Tuesday, April 30, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Education board in the dock
Vigilance probing appointments, bunglings
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 29
Even as more skeletons tumble out of the Punjab Public Service Commission’s scandalous recruitment procedures, as revealed by Chairman Ravi Sidhu’s “touts”, the state vigilance bureau has begun yet another probe into similar happenings in the Punjab School Education Board, SAS Nagar. The enquiry has been marked by the Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh, who had received several complaints of gross administrative and financial irregularities, besides, reports of nepotism.

The Additional Director-General of Police, Vigilance Bureau, Mr A.P. Pande, told TNS today that the enquiry was into the appointment of clerks, bungling in the commissioning of the architect for the Board’s housing colony, ad hoc appointments, misuse of vehicles and telephones etc.

The relevant record has been seized and investigation into the allegations has begun. The recruitment was for the post of 134 clerks in 1998. There were 100 general category and 34 reserved category posts for which 34,000 applications were received. Following a written and typing test, 1,200 candidates were short-listed for interview. Ultimately 138 appointment letters were issued. There are allegations that some of those who received the appointment letters were the ones who had exerted pressures and pulls from the right quarters. Such of the appointees had not qualified in the tests. The names of several such candidates are with TNS.

Another complaint under probe is against one Veenu Dada, who was appointed OSD (Officer on Special Duty) to the Chairman of the Board and subsequently elevated to the rank of Deputy Director, Purchases, as a regular. This was in 1995. Her appointment was quashed in 1998, following a writ petition and she was removed from service.

Interestingly, when the ousted Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia was appointed the Board Chairman in 1998, he reappointed her as OSD on contract for six months. In 2000, her post was regularised in a higher scale. Later, her name was registered as Veena Bhatia in Punjabi University when Dr Ahluwalia became the Vice-Chancellor.

The Vigilance Bureau is also enquiring the 1999 purchase of 25 acres for Rs 6 crore for a housing colony in which against minimum tender fee of 1.5 per cent for architect design, the contract was given for 2.5 per cent. There are several other issues as well, including the one wherein the wife of a retired Army General was given a job on contract at Rs 12,000 per month, while reportedly she has no work to do.

Similarly, the misuse of an office car of the Board Chairman, Dr Kehar Singh, by the former Education Minister, Mr Tota Singh, is also to be probed. The log book, the complaint said, was filled in by the OSD. A telephone of the Board was installed at the residence of the former minister while the bill was picked by the Board.

The Vigilance Bureau is also busy with enquiries pertaining to appointments in the Rural Development and Panchayats Department. While two persons have been picked up, the Vigilance cops are still looking for the then Director, Mr R. Venkataranam. “We have carried out raids on his office and residence but have not found him”, remarked the investigating officer, Mr Surinderpal Singh.

The Vigilance is yet to get the goahead for a probe into the Warehousing Corporation allotting paddy to a rice sheller at Khamano who owes Rs 92 crore to the corporation. But the Vigilance has been sent yet another enquiry, this time into Punsup and Backfinco, said the sources.


PCS (Executive) interviews cancelled
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 29
The Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) today cancelled the interviews of PCS (Executive) posts, open to government employees, besides declaring the examinations of DSP, Deputy Superintendent, Jails and Block Development and Panchayat Officer (BDPO) null and void.

The meeting, which was attended by all five members of the Commission, cancelled the interview held by PPSC Chairman Ravinder Paul Singh Sidhu from June 9 to 12 last year which was attended by 45 candidates. Eight persons were to be selected for PCS (Executive) from among government employees.

The Commission also cancelled the examinations of DSP and DS (Jails) for which there were 26 posts and for BDPOs for which there were 16 posts. According to Commission member Amarjit Singh Chawla the decision to cancel these examinations and interviews was taken by the Commission after a report of the fact-finding committee was presented to the Commission. Mr Chawla and Major Gen G.S. Riar (retd) had been made members of the fact-finding committee constituted by the Commission.

Mr Chawla said the committee had taken this action as the results of these posts had still not been declared by the Commission. He said the committee felt that the PPSC Chairman had violated all rules and regulations while conducting the examinations and the interview process of these examinations. He said Mr Sidhu had manipulated the procedure to such an extent that no one member had been associated with the PCS (Executive) interview.

He said the Commission had also prepared the draft of the Rules of Procedure which the Commission members felt needed to be made transparent. He said Mr Sidhu had appropriated all powers to himself by playing havoc with the rules of procedure.

Mr Chawla said various steps had been taken by the Commission to belittle the role of the members. This, he said, included the changing of rules making it compulsory for at least three members to move a request for holding a meeting of the Commission whereas earlier one member could move such a request. He said similarly Mr Sidhu appropriated all secret work to himself to such an extent that he ordered that the final result should also be cleared by him only and the members were sent a copy after it had been cleared.

The member said the Commission members now proposed to make a new draft of Rules of Procedure under which every action of the Commission would be laid down so that it could be followed strictly. He said under this special stress would be laid on setting of question papers, how they are to be safeguarded and sent to the examination centres, besides laying down rules for selection of subject experts as well as the conduct of the interviews. He said the members were expected to meet in two days time to finalise the draft proposals.


Sidhu’s village shocked
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Mandar (Moga), April 29
Some elderly villagers sit under a tree, sipping tea in the sleepy village of Mandar in Dharamkot sub-tehsil of Moga district. While talking about rampant corruption prevailing in the state, they are shocked that a person belonging to this village could be at the centre of the jobs-for-cash scandal and mint crores of rupees.

The news of Ravinder Pal Singh Sidhu’s arrest by the Vigilance Bureau came to them as surprise. The villagers say that once the farm baron of this village, with over 700 acres of land, the PPSC Chairman’s father Gurcharan Singh was a drunkard and lost most of the property during his lifetime.

No one could exactly recall Ravi Sidhu’s attachment to his village, except for a few old persons. But they say his father was a common man’s friend and he loved drinking with them. A villager Sajjan Singh, says that Gurcharan Singh was a Lahoria (the common word used for those who migrated from Lahore district during Partition) and was allotted 700 acres of land in this village by the Indian Government. No one exactly knows about his previous backround but the common view is that the Sidhu’s family had more than 5000 acres of land in Pakistan and were regarded as ‘royal’ personalities.

Now, the family is left with only 63.5 acres in the name of Ravi’s mother Pritpal Kaur. She visits the village occasionally to collect theka (contract amount) from the farmers who cultivate the land. She last visited the village in March just before Holi to collect the money.

Residents of the village say that Ravi’s family migrated to Chandigarh three decades back. Since then, their house here is in ruins.

Puran Singh, a resident of the village has been looking after Ravi’s land for the past few years. With adequate facilities of irrigation the land is well irrigated by four tubewells and two others are under construction.

Ravi Sidhu has not visited his village since he was appointed Chairman of the PPSC. He once offered Rs 50,000 for the construction of a hospital and a dharamshala in the village.

Although most villagers do not believe that the child of this village is involved in a recruitment scandal that has rocked the whole nation.


Vigilance to seek Sidhu’s police remand again
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 29
The Punjab Vigilance Bureau will again seek the police remand of the Chairman of the Punjab Public Services Commission, Ravinder Paul Singh Sidhu.

Informed sources said the police remand was required to confront with the new evidence collected by the bureau with the arrest of four main agents — Randhir Singh Dhira, Jagman Singh, Paramjit Singh Pammi and Jagman Singh.

Earlier, the PPSC Chairman remained in police custody for about 10 days but according to police source he did not reveal much to the investigating officers of the bureau.

Sources said there were about 12 sub-touts who had been working as conduits with the main agents. They are also to be arrested and interrogated. Besides, the PPSC Chairman’s sister-in-law and brother are abroad and the bureau is expected to seek their extradition to India.


Draughtsmen seek appointment letters
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 29
An interesting situation has emerged with regard to junior draughtsmen selected by the Punjab Subordinate Services Selection Board. It declared a list of 166 selected candidates on December 25 last year. While those who were ranked at the lower level in the selection list have got appointment in various government departments, those who were ranked at the top have been left high and dry.

According to information available here today, 73 junior draughtsmen, who were on the top in the selection list, were allocated the PWD( B and R) by the government. They are yet to get appointment letters from the department. But those who were at the lower level and allocated departments like Public Health, Town Planning and Panchayati Raj have got the appointments in these departments. Sources said that the PWD authorities referred back the list to the state government saying that they needed the services of only 42 dranghtsmen and could not accommodate 73 candidates.

A deputation of selected draughtsmen met here today the department authorities to seek the appointment letters. They said that they should not suffer because of any lapse of the government authorities concerned.


Badal govt sold jobs: minister
Our Correspondent

Moga, April 29
Punjab Transport Minister Tej Parkash Singh today urged the people to come forward to meet the challenge posed by the evil designs of Pakistan, which, be said, was determined to create trouble in India for vested interests. He said this while addressing a sadbhavna rally held on the occasion of birth anniversary of freedom fighter Dr Shyam Lall Thaper.

State Minister for Cultural Affairs and Tourism Ashvani Sekhri who also spoke on the occasion said Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was determined to curb corruption from all government departments, which, he said, had been created by the Akali government headed by former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. He said the Badal government had sold government jobs and mortgaged government property.

Earlier, a deputation of local residents urged the Transport Minister to replace the old buses of the Punjab Roadways.


Setting up of commission hailed
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 29
The setting up of a one-man commission headed by Justice A.S. Garg (retd) to inquire into the alleged wrongdoings of the previous government should be welcomed by all sections of society.

This was stated in a press note issued by a former Chairman of the Punjab State Electricity Board, Mr Zora Singh Brar. He said in 1977 the then Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had appointed a commission headed by Justice Gurdev Singh, a retired Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, to probe the irregularities allegedly committed by him in his capacity as Chairman of the board and Mr N.K. Arora, who was the Secretary of the board.


Plea to wind up commission
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 29
The president of the Punjab unit, of the BJP, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, and its general secretary, Mr Avinash Jaiswal, in a joint statement urged the Punjab Government to wind up the one-man inquiry commission headed by Justice A.S. Garg.

The leaders said the commission had been set up by violating the Punjab Lokpal Act, 1996. They said as per the existing legal provisions of the Act, the permission of the Lokpal was required to set up such a commission.

They said if there was any complaint against any publicman, it should be submitted to the Lokpal which was already functioning. The commission had been set up with an intention to malign the previous SAD-BJP government and leaders of these parties. The setting up of the commission had put additional burden on the already cash-starved state.


JE (Civil) selections being probed
Tribune News Service

Kharar, April 29
In the recruitment scam of the Punjab Rural Development Department, the Punjab Vigilance Bureau is investigating all nine appointments to the posts of junior engineer (Civil) — including that of Kamalpreet Singh,a nephew of a former Akali Minister, Mr Nirmal Singh Kahlon and Vijay Kumar made by the Akali Government during 2001. The nine selections were cleared in a recruitment committee meeting of the Rural Department held at Ropar on January 9.

In the case registered by the Vigilance Bureau, it has been said the two candidates had got appointments in violation of the rules and regulations. Officials have written to the Director, Health Services, to constitute a board to investigate the authenticity of the handicapped certificate of the two junior engineers.

Sources in the Vigilance Department said two medical certificates issued by the Civil Surgeon, Amritsar, mention that degree of deafness as 45 per cent and 40 per cent. The level of deafness in his medical certificate was 65 per cent. The certificate of the educational qualification of the two candidates were also being examined. The nephew of the minister, Kamalpreet Singh had not even applied for the post and his certificate was submitted one day after the interview. In case of Vijay Kumar, the certificate was submitted one day before the interview.

Sources in the vigilance bureau said the Chief Engineer had confessed before officials that the appointment of Kamalpreet had been made under pressure of the minister as his wife used to repeatedly call up insisting that his nephew be appointed. The confession could provide the vigilance sleuths enough ground to involve the former Rural Development Minister in the scam.

Meanwhile, the Chief Engineer, Baldev Singh and a District Development and Panchayat Officer, Kuldeep Singh, who were members of the recruitment committee, and were arrested by the vigilance sleuths yesterday were today remanded in police custody till May 1 by the Duty Magistrate, Kharar, Mr Roshan Lal Chouhan.


Now fictitious accounts scam
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 29
Adding new dimension to the infamous Rs 23 crore pension scam which occurred during the SAD-BJP regime, the local administration has detected unauthorised accounts in certain banks of District Social Security Officials against whom an FIR has already been lodged.

The fact-finding report, compiled by Mr Gyan Singh Bal, Additional Deputy Commissioner (Tarn Taran) revealed that the certain District Social Security Officers had opened unauthorised accounts without the approval of Director of the department concerned and transferred the capital amount to fresh accounts while the interest accrued therein remained in the previous account.

This was done with a view to siphoning interest on the capital amount.

This report was compiled under the directions of Deputy Commissioner who had received complaints of misappropriation of pension funds from different quarters.

The first paragraph of the three-page report sent to Mr Som Parkash, Director, Social Security Women and Child Development Department, reads, “On the instructions of Directorate, a special audit was ordered by the Chief Auditor for the year 2000-2001 based on a large number of complaints that the District Security Officer had opened accounts in at least seven banks without the approval of the Director and the officer concerned had opened fresh accounts in the same branches for embezzling the government money”.

The report stated that during investigations an unauthorised account was detected in the State Bank of India (branch, east Mohan Nagar).

During the inquiry it was found that the then District Social and Security Officer had deposited Rs 1,10 crore in the unauthorised savings account (number 01100/005806).

After the death of Mr Sarmukh Singh, the then District Social Security Officer, Mr Sarup Singh Pannu (who was placed under suspension after the sensational Rs 23 crore pension scam) transferred the capital amount of Rs 1.10 crore in account number 01050/050069 on July 24, 2000, while the interest accrued during four months, amounting to Rs 1.14 lakh was allowed to remain in credit in the previous accounts. The statement of the account, summoned by the bank concerned revealed that Mr Pannu had deliberately indulged in irregularities and tried to play ‘fraud’ with the public funds.

The report pointed out that Mr Pannu should have closed the unauthorised account in the name of the deceased District Social Security Officer Sarmukh Singh and should have deposited the capital amount along with interest.

The report further reads that Mr Pannu had violated the government by laws by opening a fresh account in the same branch and showed ‘utmost irresponsibility’.

The official concerned (Mr Pannu) should have immediately deposited the capital amount along with interest in the Oriental Bank of Commerce after the death of Sarmukh Singh.

Pointing out another misappropriation, the fact-finding report stated that though the beneficiaries of the pension scheme got pensions from August 2000 to April 2001 yet the department was deprived of the interest accrued on the capital amount as the accused had opened a current account instead of the savings account.

Thus such an exercise had caused huge loss to the state exchequer.

The inquiry officer, Mr Gyan Singh Bal, has recommended strict departmental action taken against the erring official.


Ahluwalia broke varsity rules
Favoured Badungar’s daughter
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 29
The ousted Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, shelved the rule of the university, which clearly states that no one can improve upon ones percentage of marks after a period of three years, to favour the daughter of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) President Kirpal Singh Badungar.

The SGPC President’s daughter Amarveer Kaur, who is a Proof Reader in the Department of Punjabi Studies, had done her postgraduation in Punjabi in 1993 - 94 securing around 360 out of 800 marks.

Despite the fact that Ms Amarveer Kaur had passed out in 1994 and could not be given a chance to improve her percentage, the Vice-Chancellor acted upon the application himself without feeling the need to refer the case to any other university official. He signed the application requesting that the girl be allowed to improve upon her percentage of marks.

High-ranking university officials disclosed that this was a patent illegal act as the Vice-Chancellor could not give permission for it. They said Dr Ahluwalia had passed the order without forming any committee to examine the case. Due to this Ms Amarveer Kaur was not allowed to sit in the coming examinations.

The examination work was being seen by Pro Vice-Chancellor Dr R. N. Pal, who made out a case stopping Ms Amarveer Kaur from sitting in the examinations on the plea that the matter should be taken up by the Academic Council and the Syndicate because another application of a similar nature had also been received from a top-ranking official. The plea was that all cases should be considered together and if necessary a chance could be given to all students desirous of improving their percentages of marks.

This was not the first case in which Dr Ahluwalia broke rules to favour Ms Amarveer Kaur. Earlier, he allotted her a “Q”-type house on the university campus to which she was not eligible. This led to a protest by a section of the Punjabi University Teachers Association which locked the house in protest against the move.

Though Dr Ahluwalia cancelled the allotment of the house, Ms Amarveer Kaur was allotted another one even though she did not have the required seniority. As she is on the non-teaching rolls she would have had to wait for a considerable period for getting the official accommodation. This violation of rule was also brought to the notice of the University Chancellor, Lieut-Gen J. F. R. Jacob (retd).

The SGPC President could not be contacted for his views. Ms Amarveer Kaur, when contacted, admitted that she had submitted an application to improve her percentage to Dr Ahluwalia.


PUTA President picked up
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 29
In a startling development, the local police today picked up Punjabi University Teachers Association (PUTA) president Dr Dalbir Singh Dhillon for questioning from his residence in the university campus.

Activists of PUTA, including its vice-president, Dr Manjit Singh, said they were at Dr Dhillon’s house when a CIA team took him away for questioning.

Dr Dhillon and a section of PUTA have been backing ousted Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia and had stood by him when a campaign for his ouster was initiated by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) consisting of teachers, employees and students of the university.

Dr Dhillon had even got advertisements published in his capacity as PUTA president giving a clean chit to Dr Ahluwalia.

Meanwhile, Dr Manjit Singh condemned the local police for picking up a duly elected PUTA president in this manner. He said the administration was indulging in high-handedness. The issue would be taken up with the Human Rights Commission.

It could not be confirmed as to why Dr Dhillon was picked up with sources saying the action had been taken at the behest of Inspector-General of Police Anil Kaushik who had constituted a team for the purpose.

A local court, meanwhile, held that an anticipatory bail application filed by Dr Ahluwalia was infructuous with the Vigilance Bureau denying it had registered a case against the ousted Vice-Chancellor. Dr Ahluwalia had filed a bail application apprehending registration of cases against him by the Vigilance Bureau.

The Teachers United Front, which met here today, discussed a report in a section of the press claiming that Prof Ravi Kiran Singh, a Law Department teacher, had given a statement to the police under section 161 on Dr Ahluwalia’s “sexual escapades”. Its convener Dr U.C. Singh said the teacher had denied giving any such statement to the police.

Dr Ravi Kiran Singh also denied making any statement to the police.


Notice on ex-VC’s plea
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 29
After Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor undertook to submit his resignation if the authorities concerned were willing to withdraw the orders removing him from the post, Mr Justice R.L. Anand and Mr Justice Amar Dutt of the High Court today issued notice of motion asking the respondents to specify if they were willing to accept the offer.

In a petition filed before the high court, Punjabi University’s former Vice-Chancellor Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia today sought directions for quashing an order passed on April 21 removing him from the post.

Mr Ahluwalia, in his petition, also sought directions to the university Chancellor and other respondents to permit him to discharge his duties as the Vice-Chancellor till the expiry of his tenure on May 14. He added that the intention behind passing the order was to harass and humiliate him, besides the satisfaction of throwing him out.


Land-grab allegations against ex-CM’s son
Our Correspondent

Patiala, April 29
A son of former Pepsu Chief Minister has come under a cloud following allegations by residents of Raghbir Nagar that he wanted to forcibly take over a piece of land in the green belt which had been demarcated as a municipal park under a town-planning scheme when the land was carved out into plots and sold by him to the residents.

Residents of Raghbir Nagar have complained to the police that on April 19, Mr Karanveer Singh, son of former Pepsu Chief Minister Raghbir Singh accompanied by two gunmen and a property dealer manhandled an office-bearer of the Residents Welfare Association and threatened the residents of serious consequences if they went ahead with the development of the park. The residents allege that they had also brought down a notice board indicating municipal park under Town Planning scheme number 10 which had been there for almost a year.

The residents in their complaint have stated that they live in the Town-Planning scheme number 10 duly planned by the Patiala Town Planning office and sanctioned by the Punjab Government vide an endorsement dated 15.6.1978.

They further stated that according to the approved plan an area was marked for a public park and the residents after voluntary collection had started the construction of a boundary walk for its development.

It has also been alleged by the residents that Mr Karanveer Singh, a relative of Mr Preneet Kaur, MP, who promised to look into the matter when contacted by the residents of Raghbir Nagar. Mr Karanveer Singh, however, denied that he had manhandled anyone.

He stated that the colony had been named after his father and the land in question belonged to him and was being cultivated by him till recently. He said a look at the jamabandi and girdawri records could ascertain the facts.

He stressed that the land could not be taken over by the Municipal Corporation, it could only be acquired legally. He also stated that the notice board had been put up on the road and not on the land and the residents could not alter the status quo, however, an amicable settlement could be arrived at.

The SSP confirmed that a complaint in this regard had been received by him and that he had deputed a DSP to look into the case.


Chinna case: bank records seized

Amritsar, April 29
Vigilance officials today seized certain records from Amritsar Central Cooperative Bank here in connection with the ongoing investigation into the corruption charges against Bank Chairman S.S. Chinna, who is currently in judicial custody.

Vigilance officals, while confirming the seizure of records, said it was done to probe certain acts of omission committed during the tenure of Mr Chinna.

Mr Chinna and his wife had been arrested by vigilance officals following the submission of a pending inquiry report to the vigilance department.

Officals had recovered about Rs 2 crore and two kg gold following the interrogation of Mr Chinna and his wife. UNI


Nandgarh likely to be Jathedar
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, April 29
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has initiated a move to install its executive member Balwant Singh Nandgarh as Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib.

The post of Jathedar fell vacant when the former Jathedar, Kewal Singh, resigned after bailable warrants were issued against him by a local court in dowry death case of his daughter-in-law Sharnjit Kaur.

After his resignation, Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar, Takht Kesgarh Sahib, was appointed Acting Jathedar, Giani Kewal Singh resigned as Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib after pressure mounted on him from various quarters to do so after a case under Sections 304-B and 34 of the IPC was registered against him, his son Baljinder Singh and another relative Joginder Kaur.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that Mr Badungar will come to Talwandi Sabo to formally announce the appointment of Mr Balwant Singh Nandgarh as Jathedar of Takht Damama Sahib. He is also likely to perform the installation ceremony.

It was at Damdama Sahib that Guru Gobind Singh compiled Adi Granth and gave the name of Guru Ki Kashi to this town. The Jathedar’s post was not filled permananetly as the SGPC authorities were expecting that Giani Kewal Singh to get bail.

Mr Balwant Singh Nandgarh is a confidant of former Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal. The native village of Nandgarh and Mr Badal were close to each other.

Mr Badungar could not be contacted despite repeated efforts.


Slapped by cop, man dies of heart attack
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, April 29
Hardly a week after a violent mob held a demonstration outside the Vardhman police station in protest against police inaction in a child-killing case, the city police was once again at the receiving end of public ire following the death of an autorickshaw driver, who allegedly suffered a heart attack during beating by a traffic police cop at Sherpur Chowk late this evening.

The deceased, Chaman Lal (42), suffered a stroke while he was being allegedly beaten by an ASI of the traffic police. The cop had stopped him along with some other autorickshaw drivers and was challaning them for want of papers.

An eyewitness Om Parkash, who was also challaned and slapped said Chaman Lal collapsed the moment he was pushed around and slapped by the traffic cop. He said the deceased was pleading to the cop to let him go. The deceased was survived by his wife and two minor children, he said.

Hundreds of people, including residents of the New Hira Nagar, Noorwala road, where the deceased lived, raised slogans against the police.

Tension prevailed in the colony as the number of protesters was growing rapidly. Senior police officials along with traffic cops rushed to the site to control the mob.

Ms Manju Kaushal, wife of the deceased, told The Tribune that her husband was a heart patient and was not keeping good health. She said he was the only earning hand in the family. The woman was in grief and was even suffering from fits. The two children were also weeping uncontrollably.

Despite repeated attempts, no senior official of the district police was available for comments.

The SP, Traffic, Mr Gurdial Singh and the DSP, Mr Manjit Singh Dhesi reportedly left the scene after assuring the aggrieved family and angry residents of the area that the police would immediately take action as per the wishes of the aggrieved family members.

The body of the deceased was taken for post-mortem examination at about 8 pm. The report will be available tomorrow.

The Sherpur Autorickshaw Union has condemned the incident and demanded immediate arrest of the cop responsible for the death of the driver and the registration of a case of murder against him.

Mr Darshan Singh and Mr Inderjit Singh, spokesperson for the union, threatened to launch an agitation in case their demand was not accepted.


Sack Assistant Director, say homoeopathy doctors
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, April 29
The Government Homoeopathic Medical Officer’s Association, Punjab, has demanded that the state government should order the premature retirement of Assistant Director, Homoeopathy Dr Ramesh Rattan, who had been indicted for ‘moral turpitude’ and found guilty of committing irregularities in the selection of midwives in 1986 by the department concerned.

The Health and Family Welfare Department had already rejected three review petitions filed by Dr Rattan seeking the deletion of “red entries” from his annual confidential report (ACR).

Addressing a joint press conference here today, Dr A.S.Rai, president and Dr Darshan Singh Khurmi, general secretary of the association, alleged that though the department had already conducted a detailed inquiry and indicted the latter of moral turpitude about 10 years ago, but the then Punjab Health Minister, Dr Baldev Raj Chawla, had kept on delaying action against Dr Rattan for reasons best known to him.

They said even the Supreme Court had passed strictures in 2000 against Dr Rattan for opposing the appointment of Mrs Harbhajan Kaur, who had topped the selection list of midwives in 1986. The court had observed that the Assistant Director had tried to misled the court by refusing to admit that she had topped the list of selected candidates.

The inquiry report submitted to the state government in 1991 by the then Additional Director, Dr H.S.Aneja states,” The charges of moral turpitude and committing irregularities in the selection of midwives in 1986 by distorting official records had been proved against Dr Ramesh Rattan.”

As per the Punjab Civil Services Rules, (premature Retirement), 1975, an employee found guilty of moral turpitude and having attained the age of 50 years or having completed 25 years of service should be retired immediately.

They said the Punjab and Haryana High Court had in its order in February ,2002, ruled that there was no legal impediment in the way of the government directing the transfer of a person working as Assistant Director Homoepathy to the post of Homoepathic Medical Officer-cum-Drawing and Disbursing Officer in the field and vice versa. This is to mention here that Dr Rattan had filed a writ petition against the decision of the health department to transfer him as Homoepathic Medical Officer at Moga in 1997. “The department had failed to transfer him at Moga for the past two months despite a court ruling in its favour,” they said.


Civil Surgeons told to issue I-cards to milk vendors
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 29
Authorities in the Punjab Health Department have again asked the Civil Surgeons in the state to issue identity cards to milk vendors and meat sellers in their respective districts.

In a letter to the Civil Surgeons recently, the Director, Health and Family Welfare, Punjab, has asked them to hold consultations with the local health authorities and municipal committee authorities for the issuance of identity cards to milk vendors. Each identity card should have a photograph and complete address of the milk vendor.

The Director further added that after the completion of the process with regard to the issuance of identity cards strict action should be taken against those milk vendors who are caught without identity cards.

The Director has also asked the Civil Surgeons to issue identity cards to meat sellers.

When contacted Dr S.N. Tiwari, Civil Surgeon, Sangrur, said he had issued instructions to all SMOs and the Sanitary Inspectors of the Health Department in the district to initiate immediate steps for the issuance of identity cards to milk vendors and meat sellers.

Dr Tiwari said such identity cards would be issued to the milk vendors and the meat sellers as soon as possible to comply with the government’s order.

The Director, Health and Family Welfare, Punjab, has also directed the Civil Surgeons to take water samples from water sources in marriage palaces, run in their respective districts to ensure pure drinking water supply.

The Director has also asked the Civil Surgeons to send their reports with regard to above matters in a month.

A copy of the above letter has been sent to Principal Secretary, Local Bodies Punjab, to issue instructions to all municipal corporations and municipal committees to contact the authorities of the Health Department for initiating proceedings with regard to the issuance of the identity cards.


Minister announces Rs 570 cr for Dalits
Our Correspondent

SAS Nagar, April 29
Allocations for Dalits in the Punjab budget should be made in accordance with the population ratio of this section, Mr Santokh Singh Choudhry, Welfare and Social Security Minister, Punjab, said here today.

The minister, who was speaking at a seminar on the life and philosophy of Dr B.R. Ambedkar organised in connection with the latter’s 111th birth anniversary, said Rs 570 crore would be earmarked under the special composite plan and it would be ensured that the benefits reached the target sections. He said Rs 22 crore would be given as attendance scholarships to 4 lakh girl students. Free books had been distributed among 13.74 lakh students in 16,000 schools.

The minister said the mission of Dr Ambedkar was to bring about social equality. He was highly educated and he tried to remove the shortcomings in society. He was one of the principal architects of the country’s Constitution and the need was to safeguard this statute and ensure its implementation.

Mr Choudhry, who was speaking on the premises of the Ambedkar Institute of Career Courses, said there were many political parties which were against Dr Ambedkar’s mission and wanted to bring about changes in the Constitution.

He said people needed to become aware and educated. He cautioned that if this was not done, society would face dangerous consequences.

Mr J.R. Kundal, Secretary, Social Welfare Department, said political independence in itself meant nothing unless it was backed by economic justice. If there were men of integrity and character, there would be no problems, he said. As such interactions should be more frequent but with a purpose.

Mr K.S. Raju, a former IAS officer, said Ambedkarism meant courage, boldness, self-dignity and faith in the struggle for achieving one’s goal.

Dr Ronki Ram, a Professor in political science at Panjab University, said Dr Ambedkar had laid stress on three main points. These were human equality, democracy and legal redressal of the wrongs done.

Among the speakers at the seminar were Mr Jaspal Singh, Principal of the institute, Dr Bhajan Kaur, Reader in the Department of Law at Panjab University and Mr K.C. Sulekh.


Illegal structure causes scuffle
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, April 29
Officials of the Ropar Thermal Plant today foiled an attempt by a shopkeeper in their colony to raise a building.

A local municipal councillor, Mr Rameshwar Sharma, who runs a sweet shop in the colony, started raising the unauthorised construction at the rear of his shop two days ago. The officials concerned of the RTP warned him against it, but he did not pay any heed.

The matter was brought to the notice of the local police yesterday. Though the shopkeeper stopped construction on police intervention, last night he again started raising the illegal structure.

Peeved at the defiance of the shopkeeper, the RTP officials today held a dharna at the main gate of the power colony. After that they shifted to the site of the illegal construction and started dismantling it. This led to a scuffle between the RTP officials and shopkeeper’s men. One of the RTP officials was injured.

The situation was saved from growing worse by the police. A team of police officials led by the DSP (Headquarters) reached the site and directed the shopkeeper to halt all construction work. This pacified the RTP officials.

The shopkeeper, talking to this correspondent, said he had verbal orders from the General Manager, RTP, for raising the construction. He expressed surprise at the reaction of the RTP officials in view of the fact that many other shopkeepers had blatantly encroached upon the RTP’s estate.

The General Manager of the RTP, when contacted, however, denied that he had given any such orders to the shopkeeper. A team of four SEs has been formed to inquire into the matter.

The RTP is moving an application in the court to secure a stay order against the illegal construction being raised by the shopkeeper.

The president of the RTP Engineers Association, Mr Chaba, while talking to mediapersons demanded a CBI inquiry into the allotment of property of thermal plant to private citizens. The management of the RTP had allotted prime land of the RTP estate to shopkeepers and allowed them encroachment, causing a huge financial loss to the PSEB, he alleged.


MC employees also favour octroi
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, April 29
The Punjab Municipal Workers Federation (INTUC) has hailed the verdict of the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the abolition of octroi and has further asked the Punjab Government to reimpose octroi duty immediately, to save local bodies from insolvency.

In a letter addressed to the Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, the federation president, Mr Tarsem Lal and other office-bearers have observed that the decision to do away with octroi, taken by the then SAD-BJP government was politically motivated . “The move was aimed at pleasing a small section of traders at the cost of the development in towns and cities.”

According to functionaries of the PMWF, defect of the erstwhile ruling combine in the assembly elections was a virtual referendum against the unhealthy and short-sighted decision of abolishing octroi duty. “The urban population had seen through the real intentions of the BJP while rejecting the uneconomical, unwise and ill-mooted decision. Not only this the architect of the move, the then Local Bodies Minister, Mr Balramji Das Tandon also had to taste defeat.”

Mr Tarsem Lal further remarked that in abolition of octroi, the local bodies were denied of their biggest source of income and the retrograde step had adversely affected the development activities in towns and cities.


Amarinder out to woo panches
Our Correspondent

Ropar, April 29
With elections to panchayats, panchayat samitis and zila parishads approaching in the state, the Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh has launched a public relation campaign to win over panches in the villages. Letters on new colourful letterhead of the Chief Minister are being sent to all panches in the rural areas.

The letter, which carries the signatures of the Chief Minister is scripted in simple Gurmukhi, and thanks the recipients in helping him become the Chief Minister of the state.

It states that the basic objective of the new government is to serve Punjab, and the Punjabis. The government, as per its manifesto, is committed to giving corruption-free government to the people of the state.

It will also strive to raise the living standard of the people and increase the pace of development. The government will strive to increase the production of power and agriculture.

The institutions of panchayats and block samitis will be strengthened and divide between the urban and rural population will end. The government will try to fulfil all promise it made in its manifesto, the letter states.

The letter is being distributed through Block Development Officers.


Anti-graft morcha’s plea to Amarinder
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 29
The All-India Anti Corruption Morcha has sought Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s attention towards the corruption in the Building Department of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation.

In a press note issued here the morcha has expressed concern over the corruption prevalent in the Building Department. Most of the department employees allegedly take money to forward building cases and for letting-off violators, it alleged.

The morcha alleged that the Vigilance Department here was not taking any action against the corrupt officials despite being in the known of the things. It urged the Chief Minister to order an inquiry into the matter.


Plea to check female foeticide
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, April 29
Mr Vijay Chopra, Editor-in-Chief of the Hind Samachar Group of news papers, appealed to dharam gurus and saints to educate their women followers not to promote scan tests of expectant mothers and help check female foeticide. He was addressing a congregation on the 29th annual function of Shri Ram Charit Manas Prachar Mandal at Shakti Temple here last evening.

He said on account of increasing female foeticide, the female population was decreasing which was creating an imbalance in society. All social and religious organisations should propagate against female foeticide, he added.

Mr Chopra also stressed the need to find out alternative means of cleanliness in urban and rural areas. The people should also realise the importance of cleanliness and should cooperate with the sanitation wings, he added.


Observe May 1 as protest day: IFTU
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, April 29
Mr Paltu Sen and Mr D.V. Krishna, president and general secretary of the National Committee of the Indian Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), respectively, at a press meeting here today called upon the working class to observe the May Day as a 'protest day' against the Gujarat violence.

They said people should strive to forge unity and solidarity to foil the attempts of the vested interests to flare up communal frenzy in the country with a view to diverting attention from the real issues. They accused the BJP-led NDA government of taking anti people steps.

The leaders also condemned the attempts being made by the NDA government to scrap rights of the trade unions which they had acquired by struggle over the years.


Court notice to Chief Engineer
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, April 29
Mr Harish Anand, Judicial Magistrate (first class), here, has issued a notice to Mr Ramesh Chander Jain, Chief Engineer, Ranjit Sagar Dam, for allegedly violating the orders of the Labour Commissioner, Punjab.

According to complainant the Labour Inspector, Grade II Pathankot, Mr Jain has violated the orders of the Labour Commissioner, Punjab, passed on March 22.

He further stated that on December 31, 1999, the Industrial Tribunal, Punjab directed the Chief Engineer to pay arrears and other benefits to dam employees.

However, Mr Jain failed to make the payments.


ASI suspended
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, April 29
Kapurthala SSP R. N. Dhoke has suspended ASI Jagir Singh for allegedly harassing and misbehaving with family members of the accused wanted in the April 25 case registered with the local police station.

A press note issued tonight said the ASI had raided the house of the accused. When the accused were not found, the ASI allegedly used foul language with their family members.

On the recommendation of the Phagwara DSP, the SSP ordered the ASI’s suspension for dereliction of duty, said the press note.


Experts dispute claims on Bt cotton seed
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, April 29
The Kirti Kisan Union organised, a state-level convention to discuss the impacts of the introduction of Bt cotton seed at Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall here today. The convention was attended by farmers from different parts of the state.

Expressing concerns over the introduction of Bt cotton seed in the country, experts opined that the seed had no properties which could produce more quality yield in the local conditions. There was no scope, as propagated through a section of media, that the seed would fetch more profits to the farmers being resistant to diseases.

Mr Sardara Singh Mahal, renowned economist said hollow claims of the multinational companies with regard to resistance properties of the seed had been exposed.

“It produces poisonous substances, which kill insects and fertility of the soil also, he added.

“Playfair Europe, UK-based NGO, in its research, had recently found that the use of GMO seed in the agriculture sector had led to increase in the number of cancer patients significantly in the past decade. The claim of Mansatoo Company that the Bt cotton seed improve the quality yield manifold is totally wrong that’s why US farmers are also protesting against the new seed,” Mr Mahal added.

Mr Hardev Singh Sandhu, president of the KKU, said the Central Government was out to sell the interests of the farming community in the name of liberalisation process.

“The state government should ban the marketing of the Bt cotton seed. We have decided to organise awareness seminars and camps in different parts of the state during the next month,” he added.

Others who spoke on the occasion included Mr Balwlinder Singh, Mr Tarsem Peter and Mr Sukhraj Singh.


Making strides in strawberry cultivation
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Nandgarh (Muktsar)
Even as most farmers in Punjab have been facing a severe financial crisis due to declining earnings from agriculture, some progressive farmers have been making handsome profits by using innovative techniques and going in for market-oriented farming.

Mr Nachhatar Singh, a resident of this village, is one such progressive farmer who has been earning profits by cultivating strawberry for the past three years with the help of his brother, Mr Charanjit Singh, who is a graduate in agricultural sciences. He has set an example for other farmers who have been struggling to repay their debts.

Mr Nachhatar Singh says that earlier he used to import strawberry plants from California. He had imported about 30,000 plants at Rs 7 per plant. He has been cultivating peach, kinnow and malta besides strawberry on 20 acres. He adds that in the first year he earned a total profit of Rs 1 lakh from strawberry cultivation and is now earning about Rs 1 lakh per acre.

Giving details, Mr Nachhatar Singh says the time for strawberry cultivation is between the first week of September and mid-October with the plants bearing fruit in January. He has installed the drip irrigation system at a cost of Rs 1.8 lakh. He says Punjab Agricultural University has approved the cultivation of strawberry.

Two years ago he had tried to increase the area under strawberry to 5 acres from 2 acres but due to the intense heat wave in June, some of the plants died. Owing to the lack of adequate experience, about 50 per cent of the plants perished this year as these were kept in a relatively colder part of a cold store.

However, he is learning from his mistakes and making improvements.

Marketing of the produce is not a problem as there is a good demand for strawberry in Delhi, Ludhiana, Bathinda, Amritsar and other areas in the region. He says the packing cost of 2 kg of produce is around Rs 30 while it is sold at Rs 100 to Rs 200. He says strawberry cultivation can be a viable option for farmers.

His family has been engaged in horticulture since 1962 and has brought their entire 20 acres of land under fruit cultivation, including kinnow (9 acres), peach (5 acres), malta (4 acres) and strawberry (2 acres).


Government to replace 300 buses
Tribune News Service

Moga, April 29
The Punjab Government has decided to replace defective buses, issue new permits for long as well as link routes and continue with the kilometre scheme started by the previous government.

Talking to TNS, Mr Tej Prakash Singh, Transport Minister, said here today that the new transport policy of the state formulated by the Congress government was aimed at restructuring the Punjab Roadways and Pepsu Roadways Transport Corporation by making these financially viable.

During 2002-2003, the Transport Department had planned to replace 300 defective buses at a cost of Rs 30 crore, he added.

The minister said more buses would be given to unemployed persons on the kilometre scheme. New routes would also be created on long and short distances.

The minister denied that there was any move by the government to privatise the Punjab Roadways. He said the shutting down of divisions of the roadways was done to improve its financial condition. He denied the reports published in a section of a newspaper that hundreds of Punjab Roadways buses were stopped due to the non-payment of diesel bills. He said no such bills were pending with the roadways.

Earlier, Mr Tej Prakash Singh, Mr Ashwani Sekhri, Minister of State for Cultural Affairs, Mr Gurcharan Singh Galib, Member Parliament, Ms Malti Thapar, former Minister of Health Education and General Secretary of the PPCC, and Capt Ranjit Singh, president, Punjab Feedom Fighters Association, paid floral tributes to former minister and freedom fighter, Sham Lal Thapar on his 27th death anniversary, here today.


Poses as insurance agent, arrested
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, April 29
Check the credentials of insurance company agents, otherwise you could be robbed of your money!

The modus operandi of such agents is simple. They look out for persons whose kin have died recently. They approach such persons presenting themselves as the agents of some insurance company. They ask the relatives to pay money on the pretext that some instalments of insurance premium of the deceased were outstanding. They also used to assure the relatives that the full payment of the amount insured would be made to them.

The racket came to light with the arrest of Kamaljeet Singh, a resident of Fatehgarh Shukarchak in Amritsar, who had cheated as many as 10 persons of Moga district in this manner.

He was arrested when he was collecting money from Mr Rajinder Singh of Machhike village in Moga district on the pretext that his deceased father had taken an insurance policy from his company and still a few instalments were due.

On May 5, 2001, Kamaljeet Singh took Rs 916 from Mr Rajinder Singh and assured him that the policy amount would be paid to him. However, after taking money Kamaljeet disappeared. He again visited the residence of Rajinder Singh yesterday and demanded Rs 2,000 for some paperwork involved in getting the payment released.

Meanwhile, Mr Rajinder Singh became suspicious and lodged a complaint with the police. Kamaljeet was booked under Section 420, IPC.


REC students block traffic
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, April 29
Hundreds of agitating students of three engineering colleges of the state today held a dharna on GT Road and blocked traffic near the local Regional Engineering College for about three hours in protest against the failure of the Punjab Technical University (PTU) authorities to revoke recent instructions with regard to exams and internal assessment.

The students alleged that though the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Dr H.S. Guram, had assured them that their demands had been accepted, the latter had failed to notify it.

The students, who had been on indefinite strike for the past 10 days, were demanding that the instructions pertaining to internal assessment and debarring a student from sitting in the exam of the fifth semester, being failed to pass the first semester should be revoked immediately.

They alleged that the Punjab Minister for Technical Education, Mr Mohinder Singh Kaypee, was shielding the Vice-Chancellor which was evident from the fact that despite several representations made to the minister, he had failed to order a probe into the alleged irregularities committed by the Vice-Chancellor during the SAD-BJP regime.

The students said they would be meeting the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, within two days to apprise him of the alleged failure of the minister concerned to check the irregularities committed by the university authorities while allotting hundreds of study centres under the garb of distance education programme.

They alleged that various private institutes, which have been granted affiliation for running various courses during the past three years, did not possess the required infrastructure and faculty.


Defamation notice sent to 3 lecturers
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, April 29
Shree Narayan Ayurvedic College was today opened after having remained closed for 16 days with a few students under police protection. The agitating staff members, however, sat on dharna in protest against the non-acceptance of their demands.

Meanwhile, the ongoing controversy regarding alleged sexual harassment took a new turn with the Vice-Principal, Dr Vibhakar Sharma, sending legal notice under Section 500 of the IPC for defamation against three women lecturers, namely, Mrs Jasbir Kaur, Mrs Anjalika Singh and Mrs Suman Srivastva.

The counsel of Dr Sharma, Mr Kuldeep Bawa stated in the notice that all three had levelled serious charges against Dr Sharma, which were reported in leading newspapers and had damaged his reputation.

The notice added that the husband of Mrs Anjalika Singh, Dr Amitabh Singh, had already been suspended by the management for giving false affidavit. The charges were printed in various newspapers, damaging the reputation of Dr Sharma. The counsel has sought an immediate apology in writing and also to refute the allegations against Dr Sharma within 15 days failing which he would file a case under Section 500 of the IPC in the local court.

A section of students in a joint press conference last week had ridiculed the charges of sexual harassment levelled against the Principal and the Vice-Principal as “totally baseless”. On the other hand, another group of students has reiterated the charges against the Vice-Principal.


District unit of PCCTU elected
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, April 29
Prof P.K. Sharma of Guru Gobind Singh College, Sanghera (Barnala) was elected president of the district unit of the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers’ Union (PCCTU) for 2002-2003 at the annual election meeting held at Sandaur near Malerkotla yesterday.

Prof J.P. Garg of S.D. College, Barnala, was elected district secretary of the union.

The district council was constituted by the newly elected president in consultation with other PCCTU activists.

Members of the district council are Prof Iqbal Singh, SD College, Barnala; Prof Parminder Singh Bawa, GGS College, Sanghera; Prof Malkeet Singh, Khalsa College, Sandaur; Dr Amarjit Kaur, Arya Mahila College, Barnala; Mrs Kanwaljit Kaur, RD Jain College for Girls, Malerkotla; Prof Bharpur Singh, Akal Degree College, Mastuana; Prof Baljit Singh, Desh Bhagat College, Bardwal (Dhuri); Prof G.S. Randhawa, Guru Teg Bahadur College, Bhawanigarh, and Mrs Hardarshan Kaur, Akal Degree College for Women, Sangrur.


Rice millers’ plea to government
Tribune News Service

Patiala, April 29
The Punjab Rice Millers’ Association has urged the government to save the millers from disaster by getting released levy payments worth Rs 150 crore from the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

In a press note, Mr Tarsem Saini, the president, said the Centre on February 2, 2002, decided, in principle, to release levy payments directly from the FCI. However, Mr Saini said this decision had not been implemented due to which payments were blocked. He lamented that the millers too had to give payments to commission agents and farmers and if the levy payment worth Rs 150 crore was not released at the earliest, they would have to suffer huge monetary damages.

Mr Saini appreciated the steps being taken by the Chief Minister to root out corruption.

The millers appealed to the Chief Minister and Mr Lal Singh, Food and Supplies minister to urge the Union Government to get their levy charges of Rs 150 crore released at the earliest.

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