Tuesday, November 20, 2001, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Tohra, Mann visit Badal
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 19
Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, president Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal had closed-door emotional interactions at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi at 12.55 p.m., today where Mr Badal is hospitalised.

This is their first meeting since December 1998, when they parted company, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, a former Akali Minister, Mr Parmjit Singh Sarna, a former president, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, and Mr Harinder Paul Singh, an SGPC member, who accompanied Mr Tohra to meet Mr Badal had to leave him (Mr Tohra) with Mr Badal for more than 10 minutes so that they could hold in-camera meeting. A confidant of Mr Tohra said that Mr Badal looked cheerful and relaxed after meeting Mr Tohra.

Mr Calcutta and Mr Sarna had been working hard for a meeting between the two Akali leaders for past over two years, got “divine opportunity” for accomplishing their mission.

When contacted Mr Tohra said that it was a ‘courtesy call’ as morality demands that one must enquire after the health of fellow beings. To a question, Mr Tohra said that he did not have any enmity with Mr Badal but there were some differences on certain principles. Though Mr Tohra denied that he had discussed any Panthic issue yet sources said that both leaders touched upon certain current topics.

Though Mrs Surinder Kaur Badal, wife of Mr Badal, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal (son), Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder, general secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal, and Mr Zora Singh Mann, a member of Parliament from Ferozepore, Mr Manpreet Singh Badal (nephew of Mr Badal), an MLA from Gidderbaha, and a number of Akali leaders were present but they were not allowed to sit in the closed-door meeting between Mr Tohra and Mr Badal.

Mr Tohra and Mr Calcutta who landed at New Delhi airport after attending a religious function at Nagpur called Mr Sarna and Mr Harinder Paul Singh to visit the Ganga Ram Hospital. When Mr Tohra and his loyalists reached the hospital, top officials of state government including Mr Ramesh Inder Singh, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister were anxiously waiting for him (Mr Tohra). They escorted Mr Tohra and his loyalists to the waiting room of the hospital as the doctors were examining Mr Badal at that time. Mr Tohra remained in the hospital for an hour, after meeting Mr Badal, Mr Tohra went to his village.

The closed-door meeting of the Akali stalwarts may lead to fresh permutations and combinations in the days to come.

Earlier, Mr Badal had despatched demi-official letters to Mr Tohra and Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, president Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) inviting them to attend the bicentenary celebrations of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s coronation. Though Mr Mann claimed that he had not received any communication yet but Mr Harcharan Bains, Media Adviser to the Chief Minister claimed that the letters were written in his presence.

Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) also visited Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and enquired after the health of Mr Badal. Both remained together for more than 10 minutes, however, unlike Mr Tohra, Mr Mann met Mr Badal in the presence of doctors and leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal. Mr Mann was not available for comments.


India’s bid to send back Afghan Hindus, Sikhs
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 19
Immediately after the announcement of the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, that India was keen to rehabilitate Afghan Sikhs and Hindus in Afghanistan after the return of normalcy in the troubled country, the Indian Government has begun efforts to establish contacts with leaders of the Northern Alliance which had recaptured important cities of the country from the Taliban militia for this purpose.

Mr Tarlochan Singh, Vice-Chairman, Minority Commission, told TNS that most of the Afghan Sikh families which had fled to India after attack on their country were keen to return to Afghanistan due to changed scenario.

Mr Tarlochan Singh, who has been constantly in touch with the Afghan Sikhs and the Government of Pakistan said efforts were already afoot to rehabilitate the Sikhs and Hindus who had been living in Afghanistan since Maharaja Ranjit Singh captured the country.

He said now no request was being made by Afghan Sikhs to seek refuge in India as they felt that normalcy would return soon in the ceasefire.

The Afghan Sikhs heaved a sigh of relief after the recapturing of significant cities from the Afghan militia. The minority communities had been feeling insecure after the code of conduct was imposed by the Taliban government. He said efforts would be made to send all Afghan Sikhs and Hindus at government expense so that they could be rehabilitated properly.

Mr Tarlochan Singh said though the Indian Government had closed down its Embassy in Afghanistan yet diplomatic relations would be reestablished as soon as the Talibans were rooted out completely.


50 US Sikhs cancel visit
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 19
More than 50 American Sikhs who wanted to come here on a pilgrimage cancelled their air tickets as the monster attacks of September 11 still haunt them.

Ms Satsimran, secretary of state for Sikhs, and Mr Guru Singh, chairman, Khalsa Council (both Sikh converts from the USA, who visited the Golden Temple and other places of pilgrimage, while talking to TNS said only 70 American Sikhs could come here. They said many American Sikhs cancelled their tickets as most foreigners found India contiguous to Afghanistan when they saw the world map.

Ms Satsimran said the percentage of foreigners visiting Amritsar had come down drastically. “I have been coming to Amritsar on a pilgrimage since the seventies and there used to be a great rush of foreigners. Now the foreigners coming here can be counted on finger tips”, she said.

Expressing concern over the attacks on Sikhs in the USA and other countries, Mr Guru Singh said miscreants did not differentiate between an American Sikh or rest of the Sikhs. The American Sikhs, too, apprehended attacks. However, the situation had improved since September after the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi who was killed due to mistaken identity. He said USA had enacted some Acts for the protection of Sikhs and members of other minority communities.

Dr Balkar Singh, a renowned Sikh scholar, said the Sikh community in the USA was satisfied with the measures taken by the US Government for the protection of Sikhs.

He said it was for the first time in the history of the USA that a campaign was being launched to educate the Americans about the distinct identity of Sikhs.

Condemning the murder of Sodhi, Ms Satsimran said it was respect for human rights in the country that members of the minority communities had migrated to the USA. If a member of any minority community became a target in the USA it would be a slur on the fair name of democratic values of the country where all were being treated as equals, she added.


UK memorial for war veterans
K S Chawla

The British Government is constructing a monument in memory of Common-wealth veterans who sacrificed their lives for the British in the First and the Second World Wars.

The Commonwealth memorial gate is being built by the British Government, thanks to the efforts made by Lt Col Chanan Singh Dhillon a veteran of World War II, who heads the Ex-services League, Punjab and Chandigarh.

The foundation stone for the gate was laid by Queen Elizabeth II on August 1.

According to Col Dhillon who saw action in the World War II in Mesopotamia, Middle East, North Africa and Italy and was taken as a prisoner-of-war in Germany for two years, India contributed more than 2.5 million officers to the British war effort and was instrumental for the victory of the allied forces.

In World War I, India sent 1.5 million men and as many as 47,000 were killed. We won 13,000 decorations for bravery and 12 Victoria Crosses”, he said and wondered how the British could forget the sacrifices of the Indians. He regretted that the Indian Government on getting freedom forgot to strike a deal with the British for the sacrifices the Indian soldiers made during the two World Wars.

In a letter to the then British Prime Minister John Major, Colonel Dhillon emphasised that UK must contribute to bring the pension of the veterans of the colonial troops at par with that of the British veterans. The PoWs under Germany and Japan must be compensated and the veterans’ destitute families should be granted ex-gratia grants. Veterans living in UK should be automatically considered members of British legion and facilities provided to them. World war veterans desirous of visiting UK should be exempted from visa fee payment.

Colonel Dhillon wrote that the British must not forget those from the Commonwealth communities who fought for them. While accepting his request, the British Government has paid £ 10,000 to PoWs held by the Japanese and payment of a similar grant to those PoWs captured in Germany was under consideration.

Baroness Sheila Flather, a member of the House of Lords, took up the case of setting up a commonwealth memorial in London and sought his ( Col Dhillon) cooperation. In 1999, he was in London and there was some opposition to the proposal. He appeared on the BBC and appealed to the people and the government to set up a memorial which was agreed upon by the British Government.

Baroness Flather is a chairperson of the trust that built the commonwealth memorial gate. This memorial gate coming up near Constitution Hill in London, would be ready by next May.

Colonel Dhillon said the British Government had also agreed to prepare education pack containing information regarding Common-wealth veterans and their sacrifices which would be incorporated into the school syllabus in UK.. Information in this regard is being collected from various countries, he said.


Bathinda refinery work going full steam
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 19
A prestigious project of the Badal government, the Bathinda oil refinery, will go on stream as scheduled in December, 2005.

This was announced here today at a press conference by Mr H.L.Zutshi, Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation (HPCL). Christened Guru Gobind Singh Refineries Ltd (GGSRL), a subsidiary of the mammoth public sector Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL), it will be a nine million metric tonnes per annum (MMTPA) state-of-the-art refinery at Phulokhari in Bathinda district of Punjab. It would cost Rs 9806 crore.

According to Mr Zutshi, the refinery has been configured to meet product specifications of stringent Euro-IV norms. Crude oil will be shipped from Mundra on the Gujarat coast to the refinery site at Bathinda through a 1011-km long pipeline. The products from the refinery will be moved out through three modes, viz pipeline (line proposed from Bathinda to Udhampur), by road through trucks and by rail.

All statutory approvals, including environment clearances from various state pollution control boards and the Ministry of Environment and Forest, have been obtained for initiating the project activities.

Work at the refinery site and on various other infrastructure facilities commenced in June, 2001. An 18-km-long approach road has been constructed and completed between Bathinda and Dhabwali road (NH-64) to the refinery site. This was constructed under the supervision of the Punjab PWD at a cost of Rs 23.5 crore on a 50:50 cost sharing basis between GGSRL and the Government of Punjab (GOP). A 12 km long water canal has also been laid to the refinery site at a cost of Rs 7.3 crore. The PSEB is in the process of installing hardware for providing the required construction power at site.

At the refinery site, 1600 acres of operational area is being levelled and graded and roads are being constructed. Orders are being placed within the next two months for the construction of power and water distribution systems, tankages and buildings. Tenders are being finalised for providing fire fighting facilities, effluent treatment facilities, product despatch facilities and covering 350 acres of land with a green belt. A total of Rs 300 crore is being spent on the above facilities.

For the crude oil pipeline, Engineers India Limited (EIL) has been appointed as the project management consultant for the construction of single point mooring (SPM), crude oil terminal at Mundra (Gujarat coast) and cross-country crude oil pipeline.

Competent authorities for acquiring right of use (ROU) in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Haryana have been appointed. The design and preparation of various tenders are in an advanced stage.

The project is being financed through a debt: equity ratio of !:5:1. HPCL is committed for a equity contribution of Rs 2,000 crore. GGSRL has obtained permission from SEBI to tap capital market in a phased manner for raising equity.

With the coming up of the refinery, a spate of ancillary industries need to come up and the prospects for entrepreneurial growth are tremendous. Job opportunities, not only in the GGSRL refinery, but also with contractors involved in refinery operations and maintenance and various ancillary industries will be created. In a recent study for an automobile project conducted by National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), employment multiplier was estimated at 1:6 and investment multiplier at 1:2:5.

In order that the benefits of such a big industry coming up in Punjab are reaped by the people of Punjab the requisite skills in the ITIs and the polytechnics need to be upgraded. To ensure this, GGSRL has prepared a detailed syllabus for a refinery engineering course and submitted to the Directorate of Technical Education (DTE) for modifications required. In addition, a programme on awareness of the refinery working was made to senior officials of DTE and class room training was imparted to instructors of ITIs. An the on-site awareness programme at existing HPCL Refineries is also being arranged for ITI instructors.

Three link roads from the various towns and villages around the refinery are being widened and strengthened in addition to the new road already constructed. A state-of-the art hospital and a school had been planned in the refinery township area which will be available for use by the public at large.


No factionalism in PPCC : Bhattal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, November 19
Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal today claimed there was no factionalism in the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) and the party was poised to contest elections with an edge over others. She was have to attend a function organised by the Ludhiana chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), Mrs Bhattal, however, evaded queries on the issue of Chief Ministerial candidate of the party.

She also refused to comment on the controversy raised by the PCC vice-president Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar. However, she pointed out, the issued had already been settled by the high command. She argued that the party high command had decided not to project anyone as the Chief Ministerial candidate.

Mrs Bhattal admitted that Capt Amarinder Singh was the undisputed leader of the PCC. as he had been appointed by the party high command and everyone should accept him the PCC leader. “There should be no two opinions about that”, she said.

On the issue of Chief Minsitership, Mrs Bhattal claimed, it would be settled by the party high command after taking into account the wishes of the elected representatives. “In fact that is the best possible, rather constitutional method of doing things”, she pointed out. Trying to present a bright picture of the party, she claimed, it is “all within the family and the mere difference of opinion should not mean that party is divided”. 


POTO likely to be misused, says AICC Secy
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, November 19
Mr K.K. Sharma, Secretary, All-India Congress Committee, while addressing a seminar organised by the District Youth Congress here, yesterday said the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO) were likely to be misused against the Opposition parties. He said there was no need to enact such laws as stringent laws to deal with extraordinary crimes, including military, were already prevalent in the country.

The seminar was also addressed by Ms Tilotama, General Secretary, All-India Congress Committee, Mr Davinder Baboo, President, Punjab Youth Congress, Mr Raman Bhalla, former minister, Punjab, Mr Raghunath Sahai Puri, President, DCC, Mr Lakhmir Singh Randhawa, former MLA and others.

Later, talking to mediapersons at the residence of Mr Rajinder Saini, Secretary, PPCC, he said the candidates who had strong chances of winning would only be selected for the forthcoming Assembly elections.


Cong begins making lists of aspirants
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 19
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee has started the process of preparing lists of aspirants for the party ticket for various constituencies in the coming state Assembly elections.

The general secretary of the PPCC, Mrs Lakhwinder Kaur Garcha, said today that party activists should submit their applications on the prescribed form by December 7 at the party office here.


SAD betrayed Punjabis: Cong
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 19
Punjab Pradesh Congress Media Committee Chairman Sant Ram Singla today accused the Shiromani Akali Dal of betraying the people of the state by not raising the long-pending demands of the state during the visit of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to Amritsar yesterday on the occasion of a function organised to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

In a statement here, Mr Singla said the people were hoping that the Prime Minister would announce the acceptance of long-pending demands of the state, including transfer of Chandigarh and Punjabi speaking areas to the state and more river waters for it.

The Congress leader said colossal wastage had occurred in holding the functions.


Chohan for amending Constitution
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, November 19
The Khalsa Raj Party (KRP) today advocated that the Indian Constitution should be amended to incorporate the right to self-determination for all states.

Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan, president of the KRP, addressing a press conference here today said though the right to self-determination to part with the Union of India was allowed to those states which had been annexed by India after Independence, but the same had been withdrawn by amending the Constitution in 1956.

He urged all Akali factions to fight the forthcoming assembly elections unitedly to ensure defeat to the Congress, which according to Dr Chohan, was responsible for Operation Bluestar. “I will meet the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, to urge upon the need for Panthic unity. I will also meet the leaders of different Akali factions, including the president of SAD (Amritsar), Mr Simranjeet Singh Mann, and the former SGPC chief Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, in this regard,” he added.

Regarding the party’s view over the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO), Dr Chohan said the KRP had decided to file a writ petition against POTO in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. “This ordinance can be used to snub the minorities, besides, some of its provisions are in contrary to the freedom of the Press and are highly deplorable” he said.

Dr Chohan said the KRP would not participate in the forthcoming Assembly elections, but the deserving candidates belonging to any political party would be supported to bring a change in the prevailing corrupt political atmosphere in the state.


Five die in mishaps
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, November 19
Five persons died in separate incidents in past 24 hours in the district. Hospital sources said Mr Sham Sunder Mittal, a businessman from Delhi fell from the Dainik Express train this morning near the Patiala Phatak and received serious injuries.

Volunteers of the Sahara Jan Seva took him to the Civil Hospital where he was declared brought dead.

Body was handed over to his kin after a post-mortem examination today.

In another incident Babban (50) a native of Bihar died here today after a brief illness.

He was cremated by volunteers of the Sahara Jan Seva as his family members were unable to do it. An old person (80) died here today.

He was also cremated by volunteers as he had none to look after.

Paramjit Singh (40) of Badal village who consumed pesticide by mistake died at the local civil hospital today.

Relatives of the deceased said that he consumed pesticide mistaking it for cough syrup.

In another case Jasbir Singh, met with an accident on October 30 last, succumbed to his injuries at the Government Medical College, Faridkot.

He had met with a an accident near his village Jodpur Romana (Bathinda) and his associate Mohinder Singh had died on the spot, hospital sources said.


Mann for CBI probe into Channi-Chief Secy links
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 19
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and MP from Sangrur, today demanded a CBI probe into the alleged links between Mr N.K. Arora, Chief Secretary, Punjab, and Mr Charanjit Singh Channi, an alleged land-grabber of Jalandhar.

Mr Mann alleged that “friendship” between Mr Arora and Mr Channi was against bureaucratic norms and the rules of the IAS. Honouring of Mr Arora by the alleged land-grabber showed that Mr Arora might be hand-in-glove with the land sharks, he further alleged.

Mr Mann also said the Prime Minister’s November 18 visit to Amritsar had not proved politically fruitful for Punjab. He said Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, Prime Minister, had not touched any of the issues related to the Punjab problem including transfer of Chandigarh and other Punjabi-speaking areas to Punjab. He also said the Prime Minister had also not announced anything for the rural people.

Mr Mann also asked the Union Government to declare ceasefire in the Jammu and Kashmir in the month of Ramzan. He said human rights’ violations should also not be done there.

Mr Mann also urged the Prime Minister to initiate political process with the Kashmiri people as military operations were no solution to the problem of Kashmir.

The SAD (A) leader also exhorted the Union Government not to go ahead with POTO in Parliament as it was being condemned not only by the Press and the political parties but also by the National Human Rights Commission as it would curb the rights of the minorities and the Press.

Mr Mann also demanded participation of all Afghan viewpoints including the Northern Alliance and Pashtuns in the post-Taliban government. He said the government there should be formed under the supervision of the United Nations.

Mr Mann also said how could India play a secular role in Afghanistan when it was being governed by Hindu Fundamentalist forces like the RSS-BJP.


Cooperative sector backbone of economy”
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, November 19
“Only state cooperative institutions have advanced loans to the tune of Rs 2,532 crore to farmers, which comprises 60 per cent of institutionalised credit, at low interest rates of 12 to 13 per cent, which no other commercial or non-commercial institution in the country have. Even commercial banks have started our policies”, said Mr Suresh Kumar, Registrar, Cooperative Societies, after laying the foundation stone of the ‘Sehkarta Bhavan’ while addressing a massive gathering here yesterday as part of the ongoing celebrations of the co-operative week.

He said that besides this, co-operative institutions were providing DAP and urea fertilizer to farmers at the rate of Rs 419 and Rs 216, the lowest rates in the country, whereas the centre government had fixed the rates at Rs 445 and Rs 230. He said that the department had done this by getting a rebate on bulk purchases from manufacturers.

Advocating the idea for construction of such Bhavans, he said in order to avoid unnecessary harassment to farmers and to provide them with all facilities under one roof, as a common delivery point, such a Bhavan would be developed in all districts of the state, from where all the 18 co-operative departments would operate.

He said top priority of the department was the agriculture sector. Kissan cards had been issued to farmers through these banks. Farmers had also availed Rs 785 crore in the form of Revolving Cash Credit Limits and in special settlement schemes; relief worth Rs 22 crore had been given to 32, 344 members of co-operative institutions. He said an effort to give boost to co-operative banks in urban areas was being made for non-farming sector and other related areas. He said that a new scheme of ‘Sehkari Shehri Awas Yojna’ was also being introduced in the State this week.

Stressing the need to strengthen the cooperative movement in the State, he said that honesty, transparency, better co-ordination among employees and the management and better infrastructure for the co-operative institutions was required. He emphasised that there was need for reforms in the sector.

Highlighting the achievements of the department, he said that the process of computerisation had started in all co-operative banks in the State and the record of the past 15 years were being computerised. He said that the issues relating to compound interest rate and B-class membership were also being resolved. He said that during the past year, a dividend of Rs 18 crore had been distributed among the farmers.

He said only state co-operative Sugar Mills, had made all payments of the purchased sugarcane to farmers, whereas private mill-owners were yet to do so. He revealed that all co-operative mills were running at a profit in the State in spite of the fact that they purchased sugarcane from at one of the highest rates of Rs 100 per quintal in the country. These sugar mills benefited the farmers to the tune of Rs 540 crore. He said that all 14 Sugar Mills crushed a record quantity of 375 lakh quintal of sugarcane during the current year.

He said that the co-operative mills had sugar stock worth Rs 300 crore and that there was a great demand for Verka ghee in the international market and the co-operative department had exported milk products worth Rs 62 crore to foreign countries.

Mr Vikas Paratap, Deputy Commissioner, in his address appreciated the role of co-operative institutions in the district and said that the share of co-operatives in the credit sector and in different systems of agriculture inputs was to the tune of 67 per cent. He said during the past year, the Fatehgarh Sahib co-operative, through its 114 societies and 4 PAD banks, had made advancement to the farmers worth Rs 95 crore. He stressed the need for quality production to compete with international producers after the WTO. He assured that the Sehkarta Bhavan would be completed in record time.

Dr S.K. Batish, Deputy Registrar, said that Fatehgarh Sahib was the second district of the State where Sehkarta Bhavan is being constructed.


Thrashing of SDO: stern action sought
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, November 19
Members of the PSEB Engineers Association of Bathinda circle, condemned the beating up of SDO and other staff members of PSEB office Dhuri, when they visited a house during a checking of power theft.

Mr H.S. Sidhu, SDO cantonment Bathinda in a press note issued here today said that a meeting of the association was held at officer’s club of local Thermal Colony today.

He added that the association demanded strict action against those involved in the thrashing of PSEB employees.

He added that the association also demanded from the PSEB management to make special arrangement to put a stop to such incidents.

Staff members on checking duty should be provided security. Separate police stations should be formed to handle the cases of power theft so that quick action could be taken against guilty persons, special adalats should be organised to settle the pending cases of power theft.

He added that the association had suggested to the management to make provision to install the power metres on the outside wall of households and replace the old metres with electronic metres.

The association criticised the recent decision of management to reduce the posts of officer and employees of the PSEB to decrease the travelling allowance, telephone calls and vehicles. He said that association would oppose these decisions.

He said that the PSEB was wasting crores of rupees on building guest houses, without proper infrastructure and planning, construction of power houses was taking place with unnecessary but costly equipments.


Memorial to Army martyrs soon: Deputy Commissioner
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, November 19
A memorial to the Army martyrs of the district who sacrificed their lives while defending frontiers of the country would be raised on the premises of Sainik Bhavan, being constructed at a cost of Rs 20 lakh, said Mr Vikas Partap, Deputy Commissioner, while addressing a quarterly meeting of the District Welfare Board here today.

The Deputy Commissioner asked the Deputy Director, Sainik Welfare Board, to take up the case with authorities concerned to get the construction work of Sainik Bhavan resumed at the earliest. Mr Vikas Partap directed the officials concerned to accord top priority to the implementation of various schemes launched by the state government for the welfare of the Armymen, ex-servicemen and their families in the district. He also directed the officials to accord due respect to the ex-servicemen in their offices.

The Deputy Commissioner said that an amount of Rs 52.25 lakh had been disbursed under various schemes, out of which Rs 29 lakh were given to five families of Kargil martyrs of the district as ex gratia and other benefits and Rs 15 lakh were given as financial assistance to 27 families of martyrs who sacrificed their lives before January 21, 1999, or became handicapped during that period. He further said that a financial assistance of Rs 3.89 lakh was given to 213 ex-servicemen who were above 65 years of age and were not getting pension.

He said the government was issuing special identity cards to ex-servicemen. Till date about 5578 such identity cards had been issued under the scheme, he said.

He presented four sewing machines to widows of ex-servicemen and six cheques of Rs 5,000 each were given for the marriages of daughters of ex-servicemen.

Capt Kessar Singh, Deputy Director, Sainik Welfare, said during this year Flag Day fund amounting to Rs 1.53 lakh was collected for the welfare of ex-servicemen in the district. He said the board was also extending proper guidance and assistance to the ex-servicemen in getting employment.

Among others who attended the meeting were Mr Nirbhai Singh, SDM, Khamanon, Mr Tejinder Singh Dhaliwal, SDM, Fatehgarh Sahib, Mr Rupinder Singh, District Employment Officer, and Col Shamsher Singh (retd), a member of the board.


Pooja first girl from district to join Army
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, November 19
Pooja Mehra, a local resident, has done the people of the area proud by becoming the first woman of the district to get commissioned in the Army. She is one of those 45 women inducted under the 18th WSES course and passed out from the Officers Training Academy, Chennai.

On September 1, Lieut-Gen H.R.S. Kalkat, General Officer Commanding-in-Charge, Eastern Command had reviewed the passing out parade at the academy and expressed the hope that women officers in the Army would soon serve at the front.

While talking to this correspondent, Pooja Mehra said fighting at the front along with men would be a great honour for women. She said woman cop, Ms Kiran Bedi, was the inspiring force behind her success. She had been a fan of Kiran Bedi since childhood, though she never got an opportunity to meet her, she added.

She said she did her graduation from the local Khalsa Girls College and completed her MBA from IMS, Dehra Dun. She felt great respect and charm for the profession, she added.

She also undertook many assignments in modelling for two years. But later, she quitted the field to pursue studies. She is also a good painter and still devote time to her hobby.

Pooja said she was very happy that her dream had come true and the Almighty gave her a chance to serve the nation. She was also preparing for the IPS examination, she added.

Mr Vijay Mehra and Ms Usha Mehra, parents of Pooja, said they were proud of their daughter.


Pen-down strike by health staff
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 19
Members of the district unit of the Punjab Health Department Subordinate Offices Clerical Association led by Mr Balwant Singh Saini, district unit president of the association, today observed a pen-down strike and sat on a dharna in the Civil Surgeon’s Office complex here.

They are agitating against the alleged illegal appointment of senior assistants in the Health Department, made by the Director, Health and Family Welfare, Punjab, under “political pressure”.

The strike affected the functioning of the Civil Surgeon’s Office as no medical examination of new entrants to the government jobs was conducted due to the strike, according to Mr Balwant Singh Saini.

Mr Saini said the post of the senior assistant was filled through promotion on seniority basis from the clerical staff. But now the Director had filled two posts of senior assistants through direct recruitment by violating all norms, he alleged.

He also demanded that appointment of senior assistants, made by the Director by violating the norms, should immediately be cancelled and these posts should be filled through promotions.

Meanwhile, Mr Jagdev Singh, state unit general secretary of the association, said a state-level rally would be organised on November 24 at Lambi, the Assembly constituency of the Punjab Chief Minister, by the Punjab Health Department Employees Action Committee to expose “irregularities” in the Health Department and get the demands of the employees accepted.

He said the employees would also observe a pen-down strike in the state on November 20 to put pressure on the government to cancel the orders of the senior assistants.


2.5 acres for ‘Maharaja panorama’
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 19
The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has put to rest a major controversy by agreeing to allot a 2.50-acre plot in the Ram Bagh Golden Complex for setting up a panorama in memory of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Earlier, the Department of Culture had chosen a 10,000-sq yard plot on Mall Road, opposite the Ram Bagh gardens, which was owned by the municipal corporation but the decision generated a hue and cry from councillors at a meeting of the House, forcing the government to abandon its decision and provide land in the Ram Bagh Complex itself.

The Vice-Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Mr Tarlochan Singh, said the state government had given the go-ahead to the Department of Culture to start the construction immediately after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee laid its foundation stone yesterday. It will be built at a cost of Rs 9 crore and the funds will be provided by the Centre.


250 PSEB employees hold rally
Our Correspondent

Dhuri, November 19
Nearly 250 PSEB employees held a rally in front of the office of their Senior Executive Engineer here today.

The employees were protesting against the police for not arresting Baljit Singh and Malkiat Singh who have been booked by the Dhuri police under Sections 333 and 353 of the IPC along with four others, for allegedly beating up Mr S.R. Vashist, AEE, City Subdivision, Dhuri and Junior Engineers Surinder Singh and Bhup, Singh when they allegedly “caught” Surinder Singh for theft of power during a routine checking here on November 8.

They condemned the beating up of the officers of the PSEB by the culprits, when they were on duty. They also criticised the police for not arresting the remaining two accused.

Mr Balbir Singh, DSP, Dhuri when contacted over telephone, refuted the allegations of the protesters. He said four accused in this case have already been arrested by Dhuri police and remaining two accused namely Baljit Singh and Malkiat Singh could not be arrested as they have been absconding.


Sikh council to meet in Dec
Our Correspondent

Patiala, November 19
At a meeting of the World Sikh Intellectuals Council held here, members of the council decided to organise a two-day seminar on various concepts of Guru Granth Sahib at Patiala in the last week of December.

The council also decided to open a Sikh studies centre at the University of Milwaukee (USA) to propagate the basic tenants of Sikhism. A five-member committee was constituted for this purpose under the convenership of Mr Surjit Singh Rakhra, an Akali leader.


Jathedar’s vehicles cost SGPC dear
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 19
Does Giani Puran Singh, Head Granthi, Golden Temple, travel more than other Sikh high priests? The reply is in affirmative after scrutiny of the official record. An official notice of the SGPC points out that the expenditure on petrol from April to September on two vehicles (number 9370 and 4400) allotted to the Head Granthi was whopping Rs 88,891 and Rs 1.54 lakh, respectively, while the maintenance cost during this period was Rs 56,767 and Rs 51,597, respectively. On the other hand, the expenditure on petrol consumed by the vehicles allotted to Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti (number 3355 and 3855) was recorded as Rs 31,812 and Rs 52,012, respectively. The maintenance charges of both vehicles were Rs 20,620 and Rs 8,460.


World Heritage Week starts
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 19
The World heritage week and cultural awareness seminar organised by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Chandigarh circle, stated here today. Inaugurated by the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Narinder Singh, the week started with the photo exhibition by Dr Balwinder Singh, Head of Planning, GND varsity, and release of a brochure depicting photos of national sites and monuments of Punjab.

Mr C. Dorge, Superintendent Archaeologist, ASI, addressed the seminar while Mr Piyush Bhatt, Assistant Archaeologist, gave a demonstration on restoration treatment. He also talked about the role of UNESCO in maintenance of historical works, artefacts and monuments.


Painting contest for kids held
Tribune News Service

Lassara (Jalandhar), November 19
To commemorate the Founder’s Day of Canara Bank, the Lassara branch organised an on-the-spot painting and drawing competition. As many as 30 students of Shaheed Babu Labh Singh Senior Secondary School took part.

Mr Vinay K. Goyal, Manager, advised the students to inculcate the habit of saving for a better tomorrow. He also informed them of the dream of social banking that their founder A. S. Pai had and how the bank was realising it through various schemes.

Navdeep Singh of Class X topped the contest while Gurpreet Kaur (Class X) was adjudged second and Kuljeet (Class VIII) third.


BKU backs farmers’ stir in Maharashtra
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 19
The Bharti Kisan Union (BKU) headed by Mr Bhupinder Singh Mann has expressed its solidarity with the agitating farmers of Maharashtra.

In a statement issued here today, the BKU spokesman said that a meeting of the union representatives from Punjab and Haryana was held here in this connection. 


DRME office may review policy
Tribune News Service

Patiala, November 19
The Punjab Research and Medical Education Department may review purchase policy following allegations that had purchased non essential items in bulk for the Faridkot Medical College and was in the process of making more such bulk purchases for its other colleges in Amritsar and Patiala.

The Director, Research and Medical Education (DRME) has called principals of all three medical colleges and those of the Dental and Ayurvedic Colleges and Deputy Medical Superintendents of the two tuberculosis hospitals in the state for a meeting at Chandigarh tomorrow to review the purchase policy.

The office of the DRME has been criticised for the purchases it made. The Punjab Nurses Association recently gave list of non-essential items like 15 quintals of broom sticks and 3000 bed sheets purchased for the Faridkot Medical College Hospital which were not needed immediately. Besides this the department had been accused of purchasing phenyle at the rate of Rs 40 per litre while it was freely available in the market for Rs 20 per litre and giving orders to Weavco, manufacturing of carpets and bed sheets, to supply plaster of paris bandages.

The DRME office, which has still to make the bulk of the purchases for year 2001-2002 for all the three medical college in the state is likely to modify purchase policy according to the needs of the respective institutions, according to sources.

The DRME office is also likely to come in for flak due to its current policy of being passing tenders of various companies. According to sources while technical and financial aspects of all tenders were sealed separately and that financial envelope was to be opened only if a company’s bid was technically correct, the same was not being done with the office going in for opening both technical and financial envelopes together. Besides this, there is resentment in Patiala and Faridkot colleges as employees from both institutions are being used to fulfil the tender opening and selection formalities even though they do not have any experience in this regard.

Sources said the current purchase policy had failed miserably to cater to the needs of the medical colleges.

They said purchases were being made in November, nine months after the start of the year. They said this was being done despite the fact that the budget for all three medical colleges had been split into four quarters and that the purchases should also have been made on quarterly basis.

Meanwhile, the money collected by the medical colleges by admitting Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) still has not been handed back to them in full for utilisation.

The Patiala Medical College, which collected Rs 5.29 crore through NRI funds since the past three years, has only been able to utilise Rs 19 lakh from this amount, according to sources.

The government while introducing NRI seats in medical colleges and enhancing the fee structure in hospitals attached to these had promised that the funds so collected would be placed at the disposal of the institutions to be used for improving infrastructure or other needs. 


New SSP takes charge
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, November 19
Mr Parampal Singh Sidhu assumed charge as SSP of the district on Monday. He was earlier SSP Amritsar and has replaced Mr H.S. Saran, who has been posted as SSP Amritsar.

Later attended a meeting of the district police officials and directed them to work honestly and dedicatedly. He said the police would give top priority to solving the problems and redressing the grievances of the public.

He also urged people to come forward with their grievances without any hesitation. He assured transparency in the working of the police and warned that the corrupt would not be spared.


2 booked in cheating case
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 19
The local police has registered a case under Section 420 of the IPC against Amandeep Singh and Surinder Kaur, the purchaser and the seller, respectively, of the land on which a school in the name of Baba Vishavkarma is reportedly situated here.

The case was registered in the wake of a protest rally held by local residents under the banner of the “Baba Vishavkarma Mandir-School Action Committee”, headed by Mr Arvinder Singh. It protested against the alleged “wrong” registration of the land in the name of Mr Amandeep Singh by holding a rally, protest march and submitting a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner in October this year. Taking action on the memorandum, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Sarvjit Singh, ordered an inquiry into the matter by a senior officer of the administration.

On the report of the inquiry, the SSP, sought opinion from the Deputy District Attorney (Legal) who opined that after going by the report of the District Revenue Officer, a prima facie offence of cheating and fraud was made out against the seller and the purchaser of the land, so the local SHO, might be directed to register a case under Section 420 of the IPC.


Three booked in milled rice case
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, November 19
Gurpreet Singh, Jaswinder Singh and Paramjit Kaur, who were partners in a rice mill they had taken on lease, have been booked under Sections 406, 409, 420 and 120-B of the IPC for their alleged involvement in misappropriating milled rice worth Rs 1 crore belonging to government agencies.

Police sources said the three accused, who had taken the rice mill on lease from Mr Jagjit Singh for a few months, had been booked on a complaint made by the latter.

The sources said the accused had misappropriated the milled rice despite an undertaking that they would not violate any norms fixed by the government agencies.


Burglars strike again, Rs 1 lakh stolen
Our Correspondent

Patiala, November 19
In yet another incident of burglary almost Rs 1 lakh was stolen from house number 26, Doctors Enclave, on Saturday. Mr Ashoo Tuli , owner of the house, while talking to this correspondent said no one was at home at the time of the robbery as his parents had gone out for dinner . He vaulted the gate and found that the front door had been forced open. He could also hear noises coming from within.

The robbers, however, managed to escape by the time he called up his neighbours and parents on his mobile phone. On entering the house he found that the almirah had been broken open and cash worth Rs 50,000 and jewellery worth the same amount was missing.

Mr Tuli further informed that the jewellery items had been left on the table presumably in haste by the fleeing robbers . An FIR has been registered. In view of the recent robberies the police has decided to form village level defence committees as colonies on the outskirts of the city are more vulnerable.

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