Wednesday, May 29, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Another contract labour scam
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, May 28
Even as the amount allegedly swindled by labour contractors of the Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant (GGSSTP) in the multi-crore GPF scam is yet to be recovered, another scam in which contractors were allegedly given undue benefits at the expense of the PSEB has come to light.

Investigations by The Tribune have revealed that the labour contractors in the GGSSTP were allegedly being paid about Rs 4 lakh extra per month at the expense of the PSEB over the past three years.

At present about 1750 contract labourers are working in the coal plant and civil works of the GGSSTP. As per the agreement with the plant management, the contract labourers working here are paid wages according to the minimum wages fixed by the Deputy Commissioner and 45 per cent extra. The extra 45 per cent is paid to the labour contractors to cover up the employer’s share in the EPF bonus, leave encashment and other benefits. The contract labourers in the plant are allowed four rests and three days of casual leave in a month. On an average, a contract labourer has to work for 26 days in a month to get a month’s salary.

However, investigations by The Tribune revealed that most of the contract labourers were working for 23 days in a month and drawing the full salary from the board. Most of the contract labourers working here avail the three days of casual leaves in a month but are shown to be present by the contractors. Due to it the three-day salary of casual leave which was to be paid to the contract labourers by the contractor from the 45 per cent extra paid to him has to be borne by the board. The total payment in lieu of casual leave which was to be paid to the labourers by the contractors, but instead was paid by the board amounts to about Rs 50 lakh per annum.

The issue of these extra payments being made to the contractors by the board was brought to the fore by two officers working in the coal plant of the GGSSTP. When these officers refused to mark bogus attendance of the contract labourers, they were transferred.

However, other officers also declined to endorse the bogus attendance sheets of the labour contractors.

Peeved at the reduction of their profit margins, the labour contractors then threatened the management of the GGSSTP with labour unrest if the earlier practice was discontinued or their payments were not increased. Succumbing to the pressure of the labour contractors, the plant management has now increased their payment which stands at the minimum wage fixed by the Deputy Commissioner and an additional 50 per cent.

Sources said in many cases the attendance of contract labourers who were on leave was also marked.

The General Manager of the GGSSTP, Mr Mohindroo, when asked about the increased premium of the labour contractors, said they were paid fixed amounts since the past four years. Due to the increased costs during this period they had now been allowed a marginal increase in premium. On the transfer of the officers who refused to endorse bogus attendance sheets, the General Manager said he had not transferred any officer.

On the extra payment allegedly being made to the labour contractors, he said the contractors were being paid as per the agreement and the labour laws. Mr Mohindroo declined that payments were being made to the contractors on the basis of bogus attendance sheets.


Ex-minister Kanjla also faces probe
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
The Punjab Vigilance Bureau has started an inquiry against another former Akali Minister, Mr Gobind Singh Kanjla, and several gazetted and non-gazetted officers.

Already inquiries are in progress against former Akali Ministers Sucha Singh Langah and Nirmal Singh Kahlon. Another former Akali Minister, Mr Tota Singh, has been indicted by the Lok Pal, Punjab, in a case pertaining to the selection of science teachers. An inquiry has also been started against a former Chairman of the PPSC, Mr Bhupinder Singh Sidhu, by the bureau on the directions of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh.

The ADGP of the Vigilance Bureau, Mr A.P. Pandey, in a statement said that the allegations against Mr Kanjla, former Minister for Welfare and Development of Women and Children, related to the misuse of his official capacity and committing of irregularities while making appointments in the department. There were also allegations of amassing wealth against him.

He said an inquiry had also begun against certain officers and others of the Department of Controller of Stores and the Department of Public Instruction (Schools) regarding the purchase of glassware and chemicals worth Rs 3.5 crore.

The rate contract was finalised by the Controller of Stores, according to the bureau.

A probe has also been ordered against a District Education Officer, Mrs R.K.S. Mahi from Jalandhar, Mr Gurmukh Singh, personal assistant to the DEO (Primary), Gurdaspur, and Mr Jai Singh, superintendent in the office of the DEO (Primary) at Gurdaspur in connection with the selection of B.Ed. and ETT teachers, according to Mr Pandey’s statement.

He further said that Mr Amarjit Singh, a DSP who was posted in Sardulgarh, allowed the plying of peter rehras (an improvised local mode of transport in the Malwa belt) by allegedly charging Rs 60,000 per month. He said Mr Amarjit Singh, against whom an inquiry had been started, violated the high court’s directions under which the plying of these vehicles had been stopped. An inquiry had also been started against an Inspector, Mr Baljit Singh.

Besides, the bureau had started an inquiry against Mr Rajinder Kumar Goel, SDO, PSEB, Sangrur, and a junior engineer, Mr Gurmukh Singh, for allegedly illegally receiving Rs 20,000 for installing a new transformer.

An FIR has been registered against Dr Kanwaljit Kaur, SMO, Civil Hospital, Mukerian, who has allegedly amassed assets disproportionate to her known sources of income. Besides, Amrit Singh, an Inspector in a Cooperative Society near Malerkotla, a patwari, Chanan Ram Bhulath, ASI Ajmer Singh and Kewal Krishan, a kanungo at Guru Harsahai, have allegedly been caught red-handed while accepting illegal gratification in different cases, according to the Vigilance Bureau’s statement.


19 zones for Jalandhar Zila Parishad poll
Tribune Reporters

Jalandhar, May 28
The district has been divided into 19 zones for holding the zila parishad elections and 173 zones for panchayat samiti elections.

Giving details, Mr K. Siva Prasad, Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer, said of the 19 zila parishad zones, eight would be for the general category, five for the Scheduled Castes and three each for the general category women and the Scheduled Caste women. Similarly, of 173 panchayat samiti zones, 63 would be for the general category, 52 for the Scheduled Castes, 34 for the general category women and 23 for women belonging to the scheduled Castes, while one zone had been reserved for the Backward Classes.

Mr Prasad said 1,099 polling booths had been set up for 9,36, 265 voters of the district. He said Deputy Director of the Local Bodies Department Sarojini Gautam Sharda had been nominated as the Returning Officer, while SDMs would perform their duties as Assistant Returning Officers in the zila parishad elections, while for the panchayat samiti elections, SDMs would act as the Returning Officers of their respective subdivisions.

Mr Prasad said about 6,000 employees had been deputed for the elections and government officials had been directed not to leave their stations without the permission of the District Election Officer.

AMRITSAR: A total of 283 zones for the panchayat samiti and 25 for zila parishad elections have been formed this was stated by the Additional Commissioner, Mr Kirpal Singh, here on Tuesday.

Mr Kirpal Singh said the candidates could submit their forms till May 30 at respective block development and panchayat offices to the Assistant Returning Officers.


PM urged to retrieve remains of victims
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, May 28
Mr Balwant Singh Khera, Chairman of the Malta Boat Tragedy probe mission, in a representation to the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, urged him to take initiative and raise the issue with the government of the countries concerned to arrange for the retrieval and return of the mortal remains of Indian victims of the Malta Boat Tragedy so that these could be delivered to their parents who could perform the religious rites.

Giving details of the representation here today, he stated the international marine tragedy known as Malta Boat Tragedy took place on December 25, 1996, in the Malta-Sicily Channel in which 300 young men lost their lives out of which 170 belonged to India. He pointed out that neither government of India nor any other international agency had issued proceedings against the international criminal mafia involved and nor any compensation was given to the families of the deceased.

Later on, in Punjab on the request of the parents of the victims, an NGO, Malta Boat Tragedy Probe Mission, was formed. The Mission had already visited Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malta, Greece and other countries to ascertain the facts and follow up the cases going on there in the courts. The mission had also petitioned in an Italian Court for the claims of the victims families by attaching the properties of the shipping company and human traffickers. He alleged that Indian officials posted in the Greece Embassy had not followed cases against the criminals and had not given cooperation to the prosecution agency.


Gold traders in ST Dept net
Our Correspondent

Ropar, May 28
In order to increase sales tax revenue and stall theft, the Sales Tax Department has taken steps to tighten the noose around gold traders allegedly resorting to tax theft.

Highly-placed sources told The Tribune that two teams of the department conducted simultaneous raids at Raikot in Ludhiana and Malerkotla and seized 13 kg of gold from traders. A team of sales tax officials led by the Additional Commissioner, Excise and Taxation, conducted a raid on the residence of Vinod Kumar Jain, a gold trader from Raikot, while another team conducted a raid on the residence of Prem Kumar and Pawan Kumar, gold traders from Malerkotla.

While 10 kg of gold and ornaments weighing 1.5 kg were seized from the residence of Vinod Kumar Jain, 1.5 kg of gold was seized from the residence of Prem Kumar. The sources said diaries and small ledgers keeping records of the gold transactions of the traders were also seized.

Vinod Kumar Jain used to bring gold from Delhi and distribute it further to traders in Ludhiana and Jalandhar. Gold dealers at Malerkotla used to feed the markets in their surrounding areas. From the ledgers of the traders, data regarding gold transactions worth about Rs 1 crore has been collected.

As per the sales tax rules of the state, any dealer buying gold from other states has to get himself registered with the Sales Tax Department. They are also liable to pay 1 per cent tax on their transactions. However, in the present case the traders, had not got themselves registered with the department. The department is now contemplating to impose 150 per cent penalty on them, besides charging 1 per cent tax.

As per the rules of the Sales Tax Department, any goldsmith who has an annual turnover of more than Rs 1 lakh has to get himself registered with the department. Similarly, gold traders having business beyond a certain limit also have to get themselves registered with the department.

However, many gold traders and goldsmiths in the state have not got themselves registered with the department. They conduct their business without giving proper bills to customers and thus evade sales tax.


Children raise voice against tobacco
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 28
They are lisping voices of children as young as seven years rising in protest and leaving an impression. Children from over 200 schools of Punjab have joined hands and are raising a voice against the consumption and sale of tobacco. In the city today, children of schools from Ludhiana, sporting slogans against tobacco, presented a memorandum to the Editor, The Tribune, Mr Hari Jaisingh, urging him to “impress upon the government to initiate the strictest measures against tobacco”.

Quoting alarming statistics, the memorandum says while the Government of India earns Rs 6,000 crore from tobacco, it spends Rs 2,70,000 crore on tobacco-related diseases. Every day 2,200 persons die of tobacco.

While these children organise protests outside tobacco vends and reason with the vendors against the sale of tobacco to children, the seniors backing this group, the Guru Gobind Singh Studies Circle, the Youth Engaged in Services (YES) Club and 10 other NGOs, focus on creating awareness at the school level.

“Under the ‘Tobacco Alert’ we are distributing pamphlets and holding lectures in schools in Punjab. Also, students are pledging they will not make any purchases from shops which sell gutka or other tobacco products,” says Prof Sarabjeet Singh, Director, Social Services and Health.

This is part of a week-long programme which culminates on May 31 on “No Tobacco Day” and is aimed at drawing the attention of the Punjab Government to ‘khokhas’ opening near schools in gross violation of rules.

“The multi-nationals are targeting school children for the promotion of their products. That prompted us to take our cause to these children and inform them and through them the public, about the ill-effects of tobacco consumption,” says Mr Kamal Kumar of the YES Club.

While slogan-raising children force closure of vends for a couple of hours, they persuade vendors to change their profession as well. Under the exercise, the next step will be to stop advertisements on CTU and Punjab Roadways buses.

“The idea is to rope in the government and make the anti-tobacco ban effective. Through the government we can use their means for achieving our end. We are telling the public that they can boldly object to passive smoking as well,” claims Dr Ravi Bhushan, President of the Nasha Chhado Muhim.

For now, the drive is earning a positive response and encouraged by the feedback, they are driven to perform better — their mission to save the public from tobacco, the cold-blooded killer.


PTU franchises to be probed
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 28
The Punjab Government has initiated an enquiry into the alleged irregularities while giving franchises by the Punjab Technical University (PTU) by the Vigilance Bureau.

Stating this here at a press conference, the Punjab Technical Minister, Mr Mohinder Singh Kaypee said the enquiry would be completed by next month. He said earlier also an enquiry was conducted, but due to some unforeseen reasons, no action was taken.

While describing the institutions opened by certain persons after obtaining franchises from the PTU as “shops” minting money in the name of technical education, Mr Kaypee said a probe was necessary.

When his attention was drawn to the fact that some of these institutions charged heavy fees from students without proper facilities, he agreed that such institutions had amassed money from innocent and ignorant students.

Mr Kaypee said that the government was aware that fee and other charges even in recognised engineering and technical institutions were high. He said a fee revamp was on cards.

When he was asked whether any enquiry would be conducted against the Vice-Chancellor of the PTU against whom allegations of sexual harassment were levelled by some students, Mr Kaypee said the matter was sub judice and he could not make any comment.


Oaths sober PRTC drivers 
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 28
A scheme making the bus drivers of the Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) take an oath to treat their passengers as well as those coming on vehicles or on foot from the opposite side on the road as members of their family seems to be paying off with no fatal accident being reported since the past 15 days.

The PRTC had launched a scheme in which a message with these points was pasted on a majority of its buses during the past fortnight. The message, which had been derived at after consultation with drivers, stresses on not driving under the influence of alcohol, besides driving carefully to ensure the safety of passengers as well as other vehicles and commuters on the road.

Each message, which had been pasted right on top of the windscreen on the drivers seat, reads- I take oath on my religion that I have not drunk any liquor. I have checked my bus it is capable of running on the road. I have looked back and seen the travellers who are part of my family and it is my duty to ensure they reach their destination safely. Anyone coming from the opposite side whether on a vehicle, cycle or on foot is also part of my family and it is my duty to ensure their safety while driving. After reading these points I have closed my eyes and remembered my family and will keep all of them in mind while driving.

Surprisingly, this simple message seems to have had some impact on the drivers of the corporation with there being a long stretch without any fatal accident involving a PRTC bus. The Managing-Director of the corporation, Mr K.S. Kang, said the message had been pasted in more than 600 buses of the corporation and was also likely to be pasted on another 300 operation buses in a short period.

Mr Kang said the need to stick such kind of a message arose mainly due to reports that few drivers had been driving under the influence of liquor. He said besides this, the rate of accidents in the PRTC had been following an upward trend which it was felt was needed to be curbed.

He said the PRTC buses were involved in more than 150 fatal accidents annually. He said this besides resulting in claims of crores of rupees being filed against the corporation, also resulted in the depletion of its fleet.

He said the intake of new buses was slow and that in case new buses met with serious accidents, it seriously affected the efficiency of operations as the old buses in running condition resulted in the rise of maintenance costs.

He said though it was early to describe the success of the scheme, no fatal accident had been reported since the message was pasted in the corporation buses.’’This itself is a welcome sign that drivers have become more careful and have been driving more safely’’, he added.

The PRTC seems to be bent on creating further awareness on the issue of safety and ensuring that there is no an drunken driving on its buses. Correspondingly, it has also decided to paste the same messages in front of the passenger seating area so that the passengers can also protest if the driver is not running the bus according to the “oath’’ he has taken. Though some drivers seem to be touchy on the issue of being made to promises, a majority of them feel the message is beneficial as a safety aspect as it pricks the conscience of the driver. ‘’Whenever I look at it I can’t think but remember the faces of my children’’, says Joginder, a driver, adding it always had a sobering effect on him. 


Citizen forum to fight corruption
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 28
Even as the Punjab Government had decided to remove all candidates selected by the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) during the chairmanship of Mr Ravinder Pal Singh Sidhu for various posts and to hold a retest for the same, the hopes of those candidates, who were not selected then have become alive again.

A number of candidates, who had cleared written tests for various gazetted posts time and again but could not be selected in the interview, have formed a Vigilant Citizen Forum of Competitive Exams Aspirants and have decided to fight corruption in job-recruitment process tooth-and-nail with the support of the general public.

While appreciating the steps taken by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to eradicate corruption at high places, the members of the forum said here today the forum had launched an exercise to bring all the aggrieved candidates on one platform to generate public opinion in favour of corruption-free recruitment and steps taken by the Punjab Government on the issue.

Mr Manoj Kumar Singla, a candidate, who passed the written examinations of PCS (Judicial) conducted by the PPSC in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001, was not selected by the interview board constituted by Mr Sidhu. Mr Singla, who also cleared the HCS (Judicial) exams, is working as Assistant District Attorney (ADA) in district courts, Bathinda.

Another candidate Mr Dinesh Vashishet, who is working as Block Development and Panchayat Officer (BDPO) at Kotkapura, cleared the written examination of the PCS (Executive) conducted by the PPSC number of times but failed to “fulfil the requirements” of the authorities concerned during the interview. He became BDPO when the Supreme Court quashed the merit list prepared by the PPSC and asked it to make a fresh merit list according to the established guidelines.

Similarly Mr Amrinder Pal Singh, had cleared the written exam of PCS (Judicial) thrice during the tenure of Mr Sidhu but was never recommended by the PPSC for appointing him as judicial officer.

During the meeting, the forum passed a resolution appreciating the steps taken by the Chief Minister to curb corruption.

Mr Amritpal Singh Brar, President of the Punjab Young Farmers Federation, pointed out that how could one expect justice according to the law of land from the judicial officers who were selected after bribing.


Safer plots for border residents
Bharat Bhushan Dogra

Narot Jaimal Singh (Pathankot), May 28
The state government has decided to give alternative “safer residential plots” to the residents of border belt who have been facing frequent migration after heightened tension on the Indo-Pak border.

This was disclosed by Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, after visiting the relief camps established by the district administration here today. He said the state government was aware of the problems being faced by the residents of the border areas.

Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Cabinet Minister, accompanied the Chief Minister.

The Chief Minister said he had convened an emergency meeting of the Council of Ministers on May 30 at Chandigarh to discuss the problems of the residents of the border belt. He assured the people staying in relief camps that they would be given all sort of help so that they should feel comfortable during their stay there.

He said he had directed the officials of the Punjab State Electricity Board not to collect the electricity bills from the defaulters who could not make the payments due to army build up in the region.

On the demand of people he announced that the state government would allot bus routes to youths living in border areas on priority basis. He promised to provide 24-hours electricity supply to the border belt.

He said out of the total of Rs 76 crore compensation, Rs 40 crore had already been given to those whose crops were damaged due to laying of mines or other reasons. Rest of the amount would be disbursed shortly, he said.

The Chief Minister said he had directed the cooperative officials not to take any punitive action against the farmers who could not pay their loans so far.

He gave a cheque for Rs 2.50 lakh to Ms Amrit Kaur, mother of Manjit Singh, who was killed by militants at Kaluchak near Jammu.

He said the state government would ensure that no relief camp was established in schools keeping in view the study of children.


Jawans help in running school near border
Anirudh Gupta

FEROZEPORE: Residents of villages along the Indo-Pak border are groping in the dark about their future and that of their kids, specially on account of their studies. Most of the schools in the border belt are either closed or are facing an acute shortage of staff, funds and resources. In certain schools, the Army jawans deployed in the forward areas have taken shelter. This has come as a blessing in disguise. They help in the teaching work and also conduct PT classes.

When this correspondent visited Mehndipur — the last village on the Indian side of the International border barely few hundred metres from the zero line in the Khemkaran segment — the morale of the villagers was all upbeat. While talking to the residents of the village, it was felt that the Army had virtually won over their hearts by undertaking various development works in the village.

There are two government schools in this village, one is up to the primary level with a strength of around 250 students on its roll, and the other up to the middle standard with about 100 students on its rolls. Even before the Army was deployed in this area, these two schools were reeling under deficiency of resources, playground and staff. From day one, when the Army stepped in, village schools have undergone a transformation.

In the wake of shortage of staff, — there being only three teachers against the sanctioned strength of eight — the Army jawans have taken up the task of teaching the kids. Army men conduct not only studies but regular PT classes and provide medical assistance too. While talking to The Tribune, Mr Ram Singh, Sarpanch of the village, said the Army had developed a beautiful garden in the premises of the primary school building and installed different games and rides for the amusement of children. The Jawans were maintaining the park and training the children in different sports. Mr Ram Singh said an interim relief amount had also been provided to all the effected villagers in whose fields’ mines had been installed. While enumerating the hardships being faced by the villagers, he complained about the erratic power supply in the village. He said: “There is only one feeder catering to the entire area. There are around 400 electric motors in the village spread over 5000 acres. The water level has gone down as low as 400 ft below ground level and a single bore for motor costs no less than a lakh. There is scarcity of irrigation water as water theft is rampant and till the time it reaches this last village on our side of the fence, it is hardly adequate to fulfil the requirement of the residents of the village”.

The rare sight of Army jawans working in tandem with the village folks speaks volumes of the efforts on the part of the Army to maintain harmonic relations with their brave brethren.


Govt promises to provide all facilities to disabled
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 28
Dr Uma Tuli, Chief Commissioner, Persons with Disabilities, Government of India, has asserted that the central and the state commissioner would ensure to provide maximum facilities guaranteed under the Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation Act, 1995. Addressing a press conference here today, Dr Tuli said the Act, which came into force from January 1, 1996, had the provisions to provide maximum facilities to disabled and visually impaired persons.

Referring to the steps taken so far, Dr Tuli said that under the Act a Central Coordinator Committee, headed by the Union Minister for Department of Welare, and a Central Executive Committee, headed by the Secretary, Ministry of Welfare, Government of India, had been constituted to ensure complete implementation of provisions for the disabled under the Act. She said that all states had been asked to appoint independent commissioners to ensure fast implementation of these provisions.

It is mandatory for the government and aided schools to give admission to the disabled for which the government would provide required teaching equipment and teaching staff. She said that special training and refresher courses had been launched and so far five national-level workshops have been organised, where six persons from each state were imparted access audit training.

Dr Tuli while referring to the steps taken to create more job opportunities for the disabled said that in the government offices 3 per cent quota had been reserved and so far six states, including Punjab, had achieved this target. She said that to ensure self-employment opportunities soft term subsidised loans were also being provided after giving required vocational training. So far 1450 job categories have been identified, she said.

Later, addressing a state-level meeting of the heads of different departments and deputy commissioners Dr Tuli exhorted them to make all efforts to check violations of the Act.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr D.S. Guru Commissioner for Persons with Disability, Punjab said the state had set up a state-level coordination committee headed by the Social Security Minister and a state-level executive committee headed by the Principal Secretary to monitor the progress regarding the implementation of the provisions. Apart from this district-level monitoring committees, headed by Deputy Commissioners, had also been formed.

He said he had also written to the departments of PWD and Local Bodies to ensure the provisions of ramps and toilets for the disabled in public buildings to create barrier-free environment. He said that the state Architecture Department had also been asked to not pass any plans without including the facilities for the disabled.

The government had also decided to set up district-level medical boards to issue the disability certificates and these boards will fix a day in the week to issue these certificates. Mr Som Parkash, Director, Social Security, Punjab, also addressed the meeting.


Scribes boycott CM’s function
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 28
The entire journalist community, including print and electronic media, boycotted the function of the Chief Minister at Rajasansi Airport here today. This was the first official visit of Capt Amarinder Singh to the border belt after taking over as Chief Minister.

Trouble arose as vehicles carrying mediapersons escorted by policemen and officers of the public relations were not allowed entry into the airport complex at the main gate which was being manned by the Punjab police officers and the Central Industrial Force (CISF). In spite of repeated request, the officers refused to budge.

The intervention of the Media Advisor to the Chief Minister, Mr Bhartinder Singh Chahal, cut no ice. However, the Punjab ministers — Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Mr Gurchet Singh Bullar and Mr Ashwani Sekhri — tried in vain to assuage the feelings of the mediapersons.

Meanwhile, an emergency meeting of the Working Journalist Association decided to boycott the visits of the Chief Minister till the officers involved in the incident were taken to task.


Probe ordered into pension fraud
Our Correspondent

Moga, May 28
The Punjab Government has decided to make inquiries into the misappropriation of funds in the old-age pensions allegedly during the previous SAD-BJP regime. Those found responsible for this would be punished, said the Minister for Social Security and Welfare. Mr Santokh Singh, here today, while addressing a press conference.

The minister said that the government had received a large number of complaints regarding misappropriation of money in disbursement of pensions during the BJP-SAD regime. Regarding the selection of candidates for the zila parishad and block samiti elections, he said those who have faith in the ideology of the Congress, have served the people and have a good track record would be nominated. The names would be announced tomorrow, he said.

Regarding the complaints of misappropriation of funds in some Centre sponsored schemes, the minister assured that government had decided to make inquiries into the matter.


Probe ordered into flesh trade racket

Amritsar, May 28
Punjab State Tourism Minister Ashwani Sekhri has ordered an inquiry into the flesh trade racket involving the manager of the government-owned Amritsar International Hotel and some other officials here.

The racket was busted this weekend when the Ram Bagh police, on directions of the SP Vijay Partap Singh, raided the hotel and nabbed seven girls and an equal number of men, including some government officials.

The police also arrested hotel manager K. J. Singh and receptionist on duty.

The minister told reporters yesterday that a detailed inquiry into the racket as well as the working of the hotel would be conducted.

He said various steps had been initiated to improve the working of state-owned hotels and those incurring losses would be auctioned to the private sector, he added. UNI


Relief for kin of artistes demanded
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 28
The National Theatre Arts Society (NTAS), Patiala, other theatre enthusiasts and art lovers have urged the Department of Culture, Punjab, and state-level Concept Committee for the bicentenary celebrations of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to erect suitable memorial and provide financial assistance to the families of artistes namely director Harpal Tiwana and the next of the kin of Harpreet Kaur of Nabha, Jatinder Singh of Dasupur, Kharar, and Manjit Kaur, Patiala, who died in a road accident at Sunhet, Dehra in Himachal Pradesh.

They have made a fervent appeal to the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the associates of the Cencept Committee of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Coronation celebrations including SGPC President Kirpal Singh Badungar, former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Union Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Rajya Sabha member Kartar Singh Duggal to share the grief of the families of victims who had died in a mishap while they were working on the theatre-cum-film project ‘Ik Akh Ik Nazar’ on Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s life which was sponsored by the Concept Committee.

NTAS Director Pran Sabharwal and President G.S. Kakkar informed that the SDM Dehra (HP), Mr Gopal Sharma, who had provided immediate relief and financial assistance on the spot had announced a grant of Rs 25,000 to the kin of each victim.


Pasla faction stage dharna
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 28
In bid to intensify their stir against the failure of the district administration to restore the possession of the main party office, which they allege was occupied illegally by the Harkishen Singh Surjeet faction on May 21, and to seek withdrawal of cases against party workers, activists of the Mangat Ram Pasla faction of the state CPM sat on an indefinite dharna in front of the Deputy Commissioner office, here today.

Addressing party workers the general secretary of the CITU, Mr Chander Shekhar, asserted that the dharna would continue till their demands were met. Besides, demonstrations against “indfferent attitude of the state government towards solving their problems” would also be organised at the district headquarters.

He alleged that the senior officials of the district police had masterminded and helped the Surjeet faction to “illegally” grab the party office at Badri Nath colony. “So much so that 89 innocent brick kiln workers, who were holding a meeting at the Green Park office, were also arrested” he said. Even senior party leaders, who were sitting in the office of the DIG (Jalandhar range) at the time of incident, were falsely implicated,” he alleged.

The Pasla faction resolved to continue its fight against the “repression” of the police till fake cases against the party leaders and workers were withdrawn and possession of the office was reinstated.

Mr Shekhar further alleged that instead of registering a case against those who indulged in hooliganism the police supported the cause of the Surjeet facion by playing the role of a mute spectator.


Lawyers observe strike
Tribune Reporters

Kapurthala, May 28
Members of the district Bar Association today observed a strike to express solidarity with agitating members of the Bar Association of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

In a resolution passed at a meeting held under the presidentship of Mr Raghbir Paul Singh Bajwa, the members demanded the withdrawal of judicial work from tainted judges.

PATHANKOT: Work in the local courts was paralysed on Tuesday on account of a strike by lawyers. According to Mr Inderjit Verma, president of Bar Association here, the strike was observed in response to the call given by the Bar Association of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

DHURI: On the call of the Bar Association of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, members of the local Bar Association on Tuesday observed a strike demanding action against judges allegedly involved in the PPSC scam.

JALANDHAR: Judicial work came to a standstill on Tuesday as members of the district Bar Association observed a strike, demanding the removal of all judicial officers involved in the PPSC scam. The association demanded that judicial work should immediately be withdrawn from the judicial officials who have been named in the scam.


Jathedar’s PA removed
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 28
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) today dispensed with the service of Mr Prithipal Singh Sandhu, Personal Assistant to Jathedar, Akal Takht, with immediate effect. Mr Sandhu is relative of Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht.

The orders, issued by Manager, Darbar Sahib, reads that the services of Mr Sandhu were terminated in the light of the decision of SGPC’s executive committee which had decided to terminate the service of all employees who had attained the age of 58 years. According to sources, the decision was however taken in the wake of serious charges against Mr Sandhu. Before issuance of the orders, the SGPC chief, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar and Jathedar Akal Takht and Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar Takht Kesgarh Sahib held a close-door meeting.


Govt harassing me, says ex-MP
Our Correspondent

Patiala, May 28
A former MP from Patiala, Mr Atinder Pal Singh, today alleged that the state government was harassing him and had confiscated his passport even as he has been invited by the World Sikh Organisation to deliver a keynote lecture at a function to be held on June 8 in Toronto, Canada.

At a press conference held here, he said for reason unknown to him the Passport Office had confiscated his passport and asked him to file another application. Mr Atinder Pal Singh alleged that though he had met the authorities concerned several times, he was not given any reason for this action. 


Woman, son killed in wall collapse
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, May 28
Surjit Kaur (38) and her son Mandeep (7) were killed while her daughter Seema (18) and sons Shiv Sagar (16) and Shammi (12) were injured when a parapet wall of adjoining school to their house collapsed due to hail storm in Mohalla Mohabat Nagar, on the outskirts of the town, last night.

The injured have been admitted to the Local Civil Hospital where the condition of Seema is stated to be serious. The police has registered a case in this connection.


3 die, 7 hurt as wall caves in
Our Correspondent

Mansa, May 28
A high-velocity dust storm lashed the district disrupting the electricity supply to the city for more than 20 hours. Meanwhile, at Khiala village in the district a wall of a godown under construction caved in, as a result of which three labourers were killed and seven injured.

The dead have been identified as Karam Singh (25), his brother Kulwinder Singh (18) and Rashpal Singh (22), all of Patiala district.


Refund money, PSEB told
Our Correspondent

Mansa, May 28
The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has ordered the (PSEB) to refund Rs 64,291 and the amount recovered from a complainant, Mr Harbans Lal Sharma, on account of consumption charges on connected load basis w.e.f. September 5, 2000 onwards to him along with interest.


Youth murdered
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, May 28
A youth was allegedly murdered by three persons near bus stand area under the jurisdiction of Division No. 1 police station.

The police identified the victim as Amit, a resident of Sarai Mohalla, while the suspects were identified as Mintoo, Rakesh and Ramesh, all local residents.

Old rivalry between them was reported to be the cause of the crime. A case under Section 302 of the IPC has been registered and raids are on to apprehend the suspects.

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