Monday, April 29, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Draft VAT legislation ready
Many concessions may be withdrawn
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 28
With the empowered committee of state finance ministers having agreed to introduce VAT (value added tax) from April 1, 2003, Punjab is likely to introduce the draft VAT legislation in the monsoon session of the Vidhan Sabha some time in August. Prior to that it will be circulated and discussed with business and trade. The Government of India has approved the draft.

Given the present precarious fiscal situation, the state has a lot of hope from the Excise and Taxation Department that it will contribute substantially to meet the revenue deficit. The department, it is leant, has drawn up several proposals for discussion at the secretaries’ committee on fiscal reforms meeting scheduled in the first week of May.

The proposals revolve around the hypothesis that the tax base should be broadened and freebies, concessions, incentives, etc, withdrawn. Once VAT is introduced, it will enable Punjab to do better. If a state were to lose because of VAT, the committee has agreed on a provision that the Centre will give compensation to such states.

It is learnt that in view of the uniform floor rates already agreed upon (nearly 98 per cent of the taxable items) by all states, Punjab is likely to either tax or enhance the present tax slab on four items that the previous government had left out of the list. These items are fertilisers, pesticides, diesel and de-oil cakes.

There is no tax on fertilisers. The proposal is to levy at least 4 per cent tax on it. Similarly, the tax on pesticides/de-oil cakes is proposed to be hiked from 2 per cent to 4 per cent and on diesel from 8 per cent to 12 per cent.

Informed sources told TNS that the Akali-BJP government had given a number of tax concessions in the election year. The department has proposed that these should be withdrawn forthwith. As per the White Paper (Table 36) concessions worth Rs 442.76 crore per annum were announced by the previous government between July, 1997, and November, 2001.

The Excise and Taxation Department is not alone in suggesting such withdrawals. In fact, given the political exigencies, it is learnt that the state Planning Board has suggested electricity cess on power supplied to the farmers for the running of their tubewells rather than blanket withdrawal of “free” power.

One view in the Excise and Taxation Department is that Punjab cannot be allowed to “drown itself in liquor”. The state, it is estimated, consumes nearly 4 crore bottles of country liquor and Indian made foreign liquor prepared by its four distilleries. Against the sanctioned capacity of 23.83 crore proof litres, the installed capacity is 21 crore proof litres. Of that only 46 per cent is being used at present.

In fact, the introduction of pouches of liquor of 100 ml priced at Rs 10 has attracted Punjab youth. These are likely to be withdrawn. The revenue earned from excise is estimated at 21 per cent (Rs 1,353 crore) and sales tax 43 per cent (Rs 2,787 crore). The two constitute 64 per cent of the total state revenue. These figures are for 2001-02.

Therefore, the major emphasis now will be on mopping up sales tax, say sources. For this, a major exercise, “tax payers’ mapping”, is on the cards. Beginning in the middle of May, this statewide exercise will identify potential tax payers. Broadly based on the income tax pattern, 10 parameters have been identified for this and anyone meeting one of these will be liable to be covered under sales tax. In fact, as per the committee decision there is also to be a service tax.

The problem with the present tax administration in the state is that it is not properly managed. There is no proper assessment of potential tax payers, no proper collection of taxes and monitoring. This has left enough scope for the evasion of tax. The new mapping technique will take care of all this.

Recently, the department had raided the premises of a private firm having a turnover of nearly Rs 500 crore per annum, but was causing revenue loss to the state by way of sales tax to the tune of over Rs 50 crore. Investigation is under way, sources added.

If what the department is proposing is accepted, the revenue is likely to go up by at least 25 per cent.


Poll postponement may affect Cong prospects
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 28
Speculations are rife over the postponement of elections to all four corporations in Punjab scheduled for May 19. Elections to these civic bodies could reportedly be postponed by at least one month if not more.

A high-level meeting at Chandigarh yesterday called to discuss the situation arising out of the rotation of wards from general to female and SC/BC and vice versa and the possible court ruling in favour of the demarcation and delimitation of wards scheduled for tomorrow (April 29) has shaken the Congress. Consequently formal announcement regarding the postponement by the Chief Minister is likely in a couple of days.

The meeting attended by Dr Raj Kumar, MLA, Verka, Avtar Henry MLA, Jalandhar, Gurcharan Galib, MLA, Ludhiana, Mahinder K.P., Cabinet Minister from Jalandhar, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Minister for Local Bodies, Parneet Kaur was presided over by the Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh. Dr Raj Kumar admitted that postponement could be affected for the corporation elections for at least a month to sort out problems occurring due to the rotation of wards as some non-Scheduled Caste areas had been converted into general categories and vice-versa

Mr R.L. Bhatia, Congress MP, was however, more forthcoming and said the postponement could be for as long as three months in case the court ruled in favour of the demarcation, delimitation and consequent increase in number of wards from 60 at present to 65-68 in the Amritsar Municipal Corporation.

A long postponement is being viewed as “cutting on the hard-got gains” collected by the Congress in the past few months with an aggressive anti-corruption drive throughout the state besides cashing on the anti-incumbency factor.

The annual Budget in June wherein the Congress is committed to bringing some drastic changes is likely to adversely affect their prospects of victory in the civic poll for the ruling party. The increase in the tariff of power, revoking of free power to farmers and other changes that may effect the common man are being seen as some of the factors that will affect the vote bank of the Congress.

The absence of alternative source of income in lieu of octroi abolition and no money forthcoming from devolution of taxes in addition to recoveries dropping to nearly one fourth of the previous figure could severely affect the civic services that are likely to cast a shadow for the ruling party in the poll.

The BJP on the other hand is jubilant over the moral victory that it has won by causing the schedule of the elections to be postponed, to give it enough time to reorganise and review its poll strategy and areas of concern in addition rectify negations in other areas.


Ban on jathas: SHSAD to meet Advani
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 28
A deputation of the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD), led by its President, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, will meet the Union Home Minister, Mr Lal Krishan Advani, next week in New Delhi to get the ‘ban’ on Sikh jathas to Pakistan lifted.

Talking to mediapersons here today, Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra, general secretary of the SHSAD said the ban on jathas was a direct interference in the religious affairs of the Sikhs by the Central Government. He said the Union Government should review its decision. He said it was on record that no anti-national element had gone to Pakistan with any of the Sikh jathas nor had come to India with any jatha.

Professor Chandumajra said, if needed, the SHSAD would lead a Sikh jatha to Pakistan on the eve of shaheedi gurpurb of Guru Arjan Dev.

He further said the former Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, should accept and face the Garg Commission of inquiry, set up by the Punjab Government, to probe into “irregularities, illegalities, corruption and misdoings” of the previous Badal government.

Professor Chandumajra also welcomed the economic reform steps, taken by the Congress government as such steps were the need of the hour.

He urged the Punjab Government to probe the formation of “fake” youth clubs and mahila wings during the regime of the Badal government and inquire how much funds had been allotted to these clubs in that period.

Professor Chandumajra also appreciated the decision of the SGPC to fix the age limit of 58 years for the SGPC employees.


PAU sitting on molestation case
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 28
Even as eight months have passed since the molestation case involving a student and a teacher was reported in the PAU, the authorities are yet to take any decision in the case. The delay is a violation of a Supreme Court order that directs heads of institutions to take immediate action.

While the Vice-Chancellor of PAU, Dr K.S. Aulakh, had assured that he would take action after one month of ordering an inquiry, the report is yet to be submitted. The allegations surfacing on the campus are that the authorities are dilly-dallying in the case as the girl has already completed her postgraduation and would be out of the university within three months.

According to Mr D.S. Gill, Chairperson, Indian Human Rights Organisation (IHRO), the university’s action of suspending the official, pending an inquiry, was not enough. He said under the Supreme Court direction, the inquiry in sexual harassment and molestation case has to be completed at the earliest and strong action should be taken. He said the IHRO had also conducted an impartial inquiry into the incident and found the girl’s complaint to be true.

Speaking to The Tribune at her hostel, the victim, a student of the Department of Soils, said she was pained that the authorities were not taking her case seriously and were trying to delay the process, waiting for her dessertation to be submitted as she had already passed the last semester. She feared that once she was out of the university, the case would be manipulated and the teacher would be reinstated.

She said she was pressured by certain teachers to withdraw the case, especially a functionary of PAUTA. She said she was losing hope that action would be taken.

She was allegedly molested by her major adviser some eight months ago. Following allegations, he was suspended from the PAU and there was no follow-up in the case by the university.

She said relatives of the accused teacher were sending feelers to her brother at Gurdaspur to withdraw the case. Saying that she was encouraged after the Saru Rana case, she vowed not to leave the case mid-way.

Dr S.K. Mann, Dean College of Home Science and inquiry officer, said the inquiry report was ready and had to be drafted. She said the PAU was waiting for Mr Sarwan Kumar, Chairman, Nishkam Sewa Society, to return as he was one of the members of the inquiry committee and had gone out of station. She said the inquiry would be submitted to the Vice-Chancellor very soon and the next course of action against the teacher had been suggested.


Ex-minister Kahlon’s house raided
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 28
In connection with recruitment irregularities in Punjab Rural Development Department, the state Vigilance Bureau today raided different places at Ajnala, Amritsar and Chandigarh.

The bureau today reportedly went to the Chandigarh residence of a former Punjab Development and Panchayat Minister Nirmal Singh Kahlon in search of Mr Kamalpreet Singh, one of the persons recruited from Ajnala. He is said to be related to Mr Kahlon. Raids were conducted at the Ajnala residence of the Kamalpreet Singh.

Sources in the Bureau said another team raided the place of another candidate, Vijay Kumar. In the recruitment scandal, a bureaucrat, Mr R Venkatratnam, who was then Director in the Rural Development Department has also been booked. A Chief Engineer, Mr Baldev Singh and a District Development Panchayat Officer, Kuldeep Singh, were members of the recruitment committee which appointed Kamalpreet Singh. Another member of the recruitment committee, Mrs Kiran Dhavan was also questioned by bureau.

The sources said the posts had been advertised in 2000, but the appointment was made in January this year. The Certificate certifying that a candidate was handicapped was issued by the Civil Surgeon of Amritsar. Authenticity of the handicapped certificate was also being verified by sleuths. The certificate is said to have been issued in 2000 but submitted much after the candidate had been given the appointment.


IT Dept seeks details of Chhina’s assets
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 28
The Income Tax Department today sought a detailed report on the recovery of movable and immovable property worth Rs 2 crore by the Vigilance Bureau from Mr Surinder Pal Singh Chhina, Managing-Director, Central Cooperative Department, so that action can be initiated against him.

The department, in a communication to the Superintendent of Police (Vigilance), Mr Tejinder Pal Singh Sandhu, has asked him to supply a detailed report on the accounts of Mr Chhina in different banks and the gold recovered from his bank lockers.

The Police Department is investigating the alleged links of Mr Chhina with Parmjit Singh Panjwar, chief of the Khalistan Commando Force, who figure among the 20 most-wanted Indians living in Pakistan.

It may be mentioned here that Mr Chhina has been a confidant of Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, a former Cooperative Minister.


Cheema’s remand extended
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 28
The police remand of Bhupinder Singh Cheema, a co-accused with the former Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Dr J.S. Ahluwalia, in an alleged murderous assault on a university teacher, Dr H.S. Bhatti, was extended till May 2 by the Duty Magistrate here today.

The police had forwarded an application in which it had asked for a police remand so that it may recover the weapon used by Cheema and his accomplices during the attack.


Modi should quit, says Shastri
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 28
Mr Anil Shastri, Secretary, Indian National Congress and spokesman for the party, today demanded the immediate resignation of the Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, in the wake of communal violence in the state.

After paying obeisance at Golden Temple and Durgiana Temple here, Mr Shastri told the press that the Opposition would force the Vajpayee government to dismiss Mr Modi who had failed to restore peace in Gujarat. He said it was a matter of shame that the BJP wanted to save Mr Modi at this crucial juncture. Answering a question, Mr Shastri said the decision of the BJP to have alliance with BSP in UP was “unholy” as Mr Vajpayee wanted to seek support of the BSP on the floor of Parliament. He said the BJP had been resorting to opportunist alliances for vested interests. Mr Shastri also went to Jallianwala Bagh to pay tributes to martyrs who laid down their lives for the country.


Vinod Khanna alleges vendetta
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, April 28
The Congress Government led by Capt Amarinder Singh is falsely implicating BJP and Akali leaders out of vendetta, Mr Vinod Khanna, Member of Parliament from Gurdaspur, said here today.

Asked to explain the BJP stand on the former BJP legislator from Dinanagar, who has been booked on graft charges, Mr Khanna said the charges against her were “false and politically motivated”. He said the Congress government was also harassing SAD-BJP sarpanches.

On the “Oust-Modi campaign” of the Congress, the MP said now that the Deputy speaker had allowed a debate on Gujarat under Rule 184, the controversy should be put to rest.

He said the Godhra incident had triggered riots, which was unfortunate and condemnable. Mr Khanna, who was accompanied by FCI Director L.R. Vasudeva and BJP district chief Balkrishen Mittal said his main achievements were revival of Dhariwal Woollen Mills, construction of the Gurdaspur-Mukerian bridge, which would be completed by August this year, and bridges over the Ravi and Ujh.

He had made optimum use of the MP Area Development Fund. As the BJP did not believe in discrimination, even Congress panchayats were given their share, he added. Mr Vasudeva said FCI operations for procurement were in full swing.

Later, talking to a deputation of local scribes, Mr Khanna assured them of financial aid for setting up of Pathankot Press Centre.


Clerk alleges police torture
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 28
A clerk with the District Treasury Office, Ludhiana, was allegedly tortured by the Moga police in illegal detention for effecting a compromise between him and his estranged wife, who belongs to Moga. The man was admitted to DMC Hospital with back pain due to police torture late in the evening.

Doctors who conducted his medical examination confirmed that Sukhwinder Singh, had bruises on different parts of his body, mainly on the back. For blunt injuries further examination was being conducted. Hospital sources said the X-ray examination of the thighs of the victim would be done later to confirm his claim that his legs were pulled in opposite directions by officials of Moga (City-I) police station.

Varinder Kumar SSP, Moga, however, denied any such police torture. He told The Tribune after verification from the officials concerned that the man was called to the Women Cell, where a compromise was reached between him and his wife Lakhwinder Kaur in the presence of members of panchayats of the two villages. He said even though the man had misbehaved with officials of the Women Cell, yet the police did not take action against him. He said SHO Ramparkash, who, Sukhwinder Singh alleges beat him up, was present during the compromise agreement.

The victim, however, narrates a different story. A resident of Birmi village, Sukhwinder said he was given government post on compassionate grounds after his father Mr Darshan Birmi was killed by terrorists in the village. He said he was married to Lakhwinder two years ago but they were not getting along well. Later they started living separately. He claimed that he was tricked by the family members of Lakhwinder and the Moga police and called to Moga police station on April 26 to reach a compromise with Lakhwinder.

However, when he reached there, he was allegedly arrested by SHO Ramparkash and beaten up. He was released yesterday at the intervention of his relatives and only when he signed some papers. He alleged that he vomited blood a number of times during the police torture.

Sukhwinder Singh alleged that he was forced to sign certain papers. His brother Baljit Singh attending on him in the emergency ward of the hospital said they had to bring him to the DMC as his condition was deteriorating and he continued to vomit blood.


Hike minimum wages: BMS
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 28
In a resolution, the Punjab unit of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) today urged the government to fix minimum wages to the tune of Rs 4500 per month, Rs 5000 per month and Rs 5500 per month for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled labourers, respectively. It also demanded Rs 500 per month as medical allowance for employees and abolition of the labour contract system in the institutions which have a permanent nature of work.

These resolutions were adopted at a state-level meeting of the Executive Committee of the Punjab BMS held under the presidentship of Mr Sarwan Kumar here today. Nearly 45 representatives, including Mr Kartar Singh, general secretary, Punjab BMS, and Mr Ram Dass Pandey, in charge, North Zone BMS, took part.

The meeting urged the Union Government to exempt the salaried class having income up to Rs 1 lakh, from income tax. It also asked the government to implement labour laws strictly. Besides this, flying squads should be formed for the purpose.

The meeting also urged the government to implement the Minimum Wages Act on private schools and nursing homes. It also asked the Union Government to amend the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, as it provides Rs 1,600 per month as minimum wages while in Punjab, the rate of minimum wages is already Rs 2100 per month.

It also demanded representation on the public grievances redressal committees for labour organisations, approved by the Union Government, like the BMS, INTUC, CITU, AITUC etc. It also urged the government to regularise the services of all employees and workers who had completed 240 days in service.

The meeting also urged the government to lift the ban imposed on the recruitment of employees. It also demanded that the vacant posts, lying in various departments, should be filled through promotion.

It demanded 12.5 per cent bonus annually for the salaried class people. It also sought from the Punjab Government time-bound scales after four, 9 and 14 years of service for its employees.

Mr Kartar Singh, general secretary of the Punjab BMS, warned the government that in case their demands were not implemented by July 23 next, the BMS would hold rallies and demonstrations at the district headquarters.


Urban poor a neglected lot
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

In spite of providing basic support to cities in Punjab at the familial and individual level, the urban poor, both homeless and those living in slums continue to bear the burnt of neglect, indifference and societal indifference.

With a strong bias against them in the state’s planning process, there is less concern for consequences of urban growth. There is no framework for development of various sectors of urban settlements. No state policy has been formulated to take care of the urban poor.

A startling fact about urban settlements is that the living conditions have worsened during the past few years. In the absence of proper drainage policy and accountability, the water supplied by local bodies for drinking do not meet the standards laid down by the WHO (World Health Organisation), leading to an increase in water-borne diseases.

Although the population of those living in the urban areas of Punjab is 32 per cent labourers working in the cities comprise about 70 per cent of the total workforce of the state. This has added to the financial burden on the cities. Occupational categories that have been identified in the cities are casual labourers, unskilled labourers, skilled workers, vehicle divers, animal husbandry labourers, cleaning workers and domestic help. A large number of slum-dwellers in the state are engaged in “low status, low income jobs” such as rag picking. Some are self-employed as vendors and hawkers.

Thousands of clusters have emerged in the urban areas of Punjab on encroached vacant land. Since these are unauthorised, local bodies do not provide them drinking water or drainage facilities. Health facilities, to remain neglected. Thus, unhygienic surroundings, water-logging, blocked drains, and defecation in streets make the slum-dwellers vulnerable to diseases.

In most clusters, girls and women are engaged in prostitution. Stray animals have made the clusters their place of habitation. The location of clusters near highways, railway lines, overhead high-tension electricity lines and low-lying areas with constant fear of floods make the inhabitants lives risky.

In the absence of any norms for government dispensaries, non-qualified private doctors are practicing in these clusters and in most cases untrained medical workers conduct deliveries of pregnant women.

The education scenario is equally abysmal. More than 95 per cent of slum areas developed in the past few decades do not have any primary school facility. No adequate efforts have been made by NGO’s to improve the standards of education among the coming generating in slums.

Shortage of water and irregular supply of electricity in summers are common problems faced by residents of such clusters in Ferozepore, Moga, Jagraon, Faridkot, Muktsar and Fazilka. The reasons of water scarcity are arbitrary official decisions regarding the size of pipelines, leakage in pipelines/taps, mishandling of common water resources of service points and contamination.


Hospital generator a nuisance
Bharat Bhushan Dogra

The generator installed at the Civil Hospital here has become a curse for patients, both indoor and outdoor. The generator was installed to provide uninterrupted power to the hospital to escape from frequent power breakdowns. But the smoke and noise generated by the generator is a nuisance to patients and residents of nearby localities as the smoke spreads into houses situated in the locality and even into hospital rooms, causing breathing problems.

The thick smoke from the generator has made the lot of patients unenviable. The residents feel it difficult even to talk on the telephone due to the noise.

Several social and volunteer services organisations have complained about the noise and smoke pollution and asked the hospital authorities to take steps to check pollution but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

* * *

The Pathankot Fruit and Vegetable Growers Society has urged the state government to provide facilities to fruit and vegetable growers so that they could produce crops in accordance with international norms.

Mr R.K. Mahajan, who heads the society, said nearly 2,000 acres of land in Pathankot block was under mango and leechi cultivation while the tomato crop covered about 700 acres in the block. Leechi sells for Rs 15 per kg here but its rate in the international market goes up to Rs 600 per kg. This difference is vast due to high standards of cultivation, particularly modern agro-techniques abroad, which this block lacks.

Mr Mahajan said due to poor preservation and management fruit and vegetable crops worth crores got damaged. If proper arrangements were made for their preservation, a huge amount could be saved every year.

* * *

An emergency response fire drill was organised at the local depot of the Indian Oil Corporation. IOC officials as well as officers of the Army, Air Force and Fire Brigade participated in the drill in which they displayed modern techniques to extinguish fires.

Mr Sudhir Gupta, Senior IOC Manager, told this correspondent that the IOC had set up three wings to fight fires. The combating wing confined itself to extinguishing fires while the auxillary team was already ready to control fires at other places so that these could be checked from spreading. The rescue team looked after those who had sustained burns.

Mr Gupta said the IOC had equipped its fire-fighting unit with foam trollies and a foam generator used in major fire incidents. He said the unit had been provided with a water gel blanket which could treat 80 pc of the burns sustained by a victim. Apart from the SDM, Flying Officer R.N. Dubey, RHPD Commandant H.S. Puri, Bharat Petroleum General Manager Omesh Chander were also present at the drill.


Injured chemist struggles for life
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 28
Ajay Kumar Thaman, 25-year-old Brahmin chemist of Garhdiwala town of Hoshiarpur district, who married a Jat girl of the same town, is struggling for life in the local Civil Hospital. He was admitted to hospital in a serious condition on April 21, 2002.

This was the second attempt on his life allegedly by his brothers-in-law since his marriage with their sister.

Ajay Kumar was found seriously injured and unconscious on the Garhdiwala-Mastiwal road on April 21, 2002. He is not in a position to give a statement to the police due to which no case has been registered. They had married on May 23, 1999, despite opposition by the parents of the girl.

Ajay’s father Mohan Lal said soon after the marriage, NRI brothers of his daughter-in-law and others started threatening his family on telephone with dire consequences. He apprehends that the first murderous attack on his son was done by terrorists hired by the girl’s family at Hoshiarpur bus stand. Following an appeal, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had provided security to Ajay Kumar, but it was withdrawn last year.

He demanded security for the entire family.


95 pc ailments due to stress: experts
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, April 28
About 95 per cent of diseases are caused by stress and 80 per cent of health problems are related to mind and can be cured by various stress-busting techniques.

Starting this at a seminar “Stress free yourself” and a free workshop on stress management organised by the Stress Free Global Forum here today, Dr Raswinderjit Singh, a naturopathy expert, said most diseases were creation of stress and proper stress management could ensure their complete eradication. He said while 80 per cent of problems were concerning mind, 10 per cent related to body and another 10 per cent of problems were outcome of environmental factors. The 10 per cent problems could be cured by any therapy, but the cure of health-related problems caused by mind is a big challenge,” he said.

He said body and mind were in complete coherence with environment and mother earth and any imbalance in human chemistry could lead to serious problems. “For example, both earth and human body have 66 per cent water content, and if water imbalance is created in human body for any reason, it would cause problems,” Dr Raswinderjit Singh said, adding that all human health problems could be cured by alternative system of medicine, about which only 1 per cent of population was aware.


Eye specialists hold meeting
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 28
As many as 80 eye specialists from Patiala, Chandigarh and nearby towns attended the Continuing Medical Education (CME) programme organised by the Patiala Academy of Ophthalmology here today.

The world renowned ophthalmologist, Dr Daljit Singh, a Padma Shree recipient, who has pioneered in anterior chamber intra-ocular lens and has many other ophthalmological innovations to his credit, was the chief speaker at the programme which was also attended by Dr R. Kumar, former president of the Chandigarh Ophthalmological Society.

Dr Daljit Singh spoke about various applications of Fugo blade in ocular surgery such as transciliary trabeculectomy and anterior capsulotomy and in other surgical branches such as ENT. Other speakers were Dr Ravijit Singh and Dr Indu R. Singh (Vitreo retinal specialist) from Dr Daljit Singh Eye Hospital, Amritsar.

Dr Ravijit Singh spoke about secondary iris claw lens and management of a case of subluxated lens.


Fire destroys marriage palace
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 28
A fire which broke out tonight at 10 gutted the Vijay Marriage Palace opposite Punjab Agriculture University’s gate No. 1, here.

Fire engines were pressed into service to control the blaze which was raging till the filing of the report.

Fortunately, no party or function was going on in the palace. People living in the house adjoining the marriage palace were asked to evacuate.

It is believed that the fire was caused either by a short-circuit or bursting of gas cylinder. The loss is being estimated at several lakhs.


Wheat yield down by over 10 pc
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, April 28
Wheat growers of the state seem to be doubly cursed this time as on one hand the increase in its minimum support price (MSP) was insufficient to meet the hike in the input costs and on the other hand, the per acre yield of wheat has decreased between 10 per cent and 15 per cent.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that as compared to last year, the production of wheat in the paddy growing area had decreased by 2 to 3 quintals per acre and in the cotton growing areas, it had decreased by around 3 to 4 quintals.

On the other hand, the Central Government had fixed Rs 620 only as MSP of wheat this year, Rs 10 more than the MSP of wheat last year despite the fact that the prices of DAP fertilisers had increased by Rs 20 per bag and of urea by Rs 10 per bag. Apart from it, the costs of seeds, labour and other overheads had also increased significantly.

Even the labourers, palledars, combine harvester operators and commission agents are facing a decline in their seasonal business turnover due to reduction in the production of wheat.

According to a rough estimate made by the Agriculture Department, a farmer owning about 10 acres of land would suffer a loss of about Rs 15,000. The market committees of the state would also suffer a great loss of revenue due to the decline in the income of market fee and rural development fund.

Mr Ajaib Singh, a farmer, said that he would have to postpone the payment of his monthly loan instalments in the wake of losses he has suffered due to decreased production. He said that besides other factors poor quality fertilisers supplied to the farmers led to the decline in production.

Agriculture experts opined that the main reason of the decrease in wheat production this year was the abrupt increase in temperatures during March and the prevalent dry weather.

Dr H.S. Bhatti, Chief Agricultural Officer, while admitting a decline in wheat production this year, said the Agriculture Department was assessing the decrease in the production and the reasons for the same. He pointed out that this year, the wheat grain was not normally thick.


Crop damage: girdawari ordered
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 28
The Punjab Agriculture Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal today clarified that the government had ordered a special girdawari regarding the damage to the rabi crop due to inclement weather or fire in the past few days.

A meeting in this regard was held under the chairmanship of Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister.

The deputy commissioners and the Revenue department were asked to submit reports regarding such damage at the earliest.

She said that after receiving the reports the government would pay compensation wherever necessary according to the rules of the Revenue Department.

She said a sum of Rs 11,000 per acre would be paid to the affected farmers of the border belt, as per the instructions of the Centre.


Rs 46-lakh fraud in union funds detected
Our Correspondent

Barnala, April 28
Investigation by the Barnala police into charges of misappropriation of the Barnala Truck Operators Union Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) Refund by Malkiat Singh Keetu, MLA, Barnala, and Darshan Kumar, cashier of the union, has revealed that the TDS refund of the union to tune of about Rs 46 lakh since 1997-1998 had not been accounted for. It was withdrawn from the State Bank of India, Barnala branch, by Darshan Kumar and then utilised for personal ends either by Keetu or Darshan Kumar.

These revelations were made by Mr Gurinder Singh Dhillon, SSP, Barnala, at a press conference yesterday. He said the registration of cases and subsequent arrest of Keetu were not politically motivated or done under any pressure.

The SSP said Keetu spent the TDS refund amount of truck operators on his election and Darshan made property in the form of kothis and plots.

He informed that Bunty, Darshan and Diwan Chand had been responsible for the acts of forgery which fall under Sections 467 and 47.

Terming the Barnala and Bhadaur truck unions as dens of corruption, the SSP said Keetu had been in judicial custody in case of alleged misappropriation of the Bhadaur truck union funds under Sections 406, 408 and 120-B of the IPC.

He had been arrested in an identical case at the Barnala police station.

He further said that the accounts register of the truck union of Barnala did not have proper entries of income and expenses.


Two arrested on rape charge
Our Correspondent

Barnala, April 28
The Sherpur police has apprehended two persons for allegedly raping a 14-year-old girl about six months ago and three persons for selling used lubricants oil by fixing seals of reputed companies.

Disclosing this to mediapersons in his office yesterday, Mr Gurinder Singh Dhillon, SSP, Barnala, informed that two boys of Kaleran village — Harbans Singh, alias Bhola, and Amandeep Singh — had been booked under Sections 376, 313, 315, 506 and 120-B of the Indian Penal Code for raping the girl. The Dalit girl became pregnant because of the rape. The alleged rapists and the father got the foetus aborted at a private nursing home at Sherpur.

The SSP said Dr Surinder Kumar and his wife Sita Devi too would be booked for helping the rapists and the father of the girl.

The SSP said Prem Chand, Naresh and Avinash were arrested by the Shehna police under Section 420 of the IPC and Section 7 of the Essential Commodities Act for selling used lubricants by fixing seals of reputed companies. He said the police seized one drum of 200 litres and 20 containers of 1litre each of such lubricants from a car (HR-17 0999). Following interrogation by the police, 4 drums of 200 litre capacity, 40 cans, sealing machine and material and stickers of various companies were seized from them.


Robbers steal cash, passports
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 28
Incidents of theft during broad daylight have increased manifold which has caused insecurity among residents of the city.

The purse of Sonia Sachdeva, a teacher of a local school, containing cash, valuables and two passports (of Sonia and her son Kirat) was stolen near a private hospital here.

The miscreants also stole air tickets of her niece who had come from Thailand.


Ineligible student in SGPC college?
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 28
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) is in a spot following the admission of an ‘ineligible’ student in its Guru Ram Dass Medical College, here, even as Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, secretary general, Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal has sent a communication to the Medical Council of India to order a high-level probe into the matter.

Mr Bhaur said he would also move the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the admission of Mehboob, son of Dr Nizam, a resident of Malerkotla who was not eligible at the time of admission he claimed that the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences has also reportedly taken a serious note of it (he said the student was accommodated in violation of the bylaws of the SGPC while his daughter Harsharn Kaur who topped the waiting list was ignored. Mr Bhaur claimed that Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, President , SGPC, had urged him not to highlight this issue in the press as the MCI could take a serious note of this lapse. Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, former Secretary, SGPC has admitted that the boy was ineligible at the time of admission. The admission was done when Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi was SGPC chief.

Mr Bhaur alleged that the wards of the then Akali ministers and SGPC members who were admitted under the NRI quota had failed to deposit about Rs 2.50 crore, thereby causing a great loss to the exchequer of the SGPC.

He said sons and daughters of Mr Sucha Singh Langah, Mr Rattan Singh, Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan (all former Akali ministers) and Bibi Tejinder Kaur Setia were among the defaulters who had failed to honour their commitment to deposit the required amount.

He alleged that the admissions were done at the behest of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, the then Chief Minister, who wanted to woo the SGPC members and MLAs after he strained relations with Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra.


Ayurvedic college to reopen today
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 28
Although the management of Shree Laxmi Narain Ayurvedic College has decided to reopen the college after 15 days of strike, yet the National Students Union of India (NSUI) has announced to boycott the classes. However, the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) welcomed decision of the management.

The teachers of the college have also decided to continue their protest dharna in pursuance of their demands.

Meanwhile, the NSUI has decided to meet the Punjab Chief Minister, Governor and Education Minister to apprise them of the preset state of affairs in the college.

The NSUI leaders said they would urge the authorities concerned to order a high-level probe into the alleged misappropriation of funds collected by the Principal in the name of Gujarat earthquake. However, the management refuted the charges of the NSUI.

The NSUI alleged that Deputy Commissioner S.S. Puri had failed to redress the grievances of students when a deputation met him. They said if Mr Puri failed to deliver the goods, the students would be left with no option but to gherao his office.

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