Thursday, April 18, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



PSEB seeks hike in tariff
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 17
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) will be needing Rs 120 crore to Rs 140 crore per month to purchase power to meet the energy needs of the state in the coming months. The requirement of funds has been assessed on the basis of the current level of billing and anticipated power requirements of the state during summer. Keeping this in view, the PSEB has made a petition to the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission to allow it to reimpose power tariff on tubewells and raise the tariff for other categories of consumers. It may be mentioned here that the Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, had asked the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to withdraw the facility of free power and water to the farmers in view of the poor financial health of the PSEB.

The PSEB authorities have also supplied to the state electricity regulatory commission the annual revenue reports detailing the overall requirement of funds for the board and the revenue receipts. Sources close to the PSEB said today that the availability of power would depend on the availability of funds and the state was going to face shortage of power in the next four to five months. The PSEB is already debt ridden and owes huge arrears to the central sector power plants. The central power plants will not supply power without payment and the PSEB has to be supplied funds to get over the situation, the sources emphasised.

According to information, the PSEB has kept the tariff hike minimum for the industrial sector as there is a feeling in the wake of recession in the industry that the hike will adversely affect the growth of the industry. But other categories of consumers are going to face a steeps hike in power tariff. The PSEB authorities anticipate that there will be a shortage of power by 20 per cent on maximum days in May, 22 per cent in June, 16 per cent in July, 20 per cent in August and 25 per cent in September. The power supply to the tubewells (three phase) this year will be possible for six to seven hours against eight hours last year. The rural areas are likely to face cut in single phase supply for 12 hours daily.

Power cut in urban areas will be for a maximum of four hours and two to three hours in the main cities during summer months.

Officials of the PSEB explain that if there is good monsoon, some relief in the supply can be expected. ‘There is no guarantee that all units of the thermal plants will run smoothly,” said an officer of the PSEB. So far as the coal supply position is concerned, the Bathinda Thermal Plant has coal supplies for 20 days, Ropar plant for 24 days and the Lehra Mohabbat plant for 33 days.

The PSEB authorities are trying to get more power allocation from the central power plant, but the plant authorities ask for payment for the same. The PSEB still owes some arrears of October, 2001. The total arrears were stated to be to the tune of Rs 300 crore but with the introduction of a dues scheme by the Central Government, the arrears have been reduced. The reimposition of power tariff on the tubewells will be on the basis of a flat rate as metering of eight lakh tubewells is not possible, explain the officials of the PSEB.

Meanwhile, power consumption in the state has started rising with the rise in the temperature. The consumption of power on Tuesday was reported at 702 lakh units against 562 lakh units last year. Hydel power stations of PSEB namely UBDC and Shahnan are generating 13 lakh and 22 lakh units of power daily, respectively. One unit of Ranjit Sagar dam is also generating 31 lakh units of power while Pong dam is closed as a result of which Mukerian and Anandpur Sahib hydel power units are also not operational because of no water supply.


PSEB to impose staggered off-day
Our Correspondent

Patiala April 17
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has decided to impose compulsory staggered weekly off-day on all types of industrial consumers, including are and induction furnace consumers, who are provided electricity through feeders other than the rural feeders from April 29. The defaulting consumers will be levied penalties as per the PSEB rules. In a press note issued here, the PSEB authorities said this had been done keeping in view the substantial increase in demand of power in summer and in wake of approaching paddy season in the state.


No to debate on Gujarat in LS shameful: Jakhar
Our Correspondent

Abohar, April 17
Former Lok Sabha Speaker Mr Bal Ram Jakhar said if the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was confident of its majority in the Lok Sabha, it should have proved it on the floor of the House by voting on the Gujarat issue.

Commenting on the reported refusal of the Union Government led by Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee to discuss the Gujarat issue. Mr Jakhar said this was the darkest period he had seen in the democratic set up of the nation so far. The way the people of the minority community were allowed to be butchered in Gujarat was shameful for those expected to ensure safety of all. Mr Narender Modi had, unfortunately, emerged as the most hated Chief Minister since independence. Godhra killings were horrifying but it was constitutional duty of the state government to prevent its “repercussions”. It appeared that the aftermath was well-planned.

Speaking to reporters this afternoon at his Panjkosi residence, where Mr Jakhar was having rest for past 10 days due to cervical pain, the former Lok Sabha Speaker said he had allowed 55 hours discussion continuously in the House during his term on issues relating of national interest. It was really disgusting that discussion by elected representatives was not allowed on Gujarat issue which according to the Prime Minister had lowered the secular image and prestige of India all over the world. Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee succumbed to pressure from the preachers of “Hindutva” and changed his opinion on the present Chief Minister of Gujarat on joining the session at Panjim. Even when Mr Vajpayee cast aspersions on the Muslims, he and his supporters must understand that 12.5 crore Muslims could not be pushed out of the country even if the hidden agenda of the NDA was implemented through the backdoor. Irrespective of challenges from our neighbours, we are to live and die together maintaining brotherhood among all the communities, to maintain high traditions of the secular and democratic set-up.

Mr Jakhar condemned the BJP and allies for comparing Gujarat massacre with the riots which followed the assassination of former Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi. The people of Punjab, which was dominated by the affected community, had rejected this propaganda in recent Assembly polls by defeating the SAD-BJP government led by Parkash Singh Badal. It was stupid to launch such campaign against the Congress by the poll managers of the SAD to vitiate atmosphere and endanger communal harmony for petty gains. The people of Punjab were wise and refused to forget that the Akalis were communal and owned the responsibility of abetting terrorism in the state. Gujarat Chief Minister Narender Modi went a step ahead. The BJP leadership will have to repent shielding such a person. It was high time that the TDP should snap ties with such an alliance. Ms Jayalalithaa too realised that demand for removing Mr Modi as Chief Minister was genuine and it was no time for going to polls in the troubled state where thousands of affected people were still not having temporary shelter.


Badal shedding crocodile tears: Mann
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Mr Simranjit Singh MannChandigarh, April 17
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, MP and President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), today opened a new front against the Shiromani Akali Dal and its President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, by accusing them of shedding crocodile tears over violence against minorities in Gujarat and the implication of certain Dal leaders and workers in police cases by the Congress government in Punjab.

“It is strange that a man who never bothered about human rights violations under his own nose while in power is now pointing a finger at others,” said Mr Mann reminding the former Punjab Chief Minister about how the controversial Jathedar Gurdev Singh Kaonke murder case was swept under the carpet by his government.

Mr Mann, who was talking to TNS, said: “In spite of our numerous protests, demonstrations and representations, he did not order a probe into the circumstances leading to the death of a former Jathedar of Akal Takht”. There were several other cases where the Akali-BJP government turned a blind eye to the reality and unleashed a reign of terror against all those who were politically or ideologically opposed to it.

“The false cases registered at various places, including Ferozepore and Moga districts, are there for all to see,” said Mr Mann maintaining that even now when the National Human Rights Commission had condemned the Gujarat carnage, the Shiromani Akali Dal had refused to condemn the violence there.

“It has only expressed its concern without doing anything. When it can ask for the resignation of the Punjab Chief Minister for the violation of human rights of Dal leaders and workers, why not of the Gujarat Chief Minister for doing the same thing on a much larger scale and against the minorities. The resolutions adopted at the recent meeting of the PAC of the Dal has really exposed them,” said Mr Mann.

Mr Mann said that while both Mr Badal and the Shiromani Akali Dal claimed to be the “true representatives of farmers”, why had they not condemned the Union Government for making a mockery of the MSP for rabi crops.

Since the Dal was part of the NDA government, it was expected of Mr Badal and his party to take up the issue with the Central Government and get justice for Punjab farmers.

Mr Mann also assailed Mr Badal for supporting the Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University. “I wonder whether he would have taken the same stand if the complainant had been a daughter of a politician like him,” Mr Mann said.

Now when he wanted to fight the “reign of terror” let loose by the Congress government in Punjab, he must explain his position and stand to others so that they could join the agitation on principle.

Regarding the stand taken by the Shiromani Akali Dal on sending jathas to Pakistan, he said Mr Badal must explain his stand publicly on the issue.


Mann justifies PSGPC formation
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 17
Joining issue with the SGPC, the Dal Khalsa today supported the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC) even as Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the Akali Dal (Amritsar), sought the resignation of Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar for having failed to send a jatha to Pakistan for paying obeisance at Sikh shrines there.

Mr Mann said being a sovereign state Pakistan had the right to form independent PSGPC. He said Pakistan was the first Muslim country to form such a committee to manage the Sikh shrines and hence the gesture must be appreciated by the Panth.

Mr Mann said it was ‘anti-Pant’ to stop the jatha of devotees from visiting and paying obeisance at Pakistan gurdwaras. He said the SGPC had been engaged in a ‘baseless fight’ against the PSGPC on the pretext that it was headed by a non-Sikh. He said when the SGPC had failed to amend the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925, which empowered a Deputy Commissioner, who could be a Sikh, Muslim or Hindu to convene the first meeting of the SGPC’s general house it should not raise objection over heading of the PSGPC by a non-Sikh.


Farmers in vicious circle
Crops, animals fall prey to selenium

Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Nawanshahr, April 17
Farmers of some villages along the borderline of Nawanshahr and Hoshiarpur districts, their animals and crops, have gradually fallen prey to deadly visible and invisible effects of overdose of selenium, present in their soil.

But they prefer not to disclose it to the outer world for fear of ostracism mingled with apprehension that once the truth was out people would not even touch their selenium-laden crops and vegetables.

Selenium has been causing hairloss and nail dropping in humans and shoe shedding and horn chipping among animals. Residents have been observing a complete silence for about two decades and the world got a wind of their predicament when it was detected for the first time by experts of Punjab Agriculture University (PAU), Ludhiana.

There is fear psychosis among minds of villagers that once people learnt about it, they would be isolated and face a kind of social boycott. Still, residents of a number of villages, including, Barhwa, Bhagnara, Bhan Majra, Jainpur, Mehandpur, Rakran Dhahan, and those of areas falling in the kandi belt of Nawanshahr and Hoshiarpur districts, are not ready to come out easily with their predicament. “Please, don’t write or tell anything about us and our animals, otherwise, people would not buy our crop and our children will remain unmarried,” was the general request, put forth by farmers of affected villages before this correspondent.

The presence of high quantity of selenium, generally found to be around 450 PPM (particles per million) as compared to permissible limit of around 5 PPMs for human as well as animal consumption, in about 1500 acres of agricultural land, has already taken its toll in shape of untimely death of a large number of animals.

It causes permanent hair loss and shedding and blackening of nails, among those eating crops and vegetables grown in this land’.

The effect of selenium can be seen on wheatcrop, which turn white. “The problem was first detected in early 80s, but no solution could be found due to lackadaisical attitude of people and of the government,” said Dr. Karaj Singh Dhillon, of the Soil Department of PAU, who studied the problem along with his wife Dr. Surjit Kaur, also a soil scientist with the varsity. Dr. Surjit Singh maintained that prior to detection of the selenium people, used to think that the devastation was caused by some evil spirits.

“The only remedy to the problem is the high use of gypsum or leaving out the affected land for afforestation. But farmers are not ready for that for they maintain that the land is source of their livelihood,” says Dr Surjit Kaur.

Soil experts say the presence of such a high content of selenium might be due to heavy erosion of the chemical alongwith rainwater from high lands of Semi-Shivalik hills through a number of choes, which, were subsequently encroached upon by farmers and used for agricultural purpose.

While a cross-section of people feared that crops and vegetables grown in the area and silently transported to mandis might have been causing some or the other disease among users, Dr. Surjit Kaur maintained that only regular use of such crops and vegetables could cause ailments. “The best way is to do afforestation of the area and people could earn money by selling the wood, but, they are in a vicious crop cycle so they don’t want to leave it,” said Dr. Surjit Kaur adding that similar problem was detected in the US but there the affected land was abandoned. 


Food and Supplies officials get 4-yr RI
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 17
Mr R. P. Nagrath, Special Judge, has awarded four years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 2,500 each to the two accused — Surinder Kumar Gupta, Inspector, Food and Civil Supplies, and Ishar Sarup Singh, junior assistant in the same department — in a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

In his order pronounced here yesterday the Special Judge has mentioned that both accused are sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for four years and to pay fine of Rs 2,500 each and in default of payment of fine they shall further undergo rigorous imprisonment for six months under Section 7 of the PC Act. Both accused are also sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for four years and to pay fine of Rs 2,500 each under Section 13 (1) (d) read with section 13 (2) of the PC Act.

In this case, Mr Amrik Singh, secretary of the Syan Gram Udyog Samiti, Jabomajra, was the complainant. The samiti wanted to instal a brick-kiln in 1997 and a licence in this regard was to be obtained from the local office of the District Food and Supply Controller (DFSC). Gupta, Inspector at that time, was dealing, with the branch issuing licences for brick-kilns in the DFSC’s office.

Gupta, as per the case history, on July 28, 1997 demanded an illegal gratification of Rs 15,000 from Mr Amrik Singh, secretary of the samiti, for doing him the favour of marking the application for issuing the licence. However, the bargain was struck at Rs 10,000. Later, Mr Amrik Singh approached the DSP, Vigilance Bureau, on July 29, 1997, in this regard. The DSP laid a trap and when Gupta received Rs 10,000 from Mr Amrik Singh and handed over the same to Ishar Sarup Singh, the Vigilance team caught them.


Pathankot a haven for liquor smugglers
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, April 17
The town has become a ‘safe’ haven for illicit liquor smugglers.

In the past about one year, this illegal trade has been flourishing in the town. A number of unauthorised shops have been opened by the traders with the connivance of the higher-ups.

This trade has been flourishing in Sujanpur, Dida, Chakki, Chhani Baili and some other villages, say sources. The local police seems to be helpless in curbing this practice.

Since last year, the police has booked more than 500 persons in this connection. Cases under the Excise Act have been registered against them.

Some dhabas on the national highway and the Defence Road are openly selling liquor without valid licences. Communities like the Sansis, the Gorkhas and the Pernas have always indulged in illicit distillation of liquor.

The liquor mafia finds it easy to buy liquor at low rates from places in Himachal Pradesh and Chandigarh. It is then sold in the town and adjoining areas, where the prices are higher.

Members of the liquor mafia have also developed links with some army canteens. After procuring liquor from these canteens, they sell it in the open market.

The police and the Excise Department have been conducting regular raids and have arrested a large number of persons. Due to price differences and the nexus between the liquor mafia and the higher-ups, it is difficult for the authorities to curb this menace.


Punjab denies stoppage of ads to daily
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
Highly placed sources in the Punjab government have denied that it had stopped the release of government advertisements to a prominent Jalandhar-based language daily for its alleged persistent anti-Congress and pro-Akali slant in the coverage of news and views.

These sources said here today that all that had been done was to “rationalise the flow of advertisements to various newspapers and ensure their equitable distribution among them”. The fact of the matter was that the previous Badal government had doled out advertisements worth about Rs 13 crore to the Jalandhar daily during its five-year rule in Punjab. As against this, the other 40-odd Punjabi publications all over the state got only a paltry sum of Rs 3 crore.

The sources said that for its pro-Akali stance, the Editor of the Jalandhar daily was showered with “several favours” by the Badal regime, the least of which was his election to the Rajay Sabha as an “ïndependent” with the backing of the then ruling SAD-BJP combine. The daily was also given three industrial plots in Bathinda and Ludhiana.


Stay on octroi abolition notice sought
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
Adding a twist to the octroi controversy, former Municipal Councillor and petitioner in the case, Mathura Dass, has sought directions for initiating contempt proceedings against the state of Punjab and other respondents for “making a false statement, besides filing a false affidavit in the court”.

He has also sought directions for staying the operation of a notification regarding the abolition of octroi in the state. The case will now come up for hearing on April 26.

In an application filed before a Division Bench of the High Court headed by Mr Justice Jawaharlal Gupta, Mathura Dass has claimed that the state authorities, by not releasing the funds to the municipalities for March, 2002, despite a clear direction from the court, were liable to be punished for it.

Going into the background of the case, the petitioner stated that the respondents in their statement as well as in the application filed initially for vacation of stay had taken the stand that the state government would provide an alternate source of revenue to the municipalities before the abolition of octroi. Even an undertaking, given by Punjab’s then Advocate General, was recorded in an order dated November 19 last year.

He added that after the abolition of octroi, the respondents claimed that the state government would continue paying for the loss suffered by the municipalities its following.

A statement to this effect was made by the then Principal Secretary Mr P.K. Verma. After hearing the arguments, the High Court had reserved orders but had directed the state government to continue paying for the losses.

The government, however, released Rs 35 crore each to all municipalities for months of December, 2001, besides January and February, 2002, but amount for the month of March was not released by the state government, he asserted.

Counsel for the petitioner added that the decision to abolish octroi in the state was challenged on the ground that it was the “major source of revenue with the municipalities and as such was necessary for survival”.

It may be recalled that the Bench had earlier reserved orders on a bunch of petitions filed against the Punjab government’s decision to abolish octroi in the state.

In his plea, Mathura Dass had contended that the state should not be permitted to implement the decision till alternate sources of income were provided to municipalities.

Claiming that the orders had been passed after violating the High Court directions, his counsel had added that as per the orders the respondents were required to place on record a copy of the decision and were expected to implement the same after obtaining court’s permission. The respondents had, nevertheless, ordered the abolition of octroi from December 1, 2001.


Watch your ward’s progress on website
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 17
Good news for parents. Now they would be watching the performance/attendance of their wards and teachers on the website from the coming academic session, which commences from July 1.

Neither students nor the teachers concerned would be given the password, which would be the exclusive right of either the principal or the parents.

The details of monitoring of the multi-dimensional activities of teachers and students would be available on the Internet in all colleges affiliated to Guru Nanak Dev University.

The software for the colleges would be available for Rs 20,000. The facility of watching the attendance was available in Christ College, Bangalore, but Guru Nanak Dev University would become the first varsity of the country to provide multi-dimensional information, including attendance, behaviour, discipline, performance in sports and extra-curricular activities about the students on the Internet.

The decision to this effect was taken at the college development committee meeting held under the presidentship of Dr S. P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor, here today.

The Vice-Chancellor said the entire information would be available on the website within 15 minutes of the commencement of classes.

The members of the college development council also agreed to ensure 180 teaching days in the educational institutes as per the UGC guidelines. Guru Nanak Dev University has earmarked Rs 1.10 crore for the development of its affiliated colleges to ensure proper academic atmosphere in the institutions.

The council also agreed to resort to the method of self-appraisal report of all teachers of the colleges affiliated to Guru Nanak Dev University. On the basis of these reports the best adjudged teachers would be honoured. However, no punitive steps had been suggested against the teachers whose performance would be below average under the first phase of the scheme.

Earlier, Mr Gulzar Singh, Dean, college development council, presented the agenda and budget estimates of the council for 2002-2003.


Vaids, hakims in tizzy over ban
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 17
Resentment prevails among vaids and hakims practising ayurvedic and unani systems of medicine in Punjab as the authorities have directed them to surrender their certificates to the department and they could not practise in the state.

The Registrar of the Board of Ayurvedic and Unani Systems of Medicines has asked the practitioners registered, enlisted or enrolled in other states but practising these systems of medicines in Punjab, to deposit their certificates with the department concerned.

Sources said with this order nearly 2500 vaids and hakims, having such certificates would be come jobless. Amongst them are practitioners who have been in the profession for more than three decades.

At a meeting of these practitioners belonging to Bathinda, Faridkot, Kot Kapura and other towns of the area held last evening here, they resented the decision of the Registrar and termed it “an attack on their noble profession.”

Dr Satpal Bhateja a practitioner, said the order had cancelled the registrations which were more than 36 years’ old.

He said in 1970 the then Registrar of the Ayurvedic Board, Punjab allowed them to practise here. He said the authorities concerned had taken the permission of the Medical Council of Punjab before implementing the decision.

Mr Pawan Bansal another practitioner said it seemed that some vested interests were working against them. He added that they had been practising for many years with the permission of the authorities concerned and there was no need to review the decision.

Others also expressed the same views. They said while the decision to enrol them was taken by the Board the decision to ban practice was taken by the Registrar alone. They alleged the decision was not approved by the Board of Ayurvedic and Unani Systems of Medicines.

The vaids and hakims will hold a demonstration in front of the office of the Registrar on April 18. They said they would contact others in the profession from other districts to strengthen their agitation.


3 kids charred to death

Hoshiarpur, April 17
Three children were charred to death when fire engulfed the jhuggis in which they were staying in the ‘mand’ belt along the Beas near Talwara township in the district last night.

Reports reaching the district head-quarters here today said a group of nearly 15 families of migrant labourers residing in the ‘mand’ belt were left shelterless when a fire broke out and gutted their jhuggis. Three children aged between three and 13 years were charred to death in the fire. Their identity has not yet been established. UNI


Dissolution of panel to hit SGPC credibility
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 17
The credibility of sub-committees constituted by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) to probe various irregularities, mismanagement or scams is at stake after the dissolving of the three-year-old inquiry panel to probe charges against Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar Kesgarh Sahib and Giani Kewal Singh, the then Jathedar, Damdama Sahib. This committee was formed on February 10, 1999, when Bhai Ranjit Singh was placed under suspension as Jathedar of Akal Takht.

Earlier, a three-member sub-committee, which had indicted Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, secretary of the SGPC, for indulging in irregularities, had recommended to repatriate Dr Bachan to Guru Nanak Dev University (Dr Bachan still enjoys liaison with university) with immediate effect. However, no action had been taken so far. Similarly, no action had been taken on the report of purchase of ration by the Takht Kesgarh Management allegedly from a bogus firm.


New OPD timings
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, April 17
The out-patient department OPD timings in government hospitals and dispensaries have been changed from 9 am to 3 pm. to 8am to 2 pm The out-patient departments of these hospitals and dispensaries, including Ayurvedic dispensaries, will now remain open daily from 8 am to 2 pm. Emergency services will be available round the clock.


Brick-kiln workers observe strike
Tribune News Service

Nawanshahr, April 17
On the call given by the Indian Federation of Trade Unions, labourers of about 70 brick-kilns in the district observed a complete strike and organised a rally here yesterday to protest against the policy of liberalisation and globalisation being pursued by the Central Government under the pressure of the World Trade Organisation.

Mr Kulwinder Singh Warraich, Mr Daljit Singh Advocate, Mr Parkash Ram Karimpuri and Ms Gurbux Kaur Sangha, among others, addressed the rally of labourers.

The labourers took out a protest march, which culminated at the DC office. A memorandum was submitted to the Deputy Commissioner by the labourers.

GURDASPUR: The Brick-Kiln Mazdoor Union took out a rally through the main bazars on Tuesday.

The labourers were demanding an immediate increase in their wages.


Cleanliness drive from April 22
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 17
The Deputy Commissioner of Patiala, Mr Tejveer Singh, today announced a special clean-up drive from April 22 in the city to be undertaken by residents, schoolchildren, social work organisations, government employees and NGOs.

Addressing officials of different government departments at the Red Cross building, he said in order to ensure that the drive was carried out in a systematic manner, the city would be 'reconstituted' in 45 zones for this purpose and the volunteers would work in close coordination with the Municipal Corporation authorities. He said those participating in the drive would not only clean the areas allotted to them but also ensure disposal of waste at the sites.


Power stopped to tubewells in border villages
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, April 17
Resentment prevails among residents of Dorangla sector in this district for the PSEB has abruptly disconnected connections to the tubewells in more than 15 border villages.

According to official sources, the step has been taken to save the wheat crop from sparks of electric wires. Fires can reach the under land mines, board officials fear.

The villages affected by the board action include Ganja, Ganji, Sangaur, Malukchak, Nadala, Jeewan Chak, Baupur, Qadian, Bhago Kawan, Shamsherpur, Wazirpur, Behlaulpur, Madhopur and Chak Arian, all in the Dorangla sector on the Indo-Pak border.

Mr Channan Singh Dorangla, farmer, said the PSEB should resort to regular and proper maintenance of electric installations.

Mr Wassan Singh, another farmer of Sadda village said that land holdings of people in border villages are comparatively small and they cannot afford threshing through combines. The farmers here operate their threshers from their tubewell connections. The farmers of the area demanded restoration of their power connections immediately otherwise threatened agitation.


Crops destroyed in mine blasts
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 17
Wheat crop in 40 acres at Bidhi Chand, a border village near Jhabal, 40 km from here, were destroyed when mines exploded due to a short circuit.

Though no loss of life is reported, the damage to the crop is being assessed. Senior police and civil officials have reached the spot.


Fire in forest area, crop destroyed

Moga, April 17
Fire broke out in two acres of forest area adjoining the Abohar branch canal, near Dhaipai, on the Kotkapura-Jaitu road in Faridkot district yesterday. Five fire tenders from Kotkapura, Bathinda, Moga and Muktsar reached the spot. It took more than four hours to extinguish the fire, official sources said here. At least 25 acres of wheat crop was destroyed by fire during the past 72 hours in Moga district. The fire was caused due to sparks from PSEB transformers, sources said. PTI


Traffic police staff transferred
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, April 17
Mr R. N. Dhoke, Senior Superintendent of Police, today ordered the transfer of traffic police staff at Phagwara to the local police line on the charge of dereliction of duty.

He also placed under suspension Sub-Inspector Baldev Krishan, incharge traffic to Phagwara for not discharging his duties honestly.

In a press note issued here, Mr Dhoke said he had received complaints against the traffic staff taking bribes from traffic rules violators.

Mr Dhoke said he had also placed under suspension Gurdial Singh, MHC, Phagwara police station, for allegedly taking bribe of Rs 500 from a student.

He further said departmental action was being taken against them. Mr Dhoke said two persons had been arrested and a car was recovered from them. The arrested have been identified as Harjinder Singh and Sarwan Singh of Amritsar.


Ordinance likely on market committees
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
The Punjab Government is contemplating issuing an ordinance to enable it to dissolve the nominated market committees.

Informed sources said the issue would come up at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers.

There is a lot of pressure from party workers on the government to dissolve the market committees of which the chairpersons and other members were nominated by the previous government.

Such members have been nominated for three years. Most of them have only completed one year of their tenure.

There is no provision in the Punjab Mandi Board Act for dissolving the market committees in one go. These can be dissolved by following a lengthy procedure, it is learnt.


Resignation of law  officers accepted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
In less two months after the Congress government took over in Punjab, the resignation of 27 law officers was accepted today, while the services of other three were dispensed with.

Confirming this, Punjab's Advocate-General Harbhagwan Singh said that the list of the new law officers was likely to be released within a day or so.

It may be recalled that the AG office had asked the law officers to resign from the posts they were holding following a change in the government. The officers were clearly told that there was no compulsion but "submission of their resignations would be appreciated". The officers, it was added, were assured that most of the resignations would be returned. Even the officers who had initially resigned would be considered for reappointment. Resignation by the old team with the change in the government is a custom being followed by the law officers for a long time.


MC employees stage dharna
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 17
On a call by the Punjab Municipal Workers Struggle Committee, employees of the local municipal council staged a dharna in front of the office of the council to press the authorities to accept their demands.

The employees demanded that they should be given pay regularly. They said after the abolition of octroi in the state the municipal councils were not able to pay salaries to employees due to the paucity of funds.

They alleged that the state government had promised that the municipal councils would be given funds to make up for the loss due to the abolition of octroi, but the promise was not fulfilled.


Punjab hikes DA for staff
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 17
The Punjab Government today enhanced the dearness allowance to its employees from 45 per cent to 49 per cent effective January 1, 2002. According to a letter issued to all concerned, the amount due from January 1 to February 28, 2003, will be credited to the general provident fund accounts of the employees.


11 persons beaten up, robbed
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 17
Panic prevailed in the local Bahadurpur area and adjoining Bhangi choe and in Bassi Gulam Hussain village last night when a group of 10-15 looters started mercilessly beating passersby with lathis and resorted to looting at Bhangi choe at about 9.15 p.m. They remained active for more than half an hour, injured and looted nine persons of Bassi Gulam Hussain village, who were identified as Ajay Kumar (45), Roshan Din (45), Sukhjinder Singh (25), Ashvani (34), Rajiv (28), Surinder Kaur (35), her son Jagjiwan Kumar (13), her husband Om Parkash (38) and Ashok Kumar (28). All the victims were going back to their houses from Hoshiarpur city.

Later one of the victims reached the village, informed the inhabitants and got made an announcement in the village from the gurdwara about this incident. Hundreds of villagers assembled at once and rushed to the spot but the looters had escaped. Meanwhile, the police was also informed. On receiving information Ms Gurpreet Deo, SSP, along with a heavy police force, rushed to spot. About a dozen suspected persons were rounded up and their interrogation was done, but no clue about the looters could be found. The city police has registered a case in this connection.

All injured persons were admitted to the local Civil Hospital.

There was a great rush of relatives and friends of the victims in the hospital this morning. Ashwani Kumar and his brother Ashok Kumar who run a tea stall near Session Chowk told this correspondent at Civil Hospital that after closing their stall they were going to their house located at Bassi Gulam Hussain. On the way when they were crossing the Bhangi choe at about 9.15 p.m., 10-15 persons came out from the bushes and started beating them with a blunt weapon. They became unconscious and the looters looted Rs 700 from them.

Om Parkash, a farmer, said he, along with his wife Surinder Kaur and son Jagjiwan Kumar, were going back to their house from Hoshiarpur after attending a marriage when the looters suddenly came out from bushes and started beating them. They snatched gold earrings from his wife and Rs 1,000 from him.

Ajay Kumar who is running a workshop at Panchkula said he was going with his cousin Rajiv Plaha who is running a shop at Hoshiarpur when the looters beat them up and looted two gold chains, one wrist watch, a gold pendant, two gold rings, one mobile phone and Rs 3000 in cash from them. The other victims also told the same story.

In another incident, 10-15 persons went to Ram Asra’s farm house at Kakon village adjoining the city at 1 p.m. last night. They mercilessly beat farm labourers Mohinder and Vijay who were sleeping there and took away their tape recorder. They were also admitted to the Civil Hospital.

Both these incidents have created panic in and around the city. The SSP and DSP were not available till the filing of this story for their comments.


Moneylender, wife robbed, murdered
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 17
In a broad daylight dacoity, Madan Lal (52), a small money lender and his wife Sneh Lata were murdered with a sharp edged weapon by some unidentified dacoits in the Partap Nagar locality at about 9-30 am here today.

Talking to reporters at the site of the incident. Mr Gurpreet Sinth Toor local SP (D), said as per the initial information with the police, five persons in a light blue Maruti car visited the residence of the deceased. While three of them entered the house, two remained outside.

Mr Toor further said the dacoits demanded gold and money and enquired about the bank lockers from the deceased. But the deceased replied that he had no bank locker. Then the dacoits collected gold ornaments from the members of the family and confined the two daughters of the deceased in a room, he added.

Mr Toor said the daughters of the deceased told the police an altercation between their father and the dacoits. Later, the dacoits murdered Madan Lal and Sneh Lata with a sharp- edged weapon and fled with the looted gold articles. 


SAD leader’s husband murdered
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 17
Teja Singh Toofan, a renowned Dhadi (ballad singer) and husband of Ms Darshan Kaur Toofan, a senior SAD leader, was allegedly murdered here this evening by a man and his two sons.

Ms Toofan brought her husband dead to the local Civil Hospital. She alleged that Saudagar Singh and his two sons, Nahar Singh and Roshan Singh, attacked her husband near Amarpura Basti when they were going to their home on a scooter.

She said one of them gagged her husband with a piece of cloth while another stabbed him with a knife in the abdomen. Her husband died on the spot, she said. Ms Toofan said Saudagar Singh used to work as a sewadar at Baba Jiwan Singh Gurdwara in Amarpura Basti. She alleged that he was removed from his post for indulging in unlawful activities.

She said about a year ago, Nahar Singh fired at her husband and a case in this connection was registered against him. Nahar Singh was released on bail, she said, adding that Saudagar Singh had once attacked her son Gurdeep Singh with a sword.

The doctor attending to the emergency services at the hospital said Teja Singh Toofan was brought dead by his wife at about 8.40 p.m. He said a post-mortem would be conducted tomorrow.


Doctor caught taking bribe
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, April 17
Dr Jaswant Singh, incharge, of the De-addiction centre, here was caught while accepting a bribe of Rs 500 by a team of vigilance bureau led by DSP, Mr Mchal Singh.

He had been running a private clinic in his home where he was treating those patients who had been reporting at the de-addiction centre. He was maintaining a register containing record of each patient and had also been issuing prescription slips on his letter pads to the patients. He was charging Rs 500 from each patient.

The accused was arrested while he was accepting a bribe of Rs 500 from Lal Singh of Dauder village in Moga district.

Letter pads, register and 300 intoxicating capsules were seized from premises of private clinic being run by the accused.

A case has been registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act.


Cop suspended on bribe charge
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, April 17
Head Constable Gurdial Singh, who was working as a chief munshi at the Satnampura police station here, has been suspended and sent to police lines, Kapurthala, for taking illegal gratification.

A press note issued here today said Gurdial Singh had taken Rs 500 from Mrs Shikha Sharma of Dugglan Mohalla, Hadiabad, for giving her a police clearance certificate. He had reportedly demanded Rs 1,000 but Mrs Sharma gave him Rs 500 promising to give the remaining amount later. She reported the matter to the DSP who recovered the amount from Gurdial.


Scared shopkeepers of street No. 6
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 17
Shopkeepers of street No. 6 near the local Bhana Mall Trust have become an anxious lot. They lock the shops as before, but pull them again and again. Just to make sure they haven’t been lax while locking. Two theft incidents took place in the street in less than a week.

On the intervening night of April 11 and 12 readymade garments, shoes were stolen from a shop in the locality while on the night of April 13 another shop dealing with computer accessories was robbed. The thieves took only valuable items from both shops.

A meeting was convened by the shopkeepers of the locality on Monday evening to take steps for ensuring security in the street. The shopkeepers decided to meet the higher civil and police officials to apprise them of the situation.


Five held for stealing gurdwara offerings
Our Correspondent

Moga, April 17
The Moga police claims to have busted a gang involved in taking away money for after breaking open the ‘golaks’ (collection boxes) of gurdwaras. It has arrested five members of the gang, while the sixth one is at large.

A police press note issued here stated this today. The arrested ones have been identified as Chamkaur Singh and Bohar Dass, both residents of Dhurkot Ranjsih village and Kulwant Singh, Kulwinder Singh alias Mangu, Hussain Singh, all from Manuke village. The sixth Baldev Singh could not be arrested.

They were booked on April 8 under Sections 454, 380 of the IPC by the Nihalsinghwala police station on the charge of breaking golak of gurdwara of Takhtupura village. They had fled after taking the money from the ‘golak’.

They were arrested from the bridge of a drain near Saido village by the police party at a naka there. The press note claimed that the police had specific information that the alleged culprits would come on the bridge of the drain.

The police recovered arms from their possession including two .315 pistols and four cartridges and other equipments used for breaking open ‘golaks’.

During interrogation the accused confessed to breaking the ‘golaks’ of gurdwaras at Anandpur Sahib, Kiratpur Sahib, Mehdiana Sahib, Rara Sahib, Manuke village, Takhtupura, Talwandi Sabo, Ajitwal and Jalalabad. They further confessed that they had been in the ‘trade’ for the past many years. In another press note the police said that it had arrested a narcotics smuggler. It stated that Sikander Singh resident of Buttar Sharhin under the Kotbhai police station was arrested when he was trying to smuggle contraband opium weighing one kg.


Four sentenced
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, April 17
Mr Bhupinder Singh Sidhu, Additional Sessions Judge, in a decision here yesterday convicted and sentenced Dharminder Kumar, alias Happy, Chaman Lal, alias Ghagu, Sukhdev Rani to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs 2,000 and sent Parkash Singh to a rigorous imprisonment for five years with fine of Rs 1,000 under Sections 302/34 and 201, IPC, respectively, for murdering Neelam Rani daughter of Sukhdev Rani.


Three booked for ploughing land of NRI
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, April 17
The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Rakesh Kumar Verma has ordered the registration of a criminal case against Bhajan Singh, Pappu and Binder of Khaira Dona village on the charge of ploughing the land of Harbhajan Singh, an NRI of the village. According to a press note issued on Tuesday, Mr Verma told that Harbhajan Singh, who lives in Canada. On April 14, the three persons forcibly ploughed his land and damaged the crop.


Badungar’s kin kidnapped, freed
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 17
Mr Jasmer Singh, nephew of SGPC President Kirpal Singh Badungar was allegedly kidnapped from the local Partap Nagar area this evening. According to information, Jasmer Singh was released by his captors at Ludhiana later. He was allegedly picked up from his dairy farm in Patiala. The kidnappers also allegedly beat up the victim and his servant before taking him to Ludhiana.


Medical teachers’ panel for return of money
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 17
The Punjab State Medical and Dental Teachers Association today demanded that the money collected from enhanced student fee and NRI seats in medical colleges should be immediately returned to the institutions so as to improve the facilities of medical colleges and hospitals.

The fee of medical students had been increased in order to improve the facilities of the institutes but some members of the association alleged that the extra money generated was added to the state exchequer. The members said that this action of the state government had defeated the real purpose of fee enhancement and there could be considerable improvement in the condition of the medical colleges if the money had been utilised as planned.

A delegation of the association's state core committee, led by Dr Kiranjeet Kaur, today met the Principal Secretary, Medical Education and Research Mr K.K. Bhatnagar, in Chandigarh and demanded immediate policy and structural changes so as to ensure proper uplift of hospitals. Implementation of pay commission's recommendations, extension of retirement age of medical teachers and restarting super-specialities was also demanded.

Alleging that the previous state government had sold the land belonging to Ram Nath Eye and Charitable Hospital at Amritsar, the association demanded that the money should immediately be given to Government College, Amritsar, for development and strengthening the existing facilities.

At the meeting with the Principal secretary, the association suggested several policy changes, including facilitating contributions by alumni associations, NRIs and other welfare organisations who wish to donate money for the improvement of hospitals and medical colleges. The association also demanded functional autonomy, decentralisation of powers and revision of drug purchase policy. Dr Kiranjeet Kaur informed that the Principal Secretary was briefed about the need to restart radiotherapy and cancer treatment unit, strengthening diagnostic facilities and revenue generating departments.


PCCTU threatens to boycott exams
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 17
The Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU) has threatened to boycott university examinations to be conducted in May to force the government to implement pension and gratuity scheme and release pending grants to the college due since November 2001.

The president of the union, Mr K.B.S. Sodhi, while addressing a press conference here today, said the former Chief Minister Mr Prakash Singh Badal, had betrayed the teaching community and had failed to fulfil promises made to it. He said although, the present Congress government too had made a promise to implement the scheme yet the Education Minister, Mr Khushal Behl, had not given a categorical assurance and this had caused bitterness among teachers.

Mr Sodhi said on April 19, the union would organise a protest dharna outside the office of the DPI, Colleges, Chandigarh. He said on April 24 and 26 they would boycott the university examinations being conducted by Guru Nanak Dev University, and Panjab University, respectively. 


Students demand grace marks
Our Correspondent

Batala, April 17
Students of B. Com (III) of the local S. L. Bawa DAV College who have appeared in the final examinations conducted by Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, are worried about the style of question papers being set this year. They told this correspondent here today that in the question paper of “income tax-law and practice”, one question of six marks was out of syllabus.

Many parents of the students were also of the view that the question paper of “management accounting and finance” was quite difficult.

Meanwhile, the students have appealed to the Vice-Chancellor of the university to give at least 10 to 15 grace marks.


Exhibition opened at KV
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 17
The annual function of Kendriya Vidyala No. 1, a model school of Chandigarh region, saw Brig. C.S. Harika, Deputy General Officer Commanding, inaugurating the exhibition of science, social science, art and art and craft models prepared by children before the commencement of a stage show.

School Principal H.S. Puri welcomed the guests and presented the annual report of the school highlighting the performance of the students not only in academics but also in cultural, sports and social activities at regional and national levels.

A cultural programme reflecting the Indian and western culture was presented on the occasion. The music and colours of different states as well as messages to save environment, respecting parents and need for adopting a vegetarian lifestyle. Solo song by Chamanpreet and classical dance performance by Akanksha were appreciated by the audience.

Mr Simran Harika cheerfully gave away the prizes to the toppers. The chief guest and Chairman of the Vidyalaya Management Committee was all praise for the Principal and staff of the vidyalaya.


Students seek resignation of Principal
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 17
Even as the strike of the National Students Union of India (NSUI) at the local Laxmi Narain Ayurvedic College entered the third day today, students of the college sought the resignation of Dr D.C. Pandey, Principal of the college.

The striking students also sought revocation of the suspension of three senior lecturer of the college namely Dr Amitabh Singh, Dr Suresh Chauhan and Dr N. K. Chaudhary. The union alleged that the signatures of students were forged by the authorities and demanded action against the guilty.


SBP to open Infotech Academy
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 17
In a bid to meet the emerging challenges in Information and Technology, the State Bank of Patiala has decided to establish its own “Infotech Academy” in the city.

Bank Managing Director A. K. Purwar laid the foundation stone of the Academy in Urban Estate Phase II today. Mr Purwar said the academy would have state of the art equipment.

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