Sunday, April 21, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Azad sees PM, Advani hand in riots
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 20
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad today accused Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Home Minister L. K. Advani of involvement in the BJP orchestrated” Gujarat riots and the Prime Minister’s speech in Goa was a “blot” on a democratic country like India.

In the same breath, Mr Azad, who was here in the Congress Bhawan today, lauded the Judiciary, Media, (except that of Gujarat) and the National Human Rights Commission and said democracy was alive in the country for the majority community.

Mr Azad said that it was clear from happenings in Gujarat and the BJP’s bid to evade a discussion on the importance issue that the PM and the HM were involved in it. It is ironical and shameful that the riots were on. Mr Azad said that the government was clearly a culprit as far as Gujarat events and their aftermath was concerned. “As if the riots were not enough, the PM rubbed salt on wounds of the minority community by his Goa speech. Did this become his stature” said Mr Azad. Criticising a section of the BJP for comparing Gujarat riots with the 1984 anti- Sikh riots, Mr Azad said first of all the Congress had always condemned the 1984 riots secondly it ignored tainted Congress leaders. The 1984 riots lasted for three days, but Gujarat riots were on even after two months.

On rumours that he was side- lined after becoming chief of the J&K unit of the Congress, Mr Azad termed it baseless. I will go to central politics after these polls. On the J&K tangle Mr Azad said the state was facing internal and external problems, but 80 per cent of internal problems could be solved if the central government was sincere on a solution. He said the PM’s promise of free and fair polls was an irrelevant statement since it was for the state government to oversee elections and whether it wanted to have these in a fair and free manner.


Pak moves tanks closer to border
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, April 20
In the past few weeks, the Pakistan Army has constructed additional observation posts and bunkers along its border with India and deployed heavy artillery close to the border. Tanks that were earlier deployed at a distance of 10 to 15 km from the border inside their territory, have now been moved closer to the border as a strategy.

Indian radars had been unable to provide information about the locations of these tanks, until recently when these were moved closer to the border. The Indian raders detected their location and forwarded a report to the Ministry of Defence.

The report was kept so secret Officials of all major Intelligence agencies like the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the Intelligence Bureau and the Military Intelligence posted at Amritsar and Ferozepore were also not taken into confidence. The Army first compiled technical and scientific inputs on the movement of the Pakistan Army and later held discussions with senior officials of the Border Security Force to cross-check the information provided by ‘interior’ sources.

Sensing that there was something wrong across the border, senior officials of the Army above the rank of Major met somewhere in the Ferozepore Sector yesterday before finalising a report on the threat from Pakistan.

Although details of the report were not known, it is learnt that the Indian Army has asked the Defence Ministry to allow them to construct concrete bunkers along the border and deploy heavy artillery for strengthening defence posts.

Meanwhile, the Indian Army has directed the BSF to keep a strict vigil on Zero Line and repair the fencing as soon as possible. In some of the areas, the BSF has begun work on double fencing. Two agents of the ISI had earlier tried to sneak into the Indian territory from these points, but were shot dead by the BSF.

Sources said Pakistan Rangers had built a number of new cemented observation posts along the 548 km-long border with Punjab, concentrating especially in the Ferozepore Sector. The main cause for concern for the Indian Army is that the bunkers constructed this side are not match for the technically sound bunkers on the other side. Most of these are of clay. Besides, the rangers have built 15 permanent observation posts in the Narowal Shakhupura and Lohore border belts opposite the Ajnala- Bhikhiwind area in the Amritsar Sector.

Similarly, 10 new observation posts have been constructed in the Ferozepore Sector.

Sources said the Pakistani Rangers have constructed thatched huts capable of accommodating at least 12 soldiers. It is worth mentioning that when the BSF constructed a new observation post within the Indian side near Gatti Masta village last month, Pakistani Rangers raised hue and cry. A Commandant of the BSF, was called for a flag meeting to discuss the issue, but the Pakistani Rangers detained the BSF officer for hours. He was finally released when he threatened Pakistani Rangers that the Indian Army had moved forward to attack Pakistan.


Ravi Sidhu case tip of the iceberg
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
Why did the SAD-BJP alliance lose the Assembly elections seven weeks ago? The high level of corruption. The arrest of the Chairman, Punjab Public Service Commission, Ravi Sidhu, and subsequent recovery of cash in crores from the lockers taken by him and his family is just a tip of the iceberg.

This case provides a glimpse of the level of corruption during the Badal’s rule. It shows that the corruption in all spheres of administration had touched new heights. The rate for recruitment in the state’s elite services was in lakhs.

Urbanites have been knowing about all this better than ruralites of whom many don’t opt for these services. So urbanites showed the door to Badal’s alliance and voted for Capt Amarinder Singh, who assured them a war against corruption. In the process alliance was wiped out in all urban areas.

After defeat, Mr Badal and his close confidants pilloried media repeatedly saying that it played a role to defeat the alliance. However, now Mr Badal should realise that the principle reason for alliance’s defeat was corruption.

Mr Badal knew all about corruption. In fact, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, President, BJP, Punjab, had brought the issue of corruption to his notice. Mr Rinwa also spoke to media about it. Mr Badal ignored him and also corruption. Then a senior Akali minister’s wife wrote a detailed letter to the Badal Government about the prevailing rates for recruitment in a certain departments. Her letter was also swept under the carpet.

Even after the defeat, on April 10 at a meeting the BJP discussed the reasons for alliance’s defeat in the elections. A senior leader stood up to say due to the “behaviour of corrupt ministers” party (BJP) workers remained inactive during the Assembly elections.

And the matter has not ended with the arrest of Ravi Sidhu. Informed sources say that intelligence agencies and vigilance bureau has been collecting details about family members of certain ministers of the Badal Government. Especially sons of certain ministers of the previous government were operating and managing certain departments.

“Many Ravi Sidhus have been operating and minting money during the previous Government”, says a senior officer. Many more crores of rupees can be recovered by identifying them, he adds.

Though it is true that Ravi Sidhu has given a new dimension to corruption in recruitments at the top level, but this phenomenon has been prevalent well before he took over as the Chairman, PPSC. It was in the knowledge of all ruling politicians who have been getting their nears and the dears selected. But no one attempted to catch the bull of corruption in the PPSC by its horns earlier as has been done now by Capt Amarinder Singh. An informed former senior employee of the PPSC says that most of chairmen and members appointed in the past decades served their political bosses. Mr Ravi Sidhu, who had virtually monopolised the entire selection system in the Commission, was less obliging to politicians and operated through touts, he adds.

About four years ago certain member of the PPSC turned against Mr Ravi Sidhu, who had totally sidelined them in the selections for vital posts. Because of the infighting, reports about the “dirty deeds” in the commission started coming out. The Tribune was the first newspaper to highlight all that.

A former member of the Commission says that the big corruption in the PPSC started about three decades ago. But then most of the selections were made under political influence, of course ignoring merit. Money was charged only for few recruitments in the elite services like the PCS, Excise Department, Food and Supplies, Revenue and the police. There were also a few honest members, who preferred merit than “sifarish and money” in the commission.

However, the situation started deteriorating when most of the members of the Commission started recruiting their own wards and relatives in the elite services by resorting to various manipulations like assuring good marks in theory papers and then not being a part of the committee before which their wards were to appear.

“You scratch my back and I will scratch yours” was the principle they followed. There are several wards and close relations of former members of the Commission serving in the PCS and other allied services. And only a few of them have been selected on merit while others have become officers courtesy their fathers.

In fact, it will be a great service not only to Punjab but to the entire country, if Capt Amarinder Singh’s files a petition in the Supreme Court with a request to probe the selections made by all the Public Service Commissions in the country in recent decades by setting up commissions under the sitting judges of High Courts in all the respective states opines a well-meaning former member of the PPSC.

As the commissions were constitutional bodies, the Supreme Court can only order such a probe. What has been happening to the Punjab’s Public Service commission is also true in case of most of the other commissions in the country.


Treasury to keep money from Sidhu’s lockers
Our Correspondent

Kharar, April 20
Mr Roshan Lal Chouhan, Judicial Magistrate, here today ordered that the Rs 8.16 crore recovered by Vigilance officials from bank lockers of relatives of PPSC chief Ravi Sidhu yesterday from Chandigarh be deposited with the Ropar district treasury sealed in packets for safe custody under double locker.

The court passed these orders today on Public Prosecutor’s application that the sum be ordered to be kept in IndusInd Bank, Sector 8-C, Chandigarh as it was already kept there in lockers.

The court ordered that it would not be proper to keep the huge amount in the bank lockers without proper receipt. He has ordered that the amount was case property and it should be sealed in solid packets duly signed by the investigating officer. He ordered that the investigation officer should get every currency note checked by an expert to ensure authenticity before putting notes into a sealed packet.

Earlier, the court amended its order passed yesterday on Rs 1.28 crore recovered from Jagman Singh an accomplice of Sidhu in the case and ordered that the amount should also be deposited in the district Treasury Ropar. By taking suo motu notice the court ordered that if the sum was deposited in State Bank of Patiala, Kharar as ordered yesterday them this would get into circulation but the money amount be kept intact for the purpose of producing it before the trial court. He also ordered the Manager of the Bank not to deposit this amount in the bank.

Meanwhile, the court today remanded Surinder Kaur in judicial custody till May 2. She was arrested on the charge of sending money of Ravi Sidhu abroad through hawala.

The accused were earlier, on April 18 was remanded in police custody till April 20 and ordered to produce her in court at 11 a.m. The prosecution alleged that the accused along with her husband Gurdeep Singh Manchanda had sent Rs one crore through hawala in the accounts of Ravi Sidhu and his brother in the USA. The Public Prosecutor informed the court that one computer and other material had been recovered from the accused.


Recommendations of PPSC being examined
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
The Punjab Government is examining all legal possibilities to block the entry of those selected by the Punjab Public Service Commission in recent past. Such selections have become suspect following the registration of corruption case against the PPSC’s chairman and recovery of a huge sum from his family lockers.

The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, says that the entry of those who have got selected themselves by giving bribe in the commission would not be in the interest of the state. He is of the view that appointments of such persons should not materialise in the Government departments concerned.

Legal experts say that the Government has the powers to keep the selection made against vacant posts in abeyance. If any selected person moves court, the Government can present the facts referring Sidhu’s case before it (court).

Moreover, the Commission is only a recommendatory body and the Government can deny appointment to any person by getting his or her character verified by intelligence agencies. This system is in vogue since Independence in the entire country. Even those on probation can be removed.

About 1000 persons have been selected in recent years by the commission for the elite services.


House allotted to Sidhu cancelled
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
The Punjab Government has sought the help of Interpol to check the alleged “havala” transaction of the arrested Chairman of the Punjab Public Services Commission, Mr Ravi Sidhu, and his certain family members. Informed sources said that a request to the Interpol has been sent in this connection. The sources say that the state police may also to request the Union Government to seek the extradition of Mr Ravi Sidhu’s brother from the USA. He is required for interrogation in connection with money recovered from lockers of Sidhu’s family and other property matters related with Sidhu’s case, it is learnt.

Meanwhile, according to official sources, the Punjab Government has cancelled the official house allotted to Mr Ravi Sidhu here. He was allotted the house to use it as camp office here by the previous government. Otherwise, as the headquarters of the PPSC is at Patiala, he was entitled for the allotment of the house, that is earmarked for the Chairman of the PPSC, at Patiala.


Ravi Sidhu’s cash: patient seeks help
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
Please pay Rs 1.50 lakh out of Punjab Public Service Commission Chairman, Ravi Sidhu’s ill-gotten wealth to a man whose kidneys have failed and needs treatment, pleaded a class VIII student of St Stephen’s School, Sector 45, Harmanat Singh, here today.

In a fax message sent to The Tribune he says Amrik Singh is lying on his deathbed at the PGI here. And money from Sidhu’s lockers would help the patient. The Punjab Vigilance Bureau had recovered Rs 8.16 crore from five lockers hired by Mr Sidhu yesterday.


Baba Bhaniara re-arrested
Villagers hold protest against him

Lalit Mohan

Ropar, April 20
Baba Piara Singh Bhaniara, who was released yesterday by the court was today produced before the SDM, Anandpur Sahib, Mr Paramjit Singh. The Baba was re-arrested last evening by the police when he returned to his native village in Nurpur Bedi.

The local SSP, Mr G.P.S. Bhullar said tension gripped the village. On his return to the village a group of people staged a demonstration against him apprehending violence. The police again arrested the Baba under Section 107, 151 of the IPC.

In the court of the SDM, the Baba pleaded that he should be sent to the Patiala jail. Since the offence under which the Baba had been booked was bailable, the SDM asked him to furnish a bail bond. However, he could not furnish the bail bond and the SDM ordered his detention till May 2.

The sources here said though the police made a case that the Baba was arrested from his native village, but he was actually arrested soon after he came out of the Patiala jail yesterday. The government has been trying to keep the Baba under detention fearing communal tension.

Earlier, the Baba secured a bail in all cases including for sacrilege, keeping illegal arms, evading arrest and encroachment on public property. The government, however, invoked the provisions of the National Security Act to keep him behind the bars. The imposition of the National Security Act was also revoked yesterday as the Act could be implemented against only those persons who were involved in anti-national activities.

The hardline Akali factions had earlier been demanding that a case of murder should be registered against the Baba. Yesterday also certain Akali factions issued statements condemning the release of the Baba.

According to legal experts, the government might not be able to hold the Baba under detention for long under the sections imposed against him recently.

Though the followers of the Baba have either deserted him or are keeping away from him out of fear, but he still owns about hundred acres of land and a palatial house in Nurpur Bedi. The wives and children of Baba are also putting up there. The police authorities fear that if the Baba returns to the area it could lead to protests from villagers of the surrounding areas. They also apprehend a threat to the life of Baba once he is out of the jail.


Mann defends stand on PSGPC
K. S. Chawla

Ludhiana, April 20
Recognition of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee — a religious body — is not an act of sedition said Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, MP and President, Akali Dal (Amritsar) in an interview here today.

Mr Mann who went to Pakistan on the occasion of Baisakhi has accorded recognition to the body Sikh Gurdwaras managing in Pakistan. This evoked strong reaction from the SGPC. Mr Mann contended that the Government of India, recognised Nepal as a Hindu state and if recognition of the PSGPC was sedition, then Ardas was also seditious. ‘For religion we are ready to face the charge of sedition,’ he asserted and maintained that it was in the interest of the Sikhs to recognise the Sikh religious body in Pakistan.

Mr Mann said that Mr Sham Singh, Co-Chairman of the PSGPC was a devout Sikh and was not a Muslim as it was being propagated.

Mr Mann disclosed that Mr Sham Singh, during his visit to Pakistan gurdwaras, told him that the PSGPC had sought preachers, ragis, granthis and dhadis from the SGPC for spreading the message of the Sikh Gurus. But the SGPC, under pressure from the Government, of India and the agencies of the Government had begin irresponsive.

According to Mr Mann there are 40,000 Sikhs in Pakistan living in Baluchistan, NWFP, Punjab and Sind states and little tribal pockets.

He said that he would take up with the SGPC the issue and urge it to accept the request. “SGPC does not want to open dialogue with Pakistan”, he charged.

Mr Mann claimed that for the first time an Islamic country had recognised a minority by forming the PSGPC and it was big concession to the Sikhs. “This is the first step towards political evolution in Pakistan”, he added.

Asked if the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee had given ‘Kar seva” of certain historic gurdwaras to militant organisations, Mr Mann said that this was the Government of India’s propaganda. “No Gurdwara is with any militant organisation in Pakistan. Kar Seva is under the control of the PSGPC and this is all disinformation”, he said.

Mr Mann revealed that Mr Sham Singh co-chairman of the PSGPC had told him that renovation of Kartarpur gurdwara was complete. The construction of the gurdwara was started by Maharaja Bhupindar Singh, grandfather of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. Mr Sham Singh has sent an invitation for Mr Amarinder Singh to visit Kartarpur Gurdwara. The Pakistan government was preferred to provide for a corridor and issue dawn- to-dusk visa to the Sikhs to visit this shrine in Pakistan. This is near Pakistan border opposite Gurdaspur.

Mr Mann pleaded for a dialogue with Pakistan and said that talks between the two countries would be useful. Sikh pilgrims could become ambassadors of peace and reduce hostility between the two countries. “Our coming and going should not be looked at with suspicion but more positively because this generated more goodwill among the two countries,” he emphasised.


Punjab to abolish vacant posts
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 20
The Punjab government has decided to abolish the vacant posts in various departments shortly, as new recruitment has been banned and surplus staff would be placed at the disposal of the redeployment cell for voluntary retirement scheme or redeployment. A decision regarding this may be taken on April 24 by a high-powered committee meeting in Chandigarh to evolve fiscal reform strategy, the Chief Secretary will preside over the committee meeting.

The government has directed the heads of departments to submit status reports of the various posts and vacancies immediately.

Fax message on fiscal reforms has been faxed by Special Secretary expenditure to secretaries of different departments.

On details of fiscal reforms to be discussed at the proposed meeting, the fax message reads, “aggressive disinvestments to be initiated and requirement of funds for one time settlement of public sector units/VRS for PSU staff may be projected”. The meeting would also discuss ways to reduce number of government officials a burden on the exchequer apart from this, proposed pension reforms would be discussed.

The government is contemplating on increasing user charges in government hospitals. The fax message reads, “user charges should be so revised over the next five years as to ensure that operation and maintenance costs are covered by such charges. While the government will continue to pay salaries of the staff and capital costs in major sectors including Water Supply and Sewerage, Higher Education, Technical and Medical Education etc. “The fax message further reads that a legal framework for fixation and indexation of user charges be worked out, leaving no discretion in the matter.

The high powered committee would also discuss three-pronged strategy for reforming the existing educational system. The government won’t mind if some of the schools in remote areas, especially in border belt be handed over to the Panchayati Raj System for effective working. So much so the government wants to invite educational institutions of repute to take over some existing government facilities on pilot basis.


College closed over match row
Rashmi Talwar

Amritsar, April 20
The Poor attendance in a college cricket match triggered off a row leading to the “indefinite closure” of Sri Laxmi Narayan Ayurvedic College with at least four police personnel guarding the institute during working hours.

Only the teaching staff of the institute is present during the day a notification issued by the officiating Principal, Dr D.C. Pandey, states that “on account of explosive lawlessness situation created by some elements in the teaching staff, the college will remain closed till further orders.” The copies of the notification have been sent to the Vice-Chancellor, Baba Farid University, besides the SSP, the SHO “D” division etc.

The trouble started when the institute organised a cricket match earlier this month and except for the playing team no audience from among the college students turned up for the match. The staff of the institute, which was on a daily dharna in college for two hours, was blamed for allegedly forcing the students to stay away from the college match.

However, the situation snowballed into a major controversy when the Officiating Principal suspended three senior doctors of the teaching staff following an alleged complaint signed by 36 out of the total 250 students of the college, claiming that certain three doctors had threatened students with failure marks if they went for the cricket match.

Interestingly, the signature campaign was led by a son of the Officiating Principal, Mr Diwarker Pandey. However more than 90 students refuted the claim of and said no threats or other coercive methods were ever used by these three doctors to ask them to stay away from the match. Following the counter letters and suspension orders, all students went on strike on April 12, the day the suspension orders were served on Dr N.K Chaturvedi Head of the Department of Anatomy, Dr Suresh Chohan , head of the Department of Pathology and Dr Amitabh Singh of the Department of Medicine.

Girl students of the college, in a press note have alleged that the Officiating Principal and a senior member of the college staff, Mr Vibhakar Sharma are threatening them to call off the strike. They alleged that they were being threatened with the treatment meted out to Anita Khanda who had to suffer because she highlighted the amorous advances made to her by a senior member of the staff.

However, Dr D.C. Pandey refuted the allegations and said the striking staff was threatening the girls and other students to take this stand or otherwise face failure as they serve as internal examiners in the six practicals held in the college.

However, both the teaching and non-teaching staff which were on a dharna since January this year to protest against the non-acceptance of their demands allege that 35 per cent to 40 per cent of their salaries were being cut since January despite the fact that the dharna was on rotational basis and not a single teaching hour of the students was being wasted.

Dr Anjalika Singh, Dr Ashok Nandvani, Dr A.D. Singh, Dr Suman Srivastav, Dr Devesh Shukla, Dr Suresh Chohan, Dr Amitabh of the teaching staff while talking to this correspondent alleged that the management, the Durgiana Education Foundation had not paid any attention to the problem, which has been going on for years. To silence the protestors they released a letter signed by Mr Santosh Gupta, President, in reply to the correspondence by the college staff. The letter states to the staff that “you are most irregular, unpunctual in performance and discharge of duties” and “ you are nobody to ask for the copy of correspondence between the management and Baba Farid University for Health Sciences, Faridkot”. The staff was made to sign the letter in lieu of which it is alleged that the management was willing to release the arrears. Dr Pandey admitted the issuance of such letter,

Meanwhile, the National Students Union of India along with students of the college led by Mr Gautam Majithia and Mr Bhanu Puri staged a protest outside the college. They demanded the dismissal of the Officiating Principal and Mr Vibharkar Sharma and sought a permanent Principal. They also sought the revoking of the suspension orders against the three doctors. Today is the sixth day of the strike in the college.


BJP’s separate manifestos
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
The Punjab unit of the BJP has decided to issue separate manifestos for the elections of four Municipal Corporations-Jalandhar, Amritsar, Patiala and Ludhiana- to be held on May 19.

Mr Raj Bhatia, office secretary of the party, in a statement said that the decision to this effect was taken at a high-level meeting which was attended by Mr Pyare Lal Khandelwal, in charge of the party’s election wing at the national level and Mr Om Parkash Kohli, general secretary of the party.

As part of the strategy drawn up at the meeting, the party has decided to select candidates having clean and non-controversial image. The party will also seek the cooperation from media to “expose the anti-people policies of the Congress Government”. The party leadership has directed its units in the cities where elections to be held to identify issues for preparing the manifestos.


‘Launch campaign against female foeticide’
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, April 20
A meeting was held under the chairmanship of Mr Rajan Kashyap, Principal Secretary Department of Health and Family Welfare, Punjab, to implement the national health programmes, PNDT Act and TB control programmes sincerely. Addressing the meeting, Mr Kashyap asked the social organisations to come forward to implement these schemes. He asked the officers and social organisations to launch a campaign against the female foeticide and directed the officers of the Health Department to take stern action against the ultrasound laboratories carrying out the sex determination tests.

Mr Vikas Partap, Deputy Commissioner, Fatehgarh Sahib, while addressing the meeting said the problems resulting due to the decreasing ratio of the females would lead to imbalance in society. He stressed upon the implementation of the PNDT Act forcefully in the district. He further appealed to the social organisations and doctors to bring the cases of female foeticide into the knowledge of administration and said they will be dealt under the PNDT Act. He also asked all the officers to implement national health and TB control programmes by organising camps.

Among others who addressed the meeting were Mr Tejbir Singh , Deputy Commissioner, Patiala, Mr OP Chabra, Civil Surgeon, Fatehgarh Sahib, Mr Inderjeet Walia, Civil Surgeon, Patiala, and many heads of social organisations.


Women face greater risk of STD
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, April 20
Women in the district face the risk of being fettered by sexually transmitted disease (STD) and reproductive tract infections (RTI) with further possibility of HIV infection. Family health awareness campaign launched by the Health Department in the district recently revealed that the number of women suffering from STD and RTI is very high as compared to men.

Medical experts say that contaminated water, consumption of chemicals, unsafe sex, lack of awareness among the rural population about the cleanliness of genital organs and many other factors lead to STD and RTI. Most of the cases diagnosed among women were from rural areas while truck drivers among males were worst affected.

According to Dr R.L. Taneja, District Health Officer (DHO), in 11 blocks of the district, a total of 3,537 cases of STD and RTI have been diagnosed. Surprisingly, 2,774 women have been found suffering from these diseases as compared to 763 men. The number may be far more alarming as these figures relate to government dispensaries and hospitals. The cases diagnosed in private clinics go unreported.

However, so far, 51 blown up cases of HIV positive, which included six women, have been reported in the district. Two patients namely Palwinder Singh of Zira and Jaggar Singh of Abohar suffering from HIV positive died last year. A detailed report of HIV cases in the district revealed that 20 patients in the subdivision, 15 in Abohar subdivision, four in Fazilka subdivision and 12 in Zira subdivision were found suffering from the disease.

Another factor observed from the health awareness campaign was that a majority of cases are either from affluent families or from the low-income strata of the society.

Experts highlight that the sufferers are under stress on account of social stigma attached to sexual diseases. A majority of population, particularly women, suffering from STD and RTI do not come forward for medical tests. “An exercise of motivation and awareness among the rural folk is the need of hour to bring them to the clinics for medical tests,” says Dr Taneja.

The Punjab Government has decided to establish a Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre (VCTC) here to extend free counselling and laboratory tests at nominal charges of Rs 10 per test to those who wanted to check if they were suffering from STD and RTI.


Politicians hijack DCW sports function
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 20
There were more introductions than action on the last day of the Diesel Component Works (DCW) annual sports function which concluded at the DCW sports complex late yesterday evening.

Sport and sportspersons were relegated to the background as politicians took to the mike and instead of extolling the virtues of sport, made it a point to deliver speeches in their endeavour to please the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and his wife, Ms Preneet Kaur, who had come there to distribute prizes.

A number of politicians and police officials were present on the occasion. The Public Health Minister, Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, the Political Secretaries to the Chief Minister, Mr Malwinder Malli and Mr H.S. Barsat, and three SSPs were present on the occasion. The Director (Sports), Mr Kartar Singh, a Padamshree awardee, was honoured on the occasion. Results of the first day events were not compiled by the organisers even by the end of the second and final day. Capt Amarinder Singh announced a grant of Rs 25,000 to the DCW Sports, Cultural and Welfare Club.

Spectators had a chance to witness some non-conventional events, including a 34-year-old man, Mr Bahadur Singh, pulling a motor cycle, having seven persons sitting atop, with his ears. Then, a youth lifted 25 kg bricks with his teeth. In yet another event, a youth broke glass bottles by striking these on his head. Later, he swallowed pieces of the broken bottles.

In the national style-kabaddi event for men, PAP, Jalandhar, got the better of PAP, Patiala, to bag the gold. On the distaff side, Sharma Club, Kurukshetra, won the gold medal by defeating Dashmesh Club, Nawanshahr. International kabaddi players, Balwinder Singh and Devi Dayal Sharma, were also honoured on the occasion.


A wait in vain for CM
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar April 20
Speculations and confusion over the scheduled visit of the Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh to the city on occasion of Ramnavami shobha yatra kept the administrative and the police machinery on tenterhooks for two consecutive days.

The bureaucracy, which had made the arrangements for the Chief Minister’s visit, was in a quandary following confusing signals from the Chief Minister’s Secretariat. No official or Congress leader, was sure of his visit, till this afternoon. The height of confusion was witnessed last night when Circuit House was bedecked and all security arrangements were effected and police officials remained there till this afternoon when finally clear indications came from Chandigarh that the Chief Minister was not coming here because of his tight schedule.

Even senior local Congress leaders were not aware about the exact schedule of the PPCC chief. But hope among Congress workers were revived this morning when somebody told them that he was likely to come at around 3 to 4 p.m. But their zeal evaporated soon when some senior official told them that it would not be possible for the Chief Minister to make it to Jalandhar. “The programme is changing minute to minute, so we cannot say anything,” said a senior official.


Devotees offer liquor, sheep at Kali Temple
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 20
Long serpentine queues of bare-footed devotees waiting for hours to get a “darshan” of the Devi may be common elsewhere also, but the Kali Devi Mandir here stands out for the large amount of liquor and sheep which are offered to the goddess on the occasion of Ashtami.

Thousands of devotees today formed an almost one kilometre long queue in front of the temple. Hundreds of people could be seen bringing along small sheep as well as bottles of country made liquor as an offering to the goddess.

Surprisingly the worship of Kali, which was otherwise foreign in these parts, was brought to the town from Calcutta by the Patiala royal family. The jyot which was set up before the Partition in the temple, has since established the Kali cult among the people of the area.

Priests offer a little liquor to the Devi by opening the bottle and pouring some of the liquor to her tongue. Following this the liquor bottle is kept in the temple premises. Sources said the liquor is distributed as “prasad’’ among the “sewadars’’ doing voluntary work in the temple complex as well as some of the devotees. The devotees also distribute liquor among the beggars lined up outside the temple. Temple officials disclosed that the sheep offered to the goddess are stored in a godown and sold off the same day and the money thus got is deposited in the temple.

The Mall road had to be closed for traffic due to rush of devotees today. Voluntary organisations had set up “langars’’ of fruit and “sherbet’’, and volunteers helped in managing the rush of devotees.

The administration, which controls the temple complex, however, was found wanting with people being made to stand bare-footed on the tar road which was literally burning due to the severe heat. Only a small patch of the line in which the devotees were standing was covered with a ‘’shamiana’’ and the rest of the people had to stand under the scorching sun. Mehnga Ram, a shopkeeper, said if nothing else mats and “daris’’ could have been laid to facilitate the people who had come from far off places to the temple.


Warm response to ‘shobha yatra’
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 20
Hundreds of tableaux depicting scenes from the life of Lord Rama and “langars” marked the ‘shoba yatra’ which turned out to be an symbol of communal harmony with enthusiastic participation from people of all communities.

The “shobha yatra” was organised by the Shri Ram Navami Utsav Committee headed by Mr Vijay Chopra, Editor-in-Chief of the Punjab Kesri Group of newspapers and Bhagat Hans Raj Gohana Wale. It passed through Nehru Garden, Balmiki Chowk, Basti Adda, Patel Chowk, Adda Hoshiarpur, Bhagat Singh Chowk before concluding at the Janata Mandir. The ‘shobha yatra’ was welcomed by people and shopkeepers, who erected huge gates and organised “langars” at various points.

A number of religious, social and political figures, including Baba Kashmir Singh, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Chaudhary Santokh Singh, Mr Avtaar Henry, District Congress Committee chief Tejinder Singh Bittu former Union Minister Balwant Singh Raamowalia, Akali leader Captain Kanwaljit Singh participated in the procession.


Maiser Khana mela concludes
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 20
The two-day Maiser Khana mela in honour of Goddess Bhagwati concluded at Maiser Khana village 35 km from here, today morning. Thousands of people of different religions came from far-away places to pay obeisance in the temple for blessings.

According to legend, “Kamala”, a resident of the area used to meditate for hours in the name of Durga Bhagwati. He prayed the goddess to give him “Darshan” twice a year. It is said the Goddess granted his prayer. To commemorate this event, thousands of devotees visit the temple twice a year when a mela is held and after the deity gifts and chant prayers and religious songs in Her praise.


AISSF diamond jubilee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 20
The All India Sikhs Students Federation (AISSF) will celebrate its diamond jubilee (60 years) this year. This was announced here today by former president of the AISSF, Mr Jaswant Singh Mann. He said that that the Federation was set up in 1942. It opposed the Partition. It sought safeguards for the Sikhs when the Partition became inevitable.

Mr Mann said that a number of former presidents of the Federation and families of the deceased presidents would be honoured. All Panthic organisation will be requested to join in the celebrations.


City is again power cut-free zone
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 20
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) authorities have again declared this city as power cut-free zone.

Official sources said a letter to this effect had been sent to local officials by the Chief Engineer (System Operation and Power Regulation) about two days ago. Local officials had been directed not to impose power cuts in this city.

The city was declared power cut-free with the efforts of the then Punjab Minister, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg. Citizens had been claiming that they had to bear the pollution caused by the fly ash being emitted from chimneys of the local Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant (GNDTP) and which caused various ailments .

The issue of power cuts was taken up with Mr Surinder Singla, Chairman, Finance Committee, when he came here about a week ago by Mr Kewal Krishan, General Secretary, and other party functionaries. Mr Singla then took up the matter with the PSEB authorities and asked them not to impose power cuts in the city.

Mr R. S. Dhillon, Chief Engineer, Distribution, when contacted, said earlier power cuts were imposed by the PSEB authorities as the local officials had no role in deciding power cuts.


Special boxes for power bills
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, April 20
The Punjab State Electricity Board has introduced "drop-in-boxes" to facilitate subscribers who deposit their electricity bills through cheques or drafts.

Stating this, PSEB Superintendent Engineer U.C. Saroya told this correspondent here today that subscribers could deposit their bills along with drafts or cheques by dropping these in special boxes and save themselves from the trouble of standing in long queues.

Mr Saroya clarified that no backdated cheques would be accepted as these boxes would be opened daily only once at 4 pm.

The subscribers could collect their valid receipts from the PSEB office on any working day.


237 cases settled in lok adalat
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, April 20
A special lok adalat for people of Malerkotla and Dhuri subdivisions was organised under the supervision of Mr R.M. Gupta, District and Sessions Judge and Chairman of the District Legal Services Authority, at the Kali Mata Mandir complex here today.

As many as 568 cases, including pre-litigated bank loan cases, matrimonial cases, civil suits and criminal cases of petty nature were taken up in the lok adalat of which 237 cases were settled on the spot.

Mr Gupta called upon the legal fraternity to make efforts to provide prompt and speedy justice to litigants.


Police ‘victim’ succumbs to burns
Our Correspondent

Barnala, April 20
Babli — a Dalit daily wage sweeper working in the local Civil Hospital, who attempted to commit suicide by setting herself ablaze in her house by sprinkling kerosene oil over her on April 13 following alleged police torture, succumbed to her burn injuries in the hospital this afternoon. She had sustained 90 per cent burn.

She was booked under Section 380, IPC on April 13 on the charge of stealing the purse of Mrs Kanta, a nurse at the hospital, and was taken into custody.

Babli had sought the permission of the police to go home for changing clothes. A policeman reportedly accompanied her to her house. However, on reaching house, she poured kerosene oil over her and set herself ablaze.

Later, Babli in a statement at the hospital in presence of Mr Gurjant Singh, Judicial Magistrate, first class, Barnala, alleged that she had taken this step because of the police torture and a policeman’s attempt to rape her at her house. She is survived by her husband Kuldeep Singh, two daughters and a son.


Boy dies as train, tractor collide
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 20
A boy was killed and two others were seriously injured in a collision between the Dadar Express and a tractor-trailer at an unmanned railway crossing near Ghungrana village on the Ludhiana-Dhuri line this afternoon.

Harpreet Singh, a student of class IX, died in the mishap while two of his friends were seriously injured. They all were seated in the tractor- trailer and were transporting wheat husk when the accident occurred. The injured are Harpreet Singh, alias Happy and Baljit Singh.

According to the police, the injured boys said they could not see the train and it suddenly knocked them. The impact of the collision was so hard that the tractor-trailer was thrown far away and was almost in pieces.

Traffic on the Dhuri line remained affected for quite some time due to the accident.


Defaulting rice mills to face action
Chander Parkash

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 20
As about 50 per cent of the rice mills of the state have not delivered the rice worth hundreds of crores of rupees to its agencies in the past two years, the Punjab Government has decided to take legal and other action against the defaulters to recover the amount at the earliest.

The State Food and Supply Department authorities have collected data of rice mills which has defaulted in the delivery of rice in lieu of paddy given to it by various state agencies in the past two years. After a study criminal cases would be registered against mill owners.

Official sources said out of total 2,400 rice mills in Punjab, at least 1,190 were defaulting in the delivery of rice to various agencies from which these had taken paddy for milling. The value of rice, which had allegedly been misappropriated by the defaulter millers, ran into hundreds of crores of rupees. A majority of such mills abound in Ferozepore, Moga and Faridkot districts.

What surprised the newly formed government in the state was the fact that in the past two years, the authorities had launched proceeding against the defaulters to recover the rice through arbitration system instead of registration of criminal cases against them.

Punjab Food Minister Lal Singh, while talking to TNS pointed out that arbitration proceedings took years to reach a settlement by that time, the authorities would not be able to recover rice from the unscrupulous rice millers. He said stern action would be taken against defaulters.

He added that over the years, it had become a modus operandi among rice mill owners that they would misappropriate rice worth crores of rupees and then manage to secure bail from the court, if criminal proceedings were launched against them. And in next season, they would run another mill, if their earlier mills were declared defaulter by the agencies concerned.

He pointed out that 58 rice mills had defaulted in the delivery of rice to the Food and Supply Department, 407 to Punsup, 460 to Markfed 243 to the PSWC and 22 to the Punjab Agro. He added that in 45 arbitration proceedings launched by the Food and Supply Department against the defaulter millers, 28 cases had been decided while 17 were pending. Similarly, out of 339 arbitration proceedings launched by Punsup, 68 had been decided and 271 were pending.

Markfed initiated 393 arbitration proceedings out of which 59 had been decided while 334 were pending. The Punjab State Warehousing Corporation (PSWC) launched 170 proceedings out of which 130 has been decided. The Punjab Agro launched 22 proceedings and five were decided.


More power supply to farmers in June
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 20
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has made it clear that it will provide adequate power supply for running tubewells to farmers only after June 10.

The board arrived at this decision following a meeting of top functionaries of the PSEB with experts of Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. The meeting was held to discuss various problems being faced by the farmers and the PSEB in connection with agricultural activities in the state.

Following the meeting, it was decided that the farmers would be provided 10-hour power supply for running tubewell motors from June 10 onwards. Board Chairman Sudhir Mittal has also advised the farmers not to sow paddy nursery earlier than the first week of May.

The board has also appealed to the farmers to sow paddy from June 1 in waterlogged areas of Muktsar and Ferozepore districts which would also control waterlogging to some extent. Mr Mittal said plantation could, however, start in the rest of the state from June 10.

The Chairman has also cautioned the farmers not to run three-phase motors on single-phase supply by using shunt capacitors which, he said, would attract heavy fines and disconnection.

Mr Mittal said while giving maximum supply for running agricultural tubewell motors, single-phase supply to rural feeders for domestic purpose might have to be curtailed. He also appealed to all customers of the board to cooperate with the PSEB in adhering to the power-supply schedules from time to time in order to provide better quality of power supply to them.


Crop gutted

Phagwara, April 20
Standing wheat crop spread over 10 acres was gutted in an accidental fire here today. The crop belonged to Gursharan Singh, Chana Ram and Sukhjinder Singh of Uchapind village. The local fire brigade put out the fire. OC


Man kills mother

Hoshiarpur, April 20
Incensed over a trivial issue, a man has killed his mother here. According to the police, the accused, Hardeep Singh, was watching television last evening when his mother asked him to turn down its volume. Enraged over his mother’s ‘interference’, the accused hit a box on his mother’s head, following which she became unconscious. Later, she was taken to hospital where she was declared dead. The Mahilpur police has registered a case. UNI


Gang of cheats busted

Moga, April 20
The Faridkot district police yesterday claimed to have busted a gang of cheats, engaged in selling stolen cement and “saria” (iron rods) of the PWD (Buildings and Roads), by arresting five of its members.

Those arrested included dismissed GRP constable and an army jawan, besides employees of the Punjab Agriculture and PWD Departments.

District police Chief Harinder Singh Chahal told reporters at Faridkot that the gang operating in Faridkot, Moga and other districts of Punjab had cheated people to the tune of Rs 8 lakh by posing themselves as employees of the PWD, government contractor, peon or driver of the department. 


GND varsity to have DNA test centre
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 20
Guru Nanak Dev University may become the first centre for DNA fingerprinting in north India and the second such centre in the country after Hyderabad. Dr Syed Hasnain, Director, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad offered to sign an MoU with the university on behalf of his centre with the Centre for Genetic Disorders of the University to evolve it into a complete centre catering to state of Himachal, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir etc for foolproof evidence of guilt or innocence in a crime, as well as solving paternity, maternity disputes, identification of fossils besides profiles of mummies preserved for thousands of years. He was impressed with the infrastructure the centre here.

Dr Hasnain was speaking here at a seminar organised by the Centre for Genetic Disorders GNDU under the auspices of the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology, in association with Punjab Police Academy, Phillaur and the Department of Forensic Medicine, Medical College.

Consensus among experts of DNA fingerprinting was to train police, judicial, medical officers and journalists to help them do justice to their professions. The technique could be part of science and law curriculum in universities.

Justice V.K. Khanna chairman, Punjab Human Rights Commission presided over the seminar. Dr Hasnain presented the keynote address. Dr S.P. Singh Vice-Chancellor, GNDU welcomed delegates.

Dr Husnain elaborated that DNA was genetic material, a fundamental basis of life. Practically, every function of human body is controlled by the DNA and its sources include blood, saliva, sperm, tissue, hair, nails and even pulp left in the teeth of the body which has been even burnt besides fossil remains too.

These could provide vital evidence in cases of crime such as murder, rape bomb blast victims, war crimes, victims of terrorism, and paternity — maternity disputes, besides rectifiable genetic defects if detected early. These could provide evidence in courts. Justice V.K. Khanna, in his presidential remarks, stressed the need to provide practical training of this technique to judicial and police officers.

Dr Jai Rup Singh, director of the Seminar Head of the Department, GNDU stated that the aim was to demystify the DNA fingerprinting technique. Examples of DNA testing were in the assassination case of Chief Minister Beant Singh in a blast massacre of 35 Sikhs in Chittisinghpura in Kashmir. Dr Sher Ali of W. Delhi, Dr N.K. Mishra from AIIMS, Prabhjot Singh, Dr Daljit Singh, Prof of Laws Mr Rajan Gupta, Mr Chander Shekhar, IGs of Police besides various SSPs, SPs, judicial and medical officers participated in the seminar.


VC claimed TA, DA during ‘absence’ from varsity
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 20
The Joint Action Committee (JAC), Punjabi University, which is agitating for the ouster of Vice-Chancellor Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia today alleged that the latter had claimed Travelling Allowance and Dearness Allowance for nine trips to Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Dalhousie, Jogindernagar, Palampur and Paonta Sahib during his period of hiding from the police.

The JAC convener, Dr U.C. Singh, and joint convener Sukhwant Singh Sidhu claimed that during this period no academic programme or activity had been planned by the university at these places.

It claimed that the JAC would hold a dharna in front of the office of the Punjab Governor for “inaction” in the case, despite the fact that Dr Ahluwalia was involved in “abominable cases of attempted rape and bid to murder a university teacher, besides his remaining absent from duty for three weeks while he was running and hiding from the police and also for committing serious violations of university rules and regulations”. Meanwhile, the World Sikh Council today urged the Chief Minister to ask his Education Secretary and political aide to refute the VC’s charges.


Govt to regulate technical courses
Our Correspondent

Ropar, April 20
To balance the demand and supply ratio in technical courses, the Punjab Government is contemplating regulating the number of colleges and the courses being run by them. Data is being collected from the placement cells of engineering colleges regarding the employment of their students in industry.

The data will be processed to assess the demand of various technical courses and the number of technical colleges in the state.

This was stated by Mr V.N. Ojha, Principal Secretary, Technical Education and Industrial Training, while talking to this correspondent yesterday. He was at the Institute of Engineering, Bhaddal, to attend a national seminar-cum-exhibition on industrial applications of emerging technologies.

He said the need for regulating the colleges and the courses was being felt due to the increase in the rate of unemployment among technically qualified persons in the state. The government was thinking of running only those technical courses, which were in demand in industry. The number of seats in the respective courses would also be decided on the basis of demand, he added.

When asked about the recent controversy between Guru Nanak Dev University and Punjab Technical University (PTU) with regard to conducting the CET examination, Mr Ojha said as per the act the university was legally entitled to conduct the examinations. Guru Nanak Dev University officials should not have any objection in this connection, he added.


Fleecing in name of ‘quality’ education
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 20
With the start of new academic session, certain private schools in the region have increased fees, dues and funds steeply.

A random survey by The Tribune revealed that most of the schools had devised different methods to “extract” money from the parents. What most of the schools had done was that these had made books, dresses, classroom items and other ways means to make money.

The survey further revealed that most of the books prescribed by these schools were not available in the market and the parents were forced to buy the same from the school managements. The school authorities purchase the books in large quantities at a discount but sell the same to the students at a huge profit. The books which remain unsold in one particular academic year are sold in the next academic year at increased prices. Reliable sources said in certain cases the traders decided the colour and pattern of the dresses and after getting the same approved from the public schools, got the clothes made to order. Certain private schools also changed colour of their dresses every year, adding to the woes of the parents. Some schools also had dresses of particular colour for special functions, the sources added.

The sources said the money-spinners for the schools were the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) fund, compulsory donations, building fund etc which ran into lakhs of rupees every year. A section of parents alleged that certain schools also sought donations to rectify clerical mistakes in the documents due to the mistakes of the managements.

Mr Sukhdev Raj Goyal, father of three school-going children, lamented that due to lack of infrastructure and facilities at the government schools he was not willing to send his wards to the same. He also pointed out that the quality of education in government schools was not worth talking about.

A section of school managements, The Tribune talked to, gave their own reasons and compulsions to charge increase fees. They said as they were having no support from the government they had to arrange expensive infrastructure on their own.


NFL achieves record sales turnover
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 20
The local unit of National Fertilisers Limited (NFL) has achieved record annual sales turnover of Rs 2933 crore, per-tax profit of Rs 40.91 crore (provisional) and has attained an overall capacity utilisation of 99.5 per cent during the financial year 2001-2002. This was claimed in a press note issued here today by Mr C.M. Nagpaul, General Manager of the plant.

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