Monday, November 4, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Congress feels the heat, scared of ramifications
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 3
All capital investments and plan development works seem to have reached a dead end in Punjab. Where is it headed for?

And how seriously the development works have been affected can be seen from the following fact: the annual salary bill of construction divisions of all the departments/agencies concerned is Rs 200 crore. And works are not available even worth Rs 20 crore for all of these.

Consequently, the “political heat” generated by the “precarious” financial situation is now affecting the ruling party Ministers and MLAs, who are hard pressed to convince their constituents why development process has come to a stand still. This is despite the Finance department’s exhaustive dossier given to them on fiscal situation and talking points.

This situation forced the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, to take an in-camera “tax review” meeting here last week. It transpired, say sources, that under the proposed fiscal reform measures, the additional resource mobilization remained slow and were a major cause of concern to the government. Capt Amarinder Singh is reported to have called for “aggressive steps” to mop up revenue, particularly, from motor vehicle tax and Punjab roadways.

The feed-back given to him by the Finance department showed a drop of Rs 2. 69 crore in taxes on vehicles and a decline of Rs 7.12 crore on revenue from Roadways. The comparative fiscal indicators upto September-end show that against revenue receipts of Rs 163.81 crore (September 2001), the drop was Rs 161.12 crore (September 2002). In respect of Roadways, the figures are, Rs 109.80 crore and Rs 102.68 crore, respectively.

There is, however, a silver lining. The total revenue receipts are up by Rs 10.12 crore upto September 2002, against corresponding figure of September 2001. Against a revenue receipt of Rs 3365.13 crore (upto September 2001), it was Rs 3375.25 crore, upto September 2002. This improvement is mainly on account of inclusion of social security cess on sales tax, say sources.

Informed sources in the government also revealed that there is marginal increase in revenue receipts and substantial decrease in revenue expenditure, despite items of expenditure on employees not having been contained, as proposed in the budget (2002-03) because of unrest among them. There are also reports that overall revenue deficit is down by Rs 300 crore.

The outcome of the “tax review” meeting showed that despite the revenue deficit being down, as also plan expenditure and capital expenditure, long-term ramifications still persist and situation would remain serious unless adequate finances flow-in. The government now is largely depending upon the anticipated flow of money from the International Financial Consortium and the World Bank. If this happens and money is available by January things would look up, say sources.

The fiscal indicators (over corresponding September 2001) for different items show that sales tax recovery is up by Rs 128.02 crore, state excise by Rs 24.88 crore and stamps and registration by Rs 47.30 crore. There is improvement in revenue expenditure. Against Rs 5063.09 crore upto September 2001, it was Rs 4773.74 crore upto September 2002. The plan expenditure figures are Rs 782.006 crore (upto September 2001) and Rs 600.86 crore (upto September 2002) ; and capital expenditure figures are Rs 616.52 crore and Rs 245.12 crore, respectively.


Sikh jatha to Pak: Mann in touch with Advani
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, November 3
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, SAD (A) and member of Parliament, today again took up with Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani the issue of sending Sikh jathas to Pakistan on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev — founder of Sikh faith on November 19.

Disclosing this here tonight, Mr Mann claimed that Mr Advani had told him that the issue would be taken up on Tuesday and he (Mann) will be informed accordingly. Mr Mann had already written a letter to Mr Advani on October 30 for lifting the ban on the sending of Sikh jathas to Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Mr Mann took strong exception to the Foreign Office’s reported objection to the lifting of the ban. Mr Mann disclosed that he had come to know that the office was taking the plea that all sports, cultural and educational exchanges to Pakistan stood banned. It was unfair to equate the jatha issue with the exchange of cultural troupes as the jathas issue involved the status of constitutional development of country under the Nehru-Liaquat Ali pact providing for four visits to Sikh jathas to Pakistan annually, argued Mr Mann. Sikhs were getting impatient and the Union Government must decide at the earliest otherwise our party would hamper working of Indian embassies all over the World for one day after November 8 if the ban was not lifted by then, warned Mr Mann.


Mann clarifies
Tribune News Service

Ropar, November 3
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, president, Akali Dal (Amritsar), today clarified that if Government of India did not decide to allow the Sikh jathas to cross over to Pakistan by November 8 then the political affairs committee of the SAD (A) would hold a state-level demonstration. The date for worldwide protests would be announced after November 8.


Decision on jathas dismays Sarna
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 3
In view of the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev, a desperate effort is being made by Sikh organisations to get permission for Sikh jathas to visit Pakistan.

Talking to The Tribune Mr Paramjit Singh Sarna, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee chief expressed dismay over the centre’s decision to disallow jathas from visiting Pakistan gurdwaras.

He said, the government can mobilise its infrastructure and resources to ensure Sikhs’ pilgrimage to Pakistan.


Stop harassing kin of SGPC members: Badal

Chandigarh, November 3
SAD President Parkash Singh Badal today asked the Punjab Chief Minister to stop alleged persecution of the families of members of the SGPC belonging to the SAD.

“If the polity in Punjab continued to be criminalised and brutalised and if the Chief Minister is allowed to go ahead unchecked with such an utter irresponsible behaviour, it could soon push the state into a dangerous turmoil,” he said.

To ensure the victory of a candidate backed by Ravi Inder Singh and Gurcharan Singh Tohra in the forthcoming elections to the SGPC executive, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has “unleashed the full force of the state machinery to persecute innocent families of the representatives of the Khalsa Panth through all manners of harassment and humiliation,” he said.

Alleging that the police was conducting raids on the houses of the SAD loyalists and subjecting women and children to “social humiliation for no fault of theirs”, Mr Badal said Amarinder had set the Sikh community in “total confrontation” with the government.

In Amritsar, SGPC President Kirpal Singh Badungar came down heavily on the Chief Minister for his alleged interference in the SGPC poll “scheduled for November 12”.

He said the SGPC members were being subjected to the “perpetual harassments and intimidations at the hands of the police administration”.

Raising the case of Ludhiana-based SGPC member Amarjit Singh Bhatia, Mr Badungar said in a statement that the police was browbeating Bhatia’s family.

“The police raided his (Bhatia) hotel near the bus stand at Ludhiana but when they failed to find him there, it sealed his hotel”, he added. PTI


Ghuman committee biased: Romana
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, November 3
Mr Mohinder Singh Romana, executive member of the SGPC, said here today that the actions and statements of the committee led by Mr Mal Singh Ghuman and having seven members of the SGPC could not be termed as neutral as they showed a bias towards a particular Akali Dal.

Addressing mediapersons here today, Mr Romana said the president of the SGPC should be a Sikh scholar and have a clean image. He alleged that during the past 25-30 years the committee had become a den of corruption and political interference. He said during these years the SGPC had been transformed to provide jobs to “sifarishi” persons rather than propagating the Sikh faith.

Mr Romana said the jathedars of the Takhts should be renowned for their knowledge not only of the Sikh faith but of other religions also. He said the appointment of high priests should be done on merit rather than on political considerations.

Denying that Mr Parkash Singh Badal has been getting the SGPC president elected by sending sealed envelopes to the members, Mr Romana said the members were duly informed by Mr Badal about any decisions taken in these regards. He said it would be in the interest of all concerned if the president of the SGPC was elected unanimously.

Accepting that Mr Ravi Inder Singh, senior leader of the Panthic Morcha, met him yesterday at Faridkot, Mr Romana said he had been following the principles of the SAD and would continue to do so. He said even being a member of the SGPC he had been hammering home the point that the corruption in the committee had earned a bad name for it.

Mr Romana said it was not true that Mr Badal had “kidnapped” any member of the SGPC. He said he had refused to accept the security provided by the state government on his own.

Replying to a question, he said allegations of corruption should be inquired into by a judicial commission and it should not take the form of a political rivalry. He denied that he was a candidate for the post of SGPC president and added that it was for the party to decide the candidature of the president.


Migrants ‘influencing’ Punjabi culture

Jalandhar, November 3
There is a strong need to take effective steps to insulate Punjabi culture and tradition from the influence of migrant labour.

Expressing these views at a seminar entitled “Punjab and Migrants”, organised by the Punjabi Jagrati Manch here today, the speakers stressed that migrant labour, particularly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, had now become an integral part of Punjab’s economic system.

These migrants had started influencing Punjabi culture and traditions and even the language, the speakers opined.

Dr Sucha Singh from Punjabi University, Patiala, opined that the basic factor for migration from villages to cities, from one state to another and from one country to another was economic.

He pointed out that the Punjabi youth, in search of greener pastures, went abroad and likewise migrants from Bihar and other states came to Punjab to earn their living, he added.

In Punjab 56 per cent of the people were engaged in agricultural activities in 1991 and now this figure had come down to a mere 39 per cent, implying that the people, particularly the youth, either migrated to cities or had gone abroad.

This migration could not be halted but the important matter was that wherever the migrants went they must stick to their traditions and culture and not get influenced by other cultures, he opined.

Dr Jasbir Singh of Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) said the education system in Punjab had to be improved to make the youth aware of our culture and ethos which is denegrating under the influence of the migrants from other states coming here.

A simple example of this was that our youth had taken to chewing of tobacco, commonly found among migrants from Bihar and UP, he added.

Dr Jasbir Singh said the media, particularly the electronic media, has “created a bad influence on our youth and is polluting our culture’’. “Those youth who are settled in foreign countries are moving away from their traditional Punjabi culture and adopting habits of the west.’’

Kisan leader Balbir Singh Rajewal regreted that parents had no time to teach and influence their children about the Punjab’s culture and values.

He said land holdings are falling in Punjab and the youth are moving abroad even through illegal means and, thus, losing track of the values of Punjabiat.

Dr Dharam Singh of Fatehgarh Sahib said that while the migrant labourers were getting jobs in factories and farms and had even set-up small shops, the Punjabi youth were moving in cars and riding motor cycles and least bothered about their future and culture.

He stated that the migrant labour were being encouraged to come to Punjab by political leaders for votes and the day would not be far when the state would have Bihar origin MLAs.

Mr Irvin Khanna, Editor, Uttam Hindu, said that migrants had become an integral part of Punjab’s economy, which could come to a stand still without them.

However, it was up to parents and educationists to imbibe the values of Punjabiat among the local youth rather than think in terms of throwing out the migrants from here.

Summing up the seminar, Mr Satnam Manak, organiser of the seminar, opined that the Punjabis were not against throwing out the migrant labourers but “we want that our culture and heritage should be preserved’’. “We do not want an explosive situation that has now developed in the northeast because of the over-burden of the migrants, he added. UNI


Tight security on Divali eve
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, November 3
Unprecedented security marks the eve of Divali celebrations in the city. There are reports of apprehension of terrorist violence.

Intelligence reports had suggested an Akshardham Temple like episode being masterminded by ultras from across the border, the Inspector-General, Mr Rajan Gupta, said. “The danger has not subsided and we are taking all precautions to thwart any untoward incident during the celebrations,”. Security has been beefed up at bus stands, railway station, water tanks and communication installations.

Mr Eshall, Deputy Commandant (G), BSF, said an alert had been sounded in addition to routine vigil on the border.

Sources, however, said that security had been beefed up at barracks of the BSF and temporary houses of Army personnel, defence installations in the North Western sector. The police top brass held a meeting today to discuss security concerns.

Dr S.K. Kalia, SP, (HQ), said a round-the-clock patrol equipped with wireless sets would move in the interiors of the city. A mobile van has been put at each of 10 entry points. And LMGs have been install at nakas in the sensitive areas. More than 200 security personnel have been requisitioned, he added.


Prawns in Doaba ponds
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, November 3
Badshahpur, Kahlwan, Bara Pind and Koopar are four villages in the Doaba region which have started prawn culture with the help of Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) and the Department of Fisheries.

“Out first crop is ready and we are about to take it to the market. The response is so encouraging,” says Lavish Rekhi, a progressive farmer of Bara Pind, near Kartarpur, where he has set up a small pond for prawn culture on an experimental basis. He maintained that since prawn was a high-protein fish, it commanded a great demand in all markets, particularly, in Delhi and abroad.

Apart from him, Mr Surinder Pal Singh of Badshahpur, Harjinder Singh Kalkat of Kooper village and Mr Surjit Singh of Kahlwan village are other farmers who decided to do something different and are now satisfied that their efforts have yielded fruit. Mr Surinder Pal Singh, who was already running a modern fish pond in Badshahpur village, said the positive market response and the success of his prawn culture experiment had emboldened him to face any challenge posed by the WTO.

Talking to TNS, Mr Surjit Singh and Mr Nirmal Singh, Joint Director and Senior Fisheries Officer, respectively, of the Deparment of Fisheries, Punjab, said since prawn commanded a high price ranging between Rs 300 to Rs 350 per kg in Delhi’s export and domestic market, farmers could earn rich dividends from it as compared to other crops. “Moreover, a single person can man a farm of about 50 acres, which means drastic cut in manpower requirements”, said Mr Surjit Singh, adding that besides Delhi, prawn was in great demand in all good hotels of Punjab and Haryana.

Mr Nirmal Singh said the prawn project was successful only after the ATMA extended its full support and facilitated transportation of prawn seed from Nellore.

The brain behind the project is Mr K. Siva Prasad, Deputy Commissioner, Jalandhar, and Chairman of the governing body of the ATMA. “Actually, being from south, it struck my mind one day that if prawn can be produced in down south in all probability, same can happen here. So we sent people to Nellore for getting training and the result is before you,” said Mr Prasad.

Referring to problems being faced by them, prawn culturists maintained that the biggest problem was that the power connections at ponds were being treated as commercial connections by the PSEB. Moreover, though the demand for prawns in hotels of northern India remained throughout the year, the prawn culture was successful only for four months — from March to late October.


Woman complains against cop
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, November 3
Mrs Bimla, a resident of the P&T Colony here, has complained to the Punjab Human Rights Commission about the harassment and tension created in her family life allegedly by her neighbours.

In her complaint, Mrs Bimla alleged that her neighbour, who is a constable with the Punjab police, had been trying to defame her and behaved obscenely with her. She alleged that the constable tried to molest her on September 1 but she was saved by her husband.

She alleged that the culprit, aided by one of his friends who is also her neighbour, tried to molest her and when she lost consciousness due to severe blows on her body, the duo took her to be dead and fled. She said the culprits had been harassing her as her family had complained to the authorities concerned against them. She said her family had been threatened that it should withdraw its complaints against their neighbours or face dire consequences.

She said she had to be hospitalised for five to six days and even a medico-legal case was registered by the authorities concerned. She alleged that the police authorities, rather than registering a case against the culprits, indicted her under Section 295, IPC, and registered a case. She said she had also lodged a complaint with the district police chief against the culprits but no action was taken.

No senior police official could be contacted for comments.


Suggestion to close down PFC decried
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 3
The Punjab Financial Corporation Employees’ Joint Action Forum has said the recommendation of the Disinvestment Commission to wind up the corporation has shocked the employees.

Mr Dharam Deepak and Mr S.C. Sharma, presidents of the forum, alleged that while making this recommendation, the commission had ignored the leading role played by the corporation in the industrialisation of Punjab, which had resulted in direct and indirect employment to lakhs of people.

The forum alleged that there was a nexus between the members of the commission and certain influential defaulting loaners, who were anticipating huge concessions/benefits from the recommendations.

The forum urged PFC creditors — SIDBI and other financial institutions having a stake of Rs 450 crore — to impress upon the state government not to accept such a retrograde recommendation.

The corporation, the forum claimed, was still having intrinsic strength to tied over its difficulties on its own devoid of any interference of bureaucrats who were also member of the commission. The forum sought free hand for the PFC to recover its outstanding dues from the defaulters.


Curbs imposed on Jumbo Circus
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, November 3
The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has banned performances by certain animals at the Jumbo Circus which has been holding shows in the city for the past few days after it received complaints from an animal rights activists.

Dr Sandeep Jain, executive member of the board, who was here yesterday in connection with the matter, told ‘The Tribune’ that they had found some irregularities being committed by the circus company. While the cages of tigers, lions and black panthers were found to be violating the norms specified by the government, a hippopotamus was found to be blind.

According to rules, a qualified veterinary surgeon should be appointed if the circus keeps more than 10 animals, but no such doctor had been appointed here. He said that the hippopotamus with the Jumbo Circus had been bought from Komal Circus and the cornea of the animal had turned opaque.

Mr Shakher Garg, an animal-lover resident of the city, who had complained to the authorities about the cruelty being meted out to the animals, said the performances of all animals had been stopped by the AWBI.


Dirba-Patran road repair on cards
Our Correspondent

Barnala, November 3
Maj-Gen B.C. Khanduri (retd), Union Minister of State, Road Transport and highways, has informed Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, MP and as President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), that an estimate of around Rs 424 lakh is under consideration of the Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry for the improvement of a stretch of National Highway No 71 measuring about 11 km from Dirba to Patran.

Mr Paramjit Singh Khalsa, general secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), informed this reporter here today.


Acting SDO’s house raided

Sangrur, November 3
The Punjab police today raided the residence of acting SDO-cum-junior engineer, Mandi Board Ram Dev Sharma, and allegedly seized cash and jewellery.

The police said a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act has been registered against the SDO for allegedly amassing disproportionate assets to the known sources of income.

Though it is tight-lipped regarding the crackdown, however, Congress sources said the raid was conducted to tighten the noose around Agriculture Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal for allegedly releasing a “huge grant” of the Mandi board in her constituency, where the case was registered.

They said the acting SDO was close to Mrs Bhattal, who had commissioned a benami pre-mix plant at Moonak. PTI


Cops attacked

Moga, November 3
A Punjab police personnel was injured after a police team was allegedly attacked by the family of a person against whom a case had been registered, the police said today.

A case had been registered against seven persons under various sections of the IPC. Yesterday a police party went to the house of one of the suspects in the case, Pala Singh, to inform him to appear before the investigation officer in a case against him and others.

As soon as the party reached his house the family members allegedly attacked it.

The family of the accused and a large number of people of Bhaloor village in the district arrived at the district police headquarters and submitted a memorandum alleging severe beating of the family by the police.

In the memorandum they alleged that the police party forcibly entered their house after breaking the door on Friday night and started beating them.

The police party forcibly took them and did not even allow them to have food, they alleged.

Meanwhile, the police denied the charges. PTI


Five die as car, truck collide
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, November 3
Five persons, including three, women, all residents of Partap Nagar, Amritsar, died in a road accident near Naushehra Pannuan yesterday when their car collided with a struck coming from the opposite direction.

The deceased have been identified as Harpreet Singh (28), his wife Seema (25), their daughter Rittan (4), Sharanjit Singh (44) and his wife. The bodies have been sent to the local Civil Hospital for post-mortem examination examination. The Sarhali. Police has registered a case against the truck driver.


Dera Sacha Sauda function concludes
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, November 3
A function organised by the Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa (Haryana), at Mehta village, about 13 km from here, ended peacefully under tight security by the police and civil authorities.

Tension had gripped the village when a villager had allegedly used derogatory remarks against a particular religion. The management committee of the religious place had threatened action against the erring person had he not apologised. But tight security arrangements prevented any untoward incident.

The situation had become tense today when another preacher, who also commands a significant following in the belt, came to the village to oppose the function.


Frame accounting rules to help farmers: BKU(E)
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, November 3
The Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta), led by Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan, has urged the authorities concerned that rules should be framed so that the accounts of farmers with arhtiyas be maintained as per the standard banking norms and passbooks should be issued to the farmer.

Mr Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, state general secretary of the BKU(E), said here today that most of the accounts maintained by the commission agents were not legible. He pointed out that either the farmers were illiterate or the language used by the commission agents to maintain their accounts, “laandee”, was not legible.

Mr Kokri Kalan said the passbook system on the lines of nationalised banks should be introduced to make accounting by the arhtiyas transparent. He said besides this the government should ensure that the minimum support prices of the crops were announced before their harvesting. He alleged that Rs 475 crore were due towards the government and these have not been released so far.

Alleging that fake pesticides, insecticides and even seeds were being sold openly in the market he demanded action against the culprits. Mr Kokri Kalan said the affected farmers should be compensated.


Punjab pensioners submit memo to CM
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 3
The Government Pensioners’ Association has submitted a memorandum to the Punjab Chief Minister’s Office, seeking a better deal.

The association’s additional general secretary, Mr Yash Pal Ghai, said today all that the pensioners sought was that the Congress implement its promise made in the election manifesto. The promise was to effect a raise in gratuity and the medical allowance and a review of the reimbursement of outdoor medical treatment costs and considering the payment of HRA to retired employees.

Even in response to questions in an English newspaper published from Chandigarh, Capt Amarinder Singh had told pensioners that “I assure you that each and every commitment made by us during the Assembly poll will be honoured to the last letter. This may, however, take some time till we can put the state’s economy back on the track. Please bear with us.”

Mr Ghai said the association was conscious of the state’s financial position but there were ways the government could act to address some genuine needs of pensioners, who once were a part of the government.

Justifying an enhancement in the medical allowance from Rs 250 per month to Rs 350 per month, he said there had been a 39 per cent increase in the price of medicines since1998. And since January 1, 1998, the pensioners have been getting a fixed sum of Rs 250 per month.

Likewise, the sudden withdrawal of other allowances, including HRA, city compensator allowance, rural area allowance and bonus, had pinched the pocket. In all fairness, at least grant Rs 100 as HRA to all. The government must allow revised gratuity by treating the dearness allowance admissible on January 1, 1993, as dearness pay for those who retired between July 1, 1993, and March 31, 1995. This was quite in conformity with the recommendation of the 4th Punjab Pay Commission.

Mr Ghai pointed that the association had always been very practical and reasonable in its demands, which, in fact, were the dire needs of pensioners in old age. Elaborating, he said, as per the pay commission recommendation, the government should also extend the benefit of 50 per cent pension of the minimum of the revised grade effective January 1, 1996, to the retirees.

“The Central and Haryana Government employees are entitled to this benefit. Why not us ?” he asked. This does not imply any major financial burden on the state as 85 per cent of the retired employees are getting this benefit and only 15 per cent are waiting to get the same.” The association hopes for a “fair deal and early relief. Let this be a divali gift to us”, added Mr Ghai.


Travel agent booked for fraud
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, November 3
The police has booked a travel agent Devinder Partap alias Bittu of Dhilwan village for defrauding Nishan Singh of Bhatnura village in Jalandhar of Rs 4.50 lakh.

In a press note today Mr R.N. Dhoke, SSP, said the travel agent instead of sending Nishan Singh to Germany sent him to Morocco where he was arrested and after spending three months in jail there he came back to India. On return to India he demanded his money and passport from the travel agent but he did not return it. The police on complaint of Nishan Singh registered a case against the travel agent.

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