Tuesday, March 26, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Bhaniarawala produced before NSA board
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
Baba Piara Singh Bhaniarawala, accused of sacrilege, appeared before the Advisory Board, constituted under the National Security Act, at the Punjab and Haryana High Court this morning amidst tight security.

He was reportedly given a personal hearing by the board in a closed courtroom as required under the Act. His counsel’s application for representing his case through him was reportedly turned down by the board, comprising chairman Mr Justice N.K. Sodhi, besides members Mr H.S. Bhalla and Mr B.C. Rajput.

The Baba, in an off-white shawl over a sky blue kurta pyjama, was brought before the board just before 10 am from Patiala jail in a Punjab Police bus. As he walked into courtroom No 6, a strong posse of state police personnel surrounded him. They were backed up by Chandigarh Police personnel clad in anti-riot gear, holding fibre-glass shields, along with batons.

Immediately after his entry into the courtroom, the door was bolted from inside. Even scribes were not permitted to enter. His advocate too stood outside the room as proceedings continued. At about 2.45 p.m., the proceedings ended and the Baba was taken back to the Patiala.

The Baba has already filed a writ petition in the High Court challenging his detention under the National Security Act. His petition is likely to be taken up by a Division Bench soon after the vacation is over next week.


BBMB employees fear repatriation
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, March 25
It is for the second time in the past six months that the fear of repatriation is stalking the employees of the Punjab Government serving in the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB). The reason, a letter issued by the personnel Department of the Punjab Government on March 17 in which all departments concerned have been directed to recall their employees serving in the BBMB who have either completed five years of service in the board or have just two years left for retirement.

The letter also states that the departments concerned should also overlook the government rule of not dislocating the employees who have just two years left for retirement while carrying out the orders.

A few months ago similar orders were issued on the suggestion of the Punjab Finance Department. Had these orders been implemented, it could have eliminated the quota of the Punjab employees in the BBMB. However, at that time after the move was reported in these columns, the then Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, stalled the said orders. The sources, however, said the orders of the Chief Minister were never conveyed in writing. The result was that once again the directions had been issued for the dislocation of almost all Punjab employees serving in the board.

The sources said at present about 1200 employees from the Irrigation, Finance and Health Departments of the Punjab Government were serving in the BBMB against the states quota of about 8,000 employees. Almost all of these employees fell in the criteria fixed in the letter for withdrawing employees which meant they had either completed five years of service in the BBMB or had just two years left for retirement. If the directive was implemented it could result in the elimination of the control of the Punjab Government over the major irrigation and power organisation of the region.

The directive was the result to the long-standing controversy over the anomaly in pay scales in the BBMB. The BBMB was the managing authority on behalf of the partner states — Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. Most of the employees working here came from the partner states, the sources said.

Since there were different pay scales for employees for different partner states, it created a situation where the employees working on similar posts had different pay scales. To remove this disparity, in 1974 the BBMB worked out a formula to bring parity in pay scales of employees serving the board, the sources said.

In July, 1981 at a meeting of the board the disparity between irrigation and power wing employees was also removed. It was decided that any employee working in the BBMB, irrespective of his parent state or department had the right to opt for a scale equal to any other person having a designation similar to him.

A former Chief Secretary, Punjab, Mr R.S. Mann, who was the Secretary, Irrigation, at that time; was present in the meeting that approved the decision of the board.

The sources said the recent decision of the Finance Department of the Punjab Government was based on the false notion that the state could save money by repatriating employees. The repatriation of employees would in fact put an additional burden on the already cash-starved state.

The Punjab Government which had a share of 55 per cent in the BBMB, had to pay the same share for the BBMB Budget. Even if all state’s employees are repatriated, the Punjab Government still would have to pay its share to the BBMB. On the contrary, the state would have to bear the burden of salaries of about 1,200 employees who were at present drawing the salaries from the BBMB.

The sources said the Chairman of the BBMB was also planning to meet the Chief Secretary, Punjab, to discuss the ramifications of the recent directive. If the decision was implemented, the BBMB could also face a human resource crunch as most of the officers serving here came from Punjab.


Rs 32 lakh Forest Dept scam
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, March 25
A scam amounting to Rs 32 lakh has been unearthed in the Punjab Forest Department by a Vigilance Bureau team today. The money had come under the Government of India’s afforestation oriented Japan project scheme, but was allegedly withdrawn by Mr Wilbert Samsun, Range Forest Officer, Mahilpur, in Hoshiarpur district, with the help of fake documents and bogus muster rolls with the connivance of a number of forest department’s top officials, including Mr Surjit Singh, Divisional Forest Officer, Mr Sukhbir Singh, Mr Surinder Singh, Block Forest Officers and Mr Balwinder Singh and Mr Gurdial Singh, both forest guards.

According to Mr Ishwar Chander, chief of the Vigilance Bureau’s district range, the money had come under the Central Government scheme for December 2001, January, February and March 2002, but was siphoned off by unscrupulous officials midway. He said raids in Jalandhar led to arrest of Mr Wilbert Samsun and an amount of Rs 1 lakh was confiscated from his Matiz car.

Raids were also conducted at his office and his Dasuya residence, from where another Rs 1.35 lakh were recovered. Further investigation revealed that an amount of Rs 8.55 lakh of the Rs 32 lakh was lying at the house of Mr Balwinder Singh, Forest Guard at Canal Colony in Hoshiarpur so it was confiscated from there by a special team of the bureau, even as Mr Balwinder Singh could not be arrested. Other accused, including Mr Surjit Singh, Divisional Forest Officer, Mr Sukhbir Singh, Block Forest Officer, Mahilpur, and Mr Gurdial Singh, Forest Guard, are however, still absconding though Mr Surinder Singh. Block Forest Officer, has been arrested.

Mr Ishwar Chander said as government officials were plundering public money meant for development of forests, the department had recommended an analytic study of other departments, particularly those dealing with public money for development purpose. He said the recovery of an amount of Rs 10.9 lakh was the biggest by the department in the current year. He said a case has been registered against the accused. “We have seized a number of incriminating documents” said Mr Ishwar Chander.


Now, VC picks a row  with Pro-VC
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 25
Another controversy has erupted in Punjabi University over with a wall constructed to block a newly opened gate adjacent to a girls’ hostel on the campus being demolished on the orders of Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia who claimed that the Pro Vice-Chancellor had exceeded his powers by ordering the closure of the gate in his absence.

The gate was ordered closed by Pro Vice-Chancellor, Dr R.N. Pal, on a demand made by girl students and teachers during fortnight-long period when the Vice-Chancellor was in hiding. The Pro Vice-Chancellor had ordered the University Executive Engineer to close the gate by March 19.

However, when Dr Ahluwalia returned to the campus he ordered that the wall constructed to block the gate should be demolished which was done yesterday. The Vice-Chancellor when contacted by TNS, disclosed that the gate had been reopened following a meeting of the varsity Registrar, Dean Students and wardens of all girls hostels. He said all officials were unanimous in their opinion that the gate should be reopened in the interest of the security of the girls.

Dr Ahluwalia claimed that girl students and women teachers could use the gate whenever there was any big function or agitation on the campus due to which the main gate was closed.

The Vice-Chancellor also claimed that the Pro Vice-Chancellor Dr R.N. Pal, had exceeded his powers by ordering the closure of the gate. He said it was not in his jurisdiction. He said he also did not feel it proper to call the Pro Vice-Chancellor to the meeting in which it was decided to reopen the gate.

The Pro Vice-Chancellor when contacted said the gate had been closed down following a demand from girl students and the teachers. He said he, however, had written in his order that the Vice-Chancellor could review it if he so desired.

Dr Pal said he did not want to make an issue of the matter. 


12 UK teachers to tour schools
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, March 25
A 12 member delegation of teachers from United Kingdom today reached Kapurthala on a six-day educational tour of this district.

These teachers of which nine are lady teachers led by Mr Nicci Wilson will visit 10 primary government schools of the district to study the education system in primary schools.

The members of the delegation met Mr Rakesh Kumar Verma, Deputy Commissioner, in his office.

Addressing the delegation Mr Verma said that the primary aim of the teachers was to enhance awareness among students and teachers of both the countries and this visit would enhance mutual trust and understanding.

These teachers have come from the Derby town of the UK.

These teachers will visit primary schools at Kapurthala Jatike, Khiranwali, Tibba, Mastian, Sultanpur Lodhi Dainwind, Maheru, Rahana Jattan and Lakhan Kalan.

Mr Nicci Wilson, leader of the delegation, said that 10 primary schools of the district would get an annual grant of Rs 75,000 for a period of three years for purchase of study materials.

The delegation will prepare a booklet of the tour and will circulate the same in primary school in the UK.


US scientist opens school
Our Correspondent

Samrala, March 25
Dr Karen Haydock, an American scientist working at Panjab University, Chandigarh, inaugurated Max Arthur Maculiffe Public School at Bondli, near here, on Saturday. The school is designed on the basis of western model with provision for audio-visual and latest teaching aids.

According to Mrs Kulwinder Kaur Benipal, Director-Principal of the school, the philosophy behind this day -boarding institution was to provide the rural children the best available education for their over-all development 


Rise in migrant labourers’ wages
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, March 25
Lakhs of migrant agricultural labourers from various states, who have become the mainstay of Punjab farming and have edged out a majority of local hands to other professions have registered a significant increase in their wages over the past few decades.

The agriculturally most-advanced state, Punjab plays host to nearly four lakh migrant labourers during a lean season every year, while their number nearly doubles during peak seasons of crop sowing and harvesting. Unofficial estimates reveal that eight lakh migrant labourers are expected during the current season to throng the fields of the state.

With the harvest season round the corner, thousands of migrant labourers have already arrived in the Malwa belt, particularly in the districts of Ludhiana, Moga, Ferozepore, Muktsar, Faridkot, Mansa, Bathinda and Sangrur. A majority of the migrant labourers are arriving from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar while few hundred of them from Rajasthan.

Although big farmers have shifted to technological advancements of harvesting the wheat crop by combines (harvesting machines) yet the farmers with marginal land-holdings have still kept alive the utility of migrant labourers for harvesting the wheat crop. Moreover, harvesting the wheat crop with combine and then using the reaper machine to make dry straw costs more.

As per the details available, Rs 500 to Rs 600 per acre are charged for harvesting the wheat crop by combine. Rs 500 per trolley to make dry straw with the help of a reaper machine (a maximum of three trolleys of straw comes out of one acre of wheat crop) and it costs Rs 400 for storage and transportation of straw. The total expenditure per acre comes to at least Rs 3000 per acre with the help of machines. The output of straw is also comparatively less than the manual practice of harvesting.

The migrant labourers charge Rs 1000 per acre to cut the crop, Rs 700 per acre are charged by the thrasher owners, Rs 400 by the labourers for the transportation and storage of straw and Rs 300 per acre by the labourers working at the thrasher machine to separate grain from chaff. This practice puts the total cost to Rs 2400 per acre. Moreover, the straw made is more than the reaper machine.

As far as the significant rise in the earnings of labourers over the past few years is concerned, farmers say that this was primarily due to their continuing influx into Punjab. According to Mr Jaswinder Singh, a young farmer of Takhtuwala village (near Fatehgarh Panchtur) in Moga district, they used to pay Rs 500 per acre to the labourers for cutting the wheat crop manually during the late 80s and the early 90s. But now, the amount has considerably increased. And for sowing the paddy crop, the migrant labourers used to charge Rs 250 per acre in the early 90s that has now increased to Rs 500 per acre. This clearly indicates an increase of 100 per cent in the earnings of migrant labourers during the past one decade.

According to a study conducted by Punjab Agricultural University, 52 per cent of the workforce is reported to be engaged on casual basis while 32 per cent are seasonal labourers and 16 per cent of the migrant labour work in the state on permanent basis.

As a result of their working away from home, changes in their language, food habits, dress and customs have also been noticed. Many of them have also changed their name to Punjabi names. Not only this, one can even see a migrant Bihari with turban, Punjabi dress and iron bracelets, symbolic of Sikh religion.

At present, farmers can be seen hiring the labourers through direct negotiations at the railway stations and other places of their arrival. This is seen in terms of the growing faith in them.


Paddy worth crores rotting
Anirudh Gupta

Ferozepore, March 25
In a country where lakhs of people are unable to secure two meals a day with some even dying of starvation, paddy worth crores of rupees is damaged every year bringing not only financial loss but endangering the lives of human beings.

A glaring such example came to the fore, when a team of The Tribune visited godowns hired by the Food Corporation of India on the Zira-Mallanwala road where thousands of tonnes of paddy worth around Rs 2 crores is lying in a rotten condition under open sky since past five years. The paddy is not even fit for animal consumption and has become a source of nuisance for passer-byes because of the foul smell. Things have come to such an alarming proportions that carcasses of those animals who had consumed the damaged paddy can be seen in the vicinity of the godowns.

Ironically, the FCI is still spending thousands of rupees in storing this damaged paddy. Sources reveal that an amount to the tune of Rs 6200 a month is being spend on account of salaries to the watchman deputed to keep an eye on the stock apart from the rent of the godown which the FCI has to bear. According to information , the FCI has a stock of around 5 crores and 80 lakhs mt of foodgrains and is expected to purchase another 2 crore mt of foodgrains in coming season out of which 1crore and 20 lakhs mt from Punjab. Besides an additional amount of Rs 230 per quintal is spend annually on maintenance of the material purchased and stocked in different godowns. The FCI has to hire godowns from private parties as its storage facilities are not adequate.

Out of the total material purchased by the corporation, a part of it gets damaged due to reasons best known to the department every year. This damaged material is divided into different categories as grade A, grade B, grade C, grade D and grade E as per the percentage of the lot that has been damaged. The grade A and B is used as cattle feed, grade C as poultry feed grade D is generally for industrial use and for manure and grade E is normally dumped.

Reports suggest that in Punjab alone, around 1,40000 mt of wheat has been damaged since 1997-98. Sources claim that this is not an isolated case and there are several other places where damaged foodgrains are lying in open areas, infected with insects and fungus.

Unlike in foreign countries where the damaged material is dumped under sea, the FCI usually disposes of this material through auction for which tenders are floated. Some of the registered private parties, on the condition of anonymity said the grading of the damaged stock at times was not done properly due to which they refrain from purchasing the stock. These parties attribute it to the nexus between FCI officials and some local parties who for their vested interests do not want the material to be lifted .

When contacted, local FCI officials said the auction had been conducted by the office of the Zonal Manager and the material would be lifted soon. A senior FCI official said they apprehended that the damaged paddy may be brought into use after recycling so this time they have entered a clause that only those parties who will take the material out of the region would be authorised to enter the bid.

The FCI officials were, however, non-committal about the timeframe in which the damaged stock would be lifted. It is high time that the authorities look into the matter and dispose of the paddy as soon as possible to avoid any health hazard and to create sufficient storage place for the fresh arrival of foodgrains.


Campaigning yet to pick up in Malout
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Malout, March 25
Even as the contest for this Assembly seat has acquired the dimension of a proxy war between a former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Chief Minister, Mr Amarinder Singh, campaigning is yet to pick up.

While Mr Amarinder Singh, who has made the victory of Congress-CPI alliance candidate, Mr Nathu Ram, from here a prestige issue, has mobilised all factions within the party to take active part in the electioneering and leave nothing to chance, the family of Mr Badal and his close kin, including his son Mr Sukhbir Badal, wife Ms Surinder Kaur Badal, brother, Mr Gurdas Badal, and nephew Mr Manpreet Singh Badal, have been leaving no stone unturned for securing a win for their party candidate, Ms Mukhtiar Kaur, widow of late minister Sujan Singh, whose death during the general election had led to the adjournment of the same. Though there are five candidates in the fray, the main contest is likely to be between Mr Nathu Ram and Ms Mukhtiar Kaur.

The Congress and the CPI leadership has divided the entire constituency, which includes about 50 villages and this town with an electorate strength of 1,33,661, into three zones and sub-zones to be manned by senior functionaries of party, including former and present ministers.

On the other hand, a major section of the SAD leadership and its MLAs have been managing individual villages and wards of this town.

Mr Sukhbir Badal, who has made considerable inroads among the rural and urban youths in the past five years, has been mobilising them to brighten the victory chances of Ms Mukhtiar Kaur. Apart from it, he has been looking after the campaign in about 12 villages. He held a meeting of the office-bearers of various youth clubs of this region today.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who has been touring every nook and corner of this segment, has been stressing the fact that funds given by his government to panchayats and urban bodies for development and now withdrawn by the present regime would be diverted for wasteful expenditure. Ms Surinder Kaur Badal, who wields a considerable influence in this town, has also been putting her best to register a victory.

On the other hand, the Congress-CPI leadership has been slamming the previous SAD-BJP government for corruption and fiscal mismanagement apart from the suicides committed by the farmers. Mr Jagmeet Brar has been handling the election campaign.

From tomorrow, Mr Amarinder Singh and his Cabinet colleagues would also jump into the election campaign and would camp in the constituency for about a week to step up the electioneering and reach out to maximum number of electorates. Some of the Independent MLAs, who have thrown their weight with Capt Amarinder Singh, may also play a significant role in changing the election scene.


Cops terrorising SAD workers: Sukhbir
Tribune News Service

Malout, March 25
Former Union Minister and SAD General Secretary Sukhbir Badal today alleged that the police had unleashed a rein of terror on the party workers in Muktsar district to stop them from participating in the campaign for party candidate, Mrs Mukhtiar Kaur, for the election of this Assembly segment to be held on April 4.

Mr Sukhbir alleged that SAD workers were being implicated in false criminal cases and the police officials who refused to toe the line of ruling politicians were being transferred. He added that three SHOs of Police Station, Sadar, had been transferred since the election code of conduct came into force. He alleged that though a senior SAD worker and Sarpanch of a village falling in Muktsar district was mercilessly beaten up by his political opponents, the police registered a criminal case against the victim.

Mr Babu Lal, District Election Officer-cum-Deputy Commissioner, when contacted, said he had no information in connection with the implication of SAD workers.

The district police authorities said no SHO of any police station falling in this Assembly segment had been changed and thus no violation of code of conduct had been done. 


‘River waters must remain state subject’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, said today that he would strongly oppose the nationalisation of river water sources. A meeting of the Chief Ministers has been convened on this issue by the Union Government on April 1 in New Delhi.

River waters was a state subject and it should remain so. The existing international riparian laws should be followed in the case of any dispute between partner states. He said the central part of the state was becoming barren and the state required rivers to replenish its drying sub-soil water reserves.

He said his government was not backing out from the promises made to the people. “My government will honour all commitments,” he added. For the redress of complaints pertaining to hefty power bills, action had been initiated by the PSEB. The deputy commissioners and the SDMs had been told to reserve one day in a week for listening to the grievances of people.

He said as an economy measure, the security cover of VIPs had been slashed. “I have told the police to cut my security cover to 20 per cent from the existing 600 police officials on the job. NSG commandos meant for the CM’s security have been sent back,” he added.

Talking about the Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor, he said the government was determined to remove him and was doing the needful in this connection.


Getting jobs via kitchen
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
The revelation today by the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, that 55 per cent of the policemen on security duty with VIPs have been working as their domestic helps presents only a part of the picture.

There are thousands of employees or workers who get their salaries or wages from the Punjab Government’s treasury but do not work in government offices. Actually such employees work as domestic servants in the homes of their bosses, leading to a burden of crores of rupees on the state exchequer.

It is a big statewide scandal. A few years ago, a Superintendent of Police (Vigilance) raided the house of a Chief Engineer of the PWD in Patiala. He found 12 employees working as domestic helps at the house. He reported the matter to the authorities concerned but no action was taken against the Chief Engineer as he had political backing.

This problem is more prevalent in departments like the PWD, Irrigation and Power where officers have the powers to employ persons on daily wages or on an ad hoc or work-charged basis for various projects. For instance, in the PSEB a large number of employees work as domestic helps.

Most of them are from other states and have got jobs in the PSEB, especially at its thermal plants, via the “kitchen’. The modus operandi is well known. First, they start working in the kitchen of the officer concerned and wages to them are given either by the contractor concerned or through the muster roll system. In due course, they win the sympathy of the officer or his wife and succeed in getting a permanent job as peon, etc.

Informed sources said that at the Ropar thermal plant alone there were nearly 200 such domestic servants working at the houses of officers. Their wages were given by certain contractors engaged for various jobs at the plant. This indirect method of employing domestic servants has begun recently at the PSEB’s projects.

It was reported today that the civic body of SAS Nagar has withdrawn its employees who had been working as domestic helps in the bungalows of certain IAS officers and others.

The use of the state’s money for private purposes is a crime. It is a good opportunity for Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to take to task those officers of government departments and organisations who have been using government employees as private servants.

At least, such officers could be asked to deposit the money in the state treasury for the period they have been utilising the services of such employees for private purposes.


CM warns of power crisis
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, said today there could be a power crisis in the state as the PSEB was passing through a difficult phase. He said there was no money to clear the coal bill and freight charges. “We are trying our best to tide over the crisis but it appears to be a big task”, he said.

He said he was trying to curtail expenditure on the police which had gone up to Rs 1000 crore from Rs 60 crore a decade ago.


Vote-on-account passed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 25
The Punjab Vidhan Sabha today passed vote-on-account amounting to over Rs 5929.69 crore for April, May and June.

The House also passed the supplementary demands in respect of 22 grants involving an outgo of additional expenditure of Rs 4764.15 crore.

There was no discussion on these demands as such and these were passed unanimously by voice vote. However, the BJP MLA, Mr Tikshan Sood, who stood up to speak, confined himself to enquiring whether the ongoing development works in his constituency, particularly in respect of the construction of the administrative complex, would continue or not.

He also drew the attention of the House to the stopping of the pensions and medical bills of employees in treasuries. The Finance Minister, Mr Lal Singh, when asked by the Speaker, Dr Kewal Krishan, to reply, said there was no need to do so.

Earlier, after the call-attention notice of Mr Bir Devinder Singh (Congress) on JCT Electronics, SAS Nagar, was replied to by the Minister, Ch Jagjit Singh, an Akali MLA, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, stood up on a point of order and raised the issue of Punjabi not being used in the House for the conduct of business. The Speaker said he had already given his ruling that a member could speak in English, Punjabi or Hindi and the issue needed no discussion.

The House, before it was adjourned sine die, also passed a resolution approving raising of the loan limit by the Punjab State Electricity Board to Rs 6,000 crore from the present Rs 5,000 crore.


Institute on ‘gurmat maryada’ soon
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 25
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhadak Committee (SGPC) announced to set up a institute to training impart in “gurmat maryada”.

The proposed institute, a first of its kind, will be inaugurated on the auspicious occasion of Baisakhi on April 13, Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar, SGPC chief, said in a press statement issued here today. The institute will impart training in “rehat maryada” of gurdwara, gurbani, kirtan and behaviour towards the sangat visiting gurdwaras. The institute is especially for employees of the SGPC and related institutes.

A meeting of the “gurmat” intellegentsia has been called to deliberate on the modalities of the training programme at Sri Keshgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib on April 6.

Deliberations will be held on the syllabus and a final decision will be declared by the dharam prachar committee of the SGPC.

Students opting for the courses will be given certificates, which would be given a priority in employment in the gurdwaras. Prof Badungar said the idea of a missionary institute had found favour with all other “gurmat” institutes.

A sub-committee has been formed headed by Sant Atma Singh, member SGPC, Dr Jasbir Singh, head of Guru Nanak Studies, Guru Nanak Dev University, Dr Vikramjit Singh of Gurmat College, Patiala, Principal, Amarjit Singh, Gurmat Institute. The sub committee will also participate in the meeting at Anandpur Sahib.


1.5 cr TB patients in India
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 25
There are 1.5 crore tuberculosis (TB) patients in India, one-third of the world’s total TB-affected population, while about five lakh patients die every year in the country due to this disease. This was revealed by the District TB Officer during a seminar on the “Role of NGOs in Prevention of TB organised by the tuberculosis wing of the Punjab Health Department here today.

The District TB Officer, Mr M.B. Bali, said it was a matter of concern that about 10 lakh additional patients were found affected by this disease. “There is a need to create awareness among the people by educating them about the symptoms and affects of this disease. Early detection will help in the timely treatment of patients. The NGOs and religious institutions should come forward to join hand with the health authorities for the eradication of TB from the society,” Mr Bali added.

The president of the Manav Sehyog Society, Mr K.K. Malhotra, in his address said they had already adopted 300 TB patients and all expediture on their treatment was being borne by the society itself. The society is also running four TB clinics in the district where patients are provided with subsidised medicines and treatment free of cost to poor patients, he added. Similarly, the Satya Sai Sewa Samiti and the Lajwanti Foundation have already adopted 100 and 40 TB patients respectively, who were also being treated free of cost.

Mr Munish Sehgal, secretary, Human Rights Department of the Punjab Congress, pointed out that it was unfortunate that 3 lakh children were deprived of getting school education every year since their parents were suffering from TB.


Panel to probe corruption cases: Rinwa
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, March 25
Dr Mohinder Kumar Rinwa, Parliamentary Secretary, Punjab, while talking to mediapersons here yesterday, said the Punjab Government was determined to wipe out rampant corruption from the state.

He said the government had decided to set up an inquiry commission to be headed by a retired judge of high court to probe large-scale corruption by officers and politicians during the SAD-BJP regime.

He said commission would be headed by a judge to ensure impartial proceedings and avoid political vindictiveness.

He claimed that due to fair and transparent auction of liquor vends the government had earned a revenue of Rs 1,460 crore this year, which was about Rs 100 crore more than the previous year.

Dr Rinwa said the government was alive to the problems of farmers and strict instructions had been issued to check the theft of canal water and power by influential farmers.

The officials of the Irrigation Department had been directed to ensure that no outlets were oversized. He warned that nobody involved in water and power theft would be spared.

He assured that uninterrupted power supply would be provided to farmers during the sowing season.

Dr Rinwa said the officials of the state government would be made more accountable.

Earlier, Dr Rinwa listened to the problems of nearly 1500 persons at the local canal rest house and sorted many of them on the spot.

He instructed the Managing Director of the Fazilka Cooperative Sugar Mill to ensure total purchase of sugarcane.

Responding to the demand of compensation to farmers of border belt where landmines had been laid by the Army, Dr Rinwa said Capt Amarinder Singh had taken up this issue with the Prime Minister and Union Defence Minister, who had assured him to release Rs 178 crore for the purpose.


Rumours over foreign currency seizure
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 25
Rumours about a raid by officials of the Directorate of Revenue Intellegence and recovery of foreign currency to the tune of Rs 1 crore from a local garment shop owner created panic among the business community of the city here last evening.

The officials had reportedly raided the shop situated near police division no 4 last evening following the arrest of Roshan Lal near Kanet village on Jalandhar-Ludhiana road, who was travelling in a private bus and Rs 30 lakh of unaccounted money was seized from his possession. The arrested person reportedly revealed that he was involved in hawala business alongwith the owner of city-based garment shop owner.


Yeoman’s service to handicapped
Tribune News Service

Bathinda March 25
The local Helping Hand Educational Society has been rendering yeoman’s service to the handicapped by providing them artificial limbs and other equipment free of cost for the past many years.

The society has been providing the handicapped belonging to the district and surrounding areas, with artificial limbs, callipers, hearing aids, tricycles and wheel chairs by organising camps in various towns and villages of this area. So far the society has organised eight camps.

The society has been making efforts to get a mobile van so that needy people could be given aid as per their requirement at their doorsteps. The local MP, Mr Bhan Singh Bhora, has given some funds to the society out of his quota of MP Land Development Fund.

Last evening in a camp organised in a dharamshala here the society provided tricycles to 20 handicapped persons, wheel chairs to six, callipers to 25, hearing aids to 70 and artificial limbs to 27 persons. Mr Surinder Singh, MLA, who presided over the function, appealed to the people to come forward to rehabilitate the handicapped instead of making them pity themselves.

Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner, said the district administration would welcome non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working for the welfare of humanity.


Liquor vendors seek re-auction
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 25
The liquor vendors in the city today threatened to launch an agitation and stage dharnas in front of the houses of the Chief Minister and the Excise Minister if the government did not hold a re-auction of the liquor vends of the four and seven groups. The vendors alleged that the liquor vends were distributed to the Uttar Pradesh vendors under a conspiracy.

Meanwhile, the Neta Ji Azad Trade Union has also urged the Chief Minister to cancel the recent auction.


Camp on upkeep of solar pumps
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 25
Officials of the Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA) yesterday organised a camp in which farmers who had installed solar water pumps were taught about the maintenance of the pumps at Mehma Sarja village, near here.

Mr Suresh Kumar, Project Officer, PEDA, in a press note issued here said beneficiaries from Bathinda and Sangat blocks participated in the camp. Mr Jasvir Singh, Manager, PEDA, who had come from Chandigarh to attend the camp, said the agency had set a target to install 500 solar water pumps in Punjab. He said the target would be achieved by May 15.

Mr Jasvir Singh said solar pumps were easy to install, run, maintain and saved fuel and helped to control environmental pollution. 


Rakhra Kisan Mela on April 1
Tribune News Service

Patiala, March 25
A Kisan Mela will be held at Rakhra, 15 km from here, on April 1, under the aegis of Punjab Young Farmers’ Association.

The theme of the festival is to achieve crop diversification as a short-term measure by substituting the maximum area under cultivation of paddy with Basmati-1 variety which has established its market internationally.

Foundation seeds of the highest-yielding Pusa 44 variety will be given to the members of the Association and of Pusa Basmati-1 to all farmers participating in the mela.

Mr Amarjit Singh Samra, Minister of State for Revenue and Agriculture, will inaugurate the festival.

Dr S.S. Johal, Chairman of the Committee on reorganising agriculture and diversification, will deliver the keynote address.

Mr Tejveer Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Patiala, will preside over the function.

Senior scientists from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute will discuss the latest trends and challenges faced in agriculture.


Farmers learn about urea production
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, March 25
The local unit of National Fertilisers Limited (NFL) arranged a visit of farmers to the plant in connection with the World Consumers Rights Day for four days from March 20.

The aim behind the visit was an interaction between the farmers and the technical experts of the plant. The farmers were educated about buying right quality of urea at the right price and to make right use of it.

Farmers of Lakhewali, Killianwali, Mansa Kalan and Bhokhra villages were among those who visited the plant during these four days. They were also shown the plant and different manufacturing units. They were made familiar with various processes in the plant.

Mr C.M. Nagpal, General Manager of the plant, said they had been planning to hold kisan melas in the near future to educate farmers of the district and other districts also. 


Policeman killed in accident
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, March 25
A policeman posted at the Sultanwind police station, Vijay Kumar, was killed and four others were injured seriously in a road mishap here on Saturday. According to reports the auto rickshaw they were travelling in was hit by a truck from behind.

The vehicle turned turtle after the accident and Vijay Kumar was killed on the spot. The truck driver is absconding and the police has registered a case.

In another incident, Rs 3 lakh and some gold jewellery were stolen from the residence of Ashok Kumar of the Namak Mandi area here on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the police apprehended seven persons under the Excise Act and four persons under the Gambling Act and seized 70 litres of illicit liquor, 800 kg of lahan and Rs 5,790 from them.


No move to abolish college grants
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, March 25
Contrary to a recent decision of the Congress government to impose a cut of 10 per cent during the next five years on one non-planned expenditure, Punjab Higher Education Minister Khushal Behl today declared that the state government would not abolish grant-in-aid scheme, falling under non-planned expenditure category, for privately managed government-aided colleges.

Mr Behl was in the city to attend annual convocation of Lyallpur Khalsa College here. During a meeting with office-bearers of the Punjab College Teachers Union (PUCTU) led by its vice-president Prof J.S. Randhawa, the minister assured that the state government would not abolish an grant-in-aid scheme for privately managed government-aided colleges.

The state government was providing 95 per cent grant to around 139 colleges across the state, whereas 5 per cent was being shared by managements. But in its first Cabinet meeting, the Congress government had imposed a cut of 10 per cent on such grants and asked these institutions to compensate the loss by generating their own resources.

“We are also seriously considering the long-pending demand of the employees of private colleges pertaining to the implementation of the Pension and Gratuity scheme, which is hanging fire since passage of a Bill in this regard by the Punjab Assembly in 1999,” he added.

Later, addressing the students on the college campus, Mr Behl lauded the role of private educational institutions in imparting quality education to the students. “These private institutions had played a significant role in the field of education. It is worth mentioning that the girl students have been cornering major positions in most of the examinations conducted by all universities, which is a thorough reflection of the major social changes our society is witnessing in the past two decades,” the minister said.

The minister also conferred degrees on 350 meritorious students of the college, who passed out in the year 2000, during the function. Others present on the occasion include local MP Balbir Singh and Principal H.S. Chatha.

Meanwhile, PUCTU’s vice-president J.S. Randhawa has alleged that though the Central Government had released Rs 21.35 crore to the state government as arrears of revision of pay scales of college teachers last year, the state government had failed to disburse the same to them so far. “The employees of about 50 private colleges are not being given salaries for the past about eight months due to non-disbursement of requisite grant by the state government,” Mr Randhawa added.

“If the Congress government, which had mentioned in its poll manifesto to implement the pension and gratuity scheme after coming in power, fails to do so, we will definitly approach the high court for justice,” he said. 

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