Saturday, March 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Governor paints grim picture
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
The Governor, Lt-Gen J F R Jacob (retd), today presented a grim economic and financial picture of the state to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha and outlined only the broad contours of what the government proposed to do.

The thrust of his Address was on the delivery of a powerful political punch in the face of the previous SAD-BJP government and blaming it for the ills that afflict Punjab and Punjabis today. He referred to its five-year term as an era of “all-pervasive corruption’’.

He announced the setting up of a judicial commission, headed by a sitting high court Judge, to probe corruption. He gave an assurance that there would be no ‘’witch-hunt or vindictiveness’’ and also that all Congress MLAs would declare their assets.

The Governor said the government’s efforts would be to provide Punjabis ‘’freedom’’ from corruption as well as financial bankruptcy and restore the state’s pride. The government would draw up a citizens’ charter for transparent, and effective functioning by involving them.

A major part of the Address was devoted to describing the ‘’dismal’’ financial position, inherited from the recent past, with emphasis that there was little hope for the future. He came down heavily on the ‘’revenue-sacrificing’’ measures of the Akali-BJP regime like allowing ‘’free power, free water, abolition of octroi, house tax, land revenue’’ and also ‘’generously squandering the state’s resources through populist policies’’ without taking steps to replenish revenue income.

From what the Address conveyed, it is likely that the government may roll back all freebies in the Budget. On the supply of free power, the Address hinted at providing ‘’assured’’ electricity at ‘’affordable’’ rates and also suitably reducing the farmers’ debt burden. At the same time, he gave an assurance that all commitments made during the elections would be met. The previous government was charged with following ‘’ingenious strategies’’ to remain afloat, thereby pushing the state deep into a debt trap by heavy borrowings. ‘’As a result, the state government is now facing an awkward situation, when it is even unable to disburse salaries and pensions out of its existing resources’’.

The Governor also mentioned at length the precarious financial situation of the Punjab State Electricity Board, etc, the poor health of industry, plight of the agricultural sector, woeful performance of the social service sector (education and health delivery system), and growing insanitation in villages and towns. Besides, he referred to growing unemployment, faulty distribution of power, losses in transmission and distribution, inflated electricity bills, neglect of socially backward and underprivileged sections, etc.

The Governor emphasised the need for the transparent administration of the tax revenue regime and hinted at broad-basing the tax net without actually raising the tax rates, saying tax realisation would have a ‘’human face’’.

Basing economic reconstruction plans on the premise that ‘’modern economies are entirely infrastructure-driven’’, the Address showed what the government intended to do to re-rail the state’s economy, revive its industry and resuscitate its agriculture. It proposed to convert agriculture from a ‘’subsistence’’ to a ‘’business-oriented’’ vocation through ‘’technology-driven’’ policies and correlating agricultural renaissance to the changing world order.

The Governor spoke against the scrapping of the minimum support price or the Centre washing its hands of the procurement of foodgrains. Likewise, on power and irrigation, he outlined the present scenario and what was proposed. The Address reiterated that the state would approach the Supreme Court on the SYL issue for remedies.

There was special mention of welfare measures for serving and ex-servicemen. Concern over growing unemployment among persons in the 18-35 age group and what role the government would play, as facilitator, was also reflected in the Address. The Congress promised to ‘’radically re-define’’ the role of the government to achieve what it had promised during the elections.


SAD-BJP members boycott Address
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
Members of the SAD-BJP in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha today staged a noisy walkout and boycotted the customary Address by the Governor, Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd.).

As soon as General Jacob started his Address, a former Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, stood up and started speaking. In the din raised by the members on the Treasury Benches and amidst the thumping of desks, nothing could be heard.

Thereafter, the Akali members raised slogans and walked out. They were followed by the three BJP members.

The reason for the walkout was later spelt out by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who met mediapersons in the Vidhan Sabha lobby. A one-page statement was also distributed.

Earlier, soon after the election of Dr Kewal Krishan as the Speaker, Capt Kanwaljit Singh stood up on a point of order saying that the business of the House and its proceedings must be conducted in Punjabi as had already been agreed to in the House.

This led to several Treasury Bench as also BJP and Akali MLAs to speak up. Dr Kewal Krishan in his ruling said as per the Constitution and the rules, all three languages were permissible — English, Hindi and Punjabi.

There was no question hour or zero hour. After the Speaker’s election and brief encounter on the language issue, the House was adjourned till 11 am when the Governor was scheduled to deliver his Address.

Thereafter, the House was again adjourned only to assemble at 2.20 p.m. when obituary references were made to eminent persons who had died since the last sitting of the House.


Tributes paid to Balayogi, Serla
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
Tributes were paid to the late Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr G.M.C. Balayogi, Mr Kirpal Singh Makha and Mrs Serla Grewal, in the Punjab Assembly today.

Leader of the House Capt Amarinder Singh said Mr Balayogi, who had died at a young age, had held the proceedings of the Lok Sabha in an exemplary manner. He said in the death of Mr Sujan Singh, Mrs Serla Grewal and Mr Kirpal Singh Makha, Punjab had been left poorer. All three had contributed to the development of the state in their own way.

He also paid tributes to those killed in Gujarat riots and the railway incident in Godhra. Victims of a bomb explosion near Doraha were also remembered in the House. Capt Amarinder Singh was joined by Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, a senior Akali leader, Mr Sucha Singh Chottepur, a representative of Independent MLAs, Mr Avinash Khanna, a BJP MLA, Mr Gurjant Singh, a CPI MLA, and Dr Kewal Krishan, Speaker.

They paid tributes to Mr Pritam Singh, a former MLA from Samana, and Mr Lajinder Singh Bedi, a former MLA and eminent shooter.


SAD, Congress on collision course
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
What happened inside the Punjab Assembly and later outside the House clearly indicates that confrontation has started between the Shiromani Akali Dal headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal and the Congress government headed by Capt Amarinder Singh.

It appears to be a fallout of the bitter pre-assembly election campaign.

Without mincing his words, Mr Badal today issued a warning to Capt Amarinder Singh. He told the Chief Minister to stop the “hate campaign” against Akali and BJP workers and leaders or be prepared to face the wrath of the people.

However, Capt Amarinder Singh said “it was only the guilt complex of Mr Badal which has made him level false allegations against the government”.

At one stage, Mr Badal said that by adopting a revengeful attitude against Akali and BJP workers, the Congress government should not compel the SAD to stop the “turna-firna” (free movement) of Congress Ministers. However, later he toned this down by explaining that the way the Congress government had behaved in the past two weeks, people had started organising dharnas on main roads blocking traffic.

Mr Badal said that false cases had been registered against Akali and BJP workers in the past few days at the instance of Congress leaders. This must stop immediately.

“When we came to power in 1997, we took effective measures to end the atmosphere of unseemly bitterness, confrontation and hatred. For five years, we kept the state completely free from any kind of confrontation. We did not resort to vendetta against any Congressman. But this government is hardly three weeks old, and it has already embarked on a course of confrontation with the Opposition” Mr Badal said.

Mr Badal said the Congress had not even extended the basic courtesy of intimating the SAD on its candidate for the Speakership before the election today. Levelling serious allegations, he said the Congress was working overtime to vitiate the peace brought about by his government.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh and Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder, who were also with Mr Badal, said by not allowing any discussion on the Governor’s Address in the House, the Congress government had tried to silence the Opposition. Capt Kanwaljit Singh asked why the Congress was in a tearing hurry to wind up the current session.

He also distributed copies of a letter written to the Chief Secretary, Administrative Secretaries and others concerned with regard to the preparation of the Governor’s Address by the Chief Minister’s office. Objecting to the contents of the letter, he said the Chief Secretary and Administrative Secretaries were instructed by the Chief Minister’s office that they should not mention the achievements of the previous government. They were instructed to highlight the financial crisis in the state.

“It clearly proves that there were outstanding achievements of the previous Akali-BJP government which the present Congress government wanted to sweep under the carpet by overawing the official machinery”, Capt Kanwaljit Singh added.

Mr Badal said the Congress government had started “crying right from the word go. It was trying to put the blame on the SAD-BJP government for the financial.

mess. There was no financial crisis or mess. It was just an excuse of the present government, which did not want to undertake any development in the state. When the SAD-BJP government was carrying out development work on a war footing, the Congress used to ask where the money was coming for such activity, Mr Badal added.

Mr Badal said that by withdrawing the grants for development projects in urban and rural areas, the Congress had taken an anti-Punjab decision. The government had no authority to withdraw the money sanctioned and approved for the welfare of the people. Mr Badal said that the SAD-BJP group held the Governor in high esteem but its MLAs had to walk out to register their protest against the “anti-development orders passed by the government.”

Replying to the comments made by Mr Badal, Capt Amarinder Singh said he had given strict instructions that no one should be harassed in the state for political reasons. What Mr Badal had stated about the harassment of Akali workers and leaders was untrue. He said that no development work was carried out by the SAD-BJP government in the state. All claims in this regard were false.

There was not even adequate money to give salaries. Because of this, the government had asked the officers concerned to deposit the unspent money lying with them in the government treasury. Capt Amarinder Singh said that the White Paper with regard to the financial mess created by the previous government would be made public immediately after the current session of the Assembly.

An inquiry was being held to collect information on how the previous government spent money, violating rules and regulations. He said even bureaucrats responsible for violating such rules would face action.


VC fails to turn up on campus
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 22
Despite expectations, Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia did not reoccupy office on the campus after a prolonged absence in the wake of registration of two criminal cases against him even as the Joint Action Committee (JAC), which is agitating against him, claimed it would not tolerate his re-entry into the campus. There was tension on the varsity campus with rumours wife that the VC may return to the university today. Security around the front gate as well as other gates on the campus was tightened even as the JAC held a rally in front of the main gate demanding his entry into the campus should be banned.

However, Dr Ahluwalia failed to turn up on the campus till evening. There were rumours that he may now come to the campus only after March 27 till when he is to present himself before the zonal Inspector-General of Police (IGP) here for questioning regarding the two cases registered against him. Other conspiracy theorists said he may also present himself before the varsity Chancellor and state Governor Lt-Gen J F R Jacob (retd).

Sources said the VC could make this move because the government had reportedly routed a file to the Governor making out a case for his removal and giving the charge of vice-chancellorship to Principal Secretary N S Rattan. The sources said Dr Ahluwalia was likely to contest the government claim that a contingency for his removal had arisen because of his continued absence from the varsity after the registration of two cases against him. This, they said, was because the VC had got bail in both the cases — one in which he is accused of attempting to rape a student of the Fine Arts Department and another in which he is accused of attempt to murder following an attack on a varsity student by a former student leader aligned with him. However, they said the government may make a move for his suspension in the light of the cases registered against him. Meanwhile, the JAC today held a dharna at the university gate and also in front of the VC’s office to demand a ban on the entry of Dr Ahluwalia into the campus. The JAC leaders, including Dr U.C. Singh and Mr Sukhwant Singh Sidhu, said the entry of Dr Ahluwalia would not be tolerated at any cost as he could damage varsity records and use anti-social elements against the teachers, students and employees to suppress evidence against him.

The JAC hoped that the commitment given by the Chief Minister promising removal of Dr Ahluwalia should be implemented at the earliest so that the situation could be saved from assuming uncontrollable dimensions. The JAC also took a decision not to allow Dr Ahluwalia to function as VC from his office from today and decided to extend its dharna in front of his office from morning to evening. It also decided to intensify its agitation by holding a dharna in front of the office of Deputy Commissioner in which it said organisations from outside the university campus would also participate.

Meanwhile, the Forum for Educational Action and Reform (FEAR) today said the silence of former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on the ongoing controversy was ‘’meaningful’’. Forum President Dr Amarjit Singh Dhillon said the former Chief Minister had not reacted to the ongoing controversy as he was in the know about the ‘’activities’’ of Dr Ahluwalia. Dr Dhillon said a piquant situation had arisen in the university with teachers voicing their determination not to allow Dr Ahluwalia to enter the campus. He said in such a situation the government could go in for immediate suspension of Dr Ahluwalia and appointment of a part-time VC to manage the day-to-day affairs as well as oversee financial matters with only days to go before the budget was to be finalised. 


Their land is not theirs, officially!
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 22
The orders of the state government to allot government land in the Mand area, which is in possession of small and poor farmers as per the girdawari records up to 1994, notwithstanding, about 200 poor farmers of the Mand belt falling in the Nakodar subdivision are insecure in view of the alleged alterations in their land records and are fighting to get the land transferred in their name.

The government had directed all Deputy Commissioners on May 31, 1997, to transfer the government land falling in the Mand area along the Sutlej to those farmers who had cultivated and developed the land as per the last girdawari conducted by revenue officials till 1994. The government order had further elaborated that it was mandatory for every farmer belonging to the Scheduled Caste or Backward Class category to deposit Rs 6000 per acre, whereas, in case of general category farmers, the deposit was Rs 7000 per acre to get the land transferred in their name.

Subsequently, 533 out of about 750 farmers of Nakodar subdivision, who had submitted their applications with the authorities concerned, had been allotted land and all legal formalities had been completed. But the claims of about 200 farmers who had the land in their possession, but could not afford to pay the amount fixed by the government on time, or those who had failed to deposit a few instalments, had been rejected.

Meanwhile, under the scheme, the government extended the scheme on January 31 this year and about 229 farmers of Umarwal Bila, Kamwala, Adrama, Chuggian, Lohgarh, Bitlan, Bangiwal, Raipurrain, Khurlapur and Khera Mustarka village, including those of Nakodar subdivision whose claims were rejected in 1997, submitted fresh applications, But they were surprised to find that their names had been deleted from the revenue records during the last girdawari.

Mr Alla Ditta, a farmer of Chuggian village, alleged that he had been cultivating an acre for the past about 20 years but the land was allegedly shown in the possession of Manjit Kaur, wife of a local trader.

The Kirti Kisan Union alleged that though these 229 farmers were in the physical possession of the small landholdings for the past about 30 years in most of the cases, private traders of the area, in connivance with revenue staff, had managed to show the land in their possession.

Mr Tarsem Peter, secretary of the Pendu Mazdoor Union, Punjab, said these farmers were being harassed by the officials on one pretext or the other as they had come out against ‘injustice’ being meted out to them. “The state government should order a high-level probe into the case to fix the responsibility of the erring officials, who in connivance with the private traders, had forged the official records,” he demanded

When contacted, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr K. Siva Prasad, said he had instructed the Nakodar SDM to supervise girdawari as per rules.


Quality education her endeavour
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Samrala, March 22
Mrs Kulwinder Kaur Benipal, an NRI from Australia, has taken upon herself the onerous task of taking quality grass root level education to rural Punjab. She has decided to start a modern kindergarten here to provide tiny tots of rural areas an insight into world of western scientific teaching and training methods.

After postgraduation, she did a diploma in child care from Sydney in Australia before deciding to move back to Samrala and join Master Jagir Singh Charitable Trust as Director-Principal of its social venture, Max Arthur Macauliffe Public School at Bondli, near here.

“My main aim is to blend the niceties of western scientific teaching methods with Indian values system to give rural children an opportunity to compete with their better placed urban counterparts. Unless a child has a strong foundation, he or she feels handicapped as he or she moves to higher classes,” says Mrs Benipal holding that a good modern school has to have a good building, good equipment and audio-visual aids to facilitate quick learning by the children. “We are trying to make this new venture an exemplary one and comparable to any western kindergarten,” she adds.

A couple of other NRI trained teachers are associated with the interior decoration and furnishing of classrooms of this new day boarding kindergarten. The entire furniture is being specially designed for the school under supervision of Mrs Bhupinder Kaur in Chandigarh.

The trust plans to expand this kindergarten into a modern day boarding senior secondary school to be affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). ‘Besides teaching, emphasis would be on overall development of each child, including providing him or her opportunities to display talent in physical activities, including sports, art, culture and other creative things.

The trust, according to Mr Devinder Singh, also intends to involve some prominent NRIs, who have excelled in various fields, including sports, abroad by starting a sports academy. The present chief coach of the US Field Hockey team, Mr Shiv Jagday, who is also an accredited FIH coach, has agreed to be on the board. Some former internationals, including Sukhvir Grewal, Col Raminder Singh (retd) and Mr Mohinder Singh Pannu have also agreed to lend support to the proposed academy. The academy will initially provide training in hockey, tennis, cricket, swimming and athletics.

The foundation stone of MAM Public School was laid by Sant Tirath Singh last year. The trust has spent about Rs 1 crore in completing the building and procurement of audio-visual aids and other training equipment to get the institution functional from the new academic year.

“The entire venture is without any financial or other support from the government,” says Mr Devinder Singh maintaining that the trust has already donated more than Rs 1 crore not only for educational institutions, scholarships to needy students or provision of basic health care to needy and poor but also undertaken a number of other social welfare programmes in rural areas.


S.Yorkshire police chief meets CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
Mr Michael Hedges, Chief Constable, South Yorkshire Police, United Kingdom, today called on the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, in his chamber at the Punjab Vidhan Sabha.

Mr Hedges informed Capt Amarinder Singh that nearly 50 British police officers were visiting Punjab as part of an official trip to India. He urged Capt Amarinder Singh to encourage study of the functioning of the British police by Punjab cops. The Chief Minister assured Mr Hedges of sending a high-level delegation to the U.K.

The Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Mr S.K. Sinha, and the DGP Mr M.S. Bhullar, were also present.

Earlier, Capt Amarinder Singh unveiled the portraits of Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Lala Lajpat Rai, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Satguru Ram Singh, Master Tara Singh, Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, Beant Singh and Babu Hit Abhilashi in the Vidhan Sabha Gallery. 


DGP for amnesty to ‘tainted’ cops
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Phillaur, March 22
With the new political establishment in the state remaining a votary in the past for general amnesty to a number of police officers, facing charges of fake encounters and killing of innocent youth during militancy in the state, a fresh move seems to have been initiated to get amnesty for at least some of the ‘tainted’ officers.

Giving an indication in this regard, Mr M.S. Bhullar DGP, told media- persons at Maharaja Ranjit Singh Punjab Police Academy, Phillaur, after participating in a conference of Indo-British police officers today that the Punjab police was screening cases to identify those, who were being unnecessarily harassed.

Without disclosing the identity of the members of the ‘committee’ looking into the case, the DGP said the basis for identification was to select right people falsely implicated in some cases. The police has been feeling that the bravery of the officers was ignored.

The DGP said the identification could also be made on whether the case was personal or on some act committed during the discharge of duty. The DGP did not disclose any time-frame for the screening of such officials or what would be done afterwards. He said the police had always acknowledged the importance of their contribution and had been giving them free legal aid and financial help to fight the cases.

It may be recalled here that the Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh, had been a supporter of giving general amnesty to ‘tainted officials’ of the Punjab police. He had in fact started a national debate on the issue after demanding general amnesty for the officers while speaking at a function organised by a newspaper group in Jalandhar last year.

The Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, speaking after Capt. Amarinder Singh had reportedly said that the government was considering General Amnesty for the police officials. His statement had sparked off a countrywide controversy over the issue forcing the Home Minister to clarify his statement in Parliament. In Parliament, he clarified that he had only said that some kind of ‘relief’ could be given to the police officials.


SHSAD not opposed to sehajdhari Sikhs
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 22
The Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) today took an off beat stance on the controversial issue of sehajdharis and declared that the party was not opposed to genuine sehajdhari Sikhs but to the intrusion of non-Sikhs under the garb of sehajdharis for capturing Sikh institutions, including the SGPC, jeopardising Sikh “maryada” and “panthic parampara (Sikh tenets and traditions).

Addressing a press conference here, Jathedar Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, secretary-general of the party and former Acting SGPC President, demanded verification by the Election Commission of the proformas printed for sehajdhari Sikhs and identification of genuine enrollments for SGPC polls. Those who did not fulfil the five conditions enlisted in the proforma had no right to be enrolled as voters, he said. The froforma mentions that a sehajdhari Sikh should follow Sikh tradition, should not drink, smoke or eat ‘halal’ meat, be not apostate and should recite “moolmantra” paath. Since only two proformas i.e. one for kesdhari Sikhs and other for sehajdharis had been printed, there was no proforma for non-Sikhs who, however, were getting enrolled for the SGPC polls, alleged Mr Bhaur.

We demand the deletion of the word sehajdhari not because we want to delay the poll process or create communal imbalance, we simply want to stall the mischief being played under the cover of the word, claimed Jathedar Bhaur.


PESCO budget approved
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
The Punjab Ex-Servicemen Corporation (PESCO) has approved a Rs 51 lakh surplus budget for the financial year 2002-03, envisaging a threefold increase in the profits vis-a-vis the previous year. The budget was adopted formally at a meeting of the Board of Directors of PESCO held here today under the chairmanship of Mr K.B.S. Sidhu, Secretary, Defence Services Welfare, Punjab.

The tentative receipts are pegged at Rs 188.05 lakh, and a bulk of these are expected from the corporation’s own activities, while the dependence on government support is down to just 37 per cent. The corporation has decided to go in for a quantum increase in its turnover, attributable to the security services, by 38.9 per cent from Rs 36 lakh to Rs 50 lakh. This will serve the twin objectives of providing not only gainful employment to ex-servicemen but also contributing handsomely to the bottom line. PESCO has roped in reputed clients for its security services, including BSNL, the Ropar Thermal Power Plant and the entire Thein Dam Project, apart from other Central and Punjab Government public sector undertakings. Unlike most private agencies, PESCO provides trained ex-serviceman for such duties and strictly adheres to an eight-hour shift and also grants full statutory benefits like EPF to its personnel.

The corporation is also envisaging an income of Rs 15.30 lakh from rent of buildings leased and Rs 20 lakh as interest on bank deposits. The Stitching Centre at SAS Nagar (Mohali) is expected to contribute Rs 6 lakh to the profits of PESCO. The budget has also provided seed money of Rs 30 lakh for financing transport loans, and a similar amount on account of capital subsidy.

The board also decided, in principle, to push through the process of setting up of an exclusive sector at SAS Nagar for ex-servicemen.

Among those who attended the meeting were Brig K.S. Kahlon (retd), Director, Sainik Welfare, Punjab, Mr T.K. Goyal, Deputy Secretary Agriculture, Mr H.S. Atwal, Deputy Director, Institutional Finance and Banking, Mr Manmohan Singh, Joint Director, Industry, Brig B.S. Grewal (retd), Lt-Col J.S. Atwal (retd), and Major Sucha Singh Gill (retd).


Punjab package for ex-servicemen
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
The Punjab Government today announced its broad policy intention of launching numerous measures for the welfare of soldiers and ex-servicemen of the state.

An announcement to this effect was made in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, during the Governor’s Address.

Giving details, the Secretary, Defence Services Welfare, Mr K.B.S. Sidhu, stated that the government had resolved to make the Sainik Welfare Boards more effective and autonomous, so as to facilitate them in solving the problems of servicemen and ex-servicemen in all matters relating to the government.

It was also decided to provide suitable government jobs to wards of servicemen belonging to Punjab, who died in harness.

The demand relating to “one rank, one pay” and granting of full pensionary benefits would be vigorously pursued with the Central Government.


Cops suspended for freeing convicts
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Tarn Taran, March 22
The Tarn Taran district police chief today placed SHO, Sarhali and Assistant Sub Inspector (chowki in charge), Chohla Sahib, for releasing three culprits who had allegedly brought a truckload of poppy husk, reportedly from Rajasthan.

During the preliminary inquiry, conducted by Mr Manmohan Singh, DSP, Tarn Taran, the SHO and the ASI were found guilty of showing favours to the smugglers. On the basis of the inquiry report, submitted by Mr Manmohan Singh, an FIR under Sections 217, 221, 29 of NDPS Act was registered at Sarhali police station against Tejinder Paul Singh, SHO and Parmjit Singh ASI, Didar Singh, Narinder Singh Brahmpura and Talwinder Singh.

The inquiry officer said the culprits had unloaded the truck of popply hust at Rani Wallah village on March 14 during off-loading the popply husk got scattered. Residents of the village informed the SHO and the ASI who took the culprits in custody. However, without taking any action the conductor, driver and the another persons were let off without the knowledge of senior police officials.

Mr Manmohan Singh said he was deputed as investigating officer by the SSP when a number of residents of the area lodged a complaint.

It is pertinent to mention here that Tarn Taran police district has become a safe haven for smugglers and drug peddlers have been very active these days.


Sikh jatha’s Pak visit from April 8
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, March 22
Sikh pilgrims have shown little interest in visiting gurdwaras of Pakistan on the occasion of Baisakhi following the growing tension between India and Pakistan after the December 13 attack on Parliament.

Mr Harpal Singh Bhullar, President, International Bhai Mardana Kirtan Darbar Society (IBMKDS), said only 300 persons had submitted their passports for visa as against 1,500 last year. The IBMKDS had got sanction from the Pakistan Government to take a jatha of 2,000 pilgrims to visit historical sites in Pakistan.

He said the Sikh pilgrims would leave India from the Attari border on April 8 by road and return on April 17. The pilgrims would go to Nankana Sahib and stay there for three days.

They would also visit Panja Sahib Gurdwara. The main Baisakhi function would be held on April 13.


Train blast was terrorist act: DGP
Tribune News Service

Phillaur (Ludhiana), March 22
Virtually ruling out the possibility of a blast due to a short circuit in the Dhanbad Express near Doraha last week, which left three persons dead and 28 injured, the DGP Punjab, Mr M.S. Bhullar, said today RDX was used in the blast and a terrorist organisation was suspected to be behind the incident.

He said the forensic report has confirmed that the blast material contained RDX. The blast and the confirmation of terrorist hand in it should not send alarm bells ringing. He said the police was vigilant and such incidents would not recur.

The DGP refused to identify the terrorist organisation, saying that it could hamper the investigations. The statement of the DGP is contradictory to the statement made by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh that on the basis of preliminary inquiries, the blast could not have been a terrorist activity.

Further investigation into the case has been handed over to the DIG, Ludhiana Range, Mr Rohit Chaudhry.

Police sources said the police had also prepared a sketch of the person planting the bomb.


MC passes motion to give free water
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 22
The Corporation House meeting today passed unanimous resolutions to give free water supply and sewerage facilities to residential buildings. It also approved a resolution on redeployment of all transferred employees of the municipal corporation and the Improvement Trust who were transferred during enforcement of the election code to their home districts without further delay. The resolutions will be passed on to the local bodies for approval.

Meanwhile, the opposition councillors alleged that corporation employees had misplaced files of the sanctioned projects in their wards, which have remained untraceable for months.

Amidst farewell wishes for the Commissioner Mr B.R. Banga’s promotion as Director, Local Bodies, the Commissioner, in an emotional speech, assured councillors here of all help by the Local Bodies Department. He also cleared the misunderstanding that the sanctioned amount of Rs 10 crore given to the corporation during the “sangat darshan” programmes by the former Chief Minister will not be returned. The issue had been discussed with the Chief Secretary and the Deputy Commissioner at a recent meeting here.

The Commissioner announced that the meeting of the Finance Contract Committee would be held on March 25 to discuss the budget allotments for various purposes. He also announced that contractors who failed to finish their work on time and shirk duty would be blacklisted.

The councillors deliberated upon the problem of deteriorating sewerage in the face of the arriving monsoon.

Incidentally, the opposition councillors sorely felt the absence of six newly elected MLAs. There will be five new faces in the House namely Prof Darbari Lal, Mr Sardul Singh, Mr Harjinder Singh Thekedaar, Mr Jugal Kishore Sharma and Dr Raj Kumar. Only Mr Om Parkash Soni, independent MLA, has retained his seat.


SAD to oppose removal of staff
Tribune News Service

Bathinda March 22
Former minister of Science and Technology, Punjab Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, today said the SAD-BJP alliance would oppose the removal of employees of aganwaris in villages done by the Punjab Government.

Mr Garg, who was talking to mediapersons here today, said though the Congress had promised to eradicate unemployment from the state in its manifesto released on the eve of the Assembly elections, it had started doing the reverse of the same by removing the employees. He added that the state government had also been planning to carry out retrenchment of employees of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).

He said the signs of failure of Congress government had started appearing though the government was yet to become one-month-old. Mr Surinder Singla, MLA, Bathinda, had threatened to approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court against his own government if it failed to take steps to check the pollution being caused by the local thermal plant. Besides the Chief Minister.


Court sends sold woman back home
Our Correspondent

Mansa, March 22
A police party from West Bengal recovered Dolly Mandal of Balughat town, West Bengal, from Chainewala village in the district yesterday and produced her in the court of Ms Gurdarshan Kaur, Judicial Magistrate (First Class) here. The court granted permission to the West Bengal police to take the woman to her home state.

Inquiries revealed that a person of Haryana had enticed the woman and brought her here from West Bengal and left her with resident of Kumana village in Fatehabad district of Haryana.

The wife and daughter-in-law of the said person (pimp) also hail from West Bengal and the said person used to sell women from that state.

He sold Dolly to Raja Singh of Chainewala village for Rs 15,000. On the other hand they lodged a report with the West Bengal police and a police party accompanied by a female constable reached Rattia police station in search of the woman. There it came to know about the activities of the pimp. When the police reached Kumana village he slipped away on seeing the police but the woman was recovered from the house of Raja Singh.


More facilities to employees sought
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 22
Mr Surinder Singla, MLA, said in order to bring more efficiency in the government offices, the employees should be given more facilities and more avenues be opened for promotions. Mr Singla, while talking to TNS, said the Punjab Government was committed to protecting the interests of its employees and to ensure the payment of salaries to them on time.

He denied that he had made any statement in connection with reducing the DA and other allowances being paid to the employees.


Protest against Sekhon’s retirement
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, March 22
The issue of forced retirement of Air Marshal Manjit Singh Sekhon is hotting up in Punjab with the Akali Dal deciding to hold a black flag protest on March 24 at Issewal village, his ancestral village in Ludhiana. 

Stating this here today, Mr Dhyan Singh Mand and Mr Jaskaran Singh, Vice-President and General Secretary, respectively of the party, called the move illegal.


Rise in revenue from vends’ auction
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 22
Bathinda district fetched 12.53 per cent increase in the revenue, Mansa district fetched 8.14 per cent increase in the revenue while Faridkot district could manage only 1.06 per cent increase in revenue from the annual auction of liquor vends, as compared to revenue generated during last year, which was held in local marriage palace today. 

The Deputy Commissioner of Bathinda and Faridkot, Mr Anurag Verma and Mr A Venu Parsad and one senior civil official of Mansa district were present at the venue. 

It’s vengeful transfers: Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 22
The former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today said the Congress government headed by Capt Amarinder Singh was resorting to transfer of officers in a “vengeful” manner.

The government had wasted more than three weeks in the “vengeful transfers”, he said in a written statement.


All set for Malout poll, Sec 144 imposed
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, March 22
Mr Babu Lal, Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer, today said all arrangement for elections to the Malout Assembly constituency, to be held on April 4, have been completed.

Mr Lal in a press note issued here, said out of a total of 1,33,661 voters in the constituency, 67,752 were men and 65,909 were women. As many as 141 polling booths would be set up.

He said the venue of some polling stations which was earlier the municipal council building had been changed to Manav Sewa Samiti, Dharamsala.

He said political parties and Independent candidates had been asked to adhere to the guidelines of the Election Commission during electioneering.

The officials concerned had been directed to enforce the ‘Defacement of Property (Prevention)’ Act. Mr Lal said all candidates had been asked to submit the details of the expenditure during their poll campaign day for auditing.

Mr Lal also issued orders under Section 144 prohibiting pillion riding on two wheelers from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. except bicycles, which came in force immediately.

The orders issued under the seal of the District Magistrate will, however, not be applicable to the police, the Army and jawans of the paramilitary forces.

All hotels, dhabas, restaurants, eating joints, rehris etc will close at 11.30 p.m.

Liquor vends and tavern will remain closed from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. in the urban areas and from 7 p.m. till 8 a.m. in the rural areas. These order will remain in force till May 2, note said.


Work on DAC in full swing
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 22
Work on much criticised multistory District Administrative Complex (DAC) is in full swing and after its completion by the yearend 43 offices of the civil and police departments will shift here.

Spread over an area of 25 acres the four storey DAC will have a covered space of about 80,000 sq ft on each floor, as per the proposal. In addition to the offices of different departments it will have a bank counter, canteen, record room etc. The entrance to the complex will be from three directions and parking space has been planned on all sides.

When the proposal for the construction of DAC was made last year various social, consumers’ rights residents and political associations had opposed the move on the plea that a part of the building renovated at a cost of Rs 2 crore will also be demolished. They had alleged that it was a waste of money. They also argued that the proposed complex would be constructed at a cost of about Rs 16 crore which they said could be used for improving the civic amenities in the city.

Notwithstanding the opposition of the residents, the district administration went ahead with the proposal and started demolishing the old single storey building of the district administration.

The shifting of some offices, including that of Deputy Commissioners to the building of old children and general hospital which resulted in transferring of doctors and other staff and equipment to the building of the new hospital, had attracted maximum criticism. The residents held rallies and demonstrations against the shifting of these offices.

The apprehension of the residents was that the construction of DAC would take years and they would have to suffer on two accounts. First the offices of various departments would be shifted to different buildings and they would have to travel long distance for getting their work done, second the old hospital, which served a large population, would become meaningless when its doctors and other staff would be shifted to the building of new hospital.

The pace of the construction work has put some of their apprehensions at rest as the residents will not have to wait too long to get all important offices of the civil and police in one complex.


Barnala MLA Keetu booked
Our Correspondent

Barnala, March 22
Mr Malkiat Singh Keetu, MLA, Barnala, belonging to the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), has been booked by Bahadaur police under Sections 406, 408 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code in Barnala police district funds’ misappropriation.

This development took place on March 21 following a feud going on between Malkiat Singh Keetu MLA Barnala and Bhola Singh Virk, a Lok Bhalai Party leader over the presidentship of the Truck Operators Union Bhadaur 25 km from here since March 11. On March 16 N.S. Walia SDM Barnala called Keetu and Virk to his office to resolve the tussle. When both parties failed to resolve the issue, the SDM, imposed Section 145 Cr. P.C. in Truck Operators’ Union Complex, Bhadaur.

According to reports the Bhadaur police has registered a case against Keetu and two clerks of the union, Chiranji Lal and Narinder under Sections 406, 408 and 120-B of the IPC.

The FIR registered against Keetu at Bhadaur police station is 15 of March 21.

Truck Operators of Bhadaur led by Bhola Singh Virk had levelled charges of embezzlement of Truck Operators union funds to the extent of Rs 1 crore 74 lakh. They had alleged that Keetu was not making payment of Rs 17 lakh to the truck operators of Bhadaur for the five specials during past three months and not account for truck union Bhadaur funds.

According to reliable sources in Barnala Police District, Lakhwinder Singh SP (Detective) was asked to look in to the complaint of truck operators of Bhadaur who alleged that Keetu and president Truck Operators Union Bhadaur were not making payment of Rs 17 lakh of five specials to truck operators of Bhadaur.

In the meantime, Lakhwinder Singh SP (Detective) Barnala was transferred. Following his transfer the inquiry was entrusted to Gurjit Singh DSP Sherpur who after looking into matter and seeking legal opinion reported that complaint was a fit case for registering a case against Keetu.

Barnala Police District Administration was not forthcoming on details of the case .

Gurinder Singh Dhillon, new SSP Barnala Police District, soon after assuming office at his first meeting with mediapersons had assured scribes of cooperation.


Youth commits suicide
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 22
Panic gripped the Gokul Nagar locality here when one Anil Sharma of the locality was found dead in a hotel room last evening. According to reports, he committed suicide after alleged mental harassment by his employers.

Sharma, a medical representative by profession, rented a room at Hotel Anand near the bus stand here on an address of Moga. When he did not order any breakfast yesterday morning and not even opened the door after repeated knocks, the manager of the hotel called the police. The police broke the door and found him dead. The police has also found a letter in which the deceased held his employers responsible for his suicide. He also posted the copy of the letter to his house and to the SSP of the district. 


PG courses in engg college approved
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, March 22
The authorities of the local Giani Zail Singh College of Engineering and Technology have initiated efforts to start postgraduate courses in the college from the next academic session. If things materialise, the college will become the first government institution in the state which will offer postgraduate course in different engineering trades.

Official sources said the Punjab Technical University (PTU) authorities had given their approval to the college authorities to start postgraduate course in different trades. A team of the All-India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) had also visited the college to inspect the infrastructure required for starting the postgraduate courses.

The sources added that the college authorities took suo motu action for making efforts to start postgraduate courses in the college about four months ago and managed to get approval for starting postgraduate courses in civil and electrical trade.

Dr Narinder Singh, Principal of the college, when contacted, said at present, the college was having 150-member teaching faculty and a 100-member non-teaching faculty. Apart from it, other infrastructure required to start the postgraduate courses was also adequate.

He added that the plan to start postgraduate courses had been made for carrying out a vertical growth of the institute. In Punjab only two private institutes based at Patiala and Ludhiana had been offering postgraduate courses in different trades of engineering.

The local engineering college has been imparting education to about 1,200 students in seven different trades. The college is equipped with all modern machines and hostel facilities.

Dr Narinder Singh said the AICTE team had made an inspection for giving its approval for starting postgraduation in electrical trade and the inspection for starting postgraduation in civil trade was expected shortly. The postgraduate studies in the college would create an environment of research in the institution.

He pointed out that the college authorities were planning to start the courses from the next academic session if the approval from the AICTE was granted. He added that it would be a first step in the academic growth of the institution.


BSNL celebrates consumer week
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, March 22
The Consumer Rights Week was celebrated by the BSNL here from March 15 to 22. A telephone adalat was held in the chamber of GMT(D), in this regard on March 15 and cases were decided on the spot.

An open house session was held in the conference hall here today. On the occasion an audio/video presentation was made by the GMT(D) showing the details of achievements made during the past four years.

Mr Mohan Lal, GMT(D) said during the financial year 2001-2002, 28,392 connections had been provided. Two new exchanges at Samundra and Maili had already been opened and four more exchanges at Khangwari, Kukran, Panjaura, Manak Dheri were likely to be opened. With this telephone connections would be available on demand in 70 of the 97 exchanges.

The work of conversion of C-DOT exchanges of 1,000 lines and above into RSU is under progress. So far 21 exchanges have been converted into RLU/RSU. With this it will be possible to have both centralised maintenance and billing.

The cellular mobile services are likely to start from July. The work of the computerisation of all subscriber records through DOT SOFT is likely to be completed in six months. With the implementation of this it will be possible to introduce the single window concept thus bringing much relief of the subscribers.

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