Sunday, November 18, 2001, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Chohan overcomes detractors
Lays foundation of hall
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, November 17
Overcoming hurdles put in his way by a group of middle-level leaders of a faction of the Shiv Sena, the Punjab Youth Congress and a few other detractors, Mr Jagjit Singh Chohan, the Khalistan idealogue and President of the Khalsa Raj Party, and the Panj Piaras went ahead today to lay the foundation of Shahid Darshan Singh Pheruman Memorial Hall inside Gurdwara Shahidan here.

The move to set up the hall inside the gurdwara by Mr Chohan in his capacity as the president of the Gurdwara Management Committee was decried by a parallel group in the management committee headed by Mr Harminder Singh Johal, who was allegedly supported by a faction of the Shiv Sena and the Punjab Youth Congress. The group had been threatening to oppose any action on the part of Mr Chohan to “disturb” the peace and amity in the name of a “Panthic convention” and the ceremony pertaining to the memorial hall.

Later, however, both Mr Chohan and Mr Johal denied that there was any split in the management committee over the issue. Workers of the Shiv Sena and the Punjab Youth Congress, led by Mr Vinay Jalandhari and Mr Raman Datt, respectively, however, claimed that they had emerged victorious as “bowing” to their pressure, Mr Chohan had “agreed” not to hold the “Panthic convention” at the venue where the Panj Piaras were to lay the foundation stone this morning.

The reported controversy over the function has been simmering for the past one week amid threats and counter-threats by workers of the Shiv Sena, the Punjab Youth Congress and supporters of Mr Chohan over the issue of holding a function and setting up of the memorial hall in the gurdwara.

Last week, Mr Chohan, who reportedly claimed to be the president of the management of Gurdwara Shahidan, was not allowed to hold his “Panthic” convention” at the local Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall by the hall committee. While Mr Johal, who was supported by a group of workers of the Shiv Sena and the Punjab Youth Congress, asserted that he was the president of the 11-member management committee and would not allow Mr Chohan to use the venue for political activities, Mr Chohan countered his statement by maintaining that it was he who had taken the gurdwara land on lease from a maulvi in 1969. Mr Jojhar had nothing to do with the management of the gurdwara except that he was once appointed as the acting president by the then gurdwara management committee chief, Mr Juhar Singh Virdi he said. Mr Chohan said he wanted to set up a memorial hall as it was this place from where Shahid Darshan Singh Pheruman had launched his morcha, adding that nobody should have any objection to it, especially non-Sikh organisation like the Shiv Sena. “We do not want a confrontation with anybody. This is a democratic set up. Why don’t they come and discuss the matter with me?”

He also asserted that he had not hand in the decade-long turmoil in Punjab as he and his associates strongly believed in democracy. “We will achieve Khalistan” by using democratic means and release our party’s political resolution on November 19 in Jalandhar, he said.

The situation remained tense but under control at the gurdwara venue where a large number of police personnel led by a Superintendent of Police and an SDM were present throughout the day. Another group of Akali Dal workers, led by Mr Balbir Singh Sandhu, circle jathedar of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), reached the spot to oppose the alleged interference into Sikh affairs by the Shiv Sena and the Punjab Youth Congress. Mr Raman Datt claimed that he had come there as an “Indian” and not as a PYC leader. Mr Johal said all parties had reached a compromise late last night in the presence of police officials where Mr Chohan had “agreed” not to pursue any political activity from the gurdwara.


Ultimatum to Amarinder, Brar
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Budhlada (Mansa), November 17
The ongoing cold war between PPCC President Amarinder Singh and the convener, Congress Parliamentary Party (Punjab), Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, and their respective supporters for the past two weeks took a new turn today when senior Congress leaders, including former organisational secretary (PPCC) Megh Raj Goyal and vice president of DCC Bhog Singh Datewas, said if both leaders did not resolve their differences, they would observe an indefinite fast in front of the PPCC office in Chandigarh from December 1.

Mr Goyal and Mr Datewas, in a joint letter to Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Brar pointed out that their war had been causing considerable damage to the party at the moment when the Assembly elections were round the corner.

Mr Goyal talking to TNS, said after two days, they would write to the party high command and Congress president, Sonia Gandhi to intervene into the matter so that factionalism and indiscipline could be checked.

For the past two weeks, the supporters of Brar and Capt Amarinder Singh have been attacking one another, despite the fact that senior Central leaders have urged them to use restraint in making public statements.

Hundreds of Congress workers would also observe indefinite fast.

They said while one leader was violating discipline under the garb of making statements on the basis of principles, the other leader was taking action under the garb of maintaining discipline in the party.

They added that both leaders would be finished forever if the Congress was finished in Punjab.

Meanwhile, sources close to the high command said moves had been initiated to bring about a truce. Both Mr Brar and Capt Amarinder Singh’s grievances had been heard by Ms Sonia Gandhi.

Neither Capt Amarinder Singh nor Mr Brar could be contacted for comments.


Govt on verge of bankruptcy: MLA
Our Correspondent

Mansa, November 17
“The Punjab Government is facing the worst financial crunch and is on the verge of bankruptcy. The next government in the state will not be able to pay even interest, what to talk of paying the principal amount.”

This was stated by Mr Hardev Arshi, MLA from Budhlada and leader of the CPI group in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, while addressing a press conference at Centre Point Restaurant here today. He said the government has raised a loan of Rs 100 crore from NABARD and similar loans had been raised from other financial institutions.

Even the state government had taken loan against the Rural Development Fund.

The amount so arranged by the government was being distributed by the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal among people at sangat darshan programmes for non-planned projects to allure voters, he added.

He said farmers in the cotton belt spent Rs 600 crore on pesticides to fight the American bollworm without any success. The production of cotton fell down from 27 lakh to 10 lakh bales. The government did not give any relief to the cotton growers but converted short-term cooperative loans into medium-term loans. Even this order of the government had not been implemented in Mansa district, he added

Mr Arshi said delegates of the BJP who attended the recently concluded session of the party at Amritsar were treated as state guests and the Punjab Government spent Rs 12 lakh on them. Only VIPs, like Governors, Prime Minister, Chief Ministers and central ministers could be treated as state guests, he added.

He accused the SAD government of treating all delegates as state guests to win the pleasure of the BJP leadership of the Centre.

Owing to financial constraints, the government could not commence classes in 15 industrial training institutes. The payments of the general provident fund had been banned and the salaries of the employees were not being paid in time, Mr Arshi added.

He said the CPI and the CPM would contest the forthcoming elections to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha in alliance with the Congress. He would welcome the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Lok Bhalai Party, if these joined the alliance to give crushing defeat to the ruling SAD-BJP combine in the state.


Industrialists prefer imported cotton
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Deep in debt, cotton growers of Punjab had never faced such a bad time. First, they suffered huge losses due to damage caused by American bollworm to cotton crop and now they were suffering further losses due to low prices of their produce in markets as industrialists all over the country were preferring imported cotton.

The ‘Narma’ variety of cotton, which fetched Rs 2,100 per quintal last year, has fetched Rs 1,825 per quintal this year. Due to decline in cotton prices the growers are suffering huge monetary losses.

What has created a panic among the growers, brokers and traders is the fact that cotton prices in the north zone comprising Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan have plummeted despite lower production of cotton this year as compared to last year.

Mr Ashok Kapur, president, Northern India Cotton Association, said the total production of cotton in the north tone last year was more than 26 lakh bales while the estimated production of cotton was about 19 lakh bales this year.

As per the conservative estimate the production would not cross 16 lakh bales, he added.

Mr Kapur said the total import of cotton was 16 lakh bales last year and any body who wanted to import cotton had to register himself with the Textile Commissioner.

However, the Central Government had lifted the condition of registration this year and it was due to this reason that the exact quantity of imported cotton could not be worked out.

He said twentyfive per cent of the total cotton production of the country was being produced in about 120 km radius of Bathinda town and every year industrialists and dealers from all over the country used to frequent grain markets here.

For the past six years, buyers from Maharashtra and southern states have stopped coming to this area and were now preferring imported cotton due to quality and price considerations.

This has caused huge losses to farmers, traders and ginning and pressing mill owners of this zone.

Mr Kapur pointed out that main countries from where cotton was being imported were the USA, Australia, West Africa, Brazil, Israel, Greece, Uzbekistan and Syria. Cotton was being imported under the open general licence (OGL), he added.


Buses “impounded” for PM’s rally
Our Correspondents

Pathankot, November 17
Local transporters have alleged that the administration was using coercive measures to organise transport for the Prime Minster’s rally at Amritsar.

According to sources, a large number of transporters have taken their vehicles to Himachal Pradesh to park them in a “safer” place.

On the condition of anonymity, a transporter of the area alleged that more than 100 buses and trucks had been “impounded”.

According to sources, Mr Sucha Singh Langah, PWD Minister, today directed his officials to arrange at least 100 buses or “face the music”.

A meeting of the BJP was also held and the arrangements for buses were reviewed. The meeting was chaired by Master Mohan Lal, Minister for Higher Education, Punjab.

Mr Raghunath Sahai Puri, DCC president, said the administration’s order was undemocratic.

However, the administration denied the allegations that the buses were being impounded and such orders had been passed.

KAPURTHALA: The district administration has reportedly requisitioned more than 500 buses and trucks for the transportation of nearly 25,000 Akali and BJP workers for the rally.

Hundreds of passengers were left stranded at the local bus stand for outstation destinations.

Mr Raghubir Singh, Transport Minister, and an Akali MLA from this Assembly constituency, held a meeting to discuss the arrangements for buses and trucks.

Managers of private bus companies alleged that the administration had not even spared the buses for marriages booked earlier.

Mini buses remained off-road for fear of requisition. Buses to Moga, Ferozepore, Abohar and other outstations did not ply in the morning.


300 PRTC buses requisitioned to ferry people to Amritsar
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 17
The cash-starved Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC), which is in the red, reportedly because the Punjab Government has been refusing to compensate it for the concessional travel facility extended by it to various sections of society, has put nearly 300 buses out of its fleet of 850 buses in the service of Akali workers to ferry people to attend a function being organised at Amritsar tomorrow to mark the 200th anniversary of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

According to sources, the PRTC has been asked to requisition nearly 300 buses from its various depots to ferry people to Amritsar.

The sources said while 40 buses (each) had been requisitioned from the two local depots of the Corporation, 50 buses had been requisitioned from its Chandigarh depot. Similarly 15 to 20 buses each had been requisitioned from other depots of the corporation in the state.

The sources said the corporation was likely to lose a revenue of about Rs 60 lakh due to these requisitions.

They said the buses, which had been put in at the service of various ‘jathedars’ of the Shiromani Akali Dal, today afternoon, would remain at their disposal till late tomorrow night.

Besides losing revenue, the move was also likely to put daily passengers to inconvenience. The sources said the situation was likely to stabilise only by the afternoon of November 19.

The PRTC Workers Union general secretary, Nirmal Singh Dhaliwal, alleged that it was the third time that the Punjab government had requisitioned buses of the corporation free of cost. He said earlier hundreds of buses of the corporation were used to ferry people to Anandpur Sahib on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Khalsa. He said a large number of buses were requisitioned on the occasion of inauguration of the Thein Dam by the Prime Minister.

Mr Dhaliwal said it was strange that the government was demanding such services from the PRTC which was not even being reimbursed for providing concessional facilities to various sections of society.

He also alleged that the government had stopped providing financial aid to the corporation and had even passed a pro-private bus operators transport policy which was likely to cause an annual loss of around Rs 18 crore to the corporation.

Meanwhile talking to Chandigarh Tribune, the Punjab Pardesh Congress president, Capt Amarinder Singh, said he had received reports that passengers were being forcefully thrown out of buses by Akali workers who were commandering these buses. He said according to his reports the State Civil Supplies Department had been entrusted with the responsibility of providing fuel for these buses.

Condemning the move, he said the Shiromani Akali Dal should arrange for buses in a legal manner if it wanted to ferry people to Amarinder for the party function. He also alleged that residents of Amritsar had virtually been placed under house arrest due to the tomorrow’s programme.


Row over CPM secy’s expulsion hots up
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, November 17
The row over the recent expulsion of the secretary of the district unit of the CPM, Mr Kulwant Singh Sandhu, from the primary membership of the party by its state secretary, Mr Balwant Singh, intensified today when office-bearers of its Gurdaspur and Jalandhar` units challenged the authority of the latter and termed the decision as “unconstitutional”.

Secretariat members of the Jalandhar unit, Mr Tara Singh and Mr Gurnam Singh, and members of district committee, Mr Piara Singh, Mr Mela Singh, Mr Hardev Singh Sandhu and Mr Shingara Singh, in a joint press statement issued here today, alleged that Mr Balwant Singh was trying to create disunity among party rank and file by indulging in anti-party activities.

Regarding the controversy over the formation of five subdivisional committees by the ousted secretary, the CPM leaders said these committees had been formed during the recent party convention as per the constitution of the party.

Meanwhile, the secretary of the Gurdaspur unit of the CPM, state committee member Mrs Surjeet Kumari and Mr Raghbir Singh, coming to the rescue of Mr Sandhu, alleged that the decision was “unfortunate and unconstitutional.”

They alleged that the state secretary was trying to tarnish the image of the party among the people by promoting factionalism. They decried the decision of the state committee to disband the subdivisional committees.

The leaders demanded that the state committee should revoke its decision to expel Mr Sandhu from the primary membership of the party.


Requests for action against Talwandi
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 17
Akal Takht secretariat is flooded with requests for initiating immediate action against Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, SGPC President for allegedly using objectionable language against the High Priests. The Sikh clergy may take action as per maryada during a meeting on November 20. Mr Jaswinder Singh, SGPC member and chief, Akal Purkh ki Fauj, said Akal Takht must initiate action against those who were deliberately denigrating the authority of age-old institutions of the Panth. Meanwhile, Mr Harpal Singh Bhullar, president of the International Bhai Mardana Yadgari Kirtan Darbar Society, also took serious concern over the remarks of Mr Talwandi.

Sources said Mr Talwandi targeted Prof Manjit Singh, stating that some religious personalities had been going abroad by ignoring the local sangat.


Mann not invited to celebrations
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 17
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the Akali Dal (Amritsar), today said he had not received any invitation from Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, for participating in the concluding functions of the bicentenary celebrations of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s coronation, scheduled for tomorrow as claimed by Mr Badal.

Talking to the Press here today, he said had he received the invitation, he would have rejected the offer as his party did not believe that the Maharaja had ever been coronated.

He said his party and the Panthic Morcha had decided to boycott the celebrations as the ruling party wanted to take “policital mileage” out of it.

Mr Mann took serious exception to the on going cold war between Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, SGPC chief, and Mr Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht.

He ruled out the possibility of the morcha’s merger with the SAD. He said no person or any party would like to board a “sinking ship”. He, however, said if Mr Badal wished to merge his faction with the Morcha he would be welcomed without any precondition.

Meanwhile, Mr Tarlochan Singh, Vice Chairman, Minority Commission, today came down heavily on Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, SHSAD President, and leaders of other rival Akali factions for criticising the coronation ceremony.

He said it was a great event and Akali factions should join the celebrations instead of criticising the SAD.


Kin must not get ticket: Birdevinder
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 17
PPCC general secretary Birdevinder Singh today said Congressmen were getting frustrated due to the attempts by some leaders to ensure party ticket for their relatives.

Talking to newspersons here, he appealed to relatives of senior Congress leaders aspiring for ticket to withdraw from the fray. He said only Congressmen with traditional background and those who had rendered service to the party during the most trying circumstances should be given ticket.

He said such persons ‘’should be asked to work for a living for some time before aspiring for ticket. This will help them to get acclimatised to the Congress culture”.

Mr Birdevinder’s statement assumes significance as he is an aspirant for ticket from the Samana Assembly from where PPCC President Amarinder Singh’s brother, Malwinder Singh is also an aspirant. Capt Amarinder Singh has already stated that ticket will be denied to relatives of senior leaders.

Commenting on the recent outburst of party MP Jagmeet Singh Brar, the Congress leader said Mr Brar was presently holding important positions in the party being the convener of its parliamentary group and Vice-President of the state unit. He said Mr Brar should not make such a statement which could cause misunderstandings in the party.

He said such statements could sendwrong signals in the party, adding that Mr Brar could have approached the party president or the general secretary in charge of Punjab affairs to put his point across. 


Morcha to enter into ‘poll alliance’
Our Correspondent

Mansa, November 17
The Panthic Morcha will contest the forthcoming Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections in alliance with the like-minded parties. This was stated by Mr Dhian Singh Mand, former MP and Vice-President of the SAD (A) while talking to mediapersons today at Gurthari village of the district.

Earlier Mr Mand addressed public meetings in six villages of the Bhikhi area of the district. He dubbed the Congress as an “anti-Sikh” party and held it responsible for the attack on Harmandar Sahib and the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi in 1984. He accused Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab, and President of the SAD, of hurting the sentiments of the Sikhs by raising religious issues.

He said the morcha would release its election manifesto at a conference to be held at Ludhiana on December 2. He said the morcha would highlight the failure of the SAD-BJP government on all fronts, including mounting corruption and rising unemployment. He said all candidates nominated by the morcha would declare their assets before the elections. He denied any differences among the constituents of the morcha and said the elected legislators would elect the Chief Minister. Mr Gursewak Singh, district president of the morcha among others was also present on the occasion.


Reshma breaks barriers between ‘two Punjabs’
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 17
Reshma, an internationally renowned folk singer of Pakistan, has said that there should not be any barriers between the “two Punjabs” across India and Pakistan.

Reshma performs at Rambagh in Amritsar on Saturday to mark the bicentenary celebrations of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. — Tribune Photo

In a lighter vein she said she was ready to cross over to India even without a valid visa as she knew that her beloved Punjabis on the Indian side would get her released.

With a view to giving a fillip to the cultural heritage of the state, the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and Mr I.K. Gujral, former Prime Minister of India, presented an award of “raj gayak” to eminent Punjabi folk singer Hans Raj Hans at a sangeet sammelan organised by the Punjab Government as part of the bicentenary celebrations of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in this historic city here today.

At the sammelan, eminent artistes, including Reshma, Hans Raj Hans, Anuradha Paudwal, Kavita Paudwal, Dilraj Kaur, Vijay Batalvi and Kuldip Manak, regaled the audience at the sprawling Ram Bagh gardens.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Badal said music knew no barriers and the sammelan had attracted participation from eminent and internationally-renowned artistes from all over the country and Pakistan. He said it was a real tribute to Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh who himself was a great patron of art and culture.

Lauding the contribution of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in diverse fields, Mr Badal said the illustrious ruler had left an indelible imprint of his political acumen and administrative capability. He was, above all, a great humanist. He said the Maharaja’s contribution to promoting Punjabiat would ever be remembered.

Mr Badal also honoured Mr Gujral for his distinguished services to the country, especially Punjab, during his primeministership and chequered career. He said Mr Gujral had made an unparalleled contribution to the socio-economic development of Punjab. He mentioned various projects which Mr Gujral had sanctioned for Punjab when he was Prime Minister of the country.


Calendar to mark bicentenary released
Our Correspondents

Amritsar, November 17
Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers, and Mr Barjinder Singh Hamdard, Managing Editor of the Ajit, here today released the wall calendar-2002 of Guru Nanak Dev University brought out to mark the bicentenary of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Dr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor, speaking on the occasion, said the university was publishing about 20 books to mark the coronation bicentenary.

Of these 20 books, two have already been released. One was released by Mr Inder Kumar Gujral, and the other by Ms Sushma Swaraj.

Meanwhile, as part of the bicentenary celebrations, a colourful “atishbazi show” was organised last night by the Information and Public Relations Department at Ram Bagh. In this 10-minute show, a renowned cracker player from New Delhi presented a continuous display of fireworks.

Mr Sarvesh Kaushal, Special Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Punjab, Mr S.K. Sharma, DIG, CM’s security, Mr S.K. Ahluwalia, Director, Information and Public Relations, Punjab, and Mr Baldev Singh Mann, administrative member, PSEB, were among those present on the occasion.

After the show, the spectators witnessed a light and sound programme depicting the life and times of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It was also organised by the Department of Information and Public Relations, Punjab.


Memorial to Rani Jindan
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 17
After a long wait of 138 years, a memorial will be raised on the banks of the Godavari near Nasik in Maharashtra where Maharani Jind Kaur (Jindan), the last queen of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was cremated.

The British Government had refused to carry the body of the Maharani to Punjab. She died in England in 1863.

Talking to TNS, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said he had deputed his Special Principal Secretary Sarvesh Kaushal to visit Nasik for preparing the report on the recommendation of Mr Tarlochan Singh, Vice-Chairman, Minorities Commission. Though, the building was in a dilapidated condition and had been with the Public Works Department of the Punjab Government, the one-acre land for the memorial was purchased by the then ruler of Kapurthala who enjoyed good relations with Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Mr P.C. Alexander, Governor, and Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh, Chief Minister, Maharashtra, in their communications to Mr Tarlochan Singh appreciated the idea of raising a memorial in the name of the Maharani.

Mr Tarlochan Singh said Mr Badal had agreed to raise the memorial where a museum would be set up depicting the story of the last queen of Punjab. He said it was last wish of Maharani Jind Kaur that her cremation should take place in Punjab.

Meanwhile, Mr Badal said the government had chalked out a programme to preserve the historic Gobindgarh Fort which was built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh after the name of Guru Gobind Singh. The fort was currently under the control of the Army. Mr Badal said he would take up the matter with the Army authorities.

According to Dr Sukhdev Singh, state convener of Intach, the fort was built by the Maharaja on the way to Lahore.


PSEB told to refund money to complainant
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, November 17
The District Consumer forum while imposing a fine of Rs 1,000 on the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) in an alleged power theft case, directed the PSEB authorities to refund Rs 9, 351 to Mr Rajinder Singh, a resident of the city.

According to a copy of the decision procured by The Tribune today, the forum held that no concrete evidence could be found to prove that Mr Rajinder Singh had committed power theft as alleged by the authorities.

The authorities had alleged that on May 26, 2001, the electricity meter of Mr Rajinder Singh was checked and he was found indulging in power theft. A memo was sent to him on May 31,2001, (No 2175) demanding Rs 9,351 for the alleged power theft.

Though the authorities had alleged power theft, the means of the theft were not written on the memo.

During arguments the counsel for the PSEB stated that Mr Rajinder Singh had been stealing power and for that purpose the cover of the meter installed at his premises had been lifted.

The paper seals on the meter were also broken without the signatures of the competent officials.

It was argued by the counsel of the complainant that the alleged checking of the meter installed at the house of Mr Rajinder was not done in the presence of the complainant or his authorised representative.

The counsel for the PSEB admitted before the forum that the meter was not got tested from the ME Laboratory.

Also there was no comment or note by PSEB officials after they had checked the meter connection of Mr Rajinder Singh that the complainant or his authorised representatives refused to sign the checking report.

The forum held that, “There is no evidence on the file to prove that what was the condition of the meter at the time of its installation or that it was untempered at that time.


‘Dhanis’ cry for development
Gayatri Rai

Even though the number of “dhanis” (cluster of houses on the outskirts of a village) has been increasing due to the rise in the rural population, the authorities have been ignoring most of these areas in the matter of development.

Residents of ‘’dhanis’’ in this area were perhaps the worst sufferers during the period of militancy in Punjab both at the hands of terrorists and the security forces.

No medical facility is available in “dhanis”. Besides ,children have to go to nearby villages or towns to attend school. It often takes an hour or more for them to reach a bus stop. As most “dhanis” are not linked with pucca roads, residents face problems in transporting agricultural produce, patients and schoolchildren.

“Dhanis” also lack potable water and proper sanitation. Water from handpumps and other sources has been declared unfit for use as it has a high fluoride content.

A visit to a few “dhanis” in this district revealed that the areas had been provided with electricity but residents complained that the supply was irregular.

“Dhanis” with a population below 500 are the most neglected. According to government rules, no pucca road can be constructed in such areas. A primary school can be built in a “dhani” where the population is above 200. However, even though primary schools exist in certain “dhanis,” these are not properly maintained and lack the necessary facilities.

Some “dhanis” have been provided with certain facilities. These include Kothe Gobindpura, Kalayan Sukha, Kothe Himmatpura and Kothe Harrangpura. In these dhanis there are elected panchayats. Such “dhanis” are also approachable by pucca roads. For practical purposes, they enjoy the status of a village.

Residents of “dhanis” where the population is not large also want that such facilities be given to them. They say small population should not be taken as an excuse for ignoring development in their areas.

Mr Gurdarshan Singh, District Development and Panchayat Officer, says that at present there is no scheme for the development of “dhanis”.A major reason for this is inadequate funds. When funds for rural development are released by the government, these are used for providing facilities in villages, he adds.


Doctors protest neglect of health sector
Our Correspondent

Patiala, November 17
A massive gathering of medical teachers, resident doctors, PCMS and junior doctors in support of their demands, including filling of vacant posts, redesignation and general uplift of college and hospital facilities, was held today in the Out Patient Department of Rajindra Hospital. The Resident Doctors Association and the medical college unit of the PCMS Association supported the demonstration.

The main demands also included saving the Government Medical Colleges and hospitals from the verge of total collapse and spending the money generated through user charges and NRI seats for the uplift of the hospital and college facilities besides the appointment of a full-time doctor (technocrat) as the DRME.

Addressing the gathering, Dr Kiranjeet Kaur, chairperson of the state Core Committee of the Punjab State Medical and Dental Teachers Association (PSMDTA), said doctors in surgery, gynaecology, ophthalmology, ENT and other departments had to operate with instruments purchased in the 1950s. She said, “Teachers have been forced to resort to agitation because we see patients, who could have been saved, dying in front of our eyes for lack of basic facilities and life-saving drugs.”

Dr Manmohan Singh, vice-president of the local unit of the PSMDTA, appealed to the Governor to ban overseas treatment of politicians and bureaucrats. He questioned the wisdom of opening new medical colleges like the Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences at a cost of Rs 300 crore when the already existing colleges were starved of funds.

Dr Barjinder Singh Sohal, general secretary of the local unit of the PSMDTA, criticised the government for neglecting the health sector and medical education. He alleged that the Punjab Government spent only Rs 86 lakh on the 1300-bedded Rajindra Hospital whereas the PGI, Chandigarh, with a bed capacity of 1,000 received Rs 84 crore per year.

Dr Ravinder Singh, adviser to the association, warned of a risk of derecognition of the state medical colleges as more than 30 per cent posts were lying vacant and the norms regarding the minimum essential requirement of the Medical Council of India (MCI) had not been fulfilled concerning the equipment, hospital and teaching facilities.

Dr Ramandeep Singh Dang, spokesperson for the Residents Doctors Association, said there had been a drastic fall in the number of patients ever since the patient charges were steeply hiked in May, 1999. He further alleged that Rs 8.5 crore had been collected from the patients and students since then but not a single penny had been sent in upgrading the existing facilities and equipment.

Dr Kiranjeet Kaur appealed to the Chief Minister for a timely intervention to save the hospitals in the state from total collapse.


‘Conspiracy’ to privatise medical care
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 17
Agitating Government Medical College doctors of the state today received support from senior Congress leader and Pradesh Congress General Secretary Birdevinder Singh, who claimed the Akali government was engaged in a deep-rooted conspiracy to privatise medical care in the state.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr Birdevinder Singh, while claiming that an alarming situation had arisen in the state following the threat by doctors to take mass casual leave on December 1, said Medical Education and Research Minister Manoranjan Kalia should quit in the interest of medical service of the state.

He said it was surprising that the Akali government had failed to appoint any doctor as Director, Research and Medical Education (DRME), since March when the previous DRME retired. He said for the first time a bureaucrat had been given charge of the post of DRME, adding it could have been done with an ulterior motive by the government.

The Congress leader also said that the Medical Colleges of the state were being discriminated even in the allotment of funds. He said the budgetary allocation of the Patiala, Amritsar and Faridkot Medical Colleges was only Rs 86 lakh, Rs 76 lakh and Rs 50 lakh. He said in direct contrast the PGIMER at Chandigarh, which had a lesser bed strength than the Patiala Medical College and also ran undergraduate classes, had a budget of Rs 84 crore. He said the Dayanand Medical College had an annual budget of Rs 44 crore.

Mr Birdevinder Singh said there was a severe staff shortage in all the state Medical Colleges with 45 senior doctors serving as Professors and Assistant Professors quitting their jobs in the last two years. He said there were nearly 100 vacancies in the Medical Colleges, which were still to be filled up, adding there was a serious danger of the Medical Council of India (MCI) derecognising the institutions due to this.

The Congress leader said besides this, funds collected by admitting Non Resident Indians (NRIs) had been diverted despite the promise that they would be used only for the betterment of the colleges and hospitals attached to them. He said even funds collected through efficient working, as had been done by the Bio-Chemistry Department, had not been given to the college.


Nurses’ rally on Nov 20
Our Correspondent

Patiala, November 17
The Punjab Nurses Association will hold a protest rally in the constituency of the Punjab Finance Minister, Captain Kanwaljit Singh, on November 20.

Disclosing this, the president of the Punjab Nurses Association, Ms Jeevan Preet Kaur, alleged that the Finance Minister had failed to fulfil his promise of authorising a special nurses allowance of Rs 2000 and introduction of BSc courses in three medical colleges of the state. She demanded that vacant posts of nurses be filled immediately and stipend of nursing students be increased. In a press note released here today, the association warned of a state-wide nurses’ strike in case their demands were not met immediately.


Punjab pharmacists’ protest today
Our Correspondent

Patiala, November 17
Members of the Punjab State Pharmacists Association will hold a rally to protest against the non-implementation of the accepted demands at Lambi, constituency of the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Prakash Singh Badal, on November 18.

This was stated here today by the president of the Punjab State Pharmacists Association, Mr Shyam Lal Sharma. He demanded the change of designation of district pharmacy, officers and review of pay anomalies by the Anomaly Committee.


‘Punjab to send 1 m tonnes wheat to Afghanistan’
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, November 17
The Punjab Government is going to send 1 million tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan. The Ministry of External Affairs has offered the wheat as food aid to the war-ravaged country.

This was stated by Mr Ranjit Singh Brahampura, Punjab Minster for Cooperation, while addressing the 48th all-India cooperative week function organised by Markfed here today. Mr Brahampura took serious note of the storage problem as 90 per cent foodgrain is stored on open plinths in the state.

The government was going to start a project to set up silos to store the foodgrains. It would help preserve the quality of the wheat which could fetch higher prices in the international market, said the minister.

These silos are being set up at Moga and Barnala by the Indian Government, he added.


NTAS theatre campaign ends
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 17
The National Theatre Arts Society (NTAS), Patiala concluded its “Punjabi Language and Theatre Campaign”, by giving cash rewards to its 20 artists on the occasion of Divali at NTAS mandir, here.

The campaign which commenced on November 1 on Punjab Divas included group discussion on “Why Government and non-Government patronage for theatre development?” reading of and discussion on two representative Punjabi stories on female foeticide ‘Panahgarh’ by Ms Manmohan Kaur and “Pau Phutala” by Dr (Ms) Gurminder Sidhu. During the campaign the Himachal Government authorities and theatre and art lovers honoured Mr Pran Sabharwal and Ms Sunita Sabharwal with “Him-Punjab Gaurav Award of Honour” at Parwanoo for their distinguished services towards theatre promotion in North.


Badal meets Baba Santa Singh
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 17
Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, today held a closed-door meeting with Baba Santa Singh, chief of the Budha Dal. What transpired at the meeting could not be ascertained but it is clear that both of them discussed the current Akali politics.

It may be mentioned here that Mr Badal met Baba Santa Singh after a gap of more than 17 years as the latter remained excommunicated from the Sikh Panth during this period.


Tributes paid to Lala Lajpat Rai

Moga, November 17
The 73rd martyrdom day of Punjab Kesri Lala Lajpat Rai was observed with great enthusiasm at his birth place at Dhudike here today.

A large number of people from all walks of life turned out to pay their respects to the great freedom fighter. Floral tributes were paid at his memorial and special functions were organised. PTI


Plea to increase sugarcane MSP
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, November 17
The state government’s failure to hike the minimum support price (MSP) of sugarcane during past three years was decried by sugarcane growers at a state-level convention at Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall here today.

Mr Pashora Singh, President of the Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta), in his inaugural address said though the cost of agricultural inputs in the sugarcane sector had increased during the past three years, the Punjab Government had not accepted their long pending demand to hike the MSP to Rs 125 per quintal.

He said the state government while pursuing the new economic policies had reduced the levy sugar quota from 60 per cent to 15 per cent, resulting in an increase in the price of sugar in open market.

The Chairman of Sugarfed, Mr Pritam Singh Kaunta, however, recently advocated that policy makers should not hike the MSP of sugarcane as it would have a disastrous affect on the industry since sugar stocks worth Rs 220 crore were lying in godowns, leading to a glut.

Mr Balwant Singh, President of the Sugarcane Committee, Bhogpur, said the state government should ensure the implementation of the Sugarcane Control Act at the grassroots since farmers were virtually as the mercy of officials of cooperative mills for the release of payment of their produce.

The sugarcane growers demanded that the Central Government funds for the development of the sugarcane sector should be utilised for developing new seeds to increase yield.

They passed a resolution to launch a statewide agitation from December 5 if the SAD-BJP combine failed to hike the MSP. 


4-laning of Amritsar-Jalandhar road likely
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 17
Amritsar district is all set to witness a massive road construction and upgradation activity. Mr Sarvesh Kaushal, Special Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister and Secretary, Public Works (Buildings and Roads), said the Chief Minister had taken up the proposal to extend the four-laning of the national highway from Jalandhar to Amritsar with the Centre for its early clearance.

The Ministry of Surface Transport had recently given its nod, paving the way for its formal sanction. The project, which would include rail, road and river bridges en route, was likely to cost approximately Rs 500 crore.

Mr Kaushal said another project for the four-laning of the Amritsar-Rajasansi road had been taken up for execution. Ever since the Amritsar airport was upgraded to a full-fledged international airport, a need was felt to improve its road connectivity with the city. The Rs 10.89-crore project would also include the construction of three bridges and the four-laning of nine-km stretch of road. The target date for the completion of the project had been fixed for June 30 next year.

Work on the four-laning of the road passing through Tarn Taran would also be taken up shortly. Out of the expected project cost of Rs 1.31 crore, Rs 25 lakh had already been released to the executing agency.

Land acquisition work for the four-laning of a 5.4 km stretch from Mehta Beas road to Sathiala to Dera Baba Jaimal Singh had already been taken in hand. Security of Army installations would be kept in mind while executing this project, he said.

Reviewing the ongoing works related to rural link roads, state plan roads and national highways at Amritsar, Mr Kaushal directed field engineers to expedite work so as to complete the assignments on a war-footing. He said quality specifications must be maintained.

He made it compulsory for superintending engineers to collect samples of materials for analysis in government and independent laboratories.

Mr Kaushal said a new system of vigilance and monitoring had been introduced which required collecting a spare set of sealed sample of materials to be submitted to the head of the department’s vigilance cell, from where a random selection of the sample would be made for its analysis in a standard laboratory outside Punjab.

He told officers that no work should be undertaken unless the detailed estimate of the specific work had been sanctioned by the competent authorities and adequate funds had been assured for completing the assignment in a time-bound manner.


Hydel project to help ease power shortage
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, November 17
The prevailing power shortage scenario in the northern region will ease after work on the 660 MW hydel power project, which is being set up in Bhutan, is completed.

Stating this at a seminar on “Mission 2012 — Power for all” at the local Red Cross Bhavan here today, the Director (Projects) of the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited, Mr S.C. Mishra, said the power generated, after the successful commissioning of the 660 MW hydel power project, would be transmitted and distributed in the northern region comprising Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh.

“The work on setting up of three additional power distribution substations at Amritsar, Ludhiana and Patiala has already been started. Power from these substations will be supplied to different parts of Punjab. Power transformers having a capacity of 400/220 KV will be installed at these substations,” Mr Mishra added.

In its bid to provide power on demand to consumers throughout the country, the Ministry of Power had made a comprehensive plan to double its present generation capacity of 1 lakh MW to 2 lakh MW within a period of 10 years.

Regarding several government decisions which have remained unimplemented due to “lack of participation of people” from different walks of life, Mr Mishra said, “The Ministry of Power has launched a countrywide campaign to create awareness among the masses on the proposed blueprint for the development of the power sector and energy conservation by organising road shows in all districts to ensure the active participation of people from all walks of life, including farmers, industrialists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), students, mediapersons and the general public.”

Mr Ashok Mittal, Deputy General Manager of Powergrid, in his presentation opined that the consumers could save more than 15,000 MW of power by adopting better load management techniques in their daily lives. “We can save 30-35 per cent power bills by using energy efficient equipment besides restricting wastage of power at homes and industrial units. Moreover, the prevailing subsidies on power in the agriculture sector and other consumer categories lead to financial loses in the power sector which should be gradually decreased to ensure adequate investment in power generation,” he said.

The state and the Central governments should disburse the amount of subsidy, offered to different categories of consumers, to the State Electricity Boards (SEBs) in advance to make the SEBs financially viable, he said.

A documentary on generation and distribution of power was screened on the occasion and booklets outlining tips on saving power were distributed among the participants during the seminar.

Others who spoke on the occasion included the Executive Director of Powergrid, Dr K.K. Das, the Chief Manager, Mr P.K. Pal, the Superintending Engineer of the PSEB, Mr Kuljeet Singh, and the Principal of Meher Chand Polytechnic, Mr R.K. Dhawan.


Rs 15-cr PUDA project for Sultanpur Lodhi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 17
A Rs 15 crore project to beautify Sultanpur Lodhi (Kapurthala) is being executed by PUDA. Housing and Urban Development Minister Upinderjit Kaur revealed today. The project would be completed within the next four months. The town, which is connected with Guru Nanak Dev, is a revered place for the Sikhs.

A key feature of the project was an 80-metre-long, 10.5-metre wide and a four-span RCC bridge over the Bein river, near Gurdwara “Ber Sahib”. Besides providing connectivity to PUDA’s new Urban Estate with the town, the bridge would also provide an independent access to the devotees thronging the gurdwara.

PUDA was likely to complete a part of the project relating to the improvement and beautification of the town before Guru Nanak Dev’s birthday on November 30. PUDA Chief Administrator K.B.S. Sidhu said that roads near Gurdwara Bebe Nanakiji were also being widened.


Two Pakistani women held
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 17
Two Pakistani women, who were going to Pakistan by Samjhauta Express, were held by personnel of the intelligence wing late last night.

Two secret military maps were reportedly seized from them. The women were said to be working for the ISI.

In another incident, an Indian couple was arrested by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence authorities and a huge quantity of narcotics worth Rs 1,75,000 was seized. Saleem Ahmed and Shehjadi belong to Saharanpur.

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