Wednesday, July 3, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Punjab to set up panel to vet graft cases
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 2
The Punjab Government today reiterated that it would set up a one-man judicial commission with a specific task of vetting complaints of corruption before recommending these for formal investigation by the Vigilance Bureau.

Within two hours of the issuance of the first press note, the Punjab Government issued a revised version saying that the “proposed one-man Commission of Inquiry, which had been set up vide Punjab Government notification dated April 23, 2002, would inquire into all acts of omission and commission of all functionaries of the previous government in a judicial manner, giving due opportunity to all parties concerned to be heard and establish the veracity otherwise of each complaint made before the commission. The recommendations of the commission would be forwarded to the Vigilance Department or to any other agency for prosecution thereafter.

“It was also stated that at present all district judges and at least one Additional district Judge were empowered to try cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act. However, if the number of cases recommended by the Commission becomes too large for the existing special courts then efforts would be made to establish more such courts,” the revised press note said.

This is in corroboration of The Tribune story of July 2, which stated that instead of setting up a one-man judicial commission to probe the acts of omission and commission by the previous SAD-BJP government, the government may set up a one-man commission to scan through all complaints of corruption received from the general public and other sources before forwarding them to the Vigilance Bureau.

The press note added that all cases referred to the state Vigilance Bureau would after due investigation be eventually sent up for trial to special courts already functional at all district headquarters.

In view of the large number of cases already under investigation by the Vigilance Bureau and several more likely to come up for investigation, the government has decided to seek the setting up of additional special courts.

The press note stated the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court would be requested to identify judicial officers to head special courts. The number of additional special courts would be in consonance with the number of cases under investigation by the Vigilance Bureau.


Badal has gone amnesic: ministers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 2
Several Punjab ministers and MLAs in a signed statement today charged that former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had become “amnesic” and had no moral ground to comment upon the prerogative of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to shuffle officers and bureaucrats.

Responding to the statement of Mr Badal, where he had criticized the Congress Government for trying to “cover up” the PPSC scam by shifting intelligence officers, they said Mr Badal himself did nothing to investigate the charges of corruption against PPSC Chairman Ravi Sidhu for five years. Instead, he spoke and wrote to the Prime Minister to elevate Mr Sidhu to the UPSC because that would “benefit me personally and poltically”.

The statement asked Mr Badal to first explain what “benefits” he had taken from Mr Sidhu rather than trying to engage in “comic games of mud-slinging” and trying to divert public attention from his own involvement.

Those who have signed the statement include Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, Mr Avtar Henry, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Mr Ramesh Dutt Sharma, Mr R.C. Dogra, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, Mr Raghu Nath Sahai, Mr Mohinder Rinwa, Mr Ashwani Sekhri, Mr Harbans Lal, Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, Mr G.S. Atwal, Mr H.D. Johar and Mr Amrik Singh Dhillon.

The statement added that Mr Badal had questioned the manner in which the PPSC scam was being investigated. What about his own role in not doing anything during his Chief Ministership? Why did he ignore his own relatives, favourite Ministers and MLAs, who engaged in unprecedented corruption?, the statement asked.

Capt Amarinder Singh had raised the issue of corruption and pointed at corruption in the PPSC at least two years prior to winning the elections. He had kept his promise and launched a campaign to root out corruption to give people a clean, transparent government.

The statement further said Mr Badal was repeatedly raising the issue of “political vendetta” against the Akalis as part of an attempt to scuttle the anti-corruption campaign which he feared would end up with a noose around his neck.


Vedanti writes to PM on Sehajdhari issue
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 2
Even as the Chief Minister, Mr Amarinder Singh, has openly opposed the move to debar sehajdharis from exercising their rights vote during the SGPC elections, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar, Akal Takht, announced that “it is the considered opinion of Akal Takht that no non-Sikh under any garb should be allowed to meddle or influence the affairs of the Sikhs”.

In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, Jathedar Vedanti said, “Akal Takht is of the opinion that the Sehajdharis should not be allowed to vote in the forthcoming elections of the SGPC. Any other decision would tantamount to injustice to the Sikhs. “The copies of the letter have been sent to the Union Home Minister, Chief Minister of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal, Chief Gurdwara Election Commissioner and the Administrator of the union territory of Chandigarh. This is for the first time that such a letter has been sent by any Jathedar on the letter-head and seal of Akal Takht. While the case of debarring Sehajdharis is being finalised by the Union Home Ministry, the communication of the Jathedar would have far-reaching consequences.

The letter reads, “The voting right to the Sehajdharis is a major cause of concern for all Sikhs as per the Sikh tenets there is no room for them to manage Sikh shrines. Owing to some strange political reasons the Sehajdharis were given voting rights in 1959 though there was no such provision in the original Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925. This anomaly continues till this day”.

The Jathedar said, “The matter has been troubling the Sikhs for the past many decades, but has assumed dangerous proportions, particularly in the present times, when there seems to be very tangible possibility of direct interference in the religious affairs of the Sikhs. Presently a very large number of non-Sikhs have enrolled themselves as voters under the garb of Sehajdharis”. In clear words Jathedar Vedanti announced “this is simply unacceptable”.

Giving reasons for writing the strongly worded letter, Jathedar Vedanti said Akal Takht had received a large number of representations from Sikhs in India and abroad who desired that under no circumstances should “outsiders” be allowed to meddle in the Sikh affairs. The letter further reads, “The SGPC represents the Sikh point of view”. He said the SGPC had passed a number of resolutions from time to time urging the governments to segregate the voting rights of Sehajdharis. The matter is still pending before your government.

Jathedar Vedanti said no state or union government should interfere in the religious affairs of the Sikhs. He clarified that the governance and management of Sikh gurdwaras was the internal matter of the Sikhs and the only role of the government was to conduct free and fair elections. “No government or any other executive or judicial authority should go beyond this mandate clearly specified in the Sikh Gurdwara Act, 1925”.

“Everybody irrespective of caste, colour and creed is welcome to the house of Guru Nanak. However, I am sure that you would agree with me that the management of the religious shrine has to be the sole prerogative of the Sikhs”.

SGPC to keep tabs on religious books
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 2
The SGPC has decided to constitute a a five-member committee to keep vigil on the publication of Sikh religious literature. This was stated here today by the SGPC President, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar. The members of the committee will be Dr Balwant Singh, Dr Darshan Singh, Giani Gurdit Singh, Giani Joginder Singh Talwara and Dr Kharak Singh Mann.

Addressing a press conference, he said this step had been taken to keep watch on the elements who had been distorting the Sikh scriptures for their vested interests. Besides, a separate seven-member committee had been set up to critically examine the proposed All-India Gurdwara Act. Justice Kulwant Singh Tiwana has been made the head of this committee.

Yet another committee has been set up to resolve the problems faced by the Sikhs outside Punjab. Mr Joginder Singh, Mr Jaswinder Singh, Mr Harjinder Singh, Sant Hardev Singh and an assistant secretary of the SGPC have been made its members. The SGPC has decided to prepare a uniform syllabi for all seven Sikh missionary colleges.

Mr Badungar , according to informed sources , has endorsed the demand of the Sikhs settled abroad for a representation in the SGPC. A demand in this connection was submitted by Mr Sohan Singh. Mr Badungar said a provision in the proposed Gurdwara Act could be incorporated to give them representation in the apex religious body of the Sikhs.


Bhai Ranjit Singh charges Sarna with nepotism
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 2
Even as the SHSAD has registered a clear majority in the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) elections, Bhai Ranjit Singh, a former Jathedar, Akal Takht, said he would ask his six candidates regarding supporting Mr Parmjit Singh Sarna, president, SHSAD, Delhi unit, for presidentship.

Talking to TNS on phone, the former Jathedar alleged that Mr Sarna indulged in nepotism with the result some of the SAD candidates led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal won the election. Bhai Ranjit Singh said he would take the final decision after taking his supporters into confidence.

However, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, a close confidant of Mr Gurcharn Singh Tohra, said Bhai Ranjit Singh would definitely support the SHSAD as he had no other option. Mr Calcutta claimed that the 15 candidates of the Badal group who had won the election at least seven had decided to support the SHSAD. “This is the first election where the Sikh masses had openly voted against the policies of SAD”.

Mr Onkar Singh Arora, district president, SHSAD, said many SGPC members had supported his faction. 


No proposal to privatise PSEB: CM
Our Correspondent

Patiala, July 2
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, assured engineers that there was no proposal to disinvest the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) or privatise it. Speaking to the Council of Junior Engineers, PSEB, yesterday at Chandigarh, the Chief Minister emphasised the need to reduce losses in the board and directed the Chief Secretary to issue suitable instructions to all Deputy Commissioners and SSPs to extend full co-operation to the PSEB authorities in curbing power thefts.

The president of the council, Mr Sukhdev Singh, said the Chief Minister had expressed that he was unable to provide any budgetary support to the board in wake of the present financial condition of the state and asked the PSEB management and unions to collectively find means to improve the functioning and work culture of the board so as to make PSEB commercially viable.

Capt Amarinder Singh further said issues like modernisation and improvement in work conditions could be solved by the PSEB using its own resources and for that there should be regular interaction between the management and unions. 


Privatisation of Punjab Roadways opposed

Jalandhar, July 2
The Punjab Roadways Joint Action Committee at a meeting held here yesterday strongly opposed total privatisation of the public transport system in the state. The committee also demanded that the government took the necessary steps to rejuvenate the state transport system.

The meeting, attended by various trade unions, including the All-India Trade Union Congress, claimed that the state government owed the Punjab Roadways Rs 220 crore as of date. The return of this amount would improve the working and transport condition of the roadways which was currently suffering losses to the tune of Rs 96 crore, leaders while addressing the meeting said.

Later while talking to mediapersons, leaders of the Joint Action Committee said the amount which was due to the roadways from the state government was because of various free travel schemes that the government had extended to various sections of society, including policemen and freedom fighters.

In addition to the amount of Rs 220 crore, the government also owed another Rs 5 crore to the roadways, the leaders said. This amount was due from the government as all the 18 depots of the Punjab Roadways had provided buses on three occasions to ferry passengers free of cost for state-level functions during the reign of the previous government, the leaders claimed.

These functions included the tercentenary celebrations at Anandpur Sahib in 1999, the inauguration of the Ranjit Sagar dam by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee last year and the centenary celebrations of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh held in Amritsar in November last year which were also attended by the Prime Minister. The previous government had failed to pay these bills.

The leaders further said after 1997 not a single bus had been added to the Punjab Roadways fleet of buses which also resulted in losses, as passengers prefer to travel by well-maintained vehicles of public transport. The actual strength of the Punjab Roadways was 2,407 buses but its existing strength had been reduced to 1,710 as no new bus had been added to the existing fleet, the leaders claimed.

The leaders further said failure of the government to add new buses would result in a monthly loss of Rs 2 crore as due to the lack of buses, the roadways would not be able to cover 29 lakh km of routes for which it had valid permits. UNI


PUTA, TUF factions back Dean, Academics
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 2
A faction of the Punjabi University Teachers Association as well as the Teachers United Front (TUF), who were behind the agitation to remove a former Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, from the University, today urged the university authorities not to take any action against the Dean, Academics, Dr U.C. Singh, on the basis of an adverse inquiry report submitted against him.

A former Special Secretary, Education, Mr Amarjit Singh, has submitted the inquiry report, which was ordered Dr Ahluwalia, recommending that Dr U.C. Singh’s appointment as Professor should be cancelled as he had failed to fulfill the conditions imposed upon him while promoting him to the post in 1993.

According to the inquiry officer, Dr U.C. Singh failed to submit his Ph.D within one year as stipulated in his appointment letter, besides taking sabbatical leave following which he did not submit any report of the work done by him.

In a statement here, the PUTA secretary, Dr N.S. Atri, said the reopening of already settled cases by the former VC against Dr U C Singh was a case of vendatta as the latter was a teacher activist who had been raising his voice against the misdeeds of the former VC. The PUTA secretary said, moreover, the inquiry into the case had been ordered by Dr Ahluwalia on the basis of a false report procured by him.

Dr Atri said the complainant in the case, Satinder Singh, did not live at the address listed by him, adding that no affidavit had been filed by the complainant which was mandatory for the institution of any inquiry. He said PUTA, in a unanimous resolution submitted to the then VC, had also requested him not to take cognizance of any anonymous document or complaint submitted under a fictitious name with a view to malign or victimise a teacher.

Meanwhile, in a press note on behalf of the Teachers United Front, it was stated that Dr U C Singh was promoted as Professor in 1983 and that the condition of Phd had been waived in a Syndicate meeting held in 1991 in the case of Dr U.C. Singh and many other teachers promoted under the Merit Promotion Scheme. It said even in the case of the sabbatical leave taken by him, the work done by Dr U.C. Singh had been assessed as satisfactory by a three-member committee constituted by the university authorities.

Meeting to recommend VC held
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 2
As many as 20 to 25 bio-datas of reputed academicians were placed before the Search Committee instituted by the Punjab Government to recommend a new Vice-Chancellor for Punjabi University during the first meeting of the committee held at Chandigarh yesterday.

However, the committee members have been told that they are not bound to limit themselves to the bio-datas given to them and that these have been provided to them for ready reference only. The bio-datas include those which had been submitted to Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh by various aspiring candidates.

According to sources, only broad parameters were discussed at yesterday's meeting of the Search Committee which was attended by all members, including a former Vice-Chancellor of Panjab University and member of The Tribune Trust, Dr R.P. Bambah, a former Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor, Dr H.K. Manmohan Singh, and a former Director of the PGI, Chandigarh, Dr Jaswant Singh Neki.

The sources said it was unanimously agreed that an outstanding academician should be appointed to the post. Moreover, it was felt that the candidate should be such who could handle the pressures of the job especially due to the formation of rival teacher groups on the university campus. Things are likely to move forward at the next meeting of the Search Committee which will then take up specific names for discussion.

Meanwhile, speculation is on in the Punjabi University campus about the chances of acting Vice-Chancellor N.S. Rattan being appointed regular Vice-Chancellor of the university. According to the sources, Dr Rattan could also be considered for the post as the work is to his liking and he also meets the academic criterion as he has written some books in Punjabi also. The sources said as Dr Rattan was due to retire next year he could be appointed on a regular basis.

However, such an appointment will depend on how the faculty sees it because the appointment of a bureaucrat in Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, who was also a writer in his own right, did not portend well for the university.


‘Exorcist’ SGPC official resigns
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 2
Mr Narinder Pal Singh, who was caught while exorcising at a religious place has resigned as Assistant Information Officer in protest. In his resignation letter, he alleged that he was implicated on baseless allegations.

Earlier, the SGPC had placed Mr Narinder Pal Singh under suspension and he was directed to report at Darbar Sahib, Tarn Taran, during his suspension.

On a complaint by Mr Kanwar Pal Singh, a spokesman of the Dal Khalsa and Mr Narain Singh, President, Akal Federation, a flying squad of the SGPC and Akal Takht had raided the religious place where Mr Narinder Pal Singh was allegedly found indulging in exorcising in gross violation of ‘the Sikh maryada’.

Mr Raghbir Singh, Personal Assistant to the SGPC chief confirmed that he had received resignation of Mr Narinder Pal Singh of fax. He said the resignation would be submitted to Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar.

Earlier, in his reply to the explanation call, Mr Narinder Pal Singh had refuted the allegations that he had violated the Sikh maryada.


Police, MC officials lock horns
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, July 2
The local police and the municipal corporation authorities have locked horns over the seizure of records pertaining to hundreds of illegal buildings in the city from the civic body’s building branch by the police authorities.

While the police authorities justify their action by saying that they did not need sanction of any MC official to seize records, employees of the civic body shunned work to lodge their protest against the police action. The newly elected Mayor, Mr Surinder Mahey, said he would complain to the Punjab Chief Minister about the, “high-handedness” of the local police. The Mayor and a top official of the civic body also said that the Punjab Local Bodies Department Secretary, Mr Sarvesh Kaushal, had no powers to get an FIR registered against the 2,024 missing files from the corporation records and the police could not take the records in its possession.

The police swung into action after Mr Kaushal wrote to the local SSP that an FIR should be registered for so many important files “missing” from the corporation office. It may be mentioned here that the Internal Vigilance team of the Punjab Local Bodies Department had initiated a probe into the alleged nexus between civic body officials, the land mafia and influential builders, who had built hundreds of huge buildings in the city by violating norms and building bye-laws during the past about five years.

The Internal Vigilance team had found that as many as 2,024 files pertaining to such buildings were missing from the building branch of the civic body and it was suspected that this could be an effort by some officials and builders to save their skin. Subsequently, the police authorities had constituted a special investigation team after registering an FIR.

The team also took a number of files in its custody yesterday which was resented by a few civic body officials, including the Mayor and Commissioner, who dubbed the action as an “injudicious” step by the police. A large number of residents, however, have welcomed a probe into the alleged nexus between civic body officials and the influential lobby of builders.

Talking to the TNS, the Mayor, Mr Mahey, alleged that the way police authorities’ action smacked of “police raj”. “They should not have taken away the records without taking the MC authorities into confidence. I am going to lodge a strong protest with the Chief Minister,” said Mr Mahey. Similarly, a number of MC employees raised anti-police and anti-Sarvesh Kaushal slogans, while a section of them hailed the action against “corrupt practices”. Interestingly, when a police party seized the records, the MC Commissioner, Mr Jagjit Singh, was present in his office. He expressed his annoyance over the way the police effected the seizure. Mr Mahey said apart from informing the Punjab Local Bodies Minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, he had already lodged a formal complaint with the DIG and IG against the action of the district police.

On the other hand, Mr Pawan Kumar, SP, said that initial investigations had revealed some irregularities and that the police did not need permission from anybody for taking records of the civic body into its possession.


Punjab Government goes soft on staff
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 2
Congress legislators have made the Punjab Government review its line towards employees of the state government as well as public sector undertakings. They have clearly told the Chief Minister not to follow the dictates of bureaucrats in this connection and to take decisions after examining the matters pertaining to employees at the political level in the party.

The Government has frozen DA and LTC of employees besides, announcing the new formula for commutation of pensionary benefits. In the case of employees of public sector undertakings, the government had ordered to bring parity in their pay scales with their counterparts in government departments. Such decisions have generated anger among employees against the government.

However, in the case of PSEB employees, the government told the board authorities yesterday to decide at their own level whether the pay scales of board staff should be curtailed or not. This has been done following pressure from legislators, it is learnt.

Informed sources said the issue of unrest among employees was discussed at a meeting where a large number of party legislators were present. The legislators told the Chief Minister that the decisions pertaining to employees should have been taken after holding meetings with various organisations of employees. Such organisations should have been told that as the government was facing a financial crisis there was need for “financial sacrifices” on the part of employees. Employees should have been told that the government would compensate them when the financial position improved, the MLAs had reasoned.

The MLAs told the Chief Minister that employees in the state were an organised force which could create problems for the government in implementing its policies. Without the cooperation of employees, no popular government could succeed. In a short span, almost all sections of employees had become bitter opponents of the government, they complained.

Informed sources said the Chief Minister himself was worried over the way employees were agitated against the government. He urged senior party MLAs to open talks with employees at various levels to make them understand that the government was not against them. It had only taken steps to deal with the crisis. The MLAs, however, informed the Chief Minister that it was now too late to talk to employees who had come out in the open against the government. They told the Chief Minister if the government wanted to enforce economy, it should start from the top. The top heavy civil and police administration should be pruned. The top brass of the bureaucracy should be asked as to what steps it had taken to curtail its own expenditure.

Another issue that figured prominently at the meeting was the expenditure incurred by certain Managing Directors, Secretaries and other top officials (mostly IAS officers) of various government corporations and boards on stay in five-star hotels in Delhi in the past five years. The government should hold a separate inquiry in this connection to find out how much money each MD had spent on stay in five-star hotels. Such money should be recovered from the IAS officers concerned. The MLAs informed the Chief Minister that it now had become a standard practice to stay in five- star hotels by MDs etc. Some of the public sector undertakings had permanent bookings in five-star hotels for their bosses, it was alleged at the meeting. There should be a ban on stay in five-star hotels, the MLAs demanded.


Vinod Khanna’s dream may become reality
Our Correspondent and UNI

Gurdaspur, July 2
With his elevation as Union Minister of State for Tourism and Culture, Bollywood star-turned-politician Vinod Khanna’s cherished desire of turning the backward Gurdaspur Lok Sabha constituency into California may become a reality.

Twice elected from the most backward constituency of Punjab, the cine star had, in both his election campaigns, talked of transforming this district headquarters town into another California.

“You don’t have beautiful parks, recreation centres, gymnasiums and Disney lands and I have been sent here by Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee to fulfil these dreams and turn this constituency into another California,” he had said during his first election campaign in 1998 while regretting that the Congress MPs from here had done a little for the area.

At a rally in the mountainous Dhar block in the Pathankot sub-division, he promised that the area would be turned into a tourist spot.

Though after his first election victory, he failed to turn the area into a California but through the MP’s fund he provided drinking water facilities to the Dhar block.

Now that Mr Khanna has been given the Tourism and Culture Ministry he could fulfil his dream if not fully at least partially. There are ideal locations along the Ravi and Beas rivers which can be developed into tourist spots like the Madhopur headworks and Shahpur Kandi and the Dhar block which could be developed into tourist spots.

PATHANKOT: BJP activists and supporters of Vinod Khanna congratulated each other in the city BJP office on the induction of Mr Khanna in to the Union Cabinet.


Kewal Singh’s case goes to Sessions Court
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, July 2
Mr Kurnesh Kakkar, Judicial Magistrate (First Class), today committed the dowry case registered against a former Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib, Giani Kewal Singh, his son Baljinder Singh and another kin Joginder Kaur to the court of the Sessions Judge, Bathinda, and fixed July 16 the next date for hearing.

Giani Kewal Singh surrendered into the court of Mr Kakkar, Judicial Magistrate (First Class), on May 9 after he failed to secure an anticipatory bail from the Supreme Court. Baljinder Singh, a main accused in a dowry death case, surrendered in the court of the Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate, Mr Harsh Mehta, on March 7. Both accused had been remanded to judicial custody while Joginder Kaur had already secured interim bail in this case.

Baljinder Singh, along with Giani Kewal Singh and Joginder Kaur, have been facing trial under Sections 304-B and 34 of the IPC into this court in connection with the death of the daughter-in-law of Giani Kewal Singh, Sharnjit Kaur, on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, when the brother of deceased, Amarjit Singh, approached the same after he failed to get justice from the local police authorities after the death of his sister under suspicious circumstances.

It may be mentioned that the district police authorities had earlier filed a cancellation report in the court of the Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate here in connection with an FIR registered against the three on the pretext that they had been found innocent following an inquiry conducted by the officer of the rank of DSP.

However, the then Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate had issued summons against the three accused and when they failed to appear in his court after the issuance of summons and non-bailable warrants against them. After this, Giani Kewal Singh had to resign as Jathedar of Takht Damdama Sahib.


Bishnois committed to conservation
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

“Aren’t we eulogising the Bishnois a bit too much?” This is the normal response of people who do not understand the importance of conservation. A visit to a Bishnoi village in the Abohar tehsil of Ferozepore district bordering Rajasthan and Haryana clears up these doubts. Ask them about blackbucks and you will receive a cold response from wary, unwilling and rude villagers. However, when they are convinced of your noble intentions then the same men themselves take you to the 5 sq km area where approximately 250 blackbucks can be spotted.The blackbucks are a highly endangered species figuring in the Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act. There was a time when herds could be spotted even on the outskirts of Delhi. Due to excessive poaching, hunting and habitat destruction blackbucks are now concentrated in areas where protection is provided. This is the reason why large herds found near Bishnoi villages in Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab. In Abohar tehsil, 13 Bishnoi villages have been grouped together and the Punjab Government has notified the area as a sanctuary. There are about 5000 blackbucks in the area, according to an estimate.

Bishnois are probably the world’s first conservationists. This sect or faith is completely devoted to nature, and conservation. Janmeswarji, popularly known as Jamboji, started Bishnoi sect way back in 1542. He gave 29 principles for the protection of herbivores and trees. This is how the community got its name Bishnoi as ‘bis’ is 20 and ‘noi’ stands for nine. Jamboji was a great saint and philosopher of medieval India. Born in a well-to-do Rajput family in 1508 in Pipasar village of Nagaur district, Jamboji was the only child of his parents. As a child he was very quiet. He utilised his seclusion as a cowherd for observing people, plants and trees, forests and animals. When he was 18, he met another saint Gorakhnathji. It is believed that the saint influenced his thoughts considerably. After the death of his parents, he renounced his entire property and shifted to Samrathal-sand dunes. This is the place that saw the birth of Bishnoi sect.

Jamboji was against all social and religious barriers. His close study of desert had made him realise the important role played by trees and other forms of vegetation. In September, 1737, in Khejarli village near Jodhpur, Amrita Devi, a Bishnoi woman and mother of three daughters was busy churning milk for extracting butter. Her husband was away working in the fields. Suddenly she heard the sound of someone cutting a tree. She came out to see what was going on. Girdharidas Bhandari, a senior officer of the Jodhpur state, was ordering his men to cut trees. Many village elders urged the officer to stop the cutting of trees in their village as it was against their faith. But Girdharidas told the gathering that the wood was needed to burn lime and said that that was an order of the ruler, so nobody should try to stop him. Amrita Devi’s heart was crying because she knew that this tree had served as the lifeline of her family and many others who were living in this harsh climate. Driven by her emotions she ran and clung to the tree that was being axed. ‘Cut my body before felling the tree,’ she cried. The woodcutters stopped but Girdharidas ordered his men to cut off her head. Amrita Devi was mercilessly axed along with the tree. Her sacrifice inspired her three daughters Ashi, Ratni and Bhagu. Following on her foot steps they too clung to the tree and were hacked ruthlessly. One after the other 363 Bishnois sacrificed their lives. When the news of this brutality reached the ruler of Jodhpur, he immediately stopped the massacre. But by now the entire Bishnoi community had revolted and it threatened to leave the state if it was not allowed to pursue its faith. The Maharaja apologised for the grave mistake committed by his officer. He issued a royal decree prohibiting the cutting of trees and hunting of wild animals in any Bishnoi village in the Jodhpur state.

Even today, the place where Amrita Devi and 363 other Bishnois sacrificed their lives is preserved as a monument and temple. 


Malerkotla MCs up in arms against MLA
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 2
Fourteen of the 26 municipal councillors of Malerkotla have been up in arms against Mrs Razia Sultan, MLA and her police officer husband, Mr Mohammad Mustafa, alleging “blatant misuse of official machinery” in holding election to the President of the Municipal Committee in “utter violation of the rules” , yesterday.

Parading themselves before Local Government officials here , the councillors — Ms Bashiran, Mr Mohd Aslam , Mr Kewal Krishan Jindal, Mrs Kamla Rani Verma, Mrs Sabri Gill, Mr Mohd Khalil, Mrs Farial Rehman, Ch Umar Din, Mr Azmat Ali Khan, Mr Kaku Ram, Mr Mohd Halim, Mr Mohd Arshad, Mrs Aasia and Mr Abdul Wahid Aajiz — alleged that “democracy was murdered” as the election of the new President of the council was conducted when only “councillors owing allegiance to the Congress MLA were allowed in”.

“But since the number of such councillors was short of the required quorum of 14, including the sitting MLA, a “burqa-clad woman” posing for Mrs Aasia was brought in,” they alleged claiming that Mrs Aasia was with them and present in the group that visited The Tribune office after meeting Local Government officials.

“I demand an inquiry into the whole episode . The woman who posed for me must be tracked and charged under relevant provisions of the law and the entire election process should be set aside. As without the “fake woman councillor”, the election could not be held,” said Mrs Aasia.

“We belong to diferent political parties. There are some independents amongst us also. But we have a joint front,” said Mr Kewal Krishan Jindal, acting President of the council. He represents ward No 6 in the council.

The councillors alleged that Mrs Razia Sultan, MLA, had at her disposal some plainclothesmen who stopped them from entering the municipal office, the venue of the meeting. Under Section 27 of the Punjab Municipal Act, 1911, for holding a special meeting to elect the President, 50 per cent of the total strength of councillors and local MLAs should be present to complete the quorum for the meeting. Since 14 of 26 councillors were not allowed in, the group led by Mrs Razia Sultan, MLA, was left in minority with 12 councillors. It was then that they brought in a burqa-clad woman posing as Mrs Aasia, they allleged.

In their representation to the Principal Secretary, the councillors alleged that when they tried to resist plainclothesmen, a group of people holding “sticks” came forward and pushed them back.

“We all raised an alarm and forcibly entered the meeting hall at 3.20 p.m. We were told that 12 councillors and MLA had participated in the meeting and elected Mr Faquir Mohd as the new President of the council. Today we all 14 councillors have submitted our affidavits in the office of the Principal Secretary, Local Government,” the councillors said.

Senior officials of the Local Government Department denied knowledge of this controversy over the election of the new President of the Municipal Council of Malerkotla.


Army units for J&K from Rajasthan border
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, July 2
Several infantry units of the army stationed along the International Border in Rajasthan and Punjab are slated to be sent as additional forces to Jammu and Kashmir for counter-insurgency operations.

A senior official of the Army told The Tribune that the bulk of soldiers will remain on the border, along with heavy artillery, comprising nearly 2000 tanks and 800 infantry combat vehicles.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s deployment remains unchanged. Their infantry and armoured divisions remain concentrated in Multan, Sukkur, Bahawalpur and Gujranwala.

For soldiers who have now been on duty in Rajasthan for the past seven months, the hardships of the desert are now showing with temperature soaring to more than 45° C centigrades in almost all parts of the State.

“It is very hot for those who are posted in Rajasthan. It is tough staying here sitting in the rooms. The situation is equally hard for those who are posted in the Ferozepore sector also as there has been no rain in the past few weeks” commented the official.

It is a treacherous terrain with constantly shifting sand dunes in Rajasthan, dust storms and temperatures rising as high as 49° C in some areas.

Unlike the hills or the plains, where Army posts can be clearly marked out, a featureless desert means soldiers must use camel tracks or water sources to mark the terrain. Often the only way to reach remote observation posts is on foot or by camel.

“Their visibility is free to the enemy. The Thar desert is naked and you can be spotted in a second. Every movement has to be quick from one dune to another,” said another official.

While the operations against terrorism now seem to have shifted to Kashmir, the lessening of tensions between India and Pakistan has made no difference to the thousands battling the desert and in the plains of Punjab everyday.


Army rescues Pakistani deer
Tribune Reporters

Amritsar, July 2
As a goodwill gesture, the Indian Army rescued a pair of deer who had crossed into the Indian territory while their mother was poached by the Pakistani security forces deployed along the border.

An Army patrol party found these deer of rare species on the border in a shocked state when they were just two weeks old. While the Pakistani Army showed cruelty to their own animals, the Indian Army meted out motherly treatment to them. The cheetal (the spotted deer) were found on the border in mid-January immediately after the troop build-up along the border.

The animals received much-needed affection from jawans who named them as Mrig-Naini and Diana. Major Rajiv Puri said the Army personnel nursed these deer like their own siblings and fed them through milk bottles. These baby deer used to sleep with Army officer Major Chander, he said. The deer who are six months old now, were healthy and grown up.

In a quite ceremony the Army handed over the pair of deer to the Forest Department today. Mr Surinder Kumar, Forest Range Officer, Mr Virender Kumar and Mr Darshan Singh, both wildlife Inspectors, took the custody of the deer. They would be sent to deer park in Beed Moti Bagh, Patiala.

Army officials bade farewell to the animals with wet eyes.


Row over kar seva at Darbar Sahib
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, June 2
The kar seva at historic Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Jand Sahib village, nearly 25 km from here, in this district has been hanging fire for the past about three years following a rift between the management committee and the priest of the shrine.

According to reports, about 30 years ago a project was assigned by the inhabitants of the area to Baba Amar Singh for the overall development of the gurdwara. However, after his death the work was handed over to his sons Baba Ajit Singh and Baba Harbhajan Singh. They not only constructed a sarovar but also a number of rooms for visitors, besides a serai, a langar hall, and a diwan hall and also renovated the gurdwara building. In addition to this an Akal academy comprising 13 rooms along with other amenities was also set up.

On July 26, 1999, Bibi Jagir Kaur, a former President of the SGPC, visited the gurdwara and asked the priests to reconstruct its complex. She also laid its foundation stone on the same day, claimed Baba Ajit Singh. A plan of Rs 6 crore was mooted in this regard and the work on the project was started within a short period. The first floor of the gurdwara was completed at a cost of Rs 53 lakh, he said. However, the management committee stopped the kar seva and expelled him and other members from the gurdwara, Baba Ajit Singh said. This created resentment among the residents of the area, who appealed to the committee for adopting a positive attitude in the interest of the Sikh sangat. They also wrote to the SGPC for its assistance on the issue but got no response, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Mohinder Singh Romana, an SGPC member and supervisor of the gurdwara management committee, accused Baba Ajit Singh of amassing money and constructing a huge building of his own dera opposite to the gurdwara. He also accused Baba Ajit Singh of misguiding people of the area. The matter had also been brought to the notice of senior district officers, he said.

While categorically denying that any direction was issued by Bibi Jagir Kaur regarding the reconstruction of the gurdwara to Baba Ajit Singh, Mr Romana said all Sikh shrines, which had annual income below Rs 20 lakh, were being maintained by the respective committees of the area. He said the kar seva of the gurdwara had been assigned to Baba Jagtar Singh, who had done a commendable service at Golden Temple and Hazoor Sahib in Maharashtra. All formalities had been completed and the kar seva would start before the end of this month, he added.


New angioplasty technique introduced
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, July 2
A new technique of angioplasty commonly known as ballooning of arteries of heart, has been introduced in Punjab for the first time.

Chpher stent, found to be highly effective in prevention of artery blockage, is being used for treating patients of coronary artery diseases in America and Europe. The same technique was successfully performed on a 60-year-old patient, suffering from diabetes and coronary artery disease, at Tagore Heart Care and Research Centre here today.

Dr Sudheer Saxena, a leading cardiologist who performed the stent implantation, said the patient was found unsuitable for by-pass heart surgery due to severe Bronchial Asthma creating problem in offering a conventional balloon angioplasty to him. “The conventional stents are associated with a renarrowing rate of about 20 to 30 per cent and hence the patient may require another angioplasty or bypass surgery within next six months,” Dr Saxena added.

According to the Saxena, the advent of this new generation stent checked this problem and it was long lasting and durable. He said with the introduction of this new techniques, hundreds of patients could now avoid bypass surgery.


Bus accident victims cremated
Our Correspondent

Batala, July 2
The cremation of Paramjit Kaur (37), a teacher at G.N. Khalsa Senior Secondary School, Narowal here who was among the 14 killed in a bus accident near Joshi Math, Uttaranchal, took place at Vaironangal village near Amonangal on the Batala-Mehta road.

The scene at the cremation ground was touching with the family and children inconsolable.

Almost similar scene could be seen at Byalgarh village on the Batala-Gurdaspur road during the cremation of Gurmukh Singh. The bodies of Sarabjit Singh (24) of Mohalla Khanda Khola, Harpal Singh (60) of Main Mohalla, Amanpreet Kaur (25) of Bhandari Mohalla, Avinash Kaur, Kulwant Singh and Harjeet Singh were also consigned to flames at different places.


Morning train from Delhi sought
Our Correspondent

Muktsar, July 2
The District Consumer Welfare Council has urged the Union Railway Minister to start a new train between New Delhi and Ferozepore that will start from New Delhi in the morning.

In a letter written to the Railway Minister, the council president, Mr Bhagwan Bansal, has said that there was no train that starts from New Delhi in the morning. This inconvenienced those residents of the region who wanted to reach here during daytime. He added that all trains between New Delhi and Ferozepore leave New Delhi either in the evening or during night.


Misrepresentation of plot record alleged
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 2
Mr Hardeep Singh, a resident of Majith Mandi in an affidavit has alleged that a plot khasra No 44, under town planning scheme No 46 has been misrepresented by town planning officials in official records.

In a letter to the Secretary, Vigilance Department, he has stated that the building department has demarcated a road in his plot where as records of the department show that the road is marked out at the adjoining plot khasra No 45.


Moga MC chief’s remand extended

Moga, July 2
(Senior SAD (Badal) leader and local Nagar council President Kuldeep Singh Gill was today remanded in judicial custody till July 12.

He arrested on June 13 in a case of alleged cheating registered against him and was produced in the court of Judicial Magistrate M. Gulzar on expiry of 14-day remand. PTI 


Rakesh Chandra named Deputy Principal Secy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 2
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has made another addition to the staff in his office. Mr Rakesh Chandra has been appointed Deputy Principal Secretary in the CM’s office. He is from the CRPF on deputation with the Punjab Government, it is learnt. He belongs to Jalandhar and was serving as Commandant (Senior scale) in the CRPF at Srinagar before joining the Chief Minister’s office.

No work has been allocated to him yet. But it appears that he will deal with the matters pertaining to the police and security etc. He is the second Deputy Principal Secretary in the CM’s office after Mr Rakesh Ahir, a PCS officer.


Phone facility to Addl Secys withdrawn
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 2
There is a resentment among senior officers as the Punjab Government has withdrawn the direct telephone facility to officers up to the rank of Additional Secretary. Mainly, PCS officers have been affected by this decision.

Sources said the PCS Officers Association, which tried to contact the Chief Secretary on this issue today, had earlier also lodged a protest against the move to withdraw the telephone facility to Additional Secretaries etc. The Chief Secretary had said he would look into the matter. The sources said the facility was withdrawn yesterday.

Earlier, the government had fixed a telephone bill limit of Rs 1,000 per month in case of Additional Secretaries. A spokesman for the PCS Officers Association said the functioning of the government would be affected because of the denial of direct access to Additional Secretaries. He said these officers had to collect information from the field by contacting officers posted there to furnish information to Administrative Secretaries and also to do file work. Now such information would be invariably delayed.

Moreover, the denial of this facility had been linked with the rank of the officer and not to the seat on he or she is working. For instance if a Special Secretary is posted on one particular seat, he would be entitled for the telephone facility. But in case of the appointment of an Additional Secretary on the same seat, there will be no such facility.

The association has prepared a memorandum for submission to the Chief Secretary with a request to restore the telephone facility.

The association said Internet connection was available up to the Superintendent level in the secretariat. This was of no use as it could not be used for obtaining information from the field. A lot of money had been wasted on it, it added.


Survey to gauge tourist potential
Our Correspondent

Ropar, July 2
The Deputy Commissioner here, Ms Seema Jain, today surveyed the areas around Nangal, which have the potential of being developed as picnic spots. She visited various spots on the banks of Nangal Dam lake and asked the local authorities about the chances of developing these into tourist attractions. She was accompanied by SDM, Anandpur Sahib, and local tehsildars.

The Nangal Dam lake on Sutlej river is spread over an area of about six km. The town is settled on both banks of the lake. Despite the scenic beauty of the lake, the tourism potential of the lake lies untapped. The local citizens had earlier requested the Deputy Commissioner to develop certain tourist spots around the lake to revive the sagging economy of the town. The economy of the employee-dominated Nangal town has been in doldrums due to the closure of the PNFC and the decreasing profits of the National Fertilisers Limited, which have been the two main units in the area.


Man held for son-in-law’s murder
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 2
The district police today arrested Tara Chand, father-in-law of Raman, for allegedly murdering Raman yesterday. Tara Chand and his two sons Babla and Sona were the co-accused in the case.

Raman was allegedly found murdered at his in-laws house in the Muslim Ganj area in the city yesterday. While the in-laws stated that Raman had committed suicide, the mother of the deceased alleged in her complaint that he was murdered by his father-in-law Tara Chand and brother-in-laws Babla and Sona.

Dr S.K. Kalia, SP, confirmed the arrest of Tara Chand.


Teachers resent govt decisions
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, July 2
The district unit of the Democratic Teachers Front (DTF) has said that some of the decisions taken by the state government like privatisation of some departments, scrapping of some vacant posts and a ban on payment of dearness allowance were anti-employee and would have an adverse effect on working.

Mr Paramjeet Singh, president of the DTF, said at a meeting here yesterday that due to these decisions hardships of employees of various departments would increase. He said these decisions were unjustified and unwanted. The DTF would urge the authorities concerned to withdraw these decisions.

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