Sunday, May 26, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Farmers continue to commit suicide
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 25
Suicide by debt-ridden farmers in the Sangrur-Mansa belt of the Malwa region continue unabated. Suicide by farmers of this belt had hit the headlines about three years ago. The then government had first denied the reports but later, admitted to it and provided compensation to the kin of those farmers who had killed themselves.

According to information, the number of debt-related suicide by farmers in Lehra and Andana-blocks of Sangrur district between April 2001 and March 31 last stands at 56. The data and study has been conducted by the Movement Against State Repression( MASR), an organisation of eminent citizens who were the first to identify this problem three years ago. Since then, this organisation has been working in the rural areas, especially in the Sangrur belt, to collect the figures.

Releasing its latest report today, Ms Baljit Kaur, Co-Convener of the MASR, said a copy of this report had been sent to the President with a request to save the farmers from taking this extreme step. She said the facts collected by their organisation had been certified by panchayats and verified by the civil magistracy.

Few cases have gone unreported due to the fear of social stigma and some cases may have been sent directly to the government. The total figure would possibly be between 70 and 80, out of which 56 have been documented. However, the magnitude of the problem is higher, since this study was confined only to two blocks.

The MASR has urged the Punjab Government to establish debt conciliation boards as was done in 1934 under Section 8 of the Punjab Relief of Indebtedness Act. At present, the total debt against the farmers is nearly Rs 10,000 crore whereas it was about Rs 5700 crore in 1996-97 as per a government study.

According to various research papers, non-institutional debt in Punjab is between 60 and 80 per cent, out of the figure of Rs 10,000 crore. The MASR’s report, quoting the Executive Director of NABARD, says: “Nationally banks cover a mere 20 per cent of the cost of agriculture production. Since agriculture is considered to be an unstable business, heavily dependent on the monsoon, commercial banks are reluctant to lend money to the farming sector. Moreover, with liberalisation, the banks are cutting costs by restricting the number of small borrowers in order to compete with foreign banks”.

The MASR urged the government to waive the debt of marginal and small farmers and to provide “kisan cards” to enable the farmers to avail loans. As far as the non institutional finance is concerned, the government should enforce the existing laws and money lenders and commission agents should be asked to make a declaration before the authorities concerned within a month of extending a loan to a farmer.

Among those who have worked as activists of the MASR to collect and compile the data are Mr Inderjit Singh Jaijee, a former MLA, Dr Gurmit Singh, Mr Gurdarshan Singh Grewal, a former AG, Punjab, Mr B.S. Toor, Prof B.S. Shergill from Punjab University, Leiut-Gen K.S. Gill (retd), and Justice Ajit Singh Bains.


CM hints at power tariff revision
Our Correspondent

Patiala, May 25
The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today indicated that revision of power tariff in the state was in the offing and the State Electricity Regulatory Commission was considering the same in the wake of requests made by the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), which was losing around Rs 2000 crore a year on account of free electricity for farmers and transmission losses.

Speaking at the general body meeting of the PSEB Engineers Association here, the Chief Minister stressed that there was need for power reforms to save the PSEB from bankruptcy. He added that the government was considering opening thermal power plants near coal mines. He also said offers from Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal for collaboration for production of hydroelectric power was being considered by the state government .

Capt Amarinder Singh announced that in view of the approaching paddy season, farmers would be provided electricity round-the-clock from June 1. Under no circumstances would Punjab consider a nuclear power plant in the state, he said. The Chief Minister ruled out privatisation of the PSEB.

Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Fiscal Reforms Surinder Singla said it was for the PSEB employees to stop any privatisation bid. He exhorted PSEB engineers to follow the model of the Bombay Electric Supply Company.

President of the Punjab State Electricity Board Engineers Association M. S. Bajwa highlighted the problems faced by the board.


No rift with Avtar, says Jagmeet Brar
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, May 25
The Congress will contest zila parishad elections on its own symbol. No decision has been taken so far regarding elections to block samitis.

This was stated by Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, Member of Parliament and whip of the party in the Lok Sabha, while talking to mediapersons here today. He said forms in this connection had been sent to offices of district Congress committee (DCCs) and a party aspirant could obtain it by paying Rs 1000.

The forms would be submitted to former MLAs and DCC presidents who would recommend the names of the contenders to the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee which would select the final candidates. However, if any contender would submit his form to Him (Mr Jagmeet Singh) he would forward the same to the PPCC high command, Mr Brar said.

He denied any differences with Mr Avtar Singh Brar, former Congress MLA, who had been holding meetings in the local block to collect the names of the party aspirants for the elections and sending the same to the PPCC.

Mr Brar said the Congress government would not fear from morchas launched by Akali leaders. He appealed to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to expose nexus of politicians and bureaucrats to contain corruption in Punjab.

A deputation of office-bearers of many district associations met Mr Brar and urged him to make a demand in Parliament for reserving seats in all sectors for all sections on economic basis.

Mr Surinder Iqbal Singh Brar, president, local unit of the DCC, was also present on this occasion. Later, Mr Brar held a meeting with district party workers and listen to their grievances. He said he had distributed Rs 4.80 crore from his discretionary quota for the development of Muktsar and Moga districts.


Blackout rehearsal in Ferozepore held
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, May 25
In the wake of a possibility of war between India and Pakistan, a total blackout was observed as part of a rehearsal in the local city and cantonment areas last night for half-an-hour. During this time, people kept lights off in their houses, markets and other establishments.

A senior official of the Army told TNS that the rehearsal was organised on instructions from the Ministry of Defence. A siren was blown as part of an alarming bell to indicate to the residents of the city and cantonment areas to switch off their lights immediately.

An Army official said a total blackout was essential during the time of war to minimise the possibility of air strikes from enemy fighter planes.

Meanwhile, the district administration has appealed to the people of the area to fully co-operate and abide by the instructions laid down by the Ministry of Defence to minimise civilian casualties during the time of air strikes.

The Indian Government has also ordered cancellation of casual leave of government employees posted in the border areas. Earlier, the annual leave of Army personnel was cancelled by the Ministry of Defence. Government doctors posted in Ferozepore, Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts have been intimated to prepare themselves for meeting the challenge.

Reports from border areas of Fazilka, Jalalabad, Mamdot and Hussainiwala reveal that Indian forces have hurriedly begun to lay fresh mines up to 8 km inside the Indian territory.

Meanwhile, 300 families from Churhiwala Chisti village in Fazilka subdivision today migrated to safer places.

The local administration has set up 20 relief camps in the subdivision to meet the challenge of mass migration in case of war.

Mr Kashmir Singh, Sarpanch of the village, has alleged that these families were forced to migrate following no financial help from the government for being affected by the Army movements and laying of mines.

“They were virtually on the edge of starvation at the time of leaving the village”, said the Sarpanch.


Pbi varsity new VC likely next week
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 25
Punjabi University is heading towards getting a new Vice-Chancellor with a meeting of the search panel likely to be held next week. The panel was constituted by the government to decide on the issue.

The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had directed the Principal Secretary, Mr N.S. Rattan, to take the consent of former Vice-Chancellors — Dr R.P. Bambah, who is also a member of The Tribune Trust, Dr H.K. Manmohan Singh and Dr G.S. Kalkat — in this connection.

Sources disclosed that the Principal Secretary had taken the consent of Dr Bambah and Dr H.K. Manmohan Singh. They added that the consent of Dr Kalkat could not be taken as he had gone abroad. There was a possibility of another former Vice-Chancellor of the university, Dr Amrik Singh, being asked to become the third member of the panel, the sources said, adding that if he was preoccupied the government would rely only on the two members themselves to select the Vice-Chancellor.

The Chief Minister had also made it clear that he wanted a new man heading the university soon. The government was not under any compulsion, whatsoever, to wait for the case filed by the former Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, against his ouster in the Punjab and Haryana High Court to be decided before appointing the Vice-Chancellor, the sources added.

The panel was expected to meet next week and that it would take up all 20 names submitted to the Chief Minister by various academicians in the first meeting. The panel would, however, had the choice to consider any other name besides these also. Following this the next meeting of the panel could debate upon the names which had been zeroed in on for the post to arrive at a final choice, the sources said.

It was also felt that academicians should be given the responsibility of selecting the Vice-Chancellor to break away from the recent trend in the university under which political considerations had become the main criterion of selection.

The demand for appointing the panel has been raised by almost all teacher groups of the university as these have been lobbying for their own representatives. The joint action committee comprising teachers, employees and students which had agitated for the removal of Dr Ahluwalia, had also demanded the constitution of the panel.

Though Capt Amarinder Singh had said there was no need of any such committee after he took over the reins of power in the state, he relented and ordered for the constitution of the panel.


MC letting Tullu pumps suck city dry
Gurvinder Kaur

Patiala, May 25
In spite of a severe shortage of water in some parts of the city, the Municipal Corporation is not conducting any raid to stop the unauthorised use of Tullu pumps in Patiala this summer.

The corporation, in the past, has been seizing Tullu pumps attached by anyone to the water-supply line and imposing penalties on users who get caught in raids.

Sources said the inaction this season was because of the recent municipal elections. The prospective candidates who were in the MC then did not take any risk by conducting any raid or seizing any pump.

The corporation, rather, issued advertisements this summer, urging citizens to desist from using Tullu pumps.

The indiscriminate use of these pumps has worsened the water-supply situation, particularly in the inner city. Those who live in affected areas have installed joints on roadside waterpipes and long queues can be seen at taps in bazars and elsewhere.

The Municipal Commissioner, Mr K.S. Kang, when contacted, said inspection was being done to detect the use of Tullu pumps and the new elected civic body was expected to launch a drive against the menace within a few days of taking over.

However, citizens are skeptical of any action by the MC. A man of Guru Nanak Nagar Colony, Mr Surjit Singh, says that, if the corporation with all its powers has not done anything about the pumps, what can one expect from an elected body that functions under its own political compulsions. Those who live on first and second floors, do not get to see even a single drop of water every summer in almost the entire city. The water pressure is so low that even those living on ground floors in certain areas can hardly store sufficient water for their need before the taps go dry.

Mr Kang said there was no shortage of water as far as the requirement of the city covered under the municipal limits was concerned. The problem arises when citizens attach Tullu pumps to their main lines, cutting into water supply reaching localities at the tail end of the supply system.

A woman of Achar Bazaar, Ms Sunita Devi, says: “We did not get water this year, too”. Water supply was discontinued here after a tubewell installed at Toba Hamdaad Ali failed a few years ago. Though a tubewell has been installed in a park in the area, it is yet to be commissioned.

Regarding the situation in Khalsa Mohalla and Jhandwali Gali area, Mr Kang said the problem had risen when a tubewell installed in Quila Mubarak Complex had failed. He said he had written to the Director Archaeology, and earmarked Rs 10 lakh to install a tubewell in the complex again.


Unique case of 25 lecturers
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 25
Nearly 25 lecturers selected by the Punjab Public Service Commission during the chairmanship of Bhupinder Singh Sidhu and whose selection letters were signed during the tenure of Ravi Sidhu are in a fix over their future. While 46 appointees of the PPSC have been dismissed from service, these 25 lecturers are having sleepless nights. They face an uncertain future as they do not know how their peculiar case would be taken by the government.

Claiming that they were selected on merit, a spokesperson of the 25 lecturers said they should not be treated like others as they were selected before the tenure of Ravi Sidhu. Only their selection letters were signed immediately after he assumed office.


Saving them from drug morass
Pawan Kumar

Foreign assistance for a school here, imparting free education to children who lost their parents to narco-terrorism ,is on the cards.

Students of the Miri-Piri Academy, who are mainly from Germany, the UK and the USA and are learning about Sikhism here after conversion to the religion, have outlined a project to collect funds from their parents and relatives abroad to meet the expenses of the school. The school has resolved to impart education to the children in distress besides making an effort to save them from falling a prey to drugs.

To start with, the academy’s students, on a recent visit to the school with their principal, have donated Rs 5,000 to the school.

The institution, Citizens Forum Vidya Mandir, situated in the Maqboolpura locality on the outskirts of the holy city, is being run by a couple, Mr Ajit Singh, a government teacher, and his wife, Mrs Satpal Kaur, a lecturer. The institution is the first school in Punjab, and perhaps in India, committed to educating orphans of the victims of drug addiction.

Mr Brij Bedi, convener of the Citizens Forum, said that with contributions and efforts of people his dream that the school should have its own building might be fulfilled. At present the school is being run in the house of Mr Ajit Singh and in a rented building nearby.

Mr Bedi said the small step taken by him and Mr Ajit Singh had been appreciated not only in India but also abroad.

The school has nine teachers, who have passed plus two and are studying privately for higher examinations. Beginning with 20, the number of students now has increased to 160.

College students are coming forward to teach in the school. Mr Mahey, a philanthropist of Batala , is paying the rent of the building near Mr Ajit Singh’s house in which senior classes are held. A cardiologist of the district, Dr Ved Gupta, has offered free services in his hospital.


Mystery shrouding missing boy solved
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 25
The police claims to have solved the mystery shrouding the missing five-year-old boy of Meenia village in Moga district with the arrest of Charanjeet Kaur of the same village. It was found that the boy had been murdered by his kidnappers.

Jaskaran Singh, son of Makhan Singh, was found missing since January 2,2001.

The abductors of the child had written many letters to his father demanding jewellery and cash and threatened to kill the child if their demands were not met.

Mr Makhan Singh had lodged a complaint with the police about the alleged abduction of his son. A case under Section 365, IPC, has been registered.

The handwriting on one of the letters matched with that of Charanjeet Kaur. The Moga police became suspicious about her involvement in the kidnapping of the boy.

She was arrested yesterday. During interrogation, she confessed that as Jaskaran was her neighbour he used to visit her house. She had strangulated Jaskaran Singh and thrown the body into a pit that had been dug up for using as a toilet, she added.

According to a press note issued by the SSP here today, skeleton of the boy along with his belongings had been recovered from the pit. It had been sent to Medical College, Faridkot, for a post-mortem examination. Sections 302, 201 IPC have been added to the case registered in this connection earlier.


Action against MC chief sought
Our Correspondent

Abohar, May 25
The Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepore, has been requested to take action against the president and a former executive officer and a stenographer of the municipal council for allegedly tampering with the minutes book.

In a letter to the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Ashok Kumar Rassewatt, employee of the council, stated that the council held a meeting on April 29 to discuss the agenda of the meeting which was earlier to be held on March 14. The scheduled meeting had been postponed in the last meeting while taking up resolution No. 281 and it was noted in the minutes book that charge sheet against an employee would be issued later on.

But an addition was made in the copy of the resolution sent to the higher authorities stating that the employee who had been reinstated on March 15 had been placed under suspension keeping in view the above-mentioned facts. Contents of the proceedings were allegedly erased with fluid.

Similarly, there was a difference in the proceedings related to resolution No. 283 and its copy that had been despatched to the higher authorities. Certain councillors had filed complaints to the government protesting against the alleged tampering.

Regional Deputy Director (Local Government) had stayed the proceedings of the meeting dated April 29 vide orders passed on May 6. The executive officer was directed to send the minutes book to Ferozepore for scrutiny on May 13 but the council allegedly defied the orders due to obvious reasons.

The Deputy Commissioner has now been requested to take cognisance of the matter and initiate action as per law against the erring officials.


Protesters block traffic
Tribune News Service

Phillaur, May 25
Vehicular traffic on the Phillaur-Ludhiana, Phillaur-Goraya and Phillaur-Normahal road was disrupted for about two hours today due to protests by the Khalsa Panchayat, the All-India Sikh Students Federation the Shiromani Akali Dal.

More than 350 activists of the Khalsa Panchayat and the All-India Sikh Students Federation (Mehta and Chawla) blocked traffic on the Phillaur-Ludhiana and Phillaur-Goraya roads near the local bus stand. they were demanding the withdrawal of ‘false cases’ against Khalsa Panchayat member Baghel Singh and action against the chief of a protesters also sat on dharna on GT Road for about an hour. The dharna was later lifted on the intervention of and assurance by the local SDM.

Meanwhile, SAD workers led by former MLA Gurdip Singh Bhullar sat on dharna near Muai village on the Phillaur-Noormahal road and blocked road traffic for more than two hours in protest against the alleged excesses of the Congress government. A protest rally was also organised. Mr Bhullar said the government was adopting a vindictive attitude.


Faridkot drains to be desilted before rains
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, May 25
The Punjab Government will spend Rs 60 lakh for desilting 40.38 km of drains, including Sadiq, Dod, Harinau, Deviwala, Langeana, Sirsari and Pakka diversion drains, before the onset of the rainy season in the district.

This was stated by Mr A. Venu Prasad, Deputy Commissioner, after his two-day inspection of different drains here today. He said the entire project would be completed before June 30 and the work started at the Sirsari drain soon.

During his visit to the drains, the Deputy Commissioner met villagers and listened to their problems in this connection.

Residents of Deviwala village complained that some rice millers were releasing dirty water of mills into the village drain. They expressed resentment over the frequent release of sewerage from the Kotkapura area into the drain which had caused losses to their crops.

Residents of Harinau village complained about the poor condition of the village drain. The Deputy Commissioner assured them that a stern action would be taken against the erring persons.


Lightning kills two brothers
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 25
Two brothers were killed and two persons injured to nigh when lightning struck a hut where they had taken shelter in Dholan village of Nawanshahr. Several other persons working in the fields near the hut were not affected except a man and a woman who were injured and hospitalised by the villagers late in the night.

Victims were identified as Teja Ram (40) and his brother Dilbagh Ram of Dholan village. Eyewitnesses told The Tribune that shelter in a hut near fields and the jungle where they were cutting wood.

The hut became an inferno lightning struck it. Baksho (35) and Mehar Chand, two other labourers also working in nearly fields were injured in the accident. Baksho has been admitted into Civil Hospital at Balachaur and Mehar Chand in a private hospital.

Villagers were terrified after the incident and feared that this could be the handiwork of evil spirits from the sky.


Junk reduced to ashes
Our Correspondent

Abohar, May 25
The junk store at Jammu Basti here was reduced to ashes in a fire here last evening.

Mr Kulwant Singh, living in the house adjoining the store, said he noticed smoke coming out of the store and immediately informed Raj Kumar, the junk dealer, besides the police and the fire office. Residents of the locality tried to control the fire.

The fire brigade was a little late in arriving on the spot. It took more than two hours and a half to extinguish the fire.

The junk dealer said he had suffered a loss of more than Rs 3 lakh in the fire. The fire had been caused by a short circuit. Some persons who were sitting on the first floor of the store escaped unhurt.


Drive against illegal plying of buses
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 25
The Punjab Vigilance Bureau today set up barriers at different places to check illegal plying of buses. According to information, such barriers were put up in Ludhiana, Amritsar and Bathinda areas.

Sources said a number of buses had been impounded.

The illegal plying of buses in the state by private companies and politicians has become controversial.

Among the main centres for plying buses are Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Bathinda and Patiala. The sources said there were a number of companies which operated their buses during the night. Though most of these buses operated under tourist permits, these regularly operated on the Delhi-Amritsar-Pathankot route and also the Ludhiana-Delhi route, thereby saving on tax.


SAD will die its own death: Tohra
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, May 25
The SHSAD leader, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, said today that in the efforts to revive the “real” Akali Dal, the SAD leader, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and his “tainted” colleagues were not welcome. But the doors were open to other Akalis, irrespective of their political alliances.

Mr Tohra was at the Amb Sahib Gurdwara here to hold parleys with party leaders in connection with the forthcoming zila parishad elections in Punjab. He said the SAD would die its own death after the involvement of its leaders in corruption had been exposed. Seeing the revival of the Akali Dal based on the principles and sacrifices of the Khalsa Panth, he said it was time to gather on one platform. He said it was decided that the elections would not be fought on the party symbol, instead candidates would be supported by the SHSAD.


Ban activities of babas: Badungar
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 25
The SGPC chief, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, in a letter to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, alleged that some so-called religious organisations were out to create disturbance in the state.

Mr Badungar alleged that there were a move to revive the days of Sikh-Nirankari clash (of April 13, 1978) which resulted in the killing of thousands of innocent persons in one and-a-half decade. Hence there was need to impose ban on the activities of such so-called “babas”. He said many Sikhs were injured in the stone pelting by followers of Shardanand at Tarn Taran, recently.


Hemkunt Sahib to open on June 1
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 25
Gurdwara Hemkunt Sahib will be thrown open to the public from June 1. This was stated by Mr Madan Mohan Singh, trustee, Gurdwara Sri Hemkunt Sahib Management Trust, here today.


Patient’s sons attack doc, held
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, May 25
Three sons of a heart patient, Sat Paul Madhok, who died allegedly due to cardiac arrest only after three hours of his admission to the local Civil Hospital, reportedly attacked the doctor on duty, Dr Kanwaljit Singh, last evening.

Even though the local police has arrested all three — Rakesh, Rajesh, and Mukesh on the charge of manhandling a doctor on government duty, the doctors belonging to the PCMS Association and the medical staff went on a sudden strike and staged a dharna outside the hospital.

Dr Kanwaljit Singh, when contacted, said Madhok was under his treatment for the past two months, but he was brought in a serious condition to the hospital at about 3.30 p.m. and was provided the required treatment. The standoff was resolved with the intervention of several local residents, including the police, in the late evening hours.


Two policemen suspended for taking bribe
Our Correspondent

Samana, May 25
The SSP, Patiala, today suspended two Head Constables Channa Singh and Raj Kumar posted at the city police post on corruption charges.

These officials had taken into custody a smuggler of Kaithal, Subash Chander, as he was caught carrying 1 kg opium. The policemen took a bribe of Rs 1 lakh from him and promised not to be registered any case against him. The opium was also kept by them.

Gurnam Singh, who had given the information to these police officials, was promised a reward, but was not paid.

When the matter came to the notice of the DSP, Samana, he immediately informed the SSP, Patiala, who suspended both officials.


6 stolen cars recovered
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 25
The district police claims to have busted a gang of vehicle thieves with the arrest of 12 persons and has recovered six cars and 13 two-wheelers from their possession.

According to a press statement issued here today, the in charge of the CIA staff, Inspector Balkar Singh, had received information that some persons were running the business of stolen cars by using forged documents and fake currency in the area.

Subsequently, the police raided various places in the district yesterday and arrested 12 persons, later identified as Gurpreet Singh of Basti Sheikh, Paramjit Singh of Shahkot, Tejinder Singh of Adampur, Rakesh Kumar and Bal Kishan of Basti Guzan, Sarabjit Kaur of Dheerowal village in Qadian Inderpal of Datarpur village in Hoshiarpur.


Flesh racket in govt hotel unearthed
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 25
Acting on a tip-of, the city police today arrested seven couples from government-run Amritsar International Hotel under the immoral trafficking Act. The police also detained the manager of the hotel K.J. Singh along with booking clerk Parveen Kumar. The arrested persons include government officials.

Mr Kanwar Vijay Partap Singh, SP (City), revealed that more than 40 policemen surrounded the hotel and found seven couples in different rooms. The girls caught from the rooms were of teenagers while the age of the men ranged from 25 to 40.

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