Sunday, August 25, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



PSEB gears up to charge farmers
Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 24
Even as the Punjab Electricity Regulatory Commission is in the process of finalising the new tariff structure of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), imposition of tariff on the farming sector seems to be a certainty with the board having started the process of levy charges from this month itself.

The board has sent circulars to all zones, asking officials concerned to update the ledger books for the farming sector. The officials have also been directed to collect information regarding the number of two horsepower to 60 horsepower tubewell connections in the state.

The officials have also been asked to collect data on the number of people who had disclosed their extra load under the Voluntary Disclosure Scheme (VDR) and enter it in the updated books.

The PSEB, according to sources, has started this exercise as imposition of tariff on the farming sector is a fait accompli which has been accepted by the state government. The sources said the only question was the amount of tariff to be charged from the farming sector. While the board has asked the regulatory commission to charge farmers Rs 2 per unit for tubewell connections, the government is not inclined to give even half this amount.

The sources said the regulatory commission was also not likely to accept the board’s plea to charge farmer Rs 2 per unit and that a more realistic figure could be Re 1 per unit. However, the sources said the government had shown its inclination to subsidies even this amount so that the burden on the farming sector at this critical juncture when many areas were facing drought-like conditions could be minimal.

The sources said the government was not inclined to give the PSEB any cash in lieu of giving subsidies to the agriculture sector and had offered to let the board adjust around Rs 500 to 600 crore, accruing to the government on account of interest charges from the board. The board has objected to this saying that it will not solve the problem of taking the board out of the red and that the board was forced to pay interest on loans taken from the government because of faulty policies, including electricity free of cost for running tubewells during the past five years.

The PSEB has written to the government as well as the regulatory commission that it was unfair to make the board adjust the dues vis-a-vis interest charges when no decision was being taken about the Rs 250 crore per year which the Akali-BJP government had committed to provide to the board.

Board officials said the estimated consumption from the agriculture sector amounted to around 6000 million units, which, if calculated at the rate of Rs 2 per unit as demanded by it, would yield Rs 1200 crore. The board has demanded that the government pay it subsidy in case it wants to further subsidise the agriculture tariff fixed by the regulatory commission.


Don't withdraw free power, warns Badal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
The Shiromani Akali Dal President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today warned the Punjab Government against the reported withdrawal of free power to the agriculture sector and Dalits ‘‘or get ready to face the people’s wrath’’.

He described the government’s reported move in this direction as ‘‘betrayal of the worst kind as the Congress leaders had made a solemn pledge to the people in their manifesto not to discontinue the SAD-BJP government’s policy of standing by the farmers in this regard’’.

The Akali leader said that the SAD would not remain a mute witness to this ' murder' of farmers’ interests, especially at a time when the farm sector was reeling under the crippling blow of drought

Mr Badal said the government’s decision to impose tariff on power would break the back of the farming community.. The farmers were yet to recover from the blow delivered in the form of hike in taxes on fertilisers and pesticides.

The drought and continued indifference of the government towards the basic problems of farmers had brought them to the brink of bankruptcy. In the circumstances, said Mr Badal, the government should have thought of concrete steps to provide compensation and relief to the farm sector.

Mr Badal demanded compensation for the drought-hit farmers at the rate of Rs 10,000 per acre.


CM apprehensive of rabi season
Says power, water situation grim
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 24
Is Punjab heading towards drought in the rabi crop season?

Going by the reports given by officials of the Irrigation and drainage Department and Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) to the Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, yesterday, it could be a district possibility.

Capt Amarinder Singh, who toured various pockets in the drought-affected Bathinda, Mansa and Muktsar districts also presented a gloomy picture of water and power situation in the state. He expressed the apprehension that if the present conditions continued, all hydroelectric projects in the state would stop generating power.

The Chief Minister said the state would also face an acute shortage of water in the canals as in September 2002, the glacier from where the water had been pouring into the Bhakra dam, would stop melting. This would affect irrigation of fields for growing the rabi crops.

The figures presented by Capt Amarinder Singh and other senior functionaries of the state government showed that at present the quantum of water being used for irrigation through canals from all sources was much more than the quantum of water being collected in various reservoirs.

As a result of the increased outflow and decreased inflow coupled with scanty rains and an increase in the demand for water for irrigation purposes, the level of water in almost all reservoirs had been going down at an alarming rate.

“On the one hand we are trying to overcome the problems that have been caused by drought in the state and on the other we are thinking over how to avert a drought in the rabi crop season,” pointed out a senior functionary of the state government when Capt Amarinder Singh was listening to the problems of drought-affected farmers at Bhangewali village in Muktsar district.

It is learnt that on August 23, the level of the Bhakra dam was 1628.88 ft, down by 6 ft from the level on the same day last year. The inflow of water was 34,037 cusecs against the release of 49,372 cusecs last year. The release of water this year was 21,044 cusecs against the release of 19,000 cusecs last year.

The level of the Pong dam was also less by 50 ft as compared to the level of water last year. The inflow had come down to 8,759 cusecs as compared to 49364 cusecs last year.

The level of the Ranjit Sagar dam was lesser by 23 metres as compared to its level last year while the inflow had come down to 8,975 cusecs as compared to 11,889 cusecs last year. The inflow at Madhopur headworks had also come down to 8,512 cusecs from 11,676 cusecs last year on the same day.

The inflow of water had also receded considerably of the UBDC headworks while the diversion of water from the Ravi to Beas, including the M.B. link, had gone up to 4,650 cusecs this year from nil last year.

The supply of water to the Sirhind canal, Bist Doab canal, BML, Narwana branch, the release at Ropar headworks, the supplies to the Sirhind and Rajasthan feeders, Harika headworks, Ferozepore headworks and Bikaner canal had gone up considerably this year as compared to last year.

Capt Amarinder Singh pointed out that the Punjab Government had been making concerted efforts to initiate the farmers into crop diversification so that they could grow less water-consuming crops.

However, he pointed out that the power scenario in Punjab was grim as the PSEB had been running the thermal plants on limited stocks of coal. The PSEB was to pay Rs 137 crore to the coal suppliers and Rs 220 crore to the Railways. He said Punjab would be in trouble if the power situation did not improve.


Farmers smell a rat in girdawari
Tribune News Service

Boha (Mansa), August 24
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s visit to drought-hit Mansa district is the fourth in a series of VIP visits in the past few weeks, but farmers are yet to have a glimpse of relief coming their way.

The farmers spoke to The Tribune that so far all promises made to them by visiting dignitaries appear to be hollow with little progress. They also alleged irregularities in girdawari (land survey).

The first to visit Mansa, which is among the worst affected districts in Punjab, was State Agriculture Minister Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. Then came the visit of Punjab Governor Lt Gen (retd) J.F.R. Jacob, MP Jagmeet Singh Brar followed him today, it was the Chief Minister’s turn. Further visits by VIPs are expected as Mr Amarinder Singh today announced that two of his colleagues, Irrigation Minister Gurchet Singh Bhullar and Public Health Minister, Jasjit Singh Ramdhawa would tour all drought-hit areas to work out and implement relief package.

“We have been demanding Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per acre, as relief but so far there is nothing in sight”, said Amrik Singh, sarpanch of Chanpur village. “Even the relief of Rs 700 to 2500 announced by the state government appears to be a joke”, he added.

Farmers say that girdawari is being done in an unfair manner. “The officials are taking on record only the crop that has been ploughed due to lack of irrigation while there are large tracks of land where standing crop has been abandoned as it is not likely to yield anything”, Jeeva Singh, a farmer added.

Farmers say that 30 per cent of the standing crop was ploughed as water for irrigation was not available. Nearly 20 per cent of the crop has been abandoned, while the yield of the remaining 50 per cent is expected to be much below the normal. “Normally, an acre of paddy gives a yield of 36 quintals, but this year the yield expected is just 4 quintals,” rued Malkiat Singh, a farmer here. Girdawari should take into account the total loss suffered by the farmers and not just record the crop ploughed by them, he added.

Farmers also apprehend that any relief, if and when it arrives will go the land-owners, and not to those who have actually cultivated the same. “A large number of farmers have taken land on lease for cultivation, but they fear that compensation would be paid to the registered owners of the land”, a farmer commented. “Those who have actually spent large amounts on the lease, fertilisers, pesticides, diesel and other inputs to grow the crop may be left high and dry, he added.

Meanwhile, sarpanches and representatives of 50 villages in the district submitted memorandums to the Chief Minister listing their problems at a public meeting here. Addressing them the Chief Minister assured them that the government, despite financial problems before it would take all necessary steps to help the farmers.

The Chief Minister said that after reviewing condition of canals and distributaries at the tail end of the feeder system, he had directed the local authorities to get these desilted to insure adequate water supply. He said that funds would be made available for the same.

Since subsoil water in this region is unfit for irrigation due to high salinity, the Chief Minister stated that he had discussions with a Californian firm about the cultivation of malta fruit, which can be grown in such conditions.

Other issues such as MSP for paddy in the light of cheaper imported varieties being available in the country, release of canal water from dams and relief packages were being worked out at the appropriate level, he added.


Punjab on a precipice
Captain completes 6 months in hot seat
PPS Gill

THE picture of Punjab six months after the change of the political guard remains blurred. It depicts a beleaguered state, sans direction, with fiscal health in a shambles, the socio-economic sector weak and politicians and bureaucrats subverted good governance.

Punjab is in a debt trap with no attainable, target-oriented policies. The expected buoyancy in tax recoveries is missing, the revenue income is low and unproductive expenditure reigns high. The same old politics-driven solutions are being applied to problems, rather than pursuing policies with economic orientation.

Punjab needs a strong infrastructure, a radical change in the politico-administrative system, in the policies and in the mindset. Punjab has, somewhere, lost its initiative to change act or react. Despite the best of human resource, it remains unexploited, untrained, and unemployed.

Punjab is precariously perched on a precipice and stands at the cusp of two diametrically opposite political cultures; one of the Akalis and the other of the Congress. Their competitive politics do more harm than good as both are perpetually engaged in the blame game, making noises over the same old ‘’politico-religious’’ issues that have vitiated the atmosphere. Their mutual recriminations, allegations and accusations always fuel political confrontation (political consensus is essential), leading to social tensions.

In Punjab, education is an area of darkness. The health delivery system is sans medicines, equipment and human touch. Agriculture and industry are registering diminishing returns, creating hardship for the small farmer and small industrialist. The state’s burgeoning bureaucracy and ‘’babudom’’ has neither devotion nor commitment to work. It is a paradox that employees, who are supposed to work, shirk work and yet get paid.

For Punjab’s dismal picture, blame must be apportioned to successive governments that ignored development, denied people essential amenities-drinking water, sewerage, sewage treatment plants, primary healthcare and primary education. Once a leading state, today there is scarcity of drinking water in over 11,000 villages (out of a total of 12,400), in 13 major towns (accounting for 57.50 per cent of the total population) 25 per cent population is without ‘’safe’’ drinking water and 30 per cent is not covered by sewerage system. In terms of infrastructure and socio-economic development, the chasm between urban and rural Punjab is widening.

It is shocking that the school dropout rate is high, girls are still denied access to education and female infanticide is common. It has skewed the male, female sex ratio; against 933:1000 for all-India, it is 874:1000 in Punjab. The literacy ratio is below the national and state averages in seven out of the 17 districts. It is a shame that schools are still without buildings, toilets, drinking water, furniture, blackboards, playgrounds, libraries, labs and equipment. Not only posts of teachers are vacant, the teachers on roll seldom attend school.

The condition of hospitals, dispensaries is no better. The health delivery system is in a mess. There are no doctors. If there are, they abstain from duty. Child healthcare and dental care in schools is nil.

There has never been any serious attempt at resuscitating agriculture or industry. If diversification plans failed, few efforts were made to modernise industry. There is no ‘’model’’ to develop small agro-processing industry or introduce new technologies to avoid post-harvest wastage. Punjab is unprepared to meet the world economic order as per the WTO.

In the absence of any economic development agenda, the common refrain is of politics of ‘’confrontation and revenge’’. To achieve political ‘’goals’’ old settle ‘’scores’’ or ‘’clean’’ the administrative system, the same instruments are being used as are used to control law and order. There persists an element of fear and intimidation.

The common perception is that if Mr Parkash Singh Badal ‘’listened and ignored’’, Capt Amarinder Singh ‘’listens but does nothing’’ and presumably, he is under siege by his coterie?.


CAG report indicts Husbandry Dept
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
The disappointing performance of the Punjab Animal Husbandry Department in the implementation of Plan schemes from 1996 to 2000-01 has been highlighted by the CAG in its latest report.

The report reveals the extent of the sorry state of affairs in the department. Only four of the 22 mobile vans inducted to provide healthcare services at the doorstep to farmers are in working order. There is a shortfall of 80 per cent in the foot and mouth disease (FMD) vaccinations. Consequently, FMD broke out in 1997 and 1073 cattlehead perished.

The report has come out with significant findings. There was a total Plan provision of Rs 143.28 crore during 1996-97 to 2001-02. Out of this Rs 90.52 crore remained non-utilised. Non-plan expenditure increased by 101 per cent over the same period. Expenditure on the medicines decreased from Rs 4.88 crore in 1997-98 to Rs 0.89 crore in the last year of the Plan.

The department drew Rs 3.69 crore on 61 abstract contingent bills for the purchase of material, machinery and equipment from the government treasury during the Plan period, but did not submit detailed contingent bills. The delay in the submission of bills indicates lack of control and monitoring at the Director level. Polyclinics in districts of Amritsar, Mansa and Moga are without proper building. This has resulted in blockage of Rs 0 .73 crore. Poor planning in deployment of veterinary staff has not only resulted in an irregular expenditure of Rs 1.65 crore, but also deprived animals of veterinary care.

To achieve ‘complete healthcare’ objective, the department carried out activities like treatment of livestock, artificial insemination, castration and vaccinations in polyclinics, veterinary hospitals and veterinary dispensaries. For this purpose, the government has established nine polyclinics, 1364 veterinary hospitals, 1431 veterinary dispensaries and 45 mobile units in the state. However shortfall in the achievements of targets for treatment of animals was between 32 and 44 per cent during the plan period that was 1996-2001.

The Director of the department stated that targets were fixed with the objective of maintenance of level of preparedness and whatever cases came to institutions, were treated. The CAG report says that the achievement of the targets was much less than the targets fixed in all the years, which indicates that either the livestock population is over-estimated or the department’s potential is not fully utilised.

The shortfall in the achievement of targets for vaccination ranged between six and 74 per cent. In case of FMD, no targets were fixed for 1996-99. However, against the target of 98 lakh vaccination fixed for 1999-2001, only 19.81 lakh vaccinations were administrated.

Thus, adequate preventive measures were not taken by the department to protect the livestock from this disease. Consequently, hundreds of cattlehead perished in Moga district. After 1997, the disease resurfaced in Ludhiana district during March 2001. However, the department has not intimated the number of animals killed because of FMD during that year.

For proper diagnosis of animal diseases, x-ray plants were installed in all polyclinics at the district level. Checking of records of three polyclinics revealed that three x-ray plants were not functioning due to non-availability of electricity connections.


Police cancels rice diversion case
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 24
The criminal case registered by the Bathinda police into an alleged scam running into crores of rupees involving the diversion of export earmarked rice to the local markets through an alleged nexus among exporters, rice mill owners transporters and employees of Food Corporation of India (FCI) was today cancelled by the crime branch of the Punjab police.

Official sources said the Bathinda district police had received a message in this connection late last evening.

Sources said a case was registered against a Delhi-based export firm, FCI officials, transporters and rice mill owners of this region when various police parties of this district conducted raids at FCI depots, on rice mill premises and at other places and the diversion of export category rice to domestic market was detected.

Ever since the case was registered in this district, the police authorities concerned allegedly came under pressure from various quarters and the FCI authorities also started secret exercises to salvage those who were taken into custody by the police.

After various ups and downs pertaining to the investigation into this multi-crore scam, which came to light on June 18, 2002, the local police authorities were pushed out of scene. The investigations were handed over to the crime branch though various leaders, including Akali Dal (Amritsar) president and MP Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, demanding that the probe be held by the CBI.

The FCI authorities were under pressure and they stopped sharing any information with mediapersons regarding the scam which shook the Punjab Government and the FCI authorities in Delhi.

Official sources said the export firm had been diverting the export category rice to the local markets at prices much higher than those being paid by it to the FCI. This way, the export firm was allegedly minting money with connivance of transporters, a section of rice mill owners and FCI officials.

The raids on the FCI depot and premises of various rice mills of this region by different teams of the police led by senior functionaries were conducted on a tip-off and a huge scam was detected. The police also managed to seize a number of trucks loaded with rice bags purchased by the export firm from the FCI on subsidised rates on the pretext of exporting it to other countries.

After this scam was unveiled in The Tribune, the regional authorities of the FCI imposed a ban on the road movement of rice. However, after a few days, the ban was lifted.

Police sources said that local police authorities could do nothing in this case now as the FIR registered in this scam had been cancelled by the crime branch after carrying out the investigations.

Mr Maan had threatened to take up the rice diversion scam in Parliament.


PTDC staff threaten stir
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, August 24
Apprehending disinvestment in the Punjab Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) by the Punjab Government, its employees have threatened to launch an agitation. At a meeting of the Punjab Tourism Karamchari Dal, held today, the employees alleged that the government was trying to disinvest the PTDC without taking them into confidence.

The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had earlier declared that the disinvestments in any government organisation would be done only after taking the employee committees into confidence. However, in the case of PTDC the government was proceeding with the disinvestment process without taking the employees into confidence. The Chief Secretary had fixed a meeting on the issue of disinvestment of PTDC on August 28, but till date the workers have not been called for any meeting on the issue despite their repeated requests, they alleged.

The state president of the Punjab Tourism Karamchari Dal, Mr Surjit Singh Saini, said the PTDC was running on a no profit no loss basis. In addition to that the corporation was paying taxes worth about Rs 1 crore annually to the state. About 510 employees working in 18 hotels of the corporation were not being paid anything by the government. They were earning their salaries out of the hotels being run by them. However, despite that the government was disinvesting in the corporation, thereby threatening the jobs of the employees.

The government was also trying to financially burden the PTDC by putting into its accounts the cost of construction of Anandpur Sahib based Ashoka Hotel. He said the three-star hotel which was built at a cost of Rs 125 crore before the tercentenary celebrations was the ambitious project of the previous government, which failed to take off. Now the present government was trying to shift the financial burden of the same into the accounts of the PTDC to show the organisation was facing losses, Mr Saini alleged.

The government was proceeding with the disinvestments of the PTDC despite the fact that it does not own the lands on which the hotels of the organisation had been set up. Most of the hotels of the PTDC have been set up on the land of gurdwaras or the Forest Department. He further alleged that the Director Disinvestments, Ms Vini Mahajan, who was earlier the in charge of the tourism department, had a personal grudge against the employees of the PTDC. Because of which she was proceeding with the disinvestment of the corporation at the earliest, without taking the employees into confidence.

Ms Vini Mahajan when contacted on phone, dismissed the charges of the workers union to be baseless. To disinvest in PTDC was the decision of the Cabinet and that she had nothing to do with it. About the workers not being taken into confidence, she said that listening to the workers was the duty of the Disinvestments Commission and not the Directorate.


BSP indecisive: 4 return ticket
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, August 24
While party state president Mohan Singh Phallianwala on Friday declared here that the BSP would go it alone and announced the first list of seven candidates for Phagwara, another meeting of the party presided over by its state chairman Thekedar Harbhajan Singh Sarinh here yesterday left it to local leadership to have seat adjustment with other parties to defeat the Congress.

Four out of seven candidates announced by Mr Phallianwala including Mr Tek Chand, Ms Seema Rani, Mr Rajan Basra and Mr Gurmukh Singh Chana of wards No. 2, 4, 15 and 26 returned party ticket saying that they won’t go against the wishes of local leadership.

Mr Phallianwala had also announced names of Ramesh Kaul, Gurnam Singh Bajwa, Amar Nath from wards No. 11, 14 and 9 respectively who, however, had stood their ground.

However, Mr Phallianwala’s decision drew a flake at yesterday’s party meeting chaired by Mr Sarinh. The meeting observed that the list announced by Mr Phallianwala was a hasty act. It constituted a seven-member election committee to decide seat adjustment with non-Congress parties. The panel include Ms Ramesh Rani, H.S. Balalon, Ashok Sandhu, Charan Das Jassal, Lekh Raj, Ram Murti Khera and Kala Parbhakar.

Earlier former district and block units presidents Ashok Sandhu and H.S. Balalon, respectively had announced have truck with the SAD-BJP combine. Then state Secretary Satish Bharati declared to go it alone to be followed by reiteration by Mr Sandhu and Mr Balalon on August 10 to share seats with SAD-BJP.

Mr Phallianwala’s assertion to go it alone and Mr Sarinh’s and other party leaders reiteration to have electoral adjustments with non-Congress parties show the wide rift in the BSP.

Meanwhile, no candidate filed nominations today for the local Nagar Council, according to the SDM-cum-Returning Officer, Mr Pritam Singh. Today was the first day for filing the papers. The last date for filing nominations is August 27. The elections are slated for September 8.


3rd phase of stir on Sept 3: Rinwa
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
The Punjab unit of the BJP, which held a meeting of its office-bearers here today under the Chairmanship of its President, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, decided to launch the third phase of the party agitation against the Capt Amarinder Singh's government in the state.

Mr Avinash Jaiswal, General Secretary of the party, after the meeting said that the BJP would organise dharnas in each of the 117 Assembly constituencies in the state on September 3. Instructions had been given to all 140 mandals( block-level units) to start preparations for such dharnas.

While discussing the latest political situation in the state and the performance of the government, various speakers at the meeting said that Capt Amarinder Singh's government had failed on all fronts. The government's campaign against corruption was politically motivated and its sole objective was to implicate political opponents in various criminal cases.

While Opposition leaders were being targeted, no action had been taken against Congress leaders who were indicted by the Lokpal, Mr Jaiswal said.

If the government was serious on cleansing public life, it should have started its campaign by taking certain Congress leaders, known for corrupt deeds, to task.

The government had not fulfilled a single promise made in the election manifesto. No MLA or minister of the Congress had declared his assets so far though this promise was a part of the election manifesto.

The BJP leaders said that the government was not only "anti-employee and anti-trader" but also "anti-farmer". What was the need of visiting drought hit areas, if no financial help was to be extended to the affected people in rural areas, the BJP leaders asked, questioning Chief Minster's day's visit to Bathinda yesterday

On September 3, BJP block units would submit memoranda to the authorities concerned, posing various questions to Capt Amarinder Singh. The questions were: Why octroi had not been abolished yet? Why the promise to double the "shagun "scheme amount had not been fulfilled so far ? and why farmers had not been given a bonus of Rs 30 per quintal on paddy.


Civic poll: BJP names 15 nominees
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, August 24
The Punjab BJP President, Prof Brij Lal Rinwa, has announced the list of BJP candidates for 15 wards of the local nagar council for which the elections will be held on September 8.

Mr Rinwa while announced the list, said the BJP would support the Akali Dal (Badal) and Bahujan Samaj Party candidates in 12 wards of the nagar council.

The list of BJP candidates is as following: Ward No 3 — Mr Umesh Sharma; Ward No 5 — Mr Surnder Singh; Ward No 9 — Ms Kamaljit Kaur; Ward No 12 — Mr Balbhadhar Sein Duggal; Ward No 13 — Ms Sarita Sood; Ward No 15 — Mr Bira Maljot; Ward No 16 — Ms Meena Gupta; Ward No 17 — Mr Kharaiti Lal Ghaba; Ward No 18 — Mr Jagdish Veer Ji, Ward No 19 — Mrs Savita Ahuja; Ward No 22 — Mrs Savita Sharma; Ward No 23 — Mr Balbir Vermani; Ward No 27 — Mr Ramesh Sachdeva.


60 palledars hurt in group clash
Tribune News Service

Samana, August 24
As many as 60 persons were injured, six of them seriously, when two palledar unions clashed with each other at the Punjab Warehouse Corporation godown here today.

According to sources, members of the Punjab Palledar Union were loading foodgrain into trucks when they were attacked by members of the FCI Palledar Union. Following this there was a melee with members of both groups clashing with one another. Sharp-edged weapons were also used in the clash.

The sources said the situation, which threatened to take a serious turn because of the presence of nearly 400 workers on the spot, was brought under control by the timely arrival of the police. They said the fighting members were separated and tempers controlled under the directions of Deputy Superintendent of Police Jaspreet Singh Sidhu.

The sources said as many as 60 members of both Unions were rounded up by the police and that security was tightened in the area. The injured have been admitted to the Civil Hospital here. Earlier also a fight had occurred between members of both unions following which a compromise had been effected between them. However, recently the agreement had broken down with both unions expressing their right over loading work at the warehousing godown here. 


Gurdwara panel chief refutes charges
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, August 24
The crisis has deepened between the management committee of Gurdwara Sarkari Dharamshala Khalsa Diwan and members of the Sarb Rog Mission Gurmat Ragi Granthi Sabha and Bhrampura Trust. According to reports, the situation worsened on August 21 with the debarring of entry to members of the three bodies in the gurdwara by the management committee.

This compelled the members to perform kirtan and recite Gurbani outside the gurdwara, Mr Sukhpal Singh, general secretary of the Gurmat Sabha, said here today.

He said Mr Avtar Singh Bholuwala, president of the committee, was not a baptized Sikh and hence could not be elected president of the management committee as per the norms of the SGPC.

Criticising his decision to remove Mr Hardev Singh Head Granthi of the gurdwara, under false charges, accused Mr Bholumwala of misusing 18 acres of the gurdwara land.

Refuting the charges, Mr Bholuwala said these members of bodies always created nuisance and raised anti-SGPC slogans in Darbar Sahib during his election as president of the committee. Some members also manhandled him, he alleged.

He clarified that he was elected president unanimously by Mr Balwinder Singh, Mr Ujagar Singh and Dr Mantar Singh who were nominated by the Punjab Governor as per the norms of the SGPC for the functioning of the shrine.

Regarding the removal of the Head Granthi, he said he (Granthi) used to charge extra fees from devotees for akhand path.


New home for senior citizens
Romesh Gupta

The district Red Cross Society in collaboration with the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has constructed a new complex for the senior citizens’ behind Baba Farid Sabhyacharak Kendra on the Faridkot- Kotkapura road here to provide homely facilities free of cost. Those who were not availing of such concessions or were not being after by their wards properly are eligible to live there. The complex consists of eight special rooms for couples, eight dormitories, a common room, a library hall, a dining hall and an office-cum-waiting room. The entire project cost Rs 32 lakh, of which Rs 22 lakh has been spent by the society and the remaining by the ministry.

According to Mr A.Venu Prasad, Deputy Commissioner-cum-chairman of the society, 22 members, including three women, and a couple were already availing of the facility.

The day starts with morning prayer and walk followed by vocational activities which include tending the kitchen garden, watering of lawns, plants, beekeeping, indoor games, besides reading of newspapers and magazine. After evening prayer, all the members sit together for a hour to review their problems.

Festivals like Divali, Holi, Lohri and others were celebrated by them collectively. Doctors of different specialities visit the institution regularly to provide medical treatment. However, cases of chronic diseases were being referred to the local Government Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital, the Deputy Commissioner said. The society spends over Rs 2 lakh every year to monitor the project. Members of various non-government organisations, Elders Service Society and Senior Citizens Club also meet inmates of the complex at least once a week to sort out their problems.

Mr Prasad said the society was seriously considering expanding the capacity of the complex, which was likely to be finalised shortly. The institution, established in 1999, was earlier functioning from a rented building on the Faridkot-Ferozepore road.


Villagers sore over poor telecom services
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, August 24
Despite the tall claims of the telecom authorities with regard to providing better services to its subscribers particularly in the rural areas, the residents of Udhowal, Bir Baloki, and adjoining villages in Mehatpur subdivision are running from pillar to post to get their complaints redressed for the past about two months.

The residents alleged that the technical staff posted at the Mehatpur telephone exchange had failed to rectify the snag for the past about two months resulting in the telecom services getting paralysed. The whole exercise of not clearing the faults in the telephone connections for months together, was aimed at minting money from the subscribers who are at the mercy of these telecom employees, they alleged.

Dildar Singh, a farmer of Udhowal village, said his telephone had been out of order for the past about one and a half months and despite repeated requests to the Junior Telecom Officer (JTO) concerned to get the fault rectified no action had been taken so far.

Kirpal Singh, a businessman, alleged that he had also been complaining about the fault in his telephone connection for the past two months but to no avail. “The indifferent attitude of telecom authorities towards people in rural areas can be gauged from the fact that I was forced to purchase a cable worth Rs 1,500 for the restoration of the telephone connection. But, after two days, my telephone is once again dead,” he added.

Similarly, Gurdev Chand, a resident of Bir Baloki village, alleged that there was sheer “jungle” raj prevailing in the telecom department as none of its senior officials ever tried to redress the grievances of the villagers by visiting rural exchanges. “I am also waiting for the telecom employees to rectify the fault for the past two months,” he rued.

The secretary of the Pendu Mazdoor Union, Punjab, Mr Tarsem Peter, alleged that the JTO concerned used to misbehave with the subscribers of the area even as he had failed to redress their grievances.

The GM (Telecom) Mr K. C. Jindal, which said that he would conduct an inquiry into the matter.


Communist leader Joga dead
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 24
Paying tributes to veteran Communist leader Jangir Singh Joga ( 94), who passed away at Mansa this afternoon, CPI leader Dr Joginder Daya said that "he was a great freedom fighter, farmers' leader and top activist of the Parja Mandal movement in this part of the country".

Mr Jangir Singh was born on October 11, 1908, in Malaya where his parents had gone to earn a livelihood.

Dr Dayal said Mr Joga's body would be kept at Teja Singh Swatantar Bhavan( CPI office) at Mansa tomorrow till 10 a.m. so that people could pay their respects.

The leader's death marked the end of an era of veterans who fought for the country and its people without any vested interests. Dr Dayal said that Mr Jangir Singh was in school when he joined the freedom struggle and remained in jail for six months at Lahore for participation in the Non-Cooperation movement.

His father, Uttam Singh, was an integral part of the Gaddar Movement.

Mr Jangir Singh remained in jail for 17 years after Independence. He took part in several movements started by the Communist Party to get land rights for the tillers. He was also associated with the Akali Movement and the Kirti Movement.

Mr Jangir Singh became member of the Communist Party in 1938 and remained. .When an armed struggle was launched in Pepsu area in 1947-48 by landless farmers and serfs, Mr Joga Singh along with comrade Dharm Singh Fakkar and comrade Teja Singh Swatantar, led the struggle from the front.

He was elected to the Pepsu Assembly while in jail in 1953,such was his popularity in the Malwa belt. He also remained member of the Punjab Assembly.


Editor gets 20-yr RI for murder
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, August 24
The Additional Sessions Judge, Mr Jaspal Singh, today sentenced Mohan Lal Nagpal, editor of a Hindi daily published from here, to 20 years imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 5,000 in a murder case.

Mohan Lal Nagpal was arrested by the Kotwali police in connection with a murder of a resident of Partap Nagar of the city. The body of the deceased was found under mysterious circumstances on August 20, 1999 near a cinema hall of the city. The then District Magistrate, Mr S.R. Ladhar, had ordered a magisterial probe into the incident and the duty magistrate had indicted Mohan Lal Nagpal in the case.


In jail despite remittance
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 24
Jagroop Singh was awarded six months’ imprisonment by a local court. He was supposed to come out of the local Central Jail after the Punjab Government remitted his prison sentence by a year, on the eve of Independence Day. However, he failed to secure freedom. Reason — he failed to deposit Rs 1,000 as fine which was imposed on him by the judicial officer while pronouncing the judgement.

Major Singh, another poor prisoner, is undergoing three months’ imprisonment for failing to pay a fine of Rs 5,000 despite the fact that he was supposed to be freed after a year’s remission was granted to him by the state government.

Official sources said though 56 inmates had been released after the state government awarded remission in their prison terms, six prisoners continued to languish behind bars as they could not arrange for adequate money to pay the fines imposed on them by courts.

Bhola Sharma, another inmate, is hoping that an acquaintance would arrange Rs 2,000 for his release.

Against the official capacity to accommodate 500 prisoners and undertrial, the central jail here has more than 1,300.


NRIs to help set up Mata Gujri memorial
Tribune News Service

Ropar, August 24
With financial assistance from NRIs, the Punjab Kashyap Rajput Sabha will set up a Mata Gujri memorial at Anandpur Sahib. The sabha will construct an old-age home, a hospital and other welfare institutions there.

Talking to mediapersons here today, Mr Ashok Mehra, president of the sabha, said the sabha would install Nishan Sahib at Gurdwara Baba Moti Mehra on December 25 at Fatehgarh Sahib.

He said the SGPC should set up a memorial in memory to Bhai Kanahiaji anywhere in the state. He also urged the Punjab Government to install the portraits of Baba Himmat Singh and Baba Moti Ram Mehra, who belonged to their community, in the Punjab Assembly.

He claimed that their population in Punjab was about 20 lakh, including 12 lakh voters, but no major political party had given due representation to them in the elections, he said.


Art of Living guru Ravi Shankar to visit state
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, August 24
Founder of The International Art Of Living Foundation Ravi Shankar would visit the state from September 6 to 10 .

He would be accorded a state-level reception at the Shambhu border and would be taken to Mandi Gobindgarh in a colorful procession.

After paying obeisance at Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib, he would begin the tour of the state, said Mr Vivek Sharda, in charge of the organisation in the district.

He said that Ravi Shankar would also visit Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur and Jalandhar and conduct healing-breath workshop, satsang and address his followers.

He said that the foundation had been accredited by the United Nations besides being recognised by the WHO for its achievements in healing and human values.

He said the source and inspiration for this unique programme, Ravi Shankar, was a rare combination of joy and wisdom and for the past 10 years had traveled throughout the world training millions of people in “Art of Living” through workshops.


2 labourers die of asphyxiation
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, August 24
Two migrant labourers were suffocated to death after inhaling poisonous gases in an underground tank of a factory at the industrial focal point here today.

According to the police, Mukesh (17) of Bhagat Singh Colony, went down in the tank to fetch a bucket of industrial fluid.

After about 10 minutes, when he failed to come out, Omkar (20) went down to help him. Both of them were found lying unconscious by their friends.


AWWA’s annual function held
Our Correspondent

Abohar, August 24
The 23rd annual day function of the Army Wives Welfare Association was held here today. Mrs Usha Panjikar, Chairperson of the Lalgarh Chapler the AWWA, the AWWA for taking care of war widows and their families over the past three decades.

Mrs Panjikar commended the members for showing courage, maturity and patience during the ongoing protracted deployment of troops on the border.


Workers hold rally
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, August 24
On a call given by the National Assembly of Workers, a large number of industrial workers under the aegis of CITU held a rally and took out a procession yesterday in protest against the alleged “anti-people” policies of the central government and the Punjab Government, privatisation of profit-making PSUS illegal closures, lock-outs and retrenchments, besides the violation of labour laws at Balachaur. Mr Raghunath Singh, general secretary, CITU, Punjab, and the Ram Singh Nurpuri, secretary of the district unit of the CPM, among others addressing the rally asked the workers to unite.


Range officer suspended
Our Correspondent

Mansa, August 24
Mr Jagan Nath Sharma, Range officer, in charge of the Budhlada Range of Forest Department, has been placed under suspension by the Conservator of Forest, Patiala for embezzlement of lakhs of rupees and has been issued a show-cause notice as to why he should not be dismissed from service.

It is learnt that while Mr Sharma was posted at Mansa he had prepared cheques with inflated amount in connivance with daily wage labourers and had got the same encashed from State Bank of Patiala, Raila branch in the district and had usurped the amount. A complaint was submitted by a forest guard tot he state government and on inquiry Mr Sharma was found to have ambezzled lakhs of rupees.

Further, it was found that Mr Sharma had created property worth crores of rupees with such embazzlements in the department. Mr Jalour Singh in a communication sent to the Chief Minister, Punjab, has requested that a criminal case be got registered against the said employee and the assets created by him be traced through the Vigilance Bureau.


CRPF workshop on human rights
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, August 24
Mr S.C. Prashrar, Commandant, 96 Battalion of the CRPF, today urged jawans not to violate human rights.

Addressing jawans and officials of the CRPF after inaugurating a three-day workshop on human rights, he said everyone had got the right to live with dignity.

He said the main purpose of the workshop was to educate the jawans and officials about the protection of human rights so that they could develop a better rapport with civilians.


1 kg opium found from SHO’s house
Tribune News Service

Lambi (Muktsar), August 24
In a bizarre incident, a team of the Vigilance Bureau today found 1 kg of opium and Rs 1,01,300 in cash from the bedroom of Nazar Singh, Station House Officer (SHO) of the local police station, when it raided his quarters situated within the police station late last evening.

Nazar Singh, however, managed to escape under the cover of darkness. The team also rescued Baljit Singh from Nazar Singh’s bedroom. Baljit Singh had been kept in illegal confinement by Nazar Singh.

According to sources a police party had detained Baljit Singh and Jagnandan Singh inspecting a bus near Dabwali town yesterday. The two were taken to police station, Lambi, where Nazar Singh, SHO, sought a bribe of Rs 10,000 from them, failing which he threatened that a case under the NDPS Act would be registered against them.

Jagnandan Singh was sent to his village, Kotli Deon, to arrange the bribe from where he contacted officials of the Vigilance Department.

A team of the Vigilance Department accompanied him to the local police station to handover the bribe to Nazar Singh and secure the release of Baljit Singh.

When Jagnandan Singh reached the police station, Major Singh, (Head Constable) took the money from him and proceeded towards the residential quarters of Nazar Singh. Thereafter, the Vigilance Bureau team raided the police station.

Mr Vinod Kumar, DSP (Vigilance), said Major Singh confessed to have given the money to Nazar Singh.

The DSP said one kg of opium and cash were also found from Nazar Singh’s bedroom.

He said Major Singh had been arrested. A case under Section 18 of the NDPS Act and Section 342 of the IPC had been registered against Nazar Singh in the local police station.


Peace panel chief’s wife assaulted
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, August 24
Mrs Kalawati Sharma, septuagenarian wife of Dr Des Raj Sharma, Chairman of the local All-Party Peace Committee, was today assaulted and injured with sharpedged weapons inside the kitchen at her home on the local Phagwara-Banga road and was hospitalised here in a critical condition. She was given over a dozen stitches, mostly on her head. Personal enmity is said to be the cause behind murderous assault on Mrs Sharma.

The sole young assailant entered the house on the plea that Dr Sharma had sent him in connection with whitewashing the house. He asked for a glass of water and when he was being seen off by Mrs Sharma, he turned at the door and pounced upon her, hitting her on the head. Mrs Sharma’s clothes were soaked in blood and so were the assailant’s who removed his clothes and left the house wearing Dr Sharma’s trousers. A half-conscious Mrs Sharma rang up her husband and told him that she was dying. Dr Sharma, who was in his clinic over a kilometre away, came to his house and took his wife to hospital.

Dr Sharma, who is also the chief patron of the local Senior Citizens Council, told reporters that two days ago someone had entered his house and decamped with 3 kg of almonds. A complaint was made to the police. Today’s attack was seen by him as related to the incident two days ago. It was learnt that a dispute over a shop could be the reason behind the attack. The police has registered a case and two persons have reportedly been detained for questioning.


34 Bangladeshis arrested for illegal entry
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, August 24
34 Bangladesh nationals have been arrested for illegally entering India through the Kolkata border allegedly with the help of Bangladesh Rifles Force. According to Mr Varinder Kumar, district police chief, these Bangladesh nationals had given money to Bangladesh Rifles Force to allow them to cross over to the Indian border. The arrested include 20 men, eight women and six children. Cases had been registered against them under Section 14 of the foreign Act and Sections 3, 34 and 20 of the Indian Passport Act.

The district police chief said the SHO, police station, Shahpur Kandi, Mr Ved Parkash, on a tip off, yesterday laid a naka at Pangoli Chowk and raided an abandoned building in the area. 34 Bangladesh nationals were found in the building these persons failed to produce the relevant documents or their passports.

Preliminary investigation revealed that a TTE of a Dhaka train had lured them into crossing over to the Indian border. He had arranged their meeting with a Bangladeshi contractor who allegedly took Rs 60 from each person. The amount had allegedly been handed over to Bangladesh Rifles Force deployed on the India-Bangladesh border who allowed them cross over to India. Before coming to Gurdaspur they had stayed at Saharanpur for one-and-half years and then at Kahnpur (Uttar Pradesh). 


Judge’s orders tampered with, three held
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, August 24
A case was registered today against four persons, including a Tehsildar, for tampering with the interlocutory orders of the Additional district Judge, Gurdaspur, regarding the execution of a sale deed.

According to an FIR registered at police station division no 1, Mr Kalyan Singh, complainant, had filed an application for setting aside the sale deed executed by the then Tehsildar, Mr K.K. Verma, with respect to property no 1167 to competent authority.

He said the Additional District Judge Gurdaspur had passed orders of status quo on October 7, 1997, with respect to the property which had not been vacated. He alleged that the accused party had tampered with the records and prepared forged documents executed a sale deed defrauding the state quoting value lesser than the market value.

Those arrested had been identified as Jaideep, Avtar Singh and Neeti, all local residents.

A case under Sections 420, 465, 467, 471 and 120-B of the IPC had been registered. The Tehsildar had absconded.


Farid varsity yet to have building
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, August 24
Even as the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences has been bringing more and more medical, dental and other paramedical institutes under its domain, it is yet to have its own building though its foundation stone was laid in 1997.

Though the university authorities have paid about Rs 6 crore for acquiring 157 acres for setting up the university complex, it has yet to start the construction of the building due to various reasons, including the shortage of funds and dispute with the architect over the mode of payment to him.

The foundation stone of the varsity was laid by the then Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal on October 6, 1997 with much fanfare.

Though the SAD-BJP combine remained in power in Punjab till February 2002, no efforts were made to start the construction of building.

The university is being run from the building of a tourist complex and has been paying thousands of rupees as rent every month. The construction of the building could not be started despite the fact that Rs 1.5 crore had been lying with it.

At present the university is looking after the affairs of at least eight medical colleges, 11 dental colleges, eight ayurvedic colleges, six homeopathic colleges and B.Sc. nursing and Lab technology colleges.

Dr P. S. Sandhu, Registrar of the varsity, when contacted, said once the issue with the architect was settled, the construction of building would start immediately. He said the issue with the architect would be sorted out by the Vice-Chancellor and the Secretary, Medical Education, Punjab. At least Rs 80 crore would be spent on the project.

He also pointed out that university authorities had also written to the Punjab Government for making arrangements to bring pharmacy-related courses being run by private and government institution in the state under its domain. Presently, Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar, had been managing the academic affairs of these institutions. He said a meeting of Vice-Chancellors of the Farid varsity and PTU could be held in this connection.


DCI rule blocks students’ promotion
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, August 24
A section of students of dental colleges of the state has alleged that a “redundant” rule formulated by the Dental Council of India (DCI) and implemented by the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot, has been blocking their promotion to the next higher class if they were to reappear in two subjects. The rule causes financial loss to them, while the managements of private colleges mint money, the students said.

Mr Surjit Singh (name changed on request), a second year student of the dental college at Faridkot, while talking to The Tribune here today, alleged that most of the universities of the country allowed the promotion of students who had to reappear in two subjects to the next year but the Baba Farid university did not allow it. He pointed out that MBBS students were promoted to the next year by the university even if they had to reappear in two subjects.

He claimed that even as the Dental Council of India (DCI) had imposed this condition, it had never taken action against any university of the country which did not adhere to this guideline. He said due to imposition of this condition, students of the private dental colleges were the worst-affected as these colleges charged fee for the extra time spent in the college. He said in many cases the students had to reappear in the same subject for falling short of just one or two marks.

He pointed out that the subjective nature of the written examinations was not taken into account by the university authorities. To compensate the MBBS students, the university had granted them the facility of internal examiners whereas the dental students were denied this facility.

Talking about the DCI norms, he said the university had introduced four subjects in the second year instead of three as required by the DCI. He said even the re-evaluation of papers was not allowed.

He demanded that the dental students should also be promoted to the next higher classes, as was the case with the MBBS students, by the university even if they had to reappear in two subjects. He said at least 1 per cent of the total marks of the course should be awarded to the affected students as grace marks.

Dr A Sandhu, Registrar, the Baba Farid university could not be contacted for comments


Boparai’s appointment criticised
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, August 24
The Guru Nanak Dev University Teachers Association (GNDUTA) today flayed the appointment of Mr S.S. Boparai, a bureaucrat, as Vice-Chancellor of the Punjabi University, Patiala.

Dr Narpinder Singh and Dr Parminder Singh, president and secretary of the association respectively, in a press note issued here today stated that the appointment of Mr Boparai was a blatant attempt on the part of the state government to reduce the institutions of higher learning to a mere status of just an extension of a government department. They said it was shameful on the part of our rulers to give the reins of the universities in the hands of either the bureaucrats or the military generals.

Dr Narpinder Singh said to enable the universities to make strides in academics, they need persons with vast experience at the helm of affairs.


Cancellation of membership of sabha ‘illegal’
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, August 24
The ruling group of the SSD Sabha, a registered body, which manages some of the reputed educational institutes of the city, suffered a big jolt when a local court ordered that the deletion of the names of a section of its members from its members list was illegal.

According to a copy of the order pronounced on August 17 which was procured by The Tribune yesterday, the Additional Civil Judge (senior division), Mr H.P. Singh, ordered that the deletion of the name of the plaintiff, Mr Amarnath Goyal was illegal and hence he was allowed to participate in the elections of the sabha to be held on the first of next month. The honourable judge observed that Mr Goyal was not allowed, he (Mr Goyal) would suffer irreparable damages.

The ruling group had deleted names of some of the members of the sabha from its primary membership allegedly without giving any valid reason while 40 members owning allegiance to the rival group were served with show-cause notices.


‘Secular course’ to be introduced in schools
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, August 24
The Punjab Government plans to introduce a secular course along with other subjects at all levels in government schools from the next academic year to promote nationalism and check communalism. Steps would also be taken to introduce Urdu in high schools. This was stated by Mr Khushal Bahl, Education Minister, Punjab, at a state-level conference organised by the State Recognised and Affiliated Schools Association at MRSD Senior Secondary School here yesterday.

The minister said the syllabi of different courses would be in accordance with NCERT guidelines.

Principals of higher secondary schools would be empowered to check the functioning of primary and middle schools in their respective areas. English would be introduced from class III.


Bahl’s assurance on downgraded school
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, August 24
The Punjab Government will review all pros and cons before downgrading schools which were upgraded by the previous SAD-BJP government. No discrimination would be done, Mr Kushal Bahl, Education Minister, Punjab, told this reporter here yesterday.

Regarding the downgrading of senior secondary school at Jhangirana village in Bathinda district on August 8, which had inconvenienced students coming from four villages, the minister said he would soon bring the file from the DEO’s office in Bathinda to sort out the matter amicably.

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