Monday, July 22, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



SAD to cash in on ‘Cong failures’
To hold rallies to mobilise public opinion
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 21
After lying low for more than four months, the rank and file of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) has decided to cash in on the discontentment and resentment, which has been growing in every section of society particularly among farmers, employees and traders, allegedly due to the failure of the Congress government in fiscal management.

To generate public opinion in its favour before the panchayat and municipal council elections, the SAD leadership has decided to hold rallies in every nook and corner of the state shortly so that “failures of the Congress government can be exposed”.

Sources close to SAD (Badal) circles pointed out that a section of the SAD leadership was in touch with representatives of various employees’ unions, farmers and traders to assure them that the financial losses which they had been suffering on account of the cut made in salaries and imposition of sales tax on various commodities, including fertilisers, would be compensated when the SAD government returned to power in Punjab.

Sources added that the SAD leadership had also decided to whip the Congress government for its ‘selective’ campaign against corruption. The transfers of key officials of the state intelligence department would also figure prominently in the agenda of items being coined by the SAD leadership to attack the Congress government in the rallies in the coming days.

Former Union Minister and General Secretary, SAD (Badal), Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, talking to TNS on the phone, while confirming the fact that an army of party workers would fan out in every nook and corner of the state to expose the failure of the Congress government, today said the people of Punjab were in desperate need that SAD workers should hold their hands as they had become disappointed with the functioning of Congress government led by Capt Amarinder Singh.

“Instead of extending more benefits to the employees as promised by the Congress party in its manifesto released on the eve of the Assembly elections, huge cuts have been made on their salaries. The farmers, who are reeling under heavy debt, have been forced to pay through their nose as the prices of fertilisers have been hiked due to an increase in the sales tax. This is a clear cut case of cheating the people”, he alleged.

On the other hand, the SAD-BJP combine government implemented the recommendations of the Fourth Pay Commission immediately despite the fact that it put an extra burden of Rs 1200 crore on the financial health of Punjab. The farmers were extended all sorts of facilities so that they could come out of the vicious circle of debt.

The Punjab government had also failed to make arrangements for proper supply of electricity to farmers to run their tubewells. Even the canal water supply had become a scarcity which resulted in the fact that fields had started drying up. The traders had again started facing harassment on account of octroi which had again been imposed in Punjab by the Congress government.

“Can the Congress government name anything which has come up in the past four months and reflect the development face of the government. Can the Congress government functionaries divulge the details of any development plan they have made for the next five years”, asked Mr Badal.

He said SAD had always expressed its solidarity with those who were oppressed by the rulers and now the SAD leadership would fight for the cause of the employees, traders and farmers and would not allow Capt Amarinder Singh and his Cabinet colleagues to snatch away the genuine rights of the people of Punjab.


SAD to counter witch-hunt: Badal
Tribune News Service

Alamgir (Ludhiana), July 21
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) will not take things lying down and “aggressively” counter the “terror campaign” unleashed against its workers by the Congress regime and in this context mobilisation drives are underway across the state, asserts SAD chief Prakash Singh Badal.

He arrived at Alamgir Gurdwara in the afternoon today to attend a rally of circle jathedars and workers of the district. Present on the occasion were SGPC President K. S. Badungar besides Jagdish Singh Garcha, Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, R. S. Talwandi, all MLAs, and Charanjit Singh Atwal, former Speaker, S. P. Gosain, former deputy speaker and A.S. Aliwal, former MP.

Lashing out at the Congress, while talking to TNS, Mr Badal said the entire Congress “terror” campaign against the Akali rank and file was a witch-hunt and the Chief Minister should set his own house in order. “Rooting out corruption is one thing but ordering the police and the Vigilance to frame my party workers was nothing but strong arm tactics and did not behove an elected leader who is the Chief Minister of the state and not his party alone”, he added.

Capt Amarinder Singh should not forget that he is “patronising” the Congressmen who had been indicted by the Lok Pal. Naming Finance Minister Lal Singh, Shamsher Singh Dullo, L.S. Randhawa as the tainted leaders, he said,” Mr Lal Singh had been allotted the Finance portfolio while Mr Dullo could become the PPCC President. “If he (Capt Amarinder Singh) is so sincere in pursuing his anti-graft campaign, why not take action these persons. Even the hard-pressed Vigilance Department does not have to do any home work since the entire record can be obtained from the Lok Pal’s office,” he pointed out.

“Now that the Congress government is in the saddle, it should have no problem in initiating action against them and prove at the same time that all its actions have been impartial. In addition to this, he should also initiate action against two other ministers who had allegedly procured fake degrees,” he added.

Mr Badal said, “The Chief Minister had joined hands with Mr G. S. Tohra and was working to weaken the cause of the Panth. The recent unholy alliance between the Congress and the Tohra faction to win the DSGMC poll was a pointer in this context”. Help was sought from those Congressmen who were reportedly behind the genocide of Sikhs in 1984, he asserted.

“Since I am being seen as the enemy number one of the present regime, I am willing to face any action. There have been instances where people nabbed were coerced to drag my name in the scandals that have come to light”, he revealed.

Replying to a question about his role during Operation Bluestar in a book authored by former Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar Sarbjit Singh, Mr Badal said he had never met the officer and had not read the book. “I can comment only after I go through the contents of the book. All that I can say is that I had no prior information about the operation,” he affirmed.

Mobilisation rallies are scheduled to be held at Kapurthala, Jalandhar and Gurdaspur in the coming days.


Badal ‘trying to derail’ Vigilance probe
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 21
Two Punjab Congress leaders today accused SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal of doing everything possible to derail the Vigilance inquiry into the PPSC scam.

In a joint statement issued here, Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa and Mr Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, both Congress MLAs, said ever since the Congress government headed by Capt Amarinder Singh had declared a war against corruption, Mr Badal had been feeling very uncomfortable.

“The scandal had raised serious doubts regarding the role of Mr Badal and some of his relatives and their links with suspended PPSC chief Ravi Sidhu. They said since Mr Badal had failed to fight back politically, he had begun to question the fairness of the Vigilance inquiry. His demand for handing over the inquiry into the scam to the CBI had to be seen in the same context, they said. “As he had been unable to deflect the impartial Vigilance inquiry, Mr Badal has come up with the demand that it be handed over to the CBI where a friendly NDA government would be able to have a greater influence on the course of the inquiry”, they maintained.

The leaders alleged that in his quest for “derailing” the Vigilance inquiry, Mr Badal was now trying to take recourse to legal option. In a bid to invite judicial intervention, a PIL had been filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which was expected to come up for hearing tomorrow.


Badal: CM shielding corrupt bureaucrats
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, July 21
Even as the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has already ruled out ordering a CBI probe into the mysterious disappearance of Rs 2 crore from one of the bank lockers of suspended PPSC chairman Ravi Sidhu, the SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today accused the Chief Minister of shielding his closest bureaucrats and advisers allegedly involved in this episode.

Talking to reporters at the local Circuit House this evening, Mr Badal reiterated his demand to hand over the investigation to the CBI. “Why Capt Amarinder Singh shying away from a CBI probe if he is really committed to expose the misdeeds of Sidhu? In fact, a CBI probe into the matter will expose the dirty role played by some of his closest bureaucrats and advisers,” he said.

Mr Badal said an NDA team would visit Punjab next month to assess the prevailing situation, wherein Akali-BJP workers were being implicated in false cases by the government in the name of an anti-corruption drive, whereas no action had been initiated against Congress ministers found involved in corrupt deeds by the Punjab Lokpal.


Sekhri refutes SAD charge
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 21
The Punjab Minister of State for Industries, Mr Ashwani Sekhri, today refuted the SAD charge that under the Congress regime, the bureaucracy was “dominating and humiliating the elected representatives of the people”.

In a statement issued here, Mr Sekhri said the SAD spokesman, Mr Manpreet Singh Badal, was trying to make a mountain out of a molehill. “A small misunderstanding between me and a senior officer which was sorted out on the spot in the presence of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has been sought to be projected by Mr Badal as something earthshaking. Nothing can be farther from the truth. As a matter of fact, the administrative set-up under the Chief Minister is functioning like a well-knit team and is totally committed to the development of the state and betterment of its people”, the minister said.

Mr Sekhri said it was “absolutely wrong and baseless” to allege that the Chief Minister was not available to the party MLA’s and the general public. The fact of the matter was that Capt Amarinder Singh was sympathetic and responsive to the problems of the people and remained in close touch with every Congress MLA and senior party leaders.


Bhattal promises relief for farmers
Our Correspondent

Harkishanpura (Bathinda), July 21
Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, while addressing a gathering at the villages today, said the state government would exploit every possible measure to offer relief to the villagers and added that there was no need to “sell” themselves.

It may be recalled that the panchayat of the village had passed a resolution through which they had asked the Punjab Chief Minister to purchase the village land and let them work as labourers so that they could earn livelihood as they were unable to repay the loans.

The crops have been failing for the past many years.

Mrs Bhattal did not mention under which rule or act the villagers, would be helped.

Although the Agriculture Minister did not fix any date for giving special category status, she said the residents would be encouraged to start small-scale industries. The villagers demanded that their land be pledged and a big industry be set up there so that they do not need to go to other cities for getting work.

Officials accompanying the Agriculture Minister said a special survey would be conducted to look into the prospects of starting an industry where the villagers could get jobs.

Mrs Bhattal announced that the primary school of the village would be upgraded to middle level and Rs 3 lakh would be given for the building of the panchayat bhavan and for the development of streets and drains.

Later, Mrs Bhattal visited some fields in the village. The farmers told her that they had sown paddy for the fourth time in this season as on earlier occasions it dried up. The farmers of Nandgarh Kotra, Harkishanpura and Mandi Kalan echoed that power supply was not sufficient.

The officials accompanying Mrs Bhattal were taken aback when a farmer told Mrs Bhattal that it was due to her visit that they had received uninterrupted supply for four hours. The minister asked the officials concerned to look into the matter.


‘Fault’ in canal system to be probed
Gurdaspur MLA complains to Chief Minister
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 21
The Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC), one of the oldest canal systems in India, is in the web of a controversy. The authorities concerned have laid one crore empty cement bags (ECB) filled with earth along slopes and embankments, contrary to the technical requirements which costs the state exchequer about Rs 3.50 crore.

Sources said this is for the first time that ECBs were being used to strengthen the slopes. After the light showers yesterday, many ECBs had been eroded.

The Sultanwind branch of the UBDC has already claimed more than 15 lives in the past two months with the officials failing to take preventive measures.

The UBDC was first built by Emperor Shahajahan in 1693 to provide water from Madhopur to the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore in the nineteenth century. The legendary Maharaja Ranjit Singh improved the system and constructed the ‘Hansli canal’ for carrying the Ravi waters to the Golden Temple and the Shalimar Gardens at Lahore.

After the annexation of Punjab in 1849, the British Government started the construction of the UBDC system. The system was completed in 1889. The UBDC system has seven main branch canals 400 km long, 247 distributaries and minors 2400 km long and a command area that is 13.43 lakh acres.

The remodelling project was sanctioned by the Central Government in 2000. A provision was made for the remodelling of distributaries and minors which were lined under the first phase. Under the second phase, the UBDC will be remodelled by the year 2005.

However, the haphazard distribution of works has created a mess. Bridges and other structures which are basic requirements for proper regulation of canal supplies have not been remodelled. The supply in the remodelled channels is not as per the design requirements because the head regulators and other structures have not been remodelled.

According to sources, Mr Rumal Chand, an MLA from Narot Mehra (Gurdaspur), has complained to the Chief Minister and Irrigation Minister that the farmers are not getting adequate water due to the ‘faulty system’.

When contacted Mr Sukhjinder Singh Sandhu, Chief Engineer, UBDC, said an inquiry had been ordered on the basis of the complaint lodged by the MLA. On the use of ECBs along the slopes of the system, Mr Sandhu admitted that this was for the first time that ECBs were used for the purpose.

He claimed that the work was ‘better’ than the previous works done in the ‘history of the Irrigation Department’. However, this correspondent saw many ECBs eroded at several points of the Lahore branch and Sabrawan branch. Heavy rain could play a havoc with the system in the coming days.

Sources pointed out that the ECBs were purchased at ‘extremely high rates’. While such bags were available at less than Re 1, the department had paid Rs 2.35 per bag. The cost of filling with earth was stated to be Rs 1.15. Hence, the total cost of the filled bag came to be Rs 3.50. If one crore of bags were used, the total cost came to be Rs 3.50 crore.

Morever, many trees were felled from the embankments of the UBDC as the earth was filled in bags from the sides of the canals itself. However, the Chief Engineer claimed that the officials of the Forest Department were taken into confidence on the matter.


Will Punjab notify purchase tax on milk?
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 21
There is delay in the issue of a notification on the levy of 4 per cent purchase tax on milk in Punjab because the Departments of Excise and Taxation and Animal Husbandry have locked horns.

The purchase tax, approved by the Council of Ministers on June 18 and part of the current year’s Budget, is likely to net Rs 12 crore, per annum.

Both the minister and the Secretary, Animal Husbandry, reportedly objected to the purchase tax in the Council of Ministers meeting on July 12, arguing that the levy was a “retrogressive step” and would adversely affect investment in the milk processing industry.

The minister and the Secretary, Excise and Taxation reacted and pointed out to their counterparts that the proposed purchase tax was in lieu of the “cess”, which is opposed by the dairy industry and was even declared unconstitutional and quashed by the high court on November 20 last year, causing a loss of about Rs 10 crore during the year. The Department of Animal Husbandry has filed an SLP in the Supreme Court, which has granted interim stay. But the milk plants are not paying any cess, the Council of Ministers was informed.

The issue of purchase tax on milk is not new. It was first levied at the rate of 4 per cent on the manufacture of any goods other than tax-free milk products on May 20, 1975.

The Akali-BJP Government decided to grant “exemption” from the payment of purchase tax in 1996-97 and to abolish it with effect from April 1, 1996. Accordingly, the Department of Excise and Taxation was informed on May 8, 1996. But the government did not issue any notification to withdraw the purchase tax, as it had changed its mind on June 25, 1996, to continue with the purchase tax on milk at 4 per cent.

Later, the government again revised its decision and issued a notification on July 24, 2000, abolishing the purchase tax effective from July 19, 2000. Prior to this, the government collected about Rs 12 crore, per annum.

This was replaced by the Department of Animal Husbandry by imposing a “cess” at the rate of 10 paise per litre on the daily registered capacity of milk plants with effect from July 19. Contrary to the expectations of the department to raise Rs 18 crore from different milk plants, the actual receipts between July 19, 2000, and March 31, 2001, were to the extent of Rs 5.37 crore only.

One basic reason to impose a cess on milk was to make the Punjab Dairy Development Board self sufficient. And the Department of Animal Husbandry was then totally opposed to the constitution of that Board.

It is also pointed out that cess is more retrograde than purchase tax, as the former has been imposed on the capacity of each milk plant. The percentage utilisation of 11 cooperative milk plants is 40 to 50 per cent. The cess is seen as a burden and is even otherwise not recoverable.

To make up for such a loss the purchase tax has been proposed, as was applicable prior to July 19, 2000. The Department of Excise and Taxation is against “excessive” tax on milk. It is reported to have even offered to transfer the revenue realised from purchase tax to the Department of Animal Husbandry for development and promotion of dairy in the state.

It is also learnt that as per the national consensus on uniform floor rates, milk food and milk products are taxable at 8 per cent, whereas, fresh milk and pesturised milk, curd, lassi and buttered milk are exempted. Moreover, neither purchase tax nor sales tax can be exempted, as per the national consensus. Can Punjab defy that? The file on the proposed notification is believed to be with the Chief Minister, who is to decide.

Inquires in the government and dairy industry sector (which recently interacted with the Chief Minister) revealed that the total annual turnover of all milk plants in the state is around Rs 1,120 crore. Of this, nearly Rs 1,000 crore is shown by the milk plants as ‘’branch transfer’’ with a major private milk plant heading the list with a ‘’branch transfer’’ of over Rs 200 crore per annum.

It is learnt that this particular private milk processing unit is paying Rs 3 crore per annum as sales tax on milk products whereas if purchase tax on milk is imposed, it will be required to pay Rs 8-10 crore. Sources say this milk plant is lobbying against the levy of purchase tax. The Department of Animal Husbandry should know better.

Branch transfers on consignment sales are legitimate ways to avoid sales tax. But invariably, many dealers misuse this mode of avoidance of tax by showing “local sales” as “consignment sales or branch transfers”.


Govt to restructure college fee, hostel rent
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, July 21
Fee structure and rent of hostel accommodation in colleges in the state will be restructured and streamlined to make education less dependent on the state government. This was stated by Mr Khushal Behl, Education Minister, while talking to this correspondent here today. A meeting of the heads of 138 government-aided colleges and 40 government colleges would be convened at Ludhiana on July 26 to suggest measures in this regard.

He said it was surprising that there were government colleges in the state where hostel rent was Rs 2 per month and college fee was nearly Rs 20 per month which was far from adequate to give education.

Mr Behl justified the introduction of English as a medium of instruction from class VI. He reminded his critics that most of the terminology in arithmetic and science was in English.

He said communalisation of academics was the most dangerous trend which must be avoided.

The Education Minister said the Punjab Government had decided to vocationalise the education and it would not encourage the opening up of new arts colleges in the state. The government had decided to introduce subjects like dyeing in the curriculum.

Regarding the grant of pension and gratuity to the employees of government-aided colleges, Mr Behl said the government was in favour of raising corpus fund which would be contributed by the managements of the colleges and the government.


SHSAD: Badal, CM ‘framing’ Tohra

Jalandhar, July 21
General Secretary of the SHSAD Prem Singh Chandumajra today alleged that there was secret political understanding between Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

“As per the secret understanding, Captain Amarinder has assured Mr Badal to set him free from the corruption charges and Mr Badal, in return was trying to free the Congress from the responsibility of Operation Bluestar by putting the blame for the same on the SHSAD chief, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra”, alleged Chandumajra while talking to newspersons here today. PTI


Probe reveals misuse of sangat darshan funds
Our Correspondent

Ropar, July 21
The inquiry conducted into the usage of sangat darshan grants in Kharar subdivision here has brought to fore many cases of the misuse and misappropriation of funds by youth clubs and other voluntary organisations.

The ADC (General), Ropar, Mr Vikas Garg, checked the records of as many as 77 youth clubs and voluntary organisations of the Kharar subdivision, which received grants during the last month of the rule of the previous government.

The data collected by the ADC has revealed that out of the total Rs 69.45 lakh received by these organisations in the sangat darshans, only Rs 23.80 lakh had been spent on development works. The rest Rs 45.65 lakh is lying unutilised with the office-bearers of these organisations. Even out of Rs 23.80 lakh spent on development works, about Rs 10 lakh was diverted for purposes other than those specified.

The ADC, while talking to this correspondent, said many youth clubs failed to give proper account of the money spent. They failed to show the material which they claimed to have purchased from the sangat darshan grants. As per the directions of the Punjab Government they should have returned the unused grants. However, they had neither returned the grants nor justified their usage, he said.

The Deputy Commissioner, Ms Seema Jain, when asked about the inquiry into usage of sangat darshan grants in other parts of the district, said teams had been constituted to check the records in about 400 villages across the district. The data collected during the checking was being processed and would soon be forwarded to the Punjab Government, she said.

The Deputy Commissioner said action would be initiated against the youth clubs, panchayats and other voluntary organisations which were found guilty of misappropriating the funds. A process would soon be started to get back the unused grants from the said organisations, the Deputy Commissioner said.


Resource crunch delays Shahpur project
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, July 21
The construction of Shahpur Kandi Dam Project (SKDP) which was planned in 1972 and was expected to generate 168 MW of power simultaneously with Ranjit Sagar Dam (RSD) has not started due to financial crunch being faced by the Punjab Government. An estimate of Rs 26 crore approximately was submitted to the government for starting the project last year and the amount was to be equally shared by the Central Government and the Punjab Government. The Centre had contributed its share of Rs 13 crore and is lying unused with the SKDP authorities since February due to the failure of the Punjab Government to contribute its share.

It may be recalled that Mr P.V. Narsimha Rao as Prime Minister had laid the foundation stone of SKDP on April 20, 1995. The stone was removed from the site. During his speech Mr Rao had said that if the Punjab Government completed the project within 48 months the entire project would be funded by the Central Government.

Again when the Prime Minister Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, dedicated the RSD to the nation on March 18 2001, he said SKDP would be taken up for construction within a week and the availability of funds would be no hindrance in this regard. Mr Parkash Singh Badal then Chief Minister, who was also present cheered the Prime Minister but the announcement was forgotten in the din of cheers.

It was during 2001 that the RSD authorities became hopeful to start the construction of the SKDP and transferred about 1000 work force from the RSD to the SKDP. Excess machinery lying surplus after completion of the RSD was also transferred to the SKDP. So much so the construction of the project was inaugurated by the SKDP authorities but the scene was short lived and the work force was transferred back to RSD.

According to dam authorities RSD cannot run to its full capacity till SKDP is completed. To run all four power houses of the RSD to generate 600 MW of electricity, release of 24,000 cusces of water is necessary. If the required water supply is released the Indian Government has no infrastructure to utilise this water. The water spared after full generation by the RSD and rendered surplus thus will find its way to Pakistan via Ravi against which Centre, under the Indus Water Treaty has paid Rs 100 crore to Pakistan to utilise the same for irrigation purposes in Punjab.

The SKDP when completed will have high-level river up to Jammu which will irrigate 35,000 hectares of land in the state. In Punjab the SKDP will be connected directly with UBDC near Sujanpur through a channel from Shahpur Kandi.


Truckers sore over govt indifference
Our Correspondent

Dera bassi, July 21
Scores of truckers and members of different truck unions of Patiala district today staged a dharna here against the Punjab Government for adopting an indifferent attitude towards various truck unions operating in the state.

The protesters, who assembled at the Drea Bassi Truck Union’s office, raised anti-government slogans and criticised policies framed by the government under the chief ministership of Capt. Amarinder Singh.

The members of truck unions from Dera Bassi, Patiala, Samana, Bhadson, Ghanaur, Nabha, Banur, Shambhu, Patna and Devigarh, alleged that the Chief Minister was playing in the hands of the industrialists and traders and was ignoring the interest of truckers who were paying more income tax to the government (directly or indirectly) as compared to the industrialists and the traders.

They claimed that diesel and petrol prices have increased during the past five years but the transportation charges were still the same. They said there was nothing wrong if the truckers had started charging more now.

To press their demands, members of all the truck unions also formed a District Patiala Truck Operators Union, a district level union and also elected the office-bearers: president — Mr Prem Singh (Banur); senior vice-president — Jagjit Sing (Patiala); vice-president — Balbir Singh Samana (Samana); general secretary — Mr Gurcharan Singh Pappu (Dera Bassi); and Cashier — Mr Baldev Singh (Rurki), besides 10 executive members.

Mr Gurcharan Singh Pappu, the general secretary of the union, said a massive dharna would be orgainsed at Matka Chowk in Chandigarh if their genuine demands were not given immediate consideration.

It may be recalled that last month the government had asked the truck unions to get licences from authorities concerned which were mandatory to operate.

Issuing notices the government had asked the truckers to follow the guidelines framed under the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 and the Punjab Motor Vehicle Regulation Act, 1989.


DG of ASI visits Ropar museum
Tribune News Service

Ropar, July 21
Mrs Kasturi Gupta Menon, IAS, Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India, yesterday visited the local archaeological museum and saw articles, displayed in show-cases. She showed her interest in the articles, found during excavation from two villages, namely Kotla Nihang and Barra, situated near here.

Mrs Gupta said that the Archaeological Survey of India had been taking keen interest in the development of Punjab’s monuments. With regard to excavation work at the historical Ropar mound, she said she would look into the matter later. She said her department had sought applications for conducting excavation works in the country from the NGOs, universities, state Archaeological Departments and others till July 30.


Land grab case: accused roaming free
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, July 21
Even the police registered a case against nine persons in a land grab incident about two months back, the main accused are roaming free and allegedly issuing threats to the complainant, Mr Rajwant Singh.

Mr Rajwant Singh of Maudi village had alleged that in May, an unidentified gang had grabbed his property. An inquiry held by the SP (headquarters), Mr Amit Parshad, into the case led to the registration of a case against Sukhdev Singh, Balihar Singh, Baldev Singh, Samsher Singh,Saraj Singh, Bikar Singh, Partap Singh, Gurjit Singh and Tara Singh, all of the same village.

While Balev Singh and Shamsher Singh have been arrested, Sukhdev Singh and other accused have been detained. Mr Rajwant Singh alleged that the accused threatened to kill his family if he pursued the case.


Oilseed farmers a harassed lot
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Any hasty step on crop diversification, especially oilseed production, in Punjab without taking the global markets in perspective could prove counter-productive and the state government should get a commitment from the Centre for a minimum support price, guaranteed procurement, building of a buffer stock, shortening the chain of supply between the farmer, oil extraction industry and the consumer, imposing a 300 per cent duty on dumping of international edible oils, besides integrating oilseed production with producing fodder for dairy animals.

The Social Sciences and Health Forum, an NGO, has cautioned that since experience of oilseed farmers in India has been bitter, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh should ensure a commitment from the Central Government.

But can he, as the CM of a non - National Democratic Alliance-ruled state, get such a commitment is the million rupee question.

The forum points out that the condition of oilseed farmers in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, also ruled by the Congress, is a case in point since they were reportedly ruined by the government’s decision to import oil from developed countries. The Punjab farmer can meet the same fate.

Dr Prem Prakash Khosla and Mr Pawan Kumar, spokespersons of the forum, said the recommendations of the S S Johl Committee on Agricultural Reforms rightly stressed that there was great need to diversify from the wheat - paddy circle in view of the debt burden of the farmers besides the depleting ground-water levels in the state. But a cautious and multi- pronged strategy is required in this context, they added.

They said the import of edible oils is a case in point. In 1986-87, India produced 3.9 million tonnes (MT) of edible oils, and imported 1.5 million tonnes (MT) (28 per cent dependency). Due to an ambitious programme of the Union Agricultural Ministry through its Technology Mission on Oilseeds, the area under oilseeds grew by 44 per cent from 1986- 87 to 1993- 94 and the yield per hectare grew by nearly a third. The total oilseed production soared from 11.3 MT to 21.5 MT. The fastest growth was that of soyabean - which grew from 0.9 MT in 1986- 87 to 6.5 MT in 1997- 98. Edible oil imports sank to a negligible 2 MT in 1993-94.

But to the utter shock of farmers, the government — allegedly on the World Bank diktat — wound up market intervention operations, stepped down all other aspects of the Technology Mission, liberalised imports of edible oil, and lowered import tariffs on it. Expenditure on a centrally funded oilseeds production programme declined every year after 1996-97. After this decision, edible oil imports grew from 0.2 MT in 1993-94 to 2.08 MT in 97-98, thus surpassing the pre-1986 figure, and India became the major importer of edible oil in the world.

But the biggest surge in imports came in mid-1998, when it became clear that there was inadequate rainfall in Gujarat and Rajasthan, the leading groundnut growing states. At the same time the government ascribed the sudden eruption of dropsy cases in north India to the adulteration of mustard oil and banned its sale.

They pointed out that this was pretext for price rise, hoarders cornered the stocks of edible oil. Groundnut oil prices rose 82 per cent over the previous year’s price and palmolein, soya and other oils also rose steeply. The government had no stock of its own after having discontinued the buffer stock so it could not intervene in the market. It was not at all interested in pursuing such option. Instead it followed the World Bank line by opening up imports and slashed the import duties on edible oil. By the third quarter of 1998, the international prices of oilseed and edible oil were already plummeting.

Meanwhile, OECD pointed out that oilseeds were being dumped at abnormally low - prices internationally. But the government did not move to restrict the import by QRs or tariffs, whereas according to WTO norms, it could impose up to 300 p.c. duty. On July 9 it was reported that India was set to replace China as the world’s largest vegetable oil importer. Still no import restrictions were imposed despite the Oilseed Cooperatives and Growers Federation’s request to treble import duties.

They pointed out that the result was during the 1998-99, edible oil import amounted to 111 p.c. over the previous year. Thus, imports surpassed government’s own estimated gap between domestic supply and total demand by 3 MT. The cost of imports was estimated to be Rs 9, 000 cr (over $ 2 bn).

This has resulted in displacement of domestic production, ensuring future dependence. In 1993-94, the country produced 95.5 p.c. of its edible oil consumption but by 1998-99 this had sunk to 61 per cent. Actually, the figure will sink further as a result of the unremunerative prices brought on by the imports.

Due to non-intervention by the Centre, oilseed farmers in MP, Rajasthan and Maharashtra alone took away 550,000 hectares out of soya cultivation and were left with no other alternative but to divert it to growing millets, bajra, jowar pulses, peanuts. Some even left their land fallow. This means that Centre’s policies pushed cash crop growing farmers to subsistence farming. Punjab has to learn lessons from these developments and frame a policy accordingly, they stressed.


BKU(E) activists stage dharna
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, July 21
A handful of BKU (Ekta) activists today started a 18-hour-long dharna in front of the PSEB office at Bhucho Mandi, 20 km from here, in protest against the erratic power supply for various farm operations and “anti-farmer policies” of the Punjab Government.

Addressing the gathering, leaders of the BKU (Ekta) alleged that on the one hand farmers had been falling in a debt trap due to the declining profitability in agriculture, on the other, the Punjab Government had hiked the sales tax on fertilisers and pesticides putting extra financial burden on the farmers.

They alleged that the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Amarinder Singh, had already indicated that the free power facility for agriculture provided by the previous SAD-BJP combine government would also be withdrawn.

They alleged that while the paddy crop had been drying up due to a delay in the arrival of the monsoon, the Punjab Government was displaying no concern to make arrangements for adequate power so that farmers could operate their tubewells.

They demanded that every farmer, whose paddy crop had been damaged due to scarcity of water, should be given Rs 15,000 per acre as compensation. A special girdawri should be conducted to measure the loss.

Interest free loans should be given to farmers for installing submersible pumps in place of tubewells which had become non-functional due to a fall in the level of underground water. Diesel should be made available at 50 per cent subsidy to the farmers. The families of farmers who died due to various accidents relating to agriculture should be given Rs 5 lakh as compensation.


‘Satta queen’ arrested
Our Correspondent

Abohar, July 21
The city police, continuing its campaign against gambling, today raided three places in the town and arrested Mrs Devaki Rani Aggarwal, known as the “satta queen”, and a couple heading the “satta” trade in the subdivision.

Preliminary interrogation indicated that they had links with the satta mafia based at New Delhi and Sri Ganganagar in Rajasthan. Police parties have been sent to suspected dens there.

Mr Rakesh Aggarwal, DSP, personally monitored the raids led by ASIs Tirlok Singh, Raj Singh and Joginder Singh at three different places in the town. Devaki Rani Aggarwal was reportedly caught red-handed with satta slips and Rs 42,800 in cash as “daily collection amount”.

Another police party claimed that Rs 13,900 and satta slips were found with Sharda, alias Sulochana Aggarwal, when the police raided her residence in the heart of the town.

Her husband, Harikrishan Aggarwal, alias Papiya, was arrested from his alleged den at the Sri Ganganagar road. The police found Rs 18,800 and satta records in his possession. All were arrested under Section 13A-3-67 of the Prevention of Gambling Act and Section 420, IPC.

Another raid led by Inspector Raj Kumar at a three-star hotel created panic among members of the “elite of the town” who were enjoying a cocktail party there. The police arrested Mangat Rai Bathla, proprietor, and three waiters. They were later released on bail.


Yet another job racket busted, one held
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, July 21
The police has busted a job racket by arresting the gang leader, who used to cheat people by promising them jobs in Russia and Malaysia in lieu of money.

Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, said here today that Charan Singh of Fateh Nangal under Dhariwal police station was arrested under Section 420, IPC. A case has been registered against his accomplices, which include his son Satnam Singh, Harjinder Singh of Daneyawali, Dalbir Singh of Rai Chack village and Surjit Singh of Fateh Nangal.

The district police chief said Gurpreet Singh of Daneyawali village complained to the police that Charan Singh had asked for Rs 40,000 for sending him to Russia.

He further said that Rs 1,80,000 were charged from Tarlochan Singh and his brother, both residents of Ranjit Bagh near here, for sending them to Malaysia. Charan Singh took them to Chennai where they had to stay for a few months. They were later introduced to local agent, Surinder Singh, who took them to Malaysia along with four others. When they reached Malaysia, the police arrested them.

When Hardyal Singh, one of the five arrested managed to escape and met the agent he was beaten up was locked in a room along with four others. He somehow managed to escape and was able to reach a gurdwara. He contacted his relatives in India and was able to return to India.


Burglars break into shops, steal Rs 25,000
Our Correspondent

Barnala, July 21
There has been a spate of thefts and burglaries in Dhanaula town, 10 km from here.

According to reports burglars broke into as many as five shops on the night of July 19 in various parts of the town creating panic among the shopkeepers and the local residents.

The thieves broke into two shops in Ramsar Gurdwara market besides two shops near the post office and a shop near the Truck Operators Union Complex.

A shopkeeper of Ramsar Gurdwara Market told this reporter that the burglars had tried to enter the post office complex. He said the thieves succeeded in stealing nearly Rs 25000, cash from the cash boxes of various shops.

Residents of the area are sore over the police because its failure to take any action in this regard.


Parents allege dowry death, in-laws held
Our Correspondent

Barnala, July 21
Alleging foul play in the death of Poonam Rani, Mr Janak Raj Aggarwal, father of the dowry victim and a local resident, wants that the death of Poonam Rani, who was married to Ashish of Rampura Phul, about two-and-a-half years ago must be probed.

It is still not clear whether she died accidentally after falling from a height due to giddiness or she was allegedly beaten to death by her in-laws.

According to her parents, she was brutally beaten up by her in-laws as her body bore deep injury marks. She was admitted to the Civil Hospital, Rampura but was referred to CMC, Ludhiana.

Poonam’s family allege that she was being tortured for bringing inadequate dowry and repeatedly demanded goods or cash.

Interestingly, when a crowd of protesters collected in front of the Civil Hospital and raised slogans against doctors the autopsy report in which no injury mark on Poonam was recorded, was revised. Traffic was also blocked in this regard.

According to reports, a case under Sections 304-B and 34 of the IPC has been registered and Ashish (husband), Subhash Chand (father-in-law) and Sneh Lata (mother-in-law) arrested.

Meenu, sister-in-law, and Munish, brother-in-law, have also been booked.


Undertrial commits suicide in jail
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, July 21
An undertrial lodged in the Central Jail here hanged himself to death yesterday evening. According to information, Rajiv Kumar (25) who was arrested last month under the NDPS Act for being in possession of illicit liquor, committed suicide by hanging himself in the jail. Sources revealed that he was a drug addict and was sent to Faridkot Medical College for treatment on July 10. He was discharged from the hospital on July 17.

The reason behind the suicide has yet not been ascertained. A post-mortem examination was conducted. The report is still awaited.


College president ‘harassing’ staffer
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, July 21
A clerk of a rural college has alleged that the president of the college managing committee, who is also the head of a sect, tried to molest her.

She has made complaint against the man in letters written to the police, Punjab State Human Rights Commission, Punjab and Haryana High Court, college managing committee, National Commission for Women and others. She alleged that the president of the committee came to her house in 1999 and tried to molest her. He also reportedly used to harass her and call her at his dera, but she ignored him.

She was given the job after the death of her husband, who was a clerk in the college.

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