Thursday, January 3, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Unity move fails as Badal, Tohra stick to guns
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 2
The unity move reportedly initiated by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, through the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, to seek a rapprochement between the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and the former SGPC chief, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, received a setback today as both the leaders stuck to their guns. The two were supposed to meet at Mr Tohra’s residence in his native place today this afternoon. However, due to a last minute disagreement, the meeting failed to a materialise.

Mr Dhumal, accompanied by Prof Kidar Sharma, an astrologer from Jaipur, believed to be close to the Prime Minister, reached Tohra, the native village of the SGPC chief at about 3.30 pm. Mr Badal was also scheduled to reach Tohra at 4 p.m to meet Mr Tohra.

However, both Mr Dhumal and Professor Sharma left at 4.10 p.m. Mr Tohra said that Mr Dhumal told him that Mr Badal was not prepared to appear before Akal Takht. He wanted a rapprochement minus that condition. “This”, Mr Tohra maintained, “was not possible since I can compromise on anything, but not on the principles for which I have stood all my life”.

The former SGPC chief told this reporter at his residence, immediately after seeing off Mr Dhumal and Professor Sharma, that he hold no grudges against Mr Badal for any of his omissions and commissions during the past three years. “But two conditions still remain. One that he should appear before Akal Takht and two, that he should restore Bhai Ranjit Singh as Akal Takht Jathedar”, he said.

He disclosed that he had clarified this point to Mr Dhumal as well.

According to the earlier plan, Mr Badal was to meet Mr Tohra at his residence to assuage the hurt feelings of Mr Tohra, who has many personal grievances against Mr Badal. The sources said, the plan was conceptualised to ensure rapprochement as Mr Tohra cannot refuse anything to anyone who comes to his residence.

It was learnt that Mr Dhumal told him that Mr Badal has some reservations about both the conditions put forth by Mr Tohra. He reportedly did not want to make any commitment on any of the two demands. This was not acceptable to Mr Tohra, who said, in such a situation it was useless for Mr Badal to meet him. Mr Dhumal reportedly conveyed it to Mr Badal, who cancelled his visit to the village.

The sources revealed that Mr Dhumal had been asked by the Prime Minister to explore the possibilities of a rapprochement between the two Akali stalwarts. He reportedly sought the services of Prof Kidar Sharma, who also happens to be the astrologer of the former US President, Mr Bill Clinton, and Microsoft Chairman, Mr Bill Gates.

Everything seemed to move in the right direction till the end, when Mr Badal reportedly refused a clear commitment on the conditions put forth by Mr Tohra. Mr Tohra asked, “When I did not care for the power three years ago just because I did not want to give up my lifelong principles, why should I compromise now?”. He regretted, “(Mr) Badal does not seem to be interested in unity. Otherwise, why should he hesitate from appearing before Akal Takht and ask for pardon from the Guru?”. He pointed out, “even Mr Buta Singh and Mr Surjit Singh Barnala have appeared before Takht.

Mr Dhumal, who was dressed in a brown suit and a traditional Himachali cap, returned a disappointed man along with Professor Sharma. He was in a cheerful mood, at the time of arrival. He bowed in respect before Mr Tohra, who came out to see him off.


Unity possible if Badal apologises at
Akal Takht: Tohra
Tribune News Service

Jogipur (Patiala), January 2
Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, today accused Mr Badal taking the Shiromani Akali Dal away from Panthic principles and said unity could not be forged unless the humiliation meted out to former Akal Takht Jathedar Bhai Ranjit Singh was atoned for.

The former SGPC chief and President of the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal, while speaking at the bhog ceremony of former Akali Jathedar Bagga Singh, also accused the Chief Minister of doing away with Panthic traditions and panthic enthusiasm. He said he would breathe easily again only when both of them were revived.

Mr Tohra also made it clear that the Chief Minister would have to apologise at the Akal Takht for violating its ‘Hukamnama’. He said he would also have to atone for the humiliation meted out to Bhai Ranjit Singh by giving him appropriate ‘’samman’’. He, however, did not specify whether he would be satisfied only if Bhai Ranjit Singh was made Jathedar of the Akal Takht again.

Tohra loyalists, who attended the bhog ceremony here today also derided reports of a direct meeting between Mr Tohra and the Chief Minister to hammer out the differences between the two. The sources said Mr Tohra had not met the Chief Minister on Sunday.

Meanwhile, according to sources in the Tohra camp, there was division of opinion on the issue of unity between prominent leaders aligned with the former SGPC chief. They said while former legislators, some of whom even had to lose ministerships, want a unity to be affected, some other senior leaders, who feel they would not be adjusted in the new set up, are against it.

They said, prominent among those who had reservations on the question of unity was senior Panthic leader Prem Singh Chandumajra who had even gone on to hold a meeting with Bahujan Samaj Party President Kanshi Ram on December 31 to hammer out a seat adjustment agreement between the BSP and the Panthic Morcha. The absence of Mr Tohra and Akali Dal (Amritsar) President Simranjit Singh Mann at the meeting raised eye brows among political circles. Mr Chandumajra, however, has claimed that nothing should be read into the absence of the two leaders at the meeting.

The sources said, however, both factions of the Akali Dal were veering to the view that unity amongst them would give a boost to them in the rural seats. Both factions feel it is important to score in the rural dominated seats if they are to make a bid for power as the hold of the Akali-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance has been severely compromised in the urban areas.

The sources said the next few days would be crucial with political personalities interested in a unity putting pressure on Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to present himself before the Akal Takht during his forthcoming visit to Amritsar. They said only when this was done, would further talks be held on unity which could entail leaving all seats held by Tohra loyalists to the Panthic Morcha besides adjusting a few other leaders of the morcha.


Unity reports baseless: Tohra
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 2
Mr G.S. Tohra, President, SHSAD, while talking to TNS at Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Engineering College here today termed as baseless media reports that the unity move among Akali factions was in the final stage. He said vested interests were behind the publication of such news items.

Mr Tohra was here to honour Mr Sewa Singh, a resident of Fatehgarh Sahib, who has been appointed Judge in the Office of the Federal Republic of Germany for Asylum cases.

To a query, he said the list of the Panthic Morcha candidates for the ensuing Assembly poll would be announced within five days. He said talks for seat-sharing with the BSP were in the final stage.


Badungar hopeful of unity
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, January 2
The SGPC President, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, today said talks for Panthic unity were going on between the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Sarb Hindi Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) and it could be struck any time.

Mr Badungar, who is also the general secretary of the SAD, while talking to mediapersons here, said Panthic unity was essential for defeating the Congress and “other anti-Punjab forces” and it would be reached shortly.

Asked whether the SAD would suffer losses in the ensuing Assembly elections if no unity was made, he said, “take it from me the unity is going to be forged.”

Mr Badungar said neither the SGPC nor its manpower would be used during the forthcoming Assembly elections and he would campaign as an ordinary worker of the party.

He said the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, would tour border villages from tomorrow and the second list of the party candidates would be announced soon.


Cong for President’s rule in Punjab
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 2
The Punjab Congress today demanded the imposition of President’s rule in Punjab to ensure free and fair elections in the state.

A delegation of Punjab Congress leaders led by Capt Amarinder Singh met President K.R. Narayanan this evening to complain about the “tampering of voters’ lists” by the Punjab Government in the run-up to the Assembly elections.

In the memorandum submitted to the President, the party leaders said that Chief Election Commissioner M Lyngodh, during his recent visit to Punjab, had admitted about allegations of tampering with the voters’ list coming to his notice.

They said that while the CEC had taken action in cases where complaints were made against officials, the “political interference” was continuing.

Capt Amarinder Singh said that the President had assured the Congress leaders that their complaint would be looked into and the memorandum sent to the Prime Minister.


New EVMs can’t be tampered with: EC
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 2
The ultra-modern electronic voting machines (EVMs), which will be used for polling in the four states, could not be tampered with due to their secret coded designs.

Mr C.R. Brahamna, Secretary to the Election Commission of India, today ruled out the possibility of EVMs being tampered with. “In fact, the electronic “chips” used in the EVMs have been imported from a Japan-based company and there is no possibility of replacing these chips with tampered ones due to their internal electronic configurations.

It may be mentioned here that the Punjab Congress chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, had alleged that the ruling SAD-BJP combine had rigged the poll during byelections in the Nawanshahr and Sunam Assembly constituency by tampering with the EVMs. He had demanded that the ballot paper polling system should be reintroduced since these EVMs could be easily tampered with by replacing chips.

Regarding the allegation of the Punjab Congress that EVMs were in the custody of the Punjab Government, which could influence the poll officials concerned to suit its interests, Mr Brahamna said: “We have already brought EVMs from West Bengal to conduct elections in Punjab.”

The Commission has instructed all District Returning Officers to ensure the arrangement of one additional EVM per 10 booths which could be used as replacement in the case of failure of any machine.

Mr Brahamna later conducted a day-long training session to educate District Returning Officers and Returning Officers of Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur, Amritsar and Nawanshahr about the handling and operations of EVMs. Such training sessions would be conducted at the constituency level to impart knowledge about the handling of EVMs to poll officials and other staff concerned.


Summons against Bhattal in graft case
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 2
The Special Judge, Bathinda, today issued summons against a former Chief Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, for securing her personal appearance in the court on January 7 in a corruption case registered against her by the Vigilance Department on May 22, 2001, on a complaint of Mr Balwant Singh Dhillon, a human right activist, in connection with the alleged misappropriation of Rs 20 lakh by Ms Bhattal which she withdrew from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund in 1996.

On the other hand, Vigilance Bureau officials, who presented the challan in the same case in the court of the Additional Sessions Judge, Mr S.K. Garg, on December 27, 2001, today moved an application for the return of same on two grounds. Mr Khushi Mohammad, DSP, Vigilance Bureau, Bathinda, moved the application for the return of the challan to the court of the Special Judge.

The Special Judge today ordered, “The challan be registered in this court. The challan was presented against the accused in her absence on December 27, 2001, before the learned Additional Sessions Judge (Duty). Let the accused be produced on January 7, 2002, and process be issued accordingly. DSP Khushi Mohammad has filed an application for the return of the challan. To come up for consideration on the application in the presence of accused.”

On the complaint of Mr Dhillon the then Special Judge order the Vigilance Bureau to investigate the matter. The case under Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 409 of the IPC was registered at the Vigilance Bureau police station, Ferozepore, on May 22, 2001, when the orders of the Special Judge were sent to higher Vigilance authorities for necessary action. The case was registered on the directions of the DGP (Vigilance), Punjab.

In the application moved today in the court of the Special Judge, Mr Mohammad pleaded, “The court of the Special Judge, Chandigarh, is the proper forum where the challan should have been presented as the trial is to take place in the court under whose territorial jurisdiction the offence is allegedly committed.”

“The alleged amount was sanctioned and withdrawn by the accused from the government treasury in Chandigarh and the said amount was misappropriated in Chandigarh by not utilising the same for the purpose for which it was withdrawn. As such the offence was committed in Chandigarh in the territorial jurisdiction of the court of the Special Judge, Chandigarh”, he added.

He further claimed, “The accused is a member of the legislature and a former Chief Minister of Punjab and thus a public servant. It has come to the notice of the investigating agency that permission/sanction for prosecution from the competent authority is a prerequisite for taking cognisance as envisaged under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, and Section 197 of Cr PC which has not been obtained from the competent authority.”

After the challan was presented in the court of the Vacation Judge on December 27, the Punjab Government initiated a move to withdraw the same for reasons best known to it. Senior officials of the Department of Prosecution and Litigation, Punjab, and the Vigilance Bureau came here yesterday evening and worked out a strategy to withdraw the challan.

Mr P.S. Rai, Director, Prosecution and Litigation Department, Punjab, who came here yesterday, when asked whether he had come to make arrangements for the withdrawal of the challan presented against Ms Bhattal, said he had no knowledge whether the challan had been presented or not as his department had nothing to do with it. 


Centres from where power flows
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
If house number 32 in Sector 2 here is the centre of power for the Shiromani Akali Dal, New Delhi’s Punjab Bhavan has been functioning as the nerve-centre for the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee.

Aspirants for the party ticket and Congress leaders of all hues and shades have been camping in the Union Capital for the past several days in anticipation of the release of the official list of candidates for the coming Assembly elections. They have been lobbying hard, trying to outdo one another in proving themselves to be an asset to the party.

‘We expect the first list to be released on January 3,” remarked a senior Congress leader from Patiala, maintaining that the party high command in general and the Central Election Committee in particular were very clear about “verifying the antecedents of every aspirant before approving his or her name”.

“We hope Punjab will be the first in this regard and the other states going to the polls simultaneously will have a little more time ,” he added hoping that the party would give due weightage not only to new faces but also to the “winnability” of the aspirant.

Unlike the SAD, where the right to name party candidates remains vested in the Dal President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, the Congress has undertaken a massive exercise, right from inviting applications to interviewing of aspirants followed by deliberations at various levels, including the State Election Committee, the Core Group and the Central Election Committee.

“Because of the democratic system adopted by the Congress to screen each and every candidate, the finalisation of names is taking a little longer than expected,” remarked another Congress leader and a former Punjab Minister.

In Punjab Bhavan, most of the rooms have been occupied by Congressmen. “There is otherwise no rush,” remarked an official of the bhavan maintaining that because of injury to the Chief Minister, “official visitors “ from Chandigarh have been few.

After the announcement of the elections in the state, the visits of officials have been further reduced. “As such, we had no problem in accommodating most of the Congress leaders, especially MPs and other legislators, besides others,” he added.

Punjab Bhavan has been a beehive of activity. One frequently witness a number of cellphones ringing simultaneously and messages and notes being exchanged on the latest developments.

Each one is keeping an eye on his rival and what he or she is doing. And you come to know of the latest within half an hour of reaching the bhavan.

A large number of cars — from Maruti 800s to Ceilos, Lancers and Mercedes — with registration numbers from almost all subdivisions of Punjab remain parked there the whole day. Sub-groups and thinktanks hold their meetings in one room or the other . They keep on changing the venue to hoodwink their immediate opponents.

Most of the aspirants are accompanied by members of their families, their die-hard supporters and, at times, senior leaders no more seeking the party ticket. In all, the activity at Punjab Bhavan may be more than at the AICC office. Before moving to the Union Capital, it was the Sector 15 Punjab Congress Bhavan which was the final destination of Congressmen.


Poll activities begin in Sirhind
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 2
Hectic political activities have started in the Sirhind Assembly constituency. The Congress has taken the lead in formally launching the election campaign, as the election office of Dr Harbans Lal, sitting Congress MLA was inaugurated yesterday at Sirhind.

Dr Lal had been allotted the party ticket as per the decision of the party high command to re-nominate the sitting MLAs. Addressing the gathering, he said he had toured all villages of the constituency and now the process of opening election offices had been started. Akalis had failed to select their candidate and were looking for the unity. There was a strong wave in favour of the Congress in the constituency, he added.

On the other hand, SAD (B) workers and leaders are confused in the district, particularly in Sirhind, basically a rural and Akali dominated constituency. For the past two terms, since the Akali Dal had witnessed a split, Congress MLA is representing it. Since the declaration of the elections, the tussle over the party ticket between two warring factions of SAD (B) one led by Mr R.S. Cheema, former minister, and the other led by Mr Rajeshpal Singh Lalli and Mr Didar Singh Bhatti, have intensified.

Both groups have been claiming that they had been assured the party ticket by the party president and even one of the groups has distributed sweets in Sirhind and Bassi Pathana town in this regard. The delay in the announcement of the ticket will be suicidal for the party as the Congress, candidate has been trying hard to win over SAD (B) sympathisers.

Both groups have been touring villages and organising the corner meetings. The Lalli-Bhatti group arranged a massive gathering of the urbanites at the Bhatti Farm House in Sirhind town. It was largely attended.

Mr Rajeshpal Singh Lalli, who is heading the election campaign and has a mass base in the rural area said there was a great enthusiasm among the people for SAD (B) as grants during sangat darshan programmes had been given to all villages irrespective of their affiliations.

Sirhind is hometown of Mr G.S. Tohra, president, SHSAD, and Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, president, SAD (A). Panthic Morcha sources said the list of the party candidates would be formally announced on January 3 as it had been finalised. The delay was not due to the unity efforts between Badal and Tohra but due to the meeting with Kanshi Ram over the sharing of seats with the BSP, they added.

The sources said the decision over the two Assembly seats in the district had been taken — the Sirhind seat would be contested by Mr Iman Singh Mann, son of Simranjit Singh Mann, as Panthic Morcha candidate and the Amloh seat had been given to Mr Tohra. A staunch supporter of Mr Tohra, Mr Sukhdev Singh Libra, MP, Rajya Sabha, is likely to be the candidate from there.

Though the constituencies are Akali dominated, the division of votes is likely to benefit the Congress.


Rajinder Kaur lays claim to Barnala seat
Tribune News Service

Barnala, January 2
Though the party ticket for the Barnala Assembly constituency by the SAD is yet to be announced Mrs Rajinder Kaur, who as an SAD candidate lost to an Independent candidate Mr Malkiat Singh Keetu in the February 1997 Assembly elections yesterday announced her candidature in public from Barnala.

Mrs Rajinder Kaur, was addressing her supporters at her residence after the bhog of ‘sehaj path’ of Guru Granth Sahib on Tuesday. Mrs Rajinder Kaur claimed that out of 42 sarpanches of the Barnala Assembly constituency about 28 sarpanches and a large number of former sarpanches and panches besides Akali leaders also participated in the bhog ceremony. However, she did not make it clear whether she would contest as a SAD candidate or as rebel SAD candidate (in case she does not get the party ticket).

On the other hand, Bhog of “Akhand Path” of Guru Granth Sahib was also held at the residence of Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, Governor, Uttaranchal, and a senior Akali leader, here yesterday which was attended by hundreds of persons. The bhog function was attended among others by some Akali leaders of the Barnala faction including Mr Baldev Singh Mann, ex-administrative member of the PSEB, Mr Surinder Singh Dhuri, a former Akali MLA from Dhuri; Mrs Mukhtiar Kaur and Mr Amandeep Singh, wife and son respectively, of Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla, a Punjab minister.

The holding of Akhand Paths by the family of Mr Barnala and ‘sehaj path’ by Mrs Rajinder Kaur on the same day is being considered in the political circles as a move of show of strength. Though both sides have denied that there was any political motive behind the holding of ‘paths.’ The Barnala family said it was organised on the occasion of New Year while Mrs Rajinder Kaur said it had been organised for the fast recovery of Mr Parkash Singh Badal. Local residents, however, were of the view that both sides had organised “paths” to launch their election campaign.

Later talking to some newspersons, Mrs Rajinder Kaur changed her version which she gave in public. She said she would contest as a SAD candidate.


Cong men oppose ticket to outsiders
Tribune Reporters

Bathinda, January 2
There is resentment among aspirants for the Congress ticket from this Assembly segment, following reports that the party high command has started contemplating to field an “outsider” from this seat.

Various aspirants while talking to TNS on the condition of anonymity pointed out that according to their information, in the panel of prospective candidates, two names of outsiders had been included while no name of local applicants had been included.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that 32 persons applied for the Congress ticket from this Assembly segment. Prominent among the applicants included Mr Hem Raj Mittal, former Chairman, Punjab State Subordinate Service Selection Board, Mr Jagroop Singh Gill, former President of the local municipal council, Mr Kewal Krishan Aggarwal, General Secretary, DCC, Mr Kulwant Rai Aggarwal, former Chairman of the local Improvement Trust, Mr Raj Nambardar, Mr Surinder Kapoor, Mr Kulbir Singh Sidhu and Mr K.K. Sharma.

The applicants, who have been camping in Delhi, have been regularly meeting Mr Moti Lal Vora, Treasurer, AICC and in charge, Punjab Congress affairs, Ms Ambika Soni, Mr Buta Singh, Mr Jagmeet Brar apart from the PPCC President, Mr Amarinder Singh. Most of the applicants have been claiming the ticket on the basis of their loyalty to a particular leader apart from their work for the party.

In the previous elections, this Assembly segment always returned a Hindu candidate belonging either to the Janata Party, SAD and the Congress. Late Excise and Taxation minister, Hit Ablashi, late Kasturi Lal, late Faqir Chand Gupta, Mr Surinder Kapoor, late Seth Ram Nath and Mr Chiranji Lal Garg.

Mr Garg, who was the lone Hindu candidate of SAD in the last Assembly elections, has been campaigning for the past five years to bring the members of a particular community into Akali’s fold. He also played a significant role in Majitha, Nawanshahr and Sunam byelections by securing votes of members of a particular community for the party candidates.

A cross-section of Congress workers pointed out that the party high command should announce the list of its candidates for the coming Vidhan Sabha elections immediately as delay would leave little time for them to carry out effective campaign as SAD-BJP candidates had already started reaching out to electorate.

Meanwhile, this Assembly seat is likely to witness a triangular contest as the Sarb Hind Akali Dal (SHSAD) leadership has also been thinking to field its own candidate.

BUDHLADA (Mansa): More than 3000 workers of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) of the circle, in the district led by Mr Jaswant Singh Phaphre Bhaike, former Deputy Speaker, Punjab Vidhan Sabha, organised a meeting in Gurdwara Baraaha Sahib here on Wednesday. They opposed the nomination of Mr Harbant Singh Datewas as party candidate from this assembly constituency.


Punjab poll: CPI to contest 18 seats
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
Upset over the delaying tactics of the Congress to clinch the electoral tie-up, the CPI today announced its candidates for 18 seats for the Punjab Assembly elections.

Holding Capt Amarinder Singh, President, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, responsible for the failure of electoral agreement between the two parties, the secretary of the state unit of the CPI, Dr Joginder Dayal, said the Congress was engaged in a self-defeating exercise.

He also announced the CPI’s election strategy vis-a-vis the Congress. In fact, Dr Dayal said the CPI would now concentrate to defeat Congress candidates in the Assembly elections.

He said the CPI would contest 28 seats in all and support the CPM candidates. Its next priority would be to support the BSP candidates. And it would also extend support to Congress rebel candidates where they would contesting elections against the official candidates of the Congress.

He said the BSP’s alliance with the Panthic Morcha would not come in way of the CPI extending support to that ( BSP) party in the elections. However, he made it clear that the CPI would not enter in any sort of electoral adjustment or alliance with the Panthic Morcha.

When asked what made the CPI to part company with the Congress, Dr Dayal said Capt Amarinder Singh’s pro- WTO stance and the Akali background was the main reason for not becoming ally of the Left forces. The Congress has also not entered in any electoral adjustment with the CPM yet.

The CPI’s leadership led by Mr A.B. Bardhan had talked to the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, for contesting the Assembly elections together. However, the Congress refused to part with 13 seats demanded by the CPI. The Congress only offered seven seats to the CPI and the offer was rejected. More over, most of the constituencies offered by the Congress were those which were not suitable to the CPI.

Among the seven seats offered by the Congress, only three figured in the list submitted to the Congress by the CPI for the allocation of the constituencies.

When asked whether there was any chance of resumption of talks between the Congress and the CPI for rapprochement, Dr Dayal said if the Congress accepted the list submitted by his party, then there was possibility of contesting the elections together. Otherwise, the CPI had already announced its first list of 18 candidates.

The names announced by the CPI are Mr Hardev Arshi (Budhlada), Mr Ajaib Singh Raunta (Nihalsingwala), Mr Buta Singh (Mansa), Mr Kartar Singh Boani (Payal), Mr Nathu Ram (Malout), Mr Ram Chand (Shatrana), Mr Amarjit Singh Asal (Amritsar-west), Mr Achhra Singh (Dhuri), Mr Gurnam Singh Dhirowal (Sri Hargobindpur), Mr Amrik Singh (Rampuraphul), Mr Raj Kumar (Verka), Mr Kulwinder Singh (Valtoha), Mr Manjit Singh Lalli (Garhshankar), Mr Khushi Ram (Bhadaur), Mr Baldev Singh Dirba, Mr Pawanpreet Singh (Faridkot), Mr Aala Singh (Jalalabad) and Mrs Kailashwanti (Guru Harsahai).

List of the candidates for Bathinda, Adampur, Lohian, Mukerian, Banga. Jagraon, Khanna. Joga, Dharmkot, Panjgraian constituencies would be announced on January 9 after the meeting of the state council of the party.


Cong to offer CPI more seats
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 2
Amid reports of possible unity between various Akali factions and the CPI announcing a list of 19 candidates for the Punjab Assembly elections, the Congress has been forced to review its strategy in Punjab. The party is likely to give 12 seats to the CPI against its earlier offer of only eight.

Despite the CPI announcing its first list of candidates today, Congress leaders maintained that talks had not yet broken and an adjustment would be worked out. The CPI has conveyed to the Congress in unambigous terms that it wanted more than 10 seats this time as it had won two out of the 10 seats it contested last time in a seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress. The Congress, the CPI leaders said, had won only 14 out of the 107 seats it contested.

Justifying the CPI claim for more seats, Secretary of the party’s national council Shameem Faizee, who is in charge of Punjab, said his party’s success rate was better than that of the Congress. He said the party would wait for two more days for the Congress to come with a new offer.

In their negotiations with the Congress, the CPI leaders have indicated their willingness to give up Attari but want their candidates on Phool (Bathinda), Garhshankar (Hoshiarpur), Adampur, Banga and Lohian (all Jalandhar) and Gurursahai (Ferozepore).


Garg blows his trumpet
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 2
The SAD-BJP combine candidate from Bathinda for Assembly elections, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, yesterday said he would win the election as he had undertaken many development works in the past five years.

Addressing mediapersons here, Mr Garg claimed that the state had witnessed development in the past five years that had not been during the four decades of the Congress rule. He said everyone was satisfied with the performance of the SAD-BJP government.

Mr Garg said there was no rift between the district unit of the SAD and BJP and workers of both parties would work for the party candidates’ triumph.

Mr Bhupinder Singh Bhullar, president of the municipal council and Mr Gulzar Singh, district president of the BJP, were also present on the occasion.

Mr Garg hoped that people belonging to all walks of life would vote for him. He claimed that under the present government, long pending demands of residents were fulfilled. He alleged that the Congress governments had ignored the city and no development work had been done during their rule.

Mr Gulzar Singh said reports of conflicts between office-bearers of the district BJP were baseless. He said the party high command had given instructions to support the official candidate during the elections.

He said if there were any differences in the rank and file of the party, these would be removed before the elections. To defeat the Opposition candidates, it was necessary that the minor differences should be removed, he said.


BJP candidates by January 10
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, January 2
The BJP has decided to announce list of its candidates for the forthcoming Assembly elections by January 10.

Talking to reporters here today, the in charge of the Punjab BJP election committee, Mr Vinod Sharma, said the selection committee was in the process of shortlisting names of prospective candidates for all Assembly constituencies, which it has contested in last elections.

"The list of prospective BJP candidates for all 23 Assembly constituencies and in some cases, panel of candidates will be forwarded to the BJP Parliamentary Board by the state BJP chief, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, very soon.


Punjab Lok Morcha to contest 60 seats

Jalandhar, January 2
The Punjab Lok Morcha, an amalgam of various political parties, today said it would contest over 60 seats in the ensuing Assembly elections.

Mr Kuldip Singh Wadala, convener of the morcha, told mediapersons that partners in the morcha, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Democratic) will contest 16 seats, the Marxist Communist Party six, the Janata Dal (Secular) nine, the Samajwadi Janata Party four, the Forward Block two, the Samajwadi Party two, the Republican Party of India three and NCP six seats.

He said the dispute on almost 10 seats, where more than one political partner had staked then claim, would be solved soon and common manifesto of the morcha released within a week.

Mr Wadala said the morcha would raise the issues of long pending demands of the state, including transfer of Chandigarh, water dispute and handing over of Punjabi speaking areas. PTI


Yatra fails to enthuse BJP workers
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 2
The “sadbhavna and vikas rath yatra” being taken out by the state BJP Chief, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, keeping in view the coming Assembly elections, seems to have failed to generate enthusiasm among party workers in the district and its surrounding areas. The workers have been anticipating that the party would not field candidates in any Assembly segment falling in Bathinda, Mansa, Faridkot, Moga, Sangrur and Muktsar districts.

Though the party high command had directed its district and mandal officer-bearers to make suitable arrangements for the yatra to be followed by a rally, a section of workers seems to be disinterested or busy elsewhere. The yatra will reach this town tomorrow evening.

What is worrying party office-bearers here is one of the directions in the two-page letter written to them by the BJP organisational secretary, Punjab, Mr Avinash Jaiswal, in which he has asked them for arranging money to be presented to Mr Rinwa. In another instruction Mr Jaiswal has asked every party unit to bear the expenses of the yatra on equitable basis. The party rank and file has also been asked to deposit the same along with “yatra tax”.

A senior BJP leader while talking to TNS on the condition of anonymity said enthusiasm among workers over the yatra was missing due to the fact that the party high command had failed to promise them that it would contest on one or two seats from this region. He said the workers were also disappointed over the fact that the BJP fielded candidate from this Assembly segment during the militancy days and now it was not claiming one or two seats from this region.

Meanwhile, Mr Jaiswal has also directed the party workers to make adequate arrangements for food and shelter for those who had been accompanying the yatra. The workers have also been asked to make proper publicity for the yatra and rally in the newspapers.


Warm welcome to BJP ‘rath yatra’
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 2
Local BJP leader, including Mr Nanak Chand Kalra, Chairman of the Sangrur Improvement Trust, warmly received the party’s “rath yatra” at the Pheruman Chowk here this afternoon.

Mrs Sarswati Rinwa, wife of Prof Brij Lal Rinwa, president of the Punjab BJP, Mr Balbir Chand Kapila, a senior vice-president of the Punjab BJP, Mr Avinash Jaiswal, general secretary (Organisation), Punjab BJP, Mr Harjit Singh Grewal, vice-president of the All-India BJP kisan morcha and Ms Trishna Minhas, president of the Mahila Morcha of the Punjab BJP also accompanied the yatra.

A purse of Rs 1 lakh was also presented to Mr Kapila and Mr Jaiswal, both senior BJP leaders, for the “rath yatra” by the district unit of the BJP.

Thakur Jagdish Rai, president of the district unit of the party, Mr Jatinder Kalra, a local municipal councillor and Mr Prem Gugnani, general secretary of the Sangrur district unit of the BJP, also addressed the gathering.


Sena (Thackeray) may contest 40 seats
Our Correspondent

Barnala, January 2
The Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray) Punjab Unit may now field its nominees from 40 Assembly constituencies of the state instead of earlier announced 30 in the ensuing Assembly poll.

The Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray) has decided to field its nominees even from Rajpura constituency of Mr Balramji Dass Tandon state Local Government Minister and Nangal, constituency of Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, state Food and Civil Supplies Minister.

Mr Pawan Kumar Gupta, Punjab Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray), Chief, said this here today. He said the Shiv Sena had so far decided to field its nominees from Rajpura, Patiala, Ghanaur and Samana (Patiala district), Nangal, Morinda, Anandpur Sahib, Chamkaur Sahib and Kharar (Ropar district), Batala, Dhariwal, Pathankot (constituency of Master Mohan Lal Punjab Higher Education Minister), Gurdaspur, Dinanagar, Narot Mehra, Mukerian and Sujanpur (Gurdaspur district), Sultanpur, Kapurthala and Phagwara (Kapurthala district), Hoshiarpur, Sham Chaurasi, Dasuya Gardhiwal, Tanda (Hoshiarpur district), Ludhiana (North-West, East and rural).


Dhillon is PYC vice-president
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
Mr Paramjeet Singh Dhillon has been appointed vice-president of the Punjab Pradesh Youth Congress.

This has been communicated to Mr Dhillon by the permanent secretary of the Indian Youth Congress, Mr Nitin Sharma.


Kanjhla's nomination opposed
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 2
A delegation of 150 persons, including three circle Jathedars of the SAD and sarpanches of villages in the Sherpur Assembly constituency, under the leadership of Mr Piara Singh Panj Graianan, met the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal in Chandigarh yesterday to oppose the candidature of Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla, Punjab Social Security Minister, from the Sherpur Assembly constituency in the forthcoming Assembly elections.

Mr Gurmeet Singh Mahmadpur, Jathedar, Sherpur circle, said today that Mr Kanjhla's activities were damaging the image of the SAD in the constituency. The deputation also urged Mr Badal to allot the party ticket to Mr Piara Singh Panj Graianan, he said.


SGPC seeks return of manuscripts
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 2
The issue of missing manuscripts and rare hand-written copies of Granth Sahib, which were taken away from the Golden Temple complex during Operation Bluestar by the Army, has taken a new turn with the SGPC now appealing to the Union Home Minister to get the CBI return these articles.

SGPC President Kirpal Singh Badungar has now petitioned Union Home Minister L.K. Advani to return these manuscripts. Mr Badungar has also submitted a copy of the communication of Union Defence Minister George Fernandes to the SGPC informing it that the manuscripts taken away by the army from the Golden Temple complex were handed over to the CBI. Mr Fernandes had also asked the SGPC to interact with the Home Ministry in this regard.

He urged the Union Home Minister to take personal interest and make necessary efforts to return the priceless legacy to the SGPC.

The memorandum also urged the union minister to order immediate withdrawal of a circular issued by the Lucknow police asking its men to keep a vigilant eye on Sikhs.

The memorandum also highlighted the “corridor scheme” initiated around the Golden Temple in Amritsar.


SGPC cautious against ‘bir’ collection
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 2
The SGPC has cautioned the Sikhs against some unscrupulous elements who are indulging in the collection of birs of Guru Granth Sahib in the name of the SGPC. Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, secretary, SGPC in a statement said reports of such unauthorised practice had been received by the SGPC.

Expressing concern over the Piara Singh Bhaniara, the SGPC secretary said all should remain vigilant against such persons.

Meanwhile the SGPC has instructed all those who have information about the desecration of the holy Granth after the Bhaniara episode to come forward and co-operate with the three-member inquiry commission formed by the SGPC — “Any information or proof may be presented before the commission before January 10”, according to a press release issued by the SGPC. 


Drive against female foeticide
Surinder Bhardwaj

Fatehgarh Sahib
Mr N.K. Arora, Punjab’s Chief Secretary, while addressing a state-level seminar here declared that the state government has decided to launch a crusade against female foeticide in the state and make it a mass movement by involving the people from every section of society as it is a big challenge and has created imbalance in the sex ratio.

He admitted that till now he was not aware that the state was facing such an alarming situation. If he had not come here to preside over the seminar, he would not have understood the gravity of the situation. Disturbed at the data given out that the state had the lowest sex ratio in the country and Fatehgarh Sahib the lowest in the state, the Chief Secretary assured the gathering that he would call a meeting of all social representatives, police, health officials and the representatives of other departments to chalk out a practical plan and monitor it to curb this social evil.

He pointed out that first the causes of this menace had to be identified and it was only the NGOs, which could made it a mass movement.

Addressing the seminar, Mr K.K. Bhatnagar, Principal Secretary of Human Rights Commission, said when the PNDT Act was constituted to control sex determination tests, it was appreciated, but it is very unfortunate that till now the government did not have any information whether any case had been registered or not against any one under this law in the state. He pointed out that just by enacting laws the government could not succeed in any mission, the involvement of the social organisations was essential. He said the commission had made sincere efforts to unite all the NGOs on one platform and now it was going to launch a campaign against this by involving other government departments. He hoped the involvement of people would definitely bring positive results. He urged the Chief Secretary to use his good offices to control this disorder. He assured full cooperation to the movement.

Mr D.R. Bhatti, Additional Director-General of Police, who heads the association, in his address lauded the initiative taken by the social organisations keeping in mind the gravity of the situation the state was going to face. He said if the present sex ratio continued there would be disorder in society and more crime against women.

Dr Puran Singh Jassi, former Director of Health, who is UNICEF Consultant, gave detailed information about the deteriorating disorder in the society, particularly in Punjab. The state has the lowest sex ratio in the country. In 1991 the sex ratio of the state was 882, which declined to 793 in 2001, whereas the sex ratio at the national level had increased from 927 in 1991 to 933 in 2001. It was a matter of concern that the most historical and religious district of the state, Fatehgarh Sahib has the lowest sex ratio 754: 1,000.

Mr Vikas Partat, Deputy Commissioner, threw light on the steps taken by the district administration in this regard.



Villagers burn effigy of minister
Our Correspondent

Ropar, January 2
Residents of five villages situated in the vicinity of Ropar today burnt the effigies of the State Minister for Education, Mr Tara Singh Ladal and the Ropar Municipal Council Chief Mr Indersen Chatwal in protest against the discharge of sewage through their villages. The agitated villagers also threatened to boycott. Mr Tara Singh Ladal, who is going to represent SAD from the Anandpur Sahib Assembly constituency in the forthcoming Assembly elections in the state, if their problems were not solved by the administration.

About 200 residents of Haveli Kalan, Shampura, Phool Kalan, Phool Khurd and Gurdaspura villages on Wednesday started their protest by organising a procession and raising slogans against the Punjab Government. The procession which started from Haveli Kalan village after passing through College Road ended at mini secretariat here. The processionists besides carrying the effigies of the two leaders also carried placards. They burnt the effigies in front of the mini secretariat disrupting traffic on the Ropar-Bela road for some time.

Leaders of the protesting villagers who included sarpanches and presidents of various youth clubs of the area, while addressing the rally outside the mini secretariat alleged that the discharge of sewage through their villages had made the life hell for the residents. The sewage of the entire Ropar town is released in the fields, destroying crops. The dirty water of the town also passes through the streets of villages as there is no proper drainage they alleged.

The protesting villagers alleged that they had approached the district administration but to no avail. “We have been forced to adopt the agitational mode of protest due to the inaction of the district administration,” they alleged.

The municipal council officials, however, maintained that unauthorised colonies that had come up in the areas adjoining the town, were responsible for the problem.

The SDM, Ropar, and ADC had also visited the effected villages in the recent past and had ordered the Executive Officer of the municipal council to make arrangement for the proper disposal of sewages. However, no action had been taken on those orders as yet.


Ban on fishing in Sutlej lifted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
The Punjab and Haryana High Court today vacated the interim orders issued in November last year imposing a ban on fishing in the Sutlej river, but directed the Punjab Pollution Control Board to collect samples for two weeks and submit a status report.

Issuing the directions, a Division Bench, comprising Mr Justice G.S. Singhvi and Ms Justice Bakhshish Kaur, also directed counsel for the state of Punjab to file an affidavit by the Principal Secretary in the Department of Environment within two weeks.

The Judges further directed that the affidavit should specify the reasons behind the government’s reported failure in taking action against the discharge of untreated sewage into the river. The affidavit should also specify whether drinking water was being supplied from the Sutlej river, they ruled. The case will now come up for further hearing on January 30.

Taking a serious view of a report appearing in these columns on Sutlej water turning toxic and killing fish in the process, the High Court, on the last date of hearing, had directed the state of Punjab and its functionaries to take immediate steps to stop fishing in the area till further orders.

The Bench had also directed Ropar’s Deputy Commissioner to depute an official not below the rank of Additional Deputy Commissioner to inspect the site and submit a status report with reference to the contents of the news report. The Chairman of the Pollution Control Board was also directed to depute an official not below the rank of an environmental engineer to collect the samples from the site.


Mann flays POTO repromulgation
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
The President of Akali Dal (Amritsar) and Member of the Lok Sabha, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, today condemned the repromulgation of the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO).

In a statement, Mr Mann said that the impact of the repromulgation of the ordinance was evident from certain news reports through which the source of information, too, was leaked out. “Four Ps — politicians, prostitutes, police and Press — are known to maintain secrecy of their sources but now after the repromulgation of POTO, a section of media had started playing into the hands of the state. It is a dangerous and highly condemnable trend”, he added.


Tributes paid to Sant Longowal
Our Correspondent

Sunam, January 2
Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Finance Minister, Punjab, paying tributes to Sant Harchand Singh Longowal today held Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, responsible for the escalation of terrorism in Punjab after January 1986 as he failed to implement the Rajiv-Longowal Accord by not handing over Chandigarh to Punjab on January 26, 1986.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh was addressing a conference organised in connection with the birth anniversary of Sant Longowal at Kambowal gurdwara in Longowal, 15 km from here, today.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh further said had the Congress leadership implemented the accord in letter and spirit, Punjab could have been saved from the jaws of terrorism.

The minister also lashed out at the Congress by saying it had ruined the state during its 45 years of rule at the Centre and discriminated against Punjab. He also described the regime of late Beant Singh as regime of “Aurangzeb” in which hundreds of Sikh youths had been eliminated in the name of militancy.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said the SAD’s main enemy was the Congress which had attacked the Golden Temple and massacred thousands of Sikhs during anti-Sikh riots in 1984. He said the Sikhs would never forgive the Congress in the decades to come. He said the Sikhs always fought for the justice and never bowed before any cruel ruler.

He also levelled charge against the Congress by alleging that it had “played a role” in the murder of Sant Longowal. He also stated that the SAD-BJP government had solved religious and political issues.

Jathedar Tota Singh, Education Minister, Punjab, paying tributes to the late Sant, said Sant Longowal had been a staunch supporter of the Hindu-Sikh unity for which he sacrificed his life. He said Sant Longowal sacrificed his life as he had signed the accord which had not been liked by a section though the Sant had signed the accord for national integration.

Mr Gobind Singh Longowal, Minister of State for Irrigation, Punjab, also paid tributes to the late Sant and described him as a messiah of peace and communal harmony. He also asked the gathering to follow the path shown by the Sant in the national interest.

Among others who also spoke on the occasion were Mr Parminder Singh Dhindsa, MLA from Sunam; Mr Balbir Singh Ghunas, MLA from Bhadaur; Mr Baldev Singh Mann, a former Punjab Minister, Mr Gurbachan Singh Bachi, administrative member of the PSEB; and Mr Rajinder Singh Kanjhla, a member of the working committee of the SAD. 


Bank employees stage dharna
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 2
Members of the All-India Bank Employees Association staged a dharna in front of the regional office of the State Bank of Patiala today in protest against transfer of some employees of Standard Chartered Bank from Kolkata to far-off places.

The agitating employees alleged that the employees were transferred as they had not opted for the Voluntary Retirement Scheme.

According to Mr Ashok Sharma, president of the district unit of the Punjab Bank Employees Federation, a strike would be observed on January 4 throughout the country.

He said the bank employees would continue the agitation till the management of Standard Chartered Bank reversed its decision.


4 jawans hurt in accidental blast

Ferozepore, January 2
Four Army personnel were injured in an accidental landmine blast near the border observation post of Gatti Mastike near the Indo-Pakistan border in the district this evening, official sources said here.

The Army jawans were patrolling the area near Gate No. 2 under Mamdot sector of the border, the sources said. The injured soldiers have been rushed to Military Hospital here where the condition of one of them is serious.

The Army has laid landmines in the entire area to check infiltration, the sources added. PTI


Former IG dead
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
Mr Parkash Chand, a former Inspector-General of Police, Punjab, died here today following a heart attack. He was 75.

Mr Chand, who belonged to the 1953 batch of the IPS, retired in 1984. He was cremated at the Sector 25 cremation ground this afternoon.


Passport adalat in Bathinda from Jan 12
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
The Regional Passport Office, Chandigarh, will organise a passport adalat on January 12 in Bathinda for disposing of applications from Mansa, Bathinda, Faridkot, Sangrur and Muktsar districts. The adalat is being held to clear all applications sent before June 30, 2001, an official press note said here today.

The adalat to be held at Circuit House between 10 am to 4 pm, will try to clear the applications which had been pending for want of documents.


17.42 cr disbursed among MC commissioners
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
The Punjab Government today disbursed Rs 17.42 crore among Commissioners of four Municipal Corporations in the state in lieu of octroi which had been abolished since December 1 last year. 

A spokesman of the Punjab Government said no development work of any local body would be allowed to be disrupted or stopped due to paucity of funds. The government would compensate all civic bodies with a matching grant in lieu of octroi. He further said similar disbursement for all municipal committees of the state would be made in a day or two.


124 constables promoted
Our Correspondent

Barnala, January 2
As many as 124 constables of Barnala police district have been promoted as Head Constables.

Disclosing this here yesterday, Mr Kanwarjit Singh, SSP, Barnala police district said these constables were promoted as Head Constables after completing 16 years’ of service following the recommendations of a three-member departmental promotion committee.

SSP cautions SHOs
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 2
The SSP, Mr Harchand Singh Sidhu, has cautioned SHOs of the border district that miscreants may resort to sacrilege of religious places of the minority community to spark off communal violence in case of misadventures on the international border.

Sources said Mr Sidhu held a meeting of all SHOs of the region yesterday. He asked them to intensify vigilance on the inter-state border as smugglers and anti-national elements in the past had preferred the Rajasthan route to enter Punjab for subversive activities.

It is understood that warning comes in view of the sudden appearance of ‘mazaars’ in the border villages of Fazilka and Jalalabad sectors during the past two years.


Travel agents booked
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, January 2
A case has been registered against Surinder Kaur of Mangat village in Nawanshahr district and Amrik Singh and Joginder Singh of Fatehgarh village in this district, for duping a person of Rs 6 lakh on the pretext of sending him to Canada.

In a press note issued today, Ms Gurpreet Deo, Senior Superintendent of Police, said Satbir Singh, a resident of Mangat village alleged that in 1998, Surinder Kaur, Amrik Singh and Joginder Singh had come to him telling him that they had visas for sending persons to Canada. He gave them Rs 3.5 lakh and his passport.

He alleged he gave Rs 2.5 lakh more to them on the assurance that the visa had been granted to him. They took him to Delhi but instead of sending him abroad they ran away.

On his complaint, the SSP entrusted the case to the anti-fraud cell and registered a case against the travel agents. The travel agents are absconding.



Booked official ‘harassing’ complainant
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 2
An Assistant Revenue Clerk at the Bathinda Canal Division, Mr Sardool Singh, has alleged that a senior official of his department was harassing him as he had made a complaint against the latter with the Vigilance Bureau. A case had been registered against the official on the complaint of Mr Sardool Singh in 1997.

In an application sent to the Director General, Vigilance Bureau, Punjab Governor and Superintendent Police, Vigilance Bureau of Ludhiana and Patiala, he said despite registration of a case against the official, who had demanded a bribe of Rs 2000 from him, no action had been taken in the matter.

Mr Sardool Singh said the Punjab Government had given him a cash prize of Rs 25000 for making the arrest of the official possible. The official was caught red-handed by the Bureau while accepting Rs 2000 from him.

Industrialist shot
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 2
An industrialist, Nirmal Jain, was shot dead by two persons at the grain market today at 8.30 p.m. He was returning home in his car with a relative, Sunil Jain, when the assailants, who were riding a motor cycle, forced them to stop the car and shot him dead.

The assailants did not attack the car driver or the relative.


Brick-kiln owners behind bars
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 2
The Recovery Officer of the office of the Regional Provident Fund Commissioner of Punjab and the UT has arrested Krishan Pal Kanda, a brick-kiln owner of Rormajra village in Hoshiarpur district, on the charge of non-payment of the EPF and the other dues amounting to Rs 1,12,337.

Krishan Pal has been sent to the Burail jail.

Meanwhile, the Judicial Magistrate (First Class) of Ludhiana, Mr Balwinder Kumar, has convicted Ms Meenal Goyal, owner of Rama Brick Manufacturing Company of Ghabhadhi village of Ludhiana district, of non-payment of the PF and the other dues. She has been convicted in 13 other cases as well and given a six-month imprisonment and told to pay Rs 3,000 in fine. This is according to a press note issued here today by Mr K.C. Pandey, Regional Provident Fund Commissioner (GR-I) of Punjab and the UT.


Fissures appear in PUTA again
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 2
After a long lull, fissures seem to be appearing in the Punjabi University Teachers Association (PUTA) again with the dominant group in the association rejecting a demand by as many as 38 teachers for requisitioning of a meeting of the general house which is seeing members of the executive taking diametrically opposite stands.

Thirtyeight members of PUTA had requisitioned to its president, Dr D.S. Dhillon on December 28 requesting that a general body meeting be held to discuss the issues of career advancement scheme (CAS) and “victimisation” of teachers. However, the PUTA executive did not consider the requisition. It was infructuous as a meeting of the general body was being convened on January 27.

This has created a peculiar situation as PUTA has still not agreed on the charter of demands which are usually finalised immediately after elections to the body which has been many months now. The recent rejection of an appeal for a special meeting is also being criticised by the petitioners who claim it is mandatory for the executive to convene a meeting within seven days of a requisition for the same by at least 10 members according to the PUTA constitution.

The Forum for Educational Action and Reform (FEAR) today ‘condemned’ the efforts of the PUTA leadership to scuttle the requisition meeting. The forum president, Dr Amarjit Singh Dhillon, alleged that this was done at the behest of varsity Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia.

Dr Dhillon said a requisition meeting could not be confused with a routine meeting as was being done by the dominant PUTA leadership. He said anything could be discussed in a routine meeting while in a requisitioned meeting only those issues were discussed which were requisitioned for.

Neither PUTA president, Dr D.S. Dhillon nor its vice-president, Dr Manjit Singh, was available for comment. PUTA joint secretary, Dr S.M. Verma, who is part of the dominant group along with the president and the vice-president, said he was not aware of the requisition and that it did not figure prominently in the meeting.

He said the executive had, however, discussed the issue of Rs 100 collected from each PUTA member by the erstwhile PUTA and asked its office-bearers to give an account of how the money had been spent. He said the former team had disclosed that the money was spent on fighting three to four cases even though it had been collected with the sole objective of approaching the court to fight the case for grant of arrears to the teachers.

However, PUTA secretary, Dr N.S. Atri, who is part of the erstwhile group which lost control of PUTA this year, when contacted on the issue, said the requisition had been put up in the December 28 meeting. He said the dominant group had used “ brute force” to put down the demand for a special meeting of the general house claiming a meeting was already scheduled at the end of the month. He said this was, however, against the rules of the organisation which stipulated that a meeting of the general house should be held within seven days of the special requisition. He claimed that the organisation was already late in calling a meeting of the general house which should have been organised after the elections to discuss the charter of demands.

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