Tuesday, August 21, 2001, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Punjab — paradox of poverty and plenty
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 20
With the focus on human resource development and based on the “voice of the poor’’, the Punjab bureaucracy today held an inhouse exercise to draw up a road map for the future development of the state at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development here.

The one-day brainstorming closed-door meeting-cum-seminar was guided by the Planning Commission member, Dr K. Venkatasubamanian, and the commission Secretary, Mr P. K. Mohanty. The state Chief Secretary, Mr N. K. Arora, is believed to have done some plain speaking while giving a resume of the problems that beset Punjab and the desirable prospects. He reportedly said: “The picture is not bright. The proposed state development reports, one hopes, will be quite unlike the usual reports galore. These should translate Vision-2020 into reality’’.

The focus of the development reports, expected to be ready within one year, will be on the common man, his political empowerment and social security.

The participants, including academicians, it is reliably learnt, were first familiarised with the obtaining ground realities pertaining to Punjab’s socio-economic, financial, agricultural and industrial scenario and later shown the broad contours of how to help Punjab that has slipped into a crisis situation.

Punjab’s economy is in distress. The poverty ratio is different in the southern and northern districts. Agricultural production has plateaued. The consequent adverse effects are felt following the prolonged wheat-paddy rotation. Human development indices — literacy and health — are only a little above average. The sex ratio is the most adverse in the country. It dropped from 882 to 874 during 1991-2001 against the corresponding figure of 927 and 933 for all-India. It is a challenge for Punjab to empower women.

Though one-third of the population (28 per cent) in Punjab comprises the Scheduled Castes and more than half of it is below the poverty line, the Scheduled Castes component is in the range of only 7 per cent to 8 per cent of the total state Plan.

The service sector has not expanded, while the share of the primary sector in the gross state domestic product has declined from 49.13 per cent (1980-91) to 40.50 per cent in 1998-99 with a corresponding increase in the percentage share of the secondary sector.

The literacy rate, though a little higher than the all-India average, is below 50 per cent in at least four districts. No district is covered under the primary education programme. There is preponderance of Scheduled Castes students and those belonging to low-income groups among dropouts.

There is a substantial fall in the non-tax revenue receipts even as tax revenue recorded a reasonable growth, 13 per cent, in 1997-2000. The share of tax in the state domestic product has declined from 6.69 per cent in 1992-93 to 6.38 per cent in 1999-2000. The interest payment, as percentage of non-plan revenue expenditure, is up from 28 in 1997-98 to an estimated 33.3 in 2000-01. The state’s borrowings are increasing.

The share of the total public and private investments in the state during April, 1999, and January, 2001, was only about 2 per cent of the total investment in the country. Punjab has failed to attract investments.

Populist political decisions and sops have cost the state dear with no commensurate levy and recovery of user charges. The revenue component of irrigation operations and maintenance is very high. There is a surplus staff of 11,000. In the electricity board only about 64 per cent of the average cost of supply is charged with about 37 per cent of the available power going to the farm sector. A substantial percentage is reported as “theft’’.

Against the recommendation of charging at least 50 paise per kwh, as decided at the Chief Ministers’ and Power Ministers’ conferences, first in 1996 and again in 2001, Punjab is charging nothing. The unmetered supply of power to the agricultural sector conceals the actual level of transmission and distribution losses that apparently seem to be comfortable as compared to the all-India figures. Punjab has been asked to opt for energy audit and install meters for all consumers by December, 2001. Punjab has a state Regulatory Commission, but it is defunct.

The transport sector is a drag on the exchequer. Concessional fees to a variety of travellers account for 50 per cent of the losses. The state’s burgeoning population of clerks and bureaucrats is the highest in the country—the number of government employees per 1,000 population is 14.82. The figure for a larger state like UP. is 4.07.

Punjab also suffers from regional imbalances. There are pockets of poverty and plenty. The poverty percentage of 17.5 in the southern districts is perceptibly much higher than in the northern districts, where it is 7.6 (1993-94), according to the 1999 report of the National Institute of Rural Development.

In the changing world economic scenario and post-WTO (World Trade Organisation) regime, Punjab will also have to change quickly to keep in tune with the world markets where competition and quality predominate. This calls for re-prioritising governance, reorienting research at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, as much as it calls for a relook at the system of minimum support price, MSP, mainly in the cases of wheat and paddy. This support has sustained wheat and paddy production and enabled the country to pile up huge stocks though 360 million people continue to struggle below the official poverty line and have no purchasing power. India accounts for an estimated 40 per cent of the world’s poor.

Punjab, sources told TNS, strongly differed with the Planning Commission on the scrapping of the MSP. There has to be a viable “alternative’’ to this if the wheat-paddy rotation is to be broken and diversification encouraged. “Punjab cannot let go the hand of the kisan in the post-WTO period. Not for several years, though, it will have to march with the rest of the world’’, reportedly remarked the Financial Commissioner, Agriculture, Mr C. L. Bains, while responding to the comments of Mr Mohanty, who wanted Punjab to enable farmers to stand on their own feet and “not on MSP crutches’’.

But then all is not lost despite this dismal picture presented to the participants. There is always a silver lining. In Punjab it is in the “strong agricultural and infrastructural base and human resources that have the requisite resilience to spring back to a higher growth trajectory’’, as the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman, Mr K. C. Pant, reportedly told the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, during a discussion on the Annual Plan, (2001-02).

The Financial Commissioner, Rural Development, Mr J. S. Kesar, is believed to have questioned the commission’s wisdom to withhold grants if panchayati raj institutions were denied the devolution of power as per the 73rd Constitution amendment. “No one wants to give up one’s powers. Why not have an interface between the commission and the political executive?” he reportedly suggested.

Punjab has to tap its entrepreneurial spirit. There is need for ‘’fundamental rethinking’’ on several issues. For the expected turnaround the following issues have to be addressed — making significant achievements in human development for economic prosperity through elementary education, the health delivery system and efficiency gains in the infrastructure sector and levying of economic user charges. Punjab will have to address the problem why against the highest per capita income its financial position is under great stress. Downsizing the government requires serious thought, so does taking strategic decisions in the post-WTO period to galvanise agriculture and solve related problems.

The warning signals are loud and clear. It is time to resuscitate Punjab. The participants, sources say, were told the ultimate documents must be “achievable’’.


Sant Longowal’s death anniversary observed
Tribune News Service

Longowal (Sangrur), August 20
The state-level function organised here today to pay tributes to Sant Harchand Singh Longowal on his 16th death anniversary turned into political show, as top leaders of the SAD and the BJP not only criticised the Congress but also called upon the people to vote for the SAD-BJP alliance and make Mr Parkash Singh Badal the Chief Minister for another term.

The leaders also termed the Congress as the enemy of the Punjabis, especially the Sikhs. They also asked the gathering to “teach a lesson” to the Congress in the ensuing Assembly election as it had “ruined” Punjab and Punjabis during its regime at the Centre.

The leaders also lashed-out at the activities of the leaders of the newly formed. Panthic Morcha and alleged that it had been formed to benefit the Congress in the Assembly election and defeat the SAD-BJP alliance.

However, no leader mentioned the Rajiv-Longowal accord. Also, no SAD or BJP leader touched on the issue of the abolition of octroi.

Playing rich tributes to Sant Longowal, Mr Parkash Singh Badal said the Congress wanted to revive militancy in Punjab by issuing statements that the SAD had brought Wassan Singh Zaffarwal and Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan in the state.

He announced a sum of Rs 30 lakh for the augmentation of the water supply scheme in this village and promised a “pucca gharr” for the auction of farmers' crops here.

Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, called upon the Akali workers to sink their differences to win all 10 Assembly seats of Sangrur district.

Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, Governor of Uttaranchal, Mr Syed Shah Nawaz Hussain, Union Minister of State for Coal, Mr I.D. Swami, Union Minister of State for Home, Mr Madan Lal Khurana, Vice-President of the BJP, and Prof Brij Lal Rinwa, president of the Punjab unit of the BJP also paid tributes to Sant Longowal.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Mrs Satwant Kaur Sandhu, Mr Chiranjit Lal Garg, Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla, Mr Gurdev Singh Badal, — Mr Tota Singh, Mr Gobind Singh Longowal and Mr Ranjit Singh Balian, all Punjab ministers, Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder, MP, Mr Onkar Singh Thappar, general secretary of the Delhi unit of the SAD, and Mr O.P. Kohli, national secretary of the BJP were among the others who paid tributes to Sant Longowal.


Pharmacist found guilty of misconduct
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 20
The ESI Hospital authorities have found a pharmacist guilty of wrong doing in the hospital, according to a report prepared by a former Medical Superintendent, Dr Jagjit Kaur, and sent to Director, Health Services.

The inquiry report, dated August 6, 2001, found that medicines valued at Rs 25,000 were stolen during the tenure of the pharmacist as a medical storekeeper in August-September, 1992. The report stated that no complaints of thefts from the store were received before or after that period. The inquiry also found that the entries of medicine stocks in hospital registers had discrepancies.

The inquiry report said an earlier inquiry had established the guilt of the pharmacist and a charges sheet had been issued against him. However it had been withdrawn without citing any reasons.

The report said the pharmacist was deputed to procure medicine stocks from the Director, Health Services, in Chandigarh, for which entries were not made in the registers with due signatures of a Medical Officer or a Senior Medical Officer. The stocks were shown as consumed without the permission of the in charge.

The report said the pharmacist took over in charge of the medical store back in 1992 despite the presence of the chief pharmacist and the thefts occurred during that period.

Thereafter, he was relieved of the charge on the order of the Director, Health Services, and no thefts occurred subsequently, it said.

The Medical Superintendent found that the pharmacist was a bully in the hospital and a case was registered against him by another employee. The superintendent has asked the Director to take action against the employee.

A complaint was made against the pharmacist on April 25 this year by the coordination committee of the paramedical and Health Employees body, Punjab to the Health Secretary.

Dr M.L. Garg, Medical Superintendent, was on leave when this correspondent visited the hospital today. Dr Ravi Kant, Senior Medical Officer, declined to comment on the report. Dr Jasjit Kaur was unavailable for comments.


Cheated youths in Bahrain
Two travel agents arrested
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 20
Mr Gurjit Singh and Mr Lakhwinder Singh of Balianwali village were feeling elated when they took a flight to Bahrain for their final destination, the USA, to improve their prospects.

However, their dreams turned sour when they found themselves at the mercy of the travel agent who forced them to carry out illicit distillation of liquor in Bahrain. They were even beaten up by the travel agent and his associates when they demanded wages.

They were made to work for 12 hours at a stretch and forced to dig drains. Their passports were taken away by the travel agent who has reportedly been identified as Jagroop Singh of Dhapali village.

Jagroop Singh, who was allegedly heading a gang of travel agents, including Piara Singh, Gurjant Singh and Dalip Kaur used to lure innocent youths on the pretext of taking them to the USA for better jobs.

This gang has sent about 13 youths to Bahrain. Before this, 23 youths were also taken to Bahrain. Most of them are living in sub human conditions. Their efforts to return to India have failed.

Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, district police chief, said Jagroop Singh and his associates would take huge amounts of money from the youths.

The matter came to light when Gurjit Singh and Lakhwinder Singh managed to come back to India after taking their passports from Jagroop Singh. They told the police that they had paid Rs 2.5 lakh each to Jagroop Singh. They paid Rs 1 lakh to Jagroop Singh in Bahrain as the last instalment.

A case had been registered under Sections 420 and 120-B, IPC, at police station Ballianwali. Gurjant Singh and Piara Singh have been arrested.

Those who have been taken to Bahrain by this gang include Viskaha Singh, Vikramjit Singh, Darshan Singh, Kala Singh, Labh Singh (residents of Ballianwali), Jagtar Singh of Kotra Korianwala, Jagtar Singh of Sangrur district, Jagga Singh and Tara Singh of Moga district Amarjit Singh, Gurmit Singh, Gurjit Singh and Lakhwinder Singh of Rampuraphul, Sukhdev Singh, Jagdev Singh, Gursewak Singh, Darshan Singh, Jagsir Singh, Pappu Singh, Sher Singh, Sagar Singh, Makhan Singh, Nagar Singh, Raghbir Singh, Sukkdev Singh, Jagsir Singh, Chinda Singh, Charna Singh, Baggar Singh, Gurwinder Singh, Kaka Singh, Bhola Singh and Darshan Singh.


Fake bank draft racket unearthed
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, August 20
The district police has busted an inter-state gang of cheaters involved in a Rs 50-lakh fake bank drafts racket with the arrest of two members of this gang.

Mrs Gurpreet Deo, SSP, identified the arrested persons as Davinder Rastogi, alias Davinder Nautial, son of Parkash Kumar, and Nathi Singh Negi, son of Mool Chand, both of Tehri Garhwal district in Uttaranchal.

They were arrested when they tried to commit fraud with the Central Bank of India, Phagwara branch.

The SSP said Davinder Rastogi had taken a room on rent in Jalandhar on which address he got his fake driving licence and ration card prepared and opened accounts in various banks by giving the Jalandhar address. The gang used these bank accounts for getting made fake bank drafts.

The scandal was detected when Davinder Rastogi presented a bank draft of the Central Bank of India, Ahmedabad branch, for Rs 4,98,000 to the Central Bank of India, Phagwara branch, for clearance. An officer of the Phagwara branch became suspicious and made inquiries from the Ahmedabad branch and found that the draft was fake.

The bank authorities informed the police which swung into action and arrested the accused from near Capital Bank here where too the accused had an account.

Mrs Deol told that Nathi Singh, the other accused, used to visit various banks to withdraw the money.

She told that Davinder Rastogi also had accounts in the HDFC, UTI Bank, Indusind Bank and the Capital Bank at Phagwara. They had earlier withdrawn Rs 4,98,000 from UTI Bank through a fake bank draft of the Central Bank of India and Rs 4,98,000 from Indusind Bank through another fake draft of the Central Bank of India.

The UTI and Indusind banks have been informed of the fraud.

The accused also had accounts in Centurion Bank, Jalandhar, and HDFC Bank, Jalandhar.

During interrogation, the accused confessed to have earlier withdrawn Rs 30 lakh by fraud from HDFC Bank, Ludhiana, and Rs 4 lakh from UTI Bank, Ludhiana.

The kingpin of the gang operates from Delhi and has employed people on a commission basis to encash the fake drafts.

The police has registered a case under Sections 420, 467, 648, 471 and 511 of IPC against the accused.


BKU (E) refutes report on lathi charge
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, August 20
The state unit of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta) said today that the report issued by the Association for Democratic Rights (ADFR) regarding the police lathi charge on residents of Maiser Khana on July 24 and the suicide by Mithu Singh of Sandoha village was not based on facts and it depicted the official version about the incidents.

In a press note issued today from the local Central Jail, where many leaders of the union have been lodged for more than a month, they said that the findings of the association were one-sided as union leaders were not contacted by it to know their version. The press note was signed by Mr Harnek Singh Lehrakhana, state vice-president, Mr Jhanda Singh Jethuke, district president, and Mr Baldev Singh Sandoha, president of the Maur block of the union.

The BKU leaders said the fact-finding team did not talk to those persons who were witnesses to the incidents that led to the suicide of Mithu Singh. They said the team had not checked the account books of the arhtiya with whom Mithu Singh had monetary transactions and who allegedly harassed him.

The fact-finding team had been misled by the administration and the representatives of the arhtiya, the union leaders said. They said the reason for the suicide by Mithu Singh was the harassment by bank officials and the arhtiya.

The union leaders said they had taken the suicide issue into their hands. They said when the union had found that bank officials and the arhtiyas had harassed Mithu Singh, leading to his suicide, they had decided to start an agitation.

The BKU leaders said that on May 23, bank officials visited the residence of Mithu Singh in Sandoha village and threatened him with dire consequences if he did not return the loan taken from the bank. They alleged that the behaviour of the bank officials had made Mithu Singh mentally disturbed. They said that one of his neighbours had told Mr Jeet Singh Bhunder, union leader of the Rampura Phul unit, about the mental condition of Mithu Singh and had said that if a solution was not found, he could commit suicide.

The union leaders said that Mithu had already returned about Rs 3 lakh to the arhtiya for the loan he had taken from him. They said he had taken only Rs 80,000 from the arhtiya about four years back and had returned more than three times the original amount as interest on the loan.

The union leaders also contradicted the statement of the association that Mithu was in the business of sale and purchase of buffaloes. They said investment in such a business did not exceed Rs 10,000 at any point of time. They said the suicide was not related to the losses incurred in the business, as was mentioned in the report.

Regarding the lathi charge by the police on BKU activists sitting on dharna near Maiser Khana village and on residents of the village, villagers said the report did not mention that arhtiyas had distributed sweets after the lathi charge among police personnel. They said none of the villagers pelted stones on the police personnel. They urged the office-bearers of the association to review the report and investigate the incidents properly.


More facilities for women cops
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 20
The Punjab Police will take immediate steps to provide basic amenities for policewomen in the state. These amenities will include creche for children of women cops.

Speaking at the valedictory function of the Springboard Women Development Programme here this afternoon, the Punjab Director-General of Police, Mr Sarabjit Singh, said policewomen of Punjab were second to none as their performance was in no way less than their male counterparts.

Expressing concern at the steep fall in the female:male ratio in Punjab, he said the biggest culprits of girl child infanticide were mothers and mothers-in-law. He urged the policewomen to feel proud of their daughters.

He urged Ms Jenny Daisley of Springboard Women’s Development Programme, who had come here specially from England for the valedictory function, to select and sponsor the best trainees from Punjab for similar courses run abroad.

The programme was launched with support from the Bureau of Police Research and Development in collaboration with the British Council in India with support from the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

The course was conducted by Ms Anita Punj and Ms V. Neerja, the two accredited Springboard trainers from Punjab.

During the training, which continued for three months, four workshops were organised and each of the 150 trainees — from constable to sub-inspector — were given a 300-page book, printed for the first time in Punjabi, on various aspects of women’s upliftment and empowerment.

Mr D.R. Bhatti, Director-Principal, Maharaja Ranjit Singh Punjab Police Academy, in his address of welcome, said a recent Police Revamping Commission report had recommended that at least all major police stations in states should have two women cops as counsellors.

Ms Anita Punj, while presenting a report on the training programme, talked about various aspects and said that participants had raised certain relevant issues, including more promotion channels for women cops, their deployment as investigating officers and their deployment as Station House Officers. They also wanted that police station should have separate lavatory and creche facilities.

Ms Kamal Singh of the British Council said besides the Springboard programme, certain other programmes were also being run in Punjab, including those about children and youth clubs as the British Government as well as the British Council have special affiliation with this border state.

Ms Jenny Daisley said Springboard Programme was now available in 15 countries as the USA had been the latest addition to the programme. She said that even in Britain, the Association of Women Police had been fighting for a number of issues, including sexual harassment and provision of basic amenities at police stations.

Mr Sarabjit Singh gave away certificates to all 150 police women who completed the course successfully.


Tainted not to get ticket: Pannu
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, August 20
Mr Shanker Pannu, who has been appointed observer by the Congress for this district, said ticket would not be given to candidates with tainted image.

Talking to mediapersons here today, he said no one with a criminal background would be given ticket in the coming Assembly elections.

Elaborating on the “clean image”, he said the mere registration of a criminal case against someone did not mean that the person would not be given ticket. The Constitution states that until a person is convicted by a court of law, he is innocent,” Mr Pannu said.

When asked one of the Congress leaders from Faridkot had been convicted of a life term and if it was possible for such leaders to get ticket, Mr Pannu said until the higher courts did not reverse the judgement the person would not be given ticket.

He denied there was any infighting over the issuance of ticket.

Giving details of the applications received for ticket, he said while the maximum applications (42) were received for the Pakka Kalan Assembly segment, the minimum were for Talwandi Sabo. Twelve applications were received from Nathana, 16 from Rampuraphul and 38 from Bathinda.

Mr Harminder Singh Jassi, district president of the Congress Committee, and Mr Kewal Krishan Aggarwal, general secretary, also addressed mediapersons and gave details of the future plans of the party.

Mr Jassi said people were fed up with rampant corruption. He alleged that jobs were being “sold” and no new employment opportunities were being generated.


Admn played partisan role: Brahmpura
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, August 20
The district civil-administration has come under heavy criticism by Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Minister for Co-operation, Punjab, for its alleged partial role in the byelection to the post of sarpanch of Naushehra Pannauan gram panchayat held yesterday in which Mr Navamarbeer Singh, candidate from the Brahmpura group, won.

His rival was Mr Ranjit Singh of the Surinder Singh Kairon group.

The minister said the district administration changed seven presiding officers at the last minute when the election material was about to be distributed. He alleged that the new staff was appointed at the behest of Mr Kairon, father of Mr Adash Pratap Singh Kairon, state Minister of Excise and Taxation. Mr Brahmpura also condemned the police for its role.

Mr Jagdish Kumar Mittal, SSP, said the police had made elaborate arrangements for peaceful, free and fair election. He denied reports that he took Mr Kairon to polling booths.


Badal, Chautala in collusion on waters issue: Cong
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, Aug 20
The PPCC today accused the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, of effecting a secret deal with his Haryana counterpart, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, on the inter-state river water issue.

Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira, secretary, PPCC, in a press note issued here, alleged that keeping in view the forthcoming Assembly elections, Mr Badal had agreed to surrender a large share of water to Haryana in lieu of the transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab to hoodwink voters.

The Congress demanded that the Centre should hike the minimum support price of paddy to Rs 600 per quintal.


DCC pays tributes to Rajiv Gandhi
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, August 20
On the 57th birth anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi today, Mr Harminder Singh Jassi, President, DCC, paid tributes to the leader at the district office here.

Mr Shanker Das Pannu, former MP and Congress observer for Bathinda, said Rajiv Gandhi had laid down his life for the nation.

A medical camp was organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Lok Bhalai Manch. Mr Avtar Singh Brar, former minister, failed to turn up. Dr Satpal Bhateja, chairman of the manch, and 15 other doctors gave free medical advice to the needy patients.

A talent contest was also held by the manch. Veerpartap Singh won the first prize of Rs 1100.

ABOHAR: Block Congress Committees of the district remembered Rajiv Gandhi on his birth anniversary today by organising meetings and welfare functions.

DCC president and former minister Sajjan Kumar Jakhar, addressing a meeting of party workers here, said Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had sacrificed their lives fighting against terrorism abetted by foreign countries. He said Rajiv Gandhi would be remembered for giving Panchayati Raj a new dimension and promoting information technology.

Mr Jakhar regretted that the “weak” policies of the NDA government had led to rise in militancy not only in Jammu and Kashmir but also in other border states. He said it was unfortunate that those militants who had masterminded killings and ransom in Punjab were being contacted and invited to the state by those in power.

He exhorted Congressmen to shun petty differences and fight unitedly against undemocratic forces.


4-year term for chiefs of Improvement Trusts
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 20
The Punjab Council of Ministers at its meeting held under the chairmanship of Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal here this evening decided to extend the term of the Chairmen of Improvement Trusts from two to four years besides allowing panchayati raj institutions to collect liquor tax directly from the liquor vends falling within their respective jurisdictions.

The Cabinet also approved the transfer of ownership of the Sector 36 Defence Services Officers Institute.

According to an official spokesman, the Council of Ministers gave its formal approval for conversion of Ordinances into Bills for presenting in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha during the session starting tomorrow for amendment in the Punjab Agricultural Produce Markets Act 1961 and the Punjab New Mandi Township (Development and Regulation) Act, 1960 as a consequence of the merger of the Colonisation Department in the Punjab Mandi Board and also for amendment in Section 5 of the Punjab Town Improvement Act, 1922, for enhancing the term of the office of Chairmen, Improvement Trusts, from two to four years.

The Council also cleared the proposal to amend the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 to empower the panchayati raj institutions to collect liquor tax directly from liquor vends falling within their jurisdiction rather than recovering it as a share in the existing Excise Duty to ensure their financial autonomy and viability .

The Council also accepted the proposal to transfer the ownership of Defence Services Officers’ Institute land and building, Sector 36-C, Chandigarh, besides deciding to entrust the further management of the DSOI in favour of Defence Services Welfare Fund or the HQ, Western Command, Chandi Mandir, on deemed reimbursement of Rs 1 crore approximately spent by the Punjab Government by way of book transfer against the share of additional excise duty payable to the Punjab Amalgamated Fund, since 30 per cent of the share of PAF is payable to GOC-in-C, Western Command.


Ravel Singh dead
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 20
Eminent Sikh scholar Mr Ravel Singh Advocate, who also served as secretary of the SGPC for several years, died here late last evening in the PGI where he was admitted following a massive heart attack.

His body will be cremated here tomorrow at 11 a.m., according to family sources. He is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters. One of his sons, Mr Narinder Pal Singh, is a senior police officer at Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. Mr Rawel Singh was a resident of Sector 15 here.

Mr Ravel Singh, who also worked as Editor of two Punjabi dailies — Parbhat and Panth Sewak — had resigned as Secretary of the SGPC in 1960. He worked as Sub-Registrar in Chandigarh from 1960 to 1964 and also passed the LL. B examination from Panjab University during that period.

Born in April,1914, in Gheel Kalan village in Campbelpur district ( now in Pakistan), Mr Ravel Singh got his early education in Mota Singh Khalsa High School, Neela, Jhelum district. He was awarded the Baba Gurbax Singh Medal by Panjab University for securing the first position in Punjabi in the matriculation examination.

One of the main architects of Punjabi Suba, Mr Ravel Singh was a close associate of the late Mater Tara Singh. He served as Minister in the governments of the late Justice Gurnam Singh and Mr Parkash Singh Badal in the 70s. He played a pivotal role in the resettlement of migrants from Pakistan in 1947 in this part of the country.

Known for his encyclopedic knowledge of Akali history and Sikh politics, Mr Ravel Singh used to be consulted by eminent Akali leaders on Sikh politico-religious issues as he had first-hand knowledge of important meetings between Jawaharlal Nehru and Master Tara Singh.

The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who described Mr Ravel Singh as a pivot of Akali politics and an institution in himself, said that Punjab had lost an eminent intellectual, statesman and journalist in his death. Mr Badal said that it was also a personal loss to him. He expressed sympathy with the members of the bereaved family.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan, Mr Raghbir Singh, Dr Upinderjit Kaur, Mr Natha Singh Dalam, expressing grief over the death of Mr Ravel Singh, said that it was a great loss to Punjabis.


Health services paralysed
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, August 20
The health services in the local, Khadur Sahib and Patti subdivisions of the area remained paralysed today as the medical and paramedical staff of the government hospitals, civil dispensaries and other health centres went on a strike today in protest against the registration of a case under Section 420, IPC, by the Valtoha police station against Dr Manjit Singh, Medical Officer with the Primary Heath Centre, Gharyala.

The medical and paramedical staff of the Civil Hospitals, at Tarn Taran, Patti, Miawind, Chabhal, Sarhali Kalan, Gharyala, Khem Karan and other centres also observed a strike. A deputation of the Punjab Civil Medical Services Association of Amritsar district under the presidentship of Dr Shamsher Singh, senior vice president of the district unit of the association, met Dr S.K. Kalia, Superintendent of Police, and demanded that the case against the Medical Officer should be withdrawn.


Wrangle stalls traffic lights
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Traffic lights were installed at Fountain Chowk here more than a year ago but these are yet to start functioning because of resistance of the residents to the demolition of the fountain which is considered to be a landmark of the city.

The district administration had decided to fix traffic lights at this spot considering the traffic problems and jams that occur here so often. Accordingly, it was decided to demolish the chowk.

However, the administration did not reckon with the resistance of the people as well as of the Municipal Corporation which did not like the idea. The corporation, in fact, handed over the chowk to a private party for maintenance and beautification. The place is being spruced up and is likely to get a new look soon. The administration, on its part, has reduced the size of the circle of the chowk to facilitate the movement of traffic. Fearing a public outcry, it has refrained from activating the traffic lights.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Jasbir Singh Bir, feels the chowk will have to be demolished sooner or later. He said that heavy traffic converged at the spot which has the Patiala-Sangrur road on two sides and roads leading to the Lower Mall and Leela Bhawan on the other. The administration was installing more fountains in the city and that demolition of this fountain was proposed only to remove a traffic bottleneck at the spot. He, however, said that the fountain would be removed only after a consensus is reached on the issue among various forums of citizens. He said a meeting of prominent citizens would be called to thrash out the issue.

However, it may not be an easy task since most of the senior citizens are emotionally attached to the chowk and are not ready to accept its demolition. Mr Amarjit Singh, a citizen, said the chowk on longer posed a traffic hazard since its size had been reduced and that it contributed to the beauty of the city. He said there was need to educate people about how to negotiate the chowk without creating problems.

The younger generation, however, feels that there should be an open mind on the issue. They point out that traffic lights had been installed at Sheranwale Gate and a similar situation existed at the fountain chowk. Moreover, the increase in the city’s vehicle population would render it difficult to retain the chowk, they point out.


Kandi canal cries for repair
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, August 20
The state government claims to have carried out various development works, but it has ignored the Kandi canal project in the district.

About 60 km long Kandi canal (stage-I) from Mukerian Hydel, Talwara, to Ajowal (Hoshiarpur) has been providing water for irrigation to 19,867 hectares of land in 215 villages in the Kandi tract of the district. However, there has been a decline in the supply of water from the canal as it has got damaged due to onslaught of floods. Lack of funds has deteriorated the situation. There is no deep tubewell irrigation facility in the area.

The canal is damaged at many places. The single barrel of aqueduct is blocked which has led to silting. During the 1998-99 floods, the banks of canal were damaged. The lining of the canal was also damaged. This has resulted in seepage.

Mr Sunder Sham Arora, member of the PPCC, said the Irrigation Minister, Punjab had inspected the canal on April 27, 2000. The minister had promised to provide requisite funds for its repair. He pointed out that Rs 30 lakh had been provided in 2000-2001 which was insufficient. Since then no funds had been given, he said.

He said the inhabitants of the area had made several complaints regarding the matter and demanded irrigation facility.


Assembly session from today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 20
The three-day session of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha will begin tomorrow at 2 p.m. The Secretary of the Vidhan Sabha said the House would be adjourned for the day tomorrow after making obituary references. Legislative business would be transacted on August 22 and August 23.

The state government is expected to make some vital populist announcements extending concessions to various sections of society in the session. The Opposition would try to corner the Treasury Benches on various issues, especially the amendments made by the Union Government to the River Water Disputes Act.


Schoolboy dies as van rams into truck
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, August 20
Tushar Prashar, a schoolboy died on the spot while 10 other students, including Raghav Ghai, Vikas Gupta and Rohit Pabbi, were injured when their school van rammed into a stationary truck on the GT Road at the local Hoshiarpur crossing this afternoon.

The students were returning from their school, when mishap occurred. The 16-year-old Tushar’s father is Mr Rakesh Prashar, an ETO. The police has detained the van driver, Gurmel Singh.


Punjabi monthly released
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, August 20
The state Transport Commissioner, Mr Balbir Singh Soodan, at a function here yesterday released new monthly Punjabi magazine “Sangeet Darpan”.

Addressing Punjabi writers, folk singers and scribes, Mr Soodan pleaded for clean literature. He flayed vulgarity in print and visual media. The cultural scion of Punjab Jagdev Singh Jassowal, local SDM Amarjit Paul, columnist S. Ashok Bhaura also spoke on the occasion.


Protest over water shortage
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, August 20
More than 400 residents of Kot Sadiq village today blocked traffic on the Jalandhar-Kala Sangha road against the failure of the local municipal corporation in providing drinking water for the past three years.

The residents alleged that though their village was brought within the municipal limits three years ago, no effort was made to remove drinking water shortage in the village by the authorities.


Kisan sabha seeks 600 as MSP
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, August 20
The district unit of the Punjab Kisan Sabha has urged the Central Government to announce the minimum support price (MCP) for paddy at the rate of Rs 600 per quintal. It has also demanded that the MSP for cotton should be fixed at Rs 3,500 per quintal, Rs 4,000 for desi cotton and Rs 125 per quintal for sugarcane.

A resolution in this regard was passed at a meeting of the union held here today. Leaders said the MSPs for various agricultural products should be fixed keeping in view the expenses incurred on inputs.

The resolution also demanded that the price for milk purchased by various government milk collecting agencies should be fixed at Rs 2 per fat unit. It said the government should make arrangements for the marketing of poultry products.

Mr Jasveer Singh Akalia Khurd, who presided over the meeting, said farmers in Punjab contributed about 52 per cent of the total income of the state. But the condition of most of them was so poor that it had become difficult for them to make both ends meet.

Mr Jagjit Singh Joga, senior vice-president of the union, said the state government was not paying attention to the spread of the American bollworm on cotton. He said it had been destroying the cotton for the past four years but the government had not done anything for its prevention. He said the government had not paid any compensation to the farmers.


MC stand-off on development projects ends
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 20
The long-drawn stand-off in the local municipal corporation over the approval of various development projects ended today after a consensus was reached among the members of the Finance and Contracts Committee (F&CC) to approve all projects. The projects, worth Rs 8 crore, mainly belong to the wards represented by the ruling alliance councillors and were hanging fire for the past several months, due to opposition from some members of the committee, including the Mayor.

Earlier during the day, three members of the six-member F&CC, belonging to the ruling Akali-BJP alliance were apprehending that the projects belonging to their areas might not be approved. At a joint press conference, before the F&CC meeting, Mr Amarjit Singh Bhatia, vice-president of the SAD, Mr Harbans Lal Sethi, district president of the BJP, the leader of the SAD in the corporation, Mr Kulwant Singh Dukhia, and a BJP leader, Mr Pran Bhatia, said they feared that some senior officials of the corporation were hell bent on hindering development projects in their wards to sabotage their prospects in the next assembly elections. They were also not happy with the Commissioner who, they said, had not come up to their expectations. They said the Commissioner had been continuously accused by the ruling alliance members of siding with the Mayor, who owed allegiance to Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra. The confrontation between the two groups was mainly about the elevated road project which was being opposed by the ruling alliance councillors, while the Mayor and the Commissioner supported it.

The F&CC has besides the Municipal Commissioner, Dr S.S. Sandhu, the Mayor, Mr Apinder Singh Grewal, Dr Jai Prakash, the Senior Deputy Mayor, Mr Jagdish Lumba, the Deputy Mayor, Mrs Santosh Aneja and Mr Hakim Singh as its members. The last three belong to the ruling alliance. The ruling alliance members in the F&CC had threatened that they would block all projects as they had equal strength in the committee in case their projects were not approved. The stand-off ended only when it was decided that all projects would be approved.


MCs staff to gherao Assembly
Our Correspondent

Sunam, August 20
Before abolishing octroi in the state, the Punjab Government, should call representatives of Class III and Class IV employees organisations of the municipal councils to finalise the policy on their absorption in other departments.

This was stated by Mr Upkar Singh Josh, state president of the Punjab State Municipal Workers Union, at a rally of municipal council employees in front of the council’s office here today.

Mr Josh said the state government was planning to abolish octroi just to get the votes of the business community and the votes of the residents of the urban areas in the ensuing Assembly elections.

He urged the state government not to endanger the future of the employees of the municipal councils by abolishing octroi for political gains.

He said the Class III and Class IV employees organisations of all 142 municipal councils of Punjab would gherao the Punjab Assembly on August 23, when the Assembly session would commence, if the government failed to accept their demands.


Hoshiarpur gets more development funds
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, August 20
Hoshiarpur has received Rs 701.23 lakh more for development from the state Planning Department. This was stated by Mr S. Raghbir Singh, Transport Minister, Punjab, while presiding over a meeting of the District Planning Board here today, in his capacity as chairman of the district body.

He said Rs 72 lakh had been received for the augmentation of the rural water supply scheme, Rs 80 lakh for attendance scholarship to Scheduled Caste primary girl students, Rs 52.71 lakh for the disposal of sullage, Rs 34 lakh for constructing primary schools, Rs 150 lakh grant-in-aid to panchayats, Rs 39 lakh for panchayat samities and Rs 88 lakh for zila parishads.

He instructed officers to spend the amount within two months.

Later, the minister also chaired a meeting of the District Grievances Committee.


Cyclist killed
Our Correspondent

Abohar, August 20
Ram Sarup was killed when his cycle was hit by tractor-trailer at Sherewala village in the subdivision last night. The police has registered a case under Section 304A of the IPC.

In another incident, at least seven occupants of a ‘Peter rehra’ were injured when it collided with a private bus on the Abohar-Fazilka road yesterday. Sources said the passengers were going to attend a religious function at Basanti Mata Mandir in Dangarkhera village, 7 km from here.

Lalan Prasad, Shravan Kishor, Santosh Rani, Darshana Rani, Aarti, Deepak Kumar and Anil Kumar were admitted to the local Civil Hospital. Of them, Anil Kumar, the driver of the vehicle, was later referred to the PGI.


Two vehicle thieves held
Our Correspondent

Barnala, August 20
The Barnala police busted a five- member vehicle thief gang. Mr Ajaib Singh Kaleka, SSP, Barnala, informed yesterday that the gang had stolen about 12 vehicles, including scooters and motor cycles, during the past couple of days in the region.

He said two members of this gang — Mohan Bharati and Gulshan Kumar belonging to the local Akalgarh Basti — had been arrested. A scooter and a motor cycle were recovered from the accused.

He further informed that seven scooters stolen from various parts of Barnala were found abandoned at various places.


One booked for firing gunshots in air
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 20
Tension gripped the Focal Point area today in the evening when gunshots were fired in the air by some persons involved in an argument with a shopkeeper. The police has arrested a man on the charge of firing the gunshots.

The shots which were heard by several residents gave rise to rumours in the city, particularly in the wake of an incident of robbery and murder at a petrol pump and a burglary at a hosiery mill today. A crowd gathered at the site even as a large number of police officials rushed to the site.

According to the police, the incident took place at about 6 pm when some persons went to a stall in Phase V Dhandari Kalan, and demanded money which the owner of the stall allegedly owed to one of them. One of the persons, who was allegedly drunk shot several rounds in the air, from a double-barrel gun. The man identified as Paramjit Singh, has been booked under Section 336, IPC.


Delay in BA I results irks students
Our Correspondent

Ropar, August 20
The delay in declaring the results of the BA I examination conducted by Punjabi University, Patiala, is affecting the studies of students. Thousands of BA I students who appeared in the examination this year are still awaiting the results to take admission in the next class, even though the session has started from July 1.

Sources said the university had got the answersheets evaluated through table marking this year for early declaration of the results. The table evaluation of all classes ended by June 30. The results of all other classes have been declared. The studies for other classes in most of the colleges affiliated with the university have started from mid-July.

The affected students have alleged that their studies would be hit adversely due to the delay. The UGC has issued directions to all universities to complete at least 180 teaching hours for each subject in a session. However, the students awaiting the results are not likely to attend 180 lectures for each subject during the session.


PUTA poll: Singhal to take on pro-VC lobby
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 20
Battlelines are drawn for elections to the Punjabi University Teachers Association (PUTA) with the present PUTA leadership represented by the Teachers United Front putting up the candidature of Business Management head Dr K.C. Singhal who had earlier been critical of the varsity management which had got a case of corruption registered against him.

While tomorrow is the last date for the filing of nominations, the elections will be held on August 28.

The Teachers United Front besides putting up Dr Singhal for the post of president has decided to field Dr Balwinder Singh for the post of vice president Dr N.S. Atri for the post of secretary and Dr Baldev Singh Sandhu for the post of joint secretary. Dr Balwinder Singh is already serving as secretary of the present PUTA.

TUF will be fighting against senior varsity functionaries who have chosen to submit their resignations to contest the PUTA poll. This group, which is represented by the umbrella group of the United Teachers Front has decided to put up Dr Dalbir Singh Dhillon for the post of president of the association. Dr Dhillon was till now functioning as Dean, Students Welfare. The other nominees are Dr Manjit Singh, who had been elected president of the parallel PUTA and is now contesting for the post of vice president. Prof R.K. Sehgal, who was till now Director, Research and Development, is contesting for the post of secretary and Dr S.M. Verma is contesting for the post of joint secretary.

While TUF is fighting against the malfunctioning of the university administration and the need to “restore the dignity” of the teachers. UTF has condemned the other group of adopting a confrontationist role during its tenure which was against the interests of the teachers.

TUF convener said the group would expose the wrong policies of the varsity administration which included starting the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Institute of Information Technology without taking the approval of the academic bodies concerned. He said besides this the way a section of the teachers was being repeatedly humiliated by the varsity management would also be brought into focus.

Meanwhile the university authorities in a separate release disclosed that the Dean, Students Welfare, Dr D.S. Dhillon, Director, Research and Development, Dr R.K. Sehgal and Dr Harpal Singh Pannu, who was functioning as senior warden and is standing for election as an executive member, had tendered their resignations from their respective posts to contest the election.


Malout institute’s inauguration soon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 20
The Punjab Urban planning and Developing Authority (PUDA) has completed the construction of the Malout Institute of Management and Information Technology (MIMIT) at a cost of qua Rs 12 crore.

Chief Administrator PUDA, K.B.S. Sidhu stated that the complex occupies an area of over 10 acres and is situated adjacent to the Green Field Enclave being developed by PUDA at Malout Urban Estate.

The project has been funded entirely out of the sale proceeds of Government properties transferred to PUDA under the Optimal Utilisation of Vacant scheme was completed in a record time by the Engineering Wing of PUDA.

The complex includes teaching, administrative wings of the Institute and separate hostels for boys and girls, apart from housing facilities for the teaching faculty.

The structure had been designed by the State Architech Department headed by the Chief Architect, Punjab Mr P.R. Luthra.

The building is likely to be inaugurated soon by the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

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