Thursday, August 8, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Power tariff hike enforced
Houses with more than one meter to pay extra
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, August 7
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has started charging the highest slab rate from domestic consumers residing in a house having more than one power connection.

According to a commercial circular (memo No. 11420/12170/SSM-268) issued from the office of Chief Engineer (Commercial) of the PSEB, the highest slab rates would also be applicable to the parted away members of joint families apart from providing independent supply to the tenants by the landlord to avoid disputes.

In case the connection is released to a tenant, he will have to submit the consent of the landlord in the form of an affidavit that the landlord will clear all liabilities in case the tenant leaves the house without paying PSEB’s charges. Moreover, the ACD payable by the tenant shall be double the existing ACD charges.

Provisions have been made under the circular for existing consumers either to club their connections or opt to pay the highest slab charges. The highest slab rate for domestic consumers is Rs 2.90 per unit plus 11 paise per unit against fuel charges, 9 paise per unit against power tax and 4 paise per unit against octroi, besides Rs 32 against meter service charges.

In contrast, single connection holders pay Rs 1.50 per unit for the first 200 units per billing cycle. If the units exceed to 400 units, the charges rise to Rs 2.60 per unit and above 400 units, the highest slab rates of Rs 2.90 per unit are charged.

Fuel charges, power tax, octroi and meter service charges are applicable to all slab rates.

The amended Sales Regulation Clause 3.5 and Sales Regulation Clause 167 have also come into force. According to the amendment, if a portion of a household is regularly used for the conduct of a business, the consumption of that portion shall be metered separately under a separate connection and billed under Schedule NRS tariff of Rs 3.50 per unit plus all other applicable charges.

It has been made mandatory that all such connections within the same building should be fed from the same transformer, but through an independent service cable.


PSEB admits loss on free supply
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 7
The Punjab State Electricity Board today admitted that it had suffered an approximate loss of Rs 1100 crore during the past four years due to supply of free electricity to tubewell consumers.

In its reply submitted before a Division Bench of the High Court, comprising Mr Justice Swatanter Kumar and Mr Justice S.S. Saron, the board added that the annual loss came out to be approximately Rs 250 crore. The decision to supply free electricity was taken during a meeting attended by the council of ministers on February 14, 1997.

Counsel for the board claimed that every effort was being made to improve the financial position and it was expecting a verdict from the tariff commission by the end of this month.

Regarding its move to reduce the salaries of the staff, counsel submitted that the present situation was caused due to the failure of the Board to implement its decision to reduce establishment costs. He added that the staff was, in any case, getting higher salary than their counterparts in the government.

After going through the reply, the Bench fixed August 12 as the next date of hearing. The Judges also issued notice on an application filed by the board seeking directions for restraining the employees’ unions from going on strike and indulging in mass demonstrations on the grounds that it was running a public utility service.

The Bench, on the last date of hearing, had stayed the operation of an order passed on July 22 by the Under-Secretary (Finance) whereby it was directed to deduct 25 per cent carry home salary of all Class I to III employees and 10 per cent salary of Class IV employees for July and August. 


Paddy loss: Ajit to visit Chandigarh
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, August 7
Union Agriculture Minister Ajit Singh will visit Chandigarh on August 13 to discuss the loss caused to paddy with the government. This was stated by Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Punjab, talking to mediapersons at Sadiq village in this district last evening.

She said a tentative report about the loss, along with a demand for Rs 800 crore as aid, had already been sent to the Central Government.

She criticised the NDA government for supplying only 300 lakh MW of electricity against the commitment of 1200 MW from the Central pool to meet the demands of the state.

Refuting the charges levelled by senior Akali leaders, including Mr Parkash Singh Badal, former Chief Minister, against the Congress government for reportedly providing shelter to Ashutosh and Baba Bhaniara, she said the government would not allow anybody to disturb peace in the state.

Earlier, she visited affected areas in Muktsar and Faridkot districts along with senior officers.

The Deputy Commissioner, Muktsar, said 50 per cent of paddy had been damaged in the district due to delay in monsoon.


Bhattal fails to turn up, villagers disappointed
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 7
Cancellation of the visit of Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayats and Mr H.S. Hanspal, newly appointed chief of the PPCC, to the mine-infested villages of the district at the eleventh hour has disappointed the farmers.

The anguished farmers of Mahawa village, where many residents were killed due to mine blasts in the January, were sore that no senior politicians, including the Chief Minister, had visited them since the incident in January. Ms Bhattal was to arrive here at 2.30 p.m. But she reached at the Circuit House at 5 p.m. The farmers have been complaining about the inadequate compensation distributed among them. Their hopes of getting their demands accepted were deshed when Ms Bhattal failed to reach as per schedule. Similar Ms Bhattal also failed to reach the drought affected villages, including Baba-Chakk and Chabba, while the residents and officers of different departments kept waiting for hours in the scorching heat.


DC orders assessment of loss due to drought
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib. August 7
To assess the damage to crop due to drought, a special survey has been ordered in the district. To make the process completely transparent, the assessment work would be done by a team comprising officials of the Agriculture Department and the Revenue Department, said Deputy Commissioner Vikas Paratap while presiding over a meeting of district officials at Bachat Bhavan, yesterday. Earlier, the assessment work used to be done by patwaris.

Mr Pratap said the process would begin from August10. The team would also assess how much extra the farmers had to spent, per acre, due to drought.

He said that at the subdivisional level , a special committee under the chairmanship of the SDM had been formed which would hold meetings everyday to review the assessment work.

He said that to fulfill the need of potable water in 24 villages, funds worth Rs 1.22 lakh had been released. Besides this, directions had been issued to improve the supply in the rural areas of the district within three days so that residents do not have to face drinking-water scarcity.

He said there was no shortage of potable water in Amloh, Sirhind, Gobindgarh and Bassi Pathana municipal council areas of the district.

He also directed PSEB officials to ensure at least 10 hours of uninterrupted power-supply for tubewells in the rural areas, as promised by the state government.

He urged agriculture officials to visit the rural areas and guide farmers to adopt the pattern of diversification of crops .

Mr V.K.Ohri, ADC, Mr B.S.Sidhu ADC(D), Mr Mohan Lal Sharma, SDM, also addressed the meeting.


DCs give reports on crop loss
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 7
In view of the poor monsoon, a special girdawari for the drought-affected districts of the state would be conducted from August 10 to 25, says Punjab Financial Commissioner, Revenue, (FCR) Bhagat Singh.

He was in the city today to address a special meeting of all deputy commissioners (DCs) on the issue. A special committee headed by the Agriculture and Local Bodies Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal is touring the state to assess the damage to the crops.

The FCR revealed that the state had not been declared drought-hit so far since the Punjab farmer was unlike others in the country. As per the norms, a crop loss of 50 per cent is enough to declare a state drought-affected, but here, the farmer would rather spend his last penny than let the crop wilt. Hence, the state would have to work out the average rainfall, area sown, previous yield, present level of groundwater, besides the number of new tubewells sunk and present the data to the Centre for claiming commensurate relief.

He said the meeting had been convened for DCs to report the damage suffered by crops in their respective districts to enable the government arrive at an approximate amount of the losses suffered.

Mr Bhagat Singh said the exact losses would be clear once the special girdawari was completed. To ensure that there was no discrimination against farmers on this account, staff of the Agriculture Department entrusted with the job would be accompanied by sarpanches and lambardars under the supervision of the respective tehsildars, MLAs and DCs.

He said the state had received 52 per cent less rainfall as compared to previous years and this had resulted in an alarming fall in the groundwater levels. The farmers are also not getting adequate canal water and have been forced to operate their pumpsets on diesel, pushing up the expenditure.

Many farmers have also been forced to sink additional tubewells, but to not much avail.

The worst affected area is the Kandi belt where the groundwater is saline and cannot be used for irrigation.



CPI for special House session on dry spell
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 7
On the heels of an outburst by former Congress Minister, Surinder Kapur on the performance of the Punjab government. The CPI leadership, an ally of the Congress in the last Vidhan Sabha election, today alleged that the government had failed to tackle the drought-like situation in Punjab, the CPI will call an all-party meeting in this connection on August 10 at party head office at Chandigarh.

Mr Hardev Arshi, former MLA, said that Mr Nathu Ram, CPI, the group leader in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha had also requested to call a special session of state Assembly to discuss drought-like conditions developed in the state.

The Communist leader pointed out that the CPI had demanded that Chief Minister, Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh should call an all party meeting on drought-like condition to mount pressure on the Centre for grant of relief. Captain Amarinder Singh, however, did not take any step in this regard.

Mr Arshi said that foreign tour of Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh did not go well at the time when the farmers were facing drought. The Chief Minister should hold the hand of hard-pressed farmers at this juncture.

He alleged that the Punjab Government did not show seriousness to deal with the drought -like situation in the state. He added that Mr Amarinder Singh earlier claimed that there was no drought in the state. Thereafter he (Mr Amarinder Singh) said that only 1000 hectares of crop had been damaged by the dry spell. Punjab Agriculture Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, however, claimed that crop on 23.96 per cent are out of the total are under paddy had been damaged at Bathinda and on the same day at Malerkotla claimed that Punjab was drought-hit nearly and about 80 per cent crop had been affected by drought.

He said that contradictory statement of Mr Amarinder Singh and his colleagues, had put the government an in embarrassing position and doubts on the seriousness of the state government were being expressed.

Meanwhile, Mr Megh Raj Goyal, former Organising Secretary, of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), while condemning the decision of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) to impose 10 per cent surcharge on powers bills, demanded that instead of surcharge the PSEB should check theft of power allegedly being done with the connivance of officials. 


Drought: Punjab ‘paying’ just lip sympathy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 7
The Bhartiya Janata Party Kisan Morcha said today that the Punjab Government was doing nothing except making statements as far as helping the drought-affected farmers was concerned.

After submitting a memorandum to the Punjab Governor, Mr Harjit Singh Grewal, vice-president of the morcha, said while the farming community was facing a grave crisis, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was visiting London, New York and Washington.

Mr Grewal, who was accompanied by other members of the committee set up by the morcha to assess the damage caused by drought in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal, said that a report of the committee would be submitted to the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the BJP President and the morcha President soon.

As the state government had failed to provide any relief to farmers, the committee would request the Prime Minister to intervene and direct the state government to provide Rs 5,000 per acre as a relief to farmers from the funds released by the Union Government. Though the Punjab Government had not declared the state as drought-hit, the Union Government on its own had released funds. Mr Grewal said the criteria to declare drought in states could not be applicable in the case of Punjab because this state had a different kind of set-up in the agriculture sector. An insurance scheme should be implemented in the farm sector in the state and a separate agricultural policy should be framed. Punjab had not implemented the food-for-work scheme yet. It had not yet started giving financial relief to the dependents of the farmers who were forced to commit suicide.


Amarinder’s son dares Badal
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 7
Taking up cudgels on behalf of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, who is at present abroad, his son Raninder Singh today accused former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal of raking controversy by accusing his father of ‘’usurping public property’’ in Hardwar in Uttar Pradesh.

In a statement issued here today, Raninder alleged that if there were any usurpers of Punjabi property they were Mr Badal and his party who sold all canal guest houses, tehsil complexes and bus stands to his party men for paltry sums. He alleged that Mr Badal had bartered away the interests of Punjab’s farmers through a deal with his ‘’good friend’’ and Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala on the SYL canal issue by getting a return favour in the form of Orbit Resorts at Gurgaon.

On the Hardwar property, he said the matter was in court, adding that the property had been purchased by his great grandfather, Maharaja Bhupindra Singh, and that it remained private property throughout and was last transferred to his father through an unchallenged registered will.

He said for some inexplicable reason, even though his family had enjoyed the continued and unopposed possession of religious ghats for a period of more than 84 years, in 1962 the state Public Works (B and R) Department leased a portion of the property’s garden to the Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha for a paltry sum of Rs 480 annually. He said this was done despite the fact that his family did not have any dealing with the sabha.

On the former Chief Minister’s contention that the Punjab government should become a party to the ongoing legal wrangling with the sabha, Raninder said this was completely without base. He said the government did not take any action to have the relevant revenue documents mutated in its name in the past 50 years. He said the government’s case to become a party in the case had already been dismissed by the Civil Judge, Hardwar.

He made an ‘’open offer’’ to Mr Badal, saying that he was willing to gift his property at Hardwar to the people of the state if Mr Badal also gifted Orbit Resorts to the goverment as it was acquired by bartering away the interests of the state.


No panel was formed, reiterates AG
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 7
While the Advocate-General of Punjab, Mr Harbhagwan Singh, has reiterated that there was no panel of names prepared in the Hardwar case, the Home and Public Works Departments are continuing to maintain a silence over the whole controversy.

In a signed statement issued today, the Advocate-General reiterated that Leader of the Opposition, Parkash Singh Badal was being kept in the dark by those feeding him information in the case. “Several factual inaccuracies have crept into his statement. Some of them appear to be deliberate. I reiterate that my engagement as counsel was made by the PWD and not by the Home Department,” said Mr Harbhagwan Singh. He said he had verified facts from the Home Department which said that no panel was formed by it.

Meanwhile, neither the Home Department, which offered to pay Rs 1650 to the Advocate-General for appearing in the case, nor the PWD has issued any statement in the case.

Also remains unanswered is who engaged a junior of the Advocate-General in the case. And which were the names carried in the power of attorney submitted by the AG’s office in the court of the District Judge, Hardwar.

Under the set procedure, no department can engage a lawyer without getting the approval of the Department of Home, Justice and Legal Affairs. Even the fee offered to the AG in this case was fixed by the Home Department. The AG, however, has now decided not to accept any fee or honorarium for appearing in this case.


Police excesses” worry PSHRC
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 7
The Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) has come to the conclusion that ‘’police excesses’’ and ‘’interference’’ in private disputes are growing.

There is a fear psychosis of the ‘’police raj’’. This is evident from the fact that in cases where the commission had granted ‘’compensation’’ to the victims of police ‘’high-handedness’’, the complainants refused to accept the money for ‘’obvious reasons’’. In fact, undue influence of the police even made several hundred complainants ‘’withdraw’’ their complaints against cops.

Deeply concerned over the refusal to accept compensation awards a former member, Mr T.S. Cheema, got a probe done by a retired District and Sessions Judge, who has reportedly indicted the police.

Sources reveal that a majority of the complaints either of police excesses or against the police were received from Ludhiana, Amritsar and Patiala between 1998 and 2000.

Of 2,180-odd complaints received in the commission (1999-2000), at least 660 were ‘’withdrawn’’. A majority of these were against the police.

The commission, set up in July, 1997, has streamlined its system and procedures but still suffers from a handicap — several posts are vacant which hit quick disposal of complaints. Besides complaints of of human rights abuse, the commission has also devoted its time and attention to the condition of jails, hospitals, health, pollution, environment, school children, schools sans buildings and, of late, child’s rights and child’s protection. The inspection of Juvenile Observation Home, Faridkot, by a member of the Commission had led to several improvements.

It is only now that the government has begun to respond to the directions of the Commission, which recently sent 40 such directions. The government took action because the high court has also upheld and appreciated the commission’s ‘’judicial recommendations’’ and ‘’investigations’’.

An analysis of the categories of complaints received, so far, shows that ‘’police excesses’’ head the list, followed by ‘’illegal arrests, custodial (both police and judicial) torture, violence and deaths, complaints from jails, from women in distress seeking justice (including dowry demand and child abuse) etc.

The rising graph of police ‘’interference’’ in private disputes is a major concern of the commission. Nearly 900 such cases have been brought to its notice.

The common complaints of police interference in private disputes are (a) Non-registration of a complaint/case; (b) deliberate inaction; (c) Use of threat, intimidation against a party to a dispute; and (d) Institution of false cases biased investigation etc.

N.K. Arora joins as PSHRC member
Tribune News service

Chandigarh, August 7
Mr N K Arora today joined as a Member of the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC). He will also exercise the powers of the Chairman of the commission till a permanent person is appointed.

An IAS officer of the 1965 batch, Mr Arora was due for retirement on August 31. He was earlier Chief Secretary and with the change of government in February last, he was made Presiding Officer, Sales Tax Tribunal-II. He fills the slot left by Mr M S Chahal, another IAS officer, who retired as a commission Member today.

Mr Arora will have a five-year term and the status, of a sitting Judge of the high court.

Besides the appointment of a Chairman the government is also to fill two other slots — one by a sitting or a retired Judge of the high court and the second by a sitting or a retired District Judge.


31 teaching posts kept in abeyance
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 7
The rationalisation committee of Punjabi University, which was formed to look into the merit of filling teaching posts lying vacant in the varsity, has recommended that 31 posts be kept in abeyance due to the financial crisis being faced by the university.

According to sources, this decision was taken at a recent meeting of the rationalisation committee which was presided over by Pro-Vice-Chancellor Dr R.N. Pal and included Dean, Academics, Prof U.C. Singh, Registrar Dr K.S. Sidhu and varsity Finance Officer Remal Das.

The committee has recommended to the varsity that the 31 vacant posts be kept in abeyance and that no advertisement should be released by the university against these. The posts include those of professors, readers and lecturers which fell vacant recently and could not be advertised for. Acting Vice-Chancellor Dr N.S. Rattan had formed the rationalisation committee to ascertain whether there was a need to advertise for all posts and whether the varsity could do without some of these as a cost-cutting measure.

The demand for rationalisation of posts was made earlier also, especially in humanities and languages courses, with the feeling in the varsity that some departments were overstaffed, as very few students opted for these courses. There was a demand to avoid recruiting teachers in such subjects. On the other hand in some science subjects there was a demand for immediate recruitment due to the start of the new academic session.

Sources said heads of departments were also involved in the process and were also invited for the meeting of the rationalisation committee, although many did not attend it. Posts lying vacant in as many as 13 departments of the university and the Computer Department of the Damdama Sahib Regional Centre were taken up for rationalisation.

Giving details they said in the Botany Department, it was projected that the post of two professors, two readers and three lecturers were vacant and the department demanded that at least two posts be filled, which was agreed by the committee. In the case of the Chemistry Department where the committee was told that posts of two professors, five readers and four lecturers were vacant and at least one post of professor should be filled, the committee did not agree to the proposal.

They said in case of the Sociology Department it was argued that posts of three professors, two readers and one lecturer were lying vacant and the department demanded that it be given one professor, two readers and two lecturers. However, the committee allowed only one reader and one lecturer to the department. In case of the Social Welfare Department, a demand was projected for two posts of lecturers lying vacant, which the committee reduced to only one lecturer.

In case of the Geography Department also the department demanded that all four posts lying vacant, including one of professor and three readers be filled. The committee slashed this requirement to one professor and two readers. In case of the Political Science Department, the department demanded that five posts lying vacant, including those of two professors and three readers, be filled but this demand was also not accepted with the committee allowing only one professor and one reader only. In case of psychology where demand for one professor and two lecturers was put the Committee has allowed two lecturers. In forensic science, it has allowed one lecturer against a demand for one reader and two lecturers. In human biology it has allowed one professor and two lecturers against the demand for four teachers. In the MBA Department, it has allowed one professor and two lecturers against a vacancy of four teachers and one ad hoc post, which was lying vacant. In zoology, it has scaled down the demand for one professor, one reader and one lecturer to only one lecturer and in public administration it has recommended recruitment of only one lecturer against the demand for one professor and one lecturer. In case of the Computer Department of the Damdama Regional Centre it has recommended recruitment of one reader and two lecturers as demanded by the centre.


HC: grant teacher refund with costs
Tribune News Service

Quotable quotes

* Every action of an officer must be supported by some sanction. Every officer must act within the power vested in him.

* An officer must remember that he has been given the authority and power to encourage others to do good. Not to discourage and destroy those doing their duty diligently. He must help; not harass or harm anyone.

* Today, it is necessary to protect the good from the bungling of the incompetent and machinations of the wicked.

* Society must realise that praise is the wage for virtue. It is the legitimate due of the virtuous. It must be paid. We must comment the good and condemn the bad. Only then, can the rot be checked.

Chandigarh, August 7
It is a classic case of harassment. A Gurdaspur-based school teacher, presented with a state and a national award, was compelled to deposit Rs 10,000 before her case for extension in service was considered. This is not all. She was later denied increments.

Taking a serious view of the matter, Mr Justice Jawahar Lal Gupta and Mr Justice S.S. Grewal of the Punjab and Haryana High Court have held that the action of Punjab state and other respondents was “wholly illegal” and the teacher was entitled to refund.

Delivering the verdict on a petition filed by Ms Manjit Walia, the Bench also directed the respondents to pay increments for the extended period of service within four weeks of receiving a certified copy of the order and added that the petitioner was entitled to costs assessed at Rs 10,000.

The Bench asserted: “Every action of an officer must be supported by some sanction. Every officer must act within the power vested in him. And then, he must remember that he has been given the authority and power to encourage others to do good. Not to discourage and destroy those doing their duty diligently. He must help, not harass or harm anyone. Today, it is necessary to protect the good from the bungling of the incompetent and machinations of the wicked. Society must realise that praise is the wage for virtue: it is the legitimate due of the virtuous. It must be paid. We must commend the good and condemn the bad. Only then, can the rot be checked”.

Speaking for the Bench, Mr Justice Gupta held: “Any individual could have taken pardonable pride in these achievements. Yet, what followed these awards was harassment and humiliation at the hands of the officers of the department concerned. Under instructions issued by the government, the teacher who gets an award is entitled to certain incentives. One of these is re-employment or extension in service. The petitioner was legitimately entitled to expect an extension for two years. However, on January 7, 1999, the Gurdaspur’s primary education officer sent a communication telling her that in case she wished to get an extension she should deposit Rs 10,000 in the treasury. In pursuance to the departmental directive, the petitioner was left with no choice. She had to either make the deposit or forego extension. She chose to surrender Rs 10,000. However, the question is — could the department have compelled her to make the deposit?”

Mr Justice Gupta concluded: “It is clear that the action of the respondents in compelling the petitioner is to deposit Rs 10,000 before considering her case for extension in service was wholly arbitrary, illegal and without jurisdiction. Moreover, the petitioner was granted extension in service. She was not re-employed. Her service was continuous. She was even promoted during the extended period of service. If promotion could be given, there is no reason for denying the increments. Resultantly, even increments for the extended period of service had to be given.... Even after the petitioner approached the Court, senior officers, including the Secretary to the government and the Director of Public Instructions (Primary Schools) failed to redress the petitioner’s grievance. She would be thus, entitled to the costs of this petition”. 


Tohra backing Noormahalias: Mann
Tribune News Service

Ropar, August 7
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), said today that by “boycotting” the meeting of Sikh bodies, held under the aegis of Akal Takht on Monday, against the anti-Sikh activities of Noormahalias and Baba Bhaniarawala, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, SHSAD chief, had proved that he and his party were supporting the Noormahalias.

Talking to The Tribune on the phone, Mr Mann said that Mr Tohra had also proved that he (Tohra) was hand in glove with the Congress as he had declined to comment on the Noormahalias activities and the Malout firing incident by saying that he would present his views only after the completion of a government inquiry in this regard.

Mr Mann also accused Mr Tohra of “deceiving” the Panthic Morcha in the past.

He said before the Punjab Assembly elections Mr Tohra had made attempts to join the Shiromani Akali Dal, headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, by holding secret negotiations with Mr Om Prakash Chautala and Mr P.K. Dhumal, Chief Ministers of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, respectively.


Rift in DCC to fore
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 7
Even as the newly appointed president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) is yet to revamp the unit, differences among Congressmen have started surfacing in this district.

This was evident last evening when Punjab Agriculture Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal accompanied by Local Bodies Minister Jagjit Singh visited this town in connection with a survey of drought-affected areas and nobody from the District Congress Committee (DCC) turned up to meet Mrs Bhattal. Only her loyalists and some officials were present at the meeting she held.

Earlier, when the Governor, Punjab, Lieut-Gen J.F.R. Jacob, visited the Talwandi Sabo area on August 3 to acquaint himself with the condition of farmers due to drought, former minister Harminder Singh and his associates were conspicuous by their absent. Only loyalists of Capt Amarinder Singh, including Mr Harinder Singh Jaurkian and Mr Ajit Singh Kanakwal (both special invitees, PPCC), along with their associates toured the affected areas with the Governor.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that a section of Congress leaders of this area have decided to form an 11-member committee to solve the problems of people as at present the Talwandi Sabo Assembly segment is being represented by an Akali rebel candidate, Mr Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu. Mr Kanakwal and Mr Palwinder Pal Singh Sidhu, Member, Zila Parishad, would conduct the proceedings of the committee.

The committee would also ensure that every farmer affected by the drought-like condition got relief at the earliest as per the decision of the state government.

The committee was constituted reportedly after a major section of people of the area felt that they were being ignored by their local leaders. A few weeks ago, some differences also came to the fore when a section of DCC workers levelled allegations against a Congress leader in connection with unauthorised constructions. The matter was also taken up with the Chief Minister by both parties. After this incident, a major section of Congress workers distanced themselves from the party. A Congress worker also issued a statement against a local MLA, Mr Surinder Singla, in the media a few days ago.

However, Mr Bhagat Singh Dhaliwal, president, DCC, said that functionaries of the DCC did not meet Mrs Bhattal as they were not informed about her visit by the district administration. He denied that there were differences among the Congressmen.


14 murders in a month rock Amritsar
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 7
Insecurity prevails amongst residents here following 14 murders in July. Most murders were the result of personal enmity, including three dowry deaths and four blind murders.

The sudden spurt in the crime rate not only points towards the laxity of the police to curb and prevent crime, it is an indication towards social trend that is the outcome of decreasing tolerance-level amongst the youth.

Raman Kumar (26) of Muslim Ganj was found killed in his in-laws house. The police booked his in-laws as prime accused in the case. The crime was committed with a double-barrel gun. Three of the in-laws family were involved in the crime.

A minor altercation between two neighbours, over a cable connection took a tragic turn when the culprits stabbed Kishore Kumar of Gali Gandawali to death.

As many as four murders were committed on July 14, including the killing of a Military Engineering Services (MES) employee Sanjay Kumar. He was shot dead by his friend. A 19-year-old Kashmir Singh was stabbed to death the same day over a minor dispute involving Rs 30. The accused stabbed him with a scissor. Five persons booked in the case included a woman. In another incident an angry young man Sukhcharan Singh killed his father Inder Singh, while a woman Jagdip Kaur was poisoned to death by her in-laws, including her husband, the same day.

In another incident Babita with the help of her brother, strangled her husband Rajinder Arora using a pillow allegedly due to her illicit relations with another person. The police has arrested all accused in the case.

A retired Headmaster Amar Singh was stabbed to death in his shop at Valla and a granthi of a gurudwara in the Anandnagar locality was killed in the gurudwara premises in the intervening night of July 21. Two unidentified women were found dead in the Serai Amanat Khan area on July 6 and July 14.

In the Tarn Taran area during the month two murders were reported including a dowry death. The in-laws of Sukhbir Kaur of King village under sadar police station in Tarn Taran allegedly strangled her to death for bringing insufficient dowry. The in-laws after killing her electrocuted her. Five accused have been arrested by the police. Sukhwinder Singh of Muradpura locality was stabbed to death over a minor dispute.

One Anita, alias Komal (27), was killed by her in-laws, the police has arrested four accused.

Mr Narinderpal Singh, SSP, said police could do little when personal feuds became basis for such crimes. He admitted that patience among the youth had become a rare commodity.


Local bodies to get additional powers
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, August 7
The Minister for Social Welfare, Punjab, Mr Santokh Singh Chaudhary, today announced that additional powers would be transferred to the local bodies to strengthen the Panchayati Raj System in the State. He also stated that transfer of powers will be a part of the ongoing efforts of the government to implement at the Panchayat level the 29 items listed in the Constitution of India with the local bodies.

Mr Chaudhary was speaking at the inauguration of a one day workshop for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe panches and sarpanches of Ropar District organised by the Institute of Development and Communication (IDC) at the Jan Shikshan Sansthan building here.

Explaining that the implementation of transfer of powers to the local bodies involved many steps, Mr J.R. Hundal, Secretary, Social Welfare Punjab accompanying the minister stated that after a decision is taken to hand over powers to run a particular scheme to the Panchayat, the budget and staff has to be arranged for the local bodies. Giving examples of states like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka, Mr Hundal pointed out that the government was planning to hand over the rural water supply system to the panchayats. ‘‘Its a beginning and there are the Samitis and Zila Parishads to help them.’’, he said.

Talking to media persons, Mr Chaudhary also said that primary education was likely to be transferred to the panchayats. He also informed that a total of Rs 20 crore had been set aside to be spent on allotting residential plots to the village panches and sarpanches.

Earlier, Dr Pramod Kumar, Chairman IDC, in the theme introduction pointed out that the state Budget had failed to focus on the SCs and STs in the state and no special grant had been given for their development.


TACs’ revival adds to BSNL’s woes
Our Correspondent

Ropar, August 7
Just after an year when TACs were disbanded keeping in view the corporatisation of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL), political considerations have compelled the Union Ministry of Telecom to revive telecom advisory committees (TACs) in the districts. The directive in this regard was received by the BSNL authorities about a fortnight ago.

Along with the directive came the list of candidates who were to become members of TACs and enjoy the privilege of free telephone connection and 1,100 calls per month at the cost of the BSNL. According to the earlier abandoned guidelines for forming TAC, its members had to be prominent citizens of the area who should have excelled in the field of social work or any other profession.

However, from the list of the recently recommended members for TAC in the district it seems political affiliation was the only criteria. The recently constituted TAC of the district comprises eight members from the Congress and BJP.

While the Congress members were nominated by the local MP, the BJP members were nominated by the ministry.

The members are Mr Bhupinder Nath Dewan, district president of the BJP, Mr Chander Kumar Bajaj, president of the Nangal unit of the BJP, Mr Kamal Nain Kakkar, district general secretary of the BJP, Mr Pratap Saini, Congress municipal councillor from Nangal, Mr S.P. Singh Billa, office-bearer of the PPCC backward cell, Mr Kailash Kaushal, Mr Om Prakash Aggarwal and Mr Kushwant Rai Gega, all politicians.

Officials of the BSNL, on the condition of anonymity, lamented the reconstitution of TACs. They alleged that TACs put unnecessary financial burden on the BSNL, which was already facing stiff challenge from private operators.

The Minister for Telecommunication and IT, Mr Pramod Mahajan, after taking over the charge had disbanded TACs, thus saving crores.


CM to unfurl flag at Patiala
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 7
The state-level function to mark Independence Day (August 15) will be held at Patiala, where Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, would unfurl the National Flag and take the salute.

An official spokesman said Dr Kewal Krishan, Speaker, would hoist the National Flag at Jalandhar.

The following is the schedule of other ministers: Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Ludhiana), Mr Jagjit Singh (Amritsar), Mr Lal Singh (Sangrur), Mr Khushal Behl (Fatehgarh Sahib), Mr Partap Singh Bajwa (Ferozepore), Mr Tej Parkash Singh (Ropar), Mr Raghunath Sahai Puri (Gurdaspur), Mr R.C. Dogra (Hoshiarpur), Mr Gurchet Singh Bhullar (Muktsar), Ch Santokh Singh (Nawanshahr), Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang (Mansa), Mr Sardul Singh (Bathinda), Mr Mohinder Singh Kaypee (Kapurthala) and Mr Avtar Henry (Faridkot).


Popularising Guru’s portrait his mission
Gurvinder Kaur

Patiala, August 7
For someone searching for the most life-like image of the 10th Guru of Sikhs , Guru Gobind Singh, the rare portrait of the Guru occupying the pride of place at educationist J.S. Jawanda`s house may be the answer. The painting according to him, is the most authentic portrayal of the Guru till date.

“Most people have only seen paintings of the Guru drawn by legendry Sobha Singh which, though commanding, are only an artist`s imagination. However, a glimpse of this portrait, a replica of the original by Nand Lal Bose, will satisfy anyone keen for a glimpse of the Guru`s veritable countenance”, claimed Jawanda. The painting is a copy of the framed black and white photograph of a postcard size ancient fresco, which has been in the family for as long as anyone can remember.

Nand Lal Bose whose, 21 sketches including that of Rama, Krishna and Buddha have been incorporated in the calligraphed draft of the Constitution of India and bestowed credibility, has also to his credit sketches of Akbar, Tipu Sultan and Guru Gobind Singh.

The painting has been executed in a blend of Mughal and Rajasthani styles of painting and depicts the Guru reclining against a bolster with a bow in one hand and an arrow in the other. His sword can be seen lying across his lap. The bolster rests against a small stretch of latticed marble. Guru Gobind Singh has been portrayed in a slender of frame with benign eyes, small hands and a halo around his elaborately bejewelled headgear which is akin to that worn by Mughal emperors.

Elaborating on the significance of the painting, Jawanda who retired as Principal, State College Of Education, recalls that way back in 1964, at a dinner hosted by him, he overheard the Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Dr Kirpal Singh Narang discussing a rare sketch 10th of the Guru with Mr V.S. Mathur, the then Principal of the State College of Education.

Dr Narang explained that the university had, after a lot of research in the field, zeroed in on Nand Lal Bose`s sketch of Guru Gobind Singh as the Guru’s most authentic portrayal till date. Hearing this, Jawanda showed him the framed photograph of the painting, and chuckled while recalling the look of amazement on the historian’s face while confirming it was indeed the same depiction the university had identified.

“Now that I am retired I would like to fulfil my long-suppressed desire to popularise this painting as the true likeness of the 10th Guru as opposed to his present popular perception among the masses”, says Jawanda. To further this purpose, he has got made small pendants bearing the miniature sketch and aims to give these away for a paltry sum, which merely covers the cost price.

He adds, “This depiction of the Guru is lent authencity by the fact that most historians agree upon the Guru being of a slender built deduced by the size and shape of the hilts and handles of the “shastras” or weapons used by Guru Gobind Singh, which have been preserved in various historical gurdwaras, most notably Huzoor Sahib in Patna”.


NGO in aid of village girls
Gurvinder Kaur

Patiala, August 7
For 15 village girls living in a small village near here formation of a self-help group in association with an NGO working in coordination with Nabard has changed their lives. From being totally dependent on their families and having no income of their own, these women are now on their way to becoming entrepreneurs in their own way.

The success story had a humble beginning. The women were encouraged by the Patiala Handicraft Handloom Society which goaded them to invest Rs 3 a day to form the self-help group. The women have managed to save Rs 9,000 through their own savings in this manner.

They have also been helped by Nabard which asked the handloom society to start a six-month course under the ARWIND scheme for Assistance to Rural Women in Non-Farm Sector at Darukutiya village, on the outskirts of the city. The women were also further helped with Nabard spending Rs 1 lakh in the village to install stitching machines and also providing raw material to them to enable them to get proper training in handicraft items.

This three-pronged approach has helped the group as well as others who took up the course to emerge as personalities in their own right, said Ms Rekha Mann, who heads the handloom society and also organised the valedictory function of the six-month scheme here today in which certificates were awarded to 50 women who completed the course. She said the group had been able to do sales of Rs 30,000 and had also been given confirmed orders for 100 folders, 100 traditional ‘pakhis’ and 100 ‘dupattas’ by the society.

Ms Mann said the course was aimed at not only training the women to become adept at craft designing, dress designing and tailoring but also to encourage them to become entrepreneurs in their own right. She said the women were trained from buying their own raw material to selling their products by going in for innovative designing and packing to attract buyers. She said they were also taught communication skills so that they could get the required orders from private parties.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Brij Mohan Batra, DDM, Nabard, said the idea behind the training was to encourage rural women to make their own societies or become independent entrepreneurs. He said for this they would be given loans by the Khadi Udyog Board, Grameen Bank and Cooperative Bank, besides others. He said by encouraging women to set out on their own Nabard also wanted to obliterate middlemen who usually bought handicraft items from rural areas and then sold them at hefty profits in cities because of which the artisans remained in penury.

Completion certificates were awarded to 50 women on the occasion by the Additional Deputy Commissioner, Mr Jagwant Singh Brar. 


Cattle damage canal embankments
Chander Parkash & Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, August 7
Drought conditions prevailing in the region have brought a new danger to canals flowing through the southern Punjab. With village ponds drying up due to the failure of rains, local villagers are using these canals as a source of drinking water and for bathing their cattle.

Besides polluting the canal water, which is also supplied to the water works for providing potable drinking water, this has also led to the embankments being heavily damaged at several places, leading to the outflow of water and creating small pools alongside, thereby affecting the flow of water.

A visit to various points along with Bathinda and Kotla branches of the Sirhind canal which flows through the region, revealed a herd of cattle, along with their owners roaming around the canals. The regular movement of the cattle in and out of the canals has led to heavy erosion of the mud embankments.

Squatting of a herd of cattle along the banks has resulted in the widening of the canals. Irrigation Department officials say that this is affecting the flow of water. For instance, the width of the Kotla branch of the Sirhind near Bhagi Wander on the Bathinda-Mansa road has increased to about 100 feet from the original 30 feet.

Entry points into the canals at several places have been plugged by the Irrigation Department. But these too have been removed by the villagers.

Information gathered by the TNS revealed that 60 per cent of village ponds in this district have dried up. The water of these ponds was used for bathing a herd of cattle and drinking. In Rampura block, there were about 50 ponds, but only 15 are left. Similarly, of the 100-odd ponds in Phul block, water is available in only 20-25 ponds.

The situation in much worse in Sangat block, where almost 78 ponds have been dried up. Water is available in two to three ponds of the block. Similarly, in Talwandi Sabo block, virtually all the ponds have dried up.

With a little or no water available, the only option left for them, say villagers, is to make use of the canals.


Pay Rs 50,000 to farmer, dealer told
Tribune News Service

Ropar, August 7
The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has directed Popular Automobiles, Morinda, to pay Rs 35,000 to Mr Gian Singh of Shingariwala village in Kharar tehsil, the complainant, along with Rs 15,000 as compensation.

Mr J. P. Gupta, president of the forum, has also directed Popular Automobiles to comply with the order with in 30 days from the date of receipt of the certified copy of the judgement, failing which the above amounts would carry an interest of 18 per cent per annum till realisation.

The complainant had filed a complaint in March seeking refund of Rs 35,000 from the agency, implements/accessories of Sonalika DI-745 III dual clutch tractor, and Rs 50,000 as compensation.

The complainant alleged that he had purchased a tractor in May, 2001, from the authorised dealer, which kept the delivery of accessories pending. Later, the engine of the tractor developed some fault. A complaint was lodged with the dealer who replaced the tractor in August, 2001. From May 17, 2001, to August 13, 2001, the complainant failed to plough the fields resulting in losses to the tune of Rs 25,000, the complainant added. 


BSP activists block traffic
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, August 7
Activists of the BSP today gheraoed Satnampura police station, blocked traffic on the Phagwara-Nakodar road and held a rally to demand the arrest of those who had attacked and injured five persons of a family at Hakupura mohalla in Hadiabad on August 3.

The protesters alleged that the assailants who had been nabbed under Sections 324 and 452 IPC were roaming about freely. The police, however, denied it.
The rally was addressed by BSP leades Harbhajan Singh Balalon and Ashok Sandhu.


Forward bloc seeks White Paper on economy
Tribune News Service

Ropar, August 7
The Punjab unit of the All-India Forward Bloc (AIFB) has urged the Punjab Government to publish a White Paper on the economic conditions of the state. It has also asked the Central government to issue a White Paper on the economic conditions of the country.

Mr V.P. Saini, general secretary of the Punjab unit of the AIFB, here today said the Union Government should stopped the “indiscriminate and reckless” privatisation and disinvestment in public sector undertakings. He also demanded immediate compensation for the drought-hit farmers to enable them to sustain the agricultural frame-work of the state.

Mr Saini said efforts would be made to unite all Left forces in Punjab. Besides, efforts also be made to provide an effective alternative to the Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance in the state.

Mr Saini also announced that a public campaign would be launched in support of sugarcane growers.


Undertrial dies of TB
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, August 7
A 72-year-old undertrial prisoner lodged in the Central Jail here, died of tuberculosis (TB) last night. This is the sixth incident of death in the Central Jail since the beginning of this year.

According to information received from the local SDM’s office, Maridu, a resident of Rukna Begu village was booked under Section 420 of the IPC on June 30 this year and was under judicial custody. He was suffering from TB, a chronic disease, from the past many years. The jail authorities admitted him to the Civil Hospital yesterday morning when he suffered from a chest pain and had some breathing problem. But he died late in the evening.


Bank staff hold dharna
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 7
On a call by the All-India State Bank of Patiala Employees Federation, a day-long dharna was staged by central committee members of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Uttranchal before the State Bank of Patiala Head Office here today.

Employee demands, including adequate recruitment of sub staff and clerical staff, upgradation of wages of part-time workers, working on sale wages, appointment on compassionate grounds for dependents of deceased, pension to all employees who joined between November, 1993 and September 1995 and stoppage of discrimination in matter of placemetn and postings, were discussed during the dharna.


Nambardars dismissed
Our Correspondent

Kharar, August 7
Mrs Seeema Jain, Deputy Commission, Ropar, has dismissed two nambardars of Mauli Baidwan village of Kharar Block namely Mr Mohinder Singh and Mr Nasib Singh on a charge of not performing their duties accurately.

They have been dismissed under the Punjab Land Revenue Act and the SDM, SAS Nagar, has been directed to start proceedings for fresh appointments.


Brothers get life term for murder
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, August 7
Mr Gurdev Singh Session Judge yesterday convicted Tarsem Singh and Amarjit Singh under Section 302 IPC on the charge of murdering Balwinder Singh and sentenced them to life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 10,000 each.

In default of the payment of the fine the sessions judge ordered them to undergo imprisonment for another six months.

According to the prosecution the body of Balwinder Singh was found at his tubewell and the police arrested Tarsem Singh. The accused it is alleged were nurturing grouse against the deceased as their brother-in-law who was working as a driver with the father- in-law of Balwinder Singh died in a road accident.

The police found some hair in the hands of the deceased , on Chemical examination they matched hair of Tarsem Singh. The police also took imprints of the footsteps from the tubewell and the matched the footprints of Amarjit Singh. Relying on the prosecutor the sessions judge sentenced the brothers to life imprisonment.


Markfed manager held
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, August 7
Mr Shamsher Singh, warrant officer, located Ajaib Singh, manager of the local depot of the Markfed, today at Gurdwara Baba Sidhana, Sheron 8 km from here, for which the police was on the look-out.

Mr Narinder Bhargav told mediapersons that a case under various sections of the IPC had already been registered against Ajaib Singh and five others in connection with 300 quintals of wheat stolen from Markfed godowns.

The SSP said Mr Ajaib Singh was arrested today in the wee hours.


ASI held for taking bribe
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 7
The local Vigilance Bureau today arrested an ASI red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 25,000 to release a man being kept illegally by him in the Kotwali police station.

The bureau, which recovered the man, Sandeep Makkar, from the police station has also registered a case against SHO Didar Singh for demanding a bribe of Rs 1 lakh from the victim. Vigilance sources disclosed that Sandeep had been lifted from Dera Bassi by the Kotwali police on a complaint filed by a finance company. The sources said no case was registered against Sandeep and he was kept illegally in the police station.

They said the Kotwali police demanded Rs 1 lakh from the family of Sandeep to free him. They said this sum was, however, reduced to Rs 65,000 after negotiations. It was added that Sandeep’s family members were in the process of paying the first instalment of Rs 25,000 when the police conducted a raid in the police station. They said SHO Didar Singh managed to escape from the police station. The sources said they had reports that bribes were demanded from other persons also in similar cases by the Kotwali police.


Gang of truck thieves busted
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 7
The Majitha police today busted a gang which was involved in murders, abductions and stealing vehicles in Punjab and adjoining states. The gang, comprising seven members, used to follow trucks, hijack them on highways at gunpoint, kidnap those in the trucks and later killed them. The bodies were thrown in the canals or fields and the material in the trucks sold after preparing forged documents.

Those arrested have been identified as Balwinder Singh, Bawa Singh, Sarup Singh, Kuldip Singh of Mehta Chowk, Bachittar Singh of Batala, and Dilawar Singh of Tarn Taran. Mejor Singh is still at large. Ms Shashi Prabha, SSP, Majitha police, at a press conference here today stated that on a tip-off Balwinder Singh was arrested by the police at the bus stand of Tangra village on August 6. Bawa Singh and Sarup Singh were arrested at a naka. Bachittar Singh surrendered before halqa magistrate and was in judicial custody, while Dilawar Singh was arrested in Ropar, she added.


Factory raided, adulterated spices seized
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, August 7
A team of police and health officials unearthed a factory producing adulterated spices here today. The team raided the factory, located in the Aawa Basti area, and seized adulterated spices and chemicals.

Mr Ishwar Singh, SSP, in a press note here today said the raid was carried out on a tip-off and huge quantity of adulterated spices was seized. Anil Kumar, who had been arrested, used to reportedly mix colours in turmeric.

These spices used to be sold in the city, besides nearby towns and villages.


PSEB extends admission dates
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, August 7
The Punjab School Education Board has extended the last date of taking admission to 10th, 11th and 12th classes in schools and colleges for the academic year 2002-2003 from July 26 to August 19, 2002. A late fee of Rs 100 for 10th and of Rs 200 for 11th and 12th classes will be charged.

A board spokesman said this decision had been taken for the convenience/benefit of those students who could not take admission owing to the closure of educational institution in the state.


DC orders inquiry
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, August 7
Taking a serious note of the news item published in The Tribune regarding the alleged beating of an eight-year-old schoolboy by the class teacher, the Deputy Commissioner has marked an inquiry into the case. The inquiry will be conducted by the District Education Officer (Schools). It is worth mentioning that the parents of Ravinder Singh, a student of Rana Munshi Ram Sarvhitkari Vidya Mandir, Sirhind, had alleged that due to severe beating up of their son by the class teacher, he became unconscious.

The DEO said the inquiry was in progress and they would submit the report to the Deputy Commissioner at the earliest. 

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