Monday, June 24, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



JCB case takes new turn
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 23
The vigilance case pertaining to the purchase of 103 JCB machines by the Department of Rural Development in 2001 has taken a new turn with the Punjab Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, stating in the Vidhan Sabha that no complaint about any irregularity in the purchase of these machines was received by the government.

“Her written reply to star question no 98 in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha vindicates my stand. I am being victimised for being a member of the main Opposition party,” said Mr Nirmal Singh Kahlon, who was the Rural Development and Panchayats Minister in the previous SAD-BJP government.

“Anticipating victimisation, I had moved a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court on May 15. The court issued directions that seven days’ notice shall be given before any case is registered against me.

“The Vigilance Bureau, however, registered a case against me on May 16 without giving me any notice. On June 12, the Bureau issued notice for my proposed arrest. I received this notice on June 14 and immediately responded and offered to join the investigation. I sent a fax message to the bureau through my counsel.

“But there has been no response. On June 20, I came to Delhi to campaign for my party candidates in the coming Delhi gurdwara elections,” Mr Kahlon said.

The Congress government was out to harass me out of political vendetta, he alleged.

Mr Kahlon referred to the question raised by Mr Gurjant Singh in the Vidhan Sabha . In response to the question, Mrs Bhattal said in her written statement that 103 JCB machines were purchased by the Department of Rural Development and Panchayats at a cost of Rs 13.72 crore for which tenders were invited. Two firms made the bid — LET Care Equipment, offering the machine for Rs 13.73 lakh, and Escorts JCB Limited, which quoted a price of Rs 13.25 lakh.

Mrs Bhattal further said that no complaint was received about any irregularities in the purchase of these machines. The Vigilance Bureau registered an FIR (no 11) on May 16, 2002, under various sections of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act. The records pertaining to the purchase of these machines were with the Vigilance Bureau. Action against the guilty would be initiated only after the final decision.

Her reply, said Mr Kahlon, clearly indicated that the government acted on its own to register a case against me even before holding a preliminary inquiry. “I was never asked to join the investigation.”


Tota Singh remanded in judicial custody

Kharar, June 23
Former Education Minister and Akali Dal MLA Tota Singh was today sent in judicial remand till July 3, after being in the custody of Punjab Vigilance Bureau for eight days.

Tota Singh has now been sent to Patiala jail, after being produced in the court of Kharar Duty Magistrate Harinder Sidhu. The period of his custodial interrogation by the Vigilance at a Mohali police station expired this morning.

The Akali MLA from Moga had been arrested for illegal recruitment of about 100 primary teachers, 138 clerks, accumulation of assets worth crores of rupees and transfer of crores of rupees through ‘hawala’ during his tenure as Education Minister in the erstwhile Badal government.

He has also been charged with making illegal appointments of an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) and an advocate in the Education Department, purchase of stationery of inferior quality worth several lakhs and having ‘benami’ shares in two private colleges under Punjab Technical University. UNI


Villages to have mini-markets
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, June 23
A proposal to set up mini-markets in villages with the help of NRIs is in pipeline so that rural people can get domestic and other goods easily. Such markets will be more useful in case multi-national companies MNCs) started selling their products in India under the new global trade.

This was stated by Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayats, while addressing a meeting of workers at Rampura Phul, about 30 km from here, today. She said the proposal to set up markets at rural level was aimed at giving villagers an exposure to facilities equivalent to city dwellers.

She said some focal points could also be utilised. She added that if no focal point was present in the vicinity of some villages, any common place could be utilised that would serve four to five villages.

Ms Bhattal said the purpose of giving authority to panchayats to check the attendance and keep a vigil in schools and hospitals in the respective villages was to give the rural people good health and educational facilities. She said the aim of the new policy was to give the rural people these facilities at par with the city residents.

Ms Bhattal further said to encourage agriculture, diversification, export of agricultural products would be encouraged through Agriculture Export Zones. She said area specified zones would be developed. She added that two consignments of agricultural products had been exported through these zones, while 30 more would be sent in the coming four months.

The cooperation of the NRIs would also be sought in the export of agricultural products, said Ms Bhattal. She said arrangements could be made so that the NRIs should receive the consignment of agricultural products in their respective countries and sell the same there.

For developing different villages of the state, first a few blocks of villages would be selected as pilot blocks. All basic facilities would be provided in these blocks. Consequently all villages of the state would be provided such facilities in a phased manner.

Ms Bhattal said stern action would be taken against those selling spurious pesticides and weedicides. She said alertness to check the sale of fake insecticides would be increased and raids conducted throughout the state.

To cope with the problem of barren land, special industrial policy be developed. She said industries would be set up in the area where the land was not fit for agriculture. She said this would not only help to utilise but also provide employment to the residents of the area. She said members of samities and zila parishad would be asked to send proposals regarding area specific development projects.


CM’s remarks decried
Our Correspondent

Patiala, June 23
The Forum for Education Action and Reform (FEAR) has criticised the remarks of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, in which he had absolved the Chairman of the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB), Dr Kehar Singh, of any wrongdoings in the affairs of the board.

In a press note, the chairman of FEAR, Dr P.S. Jammu, alleged that while on the one hand Capt Amarinder Singh had recently commented that Dr Kehar Singh was a “man of character and who is not involved in any misdoing,” on the other the ADGP of Punjab Police had stated that a thorough investigation into Dr Kehar Singh’s misdoings would be conducted on his return from Mexico.

Dr Jammu alleged that the government was trying to shift the onus of the multi-crore scam relating to the printing of text books and stationary from Dr Kehar Singh to Mr Tota Singh. Dr Jammu said it was a clear case of consipiracy since the vigilance bureau had registered a case against Mr Tota Singh the day Dr Kehar Singh left for Mexico.


Record backward walking
Raj Sadosh

Who would verify the distance Tamil Nadu-born D’ Muniappan alias Raju might have covered “walking backwards” in Punjab towards his mission of getting his name mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records. This million-dollar question is being asked because no government agency took upon itself the responsibility of monitoring his activities in this state.

Raju (32) entered Punjab from Rajasthan upbeat at the warm welcome he was given at Gyan Sarovar, Mount Abu by Dadi Parkash Mani, Dadi Manohar Indira and other senior functionaries of Brahma Kumaris Ishwariya Vishawvidyalya. He earlier survived an attempt on life during communal riots while passing through the Gujarat state. That was hell, Gyan Sarovar is like paradise on earth he comments.

He started his journey from home district Salem in Tamil Nadu on January 28 in an attempt to better the existing record for “reverse pedestrians” set by Plennie L. Wingo of the United States of America in 1932. The Texan walked backwards for a whopping 12875 kms evoking appreciation from all quarters. While Wingo walked from Santa Monica, California to Istanbul in Turkey, Raju attempts to cover the distance walking through 21 states including the militancy-hit Jammu and Kashmir. He can interact with people in Tamil, Malyalam and Hindi comfortably and talks about AIDS, economic development and the need for communal harmony and peace. The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has given him the copy of a letter addressed to its all centres requiring the officials to verify the distance covered by him in their respective areas. In some areas he was provided with escort jeep to ensure safety from traffic law offenders and to testify that he actually walked backwards. But now the Malwa region has neither any SAI centre nor government officials or voluntary organisations are so far taking interest in his venture. He has with him visiting cards of certain senior office-bearers of some International Service Clubs but resented that none of them spared a few minutes or money to make a phone call to their colleagues in Punjab. The club officials have their own reservations. They say every year some one from the South visits Punjab on such sojourns, the clubs, give them financial assistance and even make arrangements for their board and lodging but it could not be confirmed whether they had made some record or were on a pleasure trip only.

Raju is, no doubt amazing. He can husk a coconut in 28 seconds flat, can lift a 32 kg LPG cylinder with his bare teeth and a 36 kg bicycle as well in the air by simply holding it with his molars. It is really difficult for him to spot onrushing traffic from behind. At times people term him a mad man walking backwards but reports in newspapers may make such persons change their opinion about Raju. A Tamil Nadu doctor provided him substantive insurance cover. Raju avoids carrying much cash with him prefers to make use of credit cards. He claims having covered a distance exceeding 5500 kms. so far. For him it was an uphill task at some places to obtain certificate from gazetted officers. He says the idea of doing some thing fascinating developed during schooldays. He, in his early twenties worked as civilian employee with the Indian Air Force also but then nursed the idea of having his name entered in the Guinness Book of World Records by walking backwards.


Few turn up at meeting on blood transfusion
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, June 23
Only a handful of people were present at the local SSD Girls College today, where a state-level conference was organised on ‘Safe blood transfusion’ by the Indian Society of Blood Transfusion and immunohaematology (ISBTI).

Speakers at the conference constituted a major part of the audience. The ISBTI, a national organisation on transfusion medicine, blood banking and donor motivation, organised this conference with the hope they it would educate the people of the city and nearby areas about safe transfusion of blood. The conference seemingly failed to convey the message. Either it was the fault of the organisers that they could not spread the information properly or the people had no interest in the topic.

The ISBTI was expecting an overwhelming response from all over the district as Bathinda was a leading district of the state in blood donation. A major part of the gathering was angry with the organisers and alleged that the persons honoured at the function for being good blood donors were in no way eligible for the same.

Mr Anurag Verma, the Deputy Commissioner, was the chief guest. Speaking at the function, he appreciated the efforts of members of the ISBTI and a local NGO in making Bathinda a leading district in blood donation. It was an example for others that the need was of 2000 units and 6000 of blood was available, he added.

Mr Verma said it would be tragic if a person was infected with a disease through blood transfusion. He added that the district administration would take stern action to stop unsafe blood transfusion. The general public should be educated about safe blood donation and the NSS, NGOs and the media could be of great help, he added. He said district administration would provide every help to the ISBTI and NGOs to promote safe blood transfusion in the district.


2 Pak nationals arrested
Our Correspondent

Abohar, June 23
Two Pakistani nationals were nabbed by intelligence agencies in Hindumalkot sector yesterday. One of them had intruded into India six years back and had been living under fictitious names.

Sources said Mohd Sumair Iqbal (30) of Bahawalpur district in West Punjab province of Pakistan was nabbed while roaming in the prohibited border area near Hindumalkot. Another Pakistani national, Hazi Mohammad (44) of Okara district, was picked up from Nuwan village on the Hanumangarh-Sangria road. Preliminary investigations revealed that he had illegally entered India from Pakistan through the Rajasthan border in 1996.

The authorities had issued him a ration card in the name of Mohd Bashir of Lakhuwali village in Hanumangarh district. The DTO had issued him a driving licence in the name of Bashir Khan. He had married Soma, alias Salma, in the same region and none had any doubt about his nationality. Acting on a tip-off, the police arrested him under various Sections of the IPC and the Passport Act.


Trade unions to launch stir
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 23
Representatives of various Punjab-based trade unions, which met at Cheema Bhavan here today, announced the launching of an agitation against certain fiscal policies of the Punjab Government.

Mr Raghunath Singh, general secretary, CITU, Punjab, in a statement said that the trade unions would organise joint rallies at the district headquarters from July 8 to 15. In the last week of July, a rally would be held in Chandigarh.

Representatives of the AITUC, the INTUC, the CITU, the BMS and the HMS participated in the meeting. They criticised the “anti-employee and working class” budget of the state government and also its decision to start the process of disinvestment in public sector undertakings. They also condemned the government’s move to close down certain PSUs.


AWWA releases journal
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, June 23
The Ferozepore chapter of the Army Wives Welfare Association (AWWA), known as the Golden Arrow AWWA held a function here yesterday to mark the release of its journal, “Anubhuti”. Major-Gen O.P. Nandrajog, GOC, 7 Infantry Division, released the journal.

Addressing the gathering, he lauded the efforts of the AWWA in the welfare and upliftment of the women of the Army and exhorted it to continue the excellent work.

Mrs Kiran Nandrajog, President, Golden Arrow AWWA, speaking on the occasion, highlighted the multifarious activities of the association for the care of separated families, welfare of widows, educational drives and ecological awareness. She said a vocational centre of training, gift shop, boys’ hostel and a centre for the handicapped and destitute children had been set up by the AWWA where the talents of wives of all ranks were put to use. A summer camp had also been arranged for the children and women of the Golden Arrow division, she added.


Assistant Director dies in mishap
Our Correspondent

Patiala, June 23
Mrs Paramjeet Kaur, Assistant Director, Punjab Languages Department, died in a car mishap near Jalandhar on Sunday. She and her family members were coming to Patiala from Amritsar in the car after paying obeisance at the Darbar Sahib. She is survived by her husband, a son and a daughter.

The husband of the deceased and other members of her family were also injured. The cremation will be held at her native village, Jaja, in Jalandhar district, on Monday.

Mrs Paramjeet Kaur was one of the editors of the social sciences edition of the Punjabi encyclopedia which, at present, is being prepared by the Language Department. She also held the additional charge of the translation wing in the department.


General visits border areas
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, June 23
Major-Gen Ashok Kumar, VSM recipient, visited forward areas near here and addressed troops deployed on the border. He commended the troops for maintaining high moral and full operational preparedness.

While giving a brief account of the prevalent situation, he exhorted all ranks to continue to maintain the high state of operational readiness and utilise time fruitfully for training. The General said the Indian Army was one of the most competent armies in the world.


G.S. Aujla bereaved
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 23
Mrs Harjit Kaur, wife of Mr Suchet Singh, a former MP, and mother of Dr G.S. Aujla, Additional Director-General of Police-cum-Director Principal, Maharaja Ranjit Singh Punjab Police Academy, Phillaur, died here today after a brief illness. She was 80.


Privatisation move opposed
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, June 23
The INTUC unit of the local PRTC depot has urged the Punjab Government not to privatise the PRTC and Punjab Roadways.

The union passed a resolution at a meeting held last evening in which it urged the government that the proposal to privatise the state-run transport should be withdrawn.

The PRTC employees said the decision would harm the interests of the employees. They said it would also have a negative impact on the working of the PRTC and Punjab Roadways.

The employees also urged the state government to reverse the decisions that would curtail the perks and allowances given to the employees. They said many proposals in the Punjab Budget were anti-employee.

The PRTC employees said they would hold rallies and dharnas to get their demands accepted. They said the agitation would continue till government accepted their demands.


MC demolishes 12 illegal shops
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, June 23
In a pre-dawn swoop, the municipal council (MC) authorities demolished more than a dozen shops in the city allegedly constructed in violation of the norms.

The bulldozer of the council brought down the shops situated near the local Sports Stadium today. The operation was undertaken in the presence of MC officials and police personnel.

Sources said the shops were constructed illegally and no site, plan or map had been sanctioned by the Municipal Council authorities. In fact notice had been sent to the contractor in this regard.

Mr A.K. Singla and Mr B.D. Singla, Municipal Engineers, Mr Kamal Kant, Executive Engineer, and Mr Rakesh Chhabra, Assistant Town Planner, supervised the demolition.

The MC sources said proposal was under way to use the land on which shops had been constructed for commercial purposes. The proposal had been sent to senior officials of Local Bodies Department.

Mr Kamal Kant confirmed the demolition. He added that the land belonged to the Wakf Board. He said the demolition was part of the ongoing campaign against illegal constructions.


Nine held in flesh trade case
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, June 23
Close on the heels of the arrest of seven ‘couples’ from a government-run Amritsar International Hotel, the police today arrested nine persons, including a woman, in connection with flesh trade running with the help of cellphones.

While the woman was arrested from MIG flats (Mal Mandi) along with her alleged client Nimrat on a tip-off, the rest of the culprits were arrested on her identification, Mr Kanwar Vijay Partap Singh, SP (City), said adding that more arrests were likely soon.

The operation launched against the immoral trafficking ended in a dramatic way. The woman, who has not yet disclosed her real name, said she was known by many names, including Radhika, Radha and Ruchika. In the presence of the select mediapersons, the SP asked to respond each and every call made by her client on her cellphone. She would give them time and venue of the meeting which was followed by the police raid.

First call she received was from Manmohan Kumar who told her that he was in a Indica car (bearing a temporary number) and would meet her at 7 p.m. near Jallianwala Bagh. Before he could meet her, the police in mufti caught him along with his friends Vishal Kapur and Rahul Mehra. Similarly Sher Singh, alias Shera, and Bhushan Kumar were also caught from outside a religious place. Amrit Paul and Kaminderjit Singh were also arrested from outside Jallianwala Bagh.

Radhika (not real name) told the police that she came into contact through Raman Kumar (58), a cloth merchant whom she called as ‘uncle’. She said she was married to a resident of Dalhousie about three years ago who deserted her when he got suspicious about her ‘bad character’.

She was getting telephone calls after every minute even in police custody which showed the operation of a big flesh trade in the city. The callers were from Batala, Pathankot, Ludhiana and far-flung areas. During the investigation, she said the meeting points used to be International Hotel and many private hotels (including a three-star one).

This has belied the claims of Mr Jagmohan Singh Dhillon, Additional Managing Director, Punjab Tourism Corporation, that no employee of the Amritsar International Hotel was involved in the flesh trade. It may be mentioned here that Mr Dhillon had given a ‘clean chit’ to Mr K.J. Singh, the then Manager of the hotel during his recent visit to the city. Mr Dhillon had come here in connection with an on-the-spot probe into the charges of the local police that seven couples were caught from the hotel.

The police had claimed that the couples used to use the rooms during daytime. However, the management of the hotel had alleged that it was a deep rooted conspiracy hatched by certain proprietors of private hotels.

Interestingly, a number of politicians gathered outside the kotwali police station to get the culprits released. The SP received a telephone call from the local MLA in this regard but he (SP) refused to oblige him on the plea that the entire operation was completed in the presence of mediapersons who were still sitting before him.


Two arrested for robberies
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, June 23
With the arrest of Rajesh Kumar, a resident of Lehal under Dhariwal police station, and Amarbir, a resident of Master Colony, Sant Nagar here, the police has solved as many as six robbery cases committed on the link routes in this district.

Mr B. K. Uppal, SSP, talking to newspersons here today said a motor cycle, a sickle and a few tolas of gold have been recovered from the possession of the accused.

Mr Uppal said the two developed intimacy when they were lodged in the Central Jail here, while Amarbir was undergoing trial in a murder case and Rajesh Kumar had been convicted for life in a murder case.

Mr Uppal said Rajesh and Amarbir committed robberies at pistolpoint. It was on June 14 when the accused tried to snatch the earrings of a woman near Jandi Chauta. She was going on a scooter with her husband when the miscreants attacked. The couple raised the alarm. Following this, the people chased them and the two were handed over to the police naka party at Gharota.

Mr Uppal said the accused confessed to having committed half-a-dozen robberies, including those at Garhmal Nullah, Bhatoa bridge, Gharota, Babbehali bridge and Gharala. The interrogation of the accused was in progress, he added.


Murder case: 3 more arrested
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, June 23
The police has arrested three more persons in connection with the murder of Darshan Kumar, a resident of the city today. Two of the accused are at present lodged in Central Jail of the city.

Mr Ishwar Singh, SSP, in a press note said Davinder Singh Dolly, Umesh Kumar Chopra and Harbans Lal Chopra were arrested today while David Chopra and Ramesh Kumar were already in police custody.

Darshan Kumar was murdered on June 11 and his body was found from a lake of the local Thermal Plant. A case was registered in this connection under Sections 302 and 34, IPC, and 25, 54, 59 of the Arms Act.

He was allegedly murdered by his brother in-law David Dhawan in connivance with certain other persons.

Mr Ishwar Singh said after committing the crime the four accused David Chopra, Davinder Kumar, Umesh Kumar Chopra and Ramesh Kumar Chopra went to the resident of father of Umesh Kumar, Harbans Lal Chopra. allegedly asked them to go underground after asking them to hide the weapons used in the crime.


Cop held for graft
Our Correspondent

Mansa, June 23
Assistant Sub-Inspector, Jaswant Singh, posted at the local Police Lines was caught red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 50,000 from a suspect allegedly involved in a local sex scandal.

A case under Section 384 of the IPC has been registered. He was produced before the Duty Magistrate here who sent him to judicial custody.

The police party led by Mr Suraj Bhan, Station House Officer, city police station, laid a trap and recovered the amount from the police official.


35 institutes get nod for distance education
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, June 23
As many as 35 institutes have been authorised by Guru Nanak Dev University to impart educational instructions under the distance education programme. This was informed by Dr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor of the university, here today.

He said out of these institutes seven were located each in Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts, three each in Kaputhala and Jalandhar districts, four each in the districts of Ludhiana and Patiala, six in Delhi and one in Indore (Madhya Pradesh). He informed that more applications for the setting up such associate institutes had been received from Kokkata (West Bengal), Karim Nagar (Andhra Pradesh), Delhi, Bathinda, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Patiala and from the adjoining states.

The Vice-chancellor said these institutes were approved after careful scrutiny of inspection reports submitted by the inspection committees. He said only affiliated colleges or recognised schools of registered societies or charitable trusts and NGOs with a standing of at least three years with infrastructure as per UGC norms were eligible to apply for setting up of institutes.

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