Friday, May 18, 2001, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Is Punjab fiscal ‘turnabout’ a mirage?
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 17
There is growing concern in the corridors of power in Punjab over the fragile financial health of the state. The ‘’turnaround’’ claimed in the Budget (2001-02) is only a mirage. The ‘’turnabout’’ is claimed because of increase in revenue receipts not because of decrease in non-plan expenditure. And sustaining the tempo of revenue receipts from tax and non-tax sources, over a period of time, is neither easy nor feasible.

Enquires by TNS today revealed that the ‘’turnaround’’ is partially true. It is because the state does not default in making payment of salaries and pensions. It does not hold back its own share for centrally sponsored schemes. (At least 50 per cent to 60 per cent of state share is now released for implementation of schemes). It does not live on overdraft. It does not stop reimbursement of medical bills and payment of travelling allowances or withdrawals from provident fund by an employee. It does not ‘’starve’’ essential maintenance of assets. There is a better rating with financial institutions on externally aided projects.

The revenue receipts are not stuck anymore. There is buoyancy and a breakthrough in tax collection, both sales tax and excise revenue. The non-plan expenditure growth is ‘’in order’’. But still ‘’out of order’’ is the structural imbalance in finances. A beginning is yet to be made. The question is how to sustain 30 per cent to 35 per cent increase in tax revenue achieved during the past three years.

What really worries the state is the galloping pay and pension bill. There is recurring annual expenditure of nearly Rs 1,500 crore following the implementation of the recommendations of the pay commission. A section of employees still remains ‘’dissatisfied,” waiting for the report of the anomalies committee. The other major worry is the loss-making public sector undertakings. The state is unable to realise user-charges for the socio-economic services provided to the people.

Lastly, the mounting debt. The state has no revenue surpluses but plenty of revenue deficit. It was 45 per cent (of the total revenue receipts) in 1998-99. It was brought down to 36 per cent in 1999-2000 and 27 per cent in 2000-01. It is expected to be around 24 per cent for the current financial year.

The only suggested remedy to improve the financial health was ‘’political will, courage, farsightedness, statesmanship and the spirit to crack the whip’’, sources said.

The debt burden is a staggering Rs 28,000 crore. The ‘’waiver’’ on special term loan is, in fact, a ‘’moratorium’’. An ideal financial situation is one where revenue surpluses are used for development and funding of the plan. This happened till mid-80s. It does not happen now. There is nothing wrong in borrowing money if revenue surpluses are built up for debt servicing. This is not happening.

In Punjab, fiscal management is a paradox. The public debt is expected to increase by Rs 4,551 crore from Rs 23,758 crore (1999-2000) to Rs 28,309 crore (2000-01). The public debt has increased to Rs 4,551 crore but the capital expenditure/ formation has been to the tune of only Rs 1,518 crore in 2000-01. In other words, the state has been using the debt for meeting its day-to-day expenditure using just Rs 1,518 crore for capital projects. The state is in a debt trap because when debt goes up repayments suffer.

The Finance Department maintains a stiff upper lip on “sangat darshan’’ feigning ignorance on the source of money and cheques distributed by the Chief Minister. The only response TNS got was “‘ít is an aberration’’.


Centralisation of power?
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 17
The Punjab Government has decided to lift the ban on the filling of vacant posts. But the rider is that such posts have to be filled only with the prior approval of the Chief Minister.

The order, circulated by the Department of Personnel among all Financial Commissioners, Principal Secretaries and Administrative Secretaries of the state government on May 15, says that in case the posts to be filled are outside the purview of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) or the State Subordinate Services Selection Board (SSSB), special departmental selection committees should be constituted.

“The composition of the departmental selection committees may be got approved from the Chief Minister through the Chief Secretary”, the circular says.

Not only that, says the circular, in case such committees have already been constituted, the files pertaining to their composition should be sent to the Chief Minister through the Chief Secretary immediately for “approval”.

The circular further says that the committees at the state level and the district level will be the same as per the policy instructions of the state government issued on December 5, 1996, with a slight addition that a member of the Social Security Department should be included to protect the interests of handicapped candidates in pursuance of the government instructions of August 1 last year.

The circular makes it clear that vacant posts are to be filled only through the regular sources of recruitment, including the PPSC and the SSSB. In case some posts, after the “approval of the Chief Minister”, are taken out of the purview of either the PPSC or the SSSB, these may be filled by the departmental selection committees.

Sources maintain that such circulars not only indicate “centralisation of power” but are also a serious reflection on the political or administrative regime.

Normally, the composition of such departmental selection committees are approved by the state government. Even taking certain posts out of the purview of the PPSC or the SSSB is the prerogative of the state government of which the Chief Minister is the head.

Sources indicate that the prior approval of the Chief Minister for filling each vacant post may not be technically feasible. Further, the Chief Minister will be mostly out of Chandigarh as he has drawn up a long programme of “sangat darshan” which will continue until the end of July. This will defeat the purpose of lifting the ban on the filling of posts.

“If the constitution of the departmental selection committees is held up for want of approval of the Chief Minister alone, the whole exercise will become redundant,” they argue, maintaining that the government must have faith in the administrative acumen of both its political leadership and senior bureaucrats.


Jailbreak bid: cash card, mobile recovered
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 17
The police has achieved a major success in the jailbreak case by recovering the cash card used in the mobile phone which was being used by the accused to execute their plan.

Police sources said the mobile phone used by three accused, namely Makhan Baraguda, Harwinder Singh Bitta and Chinder Singh Bhagibandar in the Central Jail here, was bought by them from one other inmate, who was facing trial in a serious criminal case and a close confidant of senior functionary of ruling party.

The sources added that the three jail inmates hatched a conspiracy with another accused namely Jagga Singh, who was on bail, to make their escape from it on the mobile phone. Before they could execute their plan, the accused Jagga Singh was arrested by the police and it came to know about the whole story. The sources added that one more accused, who was in the Central Jail in a case relating with the NDPS Act, had also confessed that three accused involved in the jailbreak case were using mobile phone inside the jail premises.

Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, SSP, when contacted, said investigations into the case were going on. He added that it was too early to make a comment on the investigations.

The local central jail authorities today denied that any mobile set was recovered from the three inmates namely Makhan Baraguda, Harwinder Singh alias Bitta and Chinder Bhagibandar, who have been arrested by the police in the case relating to abortive attempt made by them for escaping from here. In a letter written to the Inspector-General (Prison), Punjab, the local jail authorities mentioned that a team of district police led by SP(D), R.S. Bhuller today searched the whole premises of jail and failed to find any mobile set.

Mr G.S. Mann, Deputy Superintendent Jail (DSJ), when contacted, said that even no cash card was recovered from any part of the jail. He added that though the police authorities had been claiming that cash card of the mobile being used by the above mentioned three accused to make their escape from the jail, had been recovered, it was not true.

He said that this fact was not mentioned in the report sent to IG (Prison) today. He said that a police party visited jail premises with accused Sanjeev Kumar. The police party searched jail premises but could not find anything.


Gateway to India on border
Anirudh Gupta

It was indeed a dream come true for residents of this city when Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal laid the foundation stone of “Shan-e-Hind”, the massive gateway to India being raised at a joint checkpost along the Indo-Pak border.

With the coming up of this gateway to India, the wishes of all those who had been persistently demanding a befitting structure be raised on the Indian side of the border have been fulfilled. This “Shan-e-Hind” Gate which will depict the irrepressible revolutionary spirit of the three great national heroes Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, who lit the eternal flame of liberty by smilingly embracing the gallows, is going to be India’s match to Fakhr-e-Pak, constructed on the Pakistani side about 30 years ago.

According to Mr S.Kulbir Singh Sidhu, Deputy Commissioner, who put in relentless efforts for getting funds allocated to it, the Shan-e-Hind Gate, designed by the Chief Architect, will be 42 feet long, 91 feet wide and 56 feet high. He stated that the gate would depict a blend of the country’s rich cultural heritage and modern architecture. It would be built at an estimated cost of Rs 32 lakh and the job of the construction had been entrusted to the Punjab Urban Development Authority. The construction work, going on a war-footing, would be completed in four months.

All those who come to witness the Retreat ceremony every year would now feel dignified and proud that there is a gate to match Pakistan’s one.

The Chief Minister had also announced a grant of Rs 1 crore for the beautification and upkeep of the National Martyrs Memorial at Hussainiwala where the three great martyrs were cremated.

Not to be left behind, Mr Kuldeep Nayyar, former High Commissioner to UK who is an MP, also announced a grant of Rs 2 crore for this purpose.


22 names deleted from jatha list
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 17
The names of at least 22 applicants for a visit to Pakistan were removed from the list of the SGPC-led jatha on the eve of its departure today. The SGPC is taking a 624-member jatha to Pakistan under the leadership of Dr Jang Bhadur Singh Rai.

Those who have been removed from the list are serial nos 102, 149, 181, 196, 204, 207, 208, 209, 291, 297, 298, 311, 330, 306, 400, 405, 532, 540, 552, 553 and 601. Some names had been deleted by the state government and others by the Central Government for “uncited” reasons, according to Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, secretary, SGPC.

The jatha will leave for Pakistan by a special train tomorrow at 8 a.m. It will reach Lahore on May 26 and return on May 27.


Thapar against Cong MPs in Sikh group
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 17
The Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) working committee member and former national General Secretary, Mr Onkar Singh Thapar, today opposed the formation of Sikh pressure group of MPs belonging to different political parties. Several Sikh MPs, cutting across political parties, had opposed the formation of such a group and some had alleged that the move would divide parliamentarians on communal lines.

Within days of mooting the proposal, the Union Minister and senior SAD (Badal) leader, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, had welcomed the move. This resulted in the accusation that the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, was behind the move. In a move seen as a damage-control exercise, Mr Thapar said the welcoming of the proposal by Mr Dhindsa was in his personal capacity. He, however, left it ambiguous whether his reaction was the official stand of the party or in his personal capacity.

Mr Thapar expressed reservation over the idea of inclusion of Congress MPs in the pressure group as their acts in the past — the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and Operation Bluestar — had hurt the sentiments of the Sikhs.


Light-and-sound show on Maharaja
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 17
The bicentenary celebration of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh will be celebrated in a grand manner. The central government will provide Rs 8.50 crore to set up a memorial at the historic Ram Bagh Gardens built by the Maharaja. Giving details of the all-year-long celebrations, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, after inaugurating the light-and-sound programme on the Maharaja prepared by the Department of Information and Public Relations Punjab.

The Chief Minister added that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee would establish the Maharaja Ranjit Singh throne made of gold and jewels based in the original design. It would be set up at the museum here on his birthday at Amritsar on November 13 this year. He added that as part of the celebrations, the emissaries of all countries which had friendly relations with his kingdom would be requested to join in the festivities to be held here.

Lauding the secular rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Mr Badal said people from all walks of life, religions, castes and creeds participated in the welfare of the state. Commenting on the vision of the Maharaja, Mr Badal said Khalsa Raj was established for the first time in this region.

The Chief Minister added that the present Ram Bagh Gardens would be developed as model in the memory of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who had built the garden for his summer capital.


24 border villages fear Ravi fury
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, May 17
Residents of 24 villages across the Ravi and Makoura and surrounding villages inside the Ravi on the Indo-Pakistan border are a worried lot due to lack of flood protection measures. Since rainy season is approaching, the villagers are making serious efforts to impress upon the authorities and their political representatives in the Punjab Assembly and the Lok Sabha to use their influence with powers that be to get funds released for the execution of adequate flood protection measures.

Mr Karnail Singh of Toor village today said it was unfortunate that money required for the measures when sanctioned was released when the rainy season started or during the rainy season.

Moreover, the funds released were usually short of requirement and drainage officials were forced to impose cuts rendering these as ineffective. Then the department had to work in haste in inclement weather that at times specifications of work were not adhered to, he added.

The official sources said that funds for executing flood protection measures on Ravi had either been provided by the Central Government at the instance of the BSF to ensure safety of BSF installations on the border near or inside the Ravi. During more than four years of the SAD-BJP rule in Punjab this time, the Punjab government did not release even a penny. Moreover, most of the funds were being provided by Nabard on humanitarian grounds.

Mr Karnail Singh said erosion of land due to the Ravi was still on the opposite Toor village. Nearly 1,500 acres of fertile land of the area belonging to villages of the area, including Cheb Mami, Chakranga, Cooker and Chod had been washed away. Villages like Tash had become helpless. He demanded the construction of spurs on the Ravi opposite Toor to prevent soil erosion.

The official sources said the Ujh had changed its course and joined Ravi opposite Makounda village. Since the river was flowing without obstruction, the erosion of land of Kajle, Bharia and Makouda villages had started. Some checks in the shape of flood protection steps were necessary on the river Ujh to control the situation.

The distance between the Ujh and Khojkichak village had been reduced to a few metres due to the erosion of land caused by the flow of the river and suitable measures had be taken to check further damage.

When Mr V. Vikram, Deputy Commissioner, was contacted for his comments, said that the Nabard team had already visited the Ravi and identified sensitive points for the execution of flood protection measures on priority. Funds for this were expected to be released shortly. High power committee comprising officials of Nabard and the Irrigation Department met in Delhi on May 14-15 regarding the release of funds.


Punjab told to pay 25,000 as interim relief
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, May 17
The Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC), on an application filed on behalf of Balbir Singh, a resident of Kahnuwan, directed the Punjab state through the Principal Secretary, Health, and the Director, Health Services, to make payment of Rs 25,000 to the complainant as an interim relief for the alleged misconduct by the officials of the Civil Hospital, Pathankot.

According to a five-page judgement passed by PSHRC presided over by Mr M.S. Chahal, the complainant Balbir Singh alleged that his father Malla Singh was admitted to Civil Hospital, Pathankot, on the intervening night of July 24 and July 25, 1999, around 2 p.m. Dr B.S. Sandhu admitted him to the hospital but thereafter the father of the complainant remained unattended for more than 30 hours.

The complainant then approached Dr J.C. Kunda, but he suggested that patient be admitted to a private nursing home where he would visit him everyday. When the complainant refused, Dr Kunda got annoyed and refused to see the patient and the father of the complainant was not properly attended and when blood was needed on July 27, 1999 from the blood bank, Rs 600 was demanded for one unit of blood. When the patient was in bad shape, oxygen was not made available. As a result Malla Singh died on July 30.

Thereafter the complainant made a number of representations to the higher authorities, but to no avail.

He then filed a complaint before the PSHRC. In a reply before the PSHRC filed on behalf of the respondents, they admitted that a letter was received from Secretary, Health, on August 11, 2000 which informed that the government had decided to chargesheet five officials namely Dr A.S. Jamwal, SMO, Dr J.C. Kunda, Medical Officer, Dr Ashok Sharma, Medical Officer, Mr Rakesh Kumar, pharmacist and Mr Bhagwan Dass (Mlt).

The Health Department also stated before the PSHRC that proceedings under the Punjab Civil Services (Punishment & Appeal) Rules 1970 had been started against the five. The complainant claimed Rs 5 lakh as award for the loss suffered by him.

The PSHRC observed that it had become clear that there certainly was a lack of proper attention possibly for ulterior motives in attending to the ailing father of the complainant. This neglect resulted in the death of the father of the complainant.

The PSHRC also held that the complainant would be free to press for whatever damages he considered appropriate at the proper forum — the courts or the consumer forums. 


Minister gets notice
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 17
Mr S.K. Garg, Additional Civil Judge (Senior Division), has issued a notice to the Punjab Science and Technology Minister, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, the Additional Chief Administrator, PUDA, Mr Vivek Aggarwal, and the Punjab Urban Development Authority, (PUDA) in a suit filed inconnection with alleged encroachment of ‘shamlat’ land acquired by the Punjab Government in 1974.

Mr Garg issued the notice on May 15 on a petition filed by Mr N.K. Garg, advocate, The next date of hearing is May 21.

The petition alleges that the minister had sanctioned the mutation of a piece of ‘shamlat’ land of Khasra No. 2848 measuring 1800 square yards acquired by the government on December 1, 1983, but could not get the possession of the land as there was resistance from the district administration.

The petitioner has alleged that in the recent past, Mr Garg with the help of the police and in connivance with the defendants had taken possession of land illegally and forcibly, even when the matter was sub judice.


Cancellation of ETO’s transfer sought
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 17
The Excise and Taxation Officers Association, Punjab, has urged the Excise and Taxation Minister, Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, to cancel the transfer of one of its member, Mr Magnesh Sethi.

In a representation given to Mr Kairon, Mr Jaskaran Singh Brar, president of the association, said Mr Sethi was transferred even though he was manhandled by traders at Mandi Gobindgarh while he was checking vehicles carrying goods on the orders of higher authorities.

He said when Mr Sethi stopped some vehicles carrying iron scrap on May 11, he was attacked by some traders who also manhandled him. Mr P.S. Gill, AETC, mobile squad, Chandigarh, reached the spot after he received an information in this connection.

Mr Brar pointed out that instead of taking action against the traders, the department authorities had transferred Mr Sethi. This had sent wrong signals to the dealers and demoralised employees of the department.

He said in an executive meeting of the association held today, it was decided that request should be made to Mr Kairon to cancel the transfer of Mr Sethi and take suitable action against the traders who manhandled Mr Sethi.


Govt depts default on house tax payment
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 17
Several government departments owe lakhs of rupees as house tax to the local municipal corporation.

While the municipal corporation has taken a stern note of defaulters on house tax among the local residents, but it has failed to realise the same from the state government departments for past 19 years. Similarly, the Central Government department also refused to deposit the tax to the tune of Rs 50 lakh last year on the ground that there was no such provision regarding collection of house tax from the Central Government department buildings under the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act.

Though the civic body had planned to collect an amount of Rs 10 crore as house tax in the last financial year but it fell short of its target by Rs 3.23 crore as the government departments had failed to deposit the same.

According to information available with The Tribune, the official records indicated that 17 state government departments owe house tax to the tune of Rs 34,54,429 to the civic body for the past 3 to 19 years. Punjab Roadways tops the list of defaulters with an amount of Rs 20,04,280 pending towards it. Similarly, the Public Works Department owes Rs 3,73,344, the Jalandhar Improvement Trust owes an amount of Rs 1,78,374, the Punjab Tanneries owes Rs 2,19,839, the Industries Department owes Rs 1,50,515, the Punjab Footwear owes Rs 87,562, the Circle Education Office owes Rs 63,325, the Deputy Inspector General of Police of the Punjab Armed Police owes Rs 1,61,620, Punjab Markfed owes Rs 95,175, the Public Relations Office owes Rs 21,626, the Canal Works Department owes Rs 41,385, the Punjab State Electricity Board owes Rs 14,721 to the municipal corporation.

Residents of the area alleged that the municipal corporation had attached properties and assets of several residents who had defaulted in paying house tax during the past three years but nothing concrete had been done to collect the same from these departments. “The municipal corporation authorities had humiliated hundreds of residents by holding open auction of their properties and assets in case of failure to deposit the tax in time. Why don’t they take the same action against these departments who owe lakhs of rupees to the corporation? questioned Jaspal Singh, a resident of Gopal Nagar.

The municipal corporation authorities had already submitted a detailed report to the local government department last year pertaining to these departments who had been defaulting on paying the tax. The final decision of the state government in this regard was still awaited, said Mr Jagdish Salwan, Superintendent of the House Tax Department.

The Central Government offices, including the Telecom, the Post Office, the Income Tax, the Railways, the Food Corporation of India, the Custom and Central Excise here refused to pay the tax last year claiming that there was no such provision in the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act regarding collection of house tax from the Central Government offices.

Dr Roshan Sunkaria, Commissioner of the corporation, was not available for comments.


PSEB told to pay compensation
Our Correspondent

Ropar, May 17
The District Consumer Forum has directed the PSEB authorities to pay a compensation to Mr Nirmal Singh of Khizrabad village near Kharar, for allegedly harassing him and not releasing power connection in time.

Nirmal Singh, in a complaint before the forum, had alleged that he had built a house in the Khizrabad area in 1994 and applied for a power connection by depositing Rs 440 as security on January 17, 1995 in the office of the authorities concerned.

The PSEB issued him a demand notice for submitting the test report. He submitted the test report with a late fee of Rs 25, but despite that his connection was not released.

When approached, the engineer at the office asked him to hand over Rs 500 to his clerk and assured him that his connection would be released soon. The clerk in lieu of certain formalities took the signatures of Nirmal Singh on certain forms.

The complainant alleged that the junior engineer and the RA of his area demanded money for releasing the connection. But when he refused to pay the bribe, they threatened him that his power connection would never be released. The repeated reminders by the complainant to the higher authorities of the PSEB failed to get the power connection.

For the harassment faced by the complainant and his family, he pleaded for a compensation of Rs 30,000 from the PSEB.

In the defence, the counsel for the PSEB raised objections that the complaint was not maintainable before the forum in the present form.

The complainant was not a major at the time he applied for the connection. He wrongly declared himself a major in his application. In addition to that in response to his application he was asked to deposit Rs 6060 on account of the service connection charges. The complainant, however, failed to deposit the sum and made an application that he was not in a position to pay the service connection charges but was ready to pay the rent for the line. The rent of the service line was calculated to be Rs 100 per month. The complainant once again moved an application that he was not in a position even to pay the rent. On the basis of that the application of the complainant was rejected, the PSEB counsel said.

The complainant again filed an application for connection with the board on December 18, 1995. His earlier security was adjusted and he was asked to deposit Rs 12,800 as the service connection charges. He, however, once again failed to deposit the sum due to which his connection could not be released, the PSEB maintained.

The forum headed by the president, Mr J.P. Gupta, after hearing the arguments maintained that both parties admit the sequences that occurred till the complainant was told that the monthly rental charges of the service line were calculated to be Rs 100 per month. However, the connection order of the complainant was cancelled on the plea that he had not supplied the electricity meter as per the provisions. However, the decision was never conveyed to the complainant.

The forum also took notice of a vigilance inquiry conducted by the board into the incident in which it was asserted that the connection of the complainant was wrongly cancelled.


SSP to look into police torture case
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 17
Presiding over a weekly ‘sangat darshan’ here today, Mr G.K. Singh, Officiating Deputy Commissioner, marked a case of police excesses to the Barnala SSP to look into the allegations that the police had allegedly worsened the condition of a son of Mr Darshan Singh, a resident of Tapa Mandi, by giving electric shocks to him after keeping him illegal custody.

As many as 20 complaints or representations were presented at the today’s ‘sangat darshan’ of which 10 were redressed on the spot while remaining were sent to the departments concerned to settle the same in a week.

Addressing the programme, Mr G.K. Singh said the ‘sangat darshan’ programmes had reduced the gap between the officers and the general public. He said these programmes had also been proving helpful for the public in solving their problems and complaints either on the spot or in a stipulated period.


Protest against Hindi daily
J.S. Malhotra

Jalandhar, May 17
More than 400 members of various social and religious organisations assembled in front of the office of a local Hindi daily at Milap Chowk to protest against the publication of a joke on Lord Rama. Residents and shopkeepers felt harassed due to diversion of traffic at several points in the city today.

The police deployed more than 200 cops and three SPs and four DSPs at the chowk and nearby localities to keep order in the city. Traffic routes leading to the place were also diverted and entry of vehicles was barred from the Punjab National Bank Chowk, Central Town, the Phagwara Gate and Bhagat Singh Chowk end.

Students of the nearby Government Girls Senior Secondary School were seen asking policemen to allow entry of their vehicles towards Milap Chowk as their homes were in nearby localities. But the Punjab Police denied them permission and instead asked them to cover the long route via the railway station or through Rainak Bazaar.

“These protest rallies or dharnas should be held in a manner that the traffic is not disturbed leading to inconvenience to the common man. Now, I will have to cover an extra distance of 2 km to reach my home”, Nirmal Kaur, a student of Government Girls Senior Secondary School, said.

Shopkeepers of the area said there was virtually a holiday for business today as the roads leading to this area were sealed by the police and no customer wanted to get involved in this tangle. They added that while business was passing through recession for the past three years in the city, these agitations would further hit it.

“In fact, presence of hundreds of policemen in the area has doubled tension in the minds of the residents, who have been speculating right from the morning whether city will remain peaceful or the situation will take an ugly turn today. Moreover, I have not received a single customer since morning,” said a shopkeeper of Connaught Circus.

Mr M.F. Farooqi, SP, said 200 policemen, including those in civil dress were deployed in the area to avert any unpleasant incident during the protest march, which started from Devi Talab Mandir at 11 a.m. and passed through Adda Hoshiarpur Chowk, Bhagat Singh Chowk and Phagwara Gate before concluding at Milap Chowk.

“Though there can be inconvenience to the residents due to sealing of some approaching roads to this place, it is our responsibility to take necessary steps to maintain law and order in the city,” he added.

The protest rally continued for more than four hours and all speakers addressing the gathering at Milap Chowk, threatened the management of local Hindi daily with dire consequences, if it failed to publish an unconditional apology in its newspaper. Mr Gulshan Sharma, a former councilor, sat on an indefinite fast in front of the newspaper’s office.


DC orders probe into removal of jhuggis
Our Correspondent

Patiala, May 17
The Deputy Commissioner has asked the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC), Mr Gagandeep Singh, today to look into the matter of the removing encroachments by jhuggi dwellers in the Tafazalpura area.

The jhuggi dwellers of the Indira Colony, Tafazalpura, urged the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Jasbir Singh Bir, to probe the matter to find out why the jhuggis were removed without issuing any prior notice by the local Municipal Corporation.

Apart from the magisterial inquiry, the Deputy Commissioner has also ordered that the post-mortem examination of the woman who had died to be conducted at the earliest. The expenses incurred on the cremation of the deceased would be borne by the Red Cross Society apart from the Rs 10,000 to be given to the family of the deceased.

Mr K.S. Kang, Municipal Corporation Commissioner said, “The Corporation has no role to play in the alleged incident of removing the jhuggi dwellers though help was provided to the Drainage Department in form of manpower and labour for removing the encroachments on the directions of the Deputy Commissioner.”

He added that some of his employees told him that “the police was also involved in the process of removal jhuggis from the area.” When asked about the magisterial inquiry, Mr Kang said, “The question of inquiry does not arise in view of the fact that the encroachment existed in the area.”

Mr Kang also said that the residents of the Tafazalpur area had filed a complaint with the Deputy Commissioner a number of times regarding the removal of the illegal encroachment in the area.

On the contrary, the jhuggi-dwellers said they had been living in the area for the past 35 years or so and added that the authorities should not have removed jhuggis without any prior information.


Dept’s assurance to phone subscribers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 17
Mr Gurpreet Singh Mandiani, General Secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal’s Dakha circle unit, said here today that the Telecom Department authorities concerned have given an assurance to make correction in the charges taken from rural telephone subscribers.

He said a deputation led by him today met senior officers of the department to point out certain irregularities in the billing in case of rural subscribers. The main irregularity was that the department authorities were charging bills from subscribers in the rural areas on the pattern of urban areas.

For instance, if certain villages were attached with the telephone exchange located in the nearby urban area, the department authorities were getting charges from the rural subscribers on the pattern of urban areas.

For rural areas, the Union Government has fixed less charges compared to urban areas. He said the department officials concerned were supposed to make a separate list of rural subscribers attached with the urban exchange and they should have billed them as per the charges fixed for rural areas by the authorities concerned.


A salute to gallant soldier
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 17
Brig Sukhdev Singh, founder-President of the War Decorated, was among a few gallant Army officers who were decorated for bravery, both before and after Independence.

A recipient of Vir Chakra and Military Cross, Brig Sukhdev Singh was born on January 11, 1911, at Bahomajra, near Khanna. His father, Risaldar Narain Singh, was a cavalryman.

An alumni of Government Mahendra College, Patiala, he was commissioned into the Ist Patiala Infantry (Rajendra Sikhs), now 15 Punjab (Ist Patiala). In the pre-Independence days, he saw action in the North-West Frontier province, Burma and Malaya (now Malaysia). He was decorated with the Military Cross for bravery.

In May 1948, while commanding Ist Patiala Infantry, he saved the Kashmir valley from the Pakistani raiders, by clearing Kargil, Dras and Zojila, which earned him a Vir Chakra for good leadership.

He served with the ONGC, and on retirement pursued social causes, for which he was awarded the Patiala Ratan.

Four generations of his family served the Army i.e. his father, himself, his sons and grandsons. When he died early this month, he was 90.

Major-Gen S.K. Awasthy, Colonel of the Punjab Regiment and the Punjab Regiment Officers Association, condoled his death.


Lawyers’ strike today
Our Correspondents

Bathinda, May 17
The District Bar Association has decided to observe strike tomorrow in support of members of the Sangrur District Bar Association, Mr Mithu Ram Gupta, president of the association, in a press note issued here said

Mansa: On call of the district Bar Association, Sangrur, members of the local Bar Association, would observe strike tomorrow, this was disclosed by Mr Ajit Singh Bhangu, president, District Bar Association here today.


2 foundation stones for bypass
Our Correspondent

Mansa, May 17
Mr Sukhwinder Singh Aulakh, (CPI) member in the Vidhan Sabha from the Mansa Assembly constituency, laid the foundation stone for a bypass between the Sirsa and Jagdambey road at here today.

The foundation stone for the same bypass was earlier laid by Mr Bhan Singh Bhaura, Lok Sabha member in February.

Mr Bhaura said Rs 10.26 lakh would be spent out of his area development fund and the remaining cost of Rs 35 lakh would be incurred by the municipal council under the ITSMT scheme.

Earth work for the bypass had already been completed.

On the foundation stone laid by the SAD MLA, the name of Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder, General Secretary of the SAD and Rajya Sabha member, is engraved and he (Mr Aulakh) has laid the foundation stone on behalf of Mr Bhunder.

Mr Aulakh alleged that Mr Bhaura had not given any money from his area development fund for the project.


Record amount of wheat procured, claims Mittal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 17
The Food and Supplies Minister, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, addressing a press conference said here today that over Rs 5500 crore had been disbursed among farmers whose wheat was procured by the government agencies. He said 101.63 lakh tonne wheat had been procured by May 15 which was a record. Out of this, 71.5 per cent had been procured by the state government agencies and remaining 28.5 per cent had been procured by the FCI. Private traders have purchased only small quantity of wheat.

When asked about the arrival of wheat from the states like Madhya Pradesh in Punjab, Mr Mittal said that some millers had brought wheat on their own from other states. Inquiry was conducted in this connection by the authorities concerned. As there was no restriction in the state on bringing wheat from other states, no action could be taken.

He said that the issue of moving the buffer wheat stock from Punjab to other states and extension in the date of milling of paddy, had been taken with the Union Government. 


Phone subscribers to get better services
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 16
The General Manager, Telecom, Mr Rakesh Kapur, said over 10,000 mobiles and 6000 wireless telephones will be offered to the subscribers during the current financial year.

Mr Kapur while addressing a meeting of Telephone Advisory Committee here said the capacity of local network was increased by 37,000 lines and added that last year the department provided 21,800 telephone connections to the subscribers.

Thirteen new exchanges had been installed during the year. Around 700 PCOs were set up which was five times more than the target, he added.

He added that the department had covered many rural pockets and provided them with more lines for better communication.


AIDS awareness camps planned
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 17
A meeting of senior officers of the Punjab Health Department was held here today. Dr Baldev Raj Chawla, Health Minister, presided. The agenda of the meeting was the launching of an AIDS awareness programme.

Dr Chawla said the spread of AIDS could be checked at this stage by organising awareness camps. Mrs Mohinder Kaur Josh, Minister of State for Health, Mr Anurag Aggarwal, Project Director, Punjab State AIDS Control Committee, were also present.


Man commits suicide
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 17
A driver Sarjiwan Singh (27) of Mehatpur subdivision, near here, allegedly committed suicide by consuming celphos tablets at his residence today.

The deceased, who was having a small land holding of 4 acres, had changed his profession last year due to the non-profitability in agriculture sector. He took loan of Rs 3 lakh from a private finance company to buy a Tempo last year. But he failed to pay the last two instalments for the month of March and April this year to the financier, who forcibly took away his vehicle yesterday to pressurise him to pay the amount, the police said.

Sarjiwan had been disturbed for about one year as he was unable to earn bread for his family. The body was handed over to his parents after the post-mortem examination.


Mistakes in law question paper
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 17
Law students of second year got a rude shock today when they found different questions in the English and Punjabi versions in the “law of crimes” question paper for the fourth semester.

Question number eight in the English version was not included in the Punjabi version of the same paper.

The students also pointed out that even the numbering of question in the English and Punjabi versions were different. They said mistakes in the question papers was not a new phenomenon.

Naveen Singla, spokesman for the Law Students Association, said the students should be given grace marks.


Govt urged to fill posts of teacher
Our Correspondents

Patiala, May 17
The PCMS Officers Association (PCMSOA) today asked the Punjab Government to fill long-pending vacancies of teachers in Government Medical College (GMC) as soon as possible and on priority basis.

Giving this information, the president of the association, Dr D.S. Bhullar, said because of summer holidays, many doctors had taken leave as a result of which the patients were suffering and the workload had fallen on the doctors. He added that the condition of the hospital had also deteriorated.

Dr Bhullar said this was creating hindrance in the normal routine of the MBBS and MD student doctor also. In such a situation if the Medical Council of India (MCI) surveys the medical college, many departments affiliated to the MCI might loose the given honour.

The PCMSOA had urged the government to immediately fill the vacant posts of teacher for the welfare of the medical students and the patients visiting hospitals.

AMRITSAR: The PCMS in a statement rejected the piece meal implementation of the policy adopted by the Punjab Government towards the long pending demands of the PCMS doctors.

The proposed move of the state government to partially hits conveyance allowance (CA) had been much less than the recommendations of the Fourth Punjab Pay Commission. This was stated by Dr R.S. Sethi, senior vice-president of the PCMS Association.


Time to learn computers
Anita Tayal

Patiala, May 17
With most of the school and college examinations over, local students are free and want to spend their holidays by doing something far away from the dull and dreary chores of daily life.

Most of the students are planning to join computer institutes. They feel it is a time-consuming passion, as a result of which, the institutes are now undertaking a number of short-term and long-term computer courses.

“I want to pursue my career in computers and want to take up MCA in the future. That is why I have joined an institute so as to get the technical background on the subject”, says Rajan Chopra, who is through with class XII examinations.

The latest craze at the moment is the Internet, with not only youngsters but people of all age groups showing excitement while leaning it. Says Mr Sukhwinder Singh, who runs a computer institute, “People are crazy to learn the Internet. The institute plans to start ISDN (International Subscriber Dialing Network), which boasts voice mail and face-to-face conversation through computers.”

Says Mr Ratan Garg, who heads another institute, “The institute will start summer coaching, especially for the children in classes V to IX. Viewing the increasing competition in computers, such beginners will be the most advantageous to promote their career in this field in future.”

The charges offered by the institutes are nominal. The idea is to divert more and more students towards computers, especially during the coming summer holidays.

Mr Vikram Gupta of yet another institute says, “We will introduce special short-term courses for the junior as well as graduate students. The institute will start programme of the basic sort and certain games, which will help small children to develop their interest in computers.

Various institutes plan to start fast courses, where students can earn while they are studying. This will further act as a boon for the students who do not want to waste their holidays and plan to learn.

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