Sunday, June 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



PM urged to intervene in boat tragedy case
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 8
Accusing the Government of not giving adequate cooperation in probing the Malta boat tragedy case, the Malta Boat Tragedy Probe Mission, an NGO, has sought the intervention of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in taking up the issue with other governments concerned and also for helping in the retrieval of the mortal remains of those Indians killed in one of the worst boat tragedies.

As many as 289 South Asian youths, including 170 Indians most of them hailing from Punjab drowned, in the icy Ionian Sea between Greece and Italy on the 1996 Christmas eve.

The leader of the four-member delegation of the mission, Mr Balwant Singh Khera, in a letter to Mr Vajpayee, has accused Indian Embassy officials posted in Greece of not following up the cases against the criminals arrested in the case and of not providing cooperation to the prosecution agency.

“It seems that the Embassy officials have been won over by the mafia members (involved in the illegal human trafficking) because they took no interest and produced no eye-witnesses in the court who are presently in that country (Greece),” Mr Khera has accused.

Mr Khera, who has been involved in helping the families, pointed out that according to the independent probe and filming done by an Italian newspaper, “La Republica”, the remains of the drowned ship F-174, a Second World War yacht, has been found in the sea bed 110 metres down in the sea in the international waters, about 18 kms from the Italian coast.

Pointing that now the issue has become much more sensitive as parents of the deceased, many social organisations, social activists and more than 100 members of Parliament from Italy want that the remains (bones) of the deceased be brought out and delivered to the respective parents/governments for conducting last rites, Mr Khera has urged the Prime Minister to raise this issue with other countries, whose men died in the tragedy, and ask the Indian authorities concerned to arrange for the retrieval and return of the mortal remains of the victims.

“It is not possible for any NGO to finance such a project so the government can arrange for the funds and take necessary action in this regard,” Mr Khera said.

Meanwhile, Mr Khera told The Tribune that during the visit of the mission delegation to Greece recently, it was learnt from the legal adviser of the Indian Embassy that “because of lack of cooperation from the Indian Government the accused arrested in the Malta tragedy case could be set free.”

Mr Khera said the mission would continue to lobby with the governments of various countries interested in the Malta boat tragedy case for the prosecution of the accused and would also try to involve other NGOs to launch an awakening campaign to muster support and help for the families of the victims.


Punjab plans borrowing, mild taxes
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 8
Punjab will have a resource-based Annual Plan (2002-03), pegged at Rs 2,750 crore. For this size of the Plan, it would need borrowings to the tune of at least Rs 6,000 crore.

The proposed Plan, therefore, is intended to be ‘’realistic’’ to enable the state to take advantage of the borrowings from the Government of India and other financial institutions. Efforts have also been made to procure financial assistance from some international funding agencies.

The Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh, will discuss the Annual Plan with the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission in New Delhi on June 10. He has already discussed the broad contours with the administrative secretaries concerned. The achievement of last year’s Plan was only 58 per cent.

As the state budget for the next year is to be presented on June 13, the inputs are ready. A heavy dose of taxes is unlikely, as is commonly believed. There will be additional resource mobilisation to the tune of nearly Rs 800 crore, in tune with the Annual Plan funding from state’s own resources, but the methodology to be adopted will be different. It will be, by and large, in line with the national polices in respect of say sales tax or power sector. The existing freebies will neither be freezed nor continued in the present form. ‘’We have worked out modified ways of benefitting the intended deserving sections’’, said a source.

Both the Plan and the budget will reflect the government mind on additional resources from excise and taxation, transport, Punjab state electricity board, revenue (stamp duty) etc. This is to be achieved through enforcement and monitoring mechanism, rather than heavy taxation. In this process, some of the key-men, perceived to be close to the Chief Minister, have been effectively sidelined.

The perceived ad hocism, and chaos in the governance stems from entrusting every issue to the Vigilance Bureau.

Capt. Amarinder Singh is conscious that besides the PPSC scam and digging skeletons, ‘’aberrations’’ in dealing with political colleagues, ministers and MLAs have also to be removed.

There are reports of communication gap between Chief Minister’s Office and administrative secretaries on transfers and postings. A word has been sent to all administrative secretaries and heads of departments that they would be accountable for lack of discipline and absenteeism in work places under their charge. The administrative departments have been asked to proceed with pending enquires, as they deemed fit. The Vigilance has been asked to ‘’sift’’ the pending cases and put up the real ‘’hard cases’’. The two key cases entrusted to the Vigilance at the last meeting are: One on ‘’meat scam’’ in the Chhat Bir Zoo and the other pertains to a woman PCS officer.

Meanwhile, the next phase of cadre scrutiny of persons selected by the PPSC during the tenure of Mr Ravi Sidhu in allied services covering co-operatives, food and supplies, excise and taxation, revenue and labour and employment has begun. There are 45 appointments under the lens. The entire cadre-wise scrutiny in of all selections would be completed before July 29. But all will get a chance to appear for the proposed written test or interview, whatever be the case.

Another key issue before the government is ‘’surplus’’ staff. It is estimated that besides 30,000 surplus staff of the Irrigation Department, the public sector undertakings (PSU) are also over-staffed. The government has withdrawn perks etc of the PSU employees, who are restive over this. Sources say a voluntary retirement scheme is on the cards. Those who opt for it would do well, while, the rest will have to ‘’go home’’. The proposed Disinvestment Directorate shall take a decision on this.


For these villagers, war has begun
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Plaha (Pathankot), June 8
“This war is not going to buy us peace, even if it does, it will cost us too much”. This is the general refrain of villagers here, most of whom come here only during the day and return to refugee camps set up by the government in nearby Narote Jaimal Singh area.

Plaha is one of the five villages which presents a desolate look even during the day. There is an eerie silence that is broken only by the occasional moving of the cattle and bursting of shells.

While the villagers have migrated, they have left behind the cattle. Some of them like Sohan Lal return every morning to provide fodder and water to the cattle. “It is not easy for us to shuttle daily between the refugee camp and the village as you never know when a shell might fall on you. But there is no alternative,” he said.

Bhopalpur, Kotli Jawahar, Dhaltor and a few other villages are deserted. “For us the war has already started and we are facing its ravages”, says sarpanch Pritam Chand. He lives in the refugee camp at Narote Jaimal Singh and accompanied this reporter, though reluctantly, to his village.

He said it was for the fourth time that the villagers had to shift to safer places. He did not buy the argument that the country should resort to war against Pakistan. “This may be the feeling of people like you who may not be directly affected by the war. For us it is the matter of life and death. Even during the day when we come to tend to our cattle, we are not sure whether we will return safely to the camp and meet our family again”, he said.

He showed a number of spots which had been hit by Pakistani shelling. The villagers had also set up bunkers so that they could take shelter there. “This is no consolation. In case there is firing, who will get the time to rush to the bunker?” he asked.

The villagers started shifting from May 20. Pritam Chand said: “Initially we decided to stay, hoping that the firing will stop. But when it continued unabated, we had no choice but to leave our homes”.

He said even today some shells had dropped in the village. However, no loss of life was reported from any village so far. “It is sheer chance that the shells do not hit the cattle or houses”, the villagers said.

Plaha is near Paharpur village in the Kathua sector of Jammu and Kashmir. Paharpur is said to be the main target of Pakistani shelling. The Pathankot sector has remained quiet since December, a senior police official said. He said a few people had been injured in the shelling in this sector, but that was some time ago.


Civil defence information sketchy
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, June 8
The Ferozepore district administration seems to have failed in creating awareness among residents of the border areas about the civil defence for facing emergency situations.

Gurmej Singh Sidhu, resident of Kishore Singhwala village, just 900 metres from the international border, said no one had visited their village with a population of over 500 persons to impart training in self or civil defence.

He said there was not even a single bunker in the village. Moreover, telephones were lying dead for the past two months. Life for these people is becoming difficult with mines all around.

Manjit Singh of Bareke, the last village on the Hussainiwala border, said he had heard about the civil defence preparedness going on with the initiative of the district administration by a friend who had read about it in a newspaper. “But he was not able to explain about civil defence as the report was sketchy,” he said.

According to a survey conducted by The Tribune during the past few weeks, there are more than 60 villages/settlements in the Mamdot and Ferozepore blocks falling under the five-km stretch from zero line that lacked access to print media.

Kishore Singhwala, Kalu Araian, Maboke, Pojoke, Lakha Haji, Shanga, Gatti Masta, Chandiwala, Gatti Hayat etc did not have a single graduate who could explain the ongoing developments at the front. Their information is based either on electronic media or half-truths from someone else. Most of the programmes are broadcasted by Pakistan Television which is easily accessible in Ferozepore district on normal antennae.

A resident of Maboke village said the Army and the police had visited the village and noted down the number of residents, cattle, telephone numbers and vehicles. But the reason was not told. He said they were not about emergency measures in case of a war.

None of the towns, other than Ferozepore city/cantonment and Fazilka, have sirens. The Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepore, Mr D.K. Tiwari, said alternative arrangements had been made in the form of loudspeakers in gurdwaras or schools to let people know about an emergency situation.

The scenario in villages beyond the Hussainiwala barrage is most alarming. A population of 12,000 is living beyond the natural defence line of the Satluj, Less than a dozen boats have been arranged to evacuate the villagers in case of an emergency. The water level has also risen, adding to the woes of the people. These people face the maximum risk of shelling in the absence of any preventive measures.

The maximum deployment of Home Guards and police personnel is near mined areas and bridges. “There seems to be no way to withdraw their duties in case of an emergency as their duties are vital,” a senior police official posted at Ferozepore said. Sources in the Army said defence experts had formulated an evacuation plan but had so far not circulated it to the civil authorities.


Army to aid of mine blast victims
Anirudh Gupta

The Army, after its deployment in forward locations in the aftermath of the December 13 attack on Parliament House, has laid mines in fields in the border belt. This has led to hardship for residents of the area. Standing crops have been ruined and persons who have inadvertently tread into minefields have either sustained injuries or been killed in blasts.

Although the Army authorities have taken the necessary safety precautions, including fencing mine areas, putting up warning signboards and posting sentries, incidents of civilians suffering injuries due to mine blasts are being reported.

The Army, on its part, has gone out of the way to extend all possible help to the victims. From first aid to preliminary treatment, the Army has taken the responsibility of assisting the casualties. In some cases, injured persons have been sent to the Military Hospital, Jalandhar, for specialised treatment. Harnam Singh, Malkit Singh, Chuda Devi and many more residents of the border belt, who sustained injuries in mine blasts, have been provided with artificial limbs, with the cost of the limbs being shared equally by the Army and the civil administration. Besides, the Army has made ex-gratia payment of Rs 20,000 each in the case of civilian casualties.

According to victims recovering in the Military Hospital here, more than material help, it is the concern shown by the Army which has been appreciated by their families.

A senior Army officer says that although “nothing can compensate fully” for an injury, the feeling that someone cares brings hope to those who have always stood shoulder to shoulder with the Army.


Blackout rehearsal within a week
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, June 8
In the wake of border tension, the district administration has planned to carry out blackout rehearsal within a week for the safety of human life and property during any possible air raid by the enemy.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr Rakesh Kumar Verma, while elaborating the details of the rehearsal said the local residents were supposed to switch off all lights on the sounding of a siren, which would be blown for two minutes at high pitch for five seconds and low pitch for three to five seconds, alternatively. The blackout would end with the sounding of siren, which would be blown for two minutes at a constant pitch.

Mr Verma said during the blackout windows, doors and ventilators in houses should be covered with black or brown papers or heavy curtains. After the warning was issued, the main supply would be switched off and the public was requested to switch off invertors, generators or any other sources of electricity.

He said the traffic police would regulate the traffic during the rehearsal and only emergency movement of vehicles would be allowed with headlights switched off and three-fourth parking lights covered from the top with black paper. He appealed to the public to follow the instructions wherever they would be at the time of the rehearsal.

He informed that the publicity of these measures was being done by the Public Relations Department and various government and non-government agencies and the rehearsal would be conducted within a week.


Urban Estate at Nabha soon
Fatehgarh, Barnala to follow suit
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 8
An Urban Estate is soon going to be a reality at Nabha town where PUDA has cleared the last hurdle for its establishment. Urban Estates are also being finalised at Fatehgarh Sahib and Barnala with sites having been identified at both townships.

Sources said PUDA had earlier acquired the 110-acre Seed Farm of the Department of Agriculture for the establishment of an Urban Estate under a scheme under which it acquired government land which was not being utilised in the state during the tenure of the Akali-BJP government. PUDA was, however, thwarted from starting the project due to a one-acre piece of land owned by the Nabha Municipal Committee whose complete frontage was on the main road adjoining the government Seed Farm.

PUDA Additional Chief Administrator Hussan Lal said the Deputy Commissioner’s office had fixed the rate of the land at Rs 50 lakh and that PUDA had agreed to pay this amount to the committee. He said PUDA would start the process of developing the Urban Estate within a couple of weeks. He said 500 houses were expected to be constructed in the estate, adding that it was also proposed to shift the Subdivisional Magistrate’s complex to the new estate.

Speaking about the proposed Urban Estate at Fatehgarh Sahib, he said two pieces of land had been identified for the purpose. He said while one piece of land was situated on both sides of the GT road before the new flyover, the other was situated behind the Jyoti Swarup gurdwara. He said the land on the GT road belonged to the municipal committee and was around 90 acres, adding that it had only recently been freed from litigation. The land behind the Jyoti Swarup gurdwara belonged to private persons, he added.

The sources said though a final decision on the choice of site would be taken following a visit to both sites by PUDA Chief Administrator D.P. Reddy on June 12 accompanied by a high-level team. They said PUDA may, however, have problems in developing the land behind the Jyoti Swarup gurdwara because private persons had built upon a part of it. Meanwhile, PUDA is taking the help of industrial associations of Mandi Gobindgarh to popularise the Fatehgarh Sahib Urban Estate highlighting the fact that it would be an ideal residential area away from the industrial climate of Mandi Gobindgarh and completely free from pollution. Besides, Fatehgarh Sahib’s proximity with Chandigarh is also being seen as a strong point for developing the Urban Estate.

In case of Barnala, PUDA is again having a fresh look at the land which it had acquired at Handaya and two other villages but had to forsake after it lost a case filed against the acquisitions on technical grounds. Mr Hussan Lal said the government had asked PUDA to examine the case afresh and recommend if the site could be acquired again.

According to the sources, around 20 to 30 per cent of the area has not been constructed upon by private builders and PUDA will re-examine whether it will be possible to build a viable estate there or not. Mr Lal said a three-member committee had been formed, including the Sangrur District Town Planner, Estate Officer, PUDA, and Superintendent Engineer, PUDA, Patiala.


PSEB unable to handle power crisis
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Sunam, June 8
Punjab is caught in a desperate situation on the power front. While the demand for power is shooting up, the PSEB is unable to cope with it. Consequently, the rural and urban areas are being subjected to long power cuts.

“The PSEB has made life hell for us. It will be nice if Chief Minister Amarinder Singh asks either PSEB members or Chief Engineers to spend a few days and nights in the villages to have a first hand experience of the misery that we endure”, said a group of villagers near Cheema on the Sunam-Bhikhi road. Situation in remote towns is even worse.

The PSEB has directed industrialists to take a compulsory weekly off after June 10. The government has directed the PSEB to ensure at least eight to 10 hours of power supply to the farming sector from that day to enable the farmers to transplant paddy.

Sources in the PSEB said yesterday that the maximum supply of power at one particular point of the day was 1040 lakh units. There was a need for 75 lakh units more to improve the situation. However, no surplus power was available from any source. Already, the PSEB had been drawing the power from the share of other states in the northern grid to tackle the power crisis in the state.

The PSEB, which has tied up with the Power Trading Corporation to buy power from surplus states, has sent several SOS messages to it to arrange at least 100 MW more power daily to the state. But the corporation has managed only 25 MW. The sources said Uttaranchal had surplus power and the PSEB had told the corporation to look into it.

A senior officer of the PSEB said the power crisis varied from hour-to-hour and day-to-day basis. In case of light showers, demand for power came down.

The PSEB is unable to provide even single phase power supply round the clock to the domestic sector in the rural areas, leading to a brisk sale of generators. The previous government had provided 24-hour single phase power supply for villages.

Mr Dev Singh of Badbar village said there was no power supply in their area since June 5. He said they had lodged a complaint but to no avail. “Earlier we used to lodge a complaint in a register at the village but the PSEB has taken the complaint register to Dhanula which is about 9 km away”, he said.

Certain PSEB employees in Nadampur admitted that people in villages hardly got power supply for six-seven hours for tubewells. “It might be increased after June 10 but at the moment it is not more than seven hours”, an office-bearer of the Technical Services Union of the PSEB said.

The then Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had directed members and top officers of the PSEB to visit the rural and urban areas personally to know the actual position of the power supply. The Congress government has done nothing on that front so far.


Nine-hour power for tubewells
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, June 8
The Punjab State Electricity Board has started a nine-hour power supply to tubewells in the state with immediate effect to facilitate the transplantation of paddy. The demand for power has risen as paddy transplantation is in full swing.

This decision was taken at a meeting between PSEB officials and representatives of the Bharatiya Kisan Union held at Patiala on Thursday. The BKU leaders had insisted for a 12-hour power supply for tubewells. The PSEB authorities were willing to give the supply for 8 hours. However, the agreement was arrived at the 9-hour power supply.

The power supply schedule is till July. Meanwhile, the PSEB has approached the Power Trading Corporation of India for the purchase of power from states which generate more. The PSEB has already started getting 25mw from the western grid-Goa Power Board. The Power Trading Corporation is now negotiating with Uttaranchal for 100 lakh units daily. At present the PSEB is getting 15 lakh units from the Jammu and Kashmir Electricity Board in lieu of the power it had supplied to the state. Similarly the PSEB has also sought its share of power under banking share from Himachal Pradesh which is supplying only four lakh units daily against 15 lakh units. The PSEB has asked the Himachal power board if it cannot supply power to Punjab, it should pay up for power supplied to it by the PSEB.

The power generation from the Ranjit Sagar Dam has come down following fall in the inflows and level of reservoir which was 493.60 metres.

The two units of the Ranjit Sagar are generating 45 lakh units against 85 lakh to 60 lakh units because of low level of water. The water level cannot be allowed to be reduced further.

Power supply from other hydro projects of the PSEB is, however, normal as the Anandpur Sahib hydel project is generating 30 lakh units, Mukerian 43 lakh units, Shahnan 23 lakh units and Abde 17 lakh units daily.

The water level in the Bhakra reservoir is increasing and it’s a healthy sign for generating more power. The level at Bhakra reservoir was reported at 1542 ft, against 1503 ft on May 5 last year. The daily inflow in the Bhakra were reported at 38,000 cusecs whereas the level in the Pong Dam reservoir is coming down because of low inflow. The Dehar power project is also generating 150 lakh units of power daily which is its full capacity for generation.

The BBMB run plants are supplying 160 lakh units daily and the three thermal plants of the PSEB are generating 460 lakh units daily. The shortfall of 250 lakh units daily follows the consumption of 1000 lakh units. It is likely to cross 1100 lakh units in the next few days.

Coal supply to the three thermal plants continues to be short. The Bathinda thermal plant has coal stock of 64,000 tonnes (11 days), Lehramohabbat 1.32 lakh tonne (19 days) and Ropar Thermal Plant 3.10 lakh tonne (19 days).

The PSEB owes Rs 105 crore to the Coal India Ltd against the supply of coal. If the payment is not made soon, the coal supply may be suspended, the sources said.


Discrepancies in voter lists alleged
Our Correspondent

Ropar, June 8
Several SAD, BJP and independent candidates have complained of alleged discrepancies in the voter lists brought in by the Congress for the panchayat samiti elections scheduled for tomorrow.

After the district administration distributed voter lists among the candidates yesterday, complaints regarding the discrepancies were received at the offices of the state Election Commissioner and the district election cell.

Candidates have alleged that many bogus voters have been entered in the supplementary lists issued recently to help the ruling Congress candidates to win elections. Ms Radha Rani, a panchayat samiti poll candidate from Zone No. 7 of the Nurpurbedi block, alleged in her complaint to the state Election Commissioner that in her zone, 579 votes had been added in the supplementary list released yesterday, most of which were bogus.

Giving an instance, she said Chand Roop and Bhim Singh were the two new names added in the supplementary voter list of her area. she said both of them were in government service and were residing in Ropar and Garhshankar, respectively.

She alleged that even their native village, Basali did not fall in Zone No. 7. Ms Rani has also objected to the entry of the names of about 80 migrant labourers in the supplementary list issued for her area.

Several other candidates have also alleged that the voter lists were deliberately supplied to the candidates at the last moment.


All set for Zila Parishad, Panchayat Samiti poll
Our Correspondent

SAS Nagar, June 8
Poll material and personnel were despatched today to Majri block in connection with the Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad elections.

The poll will be held tomorrow. The ballot boxes will be brought to Shivalik Public School here after the polling. The counting of votes will take place the day after tomorrow.

As many as 54 polling stations have been set up, with 11 of these being categorised as sensitive. There will be six polling staff at each booth, including the presiding officer.

Nearly 150 police personnel have been put on duty for the poll. At the sensitive booths, an NGO, a head constable and a constable will be on duty and at the other booths a constable and a Home Guard personnel will be deployed.


SAD, BJP men to contest each other
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Kotkapura, June 8
The SAD-BJP unity has suffered a major set back in the area as in some blocks, the candidates of the two parties have decided to contest against each other in the panchayat samiti elections, polling for which would be held tomorrow.

A sector of the SAD and BJP leadership, which campaigned for the official SAD-BJP alliance candidates in the last Assembly elections held in February, 2002, has been levelling allegations against the official candidates. The elections have brought the differences in SAD and BJP to the fore.

Information gathered by TNS shows that of the total 25 panchayat samitis in the block, the SAD and BJP candidates will contest the election against each other in five segments. The rank and file of the BJP is not supporting the SAD candidates in other segments as it has been feeling agitated over the fact that the BJP has been denied its rightful share in the distribution of ticket by the SAD.

In Dhaipai panchayat samiti the official SAD candidate, Mr Harjit Singh, will face Mr Ginder Singh, BJP candidate. The Congress has put up Mr Surinder Kumar in the segment. In Bishnandi (reserved) panchayat samiti Mr Pal Singh of SAD will face Mr Romesh Kumar of the BJP. In Romana Ajit Singh (reserve), Ms Angrej Kaur of SAD was contesting against BJP candidate Jaswinder Kaur, while in Bargari (reserve) Surjit Kaur of SAD would face Ms Mukhtiar Kaur of the BJP and in Sarawan segment, Mr Harnek Singh of SAD will contest against Mr Gurjant Singh of the BJP.

The Rajya Sabha MP of the BJP, Bibi Gurcharan Kaur, had held talks with the SAD leaders, including the former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, for putting up party candidates in these elections to make inroads into the rural areas as the BJP was considered as a party having an urban base only.

Though Bibi Gurcharan Kaur could not be contacted, her personal assistant Gurkeerat Singh said the SAD leadership had asked the BJP workers to contest the elections on their symbol. He added that this created disappointment among the party rank and file which decided to put up its own candidates.

No senior functionary of SAD could be contacted for comments.

Meanwhile, in Nathana panchayat samiti falling in Bathinda district, both major parties, the Congress and SAD, have not fielded their candidates. The Lok Bhalai Party and SAD (Amritsar) have fielded candidates.

During these elections, there have been allegations regarding the rejection of nominations of SAD by the officials concerned on flimsy grounds, as also the distribution of liquor by some candidates to woo voters.


Badal men shift loyalty to Cong
Our Correspondent

Abohar, June 8
Even though Kuttianwali village was among the first to be provided waterworks and other basic amenities by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, SAD President, during his first term as Chief Minister, several of his loyalists in the village have decided to support the Congress on the eve of the zila parishad and panchayat samiti elections.

Sources said Mr Badal had to proceed to the next village without stepping down from his car yesterday at Kuttianwali, located on the Abohar-Malout road.

Mr Nishan Singh Sandhu, block secretary of SAD, Mr Surjit Singh, member of Panchayat samiti, Mr Bhupinder Singh, activist of the youth wing, Mr Kuldip Singh, Namberdar, Mr Daler Singh member, panchayat samiti, and Mr Suba Singh, former Sarpanch, are among those SAD workers who have extended support to Congress candidates like Mr Sardul Singh Mann Deonkhera and Mr Gursewak Singh Lambi. In other villages, including Mahnikhera, Lalbai, Tapakhera, Rohranwali, Sikhwala, Mehna, Ghuniara, Wadingkhera, Burjsidhwa, Bhitwala and Badal, several veteran SAD workers may be instrumental in ensuring a setback to the SAD supremo, sources said. A congress MP, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar reportedly had closed-door meetings with such workers last night.


Environment society formed
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, June 8
Expressing concern over various environmental problems such as the decline in forests and wetland area, increasing pollution in natural water bodies, depleting surface as well as ground water resources, research scholars from various departments of Guru Nanak Dev University today launched a non-government organisation (NGO) named as the Society for Conservation and Insight on Nature (SCION).

Mr Chander Prakash, a research fellow in the Zoology Department, giving details of the organisational set-up of the society said the society had identified a few broad areas to work upon.

These are bio-diversity mapping, effects of pollution on surface as well as ground water resources, conservation of existing wetlands, forests and wildlife, economic valuation of natural resources and disaster management and environment awareness among masses.

He said the society would also work in partnership with national and international organsations working in the field of environment.

During the exercise, the expertise of various scientists at national and international level would be sought, Mr Parkash said. He said there was an urgent need to have such societies at other universities of the state so that the whole Punjab should be covered.


Village hopes for Kant’s election as President
Gurbax Puri

Kot Mohmmad Khan (Tarn Taran), June 8
Even as the race for the country’s President hots up the candidature of Mr Krishan Kant, Vice-President of India, has brought cheer to the small village situated at 20 kilometres from Tarn Taran.

The election of Mr Kant will give a second president to the country from Punjab after Giani Jail Singh. Lala Girdhari Lal (73), who had studied with Mr Kant at government primary school here fondly remembers that the family of Mr Kant was actively involved in the freedom movement along with Lala Lajpat Rai.

He recalls that once Mr Kant’s mother Satyawati and father Lala Achint Ram along with Mr Kant, who was a minor at that time, were jailed by the British.

The Principal of a nearby school, Mr Jatinder Singh Cheema, whose family used to till the land of Mr Kant at that time, told the Tribune that the British were so fed up with the activities of the family of Mr Kant that they were all declared “bad characters”. So much so that the family could not leave for any outstation destination without reporting their movements to the police station.

Bibi Harjinder Kaur, village sarpanch, said all facilities, including the government school, grid sub-station, bank, civil dispensary, metalled streets and drain were because of Mr Kant’s active involvement in the development work at his ancestral village.

The house of Mr Kant at present runs an anganwadi and sewing centre by the government.


BKU (E) splits into two
Our Correspondent

Jethuke (Bathinda), June 8
The Bharati Kisan Union (Ekta) was today divided into two factions as the Pishora Singh group of the union did not attend the meeting convened here and the Kokri Kalan group announced the names of new state-level office-bearers.

The conflict between the two groups of the BKU (E) came to the forefront today and ended in the division of the union. The meeting was convened to pay homage to those farmers who were killed during the agitation of the union in Punjab in recent years. The Kokri Kalan group claimed that the meeting was convened by the Kisan Council and it was a state-level meeting of delegates of the union. It said delegates from 10 districts of Punjab participated in the meeting.

The meeting announced that Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan and Mr Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan would be the state-level president and general secretary, respectively, of the BKU (E). The other office-bearers of the union were also announced. The meeting claimed that as the earlier office-bearers of the union did not work as per the rules of the union they had been removed from their positions.

Mr Ugrahan while releasing a report of the union said the union would launch a massive campaign for waiving off loans of farmers in the state. He said a programme had been chalked out for the campaign.


Warrants issued for Langah, 5 others
Our Correspondent

Kharar, June 8
Mr R.L. Chouhan, local Judicial Magistrate, today issued non-bailable warrants for June 15 for Sucha Singh Langah, former PWD Minister, and five other accused in connection with a case registered by the Vigilance Department at Mohali earlier.

Mr J.S. Punn, public prosecutor, and Mr Gurmakh Singh, DSP, Vigilance, pleaded before the court that the accused could not be arrested in spite of many raids conducted by the police. They said Langah was issued a seven-day notice as per the directions issued by the Punjab and Haryana High Court and even his father was served a notice about this but Langah did not appear before the police.

They said even his application for anticipatory bail had already been rejected by the Special Court at Ropar. The other accused for whom non-bailable warrants were issued are Minarjit Singh and Gagandeep Singh (both SDOs), Sher Singh Shera, Sudarshan Lal Koura and Gurinderpal Singh.


Contractors deny XEN’s allegations
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 8
A delegation of the Irrigation Contractors Association met the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Tejvir Singh, here today and took serious notice of the reported statement of the Executive Engineer (XEN) of the Drainage Department Mr D.S Jassar.

Mr Jassar had complained to the local police and the district administration that local Congress leader Madan Lal from Ghanaur assembly constituency, along with his supporters, had resorted to goondaism in his office yesterday and allegedly stopped him from opening tenders pretaining to flood protection works.

In a press release, Mr Madan Lal and Mr Sukhwinder Pal, president and general secretary of the Irrigation Contractors Association respectively, said the allegations made by Mr Jassar were totally baseless.

On the contrary, they claimed, about three months ago, Mr Jassar had completed a project worth Rs 2.55 crore relating to the Patiala Drainage Division but he had yet to submit any estimate which was in gross violation of norms.

The contractors said the XEN concerned had several meetings with the contractors at which he had allegedly demanded bribes from various contractors.

The association members said since they invariably declined to give bribe, he would threaten them that their claims would be cancelled and he would give tenders to his own people.

The association demanded an inquiry into the working of Mr Jassar saying that they were ready to give affidavits stating that the XEN had been asking for bribe from them.


Trade unions stage dharna
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, June 8
Different trade unions staged a dharna yesterday in front of the office of the SDM in Phase 1 here demanding a CBI probe into the alleged bunglings in the subsidiaries of the Punjab Electronic Corporation. The union leaders alleged that the managements of the subsidiaries were adopting wrong policies for which the workers had to suffer.
As many as 250 workers participated in the dharna. Mr Ramji Dass, general secretary of the Trade Union Council, sought a detailed probe in the functioning of the Punjab Recorders, Powerpack, Punjab Digital, Puncom, Punjab Electropical and Punjab Consumer. 

Mr Bant Brar of AITUC and Mr Ram Krishan of the Hind Mazdoor Sangh (HMS) also spoke on the occasion. The leaders sought that the “illegal” lockout of the JCT should be ended and the false cases registered against the employees of Godrej should be withdrawn. They claimed that the government guidelines of minimum wage of Rs 3,500 was not being implemented by the Labour Department. Later, the leaders submitted a memorandum of demands to the SDM.


19 cases decided at lok adalats
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, June 8
To deliver speedy justice to the people, the Subdivisional Legal Services Authority on Saturday organised three lok adalats in the Civil Court Complex here.

The lok adalats were presided over by Mr Bhajan Ram, Additional Civil Judge (Senior Division), Mr Harish Anand and Mr Karnail Singh, both Civil Judges (Junior Division). As many as 24 cases were taken up for settlement out of which 19 cases were decided on the spot with mutual consent. An amount of Rs 15,01,234 was distributed to the various claimants.

Mr Bhajan Ram, Additional Civil Judge, said Scheduled Caste women, children, bonded labourers and persons whose annual income was less than Rs 30,000 were entitled to free legal aid.


Stray dogs maul boy to death
Tribune News Service

Kotfatha (Bathinda), June 8
Even as the killing of an old man and a girl at Aalmgarh village in Abohar Subdivision by stray dogs in April has failed to move the authorities concerned to take measures to tackle the menace, a 10-year-old Scheduled Caste boy of the village fell victim to stray dogs last evening.

Lakhi Singh, son of Gobind Singh, a farm labourer, was attacked by about 11 stray dogs while he was returning to his house after taking food and tea for his father in the fields. He was attacked by the stray dogs near the animals’ cremation ground. Mr Sukhwant Singh, a pharmacist, said the attack was so ferocious that Lakhi Singh was reduced to skeleton. Though some passersby tried to save the boy from the stray dogs but the boy died on the spot.


Streetlights job of nagar council: Forum

Muktsar, June 8
The Muktsar District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, in a recent judgement, observed that it was the moral duty of the nagar council to keep streetlights in working condition, maintain their proper record and mark three with serial number.

The forum gave the verdict on a complaint filed by Mr Sham Lal Goyal, district president, National Consumer Awareness Group. The complaint said that the council, with an annual earning of Rs 7 crore, was bound to provide facilities, including sanitation, roads, and streetlights, but had failed to do so. UNI


11 fall ill after consuming lassi
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, June 8
As many as 10 persons, including eight belonging to a family fell ill, after consuming lassi at Bhuchu Kalan village in the district today.

According to reports, three labourers were working at the residence of Mr Mehar Chand. They consumed lassi with their morning meals. All of them complained of pain in stomach. After sometime all 11 showed symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea.

They were admitted to private hospitals at Bhuchu Mandi. Doctors said it could have been that some lizard might have fallen in the container in which lassi was stored.


Jawan laid to rest with state honours
Our Correspondent

Yamunanagar, June 8
The body of Ali Ahmad, a jawan of 44 Rashtriya Rifles who was killed fighting militants in Pulwama district of Kashmir on June 6, was laid to rest at his native village Mirzapur in the district this morning with full state honours. Earlier, the body of Ali Ahmad was flown from Kashmir to Delhi, where the Chief of Army Staff laid a wreath on his coffin. Subedar Narender Singh brought the body from Delhi last evening to his native village. On the behalf of the Haryana Governor and the Chief Minister, wreaths were laid on the body by Capt J.S. Chauhan, secretary, district Sainik Board, and Mr Balwant Singh, MLA, Sadhaura, respectively.


Mann meets injured FCI labourers
Our Correspondent

Barnala, June 8
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, Akali Dal President, visited the emergency wing of the Civil Hospital today to inquire about the condition of about 42 FCI labourers who were injured in an attack at Pharwahi village, about 7 km from here, on Thursday.

Condemning the attack on activists of the FCI Workers Palledar Union, Mr Mann offered financial aid worth Rs 5,000 on the spot for the injured.

He said he would ask the Deputy Commissioner, Sangrur, for a thorough probe into the “partisan” role of an IAS officer as alleged by the victims.


PWD (B&R) staff hold dharna
Our Correspondent

Batala, June 8
The dharna by employees of the PWD (B and R) rural division, here, to protest against shifting of their office to Gurdaspur entered its fifth day today. The agitation would continue till the decision was reversed, said Mr Baldev Attar, president of the workers union.


Certificates of ETT teachers checked
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, June 8
A team headed by Mr Sadhu Singh Randhawa, Director, Sarb Shiksha Abhiyan, is checking the original documents of candidates recently appointed as ETT teachers to find out whether any of them secured jobs by showing fake certificates. The government appointed senior officials from various departments for the purpose when it came to light that some newly appointed teachers of a particular batch secured jobs by showing fake certificates.

The teachers belonging to Mansa and Bathinda districts were asked to appear before the team today for the verification of their certificates.

Mr Randhawa, talking to this correspondent, said all documents on the basis of which candidates got jobs were examined. He said besides academic certificates, others like those of sports, extracurricular activities, experience and any document in support of any kind of reservation were also checked.

He said if any document of a candidate was found to be fake, an investigation would be conducted into the matter.

Candidates, who appeared before the team said it was a futile exercise. They said at the time of the interview, their certificates had been checked by competent authorities.


Two KLF militants arrested
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, June 8
The police claims to have arrested two proclaimed offenders wanted for two murders and a kidnapping. They were militants of the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF).

Mr R. N. Dhoke, SSP, identified them as Jinder Singh, alias Jinda, of Dhundha village and Lakha Singh, alias Laddu, of Dhundha village in Amritsar district.

In a press note issued today, he said Jinder Singh was declared proclaimed offender in 1988 in a kidnapping incident in which he along with another militant, Sohan Singh, alias Sona, kidnapped Sucha Singh, resident of Mansoorwal village and demanded a ransom of Rs 1 lakh. Sucha Singh was released after 15 days by the terrorists.

Sohan Singh was the brother of Jinder Singh and was the area commander of the KLF, carrying a reward of Rs 30,000 on his head.

In a special campaign launched in the district to nab proclaimed offenders, the police has arrested eight out of 58 proclaimed offenders. A PTI report said the duo had confessed to having committed two murders at Goindwal and Verowal in Amritsar district and one case of attempt to murder was also registered against them at Goindwal Sahib police station.


Gurdial murder case: 2 more held

Amritsar, June 8
The Tarn Taran police today arrested two more persons wanted in the sensational murder of SAD leader Gurdial Singh Sidhu and five others in the border town of Bhikiwind on May 9. A police spokesperson said Major Singh and Dalbir Singh were arrested by a police patrol party near Bhikiwind.

The two were later produced before the judicial magistrate at Patti and remanded to police custody till June 11. With this the number of arrests in the case goes up to four. Bikramjit Singh and Inderjit Singh were arrested last week. As per the FIR registered four others, including the main accused Bakshish Singh, are still at large. 

Mr Sidhu had unsuccessfully contested the February Assembly elections against the present Irrigation Minister Gurchet Singh Bhullar, who was one of those named in the FIR. The minister had sent his resignation letter from the Council of Ministers which, however, was rejected by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. UNI


Closure of IT institutes hailed
Tribune News Service

Patiala, June 8
The Teachers United Front (TUF) today welcomed the decision of Punjabi University acting Vice-Chancellor N.S. Rattan to close down the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Institute of Information Technology (MRSIIT) on the university campus and the Guru Gobind Singh Institute of Information Technology (GGSIIT) at Talwandi Sabo.

In a press note issued here, the association convener, Prof Bhupinder Singh Khaira, said both institutes were sold to private companies, namely the KCC and the GCAD, by former Vice-Chancellor Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia in violation of the University Act.

It said a delegation of the TUF had also met the Vice-Chancellor regarding interviews under the Career Advancement Scheme (CAS) and filling of vacant posts. It said Dr Rattan assured the delegation that interviews for the grant of senior scale had been fixed for June 25 - 26 and that the schedule for other promotions would be released shortly. The delegation also urged the Vice-Chancellor to fill vacant posts so that the problem of shortage of teaching staff could be solved.

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