Friday, December 28, 2001, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Badal ready for ballot war
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
Mr Parkash Singh Badal has completed his round of interface with the SAD-BJP grassroot workers. He had a date with Gurdaspur today.

The rendezvous was the official residence of the Chief Minister. It became a beehive of activity, political and administrative, since his return after an orthopaedic surgery from New Delhi on December 9. The first district unit to call on him, the very next day, was Ropar. Despite constraints, Mr Badal did not let his physical health come in the way of his meetings with officials, common people, jathedars and karyakartas. Consequently, security in and around the house was beefed up and a “langar” put up for the waves of workers, who descended either for his “darshan” or for seeking favours. Several lodged complaints against the leaders and bureaucrats ruing that orders had not been implemented.

Unfazed by the demanding visitors, Mr Badal would sit for long hours listening to them and attending to their collective or individual problems and needs. There were no ugly scenes, no stampede, as people waited their turn to be frisked and questioned before being allowed in. They would stand or sit cross-legged on the back lawns listening to the speeches (these became a routine and repetitive for the media) and occasionally raising slogans of “Zindabad” and “Bole so nihal”. The earthy wisdom of the rustic jathedars conveyed in the folk idiom would cause loud applause and peels of laughter.

Having attended a couple of district meetings the SAD President addressed every day, it transpires that Mr Badal refreshed the memory of the workers asking them to forgive and forget minor issues. He asked them to concentrate on major achievements of the five-year SAD-BJP governance, the steps taken for Punjab's economic development (agricultural and industrial), measures to introduce social engineering through “shagun” and pension schemes, concessions to the urban and rural poor and welfare schemes for the scheduled castes, message of communal amity and benevolence shown by Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee in meeting Punjab's needs — financial, foodgrains' procurement (with remunerative minimum support price) and, of course, bicentenary celebrations of coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

His favourite punches were reserved for the Congress blaming its long (mis)rule for all the ills that today afflicted Punjab. The ills ranged from creating a communal divide to corrupting and criminalisation of politics, economic ruin resulting in religio-social tensions, depriving Punjabis of their capital (Chandigarh), territory, water and, of course, nurturing terrorism that burdened the state with huge debt.

He would call upon all political parties and individuals, including “our own people” (meaning breakaway Akali factions), who were committed to “defeat” the Congress to join SAD-BJP to “save” Punjab from the “evil eye” of the Congress.

But the seamy side of these district meetings was the occasional outburst against the ministers and MLAs, who had ignored the organisational wings and created horizontal and vertical divisions and fissures for vested interests and in the process harming the institution, the SAD-BJP.

A sampling of the old bickerings or working at cross-purposes by the MLAs during the February 1997 elections and thereafter, was given today by Gurdaspur district President, Mr Sucha Singh Langha, a minister, when he openly admitted engineering the defeat of fellow candidates in 1997. It was left to faceless workers to stand up and tell Mr Badal to rein the ministers and MLAs not to “use” workers, who were loyal to the party. The internecine war had cost SAD dear in Sangrur in 1997.

Mr Badal, on his part, asked the jathedars and karyakartas to do their home-work well and tell voters of the importance of SAD-BJP returning to power. He assured a fair and free poll urging that more than the candidate, it were the symbols — SAD's scales and BJP's ‘kamal’ that should carry conviction and weight with the party men during the campaign.

The under currents of irritants as also the competitive politics within and between the coalition partners were quite discernible. There were occasions when sitting MLAs showed off their strength. On all days, one saw Christians, Muslims, Dalits, ex-servicemen and, of course, women turn up.

The mini-mela folded up today with groundnut and 'reoriwalas' also making their exit.


First list fails to enthuse SAD workers
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 27
Feeling demoralised due to the injury of their star campaigner and party chief Parkash Singh Badal, SAD workers are now feeling that the Chief Minister has tried to play safe by relying on incumbents for ticket for the Assembly elections.

The SAD has renominated Finance Minister Kanwaljit Singh and ministers Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpur and Raja Narinder Singh for the Banur, Ghanaur and Rajpura seats, respectively. The party has so far announced only these three nominees even though there are eight Assembly seats in the district.

Though the renomination of Capt Kanwaljit was expected, there was stiff resistance to the candidature of both Mr Mukhmailpur and Raja Narinder Singh at the grassroots level and the party is expected to take a hard stand on the issue of Mukhmailpur with former PSSB Chairman Jasdev Singh Sandhu’s son, Tejinderpal Singh Sandhu, holding meetings in the Ghanour constituency to press his claim for ticket.

The candidature of Mr Tejinderpal is being taken seriously in party circles because his parents have won from the Ghanour Assembly seat five times. However, party sources said the proximity of Mr Mukhmailpur to Ms Surinder Kaur Badal, wife of the Chief Minister, had tilted the scales in his favour. The sources Ms Badal had, during a visit to the house of the minister recently, assured his supporters that the ticket would be given to him.

As regards Raja Narinder Singh, he was facing stiff challenge from Mr Darshan Singh Alohran, son of Shiromani Committee member Rattan Singh Alohran, and Mr Manjit Singh Lassi, a local party worker. Detractors of the minister were arguing that it was not safe to allot the ticket to him as he was close to Mr Ravi Inder Singh of the Panthic Morcha. However, the inability of the Badal group to ensure a clean victory of a candidate of their choice in a seat where SHSAD president Gurcharan Singh Tohra has a strong presence, resulted in the renomination of Raja Narinder.

The SAD is also in a bind in connection with four other seats of Shutrana, Patiala, Dakala and Samana, with only the Rajpura seat being a certainity for the BJP from where Local Bodies Minister Balramji Das Tandon is expected to contest. All four seats were held by Tohra loyalists and the party is still to decide its candidates.

The seats of Shutrana, Samana, Dakala and Patiala were held by Mr Gurdev Singh Sidhu, Mr Jagtar Singh Rajla, Mr Harmail Singh Tohra and Mr Surjit Singh Kohli, respectively. While Mr Gurdev Sidhu has been attending functions of the SAD, his loyalty is still suspect and two other candidates Mr Nirmal Singh and Mr Labh Singh are in line for ticket. In Dakala there are three prominent candidates — former MP Charanjit Singh Walia, Mr Tejinder Singh Sandhu and Mr Gurwans Singh Punia. In Samana, the ticket is likely to go to Mr Surjit Singh Rakhra who had unsuccessfully contested the last Lok Sabha elections on SAD ticket.

In case of the Patiala seat where any Akali nominee will have to face PPCC President Amarinder Singh, the party is still undecided. The seat was earlier held by Tohra loyalist Surjit Singh Kohli. While Improvement Trust Chairman’s son Inder Mohan Bajaj is being touted as party candidate, the sources said the party was also considering leaving the seat to the BJP or getting a relative of former Akali stalwart Master Tara Singh to contest the seat.


Jor Mela concludes
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 27
The three-day annual Shaheedi Jor Mela concluded here today amid religious ceremonies.

To mark the concluding ceremony, a nagar kirtan was taken out from Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib to Gurdwara Jyoti Swarup Sahib after an ardas by Giani Baldev Singh, Head Granthi, Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib. More than five lakh devotees accompanied the nagar kirtan while the Panj Piaras led it. School bands, gatka parties, Nihangs, kirtani jathas, Sukhmani Sahib Sewa Societies and various social, religious and political leaders accompanied it. The main attraction was the martial arts skills shown by the Nihangs and gatka parties.

The palanquin carrying Guru Granth Sahib was placed on a decorated four-wheeler. Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, Giani Puran Singh, Head Granthi, Darbar Sahib, Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar, Takht Kesgarh Sahib, Giani Kewal Singh, Jathedar, Takht Damdama Sahib and Singh Sahib from Takht Patna Sahib performed the duty of “chaur sahib”. Porf Kirpal Singh Badungar, President, SGPC, was also present.

The palanquin was followed by Jathedar Gurcharan Singh Tohra, former SGPC President and other leaders. The Head Granthi performed the concluding ardas at Gurdwara Jyoti Swarup Sahib.

Addressing the gathering, the SGPC President urged the sangat, particularly the youths, to get baptised and follow the teachings of the Gurus.

Another attraction of the mela had been a light and sound programme, “Sirhind ki Dastan”, organised by the Public Relations Department. During the mela, more than 300 langars were arranged by various panchayats and youth clubs.

Addressing a Press Conference, senior police officials and Mr Vikas Partap, Deputy Commissioner, expressed satisfaction over the successful conclusion of the mela. They said no untoward incident had been reported. They said it was for the first time that no gambling, dance and music stalls were allowed.


Fernandes visits forward areas
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, December 27
The Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, visited the forward areas in this sector along with the Vice-Chief of Army Staff and other senior Army and BSF officials to take stock of the preparedness of the forces to meet any eventuality. The visit was kept a secret.

Mr Fernandes visited the frontier areas and held a series of meetings with the Army commanders and BSF officials. According to reports, the whirlwind tour of the Defence Minister was aimed at conducting a final recce of the defence preparedness before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) takes any decision on launching an offensive.

Mr Fernandes visited the joint checkpost of the BSF and the Pakistani Rangers near the zero line of the Indo-Pakistan border. He took salute from both Indian and Pakistani guards and distributed sweets among jawans. Mr Fernandes, who was here for almost four to five hours had an informal chat with the jawans. The minister exhorted the Army and BSF officials to be prepared to give a bloody nose to the enemy if the need arose.

According to information, the BSF is ready for the hotwar operations. Sources revealed that the BSF would not be withdrawn but redeployed at different strategic locations along with the Army. Highly placed BSF sources revealed that the BSF was competent to meet any misadventure on part of the enemy till the Army took over from it.


Channel breach submerges 3,000 acres
Rs 2 crore spent on repairs recently 
Raj Sadosh

Dodewala (Abohar), December 27
Efforts to plug 100-ft wide breach in the link channel were intensified last evening with the help of farmers from the affected villages after a futile wait for bulldozers, which were to arrive from Taranagar (Churu District). The breach was reported on Tuesday in between RD 103-104 but the irrigation officials of Punjab and Rajasthan took no notice, farmers said.

Initially the breach was hardly 19 ft it widened as the discharge of water measuring 1,800 cusecs continued. The channel had been recently repaired at a cost of Rs 2 crore by the Irrigation Department of Rajasthan to make alternate arrangements for supplying canal water to the farmers and drinking water reservoirs during the six-month closure period of the reconstruction of Gang Canal, sources said.

Leaders of the Farmers Sangharsh Samiti, Rajasthan, had been demanding that the discharge in the link channel should be increased to capacity as the water supply was not sufficient for sowing wheat and other crops in Sriganganagar district. The farmers had gheraoed the office of the District Collector, Ms Kiran Soni Gupta, at Sriganganagar for 18 hours. She had to assure the agitators that the water supply would be increased.

Forgetting the treatment meted out to her few days ago, the District Collector personally supervised the relief and rescue operations till 1.30 am yesterday and flashed messages repeatedly to officials in Punjab for helping the marooned people as Dodewala village falls in Abohar subdivision. Ms Gupta revisited the affected area on Wednesday afternoon along with a social activist, Mr Satya Parkash Advocate, and representatives of the Beopar Mandal, Sriganganagar. They distributed 150 blankets and ration kits to 145 displaced families. Mr Sumer Singh Gurjar, SDM, and Mr Iqbal Singh Sandhu, Tehsildar of Abohar subdivision, were seen mobilising residents of adjoining villages to help the affected persons. Langar was held at religious places.

The Rashtriya Kisan Morcha and other organisations had submitted a memorandum on July 23 alleging large-scale irregularities in the repair of the channel. They had warned that the channel was declared fit for discharge of 3,000 cusecs of water, but it might prove fatal to release even half of that. The morcha had requested the Rajasthan Chief Minister, Mr Ashok Gehlot, on July 28 to order a high-level inquiry into the episode. Even after that the morcha leaders had warned that restraint be observed in the release of water into the link channel.

Farmers said today that at least 3,000 acres of agriculture land in Dodewala and Alipura villages of Punjab and Rajasthan, respectively, was submerged following the breach which created flood-like situation. The road was breached 15-ft wide each to divert the water, a delegation of the BJP from Sriganganagar district told the correspondent. Even now more than 50 houses had been damaged. Mr Gurdas Singh Badal, former MP and brother of the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, visited the affected area last evening. He assured the villagers on Punjab side that special girdawari would be conducted to compensate the affected farmers whose crop had been destroyed.

Irrigation officials from Rajasthan said 60 labourers were working round-the-clock to plug the breach completely with the help of farmers from both sides on the inter-state border. A temporary bundh was being created to check the flow of water to adjoining areas. Residents of Bhagsar, Rajpura, Patli, Karadwala villages, etc. were serving food to affected residents.

Water discharge in the channel had already been suspended. The District Collector, Sriganganagar, asked the ADC (Adm) to probe into the breach incident and explanations had been sought from senior officers of the Irrigation Department. A three-member committee headed by the SDM was formed today to conduct a survey for compensating the farmers of Alipura village, Ms Gupta told the correspondent.


Mann alleges persecution
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
The Akali Dal (Amritsar) chief and MP,Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, alleged today that he was a victim of ruthless persecution of the state and a deliberate attempt was being made again under the already lapsed draconian TADA to imprison him and to keep him out of active politics.

Talking to newsmen here this afternoon, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann said it was because of the continuous crusade of his party against war with Pakistan and “attempts to gag minorities” that the state was after him.

Mr Mann said though he had been acquitted by the High Court or the Supreme Court in 56 cases registered against him during militancy in Punjab, yet the government had dug up his 10-year-old statement in order to “put me behind bars”. The courts have also held that peaceful advocacy of “Khalistan” was no offence.

“The Union Government is bent upon not allowing me to stabilise in my political life. I am a strong opponent of the violent policy of the Union Government. Besides, I openly opposed the demolition of Babri Masjid and courted arrest. I have been opposing any war with Pakistan as Punjab would become the battlefield and Sikhs would have no peaceful place to live in. I have been raising the issue of human rights violations in High Court and Supreme Court because of which many police officers are in jails. The Indian state does not like it.

Mr Mann said that there was no question of any compromise with Mr Parkash Singh Badal and his Shiromani Akali Dal which was supporting repressive measure of the BJP government at the Centre.

He also assailed the SGPC for its failure to raise the voice against killing of Sikh women in Kashmir or doing anything for rehabilitation of Sikh refugees from Kashmir. Even Mr Badal has not said a word about the killing of Sikh women in Kashmir, he added.


Rift in Punjab Cong over convener deepens
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 27
There seems no let up-in the tussle for the post of convener, Punjab Congress Parliamentary Party with the group opposed to Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar today meeting the AICC treasurer Motilal Vora and releasing the copy of letter, signed by six MPs, which has been written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

The group which includes Ms Parneet Kaur, wife of PCC chief Amarinder Singh, maintains that it was for the MPs to decide on the choice of convener and the post has to be rotated among the party MPs. The Congress has eight MPs in the Lok Sabha from Punjab. Mr R.L. Bhatia, MP from Amritsar, is the only other MP who has not signed the letter, which says that Mr Balbir Singh had been elected convener of the Punjab Congress Parliamentary Party as Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar had completed two years in the post.

The party MPs who have signed the letter, which interestingly does not bear a date, include Chaudhary Charanjit Singh, Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, Ms Santosh Chaudhary besides Ms Parneet Kaur and Mr Balbir Singh.

While loylalists of PCC chief Capt Amarinder Singh say that the move for changing the convener was “routine” and its timing as just “incidental”, loyalists of Mr Brar see it as a move to sideline their leader at the crucial stage when party ticket was being finalised.


BJP charts ‘rath’ route
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
The BJP General Secretary, Organisation, Mr Avinash Jaiswal, today unfolded the party’s ‘rath yatra’’ as part of its Assembly poll campaign.

Mr Jaiswal, addressing a press conference, said the ‘’sadbhawna-vikas yatra’’ would begin from Chandigarh holding the first election-rally at Rajpura on December 30. The party, jointly with the SAD, would have held 25 rallies in key constituencies, including one against terrorism in Amritsar on January 6, before finally ending at Nangal on January 11. On entering Punjab it will halt at Gurdwara Amb Sahib in Mohali before proceeding to Rajpura.

Showing confidence of staging a comeback after the February 13 poll, Mr Jaiswal said the number of seats the two partners, SAD-BJP, will contest was not an issue. ‘’Everything will be sorted out tomorrow. The first round was held here on Wednesday’’. Both SAD-BJP have decided to focus on ‘’winnability’’. Working in tandem the yatra will be accompanied by Capt Kanwaljit Singh, SAD general secretary from Chandigarh up to Rajpura, where, he along with Mr L K Advani would address the pubic meeting.

The yatra would be jointly welcomed by SAD-BJP workers at 100-odd places during its sojourn. From Rajpura it will proceed to Ludhiana for night halt and on January 2 will leave for Sangrur and have night halt at Bathinda, the same day.

Fielding several questions, Mr Jaiswal echoed what Mr Parkash Singh Badal has often said about the relationship between the SAD-BJP, ‘’We are like soul and mind in a body’’. The party, he said, had held hierarchical meetings and galvanised the organisation to contesting the Assembly poll on full steam and the yatra will help mobilise the people as well.

Meanwhile, for synchronized functioning and mutual seat-sharing between the SAD-BJP, Mr O.P. Kohli is in the city today. He is the National Secretary and in charge of Punjab BJP affairs. He will flag off the yatra from the party office in Sector 4 on December 30 at 11 am. The BJP President, Mr B.L. Rinwa, Mr Balramji Das Tandon, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Mr Jaiswal are engaged in hectic discussions in candidates and campaign strategies.


CPI alleges misuse of funds, complains to Lyngdoh
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 27
The CPI has brought to the notice of the Chief Election Commissioner the alleged violation of financial and administrative rules by the independent MLA from the Amritsar West constituency, Mr O.P. Soni. The secretary district council of the CPI (Urban), Mr Amarjit Assal, in a complaint to Chief Election Commissioner G.M. Lyngdoh, a copy of which was released to the Press today, said the MLA was disbursing grants for September, October and November in view of the elections.

Mr Assal charged the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, with providing huge funds to the MLA.

Mr Assal said according to the rules, development grants had to be released to the municipal corporation for the execution of projects.

He added that according to reports, Mr Soni had been provided funds to the extent of over Rs 9 crore for which there had been no accountability.

He said the grants were deemed to have been given out of MLAs’ funds, but no such fund had been created in the state.


Councillors for action against MC chief
Tribune News Service

Rampura Phul, December 27
Twelve councillors today urged the authorities concerned to take departmental action against the local municipal council President, Mr Charanjit Singh Jatana for not convening a monthly meeting.

The councillors also refused to approve of the meeting of the councillors held on August 21. They demanded that the election to the post of Vice-President, which had not been held for the past six months, should be held immediately.

Mr Sunil Bitta, BJP councillor, who started a campaign against Mr Jatana, talking to TNS, alleged that Mr Jatana refused to record the proceedings of today’s meeting and challenged the councillors to do whatever they wanted.

Mr Jatana said the meeting of councillors was held after about three months as there had been no agenda which could necessitate a meeting. He claimed that about nine councillors out of a total of 17 attended the meeting and approved of the previous meeting.

Mr Bhupinder Singh, Executive Officer of the municipal council, said 10 councillors refused to approve of the last meeting.

Mr Bitta pointed out that the councillors would not allow anybody to run the affairs of the MC in a dictatorial manner.


Thiara clarifies
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, December 27
Mr Resham Singh Thiara, Senior Vice-President of the SAD (Nawanshahr), in a press note issued here said today that he was a loyal worker of the SAD and would always stand by the decisions of the party President and Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal. He clarified that he had never opposed the candidature of Mr Nand Lal, MLA from Balachaur.


50 ‘birs’ arrive on Samjhauta Express
Our Correspondent

Attari, December 27
A group of Pakistani Hindus, who had come on pilgrimage to Radha Soami Satsang (Agra) and many Muslims returned to their country with heavy heart after meeting their relatives in India, while a jatha of Sehajdhari Sikhs from Sindh in Pakistan brought 50 old volumes of Guru Granth Sahib for their cremation here.

Residents of both countries, have however, opposed the decision of the Indian Government to half the Samjhauta Express from January 1. They feel that instead of halting the train ticklish issues should be sorted out through dialogue.

Beghum Sadika, a resident of Sialkot, said she had gone to Jammu to meet her relatives but she had to cut short her visit due to the decision of the Indian Government to stop the train. Vir Wasvani, a resident of ghorki district (Pakistan) said he was perturbed over the halting of train as he would not be able to meet his relatives again.


Harballabh sangeet mela begins today
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 27
The 126th three-day Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan, the oldest festival of Hindustani classical music in the world, will begin at Shri Devi Talab Mandir from tomorrow.

The festival was started by Baba Harballabh in the memory of his guru, Baba Tulja Giri, one of the great masters of the dhrupad style of Hindustani classical music.

For many years, the festival had remained a congregation of sadhus who would come to Devi Talab Mandir to sing praises of God in a week-long sangeet mela. But later, with efforts of Pandit Tolo Ram, the mela took the shape of a national festival of classical music.

As the fame of the sammelan grew, artistes started coming from all parts of the world to pay homage and seek blessings of great music maestro Baba Harballabh.

Talking to The Tribune, here, yesterday, the general secretary of the Baba Harballabh Sangeet Mahasabha, Ms Purnima Beri, said they had decided to give new artistes a chance to perform in the sammelan instead of renowned artistes. Some of the well known artistes were demanding huge amounts for a single performance, she said.

Several artistes, including Parveen Sultana (vocal), Ronu Majumdar (flute), Mallick Brothers (dhrupad), Sunanda Sharma (vocal) and Ustad Kamaal Sabri, will perform on the first day. Aswini Bhide (vocal), Bhajan Sopori (santoor), K. Upendra Bhatti (vocal) and Anuradha Pal would perform on Saturday, Mr Surendra Seth, vice-president of the mahasabha, said.

Mr Seth said Sanjeev Abhayankar (vocal), Ustad Imrat Khan (surbahar and sarod), Ustad Irshad Khan (sitar), Ustad Nishant Khan (sitar), Ajoy Chakrabarty (vocal), Salil Bhatt (mohan veena) and S.G. Shrikhande (vocal) would perform on Sunday, the concluding day of the sammelan.

Regarding funding of the sammelan, Mrs Beri said that though the Central Government had declared the sammelan a national festival, but had not made provisions for a grant. “We are trying for donations from the industrial houses and music lovers of the city and an estimated expenditure is about Rs 15 lakh,” she added.


World Sikh Council urges Vedanti to give unity call
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 27
In a significant development, the World Sikh Council (WSC) has urged Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, to issue a directive to the warring Akali factions for forging Panthic unity.

In a two-page latter, faxed to Jathedar Vedanti today Mr Jawant Singh Mann, general secretary, urged that rapprochement between different Akali factions was need of the hour in view of the ensuing Assembly election he said disunity in Panthic organisations could bring Congress back to power.

It may be mentioned here that Jathedar Vedanti had already indicated that he could issue fresh directive for forging Panthic unity. However, the earlier directive of Jathedar Vedanti had evoked a mixed response.

This is for the first time that the WSC has sent a written appeal to Jathedar, Akal Takht, for bringing about Panthic unity. Mr Mann said, Mr Didar Singh Bains, Chairman, WSC, and the US-based religious leader Mr Harbhajan Singh Yogi had already talked to leaders of various Akali factions in this regard.

He said it was a matter of great concern that they could not succeed in forging Panthic unity despite best efforts. Hence it was the duty of Jathedar Akal Takht to direct the warring Akali leaders to sink their differences in the larger interest of the Panth.

Mr Mann, however, said the Sikh masses had pinned great hope in the ruling Akali Dal during the previous Assembly elections.

He said the ruling Akali Dal had failed to come up to the expectations of the voters. He said the infighting among various Akali factions had already caused immense damage to the Panth.


Hospital staff go on pen-down strike
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 27
Doctors and paramedical staff of the local Civil Hospital observed a three-hour pen-down strike in protest against the ‘‘goondaism’’ by members of the Anti-Corruption Society, who had staged a dharna in front of the Civil Surgeon’s office two days ago alleging that patients had to pay bribes for better treatment.

More than 200 employees of the hospital urged the Civil Surgeon to ensure that such organisations were not allowed to enter the hospital premises in future.

Dr M.B. Bali, president of the Joint Action Committee, said that the dharna by the society was deplorable.

‘‘We will not allow goondaism in the hospital compound. The Civil Surgeon has to ensure security arrangements within the complex for the staff," he added.

The employees also gave a memorandum to the Civil Surgeon, who assured that the matter would be taken up by higher authorities.


Bhuchu Mandi water samples fail test
Jaswinder Paul Singh

Bathinda, December 27
Although the authorities concerned, including the Deputy Commissioner, has said there is no drinking water problem in Bhuchu Mandi, yet residents are drinking water unfit for human consumption, according to the health authorities.

Sources said out of the four samples of water taken from different parts of the town by the local Civil Surgeon two had failed.

The sources said the Civil Surgeon had written a letter to the Executive Officer of Municipal Council, Bhuchu Mandi, asking him to make necessary arrangements for the supply of safe potable water to the residents at the earliest.

The samples taken from Anaj Mandi and main chowk areas in the town has failed while water in other parts was said to fit for human consumption, according to a report of the health authorities.

Mr A.S. Sidhu, District Health Officer, sewers in the town had got interconnected with said supply water pipes. The problem had been rectified by the civic authorities and there would be no such problems in the future, he assured.

No official of the municipal committee of Bhuchu Mandi could be contacted by the correspondent.

Mr R. Venkatratnam, Deputy Commissioner, said the preliminary inquiry into the allegations of the residents had shown that there was no water problem in the town. He expressed ignorance regarding the report of the Civil Surgeon.


SPs promoted “under pressure”
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 27
There is great resentment over the appointment of two Superintendents of Police as the new DIGs of Ludhiana and Patiala ranger by the Punjab Government here yesterday.

Senior police officials maintain that these “appointments made on the eve of elections have been done under political pressure as one of the officer given the higher position was chargesheeted recently for financial irregularity.

“There was a regular inquiry against him and the inquiry officer indicted him,” they said on the condition of anonymity. They also allege that it was the BJP lobby which got him promoted to a higher position in spite of his serious indictment and without even an ad hoc promotion given to him.


2 Bangladeshis arrested
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 27
The BSF held two Bangladeshi youths while they were attempting to go to Pakistan last evening.

According to reports, the BSF party found two persons who were trying to cross over to Pakistan near Rorawali village. When interrogated they revealed their identity as Pozer (20) and Mukesh (18), residents of Netar Kochwali, district Koumilla there.

A case was registered on the statement of Mr V.B. Mehta, Company Commander 19 bn BSF at Gharinda police station under respective sections.


New PSEB members
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 27
Mr Harjit Singh Sohi, a 1982 IRS (Indian Revenue Service) batch officer took over as member (Finance and Accounts) of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) yesterday.

Mr Gurbachan Singh Bachi who was appointed the Administrative Member of the PSEB, also took charge yesterday.


5 held on charge of killing kabaddi player
Our Correspondent

Abohar, December 27
Five persons wanted in connection with the kidnapping and murder of a kabaddi player, Amrik Singh, have been arrested, the police sources said today.

Mr Sadhu Singh of Bahawwala village had informed the Sadar police station here on December 15 that some persons had kidnapped his son Amrik Singh (21) after calling him to a nearby house. The Rajasthan police had recovered his body from Shivpur headworks of the Link canal, near Sadhuwala village, on December 21. No cloth was found on the body. The police had reportedly observed after the post-mortem that Amrik Singh was strangled before being thrown into the canal.

Official sources today said that Bohar Singh and his second wife, Charanjit Kaur, had disclosed after they were arrested that they had taken the help of Gurmail Singh, Lakha Singh and Gursewak Singh in killing Amrik Singh. They alleged that Amrik Singh had managed to take photographs of Charanjit Kaur in a compromising position. She was lso allegedly having illicit relations with another relative, the investigation suggested. The suspects were annoyed over the alleged attempts by Amrik Singh to blackmail Charanjit Kaur.


Newly born restored to mother, lifter held
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 27
One day after a newly born baby was stolen from the Government Rajindra Hospital by a childless woman after befriending the infant’s mother, the Patiala police today arrested the woman and restored the infant to his family.

The district police had sounded a high alert yesterday when an unidentified woman was able to whisk away a newly born male child after befriending the mother Paramjit Kaur, a resident of Jujhar Nagar.

According to the district police chief, Mr Paramjit Singh Grewal, the kidnapper, who was later identified as Darshan Kaur, told the child’s mother that she was waiting for her sister who was slated to arrive at the gynae ward. Mr Grewal said the kidnapper further endeared herself to the mother of the child and her family by giving Rs 100 as reward to hospital employees after the birth of a male child and remained with the family for another two to three hours.

The SSP said when the mother of the child was being shifted to Ward Number two from the gynae ward, the woman took the child from the mother-in-law of Paramjit on the pretext of holding him and quietly slipped away. He said following this a high alert had been sounded in the district and questioning of all taxi owners and rickshaw drivers in the city started.

He said a clue was received when a taxi owner, Dharampal, told the police that a woman, who was carrying a newly born baby with her, had hired his taxi to take her to Amritsarian da Chak near Samana town in the district.

Acting on the lead Inspector Amarjit Singh of Model Town police post along with Samana Deputy Superintendent of Police Ashish Kapoor were able to arrest the woman from the dera and restore the infant to his mother.


Man shot dead
Our Correspondent

Nabha, December 27
A former sarpanch of Mehr village, Manjit Singh, was yesterday shot dead by some unidentified persons near Punjab Public School, here.

According to the police, Manjit Singh, along with his son, was going to his village on a motor cycle when the car-born gunmen fired at him from point-blank range. Manjit Singh died on the spot.

The police has registered a case under Section 302 of the IPC.


Asst XEN caught red-handed
Our Correspondent

Dhuri, December 27
An Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has been arrested for allegedly accepting a bribe here last evening.

S.P. Goyal posted at Dhuri suburban subdivision, was allegedly caught red-handed by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau flying squad while accepting illegal gratification of Rs 2,000 from Mr Bhupinder Singh of nearby Dhandra village.

According to the Vigilance Bureau, Patiala, Mr Bhupinder Singh had complained that the AEE had been demanding Rs 3,000 from him for releasing a connecting of 5 hp motor under the OYT scheme and the deal was struck at Rs 2,000.


Grant for private colleges released
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 27
The Punjab Government has released a grant of Rs 18 crore for the third quarter of the financial year for 138 private colleges covered under 95 per cent grant-in-aid scheme. A communication to this effect has been despatched to the college authorities by the DPI (Colleges).

The amount covers September, October and November months of the current financial year. It may be mentioned that the Punjab Government gives a lump sum grant of Rs 72 crore to 138 non-government aided colleges for a financial year.

Though commitment for the present financial year is Rs 97 crore in 1999 Rs 72 crore were released as the frozen grant.


FEAR: dept funds misutilised
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 27
The Forum for Educational Action and Reform (FEAR) today claimed that the Correspondence Department of Punjabi University had misutilised a grant of Rs 35 lakh given to it by the Distance Education Council.

In a statement here, forum president Dr Amarjit Singh Dhillon alleged that part of the amount had been “embezzled” by showing enhanced bills for the items purchased by the department. He also alleged that the money was spent by bypassing the central purchase committee of the university as well as the administrative committee of the department.

The forum alleged that the money was spent on luxury items like carpets, air-conditioners and refrigerators instead of creating infrastructure for students. It alleged that thousands were spent on the NAAC team visit and on felicitating the Vice-Chancellor by securing fake bills for the B.Ed entrance test. The forum urged the Punjab Governor, who is also Chancellor of the university, to order a probe into the affair. It also urged the Distance Education Council to conduct a thorough inquiry into the issue.

Vice-Chancellor Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia could not be contacted for comment. However, the central purchase committee (CPC) chairman, Dr S.P.S. Virdi, when questioned, said nothing of the sort had taken place.

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