Friday, March 8, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Political heads of boards ‘must go or face sack’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 7
All political chairpersons of various government boards and corporations, appointed by the previous Badal government, will be removed by following legal procedures if they do not resign.

This was disclosed by a senior Punjab Cabinet Minister, "It will be better if such chairpersons quit voluntarily. Otherwise, the government will have to resort to legal recourse", said the Minister.

He said the state was facing a serious financial crunch. And this would be the best way to cut government expenditure for the time being. In fact, the critical financial situation is weighing heavily on the minds of the Minister. "The picture presented to us at yesterday's briefing at the Cabinet meeting by the Finance Secretary was mind-boggling", said the Minister.

The Finance Secretary told the Ministers that "charity begins at home". In other words, first Ministers and bureaucrats should ensure minimal expenditure before asking others to do the same.

It has been estimated that the average monthly expenditure on Ministers of the previous government was nearly Rs 1.25 crore. There were over 40 Ministers. As the number of Ministers in the new government is almost half that in the earlier one, there should be at least 70 per cent cut in the expenditure by adopting economy measures.

There are about two dozen government organisations like the Punjab Mandi Board headed by political persons. Besides, there are improvement trusts and other such bodies headed by political appointees.

"It is always graceful for political appointees to resign following the change of guard in the state". In fact, some Ministers have already directed their secretaries to ask the political appointees to submit their resignations to keep democratic traditions alive.

Certain Ministers have also directed their secretaries to dilute the authority of such political appointees by withdrawing their powers. "I am the competent authority to pass the order pertaining to the withdrawal of powers from the chairpersons of boards and corporations under me", said the Minister, requesting anonymity.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Chief Secretary, Mr Y.S. Ratra, said today that a White Paper on the fiscal crisis in the state and the corrective measures required to be taken in this connection would be ready before the coming session of the Vidhan Sabha. He said the White Paper was being prepared by the Finance Secretary, Mr K.R. Lakhanpal. "Only after going through it will I be able to tell what economy measures will be taken by the government", Mr Ratra added.


PSEB Administrative Member suspended
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 7
The Punjab Government has suspended Mr Gurbachan Singh Bachi, Administrative Member of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).

Mr Bachi, a close associate of the Union Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, was appointed Administrative Member (AM) on December 24, last year, shortly before the starting of the process for the Assembly elections in the state.

It was a political appointment made by the then Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. Mr Bachi had sought ticket from Mr Badal to contest the elections from Dirba. However, as Mr Badal was unable to give it to him, he was accommodated as AM in the board in place of Mr Baldev Singh Mann, who was given ticket from Dirba.

Sources say that Mr Bachi has been suspended to pressurise him to quit the post as the new government led by Capt Amarinder Singh wants to make new appointments in the board's management. Under what provisions of law this action has been taken against him, it is not clear yet. 


SGPC meeting avoids thorny issues
Our Correspondent

Ropar, March 7
Against expectations the crucial meeting of the SGPC executive held at Takht Shri Keshgarh Sahib today ended without mulling over controversial issues. The meeting which started at about 11 a.m. ended in just two hours. Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, president of the SGPC, later while talking to mediapersons said just two major issues were discussed in the meeting.

In one of the resolutions passed in the meeting, it was decided to urge the Government of India to delete Section 43 of the Gurdwara Act, 1925, which had become redundant. The section provided separate provision of seats in the SGPC elections to PEPSU region. However, since no such region existed now, the section had become redundant.

In the other resolution, it was decided that the Gurdwara Election Commission should be urged to hold the elections of the local committees of the gurdwaras along with SGPC elections. At present the elections for the local committees of gurdwaras having income of less than Rs 20 lakh per annum were conducted separately. However, if both elections were held simultaneously, it would save the labour of Gurdwara Election Commission and avoid controversies, he said.

Mr Badungar said none of the issues, including those of voting right of Sehajdharis, constitution of permanent Gurdwara election commission or the provision of double constituencies, was discussed in the meeting.

About the issue of voting right to Sehajdharis he said the SGPC stood by the decision taken in the joint meeting of the Sikh High Priests and the SGPC executive in March last year. In that meeting a resolution was passed for curtailing the voting right of the Sehajdhari. So, there was no point in discussing the issue in the today’s meeting, he said.

The issue of double constituencies though was under the consideration of the SGPC, but it had not been discussed in the meeting, he said. When asked about the issue of sending jathas to the gurdwaras in Pakistan, Mr Badungar said the SGPC would send jathas. In view of the tense situation on the borders of both the countries, the Union Government had been urged to make arrangements for the safety of the Sikh pilgrims who would visit the shrines in Pakistan. The issue of 409 employees of the SGPC, who were ousted during the stint of Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi, had been referred to the Gurdwara Judicial Commission. However, the SGPC would try to adjust all ousted employee, Mr Badungar said while responding to a querry on the issue.

About the controversy of Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, Punjab, not being presented “siropa” at the Golden Temple, Mr Badungar said even Mr Badal was not presented the “siropa” when he came as the Chief Minister. It was against the tradition of the Golden Temple to discriminate between a person in power and a common devotee. So, the Chief Minister had to be treated at par with the other devotees, he said.


Mann: delete "Sehajdhari" from Act
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 7
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, Akali Dal (Amritsar) has said that his party would fight for getting the word sehajdhari deleted from the Sikh Gurdwara Act 1925 so that only the 'keshadharis' (who wear unshorn hair) could vote the general election of the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee.

Talking to The Tribune on telephone today Mr Mann said that if the Central Government failed to accept the genuine demand of the SGPC to the non-Sikhs it would lead to major crisis in the Sikh Panth.

Mr Mann said that his party would take a jatha of more than 1000 volunteers to lodge protest against the construction of Ram temple on the controversial site on March 10 from New Delhi. He said his party was in favour of constructing the temple but it should not be on the disputed land. Mr Mann said his party would send a communication to the President of the United States of America to force the Indian government to ban the Vishawa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and other radical Hindu organisations on the pattern of the Al-Qaida — an outfit of the Talibans.


Kewal Krishan is pro-tem Speaker
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 7
Dr Kewal Krishan, a veteran Congress leader, took the oath as pro-tem Speaker today.

The oath was administrated by the Governor, Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd), at Raj Bhavan here.

The members of the 12th Punjab Vidhan Sabha will take the oath on the opening day of the session on March 20.

Dr Kewal Krishan remained the Speaker of Punjab Legislative Assembly from 1973 to 1977 and also served twice as the Finance Minister of the state. He is seniormost member of the Assembly.


‘Two Ts’ led to Badal’s fall
A. S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 7
Television and Tohra have been identified by the SHSAD as the two most important factors responsible for the downfall of the Badal government in the elections to the Punjab Assembly last month.

While TV networks played havoc with the credibility of the Badal regime and swayed public sentiments against it by repeatedly airing opinion and exit polls, Mr Badal’s failure to forge unity with the rival Akali faction headed by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra cost him his government. Unity between the two main Akali factions, believes the SHSAD chief, could have led to the Akali Dal gaining an additional 20 seats.

“Unity between the two Akali factions would have made all the difference between victory and defeat for the Badal regime”, observed Mr Tohra here yesterday. “The division of votes between candidates put up by the two factions in a large number of constituencies worked to the advantage of the Congress. Had this not happened, the Badal regime would have won another five years”.

Mr Tohra was of the view that unity between the two Akali factions would have benefited the BJP, too. “Hindu voters, who generally preferred the BJP, did not vote for the BJP this time because they could see the writing on the wall. They felt that since the Akali Dal would not be able to return to power because of divisions in the Akali ranks, they switched their loyalty to the rising sun represented by the Congress. Had the two factions united, the BJP, too, could have won as many as 10 seats instead of the three it picked up in the poll”.

Mr Tohra claimed that under a poll strategy, Mr Badal had decided to concentrate on only 60 of the 117 seats and earmarked Rs 1 crore to be spent in each constituency for winning the elections. But as things turned out, even such a heavy expenditure could not win a majority for the Badal regime in the absence of Akali unity. It was another matter that the SHSAD, too, could not win even a single seat it fought under the banner of the Panthic Morcha led by Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi.

The SHSAD leader said that he tried his best for Akali unity. “I had gone to the extent of saying that let Mr Badal write a letter to Akal Takht, which need not be made public, apologising for the hurt which may have been caused to the Sikh institutions and traditions by defying the hukamnama of the Akal Takht Jathedar. But the SAD leadership was not prepared to accept that it had committed any wrong”.

As regards the role of certain individuals in wrecking unity talks, Mr Tohra said that it was for the SAD leadership to see if the advice it was getting from various quarters was in the overall interest of the party or not.

Despite everything, the SHSAD leader today appeared to leave the door open for Akali unity even at this late stage. “There should be a three-tier system in the Akali politics composed of the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Akali Legislature Party”, he said, adding that each wing should be headed by a separate individual and each wing should be independent of the other. No attempt should be made by any individual to concentrate power in his own hands. Nor should one wing try to dominate the other.

Mr Tohra announced the dissolution of the 35-member Working Committee of the party and said it would be reorganised soon. An attempt would be made to infuse fresh blood and rededicate the party to the Panthic agenda, thought and direction.

He pointed out that the Akali Dal had once taken a decision that MLAs would not be encouraged to contest the SGPC poll. But this was violated by the SAD leadership by inducting two SGPC members — Bibi Jagir Kaur and Mr Sucha Singh Langah — into the Assembly and later the Council of Ministers.


Date for serving summons on Badal extended
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 7
Mr Surinder Mohan, Chief Judicial Magistrate, today extended the date for service of summons, issued by him against former Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, former Science and Technology Minister, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, and Mr Ajaib Singh Bhatti, Additional Chief Administrator, PUDA, in a civil suit filed against them in his court in connection with the alleged grabbing of a piece of land measuring 400 acres, for securing their personal appearance on March 7. The date has been extended to May 13

The extended the date of service of summons, as the police personnel concerned could not serve the summons to the three persons. The summons were issued against them when Mr N.K. Garg, an advocate, who had instituted a civil suit filed an application against them in the court about two months ago.

Mr Garg mentioned in the application that he had filed a civil suit against Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, Mr Ajaib Singh Bhatti and Mr Parkash Singh Badal, under Section 340 of Cr P.C.

He requested that the court might register a complaint under Section 193, 196, 465, 471 and 120-B of IPC against them.


Minister’s warning to defaulters
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 7
The Punjab Local Bodies Department will initiate a probe into the non-realisation of penalty, running into crores of rupees, by the fund-starved municipal corporations from those who have constructed huge buildings in all corporation cities of the state without seeking prior approval of their building plans.

Stating this at his first press conference here today, the Punjab Local Bodies Minister, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, said the defaulters would be dealt with sternly. “Our first priority will be to strengthen the economic position which will ensure the all round development of the state,” said Chaudhary Jagjit Singh. It may be mentioned that a large number of buildings in the state, particularly here have been constructed without approved building plans.

The civic bodies department failed to initiate action against such builders, who owe crores of rupees to the civic bodies, which is already in the red, particularly after the abolition of octroi in the state. Apart from this some educational institutions have been running without getting their building plans approved.

Chaudhary Jagjit Singh said corruption would not be tolerated at any cost and those found indulging in corrupt practices would not be spared.

He said his government would release a white paper on the financial state of Punjab.

He further said every effort would be made to make the city more beautiful.

Regarding the large-scale transfers by the Chief Minister even before the formation of his Cabinet, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh said it was the right of the Chief Minister which was well within his jurisdiction. Mr Tejinder Bittu, the District Congress Committee chief and Mr Raj Kumar Gupta, MLA, were also present.


Probe into deletion of voters’ names

New Delhi, March 7
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said today a high-level inquiry had been instituted into the “eleventh hour deletion’’ of names in the voters list that made the Congress lose at least 20 seats by a narrow margin, particularly in the Malwa region.

On an average, 6,000 to 7,000 votes were deleted in every constituency by marking a redline on the voters’ names and at least 15,000 voters were struck off the list in a constituency of Patiala district from where former state Finance Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh won by a thin margin, he claimed.

Thousands of voters found their names cut off from the list when they went to exercise their franchise, he alleged. These voters were also carrying the identity cards issued by the state Election Commission, he said. UNI


Pro-VC told not to take decision sans VC nod
From Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 7
In further dramatic developments in Punjabi University, the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, today sent a fax message from outside the city for ‘’strict compliance’’ in which he directed that the Pro-Vice-Chancellor should not take any decision without his prior approval.

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Dr R.N. Pal, has become a rallying ground for the members of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) who have been demanding the dismissal of the VC on the grounds of moral turpitude and other irregularities. The members of the JAC consisting of teachers, employees and student bodies met him yesterday to complain against the murderous assault on a varsity teacher besides demanding that the exit gate behind the VC’s residence be closed immediately. The Pro-VC assured the JAC that the guilty would be brought to book besides saying that the gate would also be closed.

A fax message was today received in the university in which Dr Ahluwalia asserted that he remained the chief executive authority of the varsity and that this power could not be assumed by the Pro-VC. The fax message said the Pro-VC did not have any inherent powers as per the University Act and that his domain remained within the delegated powers.

The communique said the Pro-VC was requested not to take any decision himself or in any meeting without the prior approval of the VC. The Pro-VC, however, could not be contacted.

Meanwhile, members of the JAC led by its convener, Dr U.C. Singh, PUTA Secretary, Dr N.S. Atri, and other teacher organisations, besides students, aligned with the ABVP, the All-India Sikh Student Federation (AISSF) and the Sikh Student Federation (SFI) led a large-scale procession on the campus today. The precisionists gathered in front of the office of the Vice-Chancellor in the afternoon where a rally was organised.

Speaking on the occasion, JAC leaders alleged that the very fact that the Vice-Chancellor had been in hiding for the past about two weeks indicated that he had lost moral authority to show his face to the university community. They alleged that the VC had conspired with hooligans to terrorise the university community by instrumenting a murderous attack on one of the teachers who had been waging a battle for almost two years against his arbitrary functioning.

The speakers expressed anguish that even two days after the dastardly attack no action had been taken against the VC. They demanded that the VC be dismissed without delay and be put behind bars, along with the other assailants.


Drive against Punjabi Varsity VC to hit studies
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 7
Students of Punjabi University are likely to be the worst sufferers during the crucial days before the start of their examinations with the campus having been thrown into a turmoil after an attack on a university teacher and a two-day forced holiday, besides announcements by anti-Vice-Chancellor groups that they would hold indefinite dharnas.

It seems warring groups, including the pro-VC faction of the PUTA leadership, the joint action committee comprising another PUTA faction and employees and student bodies, are not concerned about the studies.

Students’ interests have been ignored by the varsity management in the past also. Holidays were declared at the drop of a hat to hold various fairs, particularly on Divali. Besides, stress was laid on holding seminars and other functions which teachers were forced to attend affecting the studies of the students.

However, academicians and students feel the joint action committee may also force an early closure of the session in view of its decision on the indefinite dharna on the campus from March 11 besides deciding to lock VC’s office later. A drum-beating procession will be held by the committee tomorrow. Besides a bandh call for all affiliated colleges has been given for March 9 which may cover the campus also.

Academicians feel that the varsity atmosphere has been vitiated by the unwillingness of the Vice-Chancellor to be open to all opinions during his tenure which ends in May. They said the VC had been caught in the same circle of victimisation which had been suffered by his predecessor.

While there is a groundswell of support for the committee which has taken on the VC, there is also a feeling that opportunists are using the controversy for their vested interests. Some university teachers feel that with two cases having already been registered against the VC, the law should be allowed to take its own course. They said any further agitation and unsavoury incidents would only harm the students.


City wing of BJP dissolved
Councillor blames Rinwa for defeat
Our Correspondent

Abohar, March 7
The city unit of the BJP was dissolved yesterday. Mr Brij Mohan Sharma has replaced Mr Pramil Kalani as president of the unit. All allied wings of the party also stand dissolved.

The city unit president and other office-bearers of the BJP, the BJYM and the SC/ST cell of the party here had submitted a memorandum to the party high command holding the state president, Prof Brij Lal Rinwa, responsible for the “shameful defeat” of the sitting MLA, Dr Ram Kumar Goel, and other party candidates in the Assembly elections.

The memorandum had levelled serious allegations against the state president.

Mr Rinwa and Mr Jaiswal who reached here last evening held discussions with senior party workers till midnight last night. Consensus was in favour of taking the “acts” of dissidents seriously.

Mr Jaiswal told mediamen that Mr Brij Mohan Sharma, who had been appointed city unit president, had been asked to prepare a list of members of the working committee in consultation with the district president and send the same to the party office at Chandigarh for final approval.

The party had served a show-cause notice on Mr Pramil Kalani, Councillor, to explain his conduct within a week why he should not be removed from primary membership of the party for six years. The party criticised him for calling a meeting of the city unit and launching a vilification campaign against the state president without any valid reason.

The state general secretary (organisation), Mr Jaiswal, said it was unfortunate and condemnable for some local office-bearers to blame the state president or other senior leaders of the BJP for the defeat in the recent elections. Never before the national executive of the party had held a meeting in Punjab. The membership drive had crossed previous records. The party was brought in a financial position and Rs 11 lakh had been contributed for the Gujarat Earthquake Relief Fund.

Enlisting the possible reasons for the defeat of the party in the elections on the basis of a survey conducted in different areas, Mr Jaiswal said people felt that populist measures taken by the alliance in Punjab had benefited the villagers at the cost of the urban dwellers who had to pay more for electricity, drinking water and sewerage. The delay in abolishing octroi had annoyed residents in towns. There were reports of “excesses” by contractors also.


MLA’s widow given Malout ticket
Tribune News Service

Malout, March 7
Former Chief Minister and President of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today nominated the wife of late Sujan Singh, former Panchayat and Rural Development Minister, Mrs Mukhtiar Kaur, for the Assembly election of the segment, which was adjourned by the Election Commission following his death during the General Elections.

Mr Babu Singh, Press Secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal, said Mr Badal announced the nomination of Mrs Mukhtiar Kaur in a meeting of workers here today.

Mrs Mukhtiar Kaur, who is member of the SGPC, had started her compaign about a week ago.

The Election Commission will hold the election on April 4 and a notification regarding the same will be issued on March 11. The last date for filing the nomination will be March 18 while the scrutiny of nomination will be done on March 19. The last date of withdrawal is March 21.

Under the poll alliance reached before the General Assembly elections, the Congress has left this seat to the CPI, which has fielded Mr Nathu Ram from here. 


Another bid for Akali unity soon
Tribune News Services

Chandigarh, March 7
Another bid for Akali unity will be made soon. This was disclosed here today by Mr Jaswant Singh Mann, founder general secretary of the World Sikh Council.

Mr Jaswant Singh said that a conference of the Sikh intelligentsia, Sikh high priests, Akali leaders and others concerned would be held here on March 30 under the banner of the Panthic Unity Forum. All senior Akali leaders belonging to different factions would be invited. An agenda for unity would be put up at conference, he added.

He said Mr Gur Rattan Pal Singh, Mr Shamsher Singh Maloya, Mr Kashmir Singh Patti, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, Dr Darshan Singh and certain other persons had been approached to extend their support for bringing about unity in the Panth.

The agenda for the conference would be released soon. It would be sent to all senior Akali leaders, he added.


Henry — a surprise exclusion
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 7
The non-inclusion of Mr Avtar Henry, senior Congress leader and Vice-President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), in the Punjab Council of Ministers has come as a surprise for staunch supporters of Mr Henry in particular and local residents in general.

Interestingly, Mr Henry, former Punjab Excise and Taxation Minister, who even fulfils the precondition of being elected thrice as an MLA, was considered to be one of the loyalists of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, and was among a few Congress leaders who had managed victory during the 1997 anti-Congress wave.

But the very fact that he has been kept at bay despite his “merit” has virtually sprung a surprise for his supporters and residents as well.

Moreover, what has surprised even the political observers is his studied silence over the matter even as he is considered to be very vocal in the party.

All he has said so far is:”He will abide by the decision of the party leadership like a ‘disciplined’ soldier.” The comment is considered to be very “unlike Henry” even by his staunch supporters, who thronged his Model Town residence all through the day.


Khanna leader of BJP Legislature Party
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 7
Mr Avinash Khanna, a BJP MLA from Garhshankar, has been elected the leader of the BJP legislature party in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. His name was proposed by Mr Tikshan Sud and seconded by Mr Sukhpal Singh Saini.


Poor not benefiting from WB policy
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, march 7
The World Bank mandate of providing a corruption-free, efficient, poor and women-friendly healthcare services notwithstanding, a poor woman has to shell out a minimum of Rs 1,186 to deliver a child at any outlet of the Punjab Health Systems Corporation.

These charges, said Dr Vineeta Gupta, General Secretary of the Bathinda-based Insaaf International, an NGO, are only for primary services. The charges for secondary services, including diet and other nursing care provided to an expectant mother, are additional.

“Besides ignoring women in all spheres of life, the government was not prepared even to provide them proper health-care,” Dr Gupta said, maintaining that a series of functions would be organised on March 8 to mark International Women’s Day without doing anything concrete.

Until October last year, she said, the Punjab Health Systems Corporation provided free health-care services to families, including women, with a monthly income of Rs 1,000 or less. Those families with an income ranging between Rs 1,001 and Rs 2,000 used to pay 50 per cent of the actual user charges while those with more than Rs 2,000 pm income had to pay full user charges. But in October last year, it was decided to levy user charges on all irrespective of their monthly income.

The government maintained that the poor women were being provided healthcare on a case-to-case basis. “Extremely poor were not being charged,” they maintained, holding that those with yellow cards were the direct beneficiaries of free services.

“But how many have yellow cards. In a city like Bathinda with a population of 2.7 lakh, only 44 persons had yellow cards,” Dr Gupta said, adding that her organisation had decided to take this battle of “providing efficient, poor and women-friendly health-care services” to its conclusion by launching a signature and endorsement campaign involving people and organisations from as many countries as possible.

“The idea is to rectify the vast gap between the policy of the World Bank and the realities of its implementation,” she said.

On March 8, Insaaf intends to call on the Governor, Lieut-Gen JFR Jacob (retd), here to give him a memorandum in this regard.

“Simultaneously, a copy of the memorandum and letter would be submitted to World Bank officials in Washington,” she said, claiming that as many as 400 to 500 individuals and organisations had signed the memorandum.

“It is not the question of numbers but it is a symbolic fight for the rectification of social disorders and inequalities in the disbursement of basic and mandatory civic amenities, including the delivery of health-care services to the needy”, she said.


Complex premises being illegally used
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 7
Nearly 200 labourers have been illegally using the premises of the elite multi-storey Nehru Plaza shopping complex here allegedly in connivance with the employees of the improvement trust here. They have been using more than 10 of the unsold shops of the complex as dormitories’ beside using the terrace for the purpose of cooking.

These labourers are reportedly, engaged in the construction of the adjoining Rs 5 cr-multi-storey parking by the trust. The labourers have been using the overhead water tanks on the complex, which are meant for water supply to the complex, for bathing. At least, 98 lids out of 115 tanks have been reported to be broken. The labourers have been using various passages as urinals besides allegedly indulging in thefts of taps, bulbs.

The posh shopping complex, constructed about five years ago at the cost of Rs 80 crore, has become a white elephant for the trust. Only about 140 out of 379 shops have been sold so far. Out of these about 60 have been operating presently.

According to information, many shopkeepers here have evaded the instalment dues due to poor facility and structural problems of the complex. The most prominent among these are poor sewerage and water pipes leading to seepage which has been causing damage to the goods stored. The complex is reportedly unequipped with adequate fire-fighting equipment. The absence of garbage trolleys has lead to the dumping of garbage in the backyard of the complex. The complex, is reportedly, in a deplorable condition with tiles falling from the outer walls. The urinals are also in a bad condition. The absence of trust employees for daily cleaning up of the complex has added to the woes of the shopkeepers.

The complex also serves as a hideout for anti-social elements who besides using the place for taking liquor and drugs, often indulge in eve teasing. There is no facility of guards for proper parking of vehicles. The shopkeepers of the adjoining multi-storeyed complexes have been using the parking place of the complex.

When contacted, Mr Bakshi Ram Arora, Chairman of the Amritsar Improvement Trust, said the labourers would be removed shortly and the engineers had been told to repair the pipelines. He further said the repairs would be undertaken shortly and contractors have been deputed for the job.


Repair road, forum tells MC
Our Correspondent

Muktsar, March 7
The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCDRF) has directed the Secretary, Local Bodies Punjab and local Municipal Council to reconstruct/repair the road from Railway road to telephone exchange and beyond it up to the Officers’ Colony in the city. The decision was taken on a complaint filed by local unit of the National Consumer Awareness Group (NCAG). The Forum has also asked the Municipal Council to pay Rs 25000 as compensation and Rs 500 as litigation expenses to the complainant.

The Forum has asked the MC to comply with the orders within three months after the receipt of the copy of the same. The Forum said that the local Bodies Department and the local MC were deficient in rendering services to the consumers.

The NCAG filed the complaint through its district general secretary, Mr Gurinderjit Singh Brar, under Section 12 of the Consumer Protection Act 1986, against the Secretary, Local Bodies Punjab. The General Manager Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) Ferozepore, Deputy Commissioner, Muktsar and Executive Engineer, Municipal Council.

The complaint said that the MC was bound to provide efficient services to the residents of the city that included construction, maintenance, improvement, cleaning and repair of all public roads, streets, drains and street lights but at certain places in the city, the MC was not doing its duty properly.

Mr Brar in the complaint further stated that the condition of the road from Railway road to telephone exchange, which led to the Officers’ Colony of the Telecom Department was very bad. He further said that the residents who visited telephone exchange or offices had to face problems due to the bad road. He said that although it was a metalled road but frequent digging by the Telecom Department for laying cables reduced it to mere a kuthca road.

The Forum in its decision said that as the Telecom Department had deposited the requisite amount with the MC after digging the road it was the duty of the latter to repair it.

The argument put before the Forum by the Executive Engineer of MC that the Telecom Department had not given the no-objection certificate after the work of laying the cable was finished was dismissed as photocopies of the required certificate were produced before the Forum by the complainant.


Kikar dying in 5 dists
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 7
Extreme winter and hot summer seasons, erratic rainfall with long dry spells during active growth season, short rainy season and extremely foggy days during the past 10 years are the key factors which have induced high rate of mortality in shisham (Dalbergia sissoo) and kikar (Acacia nilotica) trees in Punjab as per the preliminary study carried out by scientists of the Regional Centre of the Dr Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni-Solan (H.P.)

This was revealed here recently by a section of scientists on the conclusion of a seminar on the “Role of climatic conditions in high mortality rate of kikar and shisham in Punjab” organised by the Regional Research Centre of Punjab Agricultural University.

According to a study carried by the scientists, the highest mortality rate in block plantation was recorded in Bathinda forest division, which is 50.56 per cent. In case of road plantation of shisham, the highest morality rate was observed in Patiala division, which is 80 per cent. Faridkot division showed the maximum mortality rate of 52.54 per cent in canal plantation and Amritsar forest division had 36.44 per cent mortality rate on drain sites.

The scientists, including Dr P. Kaushal, Dr Rakesh Banyal and Dr Chander Kant of Dr Y.S. Parmar University, observed that adverse weather conditions had led to the weakening of the plant protection mechanism which in turn led to high mortality rate in shisham and kikar trees in the five districts of Punjab, including Bathinda, Faridkot, Sangrur, Patiala and Amritsar.

Dr Chinderjit Singh Gill, Head of the Department of Natural Resources and Forest, pointed out that shisham and kikar were dying also due to diseases and insect attacks. 


Tumultuous welcome to ministers
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 7
The four ministers belonging to Jalandhar were received by their supporters at the local Circuit House today with pipe bands, dhols and bhangra parties on their visit as ministers after taking the oath of office. The Circuit House was decorated and echoed to slogan shouting by supporters of Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Mohinder Singh Kaypee, Amarjit Samra and Chaudhary Santokh Singh, all four Punjab ministers belonging to Jalandhar. They came to the Circuit House along with their supporters, who had erected welcome gates at several places in the city.

Mr Kaypee came to the Circuit House, in an open jeep with pipe band, chiming “aj mere yaar ki shadi hai” Chaudhary’s cavalcade had a battery of supporters, a large number of them with garlands. Mr Amarjit Samra alighted from his vehicle. Same was the case with Chaudhary Santokh Singh. Sweets and beats of a “dhol” at the entry of every minister and dance by his particular set of supporters, including women, who had to wait for hours before the ministers arrived at the spot was common to the reception of all. 


Umeed’ gets help from Japan
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 7
The Government of Japan will provide two tractors, two trailers and two fogging machines to Sangrur-based non-government organisation (NGO) “Umeed” for its project “Eradication of mosquito-borne diseases.” These items will be given by the Japanese government under its scheme of “Grant assistance for grassroot projects.”

Mr Raman Kalia, a spokesman of “Umeed”, said last evening that an agreement had been signed yesterday between Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Hirahayashi and chairman of “Umeed” Arvind Khanna at the Embassy of Japan.

Mr Kalia stated that “Umeed” had been operating in rural areas of Sangrur district for the past five years to serve the underprivileged through various projects on healthcare and social empowerment.

He further said the scheme had been introduced by the government of Japan in 1989 to provide timely assistance directly to NGOs, research institutions.


Gen Sehgal visits Signals units
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 7
Lieut-Gen D.P. Sehgal, Director-General of Signals, who is on a three-day visit to the forward areas of the western sector, visited Signals units at Jalandhar today.

The General met General Shantonu Choudhary, GOC, Vajra Corps, and had discussion on plans for future communications. He interacted with troops and appreciated them for the excellent work done by them during the Operation Parakaram.

He stressed for the introduction of the state-of-art communication equipment and urged Signal Corps’ personnel to keep themselves abreast of the latest development in the field of communication and technology. Ms Indra Sehgal, wife of the visiting officer, later addressed the wives of the personnel belonging to the Signal Corps.


New SSP takes over
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 7
Mr B. Chanderasekhar today assumed the charge as the new SSP of the district. He replaced Mr P.P.S. Sidhu.

Before taking the charge the new SSP paid obeisance at the historical Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib.

Addressing police officials, he directed them to give priority to redress the grievances of the people. He stressed the need for transparent working.


PSEB engineers want technocrat as head
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 7
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) Engineers Association yesterday urged the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to appoint a technocrat as Chairman of the Board, besides calling for immediate reforms to get the Board out of its debt trap.

In a statement here, association president M.S. Bajwa and general secretary Anil Miglani said the Board was required to have a technocrat on a full-time basis and three technical members, besides the Member, Administrative, who should be an expert in Human Resource Development (HRD).

The association said it was concerned that persons known for their “corrupt working” were working hard to grab plum posts in the Board management. It said with the PSEB already in a desperate financial crisis, it was all the more necessary to select honest and competent technocrats.

It said as per the present estimates, the Board was in a various debt trap with an overall cash shortage of Rs 900 crore per year and a commercial loss of Rs 2,000 crore per year. The rate of return was minus 26.6 per cent. It said the dimensions of the trap were such that the Board would have to pay an interest on loans taken from financial institutions to the extent of Rs 929 crore in 2002-03 are repay earlier loans to the extent of Rs 588 crore, thereby incurring a cash liability of Rs 1517 crore.

The engineers said this year the crisis of liquidity, which was earlier experienced in August-September, had already engulfed the Board in March, even though the paddy season had not yet started. They said there had been serious defaults in power purchase, coal and railway freight bills in addition to defaults in debt servicing of institutional loans.

The association demanded that the Board be revamped. It cautioned the government against falling into the trap of driving the Board into extreme bankruptcy and then using bankruptcy as an excuse for splitting of disbanding the Board.


Gang busted
Our Correspondent

Patiala, March 7
The Patiala police today nabbed members of an inter-state gang of criminals, actively involved in killing and looting for quite some time in the region and adjoining area. The gang members, including Balwinder Singh, Vijay Kumar, Shashi Kumar and Surinder Kumar, have been detained by the police for interrogation.

The district police chief, Mr Omra Nangal, informed that one Indica car, two revolvers, one pistol, a knife and some cartridges have been recovered from the gang members.

During interrogation, the gang members admitted to having killed Mr Joginder Pal Chopra of Samana district by hitting him with a hockey stick on the head. They also admitted to looting cash from petrol pumps in Saholi, Galwatti and Retgarh. They also took away a scooter and stole the scooterist’s watch, ring and a gold bracelet. It was also revealed that Rameshwar Das provided the gang with arms procured from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh. Meanwhile, the District police chief also informed about the plan to set up a police control room on the lines of Chandigarh and Ludhiana. The control room will have its independent network with two DSPs and three inspector rank officials heading it. He said no extra money would be spent on the new infrastructure as vehicles already in the fleet would be used. He also informed about the directives by the police department to temporarily ban the use of loudspeakers, keeping in view the examination period.


Poor Mansa students visit Chandigarh
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 7
The local Young Patriots Club organised a visit for its members and some students of poor family to Chandigarh on Tuesday. The visit was organised under Into-British project and 30 students participated in it.

They met the ADGP, Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) Mr. A.P. Bhatnagar, told them about the functioning of the commission. Later, the ADGP also took them for a meeting with Justice V.K. Khanna, Chairperson, PSHRC, who urged them to become good human beings and fight against evils in society.

The students also visited the Punjab Secretariat, the Panjab and Haryana High Court, Rock Garden, art gallery, museum, Punjab University and other important places in the city, said a press note today by DSP Gautam Singal, who is also the project manager of the club.

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