Saturday, April 20, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Wheat crop reduced to ashes
Tribune News Service

Neshta/Roarawala (Amritsar), April 19
Standing wheat crop in hundreds of acres in border villages was reduced to ashes today in a fire caused by a spark triggered by a transformer following a mine blast.

Fire tenders pressed into service at Neshta village, near the Indo-Pak border, on Friday.
— PTI photo

The blackened sky put the Pakistani Rangers on high alert following a series of mine blasts. Thereafter, the fire spread with overhead electric wires engulfing the standing crop spread over hundred acres.

When the TNS reached the site of the mishap, approximately 17 mines burst the wind worsened the situation as stacks of dry fodder caught the fire. About 150 Army and paramilitary personnel, along with three fire brigades, fought for hours to control the fire.

According to duty fireman Surinder Singh, more fire tenders were required for extinguishing the fire. The Army has cordoned off the affected areas. On getting the first inkling, army personnel wee seen hurriedly pulling out the mine. The fire brigade sources revealed that the fire had also engulfed the standing crops under Kathunangal and Khasa police station.

Earlier, accidental mine blasts and short-circuiting of overhead electric wires had reduced the standing crop of wheat in several acres in border village Chhina Bidhi Chand in this district.

The affected farmers, Balbir Singh, Budha Singh, Raj Singh and Satwinder Singh, who own more than 25 acres, cursed their fate as almost their entire crop was reduced to ashes by the devastating fire in front of their eyes.

The farmers blamed officials of the Punjab State Electricity Board for loose, naked, over-hanging and old wires” which frequently led to short-circuiting, causing fires.

The skeletal remains of trees were seen at the site. People rushed their cattle to safer places.

The freshly prepared “musals” (Indigenous store house for wheat) were also destroyed in the fire.

These were reports of mine blasts on the Pakistan side also flames were visible across the border.

At the time of the filing the report, the fire was spreading towards the Attari railway station.

Mr K.K. Rana, sub-fire officer, was reportedly stopped by the Army from going beyond the mined fields. The fire brigade received a call at about 10.30 a.m. and immediately pressed three fire engines into service. It was extremely difficult to bring the fire in the mined fields under control. However, officials of fire brigade claimed that the fire was brought under control by the evening.

In yet another incident, fire broke out on the backside of the State Bank of India branch at Town Hall here. It started from a shop selling plastic items and caught the chemical stored in the shop. The fire spread to the nearby bank building.


Fire destroys wheat crop

Jalandhar, April 19
A major fire destroyed 52 acres of standing wheat crop at Umarpura village under the Noormahal police station today. Reports here said the fire was caused after over-head electricity wires snapped after getting entangled with the roof of a combine harvester.

While 14 acres of the destroyed wheat crop was owned by Thamanjit Singh, the rest belonged to eight other farmers of the village. UNI


It’s shuffle and reshuffle
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
Though in office for close to two months, the top agenda of the Congress in Punjab remains postings and transfers. The common refrain in the corridors of power is that it is “Captain’s rule” and all that his “boys” in the government do is to shuffle and reshuffle the bureaucrats.

The Captain’s coterie wants everyone to believe that bureaucrats were picked straight from the “gradation list, on merit”. But it is an open secret that while some bureaucrats have been tossed around, more have been dumped because their loyalty was suspect. Several more have been adjusted because of political exigencies. Even as the reshuffle continues, a lengthy “policy” paper on postings and transfers has been released and is being observed more in the breach!

There is, perhaps, yet another agenda—constitution of committees and bending and amending rules to either accommodate MLAs, as chairpersons or political secretaries, or appoint OSDs (officers on special duty). Mercifully, at least this agenda seems to have been completed. Those on committees have been duly “installed” letting them deliberate and recycle already known facts (on fiscal reforms, agriculture and industry) and repackaging them. This is to be finally delivered to beleaguered Punjabis as an “economic package” tied in ribbons of “taxes” with “hard” knots to hold it in place, letting “freebies” drop by the side.

As the package is prepared, the word down the line is to paint Punjab’s economy — finances, industry, agriculture, the power sector, social services etc — in black, clearly portraying only the grim contours and describing it as a gift from the past. The White Paper is, perhaps, a forerunner to giving the Captain a political escape route.

The Captain’s government has come to power riding high on the crest of an anti-corruption wave. But sample its own honest governance. The Captain’s “boys” admit in whispers that certain administrative “aberrations” in appointments stand out. They do not discount murmurs about a letter purported to have been written by the Captain’s brother that rustles in files pointing to glaring “aberrations” with a hint to apply correctives.

There are several examples how bureaucrats with a clean track-record (a rare breed) have been treated like a shuttlecock. Their fault? They touched certain raw nerves in the corporations in which they were posted, thereby causing a furore. The howl that followed the stink caused by the opening of a can of worms was expected. Alarmed insiders, engineered implosions as “outsiders” (past beneficiaries) joined them in mounting a political war forcing the powers that be to succumb and post them out.

The fact is that the ad hoc decision-making and cloistered functioning of the Captain’s office has divided the bureaucracy, like the media. Channels of information are clogged and access to the Captain is difficult, if not impossible, say bureaucrats.

One question often asked is: why has no major policy decision been taken yet by the government? Whatever political decisions were taken, have found their way to the high court. Another question often asked is: if the Congress had kept a tab on the economy (as it claims) much before the February Assembly elections, how come the Captain’s “boys” failed to draw up a road map to be followed right away to “reconstruct” Punjab when they had access to inside information through serving and retired bureaucrats?

Much of the present hype on how badly the economy is bruised, therefore, is calibrated, aimed at bidding “goodbye” to the populist promises the Congress had made to voters. Today the Captain’s “boys” face the usual political pulls and pressures on postings and placements. All this unfinished exercise showcases as much of the bureaucracy’s who’s who as who is where?


Govt to review old-age pension cases
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 19
The newly elected Congress government in the state is planning to review old-age pension cases and identify those who have been getting the pension though not eligible for the same.

Stating this here today, the Minister for Social Welfare and Social Security, Mr Santokh Singh, alleged that the previous government led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal had granted pension to certain persons not eligible for the same.

The minister, who was here to preside over a meeting of the officers of the Social Welfare Department, said such cases would be identified and the pension stopped. A fresh survey for the purpose would be launched soon. However, he clarified that the scope of the survey would not be limited to identifying undeserving cases alone.

Mr Santokh Singh announced that the government was all set to streamline the pension scheme in the state. There were about 10 lakh beneficiaries of the pension scheme in the state. Of this, about 8 lakh were old-age pensioners, while the others included widows, the physically challenged and dependent children. The government had issued directions to its employees that the pension cases be settled within 15 days. In Ludhiana district, there are about 59,000 old-age pensioners.

On the much-hyped ‘shagun’ scheme for girls belonging to the weaker sections of society, the Minister said, it would continue. He revealed that 27,000 applications were still pending under this scheme and announced that these would be settled soon. Allaying apprehensions that the scheme may be wound up, owing to the poor financial health of the state, the minister said only Rs 30 crore had been allocated for this scheme.

To a question on the sale of books, supplied by the Department of Social Welfare to schools for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students, in the open market, the minister said he would order a fresh inquiry as nothing had come out of the first inquiry.

He asserted that the guilty would be identified and severely punished. In the same context, the minister said the government had supplied 13 lakh sets of books worth Rs 9 crore to students in over 6,000 schools.


Govt apathy renders truck owners jobless
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 19
Sarbjit Singh of Goniana mandi, 15 km from here, who owned a truck before January 11 and had given employment to two persons one as driver and the other as cleaner of his vehicle, has been rendered unemployed after his truck was burnt at Udasar near Bikaner in Rajasthan while on Military duty.

Sanjay, another transporter, has been finding it difficult to make both ends meet after his vehicle was also damaged in the fire that broke out near Bikaner while military goods were being transported to Rajasthan from various locations in Punjab when military deployment was made at the Indo-Pak border.

More than a hundred truck owners have been running from pillar to post to get compensation for the damages caused to their vehicles while on military duty. The truck owners of Goniana, Bathinda and Rampura Phul, who had suffered losses worth crores of rupees, when more than 160 trucks were burnt on January 11 at Bikaner, have also approached the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Union Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, and the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh in this connection.

The trucks were acquired by the Army authorities through the district administration in December, 2001. The trucks were made available to the Army when a formal request was made in this connection.

Mr Bhushan Kumar, president of the Goniana Truck Operators Union, pointed out that most of the persons, whose trucks had been burnt, had become paupers as they had lost their only source of livelihood. apart from it, driver and cleaners, who had been working on these trucks, had also been rendered jobless.

He added that neither the Centre nor the state government was taking interest to redress their grievances by making arrangements for the compensation.

Mr Sandeep Garg, member of the Bathinda truck Operators Union, alleged that no compensation had been given to them so far despite assurances by the district. He further said campaigning of the recently held assembly elections, contestants and senior leaders of various parties had promised that their problem would be solved shortly. He added that the truck owners had been finding it difficult to make the payment of monthly instalments of the loan, which they had taken for purchasing the trucks.


Punjab to redesignate medical teachers

Patiala, April 19
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said today that medical teachers in all three medical colleges of the state would be redesignated, besides assuring to make provisions to ensure that funds generated by the medical colleges would be used for their improvement only.

Speaking at the annual convocation of the local Government Medical College, the Chief Minister assured that the scheme visualising redesignation of senior lecturers as Assistant Professors, Assistant Professors as Associate Professors and Associate Professors as Additional Professors would be implemented in the state.

Later, while holding a meeting with the Punjab State Medical and Dental Teachers Association, Capt Amarinder Singh assured to make provisions so that funds generated by the medical colleges could be utilised for improving hospital services as well as other infrastructure in the institutions.

Association chairperson Kiranjeet Kaur said the Chief Minister assured that steps would also be taken soon to ensure functional autonomy and decentralisation of powers to ensure efficient and fast decision-making process in the medical colleges and hospitals. It had also been assured that “bunglings” in departmental promotion committees (DPCs) and annual confidential reports (ACRs) would also be rectified.

Speaking at the convocation, the Chief Minister appealed to the doctors to work with a missionary zeal for the poor and under-privileged. He exhorted them to follow the high standards set by legendary doctors of this college like Dr Nair, Dr Jagdish Singh, Dr Amarjit Singh and S.S. Jolly.

Reading out the annual report College Principal Ravinder Singh, gave an emotional speech, stating that the college owed its existence to the family of the Chief Minister who had founded it in a record time. Dr Ravinder Singh also highlighted how the college had suffered in recent times due to the lack of budgetary allocations. He highlighted how the budget of the local college was a fraction of that of the PGI, Chandigarh. He demanded more budgetary support if similar services were expected.


Nepotism alleged in law officers’ selection
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
In less than 24 hours of the list of law officers in the Punjab Advocate General’s office being released by the Department of Home Affairs and Justice, the appointments have come under a cloud with an Assistant Advocate-General refusing to join. At least three or four other members of the Bar are expected to follow suit.

This is not all. A section of lawyers has alleged nepotism and favouritism. Some other lawyers claim that the appointment of 65 law officers, perhaps the highest so far, would pose an additional burden on the cash-strapped Punjab Government. The previous government had appointed approximately 57 law officers. Incidentally, there are just 26 Judges in the Punjab and Haryana High Court handling cases of both the states, besides the Union Territory of Chandigarh.

According to sources in the AG’s office, a senior Additional Advocate-General gets something like Rs 18,000 per month, along with car and other allowances. An Additional Advocate-General gets around Rs 15,000, along with house rent. A senior Deputy Advocate-General is paid Rs 26,000 approximately, while a Deputy Advocate-General gets around Rs 25,000. An Assistant Advocate-General is paid nearly Rs 23,000.

The total salary, as per a rough estimate, may run into several lakh rupees per month. The large number of appointments, according to some advocates, is contrary to the Punjab Government’s promise of pruning surplus staff wherever possible.

Meanwhile, in a letter addressed to the Advocate-General, Mr Sanjay Kaushal, grandson of former Union Law Minister Jagan Nath Kaushal, has asserted that the post of Assistant Advocate-General was not acceptable to him. He has written: “I have put 11 years in the profession and am enjoying a reasonably good practise in the high court. My grandfather Jagan Nath Kaushal, was a well-known legal luminary and, as such, the post is not acceptable”.

In another press note, All India Ex-Servicemen Welfare Association’s Advocate Wing has “strongly condemned the action of the Punjab Government in completely ignoring the ex-servicemen practising as advocates”.

Speaking on behalf of the association, Chairman Bhim Sen Sehgal has alleged that a perusal of the list indicated that most of the advocates appointed were “near and dear ones” of ministers, politicians, other congress leaders and executive officers. Alleging a pick-and-choose policy, he added that “meritless candidates, not even fulfilling the eligibility criteria for the posts, had been appointed.”

Seeking the cancellation of all appointments made under political pressure, he demanded that “the posts should be filled by meritorious candidates after conducting tests and interviews thereby giving a fair chance to all members of the legal profession”.

The Punjab Advocate-General, Mr Harbhagwan Singh, was not available for comments. The senior Additional Advocate-General, Mr Shamsher Singh Shergill, when contacted, refused to comment, stating, that “it is premature to say anything at this stage”.


Badal govt gave us no undue ad: ‘Ajit’
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
The spokesman of a Jalandhar-based language daily, ‘Ajit’, today refuted the government’s charge that the Badal regime had doled out advertisements to it worth Rs 13 crore during its five-year rule in Punjab.

In a statement issued here, the spokesman accused the new Congress government in the state of launching a campaign to malign ‘Ajit’ and said the facts had been “distorted to misguide the general public”. ‘Ajit’ had never accepted any special concession from any government. The tender notices and advertisements issued by the various boards, corporations, trusts of the government prior to the present government were sent to the papers independently based on the circulation of the papers. These organisations issued these tender notices or other information to various papers keeping in mind their local needs. The present government had included in the government quota tender notices and advertisements too which were given to ‘Ajit’ because of its circulation and popularity.

The government press note had stated that advertisements worth Rs 8 crore were given to ‘Ajit’ by various boards and corporations during the Badal regime. So far as small savings, PSWC, PEDA, PUDA etc and other government and semi-government organisations were concerned, they selected the dailies for their advertisements independently, keeping in view their needs and to provide the relevant information to the maximum number of readers.

Previously, such notices or advertisements were never issued by the Department of Public Relations, though efforts were certainly made by a group of bureaucrats during the last days of the previous government to centralise the notices and advertisements of these organisations. According to information gathered by ‘Ajit’, if it was given government and semi-govt advertisements worth Rs 13 crore, another group of newspapers at Jalandhar was given advertisements worth Rs 30 crore during the same time.

As regards the allotment of industrial plots to ‘Ajit’, these were not given by the government in charity. These plots were “purchased at the market price strictly according to the government norms,” the spokesman said. These plots had been purchased at different cities with a view to starting its publication from those cities. Such industrial plots had been purchased by other newspaper organisations as well at different cities, he said.


Probe into quality of road work
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 19
Suspecting the quality of work done on newly built roads in certain areas in Punjab, the Public Works Department (B and R) authorities have started a probe. Most of these roads are in the Gurdaspur and Amritsar belt.

Informed sources said that on the basis of initial information collected by the authorities concerned, the probe had been ordered into the work handled by eight subdivisional engineers( SDEs) and three executive engineers.

The Superintending Engineer ( Quality Control) has been directed to get the roads checked from reputed private laboratories. There are certain private companies which have modern mobile laboratories that have the capacity to analyse materials within four minutes.

Confirming the probe, the PWD( B and R) Minister, Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, told TNS today that he had directed the authorities to involve experts from outside the department to check the quality of work. This had been done to eliminate the possibility of protection of being given to the SDEs and Executive Engineers concerned by high-ups in the department. He said the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) had availed itself of the services of private laboratories to check the quality of work done on the main roads and bridges being constructed under its supervision.

There is also a proposal to upgrade the post of SE(Quality Control) to the level of Chief Engineer. A case is being prepared in this connection to seek the approval of the Chief Minister. Mr Bajwa said that the order regarding the stopping of work on certain roads in the rural areas had been withdrawn.

The previous government wasted a lot of money to provide roads to the farmhouses of influential persons in the rural areas, he said. All work undertaken by the PIDB was progressing well.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Government has started negotiations with a UK-based multinational company for building roads and bridges in the state. The company was involved in the construction of a large number of bridges, roads and other important structures in this part of the country before partition. It also constructed the famous Howrah bridge in Kolkata.

The government has identified 10 more places in the state to build railway overbridges

Meanwhile the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, will soon meet the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, to request him to fulfil his promise on the four laning of the Jalandhar- Amritsar- Wagah road. In November last year, the Prime Minister at a public meeting held in Amritsar had promised to give Rs 450 crore for the widening of the road.

Mr Bajwa said that the Union Surface Transport Minister would also be requested to give Punjab its due share from the money collected by the Union Government for building roads and bridges by levying cess on petrol and diesel. He said that the state’s share was nearly Rs 300 crore while it got only about Rs 160 crore last year.


BJYM to contest 50 corpn seats
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, April 19
The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, Punjab, will contest about 50 seats in the coming elections for the four Corporations of Jalandhar, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Patiala, Mr Sukhminder Singh Grewal, morcha President, said here today. Special poll panels had been constituted to mobilise youth for these elections.

The morcha would stage a state-level demonstration at Matka Chowk at Chandigarh on April 23 against the objectionable comments of Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Congress President, against Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, anti-people policies of the Punjab Government, Mr Grewal said.

Mr Grewal said that BJP President Jana Krishnamurthi will come on a two day visit to Punjab on April 27.


SGPC member alleges discrimination on election eve
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 19
The Akali-BJP alliance, which has only recently been humbled in the assembly elections here may not find the going smooth in the coming Municipal Corporation elections with local Shiromani Committee Member Kamlesh Kaur today alleging she was not accorded proper ‘respect’ at a joint meeting held here and painted a dismal picture for the alliance in the elections, if the present trend continued.

Ms Kamlesh Kaur claimed that no one had bothered to ask her views at a joint Akali-BJP meeting held here today to discuss the alliance strategy for the corporation elections as the Shiromani Akali Dal had talked about 33 per cent reservation for women. She demanded 17 seats out of 50 seats in the Patiala corporation should be reserved for women candidates.

She also took umbrage to the fact that no woman had been made a member of the six-member committee formed by SAD President Parkash Singh Badal to oversee the selection of Akali candidates for the MC elections. The six-member committee included SGPC President Kirpal Singh Badungar, Union Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, former Finance Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh, legislator Surjit Singh Rakhra and city leaders Sarup Singh Sehgal and Manmohan Singh Bajaj.

Meanwhile, Mr Sarup Singh Sehgal, who had unsuccessfully contested the recent assembly elections on the SAD-BJP ticket, when questioned about Ms Kamesh Kaur’s reaction to the formation of the committee, said everyone could not be included in the committee, adding that only senior state-level leaders and active party activists at the city-level had found a place in the committee. He said, moreover, it was for the high command to decide on the formation of the committee.

Trying to downplay Ms Kamlesh Kaur’s protest, he said talks were on with the BJP to put up candidates. He said it had been decided in the day’s meeting not to bargain for any specific number of seats, but to put up winning candidates. Another meeting had been scheduled for April 22 in this regard, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Bajaj deputed his son Inder Mohan Bajaj to be present at the meeting due to ill health, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa could also not make it. All other committee members were present at the meeting including Bharatiya Janata Party District President Ram Kumar Goyal, Balwant Rai and Anil Kumar.

Sources said the Akali-BJP combine had started off on a wrong foot in the corporation elections and could also face problems due to intense groupism in the party with Mr Manmohan Singh Bajaj and Mr Sarup Singh Sehgal expected to slug it out for the maximum numbers of seats for their respective groups. Though groupism exists in the Congress too but Patiala MP Preneet Kaur seemed to have taken matters in her own hand and was likely to have the final word in selection of candidates.


MC employees hold protest march
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 19
A large number of employees of the local municipal council today took out a protest march through the town against the non-payment of salaries for March and non-depositing of the deducted Provident Fund amount of Rs 40 lakh into their Provident Fund accounts. They also raised slogans against the Punjab Government and wore black badges.

Meanwhile, their pen-down and tool-down strike in favour of their demands regarding the payment of salaries and Provident Fund has entered 12th day.

The protesters also held a rally in front of the office of the Deputy Commissioner here. The rally was addressed among others by Mr Swarn Malsian, Mr Upkar Singh Josh from Sunam, Mr Mohammad Haneef from Malerkotla, Mr Ramesh Kumar and Mr Bal Krishan from Sangrur and Mr Dulia Ram, all leaders of various municipal employees’ unions.

The speakers criticised the Punjab Government for not making the payments of salaries to the employees of municipal councils. They even threatened if the government failed in making the payments soon they would be forced to take hard steps.

Later, a deputation of the employees also met Mr Sarvjit Singh, Deputy Commissioner, and submitted a memorandum regarding their demands with him. Meanwhile, the leaders of the municipal employees unions also filed a complaint with the local police alleging that the fire officer of the local Fire Brigade office today “beat up” their colleague, Sudarshan Jain, a fireman.


Rs 37 cr released for 4 corporations

Jalandhar, April 19
The state Finance Ministry today released a grant of Rs 37 crore for the four municipal corporations in Jalandhar, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Patiala which were facing acute financial crises after the abolition of octroi.

Talking to PTI over the phone, Choudhary Jagjit Singh, Local Bodies Minister, said that the corporations in the state were facing difficulties in paying salaries to the staff so the Finance Ministry had released the grant to enable them to pay salary.

The payment would be disbursed among the respective corporations on Monday for the payment of salaries at the earliest, he added. PTI


Ropar resident convicted
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, April 19
A resident of Ropar, Nashib Singh, was convicted and sentenced to six months’ rigorous imprisonment by a local court today. The complaint against him was filed on April 25, 2000, under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instrument Act and under Sections 420 and 422 of the IPC.

The complainant, Mr Rajiv Bajaj, had supplied cement bags to the accused. The accused issued a cheque for Rs 25, 000 to the complainant on February 24, 2000, but the cheque was bounced. The complainant stated that the accused was aware of the insufficient funds in his account, but he induced the complainant to deliver the cement bags. Therefore, the accused had frauded and cheated him.

Appeal dismissed: The UT Additional and Sessions Judge on Friday dismissed an appeal moved by a city resident against the order of lower court. The lower court convicted Paramjit Singh for rash and negligent driving.

Mann flays Badal
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 19
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, SAD (Amritsar), today criticised the former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, for ‘supporting’ Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor, Punjabi University, against whom two criminal cases have been registered.

Meanwhile, the Joint Action Committee has welcomed the statement of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, that ‘Ahluwalia will have to pay for what he has done’ and requested him to ‘reign’ back his advisors and senior bureaucrats who had allegedly assured the VC that all cases against him would be withdrawn if he quits from his post immediately.


VIPs challaned for misusing red light
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 19
On the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, a high-powered committee comprising two AIGs and senior civil and police officials of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh today challaned the vehicles of more than 100 influential persons, including judges, ministers, MLAs and senior medical officer, for flouting the directives of the court by misusing red light and tainted glasses.

Among the persons whose vehicles were challaned included Chief Judicial Magistrate Kishore Lal, Ms Laxmi Kanta Chawla, a former MLA, the SMO (Attari), Gursewak Mann, a singer and a minister. According to Dr S.K. Kalia, SP (Traffic), the vehicles of more than 100 persons were challaned by the committee, comprising Mr H.S. Sethi, a senior lawyer of the High Court, the AIG (Railways) and the AIG (Traffic).


Judges’ strength ‘low’ in HC
Our Correspondent

Gidderbaha, April 19
The number of judges in the Punjab and Haryana High Court at present is only 25 judges while at least 40 judges are required to handle the growing number of cases.

This was stated by Mr M.S. Gill, a Judge in the Punjab and Haryana High Court at a Lok Adalat here today.

Mr Gill said to reduce the burden on courts the help of Lok Adalats should be taken. He said those cases which could be heard in the Lok Adalat should be put up there for speedy settlement.

He said under the Lok Adalat scheme since March 31 this year 2,288 adalats were held in which 2.40 lakh cases were heard. Out of these 1,37,586 cases were settled.

He said during the past two years to settle loan default cases of banks 47 special lok adalats were organised in the state during which bank recovered Rs 70 crore.

He said the lok adalats had settled cases in which claims amounting to Rs 295 crore were settled.

A seminar was also organised on free legal aid. Mr Gill said the Punjab Legal Services Authority had received 31,185 applications for free legal services. He said out of these 30,464 persons were given the services. He said they included women, children and members of the Scheduled Castes who had an annual income less than Rs 30,000.

As many as 14 courts were held during the today’s Lok Adalat in which 1,461 cases were put up and 1200 cases were settled.

Those who were present on the occasion included Mr A.N. Jindal, District and Sessions Judge, Faridkot, Mr H.P.S. Mahal, Member, Secretary of the Punjab Legal Services Authority, Mr Babu Lal, District Magistrate, Mr S.M.S. Mahal, Additional Sessions Judge, Mr Varinder Singh, Mr V.R. Garg, Additional Civil Judge (Senior Division) and Mr Ashok Dheer, President, Bar Association.


Bhaniarawale freed

Patiala, April 19
The controversial Baba Singh Bhaniarawale was released from the Central Jail, here today. The Baba was released from the jail yesterday after the Punjab Government revoked the National Security Act (NSA) against him, but he was rearrested under Sections 107 and 151 of the IPC, soon after his release. Bhaniarawale, facing trial under as many as five cases in different police stations, was granted bail in two cases, at Morinda and Nurpur Bedi police station in Ropar district, late last year. The 41-year-old Baba was lodged at the Central Jail here. PTI


Italian court seeks Pak national’s extradition
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 19
A court in Italy has ordered the extradition of a Pakistani national to Italy in connection with the Malta boat tragedy in which 283 immigrants were killed in 1996.

The chairman of the Malta Boat Tragedy Probe Commission, Mr Balwant Singh Khera, said here today that he had received a fax message from the High Commissioner of India in Malta, Mr G.L. Bali, saying that Magistrate Joseph Casser in Italy had ruled for the extradition of Turab Ahmed Sheikh, (41), a Pakistani national, on charges of involuntary homicide, illegal ferrying of immigrants and shipwreck conspiracy.

However, the Magistrate ruled that only two charges were extraditable offences under Maltese law.


Medical representatives end strike
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 19
The three-day strike by medical and sales representatives ended last evening with a torchlight procession through main bazaars of the city. The strike was the part of a nationwide month-long agitation by different unions of medical representatives.

The call for the strike was given by the Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives Association of India (FMRAI).

The strike was observed by more than 5,000 medical representatives in this region, said a press note issued by the union. Other trade unions, affiliated with CITU and AITUC, also supported the strike, it said.

Their demands included a check on black marketing and sale of spurious and substandard drugs and reduction in prices of medicines besides their ready availability.

They also demanded fixed working hours and rules and a shift system through a notification under the Sales Promotion Employees Act, 1976.


Release salaries, plead PNFC staff
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, April 19
The Joint Action Committee of Punjab National Fertilisers and Chemicals (PNFC) employees have, in a memorandum submitted to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, demanded the release of 30 months’ pending salary of the employees of PNFC, Naya Nangal.

They have also demanded reopening of the PNFC through the Industries Revival Committee at the earliest.


Shops demolished
Our Correspondent

Mansa, April 19
The local municipal council on Wednesday demolished seven shops constructed illegally by the owner, Ms Savitri Devi, wife of Mr Mohan Lal, a local resident.


Diversify crops, say experts
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, April 19
Since there are few takers for wheat and paddy crops outside Punjab, farmers should go in for cash crops like turmeric, onion and oilseeds to break the monopoly of other states.

These are the views of agriculture experts who converged on Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall here today to discuss the issue of diversification of agriculture.

Dr Balkaran Singh, Joint Director, state Agriculture Department, in his address, said there was a big scope for production of turmeric in the state, which was importing turmeric worth Rs 50 crore per year from other states. “The time has come to break the monopoly of other states in cash crop since there were virtually no takers for wheat and paddy outside Punjab. Farmers should discontinue the process of wheat-paddy cycle to gain maximum profits by shifting to cash crops which are in big demand in the state,” he said.

He said the department had set a target to reduce land under paddy cultivation from 26.11 lakh hectares to 24.87 lakh hectares during the current financial year by motivating the farming community to go in for cash crops.

Mr K. Siva Prasad, Chairman of the Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA), said farmers should attend training programmes and seminars organised by ATMA. Mr Amarjit Singh Samra, Punjab Agriculture Minister, said the farming community should adopt the latest agriculture techniques to get high quality yield and should cut down on the cost of agriculture inputs to be competitive in the market. “The state government has already constituted a committee of agriculture experts, headed by Dr S.S. Johl, to recommend major changes in the present crop pattern in the state. We are also contemplating a comprehensive plan for marketing of agriculture produce in the state as well as in the international market,” Mr Samra said.

Earlier, Mr Samra inaugurated a training camp on production of cash crops at Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall here in which about 1,500 farmers participated.


Murder suspect held

Moga, April 19
A man wanted by the Canadian police in connection with a 16-year-old murder has been arrested in Punjab, Moga district police chief Varinder Kumar said.

In August, 1986, Raghubir Singh Gill allegedly stabbed and killed a girl in Canada, who was attempting an attack on one of his acquaintances, Major Singh, with a knife.

Both Major Singh and Gill later dumped the body in a secluded place, Mr Kumar said.

However, the Canadian police detained Gill for the night and released him on a bond of $ 250.

Gill jumped the bond and escaped to India and since then had been living under different assumed names in Moga, Mr Kumar said.

He was arrested on Wednesday with help of Interpol, the CBI and the DGP (Crime).


3 killed as jeep rams into train

Ferozepore, April 19
Three persons were killed and two seriously injured when their jeep rammed into a passenger train at an unmanned level crossing between Chak Pakhi and Vanwala villages, a 20-minute drive from Fazilka railway station, in Ferozepore division of the Northern Railway this morning.

Railway officials at Fazilka when contacted said the accident occurred at around 9.30 a.m. when the Fazilka-Rewari passenger train was crossing gate no. C-61. The Rewari-bound one RF dn train, which left Fazilka at 9.30 a.m., was sent back with the casualties. UNI


Dreaded terrorist arrested
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, April 19
The police has arrested a dreaded terrorist namely Baldev Singh Dohak, who crossed over to Pakistan a number of time and have links with the ISI. One live hand grenade, one AK-56 assault rifle, four magazines and 65 cartridges were seized from his possession.

Baldev Singh Dohak, who was involved in at least 16 cases in Faridkot, Ferozepore and this district, was nabbed early morning today by a police party led by Mr Nagaur Singh, SHO, police station Sadar near Dohak village. The letter pads of the Baddar Khalsa International were also seized from the terrorist who had been declared a proclaimed offender.

As per police record, Baldev Singh Dohak was arrested by the Haryana police in 1991 at Kalianwali Mandi in Sirsa district. Subsequently, he was arrested by Muktsar, Faridkot and Ferozepore police in a number of criminal cases. He remained in jail for four years and he was released on bail in 1995.

After coming out of jail, he again started terrorist activities after jumping the bail.

A case under Section 25 of the Arms Act and Sections 4 and 5 of the Explosive Act had been registered against Dohak.


Railway official shot at
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 19
Two scooter-borne assailants shot at and seriously injured a senior railway official in the Railway Colony, behind military canteen, near Jagraon overbridge, tonight.

Mr B.C. Sharma, a senior Ticket Inspector with the Railways, was admitted to CMC hospital. His condition is stated to be serious.

Mr Naunihal Singh, SP (City-I), told The Tribune that the officials was about to enter the colony when two youths confronted him and shot him at point-blank range. The official received three gunshot injuries, according to family sources.


17 teachers found absent
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, April 19
In a campaign initiated by the Vigilance Department, 17 teachers in government schools had been found absent and two schools closed before the scheduled time in the villages along with Indo-Pak border.

Following a series of complaints from the residents of border villages, six teams of the Vigilance Department headed by Ms Anita Punj, SP Vigilance Department, Ferozepore Range, initiated a surprise check of 36 schools in Jalalabad, Ferozepore and Guru Harsahai subdivisions and Mamdot block. A total of 17 teachers were found absent from the school without their leave applications.

Ms Punj has recommended to higher officials of the Vigilance Department to initiate action against the teachers found absent. This correspondent had accompanied Ms Punj in the Jalalabad subdivision during the check-up operation.

In Bagheke Hitharh, a border village, it was found that the school was closed at 12.15 in the noon, more than an hour before the scheduled time of closure. Some students were found playing outside the school. A written complaint was submitted against some teachers of the school also. The complaint has been forwarded to the Vigilance Department.

In some other villages like Dhani Phoola Singh, Dhandi Kadeem, Sabaajke Prabhat, Kahne Wala and Dhandi Khurd of Jalalabad subdivision, it was found that many posts of teachers had been lying vacant for the past many years. In the primary school of Dhani Phoola Singh, it was found that there was no sanctioned post of a teacher. For at least 100 students of the village, a temporary arrangement had been made wherein a teacher was called on deputation from a nearby school.


PCCTU members hold dharna
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, April 19
On a call given by the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union, the executive committee members along with 200 teachers sat on a dharna in front of the office of the DPI (Colleges) in Sector 17 here today. The objective of the dharna was to draw attention of the Punjab Government towards the problems of the teachers of non- government aided colleges of Punjab and Chandigarh.

The demand of the teachers included release of withheld grant of last quarter as well as release of grant for the first quarter for the current year, besides disbursement of UGC pay scale arrears and implementation and gratuity scheme for the employees of non-government colleges.

Expressing anguish over the non- implementation of the promises made by the ruling government regarding 95 per cent grant-in-aid scheme along with gratuity and pension schemes, Prof Jaspal Singh Randhawa, its general secretary, announced that the teachers would boycott the ongoing examinations conducted by Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, Panjab University, Chandigarh, and Punjabi University, Patiala, unless the demands were accepted.

Prof K.B.S. Sodhi, its president said despite meeting the higher authorities nothing had been done so far. He said further action plan would be decided by the executive committee at its next meeting to be held on May 5.

Among others who spoke on this occasion were Prof N. P. Manocha, district president, Chandigarh council, Prof Parkash Singh, Prof Balbir Singh, Prof Amrinder Singh, Prof V.K. Tewari and Prof Charanjit Chawla.


Class X chitrakala exam on April 21
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 19
The Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) today announced dates for the Class X chitrakala exam. The exam, which was held in March, would be conducted again on April 21, 2002.

In a press note issued here today, Ms Bhupinder Kaur, District Education Officer, said the PSEB has decided to reconduct the paper on April 21, at four centres in the district.

It may be mentioned that when the exam was held in March, some students had to leave it unattempted as they had found it completely ‘out of syllabus’. Most of the students had alleged that they had been taught ‘drawing’ instead of ‘chitrakala’.

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