Friday, October 18, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



SAD PAC meeting tomorrow
Withdrawal of free power facility
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 17
Calling upon all opposition parties and farmer organisations to unite at one platform to oppose the power tariff on the farming sector, SAD General Secretary Kanwaljit Singh said today that an emergency meeting of the Political Affairs Committee of the party would be held on October 19 at the residence of Mr Parkash Singh Badal to chalk out an agitational programme. It would not be just an agitation but a mass movement against the state government.

Addressing newspersons here, he said the SAD would make the state government withdraw the decision pertaining to charging of bills from the farming sector.

The government had gone berserk in its approach to the issues of governance and deliverance of social justice. “Its panic of and obsession with the SAD is only one part of the problem. But there is something much more seriously wrong with the mindset of the people at the helm”, he added. “ If we look at the statements of the Chief Minister, it becomes clear that nobody in the government knows how people’s representatives should run the affairs of government”. He said that the Chief Minister had made utterly irresponsible statements on the issue of free power facility to the farm sector and Dalits, unsolicited security provided to the SGPC members and finally on the arrest of Mr Badal.

The “empty treasury” excuse had become the easiest way out for the state government to back out from its election promises. In the past seven months, the state government had levied taxes and other charges worth Rs 3000 crore on the people of the state. Where had that money gone? he asked. In fact, the empty treasury excuse was a measure to pave the way for putting an additional burden on people by way of new taxes, revised power tariff and user charges etc. Besides revised tariff, the PSEB had also been charging a 10 per cent fuel surcharge on power bills.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh said the Amarinder Singh Government was enforcing “anti-people” policies in the state under the directions of the WTO. The SAD-BJP Government was the first one to give direct subsidy to farmers in the shape of free power. However, the Amarinder Government was withdrawing all direct and indirect subsidies given to the farming sector, he added.

The Punjab Government was trying to mislead people on the setting up of the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission by the Badal Government. It was a legal necessity to set up such a commission. However, the commission, before issuing its order with regard to the revision of power tariff, had repeatedly asked the Amarinder Government that if it wanted to give free power to any section of society, it should intimate the commission accordingly with an undertaking that it would compensate the PSEB in lieu of free power. The SAD-BJP Government had been paying the Board Rs 1,000 crore almost every year for providing free power to farmers, though it cost the PSEB only Rs 250 crore.

Mr Simranjit Singh Mann has decided to hold a state-level rally at Malerkotla on October 25 to oppose the levying of power tariff on farmers and Dalits. He said the decision would deal the death blow to the farming community. In protest against the decision, Mr Mann has withdrawn the party’s representative, Mr Satnam Singh Behru, from the Amarinder Government sponsored all-party “sangharsh committee”.


Punjab in a bind over tariff issue
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 17
The Punjab Government is caught in a peculiar situation over the issue of imposing power tariff on the farming sector. In fact, it is groping in the dark to defend itself on this issue.

On the one hand it is trying hard to apportion the entire blame on a former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, for the power tariff on the agriculture sector. On the other hand it was trying to justify that there was a need to implement the decision regarding power tariff.

In a joint statement issued today, three Punjab ministers Mr Lal Singh, Mr Partap Singh Bajwa and Mr Avtar Henry said decisions of the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC) were a legal binding on the state government as per the MoU signed by the Badal government with the Union Government in March, 2001.

The ministers said it was Mr Badal who had constituted the PSERC in March, 1999 and in March, 2001 and deliberately appointed his kith and kin as Chairman and members of the commission. His appointees continued till date and could not be changed by the present government as per the law.

However, they also justified the decision regarding the revision in power tariff and its imposition on the agriculture sector . “ Justifying the need to implement the decisions of the commission, the ministers pointed out that the anti- people policies of the Badal government financially crippled the PSEB leaving it with a staggering debt of Rs 5,000 crore in addition to the pending interest payments of Rs 1,500 crore”. That means the members of the commission came out with a right decision which was required to save the board from financial collapse.

But the minister did not step there. They said that “besides the new tariff for electricity consumers had also become unavoidable because the free dispensation of power by the Badal government had rendered the PSEB and the state ineligible to receive institutional funding from the IMF, the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions.”

The compulsion of taking funds from organisations such as the World Bank and the IMF actually made the government impose the new tariff.

In fact, exactly the same thing is being said by Capt Kanwaljit Singh, former Finance Minister, and general secretary of the SAD. He said today organisations such as WTO and IMF had made the Punjab government to withdraw free supply to power the farming sector. He said that the SAD-BJP government did not buckle down under the pressure of such organisations and continued the free supply of power to farming sector which pumped Rs 15,000 crore into the state’s economy by enhancing the yield of foodgrains.

Similar observations have been made by Dr Joginder Dayal, secretary of the CPI. He had stated that the pro-WTO stance of Capt Amarinder Singh’s government was behind the decisions such as disinvestment, winding up of the Public Sector Undertakings and the power tariff on the agricultural sector.

Moreover, while the commission was set up by Mr Badal in March, 1999 and its members appointed in March, 2001, the Congress made the promise to continue supplying power free of cost to farming sector in its election manifesto in January, 2002, shortly before the elections though it was aware of the fact the commission was in place in Punjab and its decisions were a legal binding on the state government.


BKU (E) blocks traffic
Demands free power for farmers
Tribune Reporters & PTI

Moga, October 17
The BKU today condemned the decision of the Capt Amarinder Singh government for withdrawing the facility of free power to farmers and threatened to launch a state-wide agitation in the form of rallies, demonstrations and traffic jams throughout the State.

The decision was taken by the Punjab unit of the BKU at its state executive meeting here.

This agitation will be launched from Ferozepore from October 22 followed by Morinda on October 23, Kapurthala on October 24, Moga on October 25, Muktsar on October 26 and 27, Fatehgarh Sahib on October 28, Faridkot on October 29, Patiala on October 30, Ludhiana on October 31, Jalandhar on November 2 and at Bathinda on November 6.

Briefing newsmen after the meeting, the Punjab BKU chief Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal said they urged the state government to withdraw the decision with immediate effect.

If the state government failed to withdraw its decision then the state executive unit of the BKU would meet again after November 8 to decide the future course of agitation, he said.

Mr Lakhowal urged the Chief Minister to fulfil his commitment made during the Vidhan Sabha election.

MANSA: Activists of the BKU (E), resorted to “chakka jam” on the Mansa-Bathinda road near Bhaini Bagha village and near Sardulgarh for two-hour on Thursday in protest against the withdrawal of free power supply to the agriculture sector. Farmers’ leaders observed that they had to take loans to procure diesel and pesticides and the imposition of electricity charges and land revenue on them would further deteriorate their financial condition.

They demanded withdrawal of sales tax on fertiliser and pesticides. They said Capt Amarinder Singh had retracted from his electoral promise.

LUDHIANA: A former SGPC chief, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, on Thursday criticised the Punjab Government’s decision to withdraw free power supply to farmers in the state. In a signed statement Mr Tohra observed that the decision could not have come at a worse time when the farmers were already reeling under the drought like conditions. He maintained that right now the farmers were not in a position to pay for the electricity and the government should have continued with the old practice.

Mr Tohra observed that the government should have taken the people of the state into confidence before taking such a decision. “Agriculture forms the backbone of the state economy and in case it is hit, the entire structure of the state will collapse”, he warned.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement, another senior Akali leader, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, has also criticised the government’s decision to impose electricity charges on the farmers.

Terming the imposition of power tariff by the government as anti-farmer, as many as seven farmer outfits have given a call for a Punjab bandh on October 29. This was decided in a meeting held here on Thursday.

The leaders said the reimposition of charges was a cruel joke on the farmers, who have battled a drought and were in no position to the pay their debts.

Those present on the occasion included Mr Hardev Singh Sandhu of the Kirti Kisan Union, Mr Kuldeep Singh of the Kul Hind Kirti Kisan Sabha, Mr Pishora Singh Sidhupur of the BKU (Ekta), Mr K.S. Sandhu of the Jamhoori Kisan Sabha, Mr Bhupinder Sambhar of the Punjab Kisan Sabha, Mr Maghar Singh of the Vikas Front and Mr Joginder Singh of a breakaway faction of the BKU.

HOSHIARPUR: Mr Tikshan Sud, MLA, Mr Abinash Rai Khanna MLA, Mr Hans Raj Nakra, president, district unit of the BJP, Mr Satpal Sareen, president, Municipal Council, Hoshiarpur and many other BJP leaders criticised the Punjab government’s decision to withdraw free power from the state. In a joint press note issued here on Thursday they said the Congress government had backed out of its promises made in its election manifesto. They said farmers of Punjab were already over burdened due to heavy taxes imposed by the government on seeds, pesticides and fertilisers. They warned the Punjab Government to withdraw its decision failing which the BJP would launch a state-wide agitation. They presented a memorandum to the Governor of Punjab through the Deputy Commissioner, Hoshiarpur, in this regard.

AMRITSAR: Mr Rajinder Singh Mehta, SAD adviser, on Thursday castigated the Congress government for withdrawing free electricity to farmers as one of the most “inhuman” steps against the “suffering” peasantry of the state.


A courageous decision: Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 17
Dr M.S. Gill, former Chief Election Commissioner and one-time Development Commissioner of Punjab, has described the decision to withdraw free power to agricultural pumpsets as courageous and necessary.

He told TNS from New Delhi that those opposed to the withdrawal of the free power facility must give a serious thought to the issue.

He congratulated Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for taking the decision.

Even in his convocation address at Punjab Agricultural University in 1998, Dr Gill had said that consumers, including farmers, desired assured power at reasonable rates rather than uncertain, often unavailable, free power.

He said: ‘’Free electricity is not economically feasible.

I know there will be a controversy but this step is in the long-term economic interest of Punjab.

I also know that Punjab farmers have many serious problems but they need multiple solutions. I am confident that the Chief Minister will address these issues and give a worthwhile positive programme for Punjab farmers, particularly, small holders’’.


CPI to back farmers
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 17
Dr Joginer Dyal, Secretary, Punjab CPI, and Mr Hardev Singh Arshi, former group leader of the CPI in the Vidhan Sabha, today pledged party support to seven farmers’ organisations in their agitation against the Congress government for withdrawing the facility of free water and electricity for agricultural use. They said Capt Amarinder Singh had cheated with the farmers and CPI. Addressing a press conference here, they pointed out that though the Congress had promised that free water and electricity to farmers would continue in its election manifesto, the same had been withdrawn. This had added to the burden of farmers, who are already reeling under debts and the recent drought.


23 arms licensees on Pherurai’s official address
Chander Parkash and Anirudh Gupta
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, October 17
Facing two criminal cases, the former SSP, Ferozepore, Gurcharan Singh Pherurai, now remanded in police custody, is likely to face another case. During the preliminary investigations done by the police, it has come to light that he has facilitated arm licences for his kith and kin on the addresses of his official residence and the SSP’s office.

Official sources said the police had traced 25 firearm licences in which the licencees, who were close kith and kin of Pherurai, gave official residence and office of the SSP as their permanent residential address.

Of the 25 firearm licences, 23 were made by taking the official residence of the SSP as permanent the residential address of the licencee and two licences were issued by taking the SSP’s office as permanent residential address of the licencees.

The CBI is already investigating the matter pertaining to the issuance of fake licences of firearms which occurred during the tenure when Pherurai was district police chief of Ferozepore. Now, a new inquiry by the district police has been initiated.

Mr Parveen Sinha, SSP, Ferozepore, said the inquiry was being conducted by Mr Avtar Singh, DSP (D), and action would be taken as per the inquiry report. He added that it was also being probed how so many licences were issued on one address and who were behind this game.

The police authorities are also inquiring how Pherurai fetched the fake currency by investigating smugglers.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that more persons were coming to district police authorities to reveal the alleged “misdeeds” committed by Pherurai when he was the SSP of Ferozepore. He was considered a terror.

Some police officials who have worked with Pherurai, have also confessed that they used to make “illegal” payments to Pherurai on a weekly and monthly basis. A cut was even illegally made in their salaries every month to meet the target of collection laid down by Pherurai.

A senior functionary of the Congress party pointed out that if Pherurai turned approver in any case, he would be saved from the punishment which he deserved for unleashing terror on the general public when he was SSP. He alleged that Pherurai had also facilitated land-grabbing in various parts of the state and also indulged in the smuggling of narcotics. Even the firearm licences issued during his tenure landed in the hands of criminals, who were members of various mafias and outlaw outfits.

However, the district police authorities have been finding it difficult to register fresh cases against Pherurai for his corrupt practices as no police official is willing to make a complaint in black and white despite the fact that they were confessing that they were perpetually forced to give money to Pherurai.


BJP leader picked up in Pherurai case
Our Correspondent

Mansa, October 17
A police party from Jagraon picked up Mr Chiman Lal, a senior leader of the BJP and former president, Municipal Council, Budhlada, today in connection with the investigation of a case registered against former SSP Gurcharan Singh Pherurai.


PM-CMs interface on fiscal reforms today
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 17
Most of the damage done to finances in the states is due to the Centre’s ‘generous hike’ in the pay/allowances of its employees based on the recommendations of the 5th Central Pay Commission. Since the states had no choice but to follow suit, they got mired in a debt-trap. The empowered committee of state Finance Ministers had taken cognizance of this fact at its last meeting in New Delhi on September 12.

The broad consensus arrived in that meeting is now the agenda for the meeting of the state Chief Ministers and Finance Ministers in New Delhi tomorrow. The Prime Minister will address that meeting, which will strive for a “political consensus” on the broad frame-work drawn up by the empowered committee on issues related to employees and measures to effect fiscal reforms.

The Punjab Council of Ministers yesterday approved a memorandum listing the measures to improve the financial position which the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh would now present at the meeting tomorrow.

To improve the states’ fiscal situation, the committee had shortlisted several steps. These included compression of expenditure on salary, wages, pensions, improving tax/GDP (gross domestic product) ratio, swapping of high cost debt, future borrowings, government guarantees, overdraft regulations scheme, payment of dearness allowance, bonus, commutation of pension, leave encashment etc.

Capt Amarinder Singh’s brief, carrying the stamp of the Council of Ministers, is simple. The Centre should freeze DA. All states should show restraint on giving bonus to employees of the state/public sector undertakings. The discount rate for commutation of pension be enhanced from 4.75 per cent to 8 per cent. The quantum of commutation should be halved but not exceeding 25 per cent. Leave encashment should be monitised to the extent of 50 per cent and the rest of the leave granted to employees, as preparatory to retirement. Except in case of doctors, paramedical staff, teachers and staff for maintenance of essential services, further recruitments should be stopped.

Even if it means reduction in the state plan outlays, the states should avoid the build-up of sizeable debt. The Centre and externally funding agencies should not release funds directly to state/district-level autonomous bodies but route these through states’ Consolidated Fund with states taking the responsibility to release such funds within 30 days to avoid possible diversion of these funds.

On debt-swap, Punjab says since the Centre is deducting 20 per cent of the loan against small saving collections, on an annualised basis, this is expected to give interest benefit to states from Rs 20 crore to Rs 25 crore whereas the states may have to reduce their annual plans by Rs 500 crore to Rs 600 crore. This seems impracticable, as the states are expecting “debt relief” and not “debt-swap”. Why not base the debt swap on market borrowings through the RBI, so that the states’ annual plans for the current year are not disturbed?


Troops withdrawal: villagers heave sigh of relief
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Indo-Pak Border, October 17
Residents of the border belt, who have been virtually living on the razor’s edge ever since the Army deployment along the international border, are feeling relieved after the decision of the National Security Advisory Board to withdraw troops in a phased manner. However, the losses in terms of human lives in various mine blasts would continue to haunt them.

The farmers of the border belt comprising Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepore are jubilant over the decision of the board. Many farmers whose farm houses and entire agricultural land were mined and were forced to move to rented houses said the decision had given a ray of hope that they would return to their houses after nine months. Major Singh, of Rajatal village, Amritsar, said he had to move to Chheharta township along with his family when his farm house and 30 acres were mined in January. “During my dislocation I had to sell my entire livestock, tractor and other valuables at throwaway prices to meet the daily expenses. Though I would return to my home empty-handed, the decision would help me lead a normal life.”

Gehal Singh and Mehal Singh, both brothers who owned 26 acres and a big farm house, were also dislocated as their entire property was mined.

Similarly, Pala Singh, Amrik Singh, Baldev Singh and Kanwaljit Singh of Mahawa village could not return to their farm houses due to mining of their entire agriculture land.

The Army jawans were also seen relaxed when the news of troop withdrawal reached them. It is perhaps the longest deployment on the international border. Tall claims of the Prime Minister notwithstanding, the jawans said the country had suffered huge economic and human loss.

During the heightened tension on border students were the main casualty as the Army had occupied many school buildings. The Education Department would have to make an extra effort to cover the loss suffered by the schoolchildren.

Ashok Kumar, a trader of Attari, said the de-escalation of tension on the border would also pave the way for reviving business in the border belt. He said the farmers and business community — both suffered huge economic losses. Similar views were aired by Buta Ram, another businessman of Khemkarn.

Residents of the border belt said the stand-off between India and Pakistan this time had almost ruined them.

Sewa Singh of Roranwala village, near the Zero Line, said the farmers, who could not harvest wheat due to the mines might not sow the next crop as it was difficult to de-mine the fields. Farmers said more casualties could not be ruled out during the removal of mines.


Mann hails withdrawal, wants open border
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 17
The withdrawal of troops and de-escalation of tension on the Indo-Pak border is a welcome sign. It must be followed with an amicable solution to the vexed Kashmir problem so that the development of border states like Punjab gets revived with a rejuvenated vigour.

The Indo-Pak border must be reopened to facilitate Sikh jathas in going to Pakistan to pay obeisance at historic gurdwaras and allow Punjabi Muslims from Pakistan to visit their shrines and relatives in this part of the country. To begin with Sikh jathas must be allowed to visit Pakistan to participate in the Guru Nanak Dev birth anniversary celebrations next month.

Besides, trade through land route with neighbouring Central Asian and Middle East countries be encouraged to facilitate the revival of the Punjab economy facing the worst-ever recession.

These observations were made by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, MP, President of the SAD (Amritsar) here this morning. Mr Mann said the Union Government must ensure that the entire border belt of Punjab comprising Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepore districts was “cleared of all landmines”.

Both India and Pakistan must observe the Ottawa treaty on landmines religiously so that people in the border areas were not exposed to the unknown risk. It was heartening that the farmers of three border districts would now be able to cultivate their fields almost after a year. The compensation given to them was peanuts. Against the previously announced compensation of Rs 11,000 per acre, it should be minimum Rs 16,000 per paddy acre and Rs 30,000 per sugarcane acre, said Mr Mann.

Blaming the hostilities between India and Pakistan basically because of the Kashmir issue, Mr Mann said Punjab had already suffered immensely. Even now, many developmental activities were not being permitted in Punjab because of its proximity with Pakistan.

“If the Kashmir problem is not solved for another 20-30 years does it mean that development in Punjab will remain at a standstill. Will Punjab continue to be deprived of the required bandwidth for the growth of its IT industry. Will the rail tracks in the border districts remain unelectrified. Will Punjab continue to be without some of the important projects, including IT centres and power projects, because of our reluctance to solve the problem with our neighbour,” Mr Mann said.

If the issue could not be resolved amicably, there was no harm in accepting mediation by a neutral party. If the neutral mediator from within Commonwealth was favoured, Australia, Canada and New Zealand could be chosen. In case, India was ready for a neutral mediator from Europe, Switzerland or Norway could be the nations to pick from. “Now after 31 years of the Shimla agreement, we have failed to resolve the deadlock bilaterally. There has to be some limit to it. How can we be made to suffer indefinitely ?” asked Mr Mann, saying that the Indian foreign policy got a “snub” from the European nations during the recent visit of the Prime Minister to Denmark, England and a few other countries.

“If we have peace with Pakistan, our agriculture and industry can flourish. We can export our agricultural and industrial produce and import oil and power from the Middle East and Central Asian countries. We want peace and only peace can pave the way for the economic revival and growth of this part of the country,” said Mr Mann.

Mr Mann also emphasised the need for signing all humanitarian treaties, including those pertaining to human rights, de-nuclearisation and de-weaponisation of both chemical and biological weapons.


Four of family die as car hits trees
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, October 17
The scene at Ram Bagh cremation grounds here was distressing when the bodies of Dwarki Devi (75) and Nirmal Kumar (45), mother and son, who died in a car accident on the Malout- Muktsar road yesterday, were consigned to the flames today. Dwarki Devi’s two daughters and the car driver also died in the accident.

Mr Khushwant Rai, younger son of Dwarki Devi, lit both pyres. The bodies of her two daughters — Parkash and Pramila — were taken to Jaitu and Bariwala, hometowns of their in-laws, in the district.

The markets of the town remained closed for two hours here today in sympathy with the bereaved family.

According to reports, five members of the victims’ family, including Nirmal Kumar, his mother, wife Kanta and two sisters accompanied by driver Sonu (21) had gone to Malout to attend the kirya ceremony of a relative there. While returning their car hit two trees and overturned near Rupana village, killing two occupants and the driver of the car on the spot. Another male member of the family stated to be in a serious condition breathed his last near Kot Kapura.

Pramila and Kanta were later shifted to Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana. While Pramila succumbed to her injuries on the way, Kanta was admitted to the Hospital where her condition is stated to be stable.

News of the incident was conveyed by a passerby over the telephone to the office of General Insurance Company at Kot Kapura after seeing documents of the car. Later, the insurance company conveyed the news to family members here.


Probe victimisation by Cong workers: PHRC
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 17
In a recent direction the Punjab Human Rights Commission (PHRC) on a complaint of Mr Harbhajan Singh, a resident of Saidpur Kala village, Gurdaspur, has sent his complaint to the ADGP attached to the commission for an immediate inquiry.

The inquiry report will be submitted within three weeks and the date of hearing has been fixed for October 24 by Mr N.K. Arora, acting Chairman, PHRC.

Mr Charanjit Singh Bakshi, council for the complainant, has alleged that Mr Harbhajan, panchayat member, who had won the recent election on a Shiromani Akali Dal ticket is being “politically victimised” due to his allegiance with the SAD. “Things are being manipulated against him and his family at the instance of Quadian MLA, Mr Rajinder Singh Bajwa”, Mr Bakshi added.

Harbhajan alleged that in the month of August his nephews, Raju and Mintu, were abused, gharoed and beaten up by a 29-member gang led by Sarabjit Singh, a Congress member. The same group had then attacked family members of Harbhjan in which his younger sister-in-law was beaten up with hockey and bamboo sticks. While his mother’s arm got fractured.

They allegedly decamped with cash and jewellery after smashing a brand new tractor and household goods of the complainants.

The police turned a blind eye to the complaint and only registered an FIR on the next day of the incident after the SSP, Batala, handed over the case to the DSP, Mr Rajinder Singh. Sarabjit Singh’s brothers namely Manjinder Singh and Resham Singh too have been named in the FIR. However, Sarabjit too had lodged the FIR to implicate the complainant in a false case, Mr Bakshi added. The complainant alleged that he was constantly being harassed to enter into a compromise. So much so that he was beaten up in the Civil Hospital, Batala, while he was attending his injured family members but the police failed to notice it. Subsequently, his wife and mother, were forced to shift to Adda Kastipur village.


Improve industry in state: MLA
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, October 17
‘‘The disinvestment policy of Punjab is a fraud. It is part of a conspiracy against our state by its politicians and bureaucrats’’. This was stated by Mr Bir Devinder Singh, MLA, Kharar, at the general body meeting of the Industrial Welfare Association Phase IX held here today.

“Certain bureaucrats have been conspiring into misleading the government that many units are in a frightful state of loss, which is actually not the truth. A situation where there is not even a single buyer for any of these units means that the buyer has somehow worked out a profitable bargain for himself. That should make us all think that whenever these units are declared to be in massive losses, one should read between the lines’’.

Painting a dismal picture, Mr Singh said industrial, agriculture and power sectors are in a state of failure and we are in debt. During the past five years not a single paisa has been invested by any NRI in Punjab. Politicians of the state and bureaucrats have failed us.

He said that those holding key positions in the government should be both industry-friendly and Punjab-friendly. Every single unit needs to be looked into individually. He requested the Chief Minister to look into the functioning of the bureaucrats whose policies are causing irreparable damage to Punjab’s industry.

Punjab is losing precious investment to other states because of its flawed policies like entry tax on paper. Those who are addressing the problem should not keep their immediate gains in mind but the long-term benefits of the state.

Mr Singh promised to arrange a meeting of the members of the association with the Secretary, Industries, so that their demands could be looked into.

Meanwhile, the Association has demanded a review of the enhancement of prices of industrial plots and to take up the issue of the entry tax on paper yarn, steel and angles with the government. The president of the Association, Mr Avtar Singh Walia also brought into focus the foul smell being spread by the sewer treatment plant in the area.


Bajwa promises wider highways
Tribune News Service

Ropar, October 17
The Punjab government has drawn up a comprehensive plan for widening and strengthening of all state highways in the next two years. This work will be completed at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore with the financial assistance of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NBARD).

This was stated by Mr Partap Singh Bajwa, Minister for PWD, Punjab, while inaugurating the 98th branch of the Bank of Punjab at Morinda today.

The minister also stated that after the widening and strengthening of state highways, the government would introduce a comprehensive tax system on some selected state highways and bridges to maintain infrastructure of roads and bridges in the state. He also clarified that this comprehensive tax would not be imposed on the farmers’ tractors, government vehicles and two-wheelers.

Mr Bajwa also stated that the state government had not abandoned the Kharar bye-pass project so far. He said this project belonged to PUDA and a final decision would be taken in this regard by PUDA.

With regards to relief to the hailstorm-hit farmers, Mr Bajwa said the state government had ordered a special girdawri to assess the damage to the standing crops due to hailstorm. He said the girdawri would be completed by October 22. After the girdawri, the affected farmers would be given relief as per norms. He also exhorted the banks to extend helping hand to the farmers in this hour of crisis.

Mr Tajbir Singh, Executive Director, Bank of Punjab, disclosed that the business of the bank had now touched the figure of Rs 5,000 crore which was only Rs 450 crore in 1995.


Recruitment scam: 4 allowed bail
Tribune News Service

Ropar, October 17
The Sessions Judge, here today granted regular bail to Tirath Singh, OSD to VC of Baba Farid University of Medical Sciences, and Col (retd) Jora Singh, and anticipatory bail to Jagjit Singh Sidhu, Secretary of the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB) and Pavitar Pal Kaur, Deputy Director, PSEB, in a case registered against them by the Vigilance Bureau on June 14 at SAS Nagar. All those four were members of the Recruitment and Selection Committee which held interview for the selection of 134 clerks in the Punjab School Education Board.

Tirath Singh and Jora Singh are already in Judicial custody and they applied for regular bail claiming to be innocent, and Jagjit Singh Sidhu and Pavitar Pal Kaur had applied anticipatory bail.

The Vigilance Bureau had registered a criminal and corruption case against the accused under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471 and 120-B of the IPC and Sections 13 (1) (a) (c) (d) (e) read with Section 13 (2) 88 of the Prevention of Corruption Act for alleged “irregularities” in the recruitment of 134 clerks in the PSEB.

After hearing the arguments of the defence and the prosecution, the Judge allowed regular bail to Tirath Singh and Jora Singh and ordered their release on their furnishing bail bonds of Rs 2 lakh with one surety in the like amount each to the satisfaction of the Ilaqa/duty magistrate and ordered that the accused shall not leave India without prior permission of the court and if they have passports in their possession the same will be surrendered by them before the Ilaqa/duty magistrate before they are released on bail.

While granting anticipatory bail to Jagat Singh Sidhu and Pavitar Pal Kaur, the Judge ordered that in the event of their arrest they be released on bail on furnishing personal bail bonds of Rs 2 lakh with one surety in the like amount each to the satisfaction of the arresting officer with the conditions that they will join investigations as and when required and shall not tamper with evidence and shall not leave India without the prior permission of the court, if they have passports the same will be surrendered before the investigating officer.


Badungar’s plea
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 17
Adding a twist to the on-going controversy, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee President Kirpal Singh Badungar on Thursday denied the allegations that he had visited the dera of Piara Singh Bhaniara in August 2000 where announcement was made by the Baba regarding his plans to publish a granth.

In an application seeking permission to be impleaded as a party in a petition filed by the Baba, the applicant claimed that he, being a devout Sikh, had never visited the petitioner’s dera.

The applicant added that he was undergoing medical treatment when the announcement was made on August 23, 2002.

Terming the allegations as false and frivolous, counsel further claimed that the allegations, if not rebutted at this stage, would spoil and harm his political career.

FIR quashed

Mr Justice Viney Mittal of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has quashed a first information report registered with regard to a minor in an alleged cheating and forgery case pertaining to the purchase of land.

In a ruling, Mr Justice Mittal ruled: “Counsel for the petitioner has submitted that petitioner Satnam Singh was merely a child of seven years when the sale deed was registered in May 1994. In these circumstances, it is apparent that the petitioner could not be held responsible for any criminal liability for the registration of the sale deed even if all the allegations contained in the complaint are taken to be true and correct. Thus, FIR dated May 6, 2000, registered at Patti police station in Tarn Taran district is quashed qua the petitioner — Satnam Singh. It is further made clear that the quashing of the FIR qua the petitioner shall not have any effect or bearing upon the continuation of the proceedings against the remaining accused”.


Bhaniara case: hearing on Oct 31
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 17
The District and Sessions Judge here today issued notice to the State of Punjab for October 31 on a revision petition filed by accused-turned-approver Karnail Singh against the transfer of the case to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ambala.

Patiala Chief Judicial Magistrate Paramjit Singh here yesterday ordered the transfer of the case to Ambala for recording the statement of Karnail Singh. Earlier the Punjab and Haryana High Court had ordered the transfer of all cases registered against Piara Singh Bhaniarwala to Ambala.

The Sessions Judge today on the petition of Karnail Singh fixed October 31 for arguments in the case.


Shanta reviews Civil Enclave’s construction
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, October 17
Mr Shanta Kumar, Union Minister for Rural Development, yesterday reviewed the construction work of the local Civil Enclave and instructed the authorities of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) to complete the work within stipulated period.

Mr Shanta Kumar was accompanied by Mr Anil Vasudeva, member of the Punjab unit of the BJP, Mr K. P. A. Sinha, Deputy Commissioner, Gurdaspur, Mr Puneet Goel, S. D. M., Pathankot, and other senior officials and leaders.


Telecom unions observe strike
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, October 17
The district unit of the BSNL Executive Officers Association and the Telecom Engineers Officers Association today observed a strike and held a protest rally demanding E-2 to E-5 pay scales for junior telecom officers and divisional engineers before their absorption into the BSNL.

While addressing the gathering Mr Ajay Jindal, district secretary of the Telecom Engineer’s Officers Association, called upon to intensify the stir in case the BSNL management did not accept their demands. He announced that they would start work according to rule (eight hours) from October 23, followed by a relay fast.


Missing girls traced
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, October 17
Five girls of Government Girls Senior Secondary School, Chohla Sahib, who were missing since yesterday were recovered by the local police today from the Golden Temple, Amritsar.

Mr Narinder Bhargav, SSP, said the girls had gone to the Golden Temple on their own.


LIC staffers looted of Rs 7 lakh

Gurdaspur, October 17
Two scooter-borne youths looted Rs 7.80 lakh from LIC employees outside their office in the city this afternoon.

The accused escaped after firing a shot which wounded a shopkeeper, Mr Ashok Kumar Mahajan. The youths, who were armed with a revolver snatched the bag containing the cash and cheques for Rs 47,877 from LIC Assistant Administrative Officer Mohinder Paul and peon cum guard Tirath Singh when they were about to leave for a bank to deposit the amount.

The injured has been admitted in the local civil hospital. UNI


Hotel raided, 10 arrested
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 17
At least five couples were arrested from a hotel in Putlighar area under the Immoral Trafficking Act last evening. The hotel belongs to a former Akali MLA.

According to information available, a police party headed by DSP (R) on a tip-off raided the hotel, Sun-n-Shine and caught four women, one unmarried girl and five men.

Those arrested are Gurpreet Singh and Sanjeev Kumar (both from Batala road), Ravi Kumar (Kot Khalsa), Keshav Chander (Sharifpura) and Rajesh Kumar (Haripura). All are under 30 years of age. The police has also booked Gurinderjit Singh, son of the owner of the hotel, and three employees Bhupinder Singh, Rajinder Singh and Gopa Singh in this regard.

Meanwhile, Mr Sohan Singh, former Akali MLA and owner of the hotel, while talking to The Tribune revealed that he had given the hotel on contract to Rakesh Kumar from April. He alleged that the police had caught couples from the restaurant and not from the rooms. The police had severely beaten up the employees and forced them to state that they were caught from the rooms, he alleged.

Mr Sohan Singh added that there was a conspiracy to defame him and his hotel so that the hotel’s rate falls down, which he had put on sale. His son and other employees were wrongly implicated in the case, he added. In a letter to the ADGP, he sought a high-level probe into the whole affair.


Head clerk caught taking bribe
Tribune News Service

Ropar, October 17
A team of the local Vigilance Bureau, led by Mr Sarup Singh Mann, DSP, Vigilance, caught red-handed Bant Singh, head clerk in the office of the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) here, while allegedly accepting an illegal gratification of Rs 500 from Mr Lakhbir Singh, gunman of the DSP, CID, Ropar, yesterday.

Mr Sarup Singh Mann, DSP, giving details of the trap, here today said Mr Lakhbir Singh had earlier submitted an application in the office of the SSP to claim house rent which was returned him, citing objections on the application by the head clerk. After making the necessary changes, when he went to the head clerk, he allegedly demanded Rs 1,000 to clear his house rent case. The deal was struck at Rs 500.


Guru Granth Sahib conference opens
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, October 17
“Guru Granth Sahib is the most modern spiritual granth of the world and could bring solutions to various modern day problems,” said Prof S. Rinpoche, Prime Minister-in-exile of Tibet.

He was inaugurating the three-day international conference on Guru Granth Sahib at Guru Nanak Dev University here today.

He said the granth has been given the status of a “guru”, which is unprecedented. In Buddhism, preference is given to ‘param vachan’ (supreme expression) and ‘param purush’ (supremacy of man) and a similar philosophy prevails in Sikhism.

He said the holy granth had given a lead to human beings and had shown the path of truth. Due to violence, terrorism and other evils, the importance of religious preaching assumed a greater significance.

Expressing concern over the growing environmental pollution, he said in Japan oxygen booths are installed alongside PCOs to help prevent pollution.

Justice Kuldip Singh, retired Supreme Court judge, in his presidential remarks said Guru Granth Sahib gives direction for a holistic lifestyle. With “naam simran”, one could attain peace, culminating in the uplift of community and forging universal brotherhood for peaceful co-existence of mankind.

He said Guru Granth Sahib enjoins on the Sikhs to work for social uplift equality, negation of caste system and equitable social equality.


Panel to decide IT students’ fate
Tribune News Service

Patiala, October 17
The Punjabi University authorities yesterday constituted a five-member committee to look into ways and means in which the future of students enrolled with the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Institute of Information and Technology situated on the university campus here and the Guru Gobind Singh Institute of Information and Technology which is running the distance education courses at Talwandi Sabo could be protected.

Earlier, the Syndicate had held an emergency meeting on September 29 and taken a decision to close down the two controversial institutes which had been founded by the former Vice Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia.

The committee consists of the Registrar, Dr K. S. Sidhu, the Dean, Academics Prof U. C. Singh, the Dean, Colleges Dr S. P. S. Virdi, the Computer Science Department Head, Dr Chandan Singh and the Finance Officer, Dr R. K. Sehgal. The sources said though the Syndicate had taken a decision to close down the institutes, the varsity wanted to safeguard the future of students enrolled in the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Institute here as well as thousands of students who were enrolled in the distance education courses being run by the Guru Gobind Singh Institute all over the country. Earlier there was a proposal to induct the students of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh Institute in the Computer Science department of the varsity.

Even though the new varsity management has been clear that it wanted to close down both the institutes citing the fact that they had come into being in violation of the varsity calendar, it has been difficult putting this in practice. Earlier, the then Acting Vice Chancellor, N. S. Rattan, had stated immediately upon taking over that both the institutes would be closed down. He had passed an order later forming a committee to devise ways and means to close down the institutes.

However, the committee could not make any progress with two groups of varsity teachers pulling in different directions. Now also, the varsity is facing a problem in adjusting the students of both institutes, especially the students of the institute situated on the campus as the students were given to understand that the institute was part of the university with varsity officials forming its Board of Governors.


Rs 10.80 lakh received for midday meals
Our Correspondent

Muktsar, October 17
The Central government has released first instalment of Rs 10.80 lakh for midday meal for 50 days for children of primary schools in the district. Rupees 43.20 lakh, would be spent on meals for 200 days in a year to children of primary schools in the district.

Mrs Usha R. Sharma, Deputy Commissioner stated this in a press note here today. She said that during the current year 6,700 children of 38 primary schools would be provided midday meals.

Ms Sharma said that, it was observed that many parents due to poverty, did not send their children to schools instead they have them employed at dhabas, shops or as domestic help. She urged the residents to send their children to school.

Meanwhile Ms Sharma addressing a function in connection with the distribution of cheques to the persons who lost their limbs while working in fields here today advised the farmers and their helpers to be careful while using farm machinery.

The Deputy Commissioner gave away cheques worth Rs 4.32 lakh to 17 persons disabled during farm activities. The cheques were given under a scheme launched by the Punjab Mandi Board to help such persons.

Ms Sharma said that the monetary help was given so that the disabled persons could buy artificial limbs. Meanwhile, Mr B.R. Banga, Director, Local Bodies Department, Punjab visited Government Primary School at Doda, Koni and Asha Butar today to inspect the distribution of midday meal to children. He also met the Rural Development Education Committees for a feed back on the scheme.

BATHINDA: Mr Anurag Verma, Deputy Commissioner, today inaugurated the 50-day trial of the mid day meal scheme launched to draw children to government primary schools. The DC said at Har Rai Pur (Goniana Mandi) government primary school that Rs 30 lakh grant had been released. He said that students of 108 government primary schools in this block would be covered in the first phase and a team of 100 members formed to implement the scheme. The DC sanctioned grant of Rs 35,000 to the school for drinking water and toilets. 


PTU VC Rajan assumes charge
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, October 17
“The challenges ahead of me are to improve quality of education and to bring the industry closer to academics, besides maximising the employment potential for students through campus recruitment,” says Dr Y.S. Rajan, Vice Chancellor of Punjab Technical University (PTU), who assumed charge here today.

Talking to The Tribune, Dr Rajan, who has been accorded the status of a minister of state by the Punjab Chief Minister, besides being appointed as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the PTU, said his priority was to enable 95 per cent of fresh engineering graduates to get jobs within one year of their passing out. “To achieve this, we will introduce high employability courses, improve the faculty at engineering colleges and change the syllabi, besides, bringing the industry and academics closer to each other,” he said.

Referring to the PTU and its future action plan, Dr Rajan said the university’s thrust would be on the placement of students and to take along all engineering colleges in the implementation of new policies, which would also involve people.


Blood donation camp
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, October 17
There was an overwhelming response to the local Giani Zail Singh College of Engineering and Technology blood donation camp held today.

More than 300 students and members of staff volunteered to donate blood as against the provision to collect 150 units.


Students stage dharna
Our Correspondent

Abohar, October 17
Students of Guru Nanak Khalsa College here continued their agitation today by staging a dharna on the college premises. They held a demonstration and burnt an effigy of the president of the managing committee amid slogan raising. The students were agitating against the refusal of the managing committee to grant extension to Dr Shardev Singh Gill, who had completed one year as Principal of the college. The students demanded that the president of the committee should be changed and Dr Gill be requested to rejoin in the same capacity.


Students block traffic
Our Correspondent

Nabha, October 17
Students of local Arts and Crafts Institute today protested against the new education policy of the Punjab Government. They blocked vehicular traffic at Boran-Gate for an hour. They said that the Government was creating an army of educated unemployed with its new education policy. They demanded the Government to scrap the education policy.

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