Monday, August 19, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Hanspal takes over as PPCC chief
Promises to implement poll manifesto
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 18
Mr H.S. Hanspal, who was today formally installed as the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) President, promised to implement the party’s election manifesto.

Addressing a press conference after taking over as PPCC President, Mr Hanspal said: “The party will act as a watchdog of the government, which is to implement the promises held out to the people at the time of the Assembly elections and also ensure that the benefits of government policies percolated to the grassroots”. The party workers would be activated to disseminate government policies.

Mr Hanspal said a clean and compact PPCC would be reconstituted shortly and it would supplement the government’s anti-corruption drive. Asked if he would adhere to the principle of ‘’one man, one post’’, Mr Hanspal said he would follow the party constitution. Capt Amarinder Singh, he added, had himself offered to step down as PPCC President on becoming the Chief Minister.

About relations between the Congress and the Akali-BJP, he said in the interest of the state and its people the Congress would reciprocate the Opposition’s positive gestures. He feigned ignorance over the war of nerves between Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Parkash Singh Badal. At this Capt Amarinder Singh, who was sitting next to him, remarked with a chuckle, ‘’I love Badal’’, with Mr Hanspal interjecting to say, ‘’His (Badal’s) district-level protests against the government have fizzled out and his defamation suit is a diversionary tactics’’.

Time and again Capt Amarinder Singh intervened to rescue Mr Hanspal, whenever some questions with political overtones were asked.

Capt Amarinder Singh clarified today that Punjab had suffered due to a scanty rainfall which had adversely affected its agricultural and industrial economy and upset its finances, resulting in the state suffering a loss of Rs 5,014.12 crore which the Centre must compensate.

The Chief Minister said since the “Akalis are a part of the NDA government, why doesn’t Mr Badal go to New Delhi and plead Punjab’s cause for compensation, which includes a remunerative minimum support price plus adequate bonus on paddy? He went on to say that Ms Sonia Gandhi had met the Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled states and approached the Prime Minister for financial help. But it was apparent that the NDA was ‘’selective and discriminatory’’ in its approach and attitude towards the Congress-ruled states. If that was not so, how come the NDA had not yet responded to Punjab’s request for help? The Chief Minister asked.

About the progress on the ‘’charge sheet’’ against the Badal government that the PPCC had released during the elections, Capt Amarinder Singh said it was being pursued and once documentary evidence became available, it would be made public.

The Chief Minister said he had decided to meet with all MPs from Punjab once a month in New Delhi to discuss the state’s needs and problems vis-a-vis the Centre and seek their intervention.

Besides thousands of Congress workers and supporters Ms Ambika Soni, Mr Moti Lal Vora, Ms Mhsina Kidwai and Mrs Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder were present at Mr Hanspal’s installation ceremony. Party leaders urged workers to strengthen the organisational wing and work for the good of the state.


Book Badal under POTA: PPCC
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, August 18
The Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee (PPCC) today demanded that former Chief Minister and SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal should be booked under POTA for his alleged role in the state managed “arrest” of Khalistan Commando Force chief Wassan Singh Zaffarwal last year.

Addressing a press conference here yesterday, the secretary of the PPCC, Mr Sukhpal Singh Khiara, alleged that the way Mr Badal and former PWD minister Sucha Singh Langah had helped Zaffarwal to get him arrested from a bus stop in Amritsar last year had exposed the politician-criminal nexus prevailing during the past five years of the SAD-BJP regime.

“In fact, the hue and cry made by Mr Badal over the arrest of Langah, who had conspired the whole “arrest” drama of Zaffarwal, is nothing but an attempt to evade any legal action against the former.

Mr Badal should be arrested under POTA for patronising dreaded terrorists during his rule,” Mr Khiara demanded. Commenting upon the statement of Mr Badal that the Congress government should take legal action against the four “tainted” Congress ministers who had already been indicted by the Punjab Lokpal, Mr Khiara said why Mr Badal had failed to initiate such an action against these ministers during his tenure as the Chief Minister?

The Congress leader further revealed that the state government had already collected material and documentary evidence against Mr Badal and his family pertaining to their alleged involvement in corrupt deeds and they would be booked soon for amassing disproportionate assets.


IFC can’t fund govt development plans: Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 18
The SAD President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, said here today that the IFC with which Captain Amarinder Singh claims to have reached an understanding for the loan-cum-grant of $ 1 billion was not even a legal entity and lacked the authority or resources to aid governmental development programmes.

“It was no more than one of the thousands of faceless private finance companies doing business with dubious money. It is amazing that the CM does not even know the address, if any, of this body. He should explain to the people of Punjab the circumstances and reasons behind his preferring to seek $ 1 billion loan from the IFC bypassing internationally respected institutions like the World Bank and IMF even though his US trip had been cleared specifically for getting a loan from these very institutions,” Mr Badal said. He also asked the Chief Minister to remove the shroud of mystery surrounding his dealings with an institution the existence of which was a secret even for senior Congress leader, Manmohan Singh.

“The mystery surrounding the identity, whereabouts and the antecedents of the this institution and the CM’s stubborn refusal to share with the people of Punjab the exact details and documents about the $ 1 billion loan have filled the atmosphere with stink of some foul play somewhere. Why is the Chief Minister treating the whole affair in a hush-hush manner? Why does he treat the issue as if its privacy was the key to its success and the secrecy had the sanctity of some detail of the CM’s personal life?” Mr Badal asked in a statement released here this afternoon. The Akali leader also asked the Chief Minister to explain if the IFC was incorporated as a company, if it was a registered body and if it had any legal sanction.

Mr Badal also questioned the justification of the UK leg of the tour. “What did the CM and his team do there for almost a week? Captain Amarinder Singh says he did not visit Scotland. Then where was he all these seven days? People have the right to know the detail of every minute spent by the Chief Minister there since it was made on public money. He must tell us the names of the NRIs he met during the UK leg of the trip. What was the outcome of these meetings”? the SAD leader asked.

The SAD chief scoffed at the Chief Minister releasing the details of five overseas visits undertaken by him during his tenure as Chief Minister. “First of all, let him get his facts right. I made three trips abroad and not five. Two of these were specifically made on medical rounds as I had to undergo surgery. Everybody, except Capt Amarinder Singh, is aware of this fact. Even during this medical trip, I managed to meet quite a few NRIs to discuss development proposals even though the trip was not sanctioned for that purpose”, Mr Badal said.

Mr Badal said that during his only official visit abroad as Chief Minister, he interacted at the highest level with leaders of Israel, meeting their President, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister apart from scores of high-level delegations. “Whom did Capt Amarinder Singh meet during his visit to the UK and the USA? Perhaps not even a junior-level government official or businessman or industrialist or even a single prominent NRI. Perhaps, that was not even the intention from the very beginning.” Mr Badal reminded the Chief Minister that even the Khalsa Heritage memorial complex, which he (the CM) had so much admired, took shape during the course of his (Mr Badal’s) Israel trip where he made special efforts to meet internationally renowned architects, including Mr Moshe Safadi.”


Khanna charges CM with witch-hunt
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 18
“The Union Government will consider the imposition of President’s rule in Punjab if the NDA’s fact-finding team visiting Punjab recommends it,” says Union Tourism Minister Vinod Khanna.

He was in the city today to address a state-level protest rally organised by the BJP to express its resentment against the witch-hunt unleashed by the Congress government in Punjab against its political rivals.

The minister said that his party was not opposed to holding inquiries into corruption charges against anybody, but was not in favour of kicking up political rivals on “cooked up” charges. Workers and leaders were being systematically targeted with a view to demoralising the party set-up in the state, he asserted.

Mr Vinod Khanna, who represents Gurdaspur in the Lok Sabha, charged Capt Amarinder Singh with following a dual policy on corruption. “ If he is impartial, well-meaning and has real guts, he should order an inquiry into the assets of all Congress leaders, which were acquired by them during the past 25 years. I am sure he will be shocked at the outcome, “ he asserted.

Narrating an incident about the “police raj” in the state, he said he was touring his constituency when he was approached by a Christian leader. He asked him to sit near him, but later on learnt that after he left the venue, the leader was picked up by the police. I called up the authorities, but was not able to trace his whereabouts. This is just a solitary instance, but one can well imagine the state of affairs in the state, he added.

He appealed to the workers for strengthening the party and not be cowed down by the terror, let loose by the regime in the state. “We will do whatever is necessary to repulse the attacks on us”, he assured, amid slogans from the impressive gathering.

Union Aviation Minister and BJP leader from Bihar Shahnawaj Hussain lashed out at the Congress and advised it not to adopt double standards. The party should peek inwards before pointing a finger at its opponents. Nothing can be achieved by muckraking, he added.

He alleged that the Congress was solely responsible for the pitiable economic, social and educational conditions of Muslims in India. The Congress has always played on the fears of the minorities in the country and have taken them for a ride for narrow political gains.

Commenting on the Gujarat riots that sparked off after the Godhra carnage, he said the BJP government had effectively dealt with these riots and by timely action confined them to just three to four districts in that state. The Congress, he charged, was the mother of all riots in India. According to him, communal riots in the Congress regime had always been spread over to vast parts of the country.

Condemning the Gujarat riots, Mr Hussain claimed that it was the BJP that had kept the country riot-free during its rule.

He exhorted the Congress not to play up the hurt feelings of the Muslims and exploit them for earning political mileage for its own ends. The Congress had no moral right to speak on behalf of the Muslims for whom it had done nothing, he added.


Arun Jaitley meets Badal, son
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 18
BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitley met Mr Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal, MP, here yesterday.

The BJP national executive member and in charge of Uttaranchal unit Satyapal Jain was also present at the meeting.

The leaders and Mr Badal agreed that the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal should jointly fight the “malicious campaign” launched by the Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh against his political opponents.

This is for the first time that any senior leader of the BJP from the Centre had discussed steps to be taken in context of implication of party cadres in “false cases”.


Tohra woos kin of Sant Longowal
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 18
The Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal, led by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, has been trying to woo the kin of the late Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, former president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, who have been feeling dejected due to the “apathy” of the SAD.

The family members of Sant Longowal, including his brothers, have been living a life of penury even as the SAD allegedly did not bother to look after them during its five-year rule in the state.

As a first step, Mr Paramjit Singh Sarna, President, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), has announced to present Rs 51,000 and a siropa (robe of honour) each to the brothers of Sant Longowal at the shaheedi conference to mark the 17th death anniversary on August 20 of Sant Longowal at Sherpur village (Sangrur) where he was killed by extremists for signing the Rajiv-Longowal Accord on July 24, 1985.

Talking to TNS, Mr Sarna said the DSGMC would also offer jobs to two family members of Sant Longowal as part of a tribute to the departed sant. He said it was a matter of concern that the SAD formed a government twice on the basis of a sympathy wave after the assassination of Sant Longowal but forgot the sacrifice of the selfless Akali leader. “Now out of power, Mr Badal has been trying to gain political mileage by organising a political conference”, he said.

Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, a close confidant of Mr Tohra, said many former Akali leaders might join the SHSAD at the parallel conference being held by the party at Sherpur. He said it was strange that Mr Badal who had rejected the Rajiv-Longowal Accord had decided to organise the conference at his native village Longowal.

Mr Bhaur said the parallel shaheedi conference being held by the SHSAD would also give a call to the members of the SAD and other factions, who had a clean image, to come together on a single platform. He alleged that the SAD had lost the confidence of the Sikh masses which was evident from the humiliating defeat it suffered during the recently held DSGMC elections.


State to observe Longowal anniversary
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 18
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today declared that the death anniversary of Sant Harchand Singh Longowal on August 20 would be observed as a state-level function.

Capt Amarinder Singh said three senior ministers of his Cabinet had been deputed to organise and oversee the event, which would be held at Longowal village on August 20.

Meanwhile, the SHSAD led by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra will also observe the death anniversary of Sant Harchand Singh Longowal at Sherpur village on August 20.

This was announced here today by the SHSAD leader, Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra in a talk with mediapersons.

The function being held at the village where the Sant fell to assassins’ bullets would also be attended by Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav. Ms Mamata Banerjee, Mr Prem Gupta, MP, and Mr D. P. Yadav.


Kribhco may bid for NFL
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, August 18
Kribhco will bid for the NFL if the initial bidders fail to pay the price fixed by the government. Highly-placed sources told The Tribune that the cooperative, which has financial reserves worth about Rs 1,500 crores, could not bid directly for the second largest nitrogenous fertiliser company of the country despite the best efforts of the Union Chemical and Fertilisers Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, due to opposition from the Disinvestment Ministry.

Earlier the government issued global tenders for selling off 51 per cent equity in the NFL. Four companies, including the Tatas, Indo-Gulf Fertilisers, Chambal Fertilisers and Oswal, gave their expression of interest in response to the tenders. However, after Mr Dhindsa took charge of the Fertiliser Minister, he tried to make Kribhco bid for the company. Since two out of the four NFL units are located in Punjab, Mr Dhindsa tried to keep the control of company in the hands of Kribhco, a government cooperative, instead of some private company.

Mr Dhindsa’s proposal to make Kribhco bid for the NFL was, however, shelved for the time being by the Disinvestment Ministry in view of the legal repercussions. Since Kribhco did not submit the expression of interest in response to the global tenders issued for the sale of the NFL by the due date, its bid could now only be considered if the initial bidders failed to pay the price fixed by the government.

The CMD of the NFL, Mr Grewal, also admitted that Kribhco could bid for the NFL if the initial bidders failed to pay the price fixed by the government for selling 51 per cent equity in the company.

The sources also said the chances of Kribhco bidding for the NFL were still alive as hardly any private company would be willing to spend a fortune for buying 50 per cent equity in the NFL till the government announced the next pricing period. The seventh pricing period for the fertiliser companies in the country had been due for the past few years. Due to the delay in the announcement of the pricing period, the profit margins of most of the fertiliser companies had reduced over the past few years.

Moreover, the uncertain fertiliser policy of the government was also a major deterrent for the private companies to invest in the fertiliser sector. A former Union Chemicals and Fertiliser Minister, Mr Suresh Prabhu, in the newly proposed fertiliser policy had announced the withdrawal of subsidies from fertilisers in a phased manner by 2006. However, hardly any of the proposals had been implemented as yet.

PSEB offer to defaulting consumers
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 18
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has declared one-time settlement offer for all categories of permanently disconnected defaulting consumers whose outstanding dues are subject of litigation.

The board has Rs 99 crore tied up in litigation and the offer allows consumers one-time settlement with the Board by paying up half of the disputed amount.

The Board recently issued a circular on the issue. The offer covers disputes where involved was more than Rs 25 lakh and the dispute was pending before March, 2000 with the Dispute Settlement Authority (DSA).

Under the scheme, consumers would have to deposit current energy bills in full and half of the outstanding amount. The outstanding amount could include arrear of supply of power, theft, wrong metering, load surcharge, demand surcharge and other charges. No late payment or interest would be charged on the outstanding amount.

No service charges will be recovered on reconnection if full cost of the service line or fixed service connection charges have already been recovered at the time of release of connection in the first instance.

In case of exchange of property from one person to the other through auction, the one-time settlement of recovering 25 per cent total disputed amount as outstanding at the time of permanent disconnection plus 100 per cent of current bills of actual consumption would be offered to the new occupant in case he wants power connection restored.

The Board has also offered the consumers to pay up half of the disputed amount in instalments.

While 25 per cent of the disputed amount will be recovered immediately, the remainder will be recovered through a maximum of 12 monthly instalments.

It said the scheme would be applicable not only to those who wanted reconnection but also to those who want to clear outstanding amount to get No-Dues certificate from the board.

The scheme will be applicable till September 30 this year.

The Superintending Engineers, Operations and the Executive Engineers, Operations will call a meeting of permanently disconnected consumers and apprise them of the scheme.


Mann stands by EC, flays BJP remarks
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, August 18
Commenting upon the BJP’s outburst against the Election Commission for “creating a constitutional crisis”, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) today openly came out in support of the stand taken by the Election Commission regarding Gujarat poll. It lambasted the BJP or pursuing a politics of stridency.

Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the SAD (A) and MP, today told mediapersons here that the politics of ultra-nationalism had no place in Indian ethos as a liberal democracy could not digest the aggressive political activism, which would boomerang on the BJP. “How can elections be held in Gujarat when the electoral rolls are not complete there and Muslims are still living in camps?” asked Mr Mann. The BJP wanted to disfranchise the Muslim population and cash in on the communal tension in Gujarat by insisting on holding elections in October, he alleged.

The Election Commission, he said, had done the right thing by declaring that it would consider a suitable schedule in November-December after the electoral rolls were corrected and conditions became conducive for a free-and-fair poll.

On Akali unity, Mr Mann said the “double standards” of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, President of the SAD, and of Mr G. S. Tohra, President of the SHSAD did not go down well with the people.

He alleged that while AICC President Sonia Gandhi pulled strings for the SHSAD, the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, pulled strings for the SAD. Panthic unity was not possible until Mr Badal and Mr Tohra pulled back from the BJP and the Congress cocoon, he said.


AISSF ultimatum
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, August 18
Taking serious note of the recent statements of former Chief Minister and SAD President Parkash Singh Badal, who termed former SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra as a “Congress agent”, the All-India Sikh Students Federation (ISSF) today gave a 10-day ultimatum to Mr Badal to withdraw his comments or face gherao at public functions.


Red Cross Society leaves donor high and dry
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 18
Mr Sher Singh repents the day he donated 10.5 acres, worth about Rs 25 lakh, to the District Red Cross Society. At the time of accepting the land as donation in 1999 from him the then Deputy Commissioner-cum-Chairman of the society had agreed in writing that he would be paid Rs 5,000 per month as honorarium.

In fact, the Red Cross Society had given an undertaking that Mr Sher Singh and his wife would be treated as life-timed members of the society and the expenditure on their medical care would be borne by the society. Mr Sher Singh, whose wife is also ill is afflicted with asthma. He has to fetch food from a local dhaba as no one is there in the house to look after the couple.

“First I was ignored by my relatives, and now the society has ditched me. I feel cheated as no payment for the past more than three months has been made,” he said in anguish. Mr Sher Singh has also donated his bungalow located in the heart of this town, which is worth Rs 20 lakh, to the society.

However, despite all odds Mr Sher Singh is still optimistic that justice will prevail.

However, the authorities concerned have left the couple high and dry. Despite Mr Sher Singh’s failing health he has been making rounds of the office of the society to seek payment. For the past three months he has not only been denied the payment but also made to suffer humiliation as no one lends an ear to him.

What has added to his cup of woes is that Mr Sher Singh, who retired as ziledar from the Irrigation Department, was made to admit his wife to a hospital at Ludhiana. The expenditure on her treatment was to the tune of Rs 60,000.

As no senior official of the society was available for comments though repeated efforts were made to contact them, a functionary of the society on the condition of anonymity that society was bound to pay Rs 5,000 to Mr Sher Singh per month till his life and after his death to his wife.

Risks in marriage palaces
Rashmi Talwar

Even as the Punjab Government cries foul over emptied coffers by the previous government, little thought has been given to recoveries of taxes on swelling number of marriage palaces (MPs) in the state.

Municipal Corporations (MCs), municipal councils, nagar panchayats have become white elephants, with skyrocketing expenses on maintenance, salaries and exigencies outweighing their functions.

Dithering policies on penalties, lax recoveries have cost the exchequer crores.

According to a survey on MPs by Deputy Directors, Local Government, (DDLGs), the number of MPs operating without licences in Amritsar is 188. At least 84 of these MPs function in sheds, dharmshalas and mandirs, in residential areas, near hospitals and educational institutions. Fines on such a structure has been proposed to be ‘‘not less than Rs 50,000 in towns and lesser in rural areas’’.

Interestingly, the DDLG, Amritsar, had proposed the closure of unlicensed MPs in Gurdaspur (seven), Dhariwal (two), Fatehgarh Churian (three), Quadian (four), Sujanpur (three), Kalanaur (two), Pathankot (18), Batala(24), Jandiala Guru (four) Tarn Taran (eights) Majitha (one), Patti (five), Rayya (four) and Raja Sansi (one).

Even as MPs are forbidden in or near defence areas, in Ferozepore, four sprawling marriage palaces function without paying house tax. As many as 29 such MPs around Ferozepore are unauthorisedly run. Five in Abohar are yet to be regularised. Cases for regularisation — one each in Fazilka, Nagpal and Talwandi — have been pending. Marriage palaces — Moga (seven), Bhagpurana (two), Bhikhi (one), Faridkot (four) — have not been regularised.

While MPs in Ludhiana fare no better. The DDLG for Ludhiana has noted that five each in Khanna, Jagraon and Raikot, Doraha (three) Mullanpur (two), Sahnewal (four and Kurali (two) operate in residential areas without licences.

The Regional Deputy Director, Local Government, in his report on 17 municipal councils and nagar panchayats notes that 15 marriage palaces operate in Bathinda. ‘‘Many of them have not been assessed for house tax. These include: Malout (six), Gidderbaha (two), Rampura Phul (one), Maur (one), Muktsar (three), Rama (two). The majority of these are unlicensed.

The number of MPs have increased in Nakodar (six), Phillaur (two), Shahkot (three), Lohian (one). None of these have sanctioned plans. In Kartarpur (one), Adampur (three), Goraya (five), Bhogpur (two), Nurmehal (two), Nawanshahr (four), Banga (two), Hoshiarpur (nine), Urmar Tanda(four), Dauya (three), Mukerian (two), Mahilpur (two) house tax assessment is in lakhs.

All five MPs in Kapurthala are in residential areas with no parking areas or fire fighting equipments. Phagwara with 10 MPs, Sultanpur Lodhi (three), one each in Dhilwan and Bhulanath, Begowal operate in residential areas and have not been regularised.


Dalits allege ostracism
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 18
Even as residents of Burj village, about 40 km from here, have banned the entry of strangers, a section of the Dalits belonging to Aur caste have been allegedly facing undeclared ostracism.

Though the 11-member committed constituted by the panchayat for dealing with the situation that arose after a large number of people belonging to Aur caste, who were living near the Indo-Pakistan border in Rajasthan, started arriving here.

The villagers, who were anticipating rise in crime, persuade them to leave the village. But when the newcomers did not leave the village a resolution was passed by the panchayat banning their entry to farms and houses.

However, the Dalits alleged that they were being subjected to ostracism and they had been denied the right to keep their kin with them. They added that some of their relatives had come here after the tension built-up on the Indo-Pakistan border in Rajasthan.

However, Mr Sampooran Singh, president of the committee, pointed out that Dalits of Aur caste were not being subjected to any ostracism. He added that only those people had been asked to leave the village whose identity could not be established or were not having a ration card or were not registered as a voter in the village.

He added that outsiders had been asked to leave the village as they had been destroying their crops and creating insanitary conditions in the village by slaughtering sheep, goats and other animals for meat.

Mr N. S. Bath, SDM, Talwandi Sabo, when contacted, said there was some tension in the village about a week ago due to inflow of large number of strangers. The matter was sorted out after the strangers left the village and now the situation was normal.


Tangri overflows as boon
Gurvinder Kaur

Budhmore (Patiala), August 18
After having faced an acute drought for a month and a half the farmers of the Dakala-Ghanaur Shutrana belt now are facing a deluge with Tangri river overflowing the situation seems to be grim but it may not spell much loss as the land submerged largely is a paddy-growing area and the flood water standing in the fields may turn out to be a boon for the farmers.

The situation in this area known for the cultivation of basmati rice, which requires large amounts of water for proper growth, has changed overnight from bleak to full of hope as the area is expected to benefit from the recent flash floods. However water has damaged seriously the paddy planted late in the season besides causing damage to property. Earlier girdawaris were ordered to assess damage from drought now girdawaris will assess losses caused due to the flood.

Nearly 1,000 acres of land has been affected by the breaches of Tangri river’s banks at almost 13 places. Mrs Preneet Kaur Member of Parliament and Punjab Finance Minister Lal Singh along with senior officials of the district yesterday conducted an aerial survey of the flood-hit areas of the district and announced that special girdawari would be carried out in these areas to assess the damage and compensation awarded promptly to the affected farmers.

Speaking from the worst-affected Budhmore village Finance Minister Mr Lal Singh said that the state government has also directed the Drainage Department to put up a plan for proper drainage of excess water from the Tangri, Ghaggar and Markanda rivers during the rainy season because of which the area faces floods every year.

He also said that directions had been given to the Health Department and the Animal Husbandry Department to provide adequate relief in the form of medicines and medical facilities both for animals and residents besides providing fodder for the cattle.

The team carried out a special survey of badly affected villages, including Lela Jagir, Rohar Jagir, Dudhan Sadha, Dudhan Gujran, Kharabgarh, Beepur, Rurki, Ganeshpur and Khatouli.

The residents of these villages however are unhappy with administration’s response to the crisis. Satnam Singh of Budhmore village complained that timely measures by the Drainage Department could have minimised the disaster. Harnam Singh of Dudhan Sadha village also lamented that adequate food, water and other facilities could not be provided by the state machinery and that neighbouring villages had supplied food and other basic amenities to the residents.


Sick animals wander in state
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 18
More than one lakh animals like cows, bulls, calves and heifers wander as stray cattle in Punjab, causing accidents on roads, loss to crops and nuisance in rural and urban areas.

Most of these stray animals are either old, sick and disabled or abandoned by owners.

According to an estimate of the Punjab Gaushala Mahan Sangh, an umbrella organisation of 140 gaushalas in the state, though, one lakh such animals have been protected by the gaushalas, but more than this number of such animals — excluding small animals like dogs and cats — roam in streets and fields without protection — thanks to the alleged indifferent attitude of the Punjab Animal Husbandry Department, custodian of such animals, according to the Punjab Livestock (Improvement) Act 1953 and 1958.

No protection was reportedly available to such animals. “So much so that the Department has been ignoring the decision taken by the Punjab Chief Secretary, who, by his letter No. 828 dated: May 17, 2000, had directed all heads of departments and the Deputy Commissioners to make their best efforts to ensure protection and care to stray, sick and abandoned animals alleged Mr Suraj Bhan Nabha, President of the Mahan Sangh, who was here to attend a meeting of the organisation. He alleged that such attitude on the part of the authorities and most of common people had led to unwanted growth of animals and deterioration of the “Go dhan” in the state.

The Department officials on the other hand, maintained that the situation was created by lack of awareness at the grassroot level and for lack of funds.

Mr Romesh Gupta, Secretary of the Mahan Sangh, said the Animal Husbandry Department was not aware of the proper implementation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. He said the problem could be solved to a large extent if the state government set up a state-level Gaushala Development Board, as only the “gaushalas” had been making most of the contribution towards animal welfare. The Sangh has also urged the state government to set up more “gaushalas” on Panchayat lands, to provide more government-run dispensaries in “gaushalas” and improve fiscal position of “gaushalas” by making amendments in the Rent Control Act.


Centre to give Rs 8 cr for CETP
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, August 18
To deal with the problem of excessive discharge of untreated water released by about 48 tanneries and to encourage more tanners to set up their tannery units in the local Leather Complex the Central Government has come to the rescue of the Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC) by deciding to bear half of the cost of the second Rs 16-crore common effluent treatment plant (CETP) to be set up within the complex within one year.

The complex, where 45 tanneries were releasing 1.5 million litres of affluents daily, was already equipped with a CETP. More tanners are reluctant to come to the complex despite its capacity for accommodating 40 more tanneries as the Pollution Control Board has refused to issue the no-objection certificates to the new units. Those which have already been allotted plots within the complex were also denied the NOCs on the plea that the existing CETP had not been enhanced. No new factory can avail of power connection without having the NOC issued by the board.

With a view to encouraging more tanners to set up their units within the complex so as to prevent any further damage to environment, the Ministry of Commerce has decided to share half of the cost of the proposed CETP. The ministry has also directed the PSIEC that the bids for the CETP should be invited by September 15.

The ministry’s Joint Secretary, Mr D.K. Mittal, has already discussed the issue with the PSIEC authorities and the Punjab Leather Federation. The ministry has suggested that the PSIEC should make appropriate arrangements to ensure power supply to the proposed plant, the cost of maintenance of which, would, however, would be borne by the user tanners in proportion to the discharge of effluents by their respective units.


Kitoo remanded in judicial custody

Moga, August 18
Judicial Magistrate Tarsem Mangla today declined to extend one-day police remand of SAD MLA Malkiat Singh Kitoo and sent him in judicial custody till August 31.

The court also gave a notice to the prosecution on his bail application which will come up for hearing on August 23.

The prosecution asked for four-day police remand of Kitoo as it still had to verify the documents of the truck involved in the crime. The defence counsel strongly opposed the prosecution’s request and said the police had planted the liquor bottles in his absence as the MLA was away to Barnala.

Kitoo was arrested on August 16 under the Excise Act following the seizure of 184 cartons of Indian whisky from his house and the house of his brother at Bilaspur village.

While Kitoo was arrested after he surrendered to police, his brother Gurdeep Singh is still on the run.

Kitoo yesterday alleged he had been falsely implicated in the case as part of the continuing political vendetta against him by the ruling Congress party.

The SAD MLA from Barnala had earlier spent 42 days in jail in a case of cheating and fraud after he was charged with embezzling funds of a truck union of which he was the president.

Besides seizing 184 cartons of liquor containing 2,208 bottles, the police had also impounded the truck in which these were being smuggled from Chandigarh. UNI


Gramin bank staff allege double standards
Tribune News Service

Mansa, August 18
Resentment has been brewing among employees of the Faridkot-Bathinda Kshetriya Gramin Bank against the bank management allegedly for adopting double-standards while dealing with cases of alleged fraud committed by employees.

The management’s action, of terminating the services of branch manager Rajinder Paul Bhardwaj and stopping some increments of Mr Balwant Singh, another manager while both were allegedly involved in cases of fraud and bungling in advancing the loans, has agitated the employees.

Information gathered by The Tribune reveals that for the alleged fraud by Mr Bhardwaj while he was branch manager at Bhame Kalan village, he was suspended immediately and a case registered against him for alleged fraud in advancing loan.

In the case of Mr Balwant Singh, who allegedly advanced the loan to persons, who were non-existent, misutilisation of subsidies on loans advanced to Scheduled Caste persons and taking bills from bogus firms for loans while he was branch manager at Akkawali village, the management neither suspended him nor a case registered against him. He was not suspended despite the Central Vigilance Commission's (CVC) instructions to the Chairman of the FBKGB in that regard.

Mr J.S. Makkar, General Manager, FBKGB said that punishment had been awarded to Mr Balwant Singh by reducing four increments and stopping promotion for two years. He added that Mr Balwant Singh had also been transferred from Budhlada to Kotkapura but he (Mr Balwant Singh) had not joined there yet as he was on leave for medical reasons.

Why a case was not registered against Mr Balwant Singh for alleged fraud and not suspended and why his services were not terminated after being found guilty of fraud as was done in the case of Mr Bhardwaj, Mr Makkar said that there was no need of registering a case and suspending Mr Balwant Singh as he had been given the punishment. He pointed out that disciplinary action was being taken at the level of chairman of the bank and only the chairman could tell that why services of Mr Balwant Singh were not terminated.

The Faridkot-Bathinda Gramin Bank Staff Association has decided to meet Chief General Manager, Nabard, at Chandigarh on August 21 for taking up the issue of discriminatory treatment by the management while awarding punishment to the bank employees for the same offence.

Mr Rakesh Kumar, President of the association, pointed out that the association had taken up the matter with the Chairman but no positive results came out. He added that the association would see to it that severe punishment was awarded to the guilty of fraud with the bank and people. He said that the matter would be taken up with Nabard.


Sikhs ‘must have say’ in foreign policy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 18
The President of the Akali Dal (Amritsar) and MP, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, yesterday demanded that Sikhs must have a say in the country’s foreign policy.

Decrying the plight of 30,000-odd “stateless Sikhs” who migrated from Pakistan occupied Kashmir to Jammu & Kashmir, he said neither the Jammu & Kashmir Government nor the Union Government had done anything for them.

He said the present format of India’s foreign policy was not acceptable to Sikhs as their interests were not being safeguarded. He said opening of the Indo-Pak border and cordial relations with Arab nations for better economic and trade ties were necessary for the development of Punjab.

Not only that, historic Sikh shrines were located in most of the Muslim nations. There was still nothing official about historic Sikh shrines in Bangladesh. The Sikhs as a community had strong links with Lahore and wanted that Punjabis, irrespective of their religious beliefs, should unite on one platform.

Appreciating the gesture of lighting of candles on either side of the Wagah border on August 14 and 15, he said it was a positive sign. He also assailed the failure of the Union Government in educating Americans that Sikhs were not Arabs by referring to the recent killing of Sukhpal Singh Sodhi in San Francisco.

In protest against the present foreign policy, he said the Sikhs would hold demonstration outside Indian diplomatic missions abroad next month.


Talks between Jathedars, Khalsa Panchayat not held
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 18
A secret meeting proposed to be held between Sikh high priests, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar Akal Takht, Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar Kesgarh Sahib, and members of the Khalsa Panchayat, who had levelled charges of corruption against the Sikh clergy, could not be held, according to information leaked to The Tribune.

Confirmed sources said Jathedar Vedanti left for the venue of the meeting on receiving a telephone call from Prof Manjit Singh for holding a secret meeting with members of the Khalsa Panchayat, including Mr Rajinder Singh and Mr Charanjit Singh Channi. Though Mr Rajinder Singh refused to divulge the details of the proposed meeting, he picked up Mr Channi at Samrala Chowk, Ludhiana, this evening. Both rushed to Jalandhar for holding the meeting at the house of a Sikh scholar belonging to a Sikh missionary college. When contacted by TNS, Mr Channi confirmed that he had waited for Mr Rajinder Singh at Samrala Chowk.

Interestingly, Jathedar Vedanti, who had already arrived in Jalandhar, refused to reach the venue of the meeting. He told TNS that such a meeting could be held at Akal Takht only and the members of the Khalsa Panchayat would have to come to Akal Takht for any clarification.

It is pertinent to mention here that the meeting of Sikh high priests held at Akal Takht had already rejected the allegations of corruption against Jathedar Vedanti and his former personal assistant, Mr Prithipal Singh Sandhu. The “clean chit” was given to Mr Sandhu on the basis of a fax sent by Fauja Singh.

However, members of the Khalsa Panchayat had declared that they would prove the charges by convening a “Sarbat Khalsa”, claiming that they had proof that bribe was given for pronouncing “mild tankhah” to Baba Dhanwant Singh, who is facing charges of moral turpitude.


SGPC election likely in March
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, August 18
The general elections to the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabhandhak Committee are likely to be held in March next. The Chief Gurdwara Election Commissioner, Justice J. S. Sekhon, hopes to complete the electoral rolls of the SGPC by January 31.

According to Justice Sekhon as many as 60 lakh voters, both Amritdhari and Sehajdharis, have been registered in Punjab, 3.5 lakh in Haryana, 25,000 in Himachal Pradesh and 15,000 in Chandigarh so far. The electorate in the last general house elections was 48.54 lakhs. The last elections were held in October 1996.

Justice Sekhon disclosed that the work of registering voters for the SGPC would continue till August 27. The rolls would be printed for receiving objections and counter claims. The final publication of electoral rolls would be completed by January 31.


SGPC takeover of gurdwara opposed
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, August 18
The people of Chohla Sahib township and the surrounding areas comprising more than 150 villages have entered into a direct confrontation with the SGPC over the taking over of the charge of the administration of Sri Dukhniwaran Sahib Gurdwara, Chohla Sahib. The gurdwara has been under the supervision of Sampardaya Kar Seva, Sarhali, for kar seva for more than 30 years.

Thousands of the local Sikhs who met today at the gurdwara unanimously resolved to allow the Sampardaya of Sarhali for kar seva. They asked the SGPC to avoid confrontation on the issue as desired by the sangat of the area.


Panel to rein in Ashutosh today
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 18
Akal Takht is likely to form a committee of Sikh scholars tomorrow to draw up strategy for stopping activities of Mahant Ashutosh, chief of the Divya Jyoti Sansthan, Noormahal.

The SGPC had called a meeting of the representatives of various Akali factions, Sikh institutions on August 5 here which had resolved that Jathedar Akal Takht would form a committee within 15 days in this regard. The meeting had also asked the state government to ban activities of Mahant Ashutosh for his alleged blasphemous acts.


Ambulance used for private trips
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, August 18
A team of the Vigilance Bureau, led by Inspector Kahan Singh, today seized the log book of an ambulance of the family planning wing of the Civil Hospital while it was allegedly being used for making private trips by an employee.

Official sources said the Civil Surgeon, Dr S. K. Goyal had asked the Assistant Civil Surgeon to hold a probe into the matter.

The sources added that a Vigilance Bureau team laid a naka on the Bathinda-Amritsar road after a complaint was received by it that the employee had been using the ambulance for private purposes.

When the log book was checked, it was found that permission had been granted to the employee by the in charge of the hospital for using the ambulance for private use and for purposes other than shifting patients.

Mr Baljinder Singh Grewal, SP (Vigilance), said an ambulance had earlier been used for a trip to Delhi by one of the employees of the hospital. A sum of Rs 2,800 was charged from the employee in lieu of the use of the ambulance and the receipt for the same had been pasted in the log book.


Labourers allege police torture
Our Correspondent

Khanna, August 18
The Khanna police has allegedly tortured five migrant labourers including two women, in police custody and at their houses. The labourers said they had left their houses due to police terror. The victims were allegedly taken into police custody in connection with a firing incident at Mohalla Khatikan on August 9 in which a migrant labourer, Gavandi, was injured . The SHO denied the charges and said that some persons were rounded up for interrogation but nobody was tortured.

The SSP said if he received any complaint in this regard, he would inquire into the matter.

The victims include Vijay Singh, his wife Triveni, Vidya Ram, Suresh Kumar and Urmila, all kins of Gavandi. Vijay Kumar said he was picked up by the police on August 10 along with his wife and 10 others including two women. He alleged that he was severely beaten up by the police at the local police station. Triveni alleged that she was picked up and beaten up by policemen. She alleged that her two brothers Suresh and Vidya Ram, were also beaten up.

The fifth victim Urmila alleged that she was also beaten up by policemen at the police station.


Low-key remembrance
Our Correspondent

Residents of Pul Kanjri village perform ardaas
Residents of Pul Kanjri
village perform ardaas (prayer) at village gurdwara on Sunday. The village is located just a half km from the Indo-Pak border.
— Photo Rajiv Sharma

Pul Kanjri (Amritsar), August 18
A kabaili attack from Pakistan on this day after partition wiped out the entire population of this village. Those who survived the blood bath made it a point to organise an annual remembrance of the killed.

The remembrance today turned out to be a low-key affair as only 35 persons assembled at the village gurdwara. Mr Chaman Singh Duggal, a retired SDO and one of the survivors attributed the thin gathering to the military build-up in the border belt. However, according to sources, the residents of Pul Kanjri who had shifted to Amritsar and other far-flung areas were not invited.


BKU for girdawari in cultivators’ names
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, August 18
Activists of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta) burnt effigies of the Punjab government for the second day today and demanded that girdawaris should be recorded in the name of the farmers cultivating the land and not in the name of the owner of the land.

Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, state general secretary of the union, said that girdawari should be recorded in the name of the cultivators as sometimes owners of the land refused to pay compensation to them. He said that actual losses due to drought were being suffered by the cultivators and not the owners of the land and so all compensation be paid direct to the cultivators and they should not be left at the mercy of the land owners.

Complaining that the compensation being offered to the farmers was not adequate, Mr Kokri Kalan, said that the 4 per cent cess imposed in diesel and fertiliser should be withdrawn, full voltage 24-hour supply of electricity to the farm sector should be ensured, and interest-free loans provided in deserving cases.

He said that in the cases where the crop could not be sown, was ploughed back due to drought or where the farmers had been made to pay through their nose by the money lenders should be recorded as drought affected cases.

He claimed that the activists of the union had burnt the effigies of Capt Amarinder Singh led Congress government in the state in 122 villages today. He said that the five kisan unions would be announcing a state-level dharna to protest against the oppressive policies of the state government shortly.

In a separate statement issued here today, Mr Ram Karan Singh Sidhu, president, BKU (Lakhowal) said that their union would stage a dharna in New Delhi on 30th of this month to press for the acceptance of their demands. He alleged that the Congress and the and the Akali Dal had been playing games on the SYL canal issue and trying to gain political mileage. He said that successive governments of both of these parties had failed to solve this issue.

Mr Sidhu said that more than 50 affidavits had been filed in the Supreme Court stating that the state in general and the region in particular was facing shortage of water and so the distribution of water between Punjab and Haryana should be reviewed. He said that as the political parties had failed to show farmer-friendly results their union had decided to fight it as their own battle.

He demanded that the minimum support price of the farm produce should be linked to the price index and the year 1966-67 should be taken as the base year. The MSP for cotton, wheat and paddy should be increased and marketing of fruits and vegetables grown by the farmers as alternative crops should be ensured. He claimed that thousands of activists of the union would move to Delhi on August 29 to stage a dharna on August 30.


Pesticide case: official may be booked
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, August 18
Tall claims made by the state government to check the sale of spurious pesticides, turned hollow yesterday when the Agriculture Department authorities here recommended the registration of a criminal case against an official of the Bhullarwala Cooperative Society allegedly for supplying the substandard pesticides to farmers on credit after purchasing the same from traders.

Unconfirmed reports said that cotton and paddy crops in more than 100 acres had suffered considerable damage due to the spray of the pesticides supplied by the Bhullarwala society.

Official sources said that Mr Major Singh Brar, Chief Agriculture Officer (CAO), Muktsar, who, along with other officials, raided the godown of society after receiving a complaint from an affected farmer yesterday, seized the pesticides which had harmed the crops.

After seizing the pesticides, samples of the same were sent to laboratories for examination. The godown of the society was sealed. The cooperative society was supposed to supply those pesticides to farmers which were supplied to it by the Markfed. Whether the cooperative society could supply the pesticides after purchasing the same from private trader was yet to be verified, said Mr Brar.

He added that recommendation regarding the registration of a case had been made as the cooperative society official did not issue the bill of supplied pesticides to the farmers.

After the complaint was received, various teams of Agriculture Department officials were pressed into service to assess the loss suffered by the paddy and cotton crops due to use of that pesticides. So far, two instances of loss to paddy and cotton crops had come to light and further field survey was going on, he added. Mr Brar said that he had reported the matter to the SDM, the SSP and the Deputy Commissioner.


Constable held on kidnapping charge
Our Correspondent

Ropar, August 18
A startling case of nexus between cops and criminals has come to light with three policemen posted at the Sadar police station here being booked for kidnapping.

Highly placed sources told this correspondent that the said cops were booked on the complaint of Malkiat Singh of Patiala, who has earlier been booked under several cases of smuggling. The sources said the police today arrested Constable Jagjit and Gurcharan Singh who were named in the FIR. None of the local police officers was, however, available for comments despite repeated attempts to contact them.

Malkiat Singh, in his complaint to the higher police authorities, alleged that while serving a sentence in some case in Patiala jail, he came in contact with a Ropar-based smuggler Gurcharan Singh Makarikalan. The latter offered him to come to Ropar to strike a smuggling deal after being released from jail.

After being released from jail, the complainant fixed a meeting with Gurcharan Singh at a hotel of Ropar on June 4. He arrived at the hotel on the due date around 11 a.m. and met Gurcharan Singh. Gurcharan Singh, instead of striking a deal with him, informed the local police. Three police constables and an officer nabbed him at the hotel. In this entire episode, Shyam Lal, a Nalagarh-based smuggler, was also accompanying Gurcharan Singh, the complainant alleged.

The complainant further alleged that the police officials, instead of taking him to police station, kidnapped and locked him in a room of a local hotel. They threatened to kill him and demanded Rs 7 lakh for his release. He called up his son, Hira Singh, in Patiala and asked him to come with the ransom money. His son managed to arrange Rs 3.5 lakh at the short notice.

The money was delivered to the accused at Ropar the next day. However, they asked for Rs 1 lakh more for the release of Malkiat Singh. When the son of the complainant expressed his inability to pay the amount, the accused allegedly kept his Tata Sumo, which was returned only after the complainant gave them Rs 1 lakh.

After being released from the illegal custody, Malkiat Singh reported the matter to the higher authorities of the police.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the officers deputed to investigate the case took about two months to identify the guilty police officials. After investigation, a case under Sections 368, 389, 342 and 420 of the IPC has been registered against three constables, Jagjit Singh, Harbaksh Singh and Daljit Singh. Gurcharan Singh of Ropar and Shyam Lal of Nalagarh have also been booked. The FIR registered in the case also mentions a “thanedar’’ as a co-accused. However, no police officer has been arrested so far.


Gupta officiating Principal of SSD Girls College
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, August 18
Mr Sanjay Goyal, secretary, SSD Girls College, in a press note issued here said Mr Raj Gupta had been made the officiating Principal of the college.

Mr Goyal said Ms Gupta had a teaching experience of more than 33 years. Besides, she had been recommended for various national awards by the district authorities, including Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhawna Award, for her contribution and achievements in the field of social service, AIDS awareness and promoting cultural and social values among the students.


Hike ST registration limit: traders
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, August 18
The general house of the Punjab Kariana Retailers Association, which met here today with Mr Onkar Goel in the chair, adopted several resolutions, demanding an increase in the sales tax registration limit from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 25 lakh, exemption of retailers from the VAT, system being introduced from next year, abolition of octroi, tabling an amendment to the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act in Parliament, constitution of state-and-district-level PFA panels, subsidy and low interest loans of Rs 5 lakh to retailers on the pattern of industrialists, and representation to them at every level in sales tax advisory committees.

The meeting alleged that there were complaints that vanaspati refined and oil mills were supplying packets weighing less than that shown on the packing.

It urged the Weights and Measures Department to look into these complaints. The meeting re-elected Mr Onkar Goel as president of the association. As many as 300 delegates from 90 mandis of Punjab attended the meeting.

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