Wednesday, August 14, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Vigilance policing causes disquiet
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 13
The anti-corruption initiative in Punjab has led to disquiet and restlessness. It is slowly side-stepping the established systems and procedures by ignoring civility of administration. To maintain law and order, the vigilance police is essential. But it can neither keep the conscience of a civil society nor increase effectiveness of the civil administration. The later, however, must also own its responsibility to root out unethical practices—corruption—that have entered the administration, politics, social and economic life.

This is the common refrain of how political executive and bureaucracy views the present Omnipresence of the Vigilance (policing) Bureau. Top bureaucrats, TNS spoke to said any anti-corruption initiative was welcome but it had to be rooted in the system and carried out through straight and transparent procedures. Such an action must also be “uniform, consistent and prominently legal and impartial”.

A Deputy Commissioner said a careful study of the Punjab Police Rules (part II—Relations between police and Magistrates) and actual implementation, thereof, will remove many “irritants” encountered at present. With the passage of time, these rules have been compromised and subverted. With terrorism ending in 1993, it is time to once again adhere to the set rules that clearly state that a District Magistrate is the “head” of the criminal administration and the police force is the “instrument” provided for the maintenance of law and order. The Deputy Commissioners and the SSPs know better how a district is administered and how often magistracy “asserts” its powers or the police “assists” the former.

At the state-level, the ways of the Vigilance (policing) Bureau are now being questioned. Many officers TNS spoke to said in normal course, a complaint against a public servant or public person should be looked into by the competent authority — Administrative Secretary or the Head of a department or the Lokpal, respectively. In the past six months or so, not many complaints were received by the executive. The ones directly received in the Chief Minister’s Office were directly sent to the vigilance where investigations began without any preliminary scrutiny to establish whether there was any prima-facie criminal case or not. This has led to disquiet.

It is in this backdrop that one hears of increased civility of administration. A conscious society can definitely do better in taking the anti-corruption initiative to its logical conclusions, instead of a vigilance-oriented policing, which is causing avoidable emotional upsurge and unease among employees and even political (public) persons, irrespective of party affiliations, admitted many politicians and bureaucrats.

The executive admitted that “corruption” by way of bribery, financial frauds in government and public life and dishonesty were a deep malaise, which had adversely, affected work ethics. There is a race for easy access to easy money. These trends encompassing all sections of government and judicial system can possibly be remedied.

The echo of love-hate relationship between the police and the bureaucracy also persists with several questioning recruitments in the police in the past The police officers said that the force too had to “reform” and “transform” itself to meet the future challenges of economic offences, white-collar and cybercrime.

A common suggestion was the setting up of ethics committees, both in respect of public (political) persons and public servants, the former under the Vidhan Sabha and the latter in all departments.


Tota Singh granted bail
Tribune News Service

Ropar, August 13
Mr Maghar Khan, District and Sessions Judge, here today granted bail to Mr Tota Singh, a former Punjab Education Minister, in a criminal and corruption case registered against him on June 14 by the Vigilance Bureau at SAS Nagar.

Mr Tota Singh, who has been judicial custody, was also present in the court. A large number of his supporters were also present in and outside the court. Mr Tota Singh stopped them from raising slogans and asked them to return.

Arguing on the bail application, the defence counsel said the appointments of ETT teachers were made according to the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Mr Tota Singh had nothing to do with these appointments. He was a rich man and had sufficient landed property in his name. There was no chance of his going underground as he was a sitting MLA and hence he should be granted bail, the counsel added.

In his order, Mr Maghar Khan directed Mr Tota Singh to be released on bail on his furnishing bail bonds of Rs 2 lakh with one surety in the like amount to the satisfaction of the court.

The judge observed that the applicant (Mr Tota Singh) had been in judicial custody since June 23 and nothing was to be recovered from him. There was no independent witness in this case who the applicant might win over, if he was released on bail. All documents were lying with different departments and no useful purpose would be served by keeping the applicant in the custody. Documents had also been placed on record, showing that the applicant was suffering from heart disease and other ailments. The applicant was aged about 65 years and hence keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the case, the applicant was ordered to be released on bail.


Bank locker of Kohar’s son sealed

Jalandhar, August 13
The Vigilance Bureau today sealed the locker of Ajit Singh Kohar’s family at a branch of United Commercial Bank at Shahkot in the district.

According to official sources here, a nephew of Mr Kohar accompanied Vigilance officials. The locker is in the name of Naib Singh, son of Mr Kohar.

Meanwhile, Mr Kohar was medically examined in the local Civil Hospital after he complained of acute chest pain and headache during his police remand.

Mr Kohar, who was arrested on August 9 by the Vigilance Bureau on the charges of possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, complained of severe chest pain and headache and was brought to the hospital for medical check-up.

Dr Baldev Singh of the civil Hospital said Mr Kohar was brought there by the police at about 3 p.m. and stayed here for at least 45 minutes. ECG of Mr Kohar was found normal and blood samples had been sent to the laboratory, he added.

The confirm condition regarding health status of Mr Kohar could be stated only after getting the reports of blood, but otherwise he was looking normal, the doctor added. Agencies


PSSSB member gets bail

Kharar, August 13
District and Sessions Judge Maghar Khan today granted bail to a former Punjab Subordinate Services Selection Board (PSSSB) member Kulbir Singh Randhawa in a case of forgery, cheating, criminal conspiracy, corruption and amassing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income registered against him by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau at Mohali police station on July 12.

The court ordered his release on bail on his furnishing personal security bond of Rs 1 lakh along with one surety of the like amount to the satisfaction of the Ilaqa/Duty Magistrate.

Randhawa had already been granted bail in another corruption case registered against him by the Vigilance Bureau on June 28.

Randhawa is the first of the five arrested former PSSSB members to be released on bail. Others still in detention are Jarnail Singh Wahid, Munawar Masih, and Virsa Singh Valtoha, all of SAD, and Ashok Loomba of the BJP. UNI


Vigilance Bureau submits report on PPSC scam
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 13
The Vigilance Bureau has submitted its report on the PPSC recruitment scam to the Punjab Government for further action, Mr A.P. Pandey, ADGP and Director of the Bureau, said in a statement today.

He said that the bureau had constituted five special teams to arrest the candidates who got jobs by bribing the then PPSC Chairman and others. The bureau had ordered a probe into the irregularities committed by civil and police officers and disproportionate assets accumulated by these officers.

He addressed a meeting of vigilance officers posted in various districts.


Charges against me vague: Amarinder
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 13
Describing the allegations levelled against him as frivolous, vague and irrelevant, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today sought the dismissal of a petition challenging his election.

In a written statement submitted before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, his counsel stated that the petition did not disclose any cause of action. Denying the allegation about using the services of Class I gazetted officer Bharat Inder Singh Chahal, working as Joint Director in the Information and Public Relations Department, counsel added that the petition did not disclose the manner in which his help was taken. The charge regarding procuring the assistance of Patiala’s Superintendent of Police Gurnam Singh Mehra were also denied.

He further claimed that a copy of a poster, alleged to have shown Captain Amarinder Singh as Maharaja of Patiala, was neither placed on the record, nor the contents reproduced. After going through the statement, Mr Justice Jasbir Singh of the High Court fixed September 4 as the next date of hearing for permitting the petitioner to file a rejoinder.

In his petition, Mr Harkirat Singh of Patiala had sought the quashing of the CM’s election from the Patiala town assembly constituency on the ground of corrupt practices. Giving details, he had claimed that the services of Mr Chahal were used for helping the respondent during the campaign. In addition, Mr Chahal had actively participated in a press conference addressed by the respondent. Subsequently, a show cause notice was also issued to him. However, after taking oath on February 27, the respondent appointed him as Adviser to the Chief Minister.

Arguing on behalf of the petitioner, counsel for the petitioner had alleged that the assistance of Patiala’s Superintendent of Police Gurnam Singh Mehra was also procured. The CM also exercised undue influence on the voters by projecting himself as “Maharaja of Patiala” in posters. Moreover, the respondent had spent more than the prescribed limit of Rs 6 lakh on the campaign, it was alleged.

PSEB staff plea disposed of

A writ petition filed by the employees of the Punjab State Electricity Board challenging the decision 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 was today dismissed as infructuous.

Earlier during the proceedings, PSEB counsel stated that the impugned order would be withdrawn in view of the settlement between the management and the union leaders before Punjab’s Labour Commissioner on August 12. A Division Bench comprising Mr Justice Swatanter Kumar and Mr Justice S.S. Saron, on the last date of hearing, had stayed the operation of the order passed on July 22 by Under Secretary Finance whereby deduction of salary was ordered.

In his writ petition against the orders, an employee, Krishan Lall Bhardwaj, had alleged that the board was incurring losses because of faulty policies framed by it. He had added that the policies included supply of free electricity to the agriculture and other sectors. However, instead of reviewing its policies, the board had passed impugned orders directing the deduction of salary of its employees.

The board, on the other hand, had admitted that it had suffered an approximate loss of Rs 1100 crore during the past four years due to the supply of free electricity to tubewell consumers in the agricultural sector. In its reply, the board had added that the annual loss came out to be approximately Rs 250 crore. The decision to supply free electricity was taken by council of minister on February 14, 1997.

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


PSIDC moves Supreme Court
Payment of compensation to PNFC workers
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, August 13
Contrary to the poll promise made by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to Punjab National Fertilizers Ltd. (PNFC) workers, the PSIDC has moved the Supreme Court to deny them six months’ salary promised by the former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal. The decision has come as a shock to about 500 workers of the closed plant who, despite their poor economic condition fought a long-drawn out legal battle to get token compensation from the PSIDC.

What has peeved them most is that while on the one hand the local Congress MLA, Mr K.P.S. Rana, is issuing press statements that the government will pay 30 months’ salary as compensation to the ousted PNFC workers the PSIDC had moved Supreme Court against paying even six months’ salary to the workers.

The case of compensation to PNFC workers has been hanging fire since long. The company was wound up on court orders on July 27, 2001. Earlier, the company had stopped production in September 1999. Workers were not paid any salary.

They were not paid arrears and retrenchment dues even after the company was wounded up.

The former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, through an order passed on August 25, 2001 directed the PSIDC to pay six months’ salary as interim compensation to the ousted PNFC workers. However, after the change of government the PSIDC expressed its inability to pay any compensation to workers.

The workers after pooling their meager resources moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court to get six months’ salary as compensation.

The court in a judgement on May 16, 2002 directed the PSIDC to make the payment to workers as per the direction of the former Chief Minister within four weeks. Instead of making payment to workers the PSIDC on June 13, 2002 filed a company appeal before the Division Bench of the High Court. On July 4, 2002 the Division Bench dismissed the company’s appeal.

After that the PSIDC filed an application for six-months’ extension for making the payment to the workers. The court, however, again rejected the appeal of the PSIDC and directed to make the payment in four weeks. As per the court orders the PSIDC had to make payment to workers by August 4. However, instead of making the payment the PSIDC has now filed an appeal in the Supreme Court.

The Managing Director of the PSIDC, Mr Khana, when contacted on the telephone admitted that the corporation had moved an appeal in the Supreme Court against the high court order of paying six months’ salary as compensation to PNFC workers.

The president of the PNFC Karamchari Sangh, Mr Parveen Kumar, who fought the case on behalf of workers alleged that the recent decision of the PSIDC to move the Supreme Court was as a last blow to the beleaguered workers of the closed company. “They now don’t have funds to defend their case in the Supreme Court”, he said.


Green hue to Punjab education
Biswajeet Banerjee

Lucknow, August 13
“Green Education” is going to be the buzzword in Punjab as it has become the first state in North India to adopt environment as part of the school curriculum. Though the project is being run on an experiment basis, but it is likely to be introduced in all government schools of the state.

This World Bank aided project, in collaboration with the Centre of Environment Education (CEE) and Ministry of Environment and Forest, is being launched in 100 schools of eight districts of the state from this year. On August 7 the students got the ‘green books’.

The change in curriculum is subtle and is being introduced in only three classes — VI, VII and VIII. In view of the recommendation of the Kothari Commission no extra burden is added on the students in the form of additional books or additional chapters, said Dr Rambhooj Yadav, the in-charge of CEE (north).

The only change made in the text-books is that these have been made more colourful with green dominating other colours. “The emphasis has been that the students should know more and more about our environment without making additional efforts”, said Dr Yadav.

To achieve this linkages have been located in the current syllabi of these three classes where additional inputs about environment can be added. For this, the experts have read over 100 text-books to know exactly where these environment-friendly inputs can be incorporated.

Besides, small boxes in green colour and caricature have been used in almost all the chapters so that the students can understand the complexities of environment without any fuss, said Ms Ravleen, in-charge of the CEE in Punjab.

The project is being launched in 100 schools run by the Punjab School Education Board and is being implemented in just eight districts. These are: Sangrur, Patiala, Ropar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Amritsar.

At least 765 teachers have been imparted training in workshops held all over the state in the last few months. These teachers, to be known as ‘green teachers’, have been taught the nitty-gritty of the green education project.

The changes have been made in the text-books of first language (Punjabi), second language (Hindi), science and social science. In case of first language all the chapters of class VI and VIII, 26 and 28 respectively, have been updated with environment-friendly information while for class VII 27 out of 28 chapters have been value-added with green information.

In Hindi, however, 21 out of 26 chapters for class VI, 22 out of 30 chapters of class VII and 20 out of 31 chapters for class VIII have been changed. Similar changes have been made for science and social science subjects.

Besides making changes in the books, the students will also be taken for outdoor excursions, said Dr Yadav. The students will be taken to the riverside, to forest and even taught small experiments like how to purify water, he said.


Bhattal: 50 pc of paddy damaged
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 13
Raising the hopes of farmers of getting the state declared drought-hit by the Centre, the Punjab Agriculture Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, today said more than 50 per cent of area under paddy was affected by the prevailing dry spell and damage worth Rs 2000 crore had already been incurred by the state directly or indirectly. She said according to the surveys already conducted 25 to 30 per cent area under paddy was damaged but as per as her information more than 50 per cent area was hit by the drought.

‘‘This will be confirmed in the ongoing state-wide girdawari, which would be completed on August 25’’, she asserted.

Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, had given a statement some weeks ago that the state was not drought-hit as the damage was well below the 50 per cent mark. Ms Bhattal said the state government had demanded a grant of Rs 800 crore from the Union Government and the state had already received its first instalment of Rs 100 crore. It was already sent to the district heads of various districts for distribution.

Ms Bhattal was in the city to attend the 16th meeting of the ICAR Regional Committee (number-IV) held at Punjab Agriculture University today. Presenting a grim picture of the agriculture affected by the dry conditions Ms Bhattal said 50 per cent tubewells in the state had become non-functional as the underground water had touched a considerable low. Further she said out of a total of 24 lakh hectares of land under paddy, farmers had already ploughed in the crop on 11,296.5 hectares and the crop in 1.5 lakh hectares was already damaged. She said around 30 per cent of the agricultural land was not cultivated in various districts including Patiala, Muktsar, Bathinda and Mansa and the border districts of the state were also drought-hit.

The Agriculture Minister said that she was touring the Kandi area from tomorrow. She said the Chief Minister had called a meeting on August 16 at Chandigarh where these issues would be discussed and a delegation of ministers would meet the Prime Minister. 


Tempers run high at SAD meeting

Sangrur, August 13
The factional fight between SAD factions led by the Union Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, and the Uttaranchal Governor Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, surfaced today at Barnala during a workers’ meeting which was presided over by the former Chief Minister and SAD President Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

The meeting was organised to commemorate the 17th death anniversary of Sant Harchand Singh Longowal on August 20.

Tempers ran high when Mr Surinder Singh Sadowalia, an aide of local MLA, Mr Malkit Singh Kittu and close to Mr Dhindsa took control of the stage during the meeting at Gurdwara Dera Baba Gandha Sahib. Infuriated over this, a former chairman of the improvement trust Rupinder Singh Sandhu, a protege of Mr Barnala, objected. However, before the situation could take an ugly turn Mr Jasmail Singh Diwana, advocate, was asked to take control of the dais.

Mr Badal blamed the factional fight and the electronic media for the defeat of the SAD-BJP alliance during the Assembly elections.

Mr Badal said if his allegations of amassing property worth Rs 3,500 crore were true, then Capt Amarinder should make the details of his properties public. PTI


Rinwa’s decisions creating rift
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 13
Even as the state BJP leadership plans to launch an offensive against the Punjab Government led by Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh for its “anti-people” policies, resentment and discontent is brewing in its rank and file over some decisions taken by party president Prof Brij Lal Rinwa in the recent past.

As the BJP performed poorly in the Assembly and municipal corporation elections, a section has been demanding a change in the party organisation. For the past many months, Mr Rinwa and his associates have been trying to foster harmony in the party rank and file so that an effective ‘attack’ may be launched on Capt Amarinder Singh for the “atrocities” being committed on party leaders and workers. Almost all former state Presidents of the BJP had criticised the removal of presidents of three district units of the party in the Majha and Doaba region without following proper procedure. He said such actions would accentuate the inner-party rift.

While Mr Daya Singh Sodhi, former state BJP chief, has alleged that Mr Rinwa has removed honest and hard working activists of the party for “personal” interests, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, another former state President, has expressed similar views. He was the first to oppose the move to remove office-bearers of the party.

Sources close to BJP circles revealed that a major section of the party rank and file planned to meet national President Venkaiah Naidu.


PSEB: no move to cut generation incentive
Tribune News Service

Ropar, August 13
The PSEB will not change its generation incentive scheme for employees working in thermal plants.

This assurance was given by Mr Harchand Singh Barsat, Political Secretary to the Punjab Chief Minister and secretary of the state-level Employees Welfare Committee formed by the Chief Minister, to a deputation of the Punjab Power Employees Federation which met him yesterday under the leadership of Mr Sukhdev Singh, state president of the federation.

Mr Sukhdev Singh said Mr Barsat also assured the deputationists that the state government would also consider to abolish the contract labour system in the thermal plants.

Mr Sukhdev Singh said the deputationists also urged Mr Barsat to make provisions in the PSEB rules for exempting the PSEB employees from appearing in the examinations for promotion in the clerical cadre.


Power position improves
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 13
The power position has improved in the state due to widespread rain, in spite of the closure of Unit No. 1 of 210 MW capacity at Ropar Thermal Plant since August 7 and tripping of unit No 4 of 110 MW capacity at Bathinda Thermal Plant this morning. An official PSEB press note said both units were likely to become operative tomorrow which would further improve power availability.

It said due to increased flows at Chamera all three units of 180 MW capacity each were running on full capacity. This had also resulted in increased inflows to the Ranjit Sagar dam, where the water level rose to 492.61 metres in the afternoon today.

The press note said due to improved supply position, no urban or industrial cut has been imposed on category - 1 consumers today and that the three-phase tubewell supply to the agricultural sector had been increased from eight hours to 10 hours with effect from today. It said if the rains continued for another two to three days, other restrictions imposed on industrial and other sectors were likely to be relaxed, keeping in view the availability of power.


Heavy rain exposes city’s poor sewerage
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 13
Even as the municipal corporation is conducting a survey of buildings which are on the verge of collapsing due to the rains, the sewerage in the city is in bad shape. The corporation says lack of funds was the reason behind the poor sewerage.

Even the residence of the Mayor, Mr Sunil Datti, is not free from choked sewerage due to which ankle-deep water has collected in front of his residence after torrential rains last evening.

Low lying areas along Ganda nullah are the worst-affected.

Life in at least 92 unauthorised colonies on the outskirts of the city have been thrown out of gear due to yesterday’s heavy rain.

The condition of the sewerage is so bad that some 36 houses in Gali Gandawali, near Namak Mandi, are submerged in knee-deep water damaging the foundations. Many of the houses have developed cracks and many rooms of the houses have sunken floors.

The corporation is yet to repair the sewerage which is posing a severe threat to these buildings.

The bus station was also flooded with rain water. 


Dalit family saved from bondage
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, August 13
Life for 33-year-old Dalit Atma Singh, a resident of Hassan Bhatti village became hell when he took an advance of Rs 17,000 from a landlord of this district. In return he agreed to work for him as farm assistant.

Today, Atma Singh, along with his wife and four minor children, are living at a transit rehabilitation centre at Phillaur set up by Volunteers for Social Justice after escaping tyranny of the landlord with the help of the Dalit Dasta Virodhi Andolan.

Mr A. Venu Prasad, Deputy Commissioner, told TNS the National Human Rights Commission had asked the district administration to hold a inquiry into this case. The statement of Sukhmander Kaur, wife of Atma Singh, had been recorded in the connection by the Magistrate.

Ms Prabhjot Kaur, programme officer, Volunteers for Social Justice, talking to TNS here today, alleged while Atma Singh was repeatedly beaten up by his landlord, his family members were denied food. The organisation had to approach the District Magistrate and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for securing the release of five members of Atma Singh’s family from bondage.

She said Atma Singh took an advance of Rs 17,000 from the landlord when he joined his services in March 2002. The landlord started charging 5 per cent interest on the amount advanced. Atma Singh was made to pay Rs 100 as penalty for any day when he failed to come to work. The penalty sum was added to the bondage debt amount. When Atma Singh suffered injuries after falling from a scooter and expressed his inability to do work, he was beaten up severely by the landlord, which forced him to flee.

She said the organisation moved a complaint with the NHRC and approached the Deputy Commissioner. The family members of Atma Singh, his wife Sukhmander Kaur (30) and four children, Mandeep Kaur (9), Gulwinder Singh (7), Parveen Kaur (5) years and Nirbhai Singh (2), were released from bondage yesterday.

She alleged that no action had been taken against the landlord so far by the authorities concerned.

Mr Prasad, denying the allegations pointed out that all family members of Atma Singh were released on August 5 in his presence. The landlord did not confine them in illegal custody and they were not maltreated. Mr Kamaljit Kaur, the landlord’s wife, contacted, said money was not given to Atma Singh on interest. He was given Rs 17,000 as advance and the same was demanded back when he refused to do work.


Fraud case against Markfed Manager
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, August 13
The Vigilance Bureau has finally registered a case of fraud against Mr V.K. Sharma, a controversial branch Manager of Markfed, and one of his office clerks Mr Ram Lal, however, another inquiry into bogus purchase of paddy by tampering with the official records is still pending before the Vigilance Bureau, besides two other departmental inquiries on wheat shortage.

Mr Sharma and Inspectors Joginder Singh and Narinder Singh charged with being involved in bogus purchase of paddy were suspended from service on the directions of the Vigilance Bureau on June 19.

The investigation now has been handed over to the anti-fraud squad of the Punjab Police. According to details available, the Vigilance Bureau, during preliminary inquiry, found that more than 15,000 bags of paddy kept with Lakshmi Traders, Guru Har Sahai, were sold in the open market in 1997-98. The records were tampered with to conceal the shortage in the record register.

The investigating team of the anti-fraud squad raided the Guru Har Sahai branch office of Markfed on Friday to arrest Mr Sharma and his colleague, but both managed to flee. Raids were also conducted at the residence of Mr Sharma, but he is untraceable. An official of the Markfed told TNS that Mr Sharma was trying to seek anticipatory bail. When contacted, an official of the anti-fraud squad said Markfed officials were not co-operating with the squad in providing records related to the case.


Nearly 100 disabled persons lose jobs
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 13
The Rural Development and Panchayat Department has removed nearly 100 persons recruited to various posts in December, 2001, by the previous SAD-BJP government. The Rural Development and Panchayat Department had issued instructions last week to zila parishads and panchayat samitis to relieve those recruited under the handicapped category for the following posts — clerk, sewadar, beldar, water carrier, safai sewak, road rakha, gardener-cum-chowkidar, veterinary pharmacists and boatmen.

The memo, which was forwarded to all Deputy Commissioners, said the recruitments were being cancelled as a number of irregularities had been found in the appointments. Sources said nearly 100 employees had been relieved all over the state under various categories. They said other appointments of disabled persons during the same period, including those of Junior Engineers, were also being examined.


Security beefed up in Pathankot
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, August 13
Security has been beefed up in and around the town in connection with the Independence Day celebration on August 15. Sources said about 11 preventive arrests had been made throughout Gurdaspur district during the past few days. Almost all incoming vehicles from different areas are being thoroughly searched before allowing them to enter the city.

The local police has also stepped up patrolling in and around the I.D.S.D. School grounds, where the Independence Day celebrations are scheduled to be held. All slum areas are also being thoroughly searched by the police.

The local residents have been asked by the police to inform it in case of a tenant or guest arrives at their house.

Local hotels were also being thoroughly checked. Recently a meeting of senior police officials of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir was held at Talwara in which security arrangements in the border towns were discussed at large.


Ice manufacturing units raided
Our Correspondent

Malout, August 13
The health authorities yesterday conducted raids on a number of factories manufacturing ice in the town following reports that impure water was being used to manufacture ice.

Sources said samples of water and ice were taken from these factories by a team of health officials.

Dr Gurjant Singh Sekhon, in charge of the local Civil Hospital, confirmed the raids and added that the Deputy Commissioner had issued orders in this regard.


Cotton crop faces pest attack
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 13
Even as the cotton crop faces the season’s first attack by pests, officials of the Agricultural Department have warned that if the dry spell continues, the yield of the “white gold”, which is now in its pre-flowering stage, will further drop by about 15 per cent this year as thousands of acres standing crop may be ploughed in.

In large parts of the state, this has put agriculturalists virtually in a catch-22 situation. If it rains, they will witness heavy attacks on their crops by pests. If the weather continues to remain dry, irrigation becomes a problem, thereby adversely affecting the growth. In either case, the yield declines.

While the drought has so far limited attacks by pests, the Department of Agriculture here has warned that if such conditions continue to prevail, an additional 40,000 acres of standing paddy and cotton crop in this region is likely to be ploughed in already 1,185 acre of cotton crop and 1,335 acre of paddy crop have been ploughed in by farmers, as they were unable to irrigate their fields.

With this region finally receiving a spell or two of rainfall, pests have started attacking the cotton crop and in some instances, the standing paddy crop. According to the Chief Agricultural Officer, Dr H. S. Bhatti, reports of aphid and jassid worms, besides the much-feared American and pink bollworms attacking cotton crop in the region have started flowing in.

“Owing to prolonged dry spell, the attack by pests is not severe yet,” Dr Bhatti commented. “The pests attacks, however, are still below the economic threshold level (ETL), which means that farmers need not panic,” he added.

In addition, Dr Bhatti said the leaf-folder worm, which damage plant leaves, had also been attacking the standing paddy crop. The paddy sown in the later part of the season is being affected by this pest. Farmers say so far, the Agricultural Department has been unable to come up with any solution to this pest, which decays the root, thereby killing the plant.

According to agricultural experts, infestation of crops by pests starts during monsoon, when the moisture content in the air is high. Dry conditions are not suitable for pests to survive, and hence so far the problem has not been acute.

A visit to fields in this region revealed that in some packets the growth of cotton crop is stunted. This has been attributed due to lack of water. While the ideal height of cotton crop at this stage should be about 4 feet, in most areas, it is on an average, only about two-and-a-half feet. In some pockets, the crop has barely grown a foot tall.

“Our reports reveal that 40,374 acre of standing crop may have to be ploughed as their growth is insufficient to provide adequate economic returns to the farmers,” Dr Bhatti said. While the area under cotton cultivation in this region has already decreased significantly over the past few years, the state of cotton crop this year may result in further 15 per cent decline in yield, Dr Bhatti added.


Tubewell connections for Mansa villages
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 13
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has decided to release tubewell connections on priority to farmers of villages of Mansa district which have been affected by waterlogging.

A PSEB statement said today the connections would be given in Kuala, Jagatgarh Bandra, Jatana Kalan, Chanduwala, Kotra, Jatana Khurd, Churian, Ulak, Dodia, Fatehgarh Saniawali, Laliawali, Zhunir and Danawala villages.

The statement said the connections would be released in phases according to the availability of material and test reports in hand. It said priority would be admissible under the terms and conditions of general category without any cut off date adding that the service connection charges of Rs 5,000 per BHP besides variable charges beyond 500 m length of high tension or low tension line would be recovered.


Octroi posts’ auction fetches Rs 2.04 cr
Tribune News Service

Ropar, August 13
Octroi posts here were auctioned for Rs 2,04,31,000 for the period August 16, 2002 to August 15, 2003 at the office of the Deputy Director, Local Bodies, Ludhiana, yesterday. Stating this here, Mr Inder Sain Chhatwal, President of the local MCl, said there were eight sanctioned octroi posts in the town while the contractor might increase the number of posts by obtaining permission from the President or Executive Officer of the council.

He said the reserve price for the auction of octroi posts was Rs 1,96,67,000. The auction of octroi posts of the Morinda Municipal Council was cancelled yesterday as the prospective contractors considered the reserve price of Rs 1.21 crore high.


Kale kachhewale strike at villages
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, August 13
Members of kale kachhewale struck at three villages and decamped with valuable articles last night.

According to reports reaching here, four members of the gang first attacked Yusuf Masih. After injuring his daughter-in-law they took away some articles and cash.

Members of the gang injured Prem Singh of Chakral village. They took away valuables belonging to his wife, Biaso, and daughter-in-law, Sonia from his house.

According to reports received here, a woman was also injured at Bhangala village by members of the gang and they allegedly looted cash and valuables.

No arrest has been made in this connection so far.


Travel agent held for fraud
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 13
The police during ‘sangat-police’ arrested Nirpal Singh, a resident of Sirsa district of Haryana, recently. He had been cheating innocent and unsuspecting residents of Bathinda district of their money on the promise of taking them abroad.

The accused had taken Rs 35,000 from Jagtar Singh, a resident of Pakka Kalan village in Bathinda district. He had also cheated four residents of this village — Jagroop Singh, Gurbachan Singh, Sardul Singh and Bal Ram Singh.

Each of them had paid Rs 30,000 to Nirpal Singh for going to Singapore and Australia through illegal means.

Mr Ishwar Singh, district police chief, when contacted, said a special watch was being kept on the activities of unscrupulous travel agents.

The questioning of Nirpal Singh was likely to yield valuable information, he added.


Gang of vehicle thieves busted
Our Correspondent

Moga, August 13
The district police has busted an inter-state gang of vehicle thieves.

Senior Superintendent of Police Shiv Kumar said here today that the police has arrested one of its members Balwinder Singh of Chola Sahib in Tarn Taran against whom a case has been registered under Sections 379 and 411, IPC. The SSP said he had confessed to the crime during interrogation.

The SSP said after his interrogation a police party raided the Gill Park area and recovered from there seven Tata Sumo, five jeeps, two Indica cars, one Maruti car, four Zen cars, one Qualis jeep.

He further said the accused has given the names of some members of the gang and they are Paramjit Singh, Sukhwant Singh of Waryam Nangal.


One held on charge of betting
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, August 13
The police has arrested Rajesh Kumar, alias Raju, of the local Model Town area for allegedly betting on cricket match between India and England by using his mobile and landline phones.

District police chief, Mr Ishwar Singh, in a press note issued here today said the culprit was putting bets on the India-England Test from his shop in the Bank Bazar area. He was arrested red-handed and a mobile phone, Rs 5,000 in cash and a television set were seized. A case has been registered.


Teachers go on mass casual leave
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, August 13
On a call given by the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union to observe “education bandh” teachers of non-government privately managed colleges today went on mass casual leave to protest against the anti-employees policies of the central and state governments.

Addressing the gathering of college teachers here today, the president of the district unit of the union, Prof Mukhtiar Singh, denounced the state government for denying financial aid to these colleges and universities under the garb of fiscal management measures.

He said the decision to impose 10 per cent annual cut in grants to about 172 non-government privately managed colleges would ruin the whole higher education system with the colleges left with no option but to hike the fee structure, putting huge financial burden on the students.

Meanwhile, students of most of the colleges in the district did not turn up due to the protest. “Since, teachers have already declared that they are not going to attend classes today, the students too decided to observe holiday,” Nimisha, a student of Lyallpur Khalsa College, said.

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