Wednesday, September 25, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Cong dharna on MSP tomorrow
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 24
Having decided to take up cudgels against the Centre “over the delay in meeting state’s requests to address problems of farmers,” Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said today that a dharna would be organised in front of the residence of the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on September 26 and block rail traffic in Punjab for an hour on September 27.

Capt Amarinder Singh would lead party MLAs in the dharna which would be held between 11 am and 3 pm on September 26 near the residence of the Prime Minister. Congress general secretary Ambika Soni and PCC chief H.S. Hanspal would also be present. The “rail roko” agitation would be carried out in Punjab on September 27 between 9 am and 10 am.

The Chief Minister, who today met Finance Minister Jaswant Singh on the move to reduce cess from 11.5 per cent to 4 per cent in the procurement price, said the minister assured him to look into the issue.

The Chief Minister said the state government had not heard from the Centre so far on the demands of the state which were reiterated at his meetings yesterday with Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, Food and Civil Supplies Minister Sharad Yadav and Agriculture Minister Ajit Singh.

The demands included immediate announcement of minimum support price and a bonus of Rs 100 per qunital of paddy, start of procurement forthwith and restoration of 11.5 per cent levies in the procurement price.

“I now have no alternative but to hold a sit-in protest outside the Prime Minister’s home,’’ he said here.

Punjab had sought an MSP of Rs 660 per quintal for common paddy and Rs 726 per quintal for Grade A variety.

Asked if the Punjab Government was adopting a confrontationist attitude with the Centre and if the state government should have sought a meeting with the Prime Minister before starting its agitation, the Chief Minister said the state governmnet would prepare a memorandum. “If the Prime Minister invites us, we will submit the memorandum,” the Chief Minister said.

Asked why the Congress had not launched the agitation immediately, he said the Prime Minister would return from the Maldives by Thursday.

The Chief Minister, who met Congress President Sonia Gandhi today, briefed her about the political situation in the state. On Mrs Gandhi’s response to the protest programme, the Chief Minister said she had told the party unit to take an appropriate decision.

Asked if his agitation against the Centre would create a wrong precedence, the Chief Minister said his government had no alternative as the farmers were resorting to distress sale of paddy and 84 per cent of the farmers of the state had small landholdings.

“We had to reluctantly decide for agitation due to the apathy shown by the Centre,” he said. The Congress’ protest programme in Delhi would also be attended by the PCC delegates and DCC chiefs from Punjab. The Chief Minister indicated that leaders of the Bhartiya Kisan Union would also be invited to join the protest in Punjab.

He repeated his charge against his bete noire and Punjab Opposition leader Parkash Singh Badal that he was “telling his friends at the Centre to let paddy procurement in the state be delayed”.

Answering questions on the construction of the SYL canal, the Chief Minister said Punjab would be approaching the Supreme Court for a fresh look on the distribution of waters between Punjab and Haryana. He said Punjab did not have surplus water and had got lesser share of waters despite its larger area.

Referring to the recent arrest of government officials, he said the Congress government was determined to root out corruption from Punjab.


Central team may visit Punjab
Memorandum on drought relief to Centre
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 24
A central team is expected to shortly visit Punjab in response to its memorandum on drought relief to the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operation and assess the situation. Punjab has sought a relief of Rs 3529.44 crore against Rs 6372.38 crore loss or extra burden borne by the state/kisans to save kharif crops.

Punjab is among the 12-odd states that have sought relief in view of deficient rain. The preliminary calculations show that these states have sought a relief of Rs 20,000 crore from the Centre.

Sources in the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operation said today that the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) had recommended retaining last year’s MSP for paddy. Now it was for the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) to take the final decision.

The sources say there is not much hope of any major deviation from what the CACP has recommended, including the decision to cap the MSP plus 4 per cent purchase tax and that all state taxes/levies beyond that are to be contained in the MSP. Even bonus is unlikely to be announced, as later this is added to the MSP by the states and it becomes the benchmark for demanding a higher MSP the following year both for wheat and paddy. The ministry, however, is sympathetic towards states like Punjab, which depend heavily upon such taxes/levies on the foodgrains to meet the expenses of rural infrastructure development. If the CCEA endorses the “MSP plus 4 per cent purchase tax only”, it will further upset Punjab’s financial situation.

The Centre’s view is that the MSP and relief are two different issues. While the former has several “inherent” distortions, the latter can only be decided after a special “girdawari”.

The sources say that Punjab political delegations were told in New Delhi yesterday that in the long-term interest of farmers, focus should be on “crop insurance and diversification” and not the MSP because the Centre was keen on washing its hands off this system in a phased manner, allowing the prices to be determined by the market forces. The attraction of the MSP has considerably delayed diversification for which the state/farmers are now paying a heavy price: Punjab foodgrains are not wanted as other states too have become self-sufficient. Its geographical location makes the transportation of foodgrains costly. The Centre also favours only manageable/market-oriented buffer stock and procures accordingly. The present stock is about 60 million tonnes of wheat and rice.

In this backdrop, while plain politics is at play, beleaguered kisans — caught in the political crossfire between the Congress and Akalis on the NDA turf — has come out on the streets.

About paddy arrivals, absence of the MSP and the date for procurement, the sources say, there are standing instructions that a state can procure at last year’s MSP till the official announcement of the new MSP. Punjab, too, was asked to do so when Chief Minister Amarinder Singh led a delegation to the union ministers concerned, including Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, yesterday.

The sources say politics of paddy is a serious development and there is discernible disquiet in Punjab. In fact, the Congress accusations against the Akalis of “sabotaging” paddy operations are termed “untenable” and “illogical”. The Congress is unlikely to gain politically by blaming the Akalis of “conniving and conspiring” with the NDA Government to settle political scores.


Farmers stage dharna, block traffic
Our Correspondent

Kharar, September 24
Farmers of the Bhartya Kisan Union, Punjab, led by its president Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal staged a dharna and blocked traffic near the local bus stand on the Chandigarh-Ropar national highway from 2 p.m. today in support of their demands. They were demanding arrears, amounting to Rs 80 crore, in lieu of the sugarcane purchased by mills and announcement of the MSP for paddy. They threatened to continue the dharna till an assurance was given by the Minister of Cooperatives.

Mr Lakhowal, while addressing the farmers at the Kharar bus stand chowk in the presence of Mr A.R. Talwar, Registrar, Cooperative Societies, and Mr Swarn Singh, Managing Director, Sugarfed, said at an earlier dharna outside the mills concerned.

They had given a memorandum to Mr G.S. Atwal, parliamentary Secretary (Cooperation), with regard to the holding of a kisan panchayat at his residence, but he had gone to Delhi today. He said because of this the farmers had decided to stage a dharna here and would not lift it till the Finance Minister or Cooperative Minister gave an assurance in this regard.

Mr Talwar explained the position and polices of the government. He assured the farmers that after October 1 the payment would be made. But this failed to pacify the farmers and asked for an assurance about the date for the payments.

The officers left the spot after stating that they would inform the government about this. Meanwhile, traffic was being diverted from Kurali, Morinda and Landran. Mr H.S. Bhullar, SP, SAS Nagar, Mr Sukhwinder Singh Gill, SDM, Mr Rupinder Singh, DSP, along with a large number of securitymen were present on the occasion.


Rail roko’: CPI, CPM meet today
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 24
A meeting of the coordination committee of the Punjab units of the CPI and the CPM would be held here tomorrow to finalise the “rail roko” programme to protest against the Union Government’s failure to announce the minimum support price for paddy and delay in starting its procurement.

Addressing a press conference, Dr Joginder Dayal, Secretary of the CPI, said both parties would stage dharnas at the district headquarters on September 30. Former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, he said, was now shedding crocodile tears for farmers while his party had not opposed the anti-farmer policies enforced by the Centre on the directions of the WTO. With the support of Mr Badal’s party, the Union Government had jacked up the rates of fertilisers, diesel and pesticides etc.

Using a strong language against Capt Amarinder Singh’s Government, Dr Dayal said it was a “callous and apathetic government which does not care for farmers and others. The government did not express even lip sympathy with farmers who had been passing through a worst period, he added.

He said his party was supporting the BKU (Ekta) agitation against the state and union governments on the demands of farmers. He demanded Rs 100 per quintal as bonus on paddy, besides an MSP above Rs 700 and waiving of farmer loans worth Rs 7000 crore.

Put defaulters behind bars

Dr Joginder Dayal said all defaulters of bank loans above Rs 1 crore should be put behind bars. Their properties should be confiscated. When asked whether he was pointing towards certain defaulter politicians in Punjab, he said he was not mentioning any particular defaulter but wanted legal action against all such persons.


Rs 650 a quintal spent on paddy: VC
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, September 24
The Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University, Mr Kirpal Singh Aulakh, while supporting the claims of various kisan unions, today said Rs 650 were spent by farmers for producing one quintal of paddy this year, thus a proportionate minimum support price (MSP) should be given to them.

Mr Aulakh said farmers in Punjab produced a record output of different crops on the instructions of the Central Government but proper arrangements were not made for its purchase.

He said the allegations of kisan unions that the government did not pay much attention towards marketing of crops sown as diversification of wheat-paddy rotation were not wrong.

He suggested that the authorities concerned should sign a contract with farmers that their produce would be purchased at specified price, as was the case in some foreign countries.

Mr Aulakh said farmers of the state had only followed the instructions of the Central Government for cultivating various crops, and the government should not delay the procurement of their crops.

Mr Aulakh said efforts would be made so that area under cultivation of paddy and wheat in the state should be reduced by 25 lakh acres next year. He said it had become necessary as expenditure on growing of paddy and wheat was increasing every year.

Dr Aulakh asked the farmers not to be afraid of the WTO. Rather they should give a tough competition to it. He asked them to improve the quality of milk so as to earn well from dairy farming.


BJP ‘Gaon chalo abhiyan’ may face farmers’ ire
Delay in paddy MSP and procurement
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 24
Inordinate delay in the announcement of the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy and the failure of the official agencies to enter grain markets may force farmers “to put spanners” in the BJP’s proposed “Gaon chalo abhiyan” scheduled to be inaugurated by the party’s national chief, Mr Venkaiah Naidu, at Khanna on September 27.

Incidentally, Khanna has been occupying the centre-stage in the farmers’ agitation for being one of the biggest grain markets of Asia. Upset over low prices and the slow lifting of their produce by private buyers, farmers resorted to a blockade of vehicular traffic on the National Highway No 1 (GT Road) yesterday.

Led by leaders of the Bharti Kisan Union, including the national President, Mr Bhupinder Singh Mann, besides Mr Balbir Singh Rajewal and Mr Baldev Singh Mianpur, the farmers threatened to gherao the BJP President and prevent him from entering any village in the state to thwart the party’s “Gaon chalo abhiyan”. The BKU leaders blame the BJP, the major partner in the ruling NDA at the Centre, for the inordinate delay in the announcement of the MSP.

As things stand today, the BJP’s campaign may run into a serious crisis, besides facing tough opposition from farmers who are fighting heavy odds.

They had not yet recovered from the adverse impact of the drought-like situation when the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission recommended the levying of charges on power supply to the farm sector. Besides, the state government has also levied taxes on various farm inputs, including fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides.

Unable to reconcile to “hostilities” from all sides, the farmers are “feeling cheated and ignored” as they have been resorting to “distress sale of paddy” at prices varying between Rs 390 and Rs 450 a quintal” at most of the places in the state against a demanded price of Rs 700 a quintal.

And the BJP may be the first political party to face the “wrath of agitated farmers” publicly as it starts its “journey to villages of Punjab” where people are “sullen and angry”.

“We are aware of the tough challenge ahead for our abhiyan,” says a spokesman of the Punjab unit of the party, maintaining that “there is no going back on the programme”.

“If the Punjab Government has failed to get the MSP announced in time, the BJP cannot be blamed for it. During the five years of SAD-BJP rule, top leaders of the alliance used to camp and campaign in the union Capital not only to get the MSP announced in time but also ensure a fair hike. But this time, the ruling Congress has hardly made any effort to get either the MSP announced or get the procurement of the kharif crops advanced”, the spokesman added.

The state BJP leadership has despatched letters seeking security and other arrangements for its “Gaon chalo abhiyan” where it has maintained some of the top central leaders of the party may visit the State during the campaign.

The highlight of the “abhiyan” will be to reach out to all 12,865 villages in the state. Besides Mr Naidu, other leaders expected to reach Khanna on September 27 may include former UP Chief Minister, Rajnath Singh; Mr Sanjay Joshi, Mr Om Parkash Dhankhad, Mr Sangpriya Gautam, Mr V. Narayan Singh, and Mr Amitabh Sinha — all members of the national executive of the party — besides leaders of the Punjab unit of the party.

BJP eyes green pastures in Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 24
Call it political expediency or a tactical move, the BJP is now turning to ‘’dehat’’ to carve out a new political constituency. To achieve this, it has come up with a countrywide programme “Gaon chalo abhiyan”.

The inaugural function of the campaign coincides with the BJP workers’ two-day orientation camp at Khanna. The aim is to brief the state leaders, rank and file and office-bearers up to the mandal-level on the socio-economic and political situation in the country in general and Punjab in particular. Several key national BJP leaders are expected to participate in the “abhiyan”.

Though very much a political ally of the Akalis, Punjab BJP leaders went alone to New Delhi yesterday to meet their national leadership and plead for early resolution of the minimum support price for paddy, retaining of state taxes and levies, as also the date of purchase of paddy, besides seeking additional relief for farmers, who had borne the brunt of deficient rain.

Punjab BJP President Brij Lal Rinwa and former minister Balramji Das Tandon today briefed newsmen on their visit to New Delhi. What has obviously stung the BJP the most is the reported statement of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh that his government would hold a protest in front of the residence of the Prime Minister in New Delhi, if the Centre failed to meet the “reasonable” demands pertaining to the pricing and procurement of paddy. The two termed this step as “preponderant and ridiculous” and adding that “having failed to act in time, the Congress is now apportioning blame to the Akalis to cover up its own falacies”.

This “deliberate” step of the BJP to shift focus to rural India from its traditional middle-class urban constituents has set political analysts thinking. To focus on the new found love for “gramin vikas”, special literature has been published by the party, which lists the “achivements” of the NDA Government under the aegis of the Prime Minister. It recounts, in particular, what all the Centre has done for rural development.

With party units in almost 5,000 villages, the “Gaon chalo abhiyan” is expected to act as a catalyst to expedite the expansion of the BJP’s base in the countryside.


Pherurai’s kin approach Chief Secy
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Mansa, September 24
Even as the police has been conducting raids at the dwellings of kin of former SSP, Gurcharan Singh Pherurai, to arrest him for the past many days, Mr Arvind Pal Singh Sandhu and Mrs Harjit Kaur, son-in-law and daughter of Pherurai, respectively, whose house was also raided by the police, have pleaded with the Chief Secretary to save them from any kind of harassment.

The raids conducted by the police at the house of Mr Sandhu yesterday and a few days ago were not confirmed by the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Alok Shekhar. Mr Shekhar said he had no knowledge of the raids and no police official or Vigilance Bureau official either intimated him or took his permission about these raids.

Mr Sandhu, local Assistant Commissioner (Grievances), and Mrs Harjit Kaur, local Excise and Taxation Officer (ETO), who have gone on leave after the police and officials of the Vigilance Bureau allegedly started harassing them, in a joint letter written to the Chief Secretary said they were always available to the police and officials of Vigilance Bureau and were willing to cooperate with them whenever any official intimation was received by them either through the office of the Chief Secretary or the Deputy Commissioner.

While pointing out that they had been apprehending that the police might arrest them by implicating them into a false criminal case, they urged the Chief Secretary to intervene by taking up the matter with the DGP, Punjab police, and ADGP (Vigilance), Punjab, so that they could be saved from any kind of harasment.

Mr Sandhu pointed out that he had met the Chief Secretary in his office on August 28, 2002, regarding his apprehension of harassment by the Punjab police and Vigilance Bureau officials. He added that he had been questioned by the Mansa police about the whereabouts of Pherurai. He said he had told the police authorities that he had met Pherurai in the first week of June at a social function and after that he had never met him and did not know about his whereabouts.

He alleged that for the past 10 to 15 days, police parties had been visiting his ancestral house at Khuranj village and another house at Muktsar where his parents lived. He said the police had threatened them that if Pherurai did not surrender, his immediate relatives, including himself and his wife, would incur the police’s wrath.

He said on September 13, 2002, while he was on official duty, a police party from the Jagraon police district visited his official residence at Mansa and made inquiries about his whereabouts.

The Deputy Commissioner said Mr Sandhu, who attended office yesterday after remaining on leave for about a week, went on leave again today. He added that he had sent his leave application, with his report, to the higher authorities for necessary action.

Mr Y.P. Chaba, Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner, said Mrs Harjit Kaur had applied for a month’s leave. He added that he had sent her application to the higher authorities as only the Commissioner, Excise and Taxation, Punjab, was competent to grant leave. He said he had received a copy of the representation made to the Chief Secretary by Mrs Harjit Kaur and her husband.


Residents of Monica’s village shocked

Hoshiarpur, September 23
Residents of Chabewal, native village of Bollywood starlet Monica Bedi, who was arrested along with her husband Abu Salem, an underworld don, still cherish her image as a sweet, sober and homely girl.

They are in a state of disbelief over the relationship Monica had with Salem, a prime accused in the Mumbai serial blasts.

Purshotam Bedi, Monica’s uncle, said when she came to the village in 1998 to attend the marriage of her brother, he found her quite gentle and polite.

He told reporters that he met her earlier in Gurgaon in 1995 when robbers had murdered her maternal grandparents and injured her mother Shakuntla, a paralytic patient.

Monica’s aunt Kanta Devi, a retired teacher who resides in the village, said she still could not understand how Monica, a nice and homely girl, came into contact with Salem.

Prem Kumar, Monica’s father, a registered medical practitioner, migrated to Norway in 1974. Monica was born a year later.

Her mother joined him along with their children in 1976.

Ram Rattan, a former MLA and resident of Chabewal, said Prem Kumar was close to him.

He said he met Monica during her visit to the village in 1998 and found her very sweet and sober.

Rattan said he was shocked when he came to know about her relationship with the underworld don.

Mohan Singh, Sarpanch of the village, echoed similar views. PTI


SGPC warns govt on Noormahalias
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 24
The SGPC today warned the Punjab Government that if it (government) allowed the Noormahalia sect headed by Ashutosh to hold a congregation at Jalandhar on September 26, SGPC executive members will hold a protest there.

Addressing a press conference here today after a meeting of the executive committee, SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar said he would lead the protest.

The government had done nothing in spite of a ban recommended by the National Minorities Commission on the sect. The Rattan Committee set up by the government submitted its report a few days ago. However, neither the report had been made public nor any action taken on it. The government said there was nothing objectionable in the report while contents of the report revealed by the media say that there was a lot that “goes against the sect”.

Instead of dilly-dallying on the issue, the government should ban the anti-Sikhism activities of the sect and its followers who were indulging in anti-Sikhism propaganda should be detained. The issue of conversion of certain Sikhs by Christians had been resolved. A joint front of religious minorities such as Sikhs, Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Jains etc would be set up soon to take care of linguistic and cultural issues of the religious minorities.

To support a particular Akali group in the November elections for the president of the SGPC, the state government was trying to creat a scare among pro-Badal group SGPC members by getting police raids conducted against them. The matter had been brought to the notice of the ADGP, Vigilance Bureau, and the ADGP, Internal Vigilance. However, the police has denied this.

A three-member committee had been set up to visit gurdwaras in Bangladesh and submit a report to the SGPC, said Mr Badungar.


PSEB to impose power cuts again
Tribune News Service

Patiala, September 24
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has started feeling the pinch after the withdrawal of the monsoon with power cuts being anticipated on both urban and commercial consumers in the coming days with the tripping of a unit at the Bathinda thermal plant.

According to a PSEB spokesman, Unit Four at the Bathinda plant had tripped at around 00.30 today due to leakage. Besides this, one unit at Bathinda and Ropar each has been closed down for capital maintenance. Both the units are not expected to become operational for another month.

Meanwhile, there has been some improvement in the coal stock of the Lehra Mohabbat plant which has gone up to 2.34 lakh tonnes which is equivalent to 16 days of stock.

The sources said due to increasing demand the board was in the process of undertaking one to two hour cuts on urban and industrial consumers and had also rescheduled its three-phase supply for the agricultural sector with the night group getting eight hours per day, day group seven hours and border areas eight hours.


Shatabdi finds few takers
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 24
The Shatabdi Express chugged into the railway station here last night with just 25 passengers in its six airconditioned coaches. This tally was among the lowest since its launch on August 19.

Flagged off with much fanfare by Railway Minister Nitish Kumar, the prestigious train finds few takers, making it a big loss-making proposition for the Railways. Besides manpower costs, operational and maintenance costs, wear and tear of equipment and other allied expenses, a diesel locomotive consumes fuel worth Rs 100 per hour. The total expenses amount to several lakhs.

Thirtyfive days after the flag-off, there is speculation among the railway staff here that the running of the train may be terminated from October 2. Official sources, however, state that so far they have received no such intimation, although such plans could be a part of the agenda of the authorities.

Railway officials say that a proposal has also been mooted to convert the train into a Jan Shatabdi, having conventional coaches along with a few airconditioned chair cars and increasing the total number of coaches in the rake.

Official sources told TNS that against a capacity of 402 seats (six coaches with 67 seats each), the average number of seats reserved at Bathinda was about 50. “This number is generating an average revenue of just Rs 26,500 per rake,” a railway official commented. Comparatively, a rake with 70 per cent booking would have generated a revenue of about Rs 1.5 lakh. “We are not even able to break even on the expenditure incurred on catering,” the official added.

The Shatabdi touched an all-time low figure on September 4, when the computerised reservation closed with only five bookings. The highest number of bookings so far has been only 124. The day it was flagged off, the train carried just 37 passengers.

A chair car ticket for the Bathinda-New Delhi circuit on the Shatabdi costs Rs 530, while that of the executive class is Rs 1,120, an expensive proposition when compared with the fares of other trains running between the two stations.

There are five other trains running on this circuit, most of which have airconditioned chair cars attached to them. The Bathinda-New Delhi fare for this class in these trains is just Rs 250. “Apart from the on board meals and snacks, there are no other facilities for the higher fares,” a railway functionary remarked.

Apart from the higher fares and the long route, its departure at 5 a.m. is also a deterrent. Two other morning trains for New Delhi, the Dainik Express and the Janta Express, depart at 8 a.m. and 6.45 a.m., respectively. Another train, the Intercity Express, departs about 15 minutes after the Shatabdi. There are also two overnight trains for New Delhi.


Vigilance Dept to probe bank loan scam
Our Correspondent

Ropar, September 24
The Vigilance Department will conduct an inquiry into the bank loan scam in which illiterate employees of the Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant (GGSSTP) were allegedly duped by bank officials and agents. Sources told this correspondent that the district administration entrusted the inquiry to the department yesterday.

Earlier, after the publication of a news item regarding the scam in The Tribune, Deputy Commissioner Seema Jain, summoned officials of the GGSSTP and Shivalik Gramin Kshetriya Bank in connection with the case. The officials recorded their statement before the District Development and Panchayat Officer, after which the Deputy Commissioner forwarded the case to the Vigilance Department.

As reported in these columns, certain officials of the bank and agents duped about 100 illiterate employees of the GGSSTP by offering loans. They were asked to sign papers and given loans. It was only after the bank authorities wrote to the GGSSTP officials regarding the authenticity of the employer undertaking that the scam came to light.

Officials of the GGSSTP were shocked to find their signatures on the undertaking allegedly submitted for securing loans by the employees working under them. When they questioned their employees about the matter, the latter told that they never knew about the employer undertaking. They were just told to sign some papers and given loans.

The employees who took loans were also shocked to find their actual loan amounts. Ram Murat, an employee, whose actual loan amount was Rs 35,000, submitted an undertaking to his officer in the matter and alleged that he was told that his loan amount was Rs 30,000. He was paid Rs 24,000 and told that the rest — Rs 6,000 — was the commission for processing the case.

The sources said bank officials and agents had now returned the differential amount to Ram Murat.


Chemists observe strike
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, September 24
Chemists in the district observed a strike and closed shops today in protest against the alleged search of a chemist and misbehaviour by the Bassi Pathana police in the absence of the drug inspector.

The chemists on a call of the Fatehgarh Sahib Chemist Association staged a dharna outside the office of the SSP, demanding immediate suspension of the alleged police officer for his illegal interference and misbehavior.

Later the delegation led by the state president of the association met the SSP and submitted a memorandum in this regard. After the assurance from the SSP, the chemists called off the strike.

When contacted Mr B.Chandra Sekhar SSP, said the raids on the chemist shops to check the menace of selling drugs would continue and the people indulging in such type of illegal activities would be proceeded against as per law. He said he would look into the matter as alleged by the chemists.

Meanwhile, representatives of various social organisations have strongly urged the district chemist association to identify the black sheep in their trade and socially boycott them. In a press release issued here today the presidents of the Rotary Club, the Citizens’ Welfare Association, the Bharat Vikas Parishad and others have urged the district administration to take stern action against those found selling drugs as the youth are becoming drug addicts.

They said without the blessings of the drug officer and other officials concerned, one could not indulge in the sale of intoxicants and drugs.


Pak SGPC sends Gurpurb invitations
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, September 24
Even as the Indian Government has declined to allow any Sikh devotee to visit Sikh shrines in Pakistan due to the snapping of rail, road and air links with the neighbouring country, Mr Sham Singh, co-chairman, Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PSGPC), has sent invitations to various organisations in India to participate in the Gurpurb of Guru Nanak Dev in November.

In the absence of any jathas from India, Gurpurb celebrations are likely to be adversely affected. However, Mr Avtar Singh Sanghera and Mr Manmohan Singh Bajaj, both radical leaders from the UK, would take jathas under the banners of the Kar Seva Committee and the Guru Nanak Yatra Committee.


5 years’ RI for ex-MC chief, 3 others
Our Correspondent

Mansa, September 24
Mr Harbans Lal, Additional District and Sessions Judge, Mansa, yesterday convicted four persons, including Pandit Brahmdev, former president, Bareta Municipal Council, and sentenced them to five years RI and imposed a fine of Rs 1,000 each on them. In case of default in payment of the fine, they would have to undergo two months RI under Section 304(Part II) of the IPC.

Amarjit Kaur, complainant, along with her husband Dhanna Singh and her son, Amrit Paul Singh, were on October 18, 1997, threatened by Pandit Brahamdev for humiliating his mother. The accused Ram Dev, Ranbir Singh and Jasbir Singh thrashed Dhana Singh, On seeing this Amarjit Kaur and Amrit Paul Singh raised an alarm but the accused ran away from the site leaving behind the injured Dhanna Singh.

On the next day Dhanna Singh was admitted to Civil Hospital Mansa, where he died. The Bareta police had on October 21, 1997, registered a case under Sections 304 and 34 of the IPC. All the accused were taken into custody and sent to the Central Jail, Bathinda.


Doctor to probe complaint against self !
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, September 24
In an interesting case, Dr V.K. Kaushal, District Immunisation Officer, local Civil Hospital, against whom a complaint was lodged for his negligence in a polio case of Maur Mandi town, has been asked to probe the same complaint by the Civil Surgeon, Dr S.K. Goyal.

A complaint was lodged with the Civil Surgeon and other district authorities by Mr Pajinder Kumar of Maur Mandi after his one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Jivika was crippled for life due to the alleged negligence of doctors of the Civil Hospital, Maur Mandi, and doctors of the local Civil Hospital, including Dr Kaushal.

Mr Pajinder Kumar had alleged that he was made to make rounds of the Civil Hospitals at Bathinda, and Maur Mandi by the doctors but no one treated his daughter.

Mr Pajinder Kumar, who came to know that Dr Kaushal had been made an inquiry officer in connection with his complaint against the doctor, refused to record his statement. He urged Dr Kaushal not to call him again as he had no faith in the inquiry being conducted by the same doctor against whom he had lodged a complaint.

He added that Dr Kaushal pressurised him to withdraw his complaint. He added that he had met the Civil Surgeon and expressed resentment in this connection.

Dr Goyal, when contacted, said as Mr Pajinder Kumar had raised objection against the appointment, he would change the inquiry officer tomorrow.

Dr Kaushal, when contacted, stated that the legs of the daughter of Mr Pajinder Kumar did not become immobile due to polio as it was confirmed by two polio tests conducted at Kasuali, Himachal Pradesh, and Mumbai.

He pointed out that Dr J.G. Vorha, surveillance officer, National Polio Surveillance Programme, World Health Organisation who accompanied him to Maur Mandi on August 23 to check the patient, had categorically mentioned in his report that the patient was not suffering from polio. He denied that he had pressurised Mr Pajinder Kumar for withdrawing the complaint.


Eunuchs enter wedlock
Varinder Walia and Gurbaxpuri

Patti, (Amritsar) September 24
Do eunuchs, without whom no wedding celebrations are considered to be complete, also solemnise their own marriage?

The centenary celebrations held in this border town, where eunuchs paid rich tributes to their ancestors today, witnessed marriage in which the bride and the bridegroom were both eunuchs. A large number of residents of the border belt from all walks of life were witness to this event. The “baratis” and the bride’s relatives were also eunuchs who thronged the sleepy town from various parts of the country. However, the hosts lamented that their brethren from Pakistan could not attend the grand event due to the snapping of rail, air and road links.

The marriage, which was performed as per Hindu rituals, showed that the eunuchs, too, were part of the mainstream.

The bride, Baba Meena, a resident of Tarn Taran, was wearing costly traditional ornaments while the bridegroom was wearing a three-piece suit. The “jaimala” ceremony was also performed as per Hindu rituals.

As part of the dowry the bridegroom got several goods, including a colour television, refrigerator, CD player and costly furniture. A sum of over Rs 10 lakh was spent on the marriage.

The traditional Punjabi “jaago” was also taken out in different parts of the town, witnessed by thousands of curious onlookers. The town was tastefully decorated for the occasion. The newly wedded couple also paid obeisance at religious places.

Baba Bhajno, the main organiser, claimed that more than 1,000 “baba” (eunuchs) from different parts of the country participated in the centenary celebrations.

The “babas” reached the venue of the celebrations in luxurious cars and other vehicles.

During the past three days the eunuchs have paid rich tributes to their ancestors, namely Mai Budho, Baba Nathu, Baba Saraj and Baba Karshaid.

A big cultural programme was also held to mark the occasion.

The coming four days will witness marathon meetings to discuss the problems being faced by eunuchs. They are likely to pass resolutions which may include reservation in government service. Some eunuchs, involved in social service, said many of their brethren had got recognition from people who had voted them to power in elections to various civic bodies. Some of them opined that seats in the Assembly and Houses of Parliament should also be reserved for them.

Forward Bloc to expand base
Tribune News Service

Ropar, September 24
The All-India Forward Bloc (AIFB) will hold a three-day meeting of the Central Secretariat and the Central Committee of the party for the first time in its history from September 27 here.

At least 50 national leaders of the party, including Mr Debabrata Viswas, national general secretary of the party, and three ministers in the West Bengal Government will attend the meeting.

Mr V.P. Saini, national secretary of the AIFB, said here today that the party leaders would evaluate the performance of the party and discuss its expansion plans especially in the northern part of the country as a majority of the Netaji’s INA people belonged to Punjab.

Mr Saini said on September 27, the birth anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, members of the central committee of the party would visit Khatkar Kalan, the ancestral village of the martyr.


Zila Parishad chiefs’ elections from Oct 25
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 24
The elections of chairpersons and vice-chairpersons of panchayat samities and Zila Parishads in Punjab have been postponed to October 25. These will be now held between October 25 and November 18. Earlier, these were to be held from September 25.

Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Rural Development and Panchayat Minister, said today that as the government wanted to give top priority to the procurement of paddy therefore these elections had been postponed.


DA sought
Our Correspondent

Batala, September 24
Mr Davinder Pal, president, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Batala unit, on Tuesday urged the Secretary, Local Self-Government, Punjab, to give the balance of two DA instalments to those who had retired.


MC nod to developing illegal colonies
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, September 24
In a step which has raised many an eyebrow and may put an additional burden of about Rs 100 crore on the cash-strapped Jalandhar Municipal Corporation, the House of the civic body has finally given its unconditional nod to the development of about 200 illegal colonies set up in and around the city by colonisers.

Interestingly, the proposal for the development of such colonies was not opposed by any councillor. It is learnt to have been placed in the House by the Mayor, Mr Surinder Mahey.

The nod to the proposal and the absence of any action against illegal colonisers has raised speculation about the existence of a nexus between some influential colonisers and senior Congress leaders, who are reportedly sleeping partners in the proliferating illegal colony business.

Senior local body officials said while giving unconditional nod to the development of such colonies, the precedent set by the Congress government, which was headed by Beant Singh, had been overlooked. During the Beant Singh regime, a large number of colonies were allowed to be adopted by the civic body after these were classified and only after the residents of such colonies deposited the development charges collectively.

But the proposal cleared by the civic body House yesterday was silent on the issue of depositing development charges by residents. Sources in the corporation said the proposal without any details about development charges was mooted only to benefit a group of big colonisers under the garb of providing civic amenities to residents.

Civic body officials revealed that the “populist” decision taken by the House could cost about Rs 100 crore to the MC and encourage mushrooming of illegal colonies. “Anybody would try to reap rewards, knowing that his colony would be developed by the MC free of cost”, said a senior official, requesting anonymity.

The decision has defied a recent direction issued by Mr Sarvesh Kaushal, Principal Secretary, Department of Local Bodies, insisting that no development work should be undertaken by any civic body before clearing its liabilities. The Jalandhar Municipal Corporation reportedly has liabilities to the tune of Rs 30 crore.


50-yr-old killed by son
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, September 24
Irked over the extra-marital affair of his mother, a son along with her son-in-law, allegedly killed her here last evening.

According to the SP (City-II), Jeeto, 50, was reportedly living with an unidentified man as a tenant at Dashmesh Avenue near Majitha bypass. She had told the owner of the house that the man was her second husband and that her first husband had left her.

At about 8 pm last night the accused entered the house and attacked her with a sharp-edged weapon. She succumbed to injuries, the SP said. The police had raided several places to nab the culprits.

Meanwhile, the Majitha police has arrested two persons namely, Wilson Masih and Prem Masih of Kotla Masih, for allegedly killing a cow. The police has recovered sharp-edged weapon used for skinning the cow. A case has been registered in this regard.


Newly wed sisters ‘harassed’ for dowry
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, September 24
Beant Kaur (22) and Chinder Kaur (19), two sisters who were married to two brothers, Harjinder Singh and Harminder Singh, respectively, of Jagaram Tirath village were today admitted to the local Civil Hospital after they were allegedly tortured by their husbands for bringing inadequate dowry within 72 hours of their marriage.

Beant Kaur and Chinder Kaur, residents of Cherianwali village, who were married to the two brothers on September 19, have suffered internal injuries in various parts of their bodies and were undergoing treatment in the Civil Hospital here. Their condition was stated to be stable as they were responding to the treatment.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that after torturing the victims repeatedly for days together, the accused did not allow them to move out. They were not allowed to meet to their kin or any other person.

The torture of the sisters, whose father had died came to light when their relatives came to meet them in their in-laws’ house last evening. The victims were admitted to the local Civil Hospital when they found that girls were unable to walk.

The kin of victims alleged that girls started facing inhuman behaviour from their husbands a few hours after they reached their in-laws’ house after the solemnisation of their marriages. The victims were so scared after repeated torture that they were finding it difficult to have a sound sleep in the hospital.

Mr Ashutosh, DSP, Talwandi Sabo, when contacted, said a case under Sections 498-A, 323 and 34 of the IPC, had been registered against the accused Harjinder Singh, Harminder Singh, their father Leela Singh and mother Jeeto. He said the accused would be arrested shortly.


Fake certificate lands ex-Political Secy in jail
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, September 24
In a shocking incident a Political Secretary of former minister has been arrested on charges of possessing a fake certificate of Class X on the basis of which he had got a loan under the Jawahar Rozgar Yojna.

The district police chief, Mr Varinder Kumar, said Rakesh Kumar, Political Secretary to Mr Satya Paul Saini, former State Minister for Information and Technology, procured and used the fake certificate for getting a loan of Rs 1 lakh.

Raghbir Singh, a former Sarpanch of Bahadur Lehri village had told the police that Rakesh Kumar had studied till class V and had obtained the certificate fraudulently.

He has been booked under various Sections of the IPC code.

On preliminary interrogation Rakesh Kumar confessed to his crime and disclosed that he had actually procured the fake certificate from Bharat Bhushan of Pathankot in 1996 after paying Rs 1,000. Bharat Bhushan, who is running a school, Gurukul Public School, had issued the fake certificate of Ram Lal under roll number 211072 to Rakesh Kumar.


Constable held for smuggling narcotics
Tribune News Service

Mansa, September 24
Yadwinder Singh, a Punjab police constable, posted in this district, was arrested by the police last night for his alleged involvement in the smuggling of narcotics. About 5 kg of poppy husk has been recovered from his possession.

Police sources said Yadwinder Singh, son of a retired police official, had been smuggling narcotics from the neighbouring states of Punjab.

The sources added that the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Mansa, remanded him in police custody for one day when he was produced before court today by the city police. Mr S. Shrivastva, SSP, confirmed the arrest of Yadwinder Singh. He said the accused was being questioned about his modus operandi and the areas from where he had been smuggling the narcotics.


One arrested for abducting girl
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, September 24
The district police has arrested one person for allegedly abducting a minor girl from near her school three months ago and restored the girl to her parents.

In a press note issued here today, Mr Paramjit Singh Gill, SSP, stated that Ms Satpal Kaur of Sidham Hari Singh village had on June 16 alleged that her minor daughter, a student of Government High School, Cheema Kalan, along with her 10-year-old brother, was returning home when one, Parminder Singh of the same village abducted her. The arrested person was remanded in two-day police custody by the court.

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