Monday, February 18, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Six expelled from BJP
Party assesses performance
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 17
Unfazed by the media hype on opinion and exit polls, the Punjab unit of the BJP today assessed its election prospects, performance, identified pockets of dissent and drew up the post-election strategy.

The meeting was attended, among others, by BJP office-bearers, five ministers — Mr Balramji Das Tandon, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Mr Tikshan Sood, Mr Manorajan Kalia and Mr Surjit Kumar Jyani — and Member of Parliament Lajpat Rai. It was presided over by the unit president, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, who exuded confidence of again forming the government.

The meeting authorised Mr Rinwa to take strict disciplinary action against all those party activists, who caused "internal sabotage’’ to the poll campaign. Consequently, the president expelled, for six years, certain key BJP men — Mr Naval Kamboj (district president, (urban), Jalandhar), Mr Sunil Mehra, Mr Ashwini Mehta, Capt Vikamjit Singh, Mr Bharat Bhushan Handa (all members of the state executive committee) and Mr Arun Bajaj (a special invitee) — for their anti-party activities.

The BJP general secretary, (organisation), Mr Avinash Jaiswal, said irrespective of the poll outcome, the BJP was determined to purge the party of elements whose activities were detrimental to the party’s functioning. The BJP would also further strengthen its orgaisational wings and remain among the people.

Talking to TNS after the meeting, both Mr Rinwa and Mr Jaiswal said the meeting took cognisance of the role of the media, print and electronic, during the elections and concluded that there was "foul play’’ with certain powers “manipulating and managing” the media to the advantage of the Congress.

The party would take up the issue of opinion and exit polls with the Election Commission and demand a ban on these in future as such reports influenced voters. The two objected to the "personalised’’ ad campaign.

Mr Rinwa later apprised the Shiromani Akali Dal President and Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, of the BJP assessment of the poll outcome.

The refrain at the meeting was that the SAD-BJP combine failed to properly project its achievements during the past five years. Moreover, "corruption and the anti-incumbency’’ factor could not be ignored altogether. Asked about the impact of these two, the BJP president admitted that these could not be dismissed.

Talking about the agenda for the next government, he said "corruption must be tackled first and fast. People must be given good governance, law and order strictly maintained and the Hindu-Sikh brotherhood cemented further’’. Institutions like the Punjab Public Service Commission and the Punjab Subordinate Services Selection Board must be cleansed of corruption. The people also must realise the harm corruption was doing to the state.

Enquiries with SAD-BJP leaders revealed that constituency-wise polling percentages were discussed and the poll prospects evaluated.

The BJP meeting was preceded by a meeting of the Shiromani Akali Dal’s Political Affairs Committee here on Saturday. As per the available information, out of 116 Assembly constituencies that went to the polls on February 13, in "rural’’ constituencies the voting percentage was as follows: above 70 per cent — 54 constituencies; above 60 per cent — 43; above 50 per cent — 9; and in only one constituency less than 40 per cent. In respect of "urban’’ constituencies, the picture that has emerged is: above 70 per cent — 14; above 60 per cent—37; above 50 per cent — 26; above 40 per cent —14; and in one less than 40 per cent. 


Kites dot skies on Basant Panchmi
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 17
Residents today celebrated Basant Panchmi with fervour, a traditional festival celebrated every year on the fifth lunar day of “Phalgun”.

According to the Hindu religion, the day is said to be very auspicious for marriages, shifting to a new house and specially starting of education and it is not considered necessary to consult any priest for ‘muhurat’.

With the advent of modern tools of entertainment, kite flying, a favourite activity some years ago, has now taken a back seat. The main centres of kite flying are Mohalla Pujan Wala, trans-railway colonies and some other residential areas.

Mr Jatinder Sharma, a resident of the city, said today being Sunday, even employees, traders and businessmen enjoyed the day, but the high wind velocity and loudspeakers and audio systems were a damper on the festival spirit.

A section of residents said they had not celebrated the festival last year as a mark of respect for January 26 earthquake victims, but were celebrating the festival this year.

Minor accidents due to kite flying were reported from the city.


Maximum AIDS cases in Amritsar
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 17
Amritsar district topped the list of HIV/AIDS cases with 1,034 cases while Ropar and Muktsar districts reported five cases each and 44 cases of HIV positive patients were reported from this district, said the fifth edition of the three-language booklet quoting data from the state Health Department which was released at the concluding day function of the orientation programme organised under the University Talk AIDS here today.

Releasing the booklet, Mr R. Venkatratnam, Deputy Commissioner, stressed the need of education for preventing AIDS, hepatitis-B and drug abuse. He said till April, 2001, maximum number of cases of AIDS (36) from Punjab was reported from Gurdaspur district. While AIDS could be prevented, it had no cure and holding peer group education programmes for students, professionals and employees was a step towards creating awareness, he said.

Mr Raj Gupta, Chairperson, District AIDS Control Organisation, said that AIDS, drug abuse and other sexually transmitted diseases were behavioural diseases. According to reports, AIDS is killing six persons every minute worldwide and the figure was rising every hour.

Changing social values, use of unsafe blood, sharing of contaminated needles by the drug abusers and lack of proper guidance during adolescence were some of the reasons causing spread of AIDS. About 30 per cent of the total HIV cases of the country are concentrated in six states namely Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Manipur, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Nagaland.

During the question-answer session, doubts about the mode of transmission, treatment, misconceptions, dos and don’ts about the spread of AIDS were answered by a panel of experts. An exhibition and poster-making competition were also organised. Fifty girl students from various colleges and institutes participated in the two-day programme held at the local SSD Girls college. The panel of experts and NSS activists of the college also addressed the participants.


Farmers seek MSP for wheat
Our Correspondent

Mansa, February 17
The Bharatiya Kisan Union, Ekta (BKU-E) has demanded announcement of the minimum support price (MSP) for wheat crop for the season by the Central Government.

A meeting of the district unit of the BKU (E) was held here today in which the members criticised Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for his failure to solve the SYL canal issue. They said the union would launch a statewide stir if even a single drop of water was given to any of the neighbouring states.

Stating this at press conference here today after the meeting, Mr Ruldu Singh, senior vice-president of the unit, said the state was already facing shortage of water. He said the state government had failed to solve the problems of farmers.


CPI expels councillor
Our Correspondent

Mansa, February 17
Mr Seopal Chand Pala, local municipal councillor, has been expelled from the primary membership of the CPI for anti-party activities, according to a press note issued here today by Mr Rekha Sharma, secretary of the local unit of the party.

Meanwhile, Mr Jodha Singh Mann, national general secretary, Lok Bhalai Party, has expelled Mr Bhupinder Singh Namberdar of Budhlada town in the district for anti-party activities. This was stated in a press note issued today by the party office.


More encroachment opposite Qila Mubarak
Gurvinder Kaur

The main entrance of Qila Mubarak in the inner city, which has already been robbed of much of its grandeur with most of the open space in front of it being encroached, saw another act of encroachment during the election days with a concrete roof being put on a shop opposite the gate, which earlier like others in its vicinity had only a small tin as a covering on its top.

Investigations on the spot revealed that the Harbans Ice Cream shop tenant had laid a lintel on top of his shop even though none of the other adjacent shops have a concrete covering on top of them.

When he was questioned about this, he first denied that the lintel had been laid on top of the shop, but later said the mandir committee should be asked about it.

Shops have been leased out by the temple committee to tenants around what was earlier a gallery encircling the temple.

As the area is already congested, the laying of a lintel was being viewed seriously by nearby residents and shopkeepers, who say all the other shopkeepers may also construct concrete roofs and make further protrusions which would further hinder free flow of traffic in the area.

When temple committee member Puran Chand was questioned about the lintel, he first thought the Tribune team was from the local Municipal Corporation, and offered to do “sewa”. However, when told that this was not the way of operation, he said he would submit an affidavit in the corporation admitting that a mistake had been committed by the temple committee and that no construction would be done on any other shop in the temple complex. He also allowed the Tribune photographer to click the newly constructed lintel when he was told that a photograph was being taken just for record.

Sources said the elections had been used by another shopkeeper along the Qila walls to go in for construction work on his premises which is against the norms. They said a shop dealing in eyeglasses had closed down recently and had been “sold off” to another party after large-scale repairs.

The sources said this was against the norms as the tenants of the shop could not transfer their tenancy by taking “pagri”. Construction work cannot also be done by them as the shops had been constructed along the rooms of the Qila which is a protected monument.

Construction of shops along the Qila walls had become a major issue one year back when the municipal corporation sold off shops owned by it along the Qila walls to its tenants and gave permission to them to construct on the first floor also. This was objected to by the Department of Archives and Cultural Affairs, which claimed such a construction amounted to defacing a national monument but nothing came off the matter and the shopkeeper was allowed to go ahead with the first storey without any hitch.


A ‘market’ on rail track
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

One sees large-scale encroachments, but what is surprising is the sight of a full-fledged ‘‘rehri’’ market in the midst of railway tracks at the main bazaar level crossing here.

As one crosses the bazaar and enters the four shunting tracks on the busy Ferozepore-Ludhiana section, one is stunned to see a number of rehris standing in the space between the tracks, thus forming a mini-market. What makes it more interesting to note is that this market keeps humming even during passage of trains as unfazed rehriwallahs do not move away even after closure of the level crossing whenever trains pass.

This unique market, comprising of dozens of rehris, selling fruit, vegetables, grocery items, peanuts, eggs, and tea has grown over the past two decades, thanks to the apathy of the Railways and the civic authorities to public safety.

Both the Railways and the civic authorities, it is learnt, have made a number of half-hearted efforts to shift the ‘‘rehriwallahs’’ a number of times, but it had failed to yield any result. Though no untoward incident has taken place, residents fear that the situation could lead to a tragedy any time. ‘‘As people have got used to the rehriwallahs, they go to them to buy daily-use items and sometimes are trapped during movement or shunting of trains. This can be more dangerous for children, who go there to buy candies or peanuts, says Mr Raminder Kumar, a resident.

Master Bachan Singh, another resident, maintains that he had been watching this happening for over two decades. ‘‘I remember that the authorities had made efforts to remove them, but such moves failed due to intervention of influential people,’’ he adds. He fears the market could pose a danger to human life.

‘‘I have never witnessed any market function from railway tracks. But at the same time, I hold the Northern Railway responsible for this, as this could not happen without the connivance of officials,’’ says Munshi Lal, another resident, who wants serious efforts to be made to keep the tracks clear, both for safety of people and the smooth running of trains.


Dr Garg elected IMA chief
Our Correspondent

Barnala, February 17
Dr R.C. Garg, a Barnala-based doctor has been unanimously elected president of the Punjab state Indian Medical Association (IMA) unit for the session 2002-2003, following the withdrawal of nomination papers by four candidates.

Dr Raj Kumar Gupta, Chairman Election Commission, Punjab IMA, revealed that now election for the offices of two vice-presidents and president-elect would take place in the second week of March.


BSNL staff threaten stir
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 17
Keeping in view the needs of the people, the BSNL should start its mobile service in the region at the earliest. This was stated by Mr Balbir Singh, state secretary, Bhart at Sanchar Nigam Limited Employees Union, in a press note issued here, on Saturday. The BSNL was well-equipped to offer high-end and mobile phone services, he added.

A nationwide agitation would be launched if the Union Government went ahead with the proposed privatisation of the BSNL, he added.


Wheat crop of 40 farmers ruined
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, February 17
The wheat seeds provided to more than 40 farmers of the area by KRISHCO, an agriculture-based company, through the Shahabazpur Cooperative Agriculture Service Society, Shahabazpur, has ruined their crop.

Mr Major Singh, Sarpanch of Mannanke village, told this correspondent yesterday that the farmers of Shahabazpur, Mannanke, Buapatti and Dial Rajputan villages had purchased the seeds at Rs 440 per 40 kg from the society in October, 2001, and sowed it in the fields. A major portion of the wheat crop remains unripe whereas some parts were ready for harvesting.

Members of the society told this correspondent that the complaints of the farmers were forwarded to the district level authorities of the company, who sent a team to these villages. The report had been submitted to the authorities of the company.


Two murdered, jewellery looted
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 17
Raghubinder Singh and his mother-in-law Chanan Kaur, both residents of Verka, were brutally murdered by six armed persons late last `night.

According to reports, the attackers, who reportedly came at about 1 a.m., forcibly entered the house and demanded money and jewellery from them. When Raghubinder refused to give the same they attacked him with iron rods. His mother-in-law was also critically injured when she tried to save Raghubinder. Later on both succumbed to their injuries at Guru Nanak Dev Hospital.

Raghubinder's wife Balbeer Kaur was also injured in the attack. The attackers fled the spot after looting gold jewellery and some household goods. A case under Sections 460, 395 IPC. has been registered.


One booked for cheating

Amritsar, February 17
The city police has registered a case of cheating against Balwinder Singh who allegedly impersonated a Manager of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and collected money from people by assuring them jobs in the SGPC,

According to the police, Balwinder Singh duped many persons by assuring them jobs in the SGPC.

He allegedly collected Rs 45,000, Rs 80,000 and Rs 45,000 from Mr Tajinderpal Singh, Mr Bhagat Singh and Mr Jasbir Singh, respectively, for getting jobs for their kin. However, when they later enquired about jobs, Balwinder Singh tried to put them off. Suspecting foul play they filed a complaint with the police and a case under Sections 419, 420, 467, 468 and 471 of the IPC was registered. Balwinder Singh was yet to be arrested, the police said. PTI


Diet and exercise vital in controlling diabetes
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 17
“Not only do changes in diet and physical activity prevent and delay the development of diabetes, they actually help restore normal glucose levels in many people with impaired glucose tolerance”.

This was stated by Dr Bindu Kaushal and Dr Munish Chander, both working in the Department of Sports Medicine, National Institute of Sports (NIS), while delivering a research paper during the fifth Punjab Science Congress held at the Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology (TIET).

In their paper, they said diabetes and hypertension were diseases that were inter-related. Oral diabetes drug ‘metaformin’ also played a vital role in reducing risk in persons suffering from diabetes, although not as effectively as changes in lifestyles. Dr Chander and Dr Kaushal emphasised that “by adopting a moderate, consistent diet coupled with a comprehensive exercise programme, many people with one or more risk factors for type-two diabetes can stop the disease before it becomes irreversible.”

It was further stated that “lifestyle intervention worked equally well in both men and women and in all ethnic groups.”

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