Saturday, May 18, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Are there discrepancies in Dhira’s statements?
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 17
Are there any discrepancies in the statements made by Randhir Singh Gill, alias Dhira, under Section 161 (before the police) and 164 (before the magistrate) in the PPSC recruitment scam?

Going by his statement made before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in Patiala yesterday and as reported in the media today , the number of “beneficiaries” who paid bribes through him to get selected to the premier civil services of the state was 32 while in a similar statement made by him before the police, the number was 46.

On April 30, the Additional Director-General of Police-cum-Chief Director, Vigilance Bureau, Mr A.P. Pandey, had released the first list of 32 “beneficiaries”. Before the bureau could release the names of the remaining 14 “beneficiaries” came the interim order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court restraining the investigators from leaking or releasing any information about disclosures made by arrested persons to the media.

Interestingly, missing from the list of “beneficiaries” from his statement made before the Patiala court were those connected with the higher judicial services of the state or “sifarish” cases of PPSC members.

Sources reveal that the “discrepancies” were natural and understandable as at the time of the interrogation, the investigators were armed with the result and gradation list of the civil services, which they maintain helped Dhira recall some of the “beneficiaries” whom otherwise he did not remember.

And at the time of making the statement under Section 164, Cr PC, before the Magistrate, the sources maintain, he may not have been able to recollect names and the amount of bribe paid by them to get into the “civil services”.

“But his recollection of 30-odd names proves the point beyond doubt that no appointment by the PPSC chief was made without a consideration — ‘bribe’ or ‘sifarish’,” the sources alleged.

On the other hand, the “truncated” confession before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate has given rise to speculation on the “influences that may have worked” behind the scenes in compelling Dhira to make only a limited statement, sparing a “select few”.

Whatever be the reason, any attempt to shroud the investigations in mystery or raise public suspicion will be neither in the interest of further investigation nor the public. Only total transparency in the investigations will keep and sustain public interest and support in the case.

Meanwhile, vigilance parties have been busy collecting papers and other relevant records as requisitioned by the high court.

Some of the remaining suspects in the case, including Shamsher Singh and G.S. Manchanda, may surrender to the Vigilance Bureau soon.

Vigilance parties did conduct raids in search of them but met with no success. Since both of them have already exhausted the legal remedies, they appear to be left with no choice but to surrender.


Did intelligence agencies stop Sidhu’s elevation?
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 17
Did intelligence agencies put a spoke in the proposed elevation of Ravinder Pal Singh Sidhu to the Union Public Service Commission last year?

Informed sources say that following the repeated efforts of the then Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, to get Sidhu appointed a member of the UPSC, the Union Government authorities had made discreet unofficial inquiries through its intelligence channels about the antecedents of Mr Sidhu. But no agency put in a favourable word for Sidhu.

Mr Badal started pleading Sidhu’s case for appointment to the UPSC in May last year and continued till the last week of December, when the Assembly elections were announced. From May to December, Mr Badal wrote letters and also talked on the phone to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, in this connection.

The authorities concerned in the Union Government, according to the sources, were briefed that Sidhu had been repeatedly involved in feuds with other members of the commission and also a political campaign was going against him. He would not be a fit person for appointment as a member of the UPSC.

About four years ago, the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s Chief Justice had to intervene to sort out the matter between Sidhu and three other members of the Punjab Public Service Commission. Later, another set of members of the commission went to the high court against Sidhu and the case is still pending in the court.

When asked about the political campaign, the sources said that well before May last year, the president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Capt Amarinder Singh, had opened a front against Sidhu. In fact, Capt Amarinder Singh had mounted a full-fledged attack against Sidhu, saying that if the Congress came to power, it would not spare him and block his way.

By the end of December, Capt Amarinder Singh had become more vocal against Sidhu and planned his election campaign making the “sale of jobs” one of the main planks.

All this went against Sidhu and put a stop to his proposed elevation, according to the sources. As Sidhu knew that Capt Amarinder Singh would not spare him, he continued to nudge Mr Badal again and again to take up his case with the Prime Minister. It is a known fact that Sidhu is very close to one of the relations of Mr Badal.

The sources said that Mr Badal had his own gameplan. He wanted to appoint his own man as Chairman of the PPSC. The vacancy could only be created with the elevation of Sidhu to the UPSC.


Sidhu’s judicial remand extended till May 31
Tribune News Service

Ropar, May 17
Mr A.S. Kathuria, Special Judge, here today extended the judicial remand of the PPSC Chairman, Ravinder Pal Singh Sidhu, till May 31. Sidhu was brought to the court here after the expiry of his judicial remand.

Besides Sidhu, the Special Judge also extended the judicial remand of Surinder Kaur, wife of G.S. Manchanda, a retired bank official suspected of being involved in the PPSC scam, till May 31. Manchanda is, however, still on the run.

Meanwhile, the bail application of Jagman Singh came up for hearing to day before the District and Sessions Judge here, Mr Maghar Khan.

In today’s hearing on the request of Jagman’s counsel the Sessions Judge, fixed May 29 as the next date of hearing on his bail application.


Vigilance collects PPSC candidates’ marks
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 17
A high-level vigilance team today collected data regarding the marks scored by various candidates who sat in written examinations and interviews organised during the tenure of PPSC Chairman Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu.

The team, which included SP Jaskaran Singh, also took the record of the academic record of various candidates who had competed for the selections after Mr Sidhu was appointed Chairman.

Sources said a 25-member strong team was also collecting the record of the entire selections made during the tenure of Mr Sidhu. It was also taking note of the requisitions made by the government, the number of seats in different categories which were filled, and the vacancies which still remained.

Yesterday also the Vigilance Bureau had asked Commission Secretary Satwant Singh to show it the records. The Secretary brought the matter to the notice of the commission’s seniormost member, Ms Harjit Kaur Randhawa, who asked him to furnish the vigilance sleuths with the records.

The vigilance team had been inspecting the records on the directions of a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which had directed the Advocate-General to produce the records pertaining to the selections in the court. The record was to be presented in the court on Monday.


PPSC scam: notice to DC’s GA
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 17
The Vigilance Bureau today served a notice to Mr Randip Singh Gill, a PCS officer, posted as General Assistant to Deputy Commissioner to appear before Mr Jaskarn Singh, SP (Vigilance) at Chandigarh on May 22 about the multi-crore Punjab Public Services Commission scam. The name of Mr Gill figured among those who had allegedly paid more than Rs 40 lakh to Ravinder Paul Singh Sidhu, the tainted Chairman of PPSC through his tout Randheer Singh Dheera who is currently in jail.

Mr Tejinder Paul Singh Sandhu, SP (Vigilance), said the department had already served notice to GA to DC for getting his statement recorded under Section 160 at the Chandigarh office.

During his interrogation, Randhir Singh Dheera had confessed before his interrogators that Randip Singh had paid Rs 42 lakh as bribe.

However, Mr Randip Singh claimed that his appointment was made purely on merit as he had already cleared the examination of DSP, IAS preliminary and main twice.


2 judicial officers pressurised Sidhu, says Dheera
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 17
The main co-accused in the job for money scam, Randhir Singh Dheera, yesterday stated in his statement under Section 164 of the CrPC made in the court of Mr Ranjit Kumar Jain that two judicial officers had pressurised Ravinderpal Singh Sidhu to do some “work” on the phone.

Dheera, however, stated that he did not have any knowledge of the nature of the work told to Sidhu nor did he know whether or not the work was done.

These two lines on the judiciary were the only disclosure made by Dheera on the subject. He also remained silent on whether Sidhu had been pressurised to carry out any other selection through political or other pressure.

Besides disclosing the number of selections made by Sidhu by taking money, Dheera had implicated Sidhu’s mother Pritpal Kaur and Jagman Singh, another accused in the case. According to sources, Dheera deposited the money collected from the agents many times in the Sector 10 house of Sidhu where “Mataji” was there on some occasions to receive it.

Sidhu’s mother figures many times during the disclosure. On one occasion, when he went to the Sector 10 house to hand over money from Tehsildar Gurdev Singh who wanted to get nominated to the PCS (Executive), Sidhu’s mother told him that she had telephoned Sidhu that the money had reached her.

Dheera also disclosed that when three other candidates — Ram Sharan, Rajinder Bansal and Preet Mohinder — gave Rs 32 lakh each to get selected for PCS (Judicial), both Sidhu and his mother were present at the house when he went with another person to deliver the money in two bags. He said the money was deposited by him in a room earmarked for the purpose.

He also disclosed that there were other occasions on which he handed over money to Sidhu’s mother, including when he went to give Rs 8 lakh on behalf of Sukhdev Singh who wanted to get selected as Principal of a college. He said the same had been done in the case of the selection of a few college lecturers. Besides Sidhu’s mother, Dheera has also named Jagman Singh in the FIR whose house was used to deposit the money received from aspiring candidates for the post of DSP. Dheera said the money was deposited from four candidates in various instalments at House No. 145, Sector 9.

Dheera has stated that former Ferozepore SSP Gurcharan Singh Pherurai had paid Rs 2 crore for the selection of his son through another agent Prem Sagar. He said Sidhu demanded another Rs 80 lakh to make selection and that the money was deposited at Jagman’s house in two instalments.

Other candidates for the post of DSP who deposited money at Jagman’s house include a relative of Prem Sagar who paid Rs 1 crore, Gurbir Singh who paid Rs 60 lakh and Mittal of Moga who paid Rs 94 lakh. He said some of the bribe money was given in instalments at Jagman’s house, adding that on at least one occasion he had also seen Sidhu sitting in Jagman’s house.


Tackling menace of tuitions
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 17
The Vigilance Bureau raids on Punjab college teachers engaged in private tuitions on Wednesday morning have had a ripple effect. That the teachers themselves should have violated the service and conduct rules speaks volumes for the activities of persons who supposedly chisel impressionable minds to mould tomorrow’s youth.

The system of tuitions is like private practice by doctors. This menace, says Prof Charanjit Chawla, a teacher, has spread with the introduction of “entrance examinations’’ by various universities, which, perhaps, have lost faith in their own traditional annual examinations. This has put a question mark on the credibility of the university examination system itself.

A university, on an average, conducts 15 to 16 such examinations for admission to various courses. These generate money for them.

There has been a hue and cry in some quarters over the early morning raids and arrests. The only defence being put forth by a section of the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU) is that the time given for putting a stop to tuitions was till May 23 and the raids had been conducted before that.

It is, however, pertinent to point out to such teachers (unionists) that the Panjab University Senate had banned private tuitions way back on September 23, 1997, when an amendment was carried out to the chapter relating to the Conditions of Service and Conduct of Teachers in Non-Government Affiliated Colleges. That amendment was more by way of a “moral check’’ on teachers.

Teachers, the proceedings of that Senate meeting show, were for or against the amendment. But the refrain was that despite the lure of consumerism and social problems, teaching must be continued as a full-time profession sans private tuitions.
Soon, Punjabi University and Guru Nanak Dev University followed suit and made similar amendments. The amendment reads: ‘’No teacher shall engage directly or indirectly in any trade, occupation or business or undertake any employment’’.

The Panjab University Vice-Chancellor, Dr K.N. Pathak, has said that since the university had banned tuitions, the college principals had complete authority to take punitive action against defaulting teachers, as per the University Calendar.

One sees no reason for anyone to protest against the Vigilance Bureau raids as the All-India Federation of University and College Teachers Organisation, an apex body of 11,000 colleges, 220 universities representing 3.5 lakh teachers, had taken a policy decision of not extending any support to teachers who engaged in private tuitions as a business. That policy was adopted by the PCCTU and conveyed to the teachers. Internal politics, however, divided the PCCTU on this. Yet no one dared to speak out openly.

Credit should go to Haryana for taking the step on banning private tuition by teachers. Punjab has followed in its footsteps. The Principal Secretary, Higher Education had directed the principals of non-government affiliated colleges on February 18, 2002, to file affidavits that no teacher in their colleges took tuitions or was doing any private business. The affidavit was also to mention that if a teacher was found violating the pledge, disciplinary action — including termination of service — could be taken by the governing body of the college concerned.

The government has the power to disqualify a college from getting 95 per cent grant-in-aid if any teacher is found taking tuition. It is another matter that for want of money, these private, affiliated, aided colleges (170) have not been given their dues. Even the pension-cum-gratuity scheme is in the doldrums.

There is a difference of opinion on this. Teachers maintain that invariably the college principals know which teachers are habitual offenders and continue to take tuitions. Instead of inflicting punishment on the college, why not single out such teachers, they ask.

The 45-odd arrested teachers of private and government colleges have been booked under Section 168, IPC and Section 13/1 and 13/2 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, was fully aware of the raids and is keen that the tuition menace ends.

There have been reports that in some colleges students get admitted only to continue with their tuitions, while colleges are contented with realising hefty fees.

There is a growing feeling among teachers that the Chandigarh administration should also wake up and take punitive steps against teachers who take tuitions.


Teachers’ bid to save skin
Our Correspondent

Ropar, May 17
Under pressure due to the current drive launched by the Punjab Government against tuitions, some college teachers in the district have started taking affidavits from students. According to sources, the teachers giving tuitions have asked students to submit affidavits that they are not paying any amount to them in lieu of the “extra service” rendered to them. The teachers have taken this step to save their skin in case they are apprehended giving tuitions in a Vigilance raid.

In view of the forthcoming entrance tests to engineering and medical colleges, science teachers were busy making a fast buck. However, the current drive has dealt a serious blow to their business.

Vigilance teams from Ludhiana have raided the premises of various college teachers of the district in the past few days. Though no teacher has been reportedly apprehended, the raids have instilled fear in the minds of teachers giving tuitions.

The college teachers have now either stopped giving tuitions or are devising ways to exploit the legal lacunae. Besides taking affidavits from the students, some teachers have changed the tuition venues. Earlier, the tuitions were generally given at the residence of the teachers. However, after the raids, the venues have been shifted either to the residence of one of the students or in rented places.

Meanwhile, the district president of the PCCTU, Mr Mohinder Singh Baggi, talking to this correspondent yesterday, has condemned the raids at the residence of teachers. While the government has launched a full-scale campaign against college teachers suspected of giving tuitions, school teachers are going scot-free, he alleged.

Many teachers of reputed schools in the district have opened coaching centres at their residences. Boards advertising coaching centres run by schoolteachers dot the roadside, he said.

He said due to the delayed release of 95 per cent grant-in-aid, the teachers of aided colleges in the state were getting wages irregularly. In some of the aided colleges, the teachers had not been paid wages for the past six months. The government was also reducing the grant-in-aid to the colleges.


Remand for 3 lecturers
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 17
The three lecturers of the local Rajindra Government College who were caught giving tuitions by teams of the Vigilance Bureau on May 15 were today remanded in judicial custody for 14 days by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mr Surinder Mohan.

Earlier, the lecturers were remanded in police custody for a day yesterday. They are Mr Harbhajan Singh (mathematics), Mr Satvir Singh (chemistry) and Mr Amolak Singh Sekhon (physics).

Though the Vigilance Bureau teams conducted raids on the premises of seven lecturers, it could not arrest four others of the same college as some of them had shifted their tuition venue while one had stopped giving tuitions about four days ago.

Mr Baljinder Singh Grewal, SP (Vigilance), said the records pertaining to the service of the three lecturers had been taken into custody. He said the lecturers had also filed applications for securing bail, for which the court had fixed May 20 as the date of hearing.


Tuitions: college authorities to be held accountable
Our Correspondent

Patiala, May 17
The Punjab Higher Education Secretary, Mr N.S. Rattan, today issued a notification to principals of all non-government aided colleges in the state, stating that the college management and principals would be held accountable if the lecturers employed by them gave tuitions. The notification said though the Punjab Government had banned private tuitions and several notifications in this connection had been issued to the colleges, no action in this regard had been taken by the institutions.

An earlier notification issued by the government with regard to the revision of pay scales of university and college teachers also stipulates that private tuitions by lecturers are prohibited.

The Department of Higher Education has, therefore, decided to make it mandatory for the presidents of managing committee or governing body and the principals of colleges to sign a certificate affirming that no member of the teaching staff of their educational institution is indulging in private tuitions. In case it is found that the certificate is fake and any member of the educational institution concerned is found giving private tuitions, the college would not get any grand-in-aid.


MC poll: Cong expels over 20 rebels
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 17
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) today expelled over 20 rebel Congress leaders of the city from the party for six years for opposing official party nominees for the ensuing municipal poll.

The president of the district unit of the PPCC, Mr Tajinder Singh Bittu, in a press statement issued here, said as per the instructions of the Punjab Congress chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, several senior Congressmen who were opposing the official candidates or were contesting as Independents had been expelled.

Notable among the expelled leaders are Mr Janak Raj Chohan and Mr Balraj Thakur, both close confidants of the Punjab Technical Education Minister, Mr Mohinder Singh Kaypee and were contesting as Independents from Ward No. 37 and Ward No. 45.

Mr Ram Lal, sitting Congress councillor from Ward No. 33, was also expelled for his decision not to contest on the party symbol from Ward No. 34. Mr Ram Lal was contesting as an Independent from Ward No. 33.

Others who were expelled today include Mr Desraj Jassal, Ms Paramjit Kaur, Mr Radhay Shayam, Mr Poonam Sahni, Mr Desh Deepak, Ms Santosh Jyoti, Mr Davinder Kumar, Mr Haripal sondhi, Mr Om Parkash Kaka, Mr Sardool Singh Lahlon, Mr Baldev Raj, Mr Manmohan Singh Raju, Ms Neelam Salwan, Mr Surinder Sharma, Ms Neelam Bhagat, Mr Baljeet Singh, Mr Jagdish Kumar, Mr Mukand Lal and Mr Harbhajan Singh Multani.


8-hr power supply to farmers on cards
To be uninterrupted and charged at flat rate
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 17
The PSEB has proposed to provide farmers with eight hours of uninterrupted power from June at flat rate. In addition to this, the board will also come down heavily on power pilferers and those caught by vigilance teams will be penalised heavily.

In this context, the revised tariffs for various categories of consumers in the state have been submitted before the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) at Chandigarh. The tariffs will be charged once the commission gives its consent.

In an exclusive interview with The Tribune here today, Mr Sudhir Mittal, PSEB, Chairman, said the government wanted the state to receive quality power round the clock, but for now, eight hours of uninterrupted power would be supplied to the farmers. Other categories of consumers too would benefit in terms of regular supply, but would have to shell out a little more.

Refusing to comment on the proposed scheme of the government to supply power free of cost to small and marginal farmers, he said the board proposed to charge Rs 2 for metered units or Rs 240 per BHP per month. Presently, power was supplied free of cost to all categories of farmers. The minimum monthly consumption (MMC) would be Rs 240 for irrigation tubewells.

Presently, there was a shortfall of 700 MW in the state and to tide over it, the state would buy more power from the national grid. The cash-starved board was also committed to reduce its transmission and distribution losses. “An over the board revamp was on the anvil and in the months to come, people of the state will feel the change in the power situation,” he said.

The Chief Minister wanted to tap the hydel resources available in the state to generate electricity. With the functioning of the Ranjit Sagar Dam, an additional 600 MW of power would be generated which would meet power shortage to a great extent, he said.

Commenting on power theft, he said the Chief Minister had made it clear that vigilance teams would carry out raids at every level and stiff penalties would be imposed on defaulters. Power theft alone accounted for 11 per cent of the losses suffered by the board, he said.

The system was being revamped so that the 26 per cent losses suffered on account of distribution and other technical losses were avoided. Measures were being initiated to bring the losses at accepted levels, he added.

Meanwhile, sources in the board said the domestic consumer would have to pay for an MMC of 44 units as against 35 units at the rate of Rs 2 per unit from Rs 1.61 charged presently. The MMC for all categories of domestic consumers remained the same but varied as per consumption.

The proposed rate for small power industrial units would be charged at the rate of Rs 3. 66 per unit as compared to Rs 2. 61 presently. The MMC too had been increased from 100 to 140 per month. The power would be costliest for medium and large supply units which would be supplied power at the rate of Rs 4.36 per unit instead of the rate of Rs 3.17 now.

In the case of seasonal industry like cotton pressing and bailing plants, sheller/huller mills and other such units, the rate had been fixed separately for on-season and off-season operations. The MMC charge had been fixed at Rs 555 per KW from the existing Rs 370 per MW in addition to relevant industrial tariffs.

For cold storage, ice and ice candy factories, the proposed MMC tariffs were Rs 750 per MW from the existing tariff of Rs 500 per MW. The tariff for temporary supply to all the above mentioned categories too had been hiked, the sources added.


Ashwani Kumar to be elected unopposed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 17
Mr Ashwani Kumar, a Supreme Court advocate, today filed his nomination papers for the Rajya Sabha seat from Punjab.

The Chief Minister and president, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Mr Amarinder Singh, was present.

This seat was vacated following the resignation of Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder on his election to the state Assembly from the Sardulgarh constituency in the February poll. The byelection to the Rajya Sabha seat will be held on May 30. His election will be unopposed.

A large number of ministers and MLAs were also present.


DSP ‘grabs’ land
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 17
Panchayat of Dhandwad village near Goraya is trying desperately to convince in senior police officers to prevent a DSP from “Usurping” a piece of common land in the village.

There was tension in the village when DSP Jagtar Singh, along police officials came in two gypsies and allegedly tried to take possession of 30 marlas of common land, adjoining the land owned by his family. Tension rose on Sunday evening when villagers led by the panchayat tried to persuade the DSP to demolish a wall erected recently by him on the common land leading to brick-batting between supporters of the two sides.

The Goraya police finally registered a case against the DSP, and ASI of Goraya police station and a number of relatives of the DSP on Wednesday, sources added.

No action had been taken by police authorities against the DSP till on Wednesday. When a case was registered against the DSP, Pardip Singh, an ASI posted at Goraya police station and Shankar Das, father of the DSP and his two brothers Satnam Singh and Som Dass, under Sections 506, 447, 148 and 149 of the IPC for allegedly threatening members of the village panchayat with dire consequences if they went ahead to get the piece of land from him or if they dared to lodge any complaint against them. “We were feeling so helpless as from the SHO, Goraya, to SSP, wherever we went, the response was same. They just gave us assurances nothing else,” said Raghbir Singh, the Sarpanch, who along with other panchayat members, had come to complain to the Jalandhar Range DIG Police yesterday. “On May 8, we went to the BDPO for restoration of land to the panchayat, he promised to come and assess the situation, but he never came. Similarly, we approached Goraya SHO Jasbir Singh on the same day to seek action against the DSP, but the SHO said to us that nothing in the case could be done since it was a matter involving a police official and instead advised us to go to the court against the DSP,” alleged the panchayat members including Gurnek Singh, Birbal, Mukhtiar Mohammed and Kiran Bala.

Gurnek Singh alleged that the DSP had started encroaching on common land, costing Rs 10 lakh, about two months back when his workers had started filling the village pond on the land. “We tried to dissuade him. But it did not work. So much so that on Tuesday, when we went to his house for a dialogue, his supporters attacked us with stones and police officials accompanying him tried to scare us away,” he said. Panchayat members alleged that there was no rule of law. The village panchayat, which said the DIG had assured them that a probe would be held into the matter, alleged that earlier, it had apprised the SP (H) Mr Shammi Kumar about the situation and the conduct of the DSP, but nothing moved beyond unfulfilled promises. Meanwhile, it was learnt that the DIG had ordered a probe into the matter and has asked the SSP Paramjit Gill to depute some senior officer to conduct the inquiry.


FIR in Rs 14-crore JCB machine scam
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 17
The Punjab Vigilance Bureau has registered a case in the JCB machine purchase scam in the Department of Rural Development and Panchayats. The FIR names Chief Engineer Baldev Singh, already under arrest, and C.L. Premi, a Deputy Director, besides others.

According to informed sources, the department had purchased 103 JCB machines at a cost of about Rs 14 crore. These are lying ‘’idle’’. One of the charges is that a much higher price, Rs 3 lakh to Rs 4 lakh per machine, had been paid. The case has been registered under section13 (1) D read with Section 13 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, besides Sections 420 and 120 B, IPC.

The Vigilance Bureau has, it is learnt, seized some record. The investigation is likely to point a finger at a former Minister, Mr Nirmal Singh Kahlon, who has already sought pre-arrest bail from the Punjab and Haryana High Court, and two IAS officers, including one of the rank of Principal Secretary. A former Director of the department, Mr R. Venkatratnam, is under investigation in another case in which Baldev Singh and a District Development and Panchayat Officer, Kuldip Singh, are already lodged in jail.


Probe ordered into misuse of panchayat funds
Our Correspondent

Mehraj (Bathinda), May 17
Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner, yesterday ordered an inquiry by the Block Development and Panchayat Officer (BDPO) into the alleged embezzlement by Sarpanch of Gurusar Mehraj village.

Complaint against the Sarpanch was made by members of the village panchayat to the Deputy Commissioner while he was hearing to panchayat’s grievance here yesterday.

The panchayat members complained that the sarpanch had committed financial irregularities of panchayat funds.

Mr Verma met sarpanches and panches of 12 villages of the area to hear their problems.

The sarpanch of Mehraj Patti Kala panchayat urged the Deputy Commissioner to check theft of canal water. The DC asked the XEN concerned Canals Department to ensure that water was not stolen.


SGPC for check on dera culture
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 17
In a major decision the SGPC executive committee today called for checking the growth of deras in the state.

Briefing newspersons after the submission of the report on the desecration of birs of Guru Granth Sahib by followers of Baba Bhaniarawala, SGPC President Kirpal Singh Badungar said the executive committee had stated that steps should be taken to check the dera culture which had penetrated the state.

Mr Badungar said the mushrooming growth of gurdwaras should also be checked.

The committee chief also stated that the committee had written to the Central Government to make amendments in the law to ensure that those who desecrated holy books were given exemplary punishment.

When asked about the release of the report on Bhaniarawala by former SGPC President Jagdev Singh Talwandi, the SGPC President said he would not like to get into a controversy on the issue as Mr Talwandi was a senior leader of the party. He however, added that Mr Talwandi had attended today’s meeting for half-an-hour before leaving.

Meanwhile the executive committee has added more members to the panel investigating the issue of sub-standard siropas. The three members are Manvender Singh Pakhoke, Shingara Singh Lohian and Gurbaksh Singh.


Amritsar hottest at 46°C

Chandigarh, May 17
The severe heatwave sweeping the length and breadth of the north-western region intensified further today, with Amritsar turning out to be the hottest as the mercury touched 46°C, seven degrees higher than the normal.

The almost fortnight-long heatwave has already claimed 13 lives in Punjab, seven in Haryana, and one in Chandigarh.

The scorching sun, coupled with the torrid humid conditions, forced people to stay indoors for most part of the day as the temperatures ruled three to seven degrees above normal at many places.

The people in most parts of Hisar and Bhiwani districts of Haryana bordering Rajasthan groaned as the mercury hovered around 46°C four degrees above normal. Ambala with the high of 42.1°C, one degree above normal, was the other hotter place in Haryana.

The maximum in and around Chandigarh today rose by four degrees above normal to 42.4°C, against yesterday’s 40.6°C.

Ludhiana and Patiala in Punjab reported the highs of 44.4°C and 43.4°C, respectively, both three degrees above normal.

Shimla was again hotter with the high of 26.7°C, four degrees above normal while Sundarnagar turned out to be the hottest place in the state with the mercury soaring to 37.7°C followed by Bhuntar at 33.6°C.

Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, too, was hotter at 27°C, two degrees more than the normal while winter capital Jammu recorded the high of 44°C, five degrees above normal.

The weathermen here, holding out no hope of a respite from the ongoing heatwave, have forecast mainly dry and clear weather in HP, J and K and Punjab over the next 48 hours. However, Haryana and its neighbouring areas are likely to be hit by dust and thunderstorms isolatedly during this period. UNI


Sainik Sadan at Muktsar ready
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 17
Following the release of the final instalment of Rs. 12.50 lakh for the completion of Sainik Sadan at Muktsar, this prestigious Rs 0.85 crore project is now ready for inauguration.

Revealing this here today, Mr K. B. S. Sidhu, Secretary, Defence Services Welfare, Punjab, said here today that the multi-purpose complex, being executed by the Punjab Ex-Servicemen Corporation (PESCO), had been completed in record time. Mr Sidhu, who is also the Chairman-cum-Managing Director of PESCO, stated that the double-storeyed building, spread over an institutional area measuring 2.25 acres, comprised the office wing of the District Sainik Welfare Officer and residential accommodation for the field staff, apart from a separate training wing, the salient feature of which was a spacious multipurpose hall. The complex also included a full-fledged Sainik Rest House, having three rooms, with attached toilets, on the ground floor and five rooms, including two VIP suites, on the first floor.

Conceived as a joint venture of the Kendriya Sainik Board and the Punjab Government, this complex would be one of the most impressive buildings of this important southern district of the state. Owing to the poor bearing capacity of the soil, a specially designed pile foundation, resting on single-bulb, under-reamed compaction piles of 40-cm diameter, was adopted. The structure has load-bearing brick walls of 9-inch thickness, which have been plastered from both sides in view of the aesthetics.

Brig K.S. Kahlon, (retd), Director, Sainik Welfare, Punjab, said that the total built-up area on the ground floor was approximately 8,750 sq ft and that of the first floor about 4750 sq ft. The flooring in the office as well as in the Rest House area comprised terrazzo tiles, while marble flooring had been adopted in the toilets and the kitchen. The interior walls had been whitewashed, while Snowcem had been preferred for the external facade. Keeping in view economy and durability, the doors and window frames were of pressed steel. The toilets had a separate provision for the supply of fresh water and also from an overhead tank.

The building is likely to be dedicated to ex-servicemen of the state by the Chief Minister in June, Mr Sidhu concluded.


Fridges drive out ‘matkas’
Our Correspondent

Nathana (Bathinda), May 17
Few years ago the city dwellers stopped buying ‘matkas’ (earthen pots) but now even rural people depend more on refrigerators, water coolers and other electrical gadgets for getting cold water, said Mohammad Ali, making and selling matkas in this rural area for the past more than 20 years.

He is not the only one whose business was hit after the electrification of villages and popularity of refrigerators and other devices in rural areas. There are many in the profession of making ‘matkas’, who are thinking to adopt other occupations.

Few decades ago the ‘matka’ makers’ business in the five summer months use to be brisk but with passage of time it is losing buyers and earning.

Abdul Karim another ‘matka’ maker said that in his father’s days, they used to earn sufficient in the summer season, which used to be enough for the entire family to meet expenses throughout the year. But now the income is meagre and it did not last long, he rued.

Besides advent of refrigerators in rural homes, the other set back came to the ‘matka’ makers from short harvesting period of wheat. With the introduction of combine harvesters, harvesting of wheat is done in fewer days.

Manual harvesting of wheat used to go on for days together, need of cold water in fields was felt. The ‘matka’ makers sold these earthen ware and got wheat in lieu of it. As per tradition a bond got developed between the ‘matka’ makers and the farmer and farmers purchased ‘matkas’ from a particular ‘matka’ maker every year.

Mohammad Ali said mechanical harvesting of wheat was quicker. It has reduced need of ‘matkas’ by farmers.

Although supply of electricity is not satisfactory even then the rural resident people prefer electrical appliances for cold water. Even the NGOs who organise ‘Pios’ (Places where cold water is given free of cost to people) use water coolers and not ‘matkas’.

Abdul Karim said that although price of raw material used for making ‘matkas’ had increased many times but the prices of the ‘matkas’ had not increased in same proportion in the past years.

He said that clay used for making matkas which was free of cost a few years ago had become rare commodity. He said that farmers charge them for permitting them digging of clay from fields. Youngsters in the family of ‘matka’ makers not finding the profession beneficial are switching over to other trades. Even parents want that their children should get education and become ‘babus’.


Six months’ jail for scribe
Our Correspondent

Barnala, May 17
Parmod Kumar and Balwant Singh have been sentenced to   jail for six months each and fined Rs 500 each. They were found guilty under section 500 of  the  Indian Penal Code.

Mr Gurjant Singh, Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, here in the  Guru Dutt Sharma, Postal Assistant versus Parmod Kumar, Balwant Singh and  Ratnesh Singh Sodhi, Publisher and Editor, Daily Akali Patrika, Jalandhar (complaint  against Ratnesh Sodhi  was dismissed) found them guilty of defaming Guru Dutt Sharma.

Parmod Kumar in a news item  published in the Akali Patrika on November 26, 1997 described Guru Dutt Sharma in unfavourable light.

The Judge observed that accused persons who described Guru Dutt Sharma in unfavourable light in news report neither pursued those charges nor preferred to prove the allegations against Guru Dutt Sharma. Even the enquiries made by the Superintendent of Post Offices, Sangrur into the complaints dated November 24, November 29 in the year 1997 and March 10 in year 1998 lodged by Parmod Kumar revealed that the person concerned had failed to substantiate the allegations against Guru Dutt Sharma and even refused to participate in the enquiry.

The Magistrate observed that Guru Dutt Sharma enjoyed good reputation.


Villagers offer land in return for jobs
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 17
Residents of Harkishanpura village in the district, 50 km from here, have offered their entire agricultural land to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for setting up industry so that they could get some employment.

The residents had made a similar offer to former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal urging him to help them come out of poverty. They also demanded that loans of the farmers having landholdings less than 10 acres be waived.

Mr Badal, however, did not pay any attention though he distributed money generously at his sangat darshan programmes, villagers complained.

Over the past many years, the residents for whom the canal water for irrigation is still a distant dream, have been taking loans every year to meet day-to-day needs. Some of them have even sold their livestock and jewellery to raise much-needed cash. Instead of receiving any aid from the government, the residents complain they get arrest warrants from the authorities concerned for being unable to reply the loans. Repeated crop failure has turned landlords into labourers.

In the letter to Capt Amarinder Singh, Ms Harbans Kaur, sarpanch, and other members of panchayat, have pointed out that the residents of the village were so deep in debt that even if they sold off their entire landholding they would not be able to settle their liabilities.


Workshop on abnormal beating of heart
Our Correspondent

Patiala, May 17
A new therapy for abnormal beating of the heart, known as Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA), will be demonstrated for the first time at the Patiala Heart Institute here on May 18 and 19.

The two-day workshop is being organised by Dr Arun Chopra, a former Assistant Professor in cardiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. Mr Chopra said this therapy was one of the rare curative modalities in medicine, where the abnormal focus that causes faster heart beat rate can be eliminated using apparatus similar to that used for angiography.

The doctor also assured that there was no need for drugs following a successful procedure, unlike most other procedures in cardiology and medicine.

The Managing Director of Patiala Heart Institute, Dr Gurpreet Singh, said that until now, facility was available only in about half-a-dozen centres all over the country, the nearest being in New Delhi.

He also said that during the workshop, there would be elaborate lectures on pacemakers and RF ablation by some of the leading experts in India, including Prof. K.K. Talwar of the AIIMS.


Doctors, nurse freed on bail
Our Correspondent

Abohar, May 17
Two doctors and a staff nurse of a private hospital at Sriganganagar, 40 km from here, who were arrested yesterday under sections 304-A and 147 of the IPC have been released on bail.

According to information, Uma Gupta (35), wife of an employee of an insurance company died on Wednesday night after she was operated upon for removing a tumor from her uterus. Her conditions had started deteriorating after the operation. Her relatives said they had objected when a particular injection was being given to her. According to them, the patient had been suffering from high blood pressure and fever. It was alleged that Uma Gupta died 15 minutes after she was administered the injection.

The death sparked violent protests from relatives and friends. They reportedly stormed the nursing home and damaged the furniture and other valuables. They also damaged the car of a doctor outside the nursing home. The police and civil officials intervened late midnight.


Drive against encroachments
Our Correspondent

Mansa, May 17
Mr Alok Shekhar, Deputy Commissioner addressing a meeting of subdivisional magistrates, Executive Officers of the Municipal Councils and Panchayat Samitis of the district here today directed launching of a 15-day campaign from May 25 for the removal of encroachments on government land in urban and rural area. He told the officers to associate the sarpanches and patwaris in the campaign.

He asked SDMs to persuade shopkeepers and rehri wallahs to remove encroachments.


Ropar, Kharar water samples collected
Tribune News Service

Ropar, May 17
Following complaints regarding the quality of drinking water in rural and urban areas, the district health authorities have collected 23 samples from various water sources in Kharar and Ropar. These samples have been collected on the directions issued by the Deputy Commissioner, Ropar, Ms Seema Jain.

According to information, eight samples were collected from Kharar town today while 15 samples were collected at Ropar yesterday. The samples have been sent to the state laboratory at Chandigarh for testing.


Power shutdown
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 17
Due to maintenance and repair work of 132 kv substation Bathinda line, power supply in some areas of the city will remain cut off on May 18 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The affected areas will be Amrik Singh road, Veer colony, Gole Diggi, Kila road, Dhobi bazar, Navi basti, Kikkar bazar, Sadar bazar, Mall road, Railway station and Parasram Nagar.


Sow paddy after June 10, say agricultural scientists
Jaswinder Paul

Nathana (Bathinda), May 17
Although farm scientists and Agriculture Department officials have asked the farmers in the state not to start planting of paddy before June 10, farmers of Malwa area have started planting the same with the hope that it would increase the yield.

The experts at Punjab Agricultural University have warned the farmers that if the paddy was planted before the second week of June the water table in the state would go down. The reason for it is that during paddy plantation irrigation water is needed in abundance and in absence of rain groundwater gets used. The experts say that if planted late the requirement of water would be met by the monsoon rain.

However, a cross section of farmers said early planting yielded better production. They said late plantations would make it prone to many diseases. The farmers engaged in the plantation of paddy at many villages in the area said a disease, “hooper”, affected the paddy and the farmers had to bear losses due to it. They added that the disease affected only the late-planted paddy.

Although the farm experts did not confirm the fears of the farmers, they warned that if the water table kept on going down, in a few years the land would become barren.

The authorities concerned cannot take stern action against the farmers who planted paddy before the prescribed dates. The government on its part in order to discourage the farmers gives electricity supply for running tubewells only for two-three hours daily.

But the farmers do not care about the expenses and use diesel generator sets and tractors for running tubewells.

The state government had announced that eight-hour power supply for tubewells would start from June 1.

Mahinder Singh, a farmer of the village, said earlier paddy plantation was beneficial in more than one way. He said they plant paddy in phases. He further said of the 16 acres he owned paddy would be sown on 15 acres. Other farmers also gave similar views.

The farmers of the area are showing more interest in sowing paddy as compared to cotton due to the excessive heat. The cotton crop had been failing in the past years. Even this year the cotton saplings sown last month withered due to excessive heat.

As per the records of the Agriculture Department area under paddy cultivation in the district would be approximately 3000 hectares more this year as compared to last year. In the last year paddy was sown on an area of 82,000 hectares.

Gurdarshan Singh of Ganga village said the expenditure on paddy sown earlier was less as compared to the late-planted crop. He said the expenditure per acre for sowing paddy was about Rs 1,000, including seeds, cultivation and labour expenses.


Woman held for remarrying

Hoshiarpur, May 17
The police has arrested a newly wed couple and the woman who acted as a go between as one of the partners was already married.

District police chief Gurpreet Deo yesterday said the police had arrested Surinder Kaur, mother of two sons, her second husband, Amrit Pal, and Kulwinder Kaur Dubaiwali who brokered the marriage on Wednesday after they returned from Himachal Pardesh.

The arrests were made on the complaint of Surinder Kaur’s husband Balbir Singh.

The SSP said all three were booked under sections 494, 496, 420 and 120-B IPC, on May 11. UNI


Five booked for kidnapping
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 17
The Majitha district police has booked five persons for allegedly kidnapping Kamal Sharma a travel agent and a resident of Kot Kishan Chand, Baba Bakala in Majitha on Tuesday.

Ms Ravinder Sharma, wife of the victim, in her complaint alleged that her husband, was kidnapped by Satnam Singh, Bhajan Singh, Gurmeet Singh, Surjit Singh of Mustbad under Subhanpur Police Station and Gurmal Singh of Dhilwa village. She further stated that her husband had taken money from them to send them abroad, but he failed to do so. Kamal went to Jalandhar with friends on May 11 but did not return.

The police has registered a case of cheating against six persons — Sukhchain Singh, Gurdial Singh, Binder Singh, Sarabjit Singh and Jasbir Singh — all residents of Jandiala on the complaint of Jasbir Kaur wife of Gurdial Singh the accused. She alleged that half of the property which she had bought with him (Gurdial) was registered in the name of one Rekha who was staying with her husband illegally as she had separated from him.

She said in her absence the accused persons grabbed her house. A case has been registered.


Bid to enter girls’ hostel; one held
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 17
A 25-year-old man created a scare in the girls hostel number seven in Punjabi University when he scaled a wall of the hostel and tried to proceed towards rooms of the hostel residents.

The miscreant was, however, nabbed by the hostel chowkidar before he could do any mischief. According to sources, the incident took place at 12.30 a.m. last night. The warden, Mrs S.K. Sharma, and the chief security officer Col Alamjit Singh (retd) rushed to the spot on hearing about the incident.

The miscreant was identified as a resident of Sheikhupura village, which is adjoining the girls’ hostel. Sources said he had been playing football in a nearby ground yesterday for quite some time. The man was later handed over to the police at the Bahadurgarh police station.

Meanwhile, university sources said the security of the hostel would be tightened further. They said earlier there was only one guard posted in the hostel but recently the strength had been increased to three. The sources said it was proposed to put up additional lights around the hostel wall which runs parallel to the village.

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