Saturday, February 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Badal calls PAC meeting
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 15
Believing that the political game is wide open in the state, the Shiromani Akali Dal chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has called a meeting of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) of the party to discuss the post-election scenario.

The meeting will begin tomorrow at his residence at 11 a.m., according to information available at the official level.

All members of the PAC, including the SGPC chief, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, have been invited to the meeting.

Mr Badal, according to sources, has got feedback from senior party leaders about the “chances” of the SAD-BJP candidates in their respective areas. An unofficial assessment report has been prepared which is expected to be discussed at the meeting. The party’s top brass is of the view that the performance in the elections will be far better than projected by poll surveys.

“Our assessment is that there is a neck-and-neck fight between the SAD-BJP and the Congress-CPI alliance”, said a senior Akali leader.

When asked about the subject matter of tomorrow’s meeting, he said the top brass would dwell on the party’s major failures in the run-up to the elections. The SAD’s leadership is of the view that its major failure was on the media front.

Though the party was far ahead in its election campaign in the field, its campaign through advertisements in the print media failed to match that of the Congress. In the Congress advertisment campaign, the attack was sharp and focused while the SAD’s campaign lacked all this. Though it tried to sharpen its attack on the Congress a few days before the polling, it was too late and also a bit lopsided.


Repoll in Mahal Khurad today
Ashok Kaura

Phillaur, February 15
On the recommendations of Election Observer N.K. Sundre and Returning Officer Phillaur-cum SDM Phillaur Sandeep Hans, the Election Commission has ordered repoll in booth number 130 in Mahal Khurad village in Phillaur Assembly constituency on February 16.

Confirming this Returning Officer-cum SDM Phillaur Sandeep Hans said here this afternoon that repoll would be held from 8 am to 5 pm tomorrow. Replying a question, Hans said that polling booth number had 960 votes, but on Wednesday’s polling first 20 votes could not be registered in Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) due to some technical defect which was noticed by the polling staff as voters claimed to exercise their franchiese, but no weep was heard from anybody, so polling was done after the replacement of electronic voting machine, but it was recommended to the Election Commission order a repoll in this booth.

The Election Commission has also ordered repolling at four places tomorrow ie at Mahilpur, Baltoha, Phillaur, and Quadian.


SAD candidate’s kin discharged
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Ballianwali (Bathinda), February 15
Mr Himmat Singh, brother-in-law of Mr Jagdeep Singh Nakai, Chairman, Milkfed, Punjab, and SAD candidate from the Joga Assembly segment, who was arrested for alleged possession and distribution of poppy husk and liquor on February 12, was discharged last evening by the Judicial Magistrate, Rampura Phul. However, five persons who were arrested along with Mr Himmat Singh have been remanded in judicial custody.

Himmat Singh was discharged when Mr Rajinder Kumar SHO, local police station, declared him and the others innocent of the offence related to the possession and distribution of poppy husk. However, the charge pertaining to the possession and distribution of liquor still stands against the accused.

Interestingly, the district police transferred Mr Baljit Singh, who was the SHO of the local police station, to the Civil Lines chowki, Bathinda, on the complaint of Mr Sukhraj Singh Natt, Congress candidate from the Joga Assembly segment. Mr Natt alleged in his complaint lodged with the election observer that Mr Baljit Singh was not willing to register the case against the accused. The district police also transferred Mr Rajinder Kumar, who was chowki in-charge, Civil Lines, Bathinda, as the election observer had also received a complaint against him. Mr Rajinder Kumar, who carried out the investigation into the criminal case registered against Mr Himmat Singh and others under the Excise Act, the NDPS Act and the Arms Act, found that poppy husk was planted on the accused, official sources said.

Earlier hundreds of SAD workers led by Mr Nakai and other leaders staged a dharna in front of the local police station yesterday to lodge a protest against the alleged highhandedness of the police and to press the authorities concerned for the cancellation of the FIR registered against Mr Himmat Singh and others. The police had also registered a case against Mr Gurlal Singh, on whose complaint the case against Mr Himmat Singh and others was registered, under Sections 341, 323, 427, 506 and 34 of the IPC for allegedly assaulting and threatening Mr Himmat Singh and others. Mr Nakai had also alleged that Mr Himmat Singh and others were beaten up by Mr Gurlal Singh and his accomplices first in this village and later in the police station.

Sources said the district police also received complaint regarding the discharging of Mr Himmat Singh by a police official in connection with the possession and distribution of poppy husk during the elections. Mr Kapil Dev, district police chief, when contacted, said as complaints had been received from both parties, an inquiry would be conducted into the matter by a senior police official.


Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 15
The general secretary (organisation), of the Punjab unit of the BJP, Mr Avinash Jaiswal, today clarified that Mr Sidhant Rinwa against whom a case had been registered in Abohar, was not the son of the state unit president, Mr B.L. Rinwa, as reported in a section of the Press.

Mr Sidhant Rinwa was the son of Congress candidate Mohinder Rinwa.

The case was registered on February 13.


Bandh observed in Gidderbaha
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Gidderbaha, February 15
Residents of the home town of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today observed a bandh from 8 a.m. to 12 noon and staged a rally on the Bathinda-Malout road in protest against the failure of the police to arrest SGPC member Gurpal Singh Gora, Charanjit Singh, Rachpal Singh and their associates for their involvement in violence on February 13.

Most of the business establishments and other shops remained closed for four hours as a mark of support to the call of bandh given by a major section of the residents to lodge their protest against the failure of the police to arrest the suspects and for the benefits allegedly extended by it to the SAD-BJP alliance candidate.

The residents, led by Congress candidate, Mr Raghubir Singh, and former chairman, Punjab State Seeds Corporation (Punseed), took out a procession in the city and held a rally on the main road before submitting a memorandum to the SDM in his office.

The agitated residents, who were raising slogans against the “goondaism” and the partisan role of police officials, were demanding the arrest of the suspects and suspension of those police officials who did not perform their duties according to the norms of the Model Code of Conduct.

The residents, who were agitated that SAD workers were indulging in violence, alleged that the police personnel remained a mute spectator despite the use of firearms. They further alleged that police officials played a partisan role under the diktats of their political masters.

Mr Manpreet Singh Badal, when contacted on phone, alleged that the Congress candidate, Mr Reghubir Singh, started violence and his associates beat up SAD workers and supporters. He said Mr Reghubir Singh was convicted in a criminal case earlier and deprived by the Supreme Court of his MLA status. He disclosed that SAD workers would stage a dharna in the town on Monday.

He clarified that Mr Gora, against whom the case was registered, was an election agent of another contestant while Mr Charanjit Singh, who was in his village to cast his vote, did not come to the town on the day of polling. He said he had no connection with Mr Rachpal Singh, against whom a case had also been registered.

The violence took place at various places in the town but no action was taken by police personnel, alleged Mr Ashok Dheer, former chairman, Punseed, who was taken into custody by the police.

He said the main aim of the suspects was to keep the polling percentage in the town low as the SAD-BJP alliance candidate was not in position to get many votes here. He added that he was also arrested with the same motive and later freed when nothing objectionable was found against him.

Mr Raghubir Singh alleged that a section of SAD supporters and police officials did every illegal thing to harm him politically.

He alleged that the police authorities were reluctant to register a case against the suspects for their political links. He asked why the authorities concerned had failed so far to take action against a Punjab Government official who was also involved in violence and subsequently booked in a criminal case.

No senior police official could be contacted for their comments. Mr K.J.S. Pannu, district police chief, Muktsar, was out of town.


Injecting buoyancy in economy
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 15
Counting of votes polled for the 12th Punjab Vidhan Sabha on February 13 is still more than a week away. A guessing game is on regarding which political combine will form the next government. It is as hot a topic as the number of seats the winning combine will bag.

While the intervening period may look interminably long, the real question is not “who next”? It is “what next”? This is because of the economic vacuum that persists in the state that is on the brink of collapse. The real question of concern should relate to corruption-free governance and realigning the structural imbalances, administrative and financial.

Though agriculture is the anchor of Punjab’s economy, it cannot be improved in isolation. It has to be done in conjunction with the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors for the intended equitable distribution of benefits.

Punjab is in for a hard time ahead. When the Akalis came to power riding high on the crest of a popular wave in 1997, they squarely blamed the Congress for the empty coffers, charging that it had followed the scorched-earth policy. But the last five years have not filled the coffers in any way despite the financial reprieve the obliging Centre gave the Akalis time and again.

Therefore, rather than wasting breath and time on looking over the shoulder, cribbing and blaming, the next government will have to get down to serious business right away. The first task will be the making of the budget or seeking vote on account; and second, procuring a remunerative minimum support price for wheat and its quick lifting and movement outside the state. Any failure could prove a disaster socially and may even impinge on law and order, it is apprehended.

Even as Punjab waits for the poll results and the reports of commissions and experts to suggest ways and means out of the administrative and financial woods, TNS spoke to several well-meaning bureaucrats and a noted economist, Dr S.S. Johl, on “what next” in Punjab and how the next government should act.

Dr Johl was clear. ‘’Besides setting finances in order, corruption has to be rooted out. Let there be an autonomous mechanism to introduce the accountability of bureaucrats as well as politicians. Both must declare their assets and justify the means wherefrom these were acquired. This should be an annual exercise and open to public scrutiny.

‘’The state must reduce to the minimum its borrowings and lower the debt liabilities. The creation of additional assets or capital formation should get precedence and loopholes and leakages in tax collections must be plugged ruthlessly. The Centre cannot be expected to fill the coffers now as it did in the past five years. Even small savings are not something to be proud of. Why engage agents? Why pay 3 per cent commission? Let there be competitive rates’’.

Dr Johl wants the “diversification” of agriculture alongside introducing an insurance scheme and the levy of education and research cess on produce entering markets to fund Punjab Agricultural University.

‘’Diversification cannot be in isolation. It must jell with the secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy. Likewise, stop 95 per cent grant-in-aid to educational institutions replacing that with ‘development’ funding for laboratories, infrastructure and letting colleges fend for themselves through fee, etc, to pay the salaries of the staff. Let the grants be to the students by way of scholarship through the institutions rather than to the institutions.

‘’The industrial spread should be to the rural sector with inbuilt concessions and incentives with a rider that industry would look after the education and health delivery systems in its neighbourhood. All subsidies must be ‘frozen’. If these are to be given, give these direct to the beneficiaries. Even if it is ‘free’ power, first compensate the Punjab State Electricity Board”.

The guiding principle of the next government should be, ‘’Get off the back of the people’’ .

His other concern in the wheat price, procurement and lifting. He is opposed to the minimum support price system or any raise in this. But warns that the government can ill-afford to wash its hands of completely and in one go when it comes to pricing, procurement and movement. All this has to be done in phases by allowing the private sector to understand and adjust to the new vistas now open to it and in the larger interest of the small farmers.

Dr Johl, who suggested the immediate formulation of policies on education, industry and youth, was blunt on public sector undertakings, boards and corporations. ‘’Let there be full accountability of the bureaucrats who use influence to get appointed as managing directors or those who lobby to become members of the board of directors. Losses should be recovered from them’’. (To be concluded) 


Building of Nehru college unsafe
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Mansa, February 15
It is hard to believe that even after 53 years of Independence students in this district have to pursue higher education putting their life at stake. The reason: this district has just one college — Government Nehru Memorial College — where classes are held in a building which could cave in anytime and has been declared “unsafe” by the Public Works Department (PWD) six years ago.

Students still attend classes knowing well that the PWD and the Life Insurance Corporation has posted sign boards forewarning that they will “not pay any compensation to anyone who dies if the building collapses.” This is the sorry state of affairs of higher education in this economically and socially backward area of the state bordering Haryana. A pointer in this context is that this is the sole institution where students from 247 villages come to learn.

Repeated appeals to the government to sanction funds for the past decade did not have any effect. The privately managed college was started in 1965 with contribution from eminent social figures of this area. The aim was to impart quality education to the students who till then had to go to Patiala or Chandigarh to pursue their higher studies. The then Chief Minister Comrade Ram Kishen, laid the foundation stone of the project.

Things were fine for the next few decades but paucity of funds began to take its toll on the building since adequate maintenance could not be carried out at regular intervals. However, seeing the deplorable state of the building, late Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh decided to take over the college in 1994. But the promise of a new building was dashed after his assassination.

But the efforts of the people finally paid off and funds were sanctioned in 1997. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal laid the foundation stone. But things were too good to last and work stopped midway since more funds to complete the project were not forthcoming. The MLA, Sukhwinder Singh Aulakh, pursued the matter but nothing came out of it.

When this correspondent visited the college an examination was in progress. Students and teachers pointed out that a major portion of the building had collapsed and there was no guarantee when the existing rooms will cave in”. It is a major challenge for both the teachers and the taught to sit indoor everyday. We have no option but to take classes under trees in the campus but it is one big holiday during the monsoons,” a teacher remarked and gestured to the wide cracks in the roof and the missing plaster from the walls. Windows are missing and there is rubble everywhere.

The first chore of the students is to see which rooms can still be used that day. Many parts of the building have been barricaded in and it is an eye opener to see students and teachers go on with their job as usual and ignore the warning signboard of the PWD.

The reason for the building going to seed within just 30 years is that the ground water used during the construction was exceptionally saline which has damaged the steel and other construction materials.

An unsafe building is not the sole problem of the college. Drinking water too is scarce and water has to be stored since the schedule of the water tanker of the municipal council is erratic. 


Punjab finance panel submits report
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 15
The Second Punjab Finance Commission, which was constituted in September, 2000, with Mr B.B. Mahajan as the Chairman, today submitted its report to the Governor Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd), at Punjab Raj Bhavan. The report covers the period from 2002-2003 to 2005-2006.

The commission had earlier submitted an interim report on January 31, 2001, which had dealt with the devolution of shares in state taxes and grants-in-aid to the local bodies during 2001-02.

In its report, besides making recommendations about the devolution of shares in state taxes and grants-in-aid to rural and urban local bodies, the commission has made far-reaching recommendations for the augmentation of the resources of these bodies and also for economy in expenditure.

An important recommendation relates to motivating the urban local bodies and gram panchayats to make the maximum efforts for additional resource mobilisation. The commission has also made a number of recommendations for improving financial and administrative management of the local bodies.


RSS behind trouble on campus: VC
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 15
The Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, said here today that the RSS had engineered all major confrontations on the campus in his three-year term (that ends in May) with a view to saffronising education.

The District Congress Committee, however, has said that a case should be registered against the VC on the basis of harassment charge levelled by a girl student.

In a statement to the Press here today, the VC said, though he had been aware of the campaign against him, he had kept quiet due to the imperative of propriety before the Assembly elections.

He said, ever since his joining the university, he had noticed the RSS elements with a hidden agenda of saffronising education, who had infiltrated the faculty, students and the non-teaching staff. “Their aim was to blackmail and force the authorities into following their directions,” he said.

He said his confrontation with a minister in the Badal government was due to his stand against this infiltration. He said, when in the name of removing passages allegedly derogatory to Guru Tegh Bahadar, the NCERT had chosen to revise the history course of Class XII, he had exposed this campaign of misinformation. The so-called derogatory passages were not there at all in the books concerned. On this pretext, however, a passage on the “regional independence” of the Khalsa had been deleted. The VC said he had also refused a Centre-funded proposal to introduce a course on astrology in the university.

Dr Ahluwalia said a student of the university Department of Fine Arts, Saru Rana, had been adopted by these elements. He said, however, some persons with vested interests had exploited this internal issue of the university for mudslinging.

Meanwhile the DCC chief, Mr Ved Prakash Gupta, said here today that there should be a probe into the allegations against the VC and his powers should be withdrawn as long as the inquiry was on. Mr Gupta said the proposed February 24 meeting of the Syndicate should also be postponed.


FEAR: stop VC from making appointment
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 15
The Forum for Educational Action and Reform (FEAR) has demanded that the Punjabi University Vice- Chancellor Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia should, be stopped from making the appointment of Director, Television Productions by transferring a post of Professor from the Department of Correspondence Studies and changing its designation.

In a statement here, forum president Dr Amarjit Singh Dhillon said a tailor made advertisement had been published to adjust and ''make payment in kind'' to a person who had helped a particular party in making a telefilm to influence public opinion ahead of the assembly elections in the state.

Dr Dhillon also appealed to varsity Chancellor Lt-Gen JFR Jacob (retd) not to allow the Vice- Chancellor to resign on ''health'' or other grounds. He said the forum felt that the Vice Chancellor should be made to ''face the music'' for the actions committed by him.


‘Exit poll a bundle of lies’
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 15
The exit poll, being televised by different TV channels, is a misuse of the media, which had been hired by the Congress to influence the voters in the state. The 91 seats being shown in favour of the Congress by the channels is a bundle of lies. Even Ms Ambika Soni, a Congress leader, had admitted that the party would not win more than 50 seats.

These were the views of Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, President, SGPC, while talking to mediapersons here today.

He was here to preside over the concluding ceremony of the annual athletics meet of Mata Gujri College.

He said the exit poll had no relevance and the SAD-BJP alliance would form the next government. The SGPC chief termed the exit poll as a clear cut violation of the model code of conduct.

He said a meeting of the Political Affairs Committee of the SAD would held tomorrow in Chandigarh to review the prospects of the party.

He said the elections of the SGPC would be held in August or September. The last date for enlisting the voters is March 27 and the voters list will be completed within a month.

Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, General Secretary, SGPC, Mr R.S. Cheema, a former minister and Secretary, college managing committee, and Dr Gurmohan Walia, Principal of the college, were also present, among others.


10,000 votes ‘deleted from lists in city alone’
Our Correspondent

Patiala, February 15
District Congress Committee (Urban) president Ved Prakash Gupta today claimed that as many as 10,000 votes had been deleted from the voters’ list in the Patiala Assembly seat itself.

At a press conference held here, Mr Gupta stated that the poll percentage in this segment could have been much higher had the names of thousands of voters, including some who were in possession of identity cards issued by the Election Commission, not been deleted from the electoral rolls. He also demanded a probe by the Central Election Commission into this alleged arbitrary deletion of voters’ names.

Meanwhile, Mr Pritam Singh Vora, senior vice-president, Patiala city SAD, and Mr Sarup Singh Sehgal, candidate for the Akali-BJP combine from the city, in a joint statement issued alleged that between 200 and 300 names were found missing in every voters’ list. Accusing the Congress of the irregularity in the rolls they said that this was a conspiracy to cut out the Akali votes.

The National Medicos Forum also expressed concern over the alleged deletions. Demanding a high-level judicial inquiry from a sitting judge, the president of the forum, Dr D.C. Sharma, said exemplary punishment should be meted out to those found guilty of abuse of official power.


Hope for poor patients
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

For thousands of poor people of the Doaba region of Punjab, the recently set up Devi Talab Charitable Hospital has brought a ray of hope.

The Devi Talab Temple Management Committee has set up the 50-bedded hospital with the help of donations totalling about Rs 6 crore given by people, particularly businessmen and industrialists, belonging to the region and a grant of Rs 25 lakh from the Punjab Government. Work on the second part of the hospital — a cancer treatment centre — is under way. According to the estimate of the committee, an expenditure of Rs 10 crore to Rs 12 crore will be incurred on it.

This is perhaps the only charitable hospital in this region which offers the latest facilities free of cost to those who are unable to pay any charges. Other patients are required to pay about one-fourth of the charges in other private hospitals. This has compelled most of the city hospitals to decrease their charges.

Apart from fully equipped orthopaedic, paediatric, gynaecology, ENT, dietetics and surgical departments, the facilities include the CT scan, laparascopy, lithotripsy and X-ray. There are more than 20 doctors. “We are charging only Rs 150 for the CT scan whereas at other hospitals the charges vary between Rs 350 and Rs 450. Any patient can register himself after paying Rs 5, which includes the charges for two days’ medicine,” says Mr Sheetal Vij, a city-based industrialist and chairman of the management committee.

Mr Vij, who has been the key man in the fund collection drive for the construction of the hospital, says that nearly 500 patients visit the hospital daily. “We provide treatment free of cost to any patient who says he is unable to bear the charges,” says Mr Vij.

Mr Vij says there was a dispensary functioning for two hours daily till September, 2000, when he took over as the chairman. “Actually, what led me to devote myself to the hospital project was the prolonged illness of my mother and the predicament of poor patients in various hospitals who were deprived of treatment just because they had no money. Then I decided to work for the setting up of a charitable hospital where everybody could afford the treatment”, says Mr Vij.

“When people learnt that we were setting up a hospital for the poor, they donated liberally for the project. Brig Sukhjit Singh of the former princely State of Kapurthala donated six kanals of land adjoining the hospital,” says Mr Vij.

Mr Vij says the committee will be setting up, apart from the cancer centre, a centre for the treatment of childless couples and upgrading the hospital to 300 beds.


70.65 pc polling in Morinda
Our Correspondent

Kharar, February 15
As many as 97,983 voters had cast their votes in the Morinda Assembly constituency out of 1,38,691 voters in the polling held on February 13 and the overall poll percentage in the constituency was 70.65.

The number of male voters in the constituency is 75,843 and out of them 53,507 cast their vote. Similarly, there are 62,848 female voters in the constituency and out of them 44,476 cast their votes.

The percentage of polling in Morinda was higher as compared to Kharar as in Kharar the overall percentage was 60.44. One of the reasons for this percentage was that three strong candidates, Mr Ravi Inder Singh, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang and Mr Ujjagar Singh Badali were in the field and an impressive campaigning was done by all of them.

Mr Devinder Singh, SDM said that all electronic voting machines had been kept under tight security.


Municipal Council flouts code of conduct
Our Correspondent

Bareta (Mansa), February 15
The president and executive officer of the local municipal council in the district flouted the code of conduct, by allotting civil works worth Rs 10 lakhs on January 8 allegedly to some of its favourites contractors and thereafter, beat a hasty retreat when it became public on January 16.

Inquiries revealed that in total disregard of the code of conduct, the council published the tender notice in a paper with little circulation on December 30 although code of conduct was enforced on December 26. It was alleged that such a notice should have been published in a widely circulated newspaper in the area. This was allegedly done intentionally to allot the works to particular contractors, close to the council president, Mr Lachman Dass Salemgarhia, and the Executive Officer, Mr Kulwinder Paul Singh.

When contacted, the Executive Officer said the tender had been cancelled on the report of administrative directions. He said however, the notice inviting the tenders was published on December 30 in one paper and the work allotted on January 8 and the same cancelled on January 16.

The Deputy Director, Local Bodies, Bathinda, said on telephone that the council was required to get the proceedings of the meeting of December 23 approved and thereafter, a period of 21 days was required for tenders. Thus, the work could not be allotted on January 8. He further said it could be done after the code of conduct ended.


Demand to revise poll-duty wages
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 15
The Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers' Union has urged the Chief Election Commissioner , Mr J.M. Lyngdoh, to revise the remuneration of government and non-government employees who are deployed on election duty.

In a statement Mr K.B.S. Sodhi, president of the union, said the remuneration of the employees who were on duty on the February 13 Assembly elections in Punjab should also be paid enhanced remuneration. They should also be paid conveyance allowance and halting allowance separately as per the government rules.

He said thousands of employees who were on election duty on February 13 were deprived of their right to vote . To lose the right to vote for performing election duty was a too high price they had to pay. As the election results were to be announced on February 24, there was ample time to make arrangements to enable them to exercise their right to vote.

He said the remuneration paid to them for this arduous duty was rather meagre.

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