRC was set up by the state to provide justice in cases of human rights violation. So its the duty of the state to implement its orders.

Mr Walia says in the custodial death case of Tarlok Singh, who died in the Central Jail in Gurdashpur on 28 August, 1998, the commission had awarded Rs 2 lakh as compensation to the victims family but when the government declined to do so, the Lawyers for Social Reform and wife of the deceased filed a PIL in the High Court for implementation of the orders of the PHRC. Only on the directions of the Court did the state award compensation to the wife of the deceased.

The vice-president of the Lawyers for Human Rights International, Ms Veena Sharma, says: “The PHRC is doing a good job and it’s the responsibility of the state to implement its order and punish officers responsible for human rights violation. Otherwise there is no use of spending crores of rupees every year on the commission”.

When The Tribune contacted the Additional Director-General of Police of the PHRC, Mr A.P. Bhatnagar, he said the state had delayed compensation in some cases because of legal problems. “The people have developed faith in the commission. That is why the commission is getting about 80 complaints in a day”.

He also informed that the commission was planning to approach the High Court against the state in the Jaswant Singh Khalra murder case as the state had declined to implement the commission recommendations.


Data available from the Punjab State Human Rights Commission

























Till Feb 28


Nurses present charter of demands
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 12
Even as the Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI) today presented a charter of demands to Dr Baldev Raj Chawla, Health Minister, at a state-level function held here today to mark the International Nursing Day, the Punjab Nurses Association (PNA) decided to boycott the uniforms during the duty hours in protest against the attitude of the state government towards their demands.

Ms Jeewan Jyot Kaur, state president of the PNA, alleged that although the Chief Minister and the Finance Minister held a number of meeting with the office-bearers of the association yet their demands had not been conceded so far. She said the PNA would intensify its peaceful agitation if the state government failed to announce Rs 5800-8100 scales.

She alleged though junior engineers were less qualified than nurses yet they were getting much better scales. She said if the government insisted on giving central pattern to the nurses, then it would have to grant at least Rs 2000 allowance in wake of their inconvenient job.

Ms Amrit Kaur Ahluwalia, a retired registrar and state president of the Trained Nurses Association of India, urged the state government that all the 4000 nurses should get at least Rs 2000 allowance, including uniform allowance.

The association also urged the government to revive the general nursing and midwifery course at Jalandhar. Ms Ahluwalia said the state government must make proper arrangements for free practical training for students of private nursing institutes in government hospitals.

Dr Chawla said the state government was making all out efforts to help nurses. He said the demands enlisted in the charter were genuine and he would try to get them conceded.

He said the state government had already accepted in principle that 75 per cent recruitment of nurses would be made through departmental promotions while there would be only 25 per cent direct recruitments.


Warrant officer rescues man
Chander Parkash & K.K. Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sardulgarh, May 12
A warrant officer appointed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court rescued a person from the police station on the night of May 10, who was allegedly detained by the police without any reason.

Sources said Mr Sharad Kumar, a local resident, was taken into custody by the police. When some residents went to the police station to get him released, they were given no positive response.

One of his friends approached the court and the court appointed a warrant officer.

The sources said when the warrant officer raided the police station at about 9.20 p.m. on May 10, he rescued Mr Kumar from the police station. In a report entered in the “rojnamcha”, the warrant officer said Mr Kumar was found in the wireless room.

A senior police official, when contacted, said on condition of anonymity that Mr Kumar came to the police station to meet some police official working in the wireless wing. After he went into the wireless room, the warrant officer entered the police station. Mr Kumar was sitting in the room when the warrant officer spotted him.

He said there was some dispute relating to the sale of a stolen jeep between Mr Kumar and a party belonging to Budhlada. All this had been done by Mr Kumar to save himself from any legal action, he claimed.


4 thermal units recommissioned
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, May 12
With the recommissioning of four units of the Ropar Thermal Plant (RTP), the power supply position is likely to improve in Punjab. The plant went out of generation yesterday, resulting in the collapse of the power system in the state.

According to PSEB sources, there was some fault in the substation in the plant at 2.40 a.m. yesterday as a result of which the plant stopped generation of power. However, three units were recommissioned between 6.15 a.m. and 7.15 a.m. and another unit at 11.10 p.m. Two units are still out of generation. Unit no 1 has been closed since March 24 and will be restored in June. The PSEB authorities are expecting some equipment from BHEL, Hardwar.

According to the sources, the state was left with a power supply of 706 lakh units against the demand of 800 lakh units and a power cut had to be imposed.

However, the PSEB authorities are hoping that the position will improve from today with the recommissioning of the four units and availability of more power from the Dehar project.

The Dehar power house has started generating power to the tune of 63 lakh units. The Dehar project is getting 8,500 cusecs which is the optimum level of supply to the dam from the Beas-Sutlej link. Besides, one unit of the Ranjit Sagar Dam is also generating 33.6 lakh units of power every day.

Punjab today got 808 lakh units from various sources, including 88 lakh units from hydel projects, 410 lakh units from thermal plants, 110 lakh units from BBMB and 200 lakh units from central projects. The PSEB authorities estimate that the power requirements of the state will cross 1,000 lakh units next month when paddy sowing picks up.


Sabha to approach NRIs for funds
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 12
To ensure development of villages in the state, the NRI Sabha has decided to approach Non-Resident Indians to contribute funds for developing infrastructure in their home villages.

Mr K. Shiva Parsad, Deputy Commissioner-cum-Vice-President of the sabha, said the Community Development Scheme of the Central Government had provision of 25 per cent matching grant for infrastructure development of villages.

“The Central Government under its Five Year Plan has allocated Rs 6 crore this year for disbursement of matching grants to the development projects initiated by the NRIs. We have approached several NRIs to adopt their respective villages and there is tremendous enthusiasm among them in this regard,” he said.

According to sources, though the Central Government had allocated Rs 5 crore for the state community development projects under this scheme last year, the funds allegedly lapsed without utilisation.

“The NRI Sabha being a non-governmental organisation is preparing a project report for infrastructure development of villages in the state and it will be submitted to the Punjab Rural Development Department for approval. The Central Government is providing 50 to 70 per cent aid for such projects and the rest of the amount will be contributed with the help of our members,” Mr Parsad said.

The sabha was conducting a survey to get complete details of such development projects, which had already been started with the help of the NRIs.

It was also decided to hold the third conference of the sabha at Guru Nanak Dev Bhavan in Ludhiana on May 27.


SC vacates stay on Asst DTOs
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 12
The Supreme Court has ordered status quo, staying the operation of its earlier order about the Assistant District Transport Officers in Punjab.

The Apex Court earlier had restrained the “illegally appointed” Assistant Transport Officers from carrying out any official work. The Punjab Government preferred a review petition against this order of the court.

The review petition, which came up before Mr Justice B.N. Kirpal and Ms Justice Ruma Pal, modified the earlier direction and ordered status quo as of January 4 this year to continue.

The Punjab Subordinate Services Selection Board had made appointments of Assistant District Transport Officers. Some of the unsuccessful candidates, led by Mr Vijay Syal, and others filed a petition seeking quashing of these appointments. The petitioners maintained that these selections were made “illegally”.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court, however, upheld the appointments.

Mr Vijay Syal and others then moved the Supreme Court, which last month restrained all “illegally appointed” Assistant District Transport Officers from carrying out any official work. The verdict was challenged by the Punjab Government.

Mr Justice Kirpal and Ms Justice Ruma Pal, however, held that appointments of the Assistant District Transport Officers would be subject to the outcome of the application pending before the Court.


Rail tragedy averted
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, May 12
Several passengers of the Ludhiana-bound diesel multiple unit (DMU) train had a miraculous escape when the engine go of the Nakodar-Ludhiana MDU train caught fire near Gumtali halt railway station late last evening.

Railway sources, while confirming the mishap, said here today the driver of the DMU, Khem Chand, immediately stopped the train at Bumtali halt station and passengers and railway employees control led the fire.

Later, the guard of the DMU, Balkar Ram, informed the railway authorities that the MDU train could proceed to Ludhiana with a new engine brought from Ludhiana, two hours behind the schedule. Dry radiator of the engine was stated to be the cause of the mishap. The Railways had ordered a high-level enquiry to find out the cause of negligence regarding the empty radiator.


Stunned by brother’s arrest, man dies
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, May 12
Gulshan Kumar, a local trader, died of heart attack when he came to know that his brother Ashwani Kumar had been arrested and taken to the CIA staff police station. Gulshan Kumar was in Jalandhar in connection with some business when he received the news and died later while coming to Ferozepore.

In a complaint addressed to the Chairman of the Human Rights Commission and the DGP, Punjab, Rajni Bala, wife of the deceased, alleged that the police had illegally detained her brother-in-law, the news of which had caused her husband’s death. She alleged that her brother-in-law, Ashwani Kumar, who was released after interrogation, was arrested at the behest of a local businessman. She said for the past one week, the family had been receiving threatening calls from the businessman who told them to return the money which her other brother-in-law, Vijay Kumar, had taken as loan. She asserted that they had no link with Vijay Kumar who had been running a shop independently and her husband and younger brother-in-law were residing separately. 


Declare June 6 holiday: AISSF
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 12
The All-India Sikh Students Federation has demanded that the Punjab Government should declare a holiday on June 6 to enable people to participate in the functions to mark the seventeenth anniversary of Operation Bluestar.

Mr Harminder Singh Gill, president of the federation while addressing a press conference here yesterday alleged that though the SAD (Badal) had gained political mileage out of Operation Bluestar, yet it had failed to provide any succour to the families of those who had been killed during the operation by the security forces.

The federation would organise a “martyrdom day” function at Gurdwara Shaheedan in Amritsar on June 6, he said.


Rajput Sabha office-bearers
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 12
A meeting of the All-India Rajput Sabha was held here under the chairmanship of Mr Bhulal, vice-president and in charge of the Punjab unit of the Rajput Sabha. Mr R.R. Thakur, vice-president and in charge of the Himachal Pradesh unit of the Sabha, was the chief guest.

The following were elected office-bearers of the sabha: president — Mr M.S. Jamwal; and general secretary — Dr Jatinder Katoch. The other office-bearers of the sabha are: chief patron — Mr D.S. Pathania; senior vice-president — Mr Hoshiar Singh; joint secretary — Mr Suresh Rana; finance secretaries — Mr Baldev Pathania and Mr Dev Raj Rana; legal adviser — Mr Jang Bahadur Jamwal and press secretary — Mr Gurdhari Lal.


WHO alarmed at rise in drug addiction
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 12
Taking a serious note of the alarming rise in drug addiction, the WHO has recommended steps in this regard. The WHO has found that a majority of students are taking to drugs. This was stated by Dr Baldev Raj Chawla, Minister for Health, at a Press Conference yesterday.

Following the recommendations of the WHO and the World Bank, a recent survey by the Health Department found that every third male and every 10th female student had drugs on some pretext or the other or on some occasion.

A sample study of nearly 5,000 students has undertaken in Punjab the highest prevalency of drug abuse was found in the age group of 16 to 25 years.

Another survey found that 53 per cent of men and 48 per cent of females were prone to drug addiction. This was two years ago. The number had, however, been increasing consistently over the years, Dr Chawla said.

There were only 14 drug inspectors for 17 districts in Punjab. However, the Health Minister said various CMOs and MOs had been instructed to assist the drug inspectors to expedite surveys and rehabilitation process and create awareness. He said educational heads would hold a meeting to chalk out plans in this regard.

Three state-level committees had been set up in the departments of food, health and drugs which would act in the advisory capacity and have subcommittees at the district levels.


Pension likely for SAD men jailed during morchas
Tribune News Service

Malout, May 12
The Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today said the state government was seriously contemplating to award pensions to those workers of the SAD who went to jail during the ‘morchas’ organised by the party.

Mr Badal, while addressing a ‘sangat Darshan’ function in the Kangan Khera village, said the Punjab Government had also made a comprehensive plan to award pension to about 2 lakh eligible elderly persons in the current financial year.


Traffic not restored in 5 days
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 12
Vehicular traffic on the Bathinda-Malout national highway has not been resumed even five days after the collapse of a bridge over the Behman distributary as the authorities are waiting for a crane for the removal of debris.

The cranes deployed by the PWD (B and R) have not been able to lift the debris. The work for clearing the debris was delayed for a day when a controversy had arisen between the Irrigation Department and the Public Works Department over who would clear the debris. Both departments claimed that it was not their job to clear it.

Later, the PWD department underlook the task.

However, it was not successful as the cranes could not lift the debris as the slab of the damaged bridge weighed about 250 tonnes.

The slab is being broken into small pieces manually and it is possible that it will take several days although the authorities concerned are claiming that traffic will be restored in two days.

The PWD Department has asked the authorities of the local unit of the National Fertilisers Limited to provide a crane that could clear the debris.

Commuters are facing difficulty as the traffic has been diverted through nearby villages.


DC orders closure of cinema
Our Correspondent

Ropar, May 12
The Deputy Commissioner here, Mr G.S. Grewal, has ordered the closure of the Shivalik Talkies, a Nangal-based cinema for the alleged violation of the Punjab Cinema Act, 1952.

Mr Grewal, in a press note issued here today, said after taking notice of the persistent media reports regarding the screening of illegal and vulgar films in the said cinema, the Assistant Commissioner (Grievances), Mr J.C. Sabarwal, conducted a raid on the cinema on May 10.

During the raid an adult film was being screened which was being viewed by some teenagers.

Mr Sabarwal further said during the checking, it was also found that the licence of the cinema had lapsed on March 4 and had not been renewed. As per the Punjab Cinema Act, any licence holder had to submit an application before the competent authority for renewal three months before the term of licence lapsed. However, in this case, no such application had been submitted.

The Deputy Commissioner ordered the closure of the cinema hall and registration of a case under Sections 293 and 294 of the IPC.


SGPC takes charge of gurdwara
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 12
Despite tension, the SGPC today took control of the historic Baba Budha Ji gurdwara about 20 km from here, today.

Though residents of the surrounding areas were opposing the move of the SGPC to take control of langar, Baba Darshan Singh Karsevawale handed over the charge of langar to Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, secretary of the SGPC, amicably. The SGPC had taken the control of “golak” about two years ago.


Eye experts’ meeting
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 12
A meeting will be organised here on May 20, by the Bathinda Ophthalmological Society to discuss the different topics related to ophthalmic studies. A press note issued here yesterday by Dr Amrit Sethi, secretary, BOS, said Padamshri Dr Dhanwant Singh of Patiala would be the chief guest on the occasion.


23 cr earmarked for Hoshiarpur roads
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, May 12
Addressing a press conference here yesterday, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Iqbal Singh Sidhu, said a comprehensive plan of Rs 23 crore for the construction and repair of roads had been formulated in addition to the works being carried out in the district.

He said under the plan, Rs 7 crore would be spent on the improvement and repair of the Hoshiarpur-Phagwara, Dholbaha-Bari Khad, Garshankar-Nawanshahr, Talwara-Mubarakpur, Hoshiarpur-Tanda, Begowal-Miani, Balachaur-Garshankar and Hoshiarpur-Una roads.

He added that Rs 6 crore would be spent on the construction of 53-km roads to link villages.

Compared to the target of repairing 1069-km long roads, 1031.84-km roads had been repaired at a cost of Rs 28.65 crore.

The first phase for the construction of new link roads had been completed and the second phase was being carried out at a cost of Rs 11.39 crore.


Truck carrying poppy husk impounded
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 12
The Lehra police has impounded a truck containing more than 16 quintals of poppy husk in 47 bags, according to a press note issued by the police here today.

The truck was impounded during checking of vehicles at a naka near Gaga village. The two occupants of the truck fled.

The police claims that it is the biggest seizure of poppy husk by it in the district this year so far.

The police has registered a case under Section 15 of the NDPS Act.


Woman poisoned to death, 2 booked
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 12
Sneh, who hails from this city, was allegedly poisoned to death in Dabwali town of Haryana today. A case has been registered against her husband, Navneet Kumar and his mother Nirmala Devi under Sections 498-A and 304-B at Dabwali police station.

Mr Bimal Kumar brother of the deceased said in his complaint to the police at Dabwali that the in-laws of her sister demanded dowry since her sister was married about four and half years ago. He alleged that when they fulfilled their demand for money the torture on his sister was stopped for some days.

He alleged that Navneet Kumar and his mother were now demanding that they be given Rs 2 lakh for starting new business. His family was unable to give the money to them. The deceased Sneh had three-year-old daughter and one-and-a-half-years-old son.

He came to know about the death of his sister at 4 a.m. today. He along with a few eminent citizens of the city went to Dabwali to bring the body of his sister. He had to face problems in getting the body, added the brother.


Two booked for wrongful detention

Phagwara, may 12
The Punjab Police today booked two persons for wrongful detention of 70 workers in Khajurla village near here.

The accused, identified as Balwinder Singh, alias Palwinder and Paramjit Singh, had engaged the workers, mostly Dalits, in lintel work. PTI


College suspends chief of teachers’ union
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, May 12
The management of the local women’s college today suspended the president of the teachers’ union, Ms Harbans Kaur, on the charge of gross misconduct and anti-college activities. Besides this, two teachers who had been sharing a room with Ms Harbans Kaur in the girls hostel for the past more than 20 years had been instructed to vacate the same within 15 days.

It is pertinent to mention that the district administration had already constituted an enquiry to look into the matter regarding the allegations levelled by the teachers union against the college authorities. Nobody from the management side was available for comments whereas Ms Harbans Kaur when contacted asserted that her suspension from the college was totally uncalled for as the charges framed against her were far from truth. She said the union would take up the matter with the university.

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