Monday, March 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Maluka’s foreign trip cost PSEB dear
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, March 10
The cash-starved Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) is finding it hard to meet its expenses. Yet sops like free electricity for tubewells offered by the SAD-BJP government were not the only reasons for the financial mess of the board.

Besides the sops offered to cater to a votebank, the PSEB had to bear the financial burden of foreign trips by the former Power Minister and Chairman, PSEB.

According to sources, the former Power Minister, Mr Sikander Singh Maluka, conducted a 36-day trip of Germany, the USA and Canada that cost the PSEB lakhs of rupees.

Mr Maluka visited the said countries from June 30, 2000, to August 4, 2000, to study the power transmission and distribution systems of the said countries. Interestingly, though Mr Maluka visited the countries to study a technical matter, no technocrat accompanied him on the trip.

Besides the air fares, the minister took Rs 2.30 lakh as advance from the board as dearness allowance. He collected the money from the board without getting the tour approved from the Government of India. The approval for the tour was given after he left the country on June 6, 2000.

Though initially the tour was approved for 18 days, the minister extended his trip to 36 days. On returning home, instead of submitting a report of his study, the minister demanded more money as dearness allowance at the rate of $500 per day on the plea that the Chairman of the board, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, was paid the same rate earlier.

Highly placed sources said as per the government rules, no state minister could visit aboard without the prior permission of Government of India. In addition to that, a state minister was paid $100 per day for the first 14 days of his visit to a foreign country, $75 per day for next seven days and $50 per day for the rest of his stay.

As per these rules, Mr Maluka was entitled to $2675 or about Rs 30,000 as DA even if his 36-day trip was considered to be a genuine one. He should have returned Rs 1 lakh to the board. Instead, the minister demanded an additional Rs 6,34,000 from the board at the rate of $500 per day.

The board referred the case to the power department for suggestions, which was sent further to the Finance Department, Punjab. The department rejected the demand of the minister on the plea that as per the government rules, no Punjab minister was entitled to a DA of more than $100 per day on a foreign trip.

The minister, however, insisted on being given $500 per day from the board on the plea that earlier also when he visited aboard on behalf of Punjab Agro, he was paid the same rate. The matter was referred to the Chief Minister, who directed the Chief Secretary to look into it. The latter, too, endorsed the advice of the Finance Department.

The unrelenting minister, however, presented the case before the Cabinet and got the nod. It was approved that the minister was paid DA at the rate of $500 per day, without going into the technical details of the matter.

Had it not been for the delaying tactics of vily bureaucrats, the minister would have extracted another Rs 6,34,000 from the board after the memorandum was passed by the Cabinet. The bureaucrats kept the file between them till the time the government changed.

The sources said now the PSEB was mulling over the idea of asking the minister to refund Rs 1 lakh taken as advance. The board had also not yet received details of the study carried out by Mr Maluka during his 36-day trip abroad.

The Audit Department has objected to “excess” payments made to the minister in other cases also, the sources added.


Punjab seeks 6,000 cr for procuring wheat
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, March 10
The Punjab Government has sought a cash credit limit (CCL) worth Rs 6000 crore for procurement of wheat in the state from the Reserve Bank of India. The state government is confident that the CCL would be sanctioned before the start of the wheat procurement season.

Officially, the procurement of wheat starts from April 1 but the actual exercise begins with the arrivals of wheat from mid April. The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and officials of the state are in an upbeat mood as they have received a very positive response from central leaders of the NDA government.

The Chief Minister accompanied by Mr Lal Singh and senior officers of the state met Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and Food Supplies Minister Shanta Kumar and discussed with them the needs of the state, with particular reference to the fiscal health and the funds needed for procurement of wheat.

A senior functionary of the state administration said the Union Food Minister, Mr Shanta Kumar, had told them that there was no proposal to change the procurement policy. Mr Shanta Kumar had further assured that the Central Government would pick up “every wheat grain”.

Similarly, he said Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha had observed, “I know the problems being faced by Punjab and we will help it bail out. But the state will have to pull up its socks to come out of the crises.” Accordingly, the state government was busy preparing a detailed plan to come out of the financial crises, he said.

The state government had estimated Rs 6000 crore on the basis of the existing minimum support price of wheat (Rs 610 per quintal) and if there was an increase in the MSP, the state government would make another request to the RBI for more funds, he said.

Punjab had to pay an annual interest of Rs 2000 crore on payments received from banks for paddy and wheat procurement. It hoped to meet this through payments due to be received from the FCI.


Tohra readies for SGPC poll
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 10
Having lost the political battle, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra is getting ready to regain control of his traditional fiefdom — the SGPC — whose elections are due in September, in a bid to emerge a major player in Akali politics.

Mr Tohra presented three SGPC members before mediapersons here today and expressed confidence that SGPC members would rally around him. The members who joined Mr Tohra today were Mr Jagjit Singh from Budhlada, Mr Kaur Singh Khara from Mansa and Mr Gurtej Singh from Mauran. Former Bathinda district party president and former Chairman, State Warehousing Corporation Jaswant Singh also joined Mr Tohra’s party on the occasion.

The Akali leader said all three leaders had joined him as they were disgusted with the policies of the Shiromani Akali Dal led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

Mr Tohra is keeping his cards close to his chest as far as his strategy for the SGPC poll is concerned. He said it was yet to be decided if the Panthic Morcha would fight the SGPC elections on a common platform the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal platform.

Sources said Mr Tohra was toying with the idea of fighting the SGPC elections alone because of lack of coordination among the various Panthic Morcha candidates during the Assembly elections. He, however, refused to comment on a recent statement by Akali Dal (Amritsar) President Simranjit Singh Mann that the Panthic Morcha had fared badly because all leaders were pulling in different directions and that Mr Tohra had weakened the cause by continuing unity talks with the SAD till the last minute.

The veteran leader said Mr Badal was solely responsible for the Congress victory as he had resisted all attempts at panthic unity. He said he had climbed down from his earlier demand asking that Mr Badal seek forgiveness of the Akal Takht for violating its directives.

He said during the last attempt at unity, he had asked the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister to ask Mr Badal to write a letter to Akal Takht, admitting that he had violated the directive of Akal Takht but expressing inability to appear before it due to ill-health. He said this plea was also turned down by Mr Badal.

He said in such a situation he had no option but to fight the elections on the Panthic Morcha platform. Admitting that the Morcha had fared badly, he said this was because the party rank and file was weak at various places. Besides, the Morcha did not have resources of its own to fight the elections.

The veteran Akali leader announced that the only option before the Akalis as far as the SYL canal was concerned was agitation in order to stop Punjab riverwaters from going to Haryana. He said it was for the Congress government to take the first step in this regard as the SAD had completely sold out the interests of the state to Haryana.


Helpless at the border
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

The house was decked up, as you would expect it to be in a home readying for a wedding. All the bright colours and paraphernalia that go with a village wedding were in evidence. But there was one thing missing — the marriage party itself. Except for an elderly woman, the house seemed to have been abandoned.

Shindu, a local resident, smiled and said: ‘‘Yes, there is a wedding, but not here. No one can afford to have one in the village any more. Holding it here means inviting at least members of your caste and serving them non-vegetarian food, drinks and sweets. But our financial problems are so bad that we can’t afford these. So we go to the nearest gurdwara and to have the wedding ceremony there to reduce the expenses.”

Hundreds of marriage ceremonies in the border areas of this district have been cancelled, delayed disrupted or performed at other places. Countless families hit by financial debt, migration due to the possibility of war and loss of crops owing to the laying of mines by the Army have seen wedding plans go up in smoke. Many small villages and settlements have not seen a traditional wedding for three or more years. Most of the marriages are solemnised in December, January and February in Punjab. Since the tension between India and Pakistan increased in December, plans for weddings have been hit.

Shindu further said: ‘‘The family living in the house you were looking at is in serious financial difficulty. Anyhow, they managed to hire a diesel jeep, packed 12 relatives in it and went off to a gurdwara a few kilometres from here. That way at least they saved some money.”

‘‘It is the older women who love these occasions the most. But they had to leave this elderly woman at home,” says another neighbour. She stood despondent in the house, not stepping beyond the doorway.

Most of the people dependent on agriculture, with small land holdings or landless people working as labourers in the fields, have been severely affected by growing debt. Many of them have been asked to vacate their land by the Army. Mines have been laid under the standing crop. Bunkers have been constructed. No relief has so far been given to them.

A landless labourer said: “My son was married in November last, a week after Divali. Although we were from the boy’s side, we agreed to have the function at a gurdwara. It was clear that the girl’s family could not afford it. And neither could we. So we mutually agreed on the gurdwara. Otherwise, there would have been no marriage .”

“My marriage was called off at the last minute’’, says Harjit. He lives in Bareke village close to the Hussainwala border. ‘‘The preparations had begun and we spent a lot on them. In the meantime, the tension between Pakistan and India increased. We had to migrate to our relatives’ home along with our household items. The money that we had for the wedding was spent on migration and during the stay with our relatives. When we returned, the parents of the girl refused to marry off their daughter in a border area. Moreover, we were not left with adequate money for a marriage ceremony as per the expectations of the other side’’, he said. Seven of the 10 such families this correspondent visited refused to comment on why the weddings were put off or held in gurdwaras. They felt a sense of shame on being unable to celebrate the weddings in their own homes.


Cong will complete term: Bir Devinder
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 10
“The Congress government will complete its five-year tenure and would endeavour to fulfill the expectations of the people and provide clean, responsive and transparent government,” said Mr Bir Devinder Singh, MLA, while talking to mediapersons at a gurdwara here today.

He had come to pay his obeisance at the gurdwara. It is noteworthy that the exclusion of Mr Bir Devinder Singh, a senior leader of the party, from the Cabinet had surprised everybody.

Resting all speculations, he said those who thought there were differences in the party over the formation of the council of ministers were living under illusions. Answering a query, he said it was the prerogative of the Chief Minister to form his council of ministers. He said there was complete cohesion in the Congress Legislative Party.

Lashing out at Akalis, he said people of the state had given a clear mandate in favour of the Congress. He said the government would initiate development activities in the state in spite of the fact that the state was facing financial crunch as Akalis had ruined its economy.

Later, he was accorded a warm welcome by his supporters. He assured that he would continue to serve the people of his hometown and make efforts for the development of the district.


Urban-rural divide to the fore during poll’
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 10
The Federal India Forum, Jalandhar, today organised a seminar on the reasons behind the defeat of the SAD-BJP combine during the recent Assembly elections here today.

Addressing the gathering, Dr Jasbir Dosanjh, said though the Congress had formed the government, what many a people had failed to observe was that these elections divided the people in two major groups — urbanites and ruraliets, which was a dangerous trend.

He said that main reason behind the defeat of the Akalis was their factionalism, and this was visible from the votes cornered by all Akali factions, which polled 42 per cent votes as compared by 36.12 per cent votes polled to the Congress.

Coming to factors which played a major role in the defeat of the combine, Dr Dosanjh felt that corruption was the single major factor, followed by the lack of experience among the Akali leaders for running the government, which resulted in misgovernance.

Besides this, the SAD had shunned democratic values as far as the organisational set-up was concerned and if the government was run by bureaucrats, the party was run by a few people thrust from outside, which resulted in resentment among Akali workers.

Similarly, the feeling among urban people that they had been ignored and the selection of wrong candidates were two big follies on the part of the SAD.

He said the SAD should take a lesson from its poll debacle and should consolidate its base among the farming class, for which NGOs could be formed at grassroot levels.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan, former Punjab Finance Minister, and the former Revenue Minister were the guests of honour. The others who spoke included Mr Kuldip Singh Wadala, Mr Satnam Singh Manak and Mr Jasbir Singh Shiri.


Doctors seek better neonatal care
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, March 10
A state-level annual conference of neonatologists organised by the district body of the National Neonatology Forum at Kotkapura today advocated better provision of infrastructure to bring down the infant mortality rate. The conference expressed concern over inadequate arrangements in rural areas.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Anil Narang, Head of the Paediatrics Department, PGI, Chandigarh, said more resources and funds should be generated to ensure the survival of children. He said the World Health Organisation (WHO) had also been focussing on it, besides emphasising on recessitation and enough nutrition to pregnant women. Due to the non-availability of proper facilities one new-born child out of 22 dies every month in the country which was much more as compared to other European countries, said Dr Narang.

Dr J.P. Dadhich, Joint Secretary of the National Neonatology Forum (NNF), New Delhi, underlined the need for creating awareness at the community-level about the latest techniques of delivery system. He said mothers should pay more attention to breast-feeding to infants at least for six months. Dr Rameshwar Garg, Director, Health Services, Punjab, gave an appeal to paediatricians to pay more attention towards pregnant women during her prennatal period. He emphasised deliveries should be held at proper institutions.

Dr Harmesh Singh Bains, state President of the NNF, Punjab, said experts should be involved in imparting training to nurses and midwives for proper care of new-born babies. He also sought better transport system in rural areas for timely medical aid for ill-babies. Dr Bains said NNF had deployed 22 experts as local coordinators at subdivisional and district headquarters in the state to assist the needy. Inaugurating the conference, Mr A. Venu Prasad, Deputy Commissioner, emphasised the need to strengthen the social structure.

A mass movement should be launched to identify trained paramedical staff, said the Deputy Commissioner. He said such delibrations and conferences should be organised on regular basis. He also released the quarterly news bulletin launched by the state NNF body.

Among the others who spoke included Dr Prem Paul Bansal, Dr Ravi Bansal, Dr Yogesh Chhatwal, Dr P.V. Verghese and Dr Manorma Verma. More than 200 delegates from different parts of the state attended the conference. 


Amarinder Singh flags off relief for the riot-hit
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 10
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh today laid the foundation stone of a bridge costing Rs 60 lakh over Chhoti Nadi at Ghalori Gate in the city besides flagging off a consignment of relief material worth Rs 15 lakh to the riot-affected people of Gujarat.

Speaking at a function held at the Municipal Corporation Auditorium after laying the foundation stone of the bridge, the Chief Minister said this was a small beginning and that he had a one-point programme of reviving the shattered economy of the state.

Capt Amarinder Singh, who was accompanied by former MP Sant Ram Singla and his wife and Patiala MP Preneet Kaur at all the functions in the city today, said the people of the state had given his party a clear verdict on the issues of corruption-free administration and revival of the economy of the state.

He said his government was committed to providing efficient and transparent administration to the people of the state. To restructure the economy of the state, not only a high-powered committee had been constituted to look into financial matters, but two other panels also set up for agriculture and industry.

He reiterated his stand to develop Patiala as one of the leading industrial towns of the state with modern infrastructure. He said criminal cases registered against traders during various agitations would be reviewed sympathetically. He assured local bodies financial help in lieu of octroi abolition.

Speaking on the occasion, Patiala MP Preneet Kaur highlighted the problems being faced by local residents and expressed hope that the Chief Minister would give special attention to the city. Municipal Commissioner K.S. Kang, extending a warm welcome to the Chief Minister, assured him that the bridge would be completed before May 31,2002.

A blood donation camp was organised by the Punjab Pradesh Congress Seva Dal as a mark of respect on the occasion of the 61st birthday of Capt Amarinder Singh at the Polo Grounds Gymnasium Hall. Volunteers of the Seva Dal donated 100 units of blood. Party state Sewa Dal president Sanjiv Garg also spoke on the occasion.

Earlier, the Chief Minister flagged off five trucks of relief material for Gujarat. Deputy Commissioner Tejvir Singh, who was present on the occasion alongwith other officers of the administration, including Additional Deputy Commissioner Gagandeep Singh and Assistant Commissioner (General) Rahul Gupta, said that the consignment consisted of 200 quintals of rice and 6,000 “daris.’’


MC shows income from abolished octroi!
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 10
In an interesting move, the local municipal council authorities, in order to cover the council’s collapsing financial health, have shown Rs 21 crore as income from octroi in the budget proposals for 2002-2003 which was prepared yesterday despite the fact that the previous SAD-BJP government had abolished octroi on November 15, 2001.

Sources said in the budget proposals, totalling Rs 31 crore, the municipal council authorities had shown a Rs 21-crore income from octroi to prevent employees from getting panicky vis-a-vis their salaries. The sources said the financial liabilities of the municipal council included Rs 10 crore as salaries of the employees, Rs 6 crore for meeting the electricity expenses and Rs 3 crore for the maintenance of sewerage. Besides, the council had been spending a considerable amount on various non-development woks, including payment of fee to advocates hired by it.

The financial health of the council has caused anxiety among civil works contractors, some of whom have started avoiding taking any work fearing that they will not get the payment for it. By projecting an income of Rs 21 crore, the council has tried to send a message to the employees that they will get their salaries without any hassle and also to the contractors to carry out development works without any fear. Mr Shiv Kumar Mittal, Executive Officer, of the council, said the council had done nothing wrong by projecting an income of Rs 21 crore from revenue as it would be given to it by the Punjab Government.


Passport forms till December cleared
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 10
In spite of the heavy rush of passport applicants from the Doaba region, the Regional Passport Office (RPO) has achieved the target of zero pendency by issuing passports to all applicants, who had submitted their documents by December, last year.

Talking to this reporter here today, the Regional Passport Officer, Mr Amarjit Singh, revealed that the department had decided to issue passport to an applicant within one month of the receipt of character verification report from the police authorities.

He said they had streamlined the functioning of the passport office by introducing single-window scheme, which resulted in speedy clearance of passport files. “More than 10,000 passports have been issued in the past six months,” he added.

He said the passport office had also introduced facility to know status of application for a passport on its website. “One can easily access our website while sitting at his home to know about the status of his or her application, including the objections on the file causing delay in the issuance of passport,” he said.

The authorities, to facilitate the public, had recently set up special counters at the offices of Deputy Commissioners in the state where applicants could submit their documents for the issuance of a passport.


Rly ex-staff seek medical passes
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 10
The annual general body meeting of the All-India Retired Railwaymen’s Federation, Ferozepore division, today sought the intervention of the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) to get the free medical pass facility implemented for retired railwaymen.

The federation demanded among other things a permanent redressal forum for pensioners in place of pension adalats, restoration of commuted pension, medical allowance, exemption of pension from income tax, complimentary passes to Class IV pensioners and old-age allowance.


Cane growers assured payment of arrears
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 10
Mr Gurbinder Singh Atwal, Parliamentary Secretary, Punjab, holding portfolio of the Cooperation Department, today declared that his priority would be to get the payment of the arrears of cane growers cleared from sugar mills managements.

The arrears were run into crores of rupees and their payment would be ensured at the earliest, asserted Mr Atwal here.


Pesticides’ godown looted
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 10
As many as 10 thieves entered a godown of pesticides on the outskirts of the city on the Bathinda-Malout main road, a few hundred yards away from a police station, on the night of March 8, and took away goods worth Rs 16 lakh in a truck. According to FIR registered by Mr Rajinder Setia, Carrying and Forwarding (C and F) agent of the EID Parry (India) Limited and Parry Chemicals Limited, about 10 looters who were carrying lathis and other weapons came to the godown on the night of March 8 in a car and the truck.

After managing to enter the godown premises they went upstairs into a room and started threatening its occupants who were 11 in number. After that the occupants were brought to the ground floor and were locked in a room of the godown. The keys of the main gate were also taken from the occupants and the truck was brought inside the godown premises. The thieves then broke open the shutter of main godown and loaded boxes containing pesticides in the truck. The operation went on for about three to four hours. After the truck was loaded with pesticides, they left in the car and the truck.

Mr Setia said when he went to the godown next day, he found that one shutters of three godowns had new locks. He said when he called the security guard, all occupants, including the security guard, who were locked into the main godown by the accused, responded.

The occupants after coming out of the godown narrated what had happened. He said after the stock in the godown was verified, it was known that the looters had taken away pesticides worth more than Rs 16 lakh.

He said the new locks put on the shutters by the looters were broken in front of the company officials concerned. The police was also informed. Police sources said a case under Sections 457, 380, 342 and 506 of the IPC had been registered.


Fake notes racket busted, 2 held
Our Correspondent

Moga, March 10
The local police has busted an inter-state gang involved in printing and distribution of fake currency. On a tip-off, Major Singh and Balbir Singh were arrested from a liquor vend while trying to purchase liquor on fake currency.

A sum of Rs 9,500 in Rs 500 denomination was seized from them and a case registered.

On interrogation, the duo disclosed the name of other gang members namely Mohinder Singh of Marar village under Sadiq police station, Raju and Gurdeep Singh of Chak Sherewala village under Sadar police station, Muktsar district, Naib Singh of Dhaban under Sangria police station and Surjit Singh of Haripura under Sangria police station, Rajasthan.

These gang members have not yet been asserted.

Following information from the two, at raid at Mohinder Singh’s residence here led to the recovery of a computer with printer, copier, designer and two small shikanjas.


PCCTU flays cut in grant
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 10
The Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers’ Union (PCCTU) has criticised the state government for its decision to impose a 10 per cent cut every year on all grants to non-government privately managed colleges. The government has asked the college managements to generate its own sources of income.

The Congress had promised during the last Assembly elections that it would continue the grant-in-aid scheme and implement the much delayed pension and gratuity scheme for employees of privately managed colleges after coming to power in the state.

Even as the Congress government is struggling hard to cope with the bad financial health of the state after assuming power and is taking stringent steps to control the non-plan expenditure, the news of the cut in grant has come as a severe blow to the college employees, who were expecting that the Congress would fulfill its promise on the pension and gratuity scheme.

The PCCTU has urged the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to fulfil its poll promise by withdrawing the instructions and asked the latter to implement the pension and gratuity scheme at the earliest.


Entire supervisory staff suspended
Our Correspondent

Balachaur, March 10
The DPI (S), Punjab, Chandigarh, Dr Jagtar Singh Khatra, placed the supervisory staff of the matriculation examination of Government High School, Garhi Naunugoan, Nawanshahr, under suspension. Dr Khatra visited the centre yesterday. 

He found teacher Kashmiri Lal solving the question paper. Centre Superintendent Jaswant Kaur, Deputy Superintendent Taranjit Singh, Nirmala Kumari and Kuldip Singh were suspended for bad supervising, Nachatter Kaur Headmistress and controller, for loose control and Mohan Singh Atwal, cluster in charge, for negligence in appointing supervisors.


Change in education policy sought
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 10
The Joint Action Committee (JAC) comprising federations, associations and unions of managements, principals, teaching and non-teaching staff of 172 non-government colleges of Punjab and Chandigarh, today urged the Punjab Government to review the higher education policy pursued by the SAD-BJP government.

Mr Tarsem Bahia, spokesman of the JAC and president of the Panjab University Area Principals Association, demanded that a dialogue should be initiated by the government with the teaching community to stem the rot and commercialization of education. Notification of the pension and gratuity scheme, approved by the Congress government in 1996 and then by the SAD-BJP government should be issued and plans to downsize 95 per cent grant-in-aid dropped, added Mr Bahia.

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
122 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |