Wednesday, October 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Is financial emergency a solution?
Punjab in debt trap
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 8
Does the current financial crisis warrant the declaration of a “financial emergency” in Punjab?

The Congress had sought such a provision for Punjab when Capt Amarinder Singh led a delegation to the then President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, on January 11, 1999. He had submitted a five-page memorandum pleading invoking Article 360 of the Constitution. It was also suggested that while the imposition of a financial emergency may not be the solution, there may not be any choice, except “dismissal” of the then Akali-BJP Government. Is the financial situation any better today? Will invoking Article 360 now help the Congress and save Punjab, which is in a deep debt-trap?

On the anvil is an agenda note on Punjab’s fiscal management to review the implementation of various decisions taken by the Cabinet sub-committee concerned and the Council of Ministers. This review comes at a time when the state is unable to meet the expenditure on salary, wages, pensions and interest from its own resources.

In the last financial review on July 16, the political executive was informed that implementation of its own decisions on additional resource mobilisation or compression of wasteful expenditure was “poor, vague and incomplete”, as non-interest, non-plan expenses constituted 82 per cent of the total revenue. By mid-July the treasuries were told not to clear any bills, except for implementing court orders.

The state had also run into an overdraft with the RBI over and above the ways and means advance of Rs 256.88 crore. Punjab, the Congress memorandum to the President had stated, was in overdraft of Rs 275 crore for the sixth day and that the state had asked the Union Secretary, Expenditure, to release the loan due against small savings. Even today, Punjab is dependent upon borrowings to meet the day-to-day expenditure and meet the high demands of the PSEB. It had even diverted Rs 215 crore out of Rs 666 crore received by the Department of Food and Supplies on account of lifting of foodgrains by the FCI.

The present outstanding debt is Rs 32,496 crore. The employees today have the same worries whether they would get their next pay packet or not as beset them in 1999. Tax-payers are sceptical of government performance. The Congress stand is consistent in regard to holding the Akali-BJP Government responsible for Punjab’s financial mess. When Punjab went into an overdraft of Rs 420 crore in December 1998, due to Akali-BJP “populist” policies, the state was already a victim of “slowdown in infrastructure investment”. There was also the impact of “direct, indirect or concealed” subsidies that were doled out between 1997 and 2002. The collection of taxes was poor then, it is slightly better now.

Will the Congress be able to avoid “soft” political boobytraps and take “hard” economic decisions on fiscal management and accountability, as promised in the Budget?


Jacob convenes session for Oct 11
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 8
The Governor of Punjab, Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (Retd.), has convened a session of the Vidhan Sabha for October 11, says an official press note.

The session has been called on the advice of the Council of Ministers to discuss the paddy crisis issue in particular and the state of agriculture in general.

The suggestion had come at the meeting of political parties and representatives of farmers’ organisations called by Capt Amarinder Singh here on October 2.

The primary purpose was to indict the NDA Government for its failure to watch the interest of farmers and to pin down the Akalis for conniving with the BJP to delay the MSP for paddy.


Badal’s charge refuted
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 8
Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister, categorically stated today that the Congress had never interfered in the SGPC elections and allegations to this effect by SAD President Parkash Singh Badal were baseless.

Referring to Mr Badal’s statement that the Congress Government was interfering in the religious affairs, the Chief Minister said these irresponsible utterances spoke volumes for the SAD leader’s frustration and desperation as he was aware of the impending defeat in the forthcoming SGPC elections.

The Chief Minister pointed out that Mr Badal’s denial that he had never interfered in the SGPC affairs sounded ridiculous. While the Congress had never interfered in gurdwara politics, the Akalis had been misusing religion to promote themselves politically. By and large the SAD was a party of communalists and fundamentalists.

Referring to Mr Badal’s allegations that the government was also interfering in the affairs of the Durgiana temple, Mr Amarinder Singh said it was a local management issue.


Badal’s alienation growing: ministers
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 8
Ten Punjab ministers in a joint statement issued here today said former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s alienation from the masses was growing and his dubious role in the paddy MSP-related issues had fully exposed him. Frustrated and demoralised, Mr Badal had all through been running with the hare and hunting with the hound.

These ministers said after Mr Badal’s alleged threat to his life, the Chief Minister immediately ordered the tightening of his security. Mr Badal’s rejection of the state government proposal on beefing up personal security and his seeking protection from only the central government law-enforcing agencies was unprecedented. The SAD leader’s assertions in this connection were wrong on facts and allegations unfounded. Mr Badal and his son, Sukhbir, had more than Z-plus security along with NSG commandos. They disputed Sukhbir Badal’s statement that there were no Punjab policemen in his security. In fact, Mr Badal continued to have securitymen which he himself had selected when he was ruling the state.

The ministers revealed that Mr Badal’s dubbing of Mr Tohra and Mr Ravi Inder Singh as Congress agents through whom the Congress was bent upon capturing the SGPC was a blatant lie. In fact, these two political leaders had been life-time colleagues of Mr Badal whom he had betrayed studiously in recent years, the ministers added.


Bhattal evades queries on Badal
Tribune News Service

Ropar, October 8
Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Punjab, today avoided questions by mediapersons on the possibilities of Mr Parkash Singh Badal’s arrest. She said these issues were handled and discussed at the higher level.

Mrs Bhattal was holding a press conference at the local Canal Rest House when her attention was drawn by mediapersons to two different statements given by Mr H.S. Hanspal, president of the PPCC, and Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, Congress MP, in this regard. Mr Hanspal a few days ago had stated that Mr Badal would be arrested after the collection of evidence against him and the government was not in a hurry to arrest him, while Mr Brar had stated yesterday that Mr Badal could be arrested at any time as the government had collected all evidences against him.

Mrs Bhattal was here to inaugurate a district-level farmers’ training camp, which was later inaugurated by her. She also inaugurated an exhibition organised in connection with farm technology at the Ambedkar Bhavan here. She also planted a sapling near the Bachat chowk on the College road here.

Mrs Bhattal claimed that there was no rift in the state unit of the Congress.

She also stated that the Punjab Government had prepared a foolproof scheme for crop diversification, under which 10 lakh hectares in the state in the ensuing five years would be utilised for the purpose.

Mrs Bhattal also disclosed that the state government was giving final touches to the state’s agriculture policy.

She also stated that the government had divided the state into four agricultural zones for the promotion of crop diversification.

She stated that the state government had prepared 14 schemes for the promotion of fisheries, dairy and food products. She added that the state government had submitted a scheme to the Union Government, under which it had been proposed that farmers should be compensated at the rate of Rs 5,000 per acre if they did not sow paddy to adopt diversification.

When the press conference was about to end Mr Bir Devinder Singh, MLA from Kharar, also joined Mrs Bhattal at the conference. He even refuted media reports that 23 Congress MLAs were with him.

Later, Mr Bir Devinder Singh also attended the farmers’ training camp along with Mrs Bhattal.

Warrants against OSD to Badal issued
Our Correspondent

Kharar, October 8
A court here today issued non-bailable warrants for October 25 against Hardeep Singh Bhambra, Officer on Special Duty to the former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

The public prosecutor appeared in the court and moved an application stating that Bhambra was PA to Mr Badal and he amassed property worth crores of rupees.

The court was informed that the accused had purchased plot number 815, 3 B-1 at Mohali in the name of his son Manpreet Singh for Rs 12.7 lakh and spent Rs 20 lakh on the construction of a house on it. Similarly, he had amassed other properties, the court was informed.

The accused could not be arrested despite several raids, the court was told. So a plea for issuance of a non-bailable warrants was made against him.

The court accepting the plea of the prosecutor ordered the issuance of non-bailable warrants for October 23. The Vigilance Bureau has registered an FIR (22) on August 29 under the Prevention of Corruption Act.


Review decision on 15 pc surcharge
PSEB plea to PSERC
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 8
The Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) has filed a review petition before the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) seeking permission to bill consumers the surcharge being charged by the Railways on account of freight reduction in Station Heat Rate ordered by the Commission and the hydro-generation calculated by it in its tariff order.

According to sources, the review petition was filed on October 4. The sources said the petition, while laying stress on these three major points, has claimed that it would face the prospect of raising around Rs 850 crore if the three issues were not addressed keeping in view the points submitted by the board.

The sources said the board had challenged the Commission’s decision not allowing it to collect the 15 per cent surcharge levied on it by the Railways for defaulting in making payment to it. The sources said according to an arrangement with the Railways, the board paid the average monthly freight in advance to the Railways and sent payments regularly every 10 days. In lieu of this they said the Railways had allowed it a 15 per cent discount in price rates. The sources said due to financial squeeze in the past six months or so the board defaulted in making payments and failed to keep advance with the Railways. It made the Railways withdraw the 15 per cent rebate and included it in bills as surcharge.

The board in its petition has claimed that it already had paid the surcharge charged by the Railways while clearing the bills of the institution and it would have to raise another Rs 140 crore if levy surcharge was not allowed by the Commission. It has pleaded that in view the crisis being faced by the board the levy of surcharge be allowed.

The board has also contested the Station Heat Rate allowed by the Commission to the board’s thermal plants. The Commission has asked the board to reduce the Station Heat Rate, which is linked with the consumption of coal in thermal plants, to 2500 kilocalories per unit from the present rate of around 2600 kilocalories to 2640 kilocalories per unit. The board has pleaded that a sudden cut in the Heat Rate was not appropriate.

It has submitted to the board that it had engaged the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) for a study to reduce the Heat Rate. It has claimed that it would not be possible to reduce the Heat Rate this year and the board would improve instrumentation and finetune coal mills. It would also take time. It has pleaded that any reduction in the Heat Rate this year would have to be met by the Board from its own sources and it would not be possible to streamline the system so soon. It has claimed this amount could go up to Rs 250-Rs 300 crore.

The petition also claims that the PSERC has assessed the hydroelectricity to be received by the board on the higher side. It has submitted the water-level figures at the Bhakra, Pong and Ranjit Sagar dams on September 31 when the “filling period” ends to buttress its claims. While the board earlier had claimed that it would have to face a shortfall of 1800 million units on account of monsoon failure the Commission had assessed the shortfall at 750 million units. Based on the water-levels at the three dams it has claimed that it would face shortfall of 1000 million units which it would have to purchase from central agencies for Rs 400 crore.


PAP commandos fare well in J&K
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 8
From ‘’Strangers to pals’’ as they were referred to in Jammu and Kashmir, the 3000-strong contingent of Punjab Armed Police (PAP) commandos did more than just poll duty. They carried the pyschological war to the enemy camp, besides ensuring record polling in booths under their control.

The PAP commandos who went as strangers to the trouble-torn state, were instrumental in generating confidence among people there and were referred to as ‘’pals’’ by even local newspapers due to their determination to take on the militants.

“Militants taunted us by coming into our radio frequency with precise information about our core strength, besides threats that we will be sent back with at least 30 medals (for martyrdom). We instead told them of the slap they had got in Punjab and the drubbing they would get if they came anywhere close to us,’’ said a jawan back from active duty in Jammu and Kashmir.

Besides taking warfare to the militant camp by their responses to radio conversations and standing boldly behind the people and giving them full protection during voting, the commandos also set new standards in operations. ‘’We suffered only one casuality during the operations and that too when the jawan was changing his position,’’ said DIG Jagdish Mittal, who headed the entire operation, told TNS. This, the police officer said, was due to the superior tactics of the commandos. In an innovative step each sentry box was covered with a special net to ensure that no grenade could enter it. Besides nets for the sentry boxes, special barbed wire was placed in front of all gates as well as boundary walls to ensure that no one could make a forced entry into the commando camps. Other measures included changing the dress code of the commandos to ‘khakhi’ when they were told by the army authorities that terrorists invariably came in from Pakistan wearing black clothes with ‘hunter’ shoes, the exact dress of the commandos.

Quoting official figures said the poll figures Mr Mittal had been generally high wherever the PAP commandos had been posted. He said in some constituencies like Bishna the poll percentage in areas controlled by PAP commandos had been as much as 70 per cent. The figure had been as much as 90 per cent in two booths. The poll percentage was 49 per cent in areas controlled by PAP commandos in the Rajouri constituency while it was around 27 per cent in other areas of the same constituency. The poll figures in other areas controlled by the commandos ranged from 48 per cent in Kalakot to 52 per cent in the Mindor constituency.

“We were always nervous while on duty as we did not know from where the attack would come,’’ said jawan Balraj Singh. Balraj and others like Amritpal from Sangrur and Lakhwinder from Kapurthala district said many of them had to walk long distances to reach the polling stations allotted to them. These distances, which were normally 4 to 5 km stretched to 20 km to 35 km in booths situated in Galhote, Loudhara and Badhota in the Reasi constituency, besides other places.


Youth’s kidney removed at gunpoint
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 8
The kidney of a 17-year-old youth was removed at gunpoint in a Jalandhar hospital. Before removing the kidney, he was kept in illegal captivity in Chandigarh and was threatened with dire consequences if he went to the police. Baghicha Singh (17), of Muradpura village in Ludhiana met Baljit Singh of Fatehgarh Shudarchak in the Golden Temple at Amritsar in February. Baljit Singh, on the pretext of teaching him driving, took him to the residence of Suresh Kumar Sharma, relative of the accused and reportedly a police inspector, in Chandigarh.

Baljit Singh offered to give him Rs 40,000 for his kidney but when Baghicha Singh refused, he threatened him with a gun. 


Kidney scam: protest against lawyer’s arrest
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, October 8
The Ilaqa Magistrate, Ms Ranjit Kaur, today remanded Rajan Puri, a lawyer, arrested for preparing “false affidavits” for kidney donors, in two-day police remand.

Meanwhile, lawyers observed a strike in protest against his arrest. They also raised slogans against the police. According to sources, the arrest of Rajan Puri is likely to give a new twist to the kidney scam busted by the police. The sources said the lawyer was arrested following “revelations” of a middleman Tinku who was arrested recently. Meanwhile, another victim whose kidney was removed fraudulently recorded his statement with the police. Gurwinder Singh of Jaspal Nagar alleged that his name was shown as Vijay in the “false affidavit” prepared by the lawyer. So much so, he was shown as resident of Gwalior.

In his statement, he alleged that his kidney was “donated” to Ashok of Gwalior against payment through a middleman.


CM trying to create political terror: BJP

Phagwara, October 8
Former Punjab BJP chief Daya Singh Sodhi has alleged that Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress government is trying to create political and administrative terror in the state.

Talking with newsmen here today, Mr Sodhi alleged that the Congress had always ignored problems and interests of the poor, farmers, traders, industrialists and employees. He said the Congress, which failed to fulfil its own poll promises, ignored the core issues of the state.

Mr Sodhi alleged that the Chief Minister was adopting vindictive attitude under the garb of his campaign against corruption, and was targeting Opposition leaders.

He alleged that law and order situation, besides development works, in the state had collapsed due to wrong policies of the Congress government.

Mr Sodhi said the government was not sincere in solving the problems of farmers, including the support price of paddy. He said it should have initiated steps much earlier to take up the issue with the Union Government demanding more MSP for paddy.

Commenting upon the SAD-BJP relations, Mr Sodhi claimed that the alliance was as strong as rock.

He claimed complete unity in the BJP and said the Akali Dal and the BJP were working like a team. UNI

BJP threatens stir against Amarinder
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 8
A meeting of the office-bearers of the Punjab BJP was held today with Prof Brij Lal Rinwa in the chair, in which a serious note was taken of the ongoing “state repression” against political opponents by the Chief Minister.

Later, a resolution, passed on this issue, warned the Chief Minister to either stop political vendetta against political opponents or else the BJP would launch a statewide agitation.

The office-bearers said they failed to understand why a special session of the Punjab Assembly had been called on October 11. It was, perhaps, a “cover up” of government’s own failures to watch the interest of the farmers on paddy price and procurement, they said.

Mr Rinwa said Capt Amarinder Singh should explain what had stopped him from withdrawing the recently-imposed sales tax on fertilisers, pesticides and taking steps to ensure “free” electricity and water to farmers. He further said the Chief Minister should explain why the money received as drought relief from the Central Government was not released to the farmers of the state.

The president of the party has formed a two-member fact-finding committee, comprising Mr O.P. Kalia and Mr Anil Sareen, both secretaries, to probe and compile a report on the use of state machinery to rig the Phagwara Municipal Council elections, a press note said.


Bhinder: Akalis have anti-Cong agenda
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, October 8
Mrs Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, a former Union Minister, talking to newspersons here today, said all factions of the Akali Dal were chips of the same block and had a common anti-Congress agenda to keep their flock together. They had no political programme, she said. Mrs Bhinder said the previous SAD-BJP government in Punjab had made the state backward by years and had ruined its economy.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal, through his “sangat darshan” programmes squandered public money to gain cheap popularity. Asked if Mr Badal would be arrested by the Punjab Government on charges of corruption, Mrs Bhinder said nobody was above law.


Notice issued to Punjab
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 8
Taking up two different petitions seeking the grant of anticipatory bail filed by Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee members Balbir Singh and Bhagwant Singh, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday issued notice of motion to the state of Punjab.

In their petitions, the two members had earlier stated that they should be granted anticipatory bail in any first information report registered against them or in alternate they should be given 15-day notice if they were required in any case. Two similar petitions had earlier been filed by Mr Devinder Singh Cheema and Mr Kashmir Singh also.

The petitioners had claimed that they were being harassed and threatened with implication in serious cases by the Vigilance Department as they owed allegiance to Shiromani Akali Dal headed by Punjab’s former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

Seeking the grant of anticipatory bail, their counsel had stated that the Vigilance Department had no jurisdiction over the petitioners as they were not a government servant. He had further added that the petitioner might be involved in some false case with a view to pressurise them into voting for All-India Shiromani Akali Dal during the forthcoming elections to SGPC’s Executive Committee.

Punjab asked to explain

Taking up the sangat darshan case, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday asked state of Punjab to explain why Rs 40 crore had not been returned to the Punjab Mandi Board.

The Bench, comprising Mr Justice G.S. Singhvi and Ms Justice Kiran Anand Lall, also asked state counsel to inform the Court about the amount spent on different works from the Rural Development Fund in five years preceding the sangat darshan. The Judges also asked state counsel to tell the court whether the condition to create a separate Punjab Infrastructure Fund was taken by the Punjab Urban Development and Planning Authority.

Restraining Mandi Board from giving loan to the Punjab Rural Development Board or any other agency, the Bench, it may be recalled, had earlier restrained it from utilising the funds for purposes other than the ones enumerated in Section 26 of the relevant Act.

The direction were significant as Punjab’s former Advocate-General Hardev Singh Mattewal had, in an undertaking before the High Court, stated that Rs 60 crores had been given by the Punjab Mandi Board to the Punjab Rural Development Board. The former AG had revealed that the amount had been given by way of loan out of a total sum of Rs 100 crore.


Pak electioneering strays into India

Gurdaspur, October 8
Electioneering for the October 10 elections in Pakistan spilled across the border when an air-borne election symbol tied with gas balloons floated across the Indo Pakistan border and landed in the border town of Narot Jaimal Singh across the Ravi river in the district last night.

According to reports lodged with the police today, a group of youths during routine morning walk came across a model of a bicycle wheel on which were tied 90 gas balloons. The wheel made of thermocol with 50 light indicators attached to a battery was found by the youth in a paddy field 1 km away from Narot Jaimal Singh.

According to the youths lights of different colours were attached to the thermocol cycle wheel.The name of Mian Mohammed Riaz, candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League contesting the national Assembly election from Sialkot constituency was written in Urdu on Cycle besides his photograph and symbol was also attached to it. The wheel later was taken to Narot Jaimal Singh police station where the people queued up to have a closer look.

According to the police the cycle wheel floated across the border and despite the lights was not noticed by the security personnel manning the border. This indeed was a serious security breech as the intruder floated across into Indian territory unnoticed.

The wheel with the help of the gas balloons hovered around Narot Jaimal Singh and when some of the gas balloons burst it came down into a paddy field where it was noticed in the morning. UNI


Check’ atrocities against women
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, October 8
The women’s cell of the SAD, led by Bibi Vinod Chadha, state president of the cell, staged a dharna in front of the district courts here today in protest against the increasing atrocities against women in Punjab.

Bibi Vinod Chadha, and Mrs Pushpa Sharma, vice-president of the BJP mahila wing, said rape of minors and their killings was on the rise. Brides were being tortured for dowry and Dalit women were being harassed and “terrorised” by high castes. While women employees were being exploited at work place. They said the government had not taken any step in this regard.

They also criticised the government for discontinuing the shagan and fixed deposit schemes for women. They presented a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner in this regard.


Brar assures action against party men
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, October 8
Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, Congress MP, has assured that the Punjab Government will take action against those party workers and leaders who had forcibly taken the control of Durgiana Temple at Amritsar on October 6 from the committee of BJP members.

He said the matter would be taken up after the receipt of a complaint from the aggrieved party. He made it clear that nobody would be allowed to violate the democratic norms in the state.

Mr Brar was making comments on press reports published today in this regard. Talking to mediapersons at the local circuit house here today he criticised the SGPC for failing to spread the ethics of Sikh religion.

Regretting the allegations levelled against the head of the Sacha Sauda sect, Mr Brar said the true picture would emerge after the CBI, which was probing the episode at the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, submitted its report. He said his party would not interfere in the religious affairs of any section in the state.

Refusing to make comments regarding the defection of the two CPI MLAs to the state Congress, he said the matter was already being considered by the Congress high command.

Reiterating the determination of the state government to protect the interests of farmers, Mr Brar said if the Union Government failed to announce a bonus of Rs 100 per quintal on paddy during the season, the Punjab Government would launch a nationwide stir till the acceptance of the demand.

Earlier, Mr Brar had an open darbar at the lawns of the circuit house and listened to the problems of people of Faridkot and Kotkapura. He announced a grant of Rs 25 lakh from his discretionary quota for various developmental works in the area.


Action against Cong-backed members sought
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 8
The BJP-backed Durgiana Committee members in a communication to Deputy Commissioner S.S. Puri and district police chief Narinderpal Singh today demanded registration of a case against nine Congress-backed Durgiana Committee workers for allegedly manhandling them on October 6.

Mr Surinder Arjun, spokesperson for the Congress-backed members, denied the allegations and said the committee had misused funds.


Rift’ between OSDs, CM’s political Secy
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, October 8
Three officers on special duty (OSDs) of Captain Amarinder Singh organised sangat darshan programme at Guru Har Sahai last week. The programme was organised and managed by Major H.S. Bhullar, Captain Bikramjit Singh and Mr Vishavpreet Singh Chhina, all OSDs to the CM. They came over to Guru Har Sahai to hear grievances of people.

Major H.S. Bhullar and Captain Bikramjit Singh did not turn up at the function. Supporters of Rana Gurmeer Singh Sodhi political secretary to CM forced Mr Chhina to go back without hearing the grievances. Rana Sodhi said that the OSDs were not aware of their duties. An OSD cannot organise a ‘sangat darshan’ programme . When they came to know of their limitations, two out of them did not turn up to attend the programme. He ruled out differences with them.

Differences among the OSDs in the CM office if not resolved can create problem for Captain Amarinder Singh. Political observers feel that several senior Congressmen of the state are not happy with the CM for allowing Rana Sodhi to look for way to mainstream politics.

Sources close to the Chief Minister revealed that the activities of Rana Sodhi and OSD’s were being monitored. Rana Sodhi and one or two OSD’s may likely be asked to go to constituencies to work at the ground level.


7 law officers redesignated
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 8
In just over six months after the Congress government took over the reigns in the state of Punjab, seven law officers were redesignated by Punjab’s Department of Home Affairs and Justice.

According to an office order, six law officers have been redesignated as Additional Advocates-General, while another officer has been redesignated as Deputy Advocate-General.

The decision to re-designate the officers is significant as some of them, dissatisfied with their initial appointments “at posts lower than they deserved”, had refused to join office.

As per a copy of the order addressed by the Additional Secretary, Home, to the Advocate-General, Deputy Advocates-General, Ms Rupinder Kaur Wasu, Mr Sanjay Majithia, Mr Paramjit Singh Thiara and Mr Atul Nanda have been redesignated as Additional Advocates-General. The Assistant Advocates-General to be redesignated include: Deepinder Dhillon and Ms Nirmaljit Kaur. Mr Deepinder Singh Kamra, initially appointed as Assistant Advocate-General, has been redesignated as Deputy Advocate-General.

The order clarifies that Mr Atul Nanda has been redesignated for the Delhi office. It further clarifies that the appointments would be “on contractual basis up to March 31, 2003, on usual terms and conditions”.


PCMS Association opposes privatisation
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 8
The Punjab Civil Medical Services Association today opposed Punjab Government plan to privatise health services. In the first step the Amritsar Civil Hospital is to be handed to a private entrepreneur.

In a joint statement issued here, Dr Hardeep Singh and Dr Surinder Singla, president and general secretary, respectively, of the Association said with this decision the government had reversed health planning from a social cause of health for all to profit generation for a few private entrepreneurs.

The two PCMS leaders said that evidence from various developed countries showed that withdrawal of the state from the health sector showed worse health indices, as compared to those, where the state was more involved in the health sector.

The PCMS Association representatives have urged Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to shelve the plan lest it should create irreversible chaos in health institutions.


Bail creates controversy
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 8
The order issued by the Additional District Magistrate (ADM), Mr G.K. Singh (now under transfer), in connection with the bail of an accused in a case pertaining to Sections 107 and 151 of Cr PC in the Sangat police station on October 5 seems to have created a controversy as another accused in the same case has alleged that Mr G.K. Singh was not empowered to grant bail and thus he had misused his powers for vested interest.

In a complaint made to the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Anurag Verma, Gurbaksh Singh alleged that Mr G.K. Singh was known to the accused, Daan Singh, and granted him bail, despite the fact that the police did not present challan for the same.

He said on October 5 he was brutally beaten up in the Sangat police station by Daan Singh, SAD worker, in the presence of the Station House Officer (SHO), Mr Lachman Singh.

The SHO put both of them behind bars, despite the fact that he was beaten up. Mr G.K. Singh called up the SHO at 9 p.m. and asked him to release Daan Singh immediately. The SHO insisted that both would be presented in the court for bail the next day. Mr G.K. Singh again called so he should release him. The document pertaining to the bail was also sent to the police station.

Mr G.K. Singh, when contacted, said the son of the Daan Singh came to him thrice with the plea that nobody was listening to him in connection with the bail of his father, who was not keeping well. He added that the son of Daan Singh also applied for bail for his father.

He said after examining all legal aspects, he granted bail to Daan Singh on personal bond. He added that Daan Singh was not known to him.

Mr Verma, when contacted, said he would look into the matter.


People urged to move consumer forums
Our Correspondent

Muktsar, October 8
Mr H.S. Brar, president of the Punjab State Consumer Grievances Redressal Forum, said people should complain to the district consumer grievances redressal forums whenever there was any deficiency of service by any company.

Mr Brar, while addressing a press conference here today said people should become assertive and claim costs from the companies which had cheated them. He said if any product purchased by the customer failed to perform well or less than as guaranteed, the people should file a claim before the forum in a simple application format.

He added that till August, 2002 the state forum had received 1,132 appeals. He said two more Benches should be established for the speedy disposal of cases.

Earlier, this morning he inaugurated the new building of the district consumer forum at the district courts complex. He also listened to the grievances of people and assured them justice. Ms Usha R. Sharma, Deputy Commissioner, was present at the function.


4 killed, 7 hurt in mishap
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, October 8
Four persons, including a woman, were killed on the spot while seven others, including two women and two children, were inured seriously when their jeep collided head-on with a truck near Ferozepore cantonment on the Ferozepore-Fazilka road here today. The deceased have been identified as Kiranpal Singh (47), Jagaraan Singh (60), Sukhdeep Kaur (46), and Kuldeep Singh (35), all residents of 30 APT Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan.

The injured are Rajwinder Kaur, Kuldeep Singh, Vir Singh, Gurpreet Kaur, Kulwant Singh and two children Harmeet Singh and Jasmeet Singh. They have been admitted to the local Civil Hospital. They were reportedly going to meet their relatives at Khai Pheme Ke village. According to police sources, the driver of the truck fled after the incident. A case has been registered.


Two die of jaundice
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, October 8
A number of jaundice cases have been reported from the rural areas of Mukerian subdivision in the district. According to information received here, Sukhwant Singh (23) of Mehatpur village and Dikshat (7) of Naumoli village died at the DMC, Ludhiaha, due to jaundice. Fourteen children between the age of four to 10 years of Kaulpur Khurd village are suffering from the disease but their condition is stable.

Mr Narwinder Singh, former member of the block samiti, and Ms Surjit Kaur sarpanch of Kaulpur village, alleged that no health official had visited the village so far.

Kannu (6) Harsa Manser, Arti of Kaulpur and Satnam (19) of Ghogra are still recovering in Sehgal Nursing Home. Jaundice cases were also reported from New Bhangala and Old Bhangala villages.

Mr Arunesh Shaker, former MLA of Mukerian, criticised the district health authorities for not taking any action to control the epidemic so far. He urged the Health Minister, Director of the Health Services, Punjab, and the district authorities to send teams of doctors along with medicines to control the epidemic at the earliest.

Dr M.L. Kakar, Civil Surgeon, Hoshiarpur, told this correspondent that three teams of doctors had been sent to the affected villages. He has also instructed Senior Medical Officer, Budabar, to personally lead the team and take the samples of water from water supply sources so that measures can be adopted to prevent the spread of the disease.


Hero of ‘Bhagat Singh’ weds today
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 8
Deepak Dutta, who is playing the title role in Ramanand Sagar’s forthcoming film “Shahid Bhagat Singh”, is marrying a Jalandhar girl, Sanya Lubana, a renowned artist and a former Miss Chandigarh.

The marriage will be solmenised in a simple way at the Model Town gurdwara tomorrow.

Deepak, originally hailing from Delhi, is currently working in number of films, including “Shahid Bhagat Singh,” scheduled to be released all over the world next month.

Talking to the TNS, Sanya, who has played the title role in number of serials and Punjabi films and is a resident of the local Hardayal Nagar, said they fell in love after they met during the shooting of a film in Mumbai.

Wine contractors support Safdipur
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 8
Wine contractors from all over the state and Youth Congress leaders came out in support of contractor Balwinder Singh Safdipur who has been accused of being responsible for an assault on another contractor Mangar Rai Gupta, around 10 days back.

Some contractors, aligned with Mr Gupta, had given a 72-hour ultimatum to the Punjab Government two days back saying they would close their wine shops and hand over the keys to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, if the police did not arrest Mr Safdipur in the case.

Today around 80 contractors from all over the state gathered at a local hotel and held a meeting in support of Mr Safdipur. In a statement later, they claimed that the assault on Mr Gupta did not have any link with the liquor business and that Mr Safdipur was not involved in the incident at all. The contractors also demanded a Vigilance inquiry into the activities of Mr Gupta so that the ‘’truth’’ could be uncovered. They also said that the bandh call had been given due to vested interests and that a large majority of contractors across the state would not participate in it.

In a similar statement, Punjab Youth Congress general secretary Jasmer Singh Gill and vice-presidents, Balwinder Singh Bhattal and Gurinderpal Singh Babbi, urged the police to investigate the ‘corrupt officer-contractor nexus’ in the wine trade.


Liquor shops to remain close
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, October 8
The District Magistrate has ordered that the liquor shops in Maiser Khana village of Talwandi Sabo tehsil will remain closed on October 11 keeping in view the annual mela to be held there.

In separate orders the Deputy Commissioner said here today that the last date for registration as a voter for the gurdwara elections had been extended till February 28, 2003.


Farmers use paddy to burn PM’s effigy

Jalandhar, October 8
A group of farmers and members of the Progressive Farmers Association (PFA) today used harvested paddy as fuel to burn the effigy of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, a symbolic form of protest against the minimum support price (MSP) of paddy offered by the Centre.

The farmers, led by PFA president Sukhpal Singh Khera, marched to the new grain market here, where they unloaded a trolley load of paddy and set it on fire.

Later an effigy of the Prime Minister was thrown in the fire.

The farmers, numbering about 200, carried placards denouncing the MSP announced by the Centre and demanding a minimum price of Rs 700-plus per quintal and bonus of Rs 100 per quintal for the high input cost incurred by the farmers due to the drought.

The placards also criticised former Chief Minister and SAD president Parkash Singh Badal for what the farmers termed as “cheap politics” to defame the Congress government in Punjab on the late announcement of the MSP.

Later, Mr Khera, who is also the general secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, told mediapersons that Mr Badal had pressurised the Centre to delay the MSP announcement in order to embarrass the Congress government in the state.

Due to the late procurement of paddy, a large number of farmers were forced to resort to distress sale of their crop, he said.

Addressing the farmers, Mr Khera called upon the Centre to convene a special session of Parliament to discuss the plight of farmers and frame a long-term agricultural policy for improving the marketing system. UNI


BKU appeal to MLAs on special session
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, October 8
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) has appealed to all political parties to be present in the state Assembly on October 11, when a special session has been convened to discuss the farmers’ problems.

In a joint statement issued here today, the state president of the BKU, Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal and the general secretaries, Mr Manjit Singh Kadian and Mr Bhupinder Singh urged the political parties of all hues to rise above political considerations and stand by the farmers.

The BKU leaders warned that any legislator who failed to attend the special session, would be deemed to be not interested in the welfare of the farmers of the state. They observed that the need of the hour was that all political parties acted in unison to farmers’ suffering.

They said that the leaders of various political parties also should not try to get political mileage out of the farmers’ plight. They said, the political leaders should start thinking beyond partisan interests and should give serious thought to the problem so that it did not assume alarming proportions.

The BKU leaders urged the political parties to ensure passage of a unanimous resolution seeking the MSP on a par with the national price Index. They also demanded that support price also be fixed for sugarcane.

Kisan unions allege harassment
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, October 8
The state president of the Kirti Kisan Union (KKU), Mr Jagsir Singh, and the vice-president of the Kul Vind Kissan Sabha, Mr Hardev Singh, met Mr Rachpal Singh Dhanoa, SP (D), and demanded immediate registration of a case against Ashok Kumar, a commission agent, for causing harassment to a farmer, Jagsir Singh.

The union blamed the commission agent for irregularities in money transactions with the farmer. They alleged that some amount had even been given as bribe to inspectors.

According to a press note issued by the KKU, the farmer, Jagsir Singh, was landless and cultivated 6 acres of hired land. He had been selling his crop through Ashok Kumar for the past more than 6 years. But Jagsir Singh switched over to a new commission agent, Bhim Sain.

This year, on the arrival of paddy in the market, Ashok Kumar blocked the process of weighing the farmer’s paddy, as he owed him some amount, which the farmer could not arrange.


Contract farming programme launched
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 8
To introduce diversification in agriculture during the ensuing rabi season in the state, the government has launched a “contract farming programme” in Punjab. This was stated by Mr Amarjit Singh Samra, Minister of State for Agriculture, Revenue and Rehabilitation, and Cooperation, while inaugurating a district-level farmers training camp at the Guru Nanak Bhavan here today.

Mr Samra said the government had drawn up a new plan for taking out 10 lakh hectares from wheat-paddy rotation in the next five years. He said hybrid gobi-sarson and oil seeds had been introduced as an alternative to wheat-paddy rotation. Under this programme 20,000 acres would be brought under hybrid gobi-sarson, 7,000 acres under maize and another 1,000 acres under barley. For the purpose, the Punjab Agro Industry Corporation would not only provide seeds purchased from reputed companies but would also buy back the entire produce at pre-determined prices.

The minister said it was proposed to reduce an area of 1.70 lakh hectares under wheat cultivation in the state this year. The area under pulses cultivation would be increased from 17,000 to 40,000 hectares, oil-seeds from 53,000 to 76,000 hectares and under barley cultivation from 23,000 to 45,000 hectares.

Mr Dinesh Chander Jain, Joint Director of Agriculture, Punjab, said to provide fertilisers and insecticides of good quality to farmers, 3,500 samples of fertilisers and 3,900 samples of insecticides would be drawn. Arrangements for 11.5 lakh tonnes of urea and 4.5 lakh tonnes of dia-ammonium phosphate had been made, he added.


1,78, 286 tonnes of paddy procured
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, October 8
Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner, said that here today the paddy procurement was in full swing and there was no shortage of paddy bags.

Mr Verma said 101 purchase centres had been set up at various points in the district and 1,78, 286 tonnes of paddy had been procured till yesterday. He said the officials had been directed to keep a strict vigil on the paddy procurement and solve problems of farmers at the earliest.


Eight cops booked for fraud
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 8
A case of fraud was registered against eight policemen, including a head constable and a constable, in Faridkot today for their alleged involvement in cheating the Punjab Government of lakhs of rupees.

Sources said the case was registered against the policemen, two of whom were posted in this district, after they were found guilty of bungling funds while working in the accounts branch of the district police office at Faridkot. They were found guilty following departmental inquiries.

Mr Harinder Singh Chahal, SSP, in a press note today said those booked under Sections 419, 420, 465, 466, 467, 468, 471 and 409, IPC, included Prem Kumar, Darshan Singh, Sant Ram, Sikander Singh, Sukhminder Singh, Ranjit Singh and Karamjit Singh.

The accused had reportedly drawing triple payments against a single bill of expenditure from the treasury. They had been using duplicate copy of the bills for refund from the treasury. They had sought refund of more than Rs 5 lakh through copies of 21 bills and had got a refund of Rs 11 lakh against a single bill. They had committed a fraud of Rs 27 lakh.


Gang of cheats busted, 4 held
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, October 8
The police has busted an inter-state gang of cheats who charged Rs 12,000 to Rs 92,000 for enrolling people as members of various hotels.

Mr Varinder Kumar, SSP, said all four members of the gang — Nissar of Lucknow, his wife Sapna, Vikas Sachdev of Faridabad and Sadab Ali of Ghaziabad — were arrested today in this connection. Aman Masih and Vivek Puri, both of Pathankot, had complained to the police that the accused had called them in a hotel and enrolled them as life members of Resorts Advisory Marketing in Mussoorie and Resorts Contiminium International. However, when they went to a hotel in Mussoorie, they were told that they had no such agreement with any marketing company and had been cheated. A case has been registered.


Six held under gambling Act
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, October 8
The district police has arrested six persons for indulging in “satta” transactions and has recovered Rs 21,000, three mobile phones and a motor cycle.

Mr Ishwar Singh, SSP, in a press note issued here today, said the police raided a place in the trans-railway colonies on a tip-off and arrested them.

The arrested are Sham Lal, Kewal Krishan, Bikramjit Singh, Des Raj, Janak Dass and Vinod Sethi, all residents of the city. 


Physiotherapy college opened
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, October 8
Saint Soldier College of Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation, the first college in Punjab to get ISO 9001 certification, was inaugurated by the local MP Mr Balbir Singh at Khambra village on the Jalandhar-Nakodar road here today.

At a simple function on the college premises, chairman of the College Anil Chopra, said that the college was affiliated to Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, which had allotted 30 seats for four and a half-year Bachelor of Physiotherapy Training (BPT) course to the college. The college, according to Mr Chopra, was given certification by a New Zealand based certification organisation after through inspection of infrastructure and facilities in the college last month.

He said that a special placement cell was set-up in the college to ensure jobs for outstanding students.

The cell would co-ordinate with health firms and hospitals in India and abroad to explore job potential in this sector.

Punjab Technical Education Minister Mohinder Singh Kaypee, presided over the function and said that there was need to create awareness among the students, particularly those hailing from rural areas, on the availability of such job-oriented courses. “The physiotherapists are in great demand in western countries, which pay handsome salaries to their employees. 


Science mistresses’ appeal to CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 8
The Association of Newly Appointed Science Mistresses in a representation submitted to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and President of the Punjab Congress H.S.Hanspal has demanded that they should not be removed from service.

A number of members of the association said today that none of them had paid a single penny for securing jobs and were selected purely on merit.

Ms Anudeep Kaur, president of the association, said there were certain candidates among them who were gold medalists. Besides, most of them had an outstanding academic record.

It may be mentioned that the removal of about 100 science mistresses was ordered by the Punjab Lokpal a few weeks ago.

The association wanted that their cases should be examined by an expert committee before taking any final decision pertaining to their removal. 


Rs 14.41 lakh for schools
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, October 8
The District Education Development Committee has disbursed a sum of Rs 14.41 lakh for infrastructure development in schools and for the mid-day meal scheme in 75 primary schools in Adampur block of the district under the “sarv shiksha abhiyan” programme.

At a meeting attended by representatives of different departments and village education development committees here today, the Deputy Commissioner-cum-Chairman, Mr K. Siva Prasad, said they had decided to launch the mid-day meal scheme in 75 primary schools of Adampur block from next week. The Education Department had already released the first instalment of Rs 9.70 lakh for providing 100 gm of food per student daily for a period of 50 days, he said.

It was decided during the meeting to upgrade the infrastructure of 980 primary and 413 secondary schools in the district for which the committee would sanction a sum of Rs 35,000 to each school for the construction of toilets, supply of drinking water and sanitation purposes. “Besides, all schools will be given grant of Rs 7,000 each for the maintenance of school buildings and to meet other contingency expenses. The teachers would be given a special allowance of Rs 500 each under the teaching material learning scheme,” Mr Prasad added.

The meeting expressed concern over the failure to achieve the target of providing primary education to the children in the age group of 6 to 14 years as per the spirit of the Constitution.


School building inaugurated
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, October 8
Mr Surinder Singla, MLA, while inaugurating the new building of Government Primary School at Choghe Khurd village, near here, said the state government spent about Rs 1,700 crore every year on education. 

He said besides opening schools and improving facilities at existing schools, the government had launched the Sarb Shiksha Abhiyaan for children upto age of 14 years.

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