Friday, January 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



MPs’ grouses delay Punjab Cong list
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 10
With the Congress MPs from Punjab unbending on their demand for ticket to their relatives and confidants and former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal expressing her reservations over ticket distribution and seat-sharing with the CPI, the Congress high-command is finding difficulties in releasing the list of party candidates.

Though elaborate exercises have been done over the past few days with the AICC Treasurer Motilal Vora meeting both PCC chief Amarinder Singh and party MPs from Punjab, little progress has been made to solve the issue of giving ticket to close relatives.

The high-command has indicated its willingness to accommodate claims of at least two MPs but others have told the central leaders that not getting tickets for their candidates would be a loss of face for them among the public.

At a meeting with Mr Vora today, five party MPs expressed concern over the “slackening” of party’s election campaign in Punjab as the ticket aspirants were camping in Delhi for the past many days. The MPs said the party should put a good show at the Maghi Mela in Muktsar on January 14. They urged the high-command to request Rajasthan and Delhi Chief Ministers to come for the Congress rally at the mela as the Shiromani Akali Dal has invited Chief Ministers of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana besides senior BJP leader Madan Lal Khurana for its political conference.

Sources said besides Mr Vora and Ms Ambika Soni, Ms Bhattal has also been invited for the Maghi Mela at Muktsar which falls in the parliamentary constituency of Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar. PCC chief Amarinder Singh is likely to preside over the rally. Stressing that party should “kick-start” its election campaign from the Maghi mela which would be the biggest congregation of people in the state before the Assembly poll, the MPs called for sending the “right message” to the electorate. Sources close to Ms Bhattal said at her meetings with the central leaders, she had conveyed her unhappiness at agreement with the CPI saying that many “winnable” seats had been given.

Ms Bhattal and Mr Brar are strongly esposuing cases of their candidates among the “pending seats’’ and the high-command is making efforts to strike a balance. Sources said Ms Bhattal had been able to convince the high-command about the claim of Mr Raj Khurana from Rajpura. She has also suggested names from Pakka Kalan, Nathana, Sardoolgarh, Malerkotla, Sangrur and Dhanola. The Congress high-command has apparently decided to give ticket to relatives of two of the six MPs as their cases were close to the guidelines fixed for deciding the party ticket.

Sources said while not agreeing to the demand of other MPs, whose relatives were considered relatively inexperienced, the high-command has asked them to have some other candidate of their choice from the seats they were seeking.

The high-command seems convinced about the claims of MPs in the seats of Muktsar and Sham Churasi. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is likely to contest from one of the seats in Muktsar and his relatives may also contest from adjoining constituencies. The Congress wants to put up strong candidates in these seats even if guidelines for ticket had to be somewhat relaxed. Except Ms Parneet Kaur and Mr Charanjit Singh Channi, all other party MPs have met Mr Vora in the past two days. The MPs have also raised the issue of some rich industrialists and persons having links with militants figuring as party candidates.


Akali politics, brain teaser
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
Punjab politics revolve around Akali (Sikh) politics which is a brand of politics with a curious mix of religion. It is a puzzle.

The Punjab political system has been marked by a long spell of President’s rule due to either the Centre-state political mismatch or terrorism. Therefore, no previous election, that for Parliament or Assembly, provides a clear and cogent insight into the Punjabi political mind or can be considered a “model” for a forecast to elections-2002.

The past elections have been marked by unforeseen developments, emerging from one or the other kind of euphoria since the first election in 1969 held three years after the reorganisation of the state at the end of a long-drawn struggle by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) when the Akalis were voted to power.

Indira Gandhi’s slogan, “Garibi hatao”, brought the Congress back in 1972. After the Emergency in 1975, the Congress was trounced in the Assembly and Parliament elections in 1977.

The Janata Party government took over in New Delhi and Chandigarh. Its misrule and varied interests got it kicked out in 1980, bringing in the Congress. Then came terrorism and Operation Bluestar (1984). After an accord was signed between Rajiv Gandhi and Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, Punjab went to the polls in a climate of fear: at gunpoint in 1985. The perceived “friendly match” between the Congress and Akalis enabled Mr Surjit Singh Barnala to form the government. That also split the SAD. Then Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra were together.

Soon, terrorism grew deep roots and spread, turning Punjab’s grain producing green fields red. The SAD sarkar was sacked. The next elections in 1992 were boycotted by the SAD due to a threat held out by terrorists. The Congress returned with Mr Beant Singh as the Chief Minister.

This was a turning point in Punjab politics. Terrorism was contained and peace restored. Therefore, when the SAD decided to contest the February 1997 elections, it had a new ethos reflected in its policy in the wake of the 1996 Moga convention— “Punjab, Punjabis and Punjabiat” . It opened its party door to the Hindus. If today, the Akalis have completed a full five-year term, they should remember peace was gifted by the Congress. Earlier, the Akalis’ participation and performance in a string of elections —panchayat and municipal, byelections to the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha— between 1992 and 1997 — is all recent history.

Looking at the track record of the SAD, it is apparent that Akalis, in every respect of their religio-political life, have remained “ill-matched”. They have spent more time nursing their bruised egos, while fighting in the name of the Panth. For them, trading charges in the name of “religious misconduct, betraying the Panth, defying Akal Takht, stabbing the party in the back, indulging in nepotism etc.” are common traits. So, is their art of stoking religio-political sentiments to prove themselves right and the others wrong.

The Akalis had romped home with 75 Assembly seats in 1997. Now when Elections-2002 are at the doorstep, they are left with 62 MLAs. The other 13 MLAs owe allegiance to Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra. Is this the final positioning of Badal-Tohra? Wait and watch!

The SAD contested seven byelections from May, 1997, to February, 2001. It won five and the Congress two. The Akalis were up in the 1998 and down in 1999 Parliament elections.

Traversing the course of the Akalis over the past decades, one finds that unlike any other political party, the SAD has constantly split and united. At one time, there were six factions, each claiming to be the “real” one.

The SAD has another distinction. It is the only party without a permanent office, record or accounts. It is always confined to whosoever is the “President”.

Malwa has always been the citadel of the Akalis. An overview of the past elections in Punjab shows that “alliances” played an important role. The key parties, the Congress, the SAD, the BJP, the BSP, the CPI, the CPM etc. have all at one or the other election-time had alliances. Therefore, different types of assimilations and eliminations emerging among the key political parties is neither new nor unexpected. Any line-up is possible any time. This is so despite all parties being ever ready to get at each other’s jugular.

The word “Akali” means “spirited”. The belief is that an Akali is one, who has been ordained by the divine power to fight against “evil, injustice and inequality—religious, social, economic, political, cultural”. This an Akali does in a state of mind in which he voluntarily undergoes suffering without feeling of “anger, rancour, revenge or violence, thereby, subliming his suffering into sacrifice”.

Will the SAD repeat its 1997 performance? It is banking upon performance and peace. It may claim an advantage over the Congress that has failed to put its act together since the assassination of Beant Singh in 1995. But the Akalis may find it difficult to answer corruption charges. The anti-incumbency factor is pretty strong against them. Both charges stick to them.


It has been tussle between Congress, SAD
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
Punjab is one of those states, which after continuous Congress domination till 1966 , has been witnessing a fierce tussle for power between a national party — Congress — and a state party — Shiromani Akali Dal — since then.

For the past 34 years, these two major political opponents have been ruling the state alternately, punctuated with spells of varying periods of President’s rule. Incidentally, Punjab has had the rare distinction of remaining under President’s rule, at different times for a total of more than eight years since Independence. This is, perhaps, the longest in any state in the country.

The Congress has had five full-term governments — those of 1952, 1957, 1962, 1972 and 1990. And the Shiromani Akali Dal made history this time by completing its first full term in office since Independence.

The Akalis tasted power for the first time in 1967 when they had the entire Opposition united against the Congress to form the United Front government. In 1985, they graduated to absolute power, winning 73 of the 100 Vidhan Sabha seats they contested.

In the 1997 elections, they took this supremacy for power a step further by improving their individual tally to 75 out of 92 seats contested by them.

Looking back, when elections were called in Punjab in 1946, the Muslim League emerged as a major political force. The British had been successful in deliberately communalising the political scenario, which, unfortunately, has remained unchanged even after 56 years. The British had cleverly defined Muslim, Hindu and Sikh seats. The Congress, the second largest party in pre-Partition Punjab, had 51 legislators, of which 40 were Hindus, 10 Sikhs and one Muslim and was clearly accepted as a secular party.

It continued to enjoy this status in Punjab till the 1984 developments. Operation Bluestar, the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the anti-Sikh riots were the developments that alienated this party largely from the Sikhs.

In the 1946 elections, the Akalis had won 22 Sikh seats. The Unionist Party, which rose above communal and religious lines, won 20 seats.

After Partition, it was the Congress which emerged as the single largest party. Dr Gopi Chand Bhargava became the first Congress Chief Minister of Punjab. After an initial love-hate relationship with the Congress, the Akalis merged with the ruling party. The Congress, though divided into Bhargava and Sachar groups, saw Mr Bhim Sen Sachar replacing Dr Bhargava as the Chief Minister in April, 1949.

The first General Election in Punjab was held in 1952, wherein the Congress swept to power by winning 122 of 186 seats by polling 34.8 per cent votes. The Akalis were the next with 33 seats by getting 14.7 per cent votes.

In the 1957 elections, the Congress-Akali combine won 120 seats, including 28 won by the Akalis. A year later, when the Akalis started the Punjabi Suba Morcha, it asked all its 28 MLAs to come out of the government. Only seven came to revive political autonomy of the Dal.

The first test for the Akalis came in the 1962 elections when they sought the people’s verdict with Punjabi Suba as the main issue. Of the 42 seats contested by them, they won 19. The Jan Sangh won eight seats against 90 won by the Congress for its third successive government in the state.

The Dal could not stay together as it was divided into Sant Fateh Singh and Master Tara Singh groups. As the demand for Punjabi Suba gained support, the state was brought under President’s rule after Mr Ram Krishan, the then Chief Minister, quit on June 22, 1966. The Union Government announced the creation of a unilingual Punjabi state by carving out Hindi speaking areas and formed a new state of Haryana, besides declaring Chandigarh as a Union Territory and making it the joint capital.

(To be concluded)


SAD keeps unity door ajar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
With the release of the second list of 24 candidates for the Assembly elections, the ruling SAD has cleared the names of a total of 67 candidates. The first list of 43 was made public on December 24.

Significantly, the ruling SAD President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has left the unity door ajar by not naming any candidate for the 10 constituencies represented by those Akali MLAs who now owe allegiance to Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

The list shows that out of 11, Mr Badal has filled the two slots of Zira in Ferozepore and Joga in Mansa district. While, Mr Hari Singh Zira replaces Mr Inderjit Singh Zira on the Zira seat, Mr Jagdeep Singh Nakai has replaced Mr Baldev Sing Khiala on the Joga seat. Mr Inderjit Singh and Mr Khiala are among the 13 Akali MLAs who are now in the camp of Mr Tohra. In the first list, Mr Badal had nominated Mr Ujaggar Singh Badali in place of Mr Ravi Inder Singh for the Morinda seat in Ropar.

The other noticeable changes in the list are in respect of Sangrur, where two ministers, Mr Ranjit Singh Ballian and Mr Gobind Singh Kanjla, do not figure. In place of Mr Ballian, the Sangrur seat has been given to Mr Sanmukh Singh Mokha and the Sherpur seat, represented by Mr Kanjla, to Mr Piara Singh.

The list shows that Mr Gagandeep Singh, son of Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, has been given ticket from Dhuri, while Mr Parminder Singh, son of Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, has already been nominated from Sunam. This is, in a way, a balancing act by Mr Badal, who is conscious of the deep-rooted infighting in Sangrur. But at the same time, denial of ticket to Mr Ballian and Mr Kanjla is being talked about. Both are believed to be close to Mr Barnala.

With this step, Mr Badal has given a further impetus to the poll campaign that he launched from Tanda on January 5. The other aspect is that despite his criticism of the Panthic Morcha, he has kept the hope of unity alive. This is also seen as a tactical political move to either woo the remaining 10 Akali MLAs loyal to Tohra or to create confusion in the Morcha constituents on seat-sharing and adjustment with other parties. It is also interpreted to mean that Mr Badal has an open mind on unity with only one objective: defeat the Congress. The other message to the masses being conveyed could be that the SAD had no pre-conditions for unity except willingness to ensure that the Congress was kept out of power.

Out of 24 seats that the SAD had given to the BJP in 1997, the latter had won 18. Now the two coalition partners have reportedly reached an understanding on seat-sharing, with the chances of winning as the only criterion. Therefore, leaving aside those 24 (BJP may eventually end up with 26 seats in its kitty), plus 67 that SAD had announced, there remain 26 seats for which the announcement is awaited.


Convention opposes fee hike in colleges
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
Cautioning the Punjab Government against reducing the 95 per cent grant-in-aid to non-government aided colleges, a convention on ``Save higher education’’, organised at Panjab University here today, flayed the recommendation on the generation of funds by hiking fee and making higher education an ``expensive affair’’.

Organised by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) comprising the federation of managements and principals, the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union and the non-teaching staff of the colleges, the convention, the first of its kind, was aimed at mustering the support of society against the inevitable fee hike.

The Chairman of the JAC, Dr Ishar Singh, said that the tussle between the colleges and the government was not for teachers’ salaries or funds for college managements alone.

“We are fighting for the students who will suffer the most on account of increased charges. A cut in grants will have a direct bearing on society since education will be completely out of bounds for the salaried class,’’ he added.

The general secretary of the Principals Federation, Mr P.S. Sangha, said that the SAD-BJP government had failed to implement its election manifesto of 1997 to bring all colleges and additional posts created after November, 1981, under the 95 per cent grant-in-aid scheme.

Expressing strong resentment, the JAC leaders said that the 172 non-government colleges were finding it difficult to maintain high standards on account of increasing expenditure due to infrastructure upgradation and improved teaching through the use of specialised aid.

They alleged that ``under an arbitrary decision’’, the government had failed to release Rs 100 crore pending salary grants since 1999, including Rs 21 crore UGC pay scale arrears, when these colleges were taking care of 80 per cent of the students.

Two student leaders, Raminder Singh of the Punjab Students Union, and Kashmir Singh, secretary in the All-India Students Federation, stressed the need for taking the issue of fee hike to all colleges of the state and involving society as a whole. Among those who addressed the convention were Dr A.C. Vaid, convener, Principal Tarsem Bahia, Prof K.B.S. Sodhi, Principal Bharpur Singh, and Prof G.S. Kahlon, PCCTU.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the JAC, Prof Charanjit Chawla said that if the pending issues were not resolved, colleges would be closed and rallies held in the constituencies of the Chief Minister and ministers of the SAD-BJP government during the coming assembly elections.


Badal visits border villages, promises help
Chander Parkash and Anirudh Gupta
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, January 10
Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who visited various villages located near the Indo-Pakistan border in the district today, said suitable compensation would be given to those whose crops had been damaged due to deployment of the Army on the border.

Mr Badal, who visited Hussainiwala, Gatti Hazara Singh Wala, Gatti Rajo Ke and Bareke despite his physical constraints, interacted with the Army personnel and appreciated their role and contribution in protecting the honour of nation.

He said he had made Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr George Fernandes aware of the problems being faced by the border people. He added that the orders for carrying out a special girdawari had already been issued and Rs 1 crore had been given to the district. He added that suitable help would be given to those labourers who were residing in the border areas. The DC and SSP had been directed to help the people, he added.

Later, Mr Badal while addressing a party rally in the city added that Punjab had been getting step-motherly treatment by successive Congress governments.

Later, while talking to mediapersons he refused to comment when asked about the state government’s reaction in connection with the transfer of Deputy Commissioners of Kapurthala, Muktsar and Amritsar districts and said he did not want to get entangled into any sort of controversy. He further said the Punjab Government was abiding by the instructions of the Election Commission and it was committed to conduct the elections in a free and fair manner.

He stated that another list of party candidates would be released within two days. When asked that the BJP was demanding more than 23 seats for the coming assembly elections, Mr Badal said it was an internal matter and would be sorted out. Mr Zora Singh Mann, MP, Mr Janmeja Singh Sekhon, Punjab Irrigation Minister and various MLAs and party leaders were among those present on the occasion.


Unity chances dim, says Badungar
Our Correspondent

Chak Fatehsingwala (Bathinda), January 10
The chances of unity between the Shiromani Akali Dal (B) and the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) are dim and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, former SGPC president is responsible for it.

If Mr Tohra was sincere in his efforts to forge a unity between the two Akali Dal factions he should not have laid down preconditions for the same.

This was stated by Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, President, SGPC while addressing a rally here today. He said if the SHSAD wanted to stop the Congress from coming to power after the Assembly elections in the state it should think sincerely about the unity moves started by various persons who had influence over the Akali politics.

“The talks about unity had almost reached their conclusive end if Mr Tohra had not laid down preconditions,” said Mr Badungar.

Though unity moves had failed to yield any positive result yet he was optimistic that in the coming days it could start again.

Mr Badungar did not speak about inclusion of other factions of the Akali Dal in the unity move. He also failed to tell about any solid formula that could help bring Mr Tohra and Mr Badal closure.

Meanwhile, the list issued by the SAD (B) today included the candidate for Zira constituency which could have gone to the Tohra faction in case of unity between the two groups.


Lok Bhalai Party names three nominees
Our Correspondent

Samana, January 10
Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, MP and President of the Lok Bhalai Party of India, addressed an election rally in Doger Bazar here today. It was organised by the local unit of the party. He announced that his party would contest 90 seats in Punjab.

He declared the names of candidates for three seats in Patiala district. From Samana, the party will field Mr Rajbir Singh Dhillon, from Shutrana (Reserve) the candidate is Mr Pyara Singh advocate, and from Dakala, Mr Janak Raj Kulbanu. He alleged that the Congress and SAD in Punjab were selling ticket to aspiring MLAs for Rs 20 lakh or more.

He criticising Mr Parkash Singh Badal, CM of Punjab, Capt Amarinder Singh, President of the PPCC, and Mr G.S. Tohra, president, SHSAD, said they were chips of the same block.


JDU to contest 20 seats
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 10
The Janta Dal United (JDU) will contest 20 seats in the forthcoming elections in Punjab. This was informed by Mr Arun Kumar Srivastva and Mr Jaspal Singh Kapoor, national general secretary and state president of the JDU, respectively, in a press conference here today.

However, the number of seats could be adjusted if the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) forged an alliance with the JDU. Talks were going on with Mr Parkash Singh Badal, President, SAD, in this regard, he said.

The party will contest two seats in Amritsar. It planned to contest in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Sangrur, Ferozepore, Ropar and Kapurthala also.


INTUC firm on seat demand
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 10
The Punjab unit of INTUC has called a meeting of its executive at Kapurthala on January 12 expressing apprehension that the Congress is not going to allot 10 assembly seats to it as demanded from the party high command.

This was announced today by its organising secretary, Mr Subhash Sharma, who said it seemed the Congress was not serious about giving its labour wing adequate representation in the state Assembly elections.

The organisation said the 10 seats included Jalandhar and Kharar where the labour class could play a vital role.


BJP ‘rath yatra’ reaches Nawanshahr
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, January 10
The “rath yatra” being taken out by the Punjab unit of the BJP reached here today. Some senior leaders of the BJP were present to welcome it. The State BJP president Prof Brij Lal Rinwa, while addressing the gathering on the occasion, said the people should compare the achievements of the SAD-BJP government during the past five years and the “misrule” of the Congress in the past 45 years before making a decision.


Promoted on minister’s recommendation?
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 10
The Diploma Engineers Association of the Punjab State Tubewell Corporation has alleged that an assistant engineer of the department has been promoted as Sub-Division Engineer by superseding 35 seniors on the recommendation of a Punjab minister.

The union alleged that for promoting, the engineer five annual confidential reports were prepared afresh to show his performance as outstanding. The union members added that the performance of the engineer was not good during the past five years.

Mr Sarabjit Singh Toor, chairman, and Mr Amrik Singh Bedi, press secretary of the union, respectively, said in a press note issued here today that they had asked the management of the department not to promote the official when he did not deserve the same. They alleged that the said engineer was promoted on an earlier occasion by violating the rules but due to the pressure of the union he was demoted.

A meeting of the association was held at Ludhiana recently in which they decided to launch an agitation if the promotion orders of the engineer were not taken back.


Stay order against Kewal Singh cancelled
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 10
Giani Kewal Singh, Jathedar, Takht Damdama Sahib, could face rough weather as the stay on the operation of orders of a lower court, issuing summons and non-bailable warrants against him, his son and a family member, was cancelled today by the Additional District and Sessions Judge, Mr Surjeet Singh.

The Jathedar who has been booked in a criminal case along with his son, Baljinder Singh, and a family member, Joginder Kaur, under Sections 304-B and 34 in connection with death of his daughter-in-law, Sharanjeet Kaur, had got a reprieve on June 14, 2001, when the District and Sessions Judge, Mr B.C. Rajput, had stayed the operation of the lower court issuing summons and non-bailable warrants against him and his relatives. The case was later shifted to the court of Mr Surjeet Singh.

However, it could no be ascertained whether the non-bailable warrants issued by Mr Jatinder Singh Bheniwal, Judicial Magistrate, Talwandi Sabo, against them on June 11 were still in force or new orders would be issued.

The case against Giani Kewal Singh, Baljinder Singh and Joginder Kaur was registered on the directives of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in connection with the death of the Jathedar’s daughter-in-law on May 18, 1997, under mysterious circumstances. When the police failed to take any action against the accused, Mr Amarjit Singh, brother of Ms Sharanjit Kaur approached the court through a writ petition.

The case took an interesting turn when after registering the case against the accused, an application in the court of the Judicial Magistrate, Talwandi Sabo, was filed by the then SHO, Talwandi Sabo, for cancellation of the FIR, claiming that all three had been found innocent.

Sharanjit Kaur, who got married to Baljinder Singh in 1996, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in 1997. Her body was found from the sarovar of Likhan Sar Gurdwara located in front of the official residence of Giani Kewal Singh at the Takht Shri Damdama Sahib complex.

Pressure had mounted on Giani Kewal Singh to quit in June 2001, when high priests including Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht and Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar, Kesgarh Sahib, had held an in-camera meeting to take stock of the situation.


Four die in mishaps
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 10
Four persons died and six others were injured in accidents due to poor visibility caused by thick fog that had engulfed the area today. All accidents took place on the G.T. Road between Phagwara and Chiheru.

Those killed have been identified as Sanjay and Mukesh, both aged 30 Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh, a scooterist Pawan Khana of Jalandhar and a cyclist Dev Raj of Khangura village. The vehicles involved in these accidents included two trucks, a Canter, a motor cycle and three cycles.


NTAS honours doctor, scribe
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 10
The National Theatre Arts Society (NTAS), Patiala, honoured Dr H.S. Sohal and Mr Avtar Singh during a three-hour New Year cultural programme at Dr Khushdeva Singh Leprosy Patients Colony here yesterday.

Mr Gurbachan Singh Kakkar, president, NTAS, inaugurated the function. Dr Sohal, Head, Department of Orthopaedics, Aggarsain Hospital, Patiala, and Mr Avtar Singh, veteran journalist and chief editor of the Punjabi weekly Gairat, were given the Annual Khushdeva Singh National Integration Award 2002, consisting of a memento, shawl and cash award each.

Both recipients donated the award money to the colony. Dr Sohal announced financial help of Rs 5100 for the inmates of the colony and assured provision of bandages for them every month.


PSEB women celebrate Lohri
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 10
The PSEB women’s welfare association celebrated Lohri with great enthusiasm in the head office here today. A large number of women employees took part in the celebrations. Jaswinder Kaur, Sukhbir Kaur, Darshana Soni and Mandeep regaled the gathering with traditional Lohri songs.

The function was presided over by Mrs Surinder Bains. Mrs Meena Sharma, general secretary, and Mrs Harjit Walia, senior leader of the association, were also present.


Merger of PAU offices opposed?
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 10
Members of the Young Farmers Association have urged the government not to merge the agriculture extension offices, Krishi Vigyan offices and regional research centres of the PAU.

At a meeting held recently members of the association said these institutions were useful to farmers and merger would have an adverse effect on extension education. The farmers would have to face difficulties in getting information regarding new varieties of seeds, pesticides and other agriculture-related matter, they said.

Mr Sukhpal Singh Bhullar, president of the association, said they would seek the support of other farmers’ to urge the government to reverse the decision.


Hijack case: defence plea rejected

Patiala, January 10
A local court today dismissed the defence plea in the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 hijack case seeking furnishing in the court the record of negotiations between the hijackers, UN and Indian diplomats.

Designated CBI Judge S.N. Aggarwal dismissed the plea of counsels who appeared on behalf of the three accused Abdul Latif, Yusuf Nepali and Dalip Bhujbal.

The court adjourned the case to January 15. The counsel had in their plea stated that the record of negotiations be placed in the court by the CBI, which investigated the case. The three were arrested from Mumbai. PTI


Holy book found burnt
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, January 10
A holy book was found burnt at a religious place at Dhand-Dhindsa village in Phillaur subdivision today.

DSP Satinder Singh while confirming the incident told the correspondent after his return from the gurdwara that a short circuit was the cause of the fire. He said he visited the gurdwara and found some fans, lights and other valuables also burnt in the fire.


Payment of retiral dues stopped
Sangat darshan bills, however, cleared
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, January 10
The stoppage of payments due to the financial crisis in the state has severely hit retirees. Sources said death-cum-retirement gratuity payments worth about Rs 55 lakh had been withheld since the past six months, delaying dues of about 100 retirees.

Similarly, other retiral benefits were also being withheld on flimsy grounds. A total ban on payments had been imposed from January, they said.

Mr Guresh Chander, a government employee who opted for voluntary retirement on September 30, said he had opted for the scheme due to acute financial shortage. He had hoped that he would get his dues soon but he had not even got his pension so far.

Similarly, many government employees who had retired in the past six months, were still visiting authorities concerned to get their dues and pension.

Advances from the provident fund (PF) had also been stopped. Hundreds of requests for advance withdrawals from the PF were lying pending. Thirtyfive such applications of the police department alone had been lying pending since the past six months. The employees alleged that PF was their own deposit and that government should have no right to stop its withdrawal.

The other payments which had been banned included office expenses, material supply, payment of special services, rent rates and taxes, travelling allowance and all kinds of arrears. The sources said the government had been withholding these payments which might prove to be an additional burden later.

Due to persistent pressure from those seeking payments, some of the treasury officers in the district had openly started refusing payments.

But for salaries and pensions, the only major payment cleared in Ropar during the past six months, were the bills of Rs 80 lakh cleared for the sangat darshan of the Chief Minister held on September 7 at Kharar.

The budget of the third quarter of this financial year lapsed on December 31. All above said payments had to be shifted to the next quarter, disturbing financial planning. The sources said if the current government kept postponing its financial liabilities, it would prove to be a huge burden on the next government.


CM’s assurance on officers’ transfer
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 10
The Punjab Congress has termed the transfer of over 20 PCS officers by the Punjab Government as an “open” violation of the poll code of conduct “under the garb” of the Election Commission directions. The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, yesterday sought to clarify by saying that any wrongdoings in the list of transfer would be amended.

The Punjab Government had ordered the transfer of 20 PCS officers in the light of the Election Commission’s direction to transfer officers who had completed a tenure of four years at a place. The Punjab Congress alleged that the step had been taken to seek officials help in the forthcoming elections.

Mr Avtaar Henry, vice-president of the Punjab Congress Committee, said his party had taken up the matter with the Election Commission.


Bid to sell girl, three held
Our Correspondent

Ropar, January 10
In a stunning incident of its kind in the state, the Morinda police, yesterday arrested mother, step father and paternal aunt of a 17-year-old girl on the charge of trying to sell her off. The SSP, Ropar, Mr G.P.S. Bhullar, while giving this information said they were tipped off by an informer that the girl was allegedly being sold at Morinda.

The girl was brought to Morinda by her mother, Reshma, alias Kuresha, and step father, Balbir Singh, to the house of her paternal aunt, Satya at Morinda a few days ago. They were looking for a customer who could purchase the girl. The police sent a decoy customer to the house of the girl and the deal was settled at Rs 20,000. The decoy customer paid Rs 1,000 as advance to the girl’s parents after which the police arrested the culprits, the SSP said.

A case under Section 372 of the IPC has been registered against the accused. They were produced at the court of the Additional CJM, Ropar, today and remanded in police custody till January 12. The judge has also ordered that the girl should be sent to Nari Niketan in Jalandhar.

The sources also added that Reshma, who originally belonged to Karnataka had earlier fled with girl’s father leaving behind four children. After the death of her father from whom she had two children, she started living with Balbir Singh his younger brother. Both had now decided to sell Babli to make some easy money.


Youth in custody for ‘roughing up’ policeman
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 10
Tanuja Batra, son of a rich man, was yesterday remanded in judicial custody till January 22 by Sub-Judicial Magistrate Harbhajan Das. His one-day police remand had expired on Tuesday. Tanuja was arrested on Sunday on charges of assaulting, manhandling, kidnapping, hurting and obstructing from discharge of duty a traffic policeman, Mr Gurmit Singh.

His brother Manu Batra and eight others are wanted in the case. However, they have not yet been arrested.

Manu Batra had hit a scooterist and refused to stop his car when two traffic cops, Mr Gurmit Singh and Mr Satnam Singh, signalled him to do so. When chased and caught, Manu called his brother Tanuja and other supporters from their clothes showroom and allegedly roughed up Mr Gurmit Singh, torn his uniform and took him away. However, Mr Gurmit Singh was later rescued.


Fest disappoints youth
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 10
The much-awaited Zonal Youth Festival at DAV College here failed to meet the expectations of the youths due to seemingly inexperienced organisers.

The festival, which was postponed earlier, was awaited by the students of the city colleges in general and those of DAV College in particular as such festival was held in their college for the first time.

The colleges affiliated with Punjabi University, Patiala and situated in the Bathinda-Faridkot zone participated in the three-day festival which ended last evening.

On all three days of the festival, many participants were distracted by audience due to which they were not able to perform well.

Some students felt that the items like giddha and bhangra should have been scheduled for the concluding day. A teacher of the college said the schedule of events had been decided by the authorities of Punjabi University.

Hooting crossed all limits during the festival. Students made it difficult for the performers to give their best performance.

On the second day, during a session of ghazal recitation, hooting by the students reached its peak. The performing student was able to complete it with a great difficulty. The judges were not able to hear the participant properly.

Mr Daljit Singh, Dean, Youth Services, Punjabi University had to go to the stage and appeal to the students to keep calm.

Some students said the lack of coordination was probably due to the inclusion of some new and inexperienced persons in the organisers.

An item which was appreciated by the audience was the performance of Punjabi comedian Bhagwant Maan. The comedian and his wife were honoured by the college authorities on the concluding day.


Admissions to Thapar through AIEEE
Our Correspondent

Patiala, January 10
The Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala, has decided not to make admissions through the Common Entrance Test (CAT). In a press note released here today, the Registrar of the institute said admissions to the institute would now be made through the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE). The test would be conducted on May 19, 2002, and about 30 engineering institutes of the country would admit students through the test.

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