Tuesday, September 4, 2001, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Shanta promises smooth paddy procurement
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 3
The Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Mr Shanta Kumar, today assured Punjab and Haryana of “smooth” paddy procurement but “strictly” in accordance with the prescribed specifications.

The agencies concerned had been asked to adhere to the paddy and rice specifications to ward off problems later encountered in the public distribution system (PDS). Several states in the past had refused to accept 30 lakh tonnes of Punjab rice, though fit for human consumption.

Punjab today emphasised that the specifications for this season should be the same as those of last year. This should be in consultation with the state. “Let a central team interact with the state to arrive at a consensus”, the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, suggested.

Briefing newsmen here after discussions with the two states, Mr Shanta Kumar said Punjab expected to procure 125 lakh tonnes of paddy and Haryana 25 lakh tonnes to 30 lakh tonnes. The major demand made by the two states was to advance the procurement date, though the ideal date was October 1. Punjab wanted paddy purchase from September 10 and under no circumstances later than September 15.

The date and the minimum support price (MSP) would be announced shortly. “We have accepted several other demands of the two states as well, including one for extending the date for the milling of paddy and quicker movement of old stocks to make room for the new crop. Punjab has some 9 lakh tonnes of unmilled paddy from last year”.

Mr Shanta Kumar said steps were being taken to create an additional storage space of 71 lakh tonnes in the two states (Punjab 41 lakh tonnes and Haryana 10 lakh tonnes on a guarantee basis) as also in Andhra Pradesh (15 lakh tonnes) and Uttar Pradesh (5 lakh tonnes).

A joint meeting of the paddy states with officials of the Reserve Bank of India and the Ministry of Finance would be held in New Delhi shortly on bank credit for the purchase of paddy. Money would not pose any problems, he asserted.

The country had a buffer stock of 616 lakh tonnes over and above the prescribed minimum of 243 lakh tonnes. Despite several schemes that ensured the distribution of foodgrains either free of charge or at subsidised (cheap) rates, the off-take was not of the expected order. In fact, only 18 states had, so far, introduced and implemented various food-related schemes.

Expressing concern over the lackadaisical attitude of the states, including the ones that suffered the most (Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu), Mr Shanta Kumar said against an allocation of 303 lakh tonnes of foodgrain last year, the offtake was a mere 130 lakh tonnes. The remaining 173 lakh tonnes meant for free distribution or at a highly subsidised price was not distributed.

Asked if this showed “the failure” of the PDS, the Minister replied in the negative. He termed it “shortcomings” in the PDS requiring better management. Shortly afterwards, when he was asked about reported starvation deaths in Orissa, Mr Shanta Kumar said it was a paradox that on the one hand the country had surplus foodgrain and on the other hand there were serious fault-lines in the PDS.

Notwithstanding media reports on Orissa starvation deaths and the official report received from the state government, Mr Shanta Kumar today faxed a letter expressing his desire to visit the state, particularly the districts where starvation deaths had been reported. He will visit Orissa for two days. The Orissa government had attributed the deaths to “food poisoning” not “starvation”, the Minister commented. When asked if he agreed with this version and disputed the media reports, he remarked, “I will go and find out”.

At least 40 lakh tonnes of wheat and rice stocks with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) were more than two years old. Second, in the past two years 1.78 lakh tonnes (0.029 per cent) of the stock was “damaged” and 1.25 lakh tonnes had to be declared “sub-standard” and or “cattlefeed”. This was distributed in draught-hit states. Likewise, 30 lakh tonnes of Punjab rice, though fit for human consumption, was still rejected by some of the states. It had to be sold off through tenders causing losses totalling several crores of rupees, he added.

When asked if he favoured the continuation of foodgrain procurement by the FCI and the practice of announcing the MSP, Mr Shanta Kumar replied that in terms of “food security” it was necessary that farmers were given incentives. In fact, the MSP should be announced before the sowing of a crop. The government was keen to encourage the cultivation of oil seeds and pulses in which India was deficit. The country’s heavy “foreign dependence” on edible oil had to be reduced. A group of ministers was looking into this problem as “we are spending Rs 12,000 crore to Rs 13,000, crore annually on edible oil import”.

He said this year India would export 50 lakh tonnes wheat, 20 lakh tonnes wheat products and 30 lakh tonnes of rice. About 32 lakh tonnes of wheat was exported last year.

From what Mr Shanta Kumar said today, it was apparent that despite a huge investment of Rs 13,000 crore per annum on “food security” to help farmers, the poor did not get any help and food did not reach the intended target group. It was a matter of concern that despite a network of 4.62 lakh ration shops this was happening.

Therefore, to strengthen the PDS, the PDS (Control) Order, 2001, was issued on Sunday incorporating penalty and punishment clauses. The aim of the order was to help the poor by ensuring that food reached them. Despite two years of efforts at streamlining and strengthening the system, results were not forthcoming. Fault-lines existed and the identification of target groups was not being done. There were bogus and illegal ration cards. Ration shops were not opening for the whole month. Full offtake of food intended for distribution was lacking.

Now the order had a clause, wherein the states could take punitive action against defaulters punishing with fine and jail extending from a period of three months to seven years. All states had been given three months to identify “below poverty line” target groups making arrangements for the proper operation of the PDS.

“The problem lies with the system, not with the intention of the government”, he added.


Threat to boycott paddy purchase
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 3
Employees of various procurement agencies under the banner of the Punjab State Foodgrains Agencies Field Employees Coordination Committee today announced that they would stay away from the coming paddy procurement in the state.

The employees of the Food Supplies Department, Markfed, Punsup, Punjab Warehousing Corporation and Punjab Agro, accused the government of being unconcerned about their grievances of regarding procurement and storage of paddy and wheat.

In a joint statement here, state-level employee leaders — Mr Hardev Singh Rosha and Mr Jagdev Singh of Food Supplies Department, Mr Bhupinder Singh and Mr Ashwani Kumar of Markfed, Mr Krishan Sangruri and Mr V. S. Bhardwaj of Punsup, Mr Akshar Kumar and Mr T.C. Sharma of the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation and Mr Mohinder Singh Bhullar and Mr Gurmit Singh of Punjab Agro, said the government had called them for discussions but had humiliated them.

They said the government had not bothered to talk to the employees yet. They said the employees had rejected the recently circulated “unrealistic” paddy policy of the state government which was nothing less than sounding the deathknell for the procurement agencies staff.

The leaders said the new policy made the employees accountable for maintaining health of paddy stocks stored in private rice mills which was not possible. They said there was no concrete policy or manual for storage of procured paddy with the government and many employees were being implicated in false cases for the embezzlement of paddy and rice stocks by rice millers.

They said the government had failed to arrange the movement of crores of tonnes of huge stocks of foodgrains and employees were being punished for things beyond human control. They said wheat stocks of the past five crops were lying on kutcha plints and open fields and deteriorating.


Akalis may approach Vedanti for unity
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 3
Even as leaders of different Akali factions, including the ruling SAD, are keen to forge unity, intervention of the Jathedar, Akal Takht, may be sought to materialise the task before the forthcoming Assembly elections.

Mr Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, had on June 6 expressed his desire to mediate to forge Panthic unity to mark Ghallukara Divas. While the ruling Akali faction did not comment on the offer of mediation, leaders of breakaway Akali factions had criticised him for his comments that “splinter Akali factions are devoid of any Panthic agenda”.

With the Assembly elections round the corner, senior Akali leaders feel the need for unity.

Sources said the offer of Mr Vedanti was given with the consent of Mr Parkash Singh Badal. However, Mr Badal always stated that Panthic unity could not be based on conditions. Now he has given a clear statement that he was ready to forge unity with the leaders of any faction. Some leaders, contacted by Tribune News Service, on condition of anonymity said if anybody created hurdle in the unity move, he would be doing so at the behest of the Congress.

However, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, an Akali MLA and confidant of Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, president of the SHSAD, welcoming the statement of Mr Badal said unity could be forged if Mr Badal appeared before Akal Takht as he had violated the hukamnama issued by Bhai Ranjit Singh on December 31, 2000. Instead of bowing his (Badal) head before the directive, Bhai Ranjit Singh and Mr Tohra were unceremoniously removed. It was for the first time that any chief of the Akali Dal had violated the directives of Akal Takht. However, Mr Calcutta said though belated, the statement of Mr Badal was a welcome step. He said he was in favour of Panthic unity.

Though Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, general secretary of the SHSAD, had outrightly rejected the offer of Mr Badal, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the SAD (Amritsar) has given a positive signal in this regard. He said he would take up the matter with the party. Mr Mann had to give this statement as he had not forgotten that it was Mr Tohra who deserted the SAD (A) which was formed at the behest of the then Jathedar Akal Takht, Prof Manjit Singh. Mr Tohra took no time to shift his loyalty to Mr Badal at that time.

Sources said Mr Badal was in touch with Mr Parmjit Singh Sarna, president of the Delhi unit of the SHSAD, Principal Bharpur Singh and Bawas of Mumbai who could play a positive role in bringing about unity. Mr Mal Singh Ghuman, executive member of the SGPC and chairman of the Punjab Mandi Board, had been in touch with Mr Tohra and senior leaders of other Akali factions. The leaders of different factions felt that the only way to stop the Congress from coming to power was that the entire Panthic power should come on a single platform.

However, the SHSAD had laid down two conditions for the unity — Bhai Ranjit Singh should be reinstalled as Akal Takht jathedar and Mr Badal should seek an apology from the Sikh sangat for violating the directive of Akal Takht. There was a proposal that Bhai Ranjit Singh could be accommodated as jathedar of another Takht. However, this proposal may not be accepted by Bhai Ranjit Singh.

The actual scenario will become clear after the last convention of the Panchic Morcha to be held on September 30 in Ludhiana. Mr Tohra has gone to Canada along with Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, a former senior vice-president of the SGPC.


Mann denies differences
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 3
Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) chief and senior leader of the Panthic Morcha, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, today denied that there were any differences in the morcha on the unconditional unity offer made by the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. He said, morcha stand had already been made clear by its convener Baba Sarabjot Singh Bedi.

Reacting to reports of differences within the morcha he said, the leaders were unanimous on the issue that Mr Badal should present himself before Akal Takht and also fulfill other promises he had made before coming to power.

Mr Mann pointed out, Mr Badal had promised to release all detained Sikh youths languishing in various jails. Moreover, he had also committed that all guilty officers responsible for the “genocide of innocent Sikh youths” would be punished. Instead he had joined hands with the Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani to grant amnesty to such police officers.

Mr Mann ridiculed Mr Badal’s statements on the closure of the Bathinda oil refinery. He said, Mr Badal had declared that there would be a bloodshed in Punjab if the refinery was closed down. “Whose blood will be shed and what does Mr Badal want to convey by this?”, Mr Mann asked.

He said, unless these issues were resolved there could be no unity with Mr Badal. He revealed that the morcha leaders would sit together to reaffirm and reiterate these conditions for the unity in the wake of Mr Badal’s unconditional offer.


Wadala wants Badal to dump BJP
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, September 3
The Panthic Morcha has asked Mr Parkash Singh Badal to present himself before Akal Takht and seek forgiveness for his “misdeeds”. The Shiromani Akali Dal (Democratic) headed by Mr Kuldeep Singh Wadala, which is however not a part of the morcha, has advised Mr Badal to severe ties with the BJP before initiating unity talks.

Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi, the convener of the Morcha, said instead of talking about unity, Mr Badal should present himself before Akal Takht for having removed former Akal Takht Jathedar Bhai Ranjit Singh and “handing over” the tercentenary celebrations functions to the RSS.


Mudslinging match at Chhapar
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Chhapar (Ludhiana), September 3
With elections round the corner, yesterday’s Chhapar mela virtually turned into a political battlefield. The three main political parties, the SAD, the Congress and the Panthic Morcha traded charges against one another, while soliciting public support in the forthcoming assembly elections for forming the government. Even the BSP and the Lok Bhalai Party of Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, did not lag behind in mobilising public for their rallies.

Stung by the poor show at Issru, the ruling SAD-BJP alliance managed to improve its performance here with a good presence of people at its rally. To add to the enthusiasm of Akali leaders and workers, the Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, and the BJP vice-president and former Delhi Chief Minister, Mr Sahib Singh Verma, also addressed the rally. Mr Badal had reportedly issued strict instructions to local leaders, asking them to ensure maximum participation of people at the rally.

While Mr Chautala exhorted people, particularly farmers, to ensure the return of the Badal government, Mr Verma lauded the performance of Mr Badal.

Meanwhile, Congress leaders criticised the “non-performance, corruption and nepotism” of the Badal government. Senior leaders, including the PCC president, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the vice-president Mr Jagmeet Brar, said the present government had taken the state back by several years. They said industrial growth was at its worse in the state.

The PCC leaders said the farmers were frustrated and educated youth disillusioned as there were no job avenues. They urged people to ensure that this government was shown the exit so that the Congress returned to power. The Congress leaders promised to usher in peace, progress and prosperity.

The Panthic Morcha leaders were more critical of Mr Badal. While its convener, Baba Sarabjot Singh Bedi said, Mr Badal should be made to pay for his “sins”, another senior leader of the party, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal pointed out that there was hardly any difference between Mr Badal and the Congress as, according to him, while the Congress betrayed the interests of the state, Mr Badal betrayed the interests of the Panth.

The BSP supremo, Mr Kanshi Ram, exhorted party workers, particularly the Dalits, ensure BSP’s victory. He claimed that the BSP was in a strong position and could form the government. As of now, “we are busy in strengthening the party network”, he said.

Of all the rallies, the show organised by Mr Ramoowalia was more impressive with typical touch of rustic excitement usually witnessed at such fairs. There was less politics and more fun with music and comedy dominating the rally. The main attraction was the presence of popular comedian Bhagwant Mann and singer Harbhajan Mann, who enthralled people with their jokes and popular Punjabi songs. Mr Ramoowalia described the two artistes as “two popular leaders of his party”.


PSEB asked to set house in order
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 3
The loss-making Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) was today asked to set its house in order ensuring proper power supply to the rural sector. Its current year financial loss is estimated at Rs 1,100 crore.

At a meeting chaired by the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, the board members and others concerned were told in no uncertain terms to work in tandem.

The board was asked to streamline the rural billing system, expedite 24-hour power supply to the registered villages, workout a viable scheme on ‘’kundi’’ connections and sort out fuel linkages for the private firm contracted for the 500 MW Goindwal Sahib Thermal Power Plant.

Informed sources told TNS that as in the case of urban consumers, Mr Badal wanted that villagers, too, should get electricity bills for two months instead of being slapped with hefty bills for periods stretching up to six months. This has created a furore in the rural areas. At ‘’sangat darshan’’ programmes power bills were emerging as a major grievance.

The PSEB arrears, as such, were not much: around Rs 65 crore or so, mainly in the urban sector. But the ‘’inflated ‘’ bills in the rural sector had caused panic. The emphasis was on sending ‘’correct’’ bills in a two-month cycle.

Another issue pertained to 24-hour supply to registered villages. These are the ones that have deposited the stipulated sums of money for uninterrupted power supply. Money has been deposited with the PSEB from at least 3,000 such villages. The fee prescribed is on a population basis. The rural electrification scheme is partly funded by the Rural Electrification Corporation that has sanctioned Rs 85 crore. Already 2,000 villages are getting 24-hour supply.

The board has its own problems of finances and the government has its own political exigencies as it is an election year. The meeting today, sources said, was primarily to dovetail the two because due to working at cross-purposes the directives of the Chief Minister were not being implemented the way Mr Badal wanted. That resulted in the exit of Mr G.S. Sohal, who could not take the board members along.

The Principal Secretary, Finance, Mr K.R. Lakhanpal, is reported to have expressed some reservations on the amount of burden the state can carry to keep the board operational. The Chairman, Mr Sudhir Mittal, meanwhile, is reportedly working out certain modalities to fulfil political ambitions without further impairing the financial health of the board, where the ‘’theft’’ of power, it was pointed out at the meeting, continued to be a major concern leading to losses besides the ones due to transmission and distribution system failures.

On ‘’kundi’’ connections, it was stated that there were about 40,000 such connections that became operative mostly during paddy sowing. In reality, these continued to exist throughout the year with the connivance of PSEB employees. The board charges around Rs 5,000 to give a temporary ‘’kundi’’ connection. Should such ‘’kundi’’ connections be regularised and metered? That will entail an extra financial burden because power to tubewells for irrigation is ‘’free’’ and the board is losing Rs 300 crore per year. Can it bear more losses? The board will work out the cost-benefit aspect of this problem.

Though the power purchase agreement was signed with GVK for the 500 MW Goindwal Thermal Plant last year, there had not been any progress in the absence of a fuel linkage agreement. GVK is to be an independent power producer. Coal India and its subsidiaries have different rates for supply of coal (fuel) to government and private concerns.

The rate difference is to the disadvantage of private companies that nevertheless pass on the burden to the governments and the boards. Mr Badal desired that the PSEB play a part to find out if there could be price parity in the supply of coal to GVK.


Mittal takes charge as PSEB chief
Our Correspondent

Patiala, September 3
Mr Sudhir Mittal today assumed charge as Chairman of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).

Mr Mittal, who is also holding the charge of Secretary, Power and Planning, had been recently given charge of Chairman, PSEB, after Mr Gurcharan Singh Sohal proceeded on leave.

Meanwhile, the PSEB has started imparting training to its 82 officers and 304 staff members in head office secretariat under a plan spread over two years. The three day training programme was launched on August 27. The first two workshops concluded here today.

The training was imparted by a leading management consultancy group of New Delhi. Mr Baldev Singh Mann, member administration who was the chief guest, said the main aim of the PSEB management was to “supply plenty of electric power to people of Punjab at cheap rate”.

Mr B.S. Dhaliwal, Chief Engineer HRD of the PSEB, said reasons for the failure of state electricity boards was that they worked at best only as engineering organisations and not as business organisations. The members said in order to meet the challenge of privatisation, the outlook of the PSEB office and employees needed to be changed through management development programmes.


Who cares for research at Punjabi University
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 3
Punjabi University has spent lakhs of rupees on painting and whitewashing its campus in preparation of the visit of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) team, which arrived here yesterday even though research activity, which is the mainstay on which the varsity will be assessed, remained on a low key affair since the past one year.

The entire university has been given a whitewash in anticipation of the NAAC team. All departments have been given furniture, equipment and other facilities. Even the tree trunks have been painted and green waste paper baskets with attractive slogans have appeared all over the campus.

However, teachers said they had little to show to the visiting team as far as the research activity was concerned. They said research work had been seriously affected with the then Punjabi University Teachers Association (PUTA) taking on the Vice-Chancellor “over his style of functioning”. This resulted in PUTA submitting memorandums to the government and the chancellor and holding dharnas on the campus and even outside it. The authorities on their part retaliated by getting a case registered against a senior teacher besides removing the PUTA president from the headship of a department. Teachers said the confrontation on the campus as well as formation of pro Vice-Chancellor and anti Vice-Chancellor lobbies, which was apparent even in the elections to the PUTA body recently had given a severe blow to serious academic activity on the campus.

Citing an example of the treatment being given to the research activity, sources disclosed that in the case of a department Rs 2 lakh released from the Human Resources Development Ministry for holding a workshop were still be released three months after it had arrived on the campus.

The university on its part has not released the list of the research journals published during the past one year, though a senior functionary, when contacted, said he did not know the details but that the NAAC team had been briefed about the research done.

Teachers said the manner in which all senior functionaries of the university were functioning on ad hoc basis should also be examined by the NAAC team. They said the functionaries who were working on ad hoc basis included the Registrar, Dean, Academics, Dean Colleges and Dean, Research, besides others. Meanwhile, the NAAC team, which comprises senior teachers, including Prof Subhas Chandra Saha, who is Vice-Chancellor of Assam University, Silchar, Dr S.P. Singh, Professor of Department of Life Sciences, Kumaun University, Nainital, Prof Suranjan Das of the Department of History of the University of Kolkata, Prof Suresh Sharma, Principal, Motilal Nehru College (Evening), New Delhi, Dr B.S. Madhukar, Assistant Adviser, NAAC and Mr Ponmudiraj, academic analyst, NAAC, made a round of various departments.


Lust for money made her kill husband
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, September 3
How the lust for money and property can make a wife kill her husband was proved by the statement of Dr Kartar Singh Johar, Civil Surgeon (retd), whose son Gurpartap Singh was allegedly killed by his daughter-in-law Sukhwant Kaur on March 12, 1999 by giving him disulfiram (a medicine used for de-addiction) in the court of Ms Ritu Y.K. Behl, Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Chandigarh.

In her judgement Ms Behl has agreed that it has been established that Gurpartap Singh was poisoned and killed by Sukhwant Kaur. She has summoned Satwant Kaur under Section 302, IPC.

According to Dr Johar, his son Gurpartap Singh was married to Sukhwant Kaur, daughter of Sohan Singh, resident of Ahata Badan Singh of Moga on January 5, 1997. One of Sohan Singh’s daughter Baljit Kaur and her husband Rana Dilbag Singh had gone to Canada. But came back after one year. They wanted to open a departmental store in Canada, but due to paucity of funds were unable to fulfil their desire. Dr Johar said his son had assets worth Rs 1 crore. Baljit Kaur and her husband started instigating Sukhwant Kaur to accompany them to Canada by disposing of Gurpartap’s assets. But his son refused.

He alleged that Sukhwant Kaur mixed disulfiram in the breakfast. At about 8 p.m. on the same day Gurpartap Singh along with his wife Sukhwant Kaur, his sister Prabhuta and her husband Rajesh Verma went to Hotel Shivalikview, Chandigarh, for dinner where they consumed liquor which led to some serious problem to Gurpartap Singh. Being a doctor when he examined him, he found his condition very serious and immediately took him to the General Hospital, Sector 16, Chandigarh, where he was declared brought dead.

Dr Johar stated that soon after his son’s death. Sukhwant Kaur filed a suit in the court of law to get the entire property of Gurpartap Singh. The case was still pending in the court of Civil Judge (Senior Division) at Ludhiana.

Dr Harish Tuli, Professor and Head of Department of Forensic Medicine, GMC Patiala, said in his opinion disulfiram was the only substance which when given before taking alcohol could result in the death of the person.


BJP councillors’ action condemned
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 3
The patch-up between the BJP and SAD municipal councillors after the councillor-thrashing episode at the general house meeting of municipal councillors on August 28 seems a distant dream due to a resolution passed against the alleged “misbehaviour” of a section of BJP councillors.

In the resolution passed at the meeting, the proceedings of which were procured by TNS today, as many as 19 councillors condemned the action of Mr Krishan Kumar Garg, Mr Basant Bhatia, both BJP councillors. They alleged that these two violated the decorum of the House and passed derogatory remarks against their colleagues.

Meanwhile, the BJP leadership has laid down two conditions for the patch-up.

The conditions include a written apology from the accused and the post of vice-president of the municipal council for a BJP councillor.

On August 28 Mr Garg and Mr Bhatia were beaten up in the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Municipal Council Hall when they tried to raise the issue relating to the rampant corruption prevailing in the municipal council affairs.

After the incident, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, President BJP, Punjab, who held a meeting with the party workers here on September 1 to know their sentiments, later conveyed these two conditions to the Punjab Science and Technology Minister, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg.

Mr Gulzar Singh, President, BJP, Bathinda district, and Mr Garg while talking to TNS said today that the party would fight corruption prevailing in the municipal council affairs.

They alleged that money which was being collected from people through various taxes was being wasted by the council.

They said the accused, who were involved in the attack on BJP’s municipal councillors should be brought to book. They added that the attack was pre-planned and the resolution, which had been passed against BJP’s municipal councillors, was also pre-planned.

Mr Garg said a high-level inquiry would expose the bunglings which were being made in the execution of development works in the city. He added that sub-standard material was being used in the construction work.


Lok Jan Shakti to contest 117 seats
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, September 3
Mr Ram Chander Paswan, President, Dalit Sena, has said the change of the portfolio of the Union Minister for Telecommunication, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, was unfortunate.

Mr Ram Chander Paswan, who was here in connection with a state-level function of the Dalit Sena, while talking to mediapersons said the former Telecommunication Minister was the most ‘clean’ minister in the NDA-alliance and changing his portfolio would send wrong signals among the people. He said the Lok Jan Shakti Party would contest all 117 seats. While admitting that the party does not hold a large base in the state he asserted that the support of the Dalit Sena would help the party.


Sheelam Sohi eyes voters
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, September 3
Ms Sheelam Sohi, wife of the late Ravinder Singh Sohi, a Congress claimant of the MLA seat from the Banur Assembly constituency, today addressed rallies in Holka, Manakpur, Machhali Kalan and Dharampur villages.


Women told to fight for their rights
Our Correspondent

Budhlada (Mansa), September 3
Ms Amarjeet Kaur Mitra, general secretary, National Federation of Indian women, gave a call to women to shed their conservative thinking and join the struggle for their rights. She said women continued to be treated as second class citizens.

Ms Mitra expressed these views while addressing a public meeting organised by the Punjab Istari Sabha of the CPI here today.

She said politicians were misusing the independence which was achieved after making great sacrifices. She accused the government of handing over public sector units to multinational companies, depriving the youth of job opportunities.

Mr Bhan Singh Bhaura, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had never seriously taken the river water issues with the centre. He said neither did SAD MPs oppose the Bill on river water in Parliament nor did Badal talk to Punjab MPs on this issue.

Mr Hardev Singh Arshi, MLAs and leader of the CPI in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, said neglecting the MLA of the concerned constituency in sangat darshan amounted to disgracing people of the area. He accused the Badal government of putting the state under a debt of Rs 40,000 crore which were being distributed in the name of sangat darshan.

He also charged the government with disposing of its properties in fake auctions to its favourites at throwaway prices. None of the schools have the required number of teachers and unemployed youths were resorting to indefinite fast Mr Arshi added.


Committee calls for Sangrur bandh on Sept 6
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, September 3
The “Sunil agwa action committee” has called upon the local shopkeepers and traders to observe a complete bandh in the town on September 6 to protest against the failure of the police in tracing a one-year-old Dalit boy, Sunil.

The boy was allegedly kidnapped by a woman from a temple, near the main Bus Stand here, on July 19.

A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting held under the presidentship of Mr Pali Ram Bansal, convener of the committee, here last evening.

Mr Bansal said the action committee was left with no other option except to call for a bandh as all its earlier methods of struggle have “failed” to attract the attention of the police and the administration.

The committee could not understand why the police was still clueless regarding whereabouts of the kidnapper despite having her photograph, he added.

He further said despite tall promises and assurances, the police was still in the dark and could not achieve any breakthrough in tracing the boy.


Viral fever hits 3,000 villagers
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, September 3
Residents in the district are in the grip of pyrexia for the past few days.

When contacted, Dr Dalip Kumar, District Health Officer, told this correspondent here today that a recent survey conducted in the district revealed that more than 3,000 persons were suffering from viral fever. However, 5 lakh tablets of chloroquinine had been distributed among the people as a precautionary measure and 60,000 more had been demanded.

Dr Dalip Kumar said drinking water samples from 11 tubewells of the local municipal council had been taken.


Bhagat Puran Award for Sahara club
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, September 3
The Sahara Welfare Club, an NGO, which has been cremating unclaimed dead bodies and providing medical help to destitute for the past many years, has been selected for the Bhagat Puran Singh Award for its service to humanity.

Mr Inderjit Singh Khalsa, mukh sewadar, Gurdwara Godri Sahib Baba Farid Society, in a press note issued here today, said the club would be given Rs 51,000 in cash, a ‘daushala’ and a citation.

He said the Baba Farid Award for honesty in judicial category would be given to Justice Nanak Chand Kitchi (retd) of Punjab and Haryana High Court and Sessions Judge Mukand Lal Mehlotra (retd).

Baba Farid Award for honesty in general was given to Dr Balwant Singh Tung, person in charge, Baba Swaran Singh Hospital, Beas.


Seminar on free legal aid held
Our Correspondent

Talwandi Sabo (Bathinda), September 3
A seminar on Free Legal Aid and Lok Adalats were held here today under the chairmanship of Mr B.C. Rajput, District-and-Sessions Judge, Bathinda, in association with the local Bar Association.

Mr R. Venkatratnam, deputy commissioner announced a grant of Rs 75,000 for various development works in the town.

Ms Raj Gupta, member legal services authorities, Mr M.P. Kapoor, Chief Manager State Bank of Patiala, Mr Avtar Singh Sidhu and Mr Ashok Kumar Goyal, President and Secretary of the Talwandi Sabo Bar Association also addressed the seminar.


Lovers commit suicide
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, September 3
Amritpal Singh and Pal Kaur, both residents of Talwandi Sabo, 25 km from here today ended their lives by consuming some poisonous substance.

Police sources said both of them were in love and willing to marry each other but their families were against this decision. They went to the nearby fields and consumed pesticide. The district police has registered a case under Section 174 of the IPC and handed over the bodies to their families.


Record power generation
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, September 3
Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant here has achieved a production target by producing 12,279 lakh units of electricity from April to August, 2001, which is the highest in a corresponding period in any year in the history of the plant. The plant had bagged the prestigious National Award for 2000-2001 and a cash award of Rs 11.88 lakh. Mr U.S Lucky, General Manager of the plant, said the plant had produced 2,731 lakh units of electricity in August alone.


3 injured in accidents
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, September 3
Two persons were injured in a collision between a tractor-trailor and a motor-cycle at the Mansa road today. Volunteers of an NGO group took injured to a local hospital for treatment.

The condition of both injured was stated to be serious. Those injured have been identified as Mr Sunil Kumar and Mr Shankaram Kishore, both employee of the GGS oil refinery.

In another incident, a 10-year-old boy, was injured when a scooter hit him. The Scooterist fled away from the spot. The child identified as Shakti was hospitalised by the same NGO group.


Boys beaten up at fashion show
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 3
A fight took place at Sanjyog Marriage Palace when the crowd at a fashion show held here last night turned rowdy during a performance by a troupe which was invited from Delhi.

It is learnt that the police remained a mute spectator while the crowd whistled and hooted at the girls in the dancing troupe. Things came to an ugly turn when organisers set some of their musclemen on those passing vulgar remarks and some boys were beaten up.

No one intervened to pacify the warring groups which exchanged blows. Three boys are reported to have received minor injuries.


Tribune employee bereaved
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, September 3
Ashu (2), daughter of Mr Rachpal Singh Garcha, Deputy Manager, Tribune printing centre, Bathinda, died here this afternoon. Her cremation would be held tomorrow.


Holy dip at ‘Jagg Mela’

Tarn Taran, September 3
More than 2 lakh devotees took a holy dip in the “baoli” at Gurdwara Sri Goindwal Sahib on Saturday night on the occasion of the “Jagg Mela”. OC


Power cuts: hand fans’ sale up
Our Correspondent

Moga, September 3
The sale of hand fans in this district has increased manifold during past few days following prolonged undeclared power cuts daily.

According to reports, there are power cuts of two-hour duration for four to five times daily. A hand fan which could be bought for Re 1 last year costs Rs 2 to 3 now.

A large number of residents of the town said here today that due to fluctuation in power supply and power cuts their electronic goods had been damaged.

Residents of various villages in the district complained that they received power supply for about two to three hours only daily.


100 saplings planted

Bathinda, September 3
The B.N.R. Welfare Society, an NGO in cooperation with the local Improvement Trust today celebrated ‘vana-mahotasva’ in the Bharat nagar locality. More than 100 saplings were planted. OC


BDOs warned against granting stays
Our Correspondent

Ropar, September 3
The Deputy Commissioner, Mr G.S. Grewal, has warned the Block Development Officers (BDOs) against granting stays in community works of the rural areas. The orders were issued on the complaint of certain panchayat members of the Nurpurbedi block who alleged that the officers had granted stays in various community works of the villages on patty complaints.

The panchayats were not in a position to spend the grants on development works due to the stays, they said.

The Deputy Commissioner, directed the ADC (Development) Mr Kanwal Sher Singh, to look into the complaint of the villagers and vacate the stays within a week.

The orders were passed during the monthly meeting of district officers which was held at Jhaj village of the Nurpurbedi block today. The Deputy Commissioner also took serious note of the absence of certain officers from the meeting.

He ordered Executive Magistrate Hargunjit Kaur to prepare a note against the executive engineer (link roads), executive engineer (planned roads) and the district social security officer who were absent from the meeting. The note would be sent to the Chief Secretary for further action.

The major complaint of the villagers of the block was that stray cattle and wild boars damaged their crops. The Deputy Commissioner directed officials of the Animal Husbandry Department to help the farmers.

The villagers also complained about the indifferent attitude of banks in their area in accepting pension accounts. The lead bank officer who was present was told to distribute the areas to various banks and inform the villagers about the banks in which they could open their accounts.


Ministerial staff hold rally
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 3
Hundreds of activists of the Food and Supply Department Ministerial Staff Union, Punjab, along with activists of other employees organisations today held a rally in front of the office of the district Food and Supply Department to press the Punjab Government to accept their demands.

Mr Rajesh Sachdeva, president, and Mr Surjant Singh Grewal, Senior vice-president of union, while addressing the rally alleged that the authorities concerned had been deliberately trying to ignore their demands.

They added that if the Punjab Government did not accept their demands by September 12, they would intensify their agitation and the Punjab Government would be held responsible for it.

They said their demands included the promption of misterial staff members of Inspector (Grade II) by waiving the graduation as minimum qualification, posting of members of ministerial staff near their home towns, implementation of decision of promotion of junior assistant to inspector, deployment of field staff in the field, filling up the vacancies relating to senior auditor, stenos, accountants and superintendents.

The other demands included supplying the copies of the GPF returns, creation of post of a legal assistant in district offices and reinstatement of suspended members of ministerial staff and clearing of their proficiency steps.


3 held under NDPS Act
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, September 3
The police has nabbed three persons under the NDPS Act and seized 20 kg of poppy husk and 200 grams of opium from them.

The SSP, in a press note issued here said that Bittu Ram was arrested from the Sekhu area and was in possessing 10 kg of poppy husk.

A scooter (PB 03-5458) allegedly used by him to smuggle poppy husk had also been impounded.

A case under Section 15 of the NDPS Act had been registered.

Jassa Singh, of Surtia, was arrested for allegedly possessing 200 grams of opium and a case had been registered in this connection.

The police also arrested Darshan Singh, resident of Kotbhara village and seized 10 kg of poppy husk from him and a case had been registered against him.

The police arrested four suspects involved in vehicle lifting from various parts of the district. Jagga Singh, Avinash Kumar, Balwant Singh and Harpreet Singh were arrested under Sections 411,379 of the IPC. A Yamaha motor cycle was recovered from Jagga Singh.

A Maruti car which did not had any registration number was also recovered from the other three culprits.


Accountant robbed of Rs 67,955
Our Correspondent

Mansa, September 3
Mr Butta Singh, accountant of the district branch of the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation, was robbed of Rs 67,955 in broad daylight today.

Mr Butta Singh along with his two colleagues had come to the main branch of the State Bank of Patiala. After leaving Mr Butta Singh in the bank, his colleagues went to attend to another work. Later as Mr Butta Singh started walking towards his colleagues, some miscreants threw rubbish on his clothes. As he placed the bag containing the cash in the car, they managed to run away with the bag.

Mr Chajju Singh, District Manager of the corporation, said the matter had been reported to the police.

A case has been registered.


Decision on MBBS course resented
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, September 3
The decision taken by the Punjab Government on August 21 regarding admission to MBBS and BDS courses has evoked resentment among students of general category and their guardians.

According to available information the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot released a prospectus for the PMET for admission to MBBS and BDS courses. In which it was mentioned that students having at least 50 per cent ad 40 per cent marks in the open and reserved categories, respectively, would be considered.

The examination was conducted on July 7 and the result was declared within 10 hours of the completion of the exam. Eligible candidates were called for counselling from August 17 through a public notice. The counselling continued up to August 20 for the general category, while counselling for the reserved category began on August 21 and continued till 2 p.m.

However, after that the students of reserved category having marks below 40 per cent started an agitation demanding that they be considered for counselling following which the process of counselling was stopped.

The Punjab government apparently yielded to the pressure of the agitating students and issued a notification on August 21 relaxing the condition of eligibility of minimum 40 per cent marks for the student of the reserved category. On August 27, the government through a public notice asked the candidates belonging to the reserved category having marks below 40 per cent to send their application forms by September 4 for counselling. The notification also said the relaxation was not applicable for admission to veterinary courses.

Besides this the government slashed the reservation of border area residents from 2 per cent to 1 per cent which has caused much resentment among residents of border areas. A large number of students of general category and their parents have demanded that the government should follow what is mentioned in the prospectus.


Workshop on painting starts
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 3
The S.G. Thakar Singh memorial painting workshop started at the Indian Academy of Fine Arts here yesterday.

Many renowned artists, including Prof Baldev Gambhir, Head of the Department of Fine Arts at the local DAV College for Women Mr Kulwant Singh, a renowned painter, Prof S.C. Bedi, vice-president of the academy participated in the workshop.

The objective of the workshop is to give an opportunity to talented and budding artists of Punjab, Mr Randhawa, office secretary of the academy, said in a press note.


Rights panel asks Education Dept to pay dues
Tribune News Service

Mansa, September 3
The Punjab State Human Rights Commission has directed the district education authorities to make payment of the dues of Mr K.K. Jindal, who retired from the Education Department few months ago, or file a detailed report in this connection on or before September 5.

The commission gave this direction after taking cognisance of the complaint lodged with it by Mr Jinda. He informed the commission that two cases in connection with the payment of his dues had been decided in his favour by a court but no payment had been made. The case was decreed in his favour on March 6, 2000.

Instead of making payment to him, the Education Department authorities filed an appeal against the decision of the lower court in the district court, despite the fact that the state prosecution department advised the education authorities that the cases were not fit for appeal. Even after getting a decision in his favour from the district court, the payments were not made to him.


Preparing for the wedding season
Our Correspondent

The Patiala market has prepared itself to meet the demands of the coming wedding season. The stores are full of articles that will make the day a big hit. This season Zardosi and light pastels are in demand.

As the wedding day approaches, shopping becomes a primary activity. When shopping for a wedding, the most important thing is the wedding dress of the bride.

Although shopping for marriages goes on throughout the year, yet at this time the showrooms are decked up for the season. The Patiala market offers a wide choice to the brides-to-be. A large variety is available and people from far off areas throng to Patiala for the special dress and also other dresses.

Most famous among the wedding attires is the lehenga; it is not only for the bride but also for other members of the family. So the lahenga market offers from light to heavy and very heavy designs in price ranges that are affordable. After all, it is a buyer’s market, says Mr Yash Paul who deals in silks and sarees. He finds that tissue and net material are selling the most. These are light in weight and also look graceful with light embroidery.

Zardosi is the all time favourite of prospective brides. Mr Varinder Pal whose firm has a long experience in this field, says that he has observed a change in the pattern this year. The lehenga with `kalis’ is returning. Instead of a whole jaal, girls prefer borders or a little booti all over along with heavy borders. Gota work has also found its way back after a long time.

Mr Tarsem Bansal who runs a silk store here is proud to have sold a lehenga for Rs 1 lakh. He supplies it to the famous designer Ritu Beri.

Many showroom owners find the NRI’s their most potential customers. The embroidery work of India is appreciated abroad. 

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