Wednesday, October 2, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S




3 parties to boycott CM’s meeting
Sarbjit Dhaliwal

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 1
Three major political parties — the SAD, the BJP and the CPI — have decided to boycott the all-party meeting convened by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh tomorrow, putting the government in an very awkward situation.

Sources said the government was trying to chalk out its strategy arising from the decision of these three main parties. What has hit the government hard is the boycott by the CPI, which until recently had cordial ties with the ruling party.

SAD leader Sukhbir Badal, said that Chief Minister was neither sincere to the state’s cause nor of the farmers’. The Chief Minister and his colleagues performed a “stunt” by holding a dharna in front of the residence of the Prime Minister for half an hour early this week and after that completely forgot the paddy issue.

In fact, the SAD has laid down over 10 preconditions for having any dealing with the present government in Punjab. The SAD declared its willingness to attend any meeting called by the Chief Minister if he and his government accepted the demands of the people of the state in general and the farming community in particular.

Outlining the preconditions, Mr Sukhbir Badal said that the Chief Minister should: (a) announce a bonus of Rs 30 per quintal on paddy for this as well as for the last season; (b) give a categorical assurance to continue free power to farmers; (c) honour the shagun, old age, handicap and widow pension schemes; (d) give job to at least one member of Dalit families below the poverty line (e) give 150 units of electricity free to Dalit families; (f) reimburse allegedly inflated domestic power bills; (g) restore salaries and allowances of employees and introduction of the 4-9-14 promotion scheme for them; (h) take legal steps to abolish octroi and restore all taxation benefits given to business and industry by the SAD-BJP Government; (i) reopen employment avenues for the youth in government and non-government institutions; (j) give a commitment that it will treat journalists with respect in future; and (k) explain why his government misled people by making outrageously false claims regarding his foreign trip and give a categorical commitment for setting up a commission of inquiry headed by a serving judge.

Mr Sukhbir Badal said the Chief Minister also must acknowledge his criminal neglect of the opposition parties in the state. So far he had remained obsessed only with highly personalised vengeful and campaign against SAD-BJP workers and leaders. “The SAD expects no favours from this government which relies merely on hatred and vendetta for its very survival. And we fully support any genuine, impartial and objective steps to combat corruption. For this also, as the first step, let the Chief Minister order the arrest of and criminal proceedings against all those within the Congress who have been indicted by the Lokpal”.

Mr Sukhbir Badal described the statements of the Chief Minister on paddy relief announced by the centre as the “the ravings of an immature politician who could neither get anything done for the state nor could be graceful in accepting the contribution of others”.

CPI spokesman Gurnam Kanwar said the decision to stay away from the meeting was taken at a state secretariat meeting this evening. “It is very unfortunate that the Congress did everything to jeopardise our sincere efforts to build total unity of all Punjabis and their parties to fight the most unprecedented crisis engulfing the agrarian sector and to get justice for Punjab twice on August 10 and today”, Mr Kanwar said.

Dr Joginder Dayal said there was no need for tomorrow’s meeting as all parties had already passed the resolution pleading the farmers’ cause and asking the Union and state governments to do the needful.

Mr Brij Lal Rinwa and Mr Avinash Jaiswal, President and General Secretary, respectively, of the Punjab BJP, said the meeting was a meaningless exercise. The Chief Minister had no commitment towards the farming community. He should first fulfil the promises made with farmers before the assembly elections. Till then the Chief Minister had no right to criticise the Vajpayee Government.

The BJP leaders said that without even calling the Prime Minister once on the paddy and drought issues, the Chief Minister had staged a dharna in front of Mr Vajpayee’s residence just to enact a “drama” and attract the attention of the people.

Meanwhile, a report from Bathinda said Mr Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary of the BKU (Ekta), said that his group would also not attend the meeting.


Hanspal flays Centre for MSP hike
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 1
The President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Mr H.S. Hanspal, has criticised the NDA government for nominal increase of Rs 20 in the minimum support price for paddy. Mr Hanspal said Mr Badal had termed this nominal increase as his achievement and a favour to the farmers of Punjab but forgot that he had increased the MSP for paddy by Rs 100.

Mr Hanspal said the Prime Minister had taken the step to appease his partners in the NDA. He urged Mr Badal to withdraw the support to the coalition government in the Centre.


Government put on the mat
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 1
Their ideological and political differences, notwithstanding, the all- party meeting called by the CPI today pushed the Punjab Government to the corner on the paddy and drought issues. The ruling Congress stayed away from the meeting. However, all other major political parties such as the SAD, the BJP, the CPM, the Akali Dal (Mann), the BSP, the NCP, the RPI, the Lok Bhalai Party and the Samata attended it.

Hitting out at the Amarinder Singh Government, the meeting passed a resolution blaming the government for not presenting the state’s case with regard to the minimum support price for paddy and drought to the Union Government at the appropriate time, putting farmers to a huge loss.

Even the state government, which was in a position to start the procurement of paddy at the official level on September 21 at the old MSP, did not do so as a result of which farmers were fleeced by private traders.

The meeting urged the Punjab Government to compensate those farmers who had to sell their paddy below the MSP and also pay Rs 20 per quintal as relief to them announced by the Union Government.

Through a resolution, the meeting urged the Chief Minister to start the payment of Rs 30 per quintal as bonus on paddy which was promised by his party before the assembly elections. The government should also start the distribution of Rs 300 crore which is available with it as a Calamity Relief Fund released by the Union Government.

The state government has been asked to roll back sales taxes on fertilisers and pesticides increased a few months ago. Besides, farm labourers should be given Rs 5,000 per family of five members and the public distribution system in the rural areas should be strengthened. All previous cooperative loans pertaining to agriculture against farmers should be waived. No interest should be charged on other loans and their recovery should be postponed for three years. Such farmers who have suffered complete damage to their crops because of drought should be given a compensation of Rs 10,000 per acre. Arrangements should be made for drinking water in villages where the water table had gone done, rendering hand pumps non-functional.

Most participants demanded that the MSP should be raised to Rs 700 per quintal and relief on paddy should be enhanced to Rs 100 per quintal. The credit for getting the relief announced from the Centre was given to the agitating farmers. The Union Government was urged to frame a proper agricultural policy and to announce the MSP before the start of the sowing season of the crop concerned.

Punjab CPI Secretary Joginder Dayal said PCC President H.S. Hanspal had promised to attend the meeting but he did not turn up. It is the second time that the Congress had not attended all-party meetings convened by the CPI.

Sources said that the meeting witnessed allegations and counter-allegations for a while. However, Dr Dayal intervened urging all participants to confine to the agenda of the meeting and avoid raising other political issues.

Among those who participated in the meeting were Capt Kanwaljit Singh, Mr Balwinder Bhunder, Mr Sukhbir Badal, Prof Balwant Singh, Mr Lehmbar Singh Taggar, Mr Chand Singh Chopra, Mr Avtar Singh Karimpuri, Mr Bhola Singh Virk, Mr Harjit Grewal, Mr Vineet Joshi, Mr Gurcharan Singh Dadahoor, Mr Rattan Singh Baghi, Mr Ratti Ram, Mr Satnam Singh Behru, Mr Inderjit Singh Saini, Dr Joginder Dayal, Mr Jagroop Singh and Mr Bhupinder Sambar.


Govt anti-farmer, say kisan unions
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, October 1
Various kisan unions describing bonus of Rs 20 per quintal for paddy as a cruel joke said today that the “anti-farmer” face of both Centre and the state governments had been exposed.

The office-bearers of different associations of farmers have said the announcement of bonus by the Central Government was a political game played by leaders. They said although due to the agitation by farmers, the Central Government had taken some decision for their benefit, but the results were not as per accepted.

A joint press note was issued here today by Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan and Mr Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, president and general secretary, respectively, of the BKU (Ekta), Mr Najar Singh and Mr Kulwant Singh Sandhu, president and general secretary, respectively, of the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, Mr Ganda Singh and Mr Lakhwinder Singh, president and general secretary, respectively, of the All-India Kirti Kisan Sabha.

They alleged that due to pressure created by dharnas, rallies and traffic jams by farmers, the government decided to withdraw the levying of sales tax from farmers. They, however, alleged that the decision was taken for the time being only.

The farmer leaders alleged that no increase in the MSP of paddy by the Central Government had shown that it did not care for the farmers. They said although the government was well aware that farmers had to spend more this year for cultivating paddy, but it had not increased the MSP and nor had given adequate bonus.


Farmers block GT Road
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Doraha, October 1
Hundreds of farmers of the district, under the banner of the Bharti Kisan Union (BKU), staged a dharna on the GT Road near Gurdwara Manji Sahib Kota, near Doraha, and blocked traffic for over an hour. They also blocked traffic on the GT Road at Khanna for more than three hours after a visit of the Chief Minister.

The farmers started descending on the spot at around 11 a.m. and staged a dharna till noon, blocking traffic on the Khanna-Doraha highway. In the presence of a heavy police force, deployed in view of the Chief Minister’s visit to the Khanna grain market, the farmers raised slogans against the government. Later, they marched towards the Khanna mandi.

Addressing the farmers, Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, president, Bharti Kisan Union, said the Union Government had played a cruel joke on the farmers by announcing a bonus of Rs 20 per quintal of paddy. He threatened that if the government did not meet the “just” demands of the farmers, they would be forced to intensify their agitation.

“Farmers are debt-ridden. Around 50 per cent of the villages in the state are for sale as farmers have not been able to clear the debt. The time is not far when thousands of farmers will be rendered without work. This would lead to a collapse of the socio-economic system,” said Mr Lakhowal.

“There is still time if the government wants to control the situation,” he added, demanding that a bonus of Rs 100 should be announced on paddy, Rs 500 on cotton and Rs 20 on sugarcane per quintal.

Prof Manjit Singh Kadian, secretary-general of the BKU, demanded that the MSP of paddy should be fixed at Rs 759, for cotton at Rs 3250, for pulses and oilseeds at Rs 2,860 and for sugarcane at Rs 143 per quintal. He demanded that the government should clear the debt of the farmers by sharing the burden with banks.

After lifting the dharna from the GT Road near Doraha, the farmers blocked traffic at Samrala Chowk, Khanna, when the Chief Minister left after formally inaugurating the procurement of paddy.


Cane growers await payment
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 1
Farmers in the Malwa belt are still to get a large part of the payment for sugarcane supplied to various cooperative mills in the state.

The Rakhra mill near here is owing farmers Rs 5.51 crore. Mills across the state owe farmers around Rs 80 crore.

“Sugarcane growers attached with the Cooperative sugar mills have been demoralised due to these long delays in payments’’, said Kewal Singh of Naheru village near here. ‘’Even as our payments remain blocked we have to borrow money at interest rates of as much as two and a half per cent from money lenders to meet our expenses’’, he said.

Farmers are expected to sow less sugarcane this year as most of them are disillusioned with the laxity in payments.

Due to no assistance from the government, the Rakhra mill near here still owes huge arrears to the farmers which it has not cleared despite a spate of dharnas for days by the farmer organisations outside the mill compound as well as ‘’gherao’’ of the house of its Managing Director. ‘’We have got payment for cane supplied to the mill till February 7 only’’, says Labh Singh who is sarpanch of the Nathumajra village in Rajpura subdivision.

“We do not have the required lobby in the government’’, says Jarnail Singh of Devigarh. He said growers of wheat and paddy were able to get their those from the government but as sugarcane growers formed a small minuscule their demands were not given due weightage. ‘’This is despite the fact that sugarcane is the answer for saving the scarce water resources of the state as well as giving employment in rural areas’’, he said. ‘’Being a robust crop it can withstand drought like conditions also and does not have to be pampered like the paddy crop’’, he added.

Jarnail and many others do not have any other option but to grow sugarcane because they do not have ample irrigation facilities to go in for paddy cultivation. “We will have to stick to sugarcane but I will decrease the area under cultivation and try to go in for few short term crops also’’, he added.

Farmers also want the sugarcane returns to match the returns received from wheat and paddy crops. They feel the state government must advise higher cane price and subsidise it also in order to ensure benefits to farmers and also ensure that mills do not suffer from the fall out of high prices. Farmers feel the subsidy could be indirect by subsidising inputs or direct in nature. Progressive farmers said the government should also concentrate on the production of ethanol which could be used as an alternative fuel in case sugar prices did not go up and remained at their present low levels.

According to official details available with TNS the state government is spending Rs 12,500 crore per hectare on wheat and paddy procurement, carrying costs and interest on loans besides other expenditure. On the other hand, the cooperative sugar mill bears the entire cost of production, interest as well as carry costs.


Sikh heritage: Ramgarhia body, SGPC lock horns
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 1
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and the Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia Federation have locked horns over the restoration work being carried out at Ramgarhia bungas in the Golden Temple complex and at Gurdwara Baba Atal through kar seva.

Mr Bhagwant Singh, president of the federation, said earlier the kar seva of historic Ramgarhia bungas was carried out by the Ramgarhia Federation. He said services of reputed architects, historians and engineers were requisitioned to restore the two minarets to their original shape and structure. As regards the Ramgarhia bunga itself, which is a fine piece of architectural marvel and civil engineering expertise, is structurally supported on parabolic arches decorated with cornices and the projections are supported by architraves and brackets.

Expressing concern over the handing over the kar seva to the traditional ‘babas’, the Ramgarhia Federation said the age-old Sikh history might be damaged in the process. The federation expressed a apprehension that after the siege of ‘Lal Quila’ (the Red Fort) Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia got the marble seat of the Mughal throne removed and brought it to Amritsar which is now-a-days placed on the ‘barandari’ on the first floor of the Ramgarhia bunga which could be damaged by the kar sevaks without knowing the historical significance of the slab. In such a way the rich Sikh history would be damaged for ever as they (babas) are putting in reinforced concrete beams and rafters in place of the arches which are the basic characteristics of the Sikh School of Architecture.

The Ramgarhia Federation alleged that the kar seva undertaken in the Golden Temple complex by unskilled workers was causing irreparable loss to the Sikh School of Architecture, aesthetically and destroying the Sikh history. The federation further said that the Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia Federation had taken up the work of repair and restoration of the main building of the ‘bunga’, got the bricks chiselled, cut and ground as per the original design and repaired two or three panels, unfortunately the ‘kar seva’ was withdrawn by the SGPC authorities for reasons best known to them.

The federation had approached the SGPC for restoration of the kar seva but to no avail.


Vigilance probe against ex-MD
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 1
The Vigilance Bureau Punjab, has initiated vigilance inquiries against alleged irregularities in Co-op Sugar Mill, Ajnala, and also against the Executive Officer, Municipal Council, Mansa and others.

Mr A.P. Pandey, Director of the Vigilance Bureau, said here today that complaints were received against Dashrath Singh, a former M.D. of sugar mill, Ajnala; Opinder Sharma, ex-officiating M.D.; S.S. Babbar, Chief Accounts Officer; Sajjan Singh, cashier; Balhar Singh, assistant cashier; and Ex-AAO Naval Khanna. A vigilance probe was being initiated against these officials for committing financial frauds and accumulating disproportionate assets.

A vigilance inquiry had also been ordered against Shamsher Singh, District Manager, Punsup Sangrur; Ramesh Kumar, Manager, Punsup gas agency Barnala; Albel Singh, Field Officer; Kashmira Singh, Inspector, Barnala and Ramesh Garg, Accountant, Punsup, Sangrur, for their alleged involvement in a case of embezzlement.

The vigilance chief said the Municipal Council, Mansa, had purchased a piece of land for dumping garbage at a higher rate than that prevailing in the market, causing a heavy loss to the exchequer. A vigilance probe was being initiated against T.R. Sharma, Executive Officer; Sushil Kumar Verma, Accountant; Pawan Kumar Sharma, President, and Gurcharan Singh, councillor, MC, Mansa.

A probe had been ordered against Mukhtiar Singh, Manager, Primary Co-op Agriculture Development Bank Ltd, Budhlada; Rajinder Singh, Field Officer, along with Gurpiar Singh, Sarpanch, Maghanian village, for sanctioning a loan to start a tent house business in the name of Gurpiar Singh, Sarpanch, which he never started.

A vigilance probe had also been initiated against Balhar Singh Kataria, Executive Engineer (Mechanical), Irrigation Department, Hoshiarpur and Gurmail Singh, Executive Engineer, Gurdaspur, for accumulating assets disproportionate to their known sources of income.

Gurmail Singh, XEN, had sanctioned work orders to his loyalists without calling tenders. An Inquiry had been ordered against Palwinder Singh, Manager, Primary Co-op. Agricultural Development Bank, Jaiton (Moga), for allegedly possessing assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.


IFS officer held for taking bribe
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Dasuya (Hoshiarpur), October 1
In a sensational incident, an IFS officer, posted as Range Forest Officer, landed into the Vigilance Bureau net for taking lakhs of rupees from other officials of the Forest Department, who were already facing a probe by the Vigilance Bureau, on the pretext of paying bribe to the bureau.

Raj Shekhar, the under-training IFS officer, was arrested by the Vigilance Bureau sleuths at his official residence this morning along with Rs 2.5 lakh, concealed by him in different parts of his house like bathroom, “pooja” room and inside books.

Raj Shekhar, according to Vigilance Bureau officials, had adopted a novel way of making money as he would act as a “conduit” of some senior vigilance officials and contact those officials who were already facing vigilance probe in the “Japan Scheme” case, with an offer that he would ensure that no action would be taken by the bureau in case they parted with some hefty amount, which he would hand over to senior vigilance officials as bribe. “He posed before forest officials that he had already struck a deal with some senior vigilance officials for destruction of evidence against them,” said Mr Lok Nath, SP (Vigilance Bureau), who supervised the raid, which started at 5 a.m. and continued till late in the afternoon.

Interestingly, during the raid, it was found that currency notes were stacked in packets, which were hidden in common places of the house like “pooja” room, bathroom and inside books. According to Mr Lok Nath, it is yet to be established as to how much money the official took from forest officials.

A probe initiated by Mr Ishwar Chander, a former SP of the bureau, had indicted a number of Forest Department officials for their alleged involvement in the embezzlement of huge amounts of money, meant for afforestation of kandi area under the “Japan Bank” project. Earlier raids conducted during the probe, which is still going on, yielded Rs 10 lakh from the house of another Garshankar-based forest official.


Medicare: govt-private partnership on anvil
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 1
Encouraged by the success of the World Bank-aided Rs 456-crore health delivery project, Punjab is now all set to venture into public-private partnership to enhance medicare.

In the envisaged partnership, one option is to hand over the existing hospitals to reputed corporate houses and second is to actively involve the panchayati raj institutions and local bodies in sharing the responsibilities of running these institutions. The process of outsourcing several hospital services has already begun.

Since Punjab faces a shortage of about 800 doctors, the introduction of a ‘’contract’’ system has also been approved in principle to attract ‘’talent’’ and ‘’motivate’’ the existing medical staff.

The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, hinted at this radical approach to improve the health delivery system. Even a medical or health insurance policy is on the cards as part of the proposed changes while giving more autonomy — administrative and financial — to the health institutions, Baba Farid Medical Sciences University, government medical colleges and hospitals, which now retain the user charges for effecting in-house improvements. Under the proposed health insurance scheme, the government will pay the premium.

Capt Amarinder Singh revealed this blueprint of change at the inauguration of a workshop on implementation of the World Bank-funded health development project today. He also shared Punjab’s concerns and needs with the World Bank mission leader, Mr Tawhid Nawaz.

Capt Amarinder Singh said he would shortly meet the bank’s new Country Director and resume the ‘’dialogue’’ started with former Director Edwin Lim in July. Mr Nawaz intervened to say that Punjab experience was “satisfying’’. The current project, started in 1996, had been extended up to March, 2004.

Mr Nawaz said the World Bank’s financial involvement in India was $ 900 million in health systems alone while in health, nutrition and population studies it was $ 2.3 billion. Besides the existing four states, the health systems project was now being expanded to five more states. The workshop under way here is unique in the sense that it is as much of ‘’self-introspection’’ as of interaction among all nine states on sharing experience, strengths and weaknesses of the system.

While Principal Secretary (Health) Rajan Kashyap gave an overview of the project and introduced the concept of private partnership and involvement of panchayat raj institutions/ local bodies, the Punjab Health Systems Corporation (PHSC) Managing Director, Ms Kusumjit Sidhu, shared the experience of implementing the secondary health care project of the World Bank. The PHSC runs 154 hospitals and has a network of 32 blood banks. The user charges realised in all hospitals per year (Rs 7.61 crore) are retained for upkeep and maintenance by the hospitals.

The participating states are Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, UP, Uttaranchal and West Bengal. These states are closely studying Punjab initiative of ‘’integrating strength of the public (government) sector and enterprise of the private (corporate) sector’’.


Raids on SGPC members worry Badungar 
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, October 1
The Punjab Government is interfering in the personal and religious affairs of the Sikhs by conducting raids on the premises of SGPC members just to terrorise them to shift their loyalties from the SAD to the SHSAD. The Vigilance Department has no jurisdiction to raid the houses of the SGPC members as they are not drawing any benefit from the state exchequer. Rather they are elected to serve the religious places and if any one has any complaint against any member, he can complaint to the SGPC and the Sikh Gurdwara Judicial Commission, said Jathedar Kirpal Singh Badungar, president of the SGPC while talking to the mediapersons here today.

He alleged that the government is using these raids as a tool to affect the coming elections of the SGPC presidentship because Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, wanted to help Mr G.S. Tohra for the help he rendered to the Congress during the state assembly elections.

Mr Badungar said that the SGPC members belonging to the SAD had been getting threats from the members belonging to the SHSAD to either join their camp or get ready to face vigilance raids. He said that these threats proved the allegation that Mr Tohra and Capt Amarinder Singh were hand in glove and the Chief Minister wanted to control the SGPC by installing Mr Tohra as its president.

He urged the Chief Minister not to interfere in the internal affairs of the Sikh panth, which may lead to serious consequences as the Sikhs had always objected to government interference in their affairs. He said Capt Amarinder Singh himself had been advocating this philosophy when he was in the Akali Dal and he himself resigned from the Cabinet as soon as the police entered the Golden Temple.

Answering a question, he said that in the coming general house meeting the draft bill of the All-India Gurdwara Act would be presented for approval.

He said the SGPC had decided to raise memorials to great Sikh events and a memorial to the "chota ghalughara" would be constructed at Kahnuwan town, to the "bada ghalughara" at Sangrur. A memorials to the historical war of ''Chaparchir" would be constructed at Sirhind and at Bagh Saheedan Gurdwara.

He said that the five High Priests would decide the site and the plan for the "Blue Star" memorial. He said the SGPC had also decided to promote sports and to arrange drug de-addiction camps, besides a campaign against social evils would be launched.


82 more HIV cases in Amritsar
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 1
Eightytwo HIV positive cases were recorded by the district from April to August. As many as 12,886 blood samples were collected from the district during this period.

Most of the cases are from the rural belts of Tarn Taran, Baba Bakala, Rayya, Patti and the adjoining areas where the infection has reached alarming proportions, said Dr K.K. Sharma, Civil Surgeon, while talking to TNS.

Last year 172 HIV positive cases were reported from this belt. Truck drivers and migrant labourers accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the infected persons.

Eleven police personnel from the Tarn Taran area were reportedly infected by the disease recently.

Of the 82 cases, 63 pertain to men and 19 to women. Drug addicts, especially in the rural belt, have also been affected with the disease owing to sharing of contaminated needles by them for injecting drugs. Incidentally, at least two HIV positive cases were reported form the high-income group.


Minister opens hospital
Our Correspondent

Budhlada (Mansa), October 1
Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, Public Health, Rural Development and Panchayats Minister, Punjab, inaugurated a Rs 1.17 crore 50-bedded hospital here today. He said with the coming up of this hospital with modern facilities, the long pending demand of the area had been met.

The Punjab Government is determined to provide basic amenities at grass-roots level under which potable water would also be provided.

Later, while addressing mediapersons in the hospital complex, Mr Randhawa said research was going on for providing potable water to rural areas. He said according to latest reports, the number of villages having water unfit for consumption has risen to 11,000 from 8,000. Under a master plan people of the state will be provided water free of fluoride a sum of Rs 15 crore has been remarked for sinking deep tubewells in Mansa, Bathinda and Muktsar districts. He said 73 villages of Mansa district will be provided potable water through 48 water supply schemes at an estimated cost of Rs 27 crore and 58 villages of the district will be provided water under 24 schemes of the NABARD costing Rs 11.59 crore.


1,723 acres encroached upon
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, October 1
Thousands of acres of government land in the district has been encroached upon. The district administration has failed to check these illegal encroachments despite clearcut instructions of the state government.

According to an affidavit filed by the Deputy Commissioner before the Punjab and Haryana High Court recently, as a respondent in civil writ petition No 11267/1995 the district administration has admitted that thousands of acres of land belonging to various departments is under encroachment.

As per details given in the affidavit, 1,722 acres and 16 marlas of shamlat land has been encroached by people.

Similarly, two kanals and 19 marlas of land belonging to the market committees, 18,470 acres, two kanals and 10 marlas of rural and urban government, two marlas of Civil Surgeon’s Office, five marlas of GM Punjab Roadway’s office, half marla of Zila Parishad, six kanals and 17 marlas of Food and Civil Supplies Department, 10 marlas of District Education Officer’s (Primary) Office, 89 acres of Wild-life Department, 8,357 kanals and 14 marlas of Forest Department, 290 kanals and 14 marlas of Irrigation Department (Executive Engineer Harike, Canal Division) and 257 kanals of land belonging to the Drainage Department (Executive Engineer, Golewala Drainage Division) are under illegal encroachments.

The Deputy Commissioner has further mentioned in the affidavit that another 234 kanals and 16 marlas of land belonging to the Drainage Department (Executive Engineer, Drainage Construction Division, Ferozepore), two kanals of Punsup and 17,568 kanals of land belonging to the Agriculture Department was encroached by people. However, out of 17,568 kanals of land, the competent authorities had solved disputes pertaining to the land measuring 14,656 kanals of the Agriculture Department.

It has also come to light that 1,592 kanals and 19 marlas of land belonging to the Fisheries Department and six kanals and three marlas of Horticulture Department were also under illegal encroachments.

Apart from the details of encroachments admitted by the Deputy Commissioner in the affidavit, hundreds of acres of land belonging to the PWD along the scheduled roads (national and state highways) is also under illegal encroachment.


Housing project for defence personnel
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 1
The defence services have drawn up an ambitious plan to construct almost two lakh dwelling units across the country to overcome accommodation shortage.

According to sources, at least 22,500 dwelling units for married personnel will be constructed at various stations located in the jurisdiction of the Western Command under phase 1 of the plan. This phase is expected to be complete by 2006.

The total number of dwelling units to be constructed for the Army for all its six commands during the first phase is stated to be 61,658. An expenditure of about Rs 5,500 crore has been earmarked for this phase.

Though several projects are underway to construct accommodation in large stations, shortage of accommodation for married personnel in most peacetime stations is a well-known fact.

Those getting posted-in are required to wait for 12-14 months before the accommodation is allotted to them. Security personnel who are moved to peace stations after field tenures or counter-insurgency deployment are particularly hard hit by the shortage, as the impact is psychological rather than physical.

Interestingly, the Ministry of Defence has roped in several public sector undertakings for executing this massive project. The total number of dwelling units to be constructed for all three services under various phases is 1,98,881. Out of this, the Army has bagged the lion’s share of 1,76,440 units. The total expenditure earmarked for the entire project is approximately Rs 17,000-18,000 crore, which does not include the cost of the land.

The PSUs being given contracts for executing the project include RITES Limited, NBCC and IRCON International Limited. The Military Engineer Service as well as the Central Public Works Department will also be playing a significant part in carrying out the development works.

Sources add that a special monitoring committee, headed by the Defence Secretary, with the three service Vice-Chiefs and the Director-General, Married Accommodation Projects, as members, will oversee the planning and execution of the project. Station Commanders, where the works are being implemented, will be required to send progress reports to the committee.


Proposed bypass project opposed
Our Correspondent

Kharar, October 1
Mr Bir Devinder Singh, Congress MLA, has urged the Punjab Chief Minister to immediately cancel the proposed project of Kharar bypass emerging from Desu Majra village on the SAS Nagar-Kharar highway as it was not in the interest of the Punjab Government and would hit many farmers and adversely affect business activities in the town.

He was addressing a press conference at the Civil Rest House here today. He said the project was to be executed by the Punjab Infrastructure Development Board (PIDB) and according to them 120 acres of land had to be acquired for the bypass, which would cost Rs 34 crore to the government. He said in addition, the board proposed to acquire additional 600 acres of land for developing it as a commercial site for multi-national companies.

He said the proposed bypass would displace a large number of small farmers. He added that officers of the PIDB were keeping the state government in the dark about the expenditure on the project. He said many orchards would also be destroyed.

Mr Bir Devinder was of the view that the bypass was not required since heavy traffic could be diverted from Kurali via Mullanpur towards Chandigarh. He said the government should immediately drop the project and instead widen the portion of the highway from Desu Majra to Khanpur Bridge. He said the old Morinda road in Kharar should also be widened and a bridge be constructed on the river near Khanpur. He said the government should utilise money on other development activities.

Mr Bir Devinder said although proceeding of emergency acquisition of land had already been started, it was unfortunate that officers of the PIDB never involved him at any stage of the project. He demanded that all high-cost projects undertaken by the PIDB be reviewed.

He said he had met the Punjab Chief Minister a few days back and had brought the issue to his notice. He added that the Chief Minister had stayed further acquisition proceedings and would personally visit the site.


‘Jaago’ marches mark blood donation
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, October 1
Various associations took out “jaago” procession from different parts of the city and assembled at the Milky Booth market where a programme was organised on the eve of National Voluntary Blood Donation day last evening.

The programme was organised by an NGO, the United Welfare Society, and was aimed to create awareness about blood donation among residents through various means.

Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner, was the chief guest, while Mr Anil Saraf, a social worker, presided over the function. Other prominent persons were Mr Jagroop Singh Gill, Patron of society, Mr S.K. Goyal, Civil Surgeon, Ms Raj Gupta, Principal, SSD Girls College and Mr Inderjeet Singh, a businessman.

A number of Punjabi folk singers took out the “jaago” from the Mall Road. Members of the Sri Sukhmani Sahib Seva Society took out a procession from the old bus stand area. They recited shabads and played “Gatka”. Goodwill Public School students took out a torch march from the Parasram Nagar area. Members of the Sarb Sanji Welfare Society took out the “jaago” from Amarpura Basti, while Dashmesh Mahila Mandal and Aman Youth Club took out a “jaago” from Jodhpur Romana.

These associations reached the venue of programme after passing through various bazars of the city. A blood donation camp was also organised on the occasion in which 15 persons donated blood.

Punjabi folk singers presented songs motivating people for donating blood. Gurtej Kabal, a singer said as music appealed to people, the aim was to spread the message of blood donation to large number of residents.

Mr Vijay Bhatt, founder president of the society, said they had organised 15 blood donation camps this year at different villages of the district.

Meanwhile, another march was organised in the district today in connection with blood donation day. A blood donation camp was also organised on the occasion.

Prominent among those who donated blood today included Mr Vinod Bansal (who donated blood for 77 times), Mr Gian Chand (72 times) Mr Surinder Garg (66 times), Mr Pritam Singh (51 times), Mr Babu Singh Kaler (49 times) and Mr Gurjit Singh (33 times).


PYFA to honour Hans Raj Hans
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 1
The Punjab Young Farmers Association (PYFA) has decided to honour prominent folk singer Hans Raj Hans with the Amrik Singh Cheema Award. The award will be conferred on him by Lt-Gen (retd) J.F.R. Jacob, Governor of Punjab, at the Kisan Mela in Rakhra on October 4.

The selection panel constituted by the PYFA chose Hans because of his contribution in boosting the interest of the rural youth in Punjabi folklore, culture and poetry. His name is synonymous with Sufi songs. He has worked in several films and featured prominently in TV serials.

He has done extensive research on Sufi poetry. He excels in “folk music and Sufiana gaiki” and has a distinct and unique style of his own. He is a Visiting Professor of Sufism at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. He has performed in several countries, including the USA, Canada, England, Euorpe, West Asia, Australia, the Philippines and Singapore.


Highlighting evils of drug addiction
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 1
A move has been initiated to make people in remote villages aware of the evils of drug addiction, pollution and female foeticide in Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts.

Armed with artistes for street plays, skits, dances and songs and “dhadi” style of folk medium, more than 400 workers of the Akal Purukh Di Fauj began a “chetna march” from Akal Takht here today. During the three-day march the workers will visit many areas in the two districts, including Cheharta, Khasa, Chabaal, Sursingh, Bhikhiwind, Algaon Kothi, Patti, Valtoha, Fatehbad, Gagobuha and Bid Sahib.


20 landmines explode
Tribune News Service

Fazilka, October 1
Twenty landmines are reported to have exploded near the Indo-Pak border in Goluke village yesterday. However, no causalities have been reported.

Army sources said here today that a fire broke out in the fields laid with mines leading to explosions. The explosions led to a major fire in the neighbouring paddy fields resulting into a loss of 100 acres of standing paddy crop.

The reasons of the initial fire outbreak in the fields laid with mines was not yet known but investigations are going on.


2 cops booked for harassing Briton
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 1
The police today booked two policemen for allegedly harassing and taking bribe from a British woman Ms Nicolet King here today.

In a complaint to the SSP, Mr Narinder Pal Singh, here on September 10, Ms Nicolet alleged that two policemen Masih and Amarjit Singh harassed her when she was visiting the famous Ram Bagh here on August 2 along with an acquaintance. She alleged that she was asked baseless questions by both accused. She said the accused also took Rs 500 bribe from them.


Four booked in rape case
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, October 1
The district police has booked four persons, including a woman, for their alleged involvement in a rape case.

The victim, a student of class XII, in her complaint submitted to the district police, alleged that Harjinder Kaur, who was her neighbour at Mothawali village in Kapurthala and was at present living at the Guru Nanak Nagar locality here, told her family members about a travel agent, who could arrange her immigration to some Western country.

Subsequently, she took Rs 10,000 along with a passport from her parents with a promise to send her abroad. After about 20 days, Harjinder Kaur asked the victim’s parents to send her to Jalandhar for a computer training course, which she said, was necessary to get a job abroad.

During her stay at Harjinder’s residence for computer training, the complainant was allegedly married to Harjinder’s physically challenged son, Satnam Singh, on the pretext of sending her abroad. The marriage was registered with the authorities concerned despite opposition from the family members of the girl.

Meanwhile, the girl came to know that the whole conspiracy was hatched to get her married to Harjinder’s son. She alleged that she was raped by Satnam Singh on several occasions during illegal captivity. The matter was reported to the police by her parents, which restored the girl to them.

A case has been registered against Harjinder Kaur, her son Satnam Singh, her brother-in-law Om Parkash and a travel agent, Harbhajan Singh.

The suspects, meanwhile, reportedly secured a stay on their arrest from a local court.


DC’s convoy crushes sarpanch to death
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, October 1
A sarpanch was crushed to death under a Gypsy, belonging to the security convoy of Mr D.K. Tiwari, Deputy Commissioner, 9 km from here this evening.

According to details available from the local police, the pilot Gypsy attached with the Deputy Commissioner rammed into Mr Valaita Ram, sarpanch of Hazi Betu village at the Khai Femeke bus stop where he was waiting for a bus. After the incident the Gypsy collided with a car , thereby injuring two persons.

The driver of the Gypsy tried to escape but agitated villagers blocked the traffic on the national highway for about half an hour. Senior police officials reached the spot and arrested the driver.

The driver has been identified as Kashmira Singh. An FIR has been registered against him at the Sadar police station. The body of the sarpanch has been taken to Civil Hospital for post-mortem examination.


Priest accused of sodomy remanded

Moga, October 1
A village gurdwara granthi (priest), who was arrested yesterday on the charge of sodomising a five-year-old schoolboy on Sunday, was today remanded in judicial custody for 14 days by a local judicial magistrate.

The police had booked Karamjit Singh, in his twenties, under Section 377 of the IPC for allegedly sodomising the boy in Kaloka village under Baghapurana police station.

Meanwhile, the police sources said Karamjit allegedly tried to commit suicide in the police lock-up last night by using the drawstring of his pyjama. But cops on duty foiled his attempt. UNI

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