Monday, September 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Badal to meet ministers over MSP today
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, September 22
Criticising the state Chief Minister for his alleged failure to strongly represent the case regarding the fixation of MSP for procurement of paddy before the Centre, the SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today declared that he would meet the Union Agriculture Minister and Food and Civil Supplies Minister in Delhi tomorrow to apprise them of the situation in the state.

Talking to reporters here today, Mr Badal said his party had already urged the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, to ignore the reported recommendations of the Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices with regard to the fixation of MSP for paddy at Rs 530 per quintal in view of drought this season and higher expenses per hectare incurred by the farmers to save their crop.

Denying the allegations levelled by Congress ministers that SAD was instrumental in delaying the declaration of the MSP, Mr Badal said, “In fact, I have already asked the Prime Minister to fix the MSP at Rs 760 per quintal due to the drought situation since most of the Punjab farmers, due to the weak monsoon, spent on average of Rs 2,000 extra per hectare for diesel-fed irrigation.”

Mr Badal further said that he would meet the and Food and Civil Supplies minister’s in Delhi tomorrow to put forth the farmers’ case.

“The centre should immediately convene a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs to announce the MSP to save the farmers, who are being forced to sell their crop in mandis in distress to private traders, due to delay in the start of the official procurement process,” Mr Badal added.

Mr Badal also decried the reign of vendetta let loose against SAD-BJP workers in the state and warned the Congress leaders to remain prepared to face the consequences of their actions. “We will not spare any of politicians and bureaucrats for their “misdeeds” after coming to power. History will repeat itself, once the Capt Amarinder Singh government is ousted from power by the people of the state,” he asserted. 


Panicky farmers harvest paddy
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 22
Panicky over damage caused by unseasonal hailstorm, farmers in this region have started premature harvesting of paddy and taking the produce to the local mandi. While this is not only blocking the limited dumping space in the local mandis, but also adding to farmers’ problems as procurement has still not been given the go-ahead.

Paddy harvested before being fully ripe has a high moisture content, making it unsuitable for shelling. Officials of the market committee say, as per tests conducted by them, the moisture content in paddy dumped in the local mandi is over 25 per cent. “Normally, paddy which is procured should not have a moisture content exceeding 17 per cent,” they added.

Following widespread hailstorm in this region earlier this week, extensive damage was caused to the paddy crop. The hail had brushed flowering cobs, while strong winds had flattened large tracts of paddy fields. Some farmers had estimated the damage to be around 40 per cent.

“Being unsure about the weather, we have started harvesting the crop in order to save it from any further damage,” said Bant Singh, a farmer from Tongwali village, who had brought paddy to the mandi reaped from four acres.

The yield, according to some of the farmers, has reduced from 26-30 quintals per acre to about 16 quintals. “Farmers have already suffered a lot. Their haste in harvesting paddy prematurely stems from fear of losing the entire crop. This way they will at least be able to save something,” Darshan Singh of Bir Bheman village added.

While the farmers have brought their paddy to the mandi, there are no takers for it yet. “We have been sitting here since September 14,” remarked Jaspal Singh, a resident of Chuge Khurd village, who has brought five tractor-trailer load of paddy to the mandi. They cannot leave their paddy untended either, as the area is plagued by cattle and pigs ready to feast on the paddy lying around.

What is causing concern is that some farmers have already spread their paddy around for drying rather than piling it up in heaps. “With trucks and tracter-trailer also parked here, this has led to little space being available for those who have yet to bring their produce,” said Gurtej Singh, a farmer from Gur Sar Sahane Wala village.

The farmers from about 30 villages adjoining Bathinda bring their produce to this mandi. While the procurement normally begins in the first week of October, already an estimated 50 to 60 farmers have brought their produce to the mandi.

With large quantities of paddy lying in the open, the farmers are also apprehensive that if it rained again, the grains would be spoiled.

Meanwhile, contractors have hiked the rates of hiring combine harvesters for fields which have been flattened by the hailstorm. “The rates have been hiked from Rs 250 per acre to Rs 600-700 per acre,” said Gurcharan Singh, an affected farmer. “Our problems and loses only seem to be multiplying,” he added.


Rice scam guilty not to be spared: Sukhbir 
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 22
Even as the state police authorities moved the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mr Surinder Mohan Garg, on September 6 for getting an FIR registered in connection with the multi-crore export category rice diversion scam cancelled, former Union Minister and General Secretary of SAD Sukhbir Singh Badal has decided to use it as a tool to put the Congress Government of Punjab in an embarrassing position.

“On one hand, the Congress Government has been defaming the Akalis, including ministers, by levelling false allegations against them and by registering false corruption cases against some of them, on the other, the senior functionaries with the active connivance of ruling politicians of present set up have been indulging into scam,” Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal alleged.

Mr Sukhbir Badal, talking to TNS, said though the Punjab Government had hushed up the multi-crore scam pertaining to the diversion of export earmarked rice to the domestic markets by an export company, it would be reopened when the SAD again comes to power in the state.

I will not spare anyone who is involved in this scam and I will take all the step including the judicial intervention to stop the state government from hushing up the scam,” he pointed out.

Mr Garg, Chief Judicial Magistrate, has issued fresh summons to the investigating officer, who probed the whole case after the FIR under Sections 406, 409, 420 and 120-B, IPC, was registered in this connection in the city police station here on June 18, 2002.

Police sources said the process for the cancellation of the FIR registered in this scam started on August 24 when the Crime Branch of the Punjab Police sent a teleprinter message to the local police authorities that case had been cancelled. Before cancelling the case, the Crime Branch took the investigation of same into its hands from the SP (City), Mr Nilabh Kishore, who was earlier investigating the case.

The sources added that after the scam, in which big wings of Punjab and Delhi were allegedly involved, was unearthed and a case against an export firm, a section of rice mill owners, transporters and employees of the FCI was registered, the police came under pressure the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had also sought all details pertaining to the scam from the local police authorities.

The investigation done by the local police authorities were kept a closely guarded secret. After few days, the case was handed over to the Crime Branch of the Punjab Police under pressure of those who mattered most in the corridors of power. Ultimately, the Crime Branch cancelled the FIR in this case. To formalise the cancellation of case registered in rice scam, which shook the Punjab Government, the cancellation report was moved in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate on September 6.

Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, SAD (Amritsar) and MP, has said he will take up the matter in Parliament in the coming session.


Confusion continues over SGJC
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 22
The landmark judgement by the Full Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on the “complex and important issue” of the term of the Sikh Gurdwaras Judicial Commission (SGJC) notwithstanding, confusion persists.

While Mr Kashmira Singh Patti, whose petition challenging the 1999 notification by the SAD-BJP Government has been dismissed by the Full Bench, has decided to file a special leave petition in the apex court, the Punjab Government is yet to decide its future line of action.

In fact, the argument that the terms of the SGJC and the SGPC are co-terminus and upheld by the high court, is of the previous SAD-BJP government and as such becomes the viewpoint of the present Congress Government though politically it may not subscribe to it. As such, the present government has no moral locus standi in moving any further legally against the order of the Constitutional Bench of the high court.

In fact, when the present government issued a notification on July 5 rescinding the 1999 notification of the previous government to restore the old setup of the SGJC, Mr Kashmira Singh Patti had moved an application in the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking withdrawal of his petition challenging the 1999 order.

But his application was dismissed on the plea that the case has already been argued and the judgement stood reserved on “an important and complex” issue. Mr Kashmira Singh Patti went up and moved an SLP in the Supreme Court where again his application was dismissed.

Now when the Constitutional Bench has held that the terms of the SGJC and the SGPC are co-terminus, the Punjab Government has not initiated any action on its July 5 notification for reinstating Mr Kashmira Singh Patti and Mr Dara Singh as President and member of the SGJC, respectively.

Legal experts argue that this order of the government becomes “meaningless” in the wake of the Full Bench verdict as there was legally no SGJC before the 1999 notification which the government wanted to restore. After the general house election of the SGPC in 1996, the House recommended seven names to the state government for reconstituting the SGJC. The state did it in 1999.

They feel that in the present circumstances, it would be in the fitness of things for the State to rescind its July 5, 2002, notification, and let the SGJC legally constituted in 1999 to continue till the new elections to the General House of the SGPC are held.

The state government in its wisdom has deployed the police outside the office of the SGJC in Amritsar to prevent any “forcible occupation of the office” by those who stood removed by the July 5 notification.

Both groups are getting every detail of the Full Bench order examined minutely by legal luminaries. It may take a while before a final and clear picture emerges.


Institute backs college stand on ‘patit’ Sikhs
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, September 22
Mr Gurdev Singh, president, Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, in a written statement issued here today, said the point raised by Dashmesh Dental College, Faridkot, stating that “patit” Sikhs should not seek admission to the college, was fully justified.

Mr Gurdev Singh said the college authorities made no distinction in giving admission to students of any religion, adding that even staff members of the college belonged to various religions. He said it indicated that there was no discrimination with anybody in the name of religion. However, Mr Gurdev Singh said the advice of the college authorities asking “patit” Sikhs not to seek admission to their college, was justified as only the Sikhs and Sikh bodies had the right to decide these matters.

Mr Gurdev Singh said the statements issued by Mr Parmjit Singh Ranu, president, Sehajdhari Foundation, criticising the advice given by the college authorities, was motivated. He pointed out that “patit” Sikhs (those Sikhs who cut their hair or beard) should not be given admission in colleges managed by Sikh bodies.

He alleged that Mr Ranu had made these remarks as he wanted Sehajdharis to be included in the voter lists of the SGPC. He said the institute had resolved to support the ideas mooted by the dental college on the issue.


SGPC blue print to curb apostasy
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, September 22
“The need of the hour is to check social evils like female foeticide, rising use of drugs among the youth, greed of dowry and incidents of divorce besides patitpuna (apostasy) among the Sikh masses,” says SGPC chief Kirpal Singh Badungar. He was in city to address a meeting of all Sikh youth organisations besides the Singh Sabhas of the state.

Talking to The Tribune, he said in the absence of concerted attempt by the Sikh bodies there has been alarming rise in cases of female foeticide and another social evils which is a cause of great concern for the entire community. Sikhism forbids such practices and hence the need to curb these, he added.

Elaborating, he said the Sikh bodies working separately so far now would come together and work according to guidelines agreed to at the meeting today. A committee of the members of nine bodies besides representative of the SGPC will be formed to modify programmes from time to time and suggest effective ways to bring ‘misguided’ persons back to the Sikh fold, he said.

He said several programmes are under way under the ‘gurmat lehar’ started by the committee. People have responded to the programme and more and more people were giving up bad habits and leading life in accordance with the Sikh tenets.

Mr Badungar said programmes have been drawn up to celebrate anniversaries of events falling in 2004. On the SGPC elections, he said he had written to the Prime Minister five times in this connection and also met him sometime ago. It is for him to decide and we are prepared to face the people. I have on numerous occasions appealed to him to do what was needed at the earliest, he added.

On the Sehajdhari issue, he said the issue was being blown out of proportion. We are examining it from religious angle after the text of the Gurdwara Bill was vetted by legal experts. This has given the impression that the matter was settled and they (Sehajdharis) had been denied right to vote. I appeal to all concerned to come out with suggestions for consideration, he pointed out.

On the controversy relating his visit to Bhaniara’s ‘dera’ on August 23, he clarified that I was admitted in Escorts Hospital after bypass surgery on that day, hence cannot be at two places at the same time. I am going to initiate defamation proceedings against the Baba, he added.

Mr Jaswinder Singh of the Akal Purkh Ki Fauj, Mr Gurmit Singh of the Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle, Mr Harjit Singh of the Sikh Missionary College, Mr S.S. Jora of the Youth Akali Dal, Mr K.S. Pir Mohammad of the AISSF (Pir Mohammad), Mr P.S. Bharowal of the AISSF (Bhoma), Mr P.S. Khalsa of the Gurmat Sikhlai Kendra, Mr A.S. Makkar of the Singh Sabhas and Mr G.S. Grewal of the SSF participated in the meeting.


Cong — Akali duel takes its toll
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 22
An environment of bitter political confrontation between the Congress and the Akalis that prevailed even before the run-up to the assembly elections in February has now transformed into one of personal enmity.

It had all started with Capt. Amarinder Singh and Parkash Singh Badal exchanging letters. The first one on September 4, 2001, by Capt Amarinder Singh, charging Mr Badal with “corruption’’ and amassing wealth at home and abroad beyond his means and also putting Punjab on a path to economic ruination, charged the political atmosphere. The mutual mud-slinging, allegations/counter-allegations were the starting point for political confrontation.

The smear campaign by the Congress and the Akalis led to the filing of civil and criminal defamation / damages suits by both sides. There has not been a day when Congressmen and the Akalis have not crossed swords holding the other responsible for all ills that afflict Punjab. The Akalis have lodged complaints with the Centre, called for a fact-finding NDA team, submitted a memorandum to the Governor, made noise about “misrule” and “breakdown of governance”.

Capt Amarinder Singh has written to the Editors of nine newspapers in and out side Punjab, inviting them to visit the state and make an independent assessment of the Akalis’ false diatribe. His letter stated that the Congress was voted to power on three accounts: 1 root out corruption. 2 provide good governance 3 put Punjab finances back on the rails. The letter also chides the Akalis’ demand for an NDA team.

The Akalis have been persistent in their attack on the Congress accusing it of “victimising individuals out of political vindictiveness and targeting their leaders and supporters while the Congress was not proceeding against its own ‘tainted’ ministers in the Cabinet, who were indicted by the Lokpal”.

The latest war of words between the Congress and Akalis is over the procurement of paddy and delay in the announcement of its minimum support price and date of purchase. Several Congress ministers have issued a joint statement, painting the Akalis black and blaming them for delay in the MSP and the date for procurement by “conniving with the NDA Government to settle political scores with the Congress”.

A new allegations has been made by Punjab’s Social Welfare Minister, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, against Mr Badal by saying that he has ordered the screening of all old-age pension cases March, 2000, onwards to unearth “loot” The new charge has come at a time as the Congress prepares to lead a delegation of ministers and MLAs to New Delhi tomorrow on the issue of the MSP for paddy and also bonus of Rs 100 per quintal as compensation to farmers for the loss due to drought.

The ill-health of the Chief Minister has put a temporary break on decision-making on several important issues, including implementation of the September 6 tariff order of the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission.

Political analysts say that it is time the Congress Government concentrates on more important aspects of governance. These analysts also point out that Capt Amarinder Singh does not have that advantage which his predecessor had. The latter, for example, was the ‘’nucleus’’ of all power. Mr Badal did not have to look over his shoulder to any party high command for approval. Second, as a partner in the NDA government and due to his ‘’personal’’ equation with senior BJP leaders, he managed to get financial help.


Withdraw order stopping old-age pension: Dang
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 22
Mr Satya Pal Dang senior CPI leader today demanded withdrawal of the Ministry of Social Security Punjab orders stopping payment of old-age pension and not sanctioning new old age pension. He wanted stern action against those culprits, responsible for old-age pension scandal.

In a letter to Mr Santokh Singh, Punjab Minister of Social Security, Mr Dang said order of stopping old age pension would starve genuine pensioners. He said every scrutiny was ordered to eliminate bogus pensioners but genuine pensioners suffered.

Mr Dang alleged this was going on because the officers behind it were not being punished but were being shielded. He said a Rs 23 crore scandal was unearthed one and half year ago.

A Patiala district officer was found to have opened 5,000 ‘fake’ accounts to pocket money meant for old-age pensioners.

Mr Dang further alleged that Rs 23 crore scandal coming to light in Amritsar 11 officials were suspended but the officer named in the report was not proceeded against even by the present government.

Referring to some cases in which the guilty were not punished, Mr Dang said, he submitted the names of the chief agent of their area and some of his sub-agents. The, then SSP got a case registered against him. The high court granted him bail. He did not spend even a day in police custody. He added that another case was registered against him by the Vigilance Bureau.

One high court judge refused him bail, but he managed to get it from another high court judge, he said. The Vigilance Bureau allegedly was not doing anything to seek cancellation of the bail, he said.

The senior CPI leader also sought recovery of the embezzled some when it was proved.


Cong leader’s guard fires, 2 Akalis hurt
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 22
Two Akali workers were injured when a security guard of a Congress leader opened fire at Gazzal, a border village in Khem Karan.

Mr Virsa Singh Valtoha, a senior Akali leader and former member of the Punjab Subordinate Service Selection Board, alleged that the Akali workers were fired at because they had stopped Congress workers from casting ‘bogus votes’ in the Punjab Assembly elections. He also alleged that the accused Surjit Singh, alias Ghugi, is a personal security guard of Mr Tarlok Singh Chakwalia, a Congress leader who lost the Punjab Assembly election.

However, the SSP denied that the firing incident was due to enmity between Akali and Congress workers. He claimed that the accused opened fire after a brawl following taking of liquor at Gazzal village.

The injured Mukhtiar Singh and Bakshish Singh have been removed to hospital.

The SSP said that a case has been registered against the accused.

Earlier, Gurdial Singh an Akali leader and his five supporters were guned down in May allegedly by supporters of Mr Gurchet Singh Bhullar, Irrigation Minister, Punjab.


Editor booked for rape
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, September 22
The Sadar Police today registered a case against Harwinder Singh Bawa, Editor of a Punjabi monthly, the UPI Sandesh, publised from Aujula village, on a charge of raping a Dalit girl of Chuharwal village.

In a report lodged with the police, the girl alleged that about 10 days ago, Harwinder Singh Bawa and his wife Sarabjit Kaur promised her parents that they would get her a government job, if she accompanied them to their house in Aujula. The parents agreed. It was in their house, that the accused allegedly raped her a number of times. The girl was saved by her relatives on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the accused has got himself admitted in the local civil hospital with injuries on his person while his wife has absconded.


Nawanshahr gears up to tackle problems
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Nawanshahr, September 22
This speck of a district is often in the news for all the wrong reasons. It can be human trafficking, drug smuggling, drug addiction or selenium toxicity in a particular belt of villages, affecting humans and cattle. But it also generates positive news, once every year, on March 23, when Shaheed Bhagat Singh is remembered on his birth anniversary at Khatkar Kalan.

There is hardly a family whose member is not abroad, legally or illegally. The impact of remittances is visible in big houses dotting towns or villages.

The presence of 133 bank branches (42 in Nawanshahr alone) and 30-odd travel agents is as much a sign of prosperity as an allurement to youths to fly away using fair or foul means. Here innocent parents are coerced to arrange money as NRI-induced allurement and conniving with travel agents is practiced. Illegal emigration is a multi-crore industry in Doaba.

Reports say that over 30 Indian embassies, in the past year, forwarded over 8,000 cases for verification of stranded youths to the Punjab Government. Despite a large number of families being duped, youths being deported, detained or dumped in jails abroad, deaths on high seas or the heightened security after the September 11 attacks, the journey to somewhere or nowhere continues. People have learned no lessons.

According to reports, some NRI youths visit Doaba districts every year, marry unsuspecting girls with a promise to call them over, but abandon them later or re-marry someone else on their next visit. This has created a social problem, a stigma for families and young girls, as several of them get pregnant. This has resulted in an increase in crime and litigation.

A new menace is of the fast-spreading drug smuggling and the addiction of youths to poppy husk, opium and smack. The police has seized more illicit liquor bottles (2,716 in recent weeks, smuggled from Chandigarh) than those of illicit liquor, (only 60 bottles).

Though Nawanshahr was carved out as a district more out of political expediency rather than administrative necessity, the Deputy Commissioner Ashok Kumar Gupta and Senior Superintendent of Police Neeraja Voruvuru are now gearing up to tackle key socio-economic problems and crack down on drug smugglers and human traffickers. To create awareness and educate people, the NRI Sabha will hold five camps, one in each block, at Jhikka, Raipur Dabba, Sottra, Mehatpur-Ulodhni and Bakkapur, to be attended by the Regional Passport Officer and travel agents.

Incidentally, in Doaba districts, Deputy Commissioners are known to issue ‘’marriageability certificates’’ in their capacity as ex-officio marriage officers, so designated through a notification (January 19, 1955) under Section 3 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954. They are issuing these since May, 1992. Earlier, junior officers used to issue these. Such a practice is without any legal sanction.

Obtaining or issuing ‘’marriageability certificates’’ is a business, with ‘’touts’’ playing an active role and minting money. The price tag on each certificate is Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000, as these are required by Punjabi boys and girls abroad.

It is in this backdrop and in consonance with the guidelines of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh that the administration has taken steps to improve its housekeeping. Mr Gupta told TNS that after studying the prevalent practices in the offices at all levels—revenue, education, health, police etc.—meetings were held and an attempt made to change the mind-set of the officers, who were also warned against dereliction of duty and corruption.

Thereafter, the public was made aware through ‘’khula darbar’’ and display boards indicating approved rates for obtaining various documents or the stock position of stamp (judicial) paper available with stamp vendors or rates to be charged by them as also ‘’deed writers’’ .

All district officers at the headquarters are present in office for public interface on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. ‘’Khula darbar’’ is held by the Deputy Commissioner and the SSP every second and fourth Wednesday.

Capt Amarinder Singh, who visited Khatkar Kalan on March 23, promised augmentation of water supply, solar lighting system and widening or strengthening of roads. These projects are now nearing completion, said Mr Gupta. 


No action taken on magisterial probes
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, September 22
In recent years, whenever a major mishap has occurred in the district, the administration has ordered a magisterial inquiry into it. The subdivisional magistrates have conducted the inquiries, whose reports have been sent to the government for further action. However, till date no follow-up action has been taken on many of the magisterial inquiries.

In 200, a Punjab Roadways bus fell into the Sirhind canal from a bridge in Ropar. In the accident, 26 passengers died. The then Deputy Commissioner ordered a magisterial inquiry into the accident. Mr Shiv Dular Singh, the then SDM, Ropar, in his inquiry report cited the weak railing of the bridge as a major cause of the accident.

The SDM recommended the strengthening of the railing and widening of the bridge to avoid mishaps. However, even two years after the submission of the report, no action has been taken on the recommendations.

Another magisterial inquiry was conducted into the breach in the Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant dyke. In the breach, thousands of tonnes of fly ash flowed into the Ropar wetland area through the Ghanauli drain, damaging the fragile environment of the area.

In this report, the current SDM, Mr Daljit Singh, blamed the thermal plant authorities for the breach. The authorities were held responsible for the poor maintenance of the dyke. The officials concerned were also blamed for not providing timely information to the district administration about the incident.

The inquiry raised objections to the construction of a new dyke by the thermal plant authorities. In his report, the SDM stated that the new dyke was being constructed very close to the wetland area. He said in case of mishap, it would be very difficult to control the flow of fly ash into the international wetland area. The report also raised doubts over the no-objection certificate issued by the Pollution Control Board authorities for the construction of a dyke in close proximity to wetland area.

Despite the report, the thermal plant authorities have made the new dyke operational. Also no action has been taken against the authorities, allegedly responsible for the breach in the dyke.

Another magisterial inquiry conducted by the SDM, Mr Daljit Singh, recommended financial aid for the family of a woman of Kotla Nihang village, near Ropar, who was allegedly ostracised by the villagers on the suspicion of being an AIDS patient. However, no action has been taken on this report also.


6 to get Baba Farid Society awards
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, September 22
Dr Inderjeet Kaur, Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, Mr Beant Singh Bedi, Mr Gurdev Singh, Baba Jaswant Singh and Dr Harbhajan Singh Deol have been selected by the Baba Farid Society, Faridkot, for the annual awards for their contribution to the welfare of society and for being honest.

This was stated by Mr Inderjeet Singh Khalsa while talking to this correspondent. He said Dr Kaur and Mr Ramoowalia would be given the Bhagat Puran Singh Award for their service to humanity.

Dr Kaur, chairperson of Pingalwara, Amritsar, helps the physically challenged and the poor, who are often dejected by society. She decided not to marry and chose to serve the destitute and orphans. She came close to Bhagat Puran Singh, founder of Pingalwara, a home for the mentally challenged. She became the vice-president of the Pingalwara Society in 1988 and after the death of Bhagat Puran Singh, she became the chairperson of the society.

Mr Ramoowalia, a former spokesman for the SAD and former Chairman of the Minorities Commission, is now the President of Lok Bhalai Party. He has been selected for the award for raising a voice against atrocities committed against Punjabi girls by their NRI buddies. He has also highlighted the harassment of Punjabi youths seeking help of travel agents to go abroad. He has also been involved in getting Indian youths freed from jails in Pakistan and other countries.

Dr Harbhajan Singh, recipient of Baba Farid Award for Honesty (General), was a member of Punjab Public Service Commission between 1980 and 1984, an executive member of the Punjab State Electricity Board from 1985 to 1987 and Chairman of the Commission for Linguistic Minorities from 1996 to 1999.

An alumnus of Birmingham University, England, Dr Deol has authored a number of books. He lived a simple and honest life during his postings in various departments. At present he is a member of the Senate of Guru Nanak Dev University.

Baba Jaswant Singh Jassa, a rickshawpuller of Batala, is being given the honesty award (General) for restoring a suitcase containing Rs 30,000, a camera and bottles of foreign liquor to a customer who had forgotten the items in his rickshaw. Baba Jassa, in order to trace the owner of these items, went to a police station, but an official at the police station instead of helping him lured him to share the items between them. He then approached senior police and civil administration officials.

He was also honoured with an award by the authorities for his honesty on Independence Day.

Mr Beant Singh, a retired District and Sessions Judge, has been chosen for honesty award in the judicial services for his 32 years of honest and impartial work as judicial officer. He started his career as a Judicial Magistrate in 1966 from Bathinda and served as District and Sessions Judge in Sangrur and Chandigarh.

Mr Gurdev Singh, Additional District and Sessions Judge, Ferozepore, has also been chosen for the honesty award in the judicial services. He became an advocate in 1973 and joined the judicial services in 1977. He has been selected for leading an honest life and delivering judgements without fear and favouritism.


Move to pass Mayor’s bill opposed
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, September 22
Concerned about the continued violation of the Punjab Municipal Corporation Act by the Congress-controlled local Municipal Corporation, which had spent Rs 5 lakh on the renovation of the office and residence of the Mayor without inviting bids, the group of SAD-BJP councillors have decided to strongly oppose the move to get the expenditure passed in the scheduled meeting of the House tomorrow.

In a joint meeting of nine members group of the SAD-BJP councillors held here today to discuss the proposals of the agenda for the meeting scheduled for Monday, it was unanimously resolved that the Mayor, Mr Surinder Mahey, had violated all prescribed norms by getting the renovation work of his office and official residence completed without inviting bids for the same.

Though Rs 5 lakh project had already been completed under the alleged instructions of the Mayor three months ago, but the proposal No 6 of the agenda for the meeting stated that there was need to purchase new furniture, a refrigerator, two split airconditioners and carpets for the Mayor’s office. The proposal further states that the MC House should accord its approval to spend the money for the same.

Mr Kanwaljeet Singh Gandhi, an Akali Councillor, and spokesman for the SAD-BJP group of councillors, alleged that though the Punjab Chief Minister was claiming to eradicate corruption from the government offices, the Mayor was flouting the prescribed norms to favour one of his close contractor. We have decided to oppose the proposal during zero hour and seek an explanation from the officials concerned about embezzlement of funds, Mr Gandhi added.

Even some of the Congress councillors were opposing the move to get the proposal passed. During a meeting of the Congress councillors presided over by the Punjab Local Bodies Minister, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh, at the Rest House of the Punjab Water Supply and Sewerage Board here today, some councillors objected to the working of the Mayor, which was bringing bad repute to the party.

The SAD-BJP councillors have also decided to raise the issue pertaining to failure of the MC authorities to check underground mixing of sludge and drinking water in Phagwari Mohalla, which resulted in death of two residents due to spread of gastroenteritis. They demanded that the civic body should provide an ex-gratia grant of Rs 1 lakh each to the bereaved families.


Chhapar Mela concludes
Our Correspondent

Chhapar (Ludhiana), September 22
The Chhapar Mela concluded here today on a merry note even though some stalls and the circus are still there for the late visitors expected tomorrow.

The nearby railway station at Ahmedgarh presented a crowded look in the morning as people reached them to board trains to their respective places.

During the mela, the policemen did not spare drunken rural people, while traffic cops posted near the bus stand rural people, stopped and harassed scooterists and other vehicle drivers.

“Dubai ticketan lai layo”. That was how most of the sellers of “bhang tikkies” and “sherbet” urged young passers- to buy these. A “bhang tikki” and a glass of “bhang sherbat” were available for Rs 5 each.

The Chand theatre, the only cinamahall in the nearby Ahmedgarh town, did brisk business, thanks to the fair. It screened three films daily — Saali Poori Gharwali, Mera Gaon Mera Desh and Indian.

Tented bars came up near country liquor vends in the town to accommodate the rush of rural people of liquor. Special seating arrangements were made with an additional provision of music system daying Punjabi songs.

As usual, mule-pulled, carts which can transport as many as 20 persons a trip from the town to the fair site and vice-versa remained the favourite mode of transport for the rural visitors.


Amend Punjab Coop Act: NCUI
Our Correspondent

Abohar, September 22
Mr Bhagwati Prasad Mishra, Vice-Chairman of the National Co-operative Union of India (NCUI) and Mr Rameshwerji Patel, Chairman of Indore Premier Co-oprative Bank Ltd and a former minister of Madhya Pradesh, today suggested that the Punjab Co-operative Act should be amended to remove the restriction on the directors of co-operative societies from contesting election for the third consecutive term. In Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, dedicated people were heading certain co-operative institutions for the past 20 years, they said.

Mr Mishra and Mr Patel were here along with Mr Devi Singh Dangi, Mr Harinarain Patel, Mr Kanhaya Lal Chouhan, Mr Saligram Patel, Mr Brij Lal Solanki and Mr Mazid Khan on a study tour regarding the working of co-operative institutions in different states. Mr Surinder Kumar Jakhar, former Chairman, IFFCO, and Mr Sajjan Kumar Jakhar, former minister, welcomed them at Jakhar Fruit and Agriculture Farms. Members of the study team visited the farms and showed keen interest in replacement of grape cultivation by vegetables. The team also visited the Khuyansarwer Co-operative Agriculture Service Society.

The Senior Manager, Mr T.C. Dhuria, told the delegation at the head office of Fazilka Central Co-operative Bank that the bank was serving over 40,000 members of the co-operative societies through 27 branches. The bank had earned Rs 188 lakh as profit last year. There was a proposal to launch a housing loan scheme in next few days.


Hospital chief clarifies
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, September 22
The Chairman of the local S.G.L. Charitable Hospital, Baba Kashmira Singh, today denied that two residents of the Phagwari mohalla, who died of gastroenteritis yesterday, were ever admitted to his hospital for treatment.

Baba Kashmira Singh, in a press statement issued here today, said both the deceased, Brij Lal (62) and Karan (16), were admitted to the local Civil Hospital following sumptoms of gastroenteritis.

He said all 32 patients affected by gastroenteritis who were admitted to S.G.L. Charitable Hospital during the past 10 days were being provided treatment and medicines free of cost.


MC infighting hits works
Anirudh Gupta

Ferozepore, September 22
Rain may be a boon for farmers, but it often brings a flood of problems for city residents. Even a drizzle inundates the city, particularly its interiors and low-lying areas. Bumpy roads dotted with potholes and cesspools of slush impede the flow of traffic.

The worst-affected are the roads leading to Hussainiwala, the bus stand and Ichhewala. The industrial area Gobind Nagri road is in a deteriorated state. It is difficult to drive on these roads with potholes acting as virtual deathtraps.

An estimated 40 residential colonies have come up around Ichhewala Road. The road to Hussainiwala is the only route linking the city to the National Martyrs Memorial and the Indo-Pakistan joint checkpost, places of tourist interest in the city.

The non-availability of adequate potable drinking water is another problem. Although seven water pumps were installed last year, yet people have no choice but to buy costly water filters as the water is contaminated. Also, the heaps of garbage that dot the edge of blocked drains serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes. The sewerage system is in a wretched state.

According to Municipal Committee sources, paucity of funds is responsible for the situation. On the contrary, there have been instances when grants have been allegedly withheld on account of non-utilisation. The real reason for the state of affairs is factionalism in the Municipal Committee led by its President, Mr Ashok Gupta. With civic elections due in a couple of months, 18 councillors led by the local MLA, Mr Sukhpal Singh, have sought the removal of Mr Gupta. They claim to have passed a no-confidence motion against the President and assert he has no legal right to stick to the chair as 18 members in a house of 26 have voted against him.

Mr Gupta repudiates the charges, stating that the meeting of the Municipal Committee was illegal. While brushing off allegations of corruption, he maintains that a group cannot convene a meeting on a notice less than 48 hours without taking the EO or President into confidence. Expressing concern over the infighting, Mr Ashwani Mehta, president, Local Beopar Mandal, says the mandal will field its own candidates this time.


Electoral rolls to be revised
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, September 22
Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer said yesterday, that as per the directions of the Election Commission the revised electoral rolls would be published and the preliminary list would be published on November 6 and the objections would be entertained till November 21. The final revised list would be published on January 20. In a separate statement he said those who had not got their encroachments on government lands regularised last year, had been given another chance. Applications could be filed with revenue officials on a prescribed format till October 31.


Night-time revelry at EO’s office
Our Correspondent

Ahemedgarh, September 22
Owing largely to the absence of the Executive Officer (EO) of the local Municipal Council, since he is away to Chandigarh on training, his office assumes the status of a bar-cum-club at night.

Since the officer visits the town only now and then to sign important documents, his office remains occupied by various councillors and their president for most of the day. But once the office closes and the staff are at home, the preparations to convert the office into a bar-cum-club begin and the members, around half a dozen councillors, start trickling in as early as 7 pm and the session lasts around midnight.

During the tenure of Mr I.A.Khan as Executive Officer here, his office remained locked in his absence, according to his instructions. Even during working hours, councillors did not move around in his office unnecessarily. The president of the council and his colleagues had a separate and spacious office where they held their meetings. The room is still there with the nameplate of the president fixed, but is no longer being used by them. The preference now seems to have shifted to the EO’s office, even if their office is equally comfortable, with carpets, sofas and a telephone.

The office of the EO remains packed with councillors and their colleagues during working hours these days in view of the impending civic poll. A merry picnic with rounds of cold drinks, tea and snacks goes on till evening after which the place becomes a bar. 


BJP pressurising police, allege sabha members
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 22
Members and devotees of the Bhootnath Sudhar Sabha, which is presently bitterly divided on the issue of management of the historic Bhoothnath temple in the city, today alleged that the BJP president Ram Kumar Goel was pressurising the police to register a case against some of them.

A case had earlier been registered against Mr Ram Kumar Goel, who is also the president of the sudhar sabha, and some others on the complaint of some of the members and devotees of the temple that he had resorted to goondaism to evict Swami Prem Dass from the temple.

Mr Tarsem Singla, who is a member of the present committee, and former committee vice-president Jitender Singhi, presented photographs to newsmen showing the Commmittee Members who are now objecting against Swami Prem Dass, themselves participating in a function to establish him on the ‘gaddi’ of the temple one year back.

Mr Tarsem Singla and Mr Singhi also presented a statement of Swami Ram Narayan Acharya of Akalgarh village in Sangrur district in which he has stated that he had never given any statement saying Swami Prem Dass was a ‘fraud’ who had stolen money from his temple as was being ascribed to him. The Akalgarh swami said he had, in fact, already given the true picture to the police on the issue.

The Committee members and devotees also claimed that Mr Ram Kumar Goel and his colleagues had unfairly given five acres of prime land belonging to the temple on a contract for Rs 15,000 per year earlier and only recently had increased it to Rs 20,000 after several protests. They said this area could be easily given on contract for as much as Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000.

They also alleged that they were being defamed by the BJP president who was claiming that they wanted to make a marriage palace on the temple land. They said this was furthest from the truth, adding the BJP president had himself made a plan to construct a marriage palace on temple land for which a Rs 70 lakh project had been prepared.


Centre to train vets inaugurated
Tribune News Service

Ropar, September 22
The Punjab Animal Husbandry Department will launch a campaign from Anandpur Sahib on September 29 to educate farmers about schemes of the department for cattle.

Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Annual Husbandry and Dairy Development Minister, Punjab stated while inaugurating a training centre set up to impart training in modern management and development in artificial insemination to the veterinary doctors, Para-Veterinary staff and progressive cattle farmers, at the semen bank here last evening.

The minister also disclosed that in every block of the state a camp for farmers would be organised every where veterinary doctors would impart training and information to the farmers on schemes, for the welfare of animals.

The minister added that such training centres had been functioning in Patiala, Nabha and Kapurthala.

Dr Ramesh Dutt Sharma, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Punjab said the center would be a boon for the cattle of Kandi area farmers.


Plea to donate blood once a year
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, September 22
Mr Ramesh Mehta, president of the Aasra Welfare Society, said here today that to bridge the gap between the demand and supply of blood in the country, at least one member of every family should donate blood voluntarily every year.

Mr Mehta, in a statement here today, said blood donation was a noble cause and all healthy adult members of society should contribute their lot to the cause. He said one should make it one’s aim in life to donate blood all through the life and donate vital organs after death. He said the Aasra Welfare Society had been organising blood donation camps and 36 units were collected at a camp held at Sirsa yesterday.

Dr Ashok Gupta, who supervised at the camp, also motivated the donors. He said blood donation produced no ill effects on health and also answered the questions of the donors, particularly students, about blood donation. Mr Mehta said Mr Rajkumar had been appointed as the chairman of the Sirsa unit of the Aasra Jankalyan Samiti. Many donors, who had donated blood more than 20 times, were honoured besides the first-time donors at the camp, he said.


80 govt employees leave for J&K
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 22
Patiala Deputy Commissioner Shivdular Singh Dhillon today flagged off two bus loads of 80 employees, who are going for poll duty to Jammu and Kashmir, at a special function organised here.

Speaking on the occasion, the ADC said the employees had undergone two days of training to acquaint them with the poll process. He said the employees would be given a special allowance of Rs 12,000 out of which Rs 9,600 had already been given to them. Friends and relatives of the employees saw them off.

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