Wednesday, March 13, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



SAD draws up plan to confront govt
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
The Shiromani Akali Dal headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal plans to keep the Congress government led by Capt Amarinder Singh on tenterhooks. It has already drawn up its strategy to confront the government on various issues in the Punjab Assembly next week. The Assembly session will be held from March 20 to March 22.

The Akali MLAs will press the government in the Assembly to fulfil the promise of Rs 30 per quintal bonus to be given to paddy growers. Capt Amarinder Singh had made this promise shortly before the Assembly elections. The government would also be urged to make a time-bound commitment to reimburse the power of bills domestic consumers who had complained that they had received hefty bills from the PSEB.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh, former Finance Minister, told Tribune News Service today that the SAD MLAs were fully prepared to protect the interests of the people of the state. He said they would not allow the Congress government to back out from the promises made to the people before the elections. The opposition would be fully active during the Assembly session.

Moreover, the SAD had been taking the Malout Assembly election scheduled to be held on April 4 as a big challenge. The Malout constituency would be divided into sectors, each under the charge of a senior party leader.

He said Mr Badal had convened a meeting of former party MLAs both present and members of the SGPC, party candidates who lost the last Assembly elections, district presidents, chairpersons of various corporations and boards belonging to the SAD and members of the Executive Committee at Malout on March 15 to finalise party’s campaign programme.

The Malout election was postponed following the death of Mr Sujan Singh, who was nominated the SAD candidate. Now the SAD has given the party ticket to his widow, Mrs Mukhtiar Kaur. Mr Badal has made his wife, Mrs Surinder Kaur, who has been looking after the constituency for several years, in charge of the election campaign.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said that the party was in high spirits and was fully prepared to contest the election.

Meanwhile, the Congress, which earlier allotted the Malout constituency to the CPI as a part of an electoral pact, will decide tomorrow whether it should support the CPI nominee or adopt an Independent candidate.

There are reports that pressure is being brought to bear on the Congress by an Independent candidate to adopt him in place of the CPI candidate. The CPI has put up Mr Nathu Ram as its candidate in Malout. Only the SAD is entitled to renominate its candidate in place of the late Sujan Singh. There is no provision of fresh nomination in the case of the other parties.


Akalis shift focus to SGPC poll
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, March 12
Even as the SGPC general house elections are likely to be held this year, the arena of Akali politics has shifted from Chandigarh to Amritsar these days. The permutations and combinations in the SGPC are changing as the results of the general elections will decide which faction will wrest control of Panthic affairs in the coming days.

Though the Shiromani Akali Dal, headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has already established its supremacy by winning 42 Assembly seats, yet the results of the general house elections of the SGPC, considered as “mini-parliament” of Sikhs, will prove beyond doubt which faction has acceptability among the Sikh masses. It is believed that the Akali Dal which controls the SGPC has supremacy in Akali politics.

March 27 has been fixed as the deadline for preparing voters lists. However, Sikh voters seem least interested in enrolling themselves as voters. As a result, a large number of non-Sikhs under the garb of “Sehajdharis” have succeeded in enrolling themselves as voters. Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar, President, SGPC, who has already expressed concern over the enrolment of bogus voters, is likely to meet the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, to seek his intervention.

Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, Secretary, SGPC, has said the “bogus voters” have outnumbered genuine voters in connivance with revenue officials in the state. He alleged that the bogus voters could not have enrolled themselves but for a deep-rooted conspiracy hatched by those at the helm of affairs.

Though the SGPC office-bearers have not named any party, yet they have indirectly accused the Congress for the mess. Though the Congress has not announced publicly that it will take part in the SGPC general elections, yet the inroads into the rural vote-bank made by party during the recently held Assembly elections has encouraged the Congress leadership to test the waters, though indirectly.

In case the Congress takes an active part in the general house elections, it may help the leadership of the Panthic Morcha to ensure the debacle of the SAD during the general house elections of the SGPC. 


Chohan lashes out at Badal, Tohra
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 12
Dr Jagjit Singh Chohan, president of the Khalsa Raj Movement and self-styled president of so-called Khalistan, lashed out at Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, holding both of them responsible for the “decline” in the prestige of the Khalsa Panth. They had finished the image of the Shiromani Akali Dal and had tarnished the sanctity of Akal Takht, he alleged. Now they were trying to capture the SGPC which they had made polluted and corrupted for their selfish and political motives.

Talking to this correspondent here last evening, Dr Chohan alleged that Mr Badal and Mr Tohra had made Punjab bankrupt by following wrong financial policies just to gain votes.

Referring to the new Congress government he said that SAD and Congress leaders are the chips of the same block and the Congress would not be able to bring back Punjab on its feet.

He criticised management of Anandpur Sahib for not allotting space to the Khalsa Raj Movement in the ensuing Hola Mohalla fair to hold its convention. However, the Movement would arrange corner meetings, distribute literature and mobilise the public for Khalsa raj in Punjab during the fair.


Mann firm on stopping SYL construction
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
The SAD (A) leader, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, asserted today that the Chief Minister of Haryana, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, would never be able to fulfil his dream of getting Sutlej waters from Punjab through the SYL canal.

He was commenting on the remarks made by Mr Chautala in his speech while winding up the debate on the Governor's Address in the Haryana Vidhan Sabha yesterday. He warned today that his party would not allow the SYL canal to be constructed in Punjab territory despite a clear direction from the Supreme Court of India to the Punjab Government to complete the controversial canal within one year.

Talking to TNS here, Mr Mann said his, "party will not permit that. We will fill up the canal if any attempt is made by anyone to dig it in the state". His party cadres were ready to make "any sacrifice" to safeguard the interests of Punjab and its farmers.

Mr Mann was of the view that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to decide on issues like the division of river waters, etc. "It has become a fashion nowdays to refer each and every problem to the courts, be it Ramjanambhoomi in Ayodhya, clearance of obstructions along the highways or wearing of seat belts in cars", he said.

He appealed to all parties opposed to the construction of the SYL canal in general and the SAD leader, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, in particular to join hands to launch an agitation on this issue.


Attack in varsity to be probed
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 12
Punjabi University Pro-Vice-Chancellor R.N. Pal today constituted a three-member committee to inquire into the circumstances which led to the attack on Dr H.S. Bhatti on March 5.

Talking to TNS, the Pro-VC said the team comprised the Dean, Research, Dr Gurpal Singh, Dean, Sciences, Dr Baldev Singh, and a Professor of geography, Dr H.S. Mangat. The committee would go into all aspects of the alleged attack on Dr Bhatti by former student leader of the university, Bhupinder Singh Cheema and others at the gate facing Urban Estate, Phase II.

The Pro-VC said the entry of Cheema had already been banned in the university. However, he would be allowed to enter the university to give his version of the events before the inquiry committee. But, he has not had any word from the Vice-Chancellor.

Meanwhile, according sources, Vice-Chancellor Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, who is facing charges of moral turpitude and attempt to murder, has in a letter to the Registrar, Dr B.S. Bhatia, told him that he would discuss the agenda of the Syndicate meeting scheduled for March 16 with him on March 13. Sources said though it was unlikely that the Syndicate meeting would be held, the move to discuss the agenda could be a ploy to keep some teachers who are slated for promotion under the Career Advancement Scheme (CAS) as well as others who may benefit from the decisions on the agenda on his side.

The sources said another item on the agenda was a scuffle which occurred on the campus between rival factions of the Punjabi University Teachers Association. Dr U.C. Singh could be hauled up on the issue as he is alleged to have indulged in a scuffle with Dr Baldev Singh Balluana, who is in the Pro-VC camp.

The letter sent by the VC yesterday to personal assistant Pawan Kumar also says that he is on casual leave and that the leave has been sent to the Chancellor.


CBI probe against VC sought
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 12
The People's Action Front today demanded a CBI probe into the allegations levelled against Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, besides seeking his immediate arrest in the attempt to-murder case registered against him.

Addressing a press conference here the Punjab unit Vice-President of the front, Dr Joginder Kaushal said it was sad that the police had not been able to nab the Vice-Chancellor saying that it should take the help of the intelligence wing to arrest the VC.

He said he did not agree with the statement of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh who had offered the VC a chance to quit on his own or face action. He said there was no scope for such a lenient attitude in the case, adding that the VC should be brought to book.

Dr Kaushal said a new VC should be appointed to rid the post of politicisation, a panel of three scholars could be shortlisted for the post and their names could be submitted to the varsity Chancellor for final selection, he said.


Replica of Amarnath Cave at temple
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 12
Those devotees of Lord Shiva who could not afford the tedious travel to the holy Amarnath Cave in Jammu and Kashmir, need not worry as an exact and huge replica of the cave on the local Devi Talaab Temple premises has been thrown open for devotees on the occasion of Maha Shivratri today.

Considered to be a construction marvel, it is so similar to the original that after entering the tunnel, it is hard not to believe that it is Amarnath Cave. It is adorned with rich mountain flora. The cave is a result of hard labour of Janak Raj Bagga, an artist, who worked for about two years on this.

A visit to the temple revealed that this 60-foot Amarnath look-alike structure is spread on an estimated 50,000 sq ft and is no different from the inside when compared to the original cave. One can have darshan of all holy places like Shesh Naag Lake, Parwati Kund, Shakti Sthal, Amar Kund and “Shivasan”, apart from the Shivlingam made of ice.

“Apart from the music created by a beautiful waterfall, what makes the ambience hilly and natural is the presence of a large number of ornamental plants which are generally found in hills, but which have been grown on the cave mountain. Moreover, you can enjoy the sight of a lion family en route to the cave,” Mr Sheetal Vij, temple management committee spokesman, said. He said the committee had spent Rs 50 lakh on the construction of the cave.

About 150 metres of hilly terrain had been created artificially. “To create an impression of a real Shivlingam, we have made it out of a near transparent whitish stone. The devotees would also be given “jal” and “vibhuti” from Amar Kund and the “Shivasan” in the cave which is adorned with paintings depicting the Shiva parivar and the marriage of Lord Shiva,” he said.

Mr Vij said the idea behind the setting up of the cave replica was to help those who could not visit the original cave.


Illegal colonies continue to mushroom
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 12
Political interference has stonewalled government efforts for a planned growth of the city.

Land mafia, “operating under political patronage”, has increased their landholdings, causing losses worth crores to the government.

Illegal colonies have mushroomed under all four municipal corporations — Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala and Ludhiana in the state with 147 such colonies in Amritsar alone as admitted by the corporation in a reply to the government.

Mrs Saroj Dubey, Rajya Sabha member, raised the question in the House.

She sought answers from Urban Development Ministers in the country regarding the existence of these colonies.

Consequently, details of such colonies were demanded from the Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala, and Ludhiana municipal corporations on January 31 by the state Local Government Department.

In its reply, the local municipal corporation said, “the public has developed disinterest in planned colonies.” The corporation expressed its helplessness in checking the mushrooming of these colonies. It said it was “hard” to control the public and cited poverty as a reason for the spread of these colonies.

The corporation, however, said building plans had been sanctioned and development and debris charges received for these colonies. It said there was a proposal to regularise some of these.

However, all this is mere eyewash as plans of these colonies have not been passed. Unauthorised colonies continue to flourish under “political patronage” on the outskirts of the city like the Annagarh area, beyond Sultanwind and Chhatiwind Gate, Chheharta, Chabal Road, Fategarh Churian, Ajnala, etc.

Corporation officials allege that political heavyweights stall efforts to check unauthorised construction. They reveal that many times demolished buildings are reconstructed under political patronage.

Sources in the corporation reveal that many politicians possess unauthorised landholdings in connivance with corporation officials and the police. 


Police-public meetings planned
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 12
In continuation with people-oriented policing launched by the DIG Ludhiana Range, Mr Rohit Chaudhry, a police-public meeting will be organised at Ropar on March 17. Residents of this police district along with those in Ludhiana, Jagraon and Khanna can hope of better police services as the DIG has announced the setting up of mobile police stations, first of their kind in the state.

Giving this information to The Tribune here today, the DIG said public meetings and mohalla-level meetings were important as they helped in bringing the police and public closer. He said he was announcing the dates in advance so that people could participate. The police had also decided to extend the popular job-card scheme and a unique “work chart” scheme in Ropar under which beat constables would be given a card for the regular checking of problems occuring in their areas.

He said he would take personal interest in the organisation of public meetings and other schemes. The public meetings held earlier had become a farce with police officials ensuring that no person with an anti-police complaint came at the meetings.

The mobile police stations would visit a scheduled place every week so that people living far away from the police station of their area would not have to travel long distances. These would also help in solving a dispute on the spot. A “work chart” scheme would entail each police personnel and officer to fill the works done by him in a month.


‘No war panel’ to visit border areas
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 12
Akali Dal (A) chief Simranjit Singh Mann has constituted a seven-member “no war panel” that will tour border areas of Rajasthan. Bhai Dhyan Singh Mand, vice-president, of the party will be the convener of the panel while Mr Jaskarn Singh, general secretary, will be its co-convener. Other office-bearers of the party, including Mr Gurjatinder Singh, Mr Iqbal Singh Chaba, Mr Gurmej Singh Sandhu, Mr Varinder Singh Mann and Mr Joginder Singh, will be its members.


Healthcare will be priority: minister
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 12
The Congress government will provide basic health facilities in the state, Mr Romesh Chander Dogra, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Punjab, said here yesterday. He said the government would try to overcome the financial crisis by raising funds and curtailing expenditure.

Referring to the Punjab Health Systems Corporation, he said it had failed to deliver the desired results. Crores had been spent on the expansion of government hospitals and rural health centres but nothing concrete has been done as far as the health facilities were concerned.

He would recommend the state government to introduce mobile dispensaries for the remote areas. He would also approach NGOs in this regard. He would prefer to make a technocrat Chairman and Managing Director of the Punjab Health Systems Corporation instead of a bureaucrat, he added. 


Sikh bodies urged to help riot-hit
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 12
Expressing deep grief and anguish over the tragedy at Godhra in which 57 kar sevaks were burnt to death and the subsequent riots in Gujarat, the Sikh Core Group, at a meeting held here today, urged the Sikh organisations and others in Punjab to extend help to the affected populace as in the case of quake victims last year.

The group sought deterrent punishment for those involved in the Godhra incident and the riots.


4 killed in mishap
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, March 12
Four persons were killed and 24 others injured when a car was crushed between a Punjab Roadways bus and a private one, near Bath Sahib, 22 km from here, last evening.

The occupants of the car — Prof R.K. Verma of Naya Nangal in Ropar district, his son-in-law, Baldev Raj Verma, resident of Nanwal in Pathankot subdivision and his close relative, Sanjeev Kumar, advocate, died on the spot. Another Punjab Roadways bus passenger Kishan Chand succumbed to his injuries in the Civil Hospital, Pathankot.

The injured were admitted to the hospital.


Straw price hike hits dairy farmers
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, March 12
The increase in prices of dry straw (toorhi) in Punjab, particularly in the districts of Ferozepore, Muktsar, Moga, Faridkot, Bathinda, Mansa and Sangrur, has hit the dairy industry and poor peasants.

According to details collected by TNS from this Malwa belt of the state, the price of dry straw has touched the high mark of Rs 200 per quintal. In the last season of April, May and June 2001, the prices varied between Rs 45 and Rs 80 per quintal.

The immediate effect of the price rise has been a decrease in cash value of livestock. Peasants have been forced to sell-off their buffaloes and cows at throwaway prices as they could not afford to provide them the regular feed of green fodder mixed with dry straw. The cash value of a buffalo and cow has decreased by Rs 5000 to 15,000 depending upon the milching quality.

Binder Singh, holding a cultivable land of 4 acres only is passing through a deep financial crisis. He had four milching buffaloes last year. He used to sell 12 litres of milk daily. But the price rise of straw increased his cost input, forcing him to sell three buffaloes.

He has kept only one buffalo for his personal use. “The price of milk remained the same, whereas the rise in price of straw had put an extra burden of Rs 1,000 per month which he could not afford, thereby forcing him to sell his cattle”, he said.

Although by April-end, there will be plenty of straw in the market, the prices are expected to reduce very less as compared to the past years.

The farmers expect that the prices will remain somewhere between Rs 120 and Rs 150 per quintal, depending upon the demand. If such a situation prevails in the coming season, the prices of cattle will further decline by the end of the year. It will become difficult to find purchasers.

Deteriorating financial position, escalating cost of manual harvesting and hike in the costs of farm inputs has given a crippling blow to the dairy industry.

Although farmers used reaper machine to increase the production of straw as fodder, the latest findings of Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, say that the fodder (straw) prepared by the reaper machine has more sand and silica content, which is harmful for the digestive system of cattle. 


Ferozepore gets video- conferencing facility
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, March 12
Ferozepore has become the second district in the state after Faridkot to have a videoconferencing facility via the V-Sat. Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, Political Secretary to the Chief Minister and MLA, Guruharsahai, inaugurated the facility here today in the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Mr S.R. Ladhar.

He discussed various matters pertaining to wheat procurement and industrial development with the Deputy Commissioner, Faridkot, Mr A. Venu Prashad through this facility.

Rana Sodhi said this facility would soon be started in the office of the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary in Chandigarh. He said the entire wheat procurement process would be monitored through the videoconferencing.

Mr Ladhar said with the help of this facility, the officers would be saved the botheration of coming to Chandigarh time and again. He said soon all revenue and other office records would be computerised.


Permanent nakas to check smuggling
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 12
The state Excise Department authorities is thinking of setting up permanent police posts or nakas along the border belts apart from strengthening the mobile anti-smuggling wing.

Liquor vend contractors are facing problems due to the smuggling of liquor from outside Punjab and their business has been affected adversely.

Official sources said liquor vend contractors asked excise and taxation officials about the steps which the government would take to check intra-state smuggling of liquor. Though the government had thought of setting up an excise police wing to deal with this problem, the contractors felt nothing concrete had been done so far.

Last year, the Excise and Taxation Department officials could not find a bidder for 45 per cent of liquor groups in Bathinda, Mansa and Muktsar districts due to huge financial losses suffered by the contractors due to smuggling.

The police in many districts had impounded several vehicles carrying countrymade liquor and IMFL from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan.

Though senior officials took up this matter several times with their counterparts in the Haryana Government, the smuggling could not be checked.

The other problem which the contractors have been facing is the illegal distillation of liquor in almost all parts of Punjab.

A major section of the contractors kept suffering huge losses due to considerable decline in the sale of liquor from licensed vends as the police failed to check the menace of illegal distillation.

Certain contractors even approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the DGP, and the Punjab State Human Rights Commission, through a written representation in which they alleged that illicit liquor was being distilled and sold off with the active connivance of police and excise officials.


Racket in varsity admissions alleged
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 12
Veteran Communist leader Satya Pal Dang has demanded jobs for family members of terrorism victims on a priority basis. He has also raised the issue of alleged admission racket in Guru Nanak Dev University. In a letter to Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, the CPI leader stated that jobs given to such dependants by the Akali Government was allegedly “just an attempt to erase the impression of unsympathetic attitude of the government in view of the elections.” He said many of those who had been asked to report to various departments for jobs had found that there were no vacancies.

Mr Dang also drew CM’s attention towards fake admissions in the university. He stated the instance of one Rakesh Kumar who had allegedly paid bribe to secure admission. He stated that some VIPs were behind the hushing up of the case despite an FIR being lodged in this regard.


Refund fees, dental college told
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 12
The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, while disposing of a complaint of students of Khalsa Dental College and Hospital, Nangal Kalan, has issued orders to Mr Naginder Singh Harika, Managing Director of the college, to refund the admission fee charged from the students with interest at the rate of 18 per cent per annum and Rs 2,000 as costs within one month.

In the complaint filed before the forum, Anuradha Narang of Phagwara had stated that she had paid Rs 58,000 to Mr Harika to get admission in the BDS course in August, 1998. Subsequently, she paid Rs 10,000 to the college. Similarly Alka Gupta of Jalandhar paid Rs 1.08 lakh as college fee and Rs 20,000 as hostel fee. Jasbin Puri of Jalandhar, Anupriya of Abohar, Minakshi Kataria of Fazilka, Heena Gupta, Ham Jain and Divya Joyti, all of Jalandhar paid Rs 1 lakh each. However, the dental classes in the college did not start. Despite their repeated requests, the college management did not refund the fees and other charges deposited by the students. Some of the students had to get admission on other dental colleges.

Mr Harika is already in jail since May 1 as he is facing trial in case registered against him under Section 420, 467, 468, 471 and 120-B of the IPC on the complaint of Mr Suresh Sharma, an IAS officer of Delhi cadre. Various bail applications moved by Mr Harika have been dismissed by various courts, including the Supreme Court.


Govt crackdown on coaching centres
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, March 12
The Punjab Government has decided to curb the growth of private coaching classes by way of accountability of Principals and managements of educational institutions.

According to a circular issued by the Secretary of Higher Education Department on February 18, private coaching classes or tuition has been termed “non-professional”. All Principals and managements of recognised colleges have been asked to submit a written undertaking that none of their staff members are engaged in private coaching classes. The deadline for submitting the undertaking has been fixed for May 23.

The government has given a clear warning that if the contents of the letter are found wrong, the grants to the institutions will be stopped. Provisions have been made, requiring that the Principals and the managements submit such affidavits before the beginning of every academic session.

The circular has been issued as per the provisions of the UGC. They have been asked to take stern action against teachers engaged in private tuition.

According to various surveys, more than 65 per cent of students in the urban areas appearing for public examinations go to private coaching classes. Earlier, tuitions were recommended only for weak students, but now they are considered essential for all students.

Educationists feel that the move of the government is appreciable but overcrowded classrooms, outdated syllabi, under-qualified or overqualified professors and lack of teaching aids leave much to be desired.

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