Sunday, February 24, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



‘Parallel banking’ led to kidnapping
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 23
The sensational kidnapping of two businessmen brothers from here has exposed the nexus of police, politicians and criminals even as the police has been trying to conceal the identity of the police personnel involved in the crime as they are “personal bodyguards” of a senior police officer.

According to information available with The Tribune, it was “parallel banking” which led to the kidnapping on late Thursday evening. Parallel banking worth crores of rupees has been running with the alleged connivance of top officials of the department concerned. It may be mentioned that parallel banking had also resulted in the sensational killing of Naresh Mahajan, Manager of Oriental Bank.

The victims, Mr Anil Dhawan and his brother Pawan Dhawan, admitted that they had taken a loan of Rs 25 lakh from the owners of a hotel and had to give the possession of their house in lieu of the loan.

There seems to be no record of the transaction and the Income Tax Department too has failed to initiate any action in this regard though the matter has already been reported to the police.

The business of illegal lotteries or “committees” being run by the victims is not an isolated example. Hundreds of persons are involved in this.

The “big deal” was reportedly struck with the police, politicians and criminals who rushed to the house of the victims.

There is a police chowki a few yards away from the place of the kidnapping.

Though one of the suspects, Kuldip, was arrested following pressure from BJP MLA Laxmi Kanta Chawla, the kingpin, Rajesh Kumar, could not be arrested so far. The police has not yet taken any step to identify the police officials involved in the crime.

Meanwhile, Mr Rajesh Kumar, SP (City), who has been entrusted with the inquiry said he would start investigation after two days as he would be busy with the election process.


Poll results: bookies keep fingers crossed
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 23
Even as the contestants of the recently held Assembly elections are anxious about the outcome of polling fate of punters, who have crores at stake by laying bets on the winner and loser of their respective “horses” at the hustings and keeping their fingers crossed, is also sealed in the electronic voting machines (EVMs).

“Satta” once a major commercial activity of the local traders in pre-partition days, has resurfaced with vigorously in the form of bets. However, trend this time is different. Satta markers have been witnessing many of contestants, functionaries of political parties, a section of bureaucracy and police authorities of Punjab, journalists and people belonging to all walks of life have put crores at stake by laying bets pertaining to the poll results for which counting will be held tomorrow. Even teenagers could not save themselves from the fever of election satta.

Information gathered by The Tribune revealed that many contestants cutting across party lines have laid bets through supporters. In some of pockets, the contestants themselves have pumped lakhs in the satta market.

In the past three months, bets in this region were laid on the fact that when the elections will be held, who will get ticket of which party, which party will get how many seats, which candidate will win or lose by how many votes. The satta game does not end here as the punters have started trying to earn fortune by laying bets that which successful candidate will get which portfolio in the next cabinet.

This region, which witnessed decline in the satta business, generally done as prices of the goods, in 70s and 80s, became a booming market again when the residents started laying bets on sporting events including cricket, football, lawn tennis matches. After few years, the punters expanded base by putting money on the election process.

For a section of residents of this region, the satta, which has claimed a number of lives of bet layers in the past, has become a full time avocation. Now the punters have started pumping money on the bets pertaining to the fact that whether Indo-Pakistan war will break out or not.

Electors have been feeling the absence of din and bustle that used to be associated earlier with the elections courtesy model code of conduct. But what has been sustaining their interests in the elections is election satta, which over the years has become a vital part of business culture here. The bets on election process were earlier confined to urban areas of the state but this time, the trend caught the fancy of rural folks, who have even put their tractors or holdings at stake.

A bookie having international operations on condition of anonymity said that volume of money in the election related satta was directly proportional to the interests of electorate in the elections. More the interest in the election, more the money would be at stake in the satta business. The contestants were always reduced to rates depending upon their prospects.

He pointed out that crores of rupees exchanged hands after the list of candidates were announced by the Congress, the SAD and the BJP few weeks ago as the punters settled their accounts. He added after the results were announced, the unaccounted money, which could run into hundreds of crores of rupees, would exchange hands again.


Farmers await research centre
Amarjit Thind

Mansa, February 23
Farmers of the district are facing a lot of problems in the absence of an agriculture research centre here. The issue has been hanging fire for the past decade.

Mansa was carved out of Bathinda on April 13, 1992, by the then Chief Minister, Mr Beant Singh, in deference to the wishes of the people. The main occupation of the people is agriculture. There are no large industrial units in this area and the two cooperative industrial units — the sugar mill and the thread factory were shut down years ago by the government.

Apart from such setback the district has the distinction of being the large producer of desi cotton and gram. Being a water-scarcity area, the farmers have been pressing for a research centre so that better quality seeds were made available to them. Latest agricultural techniques, too, have yet to make their debut here.

Sources revealed that the Akali and the Congress have been repeatedly assuring the people that a centre would be set up soon. But it has been an hallow promise so far. The matter was also highlighted in the just-concluded Assembly elections.

“It is a matter of shame that in an era of modernisation more than 45,000 farming families are unware of the latest advancement in agriculture technology. Farmers have to do with second-hand knowledge, often with disastrous results,” the sources added.

Farmers who flock to neighbouring districts of Sangrur and Bathinda do not realise that the advice of their counterparts does not hold good here since the soil composition and water quality is totally different. Mansa has very saline ground water and fields are increasingly becoming barren on account of this. Nothing has been done to counter this so far and decreasing yields are a mute testimony to this act, a sources said.

Nearby Bathinda has not only an extension counter of Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, but also a research centre. Similarly, Sangrur, too, has a research centre and the farmers are benefiting from the presence and advice of professionals.

In addition to the centre, promises of more canal water remain unfulfilled. So far, not even a single drop of extra water was released in the canals. Mansa is probably the only district where farmers are given water under the PO scheme — farmers have to irrigate their fields whether they want water or not.

The Agriculture Department is in no better position. Vacant posts and the absence of infrastructure are a case in point. The office of the department is located 7 km away from the city while it is housed in the Secretariat in all districts of Punjab, the sources said.

This causes a lot of inconvenience to the people who have to alight in the city and then again bound another bus to the centre. Despite several pleas, the department has yet to be provided space in the secretariat building.

The department has a state-of-the art mobile research laboratory which is lying in a garage since the post of the driver has not been filled for the past many years.


Terrorism victim awaits appointment letter
Jaswinder Paul Singh

Bathinda, February 23
“We have received the case of your appointment as peon on mercy grounds from the Deputy Commissioner, but the orders from the department have not been received as yet. You will be informed whenever the same reached here,” is all that Mr Vikram Singh son of victim of terrorism, has been hearing for the past many months whenever he visits the office of District Education Office (S) Gurdaspur to know the fate of his appointment letter.

Mr Vikram Singh, a resident of Gurdaspur, who along with his mother has been living in the city with his maternal uncle since 1988 when his father Mr Dharam Pal was gunned down by terrorists at Darapur village in Gurdaspur district. He was appointed peon in the Education Department under special quota for victims of terrorism.

The Deputy Commissioner of Gurdaspur on August 2, 2001 ordered the DEO (S) Gurdaspur to give appointment to Mr Vikram Singh within a week but so far nothing has happened in this direction, said a visibly upset Mr Vikram the only hope of his mother Ms Nirmala Devi.

For Ms Nirmala Devi, it was an uphill task to bring up Vikram her only child who was a minor when the terrorists had gunned down her husband. Poor economic condition became a hindrance in Vikram’s higher education and after doing matriculation he started looking for a job.

Mr Vikram sent applications in August, September and November 1999 to the Deputy Commissioner, Gurdaspur requesting him to get him job on compassionate grounds but for many months nothing happened. Mr Vikram had to approach Higher Education Minister Punjab, Master Mohal Lal so that he could get a job. The minister recommended his case to the Deputy Commissioner, Gurdaspur and asked him to do the needful at the earliest.

A ray of hope for Vikram came when he received a letter from the Deputy Commissioner, Gurdaspur regarding acceptance of his case for a job on November 11, 2000 and he was told that as per rules he would be provided a job, but it was short-lived as no further action was taken by the authorities concerned till August 2, 2001.

Vikram narrating his woes said that he visited the office of DEO, Gurdaspur, for thirteen times between August and October 2001 to get his appointment letter but to no avail.

He added that he wrote letters to the Punjab Chief Minister, director-cum-special secretary, relief and settlement and the Chief Secretary but without any result. He said that after spending a lot of money and time in visiting the DEO (S) at Gurdaspur, he left with no option, but to sit at home and to wait for the response from the authorities concerned.

The DEO (S) Gurdaspur could not be contacted despite repeated efforts. However an employee in his office confirmed that there were at least 70 such cases pending.


In jail for 140 days due to officials’ fault
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 23
Call it a clerical mistake or negligence on the part of authorities concerned, Mr Raj Kumar, a poor daily wage worker, has been released from jail after spending more than four months in jail after he was found not guilty by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a murder case.

Official sources said Mr Raj Kumar was released from the local Central Jail on February 20 even though the Punjab Government’s appeal filed against his acquittal from the lower trial court was rejected by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on October 1, 2001. Sources informed that this happened because the Assistant Registrar (Criminal), Punjab and Haryana High Court, dispatched the order to lower court here only on February 15, 2002.

Mr Raj Kumar, who had been working as a salesman in a liquor shop, was in 1994 booked under Section 302 of the IPC for murder and subsequently arrested. After facing trial for a few years, he was acquitted by the Sessions Court in 1997.

However, the Punjab Government went to the high court in an appeal against the decision of the trial court. The high court directed the lower court to take bail of the accused. But Mr Raj Kumar could not make arrangement for his bail and remained in jail during the period for which the appeal was pending in the high court despite the fact that he was not convicted by the lower court.

A Jail official said that Mr Raj Kumar was released from the jail immediately after it received the official copy of the orders of the high court on February 20 and so the jail authorities were not at fault. He added that Mr Ram Kumar, who hailed from Uttar Pradesh, had gone there after his release from the Central Jail.

An official of the local court, on the condition of anonymity, admitted that it was a failure on the part of the authorities concerned as Mr Raj Kumar had to spend about four months and twenty days in jail after an appeal against his acquittal from the session court was rejected by the high court.

He pointed out that though the appeal was rejected on October 1, the judgement was written on December 3.


Probe ordered into reduction in shop rent
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, February 23
A “scandal” regarding the reduction in rent of zila parishad shops by the zila parishad authorities took an interesting turn when the Deputy Commissioner deputed the ADC (Development) to probe into the matter. The ADC is in charge of the zila parishad and the rent cannot be changed without his sanction.

Shopkeepers who brought this scandal to light have accused the district administration of malafide intention and boycotted the inquiry.

They faxed letters, demanding a high-level probe by an independent agency, to the Governor, Chief Minister, Director, Rural Development and Panchayat, and chief of the Vigilance Bureau.

Talking to newspersons here today, they alleged that the Deputy Commissioner had been “indirectly” pressuring them to withdraw the charges against zila parishad officials on the plea that giving gratification was also illegal and that action could be taken against them.

Ten shops had been shown demolished in the zila parishad records for the past two years for the development of a bus stand. However, the shopkeepers were running these shops and were being charged rent regularly, they said.

Also, the rent in various areas was not being charged uniformly. The rent should have been fixed by an open auction but the zila parishad authorities had been “altering” it.


Move on airports ill-conceived: manch
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 23
The state government’s unrealistic proposal to upgrade at least six to seven airports to an international level in Punjab may squander the gains of the Amritsar international airport project already approved by the Union Government.

Recent suggestions to throw open the Halwara and Adampur Air Force bases to civilian flights of international levels, in addition to proposals for flights to international destinations from Chandigarh, Bathinda, Pathankot and Sahnewal airports will severely affect the prospects of the Rajasansi airport in Amritsar. The Amritsar Vikas Manch has taken up the issue with the Chief Secretary Punjab.

Prof Mohan Singh, president of the manch in the communiqué stated that a survey on passenger travel at the Delhi airport found 25 per cent to 40 per cent out of 12,000 daily passengers to be Punjabis in more than 15 flights operating from there.


Funds released for super-speciality wing
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 23
With the release of Rs 1 crore, the construction plans for the super-speciality wing of Guru Nanak Dev Hospital have resumed after a lapse of nearly six months.

The Rs 13.76 crore 200-bedded project has been hanging fire since its inception in 1992.

A meeting held under the chairmanship of Dr O.P. Mahajan, Principal, Medical College, with Medical Superintendent H.S. Gill and three senior officials of the PWD charted a time-bound plan for expenditure management here today. Accordingly, three storeys of the project are scheduled to be completed by April. An additional fund of Rs 1.5 crore is assured to be released to the project by the Director, Research and Medical Education, Punjab, within a month, Dr Gill informed “The Tribune”.

The Directorate of Research and Medical proposes to shift the emergency department of Guru Nanak Hospital to the new block, enabling the administrative block of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital to be transferred to GN Hospital.

At present, only the basic infrastructure of the seven-storey super-speciality wing is completed with the input of Rs 5.80 crore, while work on water supply, sanitary sewer lines , electrical works, power substation, hospital ramp entrance hall is pending.

A sum of Rs 2.80 lakh has also been released to the PWD for modification of the blood bank to make arrangements for blood separation units.

The projected plans of the wing include three operation theatres attached with surgical specialities of cardiothoracic, urology and plastic surgery, complete with an emergency department, calamity and trauma wards, mortuary, VIP rooms etc. The project was scheduled to be completed by 1998, but due to fund crunch, it had been kept pending.


PLF decries move on Labour Act
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 23
The Punjab Law Forum (PLF) has condemned the decision of the Union Government to allow the closure of the industrial unit employing up to 1000 employees and has termed it as anti-labourer and anti-national.

In a press note issued here today, Mr Charanpal Singh Brar and Mr M.M. Behl, president and secretary, respectively of the association, alleged that the decision to amend the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, was aimed to harass the labourers.

At least 70 per cent of the labourers were working in such industrial units where the total number of employees was less than 1000. Such employees would be left at the mercy of their employers, they added.

It was likely that most of them would be rendered jobless in course of time. They said that they would approach the President and union ministers and would urge them to take steps so as to save thousands of employees from becoming jobless.


Bail plea: March 4 fixed for hearing
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 23
Mr Justice Nirmal Singh of the high court on Friday fixed March 4 as the date for hearing on a petition for the grant of anticipatory bail filed by a former Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib, Giani Kewal Singh, in a case registered after his daughter-in-law’s death in May 1997.

The alleged victim’s brother Amarjit Singh had earlier alleged that his sister was killed for dowry, while the Jathedar’s family had described it as accidental death. Saranjit Kaur’s body, it may be recalled, was found in a holy tank opposite the Jathedar’s residence.


SSF to launch stir on SYL issue
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 23
The Sikh Students Federation (SSF) today announced that it will launch an agitation on the SYL issue and will not allow water to be given to any other state through the canal.

Mr Gurcharan Singh Grewal, president of the federation, said in a press note issued here today that a meeting of the organisation held at Gurdwara Akalgarh today decided to launch an agitation in protest against the issue.


SHSAD meeting
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 23
Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, General Secretary of the SHSAD, said today a meeting of the district jathedars, members of the working committee, all office-bearers and other senior leaders will be held at Jogiana, near Ludhiana, on March 2. The meeting has been called to discuss the political situation in the state and matters related to the party and the state.


Education needs overhauling; says Governor
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 23
The Governor of Mizoram, Mr A.R. Kohli, said he was persuading militants in the North-East states to give up arms and join the national main stream as the government was prepared to look into their problems.

Mr Kohli stated this while presiding over the annual prize distribution function of DAV College here last evening. The Governor pointed out that the present system of education needed to be overhauled in view of the changing global needs. He said although DAV institutions had rendered yeoman’s service in this regard.


Farmer steps on landmine, loses foot
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, February 23
Mr Faqir Singh of Brahmana Jattan village under Narot Jaimal Singh police station on the Indo-Pak border, lost his right foot in a landmine explosion near the village.

The incident happened when he was returning to his house with fodder for his cattle, yesterday.

Capt S.P. Mittal reported the matter to the police.


Grain stocks not lifted for years
Our Correspondent

Moga, February 23
Residents of Langaana Purana village of this district yesterday urged government procurement agencies to remove stocks of foodgrain stored in their godowns several years ago and valued at several crores. They said the stocks had started emitting foul smell and were unfit for consumption.

Accroding to reports, foodgrain stocks valued at approximately Rs 250 crore have already been damaged. The agencies had some years ago stocked foodgrain in various parts of Ferozepore, Moga, Muktsar and Faridkot.

The residents said if these stocks were not cleared immediately, there would be a further loss of crores as there would be no place for storing new wheat stocks which were likely to arrive in markets next month.


3 villages to get hepatitis-B vaccines
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 23
Mr R. Venkatratnam, Deputy Commissioner, has announced a grant of Rs 1 lakh for vaccinating the residents of Sooch, Dikh and Dhade villages against hepatitis-B. The DC today visited these villages, where some cases of the disease have been detected in the recent past, along with Health Department officials.

Mr Venkatratnam while addressing a meeting of the villagers at Sooch said the government would provide every possible help to stop the further spread of hepatitis-B. He said a temporary dispensary which would work round-the-clock would also be set up in the village. A medical officer along with other paramedical personnel would be throughout present there.

He also gave a grant of Rs 5,000 to the Youth Welfare Club of the village and asked them to utilise the same for the cleanliness operations. 


Villagers booked for assaulting cops
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 23
The local police has registered a case against some persons for allegedly attacking and injuring the police personnel, namely Mr Devinder Kumar, Sub-Inspector; Mr Jasbir Singh, ASI, Mr Pavitar Singh, Mr Narinder Kumar and Mr Sukhwant Singh, all Havildars; and Mr Manjinder Singh, constable, at Uppali village near here last evening. The injured policemen were admitted to the local Civil Hospital.

Giving this information here today, Mr Gurpreet Singh Toor, SP (D), said the villagers attacked the police party when it asked them to hand over the accused (already in their custody) and tried to stop them from punishing them on their own. He said the villagers pelted stones on the police party and attacked it with weapons.

Mr Toor said earlier the police had got information that some persons namely Bhola Singh, Bhagtu, Bhinder, Dera, residents of the local Sunder Basti, and two other unidentified persons, had been planning a robbery near Uppali village. On the basis of this tip-off the police registered a case against them under Sections 399 and 402 of the IPC at the local police station.

The SP (D) said when the police reached the village to arrest the accused, it found that they had been beaten up by the villagers. The mob also set the doors of dharamsala, where the accused had been kept, on fire. However, the police party managed to bring the accused with it despite strong opposition by the villagers.


Man robbed of cash, chain
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 23
Two unidentified persons snatched Rs 12,000 and a gold chain from a local resident, Rajesh Kumar, last night.

Police sources said that Rajesh Kumar, who is an agent of a chemist shop, was returning home after collecting payments.

While passing through the Panditawali Gali, two unidentified persons came from behind and hit him on his face with a blunt-edged weapon and took away the money and gold chain.

A case under Section 382 of the IPC has been registered.


Three arrested for robberies
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 23
The local police has solved two recent robberies committed in the city by arresting three persons and recovering gold ornaments worth Rs 3 lakh from them, besides arresting a policeman who was extorting money from businessmen by putting up a ‘naka’ at the Sanauri adda on the outskirts of the city.

Disclosing this here today, the SSP, Mr Paramraj Singh Umranangal, said the accused had been arrested for being behind two robberies committed in the Daldalia chowk area recently. He said some cash had also been recovered from them besides jewellary items.

Mr Umranangal disclosed that in a separate case, Amrik Singh, a constable, who was posted at the Shambu barrier, had been arrested by the officer in charge of the Sadar police station for extorting money by creating a ‘naka’ at the Sanauri ‘adda’.

He said besides this, four members of a gang of drug smugglers of Rajasthan, had been arrested and 10 kg of opium had been seized from them. The SSP said the accused had been identified as Iqbal Mohammad and Luna Ram of Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan and Ponchu of Azamgarh district of Uttar Pradesh and Rajinder Singh of the Shahi Samamdhan area of the city. He said the accused had been transporting opium between the tyres and the tubes of their vehicle.

In another case, Mr Umranangal said the police during investigation had arrived at the conclusion that two persons — Prakashinder Singh and Sukhinder Singh — had allegdly murdered their mother, Rajinderpal Kaur, over some property dispute. He said the accused were absconding.

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