Sunday, December 30, 2001, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Parties face rough weather
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
Thickening envelope of fog, dipping temperatures, overcast sky and intensification of cold wave conditions may be worrying leaders of various political parties of Punjab as their electioneering campaigns instead of a smooth take-off have been virtually grounded for the time being.

Undeterred by the hostile weather, the BJP is all set to start its “Rath Yatra” from tomorrow. The first halt will be Rajpura, the place from where the Local Bodies Minister, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, contested in 1997.

Union Home Minister Lal Krishan Advani and Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal are expected to kickstart the election campaign at Rajpura.

The Home Minister had to cancel his previous visit to Punjab— to Qadian — early this month because weather did not permit him to take off from the Union Capital. The weather has deteriorated since the last cancellation of his visit.

In fact, it is not only the BJP but other parties too who find it difficult to follow their declared programmes of holding rallies in each of the 117 Assembly constituencies in the state.

While the meteorologist do not foresee any immediate change in the cold wave sweeping north India for the next 48 to 72 hours, the political parties have no options but to go ahead with their already drawn and publicised programmes.

For example, the Congress wanted to cover each of the 117 Assembly segments by covering five to six segments a day in its 20-day programme. But the focus has been not on organising rallies in their respective assembly segments but to lobby for the party ticket as most of the aspirants have been camping either in Chandigarh or in New Delhi to secure the party ticket.

The same may be true of other political parties, including the Shiromani Akali Dal, Panthic Morcha, Bahujan Samaj Party and Lok Bhalai Party. Turnout is the first major casualty of this type of weather. Not only that, because of thick fog, even days look shorter and leave little time for electioneering.

Further, thick fog not only slows down vehicular traffic but also causes disruptions because of cancellation of train and air services thus interrupting travel schedules of national level leaders.

While the weather has slowed down electioneering, the action of the Election Commission has started generating some heat and excitement. The appointment of new DIGs of Ludhiana and Patiala Ranges by circumventing the model code of conduct has put the Punjab Government in the dock . The Commission has been informed that though the Police Department wanted that ad hoc promotions be given to both Mr Rohit Chaudhary and Mr IPS Sahota as the second meeting of the DPC could not be held on schedule on December 21, the Home Department has ordered their promotions and postings.

Though the orders of their appointment were issued in the afternoon, they have been shown to have joined in the morning hours before the model code of conduct came into effect. The Commission has recommended that both these officers be replaced.

The Commission has also got stayed the recent promotions of Chief Engineers ordered in the Punjab State Electricity Board. The Commission is also taking cognizance of the appointments or selection lists released by the Punjab Subordinate Services Federation.

All actions of the government pertaining to employees, their postings and transfers are now being reviewed regularly by the Election Commission.


Cong may leave 10 seats for CPI
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 29
The Congress is likely to leave 10 seats for the CPI in the coming assembly poll in Punjab.

Sources said the party, which was initially offering four seats to the CPI, decided to increase its offer after discussions between senior CPI leader Joginder Dayal and the PCC chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, in New Delhi. Two seats are likely to be left for the CPM.

The CPI, which had seat adjustment with the Congress in the last Assembly poll also, was demanding at least 13 seats. Of the 10 seats the party had contested with the Congress in the last poll, it had won two. The CPI had initially given a list of 27 seats to the Congress, but later scaled down its demand to 13.

Anticipating a Congress victory in the poll, its leaders had been insisting on “winnability” being the only criterion for deciding the number of seats to be given to Left parties.

There was a feeling that seats where the CPI had lost by big margins should not be given to it in the coming poll. However, the CPI was in no mood to accept the offer of four seats and its leaders conveyed their viewpoint in no uncertain terms to the state Congress leadership.

Realising the desirability of having seat adjustment with the Left parties, whose contesting independently would have damaged the Congress prospects in about 30 seats, the Congress leadership has now decided to leave “eight-to-10” seats for the CPI. The sources said the seats were likely to be those from where CPI candidates had contested last time.

The final decision on seat-sharing would be sealed in the next meeting between Mr Joginder Dayal and Capt Amarinder Singh in New Delhi, the sources said.

The decision on seat-sharing would make easier the task of the screening committee which is drawing up a panel of names for the seats from where the Congress would contest.

The screening committee members, including AICC treasurer Motilal Vora, Mr N.D. Tiwari, Ms Margret Alva, besides Mr Amarinder Singh and CLP leader Jagjit Singh, today met all party MPs from the state, besides members of the Punjab election committee.

The meeting, which continued till late evening, is expected to resume on Monday when names cleared by the screening committee would be sent of the central election committee of the party.


It’s either threat of war or floods
Precarious existence in border villages
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Rajo-KI-Gatt (Ferozepore), December 29
The tale of “empty” promises made for years to the inhabitants of 22 odd villages, is unending. The inhabitants of these villages have been living precariously because of locational disadvantages and dangers of being at a short distance from the border.

This village is India’s last village located adjacent to the international border in Ferozepore district. Several residents of the villages have cultivable land across the fencing on the border. And like this village, there are over 20 odd villages which are located on the strip along the border in the Indian territory.

Some of the villages are Jhuge Hajara, Tendiana, Bhakhra, Jalloke, Chandiwal, Khunder Ghatti, Malewali, Churiwala, Bhanewala, Bare-Ke-Wade, Bare-Ke-Chote and Ali-ke-Pattan.

Government officials visit these villages, especially when tension on the border starts building up; they also make all sorts of promises to extend help in case of an emergency but practically nothing is done in the end.

What has been troubling them for the past several years is that their settlements are sandwiched between the Sutlej and the international border. In other words it could be called a landlocked island.

While during the war or an Army build-up along the border due to tension between India and Pakistan, residents of these villages have to vacate their homes to move to safer places, in the rainy season, it is the Sutlej which devastates them almost every year.

“During the past two years, we have shifted our families twice to safer places because of tension on the border”, says Maya, a local resident. The fact is “our lives hang by a thread and we never feel safe. We have to fend for ourselves”, say local elders engaged in an intense discussion about the situation on the border.

But at the moment their concern is to seek of an alternative route for their evacuation in case a war between India and Pakistan breaks out in the coming days.

Their experiences of 1965 and 1971 make them shudder even now when they see the movement of heavy Army armour on either side of the border. They had a harrowing time in 1971. Pakistan launched a full-blooded attack in the area shortly before dusk on December 3. The Indian forces were caught unawares and by the time they reacted, Pakistani forces had entered the Indian territory and some of these villages.

The bridge on the Hussainiwala headworks over the Sutlej had to be blown up keeping in view the ground situation at that time. In the absence of the bridge, many inhabitants of these villages were left with no other alternative except to swim through the Sutlej to escape the heavy firing from the Pakistan side.

This time they have asked the district administration to arrange boats at Ali-Ke-Pattan as an alternative for their evacuation in case of any exigency.

Mr Jagir Singh, a nambardar and member of the panchayat of Hajara village, told The Tribune that they had submitted their request for the boats to the Deputy Commissioner of Ferozepore.

“ Almost all our male members are good swimmers and can cross the river without any difficulty. But for women, children and elders, it is difficult to go across the river by swimming”, said Mr Mukhtiar Singh, sarpanch of Jhuge Hajara village. In fact, to learn swimming is a must for the locals because of locational factors.

One of their major grievances is regarding the granting of ownership rights of the land being cultivated by them. Because of political and other reasons, they have not been given the ownership rights of the land, which is about 8000 acres, though the land is in their possession for the past several decades. Senior government officers had earlier demanded Rs 60,000 per acre and were now asking for Rs 20,000 per acre to give the ownership rights but “we have refused to give money”, say the villagers.

They are not aware of the government’s recent decision to transfer the ownership of the land to such persons by charging about Rs 7,000 per acre.


Relief camps for border migrants
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
The Punjab Government today rushed senior officers to Amritsar to provide relief to the people who have vacated their villages in the border belt because of growing tension between India and Pakistan.

A government spokesman said the Financial Commissioner (Revenue) had already reached Amritsar to supervise the relief measures to be taken in this connection. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has directed the Commissioner of Jalandhar Division to shift his headquarters to Amritsar to coordinate between the senior officers to do the needful for the people who require government help.

The District Administration of Amritsar has set up assistance booths at places like Bhikhiwind, Attari, Jhabal, Khemkaran, Sursingh and Lopke. At Patti a transit camp has also been set up for the people migrating from the border belt. The State Government has placed Rs 1 crore at the disposal of the District Administration of Amritsar for meeting any exigency.


No major power cuts in Punjab
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, December 29
The power supply position in Punjab is quite comfortable as compared in the summer thanks to the better performance of the thermal plants of the PSEB. Moreover, the demand for power consumption has also gone down considerably.

The hydro-power plants are also doing well.

Enquiries reveal that the coal supply position with the thermal plants in the state was satisfactory at present and all three major plants have sufficient stocks of coal.

According to official information available here today, three out of four units of the Bathinda thermal plant are generating 67 lakh units of power daily while five out of six units of the Ropar super thermal plant are generating 246 lakh units and two units of the Lehra Mohabbat plant are contributing 98 lakh units of power daily. The total generation of the three thermal plants is 411 lakh units daily.

Punjab is getting 70 lakh units of power from the BBMB and the state run hydro power plants are contributing 90 lakh units including Ranjit Sagar Dam -32 lakh units, Mukerian-43 lakh units and UBDC 12 lakh units respectively.

The Anandpur Sahib hydel project has been closed down for the past one week because of the low irrigation requirements. Power generation from the Anandpur Sahib hydel depends on the availability of water which is released for irrigation purposes.

The PSEB is selling about 40 lakh units of power daily to Himachal Pradesh (14 lakh units) and Jammu and Kashmir (26.5 lakh units) on banking system. Under banking system, the states do not make any payment and in summer the two states will return the amount of power procured from PSEB to the Punjab State. The PSEB is drawing 113 lakh units of power from the national thermal plant corporation and the generation from the central hydro projects is not very satisfactory because of the low level of water in the reservoir.

Enquiries shows that the PSEB is making the current payments of coal and power to the central agencies while the arrears are still outstanding.

Punjab is not facing any major power cut these days except that for half an hour to one hour in urban areas.

PSEB officials explain that in winter, the maximum load of power is in January as requirements increase for wheat and other rabi crops. The PSEB will take shut down of the thermal units in a phased manner during March and April as preparation for more generation during summer.


Sunanda’s recital charms, flattery irks
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, December 29
Even as the equation of the Union Minister Shanta Kumar with Lord Vishnu and that of Haryana Minister Sampat Singh with Lord Brahma by the organisers proved irksome for music lovers, vocalist Sunanda and Sarangi player Kamal Sabri were successful in weaving magic for listeners at the Harballabh Sangeet Sammelan which took off last night at the Devi Talaab Temple with mystic the presentation of “Sarsawati Vandana”.

Immediately after “Sarsawati Vandana”, the compere started showering praise on Mr Shanta Kumar and Mr Sampat Singh. If Mr Shanta was described an incarnation (avtaar) of Lord Vishnu for being India’s Food Minister, Mr Sampat was repeatedly defied as (Avtaar) of Lord Brahma, which made the audience uneasy for a while and forced them to wonder as to how anybody could be equated with Gods just for the position he occupied.

They were of the view that there should be no place for such flattering remarks, particularly, on the occasion of such festivals. Similarly, Mr Shanta Kumar, apparently failed to impress the audience with his speech as instead of talking about music to suit the occasion, he repeated the political rhetoric about the deteriorating Indo-Pakistan relations, even as he wished peace between the two countries. He said India would deal with the menace of terrorism on its own. “I will have to leave midway for I have to attend some important meetings at Delhi,” commented Mr Shanta Kumar before leaving for the railway station. What proved to be hard to digest for audience were the role of police officials, who forced others to take off their shoes at a distance whereas they defied the sanctity of the place by roaming around the “samadhi” of Baba Harballabh with shoes on.

As comparatively a few of music lovers braved the chilly night, Sunanda, enthralled the audience with her performance comprising of “bada khayal”, “thumri” and “tappas”. The most joyful moment for them came when Sunanda, accompanied by Kamal Sabri on Sarangi and Sudhir Pande on tabla, rendered “Mian nazrin nahin aaanda.” Her “alaaps” and “taans” were more attractive. Similarly, the “jugalbandi” of Kamal Sabri’s “sarangi” and “tabla” of Shamsher Mehndi, the brother of pop star Daler Mehndi, made the audience shower applause. Malik brothers presented “dhrupad”, while Ronu Majumdar created magic with his flute. This was followed by noted playback singer and Padam Shree Praveen Sultana, who stole the show with her performance, though she started late in the night. She said music could not be chained or confined to some particular region or country.


No unity with Badal: Baba Bedi
K. S. Chawla

Ludhiana, December 29
The Panthic Morcha leaders will have final round of talks on seat-sharing with Bahujan Samaj Party Chief Kanshi Ram in the next two days and announce its candidates for Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections.

Stating this Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi, Convener, Panthic Morcha, said today that the leaders of the morcha met last night and sorted out the names of certain candidates for Vidhan Sabha seats. He said that the list could not be announced as the talks with the leaders of different groups were at various stages of finalisation. The leaders of the Lok Morcha namely Mr Kuldip Singh Wadala, President, Akali Dal (Democratic) and Mr Harish Khanna, President, Janta Dal (secular) Punjab also met the leaders of Panthic Morcha last night at Mansuran headquarters of Baba Bedi where the meeting was being held. The Lok Morcha consists of different groups, including the Akali Dal (Democratic) the Janta Dal (secular) and the Marxist Communist Party of India (MCPI) and the RPI. The Lok Morcha leaders has sought 15 seats of the Vidhan Sabha.

The Panthic Morcha is also likely to have some adjustments with Lok Bhalai party Chief Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia. Baba Bedi said that the Panthic Morcha could leave 40 to 50 seats for the Bahujan Samaj Party and put up its own candidates on 65 to 70 seats. He said that they were also facing the problem of selecting the candidates as there were on an average four aspirants for each Vidhan Sabha seat.

Asked if the Panthic Morcha would accommodate any rebel candidate of the Akali Dal (Badal), Baba Bedi said that they would first select their own candidates who had suffered in the past.

He said that they would give the ticket to those candidates who have had clean image, services for Punjab and Sikhs, financial status and chances of victory.

In reply to another question Baba Bedi said that no talks had been held with the CPM (Pasla Group) so far.

The Panthic Morcha leaders are in upbeat mood as Baba Bedi claimed that they were getting very good response from the people of the state. This was also evident from the Morcha convention in Ludhiana on December 9 and the Sheehedi Jor Mela conference at Fatehgarh Sahib which drew more crowd compared to the rival Akali Dal and the Congress.

Baba Bedi said that panthic morcha would make all-out efforts to defeat the SAD-BJP alliance and the congress which had done major harm to Punjab and the Sikhs.

Baba Bedi refuted reports in a section of the press regarding the efforts of unity between the Akali Dal led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President, All-India Shiromani Akali Dal and said that all these stories were planted. All doors of unity with Mr Badal had been closed, he added. He said that these reports were also being published to bring bad name to Mr Tohra.

The last night’s meeting of the morcha was attended by Mr Ravi Inder Singh, Mr Maheshinder Singh Grewal, Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, Mr Charan Singh Lohara and Prof Jagmohan Singh. Baba Bedi said that the meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere and there was complete cohesion among the leaders of the morcha.


Panthic Morcha meets in Ludhiana today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
Senior leaders of the Panthic Morcha will meet at Ludhiana tomorrow and at Jalandhar on December 31 to allocate seats to different constituents of the Morcha.

They will also decide the number of seats to be allocated to the BSP in the case of an electoral alliance with that party.


50 sarpanches want Kanjhla denied SAD ticket
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 29
Alleging that Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla, MLA from Sherpur and Punjab Social Security Minister, had made a “false” claim that out of 82 sarpanches of the Sherpur Assembly constituency, majority of the sarpanches accompanied him a few days ago to Chandigarh to meet Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Punjab Chief Minister, in his favour, more than 50 sarpanches today claimed that they had not gone with Mr Kanjhla in his favour to Chandigarh.

Three circle Jathedars of the SAD, Mr Gurmeet Singh Mahmadpur (Circle Sherpur), Mr Avtar Singh (Circle Ahmedgarh) and Mr Joga Singh (Circle Dhuri) in a joint fax message today to the President of the SAD and Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, have also demanded SAD ticket for the current Assembly elections for Mr Piara Singh Panj Graianan in place of Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla.

Talking to this reporter over the phone today, Mr Gurmeet Singh Mahmadpur, alleged that Mr Kanjhla had “misbehaved” with the elite sections of the society due to which the party’s image had lowered in the Sherpur Assembly constituency. He further alleged that Mr Kanjhla had not even spared the SAD’s workers and Jathedars in this regard. So majority of the sarpanches of the constituency were favouring denial of the party’s ticket to Mr Kanjhla.

Mr Mahmadpur also said the fax message sent today to Mr Badal, showed that there was great resentment against Mr Kanjhla in the constituency. He said even the sarpanch of the Kanjhla village, the native village of Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla, was opposing the candidature of Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla from the Sherpur Assembly constituency. This was the reason that Mr Rattan Kumar Leela, sarpanch of the Kanjhla village, along with other sarpanches and top SAD leaders of the constituency including Sant Hakam Singh, Ganda Singh Wala and Mr Gurmail Singh, Chairman, Market Committee Sherpur, had recommended the name of Mr Piara Singh Panj Graianan, a loyal Akali leader, for the SAD ticket from Sherpur constituency, he added.

Mr Mahmadpur further said the sarpanches and the Circle Jathedars also took part in a function at Mullowal village near Sherpur today which had been organised to demand SAD ticket for Mr Piara Singh Panj Graianan in place of Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla.


Youth Dal (B) to play ‘active role’
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, December 29
The newly appointed president of the Youth Akali Dal (Badal), Mr Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, today said his organisation would play an active role in the forthcoming Assembly elections.

He was talking to reporters after being nominated President of the youth wing of the party.

Listing his priorities, he said, he would identify the basic issues concerning the youth of the state. He admitted that the problem of unemployment was one of the major concerns and it had to be tackled on priority basis lest it may lead to dangerous consequences.

Mr Dhillon said Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Sukhbir Badal had given an assurance that the youth would be given due representation and all those who had made contribution to the party would be acknowledged.


BKU to support party that will waive loans
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 29
Even as the political parties are trying to woo various farmers’ unions, the Lakhowal group of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) has said it will support that party which will promise to waive off farmers’ loans.

Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, president of the union, said the union would not contest the coming assembly elections in the state. He said they would act only as a pressure group.

Mr Lakhowal, who has been addressing rallies at various villages of the Nathana assembly constituency said it would not boycott the elections.

He added that the crops’ insurance policy should be announced immediately.


Cong hails EC decision

Kapurthala, December 29
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee has welcomed the decision of the Election Commission of India for suspending and transferring of 10 officials of Kapurthala and Amritsar districts on the charge of committing irregularities in the preparation of votes.

Talking to newsmen here yesterday Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira, secretary, PPCC, said the step had strengthened the democratic set up in the country. He demanded the resignation of Mr Parkash Singh Badal in this regard.

Two secretaries of the Election Commission of India had visited Bholath recently to look into the complaints of Mr Khaira that Electoral registration officer Harcharan Singh, who is also the SDM, Bholath, subdivision, had been helping a sitting Akali MLA from Bholath in the preparation of bogus votes. OC


CPI (ML) announces six candidates
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, December 29
Mr Darshan Singh Khatkar, state secretary of the CPI (ML) New Democracy talking to mediapersons here on Friday said that his party had decided to contest eight seats during the forthcoming Assembly elections in Punjab. He announced the names of six candidates, who included, Mr Daljit Singh Advocate (Nawanshahr), Mr Hari Ram Khejepuri (Dinanagar), Mr Jagjit Singh Hathur (Rai Kot), Mr Megha Singh (Nihal Singh Wala), Mr Chet Ram (Malout) and Mr Hans Raj (Nurmahal). 

Party nominees from Sultanpur Lodhi and Wagah Assembly segments would be announced later on. Besides, party had been thinking to field its candidates from Dhariwal, Raja Sansi, Jagraon, Balachaur Assembly segments also. He said that the CPI (ML) would not enter into any electoral alliance or adjustment with any political party except likeminded political organisations.


Shiv Sena to contest 30 seats
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, December 29
The Shiv Sena Bal Thackeray would contest 30 seats in the forthcoming Punjab Assembly Elections said Mr Pawan Gupta at a press conference held here on Friday.

Mr Gupta said these seats include all three assembly segments of Pathankot subdivision. He said that he had already received large numbers of application from tickets aspirants.

He said that Shiv Sena workers would fan out in the state to expose doublespeak of the Congress and the ruling SAD-BJP combine and show the people how these parties had been befooling them.


Balmiki Sikh denied ‘path’ for soul’s peace
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, December 29
Even death, called the greatest leveller, could not obliterate the dividing line between the haves and have-nots of Sudhara and Manochahal. These Jat Sikh-dominated villages, are very much a part of our very own “progressive” Punjab. And the fact that the affected family was denied even the fundamental right of holding a religious ceremony in memory of the deceased, has not only increased the family’s miseries but also raised a question mark over the effectiveness of the law of the land.

Paramjit Singh, a 28-year-old Balmiki Sikh, died on December 12 under mysterious circumstances. He had got an affidavit made on November 21, stating that a few months ago, he, along with his younger brother Sharama, had been illegally detained at Malla Walla police station in Zeera tehsil, Ferozepore, and tortured for three days, at the instigation of Baldev Singh, a landlord of Sudhara village, who had allegedly kept Paramjit’s brother Thana Singh as a bonded labourer.

About one-and-a-half years ago, Paramjit, his wife Ninder Kaur and brother Thana Singh had been released from the bondage of Sohan Singh of Manochahal village by the District Magistrate, Ferozepore, with the intervention of National Human Rights Commission.

Paramjit’s family also holds Baldev Singh and his father, Bagicha Singh, responsible for his death. “He was in absolutely fine condition when I had left for my parents’ village. On coming back, my mother-in-law told me that he had returned home in an injured state and had accused the landlords of beating him and forcibly making him drink liquor,” alleges Ninder Kaur. His post-mortem report is awaited.

Paramjit’s family complaint that the landlords of Sudhara and Manochahal not only stopped giving them work, but also did not allow them to hold ‘path’ at their place. The granthi who held an ‘ardas’ at the cremation ground was rebuked by them, alleged Sharama.


It’s text messages, no cards please!
Tribune News Service

Patiala, December 29
The sale of greeting cards was never so bad. "We felt they had touched the nadir last year due to rampant use of e-mail and thought the cards would bounce back this year due to the personal touch they carry but our hopes have been shattered”, this is the lament of shopowners of the city.

While last year it was the e-mail which had affected the sale of greeting cards in the city, this year it is the mobile telephone. “We can counter e-mail but the mobile telephone is much more difficult to tackle”, say the shop owners.

This is because the mobile telephone and its message service is the in thing. “There is nothing to beat the mobile message service”, said Jashanjeet Kaur adding she could almost feel the excitement when she would receive a message right when the clock had struck 12 at midnight.

“It was the youngsters who used to buy cards which were priced on the higher side because they wanted to impress the persons to whom they were addressed”, said shopkeepers. Most said now they had to deal with the middle-class buyer and the executive or business men who wanted to send greetings to acquaintances usually made a hard bargain.

Mr B. K. Chhibber of Readers Paradise, said most shopkeepers were forced to sell at “reasonable” prices due to the increased competition in the market.

Cyber cafes, which have not been doing very well in the recent past due to high competition, are however, seeing a large number of people coming in to wish their near and dear ones. Ganni Sidhu, who runs NASA (cyber cafe) in the Chhoti Baradari Shopping complex area, said the trend was towards making ones own messages according ones' association with the addressee.

Those with personal computers or mobile telephones will, however, waiting till the last minute to send their message across to show near and dear ones.


3 labourers die due to suffocation
Our Correspondent

Sahnewal (Ludhiana), December 29
Three migrant labourers were reportedly suffocated to death in Nichi Mangali village near here.

The incident occurred last night, while they were sleeping inside a room with fire burning in a portable hearth. Three died while five others fell unconscious and were admitted into a local hospital.

According to reports received here today the labourers had been sleeping inside the room and had closed all windows and doors. The incident came to notice only today, when one of their colleagues went to see them.

He opened the door and found all of them lying unconscious. They were shifted to a local hospital, where three were declared “brought dead”, while five other unconscious are undergoing treatment.

The dead have been identified as Jaiprakash Mandal, Mukesh Kumar and Umesh Mandal, while three of the five unconscious have been identified as Pramod Mandal, Hakam Mandal and Ashok Manadal.

The police has registered a case under section 174 of the IPC. All labourers were employed with a local shuttering company.


A dream come true for villagers
Parmod Bharti

The Nawanshahr assembly byelection held in February last year proved a boon for the area as it was for the first time that Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal not only promised to build a bridge over the Sutlej river connecting the Rahon-Machhiwara road but has given it a concrete shape to fulfil the long-pending demand of the area.

Leaders belonging to all political parties had been constantly making it an election issue. Due to political gimmicks, the people of the area were sceptical about the construction of the bridge. But when the Chief Minister laid the foundation stone of the project on April 8, people from both sides of the river thronged the site to see whether work on the bridge, which had been eluding them for 50 years, would really start.

Even now, when construction work on the bridge as well as widening of the road between Nawanshahr and Khanna via Rahon, Machhiwara, Samrala was progressing on a war footing, residents of the area visited the site to see their dream come true.

The bridge over the Sutlej also includes widening of the Nawanshahr-Khanna road, including a railway overbridge at Khanna and bypasses at Rahon and Samrala at a cost of over Rs 100 crore.

It would link the Doaba and Malwa regions of the state and connect J&K, Pathankot and Dasuya areas with Machhiwara and Khanna, greatly reducing the distance. The construction of bridge would also reduce congestion on the GT Road, particularly in stretches passing through Jalandhar, Phagwara and Ludhiana. Above all, this bridge would provide an alternate route.

The length of the bridge is 717.40 metres and it would have 15 spans, each with a length 47.825 metres. The width of the main carriageway would be 7.50 metres and there would be 1.50-metre-wide cycle track on both sides.

The design of the bridge would be such that it would have railings on each side to provide safety to vehicles, especially two-wheelers. Approaches with a length of 752 metres and two guide bundhs having length of 3,276 metres to channelise discharge of river water are also being constructed.

Besides, as many as five small bridges at Sirhand Canal (80.20 metres), Chamkaur drain (30 metres), Kum drain (6.00 metres), Old Sutlej drain creek number 1 (13.60 metres) and Old Sutlej drain creek No 2 (20.40 metres) are also being constructed, informed PWD officials present at the site near Kanaun village, where the plugging of pier No 13 was being done when this correspondent visited the site.

PWD officials told this correspondent that as many as 14 piers (with a depth of 25.25 metres each) had been completed. They claim that the project is likely to be completed within the stipulated period of 18 months. Construction work has been going on for 10 months.

Balwinder Kumar, a boatman working on the river, was happy over the construction of bridge and said the Chief Minister has reportedly promised all boatmen there mini bus route permits. The CM had also promised to grant loans for purchase of such buses, he claimed.


Museum in memory of martyrs
Anirudh Gupta

To commemorate the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, a beautiful gate with a museum and a clock tower is being constructed here. The bodies of the martyrs were unceremoniously cremated in the town under cover of darkness. A function is held on March 23 every year at Martyrs Memorial, Hussainiwala.

A social organisation has undertaken the task of constructing the monument, which can serve as a source of inspiration for future generations. Ferozepore was an old fortified town with 10 gates. Ramgarhia Gate (earlier Baghdadi Gate), where this monument is coming up, was constructed in 1867 by a Briton, Norsay, on the pattern of the main gate at Baghdad and was inaugurated by the then Deputy Commissioner, Maxwell. About 20 years ago, the then Local Bodies Minister renamed it Ramgarhia Gate.

Now, the International Bhai Mardana Darbar Society has decided to reconstruct the gate after demolishing the existing structure. The work has already started. The local MP, Mr Zora Singh Mann, and the Irrigation Minister, Mr J.S. Sekhon, have contributed Rs 5 lakh and Rs 1 lakh, respectively, for the purpose.

There is a proposal to bring the clothes worn by Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev just before they were sent to the gallows in Central Jail, Lahore, for display in the museum. According to Mr Harpal Singh Bhullar, president of the society, he was told by a retired officer of that jail during his recent visit to Pakistan that the clothes were in the custody of the jail authorities. He added that paintings and photographs related to the Independence struggle and the three martyrs would also be put up in the museum.


17 BKU men get bail
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 29
Seventeen activists of the BKU (Ekta), including two women and other members today held two rallies in Kotda Korianwali village after they were released on bail today.

They were taken into preventive custody in village yesterday when they allegedly tried to disrupt a religious function organised by village panchayat, which was to be presided over by Mr Sikandar Singh Malooka, state Power Minister.

Meanwhile, Mr Lachman Singh Sewewala, general secretary, Khet Mazdoor Union, said Mr Joginder Singh Subedar, Sarpanch of the village had sought an apology from the activists of the BKU (E) for filing a case against them.

BKU (E) leaders while addressing the gathering demanded action against those involved in the killing of two Dalit youths in the police firing at Jethuke village two years ago and action against those who were responsible for the lathicharge on BKU activists.


Date for making voter card extended
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, December 29
Mr A. Venu Prasad, Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer, here has again extended the dates for preparing photo-identity cards for the people who had not yet got them made in the three assembly constituencies, including Faridkot, Kotkapura and Panjgrain, in the district.

In a press note released here today the Deputy Commissioner said the cards would be made from December 31 to January 7 at the district election tehsildar office, mini secretariat, here from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Wadali brothers cast a spell
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, December 29
Wadali brothers captivated the audience with their electrifying performance at the opening day of the annual three-day function organised by the Abhinay Kala Mandir here yesterday which was inaugurated by Master Mohan Lal, Minister of Higher Education, Punjab.

The masters of sufiana qawwali cast a spell as one number after another flowed. They sang ‘‘Tu mane ya na mane dildara’’. A number from their latest album ‘‘Paigam-e-Ishq’’, stole the show.

‘‘Swar (words) personify God’’, says Wadali brothers for whom qawwalis are the only medium to reach God.

The two, Puran Chand Wadali and Pyare Lal Wadali, criticised the pop music which they said had an negative impact on the culture and had become a money-minting industry.

Sufiana qawwalis or other classical music help us to get in touch with our higher dimensions, they added.


Gurdev Singh re-elected
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
Mr Gurdev Singh was re-elected President of the Institute of Sikh Studies at the general house meeting of the Institute here yesterday.

Mr Gurdev Singh nominated the following office-bearers: Vice-President — Maj-Gen Narinder Singh; Secretary — Bhai Ashok Singh Bagrian; Joint Secretary — Mrs Baljit Kaur, Treasurer — Maj-Gen Jaswant Singh; Executive Committee members — Dr Gurcharan Singh and Brig Hardit Singh; and Editor, Abstracts of Sikh Studies — Dr Kirpal Singh.


Pen-down strike by bankmen
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
On a call given by the Cooperative Banks Employees Federation, Employees of Cooperative banks in Punjab and its branches at Chandigarh today observed pen down strike between 10 a.m. and 12 noon, according to a press note issued by the Federation. They also held rallies and criticised the management for its alleged anti- employee attitude.


85 grenades found in canal
Our Correspondent

Sahnewal (Ludhiana), December 29
Eightyfive live grenades were reportedly found in canal near the Bilaspur bridge on the Doraha-Rada Sahib road. The grenades were noticed by villagers, who informed the police.

According to SSP, Khanna, Mr Ishwar Singh, the grenades have apparently come with iron scrap and may have been thrown into the canal. These were noticed by the villagers after the water dried.

The SSP ruled out any sabotage and said these would be removed by tomorrow.


SPOs unable to make both ends meet
Not paid salaries for 4 months

Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 29
Resentment prevails among 262 special police officers (SPOs) posted in the district as they have not received salary for the past four months.

They are finding it difficult to meet their daily expenses in the absence of salary for such a long time.

Avtar Singh (name changed), an SPO, said he had to make new excuses when he go to home so that his family members would not get angry with him for not bringing the items asked for them. He said he preferred to go home late in order to avoid enquires by his wife and children.

Another SPO said his wife was suffering from cancer and required expensive treatment. He said he did not have money to arrange for food for his children.

Most of them felt they might have to look for other means of livelihood. One of them who did not want to be identified said the first month when they did not receive their salary, they purchased household items on credit. But now even shopkeepers had refused to give them anything.

Another SPO said the authorities concerned had not told them about the non-payment of salary. He said most of them had taken loans from money lenders to meet their daily expenses.

A senior official of the district police confirmed that the SPOs had not received salary for a long time. He, however, said he was not aware of the reasons for the same.

Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, SSP, said efforts were being made to ensure that salaries were paid on time. Those who needed money urgently for treatment or some other purpose were being helped by the local authorities, he added.


147 police recruits pass out
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 29
Mr D.R. Bharti, Additional Director General of Police and Director of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Police Academy at Phillaur, took march past salute from 147 trainees in a passing-out parade at Police Recruits Training Centre, Jahan Khelan, 8 km from here, today.

Mr Bharti gave away prizes to constable Sukhwinder Singh (Hoshiarpur) for securing first position in all subjects, Iqbal Singh (Bathinda) for securing second, Sukhwinder Singh for getting first position in indoor subjects, Jasbir Singh (Fatehgarh Sahib) in outdoor subjects, and Amarjit Singh (INT) for securing first position in all subjects and Gurwinder Singh (Faridkot) for getting second position in Batch No. 233.


Punjab postings
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 29
Mr Rajiv Prashar, a PCS Officer, has been posted as District Transport Officer at Muktsar against a vacant post. Another PCS officer, Mr Bhupinder Singh Saharan, has been transferred from Ludhiana to Gurdaspur as Sub Divisional Magistrate in place of Mr Surinder Kumar, who is on medical leave.


SHO booked for fudging record
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, December 29
The Sarhali police station has registered a case under Section 217, 201 of the IPC against a former SHO of the same police station for tampering with the police station record.

According to information received today the accused SHO Bhola Singh Torn registered an FIR against Karam Singh resident of Dhotian village under the Excise Act on May 5, 2001 and let him off. The FIR was lodged Mr Jagjit Singh a head constable. The accused SHO was booked yesterday. The accused SHO is said to be absconding, said police source.


One dies as bus, motor cycle collide

Hoshiarpur, December 29
Amarjit Singh, riding a motor cycle, died on the spot when he collided with a bus near Janouri village, on the Hoshiarpur-Dholbaha road in this district early today. According to the police, Amarjit Singh was going to Janouri from Naushahara.

His marriage was fixed for January 2. The police has impounded the bus while the driver escaped. A case under Section 188, 304 a, 427 of the IPC has been registered against the driver. UNI


18 held for cheating youths
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 29
As many as 18 persons, including three women, were arrested from different parts of the district in 2001 for allegedly collecting money from unemployed youths on the pretext of getting them jobs in private and government departments.

The police achieved a major breakthrough when it arrested Amarjeet Singh, Om Parkash, Mangat Singh, Gurcharan Singh and Kuljeet Singh in October this year. The gang had collected money to the tune of Rs 11.5 lakh from youths with a promise of making arrangement that he would arrange employment for the youths. They were booked under Section 420 of the IPC.

Most of these culprits were arrested in the last quarter of the year and maximum gangs.


Khera files criminal suit against seven
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, December 29
Mr Balwant Singh Khera, Chairman, Malta Boat Tragedy Probe Mission, has filed a criminal case against Naresh Thakur, former minister, Pawan Kumar Adia, General Secretary, District Congress Committee, Sanjeev Talwar, Press Secretary, Jagtar Singh, president, Rural, Shiv Sud, president, city unit of the BJP, Surjit Singh Ankhi, President, Youth Wing, Akali Dal (A) and Bhag Singh Saini of Akali Dal (B) under various sections of the IPC in the court of the JMIC. Mrs Vaneeta Modi, Hoshiarpur.

Mr Khera has stated that the above named persons have been issuing baseless and damaging press statements against him. He alleged to gain cheap popularity, they were getting derogatory and defamatory material published against him.


Interviews for primary teacher’s posts abolished
J. S. Malhotra

Jalandhar, December 29
To bring transparency in the selection procedure of primary teachers in the state, the Punjab Education Department has issued appointment letters to about 1,850 ETT and JBT applicants, who have been selected for primary teachers’ post on merit basis, without conducting any formal interview for the first time in its history.

The department, which had been conducting interviews for the post of teachers since Independence, had to face hundreds of court cases in the past one decade amid allegations of gross irregularities in the selection procedure. Besides, the members of the District Departmental Selection Committees had to work allegedly under political pressure to select even non-deserving candidates by giving them maximum marks out of the 15 vested with the Selection Committee, just to improve the ranking of a candidate in the merit list during interviews.

Talking to The Tribune, the Punjab Education Minister, Mr Tota Singh, said they had abolished the interview for appointment as a primary teacher against the recently advertised 3,311 posts since it had proved to be the root cause of the prevailing corruption in the system. “As per the new appointment policy, an applicant will get 40 marks for his or her basic qualification, 35 marks for a professional qualification like the ETT, JBT or B.Ed, five marks for sports and NCC and a maximum of 10 marks for a higher qualification. “Besides, we have introduced a batch system which will provide one mark per year, up to a maximum of 10 marks, for 10 years to a student from the date of acquiring a professional qualification,” said the minister, claiming that it would bring transparency in the selection procedure.

“Those, who fail to figure in the merit list, will be put in the waiting list for an year and they will be appointed on seniority basis whenever a teacher retires from any government school so that there is no loss of studies in any academic session for want of teachers. The principal concerned will submit a list of teachers, who are going to retire, well in advance so that the next eligible candidate can join duty before a teacher retires” added Mr Tota Singh.

According to sources in the department about 5,000 teachers retire every year in the state and in most of the government primary schools, particularly those falling in the rural areas, a single teacher was teaching all the five classes making a mockery of the education system. Some of the schools are running without any teacher. This, in turn, has led to a situation where no parent is interested in sending his or her ward to a government school for studies.

“We have received 1,950 applications from ETT and JBT candidates and about 40,000 applications from B.Ed. candidates for the 3,311 vacant posts of primary teachers up to December 10. The department has already issued appointment letters to about 1,850 ETT and JBT candidates but the B.Ed candidates cannot be appointed due to imposition of a code of conduct after the announcement of elections in the state,” he said.


Admission racket at GND varsity: Dang
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, December 29
Mr Satya Pal Dang, a CPI leader, has alleged that a racket existed in admission to MCA courses in Guru Nanak Dev University here. In a letter to the Chancellor, Lieut-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd), he made allegations of corruption in admission to a student through defence quota in June. He has sought an independent probe in this regard.

The CPI leader said an amount of Rs 2 lakh was involved and alleged that a personal assistant (PA) to the Dean was involved in the case. He said the PA took the money from the student for admission in instalments of Rs 25,000 but gave him no receipt.

The roll number allotted to Rakesh Kumar, the student, was later found to have been allotted to someone else.

Later, he was given another roll number after he had paid another Rs 50,000. Furthermore, he paid Rs 1,300 as fees for the first semester examination for which he was issued a receipt against which he was allotted a roll number. However, even this roll number had been allotted to another student.

Rakesh Kumar brought this lapse to the notice of the Head of the Department who reportedly asked him not to worry. Mr Dang said the next day, an FIR was lodged by the university against Rakesh Kumar for forgery.

Number of classfellows of Rakesh Kumar had, in a statement, said he had attended the classes after paying Rs 2.5 lakh and that he had been implicated.

Mr Dang urged the Governor and the Chancellor of the university to stay the arrest of youth.

He also sought the transfer of the PA and added that, according to information, the PA had already proceeded on leave and the police had yet to record his statement.

Mr Dang also said in spite of the case having been registered over a month ago, the university authorities and the police had made no serious attempts to investigate the allegations. A copy of the letter had been sent to DGP Sarabjit Singh in this connection.


Candidates ‘not’ informed of selection
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, December 29
Resentment prevails among unemployed B.Ed. candidates as the authorities concerned have allegedly not issued appointment letters to those selected for the post of teachers.

A meeting of the Unemployed B.Ed. Teachers Front was held at the local Teachers Home yesterday. The president of the union, Mr Narotam Singh, said the local Education Department authorities had not informed the candidates who had been selected as teachers, although the information regarding their selection had reportedly been sent to them by the authorities at Chandigarh. He said such lists had been released in some other districts.

He urged the higher authorities to ask the local Education Department officials to release the list.


Dental college degree recognised
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, December 29
The Central Government has recognised the degree of Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS), granted to the BDS students of the Guru Nanak Dental College and Research Institute, Sunam, on or after June 24 this year.

Giving this information here, Mr Ashok Bansal, Chairman of the Trust of the Dental College, said a notification to this effect was issued recently by the Union Health Ministry.

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