Thursday, July 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Amol Gill’s answersheet was not evaluated
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 10
The Punjab Vigilance Department today produced another answersheet of Amol Gill, daughter of Punjab and Haryana High Court Judge, Justice Amarbir Singh Gill, showing marks recorded on the title page even though the answersheet had not been evaluated.

In another related development, the Sessions court granted regular bail to two accused teachers — Prof Gurpal Singh of the Department of Law of the Punjabi University and Dr Jagdish Kalra of the Department of English of Panjab University.

The Vigilance Department some days ago produced answersheets of Law and English papers of Amol Gill regarding which it was alleged that overwriting had been done to increase the marks of Amol by examiners Prof Gurpal Singh and Dr Kalra.

Vigilance personnel today showed the Punjabi paper’s answersheet of Amol Gill in the court of District and Sessions Judge S. N. Aggarwal. It was evaluated by Dr Amarjit Singh Kang, Chairman, Department of Punjabi in the Kurukshetra University, whose application for anticipatory bail was also heard by the court. It was alleged that the examiner did not evaluated the answersheet but awarded 131 out of 150 marks to the candidate by recording it them on the title page of the answersheet.

The Vigilance Department also produced another answersheet of a candidate checked by Kang to prove that he had indulged in overwriting and cutting to help certain candidates. Public prosecutor Vijay K. Markan also disclosed that suspended PPSC Chairman Ravi Sidhu during interrogation at Mohali on July 2 confessed that he used to get papers set and checked by Kang. public prosecutor said Sidhu had also claimed that he used to call Kang to Chandigarh at his convenience and directing him in respect of marks award to a particular candidate. He also disclosed that Sidhu had revealed that Punjabi papers answersheets of PCS (Executive) and (Judicial) besides BDPO’s were sent by him to Kang for evaluation in 1998 and 2000.

It was argued by the prosecution that custodial interrogation of Kang was required to know identity of those whom he awarded marks unfairly at the behest of Sidhu. Kang’s counsel claimed that his client was not involved in the tampering of record nor any evidence had come to light that he had been offered bribe to do any work. Sessions Judge S. N. Aggarwal rejected the anticipatory bail application saying it could not be granted in view of the seriousness of the case.

Meanwhile the Sessions Judge granted regular bail to Prof Gurpal Singh and Dr Kalra. Arguing Prof Singh’s case his counsel said there was no evidence that his client had tampered with answersheets. He also claimed his client had no means to identify the answersheet of Amol Gill. Dr Kalra’s counsel said his client had been arrested, interrogated, underwent police remand and even remanded in judicial custody and no recovery was to be made against him.

The prosecution claimed that both examiners had admitted, during interrogation, that they had increased marks of several candidates at the behest of the suspended PPSC Chairman. It also produced some more answersheets in support of its claim.


Withdrawal of surety allowed in Sidhu case
Tribune News Service

Ropar, July 10
Mr A. S. Kathuria, Special Judge, Ropar, today allowed the application moved by Mr Bhupinder Singh Sidhu, surety, for the withdrawal of bail bonds furnished by him for the release of Ravinder Pal Singh Sidhu, suspended Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC), on bail in a case registered against Sidhu by the Vigilance Bureau on March 25 at SAS Nagar.

Sidhu was ordered to be released on bail by Mr Maghar Khan, Sessions Judge, Ropar, on June 26, after furnishing the bail bonds of Rs 5,00,000 and a surety of the like amount.

Counsel for the applicant said that in this respect the statement of Mr Bhupinder Singh Sidhu was recorded and the surety was discharged by the court.

In his application, filed through his counsel, Mr Bhupinder Singh Sidhu has stated that he had furnished bail bonds for Rs 5 lakh for the release of Ravi Sidhu on bail and the same were accepted in the case by the court. He said since Ravi Sidhu was still in custody, he should be allowed to withdraw the bail bonds.

Another allegation levelled by the applicant is that he has been snubbed by some senior police officer for standing surety and he apprehends that he may be falsely implicated in a case.

The applicant prayed to the court that since the accused was present in the court today, he should be allowed to withdraw the bail bonds as he was no longer interested in standing surety for Sidhu.


Ravi Sidhu’s ‘touts’ granted regular bail
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 10
Three alleged ‘touts’ of suspended PPSC Chairman Ravinder Paul Singh Sidhu, Randhir Singh Dheera, Paramjit Singh Pammi and Prem Sagar — today benefited from the failure of the state Vigilance Department to present a charge sheet against them in 60 days in the Sessions Court. The court granted regular bail on this technical count.

Counsels of the three accused claimed that their clients were eligible for relief under Section 167 of the CrPC under which the prosecution should have submitted their charge sheets within 60 days. The counsels claimed that the offences made out against them were such that a challan should have been presented in sixty days time.

The counsels said provisions of forgery were not applicable on their clients. The prosecution, however, maintained that all three were covered under Section 120(b) (conspiracy) and should not be released. Though District and Sessions Judge S.N. Aggarwal granted regular bail to the accused, he took the prosecution to task asking why it had not prepared a challan in the case till now. The Judge also asked the prosecution to submit a chart of the work done by it during the past 60 days. Randhir Singh Dheera had earlier given a statement implicating both Paramjit Singh Pammi and Prem Sagar while claiming that they had collected money from candidates aspiring for various posts advertised by the PPSC.

Meanwhile, in another related development, Duty Magistrate Gopal Arora today remanded former PPSC Secretary Pritpal Singh in judicial custody till July 24. 


PCMS docs decry govt move
Denial of rural service benefit for admission
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 10
The PCMS Association has condemned the government move to deny rural service benefit for admission to postgraduate courses to all doctors selected during the tenure of Ravi Sidhu as PPSC Chairman, though they have passed the PG entrance test. The association is already on the warpath against the blanket termination of 872 doctors.

In a press note issued here today Dr Hardeep Singh, and Dr Surinder Singla, president and general secretary respectively of the association, termed the move as undemocratic as these doctors had served the rural areas for more than three years according to the eligibility criteria for 60% seats for the PCMS.

They demanded that the rural service benefit should not be withdrawn and NOCs should be issued to these doctors. They also warned the government that the blanket termination of all 872 doctors selected in the PCMS during the past five years was against the principles of natural justice and would not be tolerated.

Until now no allegations had been made about the selection of doctors. None of the approvers or touts of Mr Sidhu had ever mentioned about the payment of bribes for PCMS selections. The screening test in 1997 was started on the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to shortlist the number of candidates for interviews. This move helped to decrease the monopoly of Mr Sidhu to make selections on the basis of interviews alone. Thereafter interviews were conducted by experts in different medical specialties from the PGI, Chandigarh; Christian Medical College, the DMC, and other reputed government medical colleges of Punjab. Moreover all these doctors had cleared competitions at each step of their career whether it was the PMT or five and a half years of rigorous training of medicine and university examinations. Further, most of them had already cleared their probation periods and were confirmed.

The IMA had also extended full support to the PCMS doctors and would not cooperate with the government if their doctor colleagues were terminated.

An emergency meeting of the association had been called on July 14 at Ludhiana to chalk out the future line of action.


PCMS association suspends stir
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 10
With an assurance from the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Amarinder Singh, that the uncertainty over the issue of dismissal of 872 doctors selected during the tenure of Mr Ravi Sidhu would be ended by expediting the scrutiny, the PCMS Association, Punjab, has decided to temporarily suspend its agitation.

The PCMS doctors today staged a dharna outside Punjab Bhavan to protest against the proposed move of the government to dismiss the services of 872 doctors selected during the tenure of Mr Ravi Sidhu.

The Chief Minister met a deputation of the agitating doctors led by Dr M.S. Randhawa, patron of PCMSA, Mr O. P. S. Kande from IMA, Punjab, and Dr Navtej Pal, President of the Affected Doctors Association.

Dr Randhawa, said that the Chief Minister assured them that he had directed the Health Minister to expedite the scrutiny of doctors selected during Mr Ravi Sidhu’s tenure, within the next two days so that the uncertainty could be ended. He added that Mr Amarinder Singh had asked the Health Minister to provisionally allow all regular PCMS doctors to appear for counselling to be held at Faridkot for admission to post-graduate courses.

Mr Randhawa, said that following the assurance from the Chief Minister, they had decided to temporarily suspend their agitation.


PSEB in deep fiscal crisis
Low water level hits generation
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 10
The financial and power crises in the PSEB has deepened with the closure of certain hydro-based power generation units because of the lower water level in certain dams.

Worried over the acute crisis, the PSEB Engineers Association has sent an SOS to the Chairman and Members of the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission, asking it to come to the rescue of the board. The association has urged the commission to announce tariff for the agriculture sector with effect from April 1 to increase cash flow to the board which has been meeting its financial liabilities on a day-to-day basis.

Mr Padamjit Singh, spokesman for the association said there was no legal obligation or binding on the commission to issue a tariff order only in one instalment. The tariff order could be issued in two instalments. An interim order should be issued immediately pending the final one which could be issued after completing the public hearings in progress. As the state government was not in a position to provide any subsidy to the board against free supply to the agriculture sector, there was no alternative except the commission coming to the help of the board.

The board bought power worth Rs 135 crore from the NTPC and other sources in June and the payment of this bill was to be made this month. Keeping in view the board’s poor financial health, the NTPC had agreed to take the bill in four instalments. The first instalment was paid on July 6 and the second was to be paid on July 13 and the third and fourth on July 20 and July 27, respectively but the Board had no adequate cash to do so.

As the water level in the Ranjit Sagar dam had gone down, it had necessitated the closure of two out of the three power generating machines, causing a generation loss of 40 lakh units a day. There was a 40-MW generation loss of the Shanan Hydroelectric project due to a lesser inflow the Mukerian Hydroelectric Generating units were operating at 137 MW against their capacity of 207 MW due to a low water level in the Pong dam.

The overall loss was about 300 MW or say 75 lakh units daily. To compensate this loss, the board had to purchase power from the NTPC and other sources which was proving costly. The board had to resort to power cuts in the industrial and domestic sectors to provide the agriculture sector with power free of cost. These power cuts would cause a loss of Rs 50 crore to the board because of reduced billing.

Informed sources said rural feeders were being subjected to power cuts varying between eight and 10 hours daily. Though the PSEB claimed that it had been ensuring power supply to tubewells for nine hours daily, reports emerging from the field said that the average power supply to tubewells ranged between four and six hours daily. Urban Industrial areas were being subjected to power cuts for two hours daily. The power crisis was being managed by resorting to power cuts both in the domestic and industrial sectors. There was also the problem of ensuring coal supply to thermal units in the face of a financial crisis.


AISSF memo on Badal sent to prachar panel
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 10
Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti has referred the memorandum of the All-India Sikh Students Federation to the Dharam Prachar Committee (DPC) of the SGPC. The memorandum urged the Sikh clergy to summon Mr Parkash Singh Badal, a former Punjab Chief Minister for participating in hawan in violation of Sikh traditions.

Jathedar Vedanti said he would take a decision after receiving recommendations of the DPC. Earlier, Mr Harminder Singh Gill, president, AISSF submitted a memorandum along with photographs of Mr Badal, participating in the ‘hawan’ to Jathedar Vedanti at the Akal Takht secretariat.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the SGPC chief, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar may also approach Jathedar Vedanti seeking summoning of Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, President Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal for his statement, alleging that he (Mr Badungar) had links with excommunicated Sikh, Baba Piara Singh Bhaniara. Sources close to Mr Badungar said that it could be a fit case for summoning Mr Tohra at Akal Takht which already had bailed out Mr Badungar for having any relations with Baba Bhaniara.

On the other hand, the memorandum of the AISSF alleged that Sikh faith faced danger not from outside but from within when the president of the Shiromani Akali Dal was found participating in ‘hawans’ organised by Chanderaswami etc. The memorandum further alleged that during his five-year term as Chief Minister, Mr Badal had allowed denigration of the Akal Takht. He had taken a number of decisions which were against the Sikh faith. He said the Akali Dal (Badal) which should have acted as custodian of the Sikh ‘rehat maryada’, itself violated the traditions for personal gains.

The AISSF alleged that more than 70 per cent Sikh youth had become patit (apostate) due to “anti-Panthic” activities of the so-called Akali leaders. Mr Gill said that it was a matter of great concern that Mr Sucha Singh Langah, district president SAD (Gurdaspur) who is also a member of the SGPC organised 501 ‘paths’ of Ramayana at Dhariwal.

The AISSF which, still considers, Bhai Ranjit Singh ‘real Jathedar’ of Akal Takht’ submitted the memorandum to the Jathedar. Mr Gill said since he (Jathedar Vedanti) had office of Akal Takht these days, so the memorandum was being submitted to him.


Baba Bhaniara returns to village
Says he is victim of political rivalry

Sushil Goyal and Lalit Mohan

Dhamana (Ropar), July 10
After spending nine months in jail, controversial Baba Piara Singh Bhaniara returned to his native Dhamana village amidst tight security at about 2.30 p.m. today. Earlier, he was released from Patiala jail after an Anandpur Sahib court granted him bail yesterday.

The Baba, who at one time used to receive thousands of followers in the dera from across the state, got a lukewarm response from local residents. The one-time followers of the Baba also seemed to have deserted him as no one visited him though it was widely publicised by the print media that he would reach his native village today.

However, despite all this, the Baba seemed to be in high spirits as he spoke to mediapersons at his palatial house, claiming that he was a victim of political rivalry.

Levelling allegations at the previous Badal government, the Baba claimed that since he did not help the Akalis in the elections, they conspired to tarnish his image. He alleged that to curb his growing popularity, the Akali government also demolished his dera in a planned manner and evicted him from that place where he had been residing for the past more than 20 years and for which “girdawaris” were entered in the revenue record in his name.

To a query, the Baba claimed that he would revive his dera irrespective of the hurdles “to be created by the government”. He said he had respect for all religions and vehemently criticised the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib.

He said he had been organising “akhand path” of Guru Granth Sahib for the past 20 years and could never indulge in the burning of “birs”. If any of his followers or family members committed this sin, he or she should be shot at a public place, he added.

With regard to the involvement of his son in the burning of birs, he claimed that his son had been falsely implicated in the case. He said his son should be shot if found guilty.

The Baba alleged that he had been falsely implicated in various cases under political pressure of the then Akali government. He said the police had no ill-will against him.

About his Bhavsagar Samundar Granth, which was banned by the Akali government, he said he would take legal recourse to get the ban lifted. “I will present evidence in the court against politicians who at one time endorsed my granth by visiting my dera and later actively participated in the imposition of the ban on it. He also refuted the allegation that the Congress had a hand in the preparation of his granth.

About the legal notice to him by the SGPC President, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, the Baba said he would give a proper reply to the notice after receiving the same. With regard to the visit of Mr Badungar to his dera, he said lakhs of people were witness to the visit of the current SGPC President.

Due to an impression of threat to the life of the Baba, the police had made elaborate security arrangements around him. The SSP, Ropar, Mr Gurpreet Singh Bhullar, said a Head Constable and three constables had been permanently posted at the residence of the Baba, while two security personnel would always accompany him wherever he went.


FCI staff object to probe panel
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 10
Even as the controversy raised by the scam relating to the diversion of export category rice to domestic market and recruitment of security guards for godowns of the Food Corporation of India is yet to settle down, the constitution of a departmental panel to probe the corruption charges on a senior official by the FCI despite the state Vigilance Bureau already conducting an inquiry into the matter has raised many eyebrows.

What has surprised many is the fact that the FCI has never constituted a panel to probe corruption charges on any official who has fallen into the net of the Vigilance Bureau.

Official sources said a Joint Manager (vigilance) at the Regional office in Chandigarh, Ravinder Kumar Jain, fell into the vigilance net on May 31 while accepting bribe from rice mill owners of the region. Rs 1.80 lakh was seized from him and his associate Vinod Kumar, Assistant Manager (quality Control).

A section of employees, who were agitated over the “soft attitude of the FCI management” in case alleged that even though one month had passed since the incident the authorities concerned had failed to hand over the case to the CBI.

Instead of handing over the case to the CBI, as had been the precedence so far, the FCI authorities had constituted a three-member departmental panel to probe the corruption charges. Mr Baljinder Singh Grewal, SP (vigilance), Bathinda, confirmed that a report in connection with the arrest of Ravinder Kumar Jain in the bribery case had been sent to the Vigilance Bureau headquarters at Chandigarh and subsequently to the FCI authorities for necessary action.

He said that it was up to the FCI whether they wanted to hand over the case to the CBI or wanted the Vigilance Bureau to continue with its probe.

A section of employees said that constitution of the departmental pannel was a clear indication that the FCI wanted to save the accused. They said that almost all corruption cases were always probed by the CBI and some employees were still facing trials in cases being probed by the CBI.

Mr Surinder Singh, Manager (vigilance) and head of the panel, who alongwith two Chandigarh-based FCI officials is here since yesterday, said the panel would also probe into the rice-diversion scam apart from the corruption charges on Ravinder Kumar Jain. He, however, refused to divulge any further information on the subject.

The employees have also alleged that the FCI authorities were adopting double standards in corruption cases. They said that in some cases, certain employees who were indicted by the CBI and were subsequently acquitted by the court had not been reinstated so far, but in Ravinder Kumar Jain case a special panel, comprising department officials, was extending him all favours.

When contacted Mr V.K. Singh, Senior Regional Manager, FCI, Punjab region, said the panel constituted by the FCI was not holding a parallel inquiry into the corruption charges. He added that the panel was constituted by the headquarters to verify the facts mentioned in the report submitted by a two-member panel constituted by the regional office to probe the rice-diversion scam.


Ex-ministers, MLAs ready to join Tohra group
Our Correspondent

SAS Nagar, July 10
Certain former ministers, MLAs and SGPC members belonging to the Shiromani Akali Dal are willing to join the Tohra group. Meeting with them has been held and soon these persons will be brought in front of the public.

This was stated by Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, former MP and general secretary of the AISAD, while talking to mediapersons here today.

He said the elections to the Delhi Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee were the first elections of the Sikhs after Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra had separated. The defeat of the Badal group had proved that the Sikh sangat was in favour of Mr Tohra.

Mr Chandumajra said keeping in mind the present situation in Punjab it was essential to strengthen the party and for that it would have to be reorganised.

He said the AISAD welcomed the Congress Government’s move to take action against corrupt officials but it had failed to talk about development in the state.


HC verdict snub to CM, says Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 10
SAD President, Parkash Singh Badal today described the decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on panchayat elections as a “ moral defeat and personal snub to Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh and a massive political blow to the designs of the ruling party to subvert normal democratic processes in the state”.

The former Chief Minister hailed the verdict as vindication of the SAD stand on democratic institutions. The conspiracy of the ruling party to subvert democracy in the state stood exposed and defeated.


Rs 2-lakh stationery scam in MC
EO’s involvement alleged; DC orders inquiry
Surinder Bhardwaj

Fatehgarh Sahib, July 10
Hardly had the dust over the house tax scam in the council settled, when another alleged scam in placing orders for the stationery for the council has come to light.

One of the firms of Sangrur, which had submitted tender forms, in a complaint to the Deputy Commissioner has made serious allegations against the Executive Officer in placing the orders. The Deputy Commissioner has marked an inquiry in to the case. The inquiry will be conducted by the ADC.

The firm has mentioned that the council, through some vernacular papers, had floated tenders for stationery items worth Rs 2 lakh. The tenders were opened on June 6 in the presence of all four parties, which had filled the tenders forms. Rates quoted by the parties were read out. They alleged that the minimum rates read out by the EO at that time were: for 02 register, Rs 12.90; for 015, Rs 89 (per hundred); for TS-5, Rs 69 (each); for MW-4, Rs 1.5 (each) etc. But to their surprise the EO changed the tender forms and placed the orders at exorbitant rates of Rs 24 for 02 register; Rs 170 (per hundred) for 015 register, Rs 300 (each) for TS-5, Rs 5 (each) for MW4 etc. The firm has alleged that the EO has taken a huge amount as commission for placing orders at such high rates thus causing a loss to the council.

According to the firm, earlier the council used to place orders for stationery worth Rs 2 lakh in a year as per requirement and in instalments, but this EO has placed the order in one go and surprisingly orders have been placed for even those stationery items which will be used after 8 to 10 years.

When contacted, the EO said that all allegations were false and he had placed orders at lesser rates as compared the previous years. He said when this party did not get the order, it started raising hue and cry. He said he had given the order to that party whose rates were the lowest. Moreover, the tenders were opened in the presence of all the parties, he said.

The DC said he had received a complaint against the MC and had marked an inquiry by the ADC.

Meanwhile, majority of the councillors have demanded that all scams should be thoroughly probed as these have damaged the reputation of the council and the councillors. They have demanded that the supply of stationery should not be accepted and the payment should not be released till the inquiry is completed.


Man posing as CBI officer charge-sheeted
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 10
The police has charge-sheeted Parveen Kumar Sabharwal who was arrested on June 26 for posing as an Assistant Director of the CBI. This is for the first time that a person who is still in police remand has been charge-sheeted.

The accused had been in police custody in connection with various cases registered against him since he was arrested. He had duped several unemployed persons of lakhs of rupees on the pretext of getting them lucrative jobs in various departments, including the FCI.

He had collected Rs 9 lakh on the pretext of sending a youth abroad and in another case, he extracted more than Rs 7lakh for providing route permit for buses by impersonating as the Batalas.

Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh, SP (City), said the identity card seized from his possession had been sent to the CBI, New Delhi, for verification and was found to be fake. He had even managed to get security on the orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The authorities of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha said the MLA vehicle permission card seized from his possession was fake and had not been issued from the secretariat.

Stickers for the use of red light and black car films, verified from the office of the ADGP (Security), and found to be fake.

The case diary in his possession was prepared by forging the signatures of the then DSP (City).


AIDS cases on the rise
Tribune News Service

Cases of AIDS and hepatitis B are on the rise in Punjab. Forty cases of AIDS were reported during the year 2001-2002 in the state compared to the previous year’s figure of 14.

Earlier, districts like Bathinda, Ferozepore and Jalandhar were free from cases of AIDS. But during the last financial year even AIDS cases have been reported from these districts. Gurdaspur is the most-affected district as far as AIDS cases are concerned. From that district, during last year 16 cases were reported whereas the number of cases in that district during 2000-01 was seven and before that only four.

In Bathinda and Ferozepore districts, no case of AIDS was reported during 1999-2000 and 2000-2001, but during the last financial year the number of cases reported from these districts was two and one, respectively. Kapurthala is also among the worst-affected districts. Eleven cases of AIDS were reported from that district last year.

The number of AIDS cases last year in other districts was four in Jalandhar and six in Amritsar. No such case was reported from districts like Moga, Muktsar, Mansa, Patiala, Nawanshahr, Ropar, Sangrur, Patiala, Fatehgarh Sahib and Hoshiarpur.

As many as 851 cases of hepatitis B were reported during the last financial year from various districts in Punjab. However, the number was less than the 928 cases reported during the 2000-01 financial year. But the number of these cases in 1999-2000 was only 375. Ludhiana district, with the detection of 367 cases during the financial year, topped the list of hepatitis cases. It was followed by Amritsar with 158, Jalandhar 91, Patiala 84 and Nawanshahr 49. Except Muktsar, no district has been free from this disease.


From housewives to successful entrepreneurs
Sukant Deepak

Patiala, July 10
They had never worked before, never had the opportunity. Unsure of their potential, their entire lives had been spent in the shadows of their menfolk they were dependent on for economic security and a sense of identity. But six weeks is sometimes enough time for a metamorphosis in the life of these 500- odd rural women are who not just self-reliant now but also possess a certain confidence that comes from economic self-dependence.

The Patiala Handicraft Handloom Co-operative Industrial Society, Patiala, established in 1997 had a humble beginning when for two years its members, went village to village to train rural women in the traditional craft of Phulkari and other handicraft items. Committed to uplift the weaker sections of rural women, the society strives to upgrade the designs and technical skills of these women with a view of making their products marketable so that they can start their own ventures or attach themselves with the society. The society also makes sure that the women are not duped by middlemen who generally take home a lion's share by selling their products to showrooms around the country.

At a token fee of Rs 50, these women are trained not just in the traditional handicrafts of Punjab but also in glass painting, nib painting, making soft toy and folders with a traditional essence and contemporary look.

Instrumental behind the project, President of the society, Ms Rekha Mann, winner of the National Mahila Excellence Award for the year 1996 has been actively involved in imparting training in the fields of dying arts of Punjab. "After an extensive survey of the villages of Punjab I realised the immense potential of the rural women of this state, especially in traditional crafts. What was needed was to provide them with a platter and proper guidance so that they could finish their products in a way that is demanded by the market." she says.

Visibly happy with the recognition of their work by the Small Industrial Development Bank of India which has commissioned her society to provide a six week programme to train 25 unemployed women under the Women Entrepreneur Development Programme (WEDP) on soft toys and hand embroidery, Ms Mann stresses that after the initial lull in orders, work has started pouring in, including orders from UP Handloom and Traditional Arts showrooms around the country, besides a export project titled "Revival of Phulkari" commissioned by Cottage Industry, New Delhi. Being the first society in North India to be sanctioned ARWIND (Assistant to Rural Women in Non Farm Development) for training 50 rural women in skill upgradation, tailoring and design development at the society's workshop in village Daru Kutta here, she is sure that in spite of dearth in funds, the society will be able to enroll more rural women shortly.


25-cr heritage village project scrapped
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, July 10
The Punjab government has decided to scrap Rs 25 crore project of heritage village Pholriwal village near here by the NRI Sabha, Punjab. Residents of Pholriwal had approached Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh alleging that their land was acquired on lease for 25 years by the sabha two years ago without taking into account their objections against the project.

Mr Balbir Singh, local MP and vice patron of the NRI Sabha, Punjab, stated here that the Punjab cabinet had decided to scrap the project since it involved legal complications and crores of wasteful expenditure.

He said that the residents had approached the Sabha last month and wanted their land restored to them since the project was a meaningless exercise having no real benefit for the NRIs. Mr Balbir Singh added that the sabha had recommended to the state government not to go ahead with the project, which later was accepted by the state cabinet at its last meeting.


Seminar on Sehajdhari issue
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 10
Prompted by Akal Takht Jathedar’s communique to the Prime Minister on the Sehajdhari issue, radical Sikh groups have come together to discuss the issue.

The Akal Federation has decided to hold a seminar in this regard here on July 13 with the support of the Dal Khalsa. The Jathedar of Akal Takht, Mr Joginder Singh, will preside.

Though the process of the SGPC elections has been set in motion, but it is not yet clear on the voting issue. The state government has forwarded a Cabinet resolution, advocating the Sehajdharis’ right to vote but the Central Government is yet to give its verdict on the matter.

Mr Narain Singh, organiser of the seminar, said the seminar participants included Mr Gurtej Singh, Bhai Joginder Singh Talwara, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur, Dr Harjinder Singh Dilgheer and Jathedar Kuldeep Singh Wadala.


Hike in house tax likely
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 10
The Municipal Corporation Commissioner, Mr Jasbir Singh Bir, has hinted at an increase in house tax.

Speaking at the first meeting of the House today he blamed the Local Bodies Department for banning new projects.

The corporation’s liabilities amount to nearly Rs 10 crore towards various works which had been either completed or were in the process of completion.

However, he noted that the government owed Rs 20 crore to the coproration which if cleared, could improve the financial health of the local body.

The octroi collection in May and June was Rs 1.29 crore less than the amount during the corresponding period last year.

He blamed the deflation in income to the closure of trade between India and Pakistan and fear of war.


Revision of electoral rolls from July 15
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, July 10
A special month-long house-to-house drive to revise electoral rolls of the Kharar constituency will start from July 15. The drive, which is aimed at streamlining the voting process, will be updating the requisite information regarding the voters residing in this constituency.

Spearheaded by the Senior District Magistrate SAS Nagar, the process will be undertaken with the help of government school teachers and some employees of the Municipal Council.

Talking to the Chandigarh Tribune, the SDM Mr Darshan Singh Sandhu, stated that this will be a valid opportunity for all those who want to update information about voters in the family.

The drive is also likely to reduce the large number of discrepancies regarding wrong names on voter lists or of names of persons who are not residents of that particular address. These discrepancies had come to light during the last elections and even during the last revision process.


Punjab farmers opt for medicinal crops
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 10
A number of farmers in Punjab have opted to try their luck by starting cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants. Through the Punjab Science and Technology Council, they have tied up with a private company which has given “buy-back” guarantee of the stuff produced by farmers.

It is for the first time that farmers in Punjab have decided to go ahead in this field. In fact, there is vast scope in this area as there is a good demand for medicinal and aromatic plants in the international market. China has been very successful and known for contributing about 30 per cent in the medicinal world market. However, India is far behind in this area with only 6 per cent share in the world market though in India ayurvedic medicines have been used for centuries.

Dr S.S. Marwaha, Director of the council, said that there was a lot of demand for medicinal material in the world market. A large number of companies in India had started approaching the farmers for growing such medicinal plants. Gone were the days when such material was available in bulk in forests.

“A good opportunity has come for farmers of Punjab and they should cash in on it”, Dr Marwaha said. The return was very good, he added. Farmers could earn up to Rs 40,000 from one acre of crop of medicinal plants in a year. This was the minimum which the company had assured, he added. However, the return could be still better.

Experts of the company, Dr Marwaha said, would come to Punjab on July 15 for starting the process of sowing of various medicinal and aromatic crops. Quality seeds would be provided by the company on a payment basis. Among the farmers opting for the cultivation of medicinal plants were 19 from the Talwara area, 10 from Ropar, one each from Dera Bassi and Fatehgarh Sahib, two each from Malout and Abohar, four each from Muktsar, Amritsar, Ferozepore and Bathinda. Besides, the Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology had offered 10 acres of land for this purpose. An agreement had been signed by each farmer with the company.

Among the medicinal plants to be grown in Punjab were ashwagandha, bhumi amla, brahmi while aromatic plants were marigold, rose, spearmint, peppermint etc.

He said medicinal crops would be sown keeping in view the agro-climatic conditions. Soil and water had been tested by company experts before signing the agreements. Almost all climatic zones had been covered for growing such crops. “I am hopeful that farmers will be successful on this front and there is tremendous scope for diversification in this area”, Dr Marwaha added.


Rs 90 lakh for slum development
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, July 10
The local municipal corporation (MC) has passed a Rs 105.50 crore annual Budget for 2002-2003 with a special provision for Rs 90 lakh for development of slums.

The meeting of the MC house started with paying tributes to the mother of the Mayor, Dhirubhai Ambani and two sewermen by observing two minute’s silence. Later, the Mayor, Mr Surinder Mahey announced the Budget proposals which were passed by the House. A provision for Rs 90 lakh was made for the development of slum colonies.

A Budgetary provision was made to spend Rs 60 lakh on the computerisation of all departments.

While Rs 50.23 crore would be spent on development works, a provision for Rs 55.27 crore was made for the establishment and contingent expenditures. The main source of revenue receipt, according to the Budget, was the Octroi Department which was proposed to collect Rs 53 crore while an amount of Rs 14 crore would be generated through the sale of MC properties during the current financial year.

The target for house tax collection was enhanced to Rs 8 crore. Talking to reporters, Mr Mahey said they had decided to improve the functioning of the civic body by going in for the computerisation of all departments. This would reduce file work and maintenance of records. “The computerisation of records will enable us to monitor the status of all development projects and revenue receipts. We have decided to provide all the tax rates and billing on our website which will be launched shortly,” he said adding that drinking water supply and installation of street lights would be the first priority.


Revenue officials strike work
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, July 10
On a call given by the Punjab Revenue Officers Association, officials of the Revenue Department of the district today observed a strike in protest against the recent arrest of naib tehsildars and registry clerks by the Vigilance Bureau.

Terming the arrests as an “illegal” exercise, Mr Gurmeet Singh Nadala, general secretary of the association, alleged that the Vigilance Bureau officials had arrested the revenue officials without any proof of taking bribe from the public.

“Who is responsible for the damage caused to the reputation of those officials, who had been arrested without any fault. The Vigilance Bureau should tell the people on which basis the arrests were affected,” he said.

He said the strike would continue till Friday and next course of action against the ongoing “unjustified and humiliating” VB raids would be taken during the general house meeting of the association scheduled to be held at Ludhiana on July 14.


Robbers’ gang busted; five held
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, July 10
The district police claims to have unearthed a gang of robbers with the arrest of its five members last night and recovered arms and looted goods from their custody.

According to a press release issued by Mr I.S. Randhawa, SP (H), the Gobindgarh police during the campaign against anti-social elements and criminals got information that a gang of robbers armed with weapons are hiding at a tubewell at Ladpur village in the district. The police party headed by the DSP, Amloh, and the SHO, Mandi Gobindgarh, raided the premises and after some chase arrested five youths on the spot. They were identified as Satnam Singh, alias Satta, Sahib Singh, Lakhwinder Singh, alias Laddi, Rajinder Singh, alias Biloo and Sukhbir Singh, alias Roda, residents of Payal in Ludhiana district.

The police claimed that after interrogation they had admitted that they looted five shops in Khamano town by breaking the shutters on the night of July 5 and on the night of July 6, they looted a liquor shop at Khatind village under Amloh police station and they were planning to loot wine shops in Khanna town last night. The police said that a case under Sections 399 and 402, IPC, has been registered at Gobindgarh police station and more incidents of theft and dacoity are likely to be solved after further interrogation.

Besides this, the district police has also launched a campaign, particularly against satta operators, in the district and nabbed many satta agents. Now the big kingpin of the satta has fled the district. The social organisations had been demanding the arrest of these operators, who had opened their shops in the various towns and villages of the district.


Two held, 7 fake stamps seized
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 10
The police apprehended two persons, Gurpreet Singh of Krishna Nagar and Gurdial Singh of East Gobind Nagar, and recovered a stolen motor cycle and fake stamps of different departments from them.

Giving details Mr Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh, S.P. city, said police personnel deputed near the Guru Ram Das Hospital stopped two motor-cycle borne persons who did not possess any documents of the vehicle. On investigation the vehicle was found out to be stolen from Hall Gate about 10 months back. The police also found seven fake stamps of different officers of various departments with five fake driving licenses, and three registration certificates (RG) from Gurdial who was on the pillion. The police has registered the case against the two persons.

Meanwhile, on a tip-off the district police today seized a large number of pirated CDs of Hindi films and pornographic films and arrested one Karan Kumar of the Karan recording centre at Hathi Gate here. This information was given by Mr Kunwar Vijay Partap Singh, SP city-I.


Undertrial escapes from police custody
Our Correspondent

Abohar, July 10
Partap Singh, who has been facing trial at the district courts for smuggling heroine, escaped from police custody yesterday.

Sources said Partap Singh had been nabbed by the police a few months ago for being in possession of 15 kg of heroin.

Partap Singh was produced in the district courts yesterday in connection with a murder case registered against him at Khuyiansanwer police station in this subdivision. Reports said he managed to visit his native village Pakki on the Abohar-Malout road in violation of the rules and procedures laid down for the undertials. From there, he escaped from police custody.

A case has been registered under Section 223 and 224 of the IPC at Malout police station, 30 km from here.


Fraudster arrested
Our Correspondent

Moga, July 10
The police has arrested Pawan Kumar of this district who was at large for the past several months after cheating and defrauding many. A case under Sections 419, 420, 467, 468 and 120-B of the IPC had earlier been registered against him. In a press note issued here today, the police said Pawan Kumar was wanted in more than 10 cases of cheating.

Mr Mohinder Singh, Sub-Inspector-cum-in charge of the anti-fraud cell, said Pawan Kumar produced his sister-in-law (wife of Satinder Kumar, his brother) before revenue officials instead of his mother-in-law Kaisal Rani and sold her land for Rs 11 lakh.


Man confesses to wife’s murder
Our Correspondent

Moga, July 10
The police has solved the murder case of newly married Minoo Sharma who was stabbed to death while she was travelling in a car with her husband Vikram near Phulowala village in this district on Monday night.

Stating this here today, SSP Virender Kumar said Minoo Sharma’s mother had told the police that she suspected foul play in the murder. She said her son-in-law should also be interrogated as he was involved with another woman.

The husband of the deceased was arrested under Section 302, IPC, and he reportedly confessed to the murder.


2 IT institutes to be closed down
Students warned not to take admission
Tribune News Service

Patiala, July 10
The fate of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Institute of Information and Technology (MRSIIT) here and the Guru Gobind Singh Institute of Information and Technology (GGSIIT) at Talwandi Sabo seems to have been sealed with the Punjabi University authorities today warning students not to be misled by any admission notices and advertisements released by such institutes.

A high-level committee, headed by the Pro Vice-Chancellor and including the Dean (Academics), Dean (Colleges), Registrar and the Head of the Department of Computer Sciences, is already set to meet tomorrow to finalise the procedure whereby the institutes are to be closed down without harming the future of the students studying there.

The university Registrar in a massive late today evening, however, laid to rest any doubts of the students regarding the status of the IT institute on the university campus by saying that the state government had decided that all universities in the state would continue to grant affiliation for IT courses, including BCA, BMIT and MCA to only those colleges which had an existing multi-faculty staff within their respective jurisdiction.

Talking to TNS, the Registrar, Dr K. S. Sidhu, said this effectively meant that the MRSIIT and the GGSIIT Institutes could not remain affiliated to the universities because they were teaching only technical courses. He said the government was clear that no approval or affiliation could be given to any institute, whether new or previously affiliated, which was imparting education only in technical courses. He said these institutes would have to now seek affiliation from the Punjab Technical University (PTU), Jalandhar.

The Registrar today also warned people not to be misled by wrong admission notices and advertisements released by such technical institutions. He said if anyone got himself admitted to any such institute he would be doing so at his own risk and responsibility.

A tug of war is going on over the fate of the technical institutes ever since the ouster of the former Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia. Immediately after taking over office, to acting Vice-Chancellor, Dr N. S. Rattan, had announced that these institutes, opened during the tenure of his predecessor, would have to close shop or take affiliation from the PTU.

This was, however, followed by an agitation by the students of the local MRSIIT, who claimed that the university authorities had assured them that their institute was a part of the university and that the university could not breach its own promise. The students even approached the State Chief Minister demanding that the institute be run from the university campus only. The Vice-Chancellor had formed a committee to finalise how the institute could be closed down without harming the students.


College teachers strike work
Tribune Reporters

Barnala, July 10
Teachers of government-aided colleges of Sangrur district went on strike for two hours and staged dharnas and rallies on college campuses on a call given by the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU) in support of their demands.

According to Prof P. K. Sharma, president of the Sangrur unit of PCCTU, teachers of S. D. College, Barnala, Guru Gobind Singh College, Sanghera, Lal Bahadur Shastri Arya Mahila College, Barnala, Akal Degree College, Mastuana, Guru Teg Bahadur College, Bhawanigarh, Sant Baba Attar Singh Khalsa College, Sandaur, and Desh Bhagat College, Bardwal (Dhuri), organised dharnas and rallies, flaying the Amarinder Singh-led Punjab Government for its alleged anti-private college policies.

The demands of PCCTU include implementation of the pension-cum-gratuity scheme, restoration of grant-in-aid to private colleges to the level of 95 per cent and release of UGC arrears of Rs 21.35 crore.

BATALA: Teachers of all four degree colleges in the town owing allegiance to PCCTU sat on dharnas in front of the offices of their respective principles.

Prof Narinder Rampal, a former president of the Gurdaspur district unit of PCCTU, urged the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to immediately accept the demands of the teachers.

PHAGWARA: On a call given by PCCTU, private college teachers on Wednesday ceased work for two periods, sat on dharnas and held “chetna rallies”.

AMRITSAR: Teachers of the local DAV College on Wednesday held a dharna on the college premises on a call given by PCCTU.


‘College hostel ideal habitat for reptiles’
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 10
Students staying in government medical college hostel are scared after having spotted snakes on the premises. Students have already killed a few snakes and insects spotted in the premises. They said that they killed more than five-foot long pit-viper snake considered the most poisonous in the world and claimed to have seen a cobra. The students said they were told that presence of snakes in the hostel was a normal thing. Students plight is understandable thing and with the arrival of monsoon, the conditions would deteriorate with reptiles coming out of holes.

There are more than 100 gardeners and class IV employees in the college and they instead of attending to their normal work allegedly work in the houses of senior teachers. There is wild growth around the hostel and stagnant water and frogs add to the worry of students and snake too find it an ideal habitat.

Students said that they had paid more than Rs 15,000 for the hostel and other facilities but no facilities were provided to them.

Toilets, bad sewerage, empty common room with no furniture and TV, and a guest room in similar conditions in the name of facilities. Even rooms allotted to students have broken doors and windows. They get these repaired from their own pocket.

“Students collected money and installed water coolers, air-coolers and a telephone in the hostel mess”, said a student. The students wanted the government to open a “zoo” here several animals stray into hostel premises.

Dr O. P. Mahajan, Principal of the college, was not available for comments. He was out of station.


Students threaten to lock school
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, July 10
Residents of Chak Hira Singh Wala (Pakka Khurd) and students of Government Middle School of the village have threatened to lock the school.

The students supported by their parents and the panchayat submitted a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner. Against the requirement of eight teachers, the school has one teacher. If the staff requirement of the school was not fulfilled by July 15, they would lock the school on the next day and block traffic daily for four hours.

Sources in the Education Department revealed that the situation had arisen as the Punjab Government had banned fresh recruitments even as 475 schools upgraded from primary to the middle level last year, were having only one teacher. In this district 24 schools were having only one teacher. Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner, said that the district education officer had been asked to arrange additional staff.

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