Monday, September 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



HC verdict solves complex Sikh issues
Puts Congress government in a bind
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 15
The landmark judgement of the Constitutional Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court holding that the term of the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission (SGJC) was co-terminus with the term of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has not only settled various complex and important issues agitating the Sikh community for a long time but has also put the Punjab Government in a bind.

Though the fate of the present government’s decision of July 5 to rescind the January 9, 1999, notification issued by the previous SAD-BJP government on reconstituting the SGJC is still unknown, options before it are very limited.

The Punjab Government had ordered the restoration of the old SGJC comprising Mr Kashmir Singh Patti, Mr Dara Singh and Mr Raghbir Singh thus removing Mr Manmohan Singh Brar (president), Mr Amrik Singh Randhawa and Mr Ajwant Singh Mann as members of the SGJC appointed by the Punjab Government headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

Now when the Constitutional Bench has for the first time ever since the Sikh Gurdwaras Act came into being in the mid twenties, held that the term of the SGJC and SGPC is co-terminus, the January 9, 1999, notification issued by the SAD-BJP government gets the stamp of validity.

Besides demolishing all arguments against the 1999 notification, the hopes raised by the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) of getting key office-bearers of the SGPC removed through the old SGJC headed by Mr Patti and restored by the present Congress government appear to have evaporated. The July 5 notification had assumed tremendous significance as the general elections of the SGPC are due.

In fact if one looks back, when the last elections to the general house of the SGPC were held in 1996, it was after a gap of 19 years. And Mr Patti and Mr Dara Singh had been in the SGJC since 1979.

While the Gurdwara Act holds that after elections the SGPC would recommend a panel of seven names to the Punjab Government for appointment of two members of the SGJC. The government has the power to appoint the third member on its own. The only condition is that all members of the commission have to be Sikhs. The three-member commission elects its president.

The removal of Mr Kashmira Singh Patti and Mr Dara Singh was a big blow to Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra and his group. Both Mr Patti and Mr Dara Singh filed separate petitions challenging the January 9, 1999, notification of the Punjab Government. Another PIL was filed by a member of the SGPC.

The SGPC after its election in 1996 had sent a written request to the Punjab Government to reconstitute the SGJC. The government took almost three years to process that application and approve the new SGJC. In fact, it was Bhai Ranjit Singh’s case that acted as a catalyst at that time.

After assuming power, the Congress government, instead of waiting for the verdict of the Constitutional Bench, ordered rescinding of the January 9, 1999, notification and put Mr Patti and Mr Dara Singh back in the commission. It is pertinent to mention here that Mr Kashmira Singh Patti had filed a contempt petition against Capt Amarinder Singh for describing him as a “rubber stamp of Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra”. He was, however, discharged in the case.

The verdict now puts Mr Badal back in command of Sikh affairs and thus takes away the lever which the government had provided to the breakaway (SHSAD) to do “SAD and SGPC bashing”.

A number of important issues decided by the Constitutional Bench include that even after the reorganisation of Punjab in November, 1966, the power to constitute the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission lies with the Punjab Government and not the Central Government and that the judicial commission cannot continue to perpetuity.

Though the Sikh Gurdwara Act has been a subject of review by previous two Constitutional Benches, yet the landmark judgement given by the Bench this time has decided the “complex and important issues” which had been agitating the Sikh community for a long time. In fact, the Sikhs are the only community in the world who have a law to manage their own shrines in India.

Interestingly, it was the last Bench headed by Mr Justice Arun B. Saharya, who after delivering the verdict retired. Mr Justice Saharya had on that day complimented counsel for both petitioners and respondents, including Additional Solicitor General and the then Advocate-General of Punjab for their cooperation in dealing with all questions involved in this “complex and important case”. He had in fact regretted delay in the pronouncement of the order as he maintained that he remained busy in handling other “administrative matters”. The arguments in the case had continued for a little more than two months.


Hanspal may submit PCC list this week
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 15
Punjab Congress chief H.S. Hanspal is likely to submit the list of PCC office-bearers to the Congress high command this week.

AICC sources said the PCC would be small and ministers, MPs and aspirants for ministerial berths would not be included in the PCC.

Mr Hanspal has had preliminary discussions with senior Punjab Congress leaders though the issue has not yet been discussed with the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh. Mr Hanspal will also consult the Punjab MPs before giving his recommendations to the high command. The PCC chief, who assumed charge at the PCC office in Chandigarh on August 18, has said ministers will be regularly available at the PCC office for solving problems of people.

Mr Hanspal had announced earlier that the PCC would have 31 members. However, the actual size may be larger in view of the recommendations being made by senior party leaders. Once recommendations are received by the high command, it will make its own assessment before approving the PCC.

The high command is keen on an early announcement of the PCC which will be used to effectively project the achievements of the state government.

The Congress victory in the recent local bodies elections in Punjab has come as a boost for Mr Hanspal who oversaw the work of ticket distribution for these elections. These were the first elections in the state after Mr Hanspal assumed charge as the PCC chief. Party leaders see the Congress victory in local elections as an endorsement by people of the policies of Capt Amarinder Singh government.

Though new PCC chiefs in Haryana and Punjab were appointed at the same time, the Punjab PCC is likely to be declared earlier. In Haryana, clashing ambitions of senior leaders are coming in the way of the party working as a cohesive unit.

The Congress government in Punjab has to soon decide on the ticklish issue of discontinuing free power to farmers. The Chief Minister and the PCC chief have hinted that drastic steps will not be taken and the state government can subsidise the electricity board for its losses. Senior AICC leaders, however, are against continuation of freebies.


Fiscal reforms: it’s now or never
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 15
There is a politically packaged impasse in Punjab. Normally, this should enable the decision-makers to focus on fiscal and economic driven policies. But rather than finding solutions to the problems only the reverse seems to be happening, finding problems to the solution.

This is evident from the rumblings in the government which is considering to implement the September 6 tariff order of the Punjab Electricity Regulatory Commission on billing the power supply to the agriculture sector but with the state footing the bill instead of the farmers, at least, till the paddy procurement operation is completed. Till then the state would compensate the PSEB to which it has already committed Rs 800 crore, as subsidy for agriculture as well as reduced free supply to scheduled castes families.

This issue will come up before the Council of Minister meeting here on September 17. One school of thought is that the PSEB should have been allowed to go ahead with the implementation of the tariff order from August 1 rather than involving the political executive. The other school of thought is that rather than the Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh, alone getting the political flak, let it be a collective decision of the Council of Ministers to later share collective accountability.

Contrary to this, the refrain in the government, on the implementation of tariff order as also other fiscal reforms contained in the Budget (2002-03), is ‘’now or never’’. The Government should have acted right away. The usual delay and dithering on the part of the government has come at a crucial moment, say sources.

Crucial because the Economic Affairs division of the Union ministry of Finance, wrote to the state on the last working day that a World Bank mission would shortly visit Punjab to resume the ‘’dialogue’’ on the envisaged development projects. This ‘’dialogue’’ the state had opened with great difficulty with the World Bank in Delhi on July 5. The mission has become possible because of the ‘’reforms’’ outlined in the Budget (2002-03) that promise to levy user charges and also withdraw freebies for economic and social services rendered.

Therefore, if the Cabinet on September 17 is carried away by political and emotional considerations, it could, possibly, abort the mission of the World Bank, which had shied away for over five years form Punjab just because of ‘’free’’ power to agriculture sector.

It is in this backdrop say insiders the Cabinet would be once again given an up date on the state’s financial situation, which is beginning to show some feeble signs of recovery, while, it remains under stress. Therefore, while dealing with the PSEB and the tariff order, the Council would also be told to expedite its decision-making and consequent implementation in respect of other ‘’reforms’’, particularly, ones on mopping up sales tax, levy of user charges for economic and social services rendered by the state, overhauling the transport sector, expediting disinvestment in public sector undertakings, compression of expenditure on salaries, wages, pensions and interest repayments.

The Chief Minister has been informed, say the sources, that he is totally on a different geo-political plane with the BJP-led NDA government vis-a-vis the previous Akali government, when Parkash Singh Badal could manage things or even divert money to sectors other than the intended, like diversion of money under the food account, institutional finances, centrally sponsored schemes and so on. The situation is different now. The Centre may not bail out Punjab that easily, hence, the need for implementation of the corrective measures outlined in the Budget.

The sources say more the delay, more difficult, will it be for the ruling Congress to implement measures to improve its financial situation. More important is the fact that Punjab may not get any slice from the Fiscal Facility Fund or from the Development Fund. 


Farmers seek MSP, not free power
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, September 15
Farmers are demanding a minimum support price (MSP) at the earliest possible time for the paddy crop that as started coming in the market.

They feel that the Shiromani Akali Dal led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal is trying to gain a mileage by making a big issue out of rollback of free power supply.

A sizeable section of farmers are of the opinion resorting to such a political gimmick, Mr Badal had turned a blind eye to the more important issues that would ultimately affect the sustainability of the farm sector.

Mr Rajinder Singh, a progressive farmer of Fazilka said the Union Government should announce the MSP at the earliest to pave the way for the procurement of the crop. “But if the Akalis are out to emotionalise the issue of withdrawal of free power rather than educating the farmers of the future requirements of the Punjabis, I think it would not be in the interests of the state”, he said.

“I have read in newspapers that most of the international funding agencies have served notice to the state government to withdraw the facility of free power supply to the farmers otherwise no funds would be given in future.

Thermal power plants are almost on the verge of closure due to non-payment of dues running into hundreds of crores”, said Shajju belonginig to a marginal family of the Rai community.

Though he was worried about the electricity bills that would start coming from the next month but still he hoped of regular power supply in the future. “If the power supply improves I can cultivate a third crop after harvesting paddy before the sowing of wheat to compensate the financial loss incurred from start of power bills,” he further said.

Most of the middle class farmers having land in between 15 to 35 acres demand regular supply of power rather than seek free sops. On the other hand, farmers having less than 15 acres, however, feel that it would ruin their economy as they are already under heavy burden of loans.

Even farmer organisations feel that free power supply to marginal farmers should continue for another few years till they are able to stand on their own.

But for the big farmers, their worry is quite different. A big farmer of Ferozepore owing 109 acres in a joint family of three sons calculated that he would have to pay at least Rs 1 lakh per year as power bills. He has got used to free sops and started spending the money saved out of it on his leisure. He bought a jeep and a luxury car in 2000. Now, he would not be able to maintain the vehicles.

Meanwhile, Mr Gurnaib Singh Brar, former member of the Agriculture Costs and Price Commission had demanded that the MSP should be announced at the earliest possible time so that proper arrangements could be made for the procurement of paddy.


Pro-farmer decision on power likely
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 15
The Punjab Cabinet meeting on Tuesday may reject the recommendations of the state Electricity Regulatory Commission for the agriculture sector.

Informed sources said the state government had taken an informal decision not to implement the decision of the commission regarding the agriculture sector. The state government had planned diversification of agriculture before putting the financial burden on the peasantry.

The Chairman, high-powered Finance Committee, Punjab, Mr Surinder Singla, while confirming the fact that the state government would not take any step to put extra financial burden on the farmers, pointed out that it could go to any extent for the same. He added that even some of the recommendations of the regulatory commission could be challenged in the court.


Decision on paddy MSP ‘unfair’ to Punjab farmers
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 15
There is a bad news for Punjab. The Centre has conveyed its decision that with effect from the forthcoming kharif season, the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy would be “MSP plus 4 per cent and all state taxes, levies beyond that would be contained within the MSP”.

This decision has shocked Punjab. The bolt has come at a time when farmers are awaiting the announcement of the MSP, as also the date of its procurement. The new paddy is already in the mandis (with reports of distress sale), while there are reports of field paddy having been damaged due to recent rain in several parts of the state. The farmers seem to be doubly unblessed, first it was the drought (that pushed up per acre cost of cultivation to Rs 3,000) and now it is the deluge.

The Union Food Secretary, Mr R.D. Kapur, had given this MSP-induced shock on August 20 last, during at a meeting with the states on arrangements for paddy procurement for 2002-03. This decision Punjab can ill-afford to accept much less implement. It was taken without consulting the states.

The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, was briefed by the Principal Secretary, Food and Supplies, Mr B.R. Bajaj. He shot off a letter to the Union Minister for Food and Public Distribution, Mr Sharad Yadav, warning of the consequences. The letter says implicit in the decision is a very ‘’raw deal’’ to farmers and the state. Punjab has invested heavily, up to Rs 15,000 crore, over the years through the state marketing board to develop rural infrastructure in terms of village link roads (their maintenance), 1,600 purchase centres (mandis) etc. and continues to invest on their proper upkeep that facilitates both purchaser and buyer.

Capt. Amarinder Singh’s letter says this was possible because Punjab collects over Rs 500 crore per season from levies and taxes other than purchase tax (4 per cent). The government decision would ruin the rural development programme. “This is a retrograde step” and if the intention is to wean farmers away from wheat-paddy rotation, then it is better to follow recommendations of the Abhijit Sen Committee on long-term grain policy that recommends diversification by giving farmers remunerative MSP for crops other than wheat and paddy.

The decision will prove to be “disastrous” for Punjab and its farmers. At present, taxes and levies applicable on the procurement of foodgrains, as percentage of MSP, are as follows: market fee and rural development cess—2 each; purchase tax—4; commission of arhtiyas—2.5; and infrastructure development cess—1; a total of 11.5 per cent. Excepting the FCI, all state agencies engaged in the procurement operation pay the infrastructure cess of 1 per cent. The FCI has gone to the court.

As a consequence of this decision, Mr Bajaj explains the government will be tentatively losing about 7.5 per cent out of 11.5 per cent taxes, levies that accrue to it and other agencies. Taking previous year’s MSP (2001-02) as an example, he says, at 11.5 per cent the amount works out to Rs 712 crore. If the Centre persists with the new decision, applicable for kharif 2002-03, and gives only 4 per cent purchase tax to the state, then remaining 7.5 per cent, which comes to over Rs 500 crore, will mean a net loss on this account.

Mr Bajaj says the Centre has made it clear that in case Punjab wants to continue with the existing statutory taxes and levies, beyond MSP plus 4 per cent purchase tax, then it is free to do so by reducing the MSP to that extent. This will mean that if the MSP is Rs 560 per quintal and the state wishes to recover its taxes and levies from the MSP, then paddy will have to be procured at around Rs 520 per quintal, against the assumed MSP, as Rs 560 per quintal. “This is something that will be neither acceptable to Punjab nor farmers and may, in fact, lead to a large scale unrest”, he adds.

The delay in announcing the MSP is causing anxiety. Those farmers, who have already brought their paddy to mandis, are forced to opt for distress sale. The state wants the Centre to advance procurement date to September 21. The Centre is unresponsive. It sticks to October 1.

Capt. Amarinder Singh has also shot off a letter to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention. The Chief Minister wants the Prime Minister to convene a meeting of the Chief Ministers of states which will be affected by such an arbitrary decision.

Meanwhile, the state Planning Board Vice-Chairman, Dr S.S. Johl, when asked to comment on the new development, said Punjab shall have to lobby hard in New Delhi. The Planning Commission holds the view that on MSP for agricultural commodities, the government must not give more than what the Commission of Agricultural Costs and Prices recommends. The commission is believed to have recommended the same price for paddy as last year.

The MSP primarily applies to Punjab and Haryana. Should not the Chief Ministers of the two states together represent to New Delhi against the new decision on the MSP, as well as seek higher price?


Mistake that cost BDS aspirants dear
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, September 15
A mistake allegedly committed by over 90 students has put a question mark over their chances to get admission to the BDS course in different dental colleges in the state during the current academic year. According to the reports available, most of them were placed high in the merit list but their failure to fill the option for the BDS course next to the MBBS studies in the prescribed form of the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences here debarred their entry to the four-day counselling which started here from September 10. Moreover, a writ petition filed by some of the students before the Punjab and Haryana High Court for setting aside the condition laid down by the university also failed to get a reprieve.

The Selection Committee comprising Dr R.L. Jain, Principal of Government Dental College, Patiala, Dr J.S. Sofar, Principal of Guru Nanak Dev Dental College, Sunam, Dr P.S. Sandhu, Registrar of the university and convener of the committee, besides Mr Rohi Ram, Deputy Director, Welfare Department, Punjab, and Dr A.S. Gill, Principal of the Government Dental College, Amritsar, and head of the committee, held detailed deliberations on all issues before the commencement of the interviews on the first day and took a decision against the erring aspirants.

Dr Gill, while talking to this reporter yesterday, said the matter had been decided according to the norms laid down by the state government. No student was discriminated against during counselling, Dr Sandhu said had the affected students followed the norms of the government and filled the forms properly, they could have got admission in the state dental colleges following the Central Government’s approval to Jaswant Singh Dental College, Ludhiana, to admit 100 students.

It is learnt that these students could not get admission to the MBBS course at the counselling held here on September 3 due to curtailment in the number of seats in different medical colleges. However, contesting the views of the Selection Committee members and the university authorities, Poonam Sharma and Neha, candidates from Patiala and Ludhiana, respectively, along with other students and their parents clarified that the prospectus issued by the university had clearly mentioned that those candidates who did not get admission to the MBBS course in the interview would be entitled to attend the counselling of the next course below as per merit. Moreover, during their meeting on September 3 here with Mr G.S. Bindra, PMET coordinator of the university, he told them that their names would be considered during the BDS interview as per the merit list. The names of all affected candidates were there on the counselling list.

Keeping in view the alleged “adamant” attitude of the committee members, the aspirants protested here on September 10. They alleged that the indifferent behaviour of the committee had marred their future. They also decided to knock at the doors of the Punjab and Haryana High Court by filing a petition shortly to seek justice. Meanwhile, according to official sources, more than 600 candidates attended the counselling out of which 306 were selected. Six seats of the handicapped quota remained vacant. Out of the total, 206 seats went in favour of the general category.


Border residents want end to hostilities
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, September 15
With no sign of fresh negotiations to end the Indo-Pak hostilities in sight, uncertainty prevails among those living along the border. The regular deployment of the Army on the forward posts since December 18, normal life of poor, backward and the neglected has got disturbed.

People from all sections of society in this border area of Ferozepore district have expressed reservations over the BJP-led coalition government’s policy not to hold dialogue with the military rulers in Pakistan to end the hostilities.

The recent developments in Jammu & Kashmir with intensified military action from across the Line of Control in the Kargil sector and increase in terrorist actions to disrupt the poll process, border residents have been forced to recall memories of the past with the possibility of yet another war between both the two neigbours.

Having witnessed the affects of the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars, people here do not want to see another battle breaking out, especially when both sides possess nuclear arsenal. All they want is that the negotiations should be held to ensure peace in the region. Iqbal Singh, a resident of Kishore Singh Wala village that shares its boundary with Pakistan is of the view that both Mr Vajpayee and Mr Pervez Musharraf should come forward to end the hostility and join hands for the development of the region.

Their reservation to the Indian position in this sector stems from the fact that Punjab would be the worst hit in the event of war. While businessmen want the re-opening of the Hussainiwala route to put the Indo-Pak trade back on rail, farmers living along the border fear devastation of their agricultural land in the event of war.

No matter whatever political leaders sitting at Islamabad or New Delhi think of the current hostility but people on both sides of the border in east and west Punjab do have a soft corner for each other having years of social and cultural bonding. Not so far, social organisations of the two parts of Punjab gathered on each side of their territory at Hussainiwala border on August 14 and August 15, this year and expressed their feelings for each other demanding peace and cultural exchange.

The Sikh organisations too have their reasons of talking about ties with Pakistan, which has at least 150 historical gurdwaras. Mr Harpal Singh Bhullar, president, Bhai Mardana Yadgari Kirtan Darbar Society, frequently take “jathas” (pilgrims) to the Pakistani gurdwaras but following hostilities between the two neighbours the Union Government did not permit him to take the pilgrims this year.

“Borders between the two countries should be opened for at least trade, cultural exchange and religious tours. This would indirectly help in reducing abhorrence developed out of the petty political thinking on both sides of the border”, feels Mr Bhullar.


Tampering issue: MC to form probe panel
Our Correspondent

Abohar, September 15
Defying the orders of the Secretary, Local Government, Punjab, the municipal council has resolved to form its own inquiry committee to probe into the tampering of the minutes book. The committee will have Dinesh Kumar, junior engineer, as inquiry officer, Rakesh Kamboj, junior engineer as presiding officer and Harcharan Singh SAD Councillor as member. They have been asked to submit the report in the next meeting of the council.

Tampering in the minutes book regarding resolution number 281 passed on April 29 this year was alleged by four councillors and certain employees. The Regional Deputy Director, Local Government, Ferozepore, had submitted his inquiry report to the state headquarters reportedly confirming the tampering. Deputy Commissioner D.K. Tiwari had also taken a serious notice of the allegations.

Accordingly the Secretary, Local Government, directed the Regional Deputy Director and the Executive Officer, Municipal Council, here to get an FIR registered against the officials and employees responsible for the tampering.

The Vigilance Department has separately held investigation into the matter. A letter (number CVO-1036-2002-1314 dated July 30) received from the department here said the stenographer of the council was primarily responsible for the tampering and action under rule 10 (mild punishment) of the CSR should be taken against her. Responding to this letter Executive Officer Gursewak Singh issued order directing that henceforth Mangat Ram Verma would record the proceedings of the council meetings in the minutes book.

Four members of the council had refused to give their consent to the confirmation of the meeting held on April 29 regarding the controversial resolution. They included members of the then ruling-BJP, SAD coalition in the council also.

Sources said some citizens had taken strong exception to the formation of the sub-committee to further inquire into the matter arguing that the Regional Deputy Director had already indicted the “guilty” persons in the council for tampering of the minutes book and junior engineers were not competent to conduct the probe.

In a memorandum to the Principal Secretary of the department yesterday they said the president of the council, who reportedly figured in the complaints lodged by councillors of his own party, had already been served a show cause notice for allegedly misusing his powers. The Secretary, Local Government gave him a personal hearing on August 27 and a decision was being awaited. Therefore, the resolution nominating the inquiry committee by the council should be stayed and action should be taken for defying the state government orders.


Move to contain GNDTP coal ash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 15
The Punjab Government has made arrangements to contain the coal ash being emitted from the four chimneys of the Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant here, by bringing the same under the permissible limits.

Mr S.C. Mahajan, Chief Engineer, GNDTP, while talking to TNS, said Rs 3 crore had been earmarked for fuel gas conditioning of units three and four. Work on the same would be started within a week and completed within six months.

He pointed out that under the fuel gas conditioning process, ammonia sprayers would be fitted in the chimneys to condence the gases within the chimneys. With this the emission from the chimneys would come down automatically and ash contents brought down within the permissible limits determined by the Pollution Control Board.

Mr Mahajan said the issue of carrying out renovation and modernisation of units one and two had been taken up with the state government. The Power Financial Corporation (PFC), which had agreed in principle to provide Rs 183 crore loan for the same had sought the state’s guarantee.

It had also sought a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Punjab State Power Regulatory Commission.

After the formalities were completed, the renovation work would be completed within 26 months. It would not only reduce the level of emission of coal ash from chimneys but also increase the life span of these two units.


PSEB staff cut may hamper working
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Ropar, September 15
The Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) sword will fall on the PSEB employees if the board follows the directive of the PSERC with regard to reducing the staff strength by 10 per cent in the years to come.

Sources said the PSERC had asked the PSEB to reduce the establishment expenditure amounting to Rs 1316.50 crore annually for the year 2002-2003 by reducing 10,000 posts in the field staff and 10 per cent in the thermal staff.

The PSEB has a staff strength of 91,624 out of which 81,130 are regular employees. The remaining 10,494 are the work-charged employees. Out of 91,624 posts, 7,393 posts of different categories are lying vacant.

During the past three years, there has been an increase of 3.90 per cent to 10.44 per cent on the establishment expenses. During the year 1999-2000, the establishment expenses were 1095.56 crore, in 2000-2001 Rs 1136.56 crore and 2001-2002 Rs 1255.25 crore. This increase was due to an increase in the dearness allowance of the employees, transfer of staff from the Ranjit Sagar Dam Project and inducting the electricity staff of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation.

The number of consumers being served by the PSEB is 54 lakh with a staff of 91,624 employees. This means that 16.90 employees serve 1,000 consumers. The corresponding figure for the Maharashtra State Electricity Board is 8.96, West Bengal Electricity Board 10.72, Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board 11.06 and Gujarat Electricity Board 7.40.

Commenting on the recommendations of the PSERC to reduce the staff in the PSEB and ban new posts, a leader of the employees said that if these directives were implemented, it could hamper the proper working of the PSEB, especially the thermal plants.


Recover 13 lakh from ex-Sarpanch: DC
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, September 15
Taking serious note of misappropriation of government funds to the tune of Rs 13 lakh, allocated by the District Planning Board and DDPO office here under different schemes during 1996-97 to former Sarpanch Ranjit Singh of Sandhwan village in the district, Mr A. Venu Prasad, Deputy Commissioner here, has directed the naib tehsildar and the BDPO, Kotkapura, to recover the amount from the former Sarpanch without delay. If he fails to return the amount let his property be attached and crop sold, said the Deputy Commissioner here today.

Mr Prasad said the District Planning Board granted Rs 2.05 lakh to the former Sarpanch under three schemes in 1996-97 for the construction of a community centre, a primary school building and latrines in the village. However, the latter failed to take any action in this regard. The board recovered Rs 1.28 lakh from him and the remaining grant was “misused” by him.

Similarly the DDPO office granted him about Rs 9 lakh in the same year, under other development schemes, including paving of drains and streets and construction of a dharamshala and a panchayat ghar in the area. However, the then Sarpanch completed various projects by spending Rs 5.59 lakh and failed to return the balance amount to the department. With the accumulation of interest, the embezzlement amount rose to Rs 13 lakh. Moreover, following pressure from the district administration for the recovery of the amount, the former Sarpanch remained missing for many months from the village, said the Deputy Commissioner.


SGPC plans events to boost Sikhism
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Alamgir, September 15
“The SGPC will celebrate nine major events in the first decade of the millennium at the national and international levels, besides embarking on a major exercise to wean the Sikh youth away from the menace of addiction and the alarming rise in patipuna (apostasy) among the Sikh masses,” says SGPC chief Kirpal Singh Badungar.

He was here today to attend the first meeting of the Shatabdi Committee and the Dharam Prachar Committee of the SGPC, which was chaired by Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti. The three major events to be celebrated in 2004 are the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Angad Dev, the 400 the anniversary of the first Parkash Utsav of Sri Guru Granth Sahib at the Golden Temple and the 300 th anniversary of the martyrdom of the four Sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh.

Mr Badungar said the committee would associate all outfits with the celebrations and propagate the tradition. The celebrations would be held at Amritsar, Khadoor Sahib, Chamkaur Sahib and Fatehgarh Sahib, he added.

He said the Dharam Prachar Committee would organise seminars and distribute literature on the message of the gurus. Libraries would also be set up in all villages, he added.

A Sikh sports college either at Fatehgarh Sahib or Chamkaur Sahib, would be set up Khalsa teams will be raised and their entire expense would be borne by the SGPC.

Similarly, the committee would also set up the civil services entrance coaching cell at Chandigarh where the probables will be provided with free boarding and lodging.


Mystery shrouds teacher’s death
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, September 15
Death of a schoolteacher, Mr Dharam Pal Dhir, today kept the local police and doctors of the Civil Hospital on tenter hooks for several hours.

According to sources, a case relating to drugs was registered against a son of Dhir, who had been evading interrogation by the police. The sources said Dhir was picked up from his Hadiabad residence at 7.30 a.m. for questioning about his son’s whereabouts.

However, local DSP Harmanbir Singh Gill denied that Dhir was picked up and said he was found lying unconscious near the barrier of the local Satnampura railway crossing. Two policemen took him to the Civil Hospital where it was learnt that he was heart patient and had collapsed near the railway crossing after suffering an attack, he said.

Mr Gill said Dhir died at the hospital. However, the doctors who attended on Dhir, said he was brought dead to the hospital.

The two policemen who brought Dhir to the hospital refused to sign the relevant register, said a doctor. He was admitted to the hospital at 8.40 a.m., according to hospital records.

The 50-year-old Dhir was a JBT teacher at Ucha-pind. His wife Shashi Dhir is a Lady Health Visitor at the Primary Health Centre at Hadiabad. The body was cremated after a post-mortem this evening.


Ease overcrowding in jails: HC
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 15
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has been contemplating steps to ease overcrowding in jails. The court would take up the matter with the state government also to increase capacity of jails.

Mediapersons were not allowed entry into the central jail, here when Mr Justice V.M. Jain, a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court came to inspect the jail. Mr Justice Jain reportedly directed judicial officers concerned to take necessary steps on the pleas of the inmates, who submitted applications to him.

Many inmates, convicts and undertrial prisoners today made submissions to Mr Justice Jain, who passed these on to the judicial officer concerned of Bathinda and Mansa districts, accompanying him. The judge remained in the jail for more than four hours and met every inmate.

Mr Swaran Singh, Superintendent, Jail, said the jail had 1323 inmates, including 51 women against the capacity of 500.

Official sources said that the jail was overcrowded even after more than 100 prisoners were shifted to other jails and more than 50 prisoners were released on the eve of Independence Day. The inmates find it difficult to get sufficient space to lie down properly for sleeping due to overcrowding. Even staff are insufficient to manage the jail properly.


Plea for Canadian Consulate in city
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 15
The Amritsar Vikas Manch, an NGO committed to the development of the city, has urged Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh to ask the Canadian Government to open a consulate in the city instead of Chandigarh.

Talking to this correspondent here yesterday, Dr Charanjit Singh Gumtala, president of the manch, said Amritsar held more importance than Chandigarh as there was talk of including the Golden Temple on the World Heritage list.

Dr Gumtala said the government had declared the Amritsar airport as an international one and at present 14 international flights per week were being operated from Amritsar to London, Birmingham, New York, Frankfurt and Sharjah. The Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan Airlines were operating eight flights a week from the airport for London and Birmingham alone.

The manch president said many airlines like the Singapore Airlines, Air-France and the United Airlines were interested in operating flights from here. With an international airport, the city would attract more foreign tourists and trade.

Dr Gumtala said Amritsar was the largest city in Punjab after Ludhiana with a population of more than 10 lakh a condition set by Canada for opening its consulate in India. Further, the city was directly connected to the state of Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Rajasthan and Himachal. Chandigarh could not be preferred as 10 out of the 17 districts and more than 60 per cent population of the state was nearer to Amritsar than Chandigarh.

These districts were Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur, Bathinda, Faridkot, Ferozepore, Moga, Muktsar and Gurdaspur.

The manch president said Chandigarh had no importance, except for being a Union Territory.


Monks’ march reaches Jalandhar
Our Correspondent and UNI

Jalandhar, September 15
Buddhist monk Rev Zunsei Terasawa of Japan along with fellow monks from different West Asian countries, on a peace mission between India and Pakistan reached here today. The nine-members peace contingent was welcomed at Sofi village on the outskirts of the city.

Terasawa said they had started the march for peace from Ashoka’s Dharamarajika Stupa of Taxila in Pakistan on August 6. The march would culminate at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh on October 12.

“The members of the Pakistan-India Prayer March for Peace-2002 are from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the war-torn Caucasian republic of Chechnya.

Referring to their visit to Pakistan, the leader of the Buddhist monks said they had marched on the main street of Muzaffarabad of the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, and visited Kashmiri refugee camp on August 23. “Although India and Pakistan are independent countries, but they are behaving like colonies of the USA by inviting the latter’s attention over bilateral issues,” he said.

In India the peace march would be mainly along the Beas and the Yamuna up to Mathura, where Buddhism flourished at its highest peak during the Kanishka-Kushan era, he said.

Terasawa said the march would also visit Ujjain. The march was also aimed at the resurgence of the common legacy of Ashoka and respect for life and all religions, he added.


Retrenched staff seek funds to fight case
Our Correspondent

Ropar, September 15
Pressed for funds, retrenched workers of the Punjab National Fertilisers and Chemicals (PNFC) have started seeking donations for fighting their case against the Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation (PSIDC) in the Supreme Court.

In an appeal issued through leaflets, they have urged people to donate money to them for fighting the case for their dues. Mr Parveen Kumar president of the PNFC Karamchari Sangh, which is fighting case of workers in court told this correspondent that the workers who were not paid salary or any retrenchment dues since 1999 did not have any money to fight their case in the Supreme Court. So, they had no option but to “beg” for money.

The workers lament that though the Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, had made an election promise to pay the retrenchment dues to the PNFC workers, not much had been done.

And the workers had won the case thrice in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the PSIDC has moved the Supreme Court to deny them a portion of their retrenchment dues.


Baba Farid fair begins
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, September 15
A nine-day fair on the eve of the birth anniversary of Baba Farid began here today with the inauguration of a state-level painting workshop by Inderjit Singh Khalsa, president, Gurdwara Tilla Baba Farid managing committee, that was organised by Baba Farid Art Society, here. At least 12 renowned painters have been called from different parts of the state to teach children about painting.

Painters who attended the workshop included Gursewak Singh, Jasminder Singh, S.S. Gill, Jaspal Singh, Mehar Singh among others. The workshop will continue till September 18, ending with a painting competition for children.

A Punjabi drama festival also began today.


Rehabilitate Pandits, Sena urges Kalam
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 15
The All-India Hindu Shiv Sena, in a memorandum to President APJ Abdul Kalam has demanded rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir and financial help for repair of their houses and business there.

Mr Surinder Kumar Billa, president of the Sena, also demanded abolishing Article 370.

Mr Billa said the Government of India should not act on the advice of USA and Britain. He alleged that these governments were misguiding the Indian Government and helping the Pakistani Government.

Mr Billa urged the President to impose President’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir.


Cong labour wing flays govt
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, September 15
Mr Pritam Singh Brar, district president, Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), has said though activists of the union had worked hard to ensure victory of the Congress, they are being ignored by the state government. Mr Brar, in a memorandum submitted yesterday to the Lok Sabha member from this constituency, Mr Bhan Singh Bhaura, said the government was blindly following the policy to disinvest in public sector undertakings. He added that freezing the dearness allowance, wage cuts, withdrawal of performance-linked incentives, reducing the strength of junior employees without reducing the number of bureaucrats were anti-employee decisions of the government.


Two labourers suffocated to death
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, September 15
Two migrant labourers suffocated to death in a well at Durgapur village near here, the police said today. The deceased were identified as Chottu and Sonu, in early thirties, and residents of Gobindpur in Bihar.

The police said they were working at a farm in Durgapur village yesterday, went into 30-foot deep well to take out electric motor installed there and died due to suffocation.


Man dies of poisoning
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, September 15
Tej Singh of Gidderbaha town in Muktsar district died at the Civil Hospital here today. He was brought to the hospital for treatment of poisoning. In another incident, Mr Surinder Kohli of the local Thermal Colony was injured in an accident here today. He has been admitted to the Civil Hospital.


Office-bearers of drivers’ union
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 15
The following have been elected office-bearers of the Punjab Government Drivers and Technical Employees Union. chairman — Mr Charandas; president — Mr Harbhajan Singh Khalsa; general secretaries — Mr Daljit Singh Rahi and Mr Dalbir Singh; and vice-president - Mr Jiwan Kumar.


Municipal Councillor alleges bias

Jalalabad, September 15
Senior BJP leader and president of the local Municipal Council, Mr Prem Kumar Valecha, has alleged that a fresh voters list was being prepared at the behest of ruling party leaders in the town. Even officials on the job were related to local Congress leaders, he added.

Mr Rajnish Kumar a Municipal Councillor, has filed a complaint with the Punjab Election Commission alleging that the employees engaged in this exercise were being forced to work. OC


Farmers’ hopes washed away
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, September 15
The hopes of vegetable growers have been washed away by the recent spell of heavy rains in nearly 30 villages in Banur and Rajpura subdivisions.

Farmers who had sown cauliflower, tomatoes, and other vegetables have been virtually ruined the heavy spell of rain. The rain has spelt doom for both the fledgling vegetable crop as well as the ripe one which could not be sent to Chandigarh for marketing for days together.

Farmers of the belt are now demanding that a ‘girdwari’ also be conducted to access the damage to the crop. Mr Paramjit Singh of Jangpura village said farmers of the village had sown vegetables due to drought like conditions earlier in which they knew they could not be able to maintain their paddy crop. He said now they were in the doldrums as even the vegetable crop, which was expected to see them through the season, had also been destroyed by excessive rain.

The farmers are sore with the government for making empty promises. Mr Balwinder Singh of Neparan village said even though the government had announced that it would distribute vegetable seeds free of cost to areas which had been affected by drought and where the paddy crop had been damaged, nothing of this sort had been done.

Mr Dilbagh Singh Alampur said the farmers had to take their produce to Chandigarh by pooling in money as the government had failed to provide any marketing facilities. He said recently they had started facing problems in marketing their produce in Chandigarh also with the Vegetable Market Association there deciding to close down operations on every Monday. He said farmers now did not have any way to sell their produce on Mondays.

The farmers claimed that as much as 40 per cent of the crop had been damaged. Some farmers said the government should give some immediate compensation after accessing the damage or give them free seeds for the next crop to offset their losses.


Man murders wife
Our Correspondent

Patiala, September 15
A 37-year-old labourer murdered his wife following a quarrel in the city last night and later tried to take his own life.

Police sources said Bahadur allegedly murdered his wife, Anita, at Deha Basti. They said Bahadur was intoxicated when he allegedly attacked her with a knife and then he tried to commit suicide, but was prevented by neighbours. He has been admitted to the Government Rajindra Hospital. A case has been registered at the Division No. 4 police station.


Students want degrees awarded
Our Correspondent

Mansa, September 15
Students of the Khalsa Dental College and Hospital for Women, Nangal Kalan and their parents have demanded that degrees awarded in the college recognised by the Dental Council of India be handed over to students.

The Parents Welfare Association (PWA) at a meeting here today sought that students of the college be allowed to migrate to other dental colleges of the state approved by the DCI.

Mr B.P.S. Dhillon, President, PWA which is looking college affairs in the absence of Managing Director Mr Naginder Singh Harika, who is in jail at Bathinda since May 01, 2001 in connection with certain cases of cheating and forgery, said the college did not have the facilities required for a dental college so it was not approved by the DCI. The 280 students who have completed degree course from the college are unable to do private practice or get jobs. Now there are only 40 students in the college (final year) whose career can be saved by arranging their migration to other dental colleges. Mr Dhillon alleged that Mrs Sukhwant Kaur Harika, who was looking the affairs of college in the absence of his husband had misutilised Rs 86.36 lakh collected through the fees from the students. Mr Dhillon said the college was established in 1995 and had then admitted 60 students. After the setting up of the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot, the college like other medical and dental colleges in Punjab had been affiliated to this university. The university debarred second year and third year students from appearing in the annual examinations in 2000, he added. He said the students then had approached the court and got direction for appearing in the examination. The university complied with the order but had withheld the results of all students, Mr Dhillon said. The students again moved court and the court had directed the university to declare the results.

Mr Sudhanshu Shekar Shrivastava, Senior Superintendent of Police, Mansa, said that some parents and students of the college visited his office to record their statements in connection of certain inquiries being conducted by the police in connection of some reports published in the newspaper. Action would be taken per law against the accused after an inquiry, he added.


Registrar of medical college resigns
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 15
Even as Dr Roy Sudhir Parsad, Registrar of the SGPC-run Guru Ram Dass Medical College, has resigned over differences with the authorities concerned parents of certain BDS aspirants have alleged that the merit list was not displayed in time with a view to “tampering” with the record to help wards of influential persons.

However, Dr U.S. Dhaliwal, Director-cum-Principal of the college, denied that the merit list was tampered with. He also claimed that the merit list was withheld initially on the request of the parents of certain candidates.

Mr Amrik Singh Sandhu, father of Simerdeep Kaur Sandhu, (roll number 1070, rank 36) who was selected under the general category in the BDS entrance test has sent a complaint to the Medical Council of India against the selection committee, including Dr Dhaliwal for allegedly indulging in “favouritism”. Despite Simerdeep’s name figuring in the initial merit list, the college authorities refused to admit her. Interestingly, Dr Charnjit Singh Bal, Principal, medical college, had given a written permission to the candidate for depositing the fee by September 10.

Earlier, Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, a senior leader of the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal, had alleged that two candidates who were rejected for plucking of eyebrows were accommodated during the second counselling at the behest of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, president SAD.

However, Dr Dhaliwal criticised Mr Bhaur for highlighting the “baseless and factually incorrect” issue. When he was asked to give the detail of the candidates selected for the BDS course he feigned ignorance despite being the Director-cum-Principal of the college.

Earlier, some aspirants had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the admission of two candidates, to the MBBS course under the rural area category, who did not fulfil the eligibility.


Steps to promote gurukul education
Bharat Bhushan Dogra

Mr Swatantra Kumar Murgai, Vice-Chancellor, Gurukul Kangri Vishwavidyala, Hardwar, has said steps are being taken to bring the standard of education of the gurukul at par with that of the international level.

Talking to The Tribune during his visit here, after assuming his new assignment in the gurukul, Mr Murgai said the administrative set up and education system would be improved. Transparency in the administration and examination would be the main thrust to make the gurukul atmosphere free of all types of irregularities.

The attention would be focussed on attracting more and more aspirants to join the gurukul and get education in a traditional and open-air environment. He said gurukul education was not confined only to the chanting of Veda mantras and bookish knowledge. It was also imparting education in engineering and management studies. Recently the university had launched management courses in MCA, BBA and engineering. Online courses had also been introduced for MCA and BBA students under the distance education scheme of the gurukul. Mr Murgai said principles of Swami Dayanand would be implemented fully in the gurukul, that was established in 1902, to keep the traditional system of education intact. Every pupil in the gurukul had to follow the principles of Arya Samaj, he added.

During Mr Murgai’s tenure as Principal of the local A.B. College, the college had achieved distinction in many fields like debate and declamation contests and produced several talented and brilliant students who had secured top positions in examinations conducted by GND University. He had also introduced M.A. (English) and other courses in the college.

The elite of the city welcomed this educationist son of the soil who rose to the highest post in the gurukul in a very short period to bring laurels for the city.


Examiner removed
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, September 15
Mr Sukhwinder Singh, a Deputy Superintendent Examiner at the local SD Senior Secondary School conducting the Punjab School Education Board supplementary exams, has been removed by a flying squad of the board. He was found allowing use of unfair means.

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