Saturday, December 29, 2001, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Poll takes back seat as war clouds hover
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Hussainiwala (Ferozepore), December 28
The news of assembly elections in the second week of February in Punjab has not excited villagers here. What is perturbing them most at the moment are the war clouds hovering over them.

They have seen two wars with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 and as the Army build-up has been taking place for the past several days on either side of the international border, at a stone’s throw from this place, the locals say that a conflict appears to be inevitable.

They are not prepared to talk about the elections. Mr Sucha Singh, a nambardar of the Rajo-ki-Gatti village, near the international border, said, “We doubt that elections would be held in Punjab in the prevailing situation at the international border. Our major concern now is to shift our families to safer places and many of us have already sent our families away from the border to our relatives”.

However, people in the villages adjacent to the border seem to be in high spirits. They wanted that this time India should settle the issue with Pakistan for once and all. “We are ready to even fight along with our Army against Pakistan”, they say. In fact, as the DIG of the Ferozepore range, Mr H.S. Dhillon, visited the village on December 26, the locals asked him for firearms for participating in the war, in case it breaks out, against Pakistan. During the Kargil conflict we had to shift our families to places far away from the border”, said Mr Shingara Singh, another village elder.

“This time the Pakistan build-up along this strip of the border is very strong”, say locals. In fact, they were very active on December 24 and 25 but in the past two days they appear to be less active. It may be part of the strategy to deploy the troops”, they say.

Informed sources said Pakistan has put up their army personnel in the uniform of Rangers on watch towers along the international border. Pakistanis have been seen laying mines at a short distance from the international border.

In the 1971 war Pakistan had captured some areas in this belt. Pakistani forces had even destroyed the memorial of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev.


Fog hampers security operations
Ashok Sethi

Somewhere from the border region (Amritsar), December 28
Misty conditions and a thick blanket of fog in the border belt have added to the problems of the security forces manning the frontline defence positions. A visit to the villages on the international border showed, the visibility was almost negligible. The Army jawans were maintaining a vigil through night vision devices in freezing cold conditions to prevent any intrusion by the operatives of the ISI backed by the Pakistan army.

A senior Army officer on condition of anonymity said though the thick fog had hampered visibility, their jawans, with the backing of local villagers were prepared to thwart any attempt by Pakistanis to infiltrate to this side of the border. He pointed out severe cold conditions had also curtailed air surveillance to monitor the movement of the Pakistan army and heavy equipment across the border. He said Pakistan, too, was facing the same problem.

The condition of those who have left their homes was miserable in this biting cold weather. Satnam Singh, who had moved his family to the outskirts of the city, said feeding his family for a longer period would be very difficult as he had left behind his stock of wheat and rice in the village. He said his fields across the fence had been taken over by the Army and he was not sure about when he could be able to return to his fields.

Meanwhile, the schedules of all train, bus and air services have been upset due to foggy conditions in the area. All international and Indian Airlines flights operating from Rajasansi airport have been cancelled. According to a spokesman for a foreign airlines, the flights were likely to be rescheduled depending on the weather during the next few days.


Punjabi hospitality resurfaces
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, December 28
The movement of troops along the Indo-Pak border has fired patriotism among the masses as they have started organising “langar” on roads and started digging bunkers near the zero line.

Though, residents of villages close to the zero line who have been anticipating war, have started shifting to safer places, the men folk who have stayed put, all helping Army personnel in their preparations.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that most of the residents of villages having close proximity to border are ready to pick up guns to support the Army to defeat the nefarious designs of Pakistan. Most of those who witnessed the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars, are ready to make any sacrifice to teach Pakistan a lesson if it (Pakistan) attacks India.

Residents of Raman town and its adjoining villages in Bathinda district have started a round-the-clock langar for troops. They have also made arrangements for packed food for Army personnel.

Mr Pawan Goyal, one of the organisers, said people of this area had been donating flour, sugar, vegetable oil, milk, vegetables and firewoods in large quantity to prepare food for moving troops.

Mr Madan Lal, a dhaba owner near Barnala town in Sangrur district told TNS that he always tried not to charge any money from Army personnel who halt at his dhaba while proceeding towards the border.

Mr Rajesh Vasishit, member of Dost Welfare Society, said banners had been put up to inculcate the spirit of nationalism among the masses also and to motivate them to keep themselves ready for wars.

Mr S.R. Ladhar, Deputy Commissioner, when contacted, said there was no panic among people living near the Indo-Pak border and the district administration was vigilant and keeping-watch on the situation.


Indo-Pak tension worries Dhaliwal
A.S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
Mr Herb Dhaliwal, Canadian Minister for Fisheries and Oceans, has expressed concern over the growing tension between India and Pakistan and asked the two countries to sit together to work out a solution to their problems.

“We in Canada are deeply concerned over the current rise in tension between the two neighbouring countries”, he said in an interview with TNS. “There cannot be a military solution to the problems, whatever they might be. Therefore, it will be best for the leaders of India and Pakistan to come together and try to resolve their differences”.

“It is a very unfortunate development. The two countries have been in existence as separate, independent entities for more than 50 years and they should have been able to resolve their differences by now”, he observed.

He said the time had come for Canada to re-engage India. Canada was one of the largest development aid donors to India before the nuclear blasts in 1998. Now that things were getting back to normal, it was time for the two countries to resume their normal ties. He disclosed that his current visit to India was only the first this winter by a Canadian Minister. Many other Canadian dignitaries would be visiting India over the next couple of months, he said later in an interaction with mediapersons at a reception hosted this morning at the residence of Dr Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, a professor of Panjab University.

Mr Dhaliwal said Canada recognised the problems caused by the phenomenon of terrorism and was now part of the world coalition in the war against terrorism. Its role was, however, confined to intelligence sharing so far. Canada had also enacted a tough anti-terrorism law. As a vocal advocate of human rights, he was trying to make sure that it contained adequate provisions for checks and balances.

He said that the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in the USA was a very horrifying event. However, there was no big backlash against the minorities in Canada. There were isolated incidents of attacks on Sikhs mistaken for Muslims but these were nothing compared to what had happened in the USA. Mr Dhaliwal said this was so because Canadians were much more aware about the history, culture and background of the Sikhs than their American counterparts.

He said during his current visit, he planned to meet the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and discuss a scheme to develop and modernise at least 10 villages in Punjab. The scheme could be funded jointly by the Canadian Government, the large Punjabi community in Canada and the Punjab government. “We are very keen that the villages in Punjab should be provided with better sanitation, health care and roads and streets”.

Mr Dhaliwal was appointed the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans by the Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Jean Chretien on August 3, 1999. Mr Dhaliwal was born in Chiheru, Punjab, in 1952 and came to Canada at age six with his family, not speaking a word of English. He grew up in Vancouver South-Burnaby where he attended Sexsmith Elementary, Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School, John Aliver Secondary School and Langara College, He graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of British Columbia in 1977 where he was active in student politics. Following his graduation from university, Mr Dhaliwal started a small business in the basement of his house — this one-man building maintenance company eventually expanded to employ 500 persons in various enterprises. He has, he says, done every job you can think of, from gas jockey to taxi driver.

Mr Dhaliwal has the rare distinction of being the first individual of Indian origin to hold a ministerial position in a Western democracy. In June, 2000, Mr Dhaliwal was an honorary guest in New York City at a dinner for former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, organised by the International Punjabi Society. He spearheaded the creation of a commemorative postage stamp to celebrate 100 years of Sikhs in Canada, in conjunction with the tercentenary of the Khalsa in April, 1999.

Mr Dhaliwal was first elected to the House of Commons in 1993, representing the federal riding of Vancouver South. In 1997 he was re-elected, representing the redistributed riding of Vancouver South-Burnaby. As a Member of Parliament, Mr Dhaliwal was Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and served on the Steering Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and the Standing Committees on Finance and Fisheries and Oceans. He also served as the vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Health and the Task Force on Aquaculture and was the chair of the British Columbia Liberal Caucus and the Northern and Western Liberal Caucus. He was appointed the Minister of National Revenue in June, 1997, where he served until August 1999. He and his wife, Amrit, have three children: Andrea, Justin and Jessica.


In hurry to board last bus
Our Correspondent

Wagah (Amritsar), December 28
With the last bus services scheduled to operate tomorrow between India and Pakistan, people were in a hurry to board the last bus before the cancellation of services becomes effective from January 1.

The Pakistani bus which arrived this morning mid heavy fog, running three hours behind schedule, carried 31 Indian nationals while only six Pakistanis came to proceed to Delhi.

Similarly, the evening Indian bus carried all Pakistani nationals returning to their homeland after cutting short their visit.

Mohammed Faizal from Lahore, who arrived this morning, said he had some urgent work so he risked to undertake the journey and would like to return tomorrow. Expressing his dismay over the decision of the Indian Government, he pointed out that a large number of Muslims living in both countries had century-old relations and it was not possible to meet one another without any other means of transportation.

Another Pakistani not wanting to be identified said India and Pakistan were poor nations as large amount of funds were being diverted on defence while a majority of people remained poor. He appealed to leaders of both sides to work for the welfare of their citizens and not to create war hysteria.


Mela echoed with Badal’s name
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 28
His physical absence notwithstanding, Punjab Chief Minister and President of the Shiromani Akali Dal Parkash Singh Badal, was the rallying point at all political rallies held in this historical town yesterday.

Though gatherings at political conferences during such major religious melas are hardly any indication of the popularity of a political party, yet certain star political performers, however, have proved over the years that they are crowd-pullers. Both Mr Badal and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra belong to this rare breed of politicians.

A thick envelope of fog, an overcast sky and chill in the weather were no deterrents as the town witnessed a sea of humanity on the first day of the three-day mela. Pandals of the major political parties, including SAD, Panthic Morcha and Congress, were put up in the close vicinity of the historical gurdwara where two Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh were buried alive.

While the major attraction at the pandals of the SAD and the Panthic Morcha were the political exponents, it was a folk singer at the Congress pandal who captivated the audience till the state leadership of the party arrived late in the afternoon.

If turnout was any indication, the show by the SAD and the Panthic Morcha was impressive. What the Dal conference missed was its star performer, Mr Badal.

Whereas the Congress and the Panthic Morcha leadership targeted Mr Badal, the SAD-BJP leadership made Mr Badal the rallying point of their speeches, and projected him as a hero, crediting him with the overall development of the state and getting the farmers their rightful due.

Interestingly, Mr Tohra refused to sit next to certain leaders of the Panthic Morcha who targeted Mr Badal and gave a slogan to rid the state of his governance, maintaining that the Chief Minister had only one-point agenda that was to project his son and family.

The SAD-BJP leadership was supported by the Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, who said because of his cordial relations with the Prime Minister, the farmers not only got an impressive hike in the minimum support price but had each grain of their produce procured by state agencies.

The ruling alliance conference focussed more on cordial relations between the Centre and the state and the overall development of the state. The other parties lashed out at the ruling alliance accusing it of corruption, misgovernance and one-man “misrule”.

Though Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, Bibi Jagir Kaur, Mr Madan Lal Khurana, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder and others tried to make up for the absence of Mr Badal, a substantial section of the crowd turned to the Panthic Morcha rally to listen to their second hero, Mr Tohra. It may be a mere coincidence that four SGPC chiefs, former and present, were present at either of the venues.

It may be because of the absence of Mr Badal that most of the senior leaders made brief appearances, leaving the SAD pandal immediately after their speeches while at other conferences, the leaders stayed till the end. At the Congress rally, only a handful of state leaders turned up. Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar were conspicuous by their absence.

The Akali Dal leadership maintained that its pandal, which was bigger than those in previous years, was overflowing throughout the conference and the crowd responded well. It decided not to target any individual leader either of the Panthic Morcha or the Congress but did not miss any opportunity to target “anti-Punjab and anti-Sikh” policies of the Congress.


Akalis complete full five-year term
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

As one punches the computer keys to capsule the key events of 2001, one is reminded that this is the last year of the SAD-BJP combine’s five-year term. Therefore, it will be appropriate to have a quick run of its five-year rule, recapitulating what stands out and what is outstanding.

The period under review dates back to February 1997 when the SAD-BJP alliance scored an impressive win in the Assembly elections. Mr Parkash Singh Badal was sworn in on February 12. The euphoria was followed by a procession of please-all and populist political promises. Then came the unforeseen bureaucratic wranglings following appointment of Mr R.S. Mann as Chief Secretary and Mr Bikramjit Singh as Principal Secretary, making it difficult for the political executive to strike an equation with a flustered administration.

The complexities of the administrative and financial realities were compounded as the new political masters began to settle down to “wield power” having remained in the political wilderness for 17 years. Though riding high on the crest of popular wave, Mr Badal lost no time in reaching out to the Opposition seeking cooperation to reconstruct a shattered economy and resurrect the social fabric through “consens” rather than “confrontation”.

The following year (1998) was marred by religio-political turmoil, price rise, crop damage and a train accident (over 200 passengers were killed near Rajpura). The year 1999 saw more administrative and financial problems. For agriculture, however, it was a good year. If the Khalsa tercentenary pleased the government, the subsequent Lok Sabha election results gave the ruling coalition a jolt because just a year earlier it had trounced the Congress. There were in all seven Assembly byelections between May 1997 and February 2001. The SAD-BJP won five seats and the Congress two. The opposition had boycotted the Rajya Sabha election that saw Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal elected defeating Mr Manjit Singh Khehra.

Religio-political issues continued to cast a shadow through 2000. The year also saw the ignominious exit of the first woman President of the SGPC, Bibi Jagir Kaur, following “murder” of her daughter. In addition the case of “disqualification” of 11 Akali MLAs in the “court” of the Speaker continues to drag. Though, the rule of the law, by and large, prevailed so did the incidents of kidnapping, killing, rape, custodial deaths etc.

The most outstanding event of the five years was the Akalis completing their first-ever full term; thanks to a friendly NDA government in New Delhi. The personal rapport that Mr Badal enjoys with Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, and Mr L. K. Advani, enabled Punjab to sail through difficult financial times. The economic slowdown is now acknowledged. Capt. Kanwaljit Singh can take legitimate pride in having presented five consecutive budgets, though, the state was not out of the financial wood.

But for the SAD-BJP equation, farmers would have faced a crises. It was Mr Badal and his Haryana counterpart, Mr Om Parkash Chautala, who together worked out strategies to ensure the Centre paid a remunerative minimum support price for foodgrains to farmers and it was quickly procured. It is a different matter that due to faults in the public distribution system, godowns are choked and storage has become a major problem.

Despite religio-political, administrative and financial crises, ardent efforts were made to build a strong, viable infrastructure to recharge the Punjab economy. The finances were diverted for development. And the non-performance of 70-odd public sector undertakings, including boards and corporations caused setbacks. In the case of at least 37, the government’s financial involvement is deep by way of equity (Rs 3,000 crore), loans (Rs 4,500 crore), or guarantees (Rs 8,900 crore) for securing loans.

The major concern of the government remained (and, perhaps, would remain) balancing revenue receipts and revenue expenditure. There continues to be a heavy outgo on salaries and wages, pensions, debt-servicing due to indebtedness, expenditure on education, police and health. Free power and water for farmers were followed by sops and concessions to business, trade and industry and lastly, abolition of octroi. The canvass of development stretched by the government in the past five years is large. Today Punjab has a population is 2.42 crore, living in 157 towns and 12,729 villages. One aspect that worries demographers is the low sex ratio: 874 females for 1,000 males.

The CM’s “sangat darshan” programme though mired in controversy and court cases, enthused the people. Big educational and industrial projects that had been sanctioned or were under execution had a long gestation period. But when completed these would change the socio-economic scene, provided financial support remains steady. Dedication of the Thein Dam was a major achievement.

These years also saw serious concern being expressed on the future of agriculture with the shadow of the WTO over it. Though the Akalis decided to approach the Supreme Court but did not, they are taking the credit of creating a national awareness that saw India take a strong stand in Doha. Likewise, concern was expressed as much on the need for diversification of agriculture, value addition to farm produce as taking care of the village children and youth, who face a dark future.

The year also saw the bicentenary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, celebrated with gusto with Mr Vajpayee attending the concluding function at Amritsar on November 18, where he announced a Rs 1,500 crore bonanza — for urban water supply, sewerage, housing city slum dwellers, Shahpur Kandi project, four-laning of Jalandhar-Wagha road and a software park.

The tide of time is ruthless. Since Punjab economy is a mosaic of sighs and smiles, proper housekeeping by politicians and bureaucrats is needed for sustainable growth and development. But it is primarily for the Punjabis, given their spirit of resilience, to ensure they elect a government that was sympathetic, transparent, effective, responsive, responsible, corruption-free and accountable.

The present year — 2001 — also saw acts of sacrilege involving the burning of Guru Granth Sahib allegedly by the followers of Baba Piara Singh Bhaniara, now in jail.

Much to the chagrin of the breakaway Akalis, Mr Badal continues to hold complete sway over Panthic issues, religio-political affairs and administration. The entire Opposition remains in disarray. In its absence, the Vidhan Sabha passed two important resolutions: One condemning the attack on the Golden Temple in 1984; and two, the “massacre” of the Sikhs following assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi. The suspension of 21 Opposition MLAs for the entire Budget session this year created history. The SAD-BJP ruled the roost bulldozing its way through rules and regulations. At times ending up in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which quashed several major decisions: the most important being the Anandgarh project that was to have come up on 1000 acres spread over 29 villages.

In less than two months, (February 13) Punjab will have a tryst with destiny. The future of Punjab lies in the hands of the people, who must understand that today Punjab stands on the precipice of economic disaster. Therefore, only a collective responsibility of all will usher in the new year, full of new hope and promises.


A year of “Captains” and Badungar
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 28
The year 2001 belonged to the “Captains” of this district. Finance Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh started the year on a happier note. He later started concentrating on his constituency in the wake of internal wrangling in the party, the other captain, PPCC chief Capt Amarinder Singh, consolidated his hold over the party with the blessings of the party high command.

The other highlights of the year were the emergence of an ordinary party worker — Kirpal Singh Badungar — as President of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), besides a hurry to launch and complete a number of major projects at the fag end of the tenure of the SAD-BJP government. The holding of several disciplines of the National Games was the major sporting event in the city.

Capt Kanwaljit, who had started the year at the peak of his power after having got the better of former SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra who had considered Patiala as his fiefdom during the first two years of Akali-BJP rule, got down to the micro-level in between with a view to defending his Banur constituency seat effectively. For Capt Kanwaljit retaining his seat is essential if he is to stake claim to the chief ministership of the state in the event of an Akali-BJP victory in the forthcoming elections. Accordingly, Capt Kanwaljit held a series of functions in the constituency targetting various communities to build a strong mass base.

For Capt Amarinder Singh, the year saw him firmly in the saddle as PPCC chief. He was given a free hand by the party high command to rein in dissidents.

Though the emergence of Kirpal Singh Badungar as president of the SGPC was largely seen by political sources as a reward by party president Parkash Singh Badal, it was also the first time that an ordinary party worker achieved such dizzy heights. Mr Badungar, who also served as Officer on Special Duty to the Chief Minister, was in news before his appointment as SGPC chief for the largesse shown by the management of the local Khalsa College which demolished a part of its college boundary wall to facilitate a marriage in his family.

The year saw Punjabi University and its Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, in the grip of a controversy. The erstwhile teachers association of the varsity submitted a memorandum against the Vice-Chancellor to Education Minister Mohan Lal which was accepted and an inquiry also ordered into it. The Vice-Chancellor on his part, made out a case of plagiarism against the minister and the imbroglio was resolved after the personal intervention of the Chief Minister.

The Akali-BJP government woke up to the need of development in the last year of its reign during which a number of major development projects were initiated. These include overbridges at Dera Bassi and Rajpura at a cost of Rs 10 crore and Rs 8 crore, respectively, broadening of the Patiala-Rajpura road stretch and the construction of a mini secretariat at Patiala at a breakneck speed. Besides this, large amount of money were released for various development work at the grassroots level through a number of sangat darshan programmes and a flurry of developmental activity started immediately.

The city also saw hosting of the National Games during the course of which athletes from the district particularly Rajini Sharma who bagged three gold in gymnastics and Vishal Kumar, a carpenter’s son, walked away with a gold in the archery event without the help of any fancy equipment.


Assembly staff taken unawares
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
The decision to convene a special session on December 31 to meet a constitutional requirement has caught the Punjab Vidhan Sabha staff unawares.

So much so that most of the members of the Watch and Ward staff are on leave to exhaust their quota of leave. There are some who are availing themselves of the Leave Travel Concession.

As such a special request has been sent to the security wing of the Punjab police to make available at least 80 men and officers to perform the duty of Watch and Ward staff.

Even the Secretary of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, Mr Nachhattar Singh Mavi, is currently out and is expected back tomorrow. The Speaker, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, and the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, too, were not in the town this evening. Mr Mittal had reportedly gone to Uttar Pradesh because of a family function. The Speaker was expected to return from New Delhi late tonight.

Though the legislative experts believe that the session has been convened only to avert a constitutional crisis as the constitution of the next Vidhan Sabha was not possible before February 22. The results of the Punjab Assembly elections would be declared on February 24. And it may take some days before the new Vidhan Sabha could be constituted.

The last session of the state Assembly was held on August 22 and constitutionally, the next session has to be held within six months i.e. before February 22.

Interestingly, once the model code of conduct is introduced, the State Legislature cannot transact any important business. Though the experts maintain that obituary references and condemnation of terrorist attack on Parliament would be the probable items for the one-day session, the business to be transacted during the December 31 session is yet to be finalised.

Meanwhile, the absence of Mr Mittal from the crucial joint meeting of the SAD-BJP leadership on seat adjustment here this evening was viewed with great interest.

The SAD and the BJP unanimously agreed on their existing share of 23 seats for the BJP and the remaining for the SAD with a joint appeal to the Chief Minister and President of the SAD, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, to consider allotting additional winning seats to the BJP.

The first meeting of the sub-committee was held on December 26. The decision on seat adjustment was supplemented by the joint stand taken by the alliance partners to treat the Congress not only as its main opponent in the coming Assembly elections but also for treating as “enemy number one of the Hindu-Sikh unity and for damaging the socio-political fabric of Punjab.”

In the last elections, the BJP had contested 23 seats. Though the BJP would contest the same number of seats this time also but there may be minor adjustment as a seat contested by the BJP in the last elections may go to the SAD this time and vice-versa.


House to meet on Dec 31
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
The 11th Punjab Vidhan Sabha will hold its 13th session here on December 31, according to an official spokesman.

The session has been convened to fulfil a constitutional obligation. The House will meet in the afternoon. Most likely, it may be a one-day affair.


Finance Dept told to withdraw order
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, December 28
The Chief Minister, Mr Prakash Singh Badal, has asked the Finance Department to withdraw its directive aimed at recalling states employees from the Bhakra Beas Management Board. Sources told TNS that after the publication of news item regarding the issue in The Tribune, Mr Badal directed the Chief Secretary to withdraw the said directive of the Finance Ministry.

Earlier, in a move that could have eliminated the quota of Punjab employees in the BBMB, the Finance Ministry, Punjab, directed all department concerned of the state to recall their employees who had either completed five years of service in the BBMB or had just two years left for retirement. If the department concerned followed the directive of the Finance Ministry, it could have resulted in the elimination of the quota of employees from Punjab in the BBMB and consequently the states control over this major power and irrigation project.

At present only about 1200 employees from the irrigation, finance and power wings of Punjab are serving in BBMB against the state's share of about 8,000 employees. All these employees would have been recalled had the directive of the Finance Department been implemented.


Punjab Cong poll panel meeting today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 28
The screening committee of the Congress for Punjab, which is to decide the party’s candidates for the forthcoming assembly poll, will meet here tomorrow. AICC Treasurer Motilal Vora, who is in charge of Punjab, said at tomorrow’s meeting the committee members would talk to all members of the Punjab Congress Election Committee over the choice of candidates. The Punjab Congress Election Committee had yesterday unanimously decided to leave the task of selecting candidates to the Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Mr Vora said the screening committee would give its recommendations to the Congress Central Election Committee headed by Mrs Gandhi for final approval of the candidates. Besides Mr N.D. Tiwari and Ms Margret Alva, tomorrow’s screening committee meeting would be attended by PCC chief Capt Amarinder Singh and CLP leader Chaudhary Jagjit Singh. Since the Congress has not yet taken a final decision on seat adjustment with the Left parties, the meeting of the screening committee may extend beyond tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the ticket aspirants are camping in Delhi in large numbers in an effort to present their case before the high-command. Talking to TNS, some of them said in case the “locals” were not given ticket, the party could face problem of rebel candidates.


BJP to focus on ‘Punjabi ekta’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
The BJP national secretary, Mr O. P. Kohli, in charge Punjab affairs, has held prolonged election-related discussions with the state president, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, ministers, Balramji Das Tandon and Madan Mohan Mittal and general-secretary (organisation), Mr Avinash Jaiswal, here in the past two days. He has also reviewed the strategy on the sharing of seats with the SAD.

Mr Tandon told TNS that the consensus was on a “joint’’ SAD-BJP campaign with focus on “Punjabi ekta’’ and reconstructing the state economy. This will also be the main poll-plank during the “sadbhavna-vikas yatra’’ beginning on December 30.

The BJP state election committee would meet in Ludhiana on January 1 to finalise the list of probable candidates for the Assembly poll and forward it to Delhi for release. The same day the election manifesto would also be discussed. The BJP was of the opinion that ‘the ‘winnability’’ of SAD-BJP candidates should be the main factor, irrespective of how many seats the two parties contested. This is its stand despite its loud protest over the release of the first list by the SAD.

Both Mr Rinwa and Mr Tandon separately talked to Mr Parkash Singh Badal during the day today on the sharing of seats, probable candidates and the campaign strategy.

Mr Tandon referred to the “economic’’ agenda the Congress had talked of at the Jor Mela at Fatehgarh Sahib. He reminded the PPCC president, Capt Amarinder Singh, of the report of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, part of the foundation headed by Ms Sonia Gandhi. That survey of 18 states, done on behalf of the Confederation of Indian Industry, had given full marks to Punjab for its “conducive atmosphere for investment’’.

He pointed out that Punjab ‘s economy could be reconstructed only through infrastructure development, administrative restructuring and creating avenues for self-employment.


Election scene hots up
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 28
The election scene in the district has started warming up with the announcement of dates for the coming Assembly elections by the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) late last evening.

Though the Congress high command is yet to declare the names of its candidates from the Bathinda, Rampura Phul, Pakka Kalan and Nathana Assembly segments, yet confidants of ticket aspirants have started holding meetings in their respective areas. The aspirants on the other hand, are camping in Delhi to meet the top leadership.

By announcing the names of candidates from the Assembly segments of Rampura Phul, Bathinda and Nathana, the Chief Minister and SAD President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has spurred the workers to prepare for elections.

Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, Science and Technology Minister, renominated from Bathinda Assembly segment, has been holding corner and village-level meetings for the past six months and has also inaugurated a number of projects in the rural and urban areas falling in his constituency.

Mr Garg, who never faced serious allegations in his term as minister, is trying to neutralise the anti-incumbency factor, saying that there was nothing against him on which candidates of other parties could cash in. His son, Mr Rajan Garg, along with a team, is also canvassing for him.

The Power Minister, Mr Sikander Singh Malooka, who has also been renominated from the Rampura Phul Assembly segment, faces tough opposition from another party leader, Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar, who wields considerable influence in the area.

Mr Kangar, who has given indications time and again that he will contest as an independent candidate against Mr Malooka, can upset the calculations of the SAD leadership.

A close relative of Mr Malooka has also been helping Mr Kangar for the past one year in his mission. Even Mr Badal has appreciated the efforts of Mr Kangar to widen the base of the party among the masses.

Mr Harminder Singh Jassi, former minister, who is the only candidate declared by the Congress high command for Talwandi Sabo, has almost covered all pockets of his constituency during his campaign. Besides, village-level meetings, Mr Jassi has also been going from door to door. However, he faces competition from those who have deserted him.

Mr Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu, who unsuccessfully contested the last elections from the Talwandi Sabo Assembly segment as SAD candidate, is also trying for ticket. He has been maintaining contacts in the constituency for the past five years.


Panthic Morcha to contest all seats
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 28
The Panthic Morcha has decided to contest all 117 seats in Punjab. A crucial meeting of the morcha was held today at Mansooran, near here, under the chairmanship of its convener, Baba Sarabjot Singh Bedi.

Well placed sources said today’s meeting, besides finalising the list of candidates, also decided the share of ticket to be allotted to the constituent groups. The SHSAD-led by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra is learnt to have laid claim on the maximum number of seats, followed by the Akali Dal (Amritsar).

The meeting was attended by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann and Mr Charan Singh Lohara, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, Mr Ravi Inder Singh and others. The list of candidates will be released before December 30.

The sources said the Panthic Morcha had finally closed its doors on the SAD and there was no scope of unity. They claimed the morcha leaders had preferred to stay out of power than compromising with principles.


Mann warning on war
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 28
The Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) chief, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, today warned the government against war with Pakistan, saying it would shatter the country’s economy and lead to disaster. He criticised the BJP for “creating war hysteria for its vested partisan interests”.

Talking to The Tribune here today, Mr Mann observed that people in the country, particularly those in the border states like Punjab, were not in favour of war. He suggested that India should deal with the situation diplomatically.

He alleged that the BJP-led government at the Centre was keen to go in for war as “they wanted to make money out of it”. He said: “Like in Kargil war, where they made money out of the coffins, they want another war, so that they can make more money because the BJP is basically a party of traders only”.


SAD rebel Kangar to contest against Maluka
Tribune News Service

Rampuraphul, December 28
Rebellion formally raised its head in the Shiromani Akali Dal today when a senior leader of the Youth Akali Dal and a former member of the zila parishad, Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar opened his election offices at three places in this Assembly segment after publically declaring that he would contest the coming Assembly elections against the state Power Minister, Mr Sikander Singh Maluka, who has been renominated by the party from this seat.

Mr Kangar, who enjoyed the confidence of the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and a former Union Minister, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, before he threw his hat into the election arena, also addressed a huge rally in the historic Mehraj village. He opened his election offices at Bhai Rupa, Mehraj and Rampuraphul.

Mr Kangar got huge appreciation from the party leadership for his work during the Sarbat Da Bhala-Chardikala march taken out on the eve of the tercentenary celebrations of the birth of Khalsa. He was also instrumental in the victory of Mr Maluka in the previous Assembly elections. After few years, Mr Kangar and Mr Maluka parted company.

People today took Mr Kangar to Mehraj village in a procession comprising about 400 vehicles. The procession, which started from Kangar village, was first taken to Bhairupa village and then through Rampuraphul to Mehraj. The people kept raising slogans in his favour. At Mehraj village, he was first weighed against coins. The people gave him Rs 1.6 lakh today. Mr Paramjit Singh Maluka, nephew of Mr Maluka, was also accompanying him.

Mr Kangar, who has been distributing notebooks and sewing machines to the poor and organising sports meets in various villages to wean away the youths from the evil of drug addiction, while talking to TNS said that come what may, he would not withdraw from election arena.

He added that he had jumped into the election arena on the insistence of the people so that their long-pending demands could be met and they could get rid of atrocities being committed on them by those who had acquired “wealth” in the name of service in recent years.

He hoped that in the coming elections good would score a victory over evil and said he had already toured the entire constituency twice in the past few months with an encouraging response from the people.

He said supporters of different political parties, who had faced humiliation in the past five years and lived under a constant fear of atrocities, were extending their support to him. He declined to comment on whether he would throw his weight behind Mr Badal if he won the election.


CEC’s directives hasty: YAD
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, December 28
Mr Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, newly appointed president of the Youth Akali Dal (YAD), today declared that the executive of the youth wing of the SAD would be constituted within 10 days after getting a directive from Chief Minister and SAD President Parkash Singh Badal. Talking to newspersons, he said every section would be given due representation in the executive.

Refusing to comment on the Chief Election Commissioner’s (CEC) directives to the Punjab Government for transferring two Deputy Commissioners, he however, said the CEC appeared to have acted in haste. He added the Akali Dal would honour the directives.

Mr Dhillon said the Youth Akali Dal would not demand a share in tickets for the Assembly elections.

Circle Akali Dal president Gurmukh Singh, and secretary-general Jatinderpal Singh Palahi presented siropas to him.


Pasla to field candidates

Jalandhar, December 28
Expelled CPM member Mangat Ram Pasla today decided to field his candidates in the February 13 Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections.

In a statement Mr Pasla alleged that CPM General Secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet, who desired a Congress victory in the elections, was trying for an alliance with it.

Mr Pasla, along with certain other senior CPM members, were expelled from the party on disciplinary grounds and Mr Surjeet at the two-day delegates session of the party at Garhshankar had ruled out taking the expelled members back into the party fold. Mr Pasla had responded by holding a impressive public rally here and threatening that if the CPM did not revoke its decision, he would be forced to field his own candidates in the Assembly poll.

Mr Pasla further said that his party would forge a united front with the Left, democratic and secular forces in Punjab to dethrone the “corrupt” and “communal” SAD-BJP alliance and prevent the bourgeoisie Congress from regaining power. By ‘his party’ Mr Pasla meant his group which he claims to be the ‘real CPM’ opposed to the policies of Mr Surjeet. UNI


Valmiki Samaj to back SAD-BJP
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
Valmikis, led by Mr Vijay Danav, president Valmiki Samaj, thronged the Chief Minister's residence and committed their firm support to Mr Parkash Singh Badal on Thursday night vowing to defeat the Congress in the ensuing Assembly elections.

Making a firm resolve to propagate the achievements of the Badal government and the policies of the Shiromani Akali Dal, the samaj gave an assurance that its members would work for the victory of the SAD-BJP combine.

Mr Badal said that his party had always striven for the uplift of the weaker sections, especially Valmikis with a view to bringing about social equality in society. Various steps were taken in the past five years for the benefit of the Scheduled Castes and to restore their honour and dignity in society. He said these included free power for domestic use up to 50 units per month to Scheduled Castes families and the disbursement of Rs 83.42 crore among 1.63 lakh Scheduled Castes and Christian girls at the time of their marriage as “shagun”.

Mr Badal reminded them that the grant for the construction of new dharamshalas had been increased from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh and for the repair of old dharamshalas from Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000. Ambedkar Bhavans had been constructed at 10 district headquarters and work on another seven was under progress.


NCP to contest 32 seats
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 28
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will field its candidates from 32 constituencies in the Punjab Assembly elections.

Mr Anil Gupta, NCP spokesperson and president of the city unit, said in a press note issued here today that the decision in this regard was taken by the Political Affairs Committee at a meeting last week.

He said the party would contest from Joga (Bathinda), Bhadaur, Dhuri and Sangrur (Sangrur), Mansa (Mansa), Ludhiana Rural, Ludhiana North and Dhaka (Ludhiana), Jalandhar and Nakodar (Jalandhar) Patiala, Ghanaur and Rajpura (Patiala), Sirhind (Fatehgarh Sahib), Batala (Gurdaspur), Tanda, Hoshiarpur, Sham Chaurasi and Garhdiwal (Hoshiarpur).

He said the decision about other constituencies would be taken soon. He said the constituencies where the party would not field its own candidate, it would support the candidates of a secular party.


SCs remain homeless despite assurance
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 28
Even as the Punjab Chief Minister has instructed the authorities to implement all welfare schemes for Scheduled Castes at the grassroots level, the district administration has failed to provide grants to them for the construction of their houses in the past two years.

More than 500 SCs belonging to Ghugg, Bara Chota Pind, Dugri, Bakhu Nangal, Bhikha Nangal villages in the district had applied for a grant of Rs 20,000 each for the construction of houses. Though all village panchayats had passed the resolutions and forwarded their cases to the district administration for sanction of grants, but the authorities had failed to release the amount for reasons best known to them.

The Sub-Divisional Magistrates concerned had also visited the places to verify the authenticity of the claims, last year and assured the applicants that the grant would be sanctioned soon, but the indifferent attitude of the officials had virtually rendered the applicants without shelter, alleged Mr Kashmir Singh Ghugshor, secretary of Pendu Mazdoor Union, Punjab.

“I had applied for a grant of Rs 20,000 with the authorities two years ago after my kutcha house got damaged during rains in 1997. Subsequently, the BDPO and the SDM visited my place and assured to release the grant on priority basis, but nothing concrete has been done despite the assurances”, Karma of Kartarpur alleged.

The administration has not even distributed allotment letters of 5 marla plots to more than 450 Scheduled Caste residents of Sunarkalan, Dugri, Pharwala, Udhowal, Lambapind, Lohgarh, Pabwa villages in the district. The Deputy Commissioner, Mr K.Siva Prasad, was not available for comments.


Terrorist victims' long wait
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 28
It has been a long wait for victims of terrorist violence in Punjab. There are 1,500-odd such young boys and girls whose fathers were killed during the rule of the gun. Though promised a government job, the wait for one continues despite interviews and selections by various departments.

This is the story of 30-odd such boys of Amritsar and Gurdaspur alone, who were in Chandigarh today to meet the Chief Secretary, Mr N.K. Arora. Clutching crumpled papers — their selection letters — these boys were specially brought here by the BJP MLA from Amritsar, Mrs Lakshmi Kanta Chawla.

She said several of them — at least 24 — were selected as patwaris some six months ago but their training would commence only in May, 2002. The training was for one year. That meant the selected persons would virtually remain “jobless” because there was no stipend during training. Then there were those who got selected in municipal corporations and ITIs. But they were not getting appointment because there was no money to pay their salaries.

These boys had been on dharna in Amritsar to focus attention of the state government on their plight but to no avail. Several officials concerned with relief and rehabilitation had visited them and the boys followed up such visits and assurances with correspondence and personal visits. Yet there was no response. “The only course available now is public interest litigation”, added Mrs Chawla.

Such cases were covered under the “priority” clause but even where recruitment was being done in health, cooperatives, Rural Development and Panchayats etc, there was no room for these hapless victims. In fact, there was no office of the Relief and Rehabilitation Department at the district level, though there was a minister and secretary and other top-heavy establishment. The workload was shouldered by the SDMs, who had no time for such victims.

The other victims presented to the media at Punjab MLA Flats by Mrs Chawla were widows, victims of terrorists. Their monthly pension was a meagre Rs 2,500. It was only recently that payment had become regular. Otherwise there used to be a gap of up to six months. The main demand of these widows was that the pension should be linked to the price index or enhanced to at least Rs 4,000 per month. The rules and regulations were such that there seemingly was more hardship than smooth sailing for these victims, who also met the Chief Secretary.

Several promises held out by the government in terms of relief, rehabilitation, interest-free loans etc, were not fulfilled in the case of these widows, who were finding it difficult to run their homes.

Mrs Chawla clarified that the giving of financial relief or jobs to such victims was not covered by the code of conduct operative since December 26, the day the Election Commission of India announced the Punjab Vidhan Sabha poll.


HC quashes clerks’ appointment
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, December 28
The future of the 53 clerks, working at present in the Deputy Commissioner’s office here, whose services have been quashed by the high court under Article 226 of the Constitution has become dismal. The high court has ordered that all those who had applied for the posts vide an advertisement published in newspapers on July 14, 1992, will be given another chance.

When Fatehgarh Sahib was declared a district by the then Beant Singh government, posts of 53 clerks were advertised in the newspapers and the qualification for recruitment was matriculation with second division, a written test and a typing test to be followed by an interview. The list of selected candidates was challenged by Mr Rajinder Singh and others in the high court. They sought quashing of the appointments. Now the court has declared the appointments as illegal.

The court, in its order, has mentioned that the selection and appointment of the respondents are declared illegal and quashed. It has directed the Deputy Commissioner to make a fresh selection by interviewing the candidates who had applied for selection in pursuance of the advertisement published in the newspapers on July 14, 1992. The process of selection shall be completed and appointments of the selected candidates made within a period of six months. Till then, the respondents shall be allowed to continue on the present posts. However, it is made clear that they shall not be entitled to get the benefit of experience gained on the basis of illegal appointments, the court said.

The leaders of the union of these clerks said they would file an appeal in the Supreme Court as after nine years’ service, they had become overage. Moreover, they had joined their present posts after resigning from other departments.


Bank employees hold protest
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 28
On a call given by the Cooperative Bank Employees Federation, Punjab, employees of the Patiala Central Cooperative Bank today held a demonstration in front of the bank’s headquarters and observed a two-hour pen-down strike. Addressing a rally, general secretary of the state federation, Mr Malinderjit Singh, and General Secretary of the union Balwinder Singh urged the Managing-Director of the bank to implement their already accepted demands.

The demands of the employees include implementation of pension scheme, end to direct recruitment for the post of Assistant Manager and release of wheat loan and festival loan.


Punjabi Tribune Deputy Editor bereaved
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 28
Mrs Pritam Kaur, mother of Punjabi Tribune’s Deputy Editor Dalbir Singh, died here yesterday. Bhog and “Antim Ardas” for the peace of departed soul will be held on December 30 at 1.30 p.m. at their residence in Arjan Nagar, here.


Bhattal bereaved
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 28
Mr Jaswant Singh Sidhu, father-in-law of former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, died at the official residence of Mrs Bhattal at Chandigarh today.

Family sources said the mortal remains of Mr Sidhu were taken for cremation to his native village of Changaliwala. The sources said Mrs Bhattal, who was in Delhi, rushed to Changaliwala to take part in the cremation. The pyre was lit by the grandson of Mr Sidhu.


Panel to frame foodgrain policy
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 28
The Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Civil Supplies, Mr Shanta Kumar, today said the Central Government had constituted a committee of experts to frame a new foodgrain policy.

Talking to reporters at Circuit House here today, Mr Shanta Kumar said the committee, headed by Prof Abhijit Sen, would submit its report to the Union Government next month. “Since the prevailing foodgrain policy in the country has become irrelevant due to increase in the production of foodgrains across the country, we have decided to make comprehensive changes in the policy. Now the country is facing the problem of plenty, which has forced the policy makers to come out with a new policy, which can provide better returns to the farming community,” the minister said.

The country had witnessed an alarming rise in import of oilseeds from 3 per cent to 40 per cent in the past five years. There is a great need to educate the farming community to go in for such crops which can yield maximum profits for them. The committee of eminent agricultural and economic experts will examine all factors related to diversification and procurement before submitting its final report”, Mr Shanta Kumar added.

The minister said they had slashed the levy sugar quota from 40 per cent to 15 per cent in the first phase.

Regarding ongoing tension on the Indo-Pak border after the December 13 attack on the Parliament building, Mr Shanta Kumar said time had come to give befitting reply to Pakistan for its evil designs.

Mr V.K. Singh, Regional Manager, FCI, said they had initiated departmental inquiries against 350 officials of Punjab region for allegedly committing irregularities in the procurement and storage of foodgrains. “We have suspended 35 FCI officials of Shahkot township for their negligence in providing proper storage to the procured foodgrains, which resulted in damage to more than 200 MT of paddy”, he said.


17 BKU (Ekta) activists detained
Tribune News Service

Kotda Korianwali (Bathinda), December 28
As many as 17 activists of the BKU (Ekta), including two women, were taken into preventive custody in this village when they allegedly tried to disrupt a religious function organised by the village panchayat, which was being presided over by the Punjab Power Minister, Mr Sikandar Singh Malooka.

Mr Jhanda Singh Jethuke, president, BKU (Ekta), Bathinda district unit, alleged that the police resorted to mild lathi charge on the activists who tried to raise some questions before Mr Malooka. Mr Jagjit Singh Gill, DSP, Rampura Phul, however, denied the allegations. He claimed that the arrests were made to maintain the law and order.

Mr Jethuke alleged that a number of activists, including five women, were bundled into a vehicle by the police when they tried to ask Mr Malooka about the government action over the killing of two Dalit youths in the police firing in Jethuke village about two years ago, also about the action taken against those who resorted to a lathi charge on the BKU activists in Maiser Khana village and the steps being taken by the government to compensate farmers whose cotton crop had been damaged by American bollworm.

He added that first the police detained the BKU activists in a local dharamshala and then resorted to a lathi charge when the activists tried to approach Mr Malooka, who was here to attend a bhog ceremony. He said the whereabouts of the BKU activists are still not known. The DSP said those who had been taken into preventive custody were being proceeded against under Sections 107 and 151 of the CrPC.


EC bans release of development funds
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, December 28
The Election Commission of India has banned the fresh release of funds for any development work under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development scheme at all places going to poll in February.

In a letter dated December 26, 2001, faxed to all deputy commissioners of Punjab, the EC had ordered that no funds should be released under the MLAs and the MLCs local area development funds also till the completion of the election process.

The EC further directed that no work for which the work order had been issued before the issue of this letter but the actual work had not yet started, might be started till the completion of the election process. However, if the work had actually started, that could continue, the EC said.

There will be no bar on release of payments for the completed work, subject to the satisfaction of the officials concerned.


Car thief arrested
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 28
The police has arrested Ranjit Singh, who allegedly used to steal cars from other states and sell these in Punjab. This was stated by Mr Rajesh Jaiswal SP (city), at a press conference held here today.

Mr Jaiswal said the police had registered a case against Ranjit Singh of Gorenangal village and Bikramjit Singh of Vadala and the brother-in-law of former on December 20. A police party raided the plant where they used to sell stolen cars. The police arrested Ranjit Singh with a Maruti 800 car (Regn No JKF-0053) from his possession.

The SP said during interrogation, the culprit confessed to the crime and revealed about another stolen car (PB-10-B 3317) which he had sold to one Hari Singh of Vechhoye village.

Meanwhile, the police booked three persons. Tarlok Singh of local Partap Avenue and Satnam Singh and Nishan Singh of the Court Road area, on similar grounds last evening.

The accused also allegedly used to sell the cars stolen from other states. A case has been registered.


2 proclaimed offenders held

Moga, December 28
The Criminal Investigation Agency (CIA) of Moga district arrested two proclaimed offenders evading their arrest since 1984 and 1995, respectively. Confirming their arrests, the district police chief, Mr Shard Satya Chouhan, today said that Parkash Singh wanted in an excise case and declared proclaimed offender by the court in 1984, was arrested from Jandiala in Amritsar yesterday while Rajinder Singh, wanted in an Arms Act case and evading arrest since 1995, was also arrested.

The local court has sent them in judicial custody, he said. UNI


Include teachers’ demands in manifestos: Sodhi
Tribune News Service

Phagwara, December 28
Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers’ Union, an apex body of 7,000 non-government college teachers, today asked various political parties to include its 10-point charter of demands in their respective poll manifestos for the coming Assembly elections slated for February 13 next. Prof K.B.S. Sodhi, PCCTU, President, had written letters to Presidents of the state Congress, SAD, BJP, SHSAD, CPI, CPM, about it stating this here today.

Prof Sodhi said the demands included the implementation of pension gratuity scheme through treasury, review of posts, 95% grant-in aid for unaided posts in aided colleges and non — aided colleges, adequate hike in budgetary provision for higher education, more facilities and better conditions for students in universities and colleges, effective functioning of the State Council for Higher Education with proper representation of teaches and students on it, total implementation of UGC recommendations and strict adherence to the UGC norms in universities and colleges, incentives to university and college teachers to attract talent to this profession by upholding career advancement scheme and faculty improvement programmes, etc.


FEAR allegations baseless: dept head
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 28
The Punjabi University today claimed that the Forum of Education And Reform (FEAR) had levelled baseless allegations against the Department of Correspondence Courses and its management and stated that all purchases made from the grant received from the Distance Education Council (DEC) had been made strictly according to procedural norms and conditions prescribed by the DEC.

The Head of Department of University Correspondence Courses, Dr Gajrani, said the university had received a grant of Rs 33 lakh and not Rs 35 lakh as claimed by FEAR. He said besides this out of the total grant only Rs 9 lakh had been spent on the purchase of computer connectivity-cum-photocopier machine, installation of computer laboratory and other items related to infrastructure of the department according to due procedure and that the balance amount of the grant was lying as such.

Dr Gajrani said out of the Rs 18 lakh grant from DEC, nearly Rs 11 lakh was lying unused which was meant for getting lessons written in SIM and the purchase of library articles such as rakes and catalogue. He said out of the second grant of Rs 15 lakh, Rs 14 lakh were lying unused. The sum was meant for the purchase of computers and photostat machine for the running of the computer laboratory and for buying prizes of meritorious students besides other items related to infrastructure of the department.

The Head of Department said not a single penny had been spent on any item which was not given in the list of proposed plan submitted to the DEC. He said out of the used amount only those things had been purchased after due process and procedure which were given in the proposed plan submitted to the DEC and for which money had been sanctioned.


Delink distance education: expert
Our Correspondent

Patiala, December 28
Dr H.S. Singhar, Director of Distance Education, Sagar University, Madhya Pradesh, today stressed on the need to delink distance education from the conventional.

Addressing a national seminar on distance education, being held at Punjabi University, Mr Singhar outlined the need to make distance education flexible sans hindrances of conventional education systems like entrance tests.

Former Vice-Chancellor of Cochin University and the chairman of the National Council of Teachers Education, Mr A.N. Maheshwari, stressed on the need for updating methods of transmission of knowledge.

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