Saturday, February 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Amarinder’s lunch diplomacy works
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 22
PPCC President Amarinder Singh may have all but been appointed as head of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) but senior party leaders, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, do not think so. While Mrs Bhattal stayed away from a lunch hosted by the PPCC chief for party candidates at his New Moti Bagh Palace today alongwith a few of her supporters, two known supporters of Mr Brar, who is a party MP, also did not show up.

However, the PPCC chief seems to have the upper hand as of now with most of the party candidates who contested the Assembly elections attending the lunch organised by him.

According to sources, the lunch which was organised under tight security outside the residence of the PPCC chief, saw most of the candidates openly coming out in his support.

The sources said today’s meeting was in line with a similar lunch hosted by Capt Amarinder Singh before PPCC elections last year as a show of strength in order to sideline Mrs Bhattal and Mr Brar, who were frontline candidates for the PPCC chief’s post. The meeting had been successful with almost the entire party rank and file attending it. They said this time too the PPCC chief was not taking any chances and had organised the lunch to ensure that most of the candidates stayed loyal to him in the run-up to the election of the CLP leader.

The sources said it was not only Mrs Bhattal and few of her supporters, including Mr Harbans Singh Sidhu who contested the elections from Rampura Phul, but also supporters of Mr Brar, including Mr Vijay Sathi who contested from Moga and Mr Raghbir Singh who contested from Gidderbaha who were absent from the meeting. However, some supporters of Mrs Bhattal attended the meeting, indicating that they did not want to annoy the PPCC chief’s request.

Party sources said the participation at the meeting indicated that Capt Amarinder Singh was likely to be elected CLP leader. They said the move was also made by the PPCC chief as Mrs Bhattal had been camping in Delhi for quite some time to press her claim to CLP leadership.

Meanwhile, even as candidates came from all over the state to angle for plum posts in case the Congress returned to power, former minister Brahm Mohindra, who had contested the Assembly elections from Samana, was conspicuous by his absence. However, Congress managers claimed that he had visited the residence of the PPCC chief in the morning.

The sources said those candidates who were elected to the Assembly on February 24 would be invited for lunch at Punjab Bhavan on February 25 as another show of strength before the election of the CLP leader took place.


BJP: Cong influenced media during poll
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 22
The general secretary of the Punjab BJP, Mr Avinash Jaiswal, while accepting that the SAD-BJP government had failed to project its achievements properly before the Assembly elections, has alleged that the Congress had manipulated a section of the electronic media to influence the electorate.

At a Press conference here yesterday, Mr Jaiswal alleged that the Congress leadership had collected huge amounts by selling ticket and used the money to woo mediapersons.

Without naming any newspaper or TV channel, he alleged that their representatives travelled by helicopters and cars belonging to the Congress and, hence, had projected the party favourably.

Mr Jaiswal also alleged that the Congress could have managed to influence the predictions of exit polls. Over the controversy of banning the opinion and exit polls, he said that if their predictions did not match the actual results the BJP would consider the issue.


All set for counting of votes
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, February 22
At least 14 tables have been set up at Shivalik Public School for the counting of votes polled for the Kharar constituency. The counting will begin at 8 am and is expected to end by 1 pm as the process of counting of votes on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) is quicker than the conventional method of counting ballot papers.

The Returning Office for Kharar constituency, Mr Jaipal Singh, said the counting would be completed in 15 rounds. On each table, a counting supervisor and a counting assistant had been deputed. To prevent counting agents of the candidates from interfering in the counting process, a wire mesh had been erected on all sides of the counting tables.

Entry to the counting hall would be restricted. Mr Singh said all 12 candidates would sit on a special platform in front of the counting tables. A total of 205 EVMs would be opened by the counting staff in front of the candidates.

Mr Singh said those entering the counting centre would be frisked for mobile phones. He said the police authorities had been requested to prevent people from bringing mobile phones in the counting centre.

Meanwhile, the request for the deployment of paramilitary force within the counting centre was yet to get any response from the EC.


SAD (A) to burn copies of SYL verdict
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 22
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, Member of Parliament and president of SAD (A), has announced that his party will burn copies of the judgement of the Supreme Court which had directed the state government to complete the SYL. Talking to the press here today, Mr Mann said that he would also convince the Panthic Morcha and other like-minded parties to join hands with his party as Punjab did not have even a drop of spare water which could be given to any state. 

He said the ruling Akali Dal deliberately engaged a weak advocate to fight the SYL issue in the apex court as Chief Minister P.S. Badal had a secret understanding with his Haryana counterpart.

Mr Mann announced that he was ready to face contempt of court due to his assertions against the judgement of the apex court. Mr Mann also used harsh words against the Punjab and Haryana High Court for granting bail to influential persons.

On the Ram Mandir issue, Mr Mann said that his party was in favour of constructing the temple but not on disputed site. He said he would lead a jatha to Ayodhya to stop the construction of the temple on the disputed site.

Describing the Union Home Minister, Mr L. K. Advani, as the ‘most wanted’ person for Pakistan, Mr Mann said that before extradition of 20 most wanted Indians he (Mr Advani) should be handed over to Pakistan. He alleged that Mr Advani was one of the main accused who had demolished the Babri Masjid and he had also hailed Operation Bluestar.

In yet another significant statement, Mr Mann said that his party would initiate a no-confidence motion against Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar, president of the SGPC, at an appropriate time after the Assembly election results. He alleged that Professor Badungar had no right to continue as SGPC chief as he was facing serious allegations for having close links with Baba Piara Singh Bhaniara who was excommunicated from the Sikh Panth.

Mr Mann alleged that the Jathedar appointed by the SGPC were also facing serious charges and hence were ‘tainted’ persons should quit on moral grounds.

Answering a question, Mr Mann said his party would conduct an inquiry into the allegations that some of his leaders had supported Congress candidates during the recently held Assembly elections. He said if these allegations were proved true, strict action would be taken against them.


Reader joins the fight against VC
Our Correspondent

Patiala, February 22
The bout of allegations and counter-allegations witnessed after Ms Saru Rana’s letter to the Vice-Chancellor has begun anew with a Reader in the Department of Theatre and TV of Punjabi University, Dr Yogesh Gambhir alleging “harassment”, albeit of a different kind, at the hands of Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia even as a teachers’ body in the varsity claimed that “melas” were organised regularly on the campus to “search” for beautiful and charming girls.

In a letter sent to the Governor and Chancellor Lieut-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd), containing startling accusations, Dr Gambhir has sought protection as he fears damage to his life and career from the Vice-Chancellor. Meanwhile, the Teachers United Front (TUF) today claimed in a separate press note that it was for the first time in the history of independent India that a Vice-Chancellor had been facing such charges.

Dr Gambhir in his letter has alleged that he is being unduly harassed by Dr Ahluwalia on one pretext or the other because he failed to “submit to ill-conceived wishes and evil designs”.

He said about a year ago he along with his colleagues was directed to make a film on painting history of Punjab by the VC who “chose” a girl student of his department to act in the film. He further said that the student accepted the offer but ultimately declined it as Ms Saroj Rani, in charge, Fine Arts Department, started “summoning the girl frequently”, insisting that she accompany her to the official residence of the VC for some “undefined purposes”.

According to the letter, the Vice-Chancellor got “furious” over the situation and during a meeting of members of the Department Film Committee, forced the members to send the girl to him so that he could “explain her the concept of the film”. Dr Gambhir further said when the members insisted that it was the job of the directors to explain the concept of the film to the actors, the Vice-Chancellor said he need not consult the directors for this purpose.

Dr Gambhir said: “When I vehemently resisted, he fabricated a case against me with the help of one of his friends in the Consortium for Educational Communication (CEC) in New Delhi. He in no uncertain terms told me that if I did not oblige him by sending the girl to him, I will be responsible for my own fate”.

He further alleged that later when the students launched an agitation against the Vice-Chancellor in connection with the Saru Rana case, the former again sent a communique to the CEC in a bid to reopen the “fabricated” case against him “On February 15 he again called me at his residence at 11 am and threatened me that if I did not stop students of our department from participating in the agitation I would be in trouble”.

The reader has in the letter requested the Chancellor to protect him against the “malicious mechanisations” of the VC “as he is feeling mentally and psychologically shattered, fearing damage to his life and career”.

The Vice-Chancellor, calling the allegations, wild and baseless has stated, in a press note that he had received a written complaint against Dr Gambhir from the Director CEC, Mr Pradeep Kaul, that the former had consumed liquor and created unpleasant scenes in the canteen of Nuclear Science Centre. The Vice-Chancellor further stated that following this, he deputed special secretary, Higher Education, Punjab, Mr Amarjit Singh (IAS retd), to look into the matter. The Vice-Chancellor has attributed Dr Gambhir’s allegations to the inquiry initiated against him.

Dr U.C. Singh convener, TUF, has, meanwhile, demanded a public apology from Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for appointing Dr Ahluwalia as Vice-Chancellor “knowing full well his background’. He has also alleged that the Chief Minister is pressursing the Patiala district police to drop the criminal case. TUF has further reiterated the demands raised by PUTA secretary N.S. Atri and others for restraining Mr Ahluwalia from occupying his chair and banning his entry into the campus.


Customs Inspector held for graft
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh/ Ludhiana, February 22
Sleuths of the CBI today claimed to have unearthed a nexus between officials of the Customs Department and several importers of the region, who were causing revenue loss in crores of rupees every month. In this process , the customs officials have reportedly amassed properties worth crores of rupees. Inspector Arun Singla has been placed under arrest in this connection.

CBI sleuths today conducted simultaneous search and seizure operations at the residential premises of a Deputy Commissioner of Customs Freight Station, Ludhiana. Mr Amreesh Jain and Inspector Arun Singla of the department. It is learnt that the latter was acting as an accomplice of Mr Jain in amassing assets other than his known sources of income.

Sources in the CBI informed TNS that the two persons were causing revenue loss to the government in crores of rupees by hobnobbing with certain importers. They allegedly passed goods imported as well as exported from the Dry Port at Ludhiana as those having lower duty slabs. They were involved in forging reimbursement payments of customs duty, thus milking the national exchequer. The official were allegedly then getting rewards from the importers, who were saving money as taxes.

The sources told the Tribune that raids were part of the exercise to detect the involvement of certain private and departmental persons in the scam which is so far pegged at Rs 2 crore. The irregularities in Duty Entitlement Pass Book (DEPB) and on the export goods had come into picture and certain officials in Jalandhar Customs office were already booked.

The embezzled amount estimated to be around Rs 2 crore was allegedly siphoned off by officials and certain employees of the Customs Department, who submitted shipping bills and other documents related to goods to be exported, with the Joint Director-General (forging) at Ludhiana but some of these goods were allegedly never exported.

The employees had allegedly submitted as many as 33 bills with the Joint Director-General (Forging). The allegations of some employees were that they had signed the shipping bills estimating the value of the export goods. But they neither evaluated the price of the goods nor the quality of the material.

They also allegedly charged the rates for DEPB at the rate of 22 per cent instead of 10 to 15 per cent as directed by the rules of the Customs Department. They even failed to deposit the samples of goods to be exported with the department. Customs staff of the dry port bills the parties for export and import duties.

Sources informed that incriminating documents and powers of attorney for properties in Chandigarh worth more than Rs 1 crore were seized from the residence of Mr Arun Singla in Chandigarh. Jewellery worth Rs 3 lakh was seized from the residence of Mr Amreesh Jain. Besides, bonds worth Rs 5 lakh, shares worth Rs 4 lakh, Rs 1.24 lakh in cash and six LIC policies in the names of Mr Jain and his wife were recovered from their residence in Aggar Nagar in Ludhiana.

It is also learnt that the bank lockers of Mr Jain at Rampur in Himachal Pradesh were also sealed by the sleuths of the investigating agency . It is anticipated that documents relating to property and jewellery could have been kept there.

It is also learnt that the two persons were investing their money jointly in disputed properties in Chandigarh. It is alleged that they were reportedly using the names of certain police officials in Chandigarh in order to get possession of the disputed properties they were buying. Papers relating to the purchase of an industrial shed worth Rs. 80 lakh in Industrial Area , Phase II in Chandigarh were also seized from the house of Mr Singla.

The two officials have booked under Sections 420 and 471 of the IPC and also under Section 13 -D of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Two cases have been registered, one against Singla and another against Singla and his former boss, in Ludhiana, Amresh Jain.

Meanwhile, Mr Jain while talking to TNS in Ludhiana said sleuths were just going through certain papers at his residence. He, however, declined to divulge any details about the documents and the purpose behind the raids. He also said the CBI sleuths were in his house for verification and consultation over some papers and not raiding his house.


Ex-cricketer in CBI net

Inspector Arun Singla, booked by the CBI in two cases of alleged corruption, was appointed in the Customs and Central Excise under the sports quota about eight years ago. He used to play Ranji Trophy for Haryana and has a hat-trick to his credit. He later played for West Bengal. He was posted in Chandigarh.


Finance panel recommendations-III
Incentive fund for local bodies

P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 22
An incentive fund is mooted for urban local bodies (ULB) and panchayati raj institutions (PRI) in addition to the two making efforts to raise their ‘’own’’ resources. The Finance Commission has recommended Rs 10 crore per annum as incentive fund for the ULBs and Rs 20 crore per year for the PRIs from 2003-04 onwards. Any of the two increasing resources will be entitled to the incentive award.

In Punjab, PRIs constitute gram panchayats (12,369), panchayat samitis (137) and zila parishads (17). The rural population is 67.5 per cent of the state’s total population.

Regarding PRIs, the recommendations are that the existing house tax levied by gram panchayats should be enhanced and renamed ‘’property tax’’. It should be levied on the basis of the annual value of the house at the rate of 5 per cent of the estimated cost based on the covered area of the house, type of construction and the market price. The recovery of house tax at present is abysmally low with poor collections. The per capita tax revenue of a panchayat is less than Re 1 per annum.

The main income of gram panchayats is from the leasing of panchayat land. The total panchayat revenue from all sources of a gram panchayat comes to Rs 27 per capita (1999-2000). “Own revenue” constitutes 41 per cent of the total, indicating a high degree of dependence on the government for grants.

The high court in a recent judgment declared that the ownership of ‘’bacchat’’ land, which constitutes about 13.8 per cent of the total panchayat land, vests in the land owners. The income from this source is likely to go down unless a remedy is found, says the report.

The provision for civic services accounts for 68 per cent of the expenses in villages against 67 per cent in ULBs. To enable panchayats to increase their revenue, the report has recommended a ‘’land holding tax’’ on the owners of agricultural land situated within the panchayat areas with a suitable rebate for ‘’barani’’ land and exemption for ‘’banjar’’ and uncultivable land. A “lighting tax” is also proposed for the streetlight facility. Suggesting tax restructuring, the commission favours a modest target of a minimum recovery of Rs 5 per capita per annum as tax revenue (excluding receipts for “lighting tax” where levied).

The government, on its part, must take the appropriate legislative measures to ensure that ‘’bacchat’’ land or ‘’mushtrka malkan’’ or ‘’jumla malkan’’ land at present in the possession of panchayats continues to vest in them.

The commission has concluded that the implementation of its recommendations in respect of the PRIs will fetch these bodies Rs 8 crore in 2002-03 and Rs 27 crore in 2005-06.

After taking an overview of the rural scenario and services, the commission has referred to the growing problem of the disposal of sullage water, which is emerging as a serious public health issue. The estimate is that only 36 per cent of the villages have proper arrangements to handle sullage water.

The commission report has come at a crucial time. It makes the task of the next government arduous as it exposes the chinks in the politico-bureaucratic set-up. The task and challenges before the next government are many, the hopes and aspirations of the people are also high. Will the PRIs and ULBs get a new lease of financial life?



Less hope, more despondency
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 22
Polarisation of the bureaucracy, a phenomenon witnessed in Punjab since the late 80s, the continuous absence of the Chief Minister from the state headquarters, centralisation of powers and alienation of the people from the administration are being cited as the prime reasons for the civil governance to touch its nadir in this otherwise forward looking State.

A cross section of bureaucrats, including police officers, on the condition of anonymity reveal that the SAD-BJP Government looked after only a section of the bureaucracy which unfortunately belonged to the Malwa belt in general and areas around Faridkot in particular. All civil servants originally hailing from this belt were given coveted postings.

“Only a few officers have been involved in the decision making procession of the Badal Government, while others have been reduced to non-entities”, said a senior PCS officer when asked to comment about the role of the bureaucracy in the five years of the Badal Government.

While there was continuity in some of the key departments, including the police where top people continued in their positions for reasonable good terms, it was not so in many of the key and important departments. For example, sports. As Punjab was allotted the National Games, the Principal Secretary, Department of Youth Welfare and Sports, was frequently changed. In one year, five senior bureaucrats headed this department.

The departments of Agriculture, the Punjab Urban Development Authority (PUDA), Local Government, Education, Information Technology, Technical Education, Rural Development and Panchayats, Health and Family Welfare, Medical Education and Research, and even the Finance Department witnessed several changes in the five-year term thus denying the much-needed continuity for the overall development of the basic infrastructure.

Absenteeism from offices, diminishing public contact between government offices and the general public and poor redressal of general and routine grievances of the public were low on the priority list of the government.

Consequently, far from framing progmatic, practical socio-economic and visionary policies to put Punjab back on the high pedestal, both the politicians and the bureaucrats have only perfected the spoils system to their advantage through their manipulations. The existence of total ad hoc administrative functioning has put Punjab in a down-slide trajectory.

Talking about the alienation of the bureaucracy from the people, a senior PCS officers said that it had happened because of large spells of President’s rule in the state in the past 25 years. Officers developed the habit of confining themselves to their air-conditioned offices and running the administration from there. In fact, most of them started behaving like aristocrats. The political executive did not play any role to set things right on this front and started discharging the duties which were supposed to be done by the officers at the state level and in the countryside.

The younger section of the bureaucracy feels that there is less hope (going by the past experience), more despondency. The question remains, if any good actions in public and state interest will be forthcoming? At stake is the future of Punjab more than career prospects of politicians and bureaucrats. On test is their credibility and credentials.


Special girdawari in border areas
Praful Chander Nagpal

Fazilka, February 22
Confidence building measures are being taken by the Army in this sector. A majority of the 34,000 residents of 54 border villages, who had migrated due to tension along the border, have started returning.

The presence of the Army continues in the same strength and along with the civil administration, the problems of irrigation and cultivation are being solved. A special girdawari is being conducted for the assessment of loss due to landmines with the help of the Revenue Department.

Kanshi Ram, Sarpanch of New Sivana village said most men who had migrated had started returning. He said the Army made efforts for the replacement of a power transformer and sanctioning a road stretch between Old Sivana and New Sivana. He said most villagers had faced a shortage of fodder, but now the situation was getting better.

According to an estimate, compensation on about 12,000 acres of land will have to be calculated. Sources said the government had made a proposal of paying compensation at the rate of Rs 11,000 per acre.

Sher Singh, a labourer of Muradwala, village, said in his village only 10 families owned agricultural land while all others were labourers who had lost their jobs due to the laying of landmines. He said a compensation of Rs 80 per day should be given to them to save them from starvation.

Indraj Singh of Roopnagar village sought compensation for crops which were following the diversion of Azamwala distributory to a defence drain. Farmers of Roopnagar, Bareka, Muradwala, Khanpur, Old Sivana and other villages had been facing a shortage of irrigation water and had to resort to alternative means of irrigation to save their standing crops.

Brig S.K.S. Rana said the eastern canal feeding this area, lying dry for a long time, had again started flowing following the efforts of the Army.

He said payment to labourers and farmers who had pressed their tractors and equipment in service for the Army would be made on a priority basis.

The Army had organised four free medical camps as a confidence building measure. Mr Satish Kumar Dhingra, Secretary, Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal, said the payment of income tax and sales tax returns should be postponed for six months for traders of Fazilka.


4 hepatitis-B cases detected
Chander Parkash

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 22
As many as 10 patients suffering from hepatitis-B have surfaced in the tiny Sooch village of this district ever since the district health authorities started a comprehensive survey after it received a report from a paramedical staffer on February 20.

Though the health authorities have confirmed the detection of only four positive cases of hepatitis-B in this village, they added that the disease had been spreading its tentacles in various pockets of this district for the past many years allegedly due to the use of used needles by unregistered medical practitioners, who have been running their shops in rural areas without any check.

Most of the patients and their attendants, who are not educated, have been going to a , “desi” doctor practicing in a village located near Jalalabad town of Ferozepore district. The patients had been identified as Satvir Singh, Gurjant Singh, Sukha Singh, Sarbjeet Singh, Balwinder Kaur, Jarnail Singh, Nachhattar Singh, Mithu Singh, Jagga Singh and Jaswant Kaur.

The district health authorities identified about 515 unregistered medical practitioners in this district after the Punjab and Haryana High Court gave a decision in connection with putting a check on the activities of unregistered medical practitioners a few years ago. However, the authorities have registered criminal cases against only 24 of them.

Dr H.S. Dhillon, Civil Surgeon, said the Civil Hospital authorities had been writing to the district police time and again to take action against the unregistered medical practitioners, who had become a major source of spread of hepatitis-B as they were using already used syringes. He added that the police had failed to check such quacks.

Mr R. Venkat Ratnam, Deputy Commissioner, in a press note issued here today, said that order for vaccination of close contacts of the patients had been passed. The Civil Surgeon had been asked to provide specialised treatment to the affected persons of the village having population of about 1650.


BKU chief opposes memorial plan
Tribune New Service

Chandigarh, February 22
Mr Bhupinder Singh Mann, President of the Bharti Kisan Union, today cautioned the people of Punjab against their exploitation in the name of religion.

Talking to newsmen here, Mr Mann assailed the SGPC for its decision to raise a “suitable memorial to Operation Bluestar”. Instead of addressing economic and other important issues of the state, the Shiromani Akali Dal was trying to divert the attention of the people to “emotive issues” as it was “about to be voted out of power.”

He, however, parried questions on the raising of the memorial. However, Mr B.S. Mianpur, also of the BKU, supported the raising of the memorial saying that though it had been delayed it must be raised.

He said the Dal did not think about the memorial during its five-year rule. Accusing the SAD government of shattering the economy of Punjab, he said that it was the anti-farmer policies of the government that forced a large number of farmers to commit suicide.

Justifying the stand of the BKU in supporting the Congress in the assembly elections, he said the Congress had promised to set up a high-powered committee with nominees of the BKU on it to suggest ways and means of making agriculture remunerative again. He said the Congress leadership had given an assurance that all farm produce would be procured and remunerative support prices fixed for fruit, vegetables, oilseeds and other crops.

He said that though traditionally the BKU had been supporting the Akalis, its attempts to highlight the problems of the farmers were ignored by the state government. The farmers, he claimed, supported the Congress in the current assembly elections.


SGPC meets Jacob for penalty waiver
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 22
The Chandigarh Administration has asked the SGPC to deposit Rs 90 lakh as penalty for the delayed construction of ‘Kalgidhar Niwas’.

Irked by the action of the administration, SGPC chief Kirpal Singh Badungar has met Lieut-Gen J.F.R. Jacob and urged him to waive the penalty. Professor Badungar said the SGPC was a charitable trust and not a profitable organisation and hence any penalty was unjustified.

The press statement of the SGPC stated that the Governor listened to the demand and directed the Chandigarh Administration to do the needful immediately.

Meanwhile, the SGPC submitted a memorandum to the Chief Secretary, Mr N. K. Arora.


NCP candidate sent to judicial custody
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 22
Nationalist Congress Party candidate Rekha Jangra from the Sirhind constituency has been sent to judicial custody by the judicial court in a case under Sections 420, 468 and 471, IPC, registered against her. She had obtained anticipatory bail from the High Court and had now applied for the regular bail in High Court, but the court directed her to get the regular bail from the lower court. As she appeared in the court of Mr Vijay Singh, Senior Sub-Judge-cum-JMIC, Fatehgarh Sahib, he did not grant her bail and sent her to judicial custody. Before going to judicial custody she nominated her counting agents for the counting of votes to be held on February 24.

Meanwhile, the district administration has made elaborate security and other arrangements for a smooth counting process for both the assembly constituencies in the district. According to Mr Vikas Pratap, Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer, the counting for the Sirhind assembly constituency would be held in the record room opposite the local SDM office and the counting for Amloh (R) would be held at Indoor Stadium, Mandi Gobindgarh. He said that counting staff had been deputed and the rehearsal for the counting process had already been done.

There would be 13 rounds of counting for the Sirhind constituency and 14 for the Amloh (R).


Company told to refund deposit
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 22
The District Consumer Forum has directed Amar Finance Company to refund the amount received in instalments for a scheme with 18 per cent from the day of the deposit.

Mr Roshan Lal Madaan, a shopkeeper of Krishna Nagri here, had filed a complaint with the Forum alleging that the proprietor of Handa Saw Mill had launched a sale promotion-cum-lucky draw scheme for scooter under the banner of Amar Finance Company. The complainant had been paying monthly instalment of Rs 1000 to Kharaiti Lal Handa, his sons Vivek and Vikram for the scheme. Mr Madaan deposited Rs 14000 till April 13, 1999. The scheme offered delivery of the item in question on the payment of half of the total amount. The company had refused to deliver a scooter to the member. After the scheme closed his deposit was not refunded. The forum decided to file a case against the finance company.

Mr Piare Lal Garg president of the forum, directed the company to pay the entire deposit with 18 per cent interest from the day of deposit to the member, within one month. The company was also directed to refrain from such unfair trade practice in future.


Country wine claims three lives

Ropar, February 22
Three youths died in Makrona Kalan village in the district today reportedly after consuming country wine, an official said here this evening.

Two of the victims, Laik Singh and Ram Asra, died before they could be rushed to a hospital while Jasbir died on way to the PGI, Chandigarh.

Sub Divisional Magistrate Daljit Singh said the Chamkaur Sahib police had been asked to probe into the incident. PTI


Thousands of kikar trees on govt land cut
Our Correspondent

Moga, February 22
Several thousand kikar trees which had dried up due to some disease right from Sirhind canal to Ferozepore and other places in Punjab standing on the banks of these canals had been cut leaving stumps of these trees. These had been allegedly sold in collusion with certain officials of the Forest Department. The department concerned made neither any inquiry into the theft of the wood of these trees nor taken any action against those involved in it. People here have demanded an inquiry into it and action against the offenders.


Half-day off in Punjab on Feb 25
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 22
The Punjab Government today declared a holiday for the second half of February 25 (Monday) in all government offices, boards, corporations and educational institutions situated in Chandigarh to enable their employees to participate in the Nagar Kirtan on the occasion of birthday of Sri Guru Ravi Das.

Meanwhile, Punjab would have second half as a holiday on February 26 (Tuesday), according to a press note.


Regiment holds medical camp
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 22
A Para Armed Regiment yesterday organised a free medical camp at a border village of Panjawa.

More than 1,000 patients were examined by specialists from the Army Medical Core, including two women doctors, besides Dr Lakhbir Singh Sandhu, Child Specialist, Dr Lal Chand, Surgeon, Dr Amita Chaudhry gynaecologist from the local Nehru Memorial Civil Hospital. Mrs Jaswant Kaur, a patient, said nearest hospital was located at Panjkosi village but the government had avoided appointing doctors due to political considerations.


Stress laid on fish farming
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 22
Fish farming not only provides diversification from crops but is also highly remunerative, said Mr Sawinder Singh, Director, Fisheries, Punjab, while inaugurating a training camp at Sangrur today.

Mr Sawinder Singh said on an average, the return from a fish farm measuring a hectare was anything between Rs 50,000 and Rs 70,000. This income could be further improved with training in better technologies.

He said special fishery complexes at a cost of Rs 50 lakh each were being raised at Ludhiana and Patiala. 


CAG’s report handed over
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 22
The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (Civil) report on Punjab for 2000-2001 has been handed over to the state government.

The office of the Accountant-General (Audit), Punjab, submitted the report yesterday to the government, an official release said.


2 killed in road accidents
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, February 22
Two persons have been killed in two different road accidents near here.

In one incident, Ved Parkash (40) of Jandali Khurd village was killed when he was hit by a car near his village yesterday. The driver of the car escaped.

In another incident, Raju Tiwari, of Rohira was killed on the Malerkotla-Ludhiana road yesterday when the cycle he was riding on was hit by a truck. The truck driver, however, escaped with the vehicle.


Body found in canal

Jalandhar, February 22
The police found an unidentified body bearing scars in a canal near Adampur in the district today.

The body was sent to the Civil Hospital here for a post-mortem examination.

In another incident, a person committed suicide by jumping before a train between the city and cantonment railway stations here today. UNI


Cyclist killed
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 22
One person was killed and another injured when the cycle they were riding was hit by a truck near Shivji Colony, about 8 km from the Bathinda-Barnala road here yesterday. He has been identified as Ganga Ram 22 while the injured as Khera Ram. Both residents of the local Parajpat Colony. A case has been registered.


Notify varsity Act: IMA
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, February 22
In a representation to the Chief Secretary and Principal Secretary, Health Services, Punjab, the State Indian Medical Association (IMA) today said the Government should issue a notification of the Act under which Baba Farid University of Health Sciences was created as the future of thousands of students was uncertain.

Reacting to a report published in The Tribune yesterday Dr Raman Aggarwal Chairman, Medical Action Committee-cum Legal Cell, IMA, also demanded an inquiry into the delay in the issuance of the notification.

As the Sub-Section 3 of Section 1, of the Act (1998) had not been notified, the university was functioning without a legal sanction.


Headmistress, science teacher suspended
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 22
The Headmistress and a science teacher of Government High School, Lehra Bega, have been suspended with immediate effect by Mr Jagtar Singh Khattra, DPI.

Mr Khattra, who visited the school today for a surprise check, found irregularities in the functioning of the Headmistress, Ms Veena Kumari, while the science teacher, Mr Kastori Lal, was absent from the classroom.

To assess the work of the science teacher, the DPI also gave a test to the class, the results of which were unsatisfactory.

Mr Khattra said the headmistress was not present in the school and had not been maintaining the records of the school properly.


National seminar on art concludes
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 22
A three-day national workshop-cum-seminar, “Creative Minds in Art” concluded in the DAV College of Education for Women here today.

Mr A.R. Kohli, Governor of Mizoram, presided over the function. Renowned artists from all over the country, principals of local schools and colleges and other dignitaries of the city were the guests of the day.

The participants, including Mr A.S. Bhullar, New Delhi, Dr Ram Shabad Singh, Saharanpur, Mrs Ragini Sinha, Noida, Mr Harish Srivastava, Delhi, Dr Hemant Diwedi, Udaipur, Dr Ram Viranjan, Kurukshetra, Dr E.K. Raj, Amritsar, Dr Richa Kamboj, Dehradun, Dr Baldev Ghambir, Amritsar, Dr Jeevan Sodhi, Amritsar, Ms Manpreet Bajwa, Amritsar, Mr D.K. Nanda, Mr Sumahandra Sharma, Jaipur, Mr R. P. Srivastava, Patiala and Mr Ravinderjeet Singh, Patiala, were honoured by the chief guest.


Students allege harassment
Our Correspondent

Rampura Phul, February 22
Students of the local Malwa Institute of Management and Technology (MIMT) have alleged harassment by a superintendent at their examination centre. The students of PGDCA and M.Sc (IT) alleged that when one of the students went to the toilet after taking permission from the invigilator, he was not allowed to sit in the examination hall by the superintendent.

They alleged that his answer sheet was taken away and that he was abused. They said when a student tried to intervene in the matter, he was expelled from the examination centre. Mr Shinder Singh, the superintendent, when contacted, said the allegations were baseless.

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