Friday, March 15, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Cost-cutting to start from CM’s office
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Administering the state from the top appears to be the strategy of the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, holding that “everything must start from the top for a clear message down the line. Austerity measures will start from my office before cost-cutting is introduced in the case of former Chief Ministers.”

In an exclusive interview with The Tribune here this afternoon, the Chief Minister not only outlined his immediate priorities but also made it clear that the Congress government would “live up to the expectations of the people who voted us to power on two counts — to ensure a corruption-free environment and provide neat and transparent governance.”

“Our first effort has been to bring in a clean lot of officers, both at the state and district levels. We have tried to give a chance to all those young officers who were denied such opportunities before. They are totally competent and dedicated people. The message has gone right down and the feedback has been overwhelming.

“Now the next step is implementation. Today, I had my first meeting with the Director-General and Inspectors-General of Police. Next week I will address meetings of the deputy commissioners and district police chiefs to tell them about the policies and programmes of the government.

“Besides, the work of the subcommittees, including one on the revival of industries, has started. I had a meeting with Mr A.S. Chatha today. Dr S.S. Johal is away and he will be back on March 18. The Singla Committee on the restructuring of finance will also start functioning soon. Similarly, the empowered committee for clearing projects or investments in Punjab within 48 hours of the submission of proposals will be activated next week. The idea is to set the ball rolling and revive the economy of the state as quickly as possible,” he says, maintaining that a lot of interest has been expressed in investment in Punjab.

The Punjab Agro Industries Corporation and other such bodies had started scouting for companies as nodal agencies to facilitate diversification and agro-processing. For small and marginal farmers, things like the processing of chillies and tomatoes and for bigger farmers horticulture were the avenues which were being explored to make farming more remunerative.

“In less than a month, we have done a lot of work. But since Punjab has gone back so much, it is really an arduous task to bring it back on the rails,” he said.

For the common man, the redress of his grievance both at the subdivision and district levels was very important, said the Chief Minister, maintaining that “absenteeism” and “subletting of jobs” would be dealt with “sternly”.

“At the Civil Secretariat, we will fix one day for public grievances,” he said holding that the practice of officers operating from their “camp offices” making themselves “inaccessible” would be discontinued with immediate effect. The officers had to remain available to people in their offices and not at their camp offices.

He agreed that in most of the departments, 90 per cent of the budgetary allocation went towards meeting the cost of establishment, including the payment of salaries to the staff and overhead expenses.

“We have not applied our mind to this aspect so far. We will study it and have to work out ways and means to generate funds for developmental activities. How can PAU function when 93 per cent of its budget is eaten up by establishment. We have to do something about this. Right now I cannot comment on downsizing the establishment. I will have to study it.

“The finances of the state are in a mess. They were going criss-cross. Sangat darshan broke the established laws and the whole planning process is in a shambles. There is no money for anything. We have to restructure the economy in such a way so as to bring the state back on the road to planned development,” he said.

Talking about the decentralisation of powers, he said that giving “panchayats and local bodies powers was a Congress programme given by Rajiv Gandhi. The panchayats and local bodies would be given all powers. Why shouldn’t a panchayat be empowered to recruit a teacher for the village school? The teacher would be accountable to the panchayat.

The Chief Minister said: “Our clear instructions are that no election, panchayat, municipal committee, panchayat samiti or zila parishad, should be delayed. They should be held as and when they are due. I will have a meeting with Ch Jagjit Singh tomorrow. I am told that municipal corporation elections are due. They will be held as scheduled.”

Talking about the setting up of a judicial commission on corruption, he said that the necessary details and evidence were being collected. The Advocate-General was consulting some leading lawyers. Other legal experts were also being contacted. “Once we have the basic information ready , the process of setting up the commission will start. The policy of the government is to make all public servants accountable for their actions.

Capt Amarinder Singh said that relations of the Punjab Government both with the neighbouring states and the Centre were cordial. “A couple of days ago, the Haryana Chief Minister, Mr O.P.Chautala, called me and expressed his desire to come and greet me . I told him that since he was senior to me I would go and meet him very soon. In New Delhi, my meetings with Union Government leaders were cordial and all help has been promised to the state government.”

Referring to party affairs , he said that he had already spoken to the party President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi. “I already have a lot of work in my capacity as Chief Minister. I would love that the party position should be given to someone else so that I can concentrate on my challenging assignment. I have no one in mind and it is for the party high command to decide the new PPCC chief.”

“Regarding the Rajya Sabha seat, again it is the party high command which has to decide. The vacancy has not been notified as yet,” he said while referring to the resignation of Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder from the Rajya Sabha.

Coming back to party affairs, he said that the process of nominating MLAs on boards and corporations might not start immediately. A balance had to be maintained between MLAs and those party leaders who could not be given the party ticket in the last Assembly elections.

“Similarly, we will have an expansion of the Council of Ministers in May or June this year where those senior party leaders who could not be accommodated earlier and some first-timers will be considered,” the Chief Minister said.


Canadian court comes to Ludhiana
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 14
At first glance, it appeared like a western crew shooting a courtroom scene for a Hollywood blockbuster. A closer look revealed that for the first time in history a foreign court had been set up courtroom on Indian soil. The federal Court of Canada has been conducting a trial in the city for the past few days that, besides having far reaching ramifications for potential Canadian immigrants, will also strengthen people’s faith in the judicial system.

A team of the Federal Court of Canada, headed by the Trial Division Judge Honorable, Mr Justice Frederick E. Gibson, and accompanied by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has examined 12 odd witnesses in a case pertaining to the revocation of a petition of a Canadian Citizen of Indian origin.

The court, which was set up in the ante-room of Hotel Park Plaza here has examined about 10 odd witnesses over four days in a case filed in December, 1995, by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration of Canada in Winnipeg, Manitoba, against Malkiat Singh of Punjab for the revocation of his Canadian citizenship for wrong statement in his immigration papers.

“Since it was not possible to pursue the case in Canada in the absence of evidence that was only available here, the Federal Court of Canada requested the Government of India to allow the court to set up the court room here to conduct the trial”, Mr Charles E. Stinson, Special Advisor-cum-Registrar of the Federal Court of Canada, told the correspondent.

The accused in this case, Malkiat Singh, was convicted in a murder case by the Ludhiana sessions Judge after which he filed an appeal before the Punjab and Haryana High Court and got bail. He jumped bail and fled to Canada where he got Canadian citizenship. Though the case was closed, a complaint was filed before the Canadian Citizen and Immigration Department by relatives of the person murdered. The court was now pursuing the matter to verify if Malkiat Singh had made a wrong statement in his immigration and citizenship petition.

Mr Stinson disclosed that it was in October, 2001, that the Government of India gave the permission to set up a Rogatory Commission in India to cross-examine 21 witnesses in the citizen revocation matter under Section 10 (1) of the Canadian Citizenship Act before the trial division of the court. Since the witnesses belonged to Punjab and Park Plaza was the only government- classified five star hotel in the state that could provide a safe environment for setting up a court room, the Canadian High Commission in Delhi made all preparations in consultation with the Park Plaza management for the smooth conduct of the trial.

The witnesses included handwriting experts and witnesses in the original murder trial before the sessions court. Those accompanying the federal judge from Canada included his steno and personal assistant, besides two security personnel headed by Corporal B.W (Brent) Ross who are in-charge of the Judge’s personal security.

Court official, including lawyers in the case said the case would have far reaching implications as it would send a clear signal to the people in Punjab and elsewhere that no one could get away from the law in India or in Canada after furnishing false information and violating the law of the land anywhere.

The wrong statement in the immigration petition by Malkiat Singh if proved would lead to criminal conviction and possibly deportation to India, courtroom officials said. The trail proceedings began here on Monday and four sessions have been conducted to record the statements of witnesses on oath.

Interestingly the Federal Court of Canada used the Bhagvadgita and Bible to make the witnesses take an oath to speak the truth.


Cong to back CPI nominee in Malout
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
A seven-member high-powered committee of Congress and CPI leaders has been constituted to manage the election campaign for the Malout assembly seat, the polling for which is scheduled to be held on April 4.

Addressing a joint Press conference here today, the PPCC president, Capt Amarinder Singh and the secretary of the Punjab unit of the CPI, Dr Joginder Dayal, said that as per the pre-election agreement, the Congress would support the CPI candidate in Malout.

Mr Baldev Singh Ballamgarh, who is the NCP candidate from Malout, today announced his decision to withdraw from the contest and join the Congress.

The PPCC chief said that besides Dr Dayal, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Mr Varinder Kataria, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, Mr Santokh Singh Randhawa, Mr Mohinder Singh Gill and he himself would campaign in Malout. A joint meeting of workers of the CPI and the Congress would be held in Malout on March 16.

Dr Dayal said that the secular front of the Congress-CPI would continue to oppose the communal SAD-BJP alliance. Dr Dayal said that unfortunately the SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, was now trying to whip up communal passions as his tone had changed and become more communal after losing the Assembly elections.

Capt Amarinder Singh said both CPI and Congress leaders would address joint rallies in Malout.

The Chief Minister said that the administrative reshuffle would continue till middle-rung officials were also transferred. He also announced that elections at all levels would be held as scheduled.

Talking about developments in Patiala, he said that the question of taking action against the Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University was being examined by legal experts. The police he said, had been told to take the necessary action as per the law against the Vice-Chancellor.

The Chief Minister maintained that the SYL case was not over as yet. It was being examined by legal experts.

He said the government would take action in all cases of harassment of women in a time-bound manner.

Capt Amarinder Singh disclosed that the Punjab State Electricity Board would be reconstituted soon. He indicated that the present Chairman, Mr Sudhir Mittal, would continue for the time being as the financial position of the board was dismal. Even the power scenario was dismal.


Talwandi’s security withdrawn
Tribune Reporters

Ludhiana, March 14
The state government has withdrawn official security guards provided to Jathedar Jagdev Singh Talwandi, senior vice-president of the SAD and former SGPC chief. He had been provided more than a dozen police personnel both at his residence here and during his travels in different parts of the state and had also been given two gypsies. He is now left with six personnel of the IRB and he fears that the same would also be withdrawn soon.

Jathedar Talwandi, who had a miraculous escape when militants made murderous assault on him in November, 1989, today alleged that the state government was humiliating him by withdrawing police guards. He said the security guards were being withdrawn without prior notice. He alleged that he was away to Chandigarh when the gypsy carrying his gunmen was withdrawn and they had to travel by bus to Ludhiana.

Jathedar Talwandi disclosed that gunmen of his sons, Ranjit Singh, who had been elected MLA from Raikot, and Jagjit Singh, Chairman of the Punjab State Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC), had also been withdrawn.

Jathedar Talwandi met Mr M.S. Bhullar, Director-General, Punjab Police, last evening here and lodged a protest with him over the withdrawal. Mr Bhullar assured him that he would look into the matter.

Mr Rajinder Singh, IG (Security), when contacted at Chandigarh, said the security provided to political leaders and other VIPs was under review and all security men were being withdrawn.

Mr Rajinder Singh said the elected MLAs were being provided three security personnel and one official vehicle. The vehicle would be provided by the State Transport Commissioner (STC). Earlier, the vehicles were provided by the security branch of the Punjab police. Meanwhile, Jathedar Talwandi left for Chandigarh today to meet the President of the SAD, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, to apprise him of the situation.

SANGRUR: As per the instructions of the Punjab Government, as many as 40 security personnel, belonging to the Punjab Police, have been withdrawn from the security of 19 VIPs in the district, so far, by the police authorities.

Talking to mediapersons at his first meeting with them here today, Mr A.S. Rai, SSP, Sangrur, said the district police had withdrawn an NGO, four havildars and 35 constables from the security of the VIPs while the withdrawal of more security persons, as per the norms fixed by the government, would continue.

Mr Rai further said among the VIPs whose security had been withdrawn or reduced included former ministers, former MLAs and sitting MLAs.


Mandi Board Chairman shot at by son
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, March 14
Mr Mal Singh Ghuman, Chairman, Mandi Board, Punjab, was allegedly shot at by his son Jaskeerat Singh at their residence at Mullanpur Dakha today. The accused has been arrested. Mr Ghuman received bullet injury on his right leg and is now reported to be out of danger. He is admitted to the CMC hospital here.

The incident took place at about 1 p.m. and within an hour a team of the Jagraon police raided Guru Nanak School run by the accused in the town and arrested him. Two weapons, a .32 revolver and a .12 bore double-barrel gun along with five cartridges, were seized from the accused. He fired six shots, three in the air. The revolver was an imported one. The police was verifying if both weapons were licensed.

SSP, Jagraon, Balkar Singh Sandhu, said the case against Jaskeerat Singh has been registered on the statement of Mr Ghuman given to the Mullanpur police over the phone. Mr Ghuman told the police that his son fired at him and then ran away to the school along with the weapons. The accused has been booked under Section 307, IPC.

According to Mr Paramjit Singh Gorayan, DSP, Mullanpur Dakha, the two quarrelled over some family dispute. He said after an argument the accused fired at Mr Ghuman, but missed. Mr Ghuman locked himself in a room but his son broke it open. He fired the third shot in the victim’s leg.

Later, he ran to the school and fired three shots in the air. The police said the accused was being interrogated and the actual cause of the argument would be known by tomorrow. Police sources said the argument was over some women relative.

Meanwhile, the relatives of Mr Ghuman attending on him at the CMC hospital were tight-lipped over the incident and said his leg was fractured in an accident. Mr Ghuman was advised by the doctors not to talk.


Mazda patronising Lalru unit: complaint
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
Complaints of serious irregularities in some of the state-owned or state-funded companies have started pouring into the Chief Minister’s Secretariat expecting the new government to take action and prevent any further losses to these public sector companies.

In one of the complaints, a resident of Sector 8 in Chandigarh has alleged that huge losses suffered by the Asron in Ropar-based Swaraj Mazda was because of various irregularities in the fabrication of the bodies of buses and cargo boxes.

The complainant has alleged that the company was patronising only one vendor for manufacturing bus bodies and cargo boxes even after ignoring lower quotations for similar jobs done for other companies in the same trade.

Sources in the Chief Minister’s office confirmed that a complaint has been received and preliminary investigations were being conducted.

The complainant has maintained that in 1989, Swaraj Mazda had a vendor for manufacturing bus bodies. At that time its requirement was 40 to 50 buses a month. It had another vendor for manufacturing cargo boxes and the requirement was at least 150 cargo boxes a month.

But in 1990, the top management of the company started patronising a new Lalru-based company for the manufacture of bus bodies and gradually reduced the award of work to the cargo box manufacturing unit as well. Gradually the entire cargo box work was allotted to the Lalru-based company. The complainant alleged that against the current market rates, this company had monopolised the entire work for the Swaraj Mazda and had been charging exorbitant rates for both bus bodies and cargo boxes.

At present, when the requirement was 125 to 250 buses a month and 250 to 400 cargo boxes, the entire work was being given to one company without inviting competitive bids from other companies in the same trade. The total turnover for bus manufacturing and cargo boxes runs into Rs 28 to Rs 30 crore a year. Compared to market rates for the similar product, the management of Swaraj Mazda was paying 10 to 15 per cent extra, it alleged.


Fasting students seek doctor’s removal
Tribune News Service

Longowal (Sunam), March 14
Students of the Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology (SLIET) staged a dharna and began a relay fast at the main gate of the institute here today demanding the removal of Dr Kuldip Singh, posted at the health centre of the SLIET, while holding the doctor responsible for the death of a student, Vikrant Singh, who was seriously injured in a road accident near here and later died on the way to Ludhiana a few days ago.

The students have also demanded the removal of Dr V. Sahni from the post of Dean (Welfare) of the institute, alleging that his attitude towards the students was not proper and he had not played an appropriate role after the death of Vikrant Singh.

On the other hand, Dr R.C. Chauhan, Director of the SLIET, has ordered an inquiry into the alleged negligence of Dr Kuldip Singh in the case of Vikrant Singh’s death. The inquiry will be conducted by Dr Anand Vaz, Dean, Academic, of the institute. Besides, the Director has also entrusted the functions of the Dean (Welfare) to Prof V.K. Jain till further orders.

A large number of students, including girls, raised slogans against the authorities. The student leaders stated that their fast would continue till the acceptance of their demands.

The girl students alleged that they had been living in the hostel as “jail inmates”. They claimed that their STD booth had been closed the previous day so that they could not talk to anybody. Besides, the authorities had also asked the students of diploma and certificate courses to remain inside the hostels. It was alleged that a list of about 100 girl students, who had participated in the strike, had been prepared by the SLIET authorities to take action against them.

The girls announced that they would also participate in the relay fast to express their solidarity with their institute.

Talking to mediapersons, Dr R.C. Chauhan, Director of the SLIET, said he had sent Dr Kuldip Singh on leave and instituted an inquiry against him on the recommendations of a fact-finding committee. He further said the committee had given a clean chit to Dr V. Sahni, Dean (Welfare). However, he added that on the request of Dr V. Sahni for immediate relief on health grounds, the functions of Dean (Welfare) had been entrusted with Prof V.K. Jain till further orders.


SAD meeting today

Moga, March 14
Former Chief Minister and SAD President Parkash Singh Badal has convened a meeting of party MLAs, Ex-MLAs, SGPC members, presidents district Akali Dals and SAD working committee members at Malout tomorrow, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, a former minister in the Badal Government, said.

Mr Garg said the meeting would chalk out a strategy to conduct the election of Mukhtiar Kaur, widow of former Akali Minister Sujjan Singh. Ms Kaur is the official SAD candidate for the Malout (reserve) constituency, polling for which is scheduled to be held on April 4. Ms Mukhtiar Kaur will also file her nomination papers tomorrow. PTI


Ammonia leakage affects 60
Our Correspondent

Jaitu (Faridkot), March 14
A case under various sections of the IPC has been registered against the owners of an ice factory from where ammonia leaked due to explosion of a cylinder last night which caused problems like irritation in eyes and vomiting.

Panic gripped residents of the town last night when around 8.30 p.m. a cylinder containing ammonia and weighing about 150 kg exploded in a factory in the Ram Lila ground. The gas spread to nearby Telianwala Mohalla.

Residents of the area rushed out of their homes complaining of irritation in the eyes, problem in breathing and vomiting following which they were rushed to the local Civil Hospital.

Hospital authorities said they had treated about 60 persons with the same problem. However, they were discharged after giving them first aid.

The explosion was so powerful that it damaged the roof and wall of the room where the cylinder was stored. The cylinder exploded reportedly due to excessive pressure.

The residents alleged that the owners of such factories manufacturing ice had been requested time and again to shift their business to non-residential area.

They alleged that the situation would have been worse if the cylinder had not exploded and the gas leaked from it throughout the night.

A case has been registered against Dayal Chand and Dhayan Chand under Sections 278, 284, 207 and 336 of the IPC.


Sekhri’s one-man drive against graft
A.S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
A newly appointed minister in the Capt Amarinder Singh Ministry has on his own launched an anti-corruption drive and offered a reward of Rs 10,000 to anyone who brings a genuine case of corruption to his notice.

“The menace of corruption is deep and all-pervasive”, said Mr Ashwani Sekhri, Minister of State for Tourism and Cultural Affairs, in a talk with TNS here today. “But somebody has to take the initiative and begin somewhere. As a matter of fact, a drive against corruption was one of the main planks of the Congress in the recent elections in which Capt Amarinder Singh led the party to victory. I am only trying to fulfil that vow in my own humble way. I will be offering the reward money out of my pocket. Of course, the government has its own vast mechanism to tackle this phenomenon which will continue to function in the normal manner”.

The minister who represents the border constituency of Batala in the Punjab Assembly, said he had already started his drive. “During my first visit to Batala after becoming a minister, I was approached by a party worker who said that he had been forced to pay an illegal gratification of Rs 15,000 to a DSP. The incident took place during the Akali regime and the Congress worker wanted that now that it is his own party which is ruling the state, I must prevail upon the DSP to return the money.

“I did just that. I rang up the DSP and told him that I have received an affidavit from the party worker about the payment of bribe. Will he like to return the money or go to jail? The DSP returned the money in no time.”

Mr Sekhri, who has been the President of the Panjab University Students Council in the 80’s said he had always fought for the eradication of corruption from the society even during his student days.

Mr Sekhri said now that he had been given a chance to serve the people, he would like to do so in right earnest. He said he had started his anti-corruption drive from his own constituency. “There are certain doctors in the Civil Hospital at Batala who have been charging up to Rs 30,000 for giving fake medical certificates to patients. I have given them a strict warning that such behaviour would not be tolerated.


Bridegroom, ‘baraatis’ beaten up
Our Correspondent

Balachaur, March 14
A piquant situation arose in a village, 5 km from here, when a bridegroom, Davinder Pal of Chadiani Khurd village, refused to marry Sunita Rani of Udhnowal village on March 8.

According to information, the bridegroom immediately after the “jaimala” ceremony refused to sit for the “pheras”. Just as the “bedi” ceremony was about to start, he threw away his ‘sehra’ and pulled down the ‘mandap’. Even after the intervention of villagers and guests, he refused to relent and was beaten up along with the ‘baraatis’.

However, the situation was saved when a local advocate, Mr Roshan Lal, offered to marry his son, Mr Ravi Kumar, with Sunita Rani. The marriage was solemnised the same day. The police has registered a case against Devinder Pal and others on the basis of a complaint lodged by the girl’s father, Mr Hari Chand. They were today remanded in judicial custody till March 26.


Mazar damaged, cash looted
Our Correspondent

Jagraon, March 14
Mazar-e-Sharif of Pir Baba Mohkam Din Bali situated in Khangah chowk has been found to be damaged, its cash box broken and money looted. The police has registered a case under Sections 452/379/323/427/506/148-149 of the IPC on the statement of Mian Basant Baba, head priest of the Mazar-e-Sharif against Piara Singh, Pritam Singh, Rana Singh, Joga Singh, Sukha Singh, Sucha Singh, Mita Singh, Chinda Singh, Nek Singh and Raja Singh.

According to the complainant he had been serving the Mazar-e-Sharif for the past 36 years and resided in the dargah. He made an application against Piara Singh, Pritam Singh, Rana Singh and Joga Singh on March 9 to the SSP here, as all these persons used to create nuisance by parking their Peter Engine Rehras illegally.

The complainant has alleged that he along with Sarjit Singh and Manjit Singh were present on the dargah when all the accused armed with iron rods and bricks entered the dargah and caused injuries to the complainant and Surjit Singh along with Raju and Manjit Singh who had also come to save them. He has accused that all these persons damaged the cash box built inside the dargah and also looted Rs 10,000 from his pocket along with a wrist watch. The police has registered a case and has started investigation thereof. There is resentment among the people of the area over this incident.


Thermal staff stage dharna
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 14
Employees of the local Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant staged a dharna in front of the plant gate here today to show their resentment against the non-fulfillment of their demands.

The call for dharna was given by the Struggle Committee of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB). The employees of the PSEB of the region also participated.

The employees shouted slogans against the management of the PSEB, which they alleged was not implementing the decision taken by it for fulfilling their demands. They alleged that the management and the representatives of the committee had made an agreement in this connection sometime back.

The president of the Union of Thermal Employees said they had been urging the management to accept their demands but to no avail. He said they were not given salary for the overtime they did. He said the 23-year pay scale had not been implemented. He said the employees would oppose any move of the government to privatise the PSEB. He criticised the policy of the authorities under which it had demolished some posts. He added that the move would increase the workload of the employees.


Demonstration by bank staff
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, March 14
On the call of Central trade unions, employees of various local bank branches today held a demonstration in front of the main branch of the State Bank of Patiala here to observe an all-India protest day.

The employees were protesting against the privatisation drive, the removal of quantitative restrictions on imports. The employees were addressed on the occasion by Mr Pali Ram Bansal, assistant secretary of the All-India Gramin Bank Employees Association, Mr B.S. Sidhu, secretary, local unit of the Punjab Bank Employees Federation, and Mr Devinder Gupta, a leader of SBP employees.


Bank employees hold protest
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 14
Employees of various banks of the city today wore black badges to show resentment against the policies of the government, which they said were anti-people and anti-employee.

Mr Pawan Jindal, General Secretary of the State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur Employees’ Union, said the decision to observe the “All-India Protest Day” today was taken by the united forum of bank unions. He said different bank employee unions affiliated to the national body of the bank employees’ union supported the protest.

He said the employees were unsatisfied with the decision of privatising some government and semi-government institutions.

He added that the change in labour laws in a recent decision was against the interests of the employees of private concerns.

He criticised the decrease in rebate in tax under Section 88 and said every employee had to loose minimum of Rs 700 per month. He said such a decision would create problems for the employees.

He criticised some other proposals of the Union Budget and said the Budget was not prepared keeping in view the salaried class but to please the industrialists.

Others who spoke on the occassion included Mr Ashok Sharma, Mr Binder Pal Garg, Mr M.M. Behl, all union leaders of different banks.


Minister hospitalised
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 14
Dr Harbans Lal, Minister for Forests, was hospitalised due to cardiac arrest today. According to Mr Subhash Sood, OSD with the minister, this morning at his Sirhind residence he felt uneasiness and pain in the chest. He was admitted to Sigma Heart Centre, Ludhiana. The condition of the minister is stated to be stable.


Farmers pin hopes on Bt-cotton
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 14
Cotton growers of Punjab, suffering losses due to repeated failure of crop for the past seven years for various reasons including the bollworm attack, have started pinning hopes on Bt-cotton to overcome the problems.

When the cotton growers, are reeling under heavy debts. Some of whom them have committed suicides after finding it difficult to meet financial liabilities, are of the opinion that only Bt-cotton can give a bumper crop and bring them out of the vicious circle of debt.

The farmers The Tribune talked to said that only Bt-cotton could get them relief from the menace of spurious seeds, costly spray of pesticides and other things as it had strong resistance to the bollworm. They added that the Punjab government should make arrangements to permit the farmers to go for the cultivation of Bt-cotton by providing them with the seed of it in adequate quantity.

Mr Kattar Singh Jeeda, President, Northern Indian Cotton Growers Association, said that the central government should allow the farmers to start Bt-cotton cultivation when field trial conducted under the supervision of the India Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) had been remained favourable. The chairman of the ICAR, Mr Punjab Singh, also had submitted a report in connection with the field trials, conducted in the four districts of Punjab also, to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) set up by the Union Environment Ministry.

He demanded that the GEAC, which was expected to meet in the last week of this month to take a decision on the cultivation of Bt-cotton in India, should invite representatives of farmers from the cotton-growing areas to know their views before taking any decision. He added that cultivation of Bt-cotton would save farmers from the “loot” of those who had been indulging in the sale of spurious seed and pesticides with the active connivance of the Agriculture Department officials.

For the past seven years, the production of cotton in north India comprising Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan have been declining very fast due to repeated attack of bollworm and the menace of open sale of spurious pesticides and seeds. Punjab, which once produced more than 26 lakh bales in a year, now has been finding it difficult to produce more than seven lakh bales a year.

Due to hike in the cost of cultivation and decline in production and in the absence of crop insurance, the cotton growers of this belt have come under heavy debts. Some of such farmers committed suicides in the previous years while some others have sold off their holdings to repay the debt.

Mr Jeeda pointed out that when the government agencies had failed to provide the farmers with certified seeds of traditional cotton in adequate quantity then why these agencies had not been allowing them to go for Bt-cotton cultivation. He added that if the government wanted to revive the economy of farmers and then economy of various states, then it should make arrangement for supplying the farmers with genetically modified seeds in the required quantity and help them in the cultivation of same.


PSEB initiates reforms
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 14
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has initiated the process of expediting reforms to revamp and strengthen the existing power infrastructure in the state.

These steps have been taken under the accelerated power development programme (APDP) launched by the Union Power Ministry.

As per the new guidelines issued by the Power Ministry, if a state electricity board generates additional revenue which is fallout of system’s improvement or better efficiency, it would be eligible for a grant equivalent to the one provided by the Central Government.

In its endeavour to meet the required targets, the APDP is being launched for Mohali circle at Mohali tomorrow by the Power Minister, Mr Suresh Prabhu. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, will be presiding over the function. Ms Jayawanti Mehta, Minister of State for Power, will be the guest of honour.


Creation of OTA posts demanded
Our Correspondent

Barnala, March 14
The Punjab State Senior Operation Theatre Assistants, Operation Theatre Assistants, Operation Theatre Supervisors and Anaesthesia Technicians Union has demanded the creation of posts of Operation Theatre Assistant in various civil hospitals of Punjab.

This demand was made by the union at its executive meeting held here yesterday under the chairmanship of Neel Kanwal, president of the union.

Civil hospitals at district headquarters like Sangrur, Mansa, Fatehgarh Sahib, Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur and hospitals at Phagwara, Pathankot, Nabha, Rajpura and Rampura Phul, do not have operation theatre assistants.

The executive committee of the union demanded that every civil hospital in Punjab must have at least two posts of Operation Theatre Assistant. The union expressed its resentment against the interference of pharmacists in operation theatres of civil hospitals in the state.

The union demanded that senior operation theatre assistants with 15 years’ standing should be promoted to the position of Operation Theatre Supervisor. Operation theatre assistants with five years’ service and possessing diploma certificate in the operation theatre technician course should be promoted to Senior Operation Theatre Assistant, the union demanded.


Health corpn doing well, says minister
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 14
The Punjab Health and Family Welfare Minister, Mr Ramesh Chander Dogra, today clarified that he had at no time stated that Punjab Health Systems Corporation had failed to deliver desired results.

In a written statement, he said the corporation had performed well in upgrading the quality of health infrastructure and improving health services through its 154 secondary health care hospitals.

At its latest review conducted in November last year, the World Bank, which is the funding the Rs 422 cr project in Punjab, has commended the working of the corporation, he added.


Two arrested in murder case
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 14
The city police has arrested Balbir Singh and Puran Singh, both of Mansa Khurd village in connection with the murder of Mithu Singh. They have reportedly confessed their guilt before the police. According to the police the two accused along with Mithu Singh had consumed liquor on February 13 and after an altercation they murdered Mithu Singh and buried the body in fields. According to information, Mithu Singh, who was employed with Mr Khushminder Singh Mansahia, landlord of Mansa Khurd village, disappeared on February 13. No report about his disappearance was lodged with the police either by his employer or the parents of the deceased.

When some stray dogs dug out the body, the police swung into action and recovered the partly eaten body, which was sent to Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital, Faridkot, for a post-mortem examination by forensic experts.

The parents of the deceased reside at Barnala village near Mansa and they were under the impression that their son was working with his employer, while according to the landlord, Mithu Singh had gone to attend the marriage of his cousin. A special team comprising SPs and SHO, Mansa, has been constituted.


Drive planned against poppy husk smugglers
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 14
The Mansa police will launch a drive against smugglers bringing poppy husk from neighbouring Rajasthan for sale in this area, Mr Sudhanshu Shekhar Srivastva, SSP, said here today. He said he was determined to root out corruption. The working of the district police would be transparent. Mr Srivastva said traffic would be regulated at Mansa and the subdivisional towns of Budhlada, Bareta and Sardulgarh.


Class X Punjabi paper cancelled at 3 centres
Our Correspondent

SAS Nagar, March 14
The Punjab School Education Board has cancelled the Punjabi paper of the matriculation examination at three centres in Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts and biology paper of plus II at one centre in Kapurthala district here today.

Members of the board’s flying squads had come across cases of copying at these centres. The examination at the four centres had been cancelled under chapter 6 of general regulations for examinations.

The Controller of Examinations of the board, Mrs Harcharanjit Kaur Brar, said the biology paper of plus II was conducted today in the evening session. She said she had got complaints that examinees were indulging in “copying” at an examination centre on the premises of S.D. Model Senior Secondary School, Phagwara. As such she sent a special three-member team from here today, which was headed by Mr Jatinder Singh Mann, superintendent, examination, to Phagwara.

She said the team had informed her on the telephone that a physics teacher and a biology teacher were helping examinees in copying. She alleged that both teachers were preparing slips which were sent to the examination hall through non medical students of the same institution. She alleged that the teachers were caught red-handed and had admitted their involvement in writing and the charges had been verified by the head of the school. As such the examination at this centre had to be cancelled.

Mrs Brar said she was recommending to the Education Department and the school management to take disciplinary action against those involved in helping the students to copy.

She said the Punjabi (B) paper of the matriculation examination had been cancelled at two centres in Amritsar district. The centres were Government Senior Secondary School, Ajnala (2), and Government High School, Chamiari. The examination at these two centres had been conducted yesterday.

The Punjabi (A) paper of matriculation had also been cancelled at Government High School, Bhullar, in Gurdaspur district. The examination at this centre was conducted on March 11.


Dharna against VC
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 14
Teachers, employees and students of Punjabi University, on a call given by the Joint Action Committee (JAC), staged a dharna in front of the office of the Vice-Chancellor, Dr J.S. Ahluwalia, here today.

The dharna was addressed, among others, by Dr Balwant Singh, a senior leader of the National Communist Party. Dr Balwant Singh said that a VC was expected to be a symbol of ethics and morality and was supposed to ensure the safety of the university community. He also condemned the recent murderous assault on Dr H.S. Bhatti. Dr Balwant Singh, apart from assuring the JAC of the support of the NCP in the ongoing struggle, also expressed anguish over the delay in taking action against the VC.

Meanwhile, a delegation of elected representatives of teachers’ associations led by PUTA secretary, Dr N.S. Attri, met the Principal Secretary (Higher Education), Mr N.S. Rattan, and apprised him of the developments on the campus. Mr Attri urged Mr Rattan to take immediate remedial measures against the VC.


500 bank delegates attend meeting
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, March 14
Mr N.K. Gaur, general secretary, Punjab Bank Employees Federation, presided over the regional meeting of all bank branches of the district organised at the branch of the State Bank of Patiala in Sirhind today. Nearly 500 delegates and employees participated in the meeting.

In his address, Mr Gaur cautioned the employees against the ‘anti-employees’ policies of the managements and urged them to strengthen the employees’ unions if they had to survive. He criticised the ‘anti-labour’ policies of the Centre. Lashing out at the Budget presented by the Union Finance Minister, he said it had hit the employees, particularly the bank employees. He criticised the management of J and K Bank as well as the Jammu and Kashmir Government for lathi charging bank employees, who were going to discuss their demands.

Mr Varinder Takyar Bholi, regional secretary, who organised the meet, assured full cooperation to the AIBEA leadership.

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